G. A. Cerny
Thursday, August 19, 2004
  Cabaniss Speaks:
If anyone should wonder why Americans should care about the Czech Republic, Bill Cabaniss can give them some reasons.
The former state legislator and Birmingham industrialist has been U.S. ambassador to the landlocked central European nation for the past seven months.

We have over $3.5-$4 billion (that) American businesses and investors have in the Czech Republic, have a lot of Americans living in the Czech Republic," Cabaniss said Wednesday after sharing some thoughts on the country with the Birmingham Rotary Club.

No doubt his next speech to the Kiwanis will be even better. 
  Ogden Nash, Baltimore's own master of verse, was born 102 years ago today.
A sample:
Some people's money is merited,
And other people's is inherited,
But wherever it comes from,
They talk about it as if it were something you got pink gums from.
Perhaps indeed the possession of wealth is constantly distressing,
But I should be quite willing to assume every curse of wealth if I could at the same time assume every blessing.
The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can't cure,
Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won't buy, but it's very funny --
Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

From "The Terrible People."

Or his "Samson Agonistes":
I test my bath before I sit,
And I'm always moved to wonderment
That what chills the finger not a bit
Is so frigid upon the fundament.

And who could forget "The Purist"?
I give you now Professor Twist,
A conscientious scientist,
Trustees exclaimed, "He never bungles!"
And sent him off to distant jungles.
Camped on a tropic riverside,
One day he missed his loving bride.
She had, the guide informed him later,
Been eaten by an alligator.
Professor Twist could not but smile.
"You mean," he said, "a crocodile."
Thursday, August 05, 2004
  Light blogging this week, as though you didn't already know from the lack of posts. I'm starting a new job, celebrating my girlfriend's birthday, and working on a few long, but hopefully not dull, posts.
In a side point, for some reason, far beyond my grasp, I haven't been able to post in my own comments section. Other people can, and are encouraged to do so, but I can't until I figure out what the problem is and fix it. Tips welcome. But, anyway, I'm not ignoring comments, just unable to respond, at least in that section.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
  A whole new level of desperation
The Republicans, in need of a Senate candidate in Illinois to oppose rising star Barack Obama after their nominee was forced to withdraw over a sex scandal, are meeting today in Chicago to make their pick.
Among the possibles is Maryland's own Alan Keyes.

As Josh Marshall puts it:
It certainly doesn't seem like there's much time to make a drama out of the Illinois senate race. But comedy, it seems, is still a possibility.

Keyes' great innovation in politics was to pay himself a salary from campaign funds for serving as the candidate when he ran for the Senate in Maryland. He should have fired himself. Mikulski slaughtered him.

His descent into something very close to insanity became clear in his run for the Republican presidential nomination. But that's just my take. Keyes, excuse me, Ambassador Keyes, has a website (via TPM) where he claims that he is, in fact, the Messiah. Keyes:
Is capable of leading our country to widespread moral and political renewal, once all of America has a chance to see and hear, first-hand, his self-evident brilliance.

I can't believe that the Republicans are stupid enough to run Keyes, though the entertainment value would be considerable. If they actually do it, then it becomes impossible to even imagine a scenario where Obama doesn't pick up. The old saw about getting caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy wouldn't do it. Obama could state that it was really him in the R. Kelly video and Keyes still wouldn't crack 40%.

It gets better and better. Here's the first few graphs of the AP story by Maura Kelly Lanan:
One GOP Senate hopeful wears a white wig and lives in his car-- "Air Ford One." Three got interviewed just by showing up. One isn't even a Republican.
In all Tuesday, 13 people made their cases to a committee of the state's Republican leaders in 15-minute interviews, each explaining why they would be the best choice to replace Jack Ryan atop the GOP ballot this fall.
After three and half hours of interviews and two hours of deliberations, Illinois GOP spokesman Jason Gerwig said the committee had the list down to three and hadn't ruled out two-time presidential hopeful Alan Keyes, who lives in Maryland and didn't interview because of a scheduling conflict

He said the committee members planned to keep working through the night until they had their choice, a process that could include interviewing Keyes by phone.
It's been a long five weeks for the party since Ryan dropped his Senate campaign over sex club allegations.

  Dear Mrs. Rowling,
Thank you for your interest in these problems and for your contribution to our domestic discussion on this topic.
Yours Sincerely,
Vaclav Klaus
Nothing says "fuck off" like the very sincere thanks of President Klaus.

Best line:
I agree with you that protection of seriously handicapped patients, especially children, has to be a priority, because they cannot defend themselves. I can assure you that I and other institutions of the Czech Republic take this duty of ours very seriously.

(my emphasis)

I'd been following the story, including Klaus' anger at Rowling's "interference," but I'd somehow missed reading the full text until now.

A great read in today's Washington Post by David Segal, "The Shortwave And the Calling." It tells the story of Akin Fernandez who became obsessed by the mysterious shortwave transmissions from "numbers stations" when he began to pick up these bizarre signals one night while fooling around with his own shortwave set:
No context, no comment, no station identification. Nothing but numbers, over and over, for minutes on end. Then the signals disappear, as if somebody pulled the plug in the studio. And it's not just one station. The more he listens, the more number monologues he hears.
"Five four zero," goes a typical broadcast, this time in the soulless voice of a woman with a British accent. "Zero nine zero. One four. Zero nine zero one four."
Numbers in Spanish, in German, Russian, Czech; some voices male, others female. When Fernandez lucks into hearing the start of a broadcast, he's treated to the sound of electronic beeps, or a few bars of calliope music, or words like "message message message." Then come the numbers. A few stations spring to life the same time each night, others pop up at random and cannot be found again.

While the rest of London slept, Fernandez chased these voices all over the dial, never sure when or where he'd find one. He wrote down the results in a green book bound with fake leather. A typical entry looked like this:
Sept 6 '93
Freq Time Signal
6.201 USB 12:30 am BIZARRE German Children's Voice
Station starts with beeps, then
From 1 to 10 then ACHTUNG!
And message!! [expletive] Hell!!

It seems that transmissions are codes to give direction to spies. Fernandez eventually released a long compilation of recordings of the eerie chatter under the title, "The Conet Project." The word comes from the Czech konec for "end" frequently used as a sign-off.

Very spooky stuff, and, as I said, a great read. See also this concise explanation of the phenomenon. 
Monday, August 02, 2004
  Andrew Sullivan linked Friday, before retiring to his hammock, to a piece that, in Sullivan's words, "decries the assertion by the Kerry campaign that somehow having been in combat makes you better suited to be a war-president."

The usual points-- look at FDR!-- are made, but a key concept is overlooked. Paul Fussell, in his famous and controversial essay, "Thank God for the Atom Bomb," wrote of Harry Truman:
He was as close to a genuine egalitarian as anyone we've seen in high office for a long time. He is the only President in my lifetime who ever had experience in a small unit of ground troops whose mission it was to kill people. That sort of experience of actual war seems useful to presidents especially, helping to inform them about lifein general and restraining them from making fools of themselves needlessly-- the way Ronald Reagan did in 1985 when he visited the German military cemetery at Bitburg containing the SS graves.
Truman was a different piece of goods entirely. He knew war, and he knew better than some of his critics then and now what he was doing and why he was doing it.

This was written in 1988, before the current incumbent provided an even clearer example of the value of experience than even Reagan could.

(I should add that I'm not entirely convinced by all of the arguments in Fussell's essay, which seeks to justify the nuclear bombing of Japan, but his case has merit and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.)
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