Archive for Art

The Trump Defense

In criminal law there is a presumption of innocence (and sanity). Nevertheless, in some cases even though guilt is established, punishment may be mitigated when mental capacity is at issue. In those cases, an insanity defense based on the McNaughton Rule may apply. Established in an 1843 English case, the traditional rule states:

“that every man is to be presumed to be sane, and… that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”

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Joe Diedrich (1927-2017)

Yesterday would have been his 90th birthday. He had been in poor health for almost a year and in September when I spoke to him for the last time he acknowledged that the end was in sight. Two weeks ago I sent him an email. His wife responded with the news that he died the day after he received it.

Men aren’t particularly good at grieving though we commonly talk about it when a friend leaves us. Still, Joe wasn’t like anyone else and grieving doesn’t really describe my feelings. Regret is probably better. Regret that I won’t see him in Mallorca as planned this fall, and regret that I won’t hear more of his self-deprecating stories and biting commentary on the world.

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Why Should You Care About This Man?

This is Garry Kasparov, a Grand Master and former World Chess Champion. Not only is he a master chess tactician, he is also a student of Vladimir Putin’s tactics. He knows Putin is a cagey, calculating, politically savvy, cold-blooded killer. He’s seen Putin’s enemies murdered – Alexander Litvinenko poisoned in London and opposition leader Boris Nemtsov shot four times in central Moscow days before the Russian election.

Kasparov’s is only one voice, but it’s worth listening to. What other voices should we be listening to in the acrimonious debate surrounding Russian interference in the American election? We need to know the truth, the Russian truth and the American truth. How do we go about identifying, sorting, and selecting from all the voices vying for attention ?

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Nashville: Skyline and All

“If you’re travelin’ in the north country fair

Where the winds hit heavy on the borderline

Remember me to one who lived there

For she was once a true love of mine.”

Both Bob Dylan and the Nashville skyline have changed since he wrote those words for the Nashville Skyline album in 1969. I loved the record (yes, it was a record in those days), and I loved his surprising shift from folk-protest to traditional country music including an off-pitch duet with Johnny Cash. Beyond that I didn’t know much about the city except that it was the home of the Grand Ole Opry. I had never been there and neither had M, but a chance meeting with a young couple at a Peter Cetera concert in Seattle got us thinking about a visit to their hometown. So, on impulse, with an Alaska Airlines companion ticket to burn, we booked the flight as just the right destination for an escape from our long wet winter in Seattle.

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Zipless in Nevada

In  Erica Jong’s 1973 novel, Fear of Flying, we were introduced to the “zipless fuck,” a sexual encounter involving two previously unacquainted persons with no emotional commitment.

In Grounded, a play by George Brant, a young woman in an Air Force flight suit tracks a terrorist on the ground 8000 miles away. She’s “flying” a missile-armed drone from her air-conditioned trailer in the Nevada desert. She is prosecuting America’s zipless war.

As an ex-Marine fighter pilot, I resist the conflation of jet pilot and drone operator. Real fighter pilots strap in, light the fire, pull G’s, land on aircraft carriers, and swap sea stories in the Ready Room. In Grounded, the unnamed pilot feels the same way. She’s a hard charging, adrenaline-fueled F-16 driver, but following maternity leave she finds herself assigned as a UAV (unmanned air vehicle) “pilot” in a windowless trailer in the Nevada desert. She is not happy with the assignment. She misses the excitement. She misses “the blue,” but war is changing and she has to deal with it.

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