Wednesday, October 31, 2012

True Murder Case Stories.

“I want to take the measurements now. She’s been in the water and the measurements will be off by the time she gets to the office.”

“Even if you put her in the freezer?”

“Yeah, the freezer will slow down the decomp but it won’t stop it. These marks here are going to fade.”


It was near dusk. The naked body lay on the concrete seawall. She was in her 20’s, early 30’s, average build. There was no gross trauma. Her toenails were painted red. “She just looks like an average woman,” I said. “She’s a hooker,” a cop said in response. “How do you know?” “Red nail polish.”

The medical examiner shined the flashlight on the body with one hand, put the straightedge on the skin with the other, put the straightedge and flashlight down, picked up her pencil and notebook and wrote down the measurement.

“Here, Julie, I’ll hold the flashlight.” I knelt beside her and shined the flashlight on the body and the medical examiner put the straightedge on the skin, put the straightedge down, picked up her pencil and notebook and wrote down the measurement.

“Here, I’ll write the measurements down; just read them off to me.”

“Ooh, are you sure, Benjamin?”

“Yes, it’s no problem at all.”

I shined the flashlight on the body and the medical examiner put the straightedge on the skin and called out the measurements. “How many centimeters?” She spoke softly and I bent my head nearer hers over the body.

Kneeling and closely hunched over the body the medical examiner worked quickly from mark to mark, measuring and reading out without lifting her head, her voice a whisper. I bent closer and turned my head so that my left ear was centimeters from her face. The body smelled brackish.

I straightened up. Across the bay the causeway was gaily lit by the red taillights of Friday Happy Hour traffic.

Image:  The Lamentation over the Dead Christ, Jusepe de Ribera (early 1620's).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The edges of the skull around the wound were jagged and I could stick my little finger in it. It was a big hole. There may have been more than one shot, we didn't know on the scene.

True Murder Case Stories.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

"I'm just waiting for the train," said Harris.
"I've been away a long time," Harris said.
The waitress came over to Mr. Harris's table.  Mr. Harris had just finished dinner. 
"The Express is an hour late, sir. Can I bring you some coffee?
"If you like."
"Please?" asked the waitress.
"All right," said Mr. Harris.
"Thank you, sir," said the waitress.
She brought the coffee from the kitchen and Mr. Harris put sugar in it, crunched the lumps with his spoon, and looked out the window at the snow falling in the light from the station platform.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

In going where you have to go, and doing what you have to do, and seeing what you have to see, you dull and blunt the instrument you write with.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

America's two presidential candidates debated foreign policy last night and I read that in his introduction the moderator mentioned President Kennedy's televised address of fifty years ago.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is the most-studied event in the history of American statecraft. My mother's seven-year old son in 1962 was a 23-year old graduate student in 1978 and Graham Allison's Essence of Decision was assigned reading. The Cuban Missile Crisis reinforced, may have given rise to, the “rational actor” model of international negotiations, that is, assume your adversary doesn't want his country blown up either. Professor Allison stated recently that the current Iran situation is "the Cuban Missile Crisis in slow-motion."  Does the rational actor model work with Iran? No.

On October 23 President Kennedy signed the “quarantine” order

and American ships took position in the Caribbean.  The Tactical Air Command had over 500 fighters on one-hour standby. The administration notified Turkey that the U.S. was considering proposing to the Soviet Union a withdrawal of American missiles from Turkey in exchange for a withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. The Turks were livid. That exchange did take place but was only made known publicly long after. Fidel Castro was also livid and said Cuba would never agree to U.N. inspection to verify that all “offensive” missiles had been removed.

All-in-all October 23 was not a good start to the administration’s new policy. It would get worse.

"Police: Costumed Pa. Girl Mistaken for Skunk, Shot."

Headline of the Day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

On October 22, 1962 President John F. Kennedy asked the three American television networks for airtime to broadcast a nationwide address that evening. Look at the president’s eyes in these stills from the broadcast:

JFK had a marvelous sense of humor and a twinkle came quickly to his eyes when he was tickled.  No twinkle here. Neither is there paternal benevolence toward his American audience, here shoppers:

The president was not speaking just to, or even mainly to, his “fellow citizens.”  He was speaking directly to Nikita Khrushchev and his eyes were deadly serious.

Nikita Khrushchev was not an intelligent man. Stalin used to tap him on his forehead with a pipe and say “My little Marxist. There’s nothing there.” As some people who are not very intelligent sometimes do Khrushchev decided what to make of a man by “sizing him up,” “looking him in the eye.” It’s the dullard’s shortcut. Human beings are complex things; it is rare that one of us can “size up” another and really know him or her in just formal meetings, even one-on-one meetings. We are always in some way “on” in meetings and “on” isn’t “all.” President George W. Bush made the same mistake with Vladimir Putin. “I’ve looked in this man’s eyes” Bush said giving his imprimatur to the former KGB apparatchik. Khrushchev “sized up” Kennedy in their only meeting in Vienna in 1961 as a pretty-boy dilettante. Lyndon Johnson thought the same of Kennedy when he first announced for the presidency. And Kennedy was. But that was not all he was, as both Khrushchev and Johnson found out. Khrushchev, like Johnson, was a bully; he attempted to bully the “soft” tanned pretty-boy he saw sitting across from him in Vienna. At parting Kennedy said “Mr. General-Secretary it’s going to be a long cold winter.” Khrushchev thought he could sneak the missiles into Cuba and thought Kennedy too “soft” to do anything about it.

President Kennedy began speaking to Nikita Khrushchev, the American people, and the world, at 7 pm:

Good evening my fellow citizens:

This government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our decision on a course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in fullest detail.

The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations. Several of them include medium range ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles. Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington, D.C., the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City, or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America, or in the Caribbean area.

Additional sites not yet completed appear to be designed for intermediate range ballistic missiles--capable of traveling more than twice as far--and thus capable of striking most of the major cities in the Western Hemisphere, ranging as far north as Hudson Bay, Canada, and as far south as Lima, Peru. In addition, jet bombers, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, are now being uncrated and assembled in Cuba, while the necessary air bases are being prepared.

This urgent transformation of Cuba into an important strategic base--by the presence of these large, long range, and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction--constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americas, in flagrant and deliberate defiance of the Rio Pact of 1947, the traditions of this Nation and hemisphere, the joint resolution of the 87th Congress, the Charter of the United Nations, and my own public warnings to the Soviets on September 4 and 13. This action also contradicts the repeated assurances of Soviet spokesmen, both publicly and privately delivered, that the arms buildup in Cuba would retain its original defensive character, and that the Soviet Union had no need or desire to station strategic missiles on the territory of any other nation.

The size of this undertaking makes clear that it has been planned for some months. Yet only last month, after I had made clear the distinction between any introduction of ground-to-ground missiles and the existence of defensive antiaircraft missiles, the Soviet Government publicly stated on September 11, and I quote, "the armaments and military equipment sent to Cuba are designed exclusively for defensive purposes," that, and I quote the Soviet Government, "there is no need for the Soviet Government to shift its weapons . . . for a retaliatory blow to any other country, for instance Cuba," and that, and I quote their government, "the Soviet Union has so powerful rockets to carry these nuclear warheads that there is no need to search for sites for them beyond the boundaries of the Soviet Union." That statement was false.

Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko told me in my office that he was instructed to make it clear once again, as he said his government had already done, that Soviet assistance to Cuba, and I quote, "pursued solely the purpose of contributing to the defense capabilities of Cuba," that, and I quote him, "training by Soviet specialists of Cuban nationals in handling defensive armaments was by no means offensive, and if it were otherwise," Mr. Gromyko went on, "the Soviet Government would never become involved in rendering such assistance." That statement also was false.

Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace.

For many years both the Soviet Union and the United States, recognizing this fact, have deployed strategic nuclear weapons with great care, never upsetting the precarious status quo which insured that these weapons would not be used in the absence of some vital challenge. Our own strategic missiles have never been transferred to the territory of any other nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception; and our history--unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War II--demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any other nation or impose our system upon its people. Nevertheless, American citizens have become adjusted to living daily on the Bull's-eye of Soviet missiles located inside the U.S.S.R. or in submarines.

In that sense, missiles in Cuba add to an already clear and present danger--although it should be noted the nations of Latin America have never previously been subjected to a potential nuclear threat.

But this secret, swift, and extraordinary buildup of Communist missiles--in an area well known to have a special and historical relationship to the United States and the nations of the Western Hemisphere, in violation of Soviet assurances, and in defiance of American and hemispheric policy--this sudden, clandestine decision to station strategic weapons for the first time outside of Soviet soil--is a deliberately provocative and unjustified change in the status quo which cannot be accepted by this country, if our courage and our commitments are ever to be trusted again by either friend or foe.

The 1930's taught us a clear lesson: aggressive conduct, if allowed to go unchecked and unchallenged ultimately leads to war. This nation is opposed to war. We are also true to our word. Our unswerving objective, therefore, must be to prevent the use of these missiles against this or any other country, and to secure their withdrawal or elimination from the Western Hemisphere.

Our policy has been one of patience and restraint, as befits a peaceful and powerful nation, which leads a worldwide alliance. We have been determined not to be diverted from our central concerns by mere irritants and fanatics. But now further action is required--and it is under way; and these actions may only be the beginning. We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth--but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.

Acting, therefore, in the defense of our own security and of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the resolution of the Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

First: To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.

Second: I have directed the continued and increased close surveillance of Cuba and its military buildup. The foreign ministers of the OAS, in their communique of October 6, rejected secrecy in such matters in this hemisphere. Should these offensive military preparations continue, thus increasing the threat to the hemisphere, further action will be justified. I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the hazards to all concerned in continuing this threat will be recognized.

Third: It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.

Fourth: As a necessary military precaution, I have reinforced our base at Guantanamo, evacuated today the dependents of our personnel there, and ordered additional military units to be on a standby alert basis.

Fifth: We are calling tonight for an immediate meeting of the Organ of Consultation under the Organization of American States, to consider this threat to hemispheric security and to invoke articles 6 and 8 of the Rio Treaty in support of all necessary action. The United Nations Charter allows for regional security arrangements--and the nations of this hemisphere decided long ago against the military presence of outside powers. Our other allies around the world have also been alerted.

Sixth: Under the Charter of the United Nations, we are asking tonight that an emergency meeting of the Security Council be convoked without delay to take action against this latest Soviet threat to world peace. Our resolution will call for the prompt dismantling and withdrawal of all offensive weapons in Cuba, under the supervision of U.N. observers, before the quarantine can be lifted.

Seventh and finally: I call upon Chairman Khrushchev to halt and eliminate this clandestine, reckless and provocative threat to world peace and to stable relations between our two nations. I call upon him further to abandon this course of world domination, and to join in an historic effort to end the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man. He has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction--by returning to his government's own words that it had no need to station missiles outside its own territory, and withdrawing these weapons from Cuba--by refraining from any action which will widen or deepen the present crisis--and then by participating in a search for peaceful and permanent solutions.

This Nation is prepared to present its case against the Soviet threat to peace, and our own proposals for a peaceful world, at any time and in any forum--in the OAS, in the United Nations, or in any other meeting that could be useful--without limiting our freedom of action. We have in the past made strenuous efforts to limit the spread of nuclear weapons. We have proposed the elimination of all arms and military bases in a fair and effective disarmament treaty. We are prepared to discuss new proposals for the removal of tensions on both sides--including the possibility of a genuinely independent Cuba, free to determine its own destiny. We have no wish to war with the Soviet Union--for we are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace with all other peoples.

But it is difficult to settle or even discuss these problems in an atmosphere of intimidation. That is why this latest Soviet threat--or any other threat which is made either independently or in response to our actions this week--must and will be met with determination. Any hostile move anywhere in the world against the safety and freedom of peoples to whom we are committed--including in particular the brave people of West Berlin--will be met by whatever action is needed.

Finally, I want to say a few words to the captive people of Cuba, to whom this speech is being directly carried by special radio facilities. I speak to you as a friend, as one who knows of your deep attachment to your fatherland, as one who shares your aspirations for liberty and justice for all. And I have watched and the American people have watched with deep sorrow how your nationalist revolution was betrayed-- and how your fatherland fell under foreign domination. Now your leaders are no longer Cuban leaders inspired by Cuban ideals. They are puppets and agents of an international conspiracy which has turned Cuba against your friends and neighbors in the Americas--and turned it into the first Latin American country to become a target for nuclear war--the first Latin American country to have these weapons on its soil.

These new weapons are not in your interest. They contribute nothing to your peace and well-being. They can only undermine it. But this country has no wish to cause you to suffer or to impose any system upon you. We know that your lives and land are being used as pawns by those who deny your freedom.

Many times in the past, the Cuban people have risen to throw out tyrants who destroyed their liberty. And I have no doubt that most Cubans today look forward to the time when they will be truly free--free from foreign domination, free to choose their own leaders, free to select their own system, free to own their own land, free to speak and write and worship without fear or degradation. And then shall Cuba be welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the associations of this hemisphere.

My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead--months in which our patience and our will be tested--months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are--but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high--and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right- -not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

Thank you and good night. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I am of that generation of Americans that received instruction in school to “duck and cover” to protect ourselves in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack. At the height of the crisis, President Kennedy was later to coolly estimate, the chances of a full-scale nuclear exchange had been "about one in three." I was also taught as a Christian to “love your enemies” and so nightly I prayed for Nikita Khrushchev’s soul.

On October 21, 1962 ExComm met throughout most of the day deliberating on two options: air strikes against Cuba to take out the Soviet missiles or a blockade. President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, shared a mistrust of military advice. The Joint Chiefs had initially, and unanimously, recommended a full-scale invasion of Cuba. In one of those earlier ExComm meetings Robert Kennedy had passed a note to his brother “Now I know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor.” The idea of a “sneak attack,” a “preemptive strike,” stuck in JFK’s craw, sticks in President Obama’s craw now on Iran. It is just not the American way of doing things. This, and the logistics of an invasion, led JFK to reject the Joint Chief’s recommendation. The Tojo analogy applied even more directly to the air strike option and during the October 21 meeting the weight of opinion within ExComm settled decisively on the concept of a blockade.

"Concept" because, as the president was informed, “blockade” had specific meaning in international law, it meant all ingress would be stopped--trade, foodstuffs, medical supplies, in addition to missiles and missile parts. A blockade is what the Soviet Union did to Berlin in 1948. It was also an act of war under international law, requiring a declaration by Congress. Thus the concept of a blockade evolved on October 21 to the practice of establishing a “quarantine” of Cuba with the U.S. Navy acting as a customs agent, stopping and searching Soviet ships, interdicting military cargo, permitting non-military equipment to pass.

The decision to “quarantine” was made. The American public had no idea of any of this, no idea that a “Cuban missile crisis” even existed. They would be informed on October 22. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

The boy’s mother finished dressing her son for school in front of the television. He stood, she sat, putting on his coat. The boy noticed her distraction, her eyes were on the television and she did not speak, her brow was knitted and she leaned forward, zipping up his coat and intently watching as the announcer said “World War III could begin at any moment.” Snug against the October morning chill the boy walked the two blocks to school.

That was fifty years ago.  We are just into the fortnight that in 1962 brought the United States and the Soviet Union closer to nuclear war than ever, before or since.  On October 16, President Kennedy was informed of the reconnaissance discovery of Soviet missiles being installed in Cuba.

That evening ExComm, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council met. The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously favored an invasion of Cuba. The president and Secretary of Defense McNamara demurred.

On October 18 the president met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko but did not reveal what he knew about the missiles in Cuba.

On October 19 reconnaissance flights showed four fully operational launch sites in Cuba but ExComm was now split between a full-scale invasion and a blockade.

Friday, October 19, 2012

It becomes our disagreeable duty to report that the photograph previously published here as that of the Texas Tech women's swim team is a FAKE. Texas Tech does not, like, have a women's swim team. The title is hereby awarded to Lenoir-Rhyne. Swine counterfeiters, impugning the modesty of Texas Tech women. 
That will conclude our popular series "Women's College Swim Teams."  By acclamation Texas Tech wins.
Lenoir-Rhyne, 2010.
Continuing our popular series "Women's College Swim Teams," North Carolina State, 1987.

I invoke the legal doctrine of "inevitable discovery" on the swim team photo. I googled Texas Tech and it was the fourth image. 
The Texas Tech swim team.

That'll keep me going for the rest of the day. 

"Ask not what your toilet can do for you, ask what your shit can do for the toilet."

"Making Shit Better."

"From here, it is possible to shit without blaming the toilet."
Our friend Weimin Mo sent an email earlier this week with the subject title "Candy Crowley." This was the text:

Hi Ben, 

For those who blame Candy Crowley for Romney's losing the second Presidential debate, there is a great Chinese saying -- "f you can't shit, blame the toilet."


Ha!  Man, Chinese have some great sayings. That should be a college motto somewhere. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We continue our researches into institutions of higher learning in the US&A by profiling Texas Tech University.

Texas Tech, originally the Texas Technological College, was created after a "Call" went out for a school in west Texas. Lubbock (rhymes with buttock), home of Judge Tom Head,

was chosen as locale for the new institution of higher learning beating out rival municipalities Floydada, Plainview, and Sweetwater.

Texas Tech opened in 1925 with concentration in four fields, the field of Home Economics, the field of Engineering, the field of Liberal Arts, and the fields of Agriculture.

By the 1930's they had a library.

The Lubbock campus was called "the most beautiful west of the Mississippi until you get to Stanford" by James Michener.

One of the best-known and most beloved structures on campus is a statue of Will Rogers riding his horse "Soapsuds." Legend has it that when the statue was installed "Soapsuds" hindquarters pointed in the direction of the entrance to the university :o  That was corrected by scholars in the field of Engineering who rotated "Soapsuds" 23 degrees to the northwest so that his hindquarters pointed toward the home of rival Texas A&M.J

From an initial student body of 914 in 1925 Texas Tech has grown to a current enrollment of over 32,000.  The addition of the library in the 1930's only enhanced the school's academic renown and today it boasts impressive rankings in the US&A and worldwide:

University rankings
U.S. News & World Report[47]160
Washington Monthly[48]215
Times[50]Not Ranked

Lubbock has gone from a wind-swept west Texas latrine hole to an erudite and sophisticated "college town" where you can now purchase a copy of the New York Times and listen to National Public Radio.  The Goin' Band from Raiderland captures the vibrancy of  life on campus

and student freedom of expression has been expanded from the single "free speech gazebo"

to the entire campus since 2003 by federal court order.

Drawing on its roots in the soil, reaching for the stars, Texas Tech has partnered with NASA to "perfect" methods to grow vegetables in space and to recycle space wastewater.  Texas Tech has educated young people who have enriched life from west Texas, east Texas, north Texas, and south Texas, people like John Hinckley, Jr.

 (1973-1980) who have met United States presidents and who may yet become United States presidents. From here, it's possible.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Continuing our popular series "College Mottos" the University of Southern California’s is Palmam qui meruit ferat, which is Latin, which is what normal college mottos are, which I took two years of in High School, which therefore I can translate myself. “That ferret…meruit, meruit, what the hell could that mean…”That ferret…something…on the hand.”  “A ferret in the hand is worth two in the meruit."  I’m stumped, I give up.

“Let whoever earns the palm bear it.”

Ah yes, of course, well it was the first two years of High School…“Let whoever earns the palm bear it?”  That is not a google-translate abortion either, that’s from Wikipedia. What could that mean?  I don't know.

Monday, October 15, 2012

You know how Penn State's motto is the ironical "Making life better?"  So, that got me thinking:

West Virginia University: "Add to your faith virtue and to virtue knowledge."  Does it have to be in that order?  What if you add knowledge to faith first and then add in virtue? What do you get, a mountaineer or something? This is the Betty Crocker school of mottos: in a 6-inch bowl pour faith, add 1 cup virtue and a pinch of knowledge. Just a pinch since WVU is the number 1 party school in America and admits 87% of those who apply.

Texas Tech University: "From here it's possible." I guess in vagueness there is depth. From here it's possible to see Austin? They don't mean that.

Stanford (technically the Leland Stanford Junior University (I did not make that up.)):  "Die Luft der Freiheit weht" (I did not make that up). That is German, nein?  "Hi, is this Stanford? Yes, could you tell me why the F%$# your motto is in German? You don't know, uh-huh. What does it mean, do you know that?  'The wind of freedom blows?'  You put that in German?  Well, that blows.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nobel Peace Prize.

Didja ever think they would give it to Obama? Think about that. Who'da thunk that?  They can think a lot of things in Norway. This was not the most unthinkable. Obama was unthinkable. 

Nobel Peace Prize.

Unusual, yes. "Thinking outside the box," yes.

Thinking outside the box the thought here is it's a great pick. Europe has been peaceful for 60 years, that has to be its record. The E.U. has contributed to that. War within Europe is unthinkable now. Of all the things you can think that is not among them. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't Speak*

A Chinese writer has won the Nobel Prize for literature. Mo Yan, the pen name of Guan Moye, is the author of Red SorghumThe Garlic Ballads, The Republic of Wine, and Life and Death are Wearing Me Out among books. The Swedish Academy praised Mr. Mo's work for its "hallucinatory realism" and compared him to William Faulkner. Official China is enraptured by this Nobel. It was not enraptured by Liu Xiaobo's 2010 Peace Nobel, diplomatically strong arming host Norway as well as other countries not to send representatives to the ceremony.  Whatever the merits of Mo Yan's work, this award has the appearance of being a "make-up" for Liu's Nobel. Mo is not considered a social critic of the Chinese regime. In 2010 he and other writers hand-copied Mao Zedong's Yan'an Talks on Literature and Art which argued for putting  same in service to the party.   He has said "censorship is great for literature creation" since the writer has to write more imaginatively.

* The meaning of "mo yan" in both Chinese and English. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Penis Eruption*

Gerald Arthur "Jerry" Sandusky also got time yesterday, a minimum of 30 years in the gray bar hotel. Sandusky, the former assistant football coach for sexual abuse at the Pennsylvania State University, was convicted in June of multiple counts of child molestation.

More importantly for Penn State people the football team is on a four game winning streak. They drew 95,000 fanatics to their last game.

* The meaning of the closest translation of "Penn State" in Russian.

Vagina Eruption*

A Russian judge has ordered that Yekaterina Samutsevich, above left, be given a suspended sentence and released from custody because she was not in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior at the time the Pussy Riot demonstration occurred. The judge affirmed the two year prison sentences for Maria Alyokhina, center, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, right. I hope the Russian people prevent this. Russian women's prisons are supposed to be worse than men's.

* The meaning of the closest translation of "Pussy Riot" in Russian.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Mitt Romney.

Monday, October 08, 2012

The "some confederate" who said "The Institute will be heard from today" was Stonewall Jackson. He was some confederate. 

Romney's foreign policy speech at VMI.

From the Atlanta Journal Constitution, with pithy commentary (I have deleted the annoying "thank you's" in the beginning).

Of all the VMI ["The Institute will be HEARD from today," said some confederate in the Civil War . Sorry.]graduates, none is more distinguished than George Marshall—the Chief of Staff of the Army who became Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense, who helped to vanquish fascism and then planned Europe’s rescue from despair. His commitment to peace was born of his direct knowledge of the awful costs and consequences of war.

General Marshall once said, “The only way human beings can win a war is to prevent it.” [Bullshit. That is not pithy.] Those words were true in his time—and they still echo in ours.

Last month, our nation was attacked again.  A U.S. Ambassador and three of our fellow Americans are dead—murdered in Benghazi, Libya.  Among the dead were three veterans.  All of them were fine men, on a mission of peace and friendship to a nation that dearly longs for both.  President Obama has said that Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues represented the best of America.  And he is right.  We all mourn their loss.

The attacks against us in Libya were not an isolated incident. [Here, here.] They were accompanied by anti-American riots in nearly two dozen other countries, mostly in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia.  Our embassies have been attacked.  Our flag has been burned.  Many of our citizens have been threatened and driven from their overseas homes by vicious mobs, shouting “Death to America.” These mobs hoisted the black banner of Islamic extremism over American embassies on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

As the dust settles, as the murdered are buried, Americans are asking how this happened, how the threats we face have grown so much worse, [That's not true.] and what this calls on America to do.  These are the right questions.  And I have come here today to offer a larger perspective on these tragic recent events—and to share with you, and all Americans, my vision for a freer, more prosperous, and more peaceful world. 

The attacks on America last month should not be seen as random acts.[You just said that.]  They are expressions of a larger struggle that is playing out across the broader Middle East [Do you have ADD?]—a region that is now in the midst of the most profound upheaval in a century.  And the fault lines of this struggle can be seen clearly in Benghazi itself.

The attack on our Consulate in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012 was likely the work of forces affiliated with those that attacked our homeland on September 11th, 2001. This latest assault cannot be blamed on a reprehensible video insulting Islam, [Applause]despite the Administration’s attempts to convince us of that for so long. [Here, here.]  No, as the Administration has finally conceded, these attacks were the deliberate work of terrorists who use violence to impose their dark ideology on others, [Hmmm. "Dark ideology."  Islam? terrorists? who does he mean?  "Impose?"  I don't think Islam wants to convert the rest of us, they want to kill us, Christians and Jews and Hindus and non-Muslims.] especially women and girls; ["Okay, I have to put women and girls in here someplace because I'm losing the female vote."] who are fighting to control much of the Middle East today; and who seek to wage perpetual war on the West. 

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful.  After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. [Why did he switch from "terrorists" to extremists?"]  They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.”  They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound.  Then they burned it to the ground.  As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

This is the struggle that is now shaking the entire Middle East to its foundation. [Now he switches from one country, Libya, above, to the "entire Middle East."  Wrong.  In Libya, the enemies of "darkness" won, in Egypt "darkness" won.]  It is the struggle of millions and millions of people—men and women, young and old, Muslims, Christians and non-believers—all of whom have had enough of the darkness. [Now he involves Christians and non-believers (not Jews). Wrong. The "struggle" in Egypt, which is in the Middle East, was, first of all it "was," not "is;" The struggle in Egypt is over, the dark Muslim Brotherhood won, and it was overwhelmingly an intra-Muslim struggle; Very few Christians and Atheists, and very few Muslim liberals, who lost the election.] It is a struggle for the dignity that comes with freedom, and opportunity, and the right to live under laws of our own making.  It is a struggle that has unfolded under green banners in the streets of Iran[Iran?  Umm, the forces of darkness won that one in 1979, and again in 2009.] in the public squares of Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and in the fights for liberty in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Libya, and now Syria.  In short, it is a struggle between liberty and tyranny, justice and oppression, hope and despair. [No. It was a struggle between Islam as it is preached and practiced today by the majority and the rest, not all of the rest being lovers of "liberty, justice, and hope."]

We have seen this struggle before.  It would be familiar to George Marshall. [Yes, Islam as it is preached and practiced today is a Nazi-like ideology.] In his time, in the ashes of world war, another critical part of the world was torn between democracy and despotism.  Fortunately, we had leaders of courage and vision, both Republicans and Democrats, who knew that America had to support friends who shared our values, and prevent today’s crises from becoming tomorrow’s conflicts.

Statesmen like Marshall rallied our nation to rise to its responsibilities as the leader of the free world.  We helped our friends to build and sustain free societies and free markets.[Is he going to propose a "Marshall Plan" for Islam?]  We defended our friends, and ourselves, from our common enemies.  We led.  And though the path was long and uncertain, the thought of war in Europe is as inconceivable today as it seemed inevitable in the last century.

This is what makes America exceptional:  It is not just the character of our country—it is the record of our accomplishments.  America has a proud history of strong, confident, principled global leadership—a history that has been written by patriots of both parties.  That is America at its best.  And it is the standard by which we measure every President, as well as anyone who wishes to be President. Unfortunately, this President’s policies have not been equal to our best examples of world leadership. [True.]  And nowhere is this more evident than in the Middle East. [True.]

I want to be very clear: [You sound like Obama now.] The blame for the murder of our people in Libya, and the attacks on our embassies in so many other countries, lies solely with those who carried them out—no one else.  But it is the responsibility of our President to use America’s great power to shape history—not to lead from behind, leaving our destiny at the mercy of events.  Unfortunately, that is exactly where we find ourselves in the Middle East under President Obama.

The relationship between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Israel, our closest ally in the region, has suffered great strains. The President explicitly stated that his goal was to put “daylight” between the United States and Israel.  [Since "daylight" is in quotes I assume Obama said that.  I don't know what the context was.] And he has succeeded.  This is a dangerous situation that has set back the hope of peace in the Middle East and emboldened our mutual adversaries, especially Iran. [What about those Young Iranians for Freedom you were just talking about, Governor?]

Iran today has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability.  It has never posed a greater danger to our friends, our allies, and to us.  And it has never acted less deterred by America, as was made clear last year when Iranian agents plotted to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in our nation’s capital. [Ooh, forgot about that. Good point. I called for playing the Beach Boys hit "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb-bomb Iran" then too.] And yet, when millions of Iranians took to the streets in June of 2009, when they demanded freedom from a cruel regime that threatens the world, when they cried out, “Are you with us, or are you with them?”—the American President was silent. [ They said "Are you with us, or are you with them?"  Really, the Iranian Federalist Society members "cried out" to Obama and asked that?  Huh. I don't remember that. Who amongst us heard that? And Obama was "silent," to these cries?  Bad Obama. (This pithy commentary is being written in real time as I read the speech so I have no idea if Romney says later in the speech what he would have done in 2009.)]

Across the greater Middle East, as the joy born from the downfall of dictators has given way to the painstaking work of building capable security forces, and growing economies, and developing democratic institutions, the President has failed to offer the tangible support that our partners want and need. [That is absolutely not true. Obama sided with the "street," during "Arab Spring." He helped push Mubarak out in Egypt.]

In Iraq, the costly gains made by our troops are being eroded by rising violence, a resurgent Al-Qaeda, the weakening of democracy in Baghdad, and the rising influence of Iran. And yet, America’s ability to influence events for the better in Iraq has been undermined by the abrupt withdrawal of our entire troop presence.[Not true. In 2008 President Bush signed an agreement with the Iraqi government to have all American forces withdrawn by December 31, 2011. Obama withdrew the last of them on December 18, 2011.] The President tried—and failed—to secure a responsible and gradual drawdown that would have better secured our gains. [Absolutely not true.]

The President has failed to lead in Syria, where more than 30,000 men, women, and children have been massacred by the Assad regime over the past 20 months. [So does he propose later in this speech how he, Governor Romney, would "lead in Syria?"] Violent extremists are flowing into the fight.  Our ally Turkey has been attacked.  And the conflict threatens stability in the region.

America can take pride in the blows that our military and intelligence professionals have inflicted on Al-Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the killing of Osama bin Laden.  These are real achievements won at a high cost.  But Al-Qaeda remains a strong force in Yemen and Somalia, in Libya and other parts of North Africa, in Iraq, and now in Syria. [Yes, it does.] And other extremists have gained ground across the region.  Drones and the modern instruments of war are important tools in our fight, but they are no substitute for a national security strategy for the Middle East.[We absolutely need a national security strategy in the Middle East, toward Islam generally. Since Bush43 it has been all tactics, no strategy.]

The President is fond of saying that “The tide of war is receding.”  And I want to believe him as much as anyone.  But when we look at the Middle East today—with Iran closer than ever to nuclear weapons capability, with the conflict in Syria threatening to destabilize the region, with violent extremists on the march, and with an American Ambassador and three others dead likely at the hands of Al-Qaeda affiliates— it is clear that the risk of conflict in the region is higher now than when the President took office.[That is true, the region is more dangerous today than when Obama was sworn in. Is it so Governor, because of Obama, because of things he has and has not done?  You going to tell us how?  And how President Romney would have done it differently, would do it differently now?]

I know the President hopes for a safer, freer, and a more prosperous Middle East allied with the United States. I share this hope.  But hope is not a strategy.  We cannot support our friends and defeat our enemies [Who, in your opinion Governor, are our "enemies" in the Middle East? Name them.] in the Middle East when our words are not backed up by deeds, [Examples, please.] when our defense spending is being arbitrarily and deeply cut, [Not true.] when we have no trade agenda to speak of, [Our "trade agenda" with Muslim Arabia? What should it be, lower the prices on locusts and dates?]and the perception of our strategy is not one of partnership, but of passivity. [Who should we partner with, Governor?]

The greater tragedy of it all is that we are missing an historic opportunity to win new friends who share our values in the Middle East—friends who are fighting for their own futures against the very same violent extremists, and evil tyrants, and angry mobs who seek to harm us. [Ahh yes, the "silent majority" of Republicans and Democrats in Muslim Arabia.] Unfortunately, so many of these people who could be our friends feel that our President is indifferent to their quest for freedom and dignity. [Absolutely not true.] As one Syrian woman put it, “We will not forget that you forgot about us.” [What would you do, Governor?]

It is time to change course in the Middle East. [Okay, here we go.] That course should be organized around these bedrock principles:  America must have confidence in our cause, [Wow. That's deep. We should have "confidence." That's a deep "bedrock principle."  Yes, I can see the change of course coming now.] clarity in our purpose ["Confidence," "clarity,"] and resolve in our might. [And resolve. C.C.R. Creedence Clearwater Revival!  C.C.R.! C.C.R.! C.C.R.!] No friend of America will question our commitment to support them [Because we have "Confidence!"]… no enemy that attacks America will question our resolve to defeat them [Because we have "Resolve!]… and no one anywhere, friend or foe, will doubt America’s capability to back up our words. [Because we have...Capability!]

I will put the leaders of Iran on notice that the United States and our friends and allies will prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons capability. [Good. Didn't Obama do that in his (2012) U.N. speech?] I will not hesitate to impose new sanctions on Iran, and will tighten the sanctions we currently have. [You want to tell us how or no? No? Alright then.] I will restore the permanent presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf region [The first specific. Sounds good here. Permanent aircraft task forces!]—and work with Israel to increase our military assistance and coordination. ["To increase our military assistance and coordination." We're still on one specific.] For the sake of peace, we must make clear to Iran through actions—not just words—that their nuclear pursuit will not be tolerated.

I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security—the world must never see any daylight between our two nations.[Is he being clever here? "the world must never see." Is he saying it's alright to have "daylight" between Israel and America but just not let the world see? He is not saying "there must not be daylight between Israel and America."]

I will deepen our critical cooperation with our partners in the Gulf. [Oh my God.]

And I will roll back President Obama’s deep and arbitrary cuts to our national defense that would devastate our military. I will make the critical defense investments that we need to remain secure. ["Critical cooperation" and "critical defense investments." Wow.]  The decisions we make today will determine our ability to protect America tomorrow.  [This is so vapid it is painful.] The first purpose of a strong military is to prevent war.

The size of our Navy is at levels not seen since 1916. [I assume that is true. Did that all happen under Obama. What level was the Navy at under Bush43? 1926 I bet at least.] I will restore our Navy to the size needed to fulfill our missions by building 15 ships per year, including three submarines. [15 and 3, those are specific.] I will implement effective missile defenses to protect against threats. [...]And on this, there will be no flexibility with Vladimir Putin.[No Flexibility! No Flexibility! Hiss, Poot-poot] And I will call on our NATO allies to keep the greatest military alliance in history strong by honoring their commitment to each devote 2 percent of their GDP to security spending. Today, only 3 of the 28 NATO nations meet this benchmark.[He will "call on" them. Okay.]

I will make further reforms to our foreign assistance to create incentives for good governance, free enterprise, and greater trade, in the Middle East and beyond. [That's okay, you don't have to say how.] I will organize all assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one official with responsibility and accountability to prioritize efforts and produce results. [I guess a Middle East Assistance czar.]  I will rally our friends and allies to match our generosity with theirs. [He will "rally our friends and allies." Oh my God.]  And I will make it clear to the recipients of our aid that, in return for our material support, they must meet the responsibilities of every decent modern government—to respect the rights of all of their citizens, including women and minorities… to ensure space for civil society, a free media, political parties, and an independent judiciary… and to abide by their international commitments to protect our diplomats and our property. [He will make all that clear.]

I will champion free trade and restore it as a critical element of our strategy, both in the Middle East and across the world. ["critical cooperation," "critical defense investment," "critical element."] The President has not signed one new free trade agreement in the past four years.  I will reverse that failure. [With who? whom, sorry China? Kiribati? They have good coconuts.]  I will work with nations around the world that are committed to the principles of free enterprise, expanding existing relationships and establishing new ones. [omg]

I will support friends across the Middle East who share our values, but need help defending them and their sovereignty against our common enemies. [...]

In Libya, I will support the Libyan people’s efforts to forge a lasting government that represents all of them, and I will vigorously pursue the terrorists who attacked our consulate in Benghazi and killed Americans.  

In Egypt, I will use our influence—including clear conditions on our aid—to urge the new government to represent all Egyptians, to build democratic institutions, and to maintain its peace treaty with Israel. And we must persuade our friends and allies to place similar stipulations on their aid. ["clear conditions on aid," "to urge." So he could say he accomplished this--and continue giving Egypt aid--as long as he "urged" Egypt blah-blah-blah, even if Egypt didn't do the blah-blah-blah.]

In Syria, I will work with our partners [Nothing unilateral. No American "leadership" here.] to identify and organize ["identify and organize." It's like a get out the vote effort.]  those members of the opposition who share our values and ensure they obtain the arms they need to defeat Assad’s tanks, helicopters, and fighter jets. [So no direct intervention in Syria, he would give the rebels arms.] Iran is sending arms to Assad because they know his downfall would be a strategic defeat for them.  We should be working no less vigorously with our international partners to support the many Syrians who would deliver that defeat to Iran—rather than sitting on the sidelines.  It is essential that we develop influence with those forces in Syria that will one day lead a country that sits at the heart of the Middle East

And in Afghanistan, I will pursue a real and successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.  [What's Obama's timeframe?  I don't even know. I guess it's sooner than that. So Romney wants us in Afghanistan longer. Okay.] President Obama would have you believe that anyone who disagrees with his decisions in Afghanistan is arguing for endless war. [Boo Obama.] But the route to more war – and to potential attacks here at home – is a politically timed retreat that abandons the Afghan people to the same extremists who ravaged their country and used it to launch the attacks of 9/11.  I will evaluate conditions on the ground and weigh the best advice of our military commanders. ["evaluate" and "weigh." Obama doesn't do that, he "weighs" and "evaluates."] And I will affirm that my duty is not to my political prospects, but to the security of the nation.[YEAH!!!!!!!]

Finally, I will recommit America to the goal of a democratic, prosperous Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.  ["Recommit" means there is an existing "commitment."] On this vital issue, the President has failed, [See, Obama merely "committed." Obama  "FAILED" because he didn't "recommit." Only Mitt can "recommit."  "Recommit with Mitt."] and what should be a negotiation process has devolved into a series of heated disputes at the United Nations. In this old conflict, as in every challenge we face in the Middle East, only a new President will bring the chance to begin anew.[My God, he actually said it. "Only a new president," him--he--can "recommit. The "old" president can only "commit."  Oh my God.]

There is a longing for American leadership in the Middle East—and it is not unique to that region.  It is broadly felt by America’s friends and allies in other parts of the world as well— in Europe, where Putin’s Russia casts a long shadow over young democracies, [Hmmm. "A long shadow."  Is Poot-poot threatening to re-enslave Eastern Europe? Too bad, I'm for ending NATO.]and where our oldest allies have been told we are “pivoting” away from them [Obama's "pivot" was away from the Middle East, not from Europe. We should pivot back to the Atlantic. Where does Mitt want to pivot? Can he pivot?  Mitt, can you pivot?  Show me, pivot, right now.] … in Asia and across the Pacific, where China’s recent assertiveness is sending chills through the region [I'm glad Romney's just talking about a "longing for American leadership" here and not, like, war with China.] … and here in our own hemisphere, where our neighbors in Latin America want to resist the failed ideology of Hugo Chavez [Venezuela just reelected him.] and the Castro brothers and deepen ties with the United States on trade, energy, and security.  But in all of these places, just as in the Middle East, the question is asked:  “Where does America stand?” [Who is asking that?]

I know many Americans are asking a different question: “Why us?” [Who is asking that?] I know many Americans are asking whether our country today—with our ailing economy, and our massive debt, and after 11 years at war—is still capable of leading. [To the "many" of my fellow Americans who are asking that question, could you please identify yourselves?]

I believe that if America does not lead, others will—others who do not share our interests and our values—and the world will grow darker, [and darker and darker. Fade to black.]for our friends and for us.  America’s security and the cause of freedom cannot afford four more years like the last four years.  I am running for President because I believe the leader of the free world has a duty, to our citizens, and to our friends everywhere, to use America’s great influence—wisely, with solemnity and without false pride, but also firmly and actively—to shape events in ways that secure our interests, further our values, prevent conflict, and make the world better—not perfect, but better. [Better Not Perfect! Better Not Perfect!]

Our friends and allies across the globe do not want less American leadership.  They want more—more of our moral support, more of our security cooperation, more of our trade, and more of our assistance in building free societies and thriving economies. ["leadership" ="moral support" + "security cooperation" + "more trade" + "more of our assistance." Really, that's what leadership is?] So many people across the world still look to America as the best hope of humankind.  So many people still have faith in America.  We must show them that we still have faith in ourselves [ That's the "Confidence"]—that we have the will [That's the "Resolve."] and the wisdom [That's the...wisdom.] to revive our stagnant economy, to roll back our unsustainable debt, to reform our government, to reverse the catastrophic cuts now threatening our national defense, to renew the sources of our great power, and to lead [i.e. moral support, blah-blah-blah.]the course of human events.

Sir Winston Churchill once said of George Marshall:  “He … always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement, and disillusion.”  That is the role our friends want America to play again.  And it is the role we must play. [We-must-do-it!  DOWN with defeatism, DOWN with discouragement, DOWN with disillusion...ment! UP with VICTORY, UP with COURAGE, UP with ILLUSION!]

The 21st century can and must be an American century.[It-must-be.] It began with terror, war, and economic calamity. It is our duty [It-is.] to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity. 

The torch America carries is one of decency and hope. It is not America’s torch alone. But it is America’s duty – and honor – to hold it high enough that all the world can see its light.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. [There aren't enough flags behind you on the stage. Get some more flags.]

Above, Break Dancer and Ballerina, line over ink wash by Dr. Weimin Mo. Below, Musicians and Dancers. Damn, wish I had some artistic talent.


Friday, October 05, 2012

"This Republican Economy."

Numbers, numbers, numbers.

It is the first Friday of the month, jobs reporting day, and the most important number is 7.8%. That is the official unemployment rate in the US&A: it does not include those permanently out of the work force because, e.g. they couldn't find work, a bit of legerdemain that under reports the jobless. Whatever, that's the number and it represents the first time the unemployment rate has fallen below 8% in the Obama presidency. This will be taken as political good news for the president although it is the Republican Congress that should get at least partial credit or partial blame as it is Congress that disposes and the president who proposes.

More numbers:

114,000. The number of new jobs added in September.
181,000. The new, revised number for jobs added in July, up 40,000 from the estimate at the time.
142,000. The new, revised number for jobs added in August, up 46,000 from the estimate at the time.
0. Good explanations why the revised figures differ so substantially from the original.
0. Difference the immediately-above makes.

Image: Peoria, Illinois, population 114,000.