December 5, 2006

Thunderous sparks from the dark of the stadiums

St├ęphane Couturier, Den Haag, De Bijenkorf #1, Netherlands, 2003

* Washington Post: Sins of The Father. excerpt:

"It is not the fault of Jenna or Barbara Bush that their father, the president, has gotten us into a war that he doesn't know how to get us out of. And, although you can blame parents for almost anything, George W. and Laura Bush are no longer responsible for the behavior of their twin daughters, who are in their mid-20s. Presidents, like the rest of us, don't get to choose their relatives. Remember Billy Carter?

"Anyway, Jenna and Barbara are far from George W. Bush's biggest familial problem. The law of averages has given him at least one ne'er-do-well brother -- Neil. The biggest familial thorn in the president's side is probably his father, always ready (or so it seems) to send out a Brent Scowcroft or a James Baker with some patronizing and excruciatingly public advice for the young pup.
"Nevertheless, there is a war on. It's a war that has killed 3,000 Americans, most of them around Jenna and Barbara's age or younger. It has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis of all ages. And even more Americans and Iraqis have been injured, lost limbs, suffered terrible pain. President Bush can be quite eloquent in talking about the sacrifices of American soldiers and -- he always adds -- their families. In the Reagan style that has become almost mandatory, he uses anecdotes. He talks of Marine 2nd Lt. Frederick Pokorney Jr. 'His wife, Carolyn, received a folded flag. His two-year-old daughter, Taylor, knelt beside her mother at the casket to say a final goodbye.'

"Bush says truly, about the American dead, 'They did not yearn to be heroes. They yearned to see mom and dad again and to hold their sweethearts and to watch their sons and daughters grow. They wanted the daily miracle of freedom in America, yet they gave all that up and gave life itself for the sake of others.'

"Living your life according to your own values is a challenge for everyone, and it must be a special challenge if you happen to be the president. No one thinks that the president should have to give up a child to prove that his family is as serious about freedom as these other families he praises. But it would be reassuring to see a little struggle here -- some sign that the Bush family truly believes that American soldiers are dying for our freedom, and that it's worth it."

"Who knows? Maybe they have had huge arguments about this. Maybe George and Laura wanted the girls to join the Red Cross, or the Peace Corps, or do something that would at least take them off the party circuit for a couple of years. And perhaps the girls said no. But I doubt this scenario, don't you?
"But no amount of eloquence can overcome the bald contrast between that rhetoric and how his own family lives. His daughters are over 21, and he can't control them, but that doesn't let them off the hook. They are now independent moral actors, and their situation requires that they either publicly oppose their father's war or do something to support it. Is it unfair to expect Jenna and Barbara to shape their lives around their father's folly? Of course it's unfair. If this is war, then unfairness comes with the territory."

* Another reason to stay away from soda. excerpt:

"Serious questions remain over how America's food safety watchdog handled the presence of benzene residues in soft drinks, a senior ex-official has said, after tests showed some drinks still contained the chemical 15 years after the industry agreed to cut it.

"The source told it was 'embarrassing' the Food and Drug Administration had failed to eradicate benzene residues from all drinks.
"I rather doubt it is embarrassing to the FDA. This administration has no shame and failure to regulate is not an embarrassment, it is a badge of honor they where proudly to all their fundraisers.

"Now they are in danger of getting on the wrong side of the food industry, too, as the food industry entreats the FDA to give them guidance. The FDA can't even do its corruption competently.

"Meanwhile, both the FDA and the food industry are telling the public not to worry. You have to drink a lot of benzene-laced soda to have even a tiny risk of cancer. Which is true. For any particular individual. The problem is that with tends of billions of bottles consumed around the world, the risk doesn't have to be large. A one in a million risk is nothing for an individual but it is 1000 cancers for a billion individuals."

* Edmunton Sun: Legalize It. excerpt:

"Tougher penalties may not deter criminals, but at least stiffer sentences will keep some of the worst criminals off the streets for a few years. Otherwise, why jail anyone for anything? Is punishment so hopelessly old-fashioned?

"Governments are too chicken to take such a radical step, but if we wanted to engineer an immediate, dramatic drop in crime, we'd legalize drugs, demolishing the profit motive.

"For the most part, it's not poor people gunning each other down in Alberta's red-hot economy - it's greedy, rich punks fighting over drug turf.

"In a paper on our failed drug war a few years ago, the Fraser Institute wondered why we spend so much money on drug prohibition in an effort to save a small hardcore group of drug users from themselves.

"We should be asking ourselves the same thing. It is drugs - not prohibition - that boost crime, the institute noted.

If we were smart, we'd divert the money we're spending on drug prohibition into treatment programs for addicts.

'It's not clear why marijuana or even cocaine should be illegal and alcohol legal,' says Peter Rosenthal, adjunct professor of law at the University of Toronto.

"He, too, believes it's time to consider legalizing drugs. Uncle Sam would have a fit."

* "Would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of bar-room vernacular, that is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive." -- Raymond Chandler


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