Saturday, March 15, 2008

Blog #27: War’s real costs, Squabbles, Happy Birthday!

On March 20th, the first day of spring, I turn 82 year old. Whee! Who would’ve thunk it? Certainly not me. I can remember back when I thought 30 was the end of the line. Memory is indeed a fickle friend, sometimes a memory from my youth is as clear as if it happened yesterday, and the next minute I have trouble trying to recall what happened to me yesterday. Or an hour ago, for that matter. And you know how your mind flits here and there, and how often it is that what you are trying to recall is lying tantalizingly just beyond your reach. I had just such an experience the other day, but I was saved by the finest memory jogger I know, that remarkable tool called Google. Let me tell you about it.

I was fooling around with some songs for the third Nightsong Podcast. I have finished two one hour episodes and was busily working on the third. My mind suddenly began recalling a very unique female singer-songwriter who was active in the 1970’s, but I could not for the life of me remember her name. All I could recall about her was that she had been married to an orchestra conductor, but his name also drew a blank. What to do? I opened Camino (the poor man’s Safari and a Mac OS X cousin to Firefox), did a search for orchestra conductors in Wikipedia (just like in Alice’s Restaurant you can get anything you want in Wikipedia), and finally near the end I came across a name that rang a bell, Andre Previn. Voila! And it immediately came rushing back to me, the name of the lady was Dory Previn, she had been married to Andre at one time. Dory Previn’s song lyrics perfectly represented her era, she was a kind of musical Jules Feiffer, a lyrical Nichols and May. I googled her and went to her Wikipedia page. It was like meeting up with an old friend. In case you haven’t heard of her, I reprint the lyrics to her song Brando.

of course
i always told myself
you know how women get
i'll bet i could have
handled him
if only we had met
where other women failed him
when other women tried
i alone
could cater to
his passions and
his pride

talk about
deflated egos
that was the woman's thing
christ we only felt complete
at the feet
at the feet
of a king
of course
i'm liberated now
i see life as it is
i call my soul
my very own
and i no longer
covet his
no one else can get you through
i've learned
with some regret
i've outgrown all my heroes
i am cured of kings
and yet

and yet
the other night
by chance i saw him
there on the tv screen
overbearing arrogant
marvelous marvelous
and oh so mean
and that old addiction
gripped me
you know how women get
i'll bet i could have
handled him
if only we had met
oh i'll bet
i could have handled him
if only
we had met.

Rediscovering that lyric made my day. I hope reading it brightens yours. I’ve since found that a great deal of her work is available from Amazon, which is indeed another priceless entity, but unfortunately Amazon is a store. Items there cost money. And so before you could say Cary Sherman I was on bit torrent, where I found one blessed album. By 11:10 on Sunday night 39.3% of it had arrived. Hopefully it will be complete by morning, I said as I shut down my studio for the night. I checked the first thing the next morning but unfortunately it wasn’t complete, it was frozen at 43.7%. I guess my one seed had gone offline. Oh well, beggars can’t be choosers. I’ll keep it open and hope for the best. (Endnote: It was completed by day two.)
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The big secret that the Bush administration and the Republican party is desperately trying to hide from us is the true cost of this Iraq adventure. Linda J. Bilmes and Joseph E. Stiglitz had an article in Sunday’s Washington Post online reporting on the true cost that should be required reading for all Americans of voting age. Their article begins by saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch, and there is no such thing as a free war. The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. economy, whose woes now go far beyond loose mortgage lending. You can't spend $3 trillion – yes, $3 trillion -- on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home.

“Some people will scoff at that number, but we've done the math. Senior Bush administration aides certainly pooh-poohed worrisome estimates in the run-up to the war. Former White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey reckoned that the conflict would cost $100 billion to $200 billion; Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld later called his estimate "baloney." Administration officials insisted that the costs would be more like $50 billion to $60 billion. In April 2003, Andrew S. Natsios, the thoughtful head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, said on "Nightline" that reconstructing Iraq would cost the American taxpayer just $1.7 billion. Ted Koppel, in disbelief, pressed Natsios on the question, but Natsios stuck to his guns. Others in the administration, such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz, hoped that U.S. partners would chip in, as they had in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, or that Iraq's oil would pay for the damages.

“The end result of all this wishful thinking? As we approach the fifth anniversary of the invasion, Iraq is not only the second longest war in U.S. history (after Vietnam), it is also the second most costly – surpassed only by World War II.”

Now I would come in here to remind you that it is those loudmouth Republicans who are always shrilly screaming about Tax and Spend Democrats (however it should be pointed out that Democrats usually tax and spend for the good of the country, not to fund some misguided holocaust on foreign shores.) Republicans claim to be the party of prudence in government, the minders of the nation’s fiscal store. What a joke! I would remind you that the Republican party is the one currently in power and gigging the national treasury to the tune of $3 Trillion which they are busily shoveling into that fiscal sink hole called Iraq. And the “no surrender” military types are insisting that we stay there, either until the “job is done” or I guess until our economy collapses of its own weight. Dare we find out which will come first?

Remember the Clinton years. It was during those years that we had a taste of *real* fiscal responsibility would be like. In his recently published memoirs even the Republican appointed ex Fed Chief Alan Greenspan couldn't help but praise Bill Clinton’s persistence in trimming the nation’s spending during his eight year term as president, while the Republican slander machine was working full time shamelessly trying to negate everything he was doing. Fortunately they couldn’t stop him. He guided us through our most recent period of tranquility, a period that saw no wars, brought diplomatic solutions to offshore problems, a period that saw the national debt shrink until it turned into a surplus.

That is the very reason that we at the Real Little Eddy Blog support Hillary Clinton for president. Obama’s campaign is all too human and flawed, as several recent glimpses have shown. An aide assuring a Canadian embassy worker that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying in Ohio about NAFTA, he had to take that position to win votes; a military adviser assuring the military that of course Obama would not move the troops out of Iraq until it was prudent to do so, which was exactly the position Clinton had taken from the beginning. And what was it that an Obama campaign manager called Hillary Clinton on the BBC, a “monster?” Well, methinks a “monster” is exactly what we’re going to need in the White House come January to try and right this listing American Ship of State, before it crashes into the rocks of bankruptcy, flounders, and sinks into the cold, cold depths of irrelevancy. To check out the Washington Post story for yourself, copy and paste the URL below into your browser window:
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Democratic inter-party squabbling had better come to an end soon or people are liable to get soured on both candidates and either sit this one out, or God forbid, vote for McCain. For one thing is for sure: McCain's not Able! One more thing, Florida and Michigan Democratic voters must be heard from, Howard Dean and the DNC are doing a credible imitation of the waitress in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (not to mention Nurse Ratched) in hard headedly depriving Florida and Michigan voters their votes as punishment for the states moving their primary dates forward. By refusing to pay anything towards giving those voters what they are constitutionally entitled to, their vote, they are on a sure course to alienate Democratic voters in two states of definite importance. And in Florida the Florida Democratic Party had nothing to do with the decision to move up the primary, it was made by a Republican governor and passed by a Republican legislature.

Whereas a mail-in ballot in both states is the cheapest solution, a practical one must be found and funded, and Howard Dean and the DMC hierarchy in their unholy hardheadedness, should contribute to it, as should the governments of both states. Of course the Hillary Clinton camp would undoubtedly be happy just to see the votes that were cast honored. Wink, wink. If Dean continues his obstinacy the Florida and Michigan Democrats should get together and treat Howard to their very own version of the famous Dean scream.
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Does today’s acceptance by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates of the resignation of Admiral William J. Fallon, who just one year ago was the first navy man to be named commander of the United States Central Command, indicate the intention on the part of the Bush administration to provoke a military confrontation with Iran. Of course both Gates and Fallon hotly deny it. But if military action *is* in the offing they sure as hell aren’t going to admit it. Back in 2004 Republican guru Karl Rove got King George reelected on the strength of the war in Iraq (accompanied by a boatload of SwiftBoat lies), and with their under whelming imaginations the Republican leadership probably thinks that expanding the conflagration to Iran is a move right out of the Rove playbook. So our best advice, keep a sharp eye on the middle east. And now back to the fantasy land of the Bush Administration.

“Admiral Fallon had rankled senior officials of the Bush administration with outspoken comments on such issues as dealing with Iran and on setting the pace of troop reductions from Iraq — even though his comments were well within the range of views expressed by Mr. Gates.

“Officials said the last straw, however, came in an article in Esquire magazine by Thomas P. M. Barnett, a respected military analyst, that profiled Admiral Fallon under the headline, “The Man Between War and Peace.” The article highlighted comments Admiral Fallon made to the Arab television station Al Jazeera last fall, in which he said that a “constant drumbeat of conflict” from Washington that was directed at Iran and Iraq was “not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions.”

It is interesting to note that this public airing of a disagreement in the policy of General Petraeus is being done just before the General returns in April to give his report card on the war in Iraq. Our exalted leader, our Most Omnipotent Shrub, doesn’t give a tinker’s damn about any side other than his own, and is widely known not to tolerate dissent from underlings for one minute, which is why all those Republican Attorneys Generals were fired a couple of years back, and why our Republic is floundering fiscally under the weight of a mountain of federal government incompetence and ineptitude. No wonder Republicans have only contempt for the federal government. The way they run it, not even a mother could love it. And will April bring a General Petraeus coming back to try to justify upcoming military strikes against Iran, thereby living up to’s original assessment of him as General Betrayus? We shall see what we shall see.
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And for those of you of a salacious nature we hereby reprint the Timeline of Client #9 according to reporting by Alan Feuer and Ian Urbina in the N.Y. Times which was published March 11, 2008:

“It was after 9 p.m. the night before Valentine’s Day when she arrived, a young brunette named Kristen. She was 5-foot-5, 105 pounds. Pretty and petite.

“This was at the Mayflower, one of Washington’s finer hotels. Her client for the evening had booked Room 871. He was a return customer. The hundreds of dollars he had promised to pay would cover all expenses: the room, the minibar, room service should they order it, the train ticket that had brought her from New York and, naturally, Kristen’s time.

“A 47-page federal affidavit from an F.B.I. agent investigating a prostitution ring lists the man at the hotel as “Client 9,” and includes considerable details about him, the prostitutes and his methods of paying for them. A law enforcement official and another person briefed on the prostitution case have identified Client 9 as Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York.

“Kristen, having already passed through the lobby, with its wing chairs and its gilded half-clad cherubs, arrived in a small room in a quiet corner of the “Club Floor,” a special wing for V.I.P.’s. A king-size bed commanded the carpeted floor. Two photos — of the Capitol and the Washington Monument — hung on the walls.

“As soon as she came in, Kristen called her boss, Temeka Lewis, who was the booking agent for the Emperor’s Club, an online prostitution ring, the affidavit said. Ms. Lewis told her that the client had arrived. He was headed for the room. An assignation of more than an hour ensued, according to the affidavit, which was unsealed Thursday morning in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

“Room 871 had been booked under the name George Fox, a pseudonym that Client 9 had been using, and one by which several people in the ring knew him, according to a law enforcement official. However, a few of the prostitutes had recently come to realize who the man really was, the official said.

“The affidavit said Client 9 approached the Emperor’s Club last month, requesting an appointment on Feb. 13 at 9 or 10 p.m. The appointment was to be in Washington, and he sent along what appears to have been a deposit of cash by mail.

“Apparently, it was not his first time using the service. The affidavit captures the almost mundane financial back-and-forth prior to the meeting, quoting Ms. Lewis as telling her boss, Mark Brener, the owner of the ring, that Client 9 had a $400 or $500 credit to his name and wished to use it toward his next appointment. When Ms. Lewis spoke to the client on Feb. 12, the affidavit said, she told him that his deposit had not yet arrived and asked if he had sent it to a business known as Qat.

“Yup, same as in the past,” the client said. “No question about it.”

“After these initial matters were discussed, Ms. Lewis reached out to Kristen, the affidavit said, writing in a text message : “If D.C. appt. happens u will need 2 leave NYC @ 4:45 p.m.” The next day she sent along a possible itinerary: Amtrak’s Train No. 129 departed Pennsylvania Station at 5:39 p.m. and arrived in Washington at 9.

“Minutes after sending this text message, Ms. Lewis took another call from Client 9 and told him that his “package” had arrived. In a prior conversation, Client 9 had already told her that he had booked a room and had paid for it in his own name and now asked who was coming. Ms. Lewis told him it would be Kristen and, according to the affidavit, he responded: “Great, O.K., wonderful.”

“Still, there were some “payment issues” to discuss. Ms. Lewis asked if he could give Kristen “extra funds” at the appointment and the client said that he would see what he could do. The agency did not like models to handle money for future meetings, Ms. Lewis said, but this time they would make an exception so they wouldn’t have to go through it again.

“The papers quote Kristen and the woman who sent her on the job talking about a man believed to be Client 9, who might make requests of prostitutes “you might not think were safe.” But Kristen, according to the papers, was prepared: “I have a way of dealing with that,” she is quoted as having told the woman. “I’d be like, ‘Listen, dude, you really want the sex?’ ... You know what I mean.”

Kristen was subsequently unmasked by the N.Y. Times. Born Ashley Youmans but now known as Ashley Alexandra Dupré, she is 22 years old and spoke softly and with good humor as she added with significant understatement: “This has been a very difficult time. It is complicated.” As indeed it was, and so ended the N.Y. Governor’s tenor of office. Personally I think it’s a damn shame that this country is so centered on Sex as Sin that a politician, a governor must leave office if caught having some on the side. That people will throw out the good a politician might happen to have accomplished along with the bathwater of his indiscretions is so hypocritical in my opinion. However in Number Nine’s case, he was exceptionally hypocritical in that as attorney general of the state he had been Mister Righteousness Personified and had come down heavily both on Wall Street wrongdoers and on prostitution rings. And so there will be very few tears shed for the come Monday ex-Governor of New York.
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To me one of the wonders of this life is the fear of death and the look a trapped animal will get as fate closes in on him. This lesson was brought home to me when I was twentyone and was working as an radio announcer on KPRC-FM, located in a butler’s pantry on the 16th floor of the Lamar Hotel in downtown Houston. One night after I got off I elevatored down to the hotel’s mezzanine floor where the main station was located. It was late at night, and when I got there there were only three people on hand, an announcer, an engineer, and a reporter from the KPRC newsroom. But excitement was flashing through the place, the newsman had cornered a large rat in one of the offices. He was confronting the animal with a broom, and he was joined by the announcer, who had no duties until the next stati0n break as the station was on the network and who was also holding a broom. I joined the group brandishing a mop.

Unlike the would be chef of Pixar’s charming Ratatouille, this rat wasn’t the least bit cute or attractive. He was huge and ugly, the type known as a wharf rat, with two beady eyes, a mouth full of sharp teeth, and a ragged, streaky coat of many shades of gray. Of course he was terrified, with good reason having three wild eyed radio types chasing him around the room waving utensils threatenly at him. The three of us closed in on him in one corner of the room, a corner with no cover. He was trapped. There was no escape. The most violent among us was the newsman, we announcer types are usually laid back, even in the face of invading rodents. Then there came this moment which even after all these years is still frozen in my memory. The newsman was in striking distance, his weapon upraised. The rat looked at him with sweat pouring from it’s brow, a look of sheer terror lighting up it’s face, eyes that were almost deafening as they silently pleaded for mercy. Who would have thought such an ugly creature would have loved it’s life and feared so for it’s end? It was striking. But there was no mercy to be had. The newsman slammed the broom on the rat’s head repeatedly, until this condition we call life had left the animal. We announcers stood and watched. I will admit I could not have brought myself to harm so pitiful looking a creature, and I guess the other guy felt the same way. Pacifists in a world of red blooded action.
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And we close this week’s blog with a little YouTube video giving you a glimpse into the future of controling computers with your fingertips.

Bye bye until next week.

The Real Little Eddy

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