COMMONPLACE BOOK, JULY: Current Readings and Quotations of Interest

“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” – first letter of Paul to the Corinthians


As President Bush gets off the helicopter in front of the White House, he is carrying a baby pig under each arm.
The Marine guard snaps to attention, salutes, and says: "Nice pigs, sir."
The President replies: "These are not pigs, these are authentic Texan Razorback Hogs. I got one for Vice-President Cheney, and I got one for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld."
The Marine again snaps to attention, salutes, and says, "Nice trade, sir."

"With the release of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ' the suffering of Jesus will finally be seen the way God intended, in air-conditioned comfort with nachos and a cherry coke." (internet signature, original author unknown)

“...lived on the corner of Cool Street and Goofy Bastard Avenue.”
( from the blog Comics Should be Good)

“Given the strong negative feelings that voters have about Congress — in a recent Times poll, just 23 percent of those surveyed approved of the job lawmakers were doing — it is startling how few races are expected to be competitive this fall. This is largely because of increasingly sophisticated partisan gerrymandering that uses high-powered computers to draw lines that in many cases make voters all but irrelevant.” –NY Times, 6/29/06

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours." -- Sir Charles Napier to Hindus practicing suttee, 1782-1853

“Don't forget, it took less than two weeks after the unveiling of Janet Jackson's right boob at the Super Bowl before the president's congressional cronies were holding hearings on the matter -- but it took 14 months before Bush caved to public pressure and allowed the 9/11 Commission to be formed.”
– Ariana Huffington


Addington, Cheney’s chief of staff and longtime principal legal adviser, advocates the "New Paradigm," a legal theory resting "on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share — namely, that the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has the authority to disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside."
....Even many conservatives are flabbergasted. Says Mayer:
Bruce Fein, a Republican legal activist, who voted for Bush in both Presidential elections, and who served as associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department, said that Addington and other Presidential legal advisers had "staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other Administration. This President has made claims that are really quite alarming. He’s said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the President’s reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant. All the world’s a battlefield — according to this view, he could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants! It’s got the sense of Louis XIV: ‘I am the State.’
-- from an article by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker
“President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
-- Charlie Savage, Boston Globe Staff,April 30, 2006

*** I. Conspiracy to Defraud Congress & the American People:

Lying to Congress & the American people about the reasons for the Iraq war; exceeding Presidential authority in violation of Article II of the Constitution and the War Powers Act

A. Lying about the urgency of the threat from Iraq
B. Lying about the Iraq-al Qaeda connection
C. Lying about the status of Iraq's nuclear program
D. Lying about uranium from Niger
E. Lying about aluminum tubes
F. Lying about chemical & biological weapons
G. Lying about unmanned aerial vehicles
H. Lying about mobile weapons labs
I. Conspiracy

II. Conspiracy to Commit Criminal Negligence & Obstruction of Justice:

A. Ignoring warnings about 9/11
B. Obstructing investigations into 9/11
C. Conspiracy

III. Conspiracy to Violate the Rights of Citizens & Residents of the United States:

A. Detaining without charge
B. Denying the right to a fair, speedy, public trial
C. Denying the right to habeas corpus
D. Misusing the NSA to spy on citizens, violating the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution & the FISA
E. Conspiracy

IV. Conspiracy to Violate the Intelligence Identities Protection Act & the Espionage Act, and Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice:

A. Allowing the disclosure of the name of Valerie Plame Wilson
B. Lying to the American people about the President's role in the disclosure
C. Obstructing justice by lying about the President's personal, direct knowledge of the leak
D. Conspiracy

V. Conspiracy to Violate International Laws that Carry the Full Force of U.S. Law Under the United States Constitution:

A. International Law
B. Nuremberg Tribunal Charter
C. Geneva Conventions
D. Torture
E. Rendition
F. Illegal Invasion of Iraq
G. Conspiracy

VI. Conspiracy to Abuse Power, Violate the U.S. Constitution, & Commit Criminal Negligence:

A. Abuse of power - Separation of Powers - "Unitary Executive"
B. Criminal negligence - Katrina
C. Criminal negligence - Failure to protect U.S. military service members in combat zones
D. More here - treaties, environment, etc.
E. Corruption
F. Conspiracy
(The Chicago chapter of the National Lawyers Guild)

Give me the glass, and therein will I read.
No deeper wrinkles yet? hath sorrow struck
So many blows upon this face of mine,
And made no deeper wounds? O flattering glass,
Like to my followers in prosperity,
Thou dost beguile me! Was this face the face
That every day under his household roof
Did keep ten thousand men? was this the face
That, like the sun, did make beholders wink?
Was this the face that faced so many follies,
And was at last out-faced by Bolingbroke?
A brittle glory shineth in this face:
As brittle as the glory is the face;

Dashes the glass against the ground
For there it is, crack'd in a hundred shivers.
Mark, silent king, the moral of this sport,
How soon my sorrow hath destroy'd my face.


Capitalism is the most barbaric of all religions. - Mark Stewart

"I don’t think one’s novels should be too political," Greene said when I asked if his weren’t. "But, I mean, politics do come into them. Politics come into our lives. I think to exclude politics from a novel is excluding a whole aspect of life.... Virginia Woolf, I mean, certainly wouldn’t have introduced politics. I began to get a little tired of Virginia Woolf, you know. Mrs. Dalloway going shopping up Regent Street and the thoughts which went through her head. I reacted rather against her by being a storyteller. You see, my mother was a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson, and I’d like to think that I’ve followed in his tradition. I’ve reacted against the Bloomsbury circle."
-- Graham Greene

"In the last decade or so, the tendency at Marvel has been intensely conservative; comics like the X-MEN have gone from freewheeling, overdriven pop to cautious, dodgy retro. What was dynamic becomes static - dead characters always return, nothing that happens really matters ultimately. The stage is never cleared for new creations to develop and grow. The comic has turned inwards and gone septic like a toenail. The only people reading are fanboys who don't count. The X-MEN, for all it was Marvel's bestseller, had become a watchword for undiluted geekery before the movie gave us another electroshock jolt. And in the last decade, sales fell from millions to hundreds of thousands."
-- Grant Morrison, who restored the “X” mythos to life– and literary importance-- again in a series called “New X-Men”, available in trade paperback; after three years, almost all of Morrison’s ideas have been forgotten, and the X-books are again unreadable by anyone outside of geekdom, with the exception of Joss Whedon’s “Uncanny”.

Buffy asserts the power of metaphor and the imagination to embody human reality. Her fans will grow up with a more lively and purposeful awareness than those brought up on the dull delinquencies of Grange Hill or Hollyoaks. For these American teens are right: the demons are real. I once spoke at an American school and, completely ignoring the content of my speech, one 12-year-old boy earnestly asked me if I believed in vampires. "No," I said quickly, glancing at his teachers. But then, glancing at my conscience, I added: "Not exactly ..." (Brian Appleyard, The Sunday Times)

With that in mind, here's the 27B Stroke 6 guide to detecting if your traffic is being funneled into the secret room on San Francisco's Folsom street.

If you're a Windows user, fire up an MS-DOS command prompt. Now type tracert followed by the domain name of the website, e-mail host, VoIP switch, or whatever destination you're interested in. Watch as the program spits out your route, line by line.

C:\> tracert

1 2 ms 2 ms 2 ms
7 11 ms 14 ms 10 ms []
8 13 12 19 ms []
9 18 ms 16 ms 16 ms
10 88 ms 92 ms 91 ms []
11 88 ms 90 ms 88 ms []
12 89 ms 97 ms 89 ms []
13 89 ms 88 ms 88 ms []
14 102 ms 93 ms 112 ms
15 94 ms 94 ms 93 ms
16 * * *
17 * * *
18 * *

In the above example, my traffic is jumping from Level 3 Communications to AT&T's network in San Francisco, presumably over the OC-48 circuit that AT&T tapped on February 20th, 2003, according to the Klein docs.

The magic string you're looking for is If it's present immediately above or below a entry, then -- by Klein's allegations -- your packets are being copied into room 641A, and from there, illegally, to the NSA.

Of course, if Marcus is correct and AT&T has installed these secret rooms all around the country, then any entry in your route is a bad sign.

Posted by Kevin Poulsen


"The things said most confidently by advanced persons to crowded audiences are generally those quite opposite to the fact." -- G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

"The person who cares the least controls the relationship." (Unknown)

Wisdom found on a mens’ room wall:
"No matter how good looking she is, someone, somewhere, is sick and tired of her shit."

"The Peoples be Goin' Crazy."

As we say around these parts, the peoples be going crazy in Israel, Palestine, and Lebanon, and please God, not Syria. The phrase implies the point in a group dynamic when a crowd of humans has become so violent that the participants no longer act in their own self interest, and are as likely to trash their own property as well as another's, to maim friend and foe alike.

When I was small, the world almost got sucked into World War III because of Cuba-- little Cuba! -- and we owe our lives to Khruschev's willingness to back down. Now we have Putin, an elevated KGB gangster, in charge of Russia, and here-- oh. Possibly the least qualified president in history, a man compared unfavorably with Warren G. Harding, the last person on earth to settle things down. We don't even have the assurance that his advisors are professional, since he despises expertise.

If I were a politician-- defined honorably here as someone who solves conflicts with compromise and benevolent manipulation-- I would stay home every time Cuba or Israel are on the morning news. I would call in sick, invent a doctor's apppointment or a sick child. It is impossible to have a rational discussion about either. I wish someday that a public figure will tell the Cubans in Miami or the Jews in New York to look at a map, choose a country to be loyal to, sit down, and STFU. Stop demanding that politicians prove their love for your provincial arguments and start serving the larger interests of this country and simple humanity instead.

No American politician can speak honestly and openly bout the Palestinian and Israeli conflict without fifty professional hysterics jumping down his or her throat. They all must wrap their comments in ritual obesience to Israel's right to exist, the Palestinians need to renounce violence no matter how many times they are poked in the eye, blah blah blah. I recommend the writings of Alexander Cockburn and Edward Said as a place to start on this subject, and sadly one of them is dead.

I've already done my share of babbling on Peter David's website, but here's a simple thought:

If you kill, marginalize or shout down every moderate voice that speaks for the Palestinians, very soon there will be no one left but extremists and gangsters like Hezbollah and the unmourned Arafat.

The Palestinians have been backed into a corner like the Apache and the Sioux; every move they make will be born of violent desperation, and easy to condemn. The Israelis have made themselves the enemy they deserve, and I hope the rest of us don't get pulled down with them. And God Save Lebanon.


... So I'm researching Henry Kissinger for a non-fiction comic on the Middle East-- specifically Kissinger's comment, after inciting the Kurds to rebel against Iraq and then leaving them undefended against Saddam Hussein, "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work."
... and I stumble across this by Dr. Johnson: "Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful."

Why is Henry Kissinger considered a deep thinker? Because everyone says so. Why is his supposed intelligence (to paraphrase) "respected by friends and foes alike"? Because everyone says so.

I put it to you that a diplomat who leaves almost a million people dead in his wake is not a successful diplomat, but a master of public relations and image enhancement.

But then, I'm not as smart as Dr. Kissinger, and consequently have no right to criticize or question. How do I know this? Everyone says so. It's a common assumption.

Arguably, the deluded naked emperor was better educated and more experienced than the rude child who pointed and jeered at the pimples on the emperor's pasty ass. Everyone says so. It's a common assumption. I'd just like someone to do the math some day comparing the number of lives Kissinger saved while making the world safe for American interests, and the numbers killed directly or indirectly by his arrogant decisions. Kind of like a Nobel Prize earned run average.


Of course no one-- well, maybe Ted Stevens or Bill Frist, both of whom are sure their tin god had his reasons. Since we already knew this, the question will be how long it takes for the networks to put this in their leads.

Bush Told Cheney to Discredit Diplomat Critical of Iraq Policy by Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian UK, Thursday 06 July 2006:
President George Bush directed his vice-president, Dick Cheney, to take personal charge of a campaign to discredit a former ambassador who had accused the administration of twisting prewar intelligence on Iraq, it emerged yesterday.

The revelation by the National Journal, a respected weekly political magazine, that Mr Bush took a personal interest in countering damaging allegations by the former ambassador, Joe Wilson, reveals a White House that was extraordinarily sensitive to any criticism of its prewar planning. It also returns the focus of the criminal investigation into the outing of a CIA agent to the White House only weeks after the senior aide Karl Rove was told he would not face prosecution.

The Journal said Mr Bush made the admission in a July 24 2004 interview in the Oval Office with the special prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, who is leading the investigation into the outing of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame. Ms Plame is married to Mr Wilson, who says her cover was broken in retaliation after he accused the administration of knowingly using false information on Saddam Hussein's weapons programme....



I don't know whether to be delighted or appalled that something I participate in has been mentioned as one of the 10 Essentials Activities of Summer by The Chicago Tribune, along with Chicago style hot dogs, grass under your bare feet and the Windy City ThunderBolts:

A true British pub can feel like a second home, and this vintage Lincoln Park locale is easily one of the city's coziest spots. Not surprisingly, the pub's rooftop deck is just as comfy, a flower-filled place with a large, shady tree and all the ambiance of a private urban garden. On Monday nights, the deck might also be the setting for the long-running "Twilight Tales" reading series-an eclectic, sophisticated gathering where amateur and published authors read their work. 2446 N. Lincoln Ave. 773-348-2695."

'Eclectic' is a forgiving adjective, and 'sophisticated'? Crimes against God and Man, more like. Monday at open mic night I read a new short story, "The Ghost That Blocks the Door", that might or might not be included in the new and improved Tales of the Red Lion anthology
(the following laughingly copyright2006 by yr. 'umble servant):

“It’s not the bar that’s haunted,” Joe said. “It’s the people that come in here.”
While I was chewing that over, Joe cleared the table next to mine and brought a second beer I hadn’t ordered. I was just going to have one and then wander over to my coffee date with Cindy and her friends, but if one beer tastes good, the second tastes even better, so I shrugged and had a nice long swallow off the top.
“You ever really, honestly, think this place is haunted?” I asked.
“I didn’t say that,” the bartender said. “I said that people are haunted, and they bring their ghosts in with them.”
The pub had a reputation for ghosts going way back before the Chicago fire. No one minded, it was good for business: brought in all the Halloween tours and a writers’ group.
“Do you believe in ghosts?” I asked. “You, personally?”
Joe shrugged. He went to the opposite end of the bar to adjust the sound on a war film he was watching, 'A Bridge Too Far'. Joe was on a Great SNAFUs of World War II kick that summer, reliving the world’s mistakes over and over and over. He spoke over his shoulder as he watched Edward Fox order men to a silly death. “It’s easy for us to pretend we have no ghosts, ‘cause we tear things down and pave them over.”
“Someone was going to put up a shopping mall at Fredericksburg,” I said. “Disney wanted to make it a theme park. Can you imagine a haunted TGIFriday’s? Or a Bennigan’s?”
“Now that’s scary,” he said.
I checked the time on my cell phone. “I’m supposed to be somewhere else.”
“Hot date?”
“Blind date.”
Joe raised his brow and wiped the bar where there weren’t any stains. “Oh, really?”
“Well, not really a 'date' date,” I corrected. “a woman I know from work, she’s meeting some friends for coffee across the street, and one of the girls is single, so if I just happen to pass by...”
“It’s been a year, now,” I said. “More than a year. They think I’m overdue. You know how women are.”
Amos the bar cat jumped to the counter and head-bumped his way into Joe’s embrace. Joe scooped him up with a critical eye, cleared a bit of cobweb from the cat’s whiskers, and let Amos settle into the crook of his arm. Joe’s fingers found the spot underneath the cat’s chin that made Amos squint with pleasure.
“One door closes, another opens. It’s like this old guy here,” Joe said. “We would never have taken him in, if we hadn’t lost Sally.”
“Everybody loved Sally,” I said. Joe let Amos pour himself onto the chair next to mine. I was in no hurry to embarrass myself at the coffee shop, so I started scratching Amos’ ears.
“Sally was the Queen of the Silver Dollar around here,” Joe said. “The bar couldn’t open without her.”
“I think a lot of the ghosts that people hear were just Sally, climbing in and out of boxes in the storeroom, or knocking a door shut upstairs when it was supposed to be empty.”
“Like the ghost that locks people in the bathroom,” Joe said.
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” There are three or four serious ghosts in the building, and one slightly ridiculous one: here at the Red Lion we have a ghost that jams the door to the upstairs ladies’ room, trapping luckless women in the toilet.
Joe was still thinking about Sally. “We were late getting her checkup, she just looked a little droopy one day and before we knew what was what, her kidneys had failed. Spent a thousand dollars trying to save that cat.
“Now I would have thought that was the worst thing that could happen to an animal, losing little Sally like that, but you know what? Bringing her ashes back from the funeral home, and there’s a girl at the corner of California and Mozart, she wants someone to help her get a cat away from these kids that were using him for a football, and that’s how we got Amos here. The parents of the kids that were abusing him, those bastards were going to use him to train pit bulls. That’s how they blood ‘em; they give them a smaller dog or a cat to kill before they use them in a fight. When I feel bad about losing Sally, I’ve got to wonder, if Sally sacrificed herself somehow to save Amos from something worse.”
“Cold comfort,” I said. “I remember a lot of people telling me that the Lord has mysterious ways we can’t see, that the worst thing that ever happened to you happened for a reason, and you can’t see it, but it saved you from something even worse.”
“Like you were aborted to keep from dying in a war?” Joe asked.
“Hemingway said in a bar once that he knew the saddest shortest novel ever written.” I pretended to scribble on the napkin in front of me. “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”
“You wanted to know about the ghost that locks people in the bathroom upstairs,” Joe said. “That’s what he’s about.”
“It does seem like an odd choice for a ghost to haunt,” I said. “What is he, some kind of pervert?”
“Keeps people from doing something they’d regret,” Joe said. “Delays them just long enough to save their life.”
“No shit?” I scoffed.
“You think it’s bad luck to get trapped in that upstairs bathroom? I say maybe not, because in at least three cases that jammed door was responsible for saving some woman’s life.”
“How is that?” I asked. “She was a minute too late to have a brick fall on her head?”
“Opal Something or other, my dad used to tell me about this one: Opal totters into the upstairs toilet in 1934, when we didn’t have the dining room or the patio upstairs, just a hook shop and a card game. The door to the bathroom jams shut, and she’s trapped in there until she finally kicks it open. Kept her from stepping onto Lincoln Avenue just as the G-men were closing in on Dillinger in the alley next to the Biograph, having been fingered by Anna Sage who wore not red, but a white blouse and orange skirt.”
“Like you were there,” I smiled at him showing off about the dress. “And if she hadn’t gotten stuck in the bathroom, Opal would have been killed in the crossfire.”
“Laugh if you will,” Joe held up his hands. “That ghost is the spirit of the road not taken.”...

TO BE CONTINUED in print somewhere...