He opened the door to what looked like a darkened room and invited us to step inside. Once our eyes grew accustomed to the shadows, we could see things more clearly than ever before.
That's the achievement of author Samuel Beckett, who was born 100 years ago this week.
It was on April 13, 1906; the place was Cooldrinagh in Foxrock, County Dublin, and in a stroke of black humour he would have surely appreciated, the date happened to be both Good Friday and Friday the 13th.
Years later, in his masterwork, Waiting for Godot, he had the tyrannical Pozzo offer a jaundiced view of coming into the world.
"… one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."
Beckett has variously been called a minimalist, an absurdist, an existentialist, a nihilist, a pessimist, an anarchist and an atheist, but he would shrug off all those labels, insisting instead "the words, the words, the words — they speak for themselves." One of the few times he was ever lured into categorizing himself was when someone asked him how he would compare himself to James Joyce, his mentor, friend and fellow Irish literary giant.
"James Joyce was a synthesizer, trying to bring in as much as he could," he said. "I am an analyzer, trying to leave out as much as I can."
Like most people I find Joyce, especially Ulysses and Finnegans Wake difficult to wade through, but Beckett is impossible. Every meaning can and has been assigned to what he's written. To me its as though Beckett took a video device and hooked it up to his brain. This device recorded everything he saw and thought, but also everything that everyone said, what they thought and did. Imagine that he downlaoded all of these fragments to a computer and did a kind of smash up of the clips and then wrote his plays from the recordings. You'd get that life is difficult to figure out in a plain linear fashion and stripped of pretention has as much sense or meaning as you give it. I don't think that because Beckett is a an unblinking analyst that he is was nililist, especially given his war hero history, only one has to work at not giving one's life up to a kind of meaningless chaos. I don't have the exact quote, but film director Martin Scorsese said he also thought that life is absurd, but you have to do something, use one's time productively, be creative, give meaning to your work and life. Maybe and I'm no Beckett scholar, he wrote about despair as a knid of warning; this is what despair and absurdedy is like; all you can you do is try. Beckett lived for 83 years and produced volumes of work, while he may have concluded that life was strange and irrational, that conclusion didn't stop him from wrestling with it.
The man who wrote, "I can't go on. I'll go on," finally ended the journey on Dec. 22, 1989. He once observed that "Birth was the death of him," but all jokes finally come home to roost.
In an article published late last year, London Times reporter Michael Smith advanced the claim that the "credible" evidence that the British claimed to have for supporting their "Saddam sought uranium" allegation — evidence that they supposedly never shared with the U.S. — came from the French. He also reported that the alleged evidence was intel that the French had received in early 1999 and transmitted to the UK at that time. In my response to that article, among other things, I had pointed out that could not have been the case, especially since that was inconsistent with the observations in two British parliamentary reports, which stated or implied that the new intel was obtained in 2002. Smith's latest article now says the French intel was obtained and sent to the British in 2002, without stating that the claims in the previous article were incorrect.
In Smith's latest article published over the weekend (and his related blog posts), the intel that is now claimed to be the basis of the British uranium claim is "a letter from Wissam Zahawi, the Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, dated July 6, 2000, specifically talking about obtaining uranium." Smith states that this letter is considered "credible" by the British and French intelligence services, that this is separate from the contents of the forged Niger dossier, and that this letter has not been shared previously with either the IAEA or the U.S. Government (CIA).
In this post (the first of two parts), I point out that contrary to all these claims in Smith's article and blog posts, the alleged "letter" from Wissam al-Zahawie dated July 6, 2000 was (is):
* A forgery
* One of the documents that was reviewed by the IAEA and dismissed as fake
* Handed over to the IAEA by the U.S. Government as part of the package of forged Niger documents
Very extensive research and makes poor Christopher Hitchens look like he has staked out a place in hack journalism hell. I actually don't mind all that much that Hitchens didn't do his homework; I don't even mind that he's a hack and doesn't care that the whole world knows it. I don't mind that because he is at Slate he has a fairly large audience to pass off his hackery. What I mind is that he gets paid for garbage that any 14 year old with an active imgination could write. Hitchens should subtitle his yellow journalism, honor and integrity be damned.
Larry C. Johnson at No Quarter has a time-line and points out the oft repeated nonsense that Wilson's wife is the one that sent him to Niger. An Updated Plamegate Timeline
A senior intelligence officer confirmed that Plame was a Directorate of Operations undercover officer who worked ‘alongside’ the operations officers who asked her husband to travel to Niger. “But he said she did not recommend her husband to undertake the Niger assignment. ‘They (the officers who did ask Wilson to check the uranium story) were aware of who she was married to, which is not surprising,’ he said. ‘There are people elsewhere in government who are trying to make her look like she was the one who was cooking this up, for some reason,’ he said. ‘I can’t figure out what it could be.’ “We paid his (Wilson’s) airfare. But to go to Niger is not exactly a benefit. Most people you’d have to pay big bucks to go there,’ the senior intelligence official said. Wilson said. he was reimbursed only for expenses.” (Newsday article Columnist blows CIA Agent’s cover, dated July 22, 2003).
Republican officials describe the two-dozen calls to the White House around Election Day 2002 as normal conversations about a close Senate race in New Hampshire.
Democrats have suggested in a court filing that another subject was discussed: a GOP scheme that jammed phone lines to keep state Democrats from being encouraged to vote.
The phone-jamming operation has led to three federal convictions and a pending indictment. Prosecutors have not raised questions in court about the White House conversations – but records of the calls were available to them as criminal court exhibits.
The records show that Republican campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 – as the jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.
The national Republican Party, which paid millions in legal bills to defend Tobin, says it was "preposterous" to suggest the calls involved phone jamming.
Sometimes you don't find finger-prints because the perpetrator wears gloves. One can't help but wonder, as its my understanding that all calls to the Whitehouse are logged and recorded, to who Tobin spoke and what was said.