Saturday, January 16, 2010

petering out a bit...

Admittedly, I started this blog because I was on a 'time out' in my usual forum, and needed an outlet. Now that I've been re-admitted to my usual forum, I haven't done much posting.... but stay tuned, there will be times when I've got something to say that isn't appropriate for the other place.

In the meanwhile, I recommend my youger daughter's new blog... Stacey is now in Nicaragua, working as the Assistant Field Operations manager for a charitable organization that provides medical assistance to the poor children in that country. She's a far better writer than I am, and you'll find her stuff interesting!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Saving Tiger Wood's soul

Incredible. Britt Hume tells us that Wood's recovery as a 'person' is dependent on him giving up Buhddism and embracing Christianity. And people wonder why I'm hostile to religion?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The top 10 quotations of the decade


10. "They frankly own the place." -- Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in 2009 admitting the taboo about banks’ influence in Congress.

9. "Haven't we already given money to rich people ... Shouldn't we be giving money to the middle?" -- President George W. Bush in November 2002, acknowledging to advisors that he knew his tax cuts were giveaways to the super-wealthy.

8. "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." -- Anti-healthcare protester at an August 2009 congressional town hall meeting in South Carolina -- the single most succinct sign that our country has become an idiocracy.

7. "We did this for the show." -- Falcon Heene on Oct. 15, 2009, telling CNN that the Balloon Boy chase was a hoax. The declaration demonstrated that the media‘s 24-7 knee-jerk sensationalism is irresponsible and proved that America's culture of celebrity aspiration is completely out of control.

6. "As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know they're some things we do not know. But there're also unknown unknowns; the ones we don't know we don't know." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Feb. 12, 2002, effectively telling us that the government had no idea what it was doing by invading Iraq.

5. "Bring 'em on." -- President George Bush on July 2, 2003, daring al-Qaida to attack U.S. troops -- yet more proof that the elite defines "toughness" as politicians flippantly sacrificing young American lives for Washington’s hubristic ideologies.

4. "The investment community feels very put-upon. They feel there is no reason why they shouldn't earn $1 million to $200 million a year, and they don't want to be held responsible for the global financial meltdown." -- Daniel Fass, chairman of Obama's financial-industry fundraising party on Oct. 19, 2009, insisting that despite wrecking the economy and then being handed trillions of bailout dollars, Wall Street is a victim.

3. "$500,000 is not a lot of money, particularly if there is no bonus." -- Wall Street compensation consultant James Reda on Feb. 3, 2009, giving the New York Times a good example of just how totally out of touch the super-rich really are.

2. "I didn’t campaign on the public option." -- President Obama on Dec. 22, 2009, expecting the public to forget that his presidential campaign platform explicitly promised to pass healthcare legislation giving all Americans "the opportunity to enroll in (a) new public plan."

1. "It doesn't matter." -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Nov. 5, 2006, referring to polls repeatedly showing the majority of Americans oppose the Iraq war -- a sign the ruling class truly does not care about the demands of the public.

Maddow rips Cheney a new one

This is some of the best journalism I've seen in a very long time. Rachel Maddow is brilliant... and her 'fact based' approach exposes some of the most outrageous hypocrisy we've seen in a long time.

Maddow rips Cheney a new one

Friday, January 1, 2010

Another excerpt

Well, seeing as how I haven't made any progress on a short story, here's another excerpt from the novel:

Casimir trudged up the steps of the shabby municipal building in Leningrad, pulling his collar tightly around his neck to ward off the early autumn chill. The building was gray, dingy, and faded, like the bureaucracy it held, with only faint suggestions of the glory and grandeur of the Soviet in years past. With the union essentially dissolved, the place seemed anachronistic, out of sync with time and space. The collapse of the Russian economy didn’t help matters, and maintenance and repairs had been all but forgotten on the ancient edifice. Still, it was a familiar sight; Casimir ordinarily visited this place every few months, to report to the Producer. This meeting was sudden, unprepared, out of sequence, but Casimir called ahead after disembarking from the plane form Oslo, and he knew Anatoly would be waiting for him.

As Casimir entered the lobby through ornate wooden doors, Anatoly Molotov was just coming down the hallway, beaming warmly at his younger colleague from Moscow. Molotov, a distant cousin of the cold war hero, was now an old man, well into his 70’s but still vigorous, alert, and active. Molotov favored the traditional military uniform, with its red piping and oversized service cap, and Casimir always smiled to himself when he saw him. It seemed that the old man had shrunken with age, the uniform hanging more loosely each time he visited, the service cap even larger when compared to the old man’s body.

“Casimir, my son, it’s good to see you again,” the old man greeted him, grasping his arm and pulling him close for a traditional hug and feigned kiss on each cheek. Casimir responded in like manner, knowing the old man’s traditional habits, and happy to respond in a similar manner. “It’s a month early for our regular meeting, but I’m always happy to see you,” the old man continued. “Come to the office, I’ve gotten a wonderful present, hand rolled Cubans, you’ll enjoy one with me, will you?”

Casimir smiled and nodded. He loved the old man like his father, even more so because of their special understanding with each other. Molotov, while looking every bit the part of a Hero of the Revolution, was a very modern man. He was pragmatic, rarely cynical, understanding of the changing roles in society, and politics, and Casimir always felt comfortable with him, able to discuss subjects in the most frank and honest manner. The old man clutched his younger colleague’s arm closely as he led him down the hall to his office.

The office itself was, for the most part, spartan and drab, containing just the usual 1950’s government-issue furniture, the ever-present portrait of Lenin hanging on the wall. However, the far side of the room was set up as a sitting area, with two overstuffed leather club chairs, a low table, and a Kurdish rug, the only concession to warmth and comfort. Anatoly led Casimir over to this sitting area. Anatoly would hear nothing of business until he could offer Casimir a large Cuban cigar, and pour him an icy vodka.

“I read your report about the recent blowouts, Casimir. I don’t see anything particularly threatening, “Anatoly commenced, lighting his cigar and exhaling a plume of fragrant pale blue smoke. “You’ve always managed to contain these incidents admirably in the past, and I have every confidence you’ll be able to cope,” the old man explained. “But that is obviously not why you’re here today, my son. First, tell me about Nataly, is she all right?”

Casimir nodded. “As beautiful as ever, Baba,” he replied, using the affectionate nickname for his mentor. “She doesn’t seem to age, at least in my eyes. I look at her, and see the young girl I married long ago. She sends her regards, of course, but was unable to accompany me on this trip”

“A diamond, Casimir, you found a diamond when you found her, I’m sure of it,” Molotov beamed. Pliskin smiled to himself, remembering the folksy expressiveness of his family from so long ago; these cold war soviets are not so far removed from the farms and villages, he thought to himself. “I’m so glad to hear she’s doing well. I’ve always been concerned about her, since back when… well, you know what I mean,” Anatoly said.

“I know, Baba.” Casimir replied solemnly. He didn’t like to be reminded by others about Katrina, even though the thought of his young daughter was constantly on his mind. It was so long ago that she died, victim of a genetic digestive tract defect, back in the days when Soviet medicine was even more primitive than it was now. The memory of his young daughter was bittersweet, but these days, Casimir had to fight to keep her image fresh in his mind. The image he saw more often was that of Nataly’s face, at Katrina’s deathbed, contorted by overbearing grief. He could do nothing for Katrina back then, but there was much he could do for Nataly, to somehow make up for their daughter’s loss. Casimir didn’t really know if western medicine could have saved his daughter, so thin and wan near her death. But Casimir knew that Nataly was convinced she could have been saved in the west. Anatoly was not the Producer in those days, and Dobrynin, the old asshole, wouldn’t allow Casimir to seek western help for his daughter. Casimir’s long preparations for retirement to the West had little to do with his own desires, but much to do with doing justice by his wife. Nataly would never again feel secure in Russia, and her dream of emigrating to the United States would do much to heal the wounds of that terrible time in their lives.

“I’m sorry, my boy. I didn’t mean to remind you of unpleasant things,” the old man apologized.

“Nonsense, Baba, you cannot remind me of things that are omnipresent in my mind, anyhow. Besides, you know all about my retirement plans. It’s all for Nataly, Baba, and you know I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for understanding why I eventually need to do what I’ve told you. Without you, I could never do for her…”

Anatoly interrupted him. “It’s what we are doing for her, Cas. I love you both as if you were my own children, and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for that lovely woman. But enough of that; I’ve grown sentimental in my old age, when I should really keep my focus on present affairs, and stay as sharp as I can until… well, you know.” Casimir smiled to himself; the old man was indeed sharp as a tack, and had always been. But the old man was also always a sentimentalist. Casimir sometimes wondered how Anatoly could have risen to the position of Producer; the job demanded the hardest of hearts at times, and Anatoly could indeed be tough when it was required.

“Well, I suppose it’s best if we get down to business, “Anatoly said, probably trying to re-establish his professional manner, and not allow his sentimentalism to get sloppy. “Why are you here? Is it time to execute your retirement plan, Casimir? I’ve been prepared for this for a long time, my son, but nonetheless it’s going to be especially difficult without….”

Casimir interrupted him. “I wish that were the reason I was here, Baba. I’ve dreamed of little else in the past few years, and my retirement is coming soon, I can assure you. But right now, we’ve got what looks like a problem. I’m not completely sure, but if my suspicions are proved correct, you and I will both be in a world of trouble.”

Anatoly leaned forward. “Tell me, Cas, what is it?”

Casimir slowly related the events of the past 24 hours, describing the call from the young retired actor near Oslo, the trip to see him, and the astounding revelation concerning the event in southern California. The old man’s eyes widened as Casimir related the story, and Cas couldn’t help but notice that the old man became pale and visibly frightened, shrinking even more in his oversized uniform.

“There isn’t much in the way of evidence, or proof, of your suspicions, Cas. Do you believe it? Has someone compromised the old scene?” Anatoly asked.

Casimir sighed. “I don’t know what to think. All of this could be sheer coincidence; it may be completely unrelated to the Egg Drop scene. Obviously, we’re not going to ignore it. Considering the consequences, I think we are going to have to take some very drastic measures to investigate this situation, and prevent catastrophe, if catastrophe is indeed poised at the precipice.”

The old man gravely nodded, and Casimir thought he detected a visible shake to Anatoly’s body.

“I need your permission, Comrade Molotov,” Casimir addressed him formally, as if to emphasize the gravity of the situation. “I’m going to need to take extreme measures here. Somehow, we need to confirm or deny this situation. If it’s really true, we’re going to have to defuse it. Abort it. But in a way which will not compromise the play in general. I am not sure what I’ll need to do, but I have a few ideas.”

Anatoly looked at him. “What will you have to do?” he asked.

“I might have to perform contract cancellations, on my own, or by my subordinates, without taking the time to clear it with you. I might need to draw from the operating budget to pay off informers, or buy silence. There’s a strong possibility that I’ll have to selectively leak information to our counterparts in Langley. Just enough to enlist their assistance, whether they know it or not. Whatever it takes, I’ll need to act quickly, and won’t have time to consult. You’ll need to trust me, Anatoly, completely.”

The old man sighed. “Whatever you need to do, Casimir. Don’t even think about needing to clear it. We’ve know each other long enough to trust one another, and in this situation, we wouldn’t have any other choice, my young friend.” Anatoly slumped back in his club chair, his brow deeply furrowed, looking to Casimir as if he had aged even more in just the last few minutes.

Casimir pulled his chair closer, resting his hand on the old man’s knee, as if to console him. “Anatoly, if this turns out to be real, and we’re unable to stop the event from happening… are my suspicions correct? I am suspecting that you and I… well, the Politburo will… I’m not sure I can even say it.”

The old man nodded. “If it’s real, and the scene is performed, your life and mine will be worthless, we’ll disappear, your wife will be a widow, and I’ll be nothing more than a memory to my grandchildren. The Politburo will see to that, for certain. Even if the scene isn’t performed, but if the play is compromised, we’re likely to suffer the same fate. Running off to San Diego, like your retirement plan, won’t protect you, my son.”

Casimir snickered. “Anatoly, San Diego is the last imaginable place I’d go, at this point.” The old man chuckled in response to the gallows humor. “The only hope is that we find out what’s behind this, and if it’s real, stop it without compromising the play. It’s our only hope.”

Anatoly paused, and then spoke up, a bit stronger, more determined. “Get Nataly out of the country, Cas. Let’s take no chances with her. It’s too dangerous, if things should go wrong…”

Casimir put his finger to his lips, as if to shush the old man. “I’ve taken care of it. She’s going to Montreal. We have assets there that can help if need be.” Casimir rose, understanding that little more need be said. As Anatoly rose, Casimir took his arm, walking towards the door.

“I know that you won’t leave, Anatoly,” Casimir told the old man. “All I ask is that, if things should go badly… you’ll think about coming to Nataly and me. I’ll make sure you have time.” Casimir knew he was wasting his words, but it was just a way to tell the old man he loved him. Anatoly didn’t need to tell him that he was devoting what remained of his life to trying to end the play, reduce the risk to his fatherland, and to the world. Molotov was the only man left who could possibly convince the Politburo that the economy and effectiveness of the play couldn’t outweigh the dangers of the play in the changing conditions of the twenty first century. Slowly, by cajoling the commisars, through whatever influence he could exert, Molotov was determined to end things, reduce the risk, and perhaps make things safer for his grandchildren. Despite his weary countenance, retirement and rest had no real meaning for this last warhorse of a forgotten era.

Anatoly embraced the younger man. “Good luck, Casimir. I know you’ll do what needs to be done, and you have my complete unrestricted permission. You’re in control now... Perhaps in a week or two you’ll be back here, laughing at unfounded suspicions, drinking Stolchinaya and smoking another Cuban with me. Let’s hope so, anyway.”

The wildest and wackiest claims of 2009

This is the season of 'lists', especially regarding the past year or decade. My favorite, so far, is from, which rates the political comments of politicians, celebrities, and chain emails:

Aaaaah-choooo! Vice President Biden said that when one passenger sneezes on a plane, "It goes all the way through the aircraft."

Will they transmit back to KAOS headquarters? A chain e-mail claimed people who opt for the public option in the Democrats' health care plan will have microchips implanted in their bodies.

Below the belt: Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Barack Obama wants to mandate circumcision.

Sarcasm you can dance to: Singer Paul Hipp used World Health Organization figures in a song mocking U.S. health care.

History repeats itself: Facing criticism that his policies will lead to socialism, President Barack Obama said President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was called a socialist, too.

Picture not-quite-perfect: Bloggers said an aerial photo showed more than 1 million people attended the tea party rally in September, but the photo was taken at a 1997 Promise Keepers rally.

An epic work, but it lacks character development: Sen. Orrin Hatch claimed that the Senate health care bill is longer than Tolstoy's War and Peace.

Line 17, Guns. Include total from Schedule G, handgun and automatic weapons, if required: A chain e-mail claimed that you must list all your guns on your 2010 tax return.

Check your math: President Barack Obama claimed the United States was one of the world's largest Muslim countries.

He still hasn't found what he's looking for: U2 lead singer Bono mixed up figures about AIDS relief and foreign aid.

Woof woof! Glenn Beck claimed that the Democratic plan offered health insurance for dogs.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Missing the give and take

Well, I have to admit, today is the first day I've actually missed participating in the Bilge discussions. Admittedly, as a very passionate partisan, I sometimes let my activity there overwhelm me... and getting banned for reacting badly to an insult (unrelated to the discussions) was probably not a bad thing... but there are a few threads going on there I wish I could participate in. One thread, talking about 'radical equality', is esepecially interesting.

My 'ban' gets lifted on the tenth of January (barring a New Year's Pardon), so I guess I ought to be as productive as possible between now and then.