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Archive for May, 2013

MadDoctorDid you know that Angelina had a double mastectomy?  And that Brad is fine with that?

 I’ve been in so many doctor’s offices lately that I’m up to date on all the gossip about famous people.  I’ve had every test that can be imagined, and some that made me wonder who thinks this shit up?

 Last week I had a test to determine if the veins in my legs are clogged (they aren’t).  Then I had a test to determine whether the arteries are clogged (results pending).  The most serious side effect of these two tests is getting ultrasound jelly on your clothes.

 Not so the two tests I took this morning.  First was a nerve conduction study in order to see if your nerves are misfiring (technically known as neuropathy).  Here the tech hooks you up to a computer and then zaps your legs with electricity in several spots.  The worst spot was behind the knee.  Ow.  In addition to the pain, there is the indignity of legs and feet jerking every which way not on the patient’s orders, but the tech’s–I felt like Pinocchio there for a second.

 Next was an electromyography, where the doc sticks needles in your leg muscles in order to create little graphs on his computer screen (I have no idea what the needles were measuring).  That hurt, too, but, surprisingly, not as much as the zap test.  When I remarked on this, the doc allowed as how the test would really really hurt if I were having it done on my hands.  Remind me to avoid carpal tunnel.

 Now it’s afternoon and my legs are sore, I think from the zapping.  Isn’t there some way to get this information non-invasively?  Like Bones used to do on the original Star Trek?

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A few posts back, Trep wrote:  “It still amazes me how fast our national identity has been twisted away from valuing knowledge, education and objectivity by the jingoistic propagandizing of Limbaugh and Murdoch and their ilk.”  I’ve been thinking about this for while.

It’s an interesting question whether Murdoch and Limbaugh found or invented an audience.  I suspect the audience was already there–an audience who felt that time was passing them by, that their values were being trampled underfoot.  Murdoch and Limbaugh gave this audience a national voice and representation, thus empowering its members who, realizing that they were not alone, began to shout, gather and organize.

This morning a teevee commentator described Republicans as mostly representing “culturally homogeneous enclaves.”  Her example was Oklahoma, whose citizens’ response to FEMA has been “Well thanks, but we’ll manage if you can’t get here.”  I like the phrase “culturally homogeneous enclave” because it points up an important difference from Democrats, who prize diversity rather than homogeneity.

Homogeneity is the easier path to pursue, of course.  If everything tends toward sameness there are fewer surprises and less need to think about how to respond to any given situation.  Hence the conservative distaste for education and knowledge that Trep notes.  Diversity is more dangerous, and, because it requires a repertoire of flexible responses, probably more difficult.  And because diversity is more dangerous, it also requires careful attention to circumstance–that is, attention to objective reality, which, as Trep wrote, is also disdained by conservatives.

Homophobia–now there’s an irony.

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A Thought Experiment

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Recently Sandra Day O’Connor allowed as how maybe the Supremes should not have got themselves involved in the 2000 election.  Thanks for the timely exercise of your faculties, Sandy.  Her tardy admission did set me to wondering:

What if Al Gore were president on September 11 2001?

First, there might not have been an attack on 9/11 at all, given that Gore’s intelligence agencies would not have ignored the abundant warnings that came through channels in the months preceding the attack, and Gore would not have ignored their repeated warnings.  For example, he would not have dismissed an August PDB entitled “Bin Laden determined to attack the US,” as Bush-Cheney did.  Nor would Gore’s FBI headquarters have ignored the repeated warnings sent to it by regional FBI offices in California, Arizona, Minnesota and Florida concerning suspicious activities at flight schools and elsewhere.

On the day of the attack, Gore would not have allowed his vice-president to supervise the response.  Perhaps Gore would have scrambled fighter jets in time to intercept the plane that crashed into the South tower;  certainly he would have intercepted Flight 77 before it hit the Pentagon and taken out Flight 93 while it was headed east over Pennsylvania.  And he would not have lied about giving a shoot-down order, as Cheney may (or may not) have done–his story about his actions during that morning has changed several times.

Gore probably would have gone after bin Laden, just as Bush did–to fail to do so was impossible, politically, after 9/11.  But he might not have mounted a full-scale war on Afghanistan–he might have preferred something more like the small operation used by Obama.  And he would not have invaded Iraq without firm evidence that Saddam Hussein had played a role in 9/11. This point cannot be emphasized enough:  with President Gore in office, there would have been no Iraq war, and possibly no war in Afghanistan.

If Al Gore were president, there would have been no Patriot Act.  Or if Congress insisted, Gore would have seen to it that its restrictions on privacy were less far-reaching.  Gore would not have suspended habeas corpus, nor would he have sanctioned torture.  I suspect that men like John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales would never have got within miles of a Gore administration.

So far I’ve tried to stick to conclusions that stem from accepted historical accounts, and stay away from 9/11 Truth sorts of speculation.  If I include such speculation,  I could contemplate the close relation between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family and all that the Saudis had to gain from the demise of Saddam Hussein.  The Saudis, along with the Bush family and Cheney, are all invested in oil.  You may remember that 150 members of the Saudi royal family were quietly flown out of America in the days following the attack despite the universal stand-down order on plane flights.  None were interviewed by the FBI. You may also recall that 19 of the purported hijackers were Saudi.  Perhaps these are all mere coincidences.   Perhaps not.  In any case, given Gore’s knowledge about climate change, had he been president during the 2000s the Saudi royal family could not be suspected of influencing American politics any more than did the rulers of any other sovereign state.

What have I missed?  Speculate away.

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Mock-up (a little worse for wear).

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Needed Tools.

The Goal:  to spend no money, and use the saw as little as possible.

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The Finished Product – a post scrap heap extravaganza.  (I did have to buy scews and burlap.)

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Note the remarkable lack of carpentry skills;

the striking inattention to detail;

IMG_0580the resounding lack of any aesthetic sensibility.

I’m not sure how to classify it:  Yard-Art Primitive?  Arizona Eccentric?

And how has it been received by its intended audience?

Fortunately, having no better sense of taste than I do, they’re quite taken with it!

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It’s intended as a shade and entertainment structure for the back deck, which is otherwise a pretty barren place for a cat to hang out.

I need a name for it.  Feline Shade and Entertainment Structure is a bit cumbersome…

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David-Ray-Griffin-911-10-years-laterYep, I’m still a truther after all these years.

David Ray Griffin has become the spiritual godfather of the 9/11 truth movement (Wikipedia has an informative article about him that lists all of his many publications in philosophy and theology as well  as his dozen books about 9/11).  Griffin’s A New Pearl Harbor was the first book I read that confirmed my gut suspicion that the official narrative was bogus.  Why, I asked myself in the days that followed September 11, were four rogue aircraft (and big planes at that–Boeing 757s and 767s) able to penetrate forbidden airspace over a period of about 90 minutes without being intercepted by fighter jets?  Every time I’ve flown into DC, the pilots have made a big deal about the necessity of sticking to a given flight path–to deviate, they always say, would be to draw an immediate swarm of F-15s, armed to the teeth.

Griffin persists in calling the official version a conspiracy  on the ground that any explanation that constructs a narrative about empirical events is itself a conspiracy theory.  However, the mainstream press has made a value distinction among available theories, labeling anyone who dissents from the official theory misguided at best and insane or traitorous at worst.  Which, from the point of view of the perps, usefully ignores the many groups of scientists, engineers, and artists and others that have organized to protest the nearly unquestioned primacy enjoyed by the official narrative.  (You can find websites for all of these groups on the web).  Griffin helpfully lists the names and credentials of many prominent physicists, chemical engineers, architects, and so on who are not convinced that the damage to the WTC could have been wrought solely by planes crashing into the buildings.

This latest book is not so much another analysis of 9/11 itself or of flaws in the official conspiracy theory (Olive Branch Press, 2011).  Rather, here Griffin reflects on what he and other truthers have learned over the years that have elapsed since that awful day.  His most interesting chapter, IMO, concerns “Nationalist Faith,” which he says grips Americans even more deeply than does Christianity.   The basic tenet of this belief system is that America is a virtuous nation.  Like all ideologies, nationalism is part of believers’ identity, and hence challenges to it are very threatening.  Hence Americans simply do not want to hear claims that elected officials or government bureaus do not have our best interests at heart, or in the case of 9/11, that these same people would sanction the deaths of 3000 people in order to get something they wanted (such as a war with Iraq).

Thus, 9/11  fundamentalism.  Like biblical fundamentalism, where truth is dictated by a revered text against which empirical events must be measured, 9/11 fundamentalism “is to be settled by assertions made by the Bush-Cheney administration” (233).  Hence, whatever members of this administration claim is “truth,” “no matter what the principles of physics and chemistry may say” (234). This is a keen insight on Griffin’s part,and it explains why even supposedly liberal thinkers like Rachel Maddow refuse to examine the evidence compiled by the growing numbers of scientists, engineers, and architects who cannot accept the official conspiracy theory.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy neighbor’s huge saguaro is finally blooming.  Better late than never!  The morning weather is absolutely gorgeous here.   Something to remember in July.

In anticipation of said July, I’m having new sunscreens installed.   Here’s Max working on the front window:

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And here’s Inky, who’s all tired out from moving books and furniture:

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One of the pleasures of living in a small town is reading the weekly newspaper.   My folks ran such a weekly when I was a kid, and I enjoyed working with them on getting the thing ready to go every Wednesday night.

The Daily News from my current burg contains the usual local news, ads for businesses and services, and legal notices.   Given that my town has historically been a sort of outlaw community, the news coverage is sometimes hilarious.

Take this bit, for instance:  a store owner who wants to add medical marijuana to his inventory has petitioned the city planning and zoning commission for a permit to execute the dispensing permit he already got from the state.   The P & Z has been agonizing over this for a couple of weeks now, but of course they can’t admit that the real reason for their agony is their fear of multitudes of stoners gathering in their midst.  So they sent out an inspector who dutifully reported back that there aren’t enough parking spaces to accommodate the presumed throngs who will accumulate in front of the store if the permit is granted.

Well the store owner got himself a hotshot attorney who presented P & Z with a plan that “would more than satisfy the city’s zoning requirement.”  Outflanked, the committee held a call to the public, no doubt hoping that thongs of aggrieved citizens would appear to complain about Mary Jane in their midst.  But only four people showed.  Two spoke about the parking situation.  The next two were there to support the store owner, but sadly, the paper reports, they “strayed off-topic and were admonished . . . to stay on the subject of the permit.”

So much for democracy by, for, and of the stoned.

The letters to the editor are the best part, of course, and I always save that page for last.  This week gun control is the favored topic, and the position taken on this issue by most writers is absolutely predictable because this is Arizona, after all.  What was new to me was the logic of some arguments.

Here is one of my favorites:  “80% of the American public wants reform?  What poll shows this?  That means that every single American had to be polled in order to come up with that number.  I was never asked.”

Here’s another letter writer who has a slightly different quibble with the polls:  “For your information, the NRA is only one of 146 Pro-Second Amendment organizations in the U.S. and your ’80 percent’ claim is false as I participated in two of these polls (Quinnipiac and Pew) and their question was ‘Do you support background checks for criminals and the mentally ill’ with no mention of any further background checks than are now law.”

I pity the excluded middle wandering ghost-like between the claims about pro-second amendment organizations and the 80% support for background checks.  More interesting to a rhetorician than bad logic, though, is the unspoken premise that underlies both of these arguments:   “It didn’t happen to me, so it didn’t happen.”  If that ain’t Arizona ideology in a nutshell I don’t know what is.

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