Sunday, September 24, 2006

End of the "Top Gun"* era

Also over at On Tap, there's a tribute to the great F-14 Tomcat, which has just, very quietly, been phased out of active service. For any lover of amazing aircraft and/or things martial, this is a must-see.

*That's "Top Gun" as in the movie.

Wallace (the Younger) puts Clinton on the run

Not having a hooked-up TV, I didn't see it, but I'm checking out online videos of "the" Fox News Sunday interview with Bill Clinton that "everyone" is talking about now. (For a transcript, see here.) You can find reax at any politically-minded blog, but Marshall at On Tap is a particularly good one.

UPDATE: Jeff Harrell notes a strange comment (one that bothered me too) from Clinton:

When Wallace asked President Clinton what he did during his two terms about Osama bin Laden, Clinton replied, “What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him.”

If true, this is a very troubling statement. Because you see, during President Clinton’s term in office, ordering the CIA to kill Osama bin Laden would have been an overt violation of U.S. law.

On December 4, 1981, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order 12333, a lengthy document that elaborated on the authority and responsibility of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Paragraph 2.11 of EO 12333 was absolutely clear: “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”

. . . EO 12333 wasn’t amended until September 2001, when President Bush authorized the use of covert lethal operations against al-Qaida.

So if I’m reading the law right — and as I’ve said time and again, I’m just an interested layman, not a legal scholar — then it seems to me that President Clinton just admitted on national television to ordering the assassination of Osama bin Laden, thus breaking the law of the United States of America.

Unless he was lying, of course. Not that he has a history of doing that or anything.

Oh joy.

Stop the Insanity! Electoral College edition

Y'know, I was just over at my favorite magazine shop in downtown Edmonton the other day, and I ended up explaining the Electoral College to the clerk. She agreed with me that it's easy and obvious once you understand it, but many folks who are supposed to do the explainin' often don't seem to do a good job. Apparently she once tried to get a U of A poli sci prof to explain it to her and ended up more confused than before. (Of course, I think the main reason I've got a working grasp of Canadian politics is that I've educated myself and not taken any courses or asked any pointy-heads. Though I suppose there are some profs who could explain it all to me - Stephen Harper, for instance . . . )

Anyway, being someone who understands and appreciates the Electoral College, nothing irritates me so much as this display of stupidity shown by the California Legislature (and I know that "display of stupidity" and "California Leg" are synonyms, thanks). Betsy has a good takedown of it here. I mean, live by the popular vote, die by the popular vote, my friend . . . Yes, I know you could say the reverse, but, hey, did Nixon file a bunch of lawsuits in Illinois and Texas and bitch and whine in 1960? I think not.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ironic Catholic strikes again!

Requiem Mass Music From 1969 Discovered In Church Basement, Musicologists "Stunned"

"I choose that word--stunned--carefully" said Scanlon. "One person I spoke with was stunned in outrage. Another person was clearly stunned in delight. Another person was stunned in embarrassment...I think he might have been involved in the presentation of this way back then. No one in that church or the diocese is owning up, though. It's a shame, because this will go down as a--um, watershed moment--in 20th century liturgical music."

There are two hallmarks of the composition: first, the unusual instrumentation, which include a bluesy harmonica on the Agnus Dei (or "Lamb of God"), dueling mandolins during the Kyrie Eleison ("Lord, Have Mercy"), and tamborines, finger cymbals, and a cow bell during the In Paradisum. Second, the Mass closes with a rousing a capella eight part harmony of "Blowin' in the Wind", which the composer re-titled "Blowin' in the Spirit".

Dueling mandolins. Heh. Needs more cowbell. Heh heh.

BTW -- on the Pope's German visit . . .

Gerald Augustinus at The Cafeteria is Closed is doing yeoman's work covering the visit, providing translations of homilies and news coverage. Meanwhile, Thomas at American Papist is keeping us up to date on all the papal chapeaux (the latest: let's just say it isn't a Panama "banal", heh heh!).

You know I love this story

Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 - five years ago

Five years ago I was in the depths of one of my depressions, living with my parents and unemployed. My mother was getting ready for work and was watching something on "Fox & Friends". I was still in bed, half-asleep, as depressed people tend to be. All of sudden Mother hollered at me and said, "Meg! Get in here! Now!" in her (rarely-used) brook-no-argument tone. I struggled out of bed and . . . stayed glued to the television for the next few days, at least. When I came in the room there were the helicopters circling the WTC and the North Tower smoking . . . the anchorguy was saying something about a plane flying into the building! This was shortly after that kid flew a Cessna into that building in Florida, so Mother and I thought it was along those lines, but, no, we were quickly informed otherwise . . . it was a passenger jet! The reporters seemed as disbelieving as we were. Finally Mother had to leave for work; I promised to call her if anything else happened. (Ha!)

No sooner had she left than the second plane flew into the South Tower . . . that was a shock . . . and at that point, I started thinking, "Islamist nuts". Because the odds of one passenger airplane flying into the freakin' World Trade Center were pretty darn small, but the odds of two doing so within 45 minutes of each other were, well, infinitesimal. At that point, I couldn't call Mother, the switchboard where she worked wasn't open for another hour. (She called me not too long after - everyone at work was gathered around an old B&W TV someone had in their office.) I called a friend who lived and worked in Manhattan - he worked way up in Murray Hill, so I wasn't "worried" about him, but even so, I wanted to check in with him, and it turned out to be the last time I'd be able to talk to him for over a week. Everyone in his office was gathered around a TV, and of course they could see downtown to what was going on. He held the phone out the window so I could hear the noise of sirens on vehicles headed downtown . . . I told him I was a little concerned that one or both of the Towers could fall, I didn't know if with their engineering the metal might buckle if the fires went down further, and cause one or both to fall over on their sides (ha! - I couldn't imagine them falling as they did - but later I read a couple of books on the engineering of the Towers and realized why what happened, happened - you conspiracy people should look into those). But we both agreed that that was crazy talk. I told him I'd call him later - "I know you live uptown [he lived north of Columbia, for pete's sake], but I'll just have to make sure you're okay." He laughed and said fine. Of course, I was unable to call him that evening, or for days after, and that evening he walked from the east 30's to the 180's.

Of course, with that prediction, I was not surprised when the Towers came down . . . just kind of . . . shocked. I can see them both happening - first the top began to shiver, then the whole tower just collapsed, bam bam bam bam bam. Of course the TV showed it over and over, usually in slowed motion of some sort so you could see what was happening. But I remember clearly watching both towers go down, especially because they both seemed to have a rhythym - wooooooooobbble, then slam slam slam slam slam.

By that time, I had been praying my rosary for a while. It was obvious to anyone with sense what was going on. People were already dead and dying, fire crews were going up into God-knew-what, it was obviously going to be a huge mess to get those fires put out and then . . . it got worse.

After the Towers fell, I just sat on the sofa and watched . . . well, everything. The Pentagon. The reports from Pennsylvania. The fingerpointing. ("Oh, great," I thought. "Well, at least Al Gore isn't president," I thought.) The coming together and the bickering. I went to church that night, and the night after. Perhaps it brought me out of my depression, I never thought of it that way before . . .

The other thing I really remember was the "irony" of what a wonderful day it was. I remember thinking, as the helicopters circled around, how nice and clear the sky looked there; you don't get that nice clear blue in New York as often as you do in Texas. Then some of the news people commented on what a lovely morning it had been, and, when I spoke to my friend, I asked him how it was up there, and he said it had been the most beautiful late-summer morning. And out of that beautiful sky fell Death.