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30 March 2006

ethics-loving prosecutors ripshit about evil t-shirt

Saw my first live one,
with a male human inside it,
in Northampton, Massachusetts
on Tuesday.

Gee, it sure would be nice if Ethics and Morals were Simple and Easy to Operate. Like Toasters.

Was Jesus dealing drugs? I don't know. All we know, according to subsequent accounts, is that in the last years of his life, one of his most trusted associates turned out to have been a paid government informant.

Go back a few posts and check out student life these days at the University of Akron, in Ohio USA. The university had installed a career criminal in a dormitory, posing as a student, and a police drug task force was paying him $50 for every student he claimed was involved in drug activity. The jury in the case that made the professional informant famous found the real student he snitched on Not Guilty.

Previously, the professional snitch had turned his own sister into the police for $50.

"Snitch" is now the ascendant American term. Previous terms are "stoolie," "stool pigeon," "canary" (because they like to sing). Officially police and prosecutors use the term "confidential informant." "The Informer" (1935) is a famous movie about an Irish Republican Army member who betrays his comrades. In the UK, the slang term is "grass."

During the era of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites, these regimes didn't actually keep things under control with huge numbers of police officers. Rather they relied on huge, ambitious, all-pervasive systems of professional squealers and neighborhood spies. When the Socialist regimes finally fell and the public was allowed to look at the Secret Police files, an astonishingly huge volume of snitching turned out to be lies and fictions told to the Secret Police to settle personal grudges.

Vleeptron would be grateful for the slang terms in other languages around the world. And of course if you have opinions about this Ethical Thing which is more complicated than Toasters, please Leave A Comment.


USA Today (national daily, US)
Tuesday 28 March 2006

Anti-snitch campaign
riles police, prosecutors

by Rick Hampson, USA TODAY

PITTSBURGH -- It was not the first time prosecutor Lisa Pellegrini had been enraged by the sight of the T-shirt with the traffic-sign message: STOP SNITCHING. But this guy was about to wear one into court, with matching baseball cap.

Worse, he was a witness -- her witness -- and the intended victim in an attempted murder case that had brought him, her and the defendants to court that day last fall.

This was Rayco "War" Saunders -- ex-con, pro boxer and walking billboard for a street movement that has sparked a coast-to-coast beef involving everyone from professors to rappers.

Pellegrini, thinking "witness intimidation," told Saunders to lose the hat and reverse the shirt. Saunders, crying "First Amendment," refused. He left the courthouse, shirt in place. Case dismissed. "In almost every one of my homicides, this happens: 'I don't know nothin' about nothin', " the prosecutor says. "There is that attitude, 'Don't be a snitch.' And it's condoned by the community."

Omerta, the Mafia's blood oath of silence, has been broken by turncoat after turncoat. But the call to stop snitching -- on other folks in the 'hood -- is getting louder.

Is it an attempt by drug dealers and gangsters to intimidate witnesses?

Is it a legitimate protest against law enforcers' over-reliance on self-serving criminal informers?

Or is it bigger than that?

Take the case of Busta Rhymes.

The hip-hop star has refused to cooperate with police investigating the slaying of his bodyguard Feb. 5 outside a Brooklyn studio where Rhymes was recording a video with performers such as Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige. Police say that although Rhymes and as many as 50 others may have seen the shooting, no one came forward -- an echo of the silence that followed the unsolved murders of rappers Tupac Shakur, the Notorious B.I.G. and Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay.

It's the code of the street: To be a credible rapper, you have to know when to shut up.

"Under pressure, I lie for ya, die for ya," Lil' Kim once rapped. Now she's in a federal jail in Philadelphia for failing to tell a grand jury what she knew about some friends involved in a shooting.

Rhymes' silence in the death of Israel Ramirez seemed to puzzle New York's seen-it-all police commissioner, Ray Kelly, an ex-Marine, career NYPD cop and U.S. Customs chief. "Your employee is murdered in front of you," he told reporters, so "you'd think he might want to talk to the police."

Not necessarily, says David Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. "There's such animosity toward the police in some urban communities that even people who aren't afraid, and who hate crime, still feel cooperating is something good people don't do," Kennedy says. "That's the Busta Rhymes story. He has nothing to fear. He just doesn't want to talk. His reputation would take a dive if he did."

The code of silence, he says, "is breaking out in a way we've never seen before."

Saunders agrees: "It's a movement, that's what it is -- a stop snitching movement."

From street code to slogan

The stigma against snitching is an old one, but the Mafia never took out newspaper ads to promote omerta. So why is an unwritten rule printed on thousands of T-shirts?

Start with the war on drugs. Over the past two decades, law enforcers have made more drug arrests and turned more defendants into informers than ever before. According to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, the agency that establishes federal court sentencing practices, about one-third of drug trafficking prosecutions involve informers' "substantial assistance." That makes them eligible for reduced sentences under otherwise inflexible federal sentencing guidelines.

Informers are a necessary evil, says Cmdr. Maurita Bryant, a 29-year veteran of the Pittsburgh Police Department. "We have to deal with who we have to deal with. ... If a dealer needs to make a deal, he'll tell on his mother. It may not be right, but it's all we have."

Some criminal informers who are allowed to remain free commit more crimes; some return to crime after a shortened prison sentence; some frame others, or tell prosecutors what they want to hear. Boston defense lawyer Harvey Silverglate says the system encourages defendants "not only to sing, but to compose."

According to a study by the Northwestern University Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions, 51 of the 111 wrongful death penalty convictions since the 1970s were based in whole or in part on the testimony of witnesses who had an incentive to lie.

Alexandra Natapoff, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, says that, based on federal statistics, one of every four black men from 20 to 29 is behind bars, on probation or on parole, and under pressure to snitch. She estimates one in 12 of all black men in the highest-crime neighborhoods are snitching.

She says informers strain the social fabric of poor minority neighborhoods, where as many as half the young men have been arrested. "Every family gathering, every party, every backyard barbecue probably has someone who's secretly working as an informer."

This is the world Rayco Saunders inhabits. It's filled, as he puts it, with "guys doin' all this crime and not doin' no time, because they're telling on the next man."

Hence a backlash -- "stop snitching." The slogan appeared in Baltimore about two years ago as the title of an underground DVD featuring threatening, gun-wielding drug dealers and a brief appearance by NBA star and Baltimore native Carmelo Anthony. Anthony, who later said he didn't know the video's theme, told ESPN The Magazine that the dealer-turned-informer excoriated in the DVD "ran our neighborhood. Now he's working with the state and the feds. You can't do that. He turned his back on the 'hood."

The black community is divided. Rapper Chuck D of Public Enemy has blasted the Stop Snitching campaign on the hip-hop group's website: "The term 'snitch' was best applied to those that ratted revolutionaries like Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, Che Guevara. ... Let's not let stupid cats use hip-hop to again twist this meaning for the sake of some 'innerganghood' violent drug thug crime dogs, who've sacrificed the black community's women and children."

Movement prompts legal backlash

Whatever its intent, the Stop Snitching movement has galvanized officials already apoplectic about witness reluctance and witness intimidation.

States and localities spend a fraction of what the federal government devotes to witness protection, although this month Pennsylvania restored $1 million for that purpose. The move came as more than a half-dozen witnesses recanted earlier testimony in the trial of men accused in the Philadelphia street shooting death of a third-grade boy.

"If the word 'snitch' comes out of someone's mouth, I go insane," says Pellegrini, the Pittsburgh prosecutor. "When young men and women see rappers refuse (to cooperate), they think it's cool. How do we tell them, 'we'll support you,' when they see that?"

Especially, she says, when the slogan is blatantly used to intimidate witnesses. Last year, supporters of an accused drug dealer on trial in Pittsburgh federal court wore T-shirts around town bearing witnesses' photos and the inscription "Stop Snitching. " U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan says one, Garry Smith, had a $100,000 price on his head.

"Everybody in law enforcement is beside themselves," says Kennedy of John Jay College. "They can't investigate cases. They can't prosecute cases. The clearance rate for some serious crimes is tanking."

Stop Snitching T-shirts have been banned from a number of courthouses. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, whose city recorded the most homicides in a decade last year, threatened to send police into stores to pull them off the shelves.

Following the furor over the Stop Snitchin' DVD, Maryland raised witness intimidation from a misdemeanor to a felony, and Baltimore police made a tape of their own, Keep Talking. "People have to snitch," says Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore street cop. "That's how criminals get caught."

Saunders' life may have been saved by a snitch.

Pellegrini says an informer told police that an ex-con had hired another man to kill Saunders because the boxer was having an affair with his girlfriend. The man and his accomplices were arrested before the hit could be carried out. They were scheduled for a court hearing the day last fall that Saunders showed up in his Stop Snitching T-shirt.

Saunders and Pellegrini agree he was there to warn the men not to testify in other pending cases. But they disagree on why: Pellegrini says Saunders, whom she calls a "thug," is in cahoots with other criminals who feared the men's testimony. Saunders says he thought the defendants would try to save themselves by selling out others.

Saunders says he hates snitching so much that he not only wears the T-shirts himself but has given them as gifts to friends and relatives. "They love the T- shirts," he says. "It's way overdue for somebody to step up and speak about these things that's going on with these informants and these guys walking around here with immunity to do whatever they want to do."

At 31, Saunders has had a hard life. He says he never knew his father; his mother died of a drug overdose when he was 11. He was stabbed in the back at 15, shot in the chest at 21. He says he shot at people himself and dealt drugs. He was arrested six times from 1994 to 1997 and served four years in prison after a shootout with a police officer. He says he was framed.

Since leaving prison, he has pursued a career as a pro boxer, compiling a record of 15-7-2. In 2004 he won the North American Boxing Council cruiserweight championship. In an interview at the gym where he trains, he outlines a stop-snitching creed:

* Don't snitch on others just to save yourself. "Stop snitching is for those guys out there ... selling more drugs than Noriega, and their only out is to tell on somebody. ... If a (criminal) wants to be a Good Samaritan, OK. But send (him) to jail. Don't give him immunity to do what he wants on the street."

* Stop Snitching doesn't mean stop talking to police. "It's always misconstrued by the public, or the powers that be, that we're trying to intimidate the regular people or the law-abiding citizens. That's not what it's about. ... If that is your only outlet, to call the police, that's what you do."

* But witnesses have no obligation to help police. "Do your job -- you're the police. ... I've been wronged by the system. Do you think I would help the system? ... Do cops snitch on other cops?"

* The authorities can't protect witnesses. "What's happening to the innocent witness? They get dead or ... terrorized for life."

* Sometimes you must right wrongs yourself. "I'm a man, and I can handle my own situations like a man. ... I've done dirt. I'll admit that. So I can't run to the police."

Later, he's out on the street, wearing one of the T-shirts. Standing nearby is a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty to advertise the services of her employer, Liberty Income Tax.

"The people who are snitching, a lot of them end up dead, a lot of them end up hurt," says Lady Liberty -- Ernestine Whitaker of Wilkinsburg, whose nephew was threatened after he witnessed a crime. "So the snitching doesn't do anything for the person who's snitching."

She looks at Saunders, whose muscular chest bulges beneath the T. "I'd wear one of those," she says.

- 30 -

29 March 2006

the gender of Sooraj the Sun in Urdu and Gujrati

The Indo-European language superfamily.
Click. (From Wikipedia.)

This comes from Pakistan, via Toronto. Abbas comments often here. (He likes Vleeptron's neighbor planet mollyringwald).

if we're lucky, he'll remember that he forgot the Moon, and we'll hear more. He's promised to ask his wife the Farsi.

Sooraj went totally dark today over a long swath of the Earth's surface, from Brazil to Northern India. But after a few minutes, Sooraj became bright again. (The Moon drifted in front of the Sun and cast a shadow on the Earth below.)

Urdu, Gujrati and Farsi are Indo-European languages, members of a language superfamily that includes English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Romanian, Greek, German, Dutch, Gaelic, the Slavic and the Scandinavian (but not Finnish/Suomi) languages, Sanskrit and Hindi.

That they all are descended from the same ancient lost tongue called Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is apparent from similarities in their words for the counting numbers, words for mother and father, and so forth.

Scholars have taken good guesses at where Proto-Indo-European was spoken (long before writing began, so we have no actual samples or examples) by tracing back words for kinds of trees, geographical and weather features, etc. The most generally accepted guess today is that PIE was spoken by a culture called Yamna on the north shores of the Black and Caspian seas between 3500 and 2200 BC.

Most of this impersonation of knowing something was filched from Wikipedia's extensive discussion of Indo-European languages and PIE.


in Urdu the sun is a male.

in Gujrati, the same.

sun = sooraj in both languages. (pronounced soo-ruj). i hate it when i have to arabacise south asian languages. not really sure about farsi (persian), i'll ask my wife about that. sorry just running a bit late to meet someone, would love to have written up a long one for this.

- abbas.

Dr. Luis Proenza replies

reply to * from Luis Proenza,
President of The University of Akron
Akron Ohio USA


I appreciate, Mr. Merkin . . .

. . . your candor and concern, and like you, I found the reports in the newspaper to be deeply disturbing. That is why I have ordered a thorough review of our law enforcement practices and our student judicial system, as well as an analysis of employee actions in this case.

I find it entirely unacceptable that a confidential informant was placed in our residence halls without my advance approval. The review will help to ensure that we do not allow a similar situation to occur ever again.

Mr. Plinton's death is a tragedy that saddens everyone at the University. It is likely that we will never know the exact reasons why he took his life. As the March 13 article in the Beacon Journal pointed out, a great deal transpired in Mr. Plinton's life in the 15 months after he left the University from Sept. 2004 to Dec. 2005. All can agree, however, that his life ended far too early.

With every good wish,


Luis Proenza

Trust your mother, but cut the cards.

Top: Loaded Dice. They roll one number reliably more often than any other number.

Bottom: Cheater's Dice. Throwing the red dice always results in 7 or 11. The wood die has only the numbers 1 2 3 on it.

From Giulio Ferrari's extensive and fascinating dice collection.

28 March 2006

big surprise in Israeli elections! Aleh Yarok to form next government! peace/shalom/salaam to follow immediately

Pro-cannabis demonstrators
decorated a police jeep
with Green Leaf paraphenalia.
Israel's daily newsmagazine
Tuesday 28 March 2006

today's weblog

Elections 2006

Tips to sharpen searches:

Put two or more words in quotation marks to find an exact phrase:
"Ariel Sharon"

Connect two or more words/phrases with "AND" for results that include both:
"Ariel Sharon" AND Netanyahu

Separate words with "OR" for results which include either of the words/phrases:
"separation fence" OR wall OR barrier

Olmert's Kadima, weaker than expected, yet poised to form next government
Turnout at record low as Israelis vote: Kadima and Labor worry
Kassam rocket explosion kills Israeli Bedouin father and child in Negev
Will Israeli voters, pushing pro-pot party, be too stoned to vote?
Hamas hopes for generous and quick financial support from Arab summit

The Battered Woman Syndrome
Searching for truth in all the wrong places (like the Knesset)
Remembering 12 Jews who are no more
Nyet, Nyet, Yvette?
Have the "Arab Palestinian" Knesset members turned racist?

Views: Nyet, Nyet, Yvette?
Israel's polls reflect and influence elections, but they're more uncertain than ever
Lieberman, calling for removal of "Arab triangle" from Israel, climbs in polls
Israelis head into fateful election with dampened dreams
Views: Thinking through retreat
Views: Meeting Our People Face to Face
Views: Kadima will bring Kassams to Tel Aviv
Kadima slips in polls, but still well ahead; Olmert makes coalition demands
Views: Security: A Guaranteed Winner

Will Israeli voters,
pushing pro-pot party,
be too stoned to vote?

By israelinsider staff March 27, 2006

Mock votes took place at various universities and colleges in the runup to Israel's parliamentary elections. Aleh Yarok ["Green Leaf" in English], pushing for decriminalization of cannabis, may be a surprise victor in Israel's elections, after excellent showings in campus mock polls.

At the Technion in Haifa, generally regarding at the Israeli equivalent of MIT, Green Leaf finished in first with 19 mandates, Kadima received 18, Meretz 13, Labor 12 and the Likud nine.

At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the right-of-center National Union-National Religious Party came in first with 24 mandates. Meretz finished second with 23, Labor got 21, the Likud and Kadima 11 each and Green Leaf, pro-marijuana party, received eight.

At the Jezreel Valley College Labor came in first with 22 mandates. Kadima and Israel Beiteinu each received 19, Green Leaf got 16, the Likud nine, National Union-NRP eight, Meretz eight, Balad seven, Hadash six, Atid Ehad four and United Torah Judaism two.

At the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba Labor came in first with 34 mandates. (Prof. Avishai Braverman, the former chancellor of the university, is running on the Labor list.) Meretz came in second with 20 seats, Kadima had 19, Green Leaf nine and the Likud six.

Students at Tel Aviv University didn't bother to vote. "We didn't want our votes to be wasted, too," one non-voter said, declining to say which party she preferred, although she leaned toward Green Leaf (or perhaps was just leaning). "If there's a party, any party, I'm all for it."

Running under the slogan "we have other aspirations," Green Leaf has broadened its platform to include non-drug issues such as support for digital downloads, greener scenery, and subsidies for higher education. Controversially, it has not ruled out negotiations with the terror-supporting Hamas, perhaps inspired -- or aspired -- by its similarly verdant color.

Most polls have indicated that Green Leaf will not pass the 2% bar required to gain entrance to the Knesset. A party activist said the requirement was not too high. "But we are," she added.

Talk Back! Respond to this article

Stoned by pot differs from stoned by iSLAM
wharold - Dar al-Harb (Tussle), Canada (03/27/2006 22:54 IT)

You like stoned with? or without? Seems easy!
Nicolas - Victoria, Canada (03/28/2006 02:49 IT)

© 2001-2005 Koret Communications Ltd. All rights reserved. Terms of Use. Site Credit.

@ @ @ @ @ @ @
Source: International Herald-Tribune (International)
Address: 6 bis, rue des Graviers, 92521 Neuilly Cedex, France
Fax: (33) 1 41 43 93 38
Copyright: International Herald Tribune 2006
Pubdate: March 26, 2006
Author: Etgar Keret

Stupor in our time

SUNDAY, MARCH 26, 2006

TEL AVIV -- The parties my father votes for never get into Parliament. One year he'll vote for some economist with thick glasses who promises a revolution in tax law, the next year for an irate teacher with a ponytail who advocates a revolution in the school system, the year after that for a restaurateur in Jaffa who explains that only a new culinary approach can bring peace to the Middle East.

The one thing these candidates have in common is a genuine desire for fundamental change. That and the naivete to believe such change is possible. My father, even at the age of 78, is naive enough to believe this, too. It's one of his finest qualities.

In the last elections, my brother, a founder of the Legalize Marijuana Party, asked my father for his vote. My father found himself in a quandary. On the one hand, it's not every day that your son founds a political party. On the other, my father, who had a taste of the horrors of fascism during World War II, takes all his civic duties very seriously.

"Look," he said to my brother, "It's not that I don't trust you, but there are all these serious people who claim that grass is actually dangerous, and as a person who's never tried it, I can't really be sure they're wrong." And so, about a week before Election Day, my brother rolled my father a joint. "What can I tell you, kid?" my father said to me that evening during a slightly hallucinatory phone conversation. "It's not half as good as Chivas -- but to make it illegal?" And so my father became the oldest voter for the coolest party in the history of
Israel's elections. From the minute he said he would vote for it, I knew it wouldn't get into Parliament.

That's why I'm surprised that my father, an enthusiastic supporter of underdogs, is going to vote for Kadima, the party of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The polls say Kadima is a shoo-in. "This is the most boring election campaign in the history of the country," he explained, "and I'm telling you this as a person who's been here since it was founded. I won't even turn on the TV on Election Day - well, maybe for the weather forecast, but that's it. These elections are one big sleeping pill.

"In past elections, there was always a little suspense, something to raise your blood pressure. And it didn't matter whether it was Menachem Begin burning up the town squares with his speeches, or the fuss over
Ehud Barak and that brilliant remark of his: 'If I'd been born a Palestinian, I probably would have joined a terrorist group.' This time, there's nothing. Sure, Olmert's smug. But one look at his face and I'm already yawning. Forty years that man has been in politics and he hasn't done a single thing anyone can remember."

"That's not exactly a reason to vote for somebody," I said, trying to argue.

"The hell it isn't," my father replied. "Listen, we've had so many Rabins and Pereses and Begins, people who tried to galvanize everyone with their charisma and energy. None of them ever really managed to bring us peace. I'm telling you, what this region needs is Olmert -- someone who'll bore us and the Palestinians so much that we fall into a kind of stupor. A stupor that's a kind of co-existence. A co- existence that's a kind of peace.

"Forget all that 'peace of the courageous' stuff Barak and Arafat tried to sell us. Even a child knows that courageous people go into battle, they don't make peace. What this region needs is a peace of the tired,
and Olmert's the man to put us all to sleep."

On the way home from my parents' house, I began to think that maybe my father was right. And that it wasn't exactly good news. If, after all the hopes and disappointments, all the accords and intifadas, the best a country can wish for is a politician so nondescript that the pundits are still arguing over whether he's on the left or the right -- if we want a non-event on Election Day -- then we really must be exhausted.

Etgar Keret is the author of "The Nimrod Flip-Out."
This article was
translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston.

share your feelings (see previous post)

Subject: resign

Dr. Luis Proenza [ ]
The University of Akron
Akron, Ohio

Dear Dr. Proenza,

After a jury found Charles Plinton Jr. not guilty of drug charges, your disciplinary board expelled him and forbade him from ever setting foot on the University of Akron campus for the rest of his life.

The rest of his life only lasted six months.

Beyond your resignation or prompt firing by the University, it is my greatest wish that some day, after a jury finds you innocent, those in positions of authority over you choose to destroy your dreams and the rest of your life.

When you contracted with the police to put felons among the bona fide students in the dorms, and when you approved the "fairness" of the disciplinary board, you probably thought no one would ever have the power to do something like this to you.

That is a very naive misperception of the world unsupported by actual experience. As you comfort yourself that this could only happen to a poor kid on scholarship, y
ou might find the experience of astrophysicist Richard E. Berendzen particularly instructive.


Robert Merkin
Northampton, Massachusetts

how the University of Akron keeps its students safe from drugs

view from skycam on roof of the urban campus of the University of Akron (Ohio USA)

There is not the slightest thing I can add to this miserable story.

If you are a college student in America today, I hope you will read every word of this, and then wonder who the other students in your dorm really are, and if your college administrators have made a deal with the police to put them in a room down the hall.

If you are an American college student, make sure you're a member of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. Join today. Your life depends on it.

The best people on Planet Earth this week are the students of the University of Akron who are screaming their brains out in angry protest.

The worst man on Earth this decade is Luis M. Proenza, president of the University of Akron. He killed an innocent young man with a pen and interoffice phone calls from behind his big, beautiful wooden desk in his big, comfortable office.

~ ~ ~

Newshawk: allan
Pubdate: Fri, 24 Mar 2006
Source: Philadelphia Daily News (PA)
Author: Elmer Smith
Related: the story as printed in the University of Akron student
Bookmark: (Students - United States)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)

The Informant,
The Lies,
The Injustice --
and a Life Lost

by Elmer Smith

CHARLES PLINTON was still struggling with the reality of his son's suicide when he found the box of cartridges. Three were missing.

"There were people who wondered if someone else had shot Chuck," Plinton told me. "But I never really thought that. He had bought the gun the same day."

That day was Dec. 12, 2005. Charles A. "Chuck" Plinton Jr. called his mother, Frances Parker Robinson, from his car on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. He told her he was going to kill himself and that there was nothing she could do to stop him.

She begged him to pray about it. He said he had. She asked him to call his father. He refused.

"Please let me look at you one more time," she reportedly told him.

She called her former husband to tell him about their son's distress call. Then they waited.

"She called me back later that night," Plinton recalled. "She said, 'He did it. He did it.' "

There are no easy answers when a man in his mid-20s, with a college degree and a promising future, decides to take his own life.

"He couldn't keep up," his dad said. "He could not pay the rent, his car payment. He had legal bills.

"It was just too much for him. Everything went downhill for him after what happened to him at the University of Akron. He never got over it."

What happened to Chuck Plinton was a massive injustice that the University of Akron is just now trying to resolve, six months after his death.

Luis M. Proenza, president of the university, in a statement issued yesterday said he is "calling for a thorough assessment of university regulations governing the student disciplinary process."

A year earlier, a "thorough assessment" may have saved Chuck Plinton's life.

Instead, the university took the word of a paid informant in one of the shakiest minor drug cases that ever came before a jury. They suspended him, took away the tuition waiver and stipend he was living on and he was banned from the dorms for life.

Plinton, who lived alternately with his mother in South Jersey and his father in Norristown [New Jersey], was accepted into Akron's Masters in Public Administration program after graduating from Lincoln University in
Chester County. His father and uncle were also Lincoln alums.

He was in his second semester at Akron when he was arrested and charged with selling marijuana to a paid informant who had been planted in his dormitory.

The informant, Richard Dale Harris, 35, was a career criminal and a paid operative of the Summit County Police Department. Among the long list of people he had fingered was his own sister. He claims he ratted on her to save her children from her.

He was paid $50 for every drug buy he made on campus. The buys he claimed to have made on March 3 and March ll, 2003, from Plinton, totaled less than $100.

But work sheets showed that Plinton was signed in at his job across campus at the time of the alleged March 3 drug buy, according to the court record.

Even the identification of Plinton based on the alleged March 11 buy was so shaky that the informant tried to confirm it with tapes from a dormitory surveillance camera. But that showed Plinton dressed differently from the man police said sold the drugs.

The case was falling apart until the detective who arrested Plinton suddenly recalled, three months after the arrest, that Plinton had confessed to him.

The detective couldn't explain why he didn't put the confession in writing or why he had failed to include it in his original police report.

A jury in Summit County took all of 40 minutes to acquit.

"There wasn't much debate," juror Jeannie Woodall told the Akron Beacon Journal."

An elated Plinton went before the university's disciplinary board, thinking his reinstatement was a formality. Instead, by a 3-2 vote, they decided that they believed the informant -- and not the jury.

"He was devastated," his father told me. "He couldn't afford more lawyers to fight the school."

So he came home and spent a year trying to rebuild his life. Until last Dec. 12, when it all became too much for him.

His family has not decided what, if anything, to do from here.

"We've been told that we have no legal standing to sue," Charles Plinton said.

Meanwhile, the university has been rocked by student protests and forced to answer tough questions, particularly from elements of Akron's black community.

"We hold ourselves to the highest standards of fairness," Proenza said in his statement yesterday.

Too bad Chuck Plinton didn't live to see that.

- 30 -

Copyright: 2006 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.

27 March 2006

1st day issue: a Talking Board / Postalo Vleeptron & TdSPosta

a Talking Board
traditional design from Vleeptron, Yobbo and Hoon
(Click for larger.)

1st Day Joint Issue: Postalo Vleeptron
and TdSPosta (Tierra de los Sueños)
"Communicating with the Beyond"

top left: detail, XVIII The Moon / la Lune
top right: detail, XIX The Sun / le Soleil
bottom left: Zeta Beam in transit between Melkweg and Dwingeloo-2
bottom right: Saturn in ultraviolet (Hubble Space Telescope)

Planchette by William Fuld, Baltimore, Maryland USA, 1915

Permanent Collection
Dwingeloo-2 Galactic Portrait Gallery, Hoon
Copyright © 2006 by Robert Merkin, All Rights Reserved

You'll love the surprise the instant you click on
The Museum of Talking Boards

26 March 2006

ad astra per aspera / to the stars through difficulties

the Falcon family of space payload vehicles,
from SpaceX. Falcon 1 at far left.

Saturday 25 March 2006

SpaceX private rocket
flight a bust

by Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) -- The debut flight of a low-cost launcher developed and financed by Internet billionaire Elon Musk lasted about a minute before the rocket failed due to unknown technical reasons on Friday.

The 70-foot (21-meter), two-stage Falcon 1 rocket was launched at 5:29 p.m. from a U.S. base on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands.

The rocket lifted off from the launch pad but was destroyed about a minute later. It was unknown why the rocket failed.

The rocket was designed and built by privately held Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, of El Segundo, California.

"Clearly this is a setback, but we're in this for the long haul," Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development, told reporters on a teleconference call.

Musk, who sold his electronic payment service firm PalPay to Ebay for $1.5 billion in 2002, has high ambitions for SpaceX. He aims to drastically cut the price of launch services with a family of semi-reusable rockets called the Falcon.

Even before its debut flight, SpaceX, which Musk founded four years ago, had won nine launch services contracts worth more than $200 million.

The cargo aboard the Falcon 1 rocket lost on Friday was a 43-pound (19.4-kg), $750,000 Department of Defense satellite called FalconSat 2, which was to study how space plasma can disrupt communications and navigational positioning satellites.

The spacecraft was built by U.S. Air Force Academy students and supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

SpaceX sells its smallest vehicle, the Falcon 1, for $6.7 million -- about one-third the price of similarly sized rockets. The Falcon 1 is a two-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and purified kerosene.

Musk, who has sunk more $100 million of his own funds into Falcon's development, has said repeatedly a launch failure would not be unexpected.

SpaceX has three more flights scheduled over the next 12 months and plans to debut its heavy-lift Falcon 9 in 2007.

It is among 20 companies competing for a commercial contract with NASA to launch cargo to the International Space Station. Eventually, NASA would like to hand over launches of its astronaut crews to a commercial carrier as well.

Friday's liftoff of Falcon 1 followed three unsuccessful attempts that were canceled due to technical issues.

In an earlier news conference, Musk said he figured his company could withstand one or two major launch failures, but a third disaster would probably put him out of business.

"I really feel that one successful launch will establish us as being fairly reliable," he said.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

first images of Mars from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Click for larger, clearer.

first image of Mars from
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

This view shows a full-resolution portion of the first image of Mars taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera. The camera took this first test image from orbit on 24 March 2006 from an altitude of 2489 kilometers (1547 miles).

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA's New Mars Orbiter Returns Test Images

Friday 24 March 2006

The first test images of Mars from NASA's newest spacecraft provide a tantalizing preview of what the orbiter will reveal when its main science mission begins next fall.

Three cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter were pointed at Mars at 8:36 p.m. PST Thursday, while the spacecraft collected 40 minutes of engineering test data. The cameras are the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, the Context Camera and the Mars Color Imager.

"These high-resolution images of Mars are thrilling, and unique given the early morning time-of-day. The final orbit of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be over Mars in the mid-afternoon, like Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey," said Alfred McEwen, University of Arizona, Tucson, principal investigator for the orbiter's High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

"These images provide the first opportunity to test camera settings and the spacecraft's ability to point the camera with Mars filling the instruments’ field of view," said Steve Saunders, the mission's program scientist at NASA Headquarters. "The information learned will be used to prepare for the primary mission next fall." The main purpose of these images is to enable the camera team to develop calibration and image-processing procedures such as the precise corrections needed for color imaging and for high-resolution surface measurements from stereo pairs of images.

To get desired groundspeeds and lighting conditions for the test images, researchers programmed the cameras to shoot while the spacecraft was flying about 2489 kilometers (1547 miles) or more above Mars' surface, about nine times the range planned for the orbiter's primary science mission. Even so, the highest resolution of about 2.5 meters (8 feet) per pixel -- an object 8 feet in diameter would appear as a dot -- is comparable to some of the best resolution previously achieved from Mars orbit.

Further processing of the images during the next week or two is expected to combine narrow swaths into broader views and show color in some portions.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been flying in elongated orbits around Mars since it entered orbit on March 10. Every 35 hours, it has swung about 44,000 kilometers (27,000 miles) away from the planet then come back within about 425 kilometers (264 miles) of Mars' surface.

Mission operations teams at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif, and at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, continue preparing for aerobraking. That process will use about 550 careful dips into the atmosphere during the next seven months to shrink the orbit to a near-circular shape less than 300 kilometers (200 miles) above the ground.

More than 25 gigabits of imaging data, enough to nearly fill five CD-ROMs, were received through NASA's Deep Space Network station at Canberra, Australia, and sent to JPL. They were made available to the camera teams at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, Calif.

Preliminary images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment and additional information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are available online at:


Additional processing has begun for release of other images from the test in coming days.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Web, visit:

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems is the prime contractor for the project and built the spacecraft.

Erica Hupp (202)358-1237
NASA Headquarters, Washington

Guy Webster (818)354-6278
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

24 March 2006

the Cthulhu Kult: another Kult, not mine, don't join this Kult, you'll be real sorry

Click for more horrifying.

bob presses [SEND], inflames Indiana's Youth

Workers' militia defending the barricades
Paris, May 1871
artist unknown to Bob
Click for angrier, more violent

reply to e-mail from really extraordinary Reformer Guy who liked my letter to Ball State

that guy pisses me off soooooooooo bad

for about two unhappy lonely years i had this One-Man-List on Yahoo called soudervanish2000

i really must integrate soudervanish2006 into my Vleeptron blog. with original images. Please hop the Zeta Beam to Vleeptron and Leave A Comment.

Vleeptron has also just invited the entire Internet over to my place to watch the election returns and kick-start the Impeachment. gonna have clam dip.

Also in your ample leisure time ya might wanna check these out from the nearest reasonably large public library: "Zombie Jamboree" and "The South Florida Book of the Dead."

glad ya liked the letter. now pray to Ja that the Ball State rag prints it, da stoodz read it, and resolve to march on Fort Wayne with torches, tar and feathers immediately. that's the Midwest way.

i guess ya know that Letterman's a Ball State grad. wouldn't it be great if he just modestly let it be known what his Feelings for Souder are tween now and 7 November.

pissed off bob

~ ~ ~

Letters to the Editor
Ball State Daily News

To the Editor:

I wish to thank The Ball State Daily News for "Student files lawsuit / Freshman convicted for drug possession loses financial aid" (24 March).

All over America, students -- and those who want to be but can no longer afford it -- are being victimized and violated by "Souder's Law." I am thrilled that Ball State's Alexis Schwab is fighting back.

Ms. Schwab is being helped in her lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and by Students for a Sensible Drug Policy. I belong to the SSDP Geezer Auxiliary. I strongly urge every Ball State student to join SSDP today, and follow Ms. Schwab's example of defending herself against this vile, kid-bashing, racist federal law.

Rep. Mark Souder, a perpetual gift to our Congress from Fort Wayne's voters, sneaked this toxic legislation into a huge omnibus federal education reform bill at the last moment, with no public hearings, and no public testimony. Most members of Congress who voted for the omnibus reform bill had not read Souder's last-minute amendment and were wholly unaware of its contents.

That was seven years, and 160,000 young people denied student loans ago. A growing caucus of decent congresswomen and congressmen have publicly vowed to repeal this continuing injustice.

Make sure your U.S. Representative and your Senators have publicly declared their intentions to repeal Souder's Law. Make sure they know how you'll vote until they do.

On 7 November, Souder will run for re-election.

Is every Ball State student registered to vote for the 7 November election?

Those from Souder's (3rd) District -- please register there so your vote can defeat him, and end his campaign of hate and foot-shooting damage.

I don't know why the good people of Fort Wayne keep re-electing this dangerous freakazoid. But I known them to be good people. And I hope every college student in Indiana makes time to talk to the voters of Fort Wayne, and ask them to please end Souder's cruelty.

A face-to-face conversation with a neighbor is the most powerful tool of political persuasion. (But the Internet and e-mail are excellent, too. You can steal lots of votes from Souder in your dorm room.)

Souder's Law exclusively victimizes the poor. Well-off families don't need federal financial aid.

Souder's Law most heavily targets students of color, African-Americans and Hispanics. But Souder will be thrilled to ruin your dreams of a good life through higher education regardless of your race, color, religion or ethnicity.

Until they start fighting back as Ms. Schwab has chosen to do, America's students are just Souder's defenseless victims. Every destroyed college education is Savage Voter Candy to re-elect Souder.

Do the greatest thing for America, and for yourselves, that a college student in Indiana can do: Defeat Mark Souder on 7 November. Twelve years of reckless cruelty is enough.

Bob Merkin
Northampton Massachusetts

@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @


G TOP - G... - Gene Vincent Lyrics - Be-Bop-a-Lula Lyrics

Well be-bop-a-lula she's my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.

Well she's the girl in the red blue jeans.
She's the queen of all the teens.
She's the one that I know
She's the one that loves me so.

Say be-bop-a-lula she's my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.

Well she's the one that gots that beat.
She's the one with the flyin' feet.
She's the one that walks around the store.
She's the one that gets more more more.

Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby,
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe.
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby
Be-bop-a-lula I don't mean maybe
Be-bop-a-lula she's my baby love,
My baby love, my baby love.

bob gonna be rich bob gonna be rich bob gonna be rich bob gonna




I have been searching for a person whom we can jointly invest, Trust in and also solicit an honorable partnership with.

I want to confirm that your contact information was got from a web email directory. I represent a client who is interested in investing in your country in areas related to agriculture or any business of your choice, to initiate a proper and structured relationship. Please let me know what your response will be to an offer to receive investment funds in cash if;

1. The said fund amounts to US$38,500,000 (Thirty Eight Million, Five hundred Thousand US Dollars).

2. The said fund is in cash and needs to be transferred in the same state, due to some covert reasons.

3. The fund could be invested through your agency in the purchase of facility and assets for investment purposes within your country, in collaboration with the agency of the current brokers.

4. This transaction will result in you being paid a commission of 10% off the investment capital.

5. The fund owners desire absolute confidentiality and professionalism
in the handling of this matter, due to risks of seizure of the fund and litigation if personalities are revealed.
The fund owners have interest to invest in any of the following industries, depending on which is most transparent, low risk, and average profit yielding: Power Generation, Telecommunication and Software Development, Film Production, Hardware Manufacturing and Export, Medicine, Construction or Real-Estate Development.
Based upon the information provided above, I would like to know if you shall be able to assist in the nature of managing the investment fund. You must note that the fund can only be transferred in cash, therefore if you are in acceptance to participate with us in the investment of the fund, you shall also need to participate with us in the transfer of the fund in cash in the manner of receiving the fund in cash and depositing it in a Trusted account opened in favour of the investment to be established.

And this account would serve as the base or operating account for the investment. I am obliged to believe that you would be able to understand the information above, and should you need further information, please do not hesitate to ask.

Kindly confirm receipt of this email by sending all correspondence to:

Quazi Hossain (Esq.)
Tel: 00871763591465

23 March 2006

Bob lures the Internet into a Big Kult

Red = Blue + Green
The Master proved it.
Want the t-shirt?
Solve the PizzaQ.

Are you getting this? I'll try to make it short and skip everything but The PizzaQ.

Vleeptron is trying to Lure You Into A Kult.

There. I've said it out loud, up front.

Most Kults, a pretty young blonde girl with freckles and a great big smile approaches you in the mall and asks if you want to go to a party tonight. And you, being a moron, say Okay. You can kiss your Hyundai goodbye.

Not so easy to get into My Kult. I'm not smiling, I don't have freckles, I don't want your Hyundai, and odds are we won't let you into our Kult because you're ... well, you're not smart enough. Or maybe you're smart, but you're also lazy.

And no Kult Party tonight. Maybe later, after you solve the very simple and straightforward PizzaQ.

If you want to Join My Kult, you will probably spend the next fortnight drinking Jolt Cola and Programming Your Computer. (It makes as much sense as the Karate Kid washing the Master's car for a week.)

Make that a Fortnight and One Night if you don't know any programming languages. Find the nice boy's QuickbasicCafe or QBCafe or whatever he calls it, I think he's in DE, and download Quickbasic for free. It was designed so that you could program your computer after just one night's study.


If you already know C++ or Java or Forth or LisP then it will only take you two weeks. Unless you're some bad combo of Not Too Bright and Pretty Lazy.

Hey! That's a really bad-ass Ph.D. in Emily Dickinson's Poetry you're waving in my face! And from a REALLY prestigious and fully accredited expensive private university! I'm impressed! Do you like this one?

I'm Nobody! Who are you?
Are you -- Nobody -- Too?
Then there's a pair of us!
Don't tell! they'd advertise -- you know!

How dreary -- to be -- Somebody!
How public -- like a Frog --
To tell one's name -- the livelong June --
To an admiring Bog!

Okay, back to How To Join My Kult, and Win The Pizza.

Okay, you remember how to do stuff like

2 x 32 = 64


512 - 1 = 511

? Did you get as far as long division? Well, that's all the Advanced Mathematics you need for this PizzaQ. If you got through 7th grade before you dropped math and started specializing in Haiku, you're set.

Maybe you need to take one Square Root, but it doesn't have to be Exact, it can be Just Ballpark.

The addition, subtraction, multiplication and long division, with Remainder, they all have to be Exact, Perfect, every damn digit, no roundoffs, no approximations. Perfection is what My Kult is All About.

So look. First compute

2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x ........

until you've managed to compute 2 to the 67th power.

Then subtract one.

Man, that's a whomp-ass big number!

Is it a Prime Number? Which can't be evenly divided by anything but 1 and the whomp-ass big number itself.

If it can be evenly divided by some other number,
it's a Composite.

So is (2^67) - 1 a Prime or a Composite?

Well, okay, we'll give you a Big Kult Shortcut:
It's a Composite.

So: What numbers divide evenly into it?
What are the Prime Factors of (2^67) - 1 ?

That's all you need to do to Join My Kult (and win some Pizza).

But of course:


But you CAN ask Your Silicon Friend to help you. You can teach your Silicon Friend how to do all the multiplication and the subtraction and then a shitload of nasty long divisions.

Here's a rather small, modest example.

2^29 = 2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2x2

2^29 =

2^29 = 256 x 256 x 256 x 256 x 256 x 256 x (256 x 2)

2^29 = 65536 x 65536 x 65536 x 512

(Now use built-in Windows calculator.)

2^29 = 144115188075855872

(2^29) - 1 = 144115188075855871

Is this rather small, modest number a Prime?

If it's a Composite,
what smaller numbers can it be evenly divided by?

Without even a pencil and paper, you can do
The Rule Of Threes in your head and you can see
that it can't be evenly divided by 3.

And obviously 5 can't evenly divide into it.

Next Prime is 7.

Holy crap! We got a break!

7 x 20587884010836553 = 144115188075855871

So (2^29) - 1 = 144115188075855871

is a Composite, and it's evenly divisible
by 7 and 20587884010836553

If that had been the PizzaQ, you would now be eating Pizza, and wearing the t-shirt of My Kult.

But the PizzaQ wants to know if

(2^67) - 1 is Prime

and if it's not Prime,
what smaller number can it be evenly divided by?

Not so small and modest a number.

But you don't have to spend a year computing it and trying to divide it by all the Primes in low-to-high order.

You can teach your Silicon Pal to do all the nasty horrible computations for you. And your Silicon Pal doesn't make mistakes! (Like you'd make if you tried to do it with just pencil and paper.)

Let's get some answers here.
Haven't you ever wanted to join a Kult?

22 March 2006

another quick trip to les Isles des Sourds

Last post Vleeptron journeys to les Isles des Sourds, the Islands of the Deaf. Most of Donald Evans' stamps for les Isles des Sourds are human hands making signs for the numbers -- one, two, three, etc. -- for the denomination of each stamp.

A few blocks from my modest little cottage with its four cats is a residential hill which is host to the campus of The Clarke School for the Deaf. Most students board there, but a few are day students. I worked with a guy who moved the whole family to Northampton so his hearing-impaired daughter could go to Clarke, but still live with her family. In fact now that I think of it, two guys at this office had moved to Northampton so their kids could live at home but go to Clarke. In le Monde des Sourds, Clarke is not chopped liver.

Clarke was founded in 1867. Before he invented the whatchamacallit, Alexander Graham Bell did a year as a visiting teacher there, and in fact was trying to invent a machine to help the deaf communicate better when he accidentally invented the whatchamacallit (which indeed has proven to be very valuable and useful to the deaf).

Education is a swiftly evolving and ever-changing industry, and it's rare, almost unique to have a private boarding school last in the same spot and with the same name -- a complete continuity of birth name, original mission, founding vision -- for 140 years. And Clarke relies on paying customers, and tuition ain't cheap.

Doubtless Clarke has always done well for children of less fortunate financial circumstances with scholarships, but essentially, for 140 years, Clarke has been a private school selling a pricey product and surviving on the success of selling that product. If people had stopped thinking Clarke was valuable or necessary for their children, there would be no Clarke School for the Deaf today. Old deaf people and their family members talk to younger deaf people, and if there was something flawed or nasty or toxic or fraudulent about Clarke, Clarke would have been shut down or would have vanished or at least changed its name long ago. It's still there, and there were lots of kids with backpacks wandering around as of earlier today.

Before this gets much bigger, I should make it clear that my hearing seems to be pretty good, still, even after that Who concert in '70. (Deafness caused by choosing to attend Who concerts or be members of The Who is known as tinnitus, and Pete Townshend makes public-service television commercials on behalf of tinnitus prevention and research; I think they usually run on MTV very late at night.)

Clarke and its staff and students are just my neighbors. I don't seem to need what they sell, and they don't have much for sale or for free that I need. But I should watch more carefully for the dates of their bake sales. Clarke and I could yet do a mutually beneficial deal.

But they're great neighbors, almost even thrilling neighbors, richly, richly interesting, brave, pioneering, violently hated and cursed and reviled by thousands all over the USA and Canada for most of Clarke's history. You just never heard any of this cursing and yelling because you're not deaf.

Although signing was always common within North America's deaf community, all methods of educating deaf children commanded roughly the same respect and acceptance. Everybody was just happy somebody was doing it, because the public and the private schools weren't doing doodlysquat for deaf kids in 1867.

Before Clarke was founded, German educators first pioneered the techniques and goal of mainstreaming deaf children.

Signing is a rich language explosive with nuance and fully sophisticated communication. But when schooling ends, deaf children who have only learned to sign find themselves exiled for the rest of their adult lives to les Isles des Sourds, to the hearing-impaired and signing community, for they're the only ones who understand.

When I started working for newspapers, our Composing Room was known as a "Hot Type" shop, and produced all its text from boiling cauldrons of liquid lead. The machines that made the "lines of type" was the Linotype machine. Maybe if you go to Port Moresby, Papua Nugini, they got a print shop that still uses Linotype machines, but that would depend on if somebody on Earth today still manufactures thousands of ingots of lead, each of which weighs about 40 pounds. Lead is no longer the Happy, Innocent, Fun, Useful, Easily Liquified Metal it used to be, when all the world's centuries and millions of toy soldiers (more properly called Military Miniatures; they are Not Toys) were made of lead, and millions of little boys could suck on the soldiers because lead tastes sweet. That's why kids in the slums like to eat flakes of lead paint.

A bank of twelve Linotype Machines makes a deafening clamor; the Composing Room, for toxic fumes and for the deafening clamor was Hell On Earth, and in fact much of the Composing Room's vocabulary stemmed from Hell. A printer's apprentice was a Printer's Devil, and the wooden box where used type was tossed in a fairly useless jumble was the Hell Box.

Whom can you hire to work in a constant deafening clamor where the air is full of lead fumes? Who doesn't care?

So very many of the employees in the Composing Room were stone or largely deaf, were well-paid as they rose in their skills, and belonged to a tough union; they were the first deaf people I ever met in groups of more than one. The printing industry back in those days had become the natural training and employment realm of the deaf. They all signed, and signing is a superb tool for communicating important messages accurately in Hell.

And along with a job for life, they also had a small community of other deaf men and women as their friends, social life, romantic partners, etc. But they were almost entirely isolated and excluded from the Larger World of Hearing and Clear Speaking; in jobs or careers or dating or socializing, they did it with and among other deaf and signing people; or they didn't couldn't do it.

Signing, using the hands to communicate, is forbidden for students at Clarke, in class, in the dorms, anywhere on campus. They and their parents know it before they enroll, and many kids are already very fluent in ASL by the time they're enrolled in Clarke. For many the transition must be brutally and unhappily abrupt -- like suddenly going deaf and speechless all over again. It's an active duty of every Clarke teacher to discourage or prevent student signing. (See naughty smutty gossip at end of post.)

Instead Clarke intensively teaches lip-reading. Here in town you can find yourself carrying on a fully ordinary conversation with a stranger in the hardware store, and only realize she's deaf when her back is turned.

The other half of the Clarke education is to improve the student's speech to as close as clear hearing speech as possible. This isn't easy because our speaking depends heavily on our hearing -- hearing what we're speaking, a fundamental form of information feedback. Without it, we can still speak, but our speech is difficult for hearing people to understand.

But your reward for graduating from Clarke's Tough Old Educational Philosophy is a social and career liberation. You can try for and very often, maybe even usually get a job anywhere in the labor market. You can go on to any curriculum in any college. And you can hang with and date anyone who'll let you date him or her. And all that usually comes after that.

After Clarke, you're still deaf, but you don't have to live the rest of your life in Hell with a little bunch of your fellow Hellies anymore.

The mainstreaming/no-signing philosophy that Clarke has championed for more than a century has always been wildly controversial. In DC, the federally-run Gallaudet University is a sign-all-you-want institution. Screw mainstreaming; Gallaudet celebrates ASL and champions the deaf community and lifestyle.

To many in the North American deaf community "Clarke" means "Evil" and even "Mean Old-Fashioned People Who Treat Little Kiddies Bad." The controversy runs deep and ferocious, and I don't think either side is going to vanquish the other side or convert the other side any time soon.

The loveliest phone call just now to the Librarian at Clarke. The school was named for John Clarke, who was born in 1789 and lived all his life in Northampton. He was a successful businessman and banker. In late middle age he began to grow deaf, and became interested in the education of deaf children. He founded and endowed the school named for him. Alexander Graham Bell and President Calvin and Mrs. Grace Coolidge served on the Clarke board.

And the Librarian straightened me out about lots of other things about Clarke and its history, too. I forgot to ask her if they're having any bake sales.

Okay, here's the only nasty gossip I have about Clarke, and even this isn't true, but it's True Gossip, if you know what I mean. It is Authentic Genuine Gossip.

In 140 years, Clarke has sent a shitload of kids into The Wide World, but every generation, some graduates just like it here in Northampton and environs, and they park it here. So living in Northampton I've bumped into and had some lovely chats with Clarke grads of all ages.

We get a Clarke grad now and then at the homeless shelter, although we often don't notice it for a few hours. The guest might have an alcohol or a jail problem, but you can't tell he or she's deaf.

SOCIAL WORKER: Why didn't you tell us you had a hearing problem?

CLARKE ALUM: Why should I? I have problems, but that's not one of them.

When kids first arrive at Clarke, older kids show them around and teach them the ropes. The older kids tell the newcomers about the punishments the school has for signing, what will happen if a teacher catches a kid signing. For the first offense, a verbal warning. For every subsequent signing violation, the school chops off one of your fingers.

That doesn't really happen at Clarke. It's just something older kids tell little kids who are frightened and homesick and don't know any better. But that's been part of the student lore at Clarke forever, maybe it started in 1868. I drive near Clarke all the time, everybody's got all their fingers.

21 March 2006

a Voyage to les Isles des Sourds and the island of l'Amour Perdu

Click, probably.
postage stamp from Iles des Sourds
(3p Tricentaire)
watercolor / postage-stamp size
Donald Evans (American, 1945 - 1977)

One time when the Zeta Beam was working it dumped me on an island in the archipelago nation Amis et Amants. The French Colonial Authorities renamed every island for a particular variety of Love or Friendship -- there are thousands of islands in Am&Am. Anyway when my molecules fully reassembled and I no longer felt like sailors had just beaten me up in an alley, I walked down the road and started seeing signs that I was on L'AMOUR PERDU.

A very lovely island, but a little bittersweet, a little triste, I think. This is where men and women from all over the world drift to after they have lost a Great Love. On the beach one night I found a Coco de Mer that had washed up. By a wonderful coincidence, the American artist Donald Evans was staying there, painting a stamp of L'AMOUR PERDU (the 4, tinted lavender), and we had a couple of drinks together at Pantomime. Really nice guy. Studied architecture at Cornell.

This song seems to be about L'AMOUR PERDU. I think there's a new CD or some block of intangible music storage medium by Donald Fagen. Also Neil Young will be on the Conan O'Brian show most nights this week, which is not chopped liver. Last night he sang "This Old Guitar" with a very talented warbler-guitariste whose name I failed to catch, but if you throw it to me, I'll be grateful. Maybe she has some intangible digital medium out there somewhere.

This song was written and recorded during the Vietnam War. When Santa Claus gets drunk and falls down in the driveway, he's bringing his son a Cobra helicopter gunship. Unlike the Huey which came before it, the Cobra could only do one job, which was to blast the living crap out of all Biota in front of and below it. I'm sure it's still in service in Asia. The Huey on the other hand could be used for medevac and supply and all sorts of useful things. Next bigass hurricane, send more Hueys. I think they're the only relief supply that's working since the Pakistan-India earthquake, them and the huge Sikorskys.

My company commander, CPT Psycho J. Looney IV, seemed to like me and offered to take me for a ride up the Gulf of Mexico coast in his Cobra, but such trips were practice to blast the crap out of the Biota, much too near where the nearly extinct whooping cranes wintered. The Army nearly extincted the Puerto Rican Parrot in El Yunque Rain Forest, they used it to Practice Jungle.

Perhaps we should consider cutting back on toys which are models of things that have no other job than to Sterilize The Planet.


No MIDI. Either Steely Dan explains the tune to you directly, or give it up. All over L'AMOUR PERDU this plays through the speakers. I think Rickie Lee Jones has covered this.


Book of Liars

music and lyrics by Walter Becker
performed by Steely Dan

Bye and bye now
We'll get over
The things we've done and the things we said
But not just now when
I can 't remember
Exactly what it was I thought we had
'cause I waited so long girl and I came so far
To find out you're not always who you say you are

And there's a star in the book of liars by your name

Santa claus came in late last night
Drunk on christmas wine
Fell down hard in the driveway
Hung his bag out on the laundry line
There's a cobra gunship for his golden boy
And there's a hello kitty for his pride and joy

And a silver star in the book of liars by your name
They hung a star in the book of liars by your name

Stars imploding
The long night passing
Electrons dancing in the frozen crystal dawn
Here's one left stranded at the zero crossing
With a hole in it's half-life left to carry on
But now the world's much larger than it looks today
And if my bad luck ever blows me back this way

Then I'll just look in my book of liars for your name
I'll just look in the book of liars for your name



some nice human being or automaton
has mirrored one of my old faves!
i filched back the text,
it's been a bit hacked up
but if you go HERE you can see ...


The Postage Stamps
of Donald Evans
by Robert Merkin

When Donald Evans (born Morristown, New Jersey USA in 1945) was a boy, he drifted from his hobby of collecting postage stamps to creating his own postage stamps of countries he made up in his imagination. He kept doing this for the rest of his life. He left behind an astonishing planet seen through its nations' postage stamps, thousands of them, all drawn to postage-stamp size, with all the familiar periphery of postage stamps hand-done ... the perforations, old envelopes, postmarks, addresses ...

After studying architecture at Cornell University, Evans drifted to Europe and eventually settled in a windmill near Amsterdam. He died in a windmill fire
in 1977.

A rich sampling of his fantastic, deeply moving and evocative stamps can be found in the gorgeous book "The World of Donald Evans," with text by Willy Eisenhardt (Harlin Quist Books). This book is to your eyes what a lobster dinner with all the trimmings is to your mouth. Evans also gave two long interviews to The Paris Review.

Here are stamps of the marine mammals of the northern principality of Lichaam en Geest, the Dutch words for Body and Soul:

Evans liked to learn Dutch words by painting stamps of them and the things they mean. This series, from Nadorp, was intended particularly for children.

images Copyright (C) 1980 by the Estate of Donald Evans

Other Evans countries are Amis et Amants ("Friends and Lovers"), a French-speaking colonial archipelago where every island is a French word or phrase for a kind of love or friendship; lo Stato di Mangiare ("to Eat" in Italian), the world's greatest manufac-
turer of giant dirigibles; Achterdijk ("Behind the Dike"); Katibo; Jantar; Yteke; Wiesbecker (whose stamps are old chairs found thrown away on New York City sidewalks, Philippe Wiesbecker's models for much of his art; the stamps likewise),

1 Premieres Amours (first love) abandoned on New York City
2 Ami des Beaux Jours (friend of streets and used in
nice days = fair-weather friend) paintings by the
3 Main dans la main (hand-in-hand) illustrator Philippe
4 L'Amour Perdu (lost love) Weisbecker); Pasta; and

The Islands of the Deaf,
whose stamps are hands spelling the words for the denominations of the stamps in sign language.

What, exactly, is The World?

How do we know about it? Most of us settle for the television news. Others spend a bit more time and go a bit more deeply with newspapers.

It is just possible that there is no one True Objective World ... so in one way or another, One World is just as good as The Next. So let me tell you a little bit about Postage Stamp World.

Nothing bad ever happens in Postage Stamp World. Everything that happens in Postage Stamp World is a great national achievement. Everyone you see on PSW is handsome or beautiful or dignified or brave, a great inventor, a great athlete, a great and wise ruler or leader.

Every fish and bird is gorgeous. Real birds in the sky and real fish in the water are actually rather imperfect and scraggly -- they're always half-starved, terrorized because bigger things are always trying to kill and eat them (sometimes big fish swim underneath ducks, grab their feet in their jaws, drown and eat them), they're scarred and infested with parasites -- so they are always painted gorgeously and luridly for postage stamps by someone like Audubon.

Czechoslovakia is one of the world's centers of high-quality color lithography and prints many of the world's most beautiful postage stamps.

Here's one of my recent favorites, a stamp issued by the Republic of Abkhazia (formerly part of the USSR/CCCP) honoring Marx and Lennon.

Postage Stamp World entranced Donald Evans as a child, but very soon, PSW was not quite enough.

Donald Evans loved to eat -- essentially he ate his way through his beloved Europe. And there were far too few stamps devoted to food, to fruit, to pasta, to chocolate, to vegetables, to boiled lobsters and squid, to zucchini.

Evans virtually founded an entire art form; there are now thousands of artists who create their own postage stamps. This one just cracks me up.

Here are two breathtaking Evans images on cards.

[mirrored text badly interfered with here]

With the true fixated mania of a truly great artist, he wanted merely to Create the Whole World, exactly like God once did. And he did: Its people. Its smiling. laughing children and their toys, handsome men, sweepingly beautiful (and usually quite ample) women. Its fish, its mammals, its birds. Its cheese and its windmills. The good things the world has to eat! Memories of simpler and often terribly unjust colonial times. Memories of wonderful lighter-than-air flying machines that never were! Beautiful furniture.

I travel as much as I can, and one of the sublime pleasures of my life is to visit for a time the far and exotic reaches of The World, and then to return and step into The Postage Stamp World of Donald Evans.
(I only have a slight interest in real postage stamps, and couldn't care less whether Old Fat or Young Thin Elvis wins.

Somewhere in Evans' work is a document he called the "Catalogue of the World." Evans' world is every bit as huge and detailed as The Real World of Travel. You can spend a lifetime wandering through both worlds. Things are slightly more lovely, and far more haunting, in Evans' world -- an entire world strained through the joy and pain, the laughter and the loneliness of a single human heart.

I love God's world, but now that Evans has died, I hope God is engaging his services as a consultant. Imagine a Bible that began: "In the beginning, God (with the assistance of Donald Evans) created the Heaven and the Earth."

Sincere thanks to B.C. of Morristown,
New Jersey for important corrections.