Sunday, December 17, 2006
Distracted On Sunday
I have just three things to teach:
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of your being.
Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.
---Tao Te Ching
In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.
And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.
Here I am, in a condition not that unusual for me: I came to the computer with a pile of catch-up to do...and have ended up sleuthing down a couple of stories I couldn't resist. In this case I've been out of circulation since Wednesday, when a flu-bug that'd been after me for at least a week finally found the way in and laid me out. If there's a pandemic, which some media are hinting at again, I now can rest easy with the certainty either my immunity is strengthened to resist it or shattered so I'll be the first to go.
Dana decided I'd face this one with Vitamin C, a witches brew she makes with vodka and roots, hot pepper tea, and coma. For some reason I decided I had it coming to me, did not call Dr. Conjeevaram for the help 50 years of medical progress has achieved, and prepared instead to suffer. The various 'cillin drugs usually send me to Cloud 9, while the physical battle wages, where at least I can mope around somewhat in human fashion. But they also prolong the sickness (it is said) and strengthen (they say further) the little beasties trying so hard to kill us off. So I went through a bout with the flu I haven't experienced since I was a kid: flat on my back in bed for over 2 days, alternating chills and sweats, merciless headache, pains in lower regions, dozing sleep whenever. One time long ago I faced scarlet fever with only shades drawn, icepacks, and Aspergum. I didn't even get Aspergum with this thing.
This morning I feel sorta normal again and so I came downstairs to the computer room with arms loaded of stuff to get done, most of it for gifts I want to mail out immediately. But Dana had emailed a story last night about continued attempts even to identify the dead from Hurricane Katrina that hooked me hard. Now, another thing Dana does, besides torture me with ancient remedies, is send out stories without identifying links...and in this case not even an author's name. This piece was written with such brilliance I just had hit the search engines. I proved to myself why Microsoft is slipping away and Google reigns supreme. The author's name is Rukmini Callimachi---and I finally gave up on MSN when from 5 pages of links I couldn't find out if the writer is a man or a woman. Google solved that mystery in its first offering and gave the only online picture of her, which looks to be her college yearbook photo.
Born in Romania, Ms. Callimachi graduated from Dartmouth in 1995 and received her masters in linguistics from the University of Oxford in 1999, where she also studied Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. In 2000, she co-led the Royal Geographical Society's expedition to Tibet. She then covered India as a freelance reporter for Time magazine and National Public Radio. Based on such experience, she was hired by the Chicago Daily Herald as a staff reporter in 2001. Part of the reason for that is Chicago's immense population of Indian-Americans, a population that grew 95% in the 1990s to become the largest Asian ethnic group in Illinois. They gave her a series to do called Passage From India, a ball she ran with all over the place, including a trip to India to interview the last survivor of the successful conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi. (She found the guy unrepentant, since Gandhi had supported the founding of Pakistan, and still praying for the annihilation of Islam.) http://www.dailyherald.com/special/passagefromindia/front.asp
After this The Associated Press apparently beckoned and sent her to Oregon and the Northwest, where she freelanced some and wrote about everything. One of my favorites starts out
"One of nation's oldest rodeos bans free chewing tobacco
September 19, 2005
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI. The Associated Press.
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Bryan Richardson hadn't learned algebra when he straddled his first bull at age 13. By then, he'd already been chewing tobacco for four years, starting when he was 9."
Early this year AP redeployed her to New Orleans. Her job was to report on the Katrina cleanup, but she also got into insurance coverage and how people with coastal properties on Long Island and Cape Cod are watching their policies get cancelled now. Do insurance people know something about climate catastrophe the White House doesn't know? The stories she generated out of there began to shake the nation. In October she won the Charles Rowe award for distinguished reporting from the Associated Press Managing Editors, an association of 1500 newspapers in US and Canada. The story Dana sent out was posted last week and may be Rukmini's last from the Big Easy, but as of this morning 185 papers have picked it up, many running it in today's edition. Here, titled The Quest To Identify Two Who Died In The Tempest, it is~~~
At the moment, she's in Ipswich covering the sudden and numerous murders of women, and positing the possibility the deaths in Atlantic City may be the work of the same killer~~~
I mentioned a couple of stories at the top of this note. The other one I found myself and didn't require the interesting journey of Googling. When Maureen Dowd hits a fast ball out of the park, it just needs to be stood up and shouted about. Yesterday she noticed all the hoohah that was stretching Rummy's departure on and on, cheering and celebration after celebration, around the world he goes, days and days of headlines about this glorious civic figure. Whew. But her column nailed it~~~
Farewell, Dense Prince
James Baker ran after W. with a butterfly net for a while, but it is now clear that the inmates are still running the asylum.
The Defiant Ones came striding from the Pentagon yesterday, the troika of wayward warriors marching abreast in their dark suits and power ties. W., Rummy and Dick Cheney were so full of quick-draw confidence that they might have been sauntering down the main drag of Deadwood.
Far from being run out of town, the defense czar who rivals Robert McNamara for deadly incompetence has been on a victory lap in Baghdad, Mosul and Washington. Yesterday’s tribute had full military honors, a color guard, a 19-gun salute, an Old Guard performance with marching musicians — including piccolo players — in Revolutionary War costumes, John Philip Sousa music and the chuckleheaded neocons and ex-Rummy deputies who helped screw up the occupation, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, cheering in the audience.
It was surreal: the septuagenarian who arrogantly dismissed initial advice to send more troops to secure Iraq, being praised as “the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had” by his pal, the vice president, even as a desperate White House drafted ways to reinvade Iraq by sending more troops in a grasping-at-straws effort to reverse the chaos caused by Rummy’s mistakes.
Just imagine the send-off a defense secretary would have gotten who hadn’t sabotaged the Army, Iraq, global security, our chance to get Osama, our moral credibility, the deficit and American military confidence.
Even Joyce Rumsfeld got a Distinguished Public Service Award ribbon placed around her neck. The grandiose ceremony featured everything but the gold-plated matching set of pistols Tommy Franks, another failed warrior, and his wife, Cathy, recently received from a weapons manufacturer. (His had four stars and diamonds; hers, rubies and their marriage date.)
W. never seems as alarmed about the devastation in Iraq as he should be. He told People magazine “I must tell you, I’m sleeping a lot better than people would assume,” and he told Brit Hume that his presidency was “a joyful experience.”
He slacked off on his slacker effort to form a new Iraq plan. (Can’t these guys ever order pizzas and pull some all-nighters?) Mr. Bush was busy this week hosting Christmas parties for a press corps he disdains; convening a malaria conference at the National Geographic with Dr. Burke of “Grey’s Anatomy” Isaiah Washington; and presiding over a hero’s departure for the defense secretary he actually dumped, not because of incompetence but for political expediency.
The Rummy hoopla was a way for W. to signal his decision to shred the Baker-Hamilton study, after reportedly denouncing it as a flaming cowpie. Condi Rice signaled the same, telling The Washington Post that she did not want to negotiate with Syria and Iran, as the Iraq Study Group had proposed, because “the compensation” might be too high.
The Democrats thought that when they won the election, they won the debate on the war and they had W. cornered. But the president is leaning toward surging over the Democrats, voters, Baker and the Bush 41 crowd, and some of his own commanders.
W. seems gratified by the idea that rather than having his ears boxed by his father’s best friend, he’s going to go down swinging, or double down, in the metaphor du jour, on his macho bet in Iraq. He’s reading about Harry Truman and casting himself as a feisty Truman, but he’s heading toward late L.B.J. The White House budget office is studying how much it will cost to finance The Surge, an infusion of 20,000 to 50,000 troops into Baghdad to make one last try at “victory.” The policy would devolve from “We stand down as they stand up” to “We stand up more and maybe someday they will, too.”
Some serving commanders are not in favor of The Surge because they fret that it will infantilize Iraqis even more about assuming responsibility for their own security. They also fear that the insurgents, who have nowhere to go, will outwait our troops.
But W. would rather take a risk in Iraq than risk being a wimp. So he continued to wrap himself in muscular delusions, asserting that on Rummy’s watch, “the United States military helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a watershed event in the story of freedom.”
Dick Cheney offered this praise to his friend: “On the professional side, I would not be where I am today but for the confidence that Don first placed in me those many years ago.”
Alas, we wouldn’t be where we are today, either.