November 13, 2006

which side are you on, boys


Charles H. Traub, Los Angeles, 1984

* New York Times:

"There have been many examples of the shambles that the Republican-controlled Congress made of its responsibility for oversight of the Bush administration. But none was so peremptory as the mass firing of 60 House appropriations investigators last month — virtually the entire hired staff responsible for tracking spending abuses in such money pits as the Iraq war, intelligence operations and the $62 billion Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

"The dismissed investigators — former F.B.I. and C.I.A. agents and other professionals — did not have their contracts renewed because their work has “not been that good,” in the words of a Republican spokesman who offered no compelling evidence. An attempt was made to sell the purge as a bipartisan decision, but it turned out to be the unilateral order of the committee’s Republican chairman, Jerry Lewis of California.

"The result is that, until the Democrats assume committee control in January, there’s an investigatory vacuum on such matters as soldiers’ body armor in Iraq and levee and dam spending along the Gulf Coast. A year ago, amid public outrage over the administration’s bungling of Katrina relief, Mr. Lewis promised that a timely public report would be made. No such report has surfaced.

"There had been a bipartisan tradition on the committee, with majority and minority leaders proposing and signing off on investigation assignments. But that degraded with the arrival of one-party rule as Republicans shirked their oversight duty. This was obvious three years ago when the ranking Democrat, David Obey of Wisconsin, was rebuffed in his proposal for an investigation of the freewheeling intelligence operation quietly constructed by the administration in the Pentagon.

"Mr. Obey takes the committee gavel in January, and among his tasks will be restocking the investigation staff and setting the committee back on a productive, bipartisan course. This should not be a matter of party vengeance, as some Republicans fear. Rather, it’s a necessity of the course set by the voters to end one-party rule and find out what the government is actually up to."

* T-shirt allows air guitarists to play for real.

"The T-shirt has motion sensors built into its elbows that pick up movements and relay them wirelessly to a computer which interprets them as guitar riffs.

"One arm is interpreted as picking chords while the other strums.

"The 'wearable instrument shirt' is adaptable to both right and left-handed would-be rock stars.

"'It's an easy-to-use, virtual instrument that allows real-time music-making - even by players without significant musical or computing skills,' said the research team leader, Richard Helmer.

"'It allows you to jump around and the sound generated is just like an original mp3.'

* William Burrough on Scientology:

"In view of the fact that my articles and statements on Scientology may have influenced young people to associate themselves with the so called Church of Scientology, I feel an obligation to make my present views on the subject quite clear.

"Some of the techniques are highly valuable and warrant further study and experimentation. The E Meter is a useful device ... (many variations of this instrument are possible). On the other hand I am in flat disagreement with the organizational policy. No body of knowledge needs an organizational policy. Organizational policy can only impede the advancement of knowledge. There is a basic incompatibility between any organization and freedom of thought. Suppose Newton had founded a Church of Newtonian Physics and refused to show his formula to anyone who doubted the tenets of Newtonian Physics? All organizations create organizational necessities. It is precisely organizational necessities that have prevented Scientology from obtaining the serious consideration merited by the importance of Mr. Hubbard's discoveries. Scientologists are not prepared to accept intelligent and sometimes critical evaluation. They demand unquestioning acceptance.

"Mr. Hubbard's overtly fascist utterances (China is the real threat to world peace, Scientology is protecting the home, the church, the family, decent morals ... positively no wife swapping. It's a dirty Communist trick ... national boundaries, the concepts of RIGHT and WRONG against evil free thinking psychiatrist) can hardly recommend him to the militant students. Certainly it is time for the Scientologists to come out in plain English on one side or the other, if they expect the trust and support of young people. Which side are you on Hubbard, which side are you on?"

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