Looking out, from deep within

I don’t have much for comment. I wish I could be smart enough to be a prig like that.

Okay, okay. I wish I could be smart enough to justify being so priggish. Is that better? I mean, none of us like to countenance fools, but it’s an interesting bit of insight into the current director of the National Ufo Reporting Center. And it’s beside the point. Really, the idea that someone is rich enough to buy a missile silo and be priggish isn’t really something to be jealous of.

Meantime, it’s a nifty story, only slightly diminished for its self-aggrandizing protagonist.

Why does a man buy an old windowless missile complex deep underground, only to spend his days tracking unidentified objects flying through the sky?

Davenport doesn’t have an answer. Furthermore, he doesn’t need one. As a full-time UFO investigator and possessor of one of the world’s most comprehensive, though unofficial, UFO databases, his life already runs counter to convention.
Peter Davenport, director of NUFORC, at his missile silo in Washington state. (Ingrid Barrentine/AP)
The center, in continuous operation since 1970, is known worldwide among those interested in UFOs: scientists as well as people surfing the Web. The hotline is posted on various UFO websites, and calls — as many as 20,000 in a year — come from people who believe they’ve seen or experienced something beyond the ordinary, potentially involving extraterrestrials.

If the case seems compelling and is a short flight away, Davenport will investigate in person. He takes written reports, records testimony and consults experts in specialty areas.

Davenport, 60, is a passionate, cerebral man with a haughty disdain for the media.

I do not countenance fools,” he had said earlier that day, almost as a warning. “The work of studying UFOs is of immense consequence to every living thing on this planet. If I sense you are wasting my time, I will be blunt.”

His life revolves around a question, namely: “Are we alone in the universe or are we not?”

You know, I have a sneaking suspicion that Davenport, who encountered his first UFO in 1954, when he was all of six years old, is probably sick of people disparaging the phenomenon. Maybe that has something to do with it.

At any rate, the story is by Tomas Alex Tizon for the Los Angeles Times, and the photo by Ingrid Barrentine for the Associated Press.

Is this from a movie?

A little help here, please … anyone recognize this? I mean, it’s cool an all, but seriously, when do we ever get proper Ufo footage like this? I mean, has the whole phenomenon become so passé, or have I just been in a hole the last couple months?

Unidentified flowery objects?

Labor News: Stop reading now

In labor news, from The Stranger‘s “I, Anonymous” (March 26, 2008):

Okay, guys. I’m as big a fan of public sex as anyone. When you two business-suit-wearing boys went into the handicap stall of the men’s bathroom together for a quickie at the hotel where I work, I didn’t think it was a big enough deal to stop you. Next time I will. You two left your semen on the floor and walls of the stall. You’re jacking and sucking not two feet from a roll of toilet paper and a convenient way to flush away the evidence. That’s not convenient enough for you? You know who has to clean up your misplaced yuppie baby-gravy? A 90-pound grandmother and housekeeper had to get all of her biohazard business on to clean up your mess. Is it a fetish of yours to have senior-citizen ladies who make minimum wage clean your come off the walls and floor? Or is it your special way to say “fuck you” to the working class? So to all of you folks having public sex, please remember that public places need to be cleaned by someone, and no one is paid enough to clean up the ejaculate of strangers. So have some courtesy and wipe up afterward. Thanks.

I’m sure there’s a Larry Craig joke to put here, but, you know, whatever.  So, yeah.  Er … um … come on, guys.

Making a statement, or, “E for Effort”

Well, here’s something you don’t see every day:

An elderly man has killed himself by programming a robot to shoot him in the head after building the machine from plans downloaded from the internet.

Francis Tovey, 81, who lived alone in Burleigh Heads on the Australian Gold Coast, was found dead in his driveway.

According to the Gold Coast Bulletin, he had been unhappy about the demands of relatives living elsewhere in Australia that he should move out of his home and into care.

Notes left by Mr Tovey — who was born in England — revealed that he had scoured the internet for plans before constructing his complex machine, which involved a jigsaw power tool and was connected to a .22 semi-automatic pistol loaded with four bullets. It could fire multiple shots once triggered remotely.

At 7am on Tuesday he set the robot up in the driveway of his £450,000 house and activated it.

Don’t bother reading this

Rare kudos to FOX News.

A German retiree is taking a hospital to court after she went in for a leg operation and got a new anus instead ….

The rest of that sentence, in fact, is, “the Daily Telegraph is reporting”. The FOX version is nothing more than a slightly edited—for vernacular—version of the Australian newspaper’s short article. But the thing is that I picked this up from David Schmader at Slog, who noted that The Sun had the better headline. Indeed, the British tabloid’s staff reporter simply edited the four sentences of the Australian version.

So let’s do a headline comparison:

  • Daily Telegraph: “Pensioner gets bum’s rush on op”
  • The Sun: “Leg op woman gets bum deal”
  • FOXnews.com: “Woman Goes for Leg Operation, Gets New Anus Instead”

The headline says it allAnd, yeah. I have to go with the FOX headline. I mean, you don’t need to make any joke about it. The simple fact of the story is the joke. Well, sort of. As long as you’re not the pensioner who still needs the leg operation.

Well, that and even without the typographical omission, there’s something about the phrase, “Click hear Dr. Manny talk about medical errors” that strikes me just so. They ought to just give it up and go find themselves a doctor named Nick.

Looking for a change of scenery? Try La Jolla!

I live in an area where the homeless are so pervasive that they become invisible. Sort of. They sort of blend into the landscape, become part of the urban ambience. There comes a point when idealism falls away and you no longer feel badly about refusing to fork over even the nineteen cents in coin jingling lightly in your jacket pocket. I remember once standing outside the Showbox, smoking a cigarette, talking to a homeless man whose face, quite literally, appeared to be decaying, and giving a grinning apology that I wouldn’t give him more than a couple bucks because I wanted another beer.

There are several ironic aspects that are not lost on me. Thankfully, I’m sober and cannot recall them all. Nonetheless, there is a certain cruelty in that sad tale, and I’m not really sure there’s a moral to the story.

However, an Associated Press report out of San Diego strikes me as a proper depiction of petty cruelty. Look, I can’t excuse or justify myself, but at least I wasn’t going out of my way to be a prig about it.

A community activist thinks a few couch potatoes, strategically placed on sidewalk benches in an upscale shopping district, will keep transients on their feet and on the move.

Esther Viti, who oversees the donation of public benches for a merchants’ association in La Jolla, sent an e-mail to 45 other activists last week asking them to sit in three-hour shifts, no bathroom breaks allowed.

“After all, you MUST OCCUPY THAT BENCH continually for three hours to prevent that homeless person from sitting on that bench,” the e-mail said.

Donors weren’t happy that transients were sleeping on benches they had provided for the public, Viti said.

The group previously tried installing benches with metal dividers that split the seats. Transients simply began sleeping upright, said Deborah Marengo, president of Promote La Jolla.

At least I was drunk at the time. I’m going to doubt Ms. Viti can say the same about this brilliant plan.

Look, if the problem is that the homeless are occupying benches intended for general use, all you’re doing by occupying the benches that the homeless would otherwise occupy is changing the scenery. What’s next? “No loitering … without a jacket and tie”?

Love and honor, Italian style

Um … huh?

Anyway, these days I’m finding it easier to just shrug and admit I don’t know where to start. I mean, what am I supposed to do with Christian Fraser’s report for the BBC?

Italy’s highest appeal court has ruled that married Italian women who commit adultery are entitled to lie about it to protect their honour.

The court gave its landmark ruling after hearing the case of a 48-year-old woman, convicted of giving false testimony to police by denying she had lent her mobile phone to her lover ….

…. The woman who brought the appeal was from Porto Ercole on the Tuscany coast, and named only as Carla.

She had lent her telephone to her secret lover, Giovanni, who then used it to call Carla’s estranged husband, Vincenzo, and insult him.

Giovanni, the lover, was convicted of abusive behaviour in a local court, and Carla convicted as an accessory.

But the Court of Cassation found that having a lover was a circumstance that damaged the honour of the person among family and friends.

Lying about it, therefore, was permitted, even in a judicial investigation ….

…. The Court of Cassation, which is largely staffed by elderly male appeal judges, has in the past issued a number of controversial judgements.

It once gave a ruling, later rescinded after protests from women’s groups, that a woman could not be raped by definition if she was wearing tight jeans, since the jeans could only be removed with her consent.

I mean, it occurs to me that we Americans ought to consider complaining a little less about our judiciary, but that doesn’t really help, does it?

I have no idea what this is

This is one of those accidents that I get to blame on someone else. Well, not really. I mean, I did click the damn link. But it wasn’t the video Kelly O was referring to.

Either way ….

Oh, hey, and since I’m not what you would call fluent—or even vaguely familiar—with Polish? Yeah. Let me know. Especially if it’s something really evil.

(Update: After all this time, I found my answer; the song is Czech, approximately titled “Joey the Swamp Thing”, and is apparently quite the famous song performed by Ivan Mládek and the Banjo Band, circa 1978. At any rate, the original link I used broke, and I finally got around to fixing it and figuring out what the song actually was. Is. Whatever. Only took me three years or so to figure out. —bd, 22 March, 2011)

Bombshell? Not really

And while we’re on the subject of Vanity Fair, what of David Rose’s “The Gaza Bombshell“, which details allegations of the Bush administration’s role in bringing about last summer’s escalated violence in Gaza?

In recent months, President Bush has repeatedly stated that the last great ambition of his presidency is to broker a deal that would create a viable Palestinian state and bring peace to the Holy Land. “People say, ‘Do you think it’s possible, during your presidency?’ ” he told an audience in Jerusalem on January 9. “And the answer is: I’m very hopeful.”

The next day, in the West Bank capital of Ramallah, Bush acknowledged that there was a rather large obstacle standing in the way of this goal: Hamas’s complete control of Gaza, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, where it seized power in a bloody coup d’état in June 2007. Almost every day, militants fire rockets from Gaza into neighboring Israeli towns, and President Abbas is powerless to stop them. His authority is limited to the West Bank.

It’s “a tough situation,” Bush admitted. “I don’t know whether you can solve it in a year or not.” What Bush neglected to mention was his own role in creating this mess.

According to Dahlan, it was Bush who had pushed legislative elections in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, despite warnings that Fatah was not ready. After Hamas—whose 1988 charter committed it to the goal of driving Israel into the sea—won control of the parliament, Bush made another, deadlier miscalculation.

Vanity Fair has obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the U.S. and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams, to provoke a Palestinian civil war. The plan was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America’s behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically elected Hamas-led government from power. (The State Department declined to comment.)

But the secret plan backfired, resulting in a further setback for American foreign policy under Bush. Instead of driving its enemies out of power, the U.S.-backed Fatah fighters inadvertently provoked Hamas to seize total control of Gaza.

Some sources call the scheme “Iran-contra 2.0,” recalling that Abrams was convicted (and later pardoned) for withholding information from Congress during the original Iran-contra scandal under President Reagan. There are echoes of other past misadventures as well: the C.I.A.’s 1953 ouster of an elected prime minister in Iran, which set the stage for the 1979 Islamic revolution there; the aborted 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which gave Fidel Castro an excuse to solidify his hold on Cuba; and the contemporary tragedy in Iraq.

Atrocity, egocentrism, ineptitude: So many people have flung so many bitter words at President Bush over the years that it seems at best an exercise in futility. Indeed, what supporters he has left still pretend the criticism is politics as usual or, worse yet, some sort of vapid pop-culture fad. Yet, as Bush has become the public face of the New American Century, we are left to wonder at the pax Americana that seems to demand wars and rumors of wars. The point is not lost even on embittered Fatah extremists such as Khalid Jaberi, who told Rose that “since the takeover, we’ve been trying to enter the brains of Bush and Rice, to figure out their mentality. We can only conclude that having Hamas in control serves their overall strategy, because their policy was so crazy otherwise.

In the end, it’s not really that much of a bombshell. Call it reckless, even stupid. Call it libel and blast the media if it feels better that way. But the one thing we should not call this sordid tale is surprising. This is, after all, the Bush administration.

Overlooking the obvious

Over at Vanity Fair, deputy editor Bruce Handy has apparently decided to pick a fight with New York Times columnist and conservative attack dog William Kristol:

I haven’t read much Voegelin either—or any, actually—but I have read Kristol over the years, and I couldn’t help thinking, Gee, if only he had actually taken Buckley-Voegelin’s warning about ideologues to heart back when he and Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan, Douglas Feith, and Lawrence Kaplan were suggesting that the U.S. cakewalk itself through Iraq so that lovely democracies could sprout like daisies across the Middle East.

Make things a lot worse? Check. Deprive us of freedom? Check. (Depending on who’s reading my email today).

This raises questions: Does Kristol have no sense of irony or self-awareness? His success as a public intellectual and a ubiquitous cable-news presence suggests he has at least the latter quality in abundance. Does he then, like many pundits (and politicians), write with the operating assumption that the public has no memory? But let’s say that in his heart of hearts, he believes the Iraq War has been a splendid success, or that it will become so very very soon; I’m still surprised he’d groove such a big fat pitch down the middle of the plate for us non-visionary partisan carpers. Cocky!

I would think the answer is obvious, that the man simply has no real sense of shame.