"Alleged to Have Assisted"

From Balkinization:

From the President's Message on signing the FISA fix :

When Congress returns in September the Intelligence committees and leaders in both parties will need to complete work on the comprehensive reforms requested by Director McConnell, including the important issue of providing meaningful liability protection to those who are alleged to have assisted our Nation following the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Note the key item on this wish list: legal immunity for having participated in the illegal NSA program.

I particularly love the phrase "alleged to have assisted our Nation." In his letter to Congress the other day Intelligence Director Michael McConnell spoke of "liability protection for those who are alleged to have helped the country stay safe after September 11, 2001." Apparently "allegedly helped us stay safe" is Bush Administration code for telecom companies and government officials who participated in a conspiracy to perform illegal surveillance. Because what they did is illegal, we do not admit that they actually did it, we only say that they are alleged to have done it. Or perhaps the Administration is suggesting that although such parties are alleged to have helped the country stay safe, there's no evidence that their repeated violations of federal law actually did much to promote our security. No, they couldn't mean that.

My guess is that President Bush plans to award those who allegedly helped save the country with alleged medals.

The Democrats' vote on the FISA bill was a real disappointment (Jim Webb's was especially painful--he seemed so reasonable). Only foreign calls? No court order? Yeah, sure, I trust you.

Aldiss on the Helliconia books

Brian Aldiss: Helliconia: How and Why (you might want to enlarge the typeface)

For many years I had contemplated writing a story about a world where seasons were so long that all one's life might pass in spring, say, or in the winter.


It was clear from the start that I would need advice for all the disciplines needed to fortify the narrative: history, biology, philology, and so forth. At the basis of everything, the astronomical and geophysical aspects - the details of the Helliconian binary system - had to be as correct and current as could be. Today's theories were wanted, not yesterday's.

So I consulted the various authorities whose names are acknowledged in the novels. Most of them entered into the game of Helliconia readily, and had fruitful suggestions to make. Most specifically, it was Iain Nicholson's description of the binary system and how it came about which opened up what I regard as one of the most profound themes of the novel, the process of enantiodromia, by which things constantly turn in to their opposites; knowledge becomes by turns a blessing and a curse, as does religion; captivity and freedom interchange roles; phagors become by turns conquerors and slaves. As a means of making concrete this amorphous but deeply felt theme, the binary model was ideal.


Helliconia is presented as a strange and wonderful planet. So it is. But so is Earth, and there is little that happens on Helliconia which has not happened in one form or another on Earth. The one major difference is the existence on Helliconia of other intelligent or semi-intelligent species: most notably the phagors, that ancipital race perpetually warring with humanity for possession of the globe.

Although deadly enemies, phagors and humans exist in a commensal relationship with each other. Much of the story is taken up with this painful relationship, which must be broken and yet would be fatal to break. On Earth we have no phagors, only the animal sides of our natures, with which we are similarly at war, and with which we must come to some kind of agreement. This problem, exciting as any encounter with a mounted phagor, finds explicit place in the final volume.

These are amazing books. Anti-fantasies yet genuinely strange. I want to revisit that universe again and it's only been about three years. (Avoided them initially because they coincided with the early-'80s trend of inventing a fantasy world and milking it over several books, which is what still keeps "science fiction" alive in the market. Aldiss obliquely acknowledges that pressure but makes the sincere case that this is a single massive novel split into three parts).

One disturbing factoid from the same website: Aldiss' great first novel Non-Stop was never filmed because, Aldiss says, a Kubrick subsidiary bought the rights to anything that might challenge 2001 in the market. The purpose was to bury the book. If true*, Kubrick's narcissism was beyond the pale--the abuse of intellectual property rights by the movie business taken to another level of ego.

* And it seems likely since Aldiss later spent much time in Kubrick's presence developing what eventually became the dreadful AI.

Bassboggle Variations

"Bassboggle Variation" [mp3 removed]

Added a second syn-flute to this tune plus some more sax and took out all the bass and rhythm so this is more like a chamber piece now.

"Bassboggle Variation (Beatbox)" [mp3 removed]

Same as above but with a bass line and beatbox demo loop used in this older tune underneath.

Update: Yeah, I know, "syn-flute." Generally synths should sound like synths and not other instruments (samplers are a different story) so we're into some defaults kitsch here. The great thing about having rules for yourself is you get to break them.

Update 2: Reworked the "beatbox version" to make it more like the original tune and less like the "chamber piece." It still has the flute-and-sax middle section instead of the rhythm break but is less artified in terms of overlayed melodies. Also bumped the volume. It's now more of a "proper tune" even if a bit of a silly MIDI goof.