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May 2003

Firemen's Parade

The Pleasantville Firemen's Parade was last night. This is a NYRSF work weekend and several staff members needed to be met at the train. The parade route loops around the train station, so from 7 pm until the parade was over, one could not drive to the train station. So I set up our chairs next to the gazebo by the train station and met Christine Quiones coming off the train. She was not expecting to attend a parade, but accepted the situation with good grace and viewed the proceedings with anthopological detachment.

Peter enjoyed the parade, but was disappointed by the abscence of Silly String. Elizabeth, attending her first Firemen's Parade, did a marvelous job of flag waving (and only a little flag chewing). I had been worried that she might be frightened by all the noise and sirens, but she was delighted.

The Katonah Firemen's parade, next Wednesday, is a much wilder affair. Last year at the Katonah parade, the entire lawn in our vicinity was covered with Silly String before the parade even started.

As the parade ended, Tavis Allison came off the next train, and then I drove us all up to the house.

Caitlin and Scott Blasdell also attended the parade, but watched it from the neighborhood party at the end of their street. I would have tried to meet up with them, but I needed to be available to meet the train.

Weather permitting, I'll take the kids to the Mt. Pleasant pool this afternoon. Peter loved going there when he was an infant, and I expect Elizabeth will be very pleased. I was planning to take Peter yesterday, but it rained just as he was coming off the bus, so we didn't go.

IN OTHER LOCAL NEWS: All the local school districts have their budget votes on June 3rd. Let's all go out and vote for tax increases to preserve the quality of education in our schools. We already pay amazingly high property taxes, but because of cuts at the state level, passing these school budgets is vital. And I think they will pass, because these communities really care about the quality of their schools. Our household cost of the tax increase? Off the top of my head, I'm not sure what portion of our tax bill is for schools, but I'm guessing that I'm voting to raise our annual tax bill by about $500/year. While the social equity of the NY state system is dubious, allowing wealthier communities to vote themselves better school systems, when poorer communities can't, I'm voting yes, and I believe that even in this relatively Republican place, this tax increase will pass. In some published reports, the high school in our district is one of the top ten public high schools in the country.

For futher discussion of why we need to raise school taxes, see Bill Keller's NTY editorial Spurious George:

Mr. Pataki came into office in 1994 as a liberal on social issues (except the death penalty), but an ardent tax-cutter. For the first couple of years he cut taxes and controlled spending, as promised. Then the Wall Street bonanza arrived. At that point, he became not a tax-and-spend liberal but something arguably worse, a don't-tax-and-spend-anyway conservative.

MEANWHILE: We've gone to the Episcopal Church sale and have bought Peter a bigger bike. Looks like we're not going to get to the pool, as rain is moving in.

Checking my email, I see that Patrick O'Leary directs our attention to Charlie Reese's Economic Worries.

Connecting the Dots

There are plenty of tasty morsels in this morning's news that I'm tempted to pounce on: The Guardian's MI6 led protest against war dossier, detailing how Downing Street distorted Intelligence to push for war. Slate on NTY writer Judith Miller's distorted intelligence. And then there's poor Ari Fleisher trying to finesse the projected budget deficit: of course we know it's going to be a financial trainwreck! But it's a good trainwreck!

And there's also the cute two-headed tortoise found in South Africa, which I'm temped to spin into some kind of metaphor for what's wrong with the Democratic party:

"When the tortoise gets a fright, the heads each want to move in its own direction, and then the feet get all tangled up."

Or we could raise eyebrows and shake heads at how Victor Davis Hansen in the National Review throws around the word fascist.

But instead I'm going to connect a few dots:

While there is really a lot to complain about in the Bush administration's involvement in Iraq and in its tax cut which redisributes a whole lot of wealth back to the coffers of the wealthy where the Bush administration truly feels wealth belongs, we are being distracted by these ongoing news stories from something really big: what appear to me to be the attempts by the Bush administration and its minions to derail the EU constitutional process.

Like most Americans, I've paid very little attention to the EU. It's creation and evolution are among the seemingly boring news stories I have ignored. I have a vaguely favorable opinion of the EU; it seems to me to codify the peaceful relations between European countries which have persisted for decades. And the idea that the EU ought to have a constitution also strikes me as a good thing. Apparently this feeling is not shared by the American far right.

I've been thinking about the juxtaposition of the Financial Times story laying divisions and bad feelings between European heads of state at the feet of the Bush administration and its helpers Bruce Jackson and Mike Gonzalez; the remarks by a Republican strategist, Grover Norquist, about trying to turn the political atmosphere in US state capitols toward "bitter nastiness and partisanship"; Mike Gonzalez WTJ editorials encouraging a divided Europe; and discussions of the details of the proposed EU consitution on Henry Farrell's weblog. It seems to me that we the American people are paying far too little attention to what's happening with the EU.

The damage to relation with and between our European allies done by what seemed at the time like incompetent US diplomacy begins to seem like a coherent plan. Just as Bush's version of the Republican party seems to want the financial disaster the tax cut will create, I'm begining to understand that they want a European politics full of bitter nastiness, partisanship, and nationalism and they don't want an EU consitution. It seems that providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare are for us but not for them:

There's an interesting piece on the situation of the EU Constitution in the The Economist: Discord over Giscard's Euro vision

The ignominious defeat of Jemini (pictured above), the singing duo that represented Britain in the Eurovision contest, enraged the Europhobic British press, which reacted by stepping up its campaign against the new constitution. "Two million jobs in peril: EU to hijack our economy if Blair signs new treaty," screamed the front page of the country's best-selling newspaper, the Sun, on May 27th. British Eurosceptics fear that the draft constitution would allow Brussels to impose continental-style labour-market restrictions on Britain, thereby importing continental-style high unemployment. They are also livid at a clause in the draft obliging EU member governments to "actively and unreservedly" support the EU's foreign and security policy, which they see as a plot to undermine Britain's alliance with America.

Of Chipmunks, Smoke, and Mirrors

In case you are wondering what happened with the chipmunk loose in our dining room, here's the story: The cat came in through hole in the the screen door carrying a limp chipmumk that I thought was dead. Since I thought it was already dead and I was holding the baby, I didn't react fast enough to shoo her out before she put it down. But once the cat put the chipmunk down, it revived immediately and ran into a corner of the dining room.

Over Elizabeth's objections, I sat her in her playpen and went off to look for one of Peter's nets. (I use his nets more than he does.) I couldn't find a net, even though I know there are two here somewhere. So I opened the sliding glass door and tried to scare it into going out the door. Instead it ran further into the dining room. (That was where things sat when I wrote about it yesterday.)

As the thunderstorm was approaching and it was about time for me to go stand out in the rain to wait for Peter's school bus, I heard a sqeak from the kitchen. The chipmunk was under the xylophone on the kitchen floor. I closed all the doors to the kitchen and went outside to wait for Peter.

Peter got off the bus to quite a lot of thunder, lightning, and wind, but not much rain. (The National Weather Service advisory recommended that when the storm arrived one should "seek shelter." Instead, I was standing near tall trees and electric poles holding an umbrella in one hand and a baby in the other.) When he got off the bus, I explained the situation and asked where his nets were. He didn't know either.

We looked into the kitchen through the top of the Dutch door. The chipmunk was running aroung the kitchen trying to find a way out. I found a net duffel bag and a creature keeper and ventured into the kitchen. (Peter wanter to help, but I made him stay out.) The net bag was completely ineffective as a tool for chipmunk-catching. I ended up chasing the chipmunk from corner to corner.

I had a better idea. I opened the kitchen door that leads to the deck. This idea upset Peter, who was convinced that if the chipmunk set foot outside, it would be struck by lightning. He said, in a very theatrical tone, "You're going to kill the chipmunk and I don't want to watch."

I ignored him and chased the chipmunk out the door. Once it was out, I assured Peter that it was much safer outside with the thunderstorm than inside withthe cat.

Got to find the nets today. It's chipmunk season.

IN THIS MORNING'S NEWS, it seems the paint is chipping on some of the Pentagon's sets. How much of the war was made for television?

Fox News reports that marines were offered a key to the door of the hospital where Jessica Lynch was:

The U.S. commandos refused a key and instead broke down doors and went in with guns drawn. They carried away the prisoner in the dead of night with helicopter and armored vehicle backup -- even though there was no�Iraqi military presence and the hospital staff didn't resist.

Why unlock a door when you can break it down? I think I've seen this show. Was it Sledge Hammer? Or am I getting him confused with Maxwell Smart?

In other stage management, CBS reports:

The Baghdad bunker which the United States said it bombed on the opening night of the Iraq war in a bid to kill Saddam Hussein never existed, CBS Evening News reported Wednesday.

The network quoted a U.S. Army colonel in charge of inspecting key sites in Baghdad as saying no trace of a bunker or of bodies had been found at the site on the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, known as Dora Farms.

"When we came out here, the primary thing they were looking for was an underground facility, or bodies, forensics, and basically, what they saw was giant holes created. No underground facilities, no bodies," Col. Tim Madere said.

So what exactly did Rumsfeld mean when he said on the opening night of the war, "There's no question but that the strike on that leadership headquarters was successful. We have photographs of what took place. The question is, what was in there?" Perhaps what they had was a photo of a big explosion at the GPS coordinates to which they'd sent the missiles? Or aerial photos of a big hole in the ground?

Perhaps all this confusion is attributable to the smoke and mirrors of war. The Guardian asks readers to help track down who coined the phase The first casualty of War is Truth.

(News via

TAX CUT UPDATE: Was it USA Today that just a few days ago ran the headline TAX CUT FAVORS FAMILIES? I remember thinking, families with names llike Rockafeller and  DuPont. Well, just to make sure this tax cut stays on-message, at the last moment, House and Senate leaders revised the package so as to prevent families with incomes less than $26,625 from benefiting from the receiving the increased child credit of $400 per child, austensibly to keep the cost of the tax cut package within $350 billion. A small decrease in the dividend tax cut could have accomplished this, however House and Senate leaders have their priorities.

Wall Street Journal Editor Helps Instigate Iraq War

David so desired the full text of the Financial Times piece quoted yesterday by Paul Krugman in the NYT that we now have an online subscription to The Financial Times. Here's another gem from the same editorial from which Krugman quoted:

. . . watching the world's economic superpower slowly destroy perhaps the world's most enviable fiscal position is something to behold.

Yesterday, the Financial Times had another juicy subscribers-only analysis piece, The plot that split old and new Europe asunder by Quentin Peel, James Harding, Judy Dempsey, Gerard Baker and Robert Graham. The authors make the case that the split in Europe was a policy goal of the United States, and further, that an editor at the Wall Street Journal had a direct hand in it. It's a long, detailed piece. Here's a sample:

Mr Havel's signature was being sought for a sensitive document. For several days previously, as transatlantic tension over the looming war in Iraq intensified, Britain and Spain had been secretly promoting the idea of making a declaration of solidarity with the US. It was to be published on January 30 as an open letter in The Wall Street Journal and a handful of national newspapers across Europe. It would make clear that the anti-war stance espoused by France and Germany did not represent the views of all Europe. . . .

The Czechs were more difficult. The office of Vladimir Spidla, the prime minister, in Prague said it would be impossible to secure parliamentary approval for such a declaration. It looked as if they would be left out. In Washington, however, someone thought otherwise. That was Bruce Jackson.

Mr Jackson is not an official. Nor is he exactly an anonymous private citizen. Instead, the one-time military intelligence officer and ex-Wall Street banker is a sort of freelance US envoy to the former Soviet bloc. For much of the past 10 years, he has acted as a go-between for Washington and the would-be members of Nato in central Europe, becoming a tireless campaigner for the cause of Nato enlargement. . . .

It is hard to exaggerate the effect on internal European politics of the two declarations - the Letter of Eight and and the statement by the Vilnius 10. The first showed that the existing members of the EU were profoundly divided. The second demonstrated that there was indeed a different view between "old" Europe, led by France and Germany, and the "new" entrants emerging from the Warsaw pact.

Their impact had nothing to do with the contents but with the manner of their preparation. In many quarters, they were taken as evidence of a US-led conspiracy to divide Europe. It was not simply that the French and Germans had been kept in the dark. None of the procedures of the EU had been followed: neither Greece, holding the rotating EU presidency, nor Javier Solana, the "high representative" for foreign policy, had been informed. . . .

American involvement was suspected behind the conception of both letters: in the first, because it was first proposed by The Wall Street Journal; and in the second because of the involvement of Mr Jackson.

The document was originally proposed by Mike Gonzalez, deputy editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe. He had contacted Tony Blair's office in London and Silvio Berlusconi's office in Rome and had received a tepid response. But response from Mr Aznar's staff in Madrid was far more enthusiastic. After Alberto Carnero, the prime minister's diplomatic adviser, had drafted the first text and Mr Aznar sent it to Downing Street, the Spanish prime minister's enthusiasm infected Mr Blair. . .

The Bush administration insist it did not have a hand in the Letter. Officials even give the impression that it came as a surprise, albeit a welcome one. But the White House had been kept well informed along the way. Officials such as Dan Bartlett, the communications director, and Dan Fried at the NSC were told of the plan to write such a letter. The day before it was published, Alastair Campbell, the British prime minister's official spokesman, sent a copy to the White House.

For those of us concerned that the media helped instigate the Iraq war, here is a rather high caliber smoking gun. What the hell is the Wall Street Journal doing involved in this capacity? You tell me. I call it yellow journalism. While this is all very entertaining when people like Bruce Sterling make this kind of stuff up for their novels, to have it happening for real is deeply upsetting.

The Financial Times has an indepth set of articles concerning this new divide in Europe which is well worth diving into and swimming around in. (You can get a free 15-day trial online subscription. Take their offer and read it all.)

UPDATE: I see now that the WSJ's role in this was public knowledge last February: from the Sydney Morning Herald, How the Journal recruited cheerleaders for war.

I also found the WSJ's reply to their critics (I don't know if this link will work for the general reader):

The fact that a newspaper would practice such journalism has caused some wonderful exasperation, and even conspiracy theories. The normally serious Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ended its report on Friday with this probing question: "Did The Wall Street Journal really come up with the idea to suggest a declaration by the eight leaders, or did someone lend a helping hand?" The French newspaper Liberation, also scooped on its own turf, wrote that, "The very strong links between The Wall Street Journal and the `hawks' of the Bush Administration also raise the question of the role Washington played in the initiative."

We admit to having sources in the Bush Administration, among other places, but they had nothing to do with our soliciting European leaders. We've been in favor of ousting Saddam Hussein for years, going back to the Gulf War and long before President Bush made it his policy. If the op-ed by Europe's leaders somehow helped Mr. Bush's diplomacy in addition to selling newspapers, that's fine with us.

Hearst would be proud of them. What is war for, after all, if not to sell papers?

MEANWHILE, the Wall Street Journal (also by paid sub) estimates that the war has cost the US nearly 80 billion.

the bitter lapse into everyday life, the hideous dropping off of the veil

Many people seem to be experienceing what Edgar Allen Poe called the bitter lapse into everyday life, the hideous dropping off of the veil: It seems that trust in the media has hit a near-record low level, surpassed only by our low regard for the media during the Bush/Gore post-election period, and that this distain has relatively little to do with Jayson Blair, in whom most people (including me) take little interest.

Public confidence in the media, already low, continues to slip. Only 36%, among the lowest in years, believe news organizations get the facts straight, a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll shows.

Trust in the media has dropped from 54% in mid-1989 -- about the time of the fall of communism -- to a low of 32% in December 2000, during the post-election confusion over George W. Bush and Al Gore.

When most people consider the impact of megacorporate ownership of the media and increasing media concentration, they think about sameness of product, conflicts with corporate interest, entanglement with government, etc.. What doesn't come up much, but probably should, is that the megacorporate owners could strip-mine it -- maximize profits over a 5 - 10 year period while destroying the news media industry as such. And when they've used it up, when this House of Usher falls, they can just move on to another industry.

Think about the declining trust in media. What if only half of the current number -- 18% of people -- trusted the media? What would America be like if only 9% trusted the media?

One is tempted to envision a future in which people like us take over, that individuals on the Internet replace the outdated news media. But without the budget and professional expertise for news-gathering provided by the major media sources, where would we be?

What was it -- I paused to think -- what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher? It was a mystery all insoluable; nor could I grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me as I pondered.

MEANWHILE: The Guardian profiles Senator Byrd:

Some of us suddenly find we do agree with him. Last week, Byrd said: "The American people may have been lured into accepting the unprovoked invasion of a sovereign nation, in violation of long-standing international law, under false premises." You would have thought a few more politicians under the age of 85 might acquire the courage to say that, but they haven't.

AND ON THE HOME FRONT (at 3:36 PM), we have a live chipmunk loose in the dining room, a nest of tent caterpillars in the kitchen (in a creature keeper), and a violent thunderstorm moving in, which seems likely to hit just about the time Peter's supposed to get off the school bus. BOOM! BOOM! (I'd better turn off the computer.)

Barry Malzberg on Fee Reading

In the June F&SF, the Special Barry Malzberg issue, there's a really great essay by Barry Malzberg about being a fee reader for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency. I'm only halfway through, but it's full of the kind of great back-gossip I used to stay up really late for at conventions. It contains sentences like this one:

"Ambition has been the undoing of better men than you and me," Bill Pronzini and were to counsel one another in later summers, but in 1965, all against my will, ambition was the only factor which stood between me and a career of HELPFUL ENCOURAGING letters, and slowly over the next year, as the Summer of Love held its breath and came toward us, as LBJ got increasingly sullen in his recently revealed conversations with Richard Russell about those Kennedy bastard who had put him into this Vietnam thing, as Scott summoned his entire staff into his office on the night of the Great New York Blackout of 11/65 and shakily insisted that we keep him company by candlelight . . . as all of this and so much else was happening I was teaching myself in the most painful way to write salable science fiction. [ellipses in the original.]

I'm tempted to yank Barry's chain by saying it's the best thing he's ever written.

MEANWHILE, there's a virus in my email inbox. I use pine to read my email, so I did not automatically download it:

May 27 support@microsoft. (76K) Your password

Suspicious, I typed "[email protected]" "Your password" into Google. Sure enough, it's W32.Frethem.J@mm or a variant: it's listed on Microsoft Technet.

PETER QUOTE OF THE DAY: Mommy, why don't you get yourself a surfing board?

Bull on the Rampage

The BBC reports that a real bull got loose and made it's way into an antique shop.

The rampaging animal injured a woman and destroyed several valuable items at G and B Antiques and Furnishings in Lancaster.

And speaking of bulls in antique shops, Paul Krugman, in a NYT editorial entitled Stating the Obvious, discusses the Bush administration's disastrous financial ambitions:

Yet by pushing through another huge tax cut in the face of record deficits, the administration clearly demonstrates either that it is completely feckless, or that it actually wants a fiscal crisis. (Or maybe both.) . . . But the people now running America aren't conservatives: they're radicals who want to do away with the social and economic system we have, and the fiscal crisis they are concocting may give them the excuse they need. The Financial Times, it seems, now understands what's going on, but when will the public wake up?

Or are Bush's people foxes in the hen house?

UNWANTED HAIR UPDATE: Last night over dinner, Peter explained to us that there is a device called a Gentle Trimmer that we can buy to remove unwanted hair from the baby. And we could use the special tweezer attachment to thin out her eyebrows. But wait, there's more . . . he even told us all about the special gift we would receive if we ordered now. Since we watch almost no broadcast TV and no cable stations at home, this must have been a commercial he saw in our hotel room. Why he thought the baby had unwanted hair that needs removing I'm not sure.

REPUBLICAN STRATEGY UPDATE: Why do Republican strategists talk like comicbook villains?

"We are trying to change the tones in the state capitals - and turn them toward bitter nastiness and partisanship," said Grover Norquist, a leading Republican strategist, who heads a group called Americans for Tax Reform.

"Bipartisanship is another name for date rape," Norquist, a onetime adviser to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said, citing an axiom of House conservatives.

(Via WTF Is It Now??)

4,000 Year-Old Bodies Found Near Stonehenge

We're home again. The rain seems to have kept down Memorial Day weekend crowds, so we made good time. (David also did some canny navigating around potential traffic bottle-necks.)

Here's an interesting story I found on CNN (via

Six bodies unearthed near Stonehenge

LONDON (AP) -- Archaeologists who last year unearthed the remains of a Bronze Age archer at Stonehenge said this week that they have found six more bodies near the mysterious ring of ancient monoliths.

The remains of four adults and two children were found about half a mile from that of the archer, dubbed "The King of Stonehenge" by Britain's tabloid press. Archaeologists said he came from Switzerland and may have been involved in building the monument.

Radiocarbon tests will be done to find out more precise dates for the burials but the group is believed to have lived around 2300 B.C., during the building of Stonehenge at Amesbury, 75 miles southwest of London, said Wessex Archaeology, which excavated the site.

Memorial Day Morning: Only Apparently Real?

You furnish the pictures. I'll furnish the war.
-- William Randolph Hearst, founder of yellow journalism and instigator of the Spanish-American War

Last year, I took Peter to Pleasantviille's Memorial Day parade. As the first Memorial Day after 9/11, it was very serious and very moving. We waved our flags and marched with the crowd when all the official marchers had passed by. There were speeches in the train station parking lot. It was hot and uncomfortably humid, but the ceremony was deeply meaningful and in memory it still is.

This year I will not be going to a Memorial Day parade. I'm sure I could find one in Baltimore if I wanted to. But today we are called upon by the President to not only honor those who serve and die for our country, but to honor the intentions of those who got them killed and to agree that the Iraq war was a good thing:

Throughout our history, the decency, character, and idealism of our military troops have turned enemies into allies and oppression into hope. In all our victories, American soldiers have fought to liberate, not to conquer; and today, the United States joins with a strong coalition in the noble cause of liberty and peace for the world. On this day, America honors her own, but we also recognize the shared victories and hardships of our allied forces who have served and fallen alongside our troops.

We're in our hotel room at Balticon. We'll be heading home today. I've been skimming today's news. Peter was watching cartoons a few minutes ago. But I noticed a change in the music to something very up-tempo-promotional and looked over at the TV. Instead of cartoons, there were fast cuts between scenes of the US invading Iraq like it was some kind of Xtreme Sport. I explained to Peter that the television was trying to convince him that war was a good idea and that we must change the channel now. He agreed and suggested that maybe someone in the next room had used a remote to change the channel. I looked for another kids' show, but most channels seemed to be running promotional trailers for the next war. He's watching Jack Hannah (animal show guy) being interviewed by Murray Popvich right now.

Who was it, exactly, on 9/11 or immediately thereafter, who decided that the colors of mourning for our dead would be red, white, and blue not black? that we would express our national pain and upset through patriotic display? I admit, I was taken in. I did not go as far as some in Pleasantville. There were some houses displaying 16 or more flags in the front yard. There were flags as big as bedsheets. There were SUVs decked out like Presidential motorcades. I didn'y go that far, but I did put little flags on our mailbox. I wore a little flag pin. I had convinced myself that partiotic display did not equal support of militarism, that it meant something else. And yet here we are, only the second Memorial Day after 9/11 and that exactly what it's supposed to mean.

Can we please be allowed to support the military without supporting militarism?

The answer is probably no. Thus, it is appropriate that more people will celebrate Memorial Day by going to see The Matrix Reloaded than by attempting to honor our war dead. Frank Rich, who years ago worked in a record store with Philip K. Dick, published a brilliant piece in yesterday's NYT on the movie, the media and the war. (It's worth paying to read even once the NTY's free viewing has expired.) Here's a sample:

But the media giants that wield such clout don't always put it to such frivolous use. We are not just plugged into their matrix to be sold movies and other entertainment products. These companies can also plug the nation into news narratives as ubiquitous and lightweight as "The Matrix Reloaded," but with more damaging side effects.

This is what has happened consistently during America's struggle with Osama bin Laden. During the years when Al Qaeda's terrorists were gearing up for 9/11, the media giants were in overdrive selling escapist fare like the Clinton scandals, Gary Condit's sex life and shark attacks. They were all legitimate stories. But just as "The Matrix Reloaded," playing on a record 8,517 screens, crowded most other movies out of the marketplace last weekend, so those entertaining melodramas drove any reports of threatening developments beyond our shores to the periphery of the mass-media news culture.

The media giants took the same tack in banding together to push the administration-dictated narrative of Saddam Hussein -- and with the same results. The networks' various productions of "Countdown: Iraq," though as ponderous as "The Matrix Reloaded," were so effective that by the time we went to war, 51 percent of the country, according to a Knight-Ridder poll, believed that Iraqis were among the 9/11 hijackers. It took the bloody re-emergence of Qaeda terrorists in Riyadh two weeks ago to recover the repressed memory that none of the 9/11 terrorists were Iraqis and that most of them were Saudis. And whatever happened to Saddam's arsenal, all those advanced nuclear weapons programs and biological poisons that George W. Bush kept citing as the justification for going to war? Well, sarin today, gone tomorrow. That laundry list of terrors, none of them yet found, vanished from the national consciousness as soon as the cable outlets of AOL Time Warner, Fox and NBC put their muscle behind The Laci Peterson Murder.

Media and government hit increasingly dangerous resonanance patterns yeilding catastrophic results. We have not just one William Randolph Hearst, but a screaming army of them, channel after channel. Here we stand, on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge of the information highway, and the wind is rising. What I see on TV this morning seems likely to yield new wars soon. I wish it were only apparently real.

At Balticon

It's Sunday morning at Balticon. The Wydam, where the convention is being held, has high-speed Internet service in the rooms. We didn't turn it on for the first 24 hours because we were busy, but now here I am.

Michael Swanwick was here Friday evening. He hadn't planned to come, but his son Sean is on the gaming program and prevailed upon dad for a ride from Philadelphia to the con. We hosted the Tor party in a two-storey suite provided by the convention, so Michael stayed around for the evening. Also seen at Balticon: Tobias Buckell, Jim Kling, Hal Clement, and Greg Cox. Paul Levinson, whom we expected to see, apparently has car trouble and is stuck in Boston.

We had dinner with John Wright and Jagi Lamplighter last night. Although we had much pleasant adult conversation, the most intense conversation at the table seemed to be between infants (Jus, 4 month, and Elizabeth, 7 months) conducted in the secret language of babies.

The two best things I've seen on the program so far were on children's programming: Carpathian's Tales of the Macabre (storytelling), and a science demonstration with "Mr. Polymer." I only saw parts of each, since Lorna Logan-Edwards was keeping track of Peter for me for part of the afternoon. But Carpathian told a nice version of The King of the Cats and Mr. Polymer showed Peter how to do what he's been trying to accomplish by mixing shampoo and hand lotion in our bathroom at home. Although we only saw part of the chemistry demonstration, I think Peter really got it.

I took the kids to the Baltimore aquarium Friday. We were there for four hours. It lives up to it reputation as an excellent aquarium. However it was designed by someone with a strong notion that an aquarium should be like a film, and should therefor have a strong sequential flow. This flow is enforced by a series of one-way escalators. Peter is somewhat afraid of escalators, so this aspect was a bit of a challenge. (Perhaps the designer imprinted on Heinlein's "The Roads Must Roll" as a child.) We subverted the sequential flow by starting over at the beginning and by using the well-concealed elevators.

We have an arrangement to go to the aquarium again this morning with Lorna and Hannah Logan-Edwards. I'm hoping we're not thwarted by Memorial Day crowds.

Before we got the high-speed Internet connection working, I tried watching TV news in our hotel room. I didn't get very far. I kept thinking how can they say this stuff with a straight face?

A couple of noteworthy items I've encountered this morning:

BBC: Afghans' uranium levels spark alert

A small sample of Afghan civilians have shown "astonishing" levels of uranium in their urine, an independent scientist says.

The general speculation in the article is that some kind of uranium weapon was used in the war in Afghanistan. I have a different thought: we might have bombed caches of uranium, thus aerating the stuff.

And, from the great thinkers who expected Iraqi's to strew the path of the US military with flowers, a new plan for a "popular" uprising, this time in Iran. Regardless of what one might think should or should not be done about Iran, you've got to wince a bit at this one. The Bush people just do not have their finger on the pulse of popular opinion in places like that. Don't these guys ever learn?

BUSH'S EURPOPE: The words of Condoleezza Rice: Punish France, ignore Germany, forgive Russia. I think I'll go buy something French.

And now, off to the aquarium . . . .

MEANWHILE: Patrick O'Leary directs our attention to Charley Reese on Bush in the Matrix world.

From New Castle, Delaware

I originally posted this entry in the comment section of the 5/22 entry because I couldn't seem to log into MT from the motel Internet connetion. I managed to get into comments though. In the interests of continuity, here it is.

We've stayed over in a motel near the airport in New Castle, Delaware. One new trend in motels I like is that some have computers with Internet access in the lobby. The browser on this one can't handle logging into my MT account, but I can get to the this comment field.

We got out of the house with a little more fuss than usual, but as I said, things are fine once we're on the road.

David read the Delaware guide book while I drove and found us a neat colonial restaurant to have dinner at: Jessop's Tavern and Colonial Resaurant in New Castle, DE. We giggled a bit at the guide book description: captures the atmosphere of the War of 1812. What? It's burned to the ground? But it did indeed have a pleasantly tranquil colonial atmosphere. The food was terrific, and the portions were vast. As we were walking toward the car, David remarked, "That was disgracefully inexpensive."

My favorite moment of mommy transcendence in the car was this. David was driving and we were headed down the Jersey Turnpike and the Richard Shindell song about the Jersey turnpike sucking all the foultempered commuters into Hell was playing on the car stereo. I was sitting between the two kids. Peter was whining in one ear that he wanted to eat the salmon in the coloer that's for our Balticon party, and Elizabeth was crying in my other ear. I didn't say anything. I just snapped my fingers in time to the music. Peter spent a few moments trying to snap his fingers, then fell asleep. Elizabeth stopped crying and watched my hand. Magic. Everyone calm by the time the song was over.

Time to wake up David and head on down the road!

Sharp Little Teeth

Now that Elizabeth has two sharp little teeth in her lower jaw, biting while breastfeeding becomes an issue. She's not really biting, so much as seeking counterpressure on sore gums. I'm glad she waited this long to get teeth. As I recall, Peter got teeth about two months earlier.  Looking this up on the web, I am assured by an expert that

I can honestly say that in nearly 25 years of working with nursing moms, I have never known of a single case of a baby actually biting a nipple off completely. Now, don't you feel better about the whole thing?

Note that she offers no reassurance about whether your baby will draw blood. Are biting breatfeeders the true origin of the vampire legend? [David comments that I must not have read Theodore Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood, which he says is all about breastfeeding.]

Actually, I'm pretty relaxed about being bitten, since I've been through this before. It seems really ominous with the first child. I remember being worried about it and getting bitten occasionally. But babies like nursing a lot more than biting. I remember this as being a transient problem rather than a persistent problem with Peter. I nursed him until he was 13 months old.

Theoretically, we're heading down to Baltimore this afternoon. But there are many details to be ironed out between now and then. We need to confirm with Geoff that he's taking care of our menagerie. I need to put the praying mantis egg cases on the screened porch so that we don't come home to a house full of hungry baby mantids. Peter has a doctor's appointment this morning, and there is also the small matter of packing.

I don't expect that I'll be able to make entries in this weblog while we're gone.  Hotels have really been jacking up the phone rates lately, so in general I don't try to dial into the internet from a hotel room unless it's an emergency.

IN OTHER BABY NEWS: In an entry entitled bombshell Gabe Choinard announces:

Forgive me for being out of the loop for the past few days.

We're going to have another baby.

Swing by his site and congratulate him.

Welfare for the Wealthy: Are Bush's Big Backers Looting the U. S. Treasury?

David directs my attention to two pieces on the Bush tax cuts:

Warren Buffet explains how the Bush tax cut will reduce his personal tax rate to 3 per cent:

Now the Senate says that dividends should be tax-free to recipients. Suppose this measure goes through and the directors of Berkshire Hathaway (which does not now pay a dividend) therefore decide to pay $1 billion in dividends next year. Owning 31 percent of Berkshire, I would receive $310 million in additional income, owe not another dime in federal tax, and see my tax rate plunge to 3 percent.

And our receptionist? She'd still be paying about 30 percent, which means she would be contributing about 10 times the proportion of her income that I would to such government pursuits as fighting terrorism, waging wars and supporting the elderly. Let me repeat the point: Her overall federal tax rate would be 10 times what my rate would be.

When I was young, President Kennedy asked Americans to "pay any price, bear any burden" for our country. Against that challenge, the 3 percent overall federal tax rate I would pay -- if a Berkshire dividend were to be tax-free -- seems a bit light.

Administration officials say that the $310 million suddenly added to my wallet would stimulate the economy because I would invest it and thereby create jobs. But they conveniently forget that if Berkshire kept the money, it would invest that same amount, creating jobs as well. . .

Supporters of making dividends tax-free like to paint critics as promoters of class warfare. The fact is, however, that their proposal promotes class welfare. For my class.

And here's another piece: What Happened to the 'Fairness' In the Dividend Tax Cut? by Allan Sloan

You can disagree on whether cutting dividends is a good or bad idea. But if you care about telling the truth, you have to be appalled at the president's "fairness" pitch on dividends and with Congress's phony math on the budgetary impact of dividend tax cuts. As a bonus, you can worry about whether the Senate legislation adopted last week has opened one of the biggest tax loopholes in history, a subject we'll deal with later.

You remember back when the push to eliminate taxes on dividends started? President Bush and his understudies and groupies carried on endlessly about ending supposedly unfair "double taxation of dividends." Tax should be paid "once and only once," the mantra went. The Treasury produced an elaborate plan to ensure that dividends eligible for tax-free status had to come from profits on which corporate income tax had been paid.

But guess what: That provision is gone. . . .

Now, to the loophole. Congressional tax staffers, who for obvious reasons prefer to remain anonymous, think they've already found a multibillion-dollar loophole created by the Senate legislation. It goes like this. A corporation can pay investors a huge, tax-free dividend consisting of all its profits since the income tax was created, less any dividends paid during that period. As part of the deal, the company will make it attractive for its investors to buy new shares of stock from the company for the total amount of the dividend. The company's total stock market value won't change because its profits and asset values remain the same. It's like a stock split, with more shares selling at a lower per-share price. But this way, an investor's cost basis for computing capital gains taxes will be greatly increased, because it will consist of the price she originally paid for the stock, plus the value of the dividend. And when the investor sells, her capital gains tax will be smaller. Bingo, a windfall.

Yes, that's a little hard to follow, but it looks to me as if it will work. With a president preaching faux fairness and Congress producing phony numbers, what's a few hundred billion extra dollars of tax breaks among friends?

It looks to me like the U.S. Treasury is going the way of the Baghdad Museum. Do you think we'll be getting our key pieces back?

(See also my previous discussions of the Bush tax cut.)

AND SPEAKING OF THE TREASURY: Oh where oh where has our trillion gone? Oh where oh where can it be?

MEANWHILE: Is there a purge going on or something? Christie Whitman Resigns. Who's next?

Postmodern Nomadism with Children

Balticon approaches like an oncoming freight train. We go to a lot of conventions, and once we're on the road, it's fine. It's the transitions that are rough. And every time we set out, I have to pack for three people: myself and the two kids.

When Peter was small, I felt like we were semi-nomadic. Other mothers would criticize me for all the travelling we did, saying what children really need is routine, but Peter finds travel very reassuring, and he's a great traveller.

Nomadism as a lifestyle really does work. Reindeer herders have done it for 15,000 years. When we were first travelling a lot with infant Peter, looking for tips on travelling with kids I tried to look into how nomadic cultures handled such things. But modern cultures have been much more interested in "civilizing" nomads than they have in documenting the lifestyle. Modern cultures' react to nomadism by taking all the children and putting them in boarding schools where they are forced to speak a different language than their parents. The reason for this is austensibly educational.

What I have found while travelling is that educational opportunities while travelling are much richer than those while staying home. Nonetheless, now that we have two small kids, one of whom now in the public school system, our opportuniteis for travel are more limited.

But as I said, it's the transitions that are rough: Getting out of the house and returning home can both be quite disorienting.

After several spectacularly beautiful days, it's raining this morning. Elizabeth got three vacinations yesterday, and so is running a low fever. (Or perhaps it's a teething fever; she is, after all, getting a tooth.) It's her first fever.

Yesterday was bewilderingly full of appointments, but there's nothing written on the calendar today; still I have to pack and settle what chaos I can, because we hope to set out for Balticon tomorrow afternoon.

RANDOM READING: Missingmatterboy asks whether science fiction has become obsolete, since he finds that he now gets his science-fictional thrills from actual science. Interesting, but I think this says more about the current state of the sciences than it does about sf. (This thread of discussion was current in hard sf about ten years ago.)


This is a picture Peter took in our back yard last summer, somewhat played with in Photoshop. The woman in blue is me.

TEETHING UPDATE: No wonder Elizabeth is so unhappy this morning. She's got a second tooth!

Tiny Jellies

This picture of tiny jellies the size of my thumbnail that we encountered on a remote beach on Cape Cod last summer was taken by my brother, John Cramer (not the Analog columnist; that's our dad), using his digital camera. Because we had three little boys in tow (Peter and his cousins), we brought creature keepers and nets to a beach that was a mile walk from the parking lot. Those came in handy when we discovered that the surf was full of jellies. Were they babies? Or adults of a tiny species? We don't know.

tiny jellies

This is why the world needs digital cameras.

PETER QUOTE OF THE DAY: Did you know that pterosaurs evolved into bluebirds?

RANDOM READING: I just found an interesting piece by Eric Raymond on libertarianism and our anthology THE HARD SF RENAISSANCE:

Libertarianism and the Hard SF Renaissance

I think I can go further than Hartwell or Cramer or Benford in defining the relationship between hard SF and the rest of the field. To do this, I need to introduce the concept linguist George Lakoff calls "radial category", one that is not defined by any one logical predicate, but by a central prototype and a set of permissible or customary variations. As a simple example, in English the category "fruit" does not correspond to any uniformity of structure that a botanist could recognize. Rather, the category has a prototype "apple", and things are recognized as fruits to the extent that they are either (a) like an apple, or (b) like something that has already been sorted into the "like an apple" category.

Radial categories have central members ("apple", "pear", "orange") whose membership is certain, and peripheral members ("coconut", "avocado") whose membership is tenuous. Membership is graded by the distance from the central prototype . . . roughly, the number of traits that have to mutate to get one from being like the prototype to like the instance in question. Some traits are important and tend to be conserved across the entire radial category (strong flavor including sweetness) while some are only weakly bound (color). . . .

SF is a radial category in which the prototypes are certain classics of hard SF. This is true whether you are mapping individual works by affinity or subgenres like space opera, technology-of-magic story, eutopian/dystopian extrapolation, etc. So in discussing the traits of SF as a whole, the relevant question is not "which traits are universal" but "which traits are strongly bound" -- or, almost equivalently, "what are the shared traits of the core (hard-SF) prototypes".

The strong binding between hard SF and libertarian politics continues to be a fact of life in the field. It it is telling that the only form of politically-inspired award presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention is the Libertarian Futurist Society's "Prometheus". There is no socialist, liberal, moderate, conservative or fascist equivalent of the class of libertarian SF writers including L. Neil Smith, F. Paul Wilson, Brad Linaweaver, or J. Neil Schulman; their books, even when they are shrill and indifferently-written political tracts, actually sell -- and sell astonishingly well -- to SF fans.


Thanks to the help of Adam Kelsey, I now have the Technorati API plugin working. It's now in the sidebar displaying incoming links being tested against the previous rather messy widget I'd been using for that purpose. I have some vague ideas of using it to create weblog See also . . . suggestions for further read for use with widely discussed topics, but for now, I'm pleased that I've got the plugin installed properly.

Stump Shots

PETER QUOTE OF THE DAY: Never suck bubbles through a straw: You'll get soap in your mouth.

By popular request, photos of Peter's Circle of Stumps. These are from a while back and do not include the new swing arrangements mentioned in Invisible Swingset:

Click for a larger picture.

Another structure in our yard (which has its own story): the House of Sticks. (That's me with the tummy, 9 months pregnant.) Click for a larger picture.

I've got to take some better pictures, because none of these quite capture the setting.

New Weirdness

There's an interesting discussion of new trends in fantasy fiction in the TTA Press M. John Harrison discussion forum: The New Weird and Function follows Form: New Weird 2. There's a lot to read here, and I've just gotten started. One of the highlights is a long manifesto-like piece by China Miéville in the second portion. (Via Gallowglass.)

ELECTRONIC ARCHEOLOGY: Here are two pretty but deeply trivial pictures I found on my hard drive when looking for something else. Peter wanted me to scan in Vinyl, one of his Australian White's tree frogs. This species of frog is not only unusually personable but also photogenic. (One frequently sees them presented on TV or in movies as wild frogs on continents and in climates where they have no business being.) This is, however, not Vinyl's best angle. The frog was in a plastic creature keeper, and it moved a bit during both scans.

MEANWHILE: Ari Fleisher resigns. Any number of smart remarks occur to me, but I suppose I should just say that I wish him well in the private sector and hope for a more candid successor. OK, I can't resist. Here's the headline I'd like to see: Press Secretary Who Resigned Leaves Long Trail of Deception. (Via Whiskey Bar which also has an irreverent graphic.)

IN FURTHER WEIRDNESS: Hatfill Hit by FBI Car While Under Surveillance

WASHINGTON�-�A scientist identified as "a person of interest" in the investigation of the deadly�anthrax (search)�attacks was slightly injured in a traffic incident involving a federal agent who was following him.

Dr. Steven J. Hatfill suffered a bruised foot and abrasions after the incident Saturday but wound up getting a ticket for "walking to create hazard" that carries a $5 fine, according to a copy of the citation provided Monday by Washington police.

Who are these jokers? Did they tell him his novel sucked, too?

This was the beginning of the New Word Order. It is what we used to have instead of History: A Ken MacLeod Satire

The birds woke the kids just after five, who woke me from a dream of someone showing me snapshots of all the goings on at late-night sf convention parties that I can no longer go to because I always have kids in tow. (The dream involved people who are better off dressed taking off all their clothes, but that's sf conventions for you.)

I got the kids back to sleep. Then I lay, sandwiched between them, fantasizing about buying about 60 bags of topsoil and putting it in the area of the yard where the pool used to be and buying both a plasitic pond with skimmer and also a kiddie pool, the kiddie pool to be closer to the circle of stumps and the pond to be closer to the old pool steps and th electrical outlet and how much wildflower seed would I have to buy and where could I get frog eggs to put in the pond and do deer eat lily pads and . . . And I decided since it was almost 6 AM I'd rather get up than lie there thinking about buying topsoil.

So here I am with my coffee. We put my computer table in a new place, which requires some getting used to. The rising sun was shining in my face a few minutes ago, but now it's better.

Here's a treat: In HOW HISTORY ENDED AND WHAT HAPPENED AFTERWARDS, posted on his weblog, Ken McLeod takes on the problem of things happening after history's end in the manner of a college undergraduate who has read too much criticism uncritically. Really funny and requires careful reading because he keeps using phrases you think you've read before, except that line after line, his sentences are like the punchline to the joke about the guy converting to catholicism who confuses Easter with Ground Hog Day: and Jesus rolls back the rock and comes out of the cave and if he sees his shadow, there'll be two more weeks of winter.

It begins:

Karl Marx said that communist society would bear the birthmarks of the old, and Mikhail Gorbachev bore one of them on top of his head. Gorbachev rose to power as a result of the Chernobyl Reaction, which came about because the Russians discovered that their previous two leaders - Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko (these are three, but the third does not count) - were dead but still standing.

and ends:

Afghanistan was bombed to get rid of Osama Bin Laden. He now no longer lives in Afghanistan but in the hearts of millions of devoted followers. Iraq was bombed to kill Saddam Hussein and to get rid of his Weapons of Mass Destruction, which are now in the hands of the people of Iraq.

America is still Top Nation.

Good fun!

LINKS: I've added links to a few sf-oriented bloggers I found by checking who linked to Birkerts' attack on sf. Welcome Tim Yu and James DiBenedetto.

L Is for Literature

Greg Benford just called to ask if we'd seen Sven Birkerts' attack on science fiction in the NYT.

. . . science fiction will never be Literature with a capital "L," and this is because it inevitably proceeds from premise rather than character.

(This morning, when I might otherwise have seen it, I was railing against the evils of Pokmon.) Though I don't think Greg knew this, Birkerts used to be a colleague of David's and mine at Harvard Summer School in the Writing Division. I don't remember much about him from those days except that I once noticed him carrying an Iain Banks novel.

He makes this attack, as nearly as I can tell, to set the stage for his contention that

What Atwood's inventive treatment of first and last things lacks is a plausible psychological basis.

Seemingly, he is blaming the whole of sf for this fault. I do wonder why he bothered, since it is a reasonable objection to raise against a book in any genre. Some books have a plausible psychological basis; some don't.

I have never felt that all literature was character-driven, and have usually objected when I've heard such claims raised within sf. Some literature is character-driven; some is setting-driven; some is driven by moral conviction; some by ideas, etc. That only character-driven literature can be Literature with a capital L is an notion pressed upon us by Henry James that even James himself does not live up to.

Since Birkerts attacked sf, sf needs defending. But I have a crying baby and am tired from having to get up with her this morning much earlier than I liked, so I think I'll stop now.

UPDATE: Do read the NYT comments section associated with this piece. My favorite bit, from Allen Maurer, which I think I'll put in my sidebar, is the line "I fail to see why some critics believe great literature cannot be about ideas."

Pokmon Infestations and Other Matters

GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL, or PARENTING THE POSTMODERN CHILD: While strolling the aisles in the grocery store, did you ever wonder why anyone in their right mind would buy a box of Pokmon facial tissue? I bought one last week, so I can tell you. Because I had already refused Peter's requests to buy Pokmon popsicles, Pokmon gummis, and several other Pokmon products which infest the grocery story. As we speak, I am within about an inch of rounding up all the Pokmon products in the house and consigning them to a plastic bag in the top of the closet. As nearly as I can tell, it is the goal of Pokmon marketers to place multiple Pokmon products in every aisle of the grocery store. I don't think they've made it to the produce aisle or the meat section (actually, there are probalby Pokmon chicken nuggets, though Peter hasn't brought them to my attention), but at this point I would not be surprised to find Pokmon dish washing detergent.

What precipitates this fuming on my part is that our evening was spoiled last night by Pokmon: we went grocery shopping and although I think I turned down about ten other Pokmon products, I said yes to Pokmon macaroni and cheese (a Kraft product). Peter had a total meltdown because I would not open the package instantly when we got home and cut out the collectible Pokmon coins on the back of the box. Somewhere out there someone is shaking their head and saying now here is a mother who just can't say no, but I did say no, over and over again. Consistency someone is muttering. We very consistently refuse to buy any toys or videos in the grocery store. So why did I buy Pokmon tissues? Because we actually needed tissues, and it didn't seem to me that buying Pokmon tissues would do any harm. And I bought the macaroni and cheese because he actually ate the Kraft macaroni and cheese we bought last time.

Now, despite my strong desire to establish a concentration camp for the cute but violent little creatures in the top of my closet, I'm not going to do it, not because I'm a wimpy parent who can't say no, but rather because it wouldn't do any good. Even if I succeeded in banishing Pokmon from my home, its scarcity would only make Peter desire it more. My son has excellent visual comprehension and my husband's collector's attention span for things he's really interested in. And if even I vanquish Pokmon, there's Scoobydoo, Yu-gi-oh!, Rescue Heroes, Blues Clues. Peter has an acute perception of fads and a pragmatic understanding of their role in the Westchester children's social web. Fads are what kids talk about and how they know who their friends are.

Rather, somehow I have to empower him to walk through the valley of the shadow of commerce without feeling that his very social existence hangs on whether he goes home with Pokmon macaroni and cheese. This is much harder than just saying no.

Why do marketers do this to Kindergartners? They are doing it on purpose. Because it pays. Creeps.

What I will probably do about the grocery store problem is to establish a rule that we do not buy food with recognizable cartoon characters on the package; I'm going to try that, though it may be difficult to enforce as tie-in marketers make new incursions into the grocery store.

ANYWAY, we went to Pleasantville Day yesterday. We got going too late for pancake breakfast because of small matters like paying bills and filing medical claims from the doctors' office receipts I'd been hoarding in my purse. It was a sunny but slightly chilly day. Elizabeth, in the stroller, slept through most of it. I managed not to come home with a goldfish. (Some outfit has a throwing game with live fish as prizes. I think they go up the street to Petland Discounts and buy a couple hundred feeder goldfish which cost about  five cents each and them let kids win them. Conscientious parents then have to go out and buy about twenty bucks worth of fish tank. The pet store in the center of town, which is not party to this, always has a run on fish supplies on Pleasantville Day.) Peter went on the merry-go-round and through the inflatable castle. I think his favorite part was the dance demonstration by students from a local dance school. Peter, who is very responsive to music, and is a pretty good dancer for an uncoordinated 5-year-old, danced along from the sidelines. He particularly liked their finale; he described the music as being like the "theme song to Power Rangers." Peter likes theme songs. Also, I saw something I'd never seen before: a father using his cellphone to video his daughter's dance performance. I think it was a Korean model. He said it holds half an hour of video.

The volunteer firemen were giving rides on the fire engine. But Peter never did get to ride on the fire engine even though we stood in line twice. As Peter explained, When I'm in line I don't want to be there. But when the fire engine comes I just want to be first in line.

Peter now has enough self-awareness to know that he was overstimulated and so didn't want to go to the Strawberry festival after lunch. Instead, he played in the yard with they neighbor kids, who were just discovering the interesting properties of the invisible swingset. Because swings hang from a rope rather than a fixed bar, kinetic energy transfers from one swing to the next quite fluidly. By the end of the day, the kids an I somehow ended up slightly sunburned.

We have some interesting wildflowers in the area of the circle of stumps. The jack-in-the-pulpit is in bloom, as are lots of little violets (and  of course dandylions).

The weirdest wildflower that grows around here is indian pipe, a plant that contains no chlorophyll. It's about the right time of year for them, but I haven't seen any yet this year. They grow under piles of leaves and eventually poke through. Until I looked them up a few years ago, I didn't know there were any flowering plants that didn't have chlorophyll.

There seem to be morrell mushrooms growing on our front lawn, but I'm not very confident in my knowledge of mushroom, so I don't think I'll cook them. The late Tad Dembinsky (formerly of the NYRSF staff), who knew a lot about mushrooms, was very enthusiastic about the mushrooms that grow in our yard. 

Also, I think we have a patch of goldenseal. In a doctor's office waiting room in the winter I was reading an article in a magazine, I think it was a National Geographic, about how scarce wild goldenseal was becoming, and I looked at the picture, and thought so that's what that stuff is.

I'm going to rake some leaves today  and see if I can find the indian pipe coming up. I wish we had a digital  camera so I could go around the yard snapping close-ups of these things.

POKMON UPDATE: Peter's first words to me this morning were after you get out of the bath will you please cut out my Pokmon coins? So far, I'm getting by on changing the subject. I think he may be having Pokmon maracroni and Cheese for breakfast so I can get this subject out of my life.

Yes, I know the South Park solution; even Peter knows the South Park solution  (pretend that we groupups think Pokmon is really cool so that the kids will move on to the next fad). But it wouldn't work: 5-year-olds still think their parents are cool. It would just make me an easy mark for all the other fads.

MEANWHILE: Elizabeth is trying to learn the art of knocking over piles of books.

But Wait, There's More

Here are more urls of weblogs discussing the Democratic Leadership Council's silliness. I somehow missed them in my searches yesterday.

Pleasantville Day!

Today is Pleasantville Day! We're going to start at the Presbyterian Church pancake breakfast and then head for the center of town for games, and a street fair like-thing in the train station parking lot, and all kinds of stuff. And when we are done we'll head over to Chappaqua for the Strawberry Festival at the Episcopal Church.

This morning, I reformatted my links to other weblogs for easier reading.

An Open Letter to the Democratic Leadership Council

An open letter to the Democratic Leadership Council in response to
DLC Ý|Ý Memo Ý|Ý May 15, 2003
The Real Soul of the Democratic Party by Al From and Bruce Reed

If I understand all this doubletalk correctly, your ideal democratic presidential candidate would be somewhere near the right-center of Dwight D. Eisenhower and would never ever take a position on a controversial issue unless it has been thoroughly market tested. Further, you seem to intend the election to be a contest of dueling pollsters in which your mealy-mouthed candidate runs against the republican's meanly-mouthed candidate (Bush) and each candidate's statements approximate as closely as possible what pollsters think so-called swing voters want to hear.

If what you intend is another Coke Vs. Pepsi campaign like the last presidential election, you might as well save democratic donors a bunch of money and give up now. Voters, given a choice of candidates pursuing the same tiny target audience will say, why not choose the real thing? and will simply vote for Bush because he's already president.

Now, I think From and Reed are correct that Bush is not representing the goals and desires of the rank-and-file republicans, but to make that point, Democrats must be willing to run a campaign openly calls Bush what he is, namely a right-authoritarian-militarist-elitist. Given that one cannot call a US major politician a fascist on the editorial pages of any major paper in this country (except in the letter column), I don't see how your strategy of running a republican candidate as the democratic presidential choice can work.

How about we choose a democrat instead? I think what democrats really want to vote for is a democrat.

PS: Still feeling the need to appeal to republicans? Try the libertarian right. No joke. They must be getting awfully concerned about the Bush administration's intrusiveness.


Other Weblogs Which Discuss the DNC Piece:

Links via