Friday, September 12, 2003

Johnny Cash died early this morning in Nashville.

(from Folsom Prison Blues)

Well, if they freed me from this prison,
If that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move out over a little,
Farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison,
That's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle,
Blow my Blues away.

Enjoy your freedom, Johnny.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


Curiouser and curiouser....

Freeze! FBI!
(Washington Post 090803)

Odd things, really odd things, can happen in Las Vegas. Take the case of FBI agent John T. Hanson III, who works out of the FBI's training center in Quantico.

Back on May 15, Hanson, 35, was visiting Las Vegas for an accounting seminar. At some point, he walked into the kitchen of the Barbary Coast casino, pulled out his .45-caliber Glock and squeezed off two rounds into a walk-in freezer, according to a police report.

Authorities say he allegedly was drinking. After he was collared, the police report said, "the suspect stated that he did not remember firing his weapon at any time." It was not clear what the freezer had done to offend or if service that evening had been slower than usual.

In any event, Hanson was detained and issued a citation for discharging a weapon in public. He surrendered his weapon to a local FBI agent.

Hanson pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor. Last month he paid a $65 court fine, $45 for Alcoholics Anonymous and more than $12,000 in restitution for damaging the freezer.

Local folklore has it that the bullets hit frozen lobsters, Todd Palmer, a spokesman for the FBI in Las Vegas, told our colleague Allan Lengel. But Palmer said it was not certain if that was the case, only that the freezer was full of frozen foods.

Clark County District Attorney David Roger said, "As far as the case is concerned, he got treated like anyone else under similar circumstances."

The FBI said it is conducting an internal probe, which could result in discipline or even dismissal.

Maybe the freezer was trying to get away?

Speaking of getting away and freezing:

Man Ships Self in Air Crate to Dallas

DALLAS (Reuters 091003) - A New York man trying to save a few dollars on his air fare is under investigation for stowing himself in an air cargo crate that was delivered to his parents' home near Dallas, authorities said on Tuesday.

Investigators suspect Charles McKinley of taking a two-day, 1,500-mile trip from New York to Texas, with a stop or two along the way, hidden in a wooden crate.


Sources in the air cargo industry said it was lucky for McKinley that he was traveling in pressurized cabins with climate control, because he could have easily been killed if he flew in a cold, unpressurized compartment.

(read the entire story)
Here, Democratic presidential aspirant Al Sharpton to a group of minority contractors, the Central Virginia Business and Construction Association, in Richmond the night of September 6th:

"We must not be in a relationship with a Democratic Party that takes us for granted. We must no longer be the political mistresses of the Democratic Party. A mistress is where they take you out to have fun but they can't take you home to mama and daddy. Either we're going to get married in 2004 or we're going to find some folks who ain't ashamed to be seen with us."
(Washington Post 090803)
Ok-- maybe that last post was a little too daunting. How about an anecdote about people's foibles and personal appearance?

This morning, the usually hazy process of my getting up in the morning got a jolt when my old electric shaver not only died, it literally fell apart-- plastic, rotors and casing all over the place. Well, that just meant I had to go and pick up a replacement at the local CVS and drop it back at home (only a few blocks away).

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, the phantom shaver I followed the clerk around the store for ended up not existing. It was a regular stock item, the store manager promised even though their shaver shelf was bare. The Radio Shack down the street didn't open for another 2 hours.

Exhausting my neighborhood's potential shaver-vending establishments and with time passing, I decided to try my luck at the CVS down the street from work (in the middle of DC, for those keeping score).

Perhaps it was just a reaction against the thought that humans might have once needed to fend for themselves or (gasp) do without their triple mocha frappo-latte in the morning but when I got on the metro, I became nearly immediately a furtively-viewed roadside attraction. Come one, come all! See the caveman in dress clothes masquerading as one of us! Hearken back to the time when we humans hunted wooly mammoth!

The only time I've caught that many smirks and slightly longer than normal glances on the metro was when I (under the influence of an insomnolent night) misbuttoned my shirt. I know, I know. You think I'm being paranoid. But sitting across from the door, I could see a good number of people’s faces over the top of my newspaper.

The CVS downtown was packed, so the clerks (democratically) nominated the 24 hour photo technician to spring the lone shaver from what seemed to be a maximum security appliance prison in a steel-reinforced glass case. After the tech closed the case and hustled back to the photo kiosk, I got in the checkout line and, finally being able to fully read the intentionally vague packaging, realized that what I had in my hands was actually a mustache and beard trimmer. My hair grows quickly, but not that quickly.

In exasperation, I walked up to the counter, returned the box and decided to see if the Radio Shack a couple of blocks away was open. I only had about 15 minutes before I was supposed to be at work. The Radio Shack clerks’ faces went blank when I asked about an electric shaver. One recommended helpfully that I try CVS. In a last ditch effort, I took his advice and ducked into another nearby CVS (in near Starbucks-like proximity to the other one). Again, nothing.

Perhaps DC had declared electric shaver rationing. Or maybe Bush had sent them all to Iraq and Afghanistan to shear the beards off Muslim clerics there.

I like electric shavers because with them I can focus on more important things as I’m shaving—focusing on the news or perhaps getting my last few seconds of shuteye. It had been over six years since I had shaved “unplugged.” Besides, those of you who know me understand what a bad idea it is for me to have anything as sharp as a razor blade.

Given no alternative, though, I bit the bullet and bought a razor with packaging that would have looked more natural on an Air Force recruiting poster.

Thankfully, not many people use the bathroom on my office’s floor. If there were, I would have a hard time explaining to them why there were so many paper towels speckled with blood. It wasn’t like a bad horror movie, but I did knick myself once or twice—just small things—but with the head being the most vascularized area of the body, it was hard to get them to stop bleeding. Damn the little swivel head!

Finally rid of that pesky stubble (and a few little pieces of epidermis), the caveman that had entered the office bathroom emerged as the regular researcher that comes to work every day. I only have three or so self-inflicted little red spots on my face, which I’ve had a couple of people mistake for pimples. Great…as if I needed people to think I am any younger. ;-)

And all this before the craziness of the workday began. Blargh. I got a lot done but, as one of my colleagues said, “this place is too small for office politics."

Does anyone know of any IR/research jobs I might be able to transition into?

(this posting was written last night but I had problems posting it then)

Monday, September 08, 2003

I've been reading the newly released transcripts of closed-door hearings held during the "Red Scare" by Joseph McCarthy and his cronies. Really scary. And definite echoes for the present. (Read them here) Here are a few excerpts from the interrogation of a Mr. David Ayman, who was in the Signal Corps and as of this session (Friday, October 23, 1953), teaches at Samuel Tilden High School. He also served as a "teacher-advisor" for the Teachers Union of New York that was itself under investigation for having Communist leanings. Here we pick up the questioning before the Committee on Government Operations Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations with "The Chairman" (Joseph McCarthy R-WI); Roy Cohn, General Counsel to the Subcommittee; and Robert Jones, Research Assistant to Senator Charles Potter (R-MI) asking him about his views on Communism in the public schools and other things. Just read this and think about what's happening today:


Mr. COHN. You don’t think somebody who refuses to answer the question of whether or not they are a Communist, you don’t think that furnishes reasonable grounds to believe that person is a Communist?
Mr. AYMAN. It is hard for me to make a judgment of a thing like that. There are things a person may believe in. He may feel this type of thing doesn’t involve this type of activity.
Mr. COHN. Do you believe Communists should teach in the New York school system?
Mr. AYMAN. I believe a person ought to be judged.
Mr. COHN. Do you believe a Communist party member should teach in the New York City school system? That is a very simple question. Just answer ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no.’’
Mr. AYMAN. Well, my own feeling about this, that answer is not quite as simple as you put it.
Mr. COHN. Answer ‘‘yes’’ or ‘‘no,’’ then you can make any explanation you care to give us.
Mr. AYMAN. My answer would be ‘‘yes,’’ provided, of course, this person did not engage in activities in the school system in which he used his position to officially propagandize for the Communist party or any other group.
Mr. COHN. Do you think that a member of the Communist party would not use any position he held to propagandize and attempt in every way to aid the cause of the Communist party?
Mr. AYMAN. Well, I would say this. Any person who believed strongly in any position he held, it might be possible for him, not necessarily and I believe necessarily that he would not actually use his position to do that. It is possible for him to do that.
Mr. COHN. Do you believe it is possible for a Communist party member not to use any position he holds?
Mr. AYMAN. I wouldn’t be in a position to answer that?
Mr. COHN. I think you should be. You are teaching children in the public schools in New York.
Mr. AYMAN. My function as advisor was to see that these people don’t get rattled. I am not legal counsel. I can give them no legal advice. They wanted somebody to go up there and make sure they were represented.
The CHAIRMAN. Is it your position that a man who is a member of the Communist party should not be barred from a teaching job unless it is first proven that he is using his membership-unless it is proved he is teaching communism to his students?
Mr. AYMAN. No, sir. That was not my position.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you think that mere membership in the Communist party and nothing else should bar him from teaching?
Mr. AYMAN. Off-hand, I would say no.
The CHAIRMAN. You would say it takes more than that?
Mr. AYMAN. That is my opinion. My feeling is this.
The CHAIRMAN. What more would it take?
Mr. AYMAN. Some act, some either technical act as a teacher in the classroom or in connection with the school system which he used to actually propagandize in one form or another about this proposition that should cause him to be eliminated.
The CHAIRMAN. You realize the more clever the Communist is, the less possibility of catching him in the acts?
Mr. AYMAN. That is possible.
The CHAIRMAN. You might catch the dumb ones, but the clever ones you wouldn’t catch. You would say that unless you catch the Communist, know that he attended Communist meetings, unless you catch him in the overt act of propagandizing, unless you catch him doing something like that, you should keep him on as a teacher?
Mr. AYMAN. Not only Communist, anybody else. Fascists. I believe in some other kinds of systems, the same thing is true about those individuals as well.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know anything about the Communist movement?
Mr. AYMAN. Not enough to make judgment about it.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you know what is meant by being under Communist party discipline?
Mr. AYMAN. Well, in my mind, under discipline, he accepts the dictates from the Communist party. I assume it means——
The CHAIRMAN. Do you mean in good standing of the party and must obey orders?
Mr. AYMAN. I can’t make such a statement. I am not a member.
The CHAIRMAN. If you were told now—witnesses have testified over and over, witnesses the government considers reliable men, who were active in the Communist party—Bella Dodd whom you knew testified such is the case; that a member in good standing is under Communist discipline and obeys orders. Would you have any reason to doubt that? Do you have any information to the contrary?
Mr. AYMAN. No, sir. I do not have information to the contrary.
The CHAIRMAN. Don’t you think a teacher, regardless of how good a teacher he might be, should be a free agent and should not be under the discipline of any organizations, particularly the Communist party dominated by Moscow?
Mr. AYMAN. Yes, sir. I believe that not only about those but everybody else.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you still say someone under Communist party discipline should be allowed to teach, realizing they are not free agents, no freedom of expression but expression of the Communist line. Do you still say you think such a man should be teaching our children unless he is caught in the overt act?
Mr. AYMAN. My own feeling is, as I said before, that is a belief I have. Whether it is a good belief or a bad one, it would be a question of somebody besides myself to be able to answer.
The CHAIRMAN We are not trying to change your beliefs. We are just curious as to what your beliefs are on communism. We are not concerned with your other beliefs. We are concerned with your belief or attitude toward the international conspiracy.
Mr. AYMAN. The international conspiracy, I am not in a position to make judgment. I am not sufficiently well acquainted with it. It is not in my field. If it is, I think government officials knowing these facts, being aware of it, they ought to take appropriate action. If they can show that persons have performed acts as part of this conspiracy, well, obviously they ought to do something about it.
Mr. JONES. Are you married?
Mr. AYMAN. No, not now.
Mr. JONES. You were before?
Mr. AYMAN. Yes.
Mr. JONES. Was your wife a member of the Communist party?
Mr. AYMAN. I have no way of knowing.
Mr. JONES. Do you have any children?
Mr. AYMAN. No, sir.
Mr. JONES. I assume if you did have children you would not object to them receiving their entire education under a Communist teacher?
Mr. AYMAN. I wouldn’t say that.
Mr. JONES. You said it.
Mr. AYMAN. If these people were Communists and if they did not use their position to propagandize for their beliefs, I would have no objection to them any more than a person who is a Fascist not using his position. I would say it was perfectly all right, American principal. If they were using that position, then I would say that person should not be permitted to teach my children or anybody else’s.
The CHAIRMAN. In other words, you wouldn’t object to having a Communist teacher teach your children?
Mr. AYMAN. No.
The CHAIRMAN Would you have any objection to having a man convicted of rape a number of times, even though be was not caught committing rape in the classroom——
Mr. AYMAN. I don’t think you can make that comparison. I assume a man convicted of rape would be sentenced to jail for a number of years and not permitted to get a license. I don’t see how those two things are relevant.
The CHAIRMAN. Suppose he did not advocate rape in the classroom, but had been convicted several times; that he was not in jail. Would you have any objection?
Mr. AYMAN. I don’t know how he would get a license. If he didn’t use his position in the classroom, I don’t see what the objection would be.
The CHAIRMAN. If you were looking for a babysitter, you and your wife were going out——
Mr. AYMAN. I would think twice before using him as a babysitter.
The CHAIRMAN. Do you still have a reserve commission in the army?

Inquiry continues to go all over the map.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

This is what the government gets for so often cutting music instruction out of the schools:

Pentagon Approves Push-Button Bugle

Chronically short of musicians for military funerals, the Pentagon has approved the use of a push-button bugle that plays taps by itself as the operator holds it to his lips.

Only about 500 buglers are on active duty on any given day, but about 1,800 people who have seen military service die each day and are eligible for honors ceremonies, said Air Force Lt. Col. Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman. So the Defense Department worked with private industry to invent the "ceremonial bugle," which has a small digital recording device inserted into its bell. The vast majority of families endorsed its use in a six-month test from November to May in Missouri, where 50 prototypes were distributed to military units and others who provide funeral honors, the Pentagon said in a statement. A real bugler will be used when available. Otherwise, the family of the deceased service member will be offered the ceremonial bugle as an alternative to pre-recorded taps, often played on a boom box. Use of the $500 instrument "is intended to enhance the dignity of military funeral honors," the Pentagon said.

(Washington Post 090603)