Archive for March, 2006

Entry for March 31, 2006

March 31, 2006

Above  is the Academy of American Poet’s 2006 poster for National Poetry Month, which starts tomorrow.  You can sign up for the Academy’s poem a day or read the archive online.  To receive a poem a day from Borzoi, send a blank email .  Poetry Daily will be sending out a different poem Monday through Friday with commentary by poets when yousign up for the weekly newsletter.

Today is Barry’s birthday, but I’ll be taking him to lunch tomorrow at Lefty’s in Blacksburg. 

Entry for March 30, 2006

March 31, 2006

The above photo is from Joshua Micah Marshall’s March 29 entry entitled “Busted” in his blog, Talking Points Memo (TPM),  which points out that Howard Kaloogian’s  claimed picture of “peaceful Bagdad” on his campaign site is atually a photo taken in Turkey.
 
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Speaking of Turkey, my friend Atilla, whose father was Turkish,  has gotten a job as reporter in North Carolina and will be leaving his part-time job tutoring with Virginia Western Community College’s REACH program. 
 
Yesterday, Atilla suggested I take his place and so I called John Elliott, Jr., the coordinator who offered me an interview today. In case you’re wondering, Atilla, like many Turks,  is named in honor of the Hun, just as many Mexicans given the name Jesus.
 
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John M, Broder’s New York Times story today, “On Web, Error Is Uncovered Through Relentless Pursuit” credits bloggers’ research with uncovering the discrepancy. 
 
Kaloogian, a conservative activist and political candidate used the photo to argue that the press is exagerating the bad news concerning the war in Iraq.  Despite his claims of an innocent mistake, he has stretched the truth before.  He even has a site dedicated to him, HowardIsALiar.com, set up by a “private citizen” who claims that Kaloogian collected money to recall former Governor Gray Davis, only to pocket the proceeds.
 
Kaloogian is most famous (notorious) for his association with Move America Forward (MAF),  a supposedly “non-partisan,” not-for-profit group “n committed to supporting America’s efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces.”  PR Watch ran a story on MAF in2004  User McBane at DailyKos has written on MAF’s Republican ties.  Paul Kiel, who writes for TPM’s Muckraker has posted MAF’s latest IRS 990 form.
 
The Wall Street Journal  reported on one  MAF’s projects to sell the war in Iraq last December. 
The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had “extensive ties” to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those “willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions.”

Entry for March 29, 2006

March 29, 2006

The above is an illustration from Eyal Press (I wrote  his new book March 3)   and Jennifer Washburn’s The Kept University, which  first appeared in the Atlantic in March 2000, detailing the corrupting influence of reseasrch money on education.

I didn’t think about this angle, when I wrote yesterday about Dr. Thomas Butler who received a 2 year prison sentence, even when the jury acquitted him of the primary charges.    

I wondered why Butler received such different harsh treatment in comparison with Jack Abramoff,  a major miscreant, when I heard that U.S. District Judge Judge Paul Huck of  Miami has sentenced Abramoff  to the minimum 70 months  for his Florida fraud case.   Josephine Hearn, staff writer for The Hill,  today posits that

The judge may have been swayed by more than 250 letters from Abramoff supporters, including one from longtime ally Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) pressing for leniency and citing Abramoff’s good works, strong religious faith and commitment to his family.

The Florida grand jury  indicted Abramoff in August on six counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. In 2000, Abramoff and  his business partner, Adam Kidan, submitted counterfeit documents that they had wired  $23 million in cash  to the account of SunCruz Casino lines’ former owner, Konstantinos Boulis, in order to obtain a $60 million loan for the $147.5 million purchase.  Boulis was killed gangland-style the next yesr.

Abramoff initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his plea on January 4, 2006, the day after he admitted in Washington D.C. federal court that he had defrauded clients and conspired to corrupt public officials.   In that case, according to a January 4 story by  staff writers Susan Schmidt and James V. Grimaldi, Abramoff pled guilty to three felonies and accepted a reduced prison sentence of about 9 1/2 to 11 years and $26.7 million in tax penalities and restitution to former clients, in exchange for his cooperation.  That’s a lot of money.  But think about how much he took in. (He was also ordered to pay, along with his co-defendent Kidan,  a total of $21.7 million in restitution.  They’ll also be on probation for three years.) 

So, is the lesson here not to cooperate until you have a plea?  Is the lesson that you won’t get as big a break if you can’t take a bigger fish down with you?  (People involved with the Washington investigation indicate that more than a dozen lawmakers (lawbreakers) may be involved, according to today’s New York Times story, “Abramoff Sentenced to Nearly 6 Years in Prison in Fraud Case”  by Philip Shenon.)

Or is the lesson more sinister?  The Sunshine Project, an international program to provide information on bioweapons, theorized in November 205, before Butler’s conviction,

Up against DOJ [Department of Justice] and his employer, Butler will need all the help he can get – not because his plague error caused any demonstrated harm; but because the reasons for his prosecution include the government’s need to protect sensitive research from the public eye. The case is not simply about reassurances that sloppy handling of disease will not be tolerated – the publicity surrounding the lost vials highlights the vulnerability of sensitive research to accidents. A leak at a sensitive biodefense project isn’t just a potential health or terrorism threat. An accident could be an international political liability if it reveals the “wrong” research, and Butler was certainly close to projects that appear to fit that description. It is thus not surprising that Justice wants him in jail and TTU [Texas Tech University] wants him fired. In this sense, the prosecution of Butler serves to make clear the restrictive terms of the government’s biodefense largesse.

Entry for March 28, 2006

March 28, 2006

The above photograph shows Dr. Thomas Butler treating a cholera patient in Calcutta in 1969.  It appeared in the first of seven articles in the series, “Plagued by fear” by Cleveland Plain Dealer science writer John Mangel, which started March 26, 2006.

Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy News alerted his readers to the series.  Materials in support of Dr. Butler can be found on that organization’s website.

Butler, a doctor specializing in infectious diseases has saved millions of lives.  His research contributed to the current practices of hydration in cases of diarhea.  In the post-9/11 world, he is also a convicted criminal.

On January 11, Butler discovered 30 vials of bubonic plague were missing from his laboratory in Lubbock Texas. Despite his eminent reputation,  his  voluntarily reporting of the missing materials and his cooperation with federal investigators, he was prosecuted as a potential terrorist for 69 counts including smuggling samples of plague bacteria into the United States, improperly transporting them within the country, and lying about them to authorities. Additional charges of theft, embezzlement and fraud were added in a second indictment. If convicted of all charges, he would have faced life in prison and millions of dollars in fines.

The outpouring of support from the scientific community included an August 15 joint letter from the presidents of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and a  November 3 letter from several Nobel laureates.

On December 1, 2003, a Texas jury acquitted Butler on charges of lying to the FBI, smuggling plague samples into the United States and illegally transporting samples. It convicted him, however, on 44 financial charges and three export violations involving a mismarked Federal Express package containing bacteria.

In February 2004, Butler surrendered his medical license and on March 10 of that year he was sentenced to two years in prison and over $50,000 in fines.  He lost an appeal of the sentence in late 2005 and was released January 2006.

 

Entry for March 27, 2006

March 27, 2006

Above is a picture of Lech Walesa, whom  Min and I are going to hear speak at 7:30 tonight on  “Democracy:  The Never-Ending Battle” at Roanoke College’s Bast Center.

In 1980, Walesa led the 10 million-member Solidarity trade union.   He won the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize for these dfforts.  In 1990, Walesa was elected president of Poland.   In 1995, he created a foundaton for the following purposes:

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Safeguarding of the national heritage, tradition of independence and solidarity,
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Promoting Poland and Poles abroad,
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Consolidating democracy and implementing the free market economy in Poland,
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Reinforcing the power decentralization process and the development of self-government in Poland,
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Promoting moral values in politics and public activity,
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Conducting research and studies on the most recent history of Poland,

  In 1998, Time Magazine named him one of the top 100 movers of the 20th century.

Entry for March 26,2006

March 26, 2006

The above illustration is from  Mapping the Dark:  A Museum of  Ambient Disorders by Rosamond Casey, whose work was featured in this winter’s  Virginia Quarterly Review with an introduction by Lawrence  Weschler. She spoke at 3 at the Bailey as part of the Virginia Festival of the Book in Charlottesville.

I am staying at Rob and Sue’s.  This moring the shortage of eggs and the corner store’s delayed Sunday opening led to blueberry pancakes  with what Rob called as a boy, ‘realVermontmaplesyrup.”

I decided to attend Weschler’s talk at Culbreth, about his new book of art criticism, Everything that Rises: A Book of Convergences (McSweeney’s , 2006, 200 pages, ISBN 193241634X ).

Weschler expounded on his version of art critic John Berger’s theory—that certain powerful images reappear again and again–maybe his version of Jung’s collective unconscious?

The first example he recounts is from Berger–the similaries between Rembrandt’s 1632 painting,  “The Anatomy Lesson,” and Freddy Alborta’s 1967 photo “Che Guevara’s Death.”

 In “The Anatomy Lesson,” Dutch physicians in black coats and white ruffled collars study a corpse laid out on the table while the instructor points with his right hand toward the corpse’s arm.  In Alborta’s photo the dead Guevara lies in a similar pose, surrounded by Bolivian army officers in uniforms arranged in virtually the same composition as the painting.  Even the chief officer points with his right hand toward Guevara’s mid section in an eerily similar pose.

Then Weschler showed Joel Meyerowitz’s color photographs of Ground Zero and juxtaposed them to paintings and even to a photograph of  a Civil War encampment.during the site’s cleanup and reconstruction have been widely published. Weschler says that Meyerowitz admitted that the composition, tone and even the quality of the light in many of his Ground Zero photographs owe something to famous paintings that came before.

Weschler is a former art critic for the New Yorker and current consultant to the Virginia Quarterly Review,

VFB: What Poetry Suspends (3/25/06)

March 25, 2006

The above is the cover of  Chattahoochee Patrick Phillip’s 2004 book from the University of Arkansas press (80 pp., ISBN 1-55728-775-9).

This afternoon at the Virginia Festival of the book I attended a reading, “What Poetry Suspends” at the McGuffey Art Center  with Phillips,  Natasha Trethewey (Native Guard), Charlotte  Matthews (Green Stars), and Dan Albergotti (Charon’s Manifest).   Here’s one of the poems Phillips read:

The Rules

The first rule was that he made the rules.
The second: we obeyed them.
The worst rule was that rules changed
unpredictably if he was losing.

There was a rule that split us into teams.
A rule about no starting over.
According to the rules, our mother,
forced to choose, always chose him.

And though the game was nameless,
We could have called it Abraham and Isaac.
My brother hauled the wood, the flint, the knife
as our father made a bonfire of his anger.

There was a rule about the first-born son—
the lone, unbroken one that saved me.

You can read along as you listen to Phillips read another of his poems,  “A History of Twilight” at  Issue 29 of the Cortland Review.

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At 4:00,   I drove over to Wilson Hall on the UVA campus  to hear poets Greg Orr (Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved)  and  Jane Hirshfield (After).

After running by Kroger’s to pick up a snack and a present for my hosts, I went to Culbreth to hear Art Spiegelman.  What a card.  I expected a shy artist, not someone so entertaining he could do stand-up comedy.  The program had listed the disclaimer that he would be smoking.  He started his talk by saying (my paraphrase),

I don’t really smoke.  I’m just playing the part of a neurotic New Yorker and I’m willing to sacrifice for my art.  Besides I’ll be talking about 9-11 and about the Danish cartoon controversy, so it’s fitting that I inject the smell of death into the air.

Entry for March 24, 2006

March 24, 2006

The above is another illustration by Art Spiegelman from In the Shadow of No Towers.   Here’s ,the October 2004  Mother Jones  interview which  included the illustration.  The Connection interviewed Spiegelman December 4.  Mike Russell of CulturePulp cartooned on  Spiegelman’s lecture on cartoons March 17.

 When I was writing  yesterday,  I failed to  mention how I find it ironic that, Der Zeit,  a publisher in the  country which elected Hitler, allowed the son of Holocaust survivors more freedom of speech than our own mainstream media.  Then again, maybe Germany’s publishers have  learned from history and ours haven’t.

Consider Sandra Day O’Connor’s March 9  speech at Georgetown University warning that Republican proposals, and their sometimes uncivil tone, pose a danger to the independence of the judiciary, and the freedoms of all Americans.

Speaking of the Holocaust, tonight at Temple Emanueal Morris and Riva Rosenblat will speak on “My Experience in the Holocaust.”  I’m on my way right now to the Sezchuan to join them and my friend from Ferrum University at dinner.

Entry for March 23, 2006

March 23, 2006

The above is one  of Art Spiegelman‘s illustrations on September 11.  Spiegelman  will be at the Virginia Festival of the Book  Saturday.  Just got a call from my friend Rob that he and Susan have a place for me to stay with them Saturday night. 

As you may recall, Spiegelman was an artist for New Yorker  starting in 1992.  He resigned soon after publishing his cover for that magazine after 9-11, protesting “the widespread conformism of the mass media in the Bush era.” 

From the time that the Twin Towers fell, it seems as if I’ve been living in internal exile, or like a political dissident confined to an island. I no longer feel in harmony with American culture, especially now that the entire media has become conservative and tremendously timid. Unfortunately, even The New Yorker has not escaped this trend: Remnick is unable to accept the challenge, while, on the contrary, I am more and more inclined to provocation.

Because no American publication was interested in his work on 9-11, he accepted a commission from the German paper Der Zeit for his series of panels that eventually became his book, In the Shadow of No Towers (Pantheon, 2004).

 

 

 

Entry for March 22, 2006

March 22, 2006

The picture above of Ora E. Anderson, from the new  Ohio Landscape Productions  film about the Wayne National ForestA Forest Returns: The Success Story of Ohio’s Only National Forest as Told by Ora E. Anderson.

Ironically, the Wayne is one of the targets for the President’s proposed “National Forest Land Conveyance for Rural Communities Act.”  Bush’s  fiscal year 2007 budget includes this plan have the Forest Service sell tracts of National Forest in order to fund  Public Law 106-393,  the “Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act” first signed by President Clinton in October 2000., which amended U.S. Code Title 16, Section 500 regarding payments to the states by the National Forest. 

As Mike Soraghan’s  February 7 Denver Post  article, “ Bush calls for sell-off of Western public land” quotes  Representative Mark Udall, (D-CO),   “It’s like selling your homestead to pay your credit cards.”

 Under the  current Act,  the federal government uses general appropriations to supplement  receipts from timber sales to support schools and roads in rural communities with national forest acreage. The Forest service website has a county-by-county breakout of payment levels from 2006.

The Act expires in September of 2006.  Bills were introduced to reauthorize the Act in the Senate (S.267.IS) and the House (H.R.517.IH ) in 2005. 

A copy of the remarks upon introduction are found in the the Congressional Record for February 2, 2005 on  Senate pages 898-9 .  The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Forests . held a hearing March 8.

In the House,  the bill was referred on February 2 to the Committee on Agriculture, and in addition to the Committee on Resources.  On March 15, The Agriculture’s  Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry took up the bill.  On February 16, the House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health took up the measure and held a hearing  and a mark up session on May 18 and reported the billas report 109-117.  No further action was taken.

Rather than renewing the Act in its current form, the President proposes cut off the use of general appropriations and replace them with the sell off of federal lands.  According to Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, the President’s proposal would “provide counties with about half the revenue they received for schools and roads during the previous five years.”

A table of the lands potentially for sale shows that as of today, 419 acres are listed in the Wayne.  Here in Virginia 5720 acres are listed in the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests.  The page is indexed by states if you scroll up to the top.

On February 28, the Forest Service issued a request for public comment in the Federal Registrar on page 10004.   Comments are due by March 30 by email at SRS_Land_Sales@fs.fed.us, by facsimile to (202) 205-1604, or by mail to USDA
Forest Service, SRS Comments, Lands 4S, 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Mailstop 1124, Washington, DC 20250-0003.  Contact for more information is Assistant Director of Lands Cynthia R. Swanson who can be reached in the Washington Office by telephone at  202-205-0099.

February 9, the Wilderness Society has posted a news release.  Since that time it has added  a form to contact the Forest Service and one to contact Congress.  On March 16, it issued an analysis of  the land sale bill which emphasizes the following problems:

*No Public Participation and Environmental Review
*Minimal Restrictions on Lands for Sale
*Minimal Restrictions on Future Development

The National Environmental Trust (NET) posted its analysis of the sell off on February 17.  It includes not only sales by the Forest Service, but increased authority for the Bureau of Land Management to dispose of assets through the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act of 2000, Public Law 106-248.  NET  also posted reactions by legislators and others, last updated on March 1, as well as anoverall analysis of Bush’s F2007 budget.  

February 19,  George Lea, President of the Public Lands Foundation, weighed in against the proposed sale of Federal Lands in his column in the group’s newsletter.  The group has also Posted its critique of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.

On March 13, the four living former chiefs of the Forest Service sent an open letter to all members of Congress.  “It should be clearly recognized that such an action would establish a precedent contrary to that of the last 102 years and enacts a change to existing law which forbids such action.

“The prime consideration is whether National Forest lands should be auctioned off for any for any other purpose beyond overall enhancement of the National Forest System? The coupling of a proposal for selling off public lands to fund other programs, no matter how worthwhile those programs, is a slippery slope that could, and likely would, be used to fund other worthwhile causes as time goes by and budgetary pressures increase. For that reason alone, we strongly recommend against taking this first step of auctioning off National Forest lands to pay for other government programs.”

Local governments have also been protesting the plan, according to such papers as the Colorado’s  Summit Daily News.  Smaller organizations such as the International Mountain Bicycling Association have also issued alerts.