Friday, May 22, 2015

gyrocopter pilot pleads not guilty

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Florida man who landed a gyrocopter atthe U.S.Capitol said Thursday that he will never pull a similar stunt again — and doesn't recommend anyone else try it either.
Douglas Hughes made the comments after appearing in federal court in Washington where his lawyer entered a not-guilty plea to the six charges Hughes now faces....
The charges Hughes now faces include two felonies: operating as an airman without an airman's certificate and violating aircraft registration requirements. Those charges carry a maximum of three years in prison. He also faces three misdemeanor offenses of violating national defense airspace, each carrying a maximum of one year in prison.


Perhaps it is the cool-warmth of the morning that brings it up and back....

My childrens' fingers move like lightning across the key pads of their texting telephones. Lord, they are fast. Lord, their eyes take on a fixed intensity. Lord, which of us has not sought out connection and love and reassurance? It does not matter that the mode of search leads to an dismal recognition that the tool employed guarantees the reverse of what is conceived -- distance instead of closeness; separation in place of connection; doubt instead of reassurance.

The cool-warmth of the morning puts me in mind of bliss. Cool-warmth ... easy, awake, without barbs or arrows or good intentions.

I dislike talking "bliss" and yet I suppose it's not much worse than lightning text messages. Now and then I feel like saying something nice about it, even at the risk of joining company with those who TED-talk it to death or sermonize without embarrassment. Their problem is, of course, that the bliss of which they speak only exists in the future or the past. Anyone seeking bliss will know that that's a crock of shit: How much nicer to be connected than to be "connected;" how much more convincing to bliss instead of "bliss."

As once I sought inspiration in books, so, perhaps, the children of my age seek inspiration in Twitter and Facebook. I wonder, but don't know, if the twitter-sphere inspires them to take action, to find out if the bliss and comfort and connection could possibly be true. I wonder if they too come to the brick wall a minister or other happiness merchant might reach when, after years of sermonizing and talking about bliss, the question rose up in a fury: "What if God were actually true?" What if all the previous p.r. really did relate to something real -- something that needed no p.r., no promises, no threats, no past, no future? What if, like Madeline Kahn in the movie "Blazing Saddles," the words came out of the darkness in a scene with the black sheriff she is seducing:
"Is it true what they say about the way you people are gifted? Zzzzzzzip! Oh it's Twue.... it's twue.... it's twue!"
The books I once read inspired me to hitchhike across the United States twice. To actually do it in the wake of adventurous dreaming that rose up off the Beat Generation page. I wanted to join the non-conformist, inventive crowd who had done similar things. I wanted to know what it was to be in with the out-crowd. In the event, of course, hitchhiking was not the wondrous thing I had imagined. It had its lessons to be sure, but the lessons did not conform to the blissful light-heartedness I had devoutly credited.

Can bliss be realized by seeking bliss? I doubt it.

During one of my hitchhiking adventures, I found myself, late one night, dropped off on a two-lane road in Pennsylvania. It was the end of summer and I was heading for the east coast. The likelihood that I would catch another ride on this small road at this time of night was slim, so I stepped off the road and found a nook behind a billboard. There were white pines, so the ground was littered with pungent and soft needles and it was there I laid out my old army blanket, wrapped up, and went to sleep.

I awoke to a warm-cool morning, surrounded by gentle scents and a sense of what I can do no better than to call bliss. Not a cell in my body expressed any intention. Improvements and meaning were absent and irrelevant. There was no dissecting or praising possible. It was as relaxed as chocolate pudding. If someone had called it "wondrous," I imagine I might have snapped, "Don't be ridiculous!" On the other hand, ridiculousness needs its time to play, so, OK ... be as ridiculous as you like.

I don't know how long the sense of bliss lasted or where it went when at last it left. Naturally, there were and remain glances into the past that long to infuse the future with some similar experience. But that's just more texting and TED-talking, more running away from what I might claim to want.

It was nice.

And these days I think bliss is not what anyone can seek out. Bliss just seeks you out. No need to get your knickers in a twist:

It's just "twue" after all: Seeking is optional.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

women in industry

Received in email:

nomadic herding

An elderly Kashmiri Bakarwal woman leads a heard of horse near Peer Ki Gali, 80 kilometers (50 miles) south of Srinagar, India, Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Bakarwals are nomadic herders of India's Jammu-Kashmir state who wander in search of good pastures for their cattle. Every year in April-May more than one hundred thousand people from the nomadic Bakarwal tribes arrive in the meadows of Kashmir and parts of Ladakh from areas of the Jammu region with their flocks of cattle and sheep. After crossing snowy mountains with their cattle and belongings, Kashmir valley's lush green meadows become their home from April to September, after which they begin their return journey. This seasonal shifting of “homes” ensures a regular flow of income for the families. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Bin Laden or American wish list?

Like a knitted sweater whose trusted knots come bit-by-bit undone, a Reuters story about Osama bin Laden and his written wish list leaves a skeptical taste in my mouth.
Osama bin Laden was fixated on attacking U.S. targets and pressured al Qaeda groups to heal local rivalries and focus on that cause, according to documents the United States says were seized in his hideout in Pakistan and released on Wednesday.
The documents published by U.S. intelligence also contained details of purported negotiations between al Qaeda, its allies in the Pakistani Taliban and representatives of Pakistani intelligence, and what seemed to be an al Qaeda job application.
From the disinformation that led to the American invasion of Iraq to the intelligence revelations of Edward Snowden, what once might have been trust in a U.S. agency tasked with gathering and interpreting intelligence information has weakened and frayed until now assertions that might once have been credited now compels the question, "Who will verify that this information is not just another self-serving bit of disinformation?"

Losing trust is a pricey business, not least because of the body bags returned to the United States. Integrity is as hard to quantify as it is to win, and yet I sometimes marvel at the willingness to go on crediting and trusting what has proved so fragile and dubious in the past.

Doubting your policy makers is not a nice feeling. It's sort of sour and furry like a tongue after the previous night's carousing. The mediocrity swells like some oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.

Oh well, Lincoln wasn't wrong: "You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

failure to bridge the gap

It seems now to be a hundred years since Bill Samaha, my 90-plus-year-old stepmother's longtime partner, bought the house in Worthington, a hilltown community perhaps 40 minutes from here. Now he is trying to sell it: The gatherings and sweat of yore are no longer. Yesterday I looked over the real estate dealer's web-site presentation of the house and grounds and found myself sorely shaken.

When Bill bought the colonial (real colonial, not just some real estate descriptor of a 50-year-old house) farmhouse, the only water supply came from an uphill spring, the barn was collapsing, there were second-growth trees everywhere and the house itself was awash in small, low-ceilinged rooms whose doors could be shut to conserve heat. Weekend after weekend, some segment of the family would go to Worthington to work and laugh and make changes. It wasn't sissy work. At the end of the day, the group might sit around the dinner table a drink Big Herm (I swear it's true), a rot gut wine my brother-in-law brought once as a hoot and everyone got to hooting after choking it down.

The thing that fried my circuit box yesterday was the bridge. Somehow, while I had been raising kids, Bill had added this structure ... an almost Louis XIV addendum of luxury about which I had known nothing ... and my demanding mind asked incredulously how that had happened without my knowing. I felt possessive and dispossessed. There was something 'wrong' about that luxury item ... something upsetting. It was like a too-bright light on a well-lit and well-fashioned stage ... a stage I had once been on and held carelessly in my mind.

Well, as Beatle John Lennon put it, ""Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." Somehow the down-home memories I had of the Worthington house had been by-passed and I was reluctant as hell to revise my thinking. And yet the big-ticket bridge demanded it.

I guess bridges go from here to there and staying here is not an option.

a small silly

Passed along in email:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Israel 'ditches' segregation

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday called off a proposed plan to segregate Palestinians from Israelis on West Bank buses, overruling his own defense minister following a flurry of criticism in an attempt to avert the first crisis of his new government.
An official in the prime minister's office said Netanyahu called Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to tell him he found his proposal "unacceptable" and the two then decided to freeze the plan.
What does it tell you about a country that would even conceive of such a plan. The next time Israel waxes moral and moralistic (or the United States either), consider the question.

In earlier times, when political correctness lacked its current foothold, there was an expression: "How very white of you/them."

Maybe lynching could be outlawed next.

the gossamer of memory

Memory, as compliant and gossamer as cotton candy....

And sticky. Let's not forget sticky -- an unreliable adhesive, it's true, but still, sticky.

With a nourishment value at about zero, memory is nonetheless delicious and blissfully unaware of its oh-so-certain malleabilities. "Good" or "bad" are equal in the eyes of memory: Infuse any add-on you like and memory complies.... Yum-yum-yum or ouch-ouch-ouch -- no matter: This is a world where, for a lip-smacking moment or two or longer, delicious certainty rules.

Perhaps it is easiest just to slap a label on it: The universe IS cotton candy. Get used to it.

This morning I remember a time when I was about kindergarten age in New York City. We lived four or five stories up in one of the apartment buildings on Claremont Avenue. We had a cat named Vyacheslav Molotov Toffee (after a popular Russian communist of the time) whose name was generally shortened to "Toffee."

In warm weather the windows were left open. There was no air conditioning. And the sounds of the street would float up and waft in: The man dragging his cart and calling out from the street below -- inviting people to give him their rags; the ice truck which delivered blocks of ice to those who still used "ice boxes" to chill their food and keep it fresh; the knife-grinder who would stop his truck and grind the knives of those desiring it ... on the street, you could stand at the back of his truck and watch him sitting patiently at his twirling grind stone; the coal trucks on tires made of solid rubber (not pneumatic) that would stop, open the bulkheads set into the sidewalk and send coal sluicing into the nearest apartment building ... the sound remains embedded in my mind; and the organ grinder who came around with his one-legged hurdy-gurdy to which a monkey dressed as a bellhop was attached: The man would grind, the monkey would hop around and people, like me, would throw pennies from the windows above where he stood ... and yes, I admit I tried now and then to hit the grinder himself.

The street car one block away cost a nickel.

Looking back, the memories seem to be infused with a kind of innocent honesty: These visitors did honest work for honest pay.

And, of an occasional evening, I might walk unattended up to Broadway where the white Good Humor truck dispensed ice cream bars. I didn't care that much about the ice cream, but I liked having the stick on which the ice cream was molded. Once the ice cream was gone, I could sit on the concrete sidewalk and, by scraping the stick against the stone, I could create a pointed stick ... a mildly powerful weapon with which to face the world, though I never stuck anyone with my home-made armament. Like any other human being, I longed for grown-up-ness and a sense of power in a world that seemed to view me as an ineffectual kid. Don't fuck with me!

The memories come back unattended by much nuance. What does a kid know of nuance? But likewise, what adult needs much nuance either? Is there anything nuanced about the present? It is pleasant to loll in a compliant past that lacks nuance.

So, this morning, I loll.

monthly column -- gyrocopter

Below is the monthly column appearing today in the local Daily Hampshire Gazette under the (Internet) title, "Douglas M. Hughes' air mail message of protest." It's a bit wussy and lazy, but then, I am a bit wussy and lazy, so perhaps it is a little bit honest.

I wonder if Hillary Clinton or Rand Paul or Jeb Bush or Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz will show up tomorrow.

May 21 is the day when Douglas M. Hughes is due back in a Washington federal court, accused of various offenses related to his April 15 gyrocopter landing on the Capitol lawn. Landing on the Capitol lawn is illegal.

"It's the safe money bet," Hughes wrote in an email to me on Sunday, that the arraignment will result in a trial date based on his perceived infractions.

Will the high-rolling and high-profile politicians be in the courtroom to either defend or decry Hughes' risky but peaceful protest against the sale of American democracy to the highest bidder?

The 61-year-old Florida mailman literally took his life in his hands to bring 535 letters to the seat of American power -- one letter for each member of Congress. The substance of his message was lost on a media too-easily consumed in the prop wash of excitement surrounding his landing.

Politically, Hughes is a hot potato. He may generate a following that any presidential wannabe would covet, but his message is too hot to handle in a world that relies on the political money he decries. My bet is that those eying the "for sale" sign on the White House lawn will stay home in droves.

Is Hughes another lapel-pin patriot, another Tea Party wing-nut waving the flag with great sincerity and little substance? I kind of doubt it, though I do not know the man.
Hughes planned his flight for two years, so to assume his was just a cranky, flag-waving, off-the-cuff adventure won't wash. Right, wrong or indifferent, Hughes was deliberate.

"... I did not commit this peaceful protest thoughtlessly," he asserted on May 15th in The Washington Post. "The most important requirements were met: No one was hurt, no property was damaged and the message was delivered."

At every written turn, Hughes seems willing to take responsibility for what he did: American democracy is just plain more important than the slogans or purchase of political clout or the acclaim anyone might seek in life, his message seems to say.

Hughes' action does not appear to have been grounded in any applauding or catcalling group. Hughes made up his own mind and went alone because ...

Because why?

Was it because, as the French writer Albert Camus once suggested, "too many people now climb onto the cross merely to be seen from a greater distance?" Was it for acclaim? Was it some outraged anger that the Supreme Court had declared political donations "free speech" in its Citizens United decision? Was it because there was only so much he could stomach of the bits and pieces of legislation that let banks and brokerage houses off the legal hook after they helped create what the media insist on calling the "Great Recession" -- mostly because "the Great Depression" is already in use?

What motivated Hughes and how appropriate are his concerns and criticisms?

The news media have no time for the news -- the background that would bring context to Hughes' actions. As with the issue of "terrorism," investigating what might have prompted Hughes' protest is left in the media shadows. Digging into the causes of "democracy for sale" or "terrorism" would require journalistic heavy lifting. How much easier and cheaper to focus on the excitement of a gyrocopter landing or another wispy and unsubstantiated story about the arrest of some addled teenagers bound for terrorist training in the Middle East.

Nor can I claim to be privy to Hughes' willingness to get into his gyrocopter, leave supporters and detractors behind, and, all by himself, land in the Capitol lawn.

But from where I sit, one possibility nags and whispers: For Hughes, it was a matter of honor, an old-fashioned word that implies a willingness to do what individuals might prefer not to do and to do it because it is right. Honor does not come cheap. It is more expensive than a lapel pin or a speech about "heroes." Honor sometimes demands personal sacrifice. Honor has its imperatives and to my mind, Hughes is meeting his.

Hillary Clinton, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz may avoid Hughes' court appearance like the plague and simultaneously lay an unabashed claim to honorable pursuits. But at what point will any of them leave supporters and detractors behind and jump, like Hughes, into an honorable fire?

Hughes landed his gyrocopter on April 15.

April 15 is the deadline for Americans to pay their taxes.

I wonder, with Doug Hughes, what those taxes will buy.