Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A cultural question (with an update*)

Sometimes strange questions bubble up from wherever questions bubble. Without going into details, this one popped up this morning:

Do Middle East mothers complain about skid marks?

My mother complained about my father's underwear (I wonder: is it because of the cut of men's pants that there are more jokes about male skid marks than female?). Sit coms make jokes. A couple of weeks ago, the maid on "Two and a Half Men" cracked wise about using a tooth brush on the kid's skivvies. On BBC America's "My Family," the mother poo-poohed the daughter's complaint about having unwashed laundry on the kitchen table with, "It's just cloth...with skid marks."

During my Army posting in Turkey, I noticed that the homes had bidets or a faucet near the "facility," and, parenthetically, the worst kind of toilet paper (waxy) in hotels. Somewhere I got the idea that the left hand and water are used for cleaning oneself over in the Middle East.

Here in the U.S. we use absorbent paper. Sometimes the absorbency isn't up to the job; sometimes strain comes into play; sometimes the cut of pants?

What gives? Anybody out there watch the Middle Eastern equivalent of Roseanne?

Cultural observations are fun. For instance, have you noticed that Disney's Pluto has no anus?

*Here's reaction sent to me by my friend, Bea:

Now then, I have given 40 whole seconds to ponder this skid mark issue..............and I think we should take it back to basics. As in painting, it starts with the pallette and the loading of the brush. Next comes the approach to the canvas, then the application of the paint using just the right pressure, stroke direction and tecnique. The size and shape of the brush can also dictate the outcome. (I'm sure you see where this is going).

Now, in applying these priciples to said skid marks or skivvy sinners...................one best begin with the paper, whether rolled or ripped from a Sears catalog (Now you KNOW I'm from Honey Island). Is the perp a folder or crumpler? A four finger straight line slider (as in Debit card users) or a single finger wrapper dabber? Art is in the eye or crotch of the beholder and is what truly separates us from the animals. Some humans actually think thumbs do. (hm, thumbs..........along with the forefingers represent another paper grip, used mostly by the "eeeee-uuuuuu" crowd.)

Raising Sean was no problem in this arena at all. That boy stopped including underwear in his wardrobe at about age 8, and his jeans.......well,.I just burned them at the end of a month's wear. I would tell you something about Joe's but he has just enough brain cells remaining in the left side of his brain that he might find this email. He loves to read the emails (and I truly think it's great). He likes to think he does this in secret, then as I come into the room, he zips back to his Solitaire screen. All I'll say about his skids is that he has his very own little plastic caddie with a spray bottle of Shout, a couple of brushes including an old tooth brush, and a bar of soap that he keeps under the bathroom sink. We seem to have solved the brown stain syndrome..................but I still wonder what the hell do I do about that little wet spot on the lower left side of his fly.

So then, Dear Gentle Reader(s), the conversation is engaged.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Jacobins, Neo-Cons, and Terrorists

Words are important. Almost as important, and too often left out of a discussion, is the history of particular words. Just how important word history, etymology, is happens to be the subject of a very interesting op-ed piece in today's New York Times.

"Bush’s Dangerous Liaisons," by Francois Furstenberg, takes us back to Revolutionary France in the 1790s. At an early point in the Revolution, a "...group of politicians, journalists and citizens dedicated to advancing the principles of the Revolution..." formed and called themselves the Jacobin Club, and these people were adamant in their stance for liberty--there could be no dissent. "One was either for the Revolution or for tyranny."

Furstenberg provides a list of interesting quotes from leading theorists of the Jacobins. For instance, they believed in “a crusade for universal liberty.” If France's neighbors, monarchies, didn't like the rise of a republic in France, those neighbors must be engaged in warfare.

On the home front, the Jacobins seized control of the government and engaged in a tightly controlled media campaign, called themselves "true patriots," wore insignia distinguishing themselves from those who were not true patriots, habeas corpus was not instituted, and warrantless searches were conducted.

Jacobins shrugged off the loss of personal freedom with such pronouncements as “This severity is alarming only for the conspirators, only for the enemies of liberty," and anyone who spoke against the practices were accused of “treacherous insinuations.”

In this little story from history, it is instructive to substitute Neo-Con for Jacobin, especially when we think of Furstenberg's final point:

Though it has been a topic of much attention in recent years, the origin of the term “terrorist” has gone largely unnoticed by politicians and pundits alike. The word was an invention of the French Revolution, and it referred not to those who hate freedom, nor to non-state actors, nor of course to “Islamofascism.”

A terroriste was, in its original meaning, a Jacobin leader who ruled France during la Terreur.

While Darth Vader might be an amusing mot, "Jacobin" is much more frightening.

Perhaps Mr. Bush should stop using "terrorist" quite so often. Someone besides Furstenberg might take notice and warn of the historical precedence.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

An Hommage...with a twist

Over at Digital Fishwrap my ol' bud The G-Man has a paean to insomnia, which he calls "Burning Moonlight."

This picture was taken at 6:28 a.m. this morning. It shows the atmospherics here in the Coachella Valley as they have been affected by smoke from the recent fires on the other side of the mountain. Usually this "harvest moon" effect is visible during the early evening...and it's a lot more yellowish.

"Burning Moonlight" is an excellent metaphor. It has many applications, eh wot?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007


Here in the Coachella Valley, we've escaped the early ravages of the California fires, but today we had a change in the wind patterns, and this is what we get...certainly not nearly the damages sustained on the westward side of the Santa Rosa Mountains. If the wind picks up, though, tomorrow might be a tough one for persons in the Palm Springs area who have breathing problems.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Morning (Mourning) in America

Remember Ronald Reagan's phrase, "It's morning in America"? Today is the 24th anniversary of the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. 241 American Marines lost their lives.

A federal judge held Iran responsible in 2003. In 1983, President Reagan vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice, lobbed some shells from a nearby U.S. battleship into the hills around Beirut, declared victory, and withdrew from Beirut (more or less--check it out for yourself).

And that, Dear Gentle Reader(s), is thought by many to have been the beginning of the "terrorist" attacks which have been the hallmark of this "ideological struggle" of our century.

Poor planning on our part providing security (OK, it was the first of its kind, so some latitude can be given), and an empty gesture as an example of our determination to bring murderers to justice, and the stage is set.

There have been far too many mourning mornings in America since October 23, 1983.


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Sunday, October 21, 2007

And then there're...

...the annual visitors to Palm Springs. Here's a quickie:

It takes a looooong time to upload these. Patience!

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Remember that word over the next few months--as well as--heaven forfend!--the next few years if the following holds true.

The FCC is proposing to relax the rules guarding ownership of the media. Right now, owners of major media outlets, newspapers, television stations, etc., cannot own different media in the same market.

The FCC is considering allowing ownership of television and print in the same market.

That means a much tighter control of information than we currently have.

One of the ways the Soviets of the USSR kept themselves in power for as long as they did was their tight control of information. Even mimeograph machines (Remember those? You do? You don't look that old!) were controlled by the state.

Samizdat is defined in Wikipedia as: Etymologically, the word "samizdat" is made out of "sam" (Russian: сам, "self, by oneself") and "izdat" (Russian: издат, shortened "издательство", izdatel'stvo, "publisher"), thus, self published, with this interesting bit of info: Self-published and self-distributed literature has a long history, but samizdat is a unique phenomenon in the post-Stalin USSR and other countries with similar socio-economic systems. Under the grip of censorship of police state these societies used underground literature for self-analysis and self-expression.

It is devoutly to be wished that the United States doesn't fall to the point where we need to engage in our own samizdat to find out what's happening in our government.

Keep the media competitive!

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Friday, October 12, 2007

"It's baaack!!!" "Um, It never lefffft!"

Just in case, Dear Gentle Reader(s), you don't watch Keith Olberman's "Countdown" on MSNBC, I want to share something I heard him say for the first time yesterday.

I love puns. This is one of the best I've heard in a while: Coultergeist.


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

How far back do we go? (Updated)

A committee of the House of Representatives yesterday voted to use genocide as the descriptive word for the mass killings of Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century.

Since the government responsible for maintaining order during that terrible time no longer exists, I wonder what good can come from this exercise by an arm of the United States government at this particular time in history.

I was stationed in Turkey from the summer of 1959 to the spring of 1960. It was my only foreign posting during my Army enlistment. I made several trips to Istanbul, and I found the countryside and the people to warm and embracing. I also met several Turks of Armenian descent during my posting.

The Turkish government acknowledges the killings, but denies the genocide label.

How far back do we go to condemn genocide in the past? Aztecs and Mayans? Israelites and the people living in "the promised land?" The Cherokee "trail of tears?" Wounded Knee? Darfur?

Who benefits from this? Who, if anyone, is harmed by it?

Government warrantless wiretapping, a botched invasion of Iraq, the Constitution under attack...The House has more immediate and pressing matters at hand.

How many moons have been witness to atrocities? How about taking steps to be certain they never happen again, rather than picking at old wounds?
6:24 p.m. Congressman Tom Lantos was just on The News Hour debating, briefly, his committee's action. He was not persuasive. Actually, he sounded as though he were comfortable with playing a game of "chicken" with the Turkish government.
It was not Mr. Lantos' best moment.
How modern Turkey deals with this 8 year event in its past is of no concern to the United States. We should be minding our own business; we have enough to do.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Letters to the Editor...Who's Responsible?

This one is because of a mini-flap regarding a comment made, rather off-handedly, by Senator Clinton recently.

The original moment: Time magazine carried a story about national service which included this proposal: 1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond EVERY TIME AN AMERICAN BABY IS BORN, THE Federal Government would invest $5,000 in that child's name in a 529-type fund--the kind many Americans are already using for college savings.

The Clinton moment: At a forum hosted by The Congressional Black Caucus, Senator Clinton commented about the proposal: "I like the idea of giving every baby born in America a $5,000 account that will grow over time, so that when that young person turns 18 if they have finished high school they will be able to access it to go to college or maybe they will be able to make that downpayment on their first home."

That sounds like an idea just about anyone could "like." It would be a wonderful thing to do, if it were feasible. The Clinton campaign reminded people later that her comment did not equal commitment to the proposal.

The fact that Mrs. Clinton said she "liked" the idea was enough for spinmeisters of many stripes. The troublesome element for the purposes of this entry is this: local newspapers carry letters to the editor which do not reflect well on the Senator, mainly because the letters do not reflect, with precision, the statement of the Senator.

From The Desert Sun, published in Palm Springs, we have this from a man I know personally:

Coming to America
Just when I thought Hillary Clinton would be a good candidate for the U.S. presidency, I read that she would like the government (we, the taxpayers) to give each newborn baby $5,000.
How many more men and women would enter our country illegally than are already now?
Randy Winbigler

Cathedral City

Randy's letter also appeared in the October 5, 2007 edition of The Press-Enterprise, published in Riverside, California, along with this letter:

I can't believe it. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said recently that every child born in the United States should get a $5,000 "baby bond" from the government to help pay for future costs of college or buying a home.

Sen. Clinton has never been shy about her affinity for collectivism. Her efforts to create policy, from health-care reform to improving schools to strengthening families, always revolve around big government.
The woman is incapable of conceiving a private-sector role, save for the vital function of supplying tax dollars to fuel the bureaucracy.

Welfare can render great harm to its intended beneficiaries. Welfare recipients have been locked into dependency, removed from productive endeavors, robbed of self-esteem and shut out of the possibility of upward mobility.

Such largesse is generosity with the people's money, and it is a shameless bid to buy votes. It is also naked socialism run amok, another government boondoggle in the making.
Sun City

Dear Gentle Reader(s), I have given you the original situation as well as two letters to local newspapers. Has not the good Senator been maligned? "I like the idea" has been transmuted into "should get" and "would like to give."

One also wonders about the function of the editor for letters to the editor. You know, they pay good money to people to select the letters and to edit them for agreement with the individual paper's standards.

"What standards were at play in this instance,?" one asks.

We wait for an apology from those responsible.

Yeah. Right.

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Few, Fewer, Fewest; Low, Lower, Lowest

Ah, Dear Gentle Reader(s), what to think with print edition headlines such as these?

From The Desert Sun, "Fewer U.S. troops die in Iraq."

From The Press-Enterprise, "U.S., Iraqi deaths lowest in a year."

It turns out that 64 American troops died in September, 2007. July, 2006, provides the "year" ago mark with 43, while 988 Iraqi civilians lost their lives in September, 2007-- a 50 percent drop from August, 2007.

(Don't forget: The Iraqis had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001, attack on New York and Washington, D.C.)
An AP story, under the byline of Stephen R. Hurst (couldn't find a link), contains this admonition from our Ambassador to Iraq, Mr. Crocker, and General Petraeus, "...We must maintain the momentum..." and then a Col. Stegen Boylan, indicates, according to Hurst, that the "increased U.S. troop strength [that ol' surge]..." is responsible for the declining deaths.

Surely, the dead must appreciate that.

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