35 Years After Vietnam


Was it only six years ago when I realized that the Vietnam war, contrary to the historic record, was not over after all? I’m talking, of course, about Vietnam vet John Kerry and what he did (or didn’t) do in protesting a war he once fought in, dredged up during the 2004 Presidential election between Kerry and George W. Bush, whose own military record also came into question.

I admit to have been one of those people who actually supported the Vietnam war in the beginning of 1967. After all, it was an American war, I was an American, ipso facto, Q.E.D. My opposition to the conflict evolved over the next year or so, starting with the Beyond Vietnam speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1967, a year to the day before he died. (Was that just coincidence?)

The group that most influenced me at the time was the VVAW, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. It was one thing for civilians to oppose the war. It was quite another thing to see soldiers who had been fighting the war then come out against it.

In time, I found about some of the history of conflict in Vietnam, the fighting against the Japanese and the French, among others. The French defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 might have signaled the end of colonial occupation, but it led to greater involvement by the Americans, first in small numbers of analysts in the 1950s to massive numbers troops in the mid-1960s, facilitated in no small part by the prevarication that was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August of 1964.

No doubt that many of the soldiers may have operated honorably, but it’s also true that the My Lai massacre in 1968 was not the only atrocity in this drawn-out engagement. My buddy Steve Bissette wrote a piece about a couple films delineating military failings during Vietnam and a more recent conflict. (I actually chuckled when I discovered his post was dated February 2, for that was the date in 1972 when the draft for those born in 1953 took place; that’s a LONG story.)

My general disinclination towards war is fueled by the belief that even in a “good war” (a true oxymoron), bad things, unintended things occur. Even the “good guys” get it wrong sometimes, regardless of the safeguards. Thus war should always be a last resort, not a first option.

In a bold attempt to be “fair and balanced, I point out to you The Politically Incorrect Guide™ to the Vietnam War — “the latest installment in Regnery Publishing’s bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide™ (“PIG”) series — [Phillip] Jennings gives you the surprising truth, and backs it up with facts that liberals ignore.”

I should note that I haven’t read the book. Among the assertions:
*The Tet offensive was a debacle for the North Vietnamese
*Communist Vietnam is now trying to emulate a more capitalist approach
I actually agree with both of those statements, but not with most of the others.

Thirty-five years after Vietnam and we’re still fighting the war.

***
Pete Seeger: Waist Deep in the Big Muddy from the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. Pete turns 91 on Monday.

ROG

I am painting

I am painting the attic. The daughter helped me with the primer coat, but still–
I am painting the attic because, after we got half of the attic insulated – in JANUARY – the Wife said we had to paint that half of the attic.
I am painting the attic, even though she didn’t mention painting it BEFORE we got the attic insulated.
I am painting the attic, since she thought it was “obvious” that we would have to paint it after the insulation.
I am painting the attic, even though the only time painting is “obvious” to me is when paint is peeling or obviously faded.
I am painting the attic, even though I think it’s “just the attic”.
I am painting the attic because all of the items in the one half of the attic are now jammed in the other half of the attic, making everything in the attic inaccessible.
I am painting the attic because I want to play my LPs.
I am painting the attic because I want to access my summer clothes.
I am painting the attic because it’s the only way to get to about half of my books.
I am painting the attic because there are things on the second floor, including the Christmas decorations, that really need to go up to the attic.
I am painting the attic despite the fact that I hate painting – the feel of paint, the smell of paint. Don’t tell me that modern paint has “no smell”.
I am painting the attic despite the fact that I can’t see the difference between the current light gray walls, the white primer and the yellow paint, so I keep painting over the same areas. Maybe I’m just colorblind.
I am painting the attic now, even though it would have been better to paint the attic in the winter, when it’s not as warm.
I am painting the attic, even though it takes time away from writing a decent blog post.
***
Go look at these quite spectacular pictures of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
***
May Day, May Day! Free Comic Book Day, the Kentucky Derby and May Day all converge on May 1.
***
Do pacifiers lead to drug addiction and masturbation?

ROG

O is for Olympics


You thought that when the closing ceremonies took place in Vancouver, BC at the end of February, the high-caliber athletes had almost all left town. But there would be, in March, a parallel “Olympics”, he Paralympics, coming to the Canadian city. This involves a number of athletes who compete at the highest levels despite their physical disabilities.

The Paralympics started in 1960 (summer) and 1976 (winter), and has its own governing board, separate from the IOC. Yet, since the Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, the location of these games have paralleled the locations of the Summer and Winter Olympics. At least for the next Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, the Olympics and the Paralympics share a common organizing committee. I called the U.S. folks in the Paralympic movement to clarify the relationship between the two groups, but the public relations person was not available.

The summer and winter games include the following sports, governed by the IPC: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Biathlon, Cross-Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey, Powerlifting, Shooting, Swimming, Wheelchair Dance Sport, plus several sports regulated by international federations, and a handful of others under the jurisdiction of International Organization of Sport for the Disabled.

The Paralympics are not to be confused with the Special Olympics, founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver. “For people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is often the only place where they have an opportunity to participate in their communities and develop belief in themselves.”

Not incidentally, this year is the premiere of the Youth Olympic Games;you can find more here.

Of course, there are the Olympics, which ran for about 1000 years, then was canceled for over a millennium, with a few furtive attempts to restart during that time. I’m not going to talk about the modern Games, which started in 1896, except for three things:
1) if I ever get to Switzerland, I MUST go to the Olympic museum
2) a really cool feature on the olympic.org site is feature that can retrieve all the Olympic results from 1896 through 2008; Vancouver is not yet represented.
3)Juan Antonio Samaranch, former IOC head, recently died. Got to say that he really modernized the financing of the games, though there were some issues over the Salt Lake City Games. And, except for American Avery Brundidge, he was the only IOC head I could name.


Sumi, the Paralympics mascot

ABC Wednesday
ROG

The Lydster, Part 73: The Health Report


A bunch of pictures from last fall. The reason I don’t use a digital camera is the very real likelihood that I would lose it. I took these on a one-use camera, then lost it, then recently found it.


In any case, Lydia is 4’2″ (50 inches) and 70 pounds. She’s over the 97th percentile for her height and her weight. She’s very active. Not only does she take ballet once a week, but she dances in front of the TV to the music of her favorite TV shows. Usually it’s quite graceful, though the thing she was doing to one particular song from the Backyardigans looked more like thrash dancing.

She loves to run. In a 50-yard race, she will beat me because she has great acceleration; eventually, I can catch her, but it is by using maximum effort. She’ll race me up the stairs and always beat me, but to be fair to me, she usually has the inside track.

She has various and sundry allergies, some seasonal, others year-round. She takes Zyrtec practically daily, plus her fluoride and vitamin, and other medicines seasonally, as needed. She was tested again, and she’s still allergic to peanuts; she’s never been allergic to tree nuts, but we have to avoid them too, since they tend to be processed in the same location.

She lost her eighth (or is it her ninth?) baby tooth this week, and has one adult tooth (top center). I must say that the Tooth Fairy is WAY more generous with her than she was with me.

As I’ve noted she’s doing well in school. Initially she fretted that she wasn’t ready – the source of the glum look (above) is that this was the first day of school back in September – but now she loves it.

I generally help her with her homework. Recently, he had to add coins, two quarters, and she guessed 51 cents. I explained that if 5 plus 5 equal a number ending in zero, than any two numbers each with the last digit of 5 added together would end with zero. She hugged me and said, “Thank you for showing me that, Daddy!” She REALLY loves to learn. The curse of being the child of a teacher and a librarian, I suppose.

EDIT: Found picture.

ROG

April Ramblin’

Fun Interpretation of the Google Books Settlement

What I love about my Bible study: we talk a LOT about current affairs. Part of the conversation recently, in reading the 23rd Psalm, was “What IS evil?’ One of the examples I thought of was the deliberate misrepresentation of the truth with the intent to incite.

We also were distressed about the new Arizona immigration law Two thoughts on that. Remember the Sun City (video) album from the 1980s? Sun City was the resort town in South Africa, which, during apartheid came to symbolize the difference in conditions for blacks and whites. On that album was the song, Let Me See Your ID (video).

The other thing is that famous quote by theologian Martin Niemöller
“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
THEN THEY CAME for me
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
Having been profiled one or twice (yeah, right), this really disturbs me.
***
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: FOX News, GOP further ‘the un-mooring of politics from fact’ (video)
***
Gunn High School Sings Away Kansas Hate Group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (video).
***
The vengeance of Bernie Goldberg on the Daily Show (Link to video). I don’t recall Goldberg being quite so wack when he was on CBS.
***
Plaque in honor of activist William Moore unveiled. He was a civil rights activist from around my hometown of Binghamton, NY, who was murdered in Alabama in 1963. The local branch of the Congress of Racial Equality, with which my father worked, was named after him. It even rhymed: The William L. Moore chapter of CORE.
***
Very soon, you can listen to the sounds of the cosmos yourself. All of the data from the SETI program will soon be available at setiQuest.org to download or play.
***
New national park quarters unveiled: U.S. Mint debuts designs for the first five coins in its America the Beautiful Quarters Program, which will honor 56 national parks. The rest will be released through 2021. I probably WON’T collect them; still haven’t found most of the 2009 quarters.
***
MAD Artist Jack Davis’ Illustrations of NBC’s 1965-66 Season for TV Guide is really cool, especially if you remember the shows, which I do.
***
Angelina Jolie is in the summer movie I can’t wait to see, Salt, which was filmed in part in Albany, NY. The filming caused massive traffic delays for days.
***
Siren’s Crush Receives Rave Reviews from NAMM (short video). This is my niece’s group; Rebecca is the brunette female.
***
My friend Deborah, who I met in 1977 in Manhattan, and who’s been living in France for the past quarter century, recently bought a beautiful old stone house in Brittany with a plan of partly financing the loan by renting it out as a holiday home.

The Kan ar Vouac’h website and its listing on VRBO are finally done, and she’s hoping to be putting the final touches on buying the final necessaries over the month of May.

I’m told it’s a lovely and reasonable place to stay in Brittany.
***
Retiree Bathtub Test

During a visit to my doctor, I asked him, “How do you determine whether or not a retiree should be put in an old age home?”

“Well,” he said, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the retiree and ask him or her to empty the bathtub”

“Oh, I understand,” I said. “A normal person would use the bucket because it is bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No” he said. “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”

ROG

Public Figure Punishment and Race


As you may have heard, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who helped his team win the Super Bowl a couple times, will be suspended the first six games of the 16-game season for “violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy.” The punishment, handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, involved “a 20-year-old college student who accused him of sexually assaulting her in a Georgia nightclub in March.” The district attorney declined to prosecute, fearing he could not make his case, but he spoke in rather damning terms at a press conference HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE. I didn’t to the whole thing, maybe 10 of the 40 minutes, but it was enough. This is not the first time allegations about Ben’s sexual improprieties have surfaced.

What surprised me, but should not have, is this barrage of comments suggesting that he fared better or fared worse because he is white. Just Google Roethlisberger race. Some people complained that Michael Vick, dog killer, got only a two-game suspension; however, he also went to jail.

1. Is the punishment adequate, too much or too little?
2. What does race have to do with it, if anything?
3. Should Ben get traded to another team? CAN he get traded?
4. Does the NFL Commissioner have too much authority as “judge, jury and executioner”, as one pundit called it? In other sports, there is an appeals process, but the only appeal to the NFL Commissioner is to the NFL Commissioner.

My thoughts: it’s a judgment call, it got the QB’s attention, but I wish action had been taken on some of these earlier incidents; much ado about not much, but race still gets infused in EVERYTHING; another team would be crazy to take him; yes.

–ROG

The Copyright Law Is A Ass


Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, the Copyright and Patent Clause (or Patent and Copyright Clause), the Intellectual Property Clause and the Progress Clause, empowers the United States Congress:
“ To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Note the word “limited”.

The current law says that copyright is for the “life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier. Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978, was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date.”

I’d like to say that the continuing extensions of the copyright law is unconstitutional. I’d LIKE to say that, but I can’t, because the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in 2003.

To be fair, this law is more or less consistent with the Berne convention, signed by the United States in 1988

But in a more fundamental way, there seems to be a gross lack of understanding about copyright generally. Copyright protection is not an absolute. People can use other people’s copyrighted materials all the time through fair use, use in reviews, parody.

An interesting take on copyright comes from Paul Rapp, intellectual property lawyer from around these parts. He is also F. Lee Harvey Blotto, drummer of the almost legendary band Blotto.

Web portals like YouTube are protected by the “safe harbor” provisions of a law called the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which says that YouTube generally doesn’t have to actively monitor what’s being posted on its site. Once the portal is informed that there’s infringing stuff posted, it has a duty to investigate and take down offending material. This merely reaffirms that it’s the copyright owners’ duty to police its copyright, not someone else’s. In other words, it’s Viacom’s job, not YouTube’s.

This makes perfect sense. Because often the copyright owner is fine that their stuff has been posted without permission. A few years ago I noticed that folks had posted Blotto’s old videos on YouTube. My reaction was “great, now I don’t have to do it.” I’d been meaning to do it myself but was too lazy to figure out how. We wanted the videos up, for whatever promotional value they might bring. Somebody even posted “Lifeguard” under the heading “Worst 80’s Video Ever.” It’s closing in on a quarter-million hits, and the comments are amazing. And I ain’t touchin’ it.

And I’m certainly not alone here. Lots of copyright owners turn a blind eye to “unauthorized” posts…

Several times a day someone sends me a YouTube link, usually of some old music video that’s brilliant, funny, or revealing, often all three at once. Does somebody own the copyrights to these things? Undoubtedly. Did they put them up themselves? Maybe, maybe not. And are they mad that their stuff’s on the internet? Probably not. They’re probably delighted.

So copyright, both in law and as a practical matter, is not as “obvious” or “simple” as it may appear.
***
And speaking of intellectual property gone awry, I think it’s reprehensible that one company can “own” a patent on human genes and I was thrilled when the company Myriad lost a ruling over breast cancer-gene patents, a suit brought by the ACLU, plus the March of Dimes and a number of medical organizations.

ROG

Earth Day 2010

It’s been forty years since the first Earth Day. 40 years since I was on my knees Picking up over 1300 cigarette butts from the lawn of my high school, which has forever made me irritable about smokers using the ground as their ashtray. Hey, people, those filters don’t break down very easily.

Since then, there have been very definite successes. Consumers increasingly have sought out products or services that promise to improve the environment. Well, sometimes. The Hummer, for instance, was initially unfathomably popular, then, done in by higher gas prices, became the poster child for wretched excess.

The Environmental Protection Agency was formed in 1970, under a Republican President, Richard Nixon, with William Ruckelshaus as its first head. In a recent wall Street Journal piece, Rucklehaus discusses what should happen next here.

(Nixon wasn’t that bad a President, except for, you know, the war and Watergate. Ruckelshaus, BTW, was fired as Deputy Attorney General a result of the Watergate “Saturday Night Massacre”; here is his recent account of that event.)

But there continues to be a debate green or growth, as though one could not have both, that environmentalism is somehow anathema to capitalism. As a business librarian, I just don’t believe that is the case.

Much has been made of all the “green” jobs the Obama administration has promised that have not yet come to fruition. Thinking back to the Industrial Revolution, in some ways, it was more evolutionary in that the old ways didn’t disappear overnight. Patience is required.

Meanwhile, we need to respect those canaries in the coal mine, those polar bears drifting on ice floes, those penguins that have to travel 25% further for food, the potential loss of species, not from natural selection, but rather from human activity.

Yet there are people who not only think that the earth’s temperature rise is a naturally occurring phenomenon – I don’t believe that, but people are allowed to disagree – but that the earth isn’t warming at all. They take examples such as the especially snowy winter in parts of the United States as “proof”. MY proof is this chart from NASA:

No, not every year is warmer than the last. But the trend line is clear. We ignore it, literally at our peril.

ROG