Friday, February 26, 2010

Memories of NYC

Today is Friday, 26 February 2010.

On this date in 1993, also a Friday, at 12.18pm EST, a truck bomb exploded in the garage beneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Six were killed and 1,042 injured. I was working at my desk in our apartment on Staten Island when the first flash came across 1010 WINS, the all-news radio station. I immediately phoned my wife, and then went to the attic with field glasses. Across the sunny blue harbor, I saw smoke rising above the WTC, and a dozen or more helicopters circling it.

I was meeting my wife for dinner. Upon arriving at the ferry terminal at the southern tip of Manhattan, I walked up Broadway toward the WTC, but was soon turned back by police cordons. I met my wife at her office in Soho, and we walked to Shima, our favourite Japanese restaurant, just east of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village. (For dessert, we each always had the same: green tea ice cream for her, and uni (sea urchin) for me.)

After dinner, we walked about for a while, and then took a cab down Broadway. Police cordons stopped us at Chambers Street. As we walked to the ferry, we beheld a sight unique to New Yorkers: no window whatever in the Twin Towers was lit, as the helicopters continued to dance attendance, their searchlights playing across the dark facades.

I think of another night, on the ferry to Staten Island, a stormy summer night, as we sat on the boat’s stern and watched Manhattan recede. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning struck the TV/radio mast atop the North Tower. A few years later, I saw a photo of that moment, taken from Greenwich Village looking south, in The New York Times.

I recall a weekday afternoon; it must have been late ‘80s, when I escorted visiting friends to the observation deck of the WTC, which I believe was in the North Tower. Sipping boxed chardonnay from the concession stand, one looked down to see the “ants” crawling across the Plaza. Later, I saw an episode of The Simpsons, wherein the family looks down, only to see a parking cop booting their vehicle.

When we were preparing to move from NYC to Tulsa in 1997, my wife had made, at a cart in the WTC commercial concourse, a small brass plate, to be affixed next to the front door of our new residence, engraved “Embassy of New York City”.

My wife’s last job before moving to Tulsa was at a business library in Newark; she commuted by the PATH train under the Hudson from the WTC. Each evening, I’d leave my office a few steps off Wall Street, and walk over to meet her. We discovered, tucked into a corner behind a bank of escalators, a pleasant, unpretentious bar and grille, whose appointments were beginning to show their age. Clientele was mostly blue-collar and Wall Street support staff. We would stop for cocktails, a couple of evenings a week, before walking to the ferry. In one of the books I have about 9/11, a picture of the ruined interior of that bar.

We lived then in a renovated 1890 carriage house, on the hill above the St. George Ferry terminal; it had been built for a Russian nobleman who owned an importing business.

The WTC should never have been built. It lost money for the taxpayers of New York and New Jersey every year but the last, when it had been leased to a private sector operator. It was the brain child of David Rockefeller, whose Chase Manhattan Bank had built a skyscraper in the Wall Street area; Rockefeller saw the WTC as a mechanism for increasing the value of his building.

Ironically, the downtown Tulsa skyline is dominated by the Bank of Oklahoma building, a scaled-down version of one of the Twin Towers.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

An Unlawful Concert

Today is Thursday, 25 February 2010.

Not yet down tracked the origin of this quote. “Military justice is to justice, as military music is to music”.

Right-wingers clamour to have accused “terrorists” tried by military “courts” instead of civilian courts. Why? Because the rules of evidence are a joke, compared to civilian courts. Because – the dirty little secret – the judges in military courts are serving members of the military, and, as such, are not independent actors, but dependent on the judgment of their superiors of their actions, such as verdicts, for their advancement and livelihood.

"Can you say": conflict of interest? "Can you say": structured for corrupting influences? "I knew you could".

I’m opposed to a separate military “justice” system at all. Courts-martial are a denial of the rule of law, and a reversion to the savagery of thousands of years past. All alleged offenses by members of the military should be adjudicated in civilian courts. The notion that members of the military cease to enjoy all the rights of citizens is fascist and repugnant.

Or, perhaps, to appease (O, the ghosts of Munich!), the con-servatives, our entire justice system should be replaced by courts-martial.

The ghosts of Hitler and Stalin are smiling.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stan Laurel

Today remains Wednesday, 24 February 2010.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Old Fan Dance?

Today is Tuesday, 23 February 2010.

The Bush-Cheney regime: the gift that keeps on giving, or an ineradicable STD?

“President” Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, in a non-military coup, has decreed that he alone will appoint the members of the commission overseeing elections. Previously, three members were non-Afghans appointed by the United Nations, and two were Afghans.

That commission, of course, uncovered the massive fraud by the Karzai crime family in last year’s presidential election, forcing a runoff, which didn’t occur when Karzai’s leading opponent refused to take part in a charade. Karzai’s motive is transparent: to facilitate rigging the parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September of this year.

The Bush-Cheney regime thrust Karzai, a former Taliban leader, into power. It is now the Obama regime which facilitates Karzai’s despotism and corruption, thus further worsening the Afghan situation, at the price of many more tens of thousands of civilian and combatant lives.

And the Obama regime seems to have neither the decency or guts to publicly articulate why support for a criminal regime is beneficial to the people of Afghanistan and the world.

Change we can believe in?

Or the old fan dance: a liberal at home, a reactionary imperialist abroad?

Monday, February 22, 2010

All Honour to The White Rose

Today is Monday, 22 February 2010.

On this date in 1943, three members of The White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany were murdered, after a show trial.

From their first leaflet:

“Isn’t it true: that every honest German is ashamed of his government these days? Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes - crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure - reach the light of day?”

We honour Hans and Sophie Scholl, and Christoph Probst, and all resisters against and victims of fascism.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Lawyer as Criminal

Today is Sunday, 21 February 2010.

John Yoo was a toady in the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice during the Bush-Cheney regime. Yoo “distinguished” himself by writing opinions rationalizing a supposed presidential power to order torture, and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The cowardly, criminal-coddling Obama regime has determined Yoo was guilty of mere “flawed” reasoning, and not “professional misconduct”; the latter could have led to Yoo’s disbarment.

The following is from a Yoo deposition to the Office of Professional Responsibility of the Department of Justice:

OPR: "What about ordering a village of resistants to be massacred? ... Is that a power that the president could legally -"

YOO: "Yeah. Although, let me say this: So, certainly, that would fall within the commander-in-chief's power over tactical decisions."

OPR: "To order a village of civilians to be [exterminated]?"

YOO: “Sure.”

Yoo holds the J.D. from Yale Law School. Apparently, he did post-graduate work at the Eichmann Memorial Institute.

Yoo should be serving a life term for conspiracy to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity, etc.

The Communist Manifesto was published on this date in 1848.

W. H. Auden was born on this date in 1907.

In 1925, The New Yorker publishes its first number.

In 1965, Malcolm X is assassinated.

Congratulations, Con-servatives

Today is Saturday, 20 February 2010.

Congratulations to 31% of attendees at this weekend’s Conservative Political Action Conference in DC. You demand transparency in government, and you “made it perfectly clear” by voting for Rep. Ron Paul in a straw poll for President in 2012.

You voted for a career politician who has proudly published his white supremacist and anti-Semitic views.

On second thought, congratulations are withdrawn.

Had you 31% been truly transparent and had the courage of your convictions (if bigotry can be called convictions in other than a penal sense), you would have proposed resolutions demanding the revival of slavery and the extermination of all Jews.

Congratulations on being fascist little pricks.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Koloman, Remembered and Honoured

Today is Friday, 19 February 2010.

In 1888, my great grandfather emigrated from Austria. Koloman, the son of a brother who stayed in Austria, served in World War One, and then returned to our ancestral town, Bruck on der Mur. Koloman became a union activist, mayor, and leader in the Social Democratic Party.

On 12 February 1934, the Austrian fascist movement, the Heimwehr, and the Austrian military launched an operation to destroy the unions, and the Socialist and Communist parties. Koloman and comrades mounted a fierce resistance in Bruck, but were forced to withdraw. He was captured trying to escape to Prague, given a brief show trial, and then murdered on 19 February 1934. The main town square in Bruck is now named in his honour.

In the few photographs I’ve seen of Koloman, he bears a startling resemblance to my father’s older brother.

A few days after Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, the Heimwehr leader, Emil Fey, put a bullet in his head, knowing how Hitler had dealt with competing German fascists.

Fey had ordered the murder of Koloman.

Irony rules.

Ca. 1977, my sister wrote to me of an Isherwood novel she'd just read, Prater Violet, which mentioned the murder of Koloman. "Is this guy real?" Researched, and discovered our long lost relative.

My father grew up on farms in Kansas, north of Topeka. Every Saturday, the family went into town – Holton, Kansas - for shopping and camaraderie. (My grandfather was an ace snooker player.) My grandfather always bought a Sunday newspaper, published the previous Sunday in New York City, and shipped half across the continent by train.

My father recalls seeing a picture of Koloman and several others, hanged.

All honour to Koloman, and all victims of fascism.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lying With Statistics

Today is Thursday, 18 February 2010.

If one has not read the classic, How to Lie with Statistics (1954), by Darrell Huff, one should.

“ … Charlie Meadows, who heads the 12-year-old Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee, which has raised more than $100,000 in support of conservative candidates throughout the years, hosts weekly luncheons at an Italian restaurant near the state Capitol, has more than 200 dues-paying members and a weekly update sent to about 3,000 e-mail addresses.” (Urban Tulsa Weekly, Feb. 18-24, 2010, p. 20)

One assumes one is meant to be impressed by “more than $100,000”. In the spirit of Mr. Huff, let’s examine if one should be.

Let’s charitably assume that the special interest group OCPAC raised $199,999. That works out to roughly $46.66 per day. If each of 200 members collected an average of 4.7 aluminum cans per day and cashed them in, $47 would have been raised each day.

Not so impressive in that light.

On this date in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto, while examining sky photos taken the previous month.

On this date in 1943, the core members of the White Rose resistance movement were arrested by the Gestapo.

Vanna White was born on this date in 1957.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hold On

Today is Wednesday, 17 February 2010.

Tomorrow, what I meant for today, lying with statistics. Instead, a tune.

My fav Phil Collins:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"The Nukes of October"

Today is Tuesday, 16 February 2010.

In 1969, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger confected the “madman theory” as a tool of superpower relations.

Nixon told H. R.Haldeman, his chief of staff: "I want the North Vietnamese to believe that I've reached the point that I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about Communism. We can't restrain him when he is angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button' — and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace."

Thus, on 27 October 1969, Nixon ordered eighteen B-52 bombers loaded with fused nuclear bombs deployed near the eastern boundaries of the Soviet Union. The planes remained for three days, feinting at the border. The objective was to convince the Soviet leadership that Nixon was demented enough that he might commence nuclear bombing in order to achieve his goals in Indochina.

Some might argue that Nixon and Kissinger were criminally insane. I believe it more likely that, intoxicated by god-like power over life and death, their diseased egos deifying their own imagined brilliance, they concocted a ploy which, due to miscalculation on either side, or mere accident, might have resulted in nuclear holocaust.

Yet another reason that Kissinger, the American Ribbentrop, should rot in prison.

Read more in this article by Prof. Jeremi Suri:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Book Review

Today is Monday, 15 February 2010.

Grief is a price of admission to love.

The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion’s memoir of broken-heartedness, a book which can be read “only this much” before it must be laid aside for some moments in which one re-composes oneself.

Which I mean in literary, musical, and emotional senses.

“Nine months and five days ago, at approximately nine o’clock on the evening of December 30, 2003, my husband, John Gregory Dunne, appeared to (or did) experience, at the table where he and I had just sat down to dinner in the living room of our apartment in New York, a sudden massive coronary event that caused his death. Our only child, Quintana, had been for the previous five nights unconscious in an intensive care unit…”

The moment when the heart is torn forever out of your life, and one must go on.

Didion contemplates, writes, of her roles as mother and wife:

“You’re safe.

I’m here.”

Has she failed both her child and husband?

Reviews are usually the review author’s words. Sometimes, that’s appropriate. Sometimes, not.

These words are Didion’s.

“Until now I had been able only to grieve, not mourn. Grief was passive. Grief happened. Mourning, the act of dealing with grief, required attention.”

She quotes the tragic Delmore Schwartz:

“Time is the school in which we learn
Time is the school in which we burn”.

Once upon a time, I wrote book reviews for a provincial newspaper, including a Didion book. Too often, book reviews are full more of the reviewer, and not the reviewed.

Grief is a price of admission to love.

Fortunate those worthy of such broken-heartedness.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Well: Happy Valentine's Day

Today is Sunday, 14 February 2010.

This morning, HH arranged the strawberries, on Mrs. HH's oatmeal, in the shape of a heart. HH does have a heart.

Herewith, goin' out on the wavelength, my best Valentine's Day wishes to all you female readers.

For you guys, recall that it's the birthday (1894) of Jack Benny.


Saturday, February 13, 2010


Today remains Saturday, 13 February 2010.

I forgot to mention.

Grief is a price of admission to love.

Kill Them All, Let God Sort Them Out?

Today is Saturday, 13 February 2010.

On this date in 1945, the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Forces began the fire bombing of Dresden.

Which mass death is worth another?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today is Wednesday, 10 February 2010.

Actually, it's Thursday.

Last night, I composed a photograph in honor of the 120th anniversary of the birth of Boris Pasternak, which is 10 February. After failing for an hour to determine how to transport it from my digital camera to this site, I temporarily up gave, and sat down with one of the dogs to commiserate.

Obviously, I should have had a child ten years ago, who could have said, "Dad, you're such a doofus. It's easy. Watch".


If you've not read Doctor Zhivago, do so now, preferably in a hardcover from your local used bookstore.

Zhivago is one of the great treasures of human civilization. The movie also.

From a certain angle, this scene capsulizes the tragedy of the 20th Century.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

... the traffic to smother ...

Today is Thursday, 4 February 2010.

When I read the following story from BBC News, regarding the loss of another ancient language in the Andaman Islands, I was put in mind of lines from Stephen Spender’s great poem, “I think continually of those who were truly great:

“Never to allow gradually the traffic to smother
With noise and fog the flowering of the spirit.”

So often we allow the true treasures of humanity to expire into dust, while we exult that we can choose from myriad brands of laundry detergent, each essentially hardly different from the others.

I had the same feeling when I read the following story about the tragic suicide of a dairy farmer.

On this date in 1906 was born Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great German Lutheran theologian. He was murdered on 9 April 1945, for his part in the resistance against Nazism.

On this date in 1913 was born Rosa Parks, the great civil rights activist. She died on 24 October 2005.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Deregulation as Murder

Today is Wednesday, 3 February 2010.

From Monday’s The New York Times:

“Toyota’s safety problems may prove to be a hard lesson for the N.H.T.S.A. [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration], as well. Six separate investigations were conducted by the agency into consumer complaints of unintended acceleration, and none of them found defects in Toyotas other than unsecured floor mats.”

“In at least three cases, the agency denied petitions for further investigative action because it did not see a pattern of defects and because of a “need to allocate and prioritize N.H.T.S.A.’s limited resources” elsewhere, according to agency documents.”


Yet another example of lax regulation, as advocated and practiced by the Republican Party. Only, this instance of allowing foxes to guard henhouses resulted in needless deaths.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

First World Crusaders

Today is Tuesday, 2 February 2010.

“I can …(a) kill anyone I wish or (b) illegally kidnap children anywhere “for their own good” … because God told me to”.

(a) is, of course, the claim of jihadists everywhere, whether they call themselves Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, etc. (b) is the defense offered by 10 Idaho Southern Baptists currently under arrest in Haiti.

Probably, the IdaSoBaps had “good intentions”, whatever those exactly are, other than the paving on the road to hell. However, they acted as culturally, racistly, and politically arrogant First Worlders when they kidnapped children without even bothering to determine if they were orphans, and tried to sneak them out of the country. Significantly, none of these jerks has even bothered to claim any expertise in international rescue efforts.

Golden Rule time, bozos: what if Idaho were to suffer an immense natural disaster, and members of a fundamentalist Yemeni mosque randomly grabbed children “to give them a better life”? Shoe on other foot, etc.

If the kidnappers were planning to sell the children for adoption, they should be jailed. If, as they claim, they only intended to place them in a makeshift orphanage in the Dominican Republic, they should be sentenced to donating hefty penalties to legitimate charities working in Haiti, and to punitive amounts of strictly supervised community service.