Author: BooMan

Grateful Dead Lyrical Exegesis

My wife’s out of town tonight, and I’m in a funny mood.  So, inspired by another conversation in another diary, I’ve decided to have some fun.

I saw my first Grateful Dead show when I was just barely 15 years old.  And I was enchanted.  I wasn’t really attracted to the accouterments of being a deadhead.  I was strictly into the music, and especially the lyrics.  The lyrics of the Grateful Dead are so rich, and so poignant that they almost demand a theological exegesis.

So, I’ll give my interpretations of a few of their songs, beginning with Stella Blue:

All the years combine
they melt into a dream
A broken angel sings
from a guitar
In the end there’s just a song
comes crying like the wind
through all the broken dreams
and vanished years

Stella Blue

When all the cards are down
there’s nothing left to see
There’s just the pavement left
and broken dreams
In the end there’s still that song
comes crying like the wind
down every lonely street
that’s ever been

Stella Blue

I’ve stayed in every blue-light cheap hotel
Can’t win for trying
Dust off those rusty strings just
one more time
Gonna make em shine

It all rolls into one
and nothing comes for free
There’s nothing you can hold
for very long
And when you hear that song
come crying like the wind
it seems like all this life
was just a dream
Stella Blue

To begin with, T.S. Eliot referred to: “Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels…” in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”.

The ‘Stella’ was the name of a guitar used by Lead Belly and other blues pioneers.  Stella also means ‘star’ in Latin.

But all of that is beside the point.  Stella Blue is existential, and describes both the moment before death, where we look back on our lives, and the momentary occasions when we become somber and reflective, more generally.

Stella is ostensibly a women, and many Dead songs equate women with a song.  But Stella is really more than a song.  After you have lived your life and suffered all the disappointments that life has to offer, there will still be something ineffable left over, something that sings, something that made it all worth while.

And that something has “cr(ied) like the wind down every lonely street that’s ever been”.  

With the wisdom of Soloman’s “you can’t take it with you” we are instructed “there is nothing that you can hold for very long”.

At the end, we will undoubtedly reflect that it seems like all our lives have been “just a dream”, and yet there is something that we will leave behind as a kind of marker, or indication that we were here.  And whatever that is, we can call it “Stella Blue”.

Open Thread

Bush evinced no discomfort reviewing a parade of goose-stepping soldiers, some hoisting banners that said “USSR” and bore the visage of Lenin.
-excerpt from front-page Washington Post story

Philosophy 101: Nietzsche and the Education of Women

Cicero recently made an observation to me that the most recent influx of new Kossacks reminded him of a brood of college students who have read, and failed to understand, the philosophy of Nietzsche. Whether that is the case or not, misunderstanding Nietzsche is a very common event.

Nietzsche wrote in an unique style.  While his books can be read from front to back and themes can be discerned, and ideas are explored and developed, it is also possible to pick up one of his books and start reading at random.

He wrote in brief bursts, with each segment capable of being considered alone, as well as in the larger context of his whole philosophy.  And this encourages the novice philosophy student to misinterpret individual passages.  As an example, Nietzsche famously wrote:

“When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality. Unfruitfulness itself disposes one to a certain masculinity of taste; for man is, if I may be allowed to say so, “the unfruitful animal.”

Taken alone, this appears to be a grossly misogynistic remark.  But that was not his intention.  Reading the following passage shows what his true concern was:

From The Gay Science:
With a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
.  Originally published in 1882.

On female chastity— There is something quite amazing and monstrous about the education of upper-class women.  What could be more paradoxical?  All the world is agreed that they are to be brought up as ignorant as possible of erotic matters, and that one has to imbue their souls with a profound sense of shame in such matters until the merest suggestion of such things triggers the most extreme impatience and flight.  The “honor” of women really comes into play only here: what else would one not forgive them?  But here they are supposed to remain ignorant even in their hearts; they are supposed to have neither eyes, nor ears, nor words, nor thoughts for this– their “evil”; and mere knowledge is considered evil.  And then to be hurled, as by a gruesome lightning bolt, into the reality and knowledge, by marriage– precisely by the man they love and esteem most!  To catch love and shame in a contradiction and to be forced to experience at the same time delight, surrender, duty, pity, terror, and who knows what else, in the face of the unexpected neighborliness of god and beast!

Thus a psychic knot has been tied that may have no equal.  Even a compassionate curiosity of the wisest student of humanity is inadequate for guessing how this or that woman manages to accommodate herself to this solution of the riddle, and to the riddle of a solution, and what dreadful, far-reaching suspicions must stir in her poor, unhinged soul– and how the ultimate philosophy and skepsis of woman casts anchor at this point!

Afterward, the same deep silence as before.  Often a silence directed at herself, too.  She closes her eyes to herself.

Young women try hard to appear superficial and thoughtless.  The most refined simulate a kind of impertinence.

Women easily experience their husbands as a question mark concerning their honor, and their children as an apology or atonement.  They need children and wish for them in a way that is altogether different from that in which a man may wish for children.

In sum, one cannot be too kind about women.

Nietzsche is making a social commentary here.  He is lamenting the way women are pressured to cultivate an image of thoughtlessness, to conceal their sexual desire, to avoid evidencing any knowledge of sexual matters.  One cannot understand his portrayal of the scholarly woman, until one understands that he is critiquing the whole culture and gender biases of his time.

His assumption that a female scholar has no children, or has to make a choice between studies and family, was a largely accurate assumption at the time.

And he would probably agree that there was something wrong with every women’s sexuality, due to the repression and taboos placed on women’s sexual desire.

Elsewhere, in Book Two, Nietzsche puts these words in the mouth of a sage: “It is men that corrupt women; and all the failings of women should be atoned by and improved in men.  For it is man who creates for himself the image of woman, and woman forms herself according to this image.”

Well, ladies, you’ve come a long way, baby.  Women’s liberation involves not only getting the vote and a chance to work and go to school.  It involves the liberty to break free of the prison of being defined by man’s ‘image of woman’, to learn about sexual matters, express yourself on sexual matters, marry whom you choose, and at a time in life when you feel ready for marriage.  These are elements of liberation.  And Nietzsche would be proud of where you are today.

Nietzsche’s bio

Palestinian Aid Diverted to Build Checkpoints

Our House of Representatives is infected with a frightening brew of intolerance, xenophobia, religious fundamentalism, and stupidity. But this takes the cake:

A few months ago, President Bush announced that he would ask Congress for $350 million to support Palestinian political, economic and security reforms. Following on his word, he did just that, in his budget proposal to Congress.

But last week when the House approved $200 million of the aid, it attached enough strings to strangle those good intentions. President Bush had requested that the first $200 million go directly to the Palestinian Authority…(b)ut in what one Palestinian advocate correctly called a “vote of no confidence” in Mr. Abbas, the House stipulated that no money could go to the Palestinian Authority. It approved $150 million, to be channeled instead through American aid agencies, nongovernmental organizations and philanthropic groups.

Adding insult to injury, the House then gave $50 million to Israel to build terminals for people at checkpoints surrounding Palestinian areas. House lawmakers directed an additional $2 million to Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. So a quarter of Congress’s Palestinian aid disbursement so far is actually going to Israel.
NYT Editorial Staff

Let me recap. The House has refused to give any aid directly to the Palestinian Authority. Instead, they have taken $50 million dollars of Palestinian aid funds, and diverted it to Israel so they can build better checkpoints. I won’t even comment on the decision to divert two million to a Zionist-American group.

The Senate needs to correct this insult. And when someone asks why ‘they’ hate America, just tell them to look at this markup, and show them a picture of Denny Hastert and Tom DeLay.

Update [2005-5-9 9:6:29 by BooMan]:Danielle Pletka, a vice president of the American Enterprise Institute, had testified before Congress that the Palestinians were not ready to absorb a huge infusion of aid. While it would be nice to give diplomatic support to Abbas, she said yesterday, Congress has a “fiduciary obligation not to throw money down a toilet.”
Al-Jazeera

CIA in a Bind

I should have thought of this. Our failure to determine the nature of the new Iraq government has other unanticipated side-effects. Among them, we think the new government is too closely aligned with Iran. And, therefore, we refuse to turn over any of the intelligence files we have acquired, either through occupying the old intelligence agency buildings and carting away their files, or through the espionage that we have carried out since.

The CIA has so far refused to hand over control of Iraq’s intelligence service to the newly elected Iraqi government in a turf war that exposes serious doubts the Bush administration has over the ability of Iraqi leaders to fight the insurgency and worries about the new government’s close ties to Iran.

The director of Iraq’s secret police, a general who took part in a failed coup attempt against Saddam Hussein, was handpicked and funded by the U.S. government, and he still reports directly to the CIA, Iraqi politicians and intelligence officials in Baghdad said last week. Immediately after the elections in January, several Iraqi officials said, U.S. forces stashed the sensitive national intelligence archives of the past year inside American headquarters in Baghdad in order to keep them off-limits to the new government.

Iraqi leaders complain that the arrangement violates their sovereignty, freezes them out of the war on insurgents and could lead to the formation of a rival, Iraqi-led spy agency. American officials counter that the new leaders’ connections to Iran have forced them to take measures that protect Iraq’s secrets from the neighboring Tehran regime.

The dispute also highlights the failure of the Bush administration to establish a Western-leaning, secular government in Baghdad following the 2003 invasion.

The Iraqi intelligence service “is not working for the Iraqi government – it’s working for the CIA,” said Hadi al Ameri, an Iraqi lawmaker and commander of the Badr Brigade, formerly the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. SCIRI is the driving force behind the powerful Shiite coalition that swept the parliamentary elections.

“I prefer to call it the American Intelligence of Iraq, not the Iraqi Intelligence Service,” al Ameri continued during an interview last week at his heavily guarded home in Baghdad. “If they insist on keeping it to themselves, we’ll have to form another one.”
Yahoo: Knight-Ridder

This impasse will have to be resolved somehow. Iraq cannot be a sovereign nation if the CIA remains its intelligence agency.

Pre-Deadwood Open Thread

When Cochran delivers a dire prognosis, the entire camp stands vigil. Swearengen enlists Star and Adams to help improvise a con on the newly returned Commissioner Jarry. Andy Cramed, former Deadwood pariah, offers himself as the camp’s new minister. With Martha regretting her move to Deadwood, Bullock searches his imagination for encouraging words at a critical time. Trixie pressures Alma to accept Ellsworth’s proposal. Sunday at 9pm ET/PT.

Anything you want to talk about…

Abu Faraj al-Libbi: Torturing Number Three

When the government announced that Abu Faraj al-Libbi had been captured, they claimed he was the number three ranking member of al-qaeda. I was shocked to hear it, because I track news related to 9/11 quite closely, and I had never encountered his name before. I also had to laugh at the announcement of yet another ‘number three’.

Hit the First Draft link for sources:

Just how many “al Qaeda Number Threes” are there, including the Jackoesque Abu Faraj al-Libbi, whose capture in Pakistan was revealed yesterday?

Well…

Here’s one…

Al-Qaeda’s third-ranked leader and alleged mastermind of this month’s bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has been seized in Iran, according to senior intelligence sources.

The United States has identified Saif al-Adel as the most senior al-Qaeda member linked to the attacks that killed 34 people, including one Australian.

And another…

US government officials have told the Wall Street Journal that the third-ranking leader of Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, personally murdered its reporter Daniel Pearl in February 2002. The paper said on 21 October that new secret information showed that Mohammed, the supposed mastermind of the 11 September attacks captured in Pakistan in March this year, had slit Pearl’s throat with a knife.

Maybe another here…

First to be arrested on Monday morning will be Sheikh Mohammed Sheikh — Bin Laden’s number six and a suspected mastermind of the terrorist group’s terror operations.

And the next day, just after lunch, Bin Laden’s number three — Mohammed Sheikh Mohammed — will be caught attempting to install plutonium freshly bought from Baghdad into a bomb in a suitcase with a flight label to London around the handle. He is a known mastermind and he doesn’t mind who knows it.

Perhaps a fifth three?

During a series of visits to Afghanistan and Pakistan, [Iyman] Faris was introduced to bin Laden and at least one senior operational leader, who gave Faris his orders for when he returned to the United States.

The operational leader, identified in court documents as “C-2” and said to be bin Laden’s “number three man,” told Faris in 2002 al Qaeda was again planning simultaneous attacks on New York and Washington.
First Draft

To this list I’d like to add Mohammed Atef, who was announced as bin-Laden’s ‘number three’ when he was killed during the Afghan War.

I suppose the CIA will explain that everytime they capture or kill a ‘number three’ a new ‘number three’ is created. They know who the new ‘number three’ is by calling UBL on his satellite phone and asking him who has been promoted. Or maybe they just guess. Or maybe they are totally full of shit. In any case, this al-Libbi catfish is accused of being behind the assassination attempts on Musharraf (better known as ‘The General’). And it is not too surprising that the Pakistanis are torturing the living bejeesus out of him.

Now, please read the following excerpt from the notoriously unreliable UK Telegraph very carefully. Keep in mind that the UK Telegraph is a conduit for some the most blatant disinformation in the propaganda war on terror. You tell me which intelligence agency is providing this info to the Telegraph, and whether they are doing the interrogating, sitting in the room while al-Libbi is tortured, or just watching through one-way glass:

Intelligence officials who have been questioning Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the senior al-Qa’eda suspect arrested last week, have cast doubt over claims by the Pakistani prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, that the interrogation is “proceeding well”.

The officials say that al-Libbi, who is believed to be al-Qaeda’s number three, has defied efforts to make him reveal valuable intelligence about its senior hierarchy, despite coming under “physical pressure” to do so…

…One senior intelligence official told The Telegraph: “So far he has not told us anything solid that could lead to the high-value targets. It is too early to judge whether he is a hard nut to crack, or simply that he doesn’t know more than he has told us.”

Al-Libbi had been beaten and injected with the so-called “truth drug”, sodium pentothal, said the official. “They have tried all possible methods, from the ‘third degree’ to injecting him with a truth serum but it is hard to break him,” he said.

In time, the officials hope that al-Libbi, 28, will tell them about forthcoming attacks, al-Qaeda’s funding and its sophisticated coded communications network.

Mr Aziz said yesterday: “Certainly al-Libbi is a senior member of al-Qaeda, and we were on the look-out for him for a while.”
UK Telegraph

Pakistan is apparently going to keep this man in their custody because we like our torture done in other countries beside our own. But it appears no one wants to admit this, except whomever is leaking to the Telegraph:

Pakistan has ruled out his immediate extradition to the United States, and denies that American agents are present at his questioning.

A government minister, however, told The Telegraph last night that British intelligence officials may be allowed to join the interrogation.

“This would be done once we exhaust him completely and are satisfied that he is not preparing to commit a terror act in our country,” the minister said.

That’s remarkable, isn’t it? The use of ‘we’, I mean. ‘We’ will get to talk to him after ‘we’ are done exhausting him. Not a lot of distinction between the Pakistani brutalizers and the British ones, is there?

Here’s another tip. When we catch bad guys we don’t announce it right away. This is true for Saddam and it’s true for al-Libbi. First we tortured him REALLY badly for five or six days. Then we announced his capture and resumed torturing him. Then we told the world that we were torturing him because we think it makes us look tough.

Linda Vester: And you are also tracking the arrest of the number three guy in al qaeda, Abu Faraj al-Libbi. It’s known that he in particular, at least to some degree, considering or plotting attacks on the United
States?

Steve Emerson: Well, he moved up in the ranks because most of the people in front of him, perhaps up to 10 of them, were sort of taken out of circulation. So whether by design or whether he volunteered, he became number three. What is interesting, Linda, he was picked up probably five or six days ago, maybe as much as a week ago, and so there’s definite proof that the Pakistani authorities have been interrogating him without releasing it so that the bad guys including Ayman al-Zawahiri or bin Laden were unaware that he was taken out and interrogated, so they could follow up on leads before they went cold.
Dayside w/ Linda Vester. May 5, 2005 1 pm

Folks, we torture people. Let’s just get it out in the open and admit it. We are a criminal nation that has become so unmoored from any semblance of decency that we actually promote the fact that we torture people. And then we deny it just to insult everyone’s intelligence and make them confused.

Al-Libbi may be a bad person who wanted to kill innocent people as well as world leaders. But they have already admitted that torturing him hasn’t worked. Calling him bin-Laden’s ‘number three’ isn’t fooling me, and it shouldn’t fool you. And it doesn’t excuse violating the treaties we are obligated to obey under the Constitution of the United States of America.

Filibuster: No Surrender

We’ve been talking about the great debate over judicial nominees and the filibuster rules for weeks. Armageddon may now be upon us.

With the Senate clock ticking toward a momentous procedural clash over judicial nominees, lawmakers and advocates on each side are readying a final push to win over the few uncommitted lawmakers and frame the fight to their best political advantage.
NYT: Free Reg

Whether by design, or through media connivance, the debate is being framed as a straight-up culture war smackdown. And the Holy Warriors are primed and ready to rumble.

With the climax nearing, the tone of the debate is escalating. A radio address taped by three Christian conservative leaders for broadcast Monday called the judiciary “the last playground of the liberal left.” In the address, James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, described the fight as the tipping point of the Bush presidency. “Nothing good took place last November, only the potential for something good,” Dr. Dobson said.

While I agree with Dobson that nothing good happened last November, only the potential for something good, I take exception to his intention to take my playground away. The Frog-Pond in sacrosanct.

Bill Frist appears to be moving forward, prodded by Dobson, and other lunatics.

The heightened level of activity is being driven by signs from Republican senators and senior aides that Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, will soon take aim at the Senate’s signature parliamentary weapon by forcing a vote to eliminate Democratic filibusters against Mr. Bush’s choices for the federal bench.

While the Republicans are aware of the polls showing the unpopularity of changing the Senate rules, they think perceptions will change once the Democrats begin to retaliate. And they have their talking points, and popular bills lined up to use as examples of Democratic obstructionism.

Seizing on Democratic threats to slow the majority agenda in the Senate, Republicans intend to paint Democrats as uncompromising obstacles to popular legislation. The message is simple, they say – no highway money, no energy bill, no tax relief.

“My own judgment is that this operates in our favor,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. “It would just cement their reputation as obstructionists.”

He and other Republicans say they are convinced that Democrats will confront a backlash if they are seen as throwing a tantrum that kills legislation that could benefit a struggling economy.

I’ll say this for the GOP, they do not shy away from unpopular moves. They are going to try to shove asshole judges down our throats, tear up the Senate rule book, and call us babies if we complain about it. I hope Senator Reid has his troops amassed and his battle plan ready. This is going to be reminiscent of another big Washington rumble:

Looking back on the fight over his nomination, Bork a few days ago recalled the sting he felt when then-Sen. Howard Metzenbaum, D-Ohio, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that “you can walk down any street and find women who are worried” about Bork’s position on privacy rights.

“This business about women being afraid of me and so forth was just preposterous,” Bork said.

As for the current nomination battle, Bork said, “I think it’s nastier than it’s ever been probably. A lot of people say it started with me, but I think it’s grown increasingly nasty. I was in town when Nixon was going down. Oddly enough, the town was less bitter then than it is now.”
AP: Guardian

Yes, it is more bitter because Bush is a bigger prick than Nixon, and the GOP is not interested in building consensus for anything they do. This is going to be a wild ride folks. And we have to come out of it victorious.

The Real BooMan

Newfoundlands are large, sturdy dogs known for their intelligence and gentle disposition—and centuries of service rescuing people from drowning. While the hunky breed is better known today as a pet, a few still serve as lifeguards in the United States.

Named for the Canadian province where it originated, the Newfoundland’s webbed feet, rudder-like tail, and water-resistant coat make it a natural swimmer. But over the centuries it is the dog’s devotion to people that has made it a hero. The plucky breed is credited for pulling so many people in distress from the water that it has earned its nickname “lifeguard dog.”

Following an instinctive urge to rescue people in need, Newfoundlands use big, powerful strokes to swim out to a person in trouble and they use their large mouths to grab and tow someone to the safety of the shore.

If a swimmer is unconscious, the dogs have been taught to grab the person’s upper arm in their mouth. This rolls the person onto his back, keeping his face out of the water.

Newfoundlands do all this by training. But they also seem to instinctively know when people are in danger of drowning and don’t have to be prompted to spring into action, according to breeders.

These innate abilities were so widely respected in the 1800s that the dogs were considered “required lifesaving equipment” along the coast of England.

From Beaches to Boats

The Newfoundland’s strong swimming skills and intelligence also earned it a job on European and American sailing vessels. In 1919, when a ship called Ethie ran aground off the Canadian coast, historians credit a Newfoundland named Tang for saving the entire crew. The massive dog is said to have jumped into the turbulent sea and swam to shore with the ship’s rope in his mouth. People on the beach secured the line and used it to bring all 92 crewmembers safely to safety.

Tang’s good deed didn’t go unnoticed. Historians say the dog received a medal for bravery from the famous insurance company, Lloyds of London, which it wore for the rest of its life.

While many things have changed in the world since the Ethie sank, the Newfoundland’s uncanny ability to know when people need help has not.

In 1995 Boo and his owner were out for a stroll along the Yuba River in Northern California. As they made their way around a bend, the 10-month old dog spotted trouble. Without hesitation, he dove into the water and swam toward a man, who was holding onto a red gas can, desperately trying to stay afloat in the swollen current. Boo grabbed the man’s arm and pulled him safely to shore.

The man was a deaf-mute and couldn’t call for help, said Janice Anderson, Boo’s breeder. He had fallen into the river while gold dredging.

“Boo had no formal training in water rescue,” explained Anderson, a Newfoundland breeder for 30 years. “It was just instinct. He picked up on the fact that there was someone in distress and then dealt with the situation.”

The Newfoundland Club of America, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, awarded Boo a medal for his heroism in 1996.

Water Search Dogs

Today only a few Newfoundlands officially work as lifeguards. In England, Bear helps train teen lifeguards at the Cotswolds Water Park. In Italy, Mas has been coached by trainer Ferugio Pelenga to leap from helicopters into the ocean to rescue people from drowning. And in the United States, Moby, a crew member on Rapture Marine Expeditions in California, watches up to 150 young people on board at a time.

Newfoundlands are one of the most versatile of all dogs that work. In addition to saving people from drowning, their sweet disposition and gentle nature shines through in therapy work. The breed’s beauty and brawn has also made it a successful competitor in the show ring as well as in drafting, obedience, and water trials.

In keeping with the breed’s love of water, Nicki Gundersen of Lenexa, Kansas, found the perfect job for Calvin. The 10-year-old black Newfoundland is a trained water search dog and uses his powerful sense of smell to locate bodies of drowned victims.

“The fact that we can help people bring some closure in an unhappy situation is a bonus, Gundersen said of the volunteer work.

Newfies are good in this field because they don’t need to be trained how to swim, or overcome a fear of water, like some other breeds. While there are no official numbers on how many Newfoundlands are certified in water search-and-recovery, Gundersen estimates there are less than 50 throughout the United States.

The Kansas resident responds to several calls each year, most of which are alcohol-related boating and swimming accidents.

In this part of the country Calvin’s skills are especially needed because the lakes and rivers have silt bottoms, which makes the water black. Dive teams have limited visibility underwater and need help narrowing down where to look.

These highly trained canines also make recovery efforts go faster. Gundersen recalled one case where a man had been dared to swim across a turbulent river but didn’t make it to the other side. The victim’s family and park rangers searched eight hours for the man. No luck. Then Calvin was called. It took the dog 45 minutes to locate the body.

At the scene of an accident, Calvin doesn’t jump into the water and search for the victim. Instead, the 125-pound (47-kilogram) dog rides in a small inflatable boat, sniffing the water’s surface for oil and skin particles that have risen to the top.

When Calvin picks up the scent, he barks once or twice. Gundersen concentrates the search in that area until Calvin scratches at the bottom of the boat, indicating he has found the victim. A dive team is then sent to retrieve the body.