Friday, April 01, 2005

Sandy Berger lied, Martha went to Prison

Bill Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stole classified documents about the Clinton Administration's response to terrorism from the National Archives, cut them up, and lied about it. Result: No prison time, trivial fine, security clearance lifted for three whole years. At least that is his plea deal. I hope the judge is considerably less forgiving.

John F. Harris and Allan Lengel have the story in the Washington Post.
The terms of Berger's agreement required him to acknowledge to the Justice Department the circumstances of the episode. Rather than misplacing or unintentionally throwing away three of the five copies he took from the archives, as the former national security adviser earlier maintained, he shredded them with a pair of scissors late one evening at the downtown offices of his international consulting business...

On Sept. 2, 2003...Berger put a copy of the Clarke report in his suit jacket...On Oct. 2, 2003, he again spent hours at the archives and took four more versions of the document. Back in his office, he studied them in detail, realized they were largely identical, and took the scissors to three of the copies, the associate said.
The associate, by the way, was authorized to speak with reporters.

Most commentary I have read speculates that he destroyed some copies but not all because he was concerned about marginal notations by the officials who had originally received them.

Thanks to

That's refreshing

"We have seen a number of states toy with the idea of scaling back or trying to make the process of school discipline more rational," says Bob Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.
Kris Axtman in the Christian Science Monitor has more on what I hope is a growing reaction to Zero Tolerance policies. The lunatic implementations of some such policies have been in the news for years and, if the news reports are reasonably accurate, I think they constitute child abuse.
Gerald Newberry, executive director of the National Education Association's Health Information Network (said) "Unfortunately ... many school boards and school administrators...began taking first graders out of class for bringing nail clippers to school."
It has gone beyond that is some schools. It is past time these policies be changed.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Sin City"

The NYTimes reviews a movie and some other reviews. Sounds like a real howler:
Try this for range: cannibalism, castration, decapitation, dismemberment, electrocution, hanging, massacres, pedophilia, slashings and lots and lots of torture.
So, what do we expect from Disney? OK: Miramax, which I guess is leaving uncle Walt's fold.

The reviewer of the film for - a self-styled "ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles" - seemed a tad conflicted.

After cataloguing everything from the film's "pervasive pagan moral worldview" to its "33 obscenities, but no F-words" and every kind of violent act, the reviewer summed up the film as "abhorrent" but worth three stars, calling it "engrossing" and calling Mr. Willis "very fun to watch."

"Filmmaking virtuosity aside," the reviewer hastened to add, " 'Sin City' is despicable."
This might be almost as good as Pulp Fiction.

Nice Wallpaper...

...if you clik on the first pic to get the hi res version. Click here: APOD: 2005 March 16 - Markarian's Chain of Galaxies

British Welfare Queens United

Louise Jury, writing in the Independent , reports on the latest attempt to raid the taxpayers' pockets:
Arts leaders, bitterly disappointed that the Government has failed to follow through on its early investment in culture, have pledged to force politicians to accept that the public has a right to art. They are hoping that the united front, from a sector that has traditionally been fragmented, will place arguments about cultural entitlement firmly on the agenda for this election, for future spending rounds and beyond.
Maybe the auto industry should assert an entitlement to a new car every couple years, at taxpayers' expense. And the sweater industry. And don't forget the traditional producers of sea salt.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

This is hanging yer rear WAY over the...


I hope Bruce McCandless had a blast.

OK, OK, it isn't quite as cool as Starship Troopers, but...'s real. No Arkellian sand beetles, tho.

"Give" until they're rich

Hmmm. Certain sectors have noted a blogging deficiency in these quarters. Almost as tho I have acquired a life. Fear not. I have been lollygagging about Hawaii and the hinterland of Southern California for nigh onto two weeks, at times Internet Impaired, and am now in a position to rectify said perceived deficiency. Herewith:

Claudia Rosett in the March 27 Opinion Journal , re: Jeffrey Sachs' book "The End of Poverty" with his prescription for ending poverty around the word (excerpted in Time Mag last week, I think it was):
"What stymies the people in poor countries, as a rule, is not a lack of aid. It is forms of government, often corrupt and tyrannical, that do not allow people to exercise free choice under fair law.

Unfortunately, aid plans have a long history of reinforcing precisely the lousy governmental varieties that keep people poor. While Mr. Sachs punctuates his book with comments to that effect, he goes right on, undeterred, spelling out his plan. He calculates that in Africa, whatever the failures of aid to date, $30 billion a year would take care of the problem. "I have identified the specific investments that are needed," writes Mr. Sachs. For him, the only remaining question is, "Will the world act?"

The world probably will not act, at least not in the way Mr. Sachs has in mind--and a good thing, too."
Well, I read the Time Mag excerpt, and if it is representative of the whole book, I agree with her critique. The guy can think of nothing but how to throw away money. "Throw away" not because his assertions that such things as clean water are important but because without the long term policy changes in impoverished countries needed to allow wealth creation, most of the money will be wasted, if not actually siphoned into Swiss and Cayman Island bank accounts of the politically powerful.

Back in the good old days, such places as Switzerland functioned to protect ppls' wealth from predatory governments. Lately I have been struck by the idea that they now function to protect the personal wealth of dictators, mass murderers (if the two categories can be properly divided), and all-round International Filth from justice.

Until the governments of the impoverished nations are changed (and it will likely take a change in national ethos in many such countries) we can throw all the money we want to at ameliorating our feelings of guilt (however deserved or simply neurotic) and all we will be doing is throwing it away. We are better off encouraging the overthrow of the bad guys. Or minding our own business and letting the miserable ppl of the world move to better places, leaving their oppressors behind.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Rocks and coyotes at Matilija Canyon Ranch

I went for a walk this afternoon, back up Matilija Canyon, past the turn off for Three-fingered Jack's camp. The road gradually gained ground as it wound up the mountain side, with a surprising number of boulders strewn across it since the last ppl cleaned up. Some as big as my torso, which suggested that it might be best not to be trekking boldly along when the next major earthquake strikes.

I came around one hairpin and across a big rock slide, when at the far side a reddish coyote ran from uphill across the road and into the brush. I never glimpsed it again, so pushed on maybe a quarter mile or a bit more when a very cold breeze came up from the mountains to the south, accompanied by big dark clouds, so after admiring the modulations of green and brown on the mountainsides I headed back for lunch.

Over half the ppl here left today, leaving we hard core partiers who all leave tomorrow. I have to get the car back to LAX by four and shall be earlier than that if possible for my 6:00 plane back to God's Country.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Water bugs and their shadows

I'm in Ojai, CA, for my sister Leslie's birthday bash. Actually several miles outside Ojai, up Matilija Canyon, in a little complex of houses on a 560 ranch surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest. After driving up a very rickety road one comes to a funky gate made of big steel pipes which one gets thru only if you have the combination to the lock. Anyway, it's quiet here except for the herds of peacocks shouting Hey Lookit Me! to all the peababes. And a donkey which likes to join in from time to time. There are fruit trees all around the main house, so we have an unending supply of oranges, blood oranges, tangeloes, limes, lemons, and avocadoes. Not too bad.

Anyway, today I decided to take a walk up the valley. A few hundred yards up I had to ford a small stream, which involved leaping from rock to rock with the grace of a mountain goat, or possibly a wounded marmot, then trekking on until I had to ford again, this time too deep and wide to be done dry, so I shed boots, hung them around my neck, and waded across.

A bit later I came to a sign for a side trail called the Murieta Camp Trail (if I recall correctly named for Three-Fingered Jack who allegedly hung out there) so decided to try that. Quite dry at first, with appropriate vegetation, and a couple fairly large cat(?) poops full of what looked like undigested feathers. There are supposed to be mountain lions hereabouts but these were too small, so maybe bobcats. Or an owl.

Further up the trail it got a lot lusher, with a stream glimpsable off to the left now and then. Finally the trail got close to it so I flaked out an a rock by the water for a while. Big grey rocks, with rows of trees along the creek edge with their roots all entwined holding everything together. Light filtering thru green leaves and splotching on the rocks and water.

Eventually I moved on, but the trail seemed to peter out in a few hundred more yards at a wide spot in the stream where I stopped again for a half hour or so, watching the water rush over a little fall about seven feet high before pooling below. On the way back across the rocks to the trail I looked down to see what was noodling around in the water and saw a couple water bugs. They cast great shadows: The pressure of their feet depress the surface of the water enuf to create a lensing effect. The hind legs cast big, slightly oval shadows, the short front feet cast little round shadows, and the middle legs, which are the ones they use to swim with, cast round shadows a little smaller than the hind legs. Plus the shadow cast by the long thin body. Very neat. Anyway, if you are looking for a water bug, don't look for the water bug itself: look for the water bug's shadow.