One of the baby blackbirds from the nest outside our back door takes a rest on the fence after an early attempt at flight. This fledgling is actually from a second brood to be born in the nest. The first brood of three eggs hatched in June, but we were in Italy when they (hopefully) fledged (as opposed to being eaten). When we returned after two weeks away, they were gone and in their place were four more eggs. The baby shown here is one of the second brood. All four hatched and at least two are still hanging around in the garden, getting their wings. The mother still feeds them and spends much of the day chirping alarmingly at the sight of anyone or anything that comes into the area. Early one morning last week, I heard her chirping frantically and looked out the window to see a local cat sitting just below the nest, eyeing the babies hungrily. I chased him off and have been on cat patrol with Charlie’s water cannon ever since. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has lots of interesting information about blackbird nesting habits.
Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?
Another interesting visitor turns up in our logs: 18.104.22.168, which resolves to the Department of Defense Network Information Center. Go to its homepage and you’ll learn that: “The Defense Information Systems Agency is a combat support agency responsible for planning, developing, fielding, operating, and supporting command, control, communications, and information systems that serve the needs of the President, Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Combatant Commanders, and the other Department of Defense (DoD) Components under all conditions of peace and war.”
They will greet you with a cheery “Hello” and list your IP address at the top of the page, just to prove they know who you are. And they inform you that: “Use of this page and all DoD NIC services constitutes consent to monitoring.” See for yourself, if you don’t mind getting on their radar.
“The fundamental question is, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer is, absolutely. And we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power,” explains George W Bush, speaking to reporters on Monday.
“It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship . . . That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” — Hermann Goering, quoted in an excellent Guardian article headlined Trading on Fear.
The article is illustrated with some of Micah Ian Wright’s posters from his book You Back the Attack, We’ll Bomb Who We Want. The book has a forward by Kurt Vonnegut, who talks about “psychopathic personalities (PPs), a medical term for smart, personable people who have no conscience. PPs are fully aware of how much suffering their actions will inflict on others, but they do not care. They cannot care. . . . A PP, should he somehow attain a post near the top of our federal government, might feel that taking the country into an endless war, with casualties in the millions, was simply something decisive to do today.”
I think Vonnegut’s on the right track here. It seems in today’s America, many people overvalue someone’s ability to act decisively, even if it is a decision they don’t actually agree with. Step forward, George W Bush.
Another place we wish we could be is the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Cedar Grove, New York, for tonight’s opening of an exhibition of paintings by Ralph Wickiser. “Bud” was our favourite uncle and an immense talent. And we’re very glad that people are still getting the chance to see his paintings.
If only I had planned our Italy trip for a week later, we could have been in Siena this evening for the Palio. I did manage to find the Siena University website, where they streamed the race and the pagentry live. Go there now and you can see the race itself replayed. Maybe next year, we’ll be watching from the Campo.