Monday, July 31

Do Tell

David Brooks, "Cease-Fire To Nowhere", July 30

We haven't chatted about David Brooks in a while, coinciding exactly with the backdoor entrance to Times Select being discovered and padlocked. The neighbor still tosses him over the backyard fence every Sunday, but the thought of actually typing out a string of Boboisms puts me off my feed.

I don't know if Brooks is the worst poker player among the punditocracy or not. I'm strictly a family-game, dealer's choice, penny-ante, Sunday nights around my Uncle Floyd's kitchen table guy (they let me join in when I turned 12), where Baseball and Night Baseball were favored games and bluffing was considered somewhat unChristian. I never learned the art of reading other players or making myself opaque. To this day I rely on sunglasses and the I Claudius defense.

But, sheesh, Brooks is so transparent you have to unfold the Op-Ed section completely and lay it out on a white background just to read him. The tell is often in the freakin' headline. even though someone else wrote it (and no, I don't mean the subject, but whatever trick he happens to be reaching for).

It takes three paragraphs this week, unless you stop reading at that headline, but only because Brooks is quoting someone else for the first two:
There are victory markers strewn across southern Lebanon commemorating the last time Israel withdrew from that land. While reporting a piece for The New Yorker a few years ago, Jeffrey Goldberg would come upon them by the roads. It was like seeing the battle markers at Gettysburg or Antietam, he wrote.

One brightly colored sign, written in both Arabic and (rough) English, marked the spot where “On Oct. 19, 1988 at 1:25 p.m. a martyr car that was body trapped with 500 kilograms of highly exploding materials transformed two Israeli troops into masses of fire and limbs.”

Busloads of tourists would take victory tours and stop at the prominent sights. Before the current war, there were gift shops and, in at least one place, a poster showing a Hezbollah fighter lifting a severed Israeli head. It all testified to the magnetism of a successful idea: that Muslim greatness can be restored through terrorism.

Restored through terrorism! It was worth all that retyping, I think. Lebanese killing Israeli soldiers inside Lebanon are engaging in terrorism (presumably because they don't do so from US-supplied bombers nor do they march out to face the enemy in Frederick the Great's infantry squares). Small wonder our peace efforts always fail.

Thursday, July 27

Operation Purple Finger

Always interesting to see the continuing defense of Yellow Elephantiasis continuing to miss the point--the point now being "Why, other than a guilty conscience and no answer for the actual charges are you still concerned about being called a Chickenhawk?" Al Franken brought that up in 1996, fer chrissakes. A century ago!

I'd like to suggest that the political cowardice inherent in refusing to enact a military draft to either increase the numbers of available combat troops or to begin to repair the long-term damage inflicted on military manpower approaches the same level as the physical cowardice of those who intone about WWIII and the Clash of Civilizations but won't put their own mizzable carcasses on the line. Mr. Jacoby? Mr. May? Or is seeming to support conscription you know the administration and the Republican Congress will never enact just a bit too similar to your war records for comfort?

Then there's this other piece of calculated obtuseness, from Sully:

A reader wants to know what the silence is all about:

The radio silence on Lebanon from the left-wing blogosphere (i.e. Kos, Atrios) is fascinating, and your reader from the ' Liberal Blogs and Israel ' post had it about right. To sympathize with Hezbollah would expose these bloggers to a potentially career-damaging backlash. However, to take the mainstream Democratic line of say, Chuck Schumer, would be to seriously alienate a chunk of their readership.

And for sure, Hezbollah sympathizers do exist on the left. One only has to listen to KPFA, the 'free speech network' broadcast out of Berkeley to get a taste of unfiltered Hezbollah propaganda, in which Mullah Nasrallah is characterized as the new Che Guevara. The Weekly Standard might have done better to listen to some of these transcripts, rather than to desperately fish around the diaries on Kos.

Okay, one, I already knew the days when conservatives knew their Latin were over, although the idea that Atrios or Kos would fear to suffer, let alone could suffer, "career-damaging backlash" is perhaps looney enough that we should consider whether A. Reader really does imagine them to be the left-wing blogosphere. Ditto, of course, for the St. Vitus' dance that leads us to the Left end of the Left Coast and the Left-hand side of your radio dial, a spastic non-sequitur Sully leaves in...Why? For verisimilitude? Or out of nostalgia for the Good Ol' Days of Exposing Fifth Columnists?

At any rate--here's a shocker--having quoted the thing in full Sully's just sorta not sure what he makes of it quite:
I've actually been skeptical of beating up on Kos on this. But I just read the last three pages of posts on the main site , and there's only one even vaguely alluding to the crisis with Hezbollah. That's just plain weird. I know we're not supposed to notice silence on blogs - people are free to ignore all sorts of stories. But the silence can be instructive (hey, I studied with a Straussian).

Studied what, exactly? Prestidigitation? Talking out of both sides of your mouth? (I admit, either would have been a good choice).
This would make sense if there were no connections between Hezbollah and Iran and Iraq. Are lefties unable to grapple with complex regional wars? Nah. They're just wimping out. My reader gives one plausible reason why. Is there a more persuasive one?

Okay, lemme answer that quickly: No.

Because, frankly, unless Juan Cole and Billmon have neglected to pay their dues some of the best commentary on the war is coming from the Left, while the most predictable, uninformed and uncaring blather proceeds from the usual sources on the Right--unless you imagine that casting Hezbollah as Hitler of the Week, calling David Ignateus objectively pro-terrorist, or rewriting the whole business as David vs. Goliath II qualifies as clear-sighted, hard-hitting, let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may bloggy goodness. Meaning there's no argument at all, let alone a persuasive one.

Just a couple more things: one, this means the next time it's convenient to portray Alan Dershowitz or Joe Lieberman as "lefties" you can stuff it. And two, I'd like to know where exactly the right-wing blogosphere is taking on the sudden Total Disinterest in all things democratic and the Middle East in its own ranks. You're so all-fired eager to talk about wimping out, let's talk about how fast that indelible purple ink washed out.

Wednesday, July 26

Fun With Math, WWIII Edition

~ $2.2 Billion per annum US direct military aid to Israel (FY 2005)

+/- $3 Billion damage to Lebanon (per Finance Minister Jihad Azour), accomplished almost exclusively with that aid money

= $30 Million in US "humanitarian" aid

Monday, July 24


It started coming apart early last week, after Mom had gone over to my sister's for a few days. My sister starts a new job today, and wanted to get this week away from Mom-related stress.

It was becoming obvious that her clan--my brother-in-law in particular--were losing patience with Mom. That revelation hit my wife and me pretty hard. There's been a slow recognition that they're part of the problem. My sister relayed her husband's solution to the Mom Problem last week: just sit down at the table and tell her she was going to a home, get packed. Mission accomplished.

We've also come to realize, slowly, again, that my sister's medical plan was that we'd get Mom into assisted living, where they'd take care of it. Last week I finally said No, and No, she's not going back to your family doctor, the one who upset her with some flippant remarks. There's an appointment with a geriatric clinic next month, assuming we all live that long.

I've sworn there will be no open hostilities between me and my sister, and I'm keeping to it, but it's surprising just how easily people can get under your skin even when you're on guard. Last week she announced (I could hear the sound of her husband pulling the strings to make her dance) that each household needed to take her a full week at a time, and that Dad and The Girls would be at The Lake for a week's vacation, starting this (last) weekend. This just happened to coincide with my wife leaving town for a week-long class at a major university three hours to our north. I guess it hadn't occurred to them we might have things to do as well. So I got to be the beta-tester of the new One Week rule, and the going away party I'd planned for my wife had to go back in my shorts.

Okay, some people live through the truly horrible every day and come up punching, so I'd soldier on. But then Friday morning, while I was out, my Poor Wife gets a call from Mom. Agitated. Wants to talk to me. Informed I'm not there she say's I'd better be there to pick her up within the hour "or she's getting on a plane and flying back to Florida". Which, of course, is what she wants to do anyway. I get home, get the story, then get a call from my sister (who's left Mom in the care of her eleven-year-old, her informant). It turns out that they had decided Mom would go with them to The Lake for the weekend, then come to my place Sunday night. Only Mom didn't get the memo (neither did we) and is now refusing to go.

I said we'd be over to get her. My sister said, "Okay, I'll tell [my husband] he can stop arguing with her now."

That is also part of the plan, I guess. Argue the point with her until she sees the error of her Alzheimer's.

She was on the couch, weeping. The daughter was freaked. My sister was jumping out of her skin. Hubby and older daughter were gone, lakeward. Got Mom home and, as usual with these strong emotional episodes, she went right to sleep. I figured she'd be out for 24 hours, but she was up by dinner time, feeling chipper and acting like nothing had happened.

This went on for the next 36 hours--I'd already resolved not to bring up any unpleasantness until my wife left. Just after she did Mom fell asleep on the couch, so I went outside and washed the deck and tidied up the garden, then climbed the stairs to read awhile.

She was up when I came back down and I could sense there was trouble. She asked if I'd do her a favor. Sure thing, Mom, just name it. Take me to Florida tomorrow. You, mother dear, are out of your frickin' mind.

Which is not quite the way I put it. More like, "Why do you need to go to Florida?" in my best nurse's/Lite Rock DJ voice. Seems the bank had called her and she was needed there right away to handle some paperwork. I was not supposed to find it odd that her Florida bank called her at my house. On a Saturday afternoon. I was, in fact, Calling Her a Liar. I told her that my sister had all the finances under control, which I knew would let me in for a ten-minute tirade about how she's stealing Mom's money, and "made herself the attorney because that girl at the bank told her to." Girls at the Bank are incredibly powerful in Mom's universe. Like purses they are some sort of portal to the Inner Light. The waves kept coming and coming, and I just tried to remain upright. "You wouldn't have to stay. Just take me down there." "I'll just go by myself. You can just drive me to the airport. You don't have to tell anybody." Finally she asked for a phone book, as though I couldn't figure out what she was going to do with it.

Phone books, too, are a mysterious force in this strange galaxy of hers. She will pore over them endlessly, fall asleep with them on her lap, leave slips of paper to mark pages she can't possibly need. I let her have the thing. She's still at it this morning. She managed to find Airport Transportation in the Yellow Pages, but she can't figure out how to dial the phone, or where to tell them to come. She called a friend of hers in Florida for assistance, but left off the dial tone. I think she got somebody's answering machine, since she just said Hello a couple times and hung up.

What goes on in her head? Emotion reigns supreme; strong emotional scenes and the emotional attachments she puts on other, non-emotional events, trump everything else. Rational thought--not in the philosophical sense, but in the sense of acting in such a way as to not be run over by a bus while crossing the street--registers mostly as emotion. It's good to take your pills or see to the day's hygiene, when the subject comes up, but these aren't guiding principles. If the phone or the remote control do not work to her satisfaction she puts them down and later mumbles about how they aren't working, which seems merely to indicate her emotional relationship to them, not a plea for someone to do anything about it. I've let her wash some dishes, twice. She'll leave the water running in the wash sink as she rinses, and moving it while warning her it's about to overflow will do no good unless you maintain the vigilance; the faucet will be aimed back at the brimming sink within thirty seconds, aimed at the single sink of suburbs long since past, I suppose, since she's used nothing but dishwashers since 1968. She dries everything, but them gets sidetracked because she doesn't know where anything goes. Never checks any of the cupboards to find out.

The phone book is much in evidence again this morning, and she still imagines she's going back to Florida. She tried to convince me to drive her to the bank for funds. I'm letting it play out until this afternoon, when we'll sit down and have the same conversation about her future we've had five times before, and maybe I'll get her to agree to get an apartment up here. In which case I'll be driving her where she wants to go, as quickly as I can get her in the car.

Friday, July 21

Black Market

Bush@NAACP [Kathryn Jean Lopez ] I was just talking to a crowd watcher about the president's speech today who noticed and noted: Whenever the President mentioned policies that could actually provide long-term benefits for blacks (school choice, home ownership initiatives, asset accumulation and protection)- silence or unenthusiastic applause. When he talked about the government spending money-louder applause. And when he talked about reauthorization of the VRA, which many in the crowd incorrectly think is necessary otherwise blacks won't be permitted to vote-wild applause. Conclusion: a reaffirmation that the NAACP remains stuck in the 1960s. Any wonder why younger blacks ignore it? Posted at 4:15 PM

Well, there's one thing we do know--it's not because they're flocking to the Republican Party.

Thursday, July 20

You Can Observe a Lot Just by Watching

This, then, apart from the wide disparity in their values to society, would be the principal difference between Yogi Berra and the Washington Neocons: looked at in the proper light, Berra's utterances sort of make sense.

Michael Abramowitz, Washington Post: "Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush's Foreign Policy"
"It is Topic A of every single conversation," said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a think tank that has had strong influence in staffing the administration and shaping its ideas. "I don't have a friend in the administration, on Capitol Hill or any part of the conservative foreign policy establishment who is not beside themselves with fury at the administration."

"It" meaning the recognition that five years of unfettered application of "conservative" foreign policy has resulted in one colossal disaster after the next, fractured our military manpower and matériel, blackened the international reputation of the United States, and assured that we will, in fact, be less secure than formerly and for at least the next several generations? That "It"?

Well, no:
Conservatives complain that the United States is hunkered down in Iraq without enough troops or a strategy to crush the insurgency. They see autocrats in Egypt and Russia cracking down on dissenters with scant comment from Washington, North Korea firing missiles without consequence, and Iran playing for time to develop nuclear weapons while the Bush administration engages in fruitless diplomacy with European allies. They believe that a perception that the administration is weak and without options is emboldening Syria and Iran and the Hezbollah radicals they help sponsor in Lebanon.

So...the "conservative" critique is now that the results of a particular course of action is what determines its "conservatism", so that a foreign policy urged on the country by, oh, I dunno, 100% of so-called conservatives, supported by 100%, and still supported as it turned increasingly, obviously, undeniably to shit by 99.98...

as its failure made it clear that we did not have enough troops or a strategy to crush an insurgency in its last throes, or a "Conservative" Congress which would do anything but rubber stamp it and agree to hide the costs until after the elections, and as the expenditure in both dollars and manpower made it plain we could not confront the other Axes of Evil that policy had conveniently regarded as lesser threats, nor that, having been humiliated in a tenth-rate military power and barely able to maintain what we can assert as "control" of one of the poorest nations on earth...

somehow no longer belongs to a group of people whose index fingers still bear faint traces of purple ink.

Hey, the last rats to leave the ship get to taste rat ass and swallow copious amounts of salt water. It was plain from the start that we did not have enough troops to occupy Iraq. It was plain from the start that by doing so we reduced our ability to respond or threaten elsewhere, notably in North Korea, where we all we have available now is roughly 10% of the manpower Army protocol says would be needed to respond to an invasion. We know that. North Korea knows that. And they know that we know that they know.

It was clear at the time that unless things went according to the rosiest of rosy scenarios we would find ourselves in precisely this predicament, with no choice but to try to employ diplomacy having seriously weakened ourselves first. The international situation is not the result of a good plan hopelessly snagged by unforeseeable circumstances. It's the result of reckless and amateurish adventurism by a group which knows it's right, doubly so when everything is says turns out to be wrong.

No, Really

During the past week's heat wave--it hit 100 degrees in New York City Monday--I got thinking, again, of how sad and frustrating it is that the world's greatest scientists cannot gather, discuss the question of global warming, pore over all the data from every angle, study meteorological patterns and temperature histories, and come to a believable conclusion on these questions: Is global warming real or not?

This woman wrote speeches for the most powerful man in the world. She has a column in a newspaper of national import. She publishes books. She was on Celebrity Jeopardy!, fer chrissakes, and she doesn't have the brains required to read the Sports section. Hold the phone:
If it is real, is it necessarily dangerous? What exactly are the dangers? Is global warming as dangerous as, say, global cooling would be? Are we better off with an Earth that is getting hotter or, what with the modern realities of heating homes and offices, and the world energy crisis, and the need to conserve, does global heating have, in fact, some potential side benefits, and can those benefits be broadened and deepened? Also, if global warning is real, what must--must--the inhabitants of the Earth do to meet its challenges? And then what should they do to meet them?

It is my sincere hope that the Great Minds of Science are meeting somewhere, determined to find a way that the first extinctions due to massive greenhouse-gas-induced climate change involve stupid people. Oops, that goddam bell's ringing again:
You would think the world's greatest scientists could do this, in good faith and with complete honesty and a rigorous desire to discover the truth. And yet they can't. Because science too, like other great institutions, is poisoned by politics. Scientists have ideologies. They are politicized.

Ronald Reagan, the Idiot who keeps on giving. Peggy Noonan is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University. Were I a trustee of Fairleigh Dickinson University this information would be enough for me to campaign, not just to change the name of the institution, and, assuredly, its admission standards, but to physically move the thing at least two time zones.

Fun With Math, Presidential Veto Edition

Number of "Snowflake children" or reclaimed blastocysts left over from fertility treatments, brought to term and/or currently financially supported to age 18 by Katherine Jean Lopez.

Number of blastocysts which will realize their potential as adopted children thanks to the veto.

Actual amount of concern for those blastocysts in the White House, or Congress, or among the concerned humanitarians at The Corner.

"Not a perfect law."

Oh, let's not be hasty. The Indianapolis Star:
With all of its middle and high schools failing to meet federal expectations, Indianapolis Public Schools has told 10,000 families they may transfer their children.
But the widespread failure under No Child Left Behind guidelines gives parents few choices of where to transfer their children.
Dawn Robertson said she received a letter Saturday from the district offering her the option. Her daughter, Allyssa, attends Harshman Middle School's math, science and technology magnet program on the Near Eastside. But the letter left Robertson confused because the district offered her daughter the option of moving to a school where students scored much worse on statewide exams.

The school suggested as an alternative will face no sanctions for failing to meet standards because it does not receive Title 1 money. Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 was formerly intended to channel federal monies to children in poverty for remedial education. As amended its current intention is the cudgeling of children in poverty to appease the crypto-racist tendencies of the electorate. Though that's not exactly how the law reads. Hence our own title, from the statement of Indiana Department of Education spokeswoman Mary Jane Michalak: "[The sanctions] only apply to Title I schools. It's definitely not a perfect law."

Ah, but there's recourse, right? We're not Leaving Any Child Behind, are We?
If a district has no better performing school to which children could transfer, it has the option to ask a neighboring school district to accept transfers. The neighboring district is under no obligation to take them, though, and IPS officials said no Marion County school systems have offered to accept IPS students.

Okay, history pop quiz, courtesy the Star:
Marion County
On Jan. 1, 1970, the city of Indianapolis expanded its boundaries to include all of Marion County. This consolidation was called unified government, or UniGov. The reason for UniGov was to consolidate the 60 governments, 23 cities and towns and nine townships into a 29-member City-County Council. Excluded were the municipalities of Speedway, Southport, Lawrence, Beech Grove; six special purpose corporations; school districts; township fire departments; township property assessment and poor-relief functions; and the Marion County court system. Certain constitutionally defined Marion County elected-offices were also excluded from UniGov. [emphasis mine]

So there's your No Child Left Behind, students. People in one part of Indianapolis ain't required to lift a finger to help children from the other side of an imaginary line.

Wednesday, July 19

There's Always Room for Improvement

Tol'able Headline: Reed Concedes Defeat in Georgia Lt. Governor's Race

Excellent Headline: Reed Announces Engagement to Cellmate in Georgia State Penitentiary at Reidsville

And Now Let's See if the Weather Radar Has Changed Any in the Last Five Minutes...

So. Most all the news I'd gotten in the last few days came from local teevee and the Sunday papers, which means I was hard-pressed to decide whether Israel attacking in Lebanon was more or less important than Avril Lavigne's wedding.

Avril Lavigne? Am I wrong in imagining she had a hit, say, five years ago or something? Why is she on my local news?

Okay, here's what I know about Avril Lavigne:

• She's not from these parts.
• She's an indifferent speller at best.
• She and/or her band thought the CBS trucks at the Grammys belonged to the Canadian Broadcasting System.
• They believed this even though it's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
• Whether every generation needs its own Dylan or Beatles is open for debate. Whether it needs its own Suzi Quatro is not.

Baseball is what we were, football is what we've become. When I was a kid you had to be Mickey or Willie or Ernie to be considered a star, a Koufax, a Drysdale, a Gibson. Not Clay Dalrymple. Today if you stop a guy after he runs twenty yards on you you celebrate. And anyone who's ever been on a teevee series is a star, apparently for life. And fine, look, no offense. My only question is why someone decided a discussion of her wedding gown was local news, other than the fact that they have 90 minutes allocated to selling soap and they don't want to discuss Iraq, or Lebanon, or anything else that can't be whipped full of air and served with a cheery waitress-smile that says I Really Don't Care If This Is Crap on a Cracker, Just So You Like Me.

Yesterday's other big story was that the corpse of Alice Cooper was in town to play golf. Two hits, thirty-five years ago. The good news there is I only have to wait another decade to meet Huey Lewis.

And Alice gets five minutes, or roughly one-third of his fame and twice the time allotted to the Middle East. To his credit he spent the time talking about radio playlists not including Iggy or the MC 5 instead of touting his new energy shake, but the irony there was that he was playing a charity event run by local Morning Zoo celebs Bob and Tom, who have been playing nothing but "Freebird" since 1978. Alice bemoaned the fact that some youngster may know Led Zep but not realize "their music came from the Yardbirds", suggesting Alice is unaware it actually was all stolen from American blues artists who never got any airplay in the first place. Matching their royalties.

No, our theme is not "celebrities". It's "news". Here's a reader quiz. Try to guess what the actual story's about from the way it was introduced on Channel 8 news Tuesday evening. This is the cleaned-up version from the website; in reality both hairdos flubbed their lines:

Debby Knox: For two weeks now, employees at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles have been taking complaints about the $35 million computer upgrade that won't do all that customers expect.
[Toss to]

Pam Elliot: A spokesman for the BMV said he would give Tuesday's operations with the new system an above-average grade. But try telling that to Karen Woods, a now former employee of the BMV who worked with driver records.

Show of hands? Anyone?

The flawed new BMV computer system? The slow improvement? The distinction between the bureau's PR pronouncements and reality?

Nope. It's right there in front of you.

Karen Woods. Former employee.

Yes, Ms Woods was fired after she sent an email critical of the new system to the governor. You could have learned that from the headline on the website. On the tube you wouldn't have had a frickin' clue what it was about for the first minute of a two-minute story.

Okay, obviously, the story was covered. And I was educated in the last century, when journalism candidates were taught about the 5 Ws and inverted pyramids and other quaint ideas of a pre-post-literate society. Maybe this is nothing. But then it's not just that the intro had nothing to do with the story; it chose to bushwhack its path there. "A $35 M upgrade that won't do all that customers expect?" Hell, the damn thing was a total disaster. The whole operation had to be shut down. People couldn't get licenses or plates renewed, and some still can't get temporary suspensions lifted. Some waited hours. Not to mention that the police were getting erroneous info. It was a total cluster-fuck in an agency that's been badly mishandled since Mitch Daniels took office, one led by a Republican crony who should have been fired last year.

It's odd that this comes at the end of a week of roasting the Democratic sheriff of Marion County, one Frank Anderson, for making a lot of money. Which he does. Mostly because the sheriffs of each of Indiana's 92 counties get a cut of judgments and taxes they oversee the collection of, a practice dating back a couple decades if I recall, and established by a state legislature which hasn't been in Democratic control since men wore spats. Still, this played as some sort of partisan scandal, and was so successful that last night the Investigative Reports team found another law enforcement official of African descent (okay, sure, we all are) and tried to gin up a scandal out of his being offered the security director's job at the new airport, complete with a graphic which showed what "$98,000" looks like when it flashes on a teevee screen.

I have not entered tinfoil hat territory here, on the grounds that a) this sort of thing happens to Republicans as well, and b) there's really not much distinction between the two in Indiana, subject to the takeover efforts of the religious fundamentalists. Still, it's been so freaking obvious--the month began with the dramatic ticking interest counter on the $3.8 B banked from selling off the Toll Road, breathlessly reported even though most Hoosiers opposed the deal and many have already figured out that the syphon was in place before the tank was filled. No, it's just that it's an election year, and if these bozos can't figger out they're being manipulated (assuming they're not volunteering) then there's really no reason for them to run anything but celebrity fluff at 5, 6, and 11. You heard it here first.

Oh, and Oprah's not gay.

Tuesday, July 18

By Way of an Apology for That Picture Staying Up All Weekend

Thursday: Pick up Mom at my sister's so they can have a peaceful weekend. Had a very productive talk with her in the afternoon. Tried to make her understand that her children just want what's best for her, that she cannot return to Florida to be looked after by the two widder women living on either side of her house, and that she must a) see a geriatric specialist up here and b) following that, get an apartment.

She kept going on about needing her (prescription) eye drops, despite the fact that we'd refilled the script just ten days before. But she obviously didn't have them with her, and my sister had already left for her summer cottage. Called Walmart, and since I now know they need the prescription numbers for phone orders I have the list. We have to use Walmart, where I'd never set foot otherwise, because her prescriptions are there from Florida, and the first place in Indiana we tried (lobby of the GP's office) wouldn't refill them because she had her husband's insurance card instead of her own. With Walmart there was no problem. Okay, one problem, because my sister let Mom do her own packing and we got no handicapped parking tag, so my wife had to go along so I could drop Mom off and the door and find a space 0.5 mi away.

Then when we got the pharmacist's attention she informed us that insurance wouldn't cover it because the last refill was too recent. I got a little hot at her--I called in that order three hours ago, you had the phone number, why didn't you call back?--but I was really cheesed at my sister for not making sure all the meds got to us, and at the confused elderly woman who kept saying she didn't know she was out and no, she couldn't just use Visine until Monday when the insurance would pick up the bill again, even though last week she said she could. Then it turned out she didn't have enough money--money is a big, big problem with her--which brought on a panic until my wife and I assured her she ever didn't have to worry, we'd cover it gladly (just get me out of Walmart).

When we got home she said, "We should have just waited until Monday." Then she started fumbling with her purse--her life is in there, somewhere--and pulled out eighty dollars and handed it to me. "I thought you didn't have enough money, Mom," sez I. "Oh, I cashed a check," she told me.

I sorta lost it. God help me, I sorta lost it. Her denial that she has Alzheimer's has gotten a little worse, as it became attached to an argument she had with my sister, and now it's my evil sister spreading rumors about her behind her back. I forgot to use my Late-Night Seduction radio voice. "Mom, this is precisely why we need to get you into an apartment. You can't keep track of your money!" She sort of sunk into the corner of the couch.

But then she came up swinging. She was going back to Florida regardless of what anybody thinks, and we'll see what a judge has to say about it. We're conspiring against her, trying to take her money. The lawyer who handled my sister getting power of attorney is a womanizer. Her neighbors are drunks who never cut their grass. Not the widder woman neighbors. The two with cancer.

We got things calmed down and repaired some of the plaster, but the agreement to get an apartment was void, not to be brought up again. She slept, all night, no wandering. I stayed up until three to keep an eye on her. Larry kept jumping up on the bed, because it's really his room, but didn't wake her.

Friday: The idée fixe was the bank and a check she'd gotten from one of her husband's children for some minor funeral expense. You do not want to get her started about funeral expenses.

I kept putting her off. My sister has the pursestrings, and I don't want to feed the obsession, but she kept worming every discussion back to the bank so I finally relented.

Cannon Copier guy parked in the handicapped spot. So I just parked in front of the steps. Got a chance to chew him out as we left. Best part of the week.

She didn't realize, and I didn't know, she had a account at that bank (it's the one the check was drawn on) so she was about to pay the guy seven bucks for the privilege of cashing a check drawn on that very institution when he realized she was a customer after all. After we got home she explained to my wife how rude that black teller had been.

I fixed stuffed potatoes, which went over big with her. She wanted to go buy Larry a new toy. She had begun to relax about being with us, for the first time. Slept the night through again. Larry took out the loss of his preferred space on me, all night long.

Saturday: The Marx Brothers, Monkey Business, on Turner in the morning. We all had a wonderful time. I was trying to get the garden watered for the first of what was predicted to be about five straight days over 90º with no chance of rain. My wife was scheduled to go to a family gathering. While I'm outside she invites my Mom.

I had hoped to use that time to try to reestablish the apartment idea, and I was not happy about the trip, but the deed was done. And my wife's family are good people and were very solicitous of her, plus our newest nephew, the one I call Annoying Baby because his parents--my wife's youngest brother and his wife--have, while otherwise behaving as typical American suburbanites, chosen to name their children after French cooking terms, which they misspell and proceed to pronounce in a way that reflects neither the original French nor any possible phonetic solution to the jumble of letters. But the kid was cute, and Mom wore down just after lunch so we came back home.

Two new obsessions had appeared: visiting her late husband's grave, some ninety miles distant, after first attending a 9 AM church service so she can thank everyone who was at the funeral, and watching "that Adventures of somebody movie" on Turner at 10 Sunday evening, since she'd seen the ad for it that morning. Don Juan, as it turns out. Errol Flynn plays a charming roué in this one.

But Saturday she stays up late, and allows as how she probably won't be getting up early enough to make it to church, and besides, "I paid for the funeral." This is satisfactory all the way around; I haven't been in a church lately and the risk of spontaneous combustion is too great.

Still, Sunday morning we're on the road by 8:45 and it's already like 88 degrees already. The plan is that we're going to stop at a shop in town to buy some flowers. My wife has decided to stay home.

We get to the town, and she snakes me around before we find the shop, and the nearest parking space is three blocks away, so I'm walking her step by step through what is now at least 90 of Mr. Fahrenheit's units, and over a large bump at the curb, through the potpourri, to the counter, where she tells the woman she wants something for a burial and the woman looks at her like she asked where they keep the levitating chocolate bicycles. Finally the supervisor shows up, the waves of confusion having finally overtaken the dead flower smell, and asks what day she'd like them for? And I decide that maybe it's time for some understanding to enter into the proceedings in spite of everyone else's wishes, and I mention in the sort of voice usually reserved for explaining some amusing peculiarity or other of your pet to a person with allergies how we'd like something we can take with us to place on a grave.

"Oh," quoth the supervisor, still seemingly uncertain as to whether they actually sell flowers in this shop, despite the sliding cooler of cut flowers just to our east. And she proceeds to lead us outside into a small courtyard, disappearing around a corner (there are steps, we are not making good time) to return with a terra-cotta-potted begonia arrangement with a $30 tag hanging from it. Mom thinks it's great.

Now supervisor explains it'll take about ten minutes to put foil and a bow around it. How 'bout just a bow? sez I. Done. She explains her initial confusion by noting they were busy putting together a funeral job that very moment which had her in the wrong "mode". Charitably I assume this explains things to her satisfaction. I wandered through the nicks and knacks while this was being finished until I heard the unmistakable sounds of financial confusion, whence I dash back to find that, once again, Mom doesn't have enough money, so I take up half her bills, replace them with a larger one of my own, and heft the pot which I only now realize weights something like 50 pounds and which will be residing in the crook of my left arm while I lead my mother, step by step, back through the heat to the car. When we got in and I got her and the plant situated, one buckled up, the other wedged in, she gave me $40 gas money.

I have the world's worst sense of direction. The worst. It's congenital. My thought was that I'd go to the mortuary (which I knew I could find) and retrace the route to the cemetery, which I didn't drive on the day of the funeral. It turned out there was a funeral in progress there. I drove in, turned around, headed back the way I thought we'd come, and got lost.

Got turned around, back to the mortuary and past it this time, knew for certain we didn't come that way, turned back, and got lost again.

No problem, we'll just go ask at this convenience store. Where's the cemetery? Well, which one? I have no idea because, you see, my mother has no idea what the name is, but it's not far away from here. Well, there are three, but two of them are together, I think, out on Johnson Road. Okey-dokey, do you have a Yellow Pages? Which they do, though it doesn't help except to clear up that there can't be three which fit my question and I need to leave now. Nice folks, though. Just a shame they didn't realize the cemetery was about four blocks up the road.

One more pass of the mortuary, then pull in to see if there's someone outside minding the hearse, which there isn't. Pull back out again to find that a road has miraculously appeared just next to the place, because the motherfucker who parked his truck blocking it and its sign had now moved on. The road is familiar. It's the way to one of the dead husband's son's house.

So we get the directions, and we hit the road--after Mom explained to the son that she was being held prisoner by my sister--just behind the funeral procession which. as luck--whatever that is--would have it is on the way to the same cemetery as we. And which, as luck would have it, is set to bury some mortal-coil shuffler-offer in precisely the spot where we parked last time, thus eliminating my one plan for finding the grave, which was to retrace my steps from three weeks earlier. My wife would have gone to the spot like an arrow.

And my mother, now, has decided he was buried across the road, in the one spot I can be certain he wasn't, but even so I'm now leading her step by step up a steep incline in what must be an ambient air temp of 95º, let alone what's bouncing back off the asphalt, and she's pulling us off to examine headstones dating to the Garfield administration. Mom, does he actually have a headstone yet? Oh, yes. Fortunately the walk plus the heat have taken enough of a toll that I can get her to the car and turn on the AC so I can go search on my own.

I put the plant down, too. It weighed around 135 at this point.

My wife and I are cemetery buffs, fans of funerary art, so I had collected a few points of interest the last time through and I went looking for those as a way of not interrupting the funeral which was going on right where I needed to be. I had my bearings in only about five minutes of marching around a setting remarkably devoid of shade in the now record-setting heat wave which has me eyeing the tent set up just about fifty yards away, but I have to pass over the place a couple of times because, as you might have already guessed--I know I had--there wasn't any headstone. And now with both respiration and water loss increasing I have a brief moment of Castenada desert hallucination of telling an elderly Alzheimer's patient Someone must have stolen the headstone! Or the body! But I come to my senses quickly enough to realize this probably isn't worth the short-term amusement it would provide.

Instead, dammit, this patch of straw-covered earth here is him! Officially! No question! I don't care if I'm wrong. (In fact I'm 98% positive it was, and it was the only fresh grave it the area. I can attest to that. ) So back to the car--the funeral's finally letting out, so I can drive us over to the spot, and we go place the flowers at the edge of the straw, and that's it. She's ready to go home.

Sunday night, Don Juan, starting at 10. She rejects the idea of it being taped for her. She's partial to the big teevee, rather than the one in her room, so I go upstairs to read and come back down to check on her and find her nearly asleep. I slip a tape in, make sure she gets her night-time meds, kiss her goodnight.

Monday: She watches the end of the movie (SPOILER: there's a swordfight) and I wait for the call from my sister I thought was supposed to come in the AM but doesn't. Today's obsession is that she has to call somebody long distance and wants to give me $6 for it. I tell her there's no way I'm charging her for a phone call, and finally the money gets put away. Find her asleep on the couch a while later with the phone book in her lap. My wife takes her out for lunch while I try to catch up on some things. I hear from my sister while they're gone. They come back with a new toy for Larry.

Get her packed up, find the stuff that's fallen, or been hidden, behind the bed, pull together the meds and the checkbook and the stuff I keep hidden. Make the transfer around 4:30. We wave goodbye. "How'd lunch go?" I ask. "She asked if she could stay with us," my wife says.

Friday, July 14

For Those Of You Who Thought "Hell's Kitchen" was in New York City

Robert Scheer, Indianapolis Star

That would be the winner (yes, the winner) of the Indiana State Fair signature food (yes, food) competition.

Let's let the creator explain it:

"I tried coating strawberries with chocolate. But the funnel cake batter wouldn't stick to it," (Joanie Monroe) said. "And I experimented with freezing the strawberries, but I wasn't happy with the results."
Monroe will use fresh strawberries, which are skewered, battered and deep fried before being topped with chocolate sauce, powdered sugar and more strawberries.
"The strawberries have a lot going for them as a great fair food, since they're deep fried and served on a stick, and I think a lot of people will look forward to trying them," Cindy Hoye, Indiana State Fair executive director, said via e-mail....

Monroe's strawberries took 30 percent of the vote; the pre-packaged Cool Dog frozen treat got 23 percent; Deep-Fried Sauerkraut Balls received 18 percent; Cream-Filled Deep-Fried Puff Balls took 15 percent; and Caramel Popcorn Pie won 12 percent.

No word on how you get funnel cake batter to stick to sauerkraut; you'll just have to experiment. My only question is this: if that thing crawled into your tent in the wilds one night, would your first thought be to reach for a frying pan or a flyswatter?

Wednesday, July 12

I Have Some Shocking News. You Might Want To Sit Down First. Unless You're Self-Conscious About Your Height.

Indianapolis Star: Daniels won't live in residence full-time
Gov. Mitch Daniels said today that he and First Lady Cheri Daniels will not live full-time in the newly renovated governor's residence on Meridian Street.

Let's recap: around about February of last year, shortly after Mitch "How's the Weather Down There?" Daniels took office, word got out that he was building a new palace in White as Wonder Bread Hamilton County, Indianapolis' unpleasant golf-playing Chamber of Commerce asshole brother-in-law to the north, and was staying in his current fortress until such time as that one was finished. Shortly after that, someone dug out The Law (a quaint set of guidelines much beloved by 20th century thinkers but irrelevant today) and pointed out that the Governor is supposed to "reside in the Seat of Government", which, no matter how much Republicans dislike the idea, is still the city of Indianapolis, home to numerous Negroes and feral cats. The Guv and his handlers seemed a bit surprised by the news, but managed to regain their composure by June or so. They issued a report saying the house was unliveable, though the previous governor had managed to endure it, and worse, hopelessly outdated. A solution was found which did not require Mitch to spend a single penny of his own hard-earned proceeds from fleecing former Indianapolis Water Company pensioners: the Governor's Residence was to become the 2006 Decorator's Showcase, and would be given a complete interior design make-over for charity.

Ah, but then it turned out the Commission charged with making it look like a commission, and not the Governor's shrewish Republican wife, was in charge of the redecoration announced it just couldn't reach an agreement with several of the possibly homosexually-inclined decorators who were donating their work, at least one of whom was insisting on Wildlife-themed wallpaper. So the deal fell through, but the brave Daniels household insisted it would muddle through somehow and move in the first of this year, no, make that February, no, make that sometime. And now make it never.

Quel surprise! you can almost hear one of the scapegoated decorators say (the long-term understanding is that decorators do not do anything which doesn't meet with the homeowner's approval). And it looks as though I'll never have to pay off on that standing offer (it reached $50) for a photo of First Lady Cheri walking the dog in that neighborhood after twilight, sans police escort or glare of teevee cameras. The money was safe all along. I never bet except on a sure thing.

Things We Said Today

This is just stuff I overheard, more or less, ion between visits to assisted living sites, $100 vet "yearly exams", 2.5 inches of rain, most of it seemingly falling directly on me during rush hour, and trying, for the last 48 hours, to figure out just what day it is:

• Indiana leads the nation in the number of potential terror targets, according to a report by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, thereby answering once and for all the question, "Does the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security actually read those reports?"

• "Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels announces budget surplus" (crawl on local news cable channel). There's probably more to say about the latter fact in the near future, once smarter Hoosiers than myself have had at it. It was suggested months ago that the budget "balancing" (the hallmark of Tiny Dancer's campaign) was of an odd sort: if one granted it, one had also to grant that the previous (Democratic) administration's budgets (a bête noire created without the benefit of single-party legislative control) were also balanced, granting the same sort of expenditure-shifting being used to balance this one; alternately that Governor Munchkin's ledger comes up just as red as the last few did. The fiscal year ended June 30, and I haven't seen any in depth analysis of the Guv's claims, so we'll wait and see and try to disguise our shock if it turns out that All is Not As It's Claimed To Be.

No, rather, it's that "Republican Gov." bit. I think most Hoosiers know which party he represents by now. I don't recall seeing or hearing that particular construction lately. Certainly not when they were reporting his approval ratings. Not a big deal, and I have no particular objection to Republicans crowing about an achievement, assuming it's real. But why does a news organization undertake to do that for them?

• Similarly, I caught yet another mention of the Amazing Ticking Interest Clock which made its first appearance last week. It's a graphic illustration of how much money the state is earning on the $3.8 billion we got for selling off the Indiana Toll Road. Again, fair enough, but opponents never said we weren't getting $3.8 B, nor that it wouldn't earn interest. What I resented was the (apparent) idiocy of news hairdos reporting the thing as though they didn't understand the issue had two sides, especially when most Hoosiers opposed the deal.

• I barely had time to notice a minute of the mini wall-to-wall on that exploded NYC building Monday--just enough to hear speculation about a "suicide attempt". Tuesday afternoon I sit down with a cuppa and hear "bitter divorce/may have blwon building to bits so wife wouldn't get it."

So now here's the interesting thing: I realize there were rumors of a suicide note, but you can't kill yourself with natural gas. Okay, sure, you could die in an explosion, though at minimum that's something of a longshot, but natural gas ain't toxic. Coal gas, once commonly used in Britain, is, due to carbon monoxide. (I read mysteries. Sometimes you learn things.)

I didn't know any of the details, so when I heard this afternoon's story it was an immediate flashback to the "Reagan is having open-heart surgery" story after he was shot. Dollars to doughnuts you could trace the earlier story to one reporter who either heard the suicide note rumor or just decided that willful gas leak=suicide attempt.

• Last, but not least, the shocking silence of the Right Blogosphere over the Bush administration's apparent falsifying of the results of that North Korean missile test continues. Dunno if the Premature Ejaculation jokes still have 'em rolling in the aisles over there; maybe I'll get a chance to check later. That's a thirty.

Tuesday, July 11

Happy Birthday

Elwyn Brooks White
July 11, 1899--October 1, 1985

This Stuff? Make It Up? You? Can't!

Marine Space Plane [Jonah Goldberg ]
I like it! Particularly if the Marines inside get batwings and lasers. It seems an obvious point to me that flying space Marines would be a valuable contribution to the arsenal of democracy.
Posted at 4:40 PM

A commenter to the linked article clears up something that was bugging me:

The SciFi model for this one is NOT Heinlien's Starship Troopers "drop ship". (Read the book - it's not the same as the treatment in the movie.) A much closer approximation is the "assault shuttle" used by the space marines in David Weber's "Honorverse" series.
RadioActive Chief · July 10, 2006 07:21 PM

Buying Swampland

Tuesday will be day three of visiting assisted living set-ups while my brother-in-law keeps Mom occupied at her home in Florida. It's the day my sister joins in the search. It's the first item which might start causing family stresses between us.

'Cause I'm willing to give her plenty of leeway with living arrangements provided she a) has possible companionship b) has someone to keep track of her medication and c) doesn't drive. My sister may be in favor of a stricter confinement. My sister's more concerned about the forgetfulness. I'm not sure who's right.

Just a word, though, about the place I looked at today. It's just a couple of miles away, on what's left of Bacon's Swamp (what the wetlands people at the Indiana DNR call Bacon's Lake in some of the literature I looked at today. I'm not sure if that's in deference to the retirement village on its shores or some age-old distinction.) The Bacons owned the place in the 1820s, meaning they're some of the earliest whites in the area. It's said their farm, and the swamp, was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

The swamp is (so I read) the southernmost sphagnum bog in the US and attracted an otherwise alien fauna. (There was some scholarly work done in the 20s on Bacon's Swamp which I've been intending for the last ten years to go look up.)

It covered 100 acres.

They built a road through the swamp in 1914. It sank.

They built another road through it in 1937. It failed to float.

When the post-war construction boom hit the Mallot Park area construction fill was thrown in the swamp. When four children drowned in two separate incidents in the 50s the city instituted a "Fence n' Fill" program. Mosquitoes were also cited as a problem. A conservation effort sank, like those earlier roads.

It's sobering to realize that my basement may be over there somewhere.

Monday, July 10

Local News


Via the Indianapolis Star: Hoosier Rocker John Mellencamp turned down former Rep. Baron Hill's campaign's request for to appear at a fundraiser last week alongside President Clinton. Mellencamp told the LA Times he refused because Hill voted for the war.

Do we need to defeat Sodrel? Sure. Should we ever forget that vote? Hell, no. Thank you, Mr. Cougar.

Incidentally, though a Hoosier by birth and by residence, I've never bought a John Mellencamp album. According to the 2000 census there are six of us.

• Fireworks Update: Another band of yahoos entered the fray on Thursday, with nowhere near the spectacular arsenal but a much later starting date: 12:30 AM.

They will be dispatched rather easily. On Thursday afternoon, after making three calls and getting shuffled three times I finally found a sympathetic ear in the sheriff's department, a woman, or female officer I guess, who explained to me what I already knew: that the 11PM limit on noise and fireworks had nothing to do with disturbing the peace, or using obnoxious sounds to harass; that the typical police dispatcher would try to convince me that it did because they don't want to make those sorts of runs; and I should make a nuisance of myself if necessary and call every damn time somebody shoots of a firecracker over at Casa del Assholes. Like I say, I already knew this, but it was encouraging to hear it, and to be able to tell the neighbors that a uniformed representative of Indiana law enforcement says so, not just me. So far I've gotten three people to agree to call in whenever they hear anything, and that ought to be enough to visit some real trouble on those people when they start up again--they've been silent over there for three days now, probably because they're flat broke from sending several hundred dollars into the sky just to see the purty colors.

It also seems possible that Indiana law is worded such that the fireworks must come down on the person's property or they have to have permission from other landowners. Anyway, I'm not resting until I see the loudmouth matriarch of that bunch on a road gang.

Oh, and the other yahoos: my wife told me that property (it's on the next block) is a rental, so I got the name of the owner and will be introducing myself tomorrow.

• Summer Fashion Hints: All of which reminds me of a lesson gleaned from grocery shopping yesterday morning: if you're a thirty-five year old woman beginning to lose the battle with gravity, you may want to consider whether your decision some time ago to get a large tattoo on your bicep shouldn't preclude the wearing of sundresses. I'm just sayin'; the "Who stole my Keystone Light?" look is played out, even in Indiana.

Speaking of tattoos, my Poor Wife had to go in to school the other AM for a student audition, a young lady who couldn't quite get along with her parochial school overlords ("I'm responsible for five new rules about student conduct," she said, which would have meant she passed the audition right there for me). And she works for a tattoo parlor, drawing designs, so my wife asks, "So where are your tattoos?" "Oh, I don't have any," she says, "I'm way too young to mark myself permanently."

Which means there is hope, but as usual it resides with people too creative to make much difference.

• And trust me on this: Juan Pablo Montoya jumping to NASCAR is the oddest sports story since Michael decided to play baseball, and may very well make NASCAR almost watchable in the very near future.

Saturday, July 8

Friday Terrorist Plot Foiling of the Week

Always nice to see how the work gets wrapped up just in time for the weekend (see Sears Tower, Plot To Blow-Up The).

NY Times: "3 Held Overseas in Plan to Bomb New York Target"
Federal and local law enforcement authorities identified the main subject of the investigation as Assem Hammoud, 31, a Lebanese man who was arrested on April 27.

Uh, arrested on April 27??? Had the last ten Fridays already been pencilled in? Did we have to wait for the box office numbers on that Miami deal? Why does it come down to the end of July 4th Week Plus Two Weekends, Exactly?
Lebanese authorities wanted to publicize his arrest at the time, the official said, but American authorities sought to keep the issue quiet, believing the investigation would lead to other information.

Said "other information" apparently did not include the whereabouts of the five others still being sought, I guess. But at least we foiled an al-Qaeda plot just before they blew up some NYC tunnels, right?
The eight "principal players" planning the attack, the authorities said, had secured no financing, had gathered no explosives and had not visited New York — or even the United States — to conduct surveillance. At least one of the planners has been in Canada, the authorities said.

And Canada, you may know, is just to our north.
"The planning or the plotting for this attack had matured to the point where it appeared the individuals were about to move forward," [Special Agent in Charge of the New York office Mark J.] Mershon said.

"They were about to go to a phase where they would attempt to surveil targets, establish a regimen of attack and acquire the resources necessary to effectuate the attacks, and at that point I think it's entirely appropriate to take it down."

Y'know what I think? I think I've never heard of the Bureau acting so fast. I mean, you can't even wait until one suspect has arrived in the US so the Bureau can take him down personally? You can't wait to get all the suspects, or at least the majority, lined up? Well, maybe. You're the guys with the information needed to evaluate the risk, and never let it be said we humble citizens don't appreciate it. So, I guess it was this terrorist mastermind's incredibly sophisticated operation that encouraged you to take no chances, right?
The Lebanese Internal Security Directorate said Mr. Hammoud, going by the nom de guerre Ameer Andalusi, was initially noticed on an Islamist Web site used to recruit jihadis.

The Lebanese authorities located him based on the Internet Protocol address imbedded in his postings, which showed him to be in Beirut, the statement said. The authorities said Mr. Hammoud had sent out maps and plans for an operation to other members of his group over the Internet and said he had been planning to travel to Pakistan for a four-month training mission.

OK, great, we're trolling for terrorists stupid enough to recruit via chatrooms. Don't take this the wrong way; I've said all along that interdiction, not warfare, is our one good hope for preventing terrorist attacks. But overplaying this sort of thing for domestic consumption just risks making things worse for no reason, because the Ashcroft Outright Lie technique is no longer effective. If you have to admit these cells you smash consist of big talkers with no money, no hardware, and no connections, how 'bout doing it quietly?

Oh, sorry, a rational war on terror might slow the federal spigot some infinitesimal amount (see Drugs, The War On).

Happy Birthday

Martin Alan Feldman
July 8, 1933--December 2, 1982

Friday, July 7

Happy 100th? Birthday?

Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige
July 7, ? 1906 ?--June 8. 1982

Fourth of July, Part 27


Lemme tell ya about my last 48 hours or so.

To begin with we met Wednesday morning with a financial advisor/estate planner concerning my Mom. The good news is that she seems to be pretty well provided for. She inherited everything, and everything was in both names. It looks like she will be covered come what may. And the advisor, a friend of my sister who met us for 90 minutes gratis was a funny guy who caught my sense of humor right away. But he also clued us into the possibility of problems from the other survivors, which I hadn't given more than a moment's thought. We're all Hoosiers, after all. Everyone's an altruist, right? But his attitude was that where money is concerned, people will act selfishly regardless.

So I spent the afternoon composing a letter to the other survivors detailing what was going on, which was a double slog seeing as how it brought my Mom's situation up constantly, plus the (remote) possibility of some (possibly legal) difficulty down the road. I had a thick rubber band squeezing my head just below the brow line and a serious case of indigestion by the time I'd finished, so I lay down for a bit and got up just in time to listen to the beginning of another installment of Hoosiers Celebrate the Freedom to Set Off Back-Yard Artillery.

This stuff was loud. It was professional fireworks-shot out of a cannon-rattle the windows loud. And persistent. And it was coming from the trouble house, aka Little Appalachia. This is the house with five teenagers, a drunken slut of a mother, and a sad-sack chump who's the nominal adult but not likely anyone's biological father. Trouble since they moved in a couple years ago, one mass arrest of underage drinkers last year, and an ongoing battle with the elderly crackpot they moved next door to. She's one of those screaming get-off-my-lawn nuts every neighborhood seems to have, a woman in her late 50s when we moved in a decade ago, who I tried to help and be neighborly to, and who repaid that with such high-volume insanity I eventually just backed away and stopped talking to her. You can imagine it's been constant problems over there, which reportedly led to police mediation, after which all was pretty much quiet until it exploded again yesterday.

This stuff was going off every couple minutes from well before dusk. It's July 5th. People have jobs to go to. There's another elderly woman one house south, then a couple with three dogs, then one with two young children. Four of us went down there at various times to ask them to knock it off and got drunken fuck-yous for the effort.

It was all adults, by the way; the main reason I'd gone down there was to spot some underage drinking so I could report that to the police. Because...

of the wonderful Indiana state legislature, which made 11 fucking PM the legal shut-off time for fireworks, excepting selected holidays when it's midnight. This is a good two hours later than we used roll up the streets a mere decade ago. And...

because the police, natcherly, don't want to be bothered, and are using the new ordinance as an excuse to do nothing. But get this piece of third-hand hearsay: my neighbor told me this afternoon that another neighbor who went over there much earlier says the festivities included the burning and subsequent emergency-room treatment of a three-year-old child. Which, if true, at least implies that fireworks negligence is now a legal form of child abuse in Indiana. On account a'...

A piddly-assed industry with all the cachet of a carneys' port-a-john "lobbies" the state legislature for years. And so what used to be an infrequent annoyance one tried to ignore one or two days a year is now a constant bombardment courtesy of Freedom's Lowest Common Denominator.

Our hostess was keenly aware of the 11PM shut off. The fireworks ended, to be replaced by a drunken screaming fit thrown at her poor neighbor. And of course it started up again tonite.

Mr. Riley, in his golden years, has remained low-key about this in public. If it happened that someone matching his general description was online today gathering large amounts of personal information about a particular household, or if someone similar managed to, oh, swipe someone's trash with the intention of harvesting some discarded fact or two which might someday come back to haunt someone, well, he doesn't know anything about it.

Wednesday, July 5


I was sloughing my way through Right Blogtopia on a secret project this AM, and I noticed that the failure of the North Korean long-range rocket test was the source of some guffawing (for example see, if you wish, Neanderpundit, Rotweiller, or GOP Vixen, who gets extra credit for managing a Lewinsky reference. Really.)

[Mr. Riley, trained as an anthropologist, tries to manage a rueful smile these days whenever he hears 21st century Americans speak as if the ballpoint pen, the steam-driven phonograph, and the cell phone were all the product of a superior intellect on their own part. It's not always easy.]

I haven't had the time to check the archives of the aforementioned chortlers to see if they, like their high-traffic counterparts were routinely ignoring the test before its satisfying plop and fizz, but still: 1) ain't you the same folks who drove up the price of Depends™ on the idea that Iran wanted to start a nuke program? 2) doesn't the mere existence of the program itself sorta--what's the word?--oh, repudiate all the posturing of the last five years? and 3) funny when it's your ox getting gored how fey little swipes at the UN serve in place of screaming outrage and calls for Congressional investigations or impeachment.

To be fair neither the Dog nor the Fox exactly spare the Bush administration, but I'll believe that's a result of learning a hard lesson when they're cleaning up after the John Murtha ticker-tape parade.

Tuesday, July 4

Died on the 4th of July

Clyde Kennard [June 20 (or June 12), 1927--July 4, 1963]
in a photo taken just before his death

A sergeant in the paratroops, he won a Bronze Star in Korea. Returning home, he attended the University of Chicago until his stepfather became disabled, then died, which forced him to move back to Forrest County, Mississippi, to run the family farm. While living in Mississippi he attempted three times to enroll in the (all-white) Mississippi Southern College.

Kennard's insistence soon drew the attention of the White Citizens' Council and the State Sovereignty Commission. Leaving an interview with MSU President William D. McCain Kennard was arrested for reckless driving (he had just returned to his car). While he was in jail officers found five half-pints of whiskey under the driver's seat; the non-drinking Kennard was convicted of illegal liquor possession and fined $600. White businesses in Hattiesburg refused to trade with him.

A year later Kennard was arrested and charged with stealing five sacks of chicken feed which were found on his property. Kennard was convicted by another all-white jury based solely on the testimony of his "accomplice", Johnny Lee Roberts. Kennard is sentenced to seven years. In 1961 he is diagnosed with colon cancer and undergoes surgery, after which he is returned to Parchman Farm, where he is used as a laborer.

After the story gains national attention, Governor Ross Barnett grants Kennard an indefinite suspended sentence in January 1963. He undergoes two more surgeries but dies shortly after the second.

In 1998 the files of the Sovereignty Commission are made public, proving the conspiracy to frame Clyde Kennard.

In 2005 Johnny Lee Roberts admitted in an interview that his testimony in the theft case was false.

In 2006 both Governor Haley Barbour and the State Parole Board refused pleas for a posthumous pardon (Barbour did declare March 30 "Clyde Kennard Day").

On May 17 Judge Bob Helfrich threw out Kennard's theft conviction.

Monday, July 3

Happy Birthday

Franz Kafka
July 3, 1883--June 3, 1924


How is it that 12-year-old Michael Russell--and, for that matter, the five others who died at Disney World in the past 18 months--all died as a result of "pre-existing heart conditions," but Len Bias died from a cocaine overdose?

Nice piece by Pete Guither on the legislative results of overreaction and hype surrounding Bias' death, including the unintended results of a Democratic party intent on out-Republicaning Republicans here.

Saturday, July 1

The War on Christmas in July

This must stop, or include me next time.

Well, the big Fouth of July Weekend is here, so called because every holiday must also include a weekend now.

Of course if there's anything I hate it's America, with its rich, fat, and noisy people, so the Fourth is my bête noir, with fat Americans so wealthy they can take entire weeks off just so their holidays include a weekend shooting off artillery rounds to celebrate a date not one in fifty can explain the significance of. This year in Indiana, as faithful readers will know, we have solved the embarrassment of historical illiteracy by the simple expedient of letting people set off fireworks whenever the fuck they please, which means I've been listening to the damn Henderson kids up the block blow shit up for the past five weeks. It's a practice when can best be savored only after 1AM, evidently.

Really, the only saving grace in all this is the fact that bête noir is French.

I was pondering Our American Traditions the other morning, sitting in front of Turner Classics with my mom. There was a Zazu Pitts/Thelma Todd two-reeler playing. They played vaudevillians ("Pitts and Todd") looking for a job. Zazu calls their agency. We see the pebbled glass door with something like "Goldberg, Goldman, Goldstein, and O'Brien, Theatrical Agents" on it. Cut back to Zazu as a voice on the phone says, "Goldberg, Goldman, Goldstein, and O'Brien. This is O'Brien speaking". At the last sentence we've cut to the other side of the connection, and the man speaking, who has an enormous hooked nose. O'Brien speaking. Har har har.

Normally overt racism in old movies rolls off my back, since I've been exposed to just about all of it, but this one took me back for a moment.

Later: Okay, Roy has shamed me, or would have it that were possible. Timely, too, as I was looking for a way to to slip a disclaimer in here, not to avoid hate mail, but what's worse, thoughtful responses based on misperception. I hate those almost as much as I hate disclaimers. So, some exaggeration for comic effect above. And I suppose it's both legitimate and timely to ask what I love about this country.

So we can start with freedom of the press and freedom of religion. For example: the way the human papillomavirus vaccine story played out on local teevee. Our free and neatly-coifed journalists (or, as Glenn would prefer, press operators) covered the story in a completely neutral and balanced fashion, managing to emphasize, over and over and over, the objections of religious extremists without ever once referencing the source of those complaints. "The federal advisory panel recommended vaccinating girls aged 11 and up, and, at the doctor's discretion, to girls as young as 9," [emphasis mine, to match the original tone of voice] ran the typical report. From the coverage you might have gotten the impression that this is the youngest suggested vaccination in the history of allopathy, rather than considerably later (and hence more problematic) than all the other vaccines we've been requiring since the Boer war.

The term "religious objections" never entered the stories. In fact, there was no discussion of objections at all, just the constant drumbeat of "as young as 9". Funny, too, since both local stations I saw doing this run the AP story on their websites, and the AP story begins "Taking up a potentially explosive issue among religious conservatives..."

So the locals got to report an informative health story--with a clear sensible, scientific understanding opposed by Bronze Age platitudinarians--as though they were purely on the side of science. And meanwhile they emphasized the religious complaints as though they had some meaning outside the moralizing. "Girls as young as 9 may be vaccinated!" Like, next stop, human cloning!

Overreaction on my part? Were they just performing the public service of alerting parents to the new vaccine and the recommended age requirements? No. It didn't play like that, for one, but the real kicker is that the other, real-world concerns, that the process requires three visits (something public health experts worry may be difficult with patients that old), and that it is incredibly expensive compared to other mandated vaccinations was never covered. Nobody asked any beholden-to-the-religious-right politicians about how the poor would pay for it, either. That's a QED from here.

What else? Oh, as I've been reminded since last month's hailstorm, America has the most punctual roofers in the world. 7AM, without fail. And they've all got cheap, loud, and reliable radios, and we lead the world in songs expressing a preference for the living conditions in Alabama, USA. Happy holiday weekend. Y'all.