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Thursday, October 30, 2003  

Blogospherics: People are saying

Ghettopoly is not the only subject that has attracted attention in Bloggersville. Both the war in Iraq and blogging itself continue to be vectors of opinion.

  • Satires capture inanity of Iraqi invasion
  • Benito Vergara at The Wily Filipino read an account of some utterly obtuse American soldiers in action in Iraq and took it the same way I would. Ben couldn't help but express his admiration.

    Way to Go Men!

    I'm feeling, like, all inspired and stuff and thought I'd single out Sgt. Mark Redmond and Sgt. Eric Schrumpf as soldiers who need our support. You the man!

    As the New York Times wrote:

    Like many soldiers here... Sergeant Redmond said he did not expect the Iraqis to resist so doggedly.

    "I expected a lot more people to surrender," he said. "From all the reports we got, I thought they would all capitulate."

    In the three days that followed, they did not, and he fired every weapon on his Humvee, including a 50-caliber machine gun, his M-4 rifle and a grenade launcher -- everything except the shoulder-fired antitank missile. Many of the Iraqis, he said, attacked headlong into the cutting fire of tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.

    "I wouldn't call it bravery," he said. "I'd call it stupidity. We value a soldier's life so much more than they do. I mean, an AK-47 isn't going to do nothing against a Bradley. I'd love to know what Saddam is telling his people."

    Maybe Saddam is telling his people to defend their homeland from invasion... but wait! We have to support the troops!

    Dude, I am totally not voting you off the island!

    It amazes me that so many Americans do rather poorly when quizzed on information in almost any area, but seem to imbibe cultural imperialism along with their ABCs. Last time around, it was that silly Army officer saying he can defeat Muslims because his God is better than theirs. Now, we get the Keystone Kalvary smugly revealing its contempt for people from a different culture. Why would folks think that traits such as bravery, deep belief in a deity and a desire to defend one's homeland are American or Western? Why are the deaths of civilian Iraqis considered comedy? It is as if some of our countrymen and women believe only Americans (and perhaps Europeans) are really people.

    A new blogger recently caught crap from some in the blogosphere over his satirical entry about the Bush administration's reasons for invading Iraq. Mike Larkin of Larkin Blog posted this pithy political satire.

    Mutual Admiration

    Osama bin laden, the director of George W. Bush's re-election campaign, today issued a renewed call for jihad against America and expressed his profound gratitude to the American President.

    "The President has been an enormous boon to my recruiting efforts. Ever since his incompetent intelligence services inadvertently allowed me to bomb the country on 9/11, I've been on a roll. My recruiting is off the charts. And every day, the Administration does something that really helps my cause."

    In particular, bin laden mentioned the invasion of Iraq. "By knocking out my big opponent, Saddam, and turning the country into a breeding ground for terrorists, he has really made my job easy. Words cannot express my admiration. Perhaps another suicide bombing will do the trick."

    Reached in the Far East, where he was on a campaign swing for his war on terror, Bush said he was "deeply honored" by bin laden's words, and expressed his own gratitude for the al-Quada leader.

    "Before 9/11, I was really sucking wind in the polls. But those attacks were literally a gift from the sky. I've now got the whole country cowed and the press bamboozled. And, as an extra bonus, we've got Iraq's oil. Osama rocks!"

    Bush said he hopes that Osama will launch another terrorist attack soon, in time to get the GOP re-elected in 2004. "It would be really great if it could happen the week of the Republican convention in New York next August. All those explosions will make a nice backdrop to my re-election speech. It'll be just like the Fourth of July!"

    Some in the blogosphere took the 'he is not allowed to question the efficacy of American leadership' gambit. There was even an effort to pressure Blogcritics, where the entry also appeared, into censoring Mike. These kinds of responses to satirical treatment of the war make no sense to me. Whether actions are rational and/or moral is what determines whether they are right or wrong, not the nationality of the persons involved. Furthermore, political actions that impact the entire country and world are what we really need to scrutinize closely. Satire is is an excellent way to do just that.

    Read the rest of Ben's and Mike's entries. I think you will agree with me that both have a knack for getting it right and making it funny at the same time.

  • Blogging and the workplace
  • Another Michael, the fellow at Ones and Zeroes, is concerned about the firing of a Microsoft temporary employee who dared blog about his place of employment.

    Freshly Unemployed

    Blogger Michael Hanscom joined the ranks of the unemployed on Monday, because Microsoft Security objected to his blog entry Even Microsoft wants G5s.

    The blog entry had a picture of a truck delivering some boxed Apple G5 computers and mentioned where Hanscom worked and what building it was in.

    His manager told him that “Microsoft has the right to decide that because of what you said, you’re no longer welcome on the Microsoft campus.”

    I agree with Hanscom that the post is pretty innocuous. As a Microsoft customer buying software for MacOS computers, I’d be really annoyed if they weren’t testing them on the latest and greatest Macs. Especially since Virtual PC doesn’t run on G5s yet.

    Microsoft employee and corporate blog evangelist Robert Scoble says Microsoft encourages employees to weblog. Microsoft has been, in recent months, ahead of the corporate culture curve with respect to blogging. It’s my hope that this is a mistake or the result of one branch of the company not knowing what other branches are encouraging. Even if Hanscom shouldn’t have posted this picture, this solidly moves Microsoft into the “mixed message” category on blogging, which while not great, is still better than many companies.

    I am going to repeat the advice I gave months ago when I wrote about the trend of disciplining or firing journalists who blog. In fact, I'll extend it to other fields. Keep the blogging and your work separate. The interests at issue are quite different. Even if an employer gives an initial approval, I don't believe it should be relied on. The minute you say something that someone at work doesn't like, the approval is likely to be withdrawn. In addition, knowing your employer is looking over your shoulder will chill what you say on your blog. I recommend simply not mentioning blogging if you use your real name and being circumspect even if using a pen name.

    Does a fired blogger have a legal leg to stand on? In most cases, no. Most employees are at will. Since firing someone for blogging violates no constitutionally protected rights for a private employer, the employee is the vulnerable one.

    If I worked for Microsoft, I would take their policy of encouraging blogging with an entire box of Morton Salt.

  • Blogging director does it again
  • Filmmaker and blogger Brian Flemming has good news to report. He has made history with one of his movies and has scored some eleemosynary compression software that will make it easier for him to stream his movies to the Web.

    A beneficiary of the new software may be Nothing So Strange, a Flemming film that made its Internet debut this week.

    Well, at long last, it can be revealed. It went down to the wire, but we did what we wanted to do: We're debuting the film worldwide on the same day that its exclusive theatrical run opens in Seattle. Made possible, of course, by my new pals at BitPass.

    Did I mention that a worldwide internet debut of a feature film has never, ever, ever happened before? And you read about it first at Brian Flemming's Weblog.

    The movie is a satirical look at group psychology and group relations, premised on the assassination of an iconic businessman. Wired says,

    . . .It's a tale of paranoia and police corruption, of conspiracy theorists and grassroots activism. And it comes with a brilliant and ingenious Internet component -- an entire Web universe of memorials to Bill Gates and conspiracy theorist sites.

    Director Brian Flemming began working on the film after attending a November conference in Dallas of researchers who study John F. Kennedy's assassination. Flemming began to wonder: What would a contemporary assassination look like? Who would be the target?"

    "It seemed to me, with the growing divide between the rich and the poor, that the violence might take the form of a class war," Flemming says. "So naturally it seemed that Bill Gates would be a primary target. And then I thought, 'What if this happened right here in my own neighborhood, and the Rampart Division of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) conducted the investigation?'"

    Nothing So Strange can be viewed here.

    Congratulations, Brian!

    2:55 PM

    Tuesday, October 28, 2003  

    The blogosphere reacts to Ghettopoly

    David Chang's racist board game, Ghettopoly, has garnered the attention of quite a few bloggers. Because of interest in the topic, I have decided to reprint excerpts from some of the responses. I may have more to say about Ghettopoly later, but for now, these bloggers get their say.

    Dustin, of One Man's Opinion, believes my look at the topic was too narrow.

    Like Mac Diva, I'm glad to see Asian-American groups speaking out and condemning the creator of Ghettopoly -- which maligns both African-Americans, in its imagery, and Asian-Americans, in linking them to the game's bigotry. However, I am disturbed by Mac Diva's encouragement of Hasbro's lawsuit, and particularly by the notion of the game's creator being "brought to heel". As with any other published material, David Chang, the mastermind behind Ghettopoly, has a right to free speech and free expression, no matter how offensive. To advocate the use of the courts to crush that expression seems to me a violation of that fundamental principle. It's an admittance of the utter failure of imagination and progressive values -- because we have been unsuccessful in destroying the demand for such racist representations, we will attempt to stem the supply by restricting what they are allowed to say.

    And who will benefit from the outcome of this lawsuit? African-Americans? Hardly. Asian-Americans? Guess again. The only possible beneficiary will be Hasbro, who will use a set of laws that are antithetical to progressive values (anti-copyright laws that punish users and prevent innovation) to protect a game which is decidedly not progressive (with it's integral system of class capitalism expressed through its low-rent, slum districts -- the $12/night fleabag motels of Baltic Avenue -- linearly opposed to the glittering mansions of Park Place and Broadway). While worrying about the derogatory black imagery of Ghettopoly is commendable, what about the absent black imagery of whites-only Monopoly?

    Mac Diva frames Hasbro's case as an extension of the work of civil rights groups who "lack the funds to effectively confront people who engage in appalling acts". I can virtually guarantee that Hasbro is not making this mistake -- they are interested only in protecting a trademark, and would have filed the same suit (and have, I'm sure) if the knock-off's imagery consisted solely of unicorns and fluffy kittens. This is a company that has moved virtually all of its production into Chinese sweatshops and is the target of shareholder action from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility because of its racist protrayals of American Indians -- I'm entirely sure that Hasbro is not the knight in shining armour for civil rights causes Mac Diva makes them out to be.

    Centrist Rick Heller of Smart Genes gets to the meat of the matter. (Can a vegetarian say that?) He cites Chang's rationalization for Ghettopoly.

    When I play with a traditional board game with my friends, it simply does not appeal to me much. To your dismay, Hip Hop Culture is what I gravitate towards, so naturally when I decided to make a game, I want to give it an urban edge. Stereotypes are everywhere, when you flip to MTV or BET you do not often see the same images and lyrics, rappers rapping about sipping on 40's, pimping hoes, smoking the chronics, slinging crack rocks, wicked jump shots.

    Rick isn't convinced.

    This is an example of outsider, in this case an Asian-American, wrongly presuming to be cut the same slack afforded members within the group. There is a double standard, and that's not wrong. It's one thing to be self-deprecating with regard to your ethnicity, and something else to demean others.

    However, I have a feeling that even if the creator of this game had been an African-American, it would not not be considered acceptable by the black community. It's a free country, and the creator can produce this game, assuming he hasn't violated any copyright laws. But mainstream businesses should be embarrassed to be associated with it.

    Civil rights activist Natalie Davis is skeptical about the 'game,' too. She believes it is bad sportmanship.

    Personally, I think the game is vile, but there are a whole lot of things that are a helluva lot worse: poverty, violence; inequality; homophobic, pedophile-enabling religious leaders; the Religious Right; and the Bush Administration, for starters. So it is important to keep things in perspective here. But just because people say publicly that Ghettopoly, a game that mines poor people, drive-by shootings, and crack dealers for either humor or profit, is horrifying does not mean they are humorless. Of course, that's the primary sentiment being communicated by some folks at Blogcritics , in response to an anti-Ghettopoly post by Mac Diva of Mac-a-ro-nies. "Lighten up," they say.

    Yeah, we're pissing all over their good laugh. Tough. African-American groups, Asian-American organizations, religious leaders, and plenty of people of all stripes who have good sense are sending the message that marketing stereotypes for profit may be legal, but it is not funny. Not for decent people. Nobody is talking about government banning the game or anything -- that would be wrong. But if people can be convinced not to sell it or buy it, that's the free market speaking. Conservatives should love that.

    Do follow Natalie's links at All Facts and Opinions to Tim Wise's site. He has his finger on Chang's pulse.

    One of the relationships I hope to make more explicit in future blogging is that between neo-Confederate type bigots and more 'subtle' sorts, including 'scientific' racists. Sometimes, a single person embodies both. Al Barger, who we last examined as a neo-Confederate sympathizer, has also considered Ghettopoly. He believes it is good, clean entertainment for Mom, Dad and the little ones.

    Ghettopoly - hilarious fun for the whole family

    So this Asian-American has come up with a clever little parody of the classic Monopoly game called " Ghettopoly " which features a lot of pimpin' and dope and such. Naturally, the perpetually aggrieved [moi] are, not suprisingly, aggrieved, hollering about this game promoting racism and such.

    As Sgt. Hulka said to Psycho in Stripes, "Lighten up, Francis."

    Naturally Hasbro doesn't appreciate the association and they're suing. I can understand their position, but Ghettopoly can reasonably be seen as a legitimate parody of this most iconic American game, and how those capitalist ideas play out in the cheap seats.

    There's more than one way to take something like this Ghettopoly. Some professionally agitated black folk [the NAACP] will insist on taking it as belittling your race, as if the intent was to foment hate against black folk. It's part of the conspiracy to repress the colored races.

    That likely is not the intent of the creator, nor how it will mostly be taken. A white person who really dislikes black people as a group would be unlikely to be interested in this game. I would guess that in fact black folk will be the top market.

    I've read more opinions about Ghettopoly, but believe these to be pretty representative. If you want to know the blogger's thoughts more fully, visit his or her weblog via the links included.

    7:30 PM

    Sunday, October 26, 2003  

    Writer's world: Dispatches from the front

  • Say good-bye to Book
  • One of the periodicals I rely on to keep me up-to-date about what writers are up to is about to cease publication.

    NEW YORK - Book, a bimonthly magazine partly owned by Barnes & Noble, is going out of business. The last issue, featuring a cover story on Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, comes out next week.

    "Barnes & Noble made the decision it couldn't go forward supporting the magazine," Jerome V. Kramer, editor in chief and a co-owner of Book, said Wednesday.

    . . .The magazine was founded in 1998 and at one point had more than 1 million subscribers, thanks largely to a free promotional offer from Barnes & Noble, which owns 50 percent of Book. Barnes & Noble ended the program last year and the subscription base has dropped to around 190,000.

    Book was sold in numerous stores besides Barnes & Noble outlets, but Kramer said it lost business after "Barnes & Noble" began appearing, in small print, on the cover earlier this year.

    "A lot of independent sellers pulled out," he said.

    It appears Kramer unwittingly allowed his publication to get caught in the crossfire between corporate and independent booksellers. I suspect adding the phrase "Barnes & Noble" to the cover of Book was an effort to increase sells by giving it the stamp of approval of a respected brand. However, the change may have doomed the periodical by limiting the number of outlets willing to carry it.

    Perhaps Kramer will find a way to continue contributing to the literary world. Book was intelligently written and edited and well worth one's time.

  • American readers ignore translations
  • An essay in the Books section of The New York Times makes me realize my reading habits are somewhat anomalous. I estimate at least a quarter of the books I read in a given year are translations from another language. Apparently, that is not so for most people.

    "There is no Frigate like a book/ To take us Lands away,'' wrote Emily Dickinson. But the ship most American readers sail remains strictly within national borders. According to a recent Publishers Weekly article, of all the books translated worldwide, only 6 percent (maybe less) are translated from other languages into English. By contrast, almost 50 percent are translated from English into those other languages. We all know that events of global importance take place outside our linguistic borders every day. And since our educational system is famous for how poorly it teaches foreign languages, it might try to compensate by offering students a lot more books in translation.

    I think I became a reader of international literature for several reasons.

  • Some of my earliest favored writers were French. I can't imagine not reading Balzac and Zola or ignoring Collette.
  • I am interested in cultures beyond white bread America and have never understood why most people in the United States aren't.
  • I believe an important part of a writer's objective is to try to understand human nature. The more I know about people from different places, the better I can do that.
  • Margo Jefferson, who wrote the piece in the NYT, believes that the increasing availibility of news from other countries may lead more Americans to read foreign writers. A recent convergence of literary events had that effect on her.

    Sometimes literature itself puts a country on our internal map. At about the same time the South African novelist J. M. Coetzee won the Nobel Prize, Oprah's Book Club announced that its next selection would be another South African novel, Alan Paton's 1948 book, ''Cry, the Beloved Country.'' To learn more about South Africa, I turned to the Feminist Press's rich new anthology ''Women Writing Africa: The Southern Region.'' It's an amazing resource, close to 600 pages, and it's a true collaboration, the work of seven editors from four countries. The 20 or so original languages include English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and siNdebele. The traditions are oral and written: there are poems and folktales, stories, diaries and political documents starting from the 1830's.

    In a country in which people still mumble about 'the dark continent,' as if we were living in 1703 instead 2003, that is an encouraging thought.

  • Nerve's longevity is quality driven
  • One effect of being a longterm Internet user is one sees different sites develop or fall by the wayside. I have been a member of Nerve.com, a site that publishes tasteful material about sexual issues, for several years. The magazine began as online only, branched out into real world publication and now operates on a Salon-type model -- offering regular and premium content. Over the years, the contributors to Nerve's nonfiction, fiction and photography sections have become increasingly mainstream.

    This excerpt from the introduction to the fall fiction issue exemplifies the kind of thoughtful discourse I have come to expect of writers for Nerve.

    . . .Many modern stories with sexual content are clever, intelligent, provocative, sad and funny. In the best ones, the characters are marvelously human. But in our sophistication and scrupulous questioning, it seems we have lost something -- the force of that animal which can come out of "nowhere," tear your precious personality to pieces, then melt back into the dark to quietly lick its paws.

    Describing this experience is very hard. Describing it while maintaining the delicacy and complexity of your characters is even harder. This is a dilemma for the modern writer who chooses to write about sex: make your characters genuine personalities without being restricted by the limits of human personality; evoke the enormity and ferocity of sex without demonizing it or making it exclusively about feminine shame. Part of the difficulty may be in that last part -- people are now leery of rendering feminine shame, or shame of any kind for that matter. It's almost as if we're too cool for it. But shame is a profoundly human experience, and we risk it every time we encounter a force bigger than ourselves. From my point of view, the older writers sometimes tried to avoid it by palming it all off on the skank. But it's even worse to try and correct that by writing as if shame and uncontrollable depth don't exist at all.

    My only complaint is the site has become less contributor friendly. I, and other contributors to the old Nerve, lost our sections at the site during its latest retooling. Though the alteration saves the magazine server space, it also reduces the diversity and communal nature of the site.

    If you haven't been reading Nerve, you might want to explore the site. Don't be surprised if you find yourself bookmarking it.

    6:00 PM

    Friday, October 24, 2003  

    'Ghettopoly' reveals Asian immigrant's bigotry

    Ghettopoly, the board game created by an Asian-American to mock African-Americans, is facing a lawsuit filed by established game maker Hasbro. Because of its association with the venerable Monopoly, Hasbro asserts its reputation is being injured by a similarly named game that celebrates bigotry. Salon fills us in.

    The company that makes the Monopoly board game has sued the man who created "Ghettopoly" -- a knockoff featuring "playas" who build crack houses on Cheap Trick Avenue instead of hotels on Boardwalk.

    The lawsuit by Hasbro Inc. seeks unspecified damages from David Chang, alleging he violated Hasbro's trademarks and copyrights and created "irreparable injury" to Hasbro's reputation. It also wants the court to order Chang to stop producing and selling Ghettopoly.

    "While the genuine Monopoly game has become a wholesome and respected American icon ... the Ghettopoly knockoff has generated a firestorm of controversy for its highly offensive, racist content," said the filing Tuesday in Providence federal court.

    Ghettopoly mimics Monopoly, except game pieces include a gun and marijuana leaf. In place of the "Mr. Monopoly" logo of a man with his arms outstretched, Ghettopoly uses a caricature of a black man holding a submachine gun and bottle of malt liquor.

    The game drew outrage from minority leaders this month after it began selling at Urban Outfitters stores. The retail chain stopped its sales of the game, and Yahoo! and eBay notified Chang they would halt online sales.

    David Chang says he does not see anything insulting about the game, which includes 'careers' such as armed robber and pimp. His website describes what Chang apparently believes are the main activities of black people.

    Buying stolen properties, pimpin hoes, building crack houses and projects, paying protection fees and getting car jacked are some of the elements of the game. Not dope enough? ... If you don't have the money that you owe to the loan shark you might just land yourself in da Emergency Room.

    Interestingly, there is no evidence Chang has ever been exposed to black American culture beyond the stereotypes he is promoting.

    Chang, who lives in western Pennsylvania, has no firsthand knowledge of the ghetto. He and his family moved to the United States from Taiwan when he was 8. He went to a private high school and graduated from the University of Rochester in New York state with degrees in economics and psychology.

    Perhaps that is why Chang depicts Martin Luther King, Jr., groping his genitals and saying "I've got an itch."

    I try to respect the rights of everyone, but must admit that at times I am taken back by the racist attitudes of a significant share of Asian immigrants. They often seem totally unaware of the history of black and Hispanic Americans, including the fact that segregation laws applied to Asians as well as black, red and brown people. But for the sacrifices African-Americans made during the civil rights movement, David Chang, Michelle Malkin and Dinesh d'Souza would not be enjoying the freedoms they take for granted. Admittedly, people of this sort often strike me as more pathetic than anything else. When I peruse the worship of white people by people of color at sites such as Gene Expression, I mainly see very sick minds. However, I am disinclined to ignore such behavior because I believe doing so encourages more of it.

    National Asian-American organizations have made it painstakingly clear they do not support the message Chang sends with Ghettopoly.

    WASHINGTON, DC (October 9, 2003) -- The National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium (NAPALC), the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA), and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today blasted the board game "Ghettopoly" by David Chang and Ghettopoly.com and its distribution by Urban Outfitters, saying that the recently released game's use of racist wordplay, caricatures and stereotypes of African-Americans is "offensive, demeaning and degrading."

    A takeoff on the classic Parker Brothers "Monopoly" game, "Ghettopoly" enables "playas" to buy chop-shop properties and chicken and rib establishments while building "crack houses" and projects. Among the game's racist contents are stereotypical images of Black people, who are shown as minstrel-like pimps, prostitutes and hustlers. In "Ghettopoly," the bank is renamed "Da Loan Shark." Contestants must avoid being shot or drug addicted, though getting "yo whole neighborhood addicted to crack" earns $50 from other players. Other minorities, including Hispanics and Jews, are stereotyped and caricatured as well.

    "David Chang, the creator of the game, was reported saying that Ghettopoly is only a game, but in fact, it is a flashpoint for increased racial tensions among communities of color," said Raymond Wong, OCA National President.

    "It is completely inappropriate for Chang and Urban Outfitters to profiteer on damaging negative racial stereotypes," said Christine Chen, OCA Executive Director.

    OCA calls on all concerned individuals to contact Richard Hayne, the Chairman and President of Urban Outfitters and David Chang, President and Owner of Ghettopoly.com to immediately cease production of Ghettopoly and pull the game from store shelves.

    An Asian-American Congressman has also denounced Chang.

    Congressman Mike Honda (D - San Jose) condemned Urban Outfitters for selling the racist board game "Ghettopoly," and demanded that the company pull the product from its shelves. Honda's office was notified that radio personality Tarsha Nicole Jones (Jonesy), of 103.9 FM in Philadelphia, in turn taunted David Chang and Asian Americans by proposing the creation of a game called "Chinkopoly," and urged listeners to call-in with denigrating names for properties in such a game.

    "Instead of bringing people together in laughter, this board game has caused pain and outrage. I urge Mr. Chang to stop marketing 'Ghettopoly' and stop production on the complete line of games that is insensitive, harmful, and in bad taste," said Rep. Honda. "It is important that as our communities find out about this offensive issue, and we address it, that we come together and engage in intelligent dialogue. There is no excuse for further inciting groups against each other -- either out of ignorance, or anger."

    I am heartened by this responsible leadership from Asian-Americans who understand the pain racist abuse causes its targets and the poison it infuses into society as a whole. Perhaps their message of tolerance will trickle down to Asian-American immigrants who have unthinkingly adopted the bigoted beliefs of many white Americans.

    I also welcome Hasbro's lawsuit. Most civil rights groups lack the funds to effectively confront people who engage in appalling acts such as Chang. However, Hasbro has the deep pockets to bring him to heel. Before the process is over, I will not be surprised if Chang has disgorged every cent he made from Ghettopoly. If legal fees don't bankrupt him, a judgment against him likely will.

    4:57 PM

    Wednesday, October 22, 2003  

    Health watch: Two tales of depression

    A pair of current news stories highlight the seriousness of longterm clinical depression. Kirk Jones survived a jump into Niagara Falls last week. He says he had reached a point in his life when he did not care whether he lived or died. That led him to play a form of Russian roulette. Singer Elliott Smith has been reported dead from apparently self-inflicted knife wounds.

    Jones was first described as a daredevil in news stories. However, he says the thrill was not his motivation for risking his life in a feat he is the only person to have lived through.

    NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario (AP) -- A man who went over Niagara Falls head first said Wednesday that he was driven by depression, not a desire to become a daredevil.

    Kirk Jones, 40, of Canton, Mich., is charged with illegally performing a stunt. He is the first person known to have plunged over the falls without safety devices and lived.

    In a phone interview with ABC News, Jones said he had been depressed, but surviving the plunge made him want to live again.

    "I honestly thought that it wasn't worth going on. But I can tell you now after hitting the falls I feel that life is worth living," he said.

    Jones recently lost his job when his parents shut down the family business, which made tools for auto parts manufacturers. His father, Raymond Jones, told The Detroit News he had to lay off his son because of the economy.

    Elliott Smith appears not to have ever acknowledged longterm depression, though observers, including fans, suspected it. The circumstances of his death confirm the problem.

    He was once dubbed "the unhappiest man in the land." His most renown song was called "Miss Misery." But Elliott Smith sounded disappointed that he was often asked, "Why are you so sad?"

    The singer-songwriter, whose fragile, Beatles-tinged melodies elevated to him mythic status on the indie scene and brought him unlikely, Oscar-nominated success , died Tuesday of an apparent suicide at his apartment in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, officials said. He was 34.

    . . . Smith's well-being, or lack thereof, was whispered about in recent years on the L.A. music scene. Concerts could be hit and miss. At one Hollywood show in February, Smith commanded the stage for most of the night with just his hushed voice, stool and guitar. But the lyrics came and went. The devoted supplied the missing words, and willed him to the finish.

    Smith, who opened up in June to Under the Radar about formerly having been "a really bad alcoholic," rarely spoke of depression, drink or drugs in interviews, just on his records. There, he also spoke of hope and love. Sometimes in the same song.

    "It's too bad that people seem to sometimes only notice the dark part of some songs of mine," Smith told Amazon.com in 1998 upon the release of his DreamWorks debut, XO.

    Rather, Smith said in a Salon.com Q&A in 2000, he was consistently asked by journalists, "Why are you so sad?"

    "Just because people have a range of emotions and thoughts...sometimes they get ecstatically happy about something and at other times ridiculously depressed, doesn't mean that there's something wrong with them," Smith told the Website.

    I suspect family and friends often fail to intervene in episodes of clinical depression because situational depression is so common. People have plenty of rational reasons to be sad. However, when depression becomes the norm, dragging on for years, it has moved beyond 'the blues.' At that point, intervention by medical personnel may be necessary to prevent the tragedy of suicide.

    Symptoms of Depression

  • Persistent sadness or unhappiness
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Irritability
  • Sudden change in appetite
  • Disruption of normal sleep pattern
  • Physical discomfort
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating
  • Thoughts of suicide or death
  • I believe Kirk Jones did the right thing, despite the possibility of embarassment, in admitting he behaved very rashly because of emotional problems, not machismo. His message, broadcast nationally and internationally, may lead other clinically depressed persons to seek help.

    4:10 PM

    Tuesday, October 21, 2003  

    From the news desk

  • Florida governor may deny woman right to die
  • With the help of state legislators, Florida's governor is meddling in what should be a family matter. And, no, it is not his family.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- The Florida House voted late Monday to give Gov. Jeb Bush the power to intervene in the case of a brain-damaged woman whose feeding tube was removed last week by her husband's order.

    The House voted 68-23 in favor of the bill. The state Senate planned to take it up Tuesday.

    The measure would give the state's governor 15 days to order a feeding tube to be reinserted in cases like Terri Schiavo's. The governor's power would be limited to cases where a person has left no living will, is in a persistent vegetative state, has had nutrition and hydration tubes removed and where a family member has challenged the removal.

    Schiavo, 39, meets all the bill's requirements. She has been at the center of a decade-long court battle between her parents, who want her to survive, and her husband, who says he is carrying out his wife's wishes to not be kept alive artificially.

    The courts have upheld Schiavo's right to finally end her ordeal. The extralegal efforts of the House and governor are meant to continue a tragedy that has gone on for too long already. I suspect it is also a sap to the right-to-life movement, which does not distinguish between the ability to live life and artificial prolongation of breathing. Heartless and shameless grandstanding like this serves no useful purpose. There are people desperately in need of continuing medical care. Ms. Schiavo is not one of them.

  • Youth says civil disobedience goal of security breaches
  • When has a person gone too far to make a point about lax security procedures? This is an issue I've discussed with friends in the internet technology field, including one who has been convicted of a computer-related crime. Now, the topic has arisen in regard to airline security post 9/11.

    BALTIMORE (AP) -- A college student who allegedly hid box cutters and other banned items on four airliners to expose weaknesses in U.S. security was charged with a federal crime Monday, and a prosecutor said he committed a "very serious and foolish action."

    The banned items were not discovered on two of the planes until a month after Nathaniel Heatwole, 20, had alerted authorities about his scheme via e-mail. He was charged Monday with taking a dangerous weapon aboard an aircraft, then released without bail for a preliminary hearing Nov. 10.

    . . . According to authorities, Heatwole told federal agents he went through normal security procedures at airports in Baltimore and Raleigh-Durham. Once aboard, he said, he hid the banned items in compartments in the planes' rear lavatories.

    . . . According to an FBI affidavit, Heatwole's signed e-mail "stated that he was aware his actions were against the law and that he was aware of the potential consequences for his actions, and that his actions were an `act of civil disobedience with the aim of improving public safety for the air-traveling public.'"

    The young man charged says he had no intention of harming anyone. His goal was to draw attention to how easy it is to take dangerous items aboard an airliner. His lifestyle supports his opposition to violence.

    Guilford is a Quaker college with a history of pacifism and civil disobedience that dates to the Civil War. Heatwole is not a Quaker but shares many of the tenets of the faith, including a belief in pacifism, according to a February 2002 interview with The Guilfordian, the campus newspaper.

    The student, a double-major in political science and physics, refused to register for the draft when he turned 18 as required by law, according to the interview. Instead, he returned a blank registration form to the Selective Service System with a letter explaining his opposition.

    The FBI affidavit, obtained Monday by The Associated Press, said Heatwole breached security at Raleigh-Durham airport on Sept. 12 -- the day after the two-year anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. He did it again Sept. 14 at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

    The courts have not been swayed by alibis that say the defendant was testing security in order to prove it ineffective in computer crime cases. Nor do I believe Heatwole's clearly stated subjective intent will override what can be perceived as legal intent to do harm under these circumstances. The disruption caused by planting the contraband items and notifying authorities is in itself enough to constitute an intentional criminal act. However, the core prinicple of civil disobedience is that the person participating in it is willing to bear the burdens the legal system will impose on him for being provocative. I hope Heatwole realizes that two seemingly contradictory things can be true. He can be morally right from the perspective of himself and others and he can be convicted of a crime and punished accordingly.

  • 'Up by your bootstraps' education gets harder
  • Students from working-class families are often told that they can still get a college education despite the high costs of private universities. State colleges and community colleges have served as a kind of educational safety net for the non-affluent. That net has developed some big holes.

    Offsetting state budget cuts, tuition at public universities rose 14 percent to an average of $4,694 this year, the steepest increase in more than a quarter century, according to the latest annual survey by the College Board.

    Largely for the same reason, tuition at community colleges also rose 14 percent, to an average of $1,905. That was the second biggest increase since 1976, the earliest year for which the College Board reports data.

    . . .Tuition at public colleges rose so fast this year, the College Board said, mostly to compensate for the declining government support of state campuses. Although the College Board report did not track state appropriations in the current fiscal year, a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures this summer found that total state spending on higher education dropped 2.2 percent this year, with some states trimming their expenditures by more than 10 percent.

    Financial aid, usually in the form of loans, does compensate for some of the increase in tuition. However, the difference is not large enough to have much of an impact. Furthermore, loans saddle young people with debts they may have difficulty paying, starting them out at a disadvantage in the work world. The trend in higher costs for public education could lead to further bifurcation of educational attainment by economic class.

    2:14 PM

    Monday, October 20, 2003  

    Buyer's remorse can taint high tech purchases

    My friend Richard Einhorn of Tristero brought my attention to a revealing article about high tech and buyer's remorse in the New York Times. I last grumbled about some high tech gadgets when I discussed the Palm Zire 71 personal digital assistant I had received as a gift, but was ambivalent about. The premise of the article in the NYT is that much of the high tech sells bounty ends up unused.

    People acquire these things -- hand-held personal digital assistants, flatbed scanners, compact disc copiers and a host of other objects -- because they promise to make life more efficient, more fun, or, some confess, simply because they appear to help them keep up with what their "wired" friends and neighbors have.

    But many such products are simply too complicated for their own good. And all too often, the buyers find that they cannot really change their lives just by acquiring something new and different.

    A fellow resident of Puddletown is among the people profiled.

    Veronica Vichit-Vadakan, 29, a freelance film editor in Portland, Ore., is all too familiar with the problem of buying things she does not use. Her digital camera sits, as if glued in place, on a bookshelf in her bedroom. And Ms. Vichit-Vadakan's CD burner, which was supposed to allow her to make copies of music she loves for her friends, is the embodiment of a promise gone awry.

    "I was hoping to get organized about backing up my files and burning CD's for friends and making copies of CD's and making copies of my software, which they say you're supposed to do," she said. "But nope, I never did any of that."

    It's not all her fault. She never did get the CD burner to work on her computer. Weeks, then months passed, and she finally boxed it back up to get it off her desk. Now she is trying to sell it on Craig's List, a Web site built around classified advertisements, but so far there are no takers.

    "I guess CD burners have gotten a lot faster," she said. "No one wants this one."

    My experience echoes Veronica's. I have a brand new year-old all-in-one printer, copier, fax and scanner, that I purchased late in its sales cycle for only $100. However, I have never actually used my bargain. Epson never produced drivers for Macintosh OS X for most of its printers, scanners and all-in-ones, including the Stylus Scan 2000. Since I rarely venture into Classic, I don't employ this lovely hunk of high tech for any of the things it can do. Efforts to resell it have been unsuccessful. My guess is that people can't believe someone is selling a new whiz-bang device so cheaply; for about the cost of replacement ink cartridges. I did sell my unused $169 Scanmaker SCSI scanner to a neighbor for $30, though. I was able to score another $20 by reselling the unused software on eBay. Since Apple had dropped SCSI ports and I had to replace the last computer I had with one, there wasn't a better option. My newest digital camera, a Pentax Optio 330 is dandy, and much neglected. As is my cordless mouse and an unopened Apple Plaintalk microphone that resides in the back of the hall closet.

    A psychiatrist and remorse buyer interviewed by the NYT sheds some light on why we do this.

    Julie Marcuse, 57, a psychoanalyst in Manhattan, has the advantage of knowing how to apply cogent psychological analysis to a behavior pattern she knows all too well.

    Not long after buying a Webcam that eventually ended up back in its box, Dr. Marcuse bought a scanner. That, too, was a bust. The scanner software created a series of conflicts with other software on her computer. She gave it away.

    "I just wanted it out of my house," she said.

    "I think we're usually pursuing a fantasy of empowerment when we buy these things," Dr. Marcuse said.

    Asked why people have trouble learning to be more wary, Dr. Marcuse referred to "an endearing optimism" on the part of consumers. "Hope springs eternal, you know."

    But what about the Palm Zire 71, you ask? I exchanged it for a Palm Tungsten C. I wanted that PDA because I like to use Wi-Fi. My thinking was that I would take it with me instead of my laptop some of the time. I would be able to read my daily sites using the Web service Avantgo and maybe even blog from the PDA if I purchased an attachable keyboard. So far, Avantgo has refused to sync with the Tungsten C, which uses Palm's new operating system, OS 5. There is no Mac software for OS 5 from Avantgo. I also have not located a browser that will fit material to the small screen. (Netspring, a browser I used with my Palm m500 series PDA is not compatible with OS 5.) The MP3 player capability will require I purchase compatible software and yet another pair of earphones. I may need to buy a new microphone to use the voice recorder.

    Buyers beware.

    2:29 PM

    Sunday, October 19, 2003  

    Portland 7 case ends with whimper

    It's a wrap, as they say in the newspaper business. With the guilty pleas of the two remaining Portland Seven defendants who are in custody last week, the case came to an end.

    The last members of the so-called "Portland Seven" in custody pleaded guilty today in federal court for participating in a plot to join the Taliban's fight against U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

    Jeffrey Leon Battle and Patrice Lumumba Ford agreed to a plea bargain that will result in both serving 18 years in federal prison. Both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to levy war against the United States.

    Battle and Ford are among six men and a woman who were charged with conspiracies to wage war against the United States, to provide material support and resources to al-Qaida, and to contribute services to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Some also faced firearms charges. The remaining counts against Battle and Ford will be dropped after they are sentenced Nov. 24, according to the deal.

    In addition, the only one of the septet who apparently made it to Afghanistan is said to have been killed in combat near the Pakistani border.

    Pakistani troops battling an al-Qaida commando group this month killed Habis Abdulla al Saoub, the veteran Afghan fighter who tried to lead a squad of Portland residents overseas to potential martyrdom.

    U.S. officials say they are convinced al Saoub died Oct. 2 with seven others during Pakistan's operation in a rugged area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The FBI is seeking formal confirmation from Pakistan.

    . . . Al Saoub, 37, was wanted in Portland as the leader of a group of men who tried to reach Afghanistan two years ago to fight U.S. troops. Five men and one woman have pleaded guilty to participating in the failed mission that ended on the Chinese-Pakistan border. Al Saoub never returned from China, evading capture despite a $5 million reward.The Jordanian native lived in the Portland area from 1996 until late 2001, when he and the others launched their mission to Afghanistan. In the 1980s, al Saoub was an Arab mujahedeen fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

    Pakistani officials describe the moutainous, isolated area where al Saoub was allegedly slain as being a redoubt for al-Qaida and out of their control. They mounted the offensive in which he is thought to have been killed Oct. 2 in the village of Baghar.

    I see some grounds for concern about the length of the sentences offered Battle, Ford and October Lewis, the least active of the seven. John Walker Lindh, who actually participated in fighting, was sentenced to only two years more than Battle and Ford. Lewis, Battle's wife, has agreed to a term of three and a half years. That seems lengthy considering the limited role she played in the conspiracy and her willingness to testify against the others. I fear this may fit into the pattern of sentencing African-Americans to longer prison terms for behavior similar to or less egregious than that of white defendants. However, due to the small number of persons convicted under the Patriot Act,it is difficult to know if disproportionality is occurring.

    A defense lawyer for the Portland Seven has no doubt race is an issue.

    One of Ford's attorneys, Stanley Cohen of New York City, said in a post-plea news conference that his client pleaded guilty, in part, because he is "a black man, a black activist labeled as a terrorist by the media without a trial who doesn't stand a chance" of getting a fair trial."

    Cohen says polls conducted for the defense revealed potential jurors overwhelmingly perceived the Portland Seven as guilty.

    There are doubtlessly bloggers who will give the episode the full 'those awful terrorists' treatment. That will occur despite the fact the evidence against most of the defendants consists of talk, talk and more talk. If they really were determined to commit terrorist acts, the long fallow period between their return from China and being taken into custody is inexplicable. What I mainly see in this saga is something more prosaic. This is an object lesson in what can happen when people are too vulnerable to the blandishments of 'mighty mouths,' i.e., the folks who are always so willing to tell other people what to think or do. Most of the defendants appear to have simply jumped on a bandwagon without giving much thought to what doing so meant. Now, they will have time to do plenty of thinking while residing in government housing. I don't believe the Portland Seven are that different from many, maybe even most, people. Some manipulative sort gives'em their marching orders and they are off on a frolic without a clue to the reason why.

    My heart goes out to the families of the Portland Seven. By a rough count, at least a dozen children have been left fatherless by the guilty pleas and alleged death. The loss of a father's income alone can be enough to doom the children of prisoners to poverty. I know federal law precludes convicts making a profit from their stories, but I hope there is a way to help these children not pay for the errors of their parents.

    5:49 PM

    Saturday, October 11, 2003  

    Pleasure, pain and Rush Limbaugh

    Let me start with an admission. I have never purchased a drug stronger than Tylenol with codeine in my life, and that was with a prescription. My illicit drug use is limited to the usual college and law school toking. (Marijuana is very popular at many law schools.) So, I approach the topic of drug addiction without personal experience.

    However, like other writers, and cats, I just have to know about things. So, I've been probing the topic for years. One of my most anthologized short stories is about a drug addict. That leads people to think I know the turf. To the extent I do, it is because of having focused on it as a reporter and continued that research subsequently. One of the aspects I have been wondering about for a long time is the relationship between drug use and hedonism. Is the pleasure derived from hardcore drug highs so extreme that those of us who haven't had the experience are clueless about ecstasy? Are the relatively short lives of addicts an understandable exchange for the pleasure derived from drug use? What about pain? How much of it are people willing to endure in return for the high?

    A new angle to the saga of a conservative talk show host's admission to addiction (shall we call it 'Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Junkie'?) has led me to inquire into the issue of drug use and hedonism again.

    Limbaugh's confession came a week after a former housekeeper went public with accusations that she supplied Limbaugh with thousands of black-market pain pills over a four-year period.

    . . .They also triggered renewed speculation about a possible connection between his drug abuse and his sudden, almost total, loss of hearing three years ago.

    Lorcet, one of the drugs that his housekeeper claimed to have supplied Limbaugh, has been linked to abrupt deafness.

    . . .Limbaugh's broadcast confession caps a dismal two weeks for the broadcaster, who lost his job as an ESPN commentator after he claimed Philadelphia Eagles Donovan McNabb has been overrated by sports journalists because he's black.

    That was followed quickly by a story in the National Enquirer detailing the accusations of his former housekeeper, Wilma Cline.

    Cline -- whose husband, David, has a two-decade criminal record including several drug-trafficking charges -- said she provided Limbaugh with black-market Lorcet, OxyContin and hydrocone between 1998 and 2002.

    All three drugs are synthetic opiates, chemical cousins of morphine and heroin, and highly addictive.

    Cline said Limbaugh gave her cigar boxes full of money to pay for the drugs, sometimes as many as 4,000 pills in a seven-week period.

    The relationship between taking Lorcet and losing one's hearing is established, but no one but Limbaugh's doctors knows for sure about him. (If he told them about his drug abuse.)

    Since Limbaugh continued using the illicit drugs after his hearing loss, it is logical to conclude he considered deafness an acceptable trade-off for the pleasure of using the drugs. This is not an isolated phenomenon, of course. Any user of drugs proven to be harmful, from cigarettes to heroin, sacrifices part of his or her health. A lung here, a liver there, some deafness, an amputation if the steroids backfire. Misery between bouts of transport.

    It seems to me there a kind of cost/benefit analysis occuring among addicts. They may decide the pleasure is worth the pain. If they do, that could explain why rehabilitation usually fails. The public health system, on the other hand, assumes the pain of addiction, and the upheaval it causes, is not worth the pleasure. Perhaps this dichotomy is the key to deciding what to do about the millions of drug addicts in America. It suggests the current one-size-fits-all assumption, that every addict really wants to quit, is not accurate. Until the relationship between addiction and hedonism is more thoroughly investigated, we will not know how the monies allocated to drug education and treatment can be spent most usefully.

    12:30 PM

    Wednesday, October 08, 2003  

    Biography: A message from Moose

    If Montgomery County Maryland officials were genuinely concerned that former police chief Charles Moose's book Three Months in October: The Manhunt for the Serial Sniper represented a conflict of interest, they may lament having convinced him to resign. It doesn't. If any law enforcement personnel believe the narrative might jeopardize the prosecution of the snipers, they too can release their breaths. The book doesn't do that, either. It isn't the kind of production that threatens either civilians or cops.

    What Moose's effort is is an autobiography that includes some information about the search for the Washington, D.C., area snipers this time last year. There is some new and some clarifying material about the investigation in the book.

  • The Chevrolet Caprice people often confuse with the alleged shooters' car was altogether different. It turned up burned out and abandoned early in the investigation.
  • There were scores of suspects investigated and cleared during the probe, despite the assumption the task force was largely without suspects during most of the period.
  • Richmond, Va., area law enforcement personnel arrested two illegal aliens at a Ponderosa Steak House where one of the shootings occurred after the task force told them the men had not called the hotline, the criterion for apprehension.
  • A major piece of evidence linking Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad to the case, identification of Malvo's fingerprint, would not have occurred if Police Chief Charles Moose had not enlisted the help of federal authorities in the investigation.
  • Washington Post reporters attacked Moose for writing his book while writing a competitor that tells more about the sniper investigation than his does.
  • Other assumptions people made about Moose's agenda then and now may be inaccurate, as well. He describes the investigation as a shared responsibility, with three agencies taking the lead. He credits Agent Gary Bald of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Agent Michael Bouchard of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with having played as much of a role in the investigation as he did. Bald was able to expedite much of the investigating because the FBI is a much faster moving entity than local law enforcement. For example, the tree trunk in Tacoma, Washington, Muhammad had fired shots into was whisked to a national lab in hours under the FBI's auspices. The ATF both located the negligent gun seller who allowed the suspects to get access to the Bushmaster assault weapon and confirmed the match between the gun and recovered bullets and cartridges beyond a reasonable doubt within hours of recovery of the gun.

    Moose's major contribution to the probe was being the face of it and communicating with the suspects. I don't believe the latter role can be overestimated. But for Moose's ability to establish a rapport with the two, they would not have continued to send messages to the investigators. Indeed, they could have ended their spree and disappeared into the underbelly of America. The first message was the tarot card found near the school where a teenager was shot. When its existence was leaked, Moose was able to reassure the suspects by insisting the media, not the police, were responsible. That led to subsequent messages, letters left at two other sites of shootings. The suspects also increased their phone communications after Moose's responses, making important mistakes in the process, such as the slip about a shooting in Montgomery, Alabama. Those errors in their communication with the task force were ultimately their undoing.

    Charles Moose' other, and perhaps, more significant, reason for writing a book is to tell his own story of success and, sometimes, failure. That story is interesting because it chronicles both a society and an individual. Moose grew up in a part of North Carolina I know well. In many ways, his memories parallel those of my older brother and sister. Key to those memories are race. Moose remembers the segregated neighborhoods of the times, the signs telling people of color they could not eat in restaurants and an active Ku Klux Klan. Since I am younger than he is, I have no memory of segregation de jure. However, I do recall a cross-burning. The KKK burned a cross on the lawn of the dentist who lived down the street from us when I was in elementary school. The tensions left over from a few years previous were also still very much present when this native North Carolinian became cognizant of the world around her.

    Moose went on to predominantly white settings such as the University of North Carolina and Portland, Oregon, where he was a policeman for more than 20 years. However, the race problem didn't go away just because he moved from one part of the country to another. Incidents when he complained about discriminatory treatment would leave the only blemishes on his reputation as a police officer. In that odd way white people too often have of blaming people of color for daring to criticize any of them, Moose became the problem, not the persons who had treated him in racist ways.

    Moose was chief of police in Portland when I moved here. He had held the office since the summer of 1993. His greatest achievement has been to end the high rate of aggravated assaults and murders caused by gangs in the city. Seattle and Portland, and, to a lesser extent, Salem and Vancouver, had developed severe problems with the Bloods and the Crips when many families from southern California immigrated to the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s and 1990s. Through a combination of community policing and a special gang squad, Moose's department was able to eliminate the bloody footprints of the gangs, reducing Portland homicides by two-thirds. Only during the last year has the gang problem begun to recur, with some of those previously incarcerated now released and Hispanic gangs becoming larger and more active.

    No one works all the time. Charles Moose has been less successful in his personal life than in his public role. Despite growing up middle-class, he has suffered his share of family tragedy. His mother died in her early 40s and his father would succumb to Alzheimer's before he turned 60. His older brother, David, suffered some kind of psychiatric trauma that left him dysfunctional, and homeless much of the time, from his 20s until his own early death. Moose's sister, Dorothy, seems the most stable member of the family, though her homosexuality must have been quite a surprise to a straight arrow like him. His own first marriage became continuing grounds for acrimony. The initial Mrs. Moose, Linder, has never forgiven him for eventually wedding Sandy, the woman he carried on an affair with while they were married. Only as he neared adulthood did David, Moose's son, form a solid relationship with his father. Though the former chief says he is pleased with his current domestic situation, he regrets having missed most of his only child's childhood.

    I haven't said anything about Charles Fleming, Moose's co-author. That is because there is hardly anything to say. I expected him to contribute the abilities of an experienced writer to the project. But, despite his name being on the jacket, there is no evidence Fleming contributed anything to the book. The writing is that of a nonprofessional -- unpolished, repetitious and lacking in expressiveness. Moose could have written this book with no help. . . and I suspect he did.

    My opinion of Moose did change while reading Three Weeks in October. I realized that, despite having successfully completed two advanced degrees, he is no intellectual. Instead, he is a person who is able to combine an academic understanding of his subject area, law enforcement, with the nuts and bolts know-how to get things done. A consummate pragmatist. Consider one of Moose's achievements in Portland -- cleaning up a housing development that was festering with crime. He used funds he acquired by applying for a community development block grant. One of the things he did with the money was to set up a small community policing office in the development. However, his fellow cops refused to come by and he didn't have the power to force them. His response was to install a color television set in the community policing office. Policemen began to come by to watch football on the television set. There were soon enough officers on hand whenever they were needed in the neighborhood. An intellectual might have ended up frustrated when his plans were marred by a lack of cooperation from other cops. A street smart officer might not have gone through the mind numbing bureacratics of applying for the grant in the first place. But, the combination of willingness to jump through bureaucratic hoops and the moxie needed to get bodies into that community policing office worked wonders together.

    Portland's next police chief had a much bumpier ride than Moose. Some of the citizenry came to regret Moose's departure for the East Coast and asked him to reconsider the position. Obviously, even if the man decides to return to law enforcement, he can't be everywhere. However, I believe the strengths that have made him a better than average police chief can be cloned. Moose's blend of academic theory and real world practice are a combination that should be sought in leaders in law enforcement.

    Though Three Weeks in October is not an extraordinary book, I believe it is a fine introduction to both the realities of police work and the realities of what it means to be a proud, capable person of African descent in America.

    Note: I purposely did not read any reviews of Charles Moose's book until after I wrote my review two days ago. Since, I have browsed the responses at Amazon. The outpouring of hatred toward Moose shocked even me, not exactly a stranger to bigotry. I have seen similar material at white supremacist sites, but thought people would behave better at a general audience venue.

    1:24 PM

    Monday, October 06, 2003  

    Law: Portland 7 defendants await evidentiary ruling

    As the Portland Seven continues to shrink, there is new potential trouble for one of the two remaining reachable defendants. He has allegedly been linked to a defendant in a terrorism case in another state.

    PORTLAND - Federal prosecutors in Virginia said they have linked the leader of a U.S. Islamic charity arrested this week to Portland terrorism suspect Patrice Lumumba Ford.

    Ford received a salary from a local chapter of the Virginia-based group, the American Muslim Foundation, in fall 2000 and spring 2001, according to checks presented by prosecutors in an Alexandria, Va., federal courtroom.

    Ford worked as a driver for the charity, picking up Muslim refugees at the Portland airport and helping them get settled, according to local Muslim leaders.

    . . .The documents came to light in a federal case against Abdul Rahman al-Amoudi, head of the American Muslim Foundation. Al-Amoudi was arrested and accused of acting as a courier to funnel money from Libya to terrorist groups in Syria. He was detained in England last month with $340,000 in U.S. currency, according to an affidavit.

    Al-Amoudi said that his fund-raising travels were intended for Muslim organizations in the United States, according to court papers. But the government contends that he was among a group of Muslim activists involved in a web of charities raising money for terrorist groups.

    Ford and Jeffrey Battle are the last of the defendants in custody to maintain their innocence. The only female defendant, Battle's wife, pleaded guilty to lesser charges Sept. 26.

    PORTLAND, Ore. -- October Lewis, one of seven Portland-area residents charged with conspiring to help Al Qaeda and the Taliban fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan, pleaded guilty Friday to money laundering.

    She will serve three years in minimum or medium-security federal prison.

    In exchange, she will testify against her former husband, Jeffrey Leon Battle and another defendant, according to the agreement read in [the] federal courthouse Friday.

    In addition, prosecutors dropped charges against her of conspiracy to levy war against the United States, to contribute services to Al Qaeda and the Taliban and to provide material support and resources to Al Qaeda.

    She could have faced life in prison if convicted on all counts.

    The Bilal brothers entered guilty pleas to more serious charges Sept. 18.

    Two brothers who were among seven people accused of aiding terrorists pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to help al-Qaida and the Taliban during the war in Afghanistan.

    Ahmed Bilal, 25, and his brother, Muhammad Bilal, 23, appeared before U.S. District Judge Robert Jones to formally enter their pleas. Jones had announced the plea agreement Wednesday.

    The Portland brothers also pleaded guilty to firearms charges in exchange for having the main charge of conspiracy to levy war against the United States dismissed.

    In the plea deal, Ahmed Bilal agreed to a prison term of 10 to 14 years, while his younger brother agreed to eight to 14 years. Jones did not set a sentencing date.

    The brothers had been accused of traveling to China with four other men shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack in a failed attempt to enter Afghanistan and fight with the Taliban.

    Maher "Mike" Hawash had entered a similar plea and agreed to testify against his co-defendants Aug. 8, beginning the crumbling of the Portland Seven's defense.

    Ford and Battle, who are said to have some of the strongest evidence against them, are scheduled to be tried in January.

    The remaining defendant, Habis al Saoub, is thought to have not returned to the United States from the Middle East. He is reportedly the leader of the group.

    The men have said they would have taken up arms in defense of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

    Defense attorneys for Battle and Ford have attempted to prevent evidence gathered using new anti-terrorism laws from being admitted.

    Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys are dueling over whether some of the evidence against the Portland Seven -- collected under the USA Patriot Act -- should be suppressed.

    In response to a defense request to block some evidence, prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge Robert E. Jones to find that the act's foreign intelligence-gathering provisions were used properly against two of the defendants, Jeffrey Leon Battle and Patrice Lumumba Ford, because they were "agents of a foreign power."

    But at the same time -- citing national security concerns -- the prosecutors declined to give the defendants the information they say proves the assertion.

    Instead, they asked Jones to rule on the contested evidence based on classified information provided only to him. And they asked Jones to keep the information secret under a provision of the USA Patriot Act that allows him to do so.

    . . .The contested evidence includes intercepted and recorded conversations on residential and cell phones belonging to the two targeted defendants, Battle and Ford; e-mail exchanges on their computers; and conversations picked up by an electronic monitoring device, or "bug," that had been planted in the Southwest Portland apartment that Battle shared with his ex-wife, Portland Seven defendant October Martinique Lewis.

    The motion to suppress will be argued Oct. 16.

    Note: This article contains more information about the applicability of the Patriot Act to the Portland Seven case.

    8:36 AM

    Friday, October 03, 2003  

    Technology: New Handspring Treo eases PDA-Plus confusion

    I recently described the confusion the PDA-Plus market can engender.

    Plus? The PDA-Ps offer tiny digital cameras, voice recorders, Bluetooth connectivity, MP3 players, WiFi, built-in keyboards or phones -- and there may be a wee kitchen sink in research and development.

    This particular model, the Palm Zire 71, intended for the non-enterprise market, has a digital camera and an MP3 player. The problem is I would have chosen different pluses if I had been the buyer. I already have a good digital camera, the Pentax Optio 330, that I don't use often enough. My MP3 player, the deservedly famous iPod, can't be bested. If I had been the person making the decision, I would have known what plus features to select. Most likely, I would have shopped for WiFi, so I could use the PDA with my Tmobile account and the free 802.11 networks in Portland and Seattle. Second choice would have been a voice recorder for memos and short interviews. If I could find a PDA with a cell phone that did not tie me to an undesirable service provider, I would consider that, too.

    . . .There are two things we can learn from my predicament. If you are in the market for a PDA, be sure to examine the features offered closely and decide which ones you can actually use. For example, unless you have a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone or printer, you will have to purchase adapters for any peripheral you hope to use to communicate with a PDA with Bluetooth built in. WiFi might prove useless in an area where there aren't many access points. And, many of us already have MP3 players. Second, if you are buying a PDA as a gift for someone else, be sure to develop a profile of the person's lifestyle and gadget history first. Does she already have a digital camera? Is her vision and hand coordination good enough that she won't mind pecking away on a diminutive keyboard? Will she consider using the provider a phone-enabled PDA's manufacturer insists on?

    The worst of the confusion may end with the introduction of Palm's Handspring Treo 600. Peter Lewis analyzed the hot new device for Fortune.

    Although it has a few glaring omissions -- it lacks a corkscrew and an airbag, for example -- Handspring's Treo 600 smart phone may be the finest color-screen wireless phone, e-mail, web-browsing, Palm PDA, MP3 music player, messaging, and digital-camera combination yet devised. It's due out later this month for somewhere over $500 from several carriers, including Cingular, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

    Previous Treo models were essentially PDAs with a phone built in. The Treo 600 is the opposite, meaning that for one thing, users no longer look like Martians radioing back to the mother ship when making calls. At the same time, slenderizing the Treo has also shrunk the color display and the built-in keyboard, which is useful for dashing off e-mails and memos or entering contact and calendar information on the fly.

    . . .Overall performance of everything from data applications to gaming has been speeded by the upgrade to a 144-megahertz Texas Instruments processor and 32 megabytes of system memory. There's a slot for SD cards, which can be stocked with MP3 music files, digital photos, video clips, or boring business-type stuff.

    Lewis says all of this occurs without paying the price in battery life, which can be as high as five hours. He reports the Treo 600 is also operable with one hand, preventing the driving hazard the earlier models may have caused. Overall, he considers it "the smartest of the smart phones."

    PDA Live and Business 2.0 second that. PDA Live extols the more phone-like features of this PDA-P.

    The first thing you notice about the Treo 600 is how much more like a phone it looks and feels. The Treo 300 looks and feels more like a PDA (which I don't mind), but there was evidently an effort made to make the 600 more like a phone. There is no more "flip lid" to worry about. Rumor is that many folks had the lid break off of the Treo 300 so Handspring eliminated it. Gone also is the jog wheel. It is replaced by a 5 way toggle button located on the face of the device. The toggle controls the screen prompts and cursor in all 4 directions while pushing the center of the toggle activates a function the same as tapping the screen. This control makes the Treo 600 simple to use with one hand, just like a phone.

    Business 2.0 declares the new hybrid not just an extremely well-designed product, but a possible profit maker for Palm.

    With this week's debut of the Handspring Treo 600, Palm finally has a device to rival smartphones from the likes of Nokia and Motorola.

    The timing of the launch is perfect. The Treo 600, an almost complete overhaul from earlier iterations, comes just as competition heats up in the world of smartphones. Consumers have shown an increasing reluctance to carry around both a phone and a PDA . As a result, sales of devices like the Treo that can serve multiple purposes have taken off. IDC estimates that more than 13 million converged devices will be sold this year -- a 260 percent increase over 2002 -- compared with just 11 million PDAs.

    The Treo 600 may not quite be manna from heaven. It seems a bit too busy to me. Not everyone wants every possible usage in their PDA. But, because of its excellent integration of a phone and PDA, the new device does appear to a significant step in the needed convergence of features on PDAs-Plus.

    11:17 AM

    Thursday, October 02, 2003  

    Greatest novels list is right . . . and wrong

    Several bloggers have posted a list of Modern Library's 100 Greatest English Language Novels of the 20th Century and their thoughts about it.

    Here's the list:

    1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
    2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
    5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
    6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
    7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
    8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
    9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
    10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
    11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
    12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
    13. 1984 by George Orwell
    14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
    15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
    16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
    17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
    18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
    19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
    20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
    21. HENDERSON THE RAIN KING by Saul Bellow
    23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
    24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
    25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
    26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
    27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
    28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    29. THE STUDS LONIGAN TRILOGY by James T. Farrell
    30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
    31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
    32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
    33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
    34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
    35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
    36. ALL THE KING'S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
    37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
    38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
    39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
    40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
    41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
    42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
    43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
    44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
    45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
    46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad
    47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
    48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
    49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
    50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
    51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
    52. PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
    53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
    54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
    55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
    56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
    57. PARADE'S END by Ford Madox Ford
    58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
    59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
    60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
    62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
    63. THE WAPSHOT CHRONICLE by John Cheever
    64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
    65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
    66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
    67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
    68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
    69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
    70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell
    71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes
    72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul
    73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
    74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
    75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
    76. THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE by Muriel Spark
    77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
    78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
    79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
    80. BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh
    82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
    83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
    84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
    85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
    86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
    87. THE OLD WIVES' TALE by Arnold Bennett
    88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
    89. LOVING by Henry Green
    90. MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
    91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
    92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
    93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
    94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
    95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
    96. SOPHIE'S CHOICE by William Styron .
    97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
    99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
    100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington

    Note that the list is limited to one century and has some oddities. Many novels translated into English are more impressive, and more read, than those written in English. (The list violates its own prejudice at least once, by lising Vladimir Nabakov, who had a great deal of trouble writing in English, and seldom did.) In addition, there is apparent confusion in regard to genre, with two well-known science fiction authors, Aldous Huxley and George Orwell listed, but others omitted. Ditto for detective/mystery fiction. I also suspect the list is an intentional snub of minority and women writers because some white, male writers so obscure hardly anyone has heard of them are included while important writers such as Eudora Welty, Toni Morrison and Chinua Achebe are omitted. Still, most of the writers on the list deserve to be there.

    I have read about 80 of the 100 books. Maybe I'll make a project of finishing the list. But, some of these books are not deserving of the honor, in my opinion. And, it is mainly those books I haven't read. Among the worthier novels I may pick up are D.H. Lawrence 's Sons & Lovers, which I have owned several times, but never read, and Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea, which I don't recall ever buying. I credit having wanted to be a novelist since I was nine years old with resulting in my head being full of literature. I think it rare that someone who is not a reader of literary fiction will be able to make his mark as a writer of it. However, a person need not have literary ambitions to enjoy one of the most available forms of entertainment and enlightenment.

    11:05 AM