Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Downing Street Memo

Although I've taken a break from blogging, I thought I would post my letter to the editor that was just published in our local paper:

To the Editor of the Star Democrat:

On Monday, the Star Democrat published (on the bottom of page three) a brief AP item about a secret document from the British Government from July, 2002, concerning the run-up to the War in Iraq. This and related documents have been confirmed as authentic by the Washington Post. The item in the Star Democrat was notable for what it did not report. The most damning statement in the documents is most certainly: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” To date, this has received little attention in the main stream media including the Star Democrat.

While we may argue until the cows come home about the wisdom of what transpired in the decision to invade Iraq, and while a nation can live with a lie for some period of time, we owe it to our children to establish the truth of what happened in our Government at that time.

There can be no reason not to have a full congressional investigation of the current Administration’s actions in the run up to this disastrous misadventure. The integrity of the world our children will inherit depends upon it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

About Blogging

I've been blogging now for a year. It has been an interesting experience. I've learned a little about net etiquette, a little about sources of information, and a lot about how our government is running amok. (I've also learned how to link to wikipedia.)

But, I have to be honest, I am not widely read. I am part of a community of liberal bloggers, but not one of the top dogs and have no anticipation of this happening. To be a top dog one would have to devote one's entire resources to blogging, plus be extremely witty, like TBogg. I confess openly that I am aware of how flat my attempts at humor usually fall. (That brings up the whole question of who is funny and why they are funny. Some people are funny just by being themselves. Others can tell the funniest joke in the world and no one laughs. Oh, the vagaries of human nature.)

Blogging like what I and a million others do has taken the place of the vanity press, all those "published at author's expense" pieces that used to clutter the libraries of the wealthy. (That in itself is interesting. If someone didn't have a lot of money, they always bought good books. I was going to say that most humans are smart enough not to waste money but, on retrospection, is patently false.)

I have thought of looking at the "ideal blog." For sure, it is short and to the point. I am sure that there will soon be a blog out there that is the equivalent of Strunk and White's Elements of Style describing what does make a good and bad blog, though the ease of publication will create enormous dissent. Imagine if one could have blogged about Elements of Style immediately after its publication; questioning every twist and turn of the recommendations. This may be good, but, then again, it may be bad.

There will be books about blogs, but nobody will read them. There will be blogs about blogs (like this one) and no one will read them. What we have been tuned to get is a daily fix of sensationalism. The next Downing Street Memo. The next Michael Jackson. In a year, these things will be seen as trivia.

Children don't read now. I can verify that. Fifty years ago, there was a fairly high drop out from high school, and few young people went to college. While WWII increased that dramatically, because of the GI Bill, still, the level of reading was low. It probably increased steadily until 10-20 years ago when video games became popular. Now, with the InterNet, children don't read.

So, I think I am going to take a break from this self satisfying activity that occupies so much of my time. I know my friends will be happy; they were tired of me running on about blogs and what is on the Net.

You, who may read this, see you later.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I think I am going to be ill....

go to:

Leaving Vietnam (from Wikipedia)

Ok, Then, I have a Vigentiangular (*) Table for Sale

From here:
Shiites Press for Talks With Insurgents
Kuba's comments came days after the disclosure that U.S. officials are negotiating with Sunni Arab leaders to pull insurgents into Iraq's political process and recent announcements by influential Sunni and Shiite Muslim leaders that they have held similar discussions with insurgent groups.
Least we forget:
After Nixon's election, problems still continued. For many months the North and South famously debated over the shape of the table that would be used at the Paris Peace Conference. The North favored a circular table, in which all parties, including Viet Cong representatives, would appear to be equal in importance. The South argued that only a rectangular table was acceptable, for only a rectangle could show two distinct sides to the conflict, the North and South. Eventually a compromise was reached, in which representatives of the North and South government would sit at a circular table, with members representing all other parties sitting on individual square tables around them.
We shall see what we shall see.

(*) There are now probably twenty members of the Coalition of the Willing; shrinking fast

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Alright, Then, Mr. Sith Lord

Well, the proverbial has literally hit the fan. Via Atrios we have, complete with videos, here:
This morning Rep. Sensenbrenner, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee was leading a committee hearing looking into the renewal of Patriot Act.

Mr. Sensenbrenner decided that he didn't like the tone of the meeting and simply got up and left but not before he criticized the witnesses who came and gave their testimony to the committee.

After he left the microphones were switched on and off while the Democratic members of the committee continued to discuss the renewal of the Patriot Act.
I am sorry, but this is extremely serious stuff. We have one Republican congressman deciding what is relevant and what is not relevant. We have one man shutting down the principle venue for discourse in our Republic. We are are a Republic, Mr. Sensenbrenner, in case you hadn't read your Constitution. All the more reason why the Patriot act should be shelved. It was passed without anybody reading it in the heady days after 9/11 and we all thought the Republicans were on our side. They're not. They are on their own side. The Dark Side.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Well, they ain't blue, and I don't know what it means, but they look pretty cool

Izations & the Death of Irony

From here:
Soon after taking office (Jan, 1969, ed). President Richard Nixon introduced his policy of "vietnamization". The plan was to encourage the South Vietnamese to take more responsibility for fighting the war. It was hoped that this policy would eventually enable the United States to withdraw gradually all their soldiers from Vietnam.
and from here:
Bush administration officials say the key to getting U.S. forces out of Iraq is training Iraqis to provide their own security.
and then we have this:
On 15 January 1973, citing progress in peace negotiations, President Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action in North Vietnam which was later followed by a unilateral withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords were later signed on 27 January 1973 which officially ended US involvement in the Vietnam conflict. This won the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for Kissinger and North Vietnam's Prime Minister Le Duc Tho while fighting continued, leading songwriter Tom Lehrer to declare that irony had died. However, five days before the peace accords were signed, Lyndon Johnson, whose presidency was marred by the war in Vietnam, died. (emphasis added)
As Mark Twain once said, the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I'm sorry Tom, Irony is alive, and well, and living in Poughkeepsie. And, don't forget, it took another two years to get out and we still "lost the War."

P.S. If you have never heard any of Tom Lehrer songs, well, you have missed out on some of life's little laughs. Here is his first, and you had to sing it fast:
``There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium,
And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium
And nickel, neodymium, neptunium, germanium,
And iron, americium, ruthenium, uranium,
Europium, zirconium, lutetium, vanadium
And lanthanum and osmium and astatine and radium
And gold, protactinium and indium and gallium (inhale)
And iodine and thorium and thulium and thallium.

``There's yttrium, ytterbium, actinium, rubidium
And boron, gadolinium, niobium, iridium
And strontium and silicon and silver and samarium,
And bismuth, bromine, lithium, beryllium and barium.

``Isn't that interesting?
I knew you would.
I hope you're all taking notes, because there's gonna be a short quiz next period.

``There's holmium and helium and hafnium and erbium
And phosphorous and francium and fluorine and terbium
And manganese and mercury, molybdinum, magnesium,
Dysprosium and scandium and cerium and cesium
And lead, praseodymium, and platinum, plutonium,
Paladium, promethium, potassium, polonium, and
Tantalum, technetium, titanium, tellurium, (inhale)
And cadmium and calcium and chromium and curium.

``There's sulfur, californium and fermium, berkelium
And also mendelevium, einsteinium and nobelium
And argon, krypton, neon, radon, xenon, zinc and rhodium
And chlorine, carbon, cobalt, copper,
Tungsten, tin and sodium.

``These are the only ones of which the news has come to Harvard,
And there may be many others but they haven't been discovered.''

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The B's Movie - Sequel

And so we have the POTUS:
My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully, what could we do. And this meeting, evidently, that took place in London happened before we even went to the United Nations -- or I went to the United Nations. And so it's -- look, both us of didn't want to use our military. Nobody wants to commit military into combat. It's the last option. The consequences of committing the military are -- are very difficult.
And we have the memo saying that they were committed to War. A peaceful War, no doubt. But I think War means committing the military, unless I live in an alternative universe.

So, somebody's lying.

The B's-Movie

Bush and Blair gave a press conference yesterday. As reported by the Washington Post:
In a news conference that highlighted their complex alliance, Blair defended Bush over the "Downing Street memo," in which a top British official alleged in 2002 that the United States was manipulating intelligence to justify a military invasion of Iraq. The memo surfaced in the British media last month. "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all," Blair said.
Excuse me, the memo said specifically: "The intelligence and facts were being fixed...." Either the English language (sorry Tony, its your baby) means something or it doesn't. Why have a press conference if what you say means nothing?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

An Interesting Evolutionary Observation

At least interesting to me. Consider the human skeleton below. Please note that all of the vertebral bodies (the bones of the spine) have transverse processes.
The transverse processes arise from the arch behind the superior articular processes and pedicles; they are thick, strong, and of considerable length, directed obliquely backward and lateralward, and each ends in a clubbed extremity, on the front of which is a small concave surface, for articulation with the tubercle of a rib.(emphasis added)

Human Skeleton

Detail of Human Spine

Lumbar vertebra

Evolution Continued

Then notice that there are no ribs in the lumbar region. That is, humans do not have ribs around their abdomen. Then notice the skeletons of the dinosaurs below. They both have ribs from each vertebral body.

The only conclusion that I can draw is that, as humans evolved, they lost their lumbar ribs. I have seen some patients with extra ribs. These are most commonly in the cervical region (i.e. in the neck where they present with masses on one or both sides that scares the bejesus out of everyone until the X-ray shows the extra ribs.) I guess you can also have an extra abdominal rib though nothing turns up on a Google search (my new gold standard).

Why would anyone make a human being denovo that had transverse processes specifically for ribs if they weren't going to be used? Doesn't make much sense, does it. Seems to suggest that humans evolved from a prior species that DID have abdominal ribs. Maybe it was dinosaurs.

Note the ribs

Note the ribs

Strike Two

The Downing Street Memo was Strike One. Amnesty International is Strike Two, and resulted in this highly interesting statement:
George W. Bush:

"It seemed like [Amnesty] based some of their decisions on the word and allegations by people who were held in detention, people who hate America, people who had been trained in some instances to disassemble - that means not tell the truth. (emphasis added)

And so it was an absurd report. It just is."
In this week of Deep Throat it is the highest of ironies that W has been caught dissembling AND displaying his profound ignorance of the English language. If anything has been disassembled its the U.S. Constitution. (I suspect the Europeans rejected theirs because they saw how useless a document it has become.) And, even spell check wouldn't have saved him on this one.

And Strike Three?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Those Nine Guys and Girls At It Again

I have the distinction of being the first physician to be certified to administer medical marijuana at the NIH in 1980-81. I don't know much about what happened after that except its in use in California. Then, those nine guys and girls at the SC do this:
Court Rules Against Pot for Sick People
AP - 2 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state medical marijuana laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug.
Apparently California can't make laws regulating this even though it is not interstate commerce. This strikes to the heart of an old Republican urge, States Rights. Of course, that was the old Southern Confederacy urge. Strange how urges get passed around.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


Exceptionally beautiful pic of the Rings of Saturn

The Rings of Saturn

I just finished The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald. I had previously read his Austerlitz and find his haunting, unique style of writing provocative. He is one of a kind with Thomas Pynchon and David Mitchell.

Unfortunately, Sebald is no longer with us, cut down as so many good people in an auto accident. So it goes. There are excellent reviews of The Rings of Saturn here and here.

Sebald's topic in the Rings is the inevitable destruction that visits both our society and, interestingly, the natural world. The title comes from the theory that the rings of Saturn are moons that have disintegrated due to tidal forces. We tend to focus so much on what is new and vibrant, neglecting the natural process of death that pervades life, that we are surely asymmetric in a way that Aristotle would not approve. I see the fascination with life by the Religious Right (of course embryonic life, not the life of the average Iraqi) as one manifestation of this obsession. And, of course, Freud might say that obsession with life, riches, power, etc. is a child's way of trying to avoid death. (Actually, while one of the bad books of the 20th century, Freud's an Introduction to Psychoanalysis is quite worth reading. Fortunately, I have one of the few extant copies since it is not available in an online search!) Actually, teenagers are the epitome of this mind set. They think they are not going to die, even when they get in a car and drive 10 million miles an hour into a telephone pole. (It is why I always fear prom and graduation weeks around here.)

Of course the irony of dying in an automobile accident, the ultimate destruction, would not have been lost on Sebald.

But, back to Sebald. He is about as ironic an observer as you could wish for. A German born in 1944 with parents who were locked into the Third Reich, he has faced up to his legacy in a way that is admirable; avoiding the maudlin at all costs. How much of his "novels" are personal history and experience vs. literary license is anyone's guess.

I wonder if we in America are going to have to do the same thing in the not too distant future, that is, face up to the truth. Amnesty International has actually done us a favor by putting out the information for the light of day. This time it won't go away.

Later: Atrios puts us onto this article by the bureau chief in Baghdad. Sobering

Saturday, June 04, 2005


So, let me get this straight, the White House accuses Newsweek of inciting riots and causing deaths because of one sentence in a brief report suggesting that the Koran was flushed down a toilet in our favorite Gulag. Now, the report comes out from Southern Command and, indeed, the Koran was desecrated with urine and other activities clearly designed to humiliate the Muslim detainees.

But no, OH NO, it was not flushed.
On March 25, a detainee complained to guards that "urine came through an air vent" and splashed on him and his Quran.

In the March incident, as described in the report, the guard had left his observation post to go outside to urinate. The wind blew his urine through an air vent into the cell block.
Excuse me, urine in the air vents? Well, those frat boys will be boys. But, the important point here, Jack, is that it was not flushed.

And we have some other college pranks:
In another confirmed incident, water balloons thrown by prison guards caused an unspecified number of Qurans to get wet...
Please explain to me what is going on here.

I am willing to lay some money on the silence of the Lambs (Scotty and the boys). We will see.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Star Wars - A Tragedy

Well, I went to see the last(?) Star War flick last PM. Its hard to imagine that it has been 27 years since the first one. After that, the name was co-opted in the 80's for the still extant insanity of a missile shield. It has been a strange experience.

While the first Star Wars was almost plausible, this one was not. That is, the disconnect between the technology and the action was acute. As some wag pointed out, how come they didn't know Padmé was carrying twins? Didn't they have ultrasound in that galaxy far, far away? And the birthing scene? The nurses in my birthing center are going to comment for me.

The hilarity started right away when the half a star ship was coming in for a crash landing. They actually had another "fire ship" come up next to it and spray water on it! I know this gave all those fire fighters in the audience warm feelings.

There is no doubt in my mind that the underscript of the story was a commentary on the Bush Administration. If, and it is a big if, we survive, we will look back on this as pretty hilarious. It isn't now. But, I won't dwell on the ironies. Just the pity (thank you Aristotle).

I couldn't resist this for Friday Crab Blogging

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Tell Me I'm Seeing Double

I'm going to see the Last Star Wars Flick tonight. Wish me luck! But I couldn't resist the following. Liberal Avenger put me on to Digital Prayer Wheels. This, in itself, is cool. But even more interesting is:
Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer) Om Mani Padme Hum, invites the blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.(emphasis added)
Now where, oh where did I hear that name before. Oops, right here:
Born Padmé Naberrie, Queen Amidala was the formal name of the royal leader of Naboo. As a child, Amidala was prodigiously talented and extremely well educated. She had long been interested in public service, volunteering in the Refugee Relief Movement in her youth. Her efforts helped in the Shadda-Bi-Boran exodus. At the age of eight, she joined the Apprentice Legislature and became an Apprentice Legislator at age 11. By 14, she was elected Queen of Naboo.
How cool can you get. A Star Wars Queen linked to a Buddhist prayer wheel.

I wonder who thought up the Star Wars names? Lucas?