Saturday, June 23, 2007

new job and other bits and pieces

Well, I have a new job. At least I won't be job hunting for a while. I was, or will have been, unemployed for only two months by the time I start the new gig. I was not at all hopeful when I started. It took me almost 7 months to find the last long term job and almost 9 months to find the one before that.

Last week was a bit of a downer, except for the job offer. I was still looking and seeing nothing interesting. It is amazing how few jobs out there offer little more than a pittance for the body and nothing for the soul. I have had very nice contacts with my new employers which encourages my optimism. I hadn't looked forward to a new job. I merely needed to work because otherwise my cats and I would not eat.

I haven't done much on the quilt for my sister-in-law and I have to get on the stick if I am to have it done before their anniversary. But for some reason I preferred to read. I had two new books: Aaron Elkins' newest (the title of which I have forgotten) and Laurel Hamilton's Harlequin. I had a sense of deja vu with Elkins book. It seemed to combine elements of Make No Bones and Unnatural Selection. That says something when I can remember the titles of previous books but not the one just read. It was a pleasant read but not one of his best. was also not one of the strongest of Hamilton's Anita Blake series. She tried to tie up some loose ends but not as well as hoped. Her best I think was Obsidian Butterfly one of the best horror/mystery novels I can name. Otherwise, I re-read three of the CSI series before giving them to the local senior activity center. Good enough, but not keepers. And I re-read Margaret Maron's Right Jack. It went back on the shelf. I have always loved Maron's Sigrid Harald and I love the growth of the character over the series. I wish she would continue it. I have only read a couple of her Deborah Knot series, but those have never lured me deeper into the series.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

correction and continuation

I apologize to poor Paris. I minimized her suffering. She actually spent somewhere between 72 and 75 hours in jail, depending on which report was accurate. Either way that is more that the 24 I mentioned. This story has been going on so long I lost tract of time.

Since then the Judge has ordered her back to jail for the full 45 days less time served. According to MSNBC the Sheriff decided to allow her to serve her time under house arrest all on his own. He further commented that he thought she got a tougher sentence than other young celebrities charged with similar offenses. First point: last I heard it isn't a sheriff's job to change the terms of a sentence. That prerogative belongs to a judge. Second point: it doesn't really matter what he thought of the toughness of her sentence. It is merely his job to carry out the sentence, not adjust it to meet his notions of fairness.

To tell the truth, however, I am heartily sick of all these celebrities acting up, getting loads of publicity, going into rehab, apologizing abjectly and going out to sin again. I am also heartily sick of the fact that I can't get away from them unless I am willing to cut myself off totally from everything else that goes on. The nightly news leads off with these stories and covers them in nauseating detail. Then follows up with blow by blow coverage of the latest fight masquerading as whatever ball game until they are forced to give the scores as the time for the segment runs out. Between the two, and the commercials, we get precious little news.

I wish the mainstream media would take the example of the Kentucky restaurant owner who refused to serve O.J. Simpson Derby weekend. I wish they would 'just say no' to Paris, Lindsay, Brittany, and David (Hasselhoff). But then the networks would actually have to hire real reporters. And wouldn't that be awful. I shouldn't be so hard on the news readers, though. Several times they gave the story their campiest best and even asked if they really had to read 'this stuff.' Somebody, somewhere, has decided that this crap is what the audience really wants to hear. I, for one, don't; but no one is listening to me.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Libby, Hilton and Law

Well, Scooter Libby has been convicted and is now appealing his conviction and his sentence. It must be nice to have such powerful and influential friends to appear as "character" witnesses. My only question is "What in the hell does Kissinger's opinion of Libby's character have to do with anything?" Or any of the other witnesses detailed in's article. The man has been convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice. It doesn't matter if his family, friends, and business associates found him to be a good man in their dealings with him. Those dealings had nothing to do with perjury and obstruction. I am cynical enough that I am surprised that he got two and a half years. I am too used to people in his position getting off with slaps on the wrist.

I remember having similar thoughts listening to the accounts of the pre-sentencing hearings for former Illinois governor Jim Ryan. He had a parade of witnesses attesting to what a great man he was. Almost all of them were anti-death penalty advocates who thought the world of his commutations for death row inmates and the moratorium he placed on the death penalty. As much as I favor his actions in that matter, I fail to see what his actions in that case had to do with his conviction for corruption. And why should that be a mitigating factor in the sentence a judge would hand down for the conviction on corruption?

Poor little Paris Hilton actually suffered through a day and a night in jail. Now, according to MSNBC, her sentence has been commuted to 40 days house arrest with a tracking anklet. How nice it must be to have a famous name, money, an expensive lawyer, and a tame psychiatrist on retainer. Anyone I know who had a DUI (with a probation), a conviction for driving on a suspended license while on probation from the DUI, and a conviction for driving without a license would have had the book thrown at them. Our mental fragility would have failed to impress any judge we would have faced and we couldn't afford the kind of attorney and psychiatrist that would manage to manipulate the system to get us off.

Once upon a time we used to boast that no one was above the law and many of us actually believed it was true. I haven't heard that boast in a very long time. But then I shouldn't be so surprised. We have a President who has done his best to make his office above the law for himself and whoever might follow him and to make it the supreme branch of government beyond effective oversight from the once co-equal legislative and judicial branches. If a President, who after all is just a man (whether God talks to him or not), is above the law why shouldn't others also be above the law. Laws it seems are merely advisory, effective only when the police are present and not occupied with other matters, or for those without money and connections.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Chalmers Johnson/American Empire

I have just finished reading Johnson's Sorrows of Empire and enough of Nemesis to know where he is going with it. They are both quite good and make a number of points that we would be wise to remember.

President Bush said that the 9/11 attacks happened because the "terrorists" envied our freedom, our wealth and our democracy. It is almost as if Bush has historical amnesia. We have a long and, for the most part, dubious history in the Middle East. We have done many things there that would incite justifiable anger, not envy. Why are the Iranians so difficult to deal with? Well, does anyone remember 1953? The CIA engineered the overthrow of an elected government, reinstalled the Shah, and then supported his brutal (but pro-American) regime for the next 36 years. Does anyone remember that we supported Saddam Hussein in his brutal war against Iran? He ultimately lost that war but decided to use his excess American supplied weaponry to settle his long standing and contested claim to Kuwait.

To say that the attack happened because "they" envy "us" is to forget everything that went before in a long and sordid history. That isn't to say that the victims, the individual victims, of 9/11 deserved what they got. They didn't. Unfortunately, they bore the direct brunt of the anger directed at our government because they were what al Qaida could reach.

One of Robert Heinlein's characters (I think it was Lazarus Long in Time Enough for Love) misquoted Lincoln "In a government of the people, by the people, and for the people--DON'T TELL THE PEOPLE." That is a principle our government has been following faithfully for a very, very long time. However, if we aren't informed can the officials who govern us truly claim to have our consent? That would be like a physician claiming that his patient consented to treatment he was never informed of or, worse, was deliberately misinformed about. Like describing chemotherapy as a vitamin regimen? Supposedly, our representatives stand in for us in the process of giving consent. However, if those representatives are given misleading and false information, they can't give any more meaningful consent in our names than we can on our own. There is a lot of evidence surfacing that the administration cherry picked data, chose to believe unreliable sources because they supplied the information the administration wanted to hear, presented overly optimistic assessments of the consequences of its actions, and generally blew a lot of smoke to obscure any information that countered its chosen gospel. That completely undercuts the fundamental premises of democratic society and government.