Friday, May 11, 2007

Goodling to get immunity

It's a done deal.

I share the skepticism that others have expressed and worry that she will turn out to be the next Ollie North--whose high-profile testimony turned up very little that Congress didn't already know and effectively hobbled the independent prosecutor's pursuit of his co-conspirators.

What is worse: she may be turned into the next right wing-martyr-hero, a la North... a living example of the value of trashing the constitution, breaking the law, and unethicality in the pursuit of a pure all-white, all-republican America.

Its official: half the people my age are out to lunch.

30-39 year olds more likely to support the war than any other group (via Atrios)
Did the United States make a mistake in sending troops to Iraq?


18-29 Yes - 56% No - 41%
30-39 Yes - 48% No - 50%
40-49 Yes - 52% No - 47%
50-59 Yes - 61% No - 38%
60-69 Yes - 62% No - 37%
70-79 Yes - 70% No - 28%
80+ Yes - 69% No - 26%
This data raises a host of questions about the influence of the Reagan years on the views of my cohorts--do they really believe that Reagan won the Cold War? How much do they really know about the secret wars in Central America? Do they think Olliver North is a patriot or a traitor? Do they understand what the economic consequences of the military arms buildup were and are?

The answers to these questions are likely troubling.

Media Reelects Sharpton

Media Re-Elects Al Sharpton As Official Spokesman For Black America
Every four years representatives from broadcast and cable news, newspapers, local television and a few conservative bloggers go to the ballot box and vote to see who will represent "the blacks". Harry Throckmorton, editorial director for Fox News Channel said "A lot of people say we should look for more black voices in the media, that when a racial issue comes up we shouldn't just always run to Al Sharpton. To those people I say: I couldn't make my tee time if I did that."

"I'm a loudmouth who just says any old thing that comes to my head", Sharpton told the throng of microphones that follow him 24-7, "and that means the media loves me. Sure, coming to me all the time gives many Americans a warped perspective of what all blacks believe, but hey, what am I going to do - not talk? Better God strike me down dead."

an important moment

Atrios discusses why and how he became one of them radicals. For Atrios the pivotal moment was seeing how the media skewed its reporting on the inauguration. Well worth reading.

The inauguration was also a radicalizing moment for me... however, my take on it was obviously different than Atrios's. I assumed that the whole system was corrupt--that the media was working hand in hand with the republican party to create an overlord paradise.

The relatively swift passage of tax cuts for the wealthy, the slashing of the estate tax, and the imposition of harsh 'bankruptcy reforms' only cemented the notion I had that Clinton was merely a band-aid in the face of forces hellbent on the destruction of the middle class and the possibility of upward mobility.

For some reason, my cynicism remains quite intact to this day.

Grace and grace

Nancy Nall has a nice muse today on the ritual of grace. Along the way she mentions a couple of amusing articles that are worth reading for the giggle factor (Dearborn lets cop quit without a drug charge in marijuana brownie case and California Website outsources city council reporting to India)--sheesh it may just be me, but it seems that James Macpherson has no friggin clue what real journalism is.

Unreality watch

Alberto Gonzales, Zen Master (via Political Animal)
The House Democrats are furious. To them, there is only one plausible explanation for what happened to the eight (now nine?) fired U.S. attorneys. There is only one narrative that works with the facts. The White House wanted party loyalists placed in either key battleground states, or in states where Republicans were being investigated or they thought Democrats should have been. Gonzales rolled out the welcome mat at the Justice Department and told them to install whomever they wanted while he played hearts on his computer. If Gonzales truly wants to rebut that narrative, he needs only to offer some plausible alternative. Anything at all. But he doesn't. He offers only distractions.


Long silence. Pause. "They wouldn't do that," hems Gonzales. "The White House has said publicly that it was not involved in adding or deleting people from the list." Someone needs to tell that to Kyle Sampson. And as for Gonzales, he has made himself immortal by merely willing himself to be so. That must be what accounts for his Zenlike state today. It's an ingenious strategy. Instead of letting the president throw him under the bus to protect Karl Rove, Gonzales just lies down in the road, then giggles as the bus runs over his head.

Confucius and his uncle

Before he became a wise old man,
Confucius was a young man.
      In his youth, he traveled,
      read great texts,
      talked to intelligent men,
      made it known
            he intended to become wise—
You wish to be wise, his uncle asked him,
better a mule wish he were an ox—
his uncle did not think much
            of reading
      or of learned men—
They know much about tea,
      but little about tea leaves,
he said—
meaning either:
      They enjoy the hard labor of others,
      They know nothing about the forces
            which shape destiny—
his uncle had a gift
      for saying more than one thing
                  at a time.

Silence (8 of 10)

All of this comes to a close
a bathrobe I grasp close around me.
In this moment
looking beyond the ephemera
the memorabilia of my life
I feel that hold
      that wholesome whole
beneath fleeting desires
      the me within me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


A handbook of rhetorical devices

Glossary of poetic terms

Notes on literary technique

Saving these links for future reference. Nothing to see here. Carry on.

The poetry reading


The room was not antiseptic. Ancient stains of blood
littered the floor. John Keats, where did you sit—
not sure if life was worth living, love worth loving,
not sure you would escape TB?
No anesthesia, and the young physicians-in-
training huddling in their seats, standing in the back
against the wall, the heat of each other’s bodies
compacting compressing a small stuffy room,
but on the stage, their patient—blindfolded—without
anesthesia. . . Were you doodling Keats when they screamed?
Were you imagining mountains in Greece, fields in
Kentucky? Did you see the blood hit the sawdust,
the fragments of flesh which were discarded,
as Michelangelo discarded flawed marble?
If you had known you would not have written,
wouldn’t you? You would not have loved,
you would have ceased in your heart to live. . .
Is that, was that the meaning of your exile—
into the city of myths, fables, and
Michelangelo, your very own Rome?

There is a story behind this poem, but it is not worth telling with too much telling detail. Suffice it to say that I once attended a poetry reading given by an accomplished, intelligent, academic poet who read a poem about John Keats sitting in his college’s surgery theatre musing about moving to Kentucky to live with his sister. The poet in question painted Keats as an idealistic romantic always looking afar... it is a stock image, and it belies the reality of who Keats actually was.

I think central to the poet’s misconception was a complete inability to appreciate how primitive surgery was in Keats’ time. Keats lived from 1795-1821. The first surgical anesthetic ever used, ether, was first used in 1842. Prior to that time, patients would have to be strapped down, given a healthy dose of liquor, and something to bite on. Lister’s ground-breaking article “Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery” was published in 1867. The idea of germs (put to the test by Louis Pasteur in 1862) didn’t exist when Keats was a student.

In this context, can anyone imagine any of the students staring wistfully into the distance—while the subject of that day’s demonstration was writhing in pain?

Keats was naturally drawn to medicine as a young man given his family circumstances. His father died early in his life from an accident. His mother and brother both died from tuberculosis, a disease which would eventually claim Keats himself.

So the questions that struck me, listening to this poet meter and rhyme on about Keats the dreamer was: how can you get this so wrong? You are an academic, writing about a particular time and a place, didn’t it occur to you to do some fact-checking? (This was 1994. Well before Google. I think the era prior to 1998 will be known as B.G. And this era’s anthem could well be “I started a joke”.)

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I believe this poem (the poem I wrote, above) has two flaws. First, it is a poem that needs context—having read what I’ve just written here, I’m sure if you re-read the poem it will make more of an impact with you. And second, it is a poem written to two people, two disparate people, at once: the academic poet and John Keats, the deceased. Because it has two audiences, there is a cognitive disconnect.

Anyway, not sure why I was thinking about it, but I thought I would share it with you today. (And yes, this poem was written in 1994.)

Postage stamp rates change

New postage rates on May 14.

This has been the Literateria PSA for today. Now back to regularly scheduled nonsense...

Reaction in the face of change

Taxi rides in NYC going high-tech
The monitors, already in 200 cabs as an experiment, allow riders to pay by credit card, map out where the cab is going and find information about restaurants and bars.

Taxi officials say the monitors will help passengers make the most of the 13 minutes they spend on an average ride in the city. But many drivers have decried the cost — up to $7,400 for equipment and fees over three years — and say the technology will let taxi owners and officials check up on them.

"I cannot afford the computer. What is going to happen to me?" driver Oscar Luzzi said at Thursday's commission meeting.


The global positioning system in the technology, from Englewood, N.J.-based TaxiTech, automates required record-keeping. It could help with lost items, as well: If a customer reports losing a wallet, the taxi commission could send alerts to drivers in the neighborhood where the customer was dropped off to be on the lookout.

Objecting drivers have raised concerns about the costs of the technology, credit-card fees and potential working time lost if it needs repair. Some worry that the global-positioning system will be used to track their movements, although the taxi commission says it will record only the pickup and drop-off points and fare, which drivers already are required to log.

"It's trampling on our constitutional rights, and it will cut deeply into our income," said Bill Lindauer of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, a drivers' advocacy group with more than 7,000 members.
There may be legitimate problems with the gps-credit card computer systems. That said, the way these things usually go, I expect that within five years no one will be able to imagine getting into a taxi without one of these systems.

Next time I'm in NYC, I'll probably take a taxi just to try out the system.

a sense of perspective

Bush's Approval Remains Ridiculously High In Viriginia (via Sharp Sand)
Representative Tom Davis told Mr. Bush that the president's approval rating was at 5 percent in one section of his northern Virginia district.
So... You're driving along the streets in Tom Davis' district, enjoying the scenery of what I'm sure's a lovely place - Tom's district includes Mt. Vernon, after all. There's an all-day Stevie Ray Vaughan festival on the radio and you - why, you're feeling just completely safe. Traffic's moderate, not so bad. Coming your way down the other lane are, I dunno, something like 10 cars a minute. In other words:

Five drivers are hurtling your way every ten minutes that are so batshit crazy they actually approve of George W. Bush. Five drivers every ten minutes who can't (or won't) meet the most basic requirements of consensual reality - such as evaluating the performance of the worst president ever, let alone agreeing to drive on the right side of road! Five drivers every ten minutes whose cognitive and moral judgment is so impaired they might create a head-on collision just for kicks.
It is somewhat more staggering when you consider that Bush's approval rating is at 28% across the nation...

I think it is empirical evidence of the innate insanity that clings to our innate humanity--the idea that two people could see basically the same thing (i.e.: a car crash or a chimp-emperor) and come to two different conclusions, while having similar backgrounds, is proof, is it not, that the age of reason is dead?

Maybe I'm being too cynical.

Silence (7 of 10)

You pout, wanting to argue the night away,
but I’ve said what I have to say.
There’s no point in putting my hand on your thigh,
      but that’s what I want to do.
I am an ant,
      bathing in amber.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The thin line between ignorance and stupidity...

Vegans sentenced for starving their baby.

It is a sad case. However at first glance this looks like a miscarriage of justice: a prosecution based more on emotions than on the evidence. Maybe I'm wrong... but I find it hard to believe that a couple would starve their baby to death.


Chopped Liver: Photographs by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin.

Fort Dix plot

One of the keys to the alleged terror plot at Fort Dix is a family tragedy in the making:
One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father's pizzeria — Super Mario's Restaurant — in Cookstown and made deliveries to the base, using the opportunity to scout out Fort Dix for an attack, authorities said.

"Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the base from having been there delivering pizzas," Christie said.

Tatar's father, Muslim Tatar, 54, said the accusations against his son were hard to accept.

"He is not a terrorist. I am not a terrorist," he told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The elder Tatar told ABCNews he had gotten no indication his son harbored a deep hatred of the United States.

"I came here from Turkey in 1992, and this is my country. I love this country," Muslim Tatar told ABC.
It is common among second generation immigrants to feel out of place in their country and to embrace everything that they perceive as belonging to their old country--especially when their parents are so eager to leave their old country behind and embrace their new country. Of course, the second generation--either born here or growing up here--often has a limited grasp of what constitutes the culture, traditions, and religious attitudes of their old country.

It says something profound that the suspect Tatar appears to have embraced fundamentalist islamic extremism. It suggests a severe disconnect between father and son. What we see in this newspaper narrative is the outline of a deep and jagged father-son dynamic--one where both participants have different hopes and dreams, where the son feels awash and alien in this country, and where the two lost the ability to communicate.

Race and Sports

ESPN poll shows race plays a role in perception of Bonds

Blacks are nearly twice as likely to think Bonds has been treated unfairly (46 percent to 25 percent). Why? The survey found that 41 percent of black fans think this is due to the steroids issue, 25 percent think it's because of his race, and 21 percent blame Bonds' personality.

For whites who think Bonds has been treated unfairly, 66 percent blame steroids. Virtually none blame race.

Older blacks (50 and over) are less likely to think Bonds took steroids (29 percent) than younger blacks (44 percent). There is no age difference among whites.

A majority of fans -- 58 percent -- think Bonds should be in the Hall of Fame. That's 10 points higher than a similar poll conducted last summer. Among blacks, 85 percent think Bonds belongs in Cooperstown, compared to 53 percent of whites. Also, 78 percent of blacks think Bonds should be recognized as the home run leader, compared to 53 percent of whites.

Study of N.B.A. Sees Racial Bias in Calling Fouls

A coming paper by a University of Pennsylvania professor and a Cornell University graduate student says that, during the 13 seasons from 1991 through 2004, white referees called fouls at a greater rate against black players than against white players.

Justin Wolfers, an assistant professor of business and public policy at the Wharton School, and Joseph Price, a Cornell graduate student in economics, found a corresponding bias in which black officials called fouls more frequently against white players, though that tendency was not as strong. They went on to claim that the different rates at which fouls are called “is large enough that the probability of a team winning is noticeably affected by the racial composition of the refereeing crew assigned to the game.”


But they said they continued to find the same phenomenon: that players who were similar in all ways except skin color drew foul calls at a rate difference of up to 4 1⁄2 percent depending on the racial composition of an N.B.A. game’s three-person referee crew.

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and a vocal critic of his league’s officiating, said in a telephone interview after reading the paper: “We’re all human. We all have our own prejudice. That’s the point of doing statistical analysis. It bears it out in this application, as in a thousand others.”

“The dream is busted, broken,”

The dream is busted, broken,
  but we should have known that
    when they sold us the car
       that we used to replace
   the one we bought
         three years before.
The property taxes are too high,
  the traffic is miserable in the morning
            and even more miserable at night.
The children are overfed and overstuffed
  and if they know anything
  it isn’t about life—
       movies and videogames do not a life make—
and what did I want here anyway—
  a freshly mowed lawn,
  making love to my neighbor’s wife,
  sprinklers and car alarms?

This is a world which blossomed
    like flowers in a desert.
    The rains have come and gone.
    It’s over now,

Silence (6 of 10)

a word that defies that for which it is
a nagging finger in the eye

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

“He played a lawyer”

He played a lawyer
    in a made for TV
    movie about cloning, murder, and genetic testing,
but in real life
    he was working on his law degree—
“Look Sidney, just between you and me,
the script needs work—no, not at all. . .
the story’s good, but there are technical problems,
like when Mike tells Janice about the will—
it’s flawed.”
So Sidney gave him a technical consultant slot
and soon he was inundated
with discrete requests
from the acting and artistic communities
about the law of reproductive biology.
And thus his life followed a natural progression,
one which flowed from one pond into another
without much thought,
    following happenstance.
We are startled, sometimes,
    by the avenues luck seems to take us,
but on its face it can seem banal,
    when we would wish it to be sublime.

I am thinking about my narrative poems, so I decided to share this little one from 1998. Hope you enjoy.

Wacky and weird

Prince to do 21 concerts in London, then study the Bible.

At some point I'll write my definitive Prince music review... Most fans probably look to 1999 and Purple Rain as his best work. However, his best, most musically creative period was 1992-1995, beginning when he shed his name to become "the artist formally known as..." and extending to Gold Experience. Emancipation had its moments, but essentially marked the swan song of a blessed period.

All that said, I haven't heard 3121... although Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic sucked and sucked hard.

Jack Gilbert

Links from wood s lot.

A profile of Jack Gilbert at Slate.

Three poems.

The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart and Rain.

Silence (4 & 5 of 10)

SILENCE (4 of 10)

On this morning somehow
even footsteps make no sound—
dew laden chill—
my breath seems like dragon’s breath—
even the woodpecker is still.

SILENCE (5 of 10)

in meditation we learn
that the mind races—
often away from that
    which it doesn’t want to see.
Excuse this shyness—
perhaps in a minute I will laugh again—
but I want to think about this daydream,
    a fantasy of you and me
    and bliss.

Monday, May 7, 2007


I would like to believe that I made a few good observations on this thread by Nancy Nall about Lilek.

More Banksy

Earlier I recommded Banksy's latest book, Wall and Peace. Curiously enough, he's profiled, in a way*, in the latest New Yorker. You can read the article online.

*Inasmuch as someone who is famous yet wants to remain completely anonymous can be profiled that is.

You can also see more of Banksy's work on Flickr.

Gordon Coale recommends...

two important books of American color photography. Read his recommendation here.


Joseph Duemer's poem Power stirs with brutality.

Four poems by Huang Xiang

Two poems by J. D. Smith.

There is more interesting stuff at babel, an online magazine (that could use a redesign).

Silence (3 of 10)

Each time we talk,
    which is rare, thankfully rare,
    my heart breaks
with the grief of ending our affair—
my last words to you should have been flowers—
but instead, an occasional storm—
it rumbles, shaking me—
and moves on.