"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The good news would be the lack of bad news

I've been in the hospital in Houston again this week for my quarterly ritual of being poked, prodded, and stuffed into an airtight box while I blow into tubes. It's so much fun, I just can't tell you. While there's been some minor variation in my pulmonary function numbers, the one that's the most general indicator of the state of my health (FVC, or Forced Vital Capacity) has remained steady at 57%, exactly where it was when we went through this procedure three months ago. The fact that I have not declined further since then is great news, considering that my doctor had been concerned that my December numbers, which had dropped from the previous summer's high of 61%, might have indicated that I was on the verge of cratering. A rapid falloff in lung capacity after a period of relative stability is not uncommon in Pulmonary Fibrosis patients. Had I continued to drop below his "magic number" threshold of 50%, I would right now be anxiously eyeballing a beeper, expecting a call to come at any moment summoning me to report to the hospital to have my lungs transplanted. The fact that I don't have to worry about this for at least the next three months is a tremendous relief.

But at the same time, it also means that I will continue to remain stuck in this limbo state of not sick enough to be transplanted, yet not well enough to carry on most normal activities. As long as I am sitting still and not exerting, I feel fine ... and in fact at these times it's easy for me to forget that there's anything wrong with me at all. However, once I stand up and start moving around, I am quickly reminded that pulmonary fibrosis has rendered my lungs unable to efficiently do their biological job of exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen in my bloodstream. I become severely out of breath after just a few seconds, like someone in normal health would get from running around the block. It's only with the help of supplemental oxygen that I am able to do much of anything at all. Like anyone else with a serious illness, I go through phases in my struggle to deal with it. Sometimes I'm grateful that medical science allows me to live with a condition that would probably have killed me outright within a year or two had I been born a century ago. Other times I feel resentful to be chained to this fucking oxygen hose. But fortunately, the good days overwhelmingly outnumber the bad. I can get out and about OK if I wheel my O2 tank along with me, and I have decent mobility with my little blue Buzzaround scooter (in fact, it can be actually fun to ride).

But I have to confess I'm getting tired and frustrated with remaining in limbo; after two years of this, part of me wants to get on with the transplant surgery and get it over with. With any luck, I will be able to regain somewhat of a normal life again post-transplant. I've met other patients who, several years after their surgery, say they feel better than they've ever felt before, which makes me hopeful. The idea of being able to do the simple things I love again -- travel, walk on the beach, go dancing, ride a bike -- fills me with optimism, so I think "all right, cut me open and let's get this show on the road."

Of course, once I start really thinking about it, how one in ten transplant patients don't make it out of the O.R. alive, how the average post-transplant life expectancy is only about five years, it scares the crap out of me. Medical science makes amazing discoveries every day: could lung tissue someday be regenerated, or grown externally to preserve the DNA structure in such a way that the body's immune system doesn't try to expel it as a "foreign object"? (Rejection is the single-most common reason for organ transplant failure.) Who knows what miracle "cure" could come along in the next year or two that might even eliminate the need for the surgery? With that in mind, the longer I can postpone it the better.

So in the meantime I'll continue to wait, follow my medication and pulmonary rehab regimen, and try to stay as healthy as I can. I'll remember to keep a positive attitude, and do my best to enjoy life ... three months at a time.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Unky Funkle

Every family has its "black sheep", and mine was my Uncle Larry. When I was growing up in Massachusetts in the late 50's, I seldom got to see but often heard about my father's brother, whom my mother referred to -- with obvious disgust -- as "your drinkin' uncle". Larry lived in Montreal, and for most of his life eked out a meager living as (gasp!) a musician, a career choice my parents considered to be somewhat less than respectable. They couldn't understand why he never seemed to want to find, as they put it, "a real job" like my dad had at The Shoe, (United Shoe Machinery Corp., a major New England employer and 20th-century North Shore landmark).

But the nine-to-five life was not for Uncle Larry. He played sax and clarinet in a jazz/swing orchestra and toured all over Canada and the Northeast, where his band appeared most often in night clubs. It was probably due to spending so much time in these venues that he acquired a taste for drink (thus my mother's nickname), and he could well have been an alcoholic. But back in those days, alcoholism was not widely regarded as an illness worthy of medical treatment, but rather as a personal weakness, and in my mother's eyes Uncle Larry was just a drunk, plain and simple. Looking back on it with what I know now, it's also altogether possible that he may have occasionally indulged in something stronger than booze (as was the custom of a number of jazz musicians of that era), although I can't say for sure. My dad hinted at this once or twice, but I had no idea what he was talking about at the time, and it's impossible to know now if he ever had any actual proof or was merely suspicious.

On at least two occasions, my family took me along on the 300-mile drive from Boston to Montreal to visit him. Of course, at the tender age of ten or eleven, I would hardly have been allowed into any club where he might have been appearing to hear him play. But Uncle Larry always seemed to have a special fondness for me, his only nephew, and would serenade me on the sax at his home while I sat at his feet, listening in raptured amazement. Until that point in my life, the only music I had ever heard coming from a live instrument had been my school's marching band; this was something totally different. It might have been Goodman, Coltrane, or Monk, but I had never heard anything like it before. It damn sure wasn't John Phillip Sousa, I knew that -- and I loved it. He would close his eyes and blow these incredible licks, then look at me with a twinkle as he curled a smile around his reed. He wasn't just playing the music, he was feeling it and breathing it with "soul", although that's not a word that was heard much back then. I'm pretty certain that if I have any musical genes in my body (which I like to think I do), I got them from him. I know without any doubt that I got my love of music and improvisation from my Uncle Larry. I worshiped him, and could never understand why my parents were so ashamed of him.

I only saw Uncle Larry a few times before he died from a sudden illness in the mid 60's, when I was about 14 or 15. I'll never forget my mother's reaction when she learned of his death: "good riddance," she said. I was shocked, and angry. In retrospect, it seems very strange to me that my parents were less than forthcoming when I asked for details of how he died, and why only my father went to his funeral, leaving me and my mom at home. It bothers me that those questions will never be answered, but that's water over the bridge now.

Today, nearly 40 years later, the tables have turned and I am the Funky Uncle to my only nephew whom I am incredibly fond of. (I may not be considered the "black sheep" of the family, but my earlier career in the radio and record business brought me awfully close.) My nephew Jeffrey will be mortified if he should happen to read this, but I recall that when he was a very little tyke, I used to bounce him on my knee. Back then he had trouble saying his own name, which came out "Reh-ree"; we uncles and grandparents thought this was incredibly cute, and for the longest time that was our nickname for him. I suspect he hated the name (particularly when we still called him this long after he turned 21), but tolerated it because, well, that's just the swell sort of kid he was. If I were to call him this to his face today, however, I suspect I might get a fork in the eyeball or at the very least a very dirty look, so I will refrain.

In any case, the kid is all grown up and is making one heckuva name for himself as a photographer based in Noo Yawk City. He also has galleries in L.A. and Tokyo. Before starting his own business, he spent many years in fashion photography, and you probably saw his work if you ever looked at any glossy glamor mags like Vogue or Vanity Fair. These days, he specializes in what I would call "organic" photography: the relationship between light, space and color in objects such as plants, animals, glass, and water. While many of his images look digitally manipulated, he shoots on film and then uses chemical processes in the darkroom to create stunning works of art. Here are but two small samples:

In the last year or so, he has made some major scores. A number of his photographs were selected to grace the set of "My Super X Girlfriend", starring Uma Thurman. Here are two low-res screen shots from the movie of Uma standing in front of his artwork:

Later this year (scheduled release date, 12/17), look for his artwork to appear in "The Tourist" with Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman, and Michelle Williams. He's also been featured on the cover of the Miami Herald's Home and Design magazine (the green photo in the center):

Jeffrey Rothstein: remember the name. He's going to be big-time megawatt famous, and his Funky Uncle Toast is proud as hell. His Great-Uncle Larry would be too.

Survey time again

We do loves us some interactive content here on the blog, so here's a quick survey to determine how YOU, my friend, came to be reading these words at this very moment. Do you have Wind In The Wire bookmarked in your browser? Are you using an RSS-feed aggregator like Bloglines or Google Reader? Or did the site come up in a search engine in response to the query "gay roustabout" or "is it illegal to drive with a broken foot in Pennsylvania"? Inquiring minds want to know.

Please click here to submit your response, and thank you!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Comic Truthiness

The "Sunday Funnies" have been decidedly un-funny lately, in fact I can hardly remember the last time I had a good laugh at one of the so-called comic strips. Most of them are just plain stupid, and then there's strips like "For Better or Worse", or "Funky Winkerbean" that try to straddle the line between funny and serious and wind up being neither. But I've always been a big fan of Berkeley Breathed from the "Bloom County" days, so I especially enjoyed "Opus" today. Click on the image below for a larger (i.e., "readable") version:

Way back when America was a civilized country, presidential elections meant six leisurely months of state primaries, followed by articulate and compelling national conventions, and a mercifully short general election campaign. Not any more. Arm yourselves, indeed.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Smokin' and jokin'

You think you know him well; he's been exhorting you to "prevent forest fires" since 1944, but relatively few people are aware of how zealously the Department of Agriculture maintains the image of good ol' Smokey Bear. Here's a few Bear Essentials: did you know that Smokey has his very own zip code (20052)? Or that the nation started taking wildfires more seriously after a Japanese submarine attacked the coast of Southern California during WWII, prompting fears that enemy incendiary shells could set off raging forest fires, which in turn led to the ad campaign from which Smokey eventually evolved? Or that Walt Disney's "Bambi" was the first forest service mascot for one year, paving the way for the idea that a cartoon animal could heighten public awareness of forest fire prevention? Or that there was a "real life" Smokey the Bear, who died in 1976?

I learned all this and much more today when I stumbled across Smokey's web page. If you've got too much time on your hands like I do, it makes for some fascinating reading. Most interesting of all are the guidelines under which Smokey can be presented in the media; a 17-page PDF document details everything from the type of educational activities and materials Smokey may be associated with, down to the specific pantone colors that are to be used for the various elements in the Smokey Bear logo. Commercial licensing of the character is allowed, with this caveat: "Smokey may not be depicted as endorsing a product, but he may appear with the product. Smokey's message should always address wildfire prevention."

For anyone who might be thinking of donning a Smokey Bear costume for a party, parade, or any other reason whatsoever, think again. Not only are costumes licensed by the USDA to be used only by US and Canadian Foresters, Community and Volunteer Fire Departments, but the regulations governing such use sound like they were written by a military tribunal. Some of these are unintentionally hilarious, for example:
Individuals who wear and use the costume must agree to:

1. Use the costume only to further public information, education, and awareness of the prevention of wildfires.

2. NOT TO SPEAK during appearances. Conversations or explanations should be carried out by the accompanying official (escort).

3. Never appear in less than full costume.

4. Remain anonymous at every appearance and in any publicity connected with an appearance. This includes being photographed without the head.

5. Appear dignified and friendly. Avoid clowning and horseplay.

6. Refrain from using alcohol or drugs prior to and during the Smokey Bear appearance. This condition applies to officials as well.


1. The person wearing the costume must exhibit appropriate animation to be effective. Express sincerity and interest in the appearance by moving paws, head, and legs.

2. There shall be at least one uniformed escort to accompany the Bear. The escort shall guide the Bear at the elbow.

3. After donning the costume, the escort shall inspect the suit. Check for the following:
  • Is the drawstring tucked in?
  • Is the zipper out of sight?
  • Are the buttons fastened?
  • Is the belt firmly fastened to the pants?
  • Are the pant cuffs neat?
  • Is the hat crown up?
  • Is the head straight on the shoulders?
  • Is the fur brushed generously?
4. A private dressing room is necessary for putting on and taking off the costume.

5. The costumed Bear should not force itself on anyone. Do not walk rapidly toward small children.
Wow. That's a lot of rules for putting on a lousy bear suit, but I guess the US Forest Service goes a long way towards protecting Smokey's image. Which means they probably wouldn't be too happy at this Photochop job:

Like Billy Bob Thornton's "Bad Santa", I call my creation "Bad Smokey". But at least his fur is brushed generously.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bad blogger (revised)

My apologies for not posting much of anything lately ... I seem to have developed a bad case of Brain Drain (I hate it when that happens), also known as "LABS", or Lazy-Ass Blogger Syndrome. Anyway, until something more substantial comes along, here's a little bit of fluff in the form of a quiz called "Guess The Corporate Slogan". How ad-savvy are you? I got a 10 out of 10, which apparently makes me something of a Media Whore. By the way, if you're wondering what's been hot and what's not in the past year, a brand-name recognition survey conducted by the site revealed that "Google" was the biggest winner, while "Britney Spears" was the biggest loser. Insert obvious Pop-Tart joke here.

Speaking of the dear girl, I came upon these photos and was struck by the uncanny resemblance between Britney and Sally Field. I mean, other than the obvious hair color (when she had hair, that is) and age differences, don't you think they look like twins separated at birth?

Note for those keeping track: this post hereby represents my scraping the bottom of the barrel. Thankfully, however, I now have nowhere to go but up.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The dangers of alcohol

Foreword: this weekend is St. Patrick's day, a holiday celebrated by Irish and Non-Irish alike with the traditional drinkin' o'the beer. For the benefit of those who might overindulge this weekend, here's a cautionary tale in the form of a news item from the Wind In The Wire "what were they thinking?" department:

A flying leap from a Bahamas-bound vessel into the Atlantic Ocean resulted in a collapsed lung and hypothermia for a 35-year-old Orlando man. Michael Mankamyer was spotted taking a running leap off the Carnival cruise ship, "Glory" by a fellow passenger shortly before 1 a.m. Friday. The witness added that he (Mankamyer) was quite intoxicated.

The Glory and another cruise ship that was in the area at the time joined the Coast Guard cutter "Vigorous" and two helicopters in searching the water for the man. After cooperating with the Coast Guard, the cruise ship resumed its journey about 4 AM. The cutter continued searching, and found Mankamyer around 8:45 AM. Officials say he had drifted 15 miles north during his eight hours at sea, somehow managing to remain afloat.

About 3,400 passengers and crew were aboard the ship, including at least one traveling companion of Mankamyer. It was on a seven-day trip from Florida to the Bahamas that began last Saturday. Following his rescue, Mankamyer refused to speak with reporters.


The fact that this story involves alcohol does not surprise me. What does surprise me is that Mankamyer was not a college student on spring break.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

(Story/photo credit: Miami Herald)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

And they're off!

Ever feel like marriage and a horse race have a lot in common? A friend sent me this audio file today; it's freakin' hilarious.

Note: Click "play" button with caution - NSFW.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

spring back, fall forward?

Are you "on time" today? Hopefully you remembered that in the government's infinite wisdom, it enacted the Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandating that the switch to daylight savings time would come three weeks earlier this spring, and end one week later than normal on the first Sunday in November. Accordingly, you should have set your clocks forward one hour at 2 AM this morning. But when it comes to computers and other electronic devices which have the time change pre-programmed for the first Sunday in April as it's been done for decades, this could be easier said than done. For example, when I first tried earlier today to set my computers manually, they stubbornly jumped back to what they thought was the correct time, almost as if to say, "no, you idiot, we artificially-intelligent machines know when to change the time, and this ain't it." Even more exciting, they are plotting to spontaneously advance themselves by an hour come three weeks from now if I don't put a stop to their siliconious treachery.

Fortunately, there is a fix for this in the form of an operating system patch from Microsoft, formally known as KB931836. This update to Windows will allow your computer to recognize the new dates. However, to download it, your system must pass the "Windows Genuine Advantage" validation test -- an onerous and controversial anti-piracy program designed to ferret out bogus copies of Windows, and phone home details of your system to Redmond if it finds one. Not that I think any of my über-responsible readers would have anything less than the genuine article on their machines, but in case any rogue software pirates have stumbled upon this site in a drive-by blogging, you anti-social criminals can get the file you need (which goes by the easy-to-remember name of WindowsXP-KB931836-x86-ENU.exe) from several alternate sources without having to validate your copy of Windows. Far be it from me to condone such nefarious activity by telling you exactly where you can find this file. I do have standards, you know.

For information on adjusting other electronic gadgets containing microprocessors (which may include your Blackberry or other PDA, Mac, cell phone, radio, television, VCR, Tivo, microwave oven, thermostat, camera, MP3 player, automobile, GPS system, video game, home security system, cable TV box, dishwasher, stove, electric blanket, your pet, and possibly even yourself) see this helpful article from Business Week.

This event is much more of a hassle in the corporate world than it is for home users, perhaps even more so than the much-anticipated "Y2K" bug which had very little actual effect. Microsoft is taking heat for not warning early enough of possible impact from the DST change to its applications, especially Exchange, and business users are also grumbling about how the company is now addressing the snafu as well.

"Microsoft has 14 pages of fine print on how to address DST using the Exchange Calendaring tool," said one corporate user. "We're on revision 19 as of March 8. You also have to watch a video on how to do this. It takes 23 minutes. It gives me a headache."

I personally think the new time change is absurd and confusing. More significantly, there are serious questions that the stated goal of "energy conservation" will be realized. According to a report prepared by a staff member of the California Energy Commission, "there is no clear evidence that electricity will be saved from the earlier start of daylight savings time", and in fact usage could possibly increase due to peak load demands in the morning when it is still slightly darker and cooler.

But when was the last time the government did anything that made sense?

Friday, March 09, 2007

Catblogging Friday

UPDATE: I learned after posting this that these pictures are spoofed, taken from a 2002 book entitled "Why Paint Cats: The Ethics of Feline Aesthetics", a deadpan parody which has since been debunked as an urban legend. Nevertheless, enjoy the photos as entertaining fantasy.

It's been several months since I've posted anything for CatBlogging Friday, so let me welcome back any Carnival of the Cats visitors who haven't been here in a while. Thanks for stopping by.

Today's post explores the phenomenon of people who decorate (as in "paint") their cats. I'm not sure exactly why some people would do this; it's not really cruelty or anything, but as an animal lover it strikes me somewhere between amusing and appalling. Mostly, I think it has to be terribly embarrassing for the cat. Check out the slide show below and see what you think:

Although some of these photos are undeniably cute, I would never do this to my own furbabies; not only am I certain that they would be highly offended by the idea, I think they're cute enough already. I offer as evidence this shot of an unpainted Callie and Tiger sharing their favorite heating pad:

All together now: "awwwwwwww". Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mrs. Toast goes to Washington

I am pleased to announce today that, following the lead of Hillary Clinton who has suggested that American voters might be ready to elect a woman president in 2008, Mrs. Toast is hereby declaring her candidacy for President of These Here United States. She feels that not only is the time right for a woman to occupy the Oval Office, it is also high time for a Librarian president, someone who will restore order to a chaotic White House by cataloging all that junk that past presidents have just left lying around, you know, in closets and stuff. I think Abe Lincoln may have left an old pair of boots in one of the bedrooms, and God only knows what (or who) Harry Truman might have stashed away in the attic. Another major item on her agenda will be a proposal to balance the federal budget by forcefully collecting unpaid fines on overdue books. This may sound like a difficult proposition until you realize that, under the Patriot Act, the government knows where every single one of you literary scofflaws lives. You can run, but you can't hide.

Once she is elected by a landslide (unless Florida screws up again) it will then become my patriotic duty as First Toast to do, er, something. I'm not sure what yet; perhaps a campaign to make beer the National Beverage. Oh well, I've got plenty of time to work on it before her inauguration.

But seriously, folks (insert rimshot here, bada-BING) I am proud to report that my wife has just returned from attending a library conference in Washington, DC, where she has learned the latest skills to assist in her work spearheading the "Digital Projects" department at her library. This involves cataloging not just books, but a variety of physical objects in digital form so they can be researched and accessed electronically. As anyone who has done a Google search realizes, the future of libraries is becoming inextricably linked with that of Information Technology. Some people even wonder if brick-and-mortar libraries may eventually become obsolete; but in response to the question "do we still need books in the digital age?", Jessamine West at librarian.net writes:

I guess my question for you is “Whose digital age?” because where I work, at public libraries in Central Vermont, the digital age is unfolding much more slowly and to much less fanfare than it is elsewhere. In a state where only 15-25% of the residents use broadband, the digital age is as much about hurdles and the threat of being left behind as it is about bold and shiny technological innovation and synthesis. Libraries and librarians help people not get left behind by technology, by democracy, and by people who think that libraries and technology can’t coexist and thrive symbiotically.

We need libraries in any age, they’re the human scale measurement for the information age.
While a vast quantity of information is available to anyone with a PC and an internet connection, sometimes the sheer volume of it can be overwhelming. Not only that, but how do you know if a source is trustworthy? The quality of information found on the web is not always accurate or reliable, and someone skilled in "knowledge management" -- a librarian -- can be an invaluable resource to separate the good data from the bad.

The "human touch" is still, and always will be, another important consideration. Public libraries typically provide services free of charge to anyone who wishes to use them. Many also provide literacy programs, reader development promotions, and act as a resource for the availability of local public services. They also help with special-needs groups such as children (including story-telling programs), or those who are housebound or visually impaired. Academic librarians like Mrs. Toast are especially important in educational institutions; they develop a wide range of services to meet the objectives of the students, faculty and administration. They encourage reading and research, and are among the most advanced in developing electronic services, including sophisticated teaching tools. The library is a centerpiece of college life, and one major factor affecting how Universities are ranked and compared is by the quality of their libraries.

In connection with her work, Mrs. Toast has been traveling extensively this spring. Prior to D.C. last month, she gave a presentation at a conference in Atlanta, and has other trips scheduled in the next couple of months. This means that I will have to fend for myself here at home for weeks at a time, and may need to call upon old long-lost bachelor skills such as ordering pizza and preparing frozen chicken pot-pies. I hope I survive.

Can anyone tell me how to open an orange without involving an electric drill?

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Another fun time-waster

Check out the Nun Lander game. Sister Bertrille would be proud.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Alert the grammar police!

My pet peeve rears its ugly head once again:

This wasn't some two-bit outfit, mind you, I found this gaffe on the web site of one of the top three U.S. office supply/electronics retailers, a big company that ought to know better. I admit that I may be a bit overly sensitive about this particular misconstruction, but it simply amazes me how frequently it shows up in public. Arrrgh!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Blood moon

Check out the total lunar eclipse tonight! Although North America won't get the best view of the phenomenon (Europe and the Middle East will have a much better look at it) it should still be at least partly visible, especially in the eastern portions of the country. It starts early, with the moonrise occurring about now -- roughly 4:30 PM central time -- and achieving totality around 7:45 PM. The moon will turn a eerie shade of amber and crimson as the light from the sun is blocked by the earth. This "blood moon" was considered a very bad omen throughout history; let's hope for better luck in modern times.

Just a thought

I swear I wasn't going to post a comment on Anna Nicole Smith; I'm pretty disgusted with the media hoopla in the aftermath of her passing. But now that she's finally been laid to rest, I couldn't help but wonder about the disagreement between her estranged mother, who wanted her to be buried in Texas, and others who correctly noted her wish to be buried next to her son Daniel in the Bahamas.

There is no dispute that Anna Nicole expressed clearly and publicly on several occasions that she wanted her final resting place to be next to her son. But Virgie Arthur does have a valid point in that friends and family will have to go through the hassle of getting a passport and making the trip to a foreign country in order to visit the grave.

Maybe I'm missing something, but the solution seemed pretty obvious to me: why not just dig up her son's coffin and bury them both side-by-side in Texas? That way everybody's wishes are honored. Of course, it's too late now, but did anyone consider this?

On a related topic, it's not often that I tend to agree with conservative columnist Cal Thomas, but he posted a piece last week where he correctly noted that America has become "a nation of gawkers" (article here). I diverge a bit, however, when he starts in with the nostalgic notion of "heroes" in our popular culture. I don't think that public fascination with Anna, Britney, Paris, and their ilk has that much to do with their portrayal in the media as so-called "anti-heroes"; rather, it's more the train wreck effect -- something to divert our collective minds from the depressing news of war and terrorism.

One has to wonder, "what's next?"

Friday, March 02, 2007

4th anniversary march on Washington

As I write this, the stage is being set for a massive ideological confrontation later this month in Washington DC, the likes of which have not been seen in forty years.

On Saturday, March 17, the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq conflict, a coalition of groups and individuals opposed to the war will stage a march on the Pentagon, calling for, among other things:

• An immediate end to the war

• Withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq

• Shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility

• The impeachment of President Bush for war crimes

Protesters are also expected to voice opposition to a variety of related issues including the repression of civil rights and free speech at home, and provocative American foreign policy elsewhere abroad. No one is yet predicting how many people will take to the streets on the 17th, but the numbers could be huge. It is no accident that the demonstration was planned to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Washington march against the Vietnam War, which drew about 100,000 protesters to the steps of the Pentagon (of which I was one). Although not the largest anti-Vietnam demonstration (the National Mobilization to End The War on November 15, 1969 drew a record crowd of 600,000), the '67 protest was significant in that it saw the coalescing of a number of disparate groups into a united and extremely visible anti-war "movement" that had previously been somewhat fractious and unorganized. Those planning this month's protest march hope for a similar result.

Up until now, most critics of the war (with some notable exceptions) have tried to frame opposition to our conduct in Iraq strictly in political terms, while respecting the role of the military -- and individual soldiers in particular -- who have been sent to do a dirty job with no choice in the matter. This is vastly different from the Vietnam era, when soldiers were (unjustly) reviled as "baby killers" and received very little sympathy after returning home. But while the Abu Ghraib prison scandal certainly didn't do much to help portray an image of U.S. soldiers as liberating heroes, the greater tragedy is that our soldiers keep getting maimed and killed with no end in sight. They're doing the job they've been sent to do as best they can under deplorable conditions, and most Americans just want to get them home to their families and out of harm's way. I think any reasonable citizen honestly wants to support their country, but the tide of public opinion has definitely reached a turning point; the majority now believe that we were deliberately misled into war by Bush, Cheney, & Co., who have continued to bungle and mishandle the conflict at every step of the way. Not only have we paid for this deceit and incompetence in precious American lives, but it has cost us dearly in traditional terms as well: billions of dollars has been flushed away in the war effort that could have gone instead toward building schools, hospitals, or for a multitude of other worthy causes.

Many people saw the 2006 mid-term elections as a rebuke of George Bush and his handling of the conflict, and expected to see a significant change in U.S. policy as a result. However, that has not happened; on the contrary, with nothing more to lose politically, this lame-duck administration has not only ignored that mandate, but has "doubled down" by sending a surge of additional troops into Iraq. I therefore expect that March 17th could mark the beginning of a new period where the gloves come off and anti-war protests become much more vocal and insistent. Indeed, the rhetoric seen on some of the web sites promoting the demonstration tends to be pretty harsh. For example, from "The World Can't Wait":
Your government has committed war crimes, is about to commit more, and you have the responsibility to stop them. The march will send a message to the people of the world, who cannot see our anti-war bumper stickers, or feel our individual outrage. YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

In the face of November’s election results showing people want an end to the war on Iraq, and with the occupation of Iraq going very badly, George Bush has expanded that war and is planning new crimes against Iran. A Pentagon panel has been created to lead a bombing attack on Iran within 24 hours of getting the go-ahead from Bush. Bush, Cheney, and Rice say that "all options are on the table" in dealing with Iran, and that includes dropping nuclear bombs, allegedly to stop Iran from developing them. It is the urgent responsibility of people living in the United States to demand and end of the war on Iraq, and to STOP an attack on Iran.

The Bush regime cannot be allowed to bring about even more destruction to the world and further inflame the Middle East with civil and religious war. We must show that the outrages committed by the Bush regime, from Iraq to New Orleans, are not being done in our name. We won’t accept war crimes! The march will clearly demand the removal of the Bush regime now. 2008 is too late!

There is not going to be some savior from the Democratic Party; people who steal elections and believe they're on a "mission from God" will not go without a fight."
That's some pretty strong language, and as expected, it's inflamed the conservative minority who still endorse Bush and the war. A number of organizations are planning a counter-demonstration for the same day, dubbed "A Gathering of Eagles", and cheered on by supporters such as right-wing harpy Michelle Malkin who is perfectly capable of spinning her own brand of rhetoric. After referring on her web site to protesters as "moonbats" and "socialists", she goes on to say:
"How many times have you sat in front of the TV over the last four years, watching anti-war activists march on Washington, chase the ROTC off your local college campus, vandalize war memorials, insult the troops and wreak havoc under the surrender banner? How many times have you thought to yourself: What can I do? Here is the answer: Get off the sofa and join the Gathering of Eagles on March 17 in Washington, D.C."
Various Veteran's organizations and others groups have responded with plans to attend, so it looks like March 17th will be a very interesting day in our nation's capital indeed. Mark your calendar.

One final thought: anyone active in the antiwar movement from the Vietnam era will immediately recognize the poster to the right as the logo, and vision, of "Another Mother for Peace". AMP was significant in that it was an offshoot of the burgeoning women's movement of the 60's and 70's. Following the repressive 50's, many women felt empowered for the first time to speak up about social issues, and the Vietnam conflict directly affected those Moms who were sending their children off to fight in a morally questionable and militarily un-winnable war. How ironic, and sad, that this organization continues to exist today for the same purpose. Some things, unfortunately, never change.

A few links FYI:


United for Peace and Justice
A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism)
Code Pink: Women for Peace


UPDATE: I was just alerted by a friend to this website, where the "Gathering of Eagles" group continues to characterize themselves as "protectors" of the Vietnam Veteran's Wall and other military monuments from what they anticipate will be efforts by protesters to deface these memorials on March 17th. I sincerely doubt anyone plans to do anything of the sort, but what is especially disturbing to me is the perception by these self-proclaimed patriots that being "anti-war" automatically makes one "anti-American". From the site:
"The anti-war/anti-America group cannot be allowed to use the Vietnam Memorial Wall as a back-drop to their anti-America venom and stain the hallowed ground that virtually cries out with blood at the thought of this proposed desecration ... it must not happen," said veteran Bud Gross. "… All Americans are invited to support our effort, which is intended as a defender of hallowed ground and intended as a non-violent competition between those that would sell out America and those of us who support freedom and keeping the fight with the enemy on distant shores."

"We'll be there to act as a countervailing force against the march from the Vietnam Memorial to the Pentagon," retired Navy Capt. Larry Bailey said. "When we say a gathering of eagles, that signifies people who support the American way. We will protect the Vietnam Memorial. If they try to deface it, there will be some violence, I guarantee you."
This certainly has an ominous ring to it, and I bristle at the notion that only those who are pro-war support "the American Way", while those who are against it want to "sell out America". Bullshit. Those who oppose the war do so because we love this country and are deeply troubled by the direction we're being taken by our leaders. Lying to the world while subverting our basic civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution is not exactly what I would call "the American Way."

But one of the great things about the USA is our freedom to disagree on and debate these matters. I sincerely hope that any confrontations on March 17 are philosophical in nature, not physical, but I have a nagging fear that that things could get ugly. Expect to hear a lot more in the news about this in the days ahead.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Where do you stand?

Thanks to Bake Town for alerting me to this interesting web site.

The quiz evaluates your opinions on issues like censorship, immigration, government spending, education, etc. to place you on a 2-D map representing your particular spot in the political spectrum. As might be expected of someone who was a bit of an activist during my college days, according to the site I am a "moderate social liberal":

"You want government out of people's personal lives, but you appear to desire some continued government control over people's economic activities. There is no political party that represents your views. You need a mix of Democratic, Libertarian and possibly Green politicians in office."

This is indeed a fairly accurate assessment of my views: I believe the government should take a reasonable amount of responsibility for public welfare, but stay the hell out of our private affairs. Check out the quiz and see where you stand.

This bulletin just in

Always alert in my relentless quest to keep Wind in the Wire readers informed on world events, a couple of weeks ago I spotted this shocking headline at the Boston Globe website:

Good Lord, I had no idea. Isn't it wonderful that we have the media to pass along this sort of earth-shattering news? Of course, the study only notes this reaction from "young people". One could infer, then, that middle-age people find that sex makes them feel better than a root canal but not as good as, say, chocolate cheesecake. As for old folks, they might vaguely recall that sex used to make them feel good, but it was really too long ago to remember, and all things considered, these days they'd just as soon prefer a nice bowel movement.

Personally speaking, I think either this or this might do it for me.