Aug 31, 2006

On the Sounds of War and Butterfly Wings

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F16 Fighting FalconLeft: F16 Fighting Falcon; photo courtesy of USAF

(Toledo, OH) Over the past few days I have heard quite a few military jets take off from the airbase in suburban Toledo. My house lies under the flight path of the F16s of the 180th Fighter Wing.

It seems to me that I have not heard this much activity since the days after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, DC. This, however, is one person's opinion, and should not be construed as providing material aid to enemies foreign or domestic.

The rumbling of Fighting Falcons over my house was juxtaposed with the bellicose, chest-thumping rhetoric of the hosts of Fox and Friends this morning, who performed their duties as America's most telegenic beaters of war drums against Iran and other nameless "enemies."

The sounds of war envelop us, and I suppose it is only a matter of time before the World War III trumpeted by the likes of Newt Gingrich become reality for the denizens of the planet.

We do, however, have a small amount of time remaining to change course, as war is never inevitable.

We can also demand that our elected leaders - Republican, Democrat, or Other - navigate us away from war and toward a world of peace.

I know that by writing these words I am condemning myself to the label of dreamy peacenik (or that I am suffering from "moral and intellectual confusion," in the parlance of Donald Rumsfeld), and that my insignificant voice will have little effect against what seems to be a tidal wave of pro-war sentiment.

Monarch butterfly
But perhaps this post could be the virtual equivalent of the metaphorical butterfly's wings that create a tiny atmospheric disturbance that - following the logic of chaos theory - lead to profound changes elsewhere. So here goes:

No war. No war. No war.

Aug 30, 2006

Book Review: The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945

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The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945Dawidowicz, Lucy S.

New York: Bantam Books, 466 pages


Dawidowicz studied history at Columbia University, but did not complete a graduate degree there. At the urging of her advisor she instead traveled to Wilno, Poland (present-day Vilna, Lithuania) work at the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO). Leaving just before the 1939 Nazi invasion of Poland, Dawidowicz spent the next six years in the New York branch of YIVO. She spent most of the next four decades engaged in research related to the Holocaust. The author’s opus, The War Against the Jews, examines in a systematic, detached fashion the Holocaust, and the text remains one of the standard syntheses on the topic.

The author approached the topic from a strict intentionalist perspective, arguing that Adolf Hitler fully intended to annihilate European Jews as early as 1918. Dawidowicz elucidated this belief early in the text:
Hitler’s ideas about the Jews were at the center of his mental world. They shaped his world view and political ambitions, forming the matrix of his ideology and the ineradicable core of National Socialist doctrine. They determined the anti-Jewish policies of the German dictatorship from 1933 to 1945, and they furnished the authority for the murder of the Jews in Europe from World War II.
Dawidowicz divided the text into three components, and she began with the rise of the Third Reich and the institutional Nazi machinery necessary to carry out the Final Solution. The author first placed the Nazis in a context of modern anti-Semitism, cautioning readers against the temptation to link Hitler with early modern anti-Semitism (as perhaps best expressed in the writings of Martin Luther). Dawidowicz next traced the gradual escalation from anti-Jewish legislation through the establishment of concentration camps and ghettoes, and continuing up to the establishment of death facilities. Throughout the first section the author built a convincing case that the Nazi campaigns of expansion were equally dedicated to carrying out a world war against Jews. Hitler, argued Dawidowicz, might not have possessed a fully-formed “plan” of carrying out the Holocaust as early as 1918, but through opportunism and innovation he nearly completed the goal of exterminating world Jewry.

Liberated prisoners in 1945 at Ebensee concentration campLeft: Liberated prisoners in 1945 at Ebensee concentration camp

Dawidowicz next dissected the history of the Jewish response to the arrival of the Nazis and their increasingly violent actions toward the Jews. She noted that German Jews themselves were initially divided over the best response to the Third Reich, as some believed the Nazis would be a short-lived political phenomenon. Dawidowicz described how, as the behavior of the Nazi regime became more markedly focused on concentration and extermination, Jewish communities adapted to change and began to develop alternative communities and outright resistance; most chilling is the material that demonstrates the growing awareness that German campaigns against Jews were not merely “the destructive fallout of a fascist war against the capitalist order, but were part of a deliberate design to annihilate the Jews.”

The third section of the text is devoted to a country-by-country breakdown of the fate of Jews in Nazi-dominated Europe. Dawidowicz developed a brief historical summary of Jewish history in each nation, described life during the war, and provided statistics on the numbers of victims of the Holocaust for each state. The author provided a lengthy bibliography for further research, and the tenth edition includes a supplementary bibliography of materials released after the initial 1976 publication of The War Against the Jews, 1933-1945.

Dawidowicz for the most part avoided polemic in the narrative, and the work is perhaps more disturbing because of the author’s refusal to engage in a vitriolic attack on the Nazi regime. The prose is well written and follows a chronological approach within each section, and is appropriate for upper-level underclass settings as well as for knowledgeable general readers. Maps and tables are provided throughout the book to illustrate material that might be confusing in textual form. One might be well advised, however, to keep a German dictionary at ready reference, because the author assumed a level of either linguistic fluency or historical familiarity with many German terms. Beyond this minor consideration, The War Against the Jews is an excellent historical text for an overview of the Holocaust, and provides a concise, authoritative account of one of humanity’s most gruesome historical periods.

The Quote Shelf

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Music has charms to soothe the savage breast
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.

--William Congreve

Aug 29, 2006

On Carrying Explosives Aboard Airliners

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Howard MacFarland FishLeft: Howard MacFarland Fish; photo by Nick de la Torre of the Houston Chronicle

(Toledo, OH) I have acted impulsively more than a few times in my life. I once climbed a tall tree to cut down a branch that was blocking a security light outside my business, and I received a smack across the face from the freed limb that nearly knocked me from my 25-foot perch.

I have also broken a few rules in my time, rules that I thought either infringed upon my rights or that seemed pointless. As a young corporate manager in the 1980s I once hired a worker without documentation because I was in a bind for help.

I regret each of these acts, and every other time that I behaved in a reckless, selfish manner.

But at no time have I ever believed it was a good idea to bring dynamite aboard an airliner.

Howard MacFarland Fish, a 21-year-old college student majoring in biology at Pennsylvania's Lafayette College, thought so.

He packed a stick of dynamite in his luggage on a flight to Houston from Argentina last week, and now faces a federal charge of carrying an explosive aboard an aircraft. His father vouched for the younger Fish's good character.

"My son is a college student and a boy who would not hurt anyone," Howard Fish said after posting his son's $75,000 bond.

Maybe so.

Stick of dynamite with detonatorsLeft: "Hmmm...carry-on or checked luggage?"

Fish apparently came into possession of the explosive materials - which included blasting caps and wicks - during a tour of a silver mine in Bolivia. Perhaps the items could have been purloined in a moment of impulsivity; I doubt that the gift shop carries such materials for tourists, although Fish's father claims the items were in a "souvenir bag."

But what could possibly have been going through the mind of this young man? Even if I were completely inebriated I cannot fathom a scenario in which the words "dynamite" and "airline luggage" could be combined into a thought that made anything close to common sense.

(Note: I have made a silent vow that I will not take my 16-year-old son on a plane until he no longer finds hilarious the airport scene in Meet the Parents: "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb. You gonna arrest me? Bomb bomb bomb bomb! During the war I was a BOMBadier!")

Let's hope that Howard MacFarland Fish truly is a boneheaded college student, and that he is indeed remorseful for his actions.

Would this be any consolation, however, to people like Mohammad Iqbal Batliwala, Shaqeel Chottani, or Ayub Kolsiwala, people whose only "crime" was being dark-skinned and speaking a foreign language?

These are the Indian nationals whose appearance frightened passengers and crew members aboard a Northwest Airlines jet, and who were detained by Dutch authorities for 48 hours.

A person who looks like an all-American student, some might reason, can bring explosives on planes, and be considered a nice boy, but those who look and speak differently are "terrorists" until proven otherwise.

We live on a strange planet these days. I think I will drive whenever possible on any long trips.

The Quote Shelf

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A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
--Herm Albright

Link Love Tuesday

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(Toledo, OH) As a member of the Open Trackback Alliance, I highlight sites and posts that I found to be noteworthy.

Follow this link to learn more about the project, which was developed by Samantha Burns.

Other interesting OTA blogs I visited this week: TMH's Bacon Bits, the unusual Quietly Making Noise, the wretched hive of scum and villainy at Pirate's Cove, Canadian-style politics at Grandinite, the good fun at 7 Deadly Sins, and my must-visit, thrice-daily trips to Liberal Common Sense.

Aug 28, 2006

To Dennis Staples

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Bob Kelly and Dennis Staples saying goodbyeLeft: WRQN's Bob Kelly and Dennis Staples saying goodbye; photo by Allan Dietrich of the Toledo Blade

(Toledo, OH) It was with sadness that I learned ten days ago that the longtime Toledo radio duo Kelly and Staples would be ending their partnership of almost 20 years due to health issues experienced by Dennis Staples.

I had not realized I have been listening to the pair for so long.

I will not engage in hyperbole here, as the retirement of a morning host in a mid-sized radio market is not news of great import. I certainly felt a greater sense of loss when JP McCarthy, the heart and soul of Detroit's WJR-760, died in 1995.

The magic of Kelly and Staples, however, certainly deserves more than the brief local tributes afforded the pair. Few radio teams can achieve the sort of chemistry that these two radio veterans created.

The pair simultaneously spoofed and embraced radio clichés, while avoiding cheap gimmicks such as characters. Dennis Staples, though, was quite a character himself, and could subtly switch from loveable buffoon to a sort of professorial savant in the same segment.

Staples is an extremely intelligent man; it is unlikely that one could hear references to, say, Herman Melville on any other morning radio station in Toledo (or, for that matter, in the country). At the same time he could play the clueless straight man better than anyone I have ever heard.

The pair collaborated on a daily feature that used the Mary Worth cartoon as a vehicle to recycle old jokes. Neither the comic strip nor the accompanying jokes were worth remembering, but my day did not seem the same without my 8:40 dose of "Mary Worth," as presented by Kelly and Staples.

I will also miss the duo spontaneously breaking out in song, especially their satirical (but heartfelt) rendition of "The Kelly & Staples, the Kelly & Staples, the Kelly & Staples SHOOOOOOOOW."

OK, it is much better rendered live, but those who listened will know what I mean.

Dennis: I hope that your health improves, and that Toledo radio listeners might occasionally hear you on the air in cameo appearances. You will be sorely missed.

Aug 27, 2006

A Note to Readers

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Note to readers in Post-It form (Toledo, OH) I have been a bit less productive on the blog - and wholly uncommunicative in the comments section - of late.

I am teaching a class that is new to me (at least in terms of pedagogy) and I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about the way in which I want to organize and present the material.

Perhaps too much time, but that's another story dealing with my quirks as an obsessive perfectionist.

Anyways, I hope to be back into a better groove within the next week, and more fully engage people in conversation and debate.

The Quote Shelf

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Bacchus hath drowned more men than Neptune.
--Thomas Fuller

Aug 26, 2006

Rapid Rhetoric: ELEUSINIAN

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This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

Eleusinian - adj. pertaining to Eleusis, a town in ancient Greece, and its religious mysteries of initiation in honor of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture.

The Eleusinian Mysteries were annual initiation ceremonies for the cults of Demeter and Persephone based at Eleusis in ancient Greece. The Mysteries celebrated the return of Persephone, which was also believed to herald the return of plants and of life to the earth in spring.

Of all the mysteries celebrated in ancient times these were held to be of greatest importance, and these myths and mysteries later spread to Rome. The Roman equivalent is found in the goddess Ceres, from whom we get our word "cereal."

The rites, cultic worships, and beliefs expressed during the Eleusinian Mysteries were kept secret, and initiation rites supposedly united the worshipper with God. Faithful adherents were promised divine power and rewards in the afterlife.

Aug 25, 2006

Letter to My Obnoxious, Anonymous Neighbor

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Left: Japanese spurge, believed to be a noxious weed by my neighbor

(Toledo, OH) I originally planned to work around the house this weekend, but my plans may have changed. I think I'll put a chaise lounge in my yard and work on my tan, instead.

You see, I have an ongoing battle with an anonymous neighbor who likes to call the city to complain about my house. Some of your complaints have been valid, like when I needed to replace a missing section of gutter last winter.

Most other complaints have been downright petty.

Take today's visit, for example. Since he has been around so much to follow up on your repeated calls, the housing inspector and I are on a first-name basis. Victor [named changed to protect the bureaucrat] said that today's complaints involved "weeds, broken garage windows, and trash all over the yard."

Today Victor and I shook hands and agreed that I should have the standard 30 days to effect "repairs" to the "violations."

A few thoughts, dear neighbor-of-mine:

1. The plants that you describe as "weeds" are actually Japanese spurge, an ornamental ground cover that thrives in shade. I spent about $150 purchasing these plants this year. I know you might prefer every house in the neighborhood to have perfectly-trimmed, weed-free, Ozzie-and-Harriet fescue as landscaping, but grass simply will not grow under my giant red oak, and I never much cared for the Nelsons, anyway.

2. The "broken windows," as you likely know, were broken years ago by my children. Instead of replacing the panes every time a kid nailed the glass with a basketball (the windows are right under the hoop), we cut wood panels and painted them white, to match the garage. These days, all I have to do is put the wood panel back in when one gets knocked out. However, since I now have a month to rectify the problem, I have decided to wait until September 23 to replace them. Oh, and I am tempted to write the phrase "KISS MY FAT ARSE" on the panels until the city comes back out and cites me for an illegal sign.

3. Victor and I walked the property looking for the "trash" you described, but we failed to find any. Perhaps you could be more specific when you call, or, if there is no trash, you might want to empty a bag of trash in my yard when I am at work to make your story more believeable.

4. Finally, please be aware that the city housing inspectors have much more to do than to serve your strange agenda. There are entire city blocks with more abandoned buildings than habitable dwellings, and the time you spend with these frivolous complaints takes away time that could be spent on real problems.

Toodles!

Russia Rejects Calls for Iran Sanctions

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Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov Left: Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov, courtesy AP.com

(Moscow) Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov rejected - for the moment - the US-led movement for sanctions against Iran for the country's nuclear enrichment program.

"I know of no instances in world practice and previous experience in which sanctions have achieved their aim and proved effective," he told reporters today. "Moreover, I believe that the question is not so serious at the moment for the UN Security Council or the group of six to consider any introduction of sanctions. Russia stands for further political and diplomatic efforts to settle the issue."

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on July 31 calling for Iran to suspend its nuclear enrichment program within 30 days or risk international sanctions. Iran formally rejected a proposed package of incentives for compliance with the resolution on August 22, and instead called for more diplomacy.

The Russian move, while not unexpected, dimishes the ability of the US to build consensus for immediate sanctions against Iran. Both Russia and China have expressed a disinclination to push for sanctions as formal policy, and both powers have significant energy and investment ties with Iran; as such, both nations would be likely to veto any call for sanctions in the Security Council.

The US would then be faced with the prospect of introducing such a motion before the Security Council, knowing in advance that it would be doomed to failure. Such a move would further weaken the international reputation of the United States, already at a low point with the ineffectiveness of the war in Iraq and what is seen as tacit US approval for the Israeli campaign in Lebanon.

Aug 24, 2006

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain.
--Mark Twain

Pluto No Longer a Planet

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Pluto and CharonLeft: Pluto and and moon Charon

(Prague, Czech Republic) Earth's leading astronomers today approved a new definition of a planet, thus downgrading Pluto's status to that of a dwarf planet.

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) approved new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight. Pluto had held planetary status since its discovery in 1930.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, a specialist in neutron stars who oversaw the proceedings, urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed version of the Walt Disney character Pluto beneath an umbrella.

The gathered astronomers had been trying to differentiate between the eight classical planets - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - and Pluto, which is smaller than the Moon and has an orbit that intersects that of Neptune.

Pluto and its satellite Charon have been characterized by some astronomers as a binary planet, because they are closer in size than any other planet/moon combination in the solar system.

Aug 23, 2006

The Quote Shelf

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

When the politicians complain that TV turns the proceedings into a circus, it should be made clear that the circus was already there, and that TV has merely demonstrated that not all the performers are well trained.
--Edward R. Murrow

Aug 22, 2006

On Muslims, Calls to War, and the Demonization Process

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Cartoon by John Trever, © 2006 Albuquerque Journal
Cartoon by John Trever, © 2006 Albuquerque Journal

(Toledo, OH) I have become increasingly disturbed by what I see as an increase in the negative manner in which Muslims are being depicted in American media. Certainly the right-leaning talk show hosts lead the way, but I see evidence that a subtle shift in media coverage is occurring that may become a historical parallel with the wartime propaganda that demonized individuals belonging to groups such as the Germans and the Japanese.

Glenn Beck today was railing on his show about "Dearbornistan," his not-so-subtle way of claiming that large numbers of Muslim extremists lie in wait in Middle America in cities such as Dearborn, itching to bring harm to the United States.

I once lived in Detroit, and could toss a stone across the street and have it land in Dearborn. I grew up with children of Arab-American descent, and the idea that Dearborn is some haven for extremism is one borne of utter ignorance. People come to the United States and live in cities like Dearborn to sek a better life for themselves.

Is it possible that would-be terrorists live in Dearborn? Certainly, just as they might hide out in New York, Boston, Toledo, or South Beach. Dearborn, however, gets singled out because there are many people of Middle Eastern heritage who happen to live there.

The city of Dearborn is clean, well-managed, and safe. As an ex-Detroiter, living in Dearborn seemed like a dream, and crossing the border from Detroit to Dearborn in some areas was like entering another world.

Rush Limbaugh today was tossing around the nonsense term "Islamo-fascists" in his defense of the Bush Administration's Middle Eastern policy, and also described Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a "lunatic" and " a man who has but one goal: to take over the world." Limbaugh, of course, is one of the loudest beaters of the war drums in the run-up to a possible military conflcit between the United States and Iran, and he described those who push diplomacy in the current climate as "worse than Neville Chamberlain" (Chamberlain, reasoned Limbaugh, eventually "came to his senses" and supported the war).

Limbaugh, of course, has never been one to let facts get in the way of a good rant, but it is clear that by repeating this baseless, insipid drivel that Ahmadinejad is some sort of madman, El Rushbo thinks he can help sway public opinion.

1942 cartoon by Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss Left: 1942 cartoon by Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss

By demonizing groups of people, it is much easier to influence public sentiment; after all, who wants to go to war with other human beings? But if our "enemies" are madmen and terrorists, why, even people who are normally level-headed want to grab a shotgun or pitchfork and start kicking ass.

Whoever you are, don't be a sucker. Think for yourself, and do not buy into the war propaganda that is being fed to us by an all-too-willing mainstream media.

And I pray that we do not, as some commentators have begun to preach about Muslim Americans, head down the road toward internment camps once again.

Iran Seizes Romanian Oil Rig in Persian Gulf

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Kish Island map Left: Map of Persian Gulf featuring Kish Island - click map to enlarge

(Kish Island) Iranian forces fired upon and seized control of a Romanian oil rig in the Persian Gulf this morning. This act happened one week after the Iranian government accused the European drilling company Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP) of "hijacking" another rig in Iranian waters.

"We were called by one of our employees at 9:15 am local time (0615 GMT), who told us a military helicopter opened fire against the Orizont rig, and by 9:45 Iranian troops got on board," said GSP spokesman Radu Petrescu to Reuters. "Since then, we haven't heard anything from them."

Petrescu noted that there are approximately 26 workers on the 13,000-ton rig, which was built in 1987.

The Orizont rig has been operating near Kish island in the Persian Gulf since October 2005. Two rigs are in place near the Iranian coast as part of a deal signed between the Romanian oil company Petrom, GSP and Dubai-based Oriental Oil Co.

The rig has remained in Iranian waters since the end of a contract in April, during which time GSP claims it has lost $70 million due to the dispute with Iran.

Kish Island is located near the strategic Straits of Hormuz, through which approximately 20 percent of the world's oil supply passes.

Aug 21, 2006

Rapid Rhetoric: HACHURE

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This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

hachure - n. a line used in shading relief maps to indicate the steepness of elevated slopes; v. to shade a relief map with hachures.

The word hachure is derived from the French hacher, meaning "to crosshatch."

The Quote Shelf

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.
--James Branch Cabell

Aug 20, 2006

Iran Rejects Demands on Uranium Enrichment, Test Fires Missiles

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Iranian special forcesLeft: Iranian special forces in maneuvers, courtesy of Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA)

(Tehran) Iranian officials indicated that Iran would not stop enriching uranium, rejecting the primary goal behind a package of incentives proposed by six western nations.

Speaking after the test-firing of 10 short-range Saeqeh missiles in the Kashan desert southeast of Tehran, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that a nuclear compromise would have to be reached during future negotiations.

"We are not going to suspend [uranium enrichment]. The issue was that everything should come out of negotiations,” he said. “Suspension is not on our agenda.”

The five-week exercise, named 'The Blow of Zolfaqar', is being currently conducted in the southeastern province of Sistan Balochistan, and will also be staged in 14 of Iran's 30 provinces. Zolfaqar was the sword of Ali, the son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Saeqeh missile has an estimated range of 50-150 miles, and is not believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The Farsi word saeqeh roughly translates as "thunderbolt."

Reports: John Mark Karr Sought Thai Sex Change

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John Mark Karr traveling first class back to the US Left: John Mark Karr on plane en route to the US, courtesy of Reuters

(Boulder, CO) John Mark Karr, the suspect in the death of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey, was reportedly a patient at a Bangkok sex change clinic.

Dr. Thep Vechavisit, director and surgeon at the Pratunam Polyclinic, acknowledged that Karr had visited the facility for treatment.

"He was one of my patients," he told the AP, refusing to provide additional details. Another clinic employee, speaking on conditions of anonymity, also verified that Karr had met with Thep.

"Yes, he had treatment here," a representative told the New York Daily News. "He was our patient. He came a number of times. But we cannot give out details on his treatment as we are ethically bound to keep these things private."

Thep VechavisitLeft: Dr.Thep Vechavisit; photo courtesy of Martin Sasse and Aurora Photos

Bangkok has become a major destination for foreigners desiring sex change operations. The Pratunam clinic reportedly charges only $1,625 for a male-to-female operation, which can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars in the United States.


Sunflower Mauler

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Squirrel sitting on a suflower head(Toledo, OH) This ambitious squirrel found the proto-seeds of my sunflowers to be a delicacy. Climbing up the stalk of the plant, the squirrel perched over the back of the 2-foot head of this giant sunflower.

The critter maintained remarkable balance on the unsteady plant, and did not seem alarmed as I crept forward to get a picture.

Of course, it probably has me marked as a soft touch for the abundant squirrel food I regularly attempt to use in a failed policy of appeasement toward members of the Sciurus carolinensis species.

The Quote Shelf

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
--Ring Lardner

Aug 19, 2006

On the Occasion of a Daughter Going Away to College

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Sleeping angel, circa 1990 Sleeping angel, circa 1990

(Toledo, OH) I can still remember the day that you arrived in the world, and how blue you were until you took your first breath.

You had to stay in the neo-natal intensive care unit for a few days until they made sure you were all right.

You were more than that - you were beautiful, and you were perfect.

And you still are.

Sure, you kept a messy room, and slacked on homework, and once drew the names of the notes on all the piano keys with red crayon. And you even - GASP - used to leave towels all over the house, despite the ubiquitous presence of laundry baskets throughout the house.

These things now make you all the more wonderful in my eyes.

Now you have gone away to college, albeit one within a comfortable driving distance from home. This is a sad morning, yet one I knew had to arrive. A look across the hall at your empty bedroom is a reminder that time stops for no one, not even me, not even you.

You will come home for holidays, and we will drive to visit you from time to time, but you are now officially a young woman, and no longer a child. I have to get used to the fact that you have grown up, even though the memories of you as a small child remain fresh in my mind.

May you have grand adventures and fond memories of college, daughter of mine.

Fun Website - Uncyclopedia

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(Toledo, OH) First there was Wikipedia, the collaborative encylopedia that has become a go-to source of basic information on almost any topic.

May I introduce to you Uncyclopedia, "an encyclopedia full of misinformation and utter lies." The website also bills itself as the place that "puts the 'psych!' in 'encyclopedia.'"

Local readers might check out the entry for Toledo, OH to get an idea of the frivolity and hijinks that abound at Uncyclopedia. Another example of Uncyclopedic insanity can be found at the entry for England.

Not funny enough for you? Then get in there and edit, Bubba!

Aug 18, 2006

Schutzstaffel Splinters: The Breakup of the NSM

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Flag of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) (Toledo, OH) The once-notorious National Socialist Movement (NSM), whose growth in the past three years outpaced every other white supremacist group, began to disintegrate in July amidst allegations that NSM Chairman Cliff Herrington and his wife Andrea also ran a group known as Joy of Satan Ministries, a pagan/satanist collective.

The dust appears to have mostly settled in the chaos of the group's implosion, and there now appear to be three major factions arising from the ashes.

Control of the NSM name seems to have remained with the group's Commander, Jeff Schoep. He still operates the NSM website and record label, NSM88 Records; these entities were the cash cows for the NSM. Schoep seems to be trying to maintain the high moral ground (yes, I recognize the irony in that statement) on the main website, while using Jim Ramm (aka Matt Ramsey) and the NukeIsrael.com site to blast at Bill White. Their Yahoo Groups site claims 42 active members.

The jetisoned Chairman of the NSM, Herrington, has formed a new group, the National Socialist Freedom Movement. Herrington chose a name with historic significance, as NSFM was the name of a group formed in the 1920s after the Munich Putsch and the subsequent jailing of Hitler. Their Yahoo Groups page claims 84 active members.

Bill White has formed the American National Socialist Workers' Party (ANSWP, or, as Harry Schwartz coined, "ANuS WiPe"). His Yahoo Groups site claims 135 members, and he has begun publication of a journal that retails for $8. The first issue was 12 pages in length.

A few of the most notable NSM members have disappeared from the radar screen, at least for the moment. These include Michael Blevins (aka VonBluvens), who was the NSM's Minister of Information, and Mark Martin, the former SS Sergeant of the NSM.

It may be a few months before one or all of these groups are able to put together rallies, since it appears that all three groups have a fairly equal distribution of the remaining active NSM members. Considering that the NSM could field, on average, about two to three dozen members at a given rally, there might not be enough swastika-wearing activists to make a good showing for some time.

And that is just fine by me. Anything that keeps the Nazis from stirring up trouble in neighborhoods - and instead getting into Internet flame wars amongst themselves - is good news for the 99.99% of the population that does not share their racist ideology.

Text of Emailed Message from John Mark Karr to Journalism Prof

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Email from John Mark Karr to University of Colorado professor Michael Tracey Photo of email from John Mark Karr courtesy of Rocky Mountain News

The following is the text of an email from John Mark Karr to University of Colorado journalism professor Michael Tracey dated December 24, 2005.

The two men exchanged hundreds of emails over the course of four years. Information in some of the more recent letters caused Tracey to contact Boulder police about Karr's possible role in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey.





Michael,

We tried this once before. I wrote a wonderful message to JonBenet. You never delivered it. We talked about a memorial but it never came to be. The message would have sufficed but I no longer have access to all the mails I sent you from Europe. I will attempt a short message here. Please read it aloud to JonBenet at her house on Christmas. For that, you would be doing me a great favor.


JonBenet, My Love,

You are with me. Your lovely glow surrounds me wherever I roam. Your light shines beyond the darkness. Once so close to you, now, your spirit speaks louder than your words; louder than once did your laughter - that spirited, funny, lovely laughter that no one speaks of in rememberance of you though we know that it once existed and now exists in a place beyond this life. JonBenet, my love, my life, I love you and shall forever love you. I pray that you can hear my voice calling out to you from my darkness - this darkness that now separates us. We shall meet again and laugh together once more as we did in this life. If there is to be a life for me after this one, I pray that it will be with you - together forever with you and other little girls who are gone now from my life forever; this would be my Heaven. God rest thy lovely soul JonBenet, my love - I love you forever.

D

John Mark Karr Once Married to a 12-Year-Old Girl

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John Mark Karr at a Thai new conferenceLeft: John Mark Karr at a Thai news conference on Thursday

(Hamilton, AL) The saga involving suspected killer John Mark Karr just keeps geeting stranger by the minute. The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that Karr once convinced a 12-year-old girl to lie about her age so the two could get married.

Karr was about 18 at the time, according to Melissa Shotts, the mother of Quientana Shotts Ray.

"He took her out of state," she said. "No one can understand what we went through at the time."

Shotts said that the ordeal was devastating for her family.

"This happened 20 years ago, and to see him on the news, we were shocked," she said. "He was abusing her every way there was."

In 1989 Karr married his second wife, Lara Knutson, when she was 16 years of age. The couple had three children together before divorcing.

The Quote Shelf

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

How strange it is that murder has the sanction of law in one and only one of the human relationships, and that is the most important of all, that of nation to nation.
--Paul Harris

Aug 17, 2006

But Did John Mark Karr Really Kill JonBenet?

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John Mark Karr at a Thai news conferenceLeft: John Mark Karr at a Thai news conference, courtesy CNN

(Boulder, CO) The news that a suspect, 41-year-old John Mark Karr, had been arrested in the death of JonBenet Ramsey after almost ten years was startling. The major media (and quite a few bloggers) have been working overtime to provide information on the confessed killer and the heinous crime.

But one question remains: did John Mark Karr actually commit the crime for which he is accused and to which he has confessed?

Lara Karr, the ex-wife of the suspect, says that he was with her in Alabama at the time of the killing. Why would the ex-wife of a man with a prurient interest in child pornography - and facing murder charges - fabricate an alibi for him?

In video segments at a Thai news conference early today, Karr appeared quiet. He answered "no comment" to a series of seemingly innocuous questions, such as: "How did you get into the house?"

Yet he was quite willing to discuss the killing, his "love" for the 6-year-old JonBenet, and his remore for the crime. Why would Karr admit on camera the most damning evidence, while deferring simple questions that are, at best, side details?

It might be that Karr doesn't know the details.

While the world applauds the capture of John Mark Karr, pieces of his story do not seem to mesh with the history of the crime.

I have this gnawing suspicion, lurking deep in my gut, that Karr - while clearly disturbed - might not be the real killer of JonBenet Ramsey, and that would be a tragedy beyond comprehension to a family that has lost two children and its mother.

The Quote Shelf

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book shelf A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.
--Joseph Conrad

JonBenet Ramsey Suspect Charged with Child Porn in 2001

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John Mark Karr in undated photo Left: John Mark Karr in undated photo, courtesy of Reuters

(Boulder, CO) ABC News is reporting that John Mark Karr, the 41-year-old former schoolteacher who is wanted for questioning in the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, was charged in 2001 with possession of child pornography in Sonoma County, CA.

Karr is also wanted in California for failing to appear in court, according to law enforcement sources. Karr taught in the Petaluma school district for several years, and as recently as 2002 met requirements.

The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing suspended Karr's license to teach on April 11, 2002. He was suspended because of a "complaint, information or an indictment that had been filed in court" against him alleging that he committed a sex offense or an offense "involving aiding and abetting the unlawful sale, use or exchange to minors of controlled substances," according to the minutes of the hearing.

Steve Bolman, a spokesperson from the Petaulma School District, said Karr had worked as a substitute teacher in Petaluma schools from December 2000 until April 2, 2001. Bolman declined to state why Karr was termintated on that date.

Mary Armstrong, from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, said that Karr was licensed to teach in California from December 2000 until May 2003. His credentials were revoked in 2003 as the result of the criminal conviction for posession of child pornography, she said.

Karr is being extradited to Boulder, CO so that investigators working on the case can interview him; he was detained in Thailand early Wednesday. The former elementary school teacher was arrested Wednesday at his apartment in downtown Bangkok and was being held pending arrival of U.S. officals, according to Thailand police.

John Mark Karr in Xeroxed photo Left: John Mark Karr in Xeroxed photo distributed by Thai police, courtesy of Reuters

CBS News is reporting that investigators found Karr because of a series of e-mails he allegedly sent them regarding the case. Officials have told several news outlets that the Ramseys knew Karr, but they have not disclosed how the Ramseys and Karr were acquainted.

Karr once lived in Conyers, GA, not far from where JonBenet Ramsey was born. MSNBC is reporting that Karr also lived in Boulder, CO around the time that the 6-year-old was murdered.

Nathaniel Karr, the suspect's brother, lives in Atlanta, and he confirmed the arrest of his brother in the case to KPIX late Wednesday afternoon.

"We have only positive things to say about my brother. We believe he is totally innocent and the evidence is circumstantial," he said.

Thai police, though, announced Thursday that Karr has admitted the killing while in custody.

"He told police while under arrest that he did kill the girl but so far he has not pleaded guilty in writing. This is needed as official evidence," said Lt. Gen. Suwat Tumrongsiskul.

John Mark Karr at Thai press conference Left: John Mark Karr at Thai press conference, courtesy of Reuters

A cached copy of Karr's resume is available here; the jobs4teachers.com website has pulled the original. On the resume he makes what now appear to be chilling comments about the young children he has recently cared for:
Two girls - 5 and 8; boy 10...I helped the 8 year old girl with her homework each day. I took the children outside for play. At days end, I made sure the children had their evening bath, then put them to bed and read to them before they went to sleep.
and also
Baby girl 9 months, boy 3, and girl 4: I taught English to the three year old boy and four year old girl, through conversational and instructional methods. I was very attentive to needs of the baby which included changing, feeding, and bathing her. I helped the baby when she learned to walk at 10 and a half months.
Thai police official Tumroungsiskul provided further details about Karr's confession.

"He killed the girl by accident," he told reporters after primary school teacher John Mark Karr, 41, was interrogated. "They fell in love with each other. She was very beautiful. So he kidnapped her and killed her by accident."

Aug 16, 2006

Timeline in JonBenet Ramsey Case

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JonBenet Ramsey in a 1995 recital 1990
August 6: JonBenet Ramsey is born to John and Patsy Ramsey.

1996:
December 26: JonBenet Ramsey, 6, is found strangled in the basement of her Boulder, CO home by her father. Patsy Ramsey says she found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for her daughter.

December 31: Ramsey family hires attorney, publicist and investigators.

1997:
January 1: John and Patsy Ramsey grant exclusive interview to CNN. Mrs. Ramsey tells viewers: "There is a killer on the loose."

January 22: Under advice from attorneys, Ramsey family refuses to submit to polygraph tests.

February 14: Portions of autopsy report are released, indicating JonBenet suffered severe head injuries, was strangled and may have been sexually assaulted.

February 24: Ramsey spokesman says family members know they are "at the top of the list of possible suspects."

April 18: District Attorney Alex Hunter says Ramseys are under an "umbrella of suspicion."

April 30: Ramseys interviewed by police in first formal sessions.

May 14: Two detectives, including the first to arrive at the Ramsey home, are removed from the case.

Ramseys in 1997 CNN interviewLeft: Ramseys in 1997 CNN interview

June 27: Colorado Bureau of Investigation completes analysis of the fifth handwriting sample from Mrs. Ramsey. Investigators say Ramsey did not write the note, but the results are inconclusive on his wife.

October 10: Police Chief Tom Koby admits mistakes made early in the case.

1998:
January 16: Ramseys refuse subsequent interviews unless investigators show them all the evidence.

March 12: Police insist a grand jury should be convened to ensure "a complete investigation."

June 23-25: Ramseys are questioned by police, their first interviews in more than a year. JonBenet's brother Burke, 9 at the time of her death, is interviewed for six hours.

August 12: Gov. Roy Romer refuses a second request to appoint special prosecutor. Hunter says he will give the case to a grand jury.

September 15: Grand jury begins its investigation.

1999:
October 13: Citing a lack of sufficient evidence, DA announces that no indictments will be issued.

2000:
August 31: Patsy Ramsey issues bold challenge to Boulder prosecutor: “If you think I did it, let's have a trial and get it over with.”

2002:
December 20: New District Attorney Mary Keenan takes over investigation and promises a "fresh look" into the case.

2003:
March 31: A federal judge in Atlanta concludes that the weight of the evidence is more consistent with the intruder theory than with the theory that Patsy Ramsey killed JonBenet.

April 7: Keenan issues a statement agreeing with the federal judge.

June 1: Retired detective Tom Bennett is hired by the Boulder district attorney's office to lead a new investigation.

2004:
June 4: The Ramseys' attorney says DNA found in JonBenet's underwear did not match any samples in an FBI database of convicted violent offenders.

2005:
March 26: DNA evidence conclusively ruled out JonBenet’s parents as suspects.

August 29: Former Telluride marshal Jim Kolar is named the Boulder County district attorney's lead investigator in the case.

2006:
June 24: Patsy Ramsey dies at age 49 of ovarian cancer.

August 16: District Attorney Mary Lacy announced that a suspect in JonBenet's slaying has been arrested in Thailand. Sources tell CNN that the suspect's name is John Mark Karr, a second-grade teacher.

Statement from John Ramsey after Arrest of Suspect in Murder of JonBenet Ramsey

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John and Patsy Ramsey in 2003 Left: John and Patsy Ramsey in 2003

Statement dated August 16, 2006 from John Ramsey after being notified of the arrest of John Mark Karr in the strangulation of JonBenet Ramsey in 1996.

From the Associated Press:

I want to have only very limited comment on today's arrest because I feel it is extremely important to not only let the justice system operate to its conclusion in an orderly manner, but also to avoid feeding the type of media speculation that my wife and I were subjected to for so many years.

I do want to say, however, that the investigation of the individual arrested today in connection with JonBenet's death was discussed with Patsy and me by the Boulder district attorney's office prior to Patsy's death in June. So Patsy was aware that authorities were close to making an arrest in the case and had she lived to see this day, would no doubt have been as pleased as I am with today's development almost 10 years after our daughter's murder. Words cannot adequately express my gratitude for the efforts of Boulder District Attorney Mary Lacy and the members of her investigative team.

Suspect Arrested in JonBenet Ramsey Case

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JonBenet Ramsey in a 1995 recital Left: JonBenet Ramsey in a 1995 recital

(Boulder, CO) A man suspected in the strangulation of 6-year-old child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey nearly a decade ago was arrested Wednesday in Thailand, acording to District Attorney Mary Lacy.

No official information has been provided about the identity of the suspect, but a law enforcement source told CNN that the suspect is 41-year-old John Mark Karr, a one-time 2nd-grade school teacher.

Federal officials, speaking with the Associated Press on conditions of anonymity, said the suspect was being detained in a Bangkok jail on unrelated sex charges.

Karr is being extradited to the US, and is believed to be en route to Boulder.

Grave of JonBenet Ramsey in Saint James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia Left: Grave of JonBenet Ramsey in Saint James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia

JonBenet, 6, was found in the family's Boulder home on December 26, 1996. Her parents have been considered suspects by the Boulder police, but a grand jury issued no indictments against the couple.

The Ramseys steadfastly maintained their innocence, despite incessant media speculation. Mrs. Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in June of this year at age 49.

Developing...

Addendum, 6:37 pm: KUSA is reporting that the suspect has confessed to certain aspects of the case that would be unknown to the general public.

District attorney Lacey has scheduled a press conference for 2:00 pm Thursday (4:00 pm EDT).

Addendum, 6:54 pm: Everyone's favorite celebrity coroner Henry Lee weighed in on the news of the arrest, and said he was not surprised of the break in the case.

"No, in my department, we have a cold case squad, and we have had arrests in cases 36 years later, 20 years later," he said. "We have arrests so many years later, nothing surprises me."

Addendum, 7:46 pm: Text of the press release from the Boulder County District Attorney's office is available at this link.