Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Communicate To Failure

Dick Cheney is worried.

“When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry,” Cheney said.

This comes from an interview yesterday. It's hard to wrestle one's thoughts into some sort of organized stream after reading something like that.

First of all, I'd be worried, too, if it were anywhere close to the truth. Second of all -- and much more venal -- is the idea that the next guy to hold office is responsible for the failure of the previous guy to tamp down the threat. Or, more accurately, for having raised the threat exponentially and diminished by the same amount -- by virtue of bringing our country to its economic and defensive knees -- our ability to protect ourselves.

I'm trying to make any sense of it: it's as if you move into a home and do everything you can to make your neighbors hate you. Call them names, toss shit onto their lawns, kick in a couple of doors. Meanwhile you install an alarm system in your house that goes off at all the wrong times. Then you move out. A new family moves in, tries to calm the neighbors down, and attempts to fix the alarm system so it goes off less erratically. As the new family struggles to make way, you say to anyone who'll listen, "If someone lobs a firebomb at them, it's their fault."

Or this: You're the conductor of a train. You take it down the wrong track, head it downhill, damage the brakes, and then jump off. If it crashes, from the safety of your home you say it's the fault of the people you left on board.

But it's really even worse than that. Because what's really going on is that Cheney is setting Obama up, joining the rest of the crowd who all but call for Obama's failure. It's just that most aren't quite as gleeful or evil; Limbaugh et al are (overtly, anyway) only hoping for economic calamity to justify their failed catechisms. Cheney is less bashful: he hopes a few thousand -- heck, why not a couple million? -- Americans will DIE. And in the twisted logic that only he and people as similarly sickened can render, it will justify everything he did in the last eight years.

Only the most pollyannish among us thinks there are no threats out there. Only the most partisan hacks think the new administration is unaware nor doing everything they can about it. Closing Gitmo, per se, has nothing to do with future risk, but everything to do with future improvement in coöperation from other countries. (In the interview above-linked, Cheney continues to cite discredited data about Gitmo recidivism. Moreover, it was HIS administration that let them go, not Obama's!!! Closing Gitmo does not equate to releasing prisoners. Restoring a lawful way of dealing with enemies makes us all safer. But it's hard for some minds to get themselves around that idea.)

Like Cheney and Limbaugh, Osama bin Laden would love nothing more than to see Obama fail. Surely he hopes for a return to the Cheney/Bush policies that have been so good to him, and for continuation of the financial failure that leaves us so vulnerable to collapse. Of that, I have no doubt. I can only hope my vision of Cheney welcoming Osama in the back door is completely crazy. In reality, probably so; metaphorically, not so much.



  1. i'm sorry i know this totally off-topic, I was wondering if you could tell me how a trainee surgeons (ST2) life is in terms of social life? do they have enough time for family? what are the typical working hours? also do they have lots of exams?

    thank-you in advance

  2. Pretty off topic, all right.

    With a couple of clicks here you can find my email address.

  3. Tom: even though I agree completely with your comment, I deleted it. For language. Trying to be consistent, since I've done the same for those with which I don't agree. It's about language, not content, as some of my detractors fail to understand.

  4. Well, actually, sometimes it's about content, when a person says the same thing over and over. And over. And over. Present company excluded.

  5. I understand Sid and I will rephrase:
    I wish there were a legal way to give Cheney the biggest wedgie the Universe has ever witnessed, man would I love to see his reaction and I'd bet he never opens his beak again to spread fear and terror amongst the countryside. If only there was a way........ Thanks Sid!

  6. Censorship at it's best!

  7. anonymous: actually, it's called "blogging."

    And you might want to check the grammar of "it's."

  8. Hi Sid,

    You were right about the hypothalamus. Thanks for that.

    Off topic and non-scientific. I do not believe in astrology. Ever. At all. But it made for good midnight-until-dawn radio programs in Miami in the 1970s. Occasionally, I needed to laugh so I'd do a silly fake astrology show with just stupid stuff. Steve Z. the engineer at WIOD, would laugh at me through the control room glass wall:

    "You will meet a man with two shoes, but one will be black and one will be brown. Why could that be? Wait a minute! I know why! That's because Mercury is in retrograde tonight, and tomorrow, Venus will be in centigrade." I had no writers, but people seemed to play along and lap it up. So sue me.

    In Boston, astrologer Frances Saroyian came to the studio on hot July days and we built an audience from nothing. Here's the finale.

    While reading your book one night last week, I suddenly thought... Could it be? Maybe.

    It's easy to find birthdates on the Internet. I am drawn to your writing and I don't know why. I've interviewed so many doctors and skimmed so many books. It couldn't be just the dawn of your surgical career. The way you craft your words gives me great joy. Sometimes you are surly, sometimes sweet, and I wonder if you have moved on to the next topic by the end of the day. I feel you struggling to be very even-handed with the people who post here.

    My father, 11/11, won awards for brilliantly written college papers, funny, sensitive, and thoughtful letters to me, and engaging debates with the people around him. He wrote a play called "The Candidate" about a Jewish guy who runs for office in an all-Christian city. The main character has to decide whether to attend a rally thoughtlessly planned on a fall day which turns out to be Yom Kippur. Dad had the joy of seeing the play performed at the University of Miami before he died in 1988.

    Dad painted a copy of the famous sculpture "La Pieta" -- Mary with the dead corpse of Jesus laying on her lap. He donated it to the local Catholic Church.

    Mother, 11/09, was less assertive and always lived in my father's shadow. She was a very interesting woman with impeccable speaking, stenographic, and typing skills. She managed to work at a time when many women were "just housewives."

    There's also my former mentor, Larry King, 11/19. Larry parlayed a scrappy Brooklyn background into a million dollar empire. He tells his audience that it was a lot of luck, but he has many more facets to his personality. He wrote for years for the Miami Beach Sun and, much later, for USA Today.

    My daughter's husband has two parents born on the same day in different years: 11/03. We take Elaine and Bob on timeshare vacations and enjoy them immensely.

    What do all of these people have in common? They are all Scorpios, like you. I knew it.

    Regards from Ellen and the Digital Geezer on our 36th wedding anniversary


    Search for "Radio_Lady Democratic Underground" on Google. (Don't forget the underscore.) I've been told there are 9,000 entries.

  9. What about the grammar of starting sentences with "And"??? Who cares about grammar anyway? Just a bone to throw to the Teachers Unions, did an English teacher EVER teach someone to speek English? Immigrants learn the way I did, watching Gilligan's Island reruns and the "Playmate of the Months" list of Turn-Offs/Ons, OK, maybe I wouldnt speak with glottal stops if I'd had some formal training...

    P.S. Cheney isn't VP anymore

  10. Ellen: us, and nearly a billion others (Scorpios, that is.) I did write something vaguely related to this), about a revelation I had in med school, while studying neurophysiology. Neurons in our brains are widely interconnected, touched by the dendrites of many others, which are, in turn, touched by others. The input from each nerve touching another alters the membrane potentials, affecting how and when they fire. So, it occurred to me, everything that's going on, and has gone on, affects who I am and what I think. The temperature, the sounds, the wind, what I'm seeing at the moment. Which are all, in turn, dependent on what's already happened. Maybe that includes the alignment of the stars. (Although, if so, I'd say it has less effect than the dog that just barked.)

  11. P.S. Cheney isn't VP anymore

    Then why won't he go away?

  12. P.S. Cheney isn't VP anymore

    Then why won't he go away?

    Two words: Bill Clinton. Did he ever go away?

  13. And did people ever stop opining about him?

    See, here's how it went. Cheney made an unbelievably venal series of comments. I responded. A commenter implied I shouldn't have since he's no longer VP (or whatever he was). I responded, in essence, that since he's still around talking it's reasonable to respond. See, that's pretty much a straight line. Then along comes you, admittedly exactly as expected but nonetheless still annoying, saying something that, once again, amounts to a third grade level: I know you are but what am I?

    So, once again, I make the following suggestions: if what I say bothers you so much, you are free not to stop by. If you choose to read, you are free not to comment. If you choose to comment, you might try to respond to the point of the post: was Dick Cheney making sense? What is the evidence supporting his claims? Just a few thoughts.

    You are, of course, free to continue to pop off with embarrassingly off-point and juvenile responses. And I, of course, will continue to decide whether to let you be seen as you are currently seen, or to help preserve your dignity by either ignoring or deleting your comments.

    Every blog is improved by contrarians. If witty or acute, so much the better. If adding information to the dialogue, fantastic. When simply neenering, it just takes up space, and disappoints.

  14. I think you left out the part where the neighbors hated us before we moved in. So much so that they saw fit to crash their van into our back yard and kill a portion of our family.Now a new family moves in and they know what the history is, yet they are going to try to make nice? What do you think is going to happen? If they would crash a van unprovoked what will they try now that they hate us even more.

  15. Well, there's the problem with analogies. They never fit perfectly. But following on yours, I'd say this:

    The neighbors on the left crashed the van into our house, and we responded by locking down the neighbors on the left, and then crashing our van into the house on the right, letting the neighbors on the left get back into action, while losing the support of the entire neighborhood that, at first, were outraged at the neighbors on the left.

    Or something like that.

    And what's wrong with trying to settle the neighborhood down again, and regain their support? See, what was so evil about Cheney was that he characterized the efforts so far as "making nice" and "turning the other cheek" and "reading them their rights," as if that was the only thing. As if the people now in charge don't recognize the threats.

    The opposite is true: they recognize the threats, and the fact that Cheney's approach has made things worse. They plan very aggressive security measures. And, just for the record, they think it's not impossible to be a nation of laws while making ourselves secure.

    Crazy, huh?

  16. Hi Sid,

    Two weeks ago, a male doctor asked whether the small labels in clothing -- that touch the back of the neck -- ever bother me? Yes, I told him. They are very uncomfortable. I often spend time cutting them out. Any idea why I was asked that?

    I like the commentary you linked to from 2007. Very intriguing and thoughtful.

    Have you ever had the idea that you'd like to spend a couple of weeks as somebody else? Not WITH them, but AS them, to feel what they feel and know what they know.

    When Leonard Bernstein, the composer and conductor, was alive, I remember wondering how he did that job and how it felt to be skilled enough to even put a pen to music paper. Perhaps it was when he composed the opera "Candide." The language and the music are so intricate in that piece, and I have enough musical aptitudes to make them a real problem in day-to-day life.

    Sometimes I think about being my husband. (Not today -- in this environment, we are so bereft of economic freedom that he is acting like a caged animal. Actually, I think he wants the freedom above the security.) He is so deft with mechanical and electronic problems, as well as mathmatics. That kind of dexterity will never be mine, even if I studied until the end of my life.

    On the other hand, he cannot understand why I can't keep my mind off of endless intricate music, along with colors, shapes, and tastes. I am always moving things around in my house. I would like to achieve complete organization, but it is an impossible goal. In the current environment, I have been in a "shedding" mood, deciding whether I should keep whatever it is, sell it, or just give it away.

    Perhaps it's a function of reaching my 70s, or the current environment that's blowing so much disaster our way. I want answers, and I want them sooner rather than later.

    Maybe it's a science fiction theme, but I was a dog breeder and trainer in my teens, and I am still intrigued about why one puppy inherits differently from the same litter -- different color patterns, personalities, body types, and difficulties problems that can be encountered as each matures. It is all chance from the union of one egg and one sperm.

    This is almost a religious topic. Every cell in our bodies and in every molecule in anything we use or own has been somewhere before, and will be someplace again.

    I was talking to someone very smart one day, trying to capture and describe this possibly-not-so-unique idea. I dubbed it Ellen's Theory of Molecular Dispersion.

    Anyway, I have to go make some soup for myself now. How mundane...


  17. I would kill to have as many people post off-topic comments as you get here.

    Here is what bothers me about Cheney's comment. I was in a bar last night arguing with a pair of conservatives about, believe it nor not, whether waterboarding is torture. I told them the history of waterboarding, and how it was invented to turn Jews into Catholics and bring heretics back to Jesus; how it was used against the Philipinos in the Spanish-American War and then banned by the urging of the United States.

    Their response at first was the stupid ticking time bomb hypothetical, or kidnapped daughter. I told them that is such a stupid, television style hypothetical that I didn't even want to answer it.

    The point I was trying to get to with them, is that the ideal of our Republic was and still should be that the U.S. is in concept a beacon for the rule of law and recognition of rights, but that the Bush/Cheney approach was to see the U.S. as a fortress of nationalistic interest and that by torturing enemies and criminals we were reverting to the ways of the monarchies and dictatorships that our immigrant forebears were trying to escape.

    Their response "We are at war! You are naive. They want to kill us, so they aren't human."

    These are the sort of people that kept their loyalty to Bush and Cheney when the rest of the country had had enough. Cheney is a nasty political animal. He is the character and target of John Prine's song "Some Humans Ain't Human."

    The evening ended on a good note, and I actually ended in agreement with one of the gents on several issues.

    I always like your take, Sid, even though I don't often comment.

  18. Thanks Mike. You fight the good fight constantly. I've had similar arguments, coming to some sort of agreement occasionally. Watching Leon Panetta today he said what I'd hope would be the case: first, he considers waterboarding torture, for, I assume all the reasons you mentioned, not limited to the fact that the US had defined it as such before Bush. But he also said he intends to conduct an investigation of "enhanced techniques" to find out what has been learned, how much good info, how much bad. It would seem that should be understood.

    If it turns out (from what I've learned, I doubt it) that there are situations wherein some techniques are the best or only option (he specifically addressed the "ticking time bomb" and said he believed information could be obtained without violating our laws and sensibilities (not his word)), then maybe it ought to be stated and laws made to address it. So I'd say.

    The worst thing about Cheney's deliberate misstatements is that it, once again, implies those who raise questions are "soft on terror," unpatriotic, and to be despised. The 20%-ers will always believe that.

  19. The Iraq war came to life as an unbudgeted federal mandate, based on lies and the ability to instill fear and hatred around the world - in Americans toward the Islamic world and in much of the rest of the world toward Americans.

    Good ole boy Bush musta thunk it was gonna be like a Texas high school football game.Cheney must have figured out how "Osama bin Laden" could be anagrammed into "Saddam Hussein" or "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad". Anyone who can get the friend he shot to apologize to the nation without ever apologizing to the shootee himself is truly twisted and manipulative.


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