Saturday, April 11, 2009

Blog # 83: Of Cellphones, the CIA, and Handguns

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Cellphone calls 911 as Teen describes burglary

Shades of et’s phoning home, this story comes to us from the Phoenix New Times:

Machines turning on their human masters:

It sounds like the plot of science fiction movie, but it actually happened to a Peoria punk who police say likes to burglarize vehicles.

The 16-year-old was bragging to his homies about stealing from a car when his mobile phone spontaneously called the police. Perhaps his phone had a one-touch button to call 911, or the kid dialed the numbers by mistake while scratching himself. But little did the chatty guy know, cops began listening in on his conversation.

"It was bolted down – I had to rip it out," a voice can be heard saying on the recording released by Peoria cops. "It took all my energy to lift it out of the car."

His friends seem to be unimpressed with what may be a stolen Cricket phone, lamenting that it wasn't a Blackberry.

Despite long interludes of silence or muddied, unintelligible voices, the cops continued to eavesdrop. They used cell-phone-signal triangulation (with help from the phone company) to get a bead on the kid's approximate location and dispatched a squad car to the area of 9100 West Kings. There, cops found the kid with a stolen car stereo in his hands, says Mike Tellef police spokesman.

The Peoria boy was released to the custody of his parents or guardian and was written up for felony vehicle burglary, which will be prosecuted in juvenile court, Tellef says.

The dilemma for the parents in this case: Take the mobile phone away as punishment – or force him to carry with him always, as a conscience-booster.

For the complete story, and to listen to the tape for yourself, go here!

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Republicans Threaten to Go Nuclear

After promising to release the memos which were written to allow the Bush administration to employ torture in its interrogation techniques, why did the Obama administration suddenly clam up and hold onto the memos? For one thing, because Republican Senators are threatening to go nuclear over the appointments of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. This information is from Scott Horton writing in the Blog section of The Daily Beast.

The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

For Mr. Horton’s complete article direct your cursor and click here!

John Sifton, also writing in the Beast’s Blogs and Stories section, writes:

The CIA’s new director, Leon Pinetta may also be joining in the fray. The New York Times reported that current CIA director Leon Panetta has taken the position that “no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished.” Yet a number of CIA officials implicated in the torture program not only remain at the highest levels of the agency, but are also advising Panetta. Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry.

Mr. Sifton’s complete article may be found by clicking here!

One would expect better from Leon Pinetta, who many of us hoped would take the agency in a different direction when his appointment by the Obama Administration was announced. Panetta’s attempt to suppress the issue is making Bush’s policy into the Obama administration’s dirty laundry, so says Mr. Sifton. And the Senate Republicans are united to keep the Bush policies secret, thereby putting the exclamation mark on the Panetta coverup. ‘Tis a sad day indeed for turning the light of truth on.

And finally on Thursday, April 9th, The Beast reported the following: New CIA director Leon Panetta has announced that the controversial "black sites" — unknown locations where high-value terrorism suspects were interrogated — have been shut down. The sites were a source of major international controversy, as many other nations allowed the interrogation and torture of the suspected terrorists on their soil. Panetta, without revealing any details, stated bluntly in a letter to staff, "the CIA no longer operates detention facilities or black sites." Along with closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, President Obama had also pledged to close the "black sites." More here

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How Many Deaths Will it Take?

In this past month alone over 57 people have died in a rash of mass killings throughout the nation. Some observers are speculating that this is being caused by the economy, the recession to be specific. They are pointing out that it is people’s feelings of frustration that is triggering this carnage. If this is true, then we have probably seen only the tip of the iceberg, as the recession is not likely to noticeably improve for possibly a year or more.

How many deaths will it take before the United States Senate and House of Representatives gets over their intimidation in the face of the National Rifle Association and does something about limiting the public’s access to firearms? Every time a reasonable law trying to curb the spread of rapid firing assault weapons is proposed the N.R.A. goes ballistic, cries foul and begins mindlessly citing the constitution.

They are completely paranoid, drawing a line in the sand against any regulation whatsoever. They should be reminded of another group that once upon a time drew a line in the sand. We are thinking of course of a group of Texan’s who drew that famous line in the sand at the Alamo, stepped over it, and then proceeded to a man to lose their lives.

One wishes to remind the jackbooted spokesman for the N.R.A., Wayne LaPierre, that when our founding fathers were fashioning this constitution he is so fond of citing, they knew only of single shot, powder loading muskets, and that was the weapon their constitution specifically allowed. Even the most anti-gun zealot these days would be happy to give LaPierre and his N.R.A. flock all of the shot and powder loading muskets their bleeding hearts desire. It’s the sales and prevalence of small, concealable handguns, and most particularly rapid firing assault weapons that people of reason are asking that something be done about. It should be further pointed out that the founders also restricted these muskets to the use of militias, organized groups that would defend the constitution.

We repeat for the benefit of any hard of hearing, reading impaired, jackbooted N.R.A. fellow travelers, our Founding Fathers in their constitutional wisdom said nothing about selling automatic weapons to the unstable, crazed individuals who are picking off our citizenry right and left. Modern day assault weapons were beyond their wildest dreams. And so the idea that the Constitution includes the right to own and sell handguns, much less rapid firing assault weapons, is patently absurd. The Constitution meant muskets, fellas. That was the gun in fashion at the time of our Republic’s beginnings.

Not another civilized government on the planet has such loose controls on weapons whose only purpose is the delivery of death, either to animals in the hands of hunters, or to people in the hands of murderers. It is unthinkable that a civilized society, which wisely regulates the driving of automobiles (which can also be weapons in careless hands), but cannot or will not restrict gun ownership to selected dealers who impose strict background checks, making sure that criminals and the mentally unstable do not get their hands on these weapons. The present day reality is that guns, including assault weapons, are being freely sold at gunshows throughout the country with little or no background checks whatsoever.

Is this business of making weapons available to anyone who wants them sheer madness? You bet your sweet bippy it is! We need new legislation to restrict the sale of assault weapons and to impose adequate background checks on the sale of all firearms. How many more needless mass killings will it take before Congress wakes up and takes reasonable measures to try and contain it? Your guess is as good as mine, but there’s a good chance that the answer is much later or even never. Seemingly oblivious of the fact that mass killings originated on a Texas college campus, August 1st, 1966 as an engineering student, Charles Joseph Whitman, killed 14 students, ten of them sniping from the observation deck of Texas University's Administration Building, our Texas politicians seem intent upon increasing the carnage on campus. A bill forbidding Texas Universities from banning concealed handguns on their campuses is wending it’s way through the legislature, and is predicted for passage. Was it seeing too many John Wayne movies as kids that makes Texas politicians invoke a cowboy mentality? For the complete story you can click here! I guess the philosophy of of those jackbooted fellow travelers of the N.R.A. has infected the Texas legislature. Good luck, students.§

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The Pirate Bay Sails On?

Last week we ran a story about Ye Old Pirate Bay having sold out to the very movie industry whose movies they were allowing to be pirated. To Warner Bros. no less. Well, this week there’s another story from the storied Bay. This concerns their new anonymity service. It seems that it has signed up over 100,000 subscribers.

The new service was introduced to allow subscribers to circumvent the controversial Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED) which recently became law in Sweden, and gives an additional layer of anomymity to their subscribers for a $6 monthly fee. According to Wired Magazine the service will operate much the same way as other anonymity services, with one important exception: The Pirate Bay says it will not log its data, making it more difficult to trace activity to a specific user.

What we are wondering is this: is the new service a part of the sale of the Bay to Warner Bros? Or is it a separate project from the originators of The Bay. We assume it isn’t part of the sale, and that it is being offered by the original owners of The Bay to help protect its users from scrutiny by the enforcers of Sweden’s new law. Does this mean that the Bay will continue its mission even under the auspices of its new owner, Warner Bros.? Undoubtedly that would make members of Warner’s board of directors extremely popular at Hollywood parties. Like NOT!

More than likely its new owners will strip The Bay of it’s former clandestine activities, but in order to circumvent the new law the Bay’s previous owners are supplying its Swedish users and others as needed with with the new service to help them remain undetected while using other bit torrent clients, such as, and

Further details of the swashbucklers’ new adventures may be found here!

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100% of Teens Plan to Buy iPods

Take this, Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer! The online Tech website Gizmoto notes that a new survey of teens reports that 100% of them plan to buy an iPod this year, with 0% of them planning to buy Zunes or Sansas. Piper Jaffray’s biannual Teen Survey, in its eighth year shows a serious dropoff in interest for the Zune and Sansa. Gizmoto says that Apple “has just got to love seeing numbers like this. The age of iPod's total dominance over the PMP scene won't last forever, but with numbers like this it isn't ending anytime soon either.” On the mac vs. pc front Microsoft is continuing it’s ad campaign trying to show the pc is the choice of the cost conscious. However, by giving them the difference, they could guarantee their stooges would pick a pc. After all, could those have been real objective choices with the cameras rolling filming the commercials. In the case of the girl, it turns out she’s a part time actress. As for the techie, other techies studying the specs report that his choice failed in two out of three points of his criteria.

Besides, ads are ads. You can’t expect real objectivity in a commercial. And as for the so-called Apple Tax that Microsoft is trying to drum into pc buyer’s heads, yeah there’s an Apple Tax. Just like there is a BMW tax. It is known as a charge for the quality built into the system. In this world, as the axiom says, “you get what you pay for!” In our opinion, if Microsoft would get over its competitive attitude towards Apple and Google, and concentrate on putting the same excellence into their products that their competition does, then they wouldn’t need an ad campaign to sell their wares. Oh, well, Zune anyone? And let us have a moment of silence for the iPodless Gates and Ballmer children. See, money isn’t everything. Such a shame they are being deprived of their right to know and own quality.

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Pink Floyd’s Famous Back Album Collection

Graphic from

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Little Eddy’s Featured Rhyme Of the Week

Many a time has the poet sung

That youth is wasted on the young.

How did I know that my youth was spent?

Well, my ‘get-up-and-go’ got up and went.

But I really don’t mind when I think with a grin,

Of the places my ‘get-up-and-go’ has bin

Old age is golden I’ve heard it said,

But sometimes I wonder as I go to bed,

With my ears in the drawer, my teeth in a cup,

And my eyes on the table until I wake up.

As sleep overtakes me, I ask myself,

‘Is there anything else I can leave on the shelf?’

I have arthritis in both my knees,

When I walk or talk, I puff and wheeze.

Still, I get up each morning, dust off my wits,

Pick up the paper and read the Obits,

If my name’s not there I know I’m not dead,

So I have a good breakfast & go back to bed.

Sent to us by D.R. whose grandmother used to recite it. As best I remember Pete Seeger used to sing this or something very much like it as a song. If any of you have something you would like to share with our readers, send it to me at: We would love to share it with our readers.§

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Some Vivid Children Camp memories

I spent the summers of 22 of my adult years working as a counselor in three New England children camps, three years at the University Settlement Camp in Beacon, N.Y., six years at Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont, and the remainder at Blueberry Cove Camp in Tenants Harbor, Maine. I loved those years, they made for a raft of vivid memories for me. I hope you’ll forgive me if I share some of them with you.

I got my first camp job thanks to Pete Seeger’s wife Toshi, whose parents were the caretakers of the University Settlement Camp, down the road from the Seeger mountainside home near Dutchess Junction, N.Y. I had never even been to a camp as a kid, much less worked at one. But I loved playing banjo and guitar, and leading singing, and that’s just what the directors of the camp wanted. We had sings every night after the evening meal, and during the day I had sings with different groups, one group at a time.

That first summer was a wild experience, we not only had days and evenings of singing, but several counselors and I put on shows for the campers. And from two very talented fifteen year old twin girl work campers, Ellen and Irene Kossoy, I learned the two camp songs which would assure my future as a camp song leader. They were The Ship Titanic and Sipping Cider Through a Straw. Those two songs went right to the heart of every sing I did from then on, and Sipping Cider in particular to this day seems to ring in the ears of some of those former campers. Words cannot express my gratitude to the Kossoy sisters for giving me the gift of those two blockbusters, they made for a nice, long career in camp song leading.

The Settlement Camp was governed in a rather primeval style. For instance, one summer the boys in my cabin did something (I forget what) that evoked the wrath of the camp’s director. It happened just three days from the end of one of the three week trips. The boys were ordered to stay in their cabin except for meals until someone stepped forward to name the purveyor of whatever it had been which caused the uproar. In my view this is not a realistic handling of such an event. The chances of someone unveiling the perpetrator and suffering the ire of his peers was to my mind slim to none. And such a punitive measure sounded more like a reform school tactic rather than one practiced by a three-week children’s camp supposedly dedicated to children’s fun in the outdoors. Of course, no one came forward, and the boys spent the last three days of their trip in their cabin. No sings, no shows. No other campers. They were soundly punished.

I was upset by this, and applied to the camp run by Pete Seeger’s older brother John, Camp Killooleet in Hancock, Vermont. What a beautiful, scenic state Vermont is. Everywhere you look it seems as if you are looking at a scenic post card. Killooleet was no University Settlement Camp. It was a full eight week camp, and consequently was much more evenly paced than the Settlement Camp had been. Most all of the children there were from decidedly upper middle class families, mostly from N.Y. City. When I first went there John and Ellie Seeger were employed as teachers at the Dalton School during the non camp months, but by the time I left John had become headmaster of Ethical Culture’s Fieldston Lower School in the Bronx.

I loved Killooleet so much I talked my younger sister Mary into applying for a job there, and for at least three of my six years she was the shop counselor. One summer, my second and her first if memory serves, it was cold and it rained constantly, day and night, for the first four weeks of camp. And unknown to any of us at the time, one camper had come to camp carrying an undiagnosed case of the whooping cough, a malady rarely seen these days as most of us have had shots to prevent it. But for some reason on that cold, rainy summer it tore its way through the camp like a wildfire. By the third week fully half of the children and counselors had contracted the disease, and the sneezing and coughing was so bad that in the lunch room campers no longer sat at tables with their own group. The tables became “Whooper” tables, and non “Whooper” tables. That summer Life magazine had a two page headline, “Only 7 Whoopers survive the flight to Texas,” referring of course to whooping cranes. One of the kids cut that headline out and taped it on the bulletin board in the Main House.

At Killooleet I was witness to a condition I had never seen before, that of homesickness. Some children got it really bad, for camp was less rushed and kids had more time to themselves in which to get homesick. When I remarked on one particular boy having a bad night, another camper turned to me and said, “don’t pay him no mind. When he goes home he gets just as homesick for camp.”

We had one ten year old boy who was particularly homesick, and who was especially expressive in displaying his condition. His name was David Bloomgarten, and his father was a Broadway Show producer who had a giant hit show running at that time called “A Most Happy Fella.” (You can read Wikipedia’s writeup of it here)!

We had a jolly local doctor who took care of our children when they were ill. We’ll call him Dr. Whitmore. One day David, on one of his particularly down days, went to see the doctor for an illness either real or imagined. The doctor, being ever friendly, asked David what his father did for a living. David replied, “he’s a Broadway Producer.”

”Oh,” said the good doctor with just a touch of skepticism, “and what did he produce?”

With a perfectly straight face David replied, “A Most Happy Fella!” The doctor’s jaw almost hit the floor, as he surveyed the producer’s most unhappy offspring.

Homesickness is a strange malady. David had a bad case of it, but his younger brother was chronically happy and never had a touch of homesickness the entire summer. And this was true in several other brother and sister situations. Oddly enough, it was usually the older one who had the severe case.

The children at Killooleet were always fashionably dressed. I didn’t realize just how fashionable they were until I went to Blueberry Cove camp and then returned to Killooleet for a visit. Blueberry Covers were completely unconscious of how they looked, girls would go shirtless until they reached the age where mother nature begins to augment their upper chest contours.

Every year the late photographer Diane Arbus used to take a group of children to the Bahamas and photograph them in the latest kid fashions, and the shoot would appear as an annual late summer feature in the N.Y. Times Magazine. Looking at the Killooleet children from the perspective of Blueberry Cove I was amazed at how well dressed they all were. Even the youngest girls looked like they had just stepped out of one of the Arbus’ preteen fashion magazines.

Most of Killooleet’s campers were from above average but otherwise undistinguished families. We did have one or two children of exceptional parents, the most impressive being Deena Kaye, the daughter of Danny Kaye and his wife, Sylvia Fine. Deena was an extremely quiet, shy child. She came first at age eight, she was in my sister Mary’s bunk and among other things took guitar lessons from me.

But the most extraordinary quality I remember about her was her reaction the night her father almost saved the longest, most tedious talent show I have ever participated in. First though, I should tell you more about Mr. Kaye’s visit. Deena’s mom had visited earlier in the summer, and there was some question as to whether her father would be able to make it at all. Make it he did, though. He was an effervescent man who went about the camp taking his role of a camp parent very seriously. I saw him for the first time as he was playing ping pong with a camper just outside the Main Building. While I was standing there two boys walked up and checked him out. I went inside the building, and a minute later so did the two boys.

“God,” said one of the boys, “he looks so old.”

”Yeah,” said the other, “he looks old enough to be my father.”

Of course he looked old enough to be your father, I wanted to say. He is a parent of an 8 year old girl. The comment did make me appreciate the anti aging miracle that Hollywood’s makeup artists can and do perform to circumvent the aging process of the stars. In person Kaye looked every one of his forty some odd years, but in his latest movie he looked to be in his mid twenties.

Anyway, back to the longest and most tedious variety show ever staged. It must have featured fully a third of the Camp’s campers and counselors. It went on and on. Fortunately it was emceed by one of the campers, and not by me. At any rate at around 11 pm, the last thirty or so minutes having been, well, frightful, no other phrase quite describes it, in a stroke of inspiration Ellie Seeger, the camp’s co-director, asked Danny Kaye if he would possibly favor us with a song?

Kaye lit up noticeably, knowing full well that after what had preceded him his performance would as a meteor lighting up the night sky. But for me the shock was in his daughter Deena’s reaction. When Ellie made her request Deena turned beet red and kept violently shaking her head as she began silently pleading with her dad not to do it. But Kaye could no sooner have resisted this than he could have walked on water. He went up to the stage, and completely acappella, began the most scintillating performance of “Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones” that I have ever heard. Kaye kept time with his finger snapping right hand, and as he began the song, he got the audience to join with him. It was as riveting a performance as I have ever seen.

However even more interesting to me had been daughter Deena’s reaction. She went from being uncomfortable and embarrassed to not being able to stand it any more, and she made a hasty retreat, spending the rest of Kaye’s remarkable performance by herself in the outdoors.

I was later to learn that when she went back to Hollywood that summer she got her parents to get her guitar lessons from a $25 a half hour teacher. Would that I could ever have charged that?

In thinking back on my first two camps, they could be characterized by the different terminology each used to describe their nude swimming program. At the Settlement Camp it was called “B.A.” (for bare ass) swimming. At Killooleet it was known by its slightly more polite and childlike moniker, “skinnydipping.”§

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So there you have the first installment of my camp memories. Come by again next week for more of this and that, topped off with more summer camp reminisces. Meantime bye now. And sweet dreams all.§

The Real Little Eddy