Friday, August 04, 2006

Bush Administration Threatens to Sue Maine!

Nope, I'm not making this one up -- the headline on this morning's Portland Press Herald (one day after the paper's interview with former President George H.W. Bush's personal Kennebunk chef) reads, "U.S. Threatens Suit if Maine Probes Verizon Ties to NSA". So much for state's rights, which have been under seige since this pack of hyenas took office, as are civil rights on more levels than one can coherently summarize before 9 AM any day.

PPH staff writer Kevin Wack ( writes, "The Bush Administration is threatening to sue if Maine regulators decide to investigate whether Verizon Communications illegally turned over customer information to the National Security Agency.

Verizon customers in Maine have asked the state's Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether the telecom giant violated privacy laws by cooperating with a domestic surveillance program. The PUC is expected to decide Monday whether to open such a probe.

In a July 28 letter to the PUC, the U.S. Department of Justice cites national security as a key reason for its opposition to a state investigation. The seven-page letter suggests a lawsuit is likely if Maine regulators decide to investigate."

Ah, extortion, blackmail -- pure and simple. This is outrageous, coming as it does on the heels of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's audacious performance Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, demanding a new system for trying "terror suspects" which would allows prosecutors to withhold classified information from the accused. It's called fascism, sir, and this latest threat from the same office is of the same reprehensible stripe. Wack quotes Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union, who says "I do think it sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for the federal government to threaten to sue the state [which is] merely doing its job."

Just one more extraordinary precedent for the most radical, extremist post-Nixon Administration this country has ever suffered...

All's well but hot down at the homestead, per our conversation with our housesitter last night. This morn finds Maine awash in rain and a comfy 68 degrees. The computers were down at the hotel, so I'm sitting at Sister Mary Catherine's Internet Cafe, reeling a little at the fumes of a patron reeking of a perfume that threatens to close my throat to the width of my nostrils. Still, didn't want to miss a posting opportunity while Marge is still snoozing in the room.

Last night was a weird, restless night -- though I dropped off to sleep quickly after we enjoyed Lady in the Water at the local cinema, I awoke at 1:30 AM and thereafter drifted in and out of a procession of cataclysmic dreams: one ended with one of Brattleboro's resident sociopaths dumping the severed head and dismembered limbs of his (in the dream) current African American girlfriend out of the back of a pickup, his eyes blank and staring; another concluded with my being boxed in highway traffic by two snowplows in the dead of summer, gunning my engine to take advantage of an opening only to find the highway giving way to raw, rocky ground at the worst possible speed; and so on. By 5:30, I'd had it -- rustled myself out of bed and read over breakfast, chipped away a bit on some CCS homework for the new semester. Maybe tonight will be a little less apocalyptic...

Nice finds yesterday: a cool batch of $1 vintage postcards, including a 1969 Jersey Devil cartoon card, some rare Jimmy Swinnerton and Hatlo comics cards, a trio of caveman gag and museum cards for my paleo collection, and some Christmas goodies for friends; a fantastic book on Rudy Bruckhardt, including the most info I've found in print yet on his underground film creations (man, I would love to see his Red Grooms collaboratives, Lurk and Shoot the Moon, the former reportedly inspired by James Whale's Frankenstein, the latter by George Melies's Le Voyage Dans La Lune/A Trip to the Moon); a couple of Vermont cartoon books, including a Jeff Danziger gem I used to have but loaned out and never recovered, and a tighter copy of George Merkle's seminal VT history comic strip collection This is Vermont (circa 1953, collecting strips from the late '40s and early '50s); a couple of Catholic comic collections, fave of which is Joe Lane's More Little Nuns (from '51); a 1937 issue of Popular Photography graced with a cool illustrated article on Hollywood special effects (not much content in the text, though, which is typical with pre-1950s articles on the subject); an incredibly inexpensive set of Daumier prints (at last! I can show samples of his work at CCS!); and more.

The surprise in the harvest were a handful of $1-$2 vintage paperbacks, one of which I nabbed because it features what might be the first published sf use of the term "scanner" -- though I hesitate to refer to anything as a 'first' -- which is of interest. Beyond the End of Time (1952, Permabooks, edited by Frederick Pohl) includes Cordwainer Smith's 1948 short story "Scanners Live in Vain":

"What can you get out of being the wife of a Scanner? Why did you marry me? I'm human only when I cranch. The rest of the time -- you know what I am. A machine. A man turned into a machine. A man who has been killed and kept alive for duty. Don't you realize what I miss?... Don't you think I remember what it is to be a man and not a haberman? To walk and feel my feet on the ground? To feel a decent clean pain instead of watching my body every minute to see if I'm alive? How will I know if I'm dead?..."

The lineage of scanners, pre-Philip K. Dick, William Burroughs, David Cronenberg, continues to reveal itself... of interest to me in part for the role 'scanners' play in superhero cinema history; more on that later this fall!

BTW, do see A Scanner Darkly, which my son Dan and I caught last week and which has haunted me ever since. Excellent film, best Philip K. Dick adaptation ever, and must-see on multiple levels -- check it out, and be sure there's a designated driver with you.

Ah, yesterday's comments became a real soapbox (big fun from Armageddon believers; check it out), so be sure to check out those and follow the links. Big hey to Bob, too, it's been ages, glad you found me, too! And a big hello to Tom Laurent -- it was great having you in the CCS history sessions, Tom -- Al Nickerson, and everyone... see you here tomorrow, Sister Mary Catherine or hotel lobby permitting!