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domingo, agosto 31, 2008

Killer Kowalksi, RIP

When it came to big, mean, villain wrestlers in the 1950's, Killer Kowalski was the one. How he got his name:
“I was leaping off the rope, and Yukon Eric, who had a cauliflower ear, moved at the last second,” Kowalski told The Chicago Tribune in 1989. “I thought I missed, but all of a sudden something went rolling across the ring. It was his ear.”

Yukon Eric was taken to a hospital, and the promoter asked Kowalski to visit him and apologize for severing his ear. Reporters were listening to their chat from a corridor.

“There was this 6-foot-5, 280-pound guy, his head wrapped like a mummy, dwarfing his bed,” Kowalski remembered. “I looked at him and grinned. He grinned back. I laughed, and he laughed back. Then I laughed harder and left.

“The next day the headlines read, ‘Kowalski Visits Yukon in the Hospital and Laughs.’ And when I climbed into the ring that night, the crowd called out, ‘You animal, you killer.’ And the name stuck.”
Rest in peace.

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Bush And McCain's Greatest New Orleans Hits

Hurricanes aren't the only things that spiral out of control. Rethuglican politics spiral too. They go round and round and round, reprising their greatest hits, trying to revise and rewrite and edit out their greatest failures. Trying to help you forget.

Who doesn't remember this as Katrina was destroying New Orleans:

They cannot have that again. Oh, no. Not again with Gustav. So now, in an attempt to avoid a public display and incessant repetitions of their callousness, we have the new, "compassionate conservative" approach to approaching natural disasters. This from the New York Times:
Republicans scrambled on Sunday to change the tone of their national convention as delegates streamed into town amid scenes on TV of people fleeing Hurricane Gustav on the Gulf Coast. The White House said the monster storm would make President Bush's opening-day attendance unlikely.

The Republicans' nominee-in-waiting, John McCain, altered his campaign schedule to visit Jackson, Miss., with his running mate, Sarah Palin, to get briefings on the approaching storm. He was invited by Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

''I've been talking to all of [the Republican Governors in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida],'' McCain said. He said the approaching storm had already put a cloud over the convention.

''It just wouldn't be appropriate to have a festive occasion while a near tragedy or a terrible challenge is presented in the form of a natural disaster,'' McCain said. Still, he said, ''I think that we are far, far better prepared than we were the last time.''

The Bush White House and Republicans in general are still shadowed by criticism of their handling of relief efforts in after Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and parts of the Mississippi Gulf Coast three years ago. Party leaders fear that televised scenes of celebrations and partying at the convention could subject them to similar criticism now.
Last time, three years ago, Katrina was a horrendous embarrassment. Bush and McSame publicly ate cake. People died. The City was destroyed. Bush didn't arrive in the City until way too late, when people were beginning to paint x's on houses and counting the bodies and searching the attics. So now we have a new, more sanctimonious, more compassionate approach to impending natural disaster. The CiC stays visibly on the bridge of the ship of state, he appears to be in command, he appears to be concerned. He wrings his hands. And mini me McSame? He's concerned too. That's why Candidate Senator McSame needs to be "briefed" in Mississippi.

But wait a minute. Don't the Republican governors of these states and their staffs have enough to do just getting ready for the arrival of Gustav and the huge evacuation of people and the gigantic task of overseeing relief efforts? Why are they having ceremonial "briefings" with a guy who has absolutely nothing to do with safeguarding lives in the storm area? Why indeed. Because it looks "presidential?" Because it's better politically than getting McSame the f*ck out of the way and letting the people who are responsible for relief do their jobs? Because keeping McSame in the public eye is the most important thing?

And to whom is it that McCain is referring when he says that "we" are better prepared than last time? Is that a concession that he had something to do with the horror when Katrina arrived when "we" were unprepared and uncaring and eating birthday cake and oblivious? Oh no. Not that. When he was eating cake with Bush, it wasn't his responsibility that a city was drowning.

Bush, or at least his handlers, may have been slightly chastened by Katrina. Not. The Times continues:
With the storm expected to make landfall as early as Monday, it appeared unlikely that Bush would go to Minnesota, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Sunday.

She said alternate plans were being prepared. That could mean possible travel to the Gulf Coast and perhaps speaking to the convention by video.
Does that mean we're going to be treated at the Rethuglican Convention to a new and upgraded reprise of this memorable Bush sham:

I'm sure you remember. After the speech the lights went out again. And they stayed out. So much for recovery. So much for saving New Orleans after the Federal Flood.

I might be being unreasonable. Fine. So be it. I think that Katrina should be hung around the necks of the Rethuglicans like a rotting, dead skunk. To help them remember its smell. And I think that all of this fake, smarmy, "concern" about Gustav and how their "celebration" might appear is just plain garbage. Imo, they should just shut the f*ck up and quietly and unceremoniously provide the federal assistance that's going to be required. Without self congratulation. If they want to delay their convention for appearance sake, fine. But it's utterly revolting to hear them trying to get credit, get sympathy for that. "Oh, we just had to cancel our coronation party. Holding it would be so unseemly." Like they really care about New Orleans or the Gulf coast.

If they cared, wouldn't the levees be rebuilt by now? If they cared, wouldn't all of the people have returned? If they cared, wouldn't the homes be rebuilt? If they cared, wouldn't all of those living in FEMA trailers and housing be in different homes? If they cared, wouldn't the New Orleans Diaspora in Houston, and Memphis, and elsewhere be over? Face it. They don't care. Not a whit. They just want to grandstand.

Heckuva job, McSame.

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sábado, agosto 30, 2008

Gustav's Coming, We're All Watching

It looks like Hurricane Gustav (it's now a hurricane and not a tropical storm) is headed directly for New Orleans. Weatherunderground gives us computer modeling that is not at all comforting:

Notice the uniformity of all of the computer models. Notice that the computers bring Gustav extremely close to New Orleans as a category 3 hurricane.

Join me in the City that Care Forgot.

The New York Times reports that there will be a "mandatory evacuation" of New Orleans on Sunday:
Mayor C. Ray Nagin said on Friday that a mandatory evacuation order was possible for Sunday.

At that point, residents would be told, though not physically forced, to leave New Orleans, either in their own vehicles or on city-chartered buses and trains. On Saturday, officials here will start helping citizens without cars leave for shelters in northern Louisiana in gyms, churches and civic centers. Officials here estimate that as many as 30,000 of the poor, the elderly and the infirm might need help evacuating. ...snip

“With the new storm track, we think the entire metro area will experience the storm,” the mayor said at City Hall on Friday. “This is a very serious matter.”

Mr. Nagin urged citizens to begin making plans to evacuate, without waiting for the order. “Sunday morning, that’s what we’re looking at, to issue that mandatory evacuation,” he said.

There will be no shelters in the city like the Superdome, as there were for Hurricane Katrina.
Such an evacuation is an enormous task. If there have been practice runs, the media have not reported them. Is anyone confident that all of the people who wish to leave the City will be able to leave? Or put another way, will those who most need assistance to leave be able to receive the help they need to find shelter from the storm?

According to the Times Picayune, Gustav is on a "Collision Course" with New Orleans, and as of early Saturday morning, many people were headed inland for shelter:

Those who cannot leave because they are ill, or have no cars, or have no place to go, or have no money will have to be moved today, Saturday, or wait for the mandatory evacuation and then attempt to leave by bus or by train. But it appears that not all of the necessary preparations for the evacuation have been successfully completed. The Times Picayune reports:
The private contractor the state hired to provide buses for hurricane evacuations has not come through with enough vehicles in a timely manner, causing the state to look elsewhere to meet the state's timeline for moving people out of New Orleans and other areas prior to the arrival of Hurricane Gustav, Gov. Bobby Jindal said Friday.

The state contracted for 700 buses with drivers to be made available in an emergency but has "run into challenges" with the primary bus contractor, the governor said during a news conference in Baton Rouge.

"The contractor is not necessarily doing what they promised to do, " Jindal said....snip

When asked about the problem in a phone interview Friday evening, company Chief Executive Officer Henry Gerkens initially said, "I'm not aware of that. I won't have any further comment, but that's not my understanding."
That is not the kind of news that builds confidence. At the last minute, the authorities are still trying to cobble together an evacuation. Nowhere do I see officials saying, "We are definitely ready. We definitely have the situation under control. We can evacuate everyone who may wish to leave the City before Gustav arrives."

Yet again, my heart goes out to the people of New Orleans. May they be safe. May they find shelter. May they be well.

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miércoles, agosto 27, 2008

Huckava Job, Brownie, Part Deux?

Its name is Gustav. And nobody is entirely sure where it's going. But the 5 day forecast map from makes an alarming prediction:

And that prediction is that this storm could grow in intensity and travel to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Join me in the City that Care Forgot.

AP reports:

On the cusp of Hurricane Katrina's third anniversary, nervous Gulf Coast residents watched Wednesday as a storm threatened to strengthen and crash ashore, testing everything the city has rebuilt.

Forecasters warned that Gustav had the potential to grow into a perilous Category 3 hurricane and approach the Gulf Coast by Monday morning — though cautioned that a storm's track and intensity are extremely difficult to predict several days in advance.

"We know it's going to head into the Gulf. After that, we're not sure where it's heading," said Rebecca Waddington, a meteorologist at the National Hurricane Center. "For that reason, everyone in the Gulf needs to be monitoring the storm."

City officials were taking no chances, and drawing blueprints of how to evacuate the city if necessary. New Orleans plans to institute a mandatory evacuation order should a Category 3 or stronger hurricane be within 72 hours of the city.
Unfortunately, repairs made to the levee system since Katrina aren't complete, and the Army Corps of Engineers is already talking about the possibilities for another disaster:
Since (Katrina), the Army Corps of Engineers has spent billions of dollars to improve the levee system. Though experts say the city and surrounding region are safer from hurricanes, the improved levee protection is incomplete and holes remain.

Floodgates have been installed on drainage canals in New Orleans to cut off storm surge from entering the city, and levees have been raised and in many places strengthened with concrete.

Robert Turner Jr., the regional levee director, said the levee system can handle a storm with the likelihood of occurring every 30 years, what the corps calls a 30-year storm. By comparison, Katrina was a 396-year storm.

"There's always the possibility if it comes from the right direction, and if it is large enough to create storm surge in the realm of Katrina, that there could be overtopping" of levees, Turner said.
A "30-year" storm? A "396-year" storm? These are engineering measurements, the probabilities and statistics that spell potential disasters. There is no comfort here. "30-year" storms can occur more frequently than every 3 decades. There is no real prediction of what category hurricane Gustav can become. There is nothing but uncertainty.

This leaves me feeling a deep and pervasive sadness. Yes, it looks like Gustav will avoid my home near Tulum, in Quintana Roo, Mexico, and I'm very thankful for that. But that's not really my point. I just can't bear the thought of yet another flood in New Orleans. NOLA and her citizens deserve something better:

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lunes, agosto 25, 2008

A Rumor Defies My Comprehension

On Sunday morning I went into town to gas up my car. While I was pondering the blue sky and the ridiculous price of gasoline, a man I know, a one-time client of mine, approached me and asked me if I had heard the bad news. I hadn't. He told me that on Saturday, a friend of mine, another lawyer, a colleague in the public defender's office, had died of a brain aneurism. I was shocked. My friend is about 25 years younger than I. I told my former client that I hadn't read about this in the paper or heard about it. He said he was sure it was true, that he was sorry, and he called his sister on his cell phone. Yes, she said, it was true. Four people had called her to tell her the news.

I went home and called our mutual, public defender boss. I think I woke her up. She said my friend was as alive as alive could be, that nothing was the matter, but that she, too, had received several calls about his having died. To put it mildly, reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. They were, in fact, false. I called him up. He answered the phone.

It seems that on Friday he was playing in a golf tournament. Through a bureaucratic error, no lawyer showed up to cover his cases in City Court, where he was supposed to be. The judge said in words or substance that my friend wouldn't be representing his clients, and he sent various people back to the jail or to home. Apparently, the rumor started after that.

This morning I spoke again to the dead man on the phone. He was fine. He'd received phone calls for two days about what had happened to him. He had visits from the police, the troopers and the deputies. His office had received numerous calls from his clients and friends. The funeral home next door to his office had received more than a dozen inquiries about what the arrangements were. A few people pulled into his driveway, some with tears streaming down their faces, to express their condolences. A few friends of his had called the house from as far away as Florida. A neighbor spoke to his father-- his father was leaving a child's birthday party at his home on Saturday-- to express his condolences.

Today is Monday. The rumor goes on, undeterred by the fact that the supposed dead guy is at his office, doing what he always does, and that the story is completely false.

Today I heard the story that his family was forced to pull the plug on him yesterday.

Meanwhile, he's agreed to call a few reporters he knows to see if he can stop this before somebody on a playground tells his young boys how sorry they are that their dad died.

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viernes, agosto 22, 2008

Mets: Save The Shea StadiumHome Run Apple

And here, to help bring that about, is the on line petition. Sign it and distribute widely!

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If Obama Governs A Tenth As Well As This Rocks, Electing Him Is Worth It

I just love that quotation from Dr. King.

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Olympic Protesters Punished Without Trials

Evidently, it's not a really good idea to assert free speech rights in China or to protest the policies of the Chinese government. If you're Chinese, as I previously wrote, you can be sent to "re-education through labor" if you apply five times to get a permit to protest legally. And what if you're a US Citizen and you protest? You are summarily punished without trial. Or deported. After all, protests about freedom for Tibet, or anything else that might offend you about the Chinese Government's policies, might tarnish the luster of the perfect, mechanistic Olympics.

The New York Times reports:
Six Americans who were taken into custody on Tuesday as they tried to protest against China’s rule in Tibet have been given 10-day detentions, the Chinese police said Friday.

But members of their organization, the New York-based Students for a Free Tibet, said that they had no information about four other protesters — two Americans, a German and a British citizen — who were detained early Thursday during a protest near the National Stadium. Extrajudicial detentions are a common form of punishment for Chinese dissidents, but are rarely handed out to foreigners, who are often deported almost immediately after being taken into custody. Members of Students for a Free Tibet have staged eight protests involving 55 people since the Olympics began on Aug. 8, and human rights advocates said the government might be seeking to deter those contemplating similar activities in the Games’ final days.


Reached by telephone, Public Security Bureau officials declined to comment, but faxed a two-sentence statement explaining that the six Americans had been “apprehended for upsetting public order.” The statement, which did not include the detainees’ names, said the men were being held at the Dongcheng police station.

You read that right. Extrajudicial detentions means punishment without trial. And the offense is "upsetting public order."

What exactly did these protesters do that so grievously "upset public order"?
Most of the organization’s demonstrations have involved unfurling “Free Tibet” banners or displaying Tibetan flags, which are illegal in China. In the latest action, four protesters raised their fists and shouted slogans while waving a Tibetan flag near the National Stadium. As at the other protests, the participants were quickly bundled off by plainclothes police officers.
So. The protesters are summarily detained and punished without trial. But it gets more interesting:
Two photographers for The Associated Press were also roughed and taken into custody, according to news agency reports and press freedom advocates. The police questioned them for 30 to 40 minutes and took the memory cards from their cameras.

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China has received dozens of complaints from foreign journalists who have been detained, trailed or had equipment damaged by the police.
How dare anyone so grievously upset public order during the Olympics! How dare newspeople and photographers actually do their jobs and record the protests! Didn't Chairman Mao write, "Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend?" Well maybe. But he must not have meant during the Olympics.

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miércoles, agosto 20, 2008

China: Free Wu Dianyuan And Wang Xiuying!

The Chinese Government is very afraid of these two women.

Seventy-nine-year-old Wu Dianyuan, on the right, and her neighbor Wang Xiuying, 77, followed the law. They applied for a protest permit. They wanted to protest inadequate compensation for the taking of their homes in preparation of the Olympics. They asked for the permit five times. They didn't get it. They ended up instead being sentenced to a year of "re-education through labor."

According to NY Times:
Two elderly Chinese women have been sentenced to a year of “re-education through labor” after they repeatedly sought a permit to demonstrate in one of the official Olympic protest areas, according to family members and human rights advocates.

The women, Wu Dianyuan, 79, and Wang Xiuying, 77, had made five visits to the police this month in an effort to get permission to protest what they contended was inadequate compensation for the demolition of their homes in Beijing.

During their final visit on Monday, public security officials informed them that they had been given administrative sentences for “disturbing the public order,” according to Li Xuehui, Ms. Wu’s son.

Mr. Li said his mother and Ms. Wang, who used to be neighbors before their homes were demolished to make way for a redevelopment project, were allowed to return home but were told they could be sent to a detention center at any moment. “Can you imagine two old ladies in their 70s being re-educated through labor?” he asked. He said Ms. Wang was nearly blind.
The Chinese government's suppression of all public protests at the Olympics is a disgrace. The details:
At least a half dozen people have been detained by the authorities after they responded to a government announcement late last month designating venues in three city parks as “protest zones” during the Olympics. So far, no demonstrations have taken place.

According to Xinhua, the state news agency, 77 people submitted protest applications, none of which were approved. Xinhua, quoting a public security spokesperson, said that apart from those detained all but three applicants had dropped their requests after their complaints were “properly addressed by relevant authorities or departments through consultations.” The remaining three applications were rejected for incomplete information or for violating Chinese law.

The authorities, however, have refused to explain what happened to applicants who disappeared after they submitted their paperwork. Among these, Gao Chuancai, a farmer from northeast China who was hoping to publicize government corruption, was forcibly escorted back to his hometown last week and remains in custody.

Relatives of another person who was detained, Zhang Wei, a Beijing resident who was also seeking to protest the demolition of her home, were told she would be kept at a detention center for a month. Two rights advocates from southern China have not been heard from since they were seized last week at the Public Security Bureau’s protest application office in Beijing.
And so, tonight on TV in the US, you will doubtless see some wonderful running, in fact, an incredible world record in the 200 meter sprint. And some incredible volley ball. And some remarkable soccer. And panoramic views of the "birds' nest" stadium. And you will hear the touching stories of those who have overcome extreme hardship to excel at their sports. Some of this will bring tears to your eyes, and some of it will make you marvel that anyone could achieve such heights. Some of it will stir feelings of nationalism and pride.

But there's something lurking just beneath the surface. It's the Olympics as Potemkin Village, the Olympics as propaganda, the Olympics as police state. And you've seen it all before. In the 1936 Olympics:
Leni Riefenstahl, a favorite of Hitler's, was commissioned by the IOC to film the Games. Her film, entitled Olympia, introduced many of the techniques now common to the filming of sports.

By allowing only members of the "Aryan" race to compete for Germany, Hitler further promoted his ideological belief of racial supremacy. At the same time, the party removed signs stating "Jews not wanted" and similar slogans from the city's main tourist attractions. In an attempt to "clean up" Berlin, the German Ministry of Interior authorized the chief of police to arrest all Romani (Gypsies) and keep them in a special camp. Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of anti-homosexual laws.
Isn't Berlin Beijing wonderful? Isn't this all about peace, and unity, and brother and sisterhood? Isn't this all about fun and peaceful competition? Isn't this all about entertainment and sport as a unifying force? Isn't this beyond politics? Well, no, it isn't. The protests for human rights, for Freedom for Tibet, for free speech, for an end to the genocide in Darfur have all been suppressed in China.

But, folks, we're not in China. And we need to raise a ruckus. We need to call on China to free Wu Dianyuan And Wang Xiuying, and everyone else they are holding to keep Berlin Beijing and its Olympics beautiful.

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lunes, agosto 18, 2008

I'm Going To Hell

Pardon me. I'm not a Christian. Never was, never will be. I don't believe that Jesus was the messiah, that he died for my sins. I don't have a personal relationship with him. I haven't been saved. Or redeemed. I haven't been re-born. I don't believe the Bible is the literal word of God. And I was simply and utterly infuriated that both the presumptive presidential nominees decided to attend Rev. Rick Warren's forum so they could show him and his many co-religionists that they were, well, just like them. That they were all good, moral Christians, and they all believed very much in a particular kind of Christianity, and that they were willing to prove it. I was outraged that they decided to make a spectacle of their "faith." But I was even more outraged that they would seek to prove they had the right kind of faith to this particular audience.

That's right, prove it. They weren't going to refuse the invitation. They weren't going to say, "I'm sorry, but what I believe is private. It's between me and my God. I am not willing publicly to discuss theology." They weren't going to say, "I'm sorry, I believe in the separation of church and state, and, therefore, I consider this mega church to be an inappropriate setting for a political discussion about secular, political matters." They weren't going to say, "I'm sorry, I'm a very good person, but I don't believe the same things you say I should believe. I'm nevertheless scrupulously honest and moral." They weren't going to say, "You're free to think about these issues any way you wish, but I don't want to discuss how my religious beliefs might be related to my policy positions. My policy positions stand on their own merit." No. No chance. The candidates decided to show up, and they blatantly pandered to these right wing evangelicals. To gain their approval, to gain their votes.

Unlike Rev. Warren, I don't believe that life begins at conception. I don't believe that homosexuality is a sin. I don't believe that Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Hindus and atheists will all go to hell. source. I don't agree with those positions, I think they're dead wrong, but I will defend his Constitutional right to believe anything he wishes to believe. His receiving a federal income tax exemption might be a different matter.

The spectacle of the presumptive nominees agreeing to this kind of forum, however, completely disgusts me. I don't agree that the US is a Christian nation, whatever that means. I don't agree that religious belief equates with morality. I don't agree that personal "character" correlates to a person's religious preference or his/her "faith."

So today, after thinking about the forum, and after reading about the questions, and after pondering the distractions offered by the "cross in the dirt" and the "cone of silence," I realized that I was simply outraged that, in addition to all of the other parts of the Constitution that have been trashed in the last 8 years, the part of the First Amendment forbidding state establishments of religion, has now also been unceremoniously scrapped.

How else can you explain the candidates showing up at a mega church to discuss with an evangelical pastor the way their faith influences their politics?

And don't tell me that it's all about getting the votes of these religious people and that after the election the bright line between church and state will somehow miraculously be restored. It won't be. It's too late.

And don't tell me how Obama's views were more acceptable, more moderate than McCain's. That's not the point. Neither of the candidates should have been at Rick Warren's forum. Neither of them should be permitting this kind of encroachment of religion into the resolution of civil, political issues.

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domingo, agosto 17, 2008

An Incredible 10K

Kenenisa Bekele

Take it from somebody whose best 10K was 37:30, and who was proud of that. What happened in the Olympics today was just an incredible race. According to Times:
Kenenisa Bekele has successfully defended his Olympic 10,000-meter title in a competition record time, leading teammate Sileshi Sihine in an Ethiopian 1-2 again.

Bekele hit the front 450 meters from the finish Sunday and crossed in 27 minutes, 1.17 seconds to beat the record he set four years ago.

Sihine, who was second at the Athens Olympics and at the last two world championships, took silver in 27:02.77. Micah Kogo of Kenya won bronze in 27:04.11.
So I'm awed. On my best day these guys would have beaten me by more than 10 minutes. When they would be finishing, I would be back at the 4.5 mile mark, with 1.7 miles to go. That is some really incredible running.

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viernes, agosto 15, 2008

Gitmo On The Platte: The Police State Lives In Denver

Just in case you thought that exercising your Constitutional Right to assemble in Denver, engage in non-violent protest and perhaps participate in civil disobedience at the Democratic National Convention was going to be easy and humane, the NY Times informs in an article entitled, "Grim Warehouse Set To Process Convention Arrests," that is not be the case. The Government has set up a mini-Gitmo to handle pesky protesters who get arrested in Denver. And they're telling you about it now, so you'll reconsider your plans. And maybe stay home.
Individuals arrested at the Democratic National Convention will be processed at an industrial warehouse with chain-link cells topped by razor wire, a facility some have compared to the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay. /snip

The Denver sheriff's office, which operates city and county jails, insists anyone taken to the center will be there only a few hours while they're fingerprinted, issued a court date and released after posting bail. Others will be transferred to facilities designed for longer detentions.

''Of course if the numbers are overwhelming, that's all going to be out the door,'' said Capt. Frank Gale, a sheriff's spokesman. ''If we're inundated with a bunch of civil unrest, it doesn't matter how well we prepare. If we get severe numbers it's going to take us forever'' to process those in custody. /snip A sign [at the facility] read: ''Electric stun devices used here.''

Gale said each cell will be about 20-by-20 feet. He refused to say how many people could be processed there. /snip

ACLU-Colorado legal director Mark Silverstein said city officials told him detained protesters will be taken by bus to the facility, about 2 miles northeast of downtown. Those who are unable or refuse to post bail will be taken to a downtown city jail to await a court date.

Silverstein said warehouse cells won't have running water, bathrooms or telephones. Gale said deputies will escort anyone needing those services.
Great. A mini-Gitmo on the Platte. 20 x 20 cells with an unknown number of people in them, for an unknown period of time, without food, water or toilets. And the idea that if there are too many people, whatever planning there was would be overwhelmed. And then those incarcerated would be stuck.

You'll pardon me, but it reminds me of this 1964 event when there were too many protesters and too few cells:
The Natchez occurrence included the arrest of plaintiffs while engaged in a civil rights march without a parade permit on one of the principal streets of Natchez, and their subsequent detention at the city auditorium for several hours. The arrests took place on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 2, 3, and 4, 1964 under the same circumstances. /snip The remaining arrestees were removed to the Parchman State Penitentiary on commercial buses, three busloads on Saturday, two on Sunday and one on Monday. /snip

One facet of this special treatment was that each person was compelled to take a laxative upon admission to maximum security. He applied this procedure to the arrestees who testified. Another tactic then employed in this section of the prison was that male prisoners were deprived of their clothing and issued underwear as their sole wearing apparel while confined. This tactic was doubly imposed on the male arrestees. They were stripped of their clothing and left naked for varying periods of time, some for as long as 36 hours. None were issued underwear. Some were allowed to claim and wear their own underwear; one was allowed to wear the top to his underwear but not his shorts.

As to the female arrestees who testified, they were compelled to take the laxative. They were deprived of their coats and other outer garments, stockings and shoes, but were allowed to wear their dresses and undergarments.

All arrestees were confined in cells designed to accommodate two persons, having two bunk beds, one lavatory, and one commode. They were not given mattresses, pillows or cover. The temperature ranged from 60~ to 70~. From four to eight persons were placed in each of the cells. They slept on the bare steel beds or on the floor. They huddled together for warmth.
That's what tends to happen when the planning is overwhelmed, the authorities make other arrangements. And they make them without consultation from representatives of those who've been arrested. They do what they want to do how they want to do it.

The purpose for telling you this now, of reminding me about this now, just before the convention?

It's called a "chilling effect." You'll be hesitant to exercise your rights, to protest, to be arrested, to engage in any sort non-violent civil disobedience that might result in arrest, authorities think, if you believe that your arrest will be extremely unpleasant, hours upon hours of confinement without running water, without bathrooms, without contact with those outside.

If large numbers of protesters mean that the Government's planning is "all going to be out the door" if large numbers of people are arrested, leave aside what a "large number" might mean in this case, who do you think is going to be taking those arrested to the bathroom? Who do you think is going to make sure those arrested have food and water? Who do you think is going to make sure that those arrested receive adequate medical attention if they need it while in confinement? I think you know the answer.

The question is whether this makes one shrivel, or whether it makes one more steadfast. Either way, the story from Denver is just plain appalling.

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martes, agosto 12, 2008

Next Wonderful Writer You Might Not Have Heard Of : Adolfo Bioy Casares

As promised, my next WWYMNHHO essay (in about 2 weeks or so mas y menos) will be about Adolfo Bioy Casares' novel The Invention of Morel, a short, intense, brilliant novel. Both Borges and Octavio Paz described the novel as "perfect." It is a small gem (100 pages +/-).

This little notice is here at kj's suggestion. Folks may want to read the book before the essay, and discuss it in the comments to the essay. Maybe WWYMNHHO can be our version of the Algonquin Round Table. Or Gertrude Stein's living room.

I'm stoked.

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lunes, agosto 11, 2008

In The Sky Tonight: The Perseid Meteor Shower

A Perseid Shower

This will be incredibly quick. Read this, back away from the keyboard, turn off all the lights (this works best in rural America), go outside and look up. Look up at the night sky. Be patient. Tonight, dharmaniacs, is the annual Perseid Meteor shower.

Space Daily (that title is not a joke) reports:
Mark your calendar: The 2008 Perseid meteor shower peaks on August 12th and it should be a good show. "The time to look is during the dark hours before dawn on Tuesday, August 12th," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center.

"There should be plenty of meteors--perhaps one or two every minute."

The source of the shower is Comet Swift-Tuttle. Although the comet is far away, currently located beyond the orbit of Uranus, a trail of debris from the comet stretches all the way back to Earth. Crossing the trail in August, Earth will be pelted by specks of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at 132,000 mph.

At that speed, even a flimsy speck of dust makes a vivid streak of light when it disintegrates--a meteor! Because, Swift-Tuttle's meteors streak out of the constellation Perseus, they are called "Perseids."

(Note: In the narrative that follows, all times are local. For instance, 9:00 pm means 9:00 pm in your time zone, where you live. )

Serious meteor hunters will begin their watch early, on Monday evening, August 11th, around 9 pm when Perseus first rises in the northeast.

This is the time to look for Perseid Earthgrazers--meteors that approach from the horizon and skim the atmosphere overhead like a stone skipping across the surface of a pond.

"Earthgrazers are long, slow and colorful; they are among the most beautiful of meteors," says Cooke. He cautions that an hour of watching may net only a few of these at most, but seeing even one can make the whole night worthwhile.
The LA Times version, with times in PDT:
“The most eagerly anticipated event this week is the annual Perseid meteor shower – the summer’s finest. This year the shower’s maximum is expected during the dark hours between the evening of Monday, Aug. 11, and dawn of Tuesday, Aug. 12. The best time to watch is from moonset, at 1:57 a.m., until dawn, at 4:45 a.m. The number of meteors that you can see depends on the quality of your observing conditions, and the greatest number, between one and two per minute, are only expected from wilderness sites free of urban light pollution. The best way to watch is by reclining in a sleeping bag (and coat) on a deck chair. Aim your gaze high overhead, in the east or northeast direction. Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky, but seem to come from the direction of the constellation Perseus, the superhero.”
I know, I know. You have to go away from the screen, away from the keyboard, and then, of all impossible things, you have to look up. Sorry. They haven't invented Perseids 2.0, the meteor that's not outside and is on demand, but they're working on it. Until then, the best show in town tonight is in the sky.

Enjoy. h/t to Americablog.

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The Bullpen Makes Me Cringe

Aaron Heilman Where He Belongs: Sitting In The Dugout

The Metropolitans are 2.5 games back, tied with the Fish for second place in the NL East. The Philanderers are still in first place.

Los Mets have been playing miserable beisbol, losing 6 of their last 10. My hero, Carlos Delgado, is playing ok (25 homers, 111 hits), but the Mets are losing and they're falling behind in the pennant race. Why? The Mets bullpen is simply awful. The bullpen is not aware they are supposed to get opposing batters out. They think they are pitching in the home run derby.

In today's game, for example, Pedro Martinez went 6 innings and left the game with a 4 run lead. The Mets managed to squander the lead and lose the game to the Pirates 7-5 because the Pirates scored 3 runs in the top of the 7th inning and 3 more in the top of the 9th inning for a come from behind victory.

And who was pitching in the 9th? Aaron Heilman, whose appearance on the mound means that the Mets lead is in jeopardy, no matter how large that lead might be. Fans should scream or bury their faces in their hands when he steps on the mound. In today's typically miserable performance he gave up a walk, 2 hits and 3 runs. He actually got 1 guy out before he left the game, having pitched 1/3 of an inning. Great job, Brownie. And the rest of the runs? Those were given up by major league wannabes, Pedro Feliciano, who gave up 1, and Joe Smith who gave up 2 in the 7th. To a powerhouse team? To a team of dreaded sluggers? No. To the Pirates. The same Pirates who are 10 games below .500 and 17 games out in the Central Division. The same Pirates who will probably be eliminated from contention for anything in the next 2 weeks.

Just look at the bullpen stats for the past 10 games. They're revolting:

The figures next to each pitcher are: /Innings Pitched/ Hits / Walks
Pedro Feliciano: 6.0/ 2/ 2
Aaron Heilman : 11.1/ 14/ 6
Duaner Sanchez : 7.2 / 10/ 3
Scott Schoeneweis: 7.0 / 9/ 2
Joe Smith: 6.1 /11 / 4
Totals: 38.1 /47/ 17

What do all of these numbers add up to? It's relatively simple. They mean that either by giving up hits or walks, this bullpen has put on base 64 base runners in 38.1 innings pitched, roughly two per inning, in the past 10 games. And that, to be generous, is unbelievably miserable. It's unacceptable.

With a bull pen like this, of course the Metrosexuals cannot win. When the starters leave after 6 or 7 innings and have given the Metropolitans a 3 or 4 or even a 5 run lead, the bullpen sends in a "pitcher" to give the opposing team batting practice. And of course, the opposing team virtually always scores runs. Lots of runs. Runs to come from far, far behind. Runs to win, when they should have been counted out.

How can an opposing team not win when the Mets bullpen has a 2 base runners per inning average? Long story short: this bullpen is giving the games away despite adequate offense and despite good starting pitching.

Will it stop? Will it ever stop this season? Are you kidding? You cannot stop this by firing pitching coaches. You cannot stop this by firing managers. You cannot stop this by yelling in the clubhouse. Nothing will make this stop except sending these guys back to AA or A ball where they belong and finding replacements. Maybe the Brooklyn Cyclones or the Tri-City Valley Cats have some relievers ?

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sábado, agosto 09, 2008

Wonderful Writers You Might Not Have Heard Of: Cesar Aira

Cesar Aira

Maybe this should be an occasional series. I don't really know how many wonderful, creative Latin American writers' works I have come to admire, which strangely have received utterly insufficient notice in the US. These would include works by writers with too few English translations, and works revered in their writers' own countries, but virtually unknown in the US. The authors of these works, like the one in this essay, are the writers you might not have heard of.

Wiki tells the basics about Cesar Aira:
César Aira (born on February 23, 1949 in Coronel Pringles, Buenos Aires Province) is an Argentine writer and translator, considered by many as one of the leading exponents of Argentine contemporary literature, in spite of his limited public recognition.

He has published over fifty books of stories, novels and essays. Indeed, at least since 1993 a hallmark of his work is an almost frenetic level of writing and publication –two to four novella-length books each year.

Aira has often spoken in interviews of elaborating an avant-garde aesthetic in which, rather than editing what he has written, he engages in a “flight forward” (fuga hacia adelante) to improvise a way out of the corners he writes himself into. Aira also seeks in his own work, and praises in the work of others (such as the Argentine-Parisian cartoonist and comic novelist Copi), the “continuum” (el continuo) of a constant movement forward in the fictional narrative. As a result his fictions can jump radically from one genre to another, and often deploy narrative strategies from popular culture and “subliterary” genres like pulp science fiction and television soap operas; on the other hand, he frequently deliberately refuses to conform to generic expectations for how a novel ought to end, leaving many of his fictions quite open-ended.

I have to cite the Wiki and include the link because this is potentially confusing territory when it comes to Latin America literature. I don't want you to think I'm following in the footsteps of Roberto Bolano's novel, Nazi Literature In The Americas, which followed in the gigantic footsteps of Jorge Luis Borges, and that I'm possibly writing a review of a fictional writer's book that was, in fact, never really written. But could have been. Or that I'm following Ricardo Piglia's example and providing you with a fictional piece I'm attributing to someone (Piglia chose Roberto Arlt in his wonderful novel, Assumed Name) who didn't write it, when, in fact, I did. But I digress.

Cesar Aira is real. Rest assured of that. And he's an incredibly gifted, prolific writer, whom you might not have heard of.

An Episode In The Life Of A Landscape Painter, written in 2000, is a beautiful, short (87 pages), brilliant, gem of a novella. It was a great read. I can't believe that so few people in the US know of the book or of its writer.

A jacket blurb:
An astounding novel from Argentina that is a meditation on the beautiful and the grotesque in nature, on the art of landscape painting, and on one experience in a man's life that became a lightning rod for inspiration.
The novella is about a fictional trip of Johann Moritz Rugendas (1802-1858), an actual painter, and a painter colleague of his, to the pampas of Argentina to paint landscapes which, according to the theories of Alexander von Humboldt, will achieve a "physiognomic totality" of places he paints. Unfortunately, along the way, a grotesque and dreadful accident intervenes (you'll not get the details of this from me) and the accident completely and savagely changes Rugendas and his art and the journey. Rugendas is physically destroyed by the accident, but he continues nevertheless to paint.

Aira tells the story compellingly and unemotionally. His writing, even in translation, is elegant and fluid. And it's true that it goes ever forward. The book is a short, eye opening masterpiece. I am delighted to have found it, and I consider it in the class of Juan Rulfo's seminal work, Pedro Paramo. I consider it a "must read."

As far as I can tell, only two of Aira's novellas have been translated into English. The other is How I Became A Nun. What a sad state of affairs.

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jueves, agosto 07, 2008

It's About The Love

Juan Carlos Onetti (1909-1994)

A continuation of an idea. Remember my essay that mentioned the Uruguayan writer Juan Carlos Onetti? I thought not. It's OK. It was about what happened to various writers when their countries decided that what they wrote was unacceptable. The piece was an inquiry about whether that kind of police state might be growing in the US.

Here's an excerpt:
[Onetti] went on to become one of Latin America's most distinguished writers, earning Uruguay's National Prize in literature in 1962. In 1974, he and some of his colleagues were imprisoned by the military dictatorship. Their crime: as members of the jury, they had chosen Nelson Marra's short story El guardaespaldas (i.e. "The bodyguard") as the winner of Marcha's annual literary contest. Due to a series of misunderstandings (and the need to fill some space in the following day's edition), El guardaespaldas was published in Marcha, although it had been widely agreed among them that they shouldn't and wouldn't do so, knowing this would be the perfect excuse for the military to intervene Marcha, considering the subject of the story (the interior monologue of a top-rank military officer who recounts his murders and atrocious behavior, much as it was happening with the functioning regime).

Onetti left his native country (and his much-loved city of Montevideo) after being imprisoned for 6 months in Colonia Etchepare, a mental institution. A long list of world-famous writers-including Gabriel García Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa and Mario Benedetti-signed open letters addressed to the military government of Uruguay, which was unaware of the talented (and completely harmless) writer it had imprisoned and humiliated.

As soon as he was released, Onetti fled to Spain with his wife, violin player Dorotea Mühr.
Join me in Spain.

Apparently, printing the offending story greatly displeased those in power, and the government responded aggressively with summary imprisonment and ultimately with exile. It could have responded with disappearance, kidnapping, and murder. Until the Marcha story was printed Onetti, evidently, was willing to try to co-exist with a military government, one like the fictional one in Lavanda:
One of the last communiques of the government of Lavanda had forbidden, with plausible whereases and wherefores, anyone to write "eyes the shape of hazelnuts" or "hazel-colored." Just as it was forbidden to surround, to highlight, a form with an outline in white or black. Clever painters use cobalt blue or greenish smears that bring diapers to mind.
Confronted with this, Onetti didn't pack up his typewriter, strap it on his back and cross the border to Brazil, or find solace with other South American ex-pats in the cafes of Barcelona (that's another, long essay entirely), or seek asylum in Mexico like so many Chilean's who later confronted Pinochet's similar, repressive government. No, his love of place let him, required him to stay. Despite an unacceptable government. Despite unacceptable censorship. Despite unacceptable restraints on his vital freedom of expression. His staying was a manifestation of love.

Onetti has frequently been compared with William Faulkner. Like Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County, Onetti's Santa Maria, a city resembling Montevideo, was alive in his pre-exile stories, and like Faulkner's, many of Onetti's characters migrate from one novel to another. The pharmacist who is instrumental in helping to open a brothel in Santa Maria in one story turns up again in several others. The doctor who provides an abortion in one novel has nightly soirees in another at his unusual home built on stilts. The novels and stories merge into a place, Santa Maria. The reader becomes unsure how s/he knows so much about the character or the place, but recognizes the familiarity, the connections.

When Onetti was driven into exile, his heart broke, and he could no longer return to Montevideo.

Onetti's first novel after his flight from Uruguay was Let the Wind Speak. It was written in Spain in 1979. And it's a novel of coming of age, nostalgia, recollection, and sadness, set in Lavanda, a city across the river from Santa Maria, a city deeply loved but forbidden to the narrator. The narrator, by turns a phoney doctor, a painter, a police chief, reminisces, and his stories are imbued with his love for his native Santa Maria. And the writing, in this narration by the painter, is extraordinarily evocative, even in translation into English:
Frieda and I listened, in the pauses, to music on the radio. It was, I believe, a German before Bach and the man, his music, were always right. They told me that the only thing that mattered was to paint. That it was necessary, even for the hygiene of the soul, to do without women, friends and money, to lose all interest in landscapes and oceans, never to accept, never to take seriously the meaninglessness of a world, of a life that I didn't make myself, that were forced on me, that are there, outside and inside, implacable each time upon awakening, without anyone's having had the courtesy to consult me, to ask my opinion, at least, about some petty, and apparently, unimportant detail.

I forgot my answers, my objections almost immediately. The man playing music on the radio proceeded from one phrase to another, from one tempo to another, invariably being right and saying so in a miraculous way.
(page 75).

This is all about love, and its negation, its being thwarted. Here, the love of a city to which entrance is denied. The love of old friends, who can no longer be seen. The love of a life that no longer exists. Memories that cannot be replicated. A tangible feeling of remembered but spoiled love.

I read Let The Wind Speak on a long airplane trip, with many landings and take-offs, from the west coast of the US to the east. I had lots of time to think about it as I bounced around the August sky. And I wondered why I and so many others had apparently ceded love of country to the bullies and the loudmouths and the brown shirts and the radio bloviators and the politicians. Why, for example, did I think that most people proclaiming their love of the US were hypocrites, liars, fakers, and totalitarians of various stripes? Didn't I, too, love the country? Well, yes, but not like them. Never like them. Their "love" disgusts me.

So I wondered whether I could find a love of my country that was more like Onetti's. I wondered if I could feel how deeply I love it, but at the same time, how all of its many imperfections, its lunatic, criminal government, its appetite for violence and waste and war and greediness and empire repel me. Could I feel these feelings simultaneously? I don't want to skip over these ideas and feelings. And rush on to politics. No. What I'd prefer is to see whether I can feel all of these feelings of love and despair and sadness and fear deeply, before doing anything, before planning anything.

For now I just want to feel the love and its many complications.

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