Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Topography Of Golgotha

For 14 hours yesterday, I was at work, teaching Christ to lift his cross by the numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst until after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were no complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.

Captain Wilfred Owen, The Manchesters

KIA Nov. 4, 1918


I'm very behind on blogging, my apologies.

Monday was Memorial Day, a Federal holiday which was first known as Decoration Day. Until passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968, it was celebrated on May 30th, which is today, but Congress made it and three other holidays fall on either Monday or Friday so as to make 3-day weekends.
Originally, the people in the northern parts of my country followed the examples of former Confederate states in honoring their fallen, and a General Logan thought the occasion up and started to formalize a practice which first began in Waterloo, New York in 1866.

One suspects it naturally became a time to meditate upon the Republic we had become, echoing
Benjamin Franklin's famous phrase, "A republic, if you can keep it," an issue not fully clarified until 1865. Many minds including mine aren't so sure that clarification or the means by which it was sought were a good thing, but the deep schism noted by Franklin's impish sense of satire had finally, for good and ill, been joined by blood. People low and high, North and South, would go to decorate the graves of young men with flowers, and to remember the half million and more souls who died from cannon, sword, shot and disease on the way to making it so.

I appreciated the weekend and took full advantage of it with my little family and our friends, but I'd have to agree with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which said in their 2002 address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance..." I looked for a parade to attend in Seattle, but couldn't find one or any ceremonial observances whatsoever. I'd been meaning to put up the verse of Wilfred Owen's above on the occasion, and am just getting to it now, but this is the traditional Memorial Day, when in my youth almost every burg, hamlet, or town like mine would have a big parade. Like many Americans, my feelings on America's impulse for Dumb Wars are generally negative, and sometimes this can mix up my feelings on veterans, but even so. I would've liked to go to a parade honoring our past and the sacrifices brave men, women, and children made for each other.


Golgotha, in Wil Owen's verse above, refers to a hillock in Jerusalem whose rocks made, from one viewpoint, the distinctive shape of a skull. From its Hebraic root it would've been known as "the rolling skull," and was a place of execution, conveniently located relatively close to tombs. From the Latin calvaria ("skull") it is known in the New Testament as Calvary, the hill where a man named Jesus was said by his friends to have been crucified, and, over a century later, noted in short, controversial fragments passed down in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius. The original topography of Golgotha has been forgotten, but the location is being fiercely debated, and its contours are ever being worked out anew by commanders who must send soldiers to their deaths.

Wil Owen knowingly compares himself to Judas, close friend and betrayer of Christ, with this line: "with a piece of silver I buy him every day". He is trying to prepare his men against the worst, and he feels like he's betraying not just them, but sacred humanity itself. Owen was a gay man, a captain for the Manchesters who had to lead boys from his home city to near-certain death and traumatic injury in World War One. He had a nervous breakdown during the awful height of
what was dubbed by an old, patrician US President named Woodrow Wilson, even as he opportunistically plunged his country into it as: "the war to end all wars." Owen started writing poetry as therapy in the wake of a nervous breakdown induced by combat, recovering enough to return to his men. To do so, he broke the promises he made to his lover and to a literary circle of friends who admired his writing, and knew the senseless nature of the conflict. Owen hopped a ferry-boat back to Belgium, and died soon thereafter, winning the Victoria Cross while leading his men on an assault across a canal.

War has become less about being gay or straight, child or adult, woman or man than about trying to shield the ones you love from death via the indiscriminate chemical reactions of high explosives delivered by the messengers of distant psychopaths. In that, every one of us is a commander. Command, I suppose, is about doing your damnedest not to betray your charges while sheer idiocy is passed down from above, and telling them, "Listen to me, be quiet, everything is going to be alright." And it will be, it will be.

Friday, May 25, 2007


You Fu!!ed With The Wrong Azalea

The weather gods finally hit their remote-control channel buttons that say, "Seattle, Spring, Nice" so both the flowers and the sun could be out at the same time. All was good, the perfect day for a walk. We gave ourselves a day off, so I took it. And then, I almost died. From laughter only, but still. Death is death, whichever way you slice it.

Near a church for the Disintegrated Methodists, there is a late Victorian house with perfectly tended arboreal grounds, the borders of its English country lawn bursting with vertiginous verdures and all the colorful bounties of spring. The verdures are shielded by a robust, menacingly spiked cast-iron fence which barely manages to stay on the ornamental side of "institutional," or "severe." Near an entry gate, firmly fastened to that fence is a laminated yellow sheet of paper. In big, bold and black 24-point type, it is titled as follows:

To the Cretinous Thieving Asswipes Who Stole Our Azalea

Now that's an attention-grabber. Foul play in my neighborhood! I stopped and read on:
What? You're not expecting language like this around a house of worship? Okay, how about cretinous thieving MURDERING asswipes? That is what you did to our tree, you plant-murderers. It was gorgeous, in full bloom with glorious salmon-colored blossoms. The way you tore it off, it won't grow. It will DIE, and I hope it casts a blight of DEATH over everything you try to plant around it. I hope every plant around you dies. I hope your cloud of blight becomes so obvious that people around you have no choice but to lock you up in some kind of bubble to spare their own precious greenery.
The house is right next to a church, is probably a pastor's residence, and I didn't make it through the whole paragraph before something inside me dislocated and I started to laugh. The laughs soon turned into a fit of coughing, then wheezing, as snot came out of my nose and tears out my eyes as I hung on the fence for dear life, desperately trying to breathe and maintain consciousness for the next 60 seconds. Maybe it was more like 100 seconds. Anyhow, it was rough going there for awhile.

And that was only the first paragraph. It went on:
Yeah, yeah, I am supposed to pray for your immortal soul. Yeah, right. Maybe some people can, but some of us need all the help we can get not to rip you limb from limb! Your mortal butt should be rotting in jail and then MAYBE I can pray for your soul.

And what if you repent? What if some act of divine mercy or divine vengeance fills your heart with contrition? GROVEL. Go before the Lord your God and grovel. Plead for mercy! If that does not work or you still need to repent further, PAY for your sins against our community. Send a large contribution to the faith community of your choice and mark it "azalea fund."

May God take pity on your pathetic wretched existence!!!!!
Phew. I didn't make it through to the end without a couple more seizures. Now, azaleas are amongst the most common lawn entity in Seattle, which is a gardening-nazi town to begin with. (Got any pollen allergies? You'll rue the day you stepped foot here. We've got the pollen that torments you, and many more that will.) It's as if fugitive, hunted gardeners from other states fled here to hide out behind the cover of their fescues, magnolias, strawberry trees, lavendars, thyme, clovers, mosses, retching clumps of rhododendrons, big hairy frilly afro-weeds with little blue-and-white flowers all over them, dark red whacky things sticking up in the air that can slice open a hand, rose bushes with thorns big enough to take out an eye, murderous morning glory vines capable of tearing clapboards off a house, Japanese maples which have been doted on like trust fund babies, and 800 kinds of aggressive, mostly mutant ornamental grasses and ivies. And oh, yeah. Don't even get me started on the goddamned bamboos.

I looked at the plant in question, which dared me not to look at it while appearing to be as healthy as an oak, and tried to make out the possible absence of a branch or two. I guess the enraged church gardener referred to the theft of an entire plant by envious homeowners, maybe a desperate couple on the lam, needing to do a fast lawn upgrade in order to flip that one last house before the bubble pops. Fearing eternal damnation and fighting the shell-shocked, still-painfully-cramped muscles which go across my ribs, I declined to approach the scene of the crime or get near what was sure to be a zealously guarded survivor. I reflected on the nature of property rights in general, plant theft in particular, half expecting a matron wielding a knitting needle to pile out onto her porch and stare me down like Charlton Heston, when he played Moses, stared down the Red Sea. Azaleas are special here. There once must have been a sort of mordant, obsessive interest in them, perhaps there were even bizarre azalea-breeding competitions. Maybe there still are. Enough to motivate a crime. An azalea underground. A brush-flower conspiracy. All I know is, this pimp-mobile of plants flowers in every shade of pink, red, violet, chartreuse, and mauve imaginable, and it is nearly impossible to kill.

I should know. I have one, and have not exactly been gentle to it. It's salmon-covered, is in full bloom, and it lies crying in my basement, begging for light. (Just kidding. Really, no, I'm kidding! It was too hard to resist making light of what may be a serious matter. Why, there's already a thriving, red-pink beauty right in front of my house. Please don't damn me or otherwise hurt me.)

I was going to go back, laptop in hand, to transcribe what I consider to be a worthy, evocative piece of Americana. I mean, think about it. We steal azaleas, blow up over their theft, worry about second-hand smoke and I just bought organic duck eggs a couple weeks ago. Filled with Omega-3 acids! In other places, by comparison, people worry about keeping their craniums unshattered and connected to their torsos, along with most of their limbs, as they shop in markets, ride in cars, try to make love, and sleep in houses. Which in turn made me think, "Wait a minute! Something this good might already be on the Net." I searched for the terms "cretinous murdering azalea thief." First-hit paydirt. Somebody sent it into the "I, Anonymous" column of our local entertainment weekly, The Stranger.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Are You A Republican Operative Suffering From Severe Memory Loss?

This condition can effect your relationships. Your work. And, your ability to testify accurately before Congress. Well, now there's help. Ask you doctor about a new drug: it's called "Subpoena." Now with new immunity! Call today.

(=brought to you by Still Life Living =)

"Hi! I'm Greg. Come Sail Me To Miami!"

Here, aircraft carriers USS Nimitz, Bonhomme Richard, and John C. Stennis steam up the Gulf of Oman on their way through the Straits of Hormuz in a "show of force" intended to intimidate Iran, hang around until they start a war by accident, or get the orders to fly bomb-laden planes off their decks and keep it going like a conveyor belt. Each carrier is part of a strike (CSG) or battle (CBG) group. There are differences between a CSG and a CBG, but each consists of upwards of twenty ships with upwards of twenty thousand sailors and marines, along with at least one nuclear attack submarine per group. The USS Eisenhower appears to have been rotated off station, or at least that it's not in the glamour shot above is some small comfort.

How would we Americans feel if, say, China sailed sixty warships between Cuba and Miami and sent them on into the Gulf of Mexico towards Houston? With loudspeakers playing broken records which say, "All options are on the table! All options are on the table! All options are on the table!" Apart from cursing them as despicable morons, I would guess we'd be feeling a little bit...murderous. Like our national sovereignty was being violated. Like Iran's has been repeatedly for the last century by Western powers. A little word of advice to the next Caretaker of Democracy: Stop.

If I had to take a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran, which, most thankfully I don't because I'm shirking other writing tasks even as I write this post, first, there would have to be a lot of money involved. Next, I would title it: "Iran's Message to America: So Bomb Us Already, You Sick Twisted Bastards."

(For any youngsters here, the post's title refers to famous TV commercials of the late 1960s, in which a short-skirted stewardess would look at the camera and say, "Hi! I'm Marcia. Come fly me to Miami.")

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Gordon Brown Is Going To Haul Ass

Out of Iraq. The new British Prime Minister may have supported participation in Iraq's occupation, but he's a politician whose weather-vane isn't stuck resolutely against the wind. There are far more domestic benefits for him in leaving, and BushCo won't pay him or England enough to stay.

I don't think he's going to pull troops out of Afghanistan. If anything, he'll probably send in a few thousand more so he can tout his toughness in shoring up NATO's efforts and thereby innoculate himself. Plus, the Brits have been tromping about there for so long the casualties might seem like the comforting echoes of an Empire. Prince Harry might go there, but he's been pulled back from duty in Iraq.

Leaving Iraq won't exactly create a vacuum, since the 25,000 or so pissed-off, burnt-out British forces have been lying fairly low in the south-east "Shia Rump" already, but their slack can't be taken up by an increasingly scarce Coalition. US forces would have to theoretically replace them.


Obama In Detroit: Fuel Efficiency, Health, & Industrial Competitiveness

Barack Obama made his most detailed economic proposal to date on May 7, during a speech in Detroit. He proposed a sensible remedy for helping automakers while also curbing America's energy consumption. Under his plan, the federal government would help the industry pay for some retiree health benefits if automakers invest in more fuel-efficient vehicles. The partnership idea, which hack economists like Mankiw criticized as an unjustified bailout, would cost an estimated $7 billion over 10 years. Umm...that's cheap.

Auto-makers in Detroit say they're failing because of huge pension and health liabilities. It's not the only cause of their failures, but the problem is systemic across US industry. The auto-makers have a key, legitimate gripe. They're competing against foreign companies whose workers already benefit from universal health care systems, so their balance sheets aren't encumbered by the same obligations. GM and Ford are offering all their manufacturing employees money, sometimes as much as $120k, to walk away. It's cheaper to do that and outsource production. The employees of airlines, airplane manufacturers, and lumber companies are losing their jobs because pensions are going the way of telegraph poles, even though the major portion of those pensions were worker-funded through their unions. The costs have risen, the money wasn't invested well, what was paid in is now outweighed by liabilities, so it's hard to compete.

The automobile manufacturers in Detroit turned on a dime to become the arsenal which won WWII, it was called the "American Miracle" at the time, and that's what Obama kicked off his speech with. He then pointed out that American dependence on foreign oil makes us vulnerable, and that burning oil accelerates global warming. So he offered Detroit a deal: If you make fuel-efficient cars, and I know you can, I will pay for your health care and pensions:
"A clean, secure energy future will take another American Miracle. It will require a historic effort, on the scale of what we saw in those factories during World War Two. It will require tough choices by our government, it will require sacrifice from our businesses, it will require innovation from our brightest minds, it will require a sustained commitment from the American people. It's also going to take leadership on the "Can't do, won't do, won't even try" style of politics of the past. Leadership willing to take on the doubters and the cynics and simply say, "Believe me, we can do it if we really try." I will be that kind of President. A President who believes that America can, a President who believes that when it comes to energy, the challenge may be great, and the road may be long, but the time to act is now. Who knows that we have the technology and we have the resources, and that we are at a rare moment of growing consensus among Democrats and Republicans, unions and CEOs, evangelical Christians and military experts who understand that this must be our generation's next Great Task."
None of the quote above was read off a tele-prompter, nor was any of his speech. It was all off the top of his head, and he was in command; he just came out and said it, what our challenge is as a country: invading other countries to lock up their oil won't work; we have to reduce oil consumption and build another engine. He was greeted with sustained, thunderous applause and whoops of joy by the attending elite. Detroit thinks he "gets it."

Obama has also recognized the crease in which to drive the splitter of a universal health care wedge, and how to generate support for it: Big Business is demanding it. This far outclasses the 3,000-page Clintonian Cryptonomicon plan for health care. We don't need 3,000 pages. The return on investment of health is simple. In World War Two, the Nazis took millions of prisoners and people in concentration camps and worked them in factories for war production. Worked them to death. They had work output per person until average death figured down to the calorie. Whereas the US sent Rosie the Riveters into factories, paid them unheard-of wages and double-overtime on top of that. Guess who won?

Workers need good wages and good health care, and while individuals might not count for much in this cock-eyed world, the corporations they make things for count for a lot. The ability to compete is crucial, and a good, equitable system of health care which makes people healthy is competitive bedrock. Finally, someone understands those fundamentals again, and had the courage to say it in public.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Playing Congressional Chicken With The Lives Of Our Troops

The above is a quote from The Left Coaster, a deft blogger I'll probably get around to adding to the lineup of Caravan-Sanctuaries at right. The most recent post there, "Pelosi and Reid Stumble Back To Point 'A,'" is a good analysis of current events. With war funding, it's obvious a game of chicken has been going on, that the Dims blinked, and it's obvious how much the gang in the White House cares about the professional, volunteer-grunt military: not a rat's ass.

The Democrats, in the abstract and in the cases of a few Democratic members of Congress including Senator Jim Webb, whose son is in Iraq, do care a rat's ass about the military. Certainly enough that they don't want to endanger lives, or politically be seen as de-funding it. So their capitulation on writing another blank check for I-wrack until September 30th, the end of the United States fiscal year, can be seen in that light. In terms of Talking Points and scorched-earth policy, they know what the White House is capable of:
"Our troops have run out of ammunition, and they're being overrun because the Democrats have held up funding."
You probably think that no Administration would be so craven as to hold up bullets to troops in the field. Ha ha ha hah! Guess again, me hordies. The Bush Administration already held up the cheapest, lowest-tech, begged-for equipment for years. They held up cheaper, better, lighter body armor. They held up improved armor and glass on Humvees. These two FUBARs alone, on the most inexpensive of battlefield protections, got a lot of people killed, wounded, and sent into semi-vegetative states, the nether-worlds between life and death.

This past behavior was not mere neglect, but part of a well-established funding pattern. It was triage, a heuristic expression of finite resource allocation along expensive n-best nodes. In English: the troops are low on the BushCo totem pole, and yet more of them would be sacrificed for a domestic political victory. Especially now. To the Bush Administration, they're cheap compared to alternatives.

I'm not holding up the Dims as exemplars of vision, morality, or politics. Far from it. I'm just saying they still exhibit traces of humane contemplation, and with their submission on the Iraq War Funding bill, they recognized they've been out-manuevered by a ruthless calculus. Denying war funding was a battle they weren't prepared to win, and on this issue, Pelosi and Reid now get to retreat, re-group, and learn.

For the record, there already was at least one severe ammunition shortage early in the occupation, and there's one right now, with US police departments not able to get their regular allotments because troops are going through so much of it. In the US commercially, some cartridges now take more than a year to get. This should be telling us a little something about both our free-market supply system and what the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing.

According to the Joint Munitions Command at the Rock Island Arsenal, 1.5 billion rounds of small-caliber ammunition were expended in 2006, up four-fold from 2001. That's 10,000 rounds on average in one year for every US soldier serving on rotation in a combat zone!. Almost 1,000 rounds per month, 250 rounds per week, a full M-16 clip and then some every day. That kind of expenditure is higher than in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. It's the stuff of Zulu Wars, embattled colonial outposts, sieges, and cries of "You're a better man than I, Gunga Din." If they're shooting that many rounds, it's because they're already being overrun.

Monday, May 21, 2007


House Drafts No-Confidence Vote On Attorney General

Various congress-critters, media pros, and bloggers have been predicting that the Attorney General, Alberto Gonazales, is going to resign before the House and/or Senate drop a vote of "No Confidence" on him. The House introduced a resolution today urging Preznit to fire his long-time Texas lawyer, and close friend. The Senate introduced a resolution last week, and Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter sibilanced his way through something which sounded vaguely like a whining threat.

There's a slight problem with the resignation theory, even if the House and the Senate pass their resolutions. It goes like this: then what? Apparently, there are people in D.C. and in the media who, despite being paid lots of money to know how our government works, have not been paying much attention to it. At this point, to think that Bush and Gonzales view Congress with anything other than contempt and condescension from a great height is a feat of self-serving naivete. First off, Bush would sooner have the Secret Service shoot Gonzales than to see him resign. And he sure as a two-headed dog isn't gonna fire him. Gonzales is in the Circle of Trust.

Gonzales is Dubya's consigliere, the special advisor and counselor to the capo of a large crime syndicate. Consiglieri never really resign, you see, and you don't fire them, because the consiglieri know All The Secrets. The only circumstances under which Gonzales will resign is if he gets to maintain de facto control of the Justice Department. If it's announced that he's resigning, that means he's being promoted back into the White House, where he'll continue to ride herd on Justice and the FBI. Throw in the NSA for official measure. That's why he was sent out from there to purge dissent in the Justice Department in the first place, which he did.

Now, if Gonzales dies in a tragic kayaking or auto accident, that's your sign for "We're really getting somewhere." Bloggers and proto-journalists more capable than me, for example Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald, have covered the same basic angle as I do above. With more vitriol and politesse, respectively, because someone's paying them, and they're more on top of it than me. I simply work for a living. But at least I get it. In terms of the Godfather series, Alberto Gonzales is a "Don."

Oh, well. Congress is all about procedure, and this is one more hoop to jump through on the way to the next one. Yes, OF COURSE Gonzales turned Justice into a witch-hunt tool of the White House. So does that mean we doll up in our best media prom dresses, damn the surveillance, spike the punch, and impeach his capo's ass? No, it means we have to wait in line to pursue the Resolution of Mild Annoyance and compete for posterity's forgotten spots in Bartlett's Quotations.

There's still a year and a half to go in this Presidency, senor, and it is the Never-Ending Story. Can a pressure cooker on the stove, warming up on the "Medium" setting, blow some steam before then? Only if the blow-off valve is plugged.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Topography Of Golgotha

For 14 hours yesterday, I was at work, teaching Christ to lift his cross by the numbers, and how to adjust his crown; and not to imagine he thirst until after the last halt. I attended his Supper to see that there were no complaints; and inspected his feet that they should be worthy of the nails. I see to it that he is dumb, and stands before his accusers. With a piece of silver I buy him every day, and with maps I make him familiar with the topography of Golgotha.

Captain Wilfred Owen, The Manchesters

KIA Nov. 4, 1918


I'm very behind on blogging, my apologies.

Monday was Memorial Day, a Federal holiday which was first known as Decoration Day. Until passage of the Uniform Holiday Bill in 1968, it was celebrated on May 30th, which is today, but Congress made it and three other holidays fall on either Monday or Friday so as to make 3-day weekends.
Originally, the people in the northern parts of my country followed the examples of former Confederate states in honoring their fallen, and a General Logan thought the occasion up and started to formalize a practice which first began in Waterloo, New York in 1866.

One suspects it naturally became a time to meditate upon the Republic we had become, echoing
Benjamin Franklin's famous phrase, "A republic, if you can keep it," an issue not fully clarified until 1865. Many minds including mine aren't so sure that clarification or the means by which it was sought were a good thing, but the deep schism noted by Franklin's impish sense of satire had finally, for good and ill, been joined by blood. People low and high, North and South, would go to decorate the graves of young men with flowers, and to remember the half million and more souls who died from cannon, sword, shot and disease on the way to making it so.

I appreciated the weekend and took full advantage of it with my little family and our friends, but I'd have to agree with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which said in their 2002 address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance..." I looked for a parade to attend in Seattle, but couldn't find one or any ceremonial observances whatsoever. I'd been meaning to put up the verse of Wilfred Owen's above on the occasion, and am just getting to it now, but this is the traditional Memorial Day, when in my youth almost every burg, hamlet, or town like mine would have a big parade. Like many Americans, my feelings on America's impulse for Dumb Wars are generally negative, and sometimes this can mix up my feelings on veterans, but even so. I would've liked to go to a parade honoring our past and the sacrifices brave men, women, and children made for each other.


Golgotha, in Wil Owen's verse above, refers to a hillock in Jerusalem whose rocks made, from one viewpoint, the distinctive shape of a skull. From its Hebraic root it would've been known as "the rolling skull," and was a place of execution, conveniently located relatively close to tombs. From the Latin calvaria ("skull") it is known in the New Testament as Calvary, the hill where a man named Jesus was said by his friends to have been crucified, and, over a century later, noted in short, controversial fragments passed down in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius. The original topography of Golgotha has been forgotten, but the location is being fiercely debated, and its contours are ever being worked out anew by commanders who must send soldiers to their deaths.

Wil Owen knowingly compares himself to Judas, close friend and betrayer of Christ, with this line: "with a piece of silver I buy him every day". He is trying to prepare his men against the worst, and he feels like he's betraying not just them, but sacred humanity itself. Owen was a gay man, a captain for the Manchesters who had to lead boys from his home city to near-certain death and traumatic injury in World War One. He had a nervous breakdown during the awful height of
what was dubbed by an old, patrician US President named Woodrow Wilson, even as he opportunistically plunged his country into it as: "the war to end all wars." Owen started writing poetry as therapy in the wake of a nervous breakdown induced by combat, recovering enough to return to his men. To do so, he broke the promises he made to his lover and to a literary circle of friends who admired his writing, and knew the senseless nature of the conflict. Owen hopped a ferry-boat back to Belgium, and died soon thereafter, winning the Victoria Cross while leading his men on an assault across a canal.

War has become less about being gay or straight, child or adult, woman or man than about trying to shield the ones you love from death via the indiscriminate chemical reactions of high explosives delivered by the messengers of distant psychopaths. In that, every one of us is a commander. Command, I suppose, is about doing your damnedest not to betray your charges while sheer idiocy is passed down from above, and telling them, "Listen to me, be quiet, everything is going to be alright." And it will be, it will be. Happy Memorial Day.


Wolfowitz Tagged, Not Yet Bagged

I've been following this little spitball ever since I first saw his pointy asp-face. I've watched him and his brothers in the Trotsky Fraternity hollow out my country and re-devastate well-pummelled parts of the world while getting a lot of people killed. He is the Teacher's Pet Designate of Leo Strauss, the original Neocon. I've written about Wolfie, most recently on Tuesday ('Cry, the Beloved Wolfowitz') when it became certain he was getting tossed out as World Bank President. Now that the much-wished-for worldwide event has been consummated, I will reach deep to marshal all my eloquence:

It's about friggin' time. Clap. Clap. Clap. Clap.

In well-established Neocon tradition, Wolfowitz was dragged out of the Bank by his heels, issuing defiant denials, obscenities, accusations, negotiating demands, hissing threats, spittle, and venom all the way. If you've followed this story even slightly you'll know I'm not being hyperbolic in these descriptions. On his way out, he got himself an extra month, a $400,000 "performance bonus," and he had wanted an official, public commendation from the World Bank for his mistress, former employee Shaha Riza.

Riza is from Libya, and was born in Tripoli; her father was a consultant to the Saudi royal family, her mother was a Syrian who still lives in Libya. She studied International Relations and got a master's degree in 1983 from the London School of Economics. Given her close relationship with Wolfowitz, any intelligence agency would automatically deem her a security risk and a possible double agent, and the length of her relationship with Wolfowitz is not easily established.

World Bank officials aren't exactly the least corrupt people on the planet, so you know if they went to such public lengths to be shot of someone, it must've been really bad. Forcing a president out was unprecedented at that institution, which by tradition has had a US-appointed figurehead. Naj at Iran Facts commented that the Bush Administration might install someone even worse. In reply, I wondered if Project for A New American Century member Dan Quayle is busy. And of course another member, John Bolton is free, and could be proferred.

Now I'll use a hyperbolic comparison: Wolfowitz is a human cobra, and you'd better watch the next lair he holes up in. Real reporters and historians should be tailing him like Humphrey Bogarts in The Big Sleep. Where this man goes, hell follows. It's coming for him, but he is not yet fully contained in all its circles.


Don't Let The Children See...Anything

As the world outside the boundaries of Texas often calls them, the above pictures are of "sculptures." If you're in Texas and happen to be a school teacher, don't take your class to the Dallas Museum of Art, because you'll forever sully their tender eyes with Aristide Malliol's pornographic 'Flora' to the left above, and Auguste Rodin's shocking 'The Shade,' the bare-assed bronze guy to the right. Who knows? They might even see a male torso from a 330 B.C. Greek funerary with...wait, I can hardly bear to say it: genitalia. And maybe you'll be fired, like Sydney McGee was, who had taught elementary school for 28 years. One of the children in her fifth-grade class told her parents she'd seen something naughty:
She [McGee] later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy Lawson, wrote: “During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations.”
I hadn't planned on doing a "Kulturkampf" piece on this lovely Sunday morning. I simply wanted to post some beautiful artwork, and used what I thought to be a thoroughly unprovocative search term: "Rodin." One of the first images returned didn't look at all like a Rodin sculpture, so I clicked on it, and found the NY Times story through a blog post which had attached the Malliol photo. Good morning, America. Hello, all you kiddies in Texas, and behold. Feast your eyes on the pornographies above, and fill your filthy, teeming little minds full of dirty thoughts and questions.

If anyone from the Dallas Museum of Art management happens to blunder in here, someone out here cares, and recognizes what you're up against. You're peein' into the wind, cow-pokes, and I want to help you. I will consider taking one or both of these offensive sculptures off of your hands, and might host them for a modest fee in a more private setting. I think the Malliol could fit nicely in our master bedroom suite. I assure you, no one but family and special guests would see it there. As for the Rodin, we could hide it in our discreetly fenced backyard. I've already built a patio for it, and, if we can agree to terms, would build a small pavilion to protect it from the elements and from prying eyes. My contact info is &#@%texasupthe^**@fellationation.com.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Love Song Of H. Norman Schwarzkopf

Ok. Really, that's all I've got, just the perfect alignment of the words with The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, the poem by T.S. Eliot.

H. Norman Schwarzkopf was the commanding general of the US and Coalition ground forces in the first war with Iraq. He was likeable, quotable in a quaint old media way. It's not well known that his father was the military governor of post-WWII Germany, and immediately after that, became most powerful man in Iran, where he was sent to fix the deleterious effects of a democratic election in 1953. Senior promptly re-installed the Shah, who reigned to protect Western interests until his overthrow in 1979. That background was not bespoke on The Tonight Show. Whereas The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock was one of the greatest works of poet-scholarship ever written in this language, and there are no connections whatsoever to the Schwartzkopfs but through their convenient syllables, and their imperious history.

Growing up, Norman Schwarzkopf didn't see his distant father much at all, and his mother was an unhappy alcoholic. After she became an embarrassment in Washington, he lived with her in Argentina where she was packed off to, and then lived with her in Alaska soon before she drank herself to death. The foreign services of his father were remembered well, or maybe he made others remember his markers, because Stormin' Norman was promoted up through the ranks in a relatively undistinguished career as if by frictionless cold fusion. After he became a functional hero for punishing Saddam, far more famous than his father was, he wrote a best-selling book and ebulliently went onto the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, where he might as well have quoted Eliot: "Though I have seen my head (grown slightly bald) brought in upon a platter / I am no prophet - and here's no great matter."

H. Norman Schwarzkopf was no stranger to the undercurrents of stifled sufferings, and seemed to know that behind him in production rooms women would come and go, speaking of Michaelangelo. As all the cameras and the Moulin Rouge called, he seemed to be thinking, "I am old, I am old, shall I wear my trousers rolled." General Schwarzkopf was holding back untold amounts of pain for a long time, and knew the sham of a cheap, hollow victory against a hopelessly overmatched opponent. He heard the voices in their dying falls and retired to Florida. There was another door in this country to which he wanted no key, there was a veil past which he couldn't see. Good move. I hope he fishes on the peaceful sidelines in healing quietude.

Friday, May 18, 2007


The Strangest Bedfellows

Imagine you're the acting head of the Department of Justice, and you had that title because your boss has been in an Intensive Care Unit struggling for his life for six days. You get a phone call late at night, and the caller tells you that the White House Counsel is on his way with the Chief of Staff to your boss's hospital bed with a paper to sign authorizing the continuation of a progamme you strenuously disagree with. Just before his hospitalization, you and your boss had decided the Vice President had been going way too far with his wiretapping/surveillance, and decided not to renew your support for it. Your entire department is willing to resign over the issue.

You immediately think the White House is trying to pull a fast one, so you call your security detail, you call the FBI Director and tell him to get armed agents to the room, and you get dressed. Your men pick you up, put on the lights and sirens, and race to the ICU of George Washington hospital, to the bedside of your boss. You sprint up the stairs, get there, and stand between the bed he's lying on and the window of his private room. You say hello in hushed tones to him and his wife, tell them why you're there, and you wait.

Moments later, the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff arrive, carrying a piece of paper and a pen for your boss to sign it with. Your boss, known for being a hawkish conservative and despised by the "Left," tells them to stuff it and that due to his illness, you're the Attorney General. At that moment, four FBI agents arrive, and they have orders to let no one be removed from the room involuntarily. The Counsel and the Chief of Staff are startled by the agents. They purse their lips, look at you, turn, and leave without saying another word.

Is this an episode of "24," of "Lost," a re-run of the "X-Files?" No. It all happened in 2004 over warrantless wiretapping. After a decent interval, you leave the hospital room and your cell phone rings. The Chief of Staff is livid, and demands a meeting with you in the White House. Immediately. You tell him you will not meet without a witness present. Later, in the light of day, you bring your witness, and you meet. They pressure you to sign the paper. You refuse, and soon resign your position.

The Bush Administration has been using domestic surveillance to listen not just to Al-Qaeda. It listens to all its political opponents. It records all the communications of Congress and its staffers that it can. That's a big reason why it's so difficult to get Congressional votes against its agendas. Alberto Gonzales was the White House Counsel in the story above. James Comey was the Deputy Attorney General who rushed to the hospital bed. Andrew Card was the White House Chief of Staff. John Ashcroft was the Attorney General fighting for his life. The security and FBI agents were some poor bastards rousted out of an evening. After Comey resigned, Alberto Gonzales took his place as head of the Justice Department. I should not have to connect the dots for you about what has been happening with surveillance since then.

The aftermath of this story is that Ashcroft resigned for health reasons and hasn't been heard from since. James Comey gave testimony to Congress about the events above this week. All phone calls of Congressional representatives that can be recorded and transcribed, are. Almost all phone conversations which pass through Western networks are being word-spotted, sifted, and graded. Up to and including yours and mine. This isn't paranoia. It's my business, and it's how new speech technology and the old paranoia of power works. In every situation where surveillance was legal, it has been applied to everything it could be. That's what criminals do when they're in power, and want to hang onto it.

Keep talking. Talk about whatever you want without fear, but be sure to throw in extra stuff about pulsating cabbages and the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Become the surveilled. By doing so, you're jamming a paranoid power structure, making it spend more on its meaningless watching and twitching, and it'll just fall faster.

And big kudos to James Comey, personal friend of Patrick Fitzgerald, for his principled stand, his resignation, and his testimony in front of Congress. I'll even throw in a big hug to that bashful choir-singer John Ashcroft for raising his head off his pillow and telling the White House to f%#& off.

Thursday, May 17, 2007


When Nations Lose Their Love For War, Or: How To Evolve For Dummies

You will know from my prior posts that I once loved war. When I was eight, I was riding in the back seat of her Subaru when my new step-brother Lance's girlfriend, Meredith, asked me, "Why do you like war so much?" I answered, "War decides the fates of nations and everyone who lives in them." The front seat fell silent for a long time.

I played war against older boys and men, some of whom were officers at War Colleges, through the most sophisticated means then available to me, the board games provided by Avalon Hill or Strategic Simulations, Inc.. Until I began to think about girls in a different way ("Love is a continuation of war by different means," to capsize von Clausewitz), this intellectual heat-sink was my whole-hearted passion. Later, I dabbled in playing the sublimated combats of football, enjoyed computer simulations like Air Warrior, and still watched a lot of war movies. I went to see "Saving Private Ryan" on opening night, and would do so again. War is inherently fascinating, it's a cliff-hanger, and preparing for it is an excellent idea if you, on collective or personal levels, want to survive. Because for a million years, humans, particularly males but females as well, have been uniquely selected for violence.

Paradoxically, our brand of hyper-competitive violence, the one which our DNA strand allowed to spawn, blossom, and turn upon itself, has immense survival value. All the primates have it, but ours is powerfully amplified, and it's what got us here against far more physically gifted enemies. When you look into the close-set eyes of a well-fed wolf, for example, you'll see a magnificent, highly intelligent predator which can run through deep snow in packs for days to bring down its prey. We couldn't do that. If a respectful chill doesn't run through you when those eyes lock onto yours, you've been insulated from too much.

Today, we don't think of predators as enemies, but as dying breeds. Which they are, and they deserve not to be expunged but saved as fellow travelers. They can relate, and if we could converse with them, we'd have one hell of an ancient talk. But let me make myself perfectly clear: these predators were once our mortal enemies, pure and simple. Wolves were more than playful competitors for food. We were locked in a desperate struggle with them and other predators for dominance, food, and species survival. They hated us for our freedoms, ate us far more often than we ate them, and saw us as a source of meat. Which we were.

It must have seemed unlikely many times, but we won the Wolf Wars, and it was they and our other tormentors who were imprisoned and driven to the brink of extinction. We should have great sympathy for them, because we were at that brink ourselves at least once before. We almost checked out as a race, as DNA evidence shows, and we died down to a mere band of individuals. That band was the one which adapted, and some shards of its adaptation must have been fierce and harsh indeed. All of us came from them. We left the forest and the trees starving and bare-handed in search of anything we could eat, stretching our palates so far and wide we've started taking subscriptions to Food and Wine Magazine.

The capacity to organize into collective forms of protective violence saved the human race in wars against predators like lions and tigers and bears, oh my, all of whom were once well above us on the food chain. Where tigers still roamed in unguarded situations, surprising numbers of us were recently meat; upwards of 50,000 people a year were eaten by tigers in India as recently as a half-century ago. But as a race, we long ago refused to accept our status as "meat." When collective organization didn't save us from such a fate, we were motivated to diligently acquire technical solutions, the means to overcome or at least shore up our weaknesses. We made tools which could hit at distances, extending beyond the reach of tooth and claw in order to project the force required to stave off wolves, lions, tigers and bears, to enhance our own ability to eat or tame the largest mammals, and to elevate our status as a predator worthy of respect and fear. Our minds wished for arrows, missiles, and spears, and as if by magic, like the satellites which traverse the orbits of the skies, our nimble hands extruded them.

As we organized ourselves into tribes, races, and nations, while we trained our wounded, wished solutions on our tormentors, we began to use these tools on each other, too, more and more. We didn't stop until the tools reached counterproductive levels of overkill. And here we are, hostage to our solutions. Hollywood apocalyptic fantasies can finally come true, with terrorists nuking Key West as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis flee it in the movie "True Lies," as the predators we once feared are captive in zoos and clinging to a marginal-species existence, and as Republican presidential candidate (Mitt Romney) got the biggest cheers in the debates the other night when he said, "I would double the number of inmates at Guantanamo."

Americans still naively believe, perhaps more than any other people, in the application of death-dealing technologies as palliatives for achieving peace. Probably because of prior successes in shared experience, that belief is sealed into the permeable pores of our mythology like a poison gas, the protective wrapper of which was ripped off when we gained the status of Sole Superpower. As Bill Murray said in the movie 'Stripes,' to inspire his fellow post-Vietnam Army classmates in boot camp: "Hey! We're Americans, and we've been kickin' ass for over 200 years. We're 10 and 1!"

Yeah. I've been to places, have talked to remnants of families dwelling in cities and nations which have been on the receiving end of overkill. They didn't like it. They and their nations lost the love for war, growing bitterly opposed to it in all forms. On my first day in Germany, a thirtyish father with two small children in a stroller poked me painfully and repeatedly in my chest, demanding, "What is your explanation for Dresden? Take your missiles home!" A few years later, in Japan, a teenager asked me, "Why did your country drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima, and then Nagasaki, when you had already won the war? Nagasaki was full of Christians, like you."

I have met German women who were gang-raped by Russian soldiers, and slept as refugees on torn-off house doors in freezing train stations. Men in Japan told me how they, as starving boys, allowed themselves to be gladly stacked like cordwood into train baggage racks; on the racks, they would go a full day's suffocating ride away to pick up the weekly rice ration for their families. I've met angry old veterans who were machine-gunned by .50 caliber bullets which disabled them for the rest of their lives, I can't forget the people with melted faces and arms, the ordinary blokes and hausfraus who still cried over being blown up in their homes and losing their loved ones in the rubble. And once, in a jail in Yugoslavia, I was mere kilometres away from where twenty-five or fifty thousand men, women, and children were executed and buried in mass graves. No one really knows who died or how many in that or other places, and no one told me a better reason for those murderd bodes than to point to vendettas which reach back to the thirteenth century. It didn't seem to work for them, either.

They tried to tell me the madness. The survivors know how terrible and senseless these violent solutions were, and for a time at least, their children and their nations have lost their love for war, as I believe the United States is about to do.

America is going to be utterly defeated in Iraq, and it's not going to be like Vietnam. The die-hards will again cry, "We were stabbed in the back!" Stabbed by those among us who doubted, didn't execute well enough, supported terrorists, or voted anti-war. Stabbed in the back by the public again, like they think happened with Vietnam. For the record, it wasn't the public, but the military which planted the knife then and there. They ceased to believe in victory. In Iraq it was announced this week that voluneeter troops can no longer have MySpace pages, or use YouTube. MySpace is how they communicate with their families and friends. YouTube is how they get news and share it. America is going to have difficulty processing the loss, but the Overkill Machine will have, in conjunction with the governments which built it, entirely have brought the stabbed back upon itself. People don't put up with this. And we know it's not only the living who are killed in war.

This will be different from Vietnam. Vietnam was a wasteful war fought over flawed ideology and theory, but having no appreciable oil reservers, it wasn't an Energy War. When we pull out of Iraq, we will have lost privileged access to resources which power the engines of the the high consumption upon which our way of life is based. The blame-storming will make Vietnam's wrenching, frustrating, insecurity-inducing debacle look like the aftermath of a game of Stratego in comparison. Back then there were some tremors of a required change in lifestyle, but our culture preferred tp reach for more violence to bully and quell them. This is different. When it comes to oil, this war is for keeps. That's why the daily and nightly attacks on the Green Zone in Baghdad are being censored and not reaching us, why the car-bombing of the last open market there cannot be photographed or written about in the press. Its' too painful to admit. It's the whole mythology of twentieth century America we're losing in Iraq and Afghanistan, we're losing a way of life, and that is not unacceptable.

Yet we'll have to face it. Defeats have much to teach. I'm hopeful that America as a country can rise to the challenge defeat poses, and that after it, we'll engage in a great spiritual growth. Victory has a joyous momentum which the Greeks knew naturally bred hubris and led to tragedy. When you gain mastery over something, gain adulation, and become too good at it, if you don't get corrupted and distracted, you'll eventually just get bored. In our cores as humans, it has been more the process of mastery we have reveled in than its end points, and our most delicious joys have not been found in the mutations of murder, but in charting, as a race, a course to the new and right directions which have never rested on rewards. At this point of violent overkill, many are the nations which have lost their love for war, and which are ready for moving on to the kind of the species-wide, collective maturation needed to deal with that capacity for overkill before it extinguishes us.

There are worse things than losing wars and sluffing off the failed facades of imperial ambitions. Go visit Italy, Spain, Holland, England, Japan and Germany to see what I mean. I will be proudest of my nation and its people when they're finally forced to search their souls, to search inside them for what is good and what must be newly done. I'm confident we will find a compass down inside there which will point us in the right direction. The chasm between here and there is still wide, and much heartache and futher conflict lies between, but the chasm between an outdated mythology and a more humble, productive process can be crossed.

When we find the compass, it will point us on a course away from the Energy Wars, to a new American Way of Life which doesn't think in terms of the Age of Oil. In that journey, I hope, lies the transformative answers to blunting the problems of Overkill, rounding off the reflexive need for dominant hierarchies, and addressing the urges we evolved which led to both. I know it's a lot to hope for. My hope doesn't matter, it's neither here nor there, but the time grows nigh when someone had better write and publish "How To Evolve For Dummies." I don't want no more Hiroshimas, no Dresdens, no more Nagasakis. We need to evolve, and I really want to read it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


The Rise And Fall Of Great Powers

By Paul Kennedy:

"Although the United States is at present still in a class of its own economically and perhaps even militarily, it cannot avoid confronting the two great tests which challenge the longevity of every major power that occupies the 'number one' position in world affairs: whether, in the military/strategical realms, it can preserve a reasonable balance between the nation's perceived defense requirements and the means it possesses to maintain those commitments' and whether, as an intimately related point, it can preserve the technological and economic bases of its power from relative erosion in the face of the ever-shifting patterns of global production.

This test of American abilities will be the greater because it, like imperial Spain around 1600 or the British Empire around 1900, is the inheritor of a vast array of strategical commitments which had been made decades earlier, when the nation's political, economic, and military capacity to influence world affairs seemed so much more assured.

In consequence, the United States runs the risk, so familiar to historians of the rise and fall of previous Great Powers, of what might roughly be called 'imperial overstretch:' that is to say, decision makers in Washington must face the awkward and enduring fact that the sum of the United States' global interests and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country's power to defend them all simultaneously."

Cry, The Beloved Wolfowitz

The World Bank Investigating Comittee has released its report on the improprieties of its President, Paul Wolfowitz, who will face a hearing tomorrow sure to feature a litany of abuse if not his outright dismissal. His betrayals of the World Bank may be unsavory and receiving media coverage now, but these are symbolic in comparison to the colossal, empire-ending blunders he made prior to this story. Those still remain shrouded behind the Bullshit Curtain.

Wolfowitz was the academic architect of the Neocons, a group which, by the mid-1990s, had dubbed itself "the Vulcans" to denote their desire to use US military might to attack and reform unfriendly oil-producing Mideast nations. Wolfowitz is a figure of special historical significance because, as the Vulcans gained momentum, he sponsored a shady, transnational Mideast felon convicted of bank fraud named Ahmad Chalabi to play a leadership role in the future pacification and conflagration of Iraq.

Unfortunately, as is now known, Chalabi was an Iranian agent who was devastatingly effective in promoting that nation's interests against the US and Israel. It was Iran's hope to bait the US into invading Iraq to remove or handicap its enemies and biggest local threats: Saddam Hussein, his ruling Baath Party, national sectarian Shiites not under the control of the Islamic Revolution of Iran (SCIRI), and the ethnic Sunnis who make up 20% of Iraq's population. Wolfowitz delivered Chalabi, and Chalabi delivered us. CIA staff who tried to out Chalabi were thwarted by Neocons given carte blanche by Dick Cheney, and these agents included Bob Baer, Milt Bearden, Vince Cannistaro and many others off the record. As Cannistaro says, "Chalabi was working for Iran, and Iran took us to breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

There is a huge difference in scale at work tomorrow. On the one hand, they're talking about when he gave his girlfriend and new co-worker a huge raise at the World Bank. On the other, their investigating committee's statements may as well read as an indictment of the sins of Wolfowitz against the United States and the world:

"Mr. Wolfowitz placed his own personal interests in opposition to the interests of the institution," the report found. "In so doing, he undermined the legal safeguards the institution had in place to protect itself from the harm it has unfortunately now come to experience."

The report reserved its sharpest judgment for the public struggle Wolfowitz has waged to save his job in recent weeks, criticizing the bank's probe in the press.

"It has turned an internal governance matter into an ugly public relations campaign," the report said, asserting that in unleashing "public attacks," Wolfowitz "denigrates the very institution he was selected to lead."

As the Guardian reported today:

Sounding more like a cast member of the Sopranos than an international leader, in testimony by one key witness Mr Wolfowitz declares: "If they fu#& with me or [my girlfriend] Shaha, I have enough on them to fu#& them too."
Cry, the beloved Wolfowitzes? Cry, the beloved countries.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


Why We (Really) Fight: Mythbusting, Pt. V Redux

(Update: I'm re-posting this today because the announcement just went out that the respective ambassadors of the United States and Iran will be following up on their recent meeting again, this time officially, over the next few weeks to discuss how Iran can help in the stabilization of Iraq. The old post below discusses the basics of what drives American and Western foreign policy. While the upcoming talks are a back-down humiliation for the Bush Administration, they're a big win for BushCo because they're not just "talks." They're the start of a long negotiation which will likely include many components like money, markets, and opportunities. Dick Cheney personally did business with Iran when he was CEO at Halliburton, even though it was expressly banned by law. Profits are more important than laws.


US policy makers do not care if other governments or their people are sacrificing children to molten idols of Moloch and worship in Temples to Baal if there's relatively risk-free bucks to be made. Money will be put on the table with Iran early, and it will involve uranium enrichment and who helps them build nuclear power plants. One big US objective will be to kick the Russians out of their contracts to build the plant at Bushehr. Similar to the deal BushCo struck with India. If that's a trade Iran is willing to make, and they're willing to pay in oil or cash along with making some political concessions, they'll get a deal. I strongly suspect that Mssr. Cheney is already working this angle hard, and that it's behind his recent presence in the Mid-East. And yes, I suspect it even though he just stood on the deck of an aircraft carrier and reminded the mullahs he can bomb them whenever he chooses. If we're dealing with "totalitarians," Cheney is behind it, and there's going to be money involved.)


You've almost undoubtedly heard the logic from a friend or a relative: "Saddam was a bad man, and we had to go take him out." Relatives, well....I figure I'm stuck with them, and if they've put up with me for so long, I can pretty well put up with them. It saddens me more when I hear this kind of thing from a friend, because it means they're spouting ignorance, and ignorance in friends tends to concern me. Sadly, it means I'll probably have to speak carefully and be patient while reality sneaks up behind them and whaps them like a thug with a blackjack just behind their ear. You should be able to save a friend from such a fate.

On rare occasion I've blurted out, "You actually believe our government cares whether or not Saddam Hussein was a bad man?
Cool! You must have a trust fund you didn't tell me about. Dinner's on you tonight, thanks, buddy!" Amongst friends, foes, strangers or no, indulging in Non-Delusional Honesty Incidents (or as we call them here at the ABH offices, N-DHI's) regarding our misadventures in the Mid-East have helped keep my social calendar to a manageable level of engagment, and silence, changes of topic, various looks of confusion, indigestion, disappointment, steely rejection, and seething rage can ensue. I've lost friends, too. But all those things are delightful experiences in comparison to living under a Cone of Complete Bullshit (or COC-B).

Here's the AgitPop Foreign Policy Guide, quick and dirty: "Furren" countries are judged not on any moral basis, not ever, despite the pundit classes' well-paid protestations to the contrary. They're judged solely on their willingness and ability to mold themselves in America's image and provide enough stability for corporations to make money. So here's a handy barometer I use:

If there's a McDonald's in a country, it is either with The Program, or they're trying hard to get with it. No McDonald's? No KFCs? No Baskin Robbins, not even a measly Dunkin' Donuts? They're Bad Guys, and you're in Injun country. America's terminology is governed by the McDonald's distinction, because it's a useful measure of whether or not the multinational corporations who run the US government can safely make money in a particular country. If there are a few McDonald's fast food restaurants in Absurdistan, the proper word to characterize its ruler is "authoritarian," or "friendly." If there is no McDonald's, or only one, that country is still run by a "totalitarian regime." August Pinochet: authoritian. Saddam Hussein: totalitarian. One you can make money off of, no problemo, the other is really tricky. See? Rock-solid simple analysis. The best you can do to fleece totalitarians is sell them weapons, a risky and often clandestine exercise.

Afghanistan was invaded not because it had anything to do with 9/11, but because the Taliban had previously negotiated over proposed pipelines, to be junctioned in Kandahar, in bad faith. It also became apparent the Golden Arches were never going to spread their smiling shadows over its craggy landscape. Same basic thing with Saddam Hussein. Refusing the Blessings of the Big Mac is proof positive that a leader is refusing reason, is dangerously totalitarian, and is impossible for our franchises to do business with. Thus the need for "regime change." And what about Iran? Ah, Iran is far, far worse:
Iran has invested its oil wealth in universal education, healthcare, infrastructure bringing clean water and electricity to more than 98 percent of its people, and economic progress. Military spending is a paltry $91 per capita compared to more than $1,500 per capita in the United States and Israel. The social and economic achievements of the revolutionary regime in Iran in the past 25 years look quite progressive in reducing poverty and social inequalities, and as the society liberalises toward a more secular democratic regime, even better progress can be expected in the future. Compared to rising inequality in the United States and Israel, ranked numbers one and two for social inequality among developed nations, the Iranians look pretty damn good.

That, of course, is the problem. If Iran, rather like Venezuela, becomes a regional leader and examplar of social democracy, it becomes a threat to the corporatist and militarist elites that dominate the political classes of Washington and Tel Aviv and exploit the mineral and oil wealth of underdeveloped nations.

Education and successful economic development are a bigger threat than any weaponry if you are a corporatist kleptocrat. And that is why Iran must be bombed, like Iraq and like Lebanon. It has succeeded, and must be bombed back to failure.
The level of distribution, ingredients, preparation, quality, uniformity, and broadcast control required to sell a Big Mac in Mumbai is enormous. By nature, it has to be systemic. This is so axiomatic it has attained the status of an orthodoxy we don't even think about. To us in the West, it's invisible. Whereas, for many Muslims in other countries, they know a McDonald's system will not respect the core dictates of their religion, nor their lives, having witnessed the agents of that system at work in Iraq. Prior to Iraq, McDonald's could buy them off gradually, but now that game is done. Bombing the Iranians won't help bring anyone into line, either. The whole Muslim world has seen with its own eyes that 99% of the Iraq War has been about taking its resources, and they're not about to buy into the American Dream. There won't be a lot of new takers for what we're selling, either, because now they're all "totalitarians."

(So I'm not predicting McDonald's and Starbucks are going to start popping up in Tehran anytime soon. But talking with your enemies is better than the other alternatives. Thanks for Uncle $cam over at American Samizdat for permission to reprint his catch of a Dkos diary.)

Myth-Busting, Pt. VII: There's No Anti-War Movement

"Whom the Gods would destroy, they first make mad."

Euripides, via MacBeth, 2,447 years ago

"Cindy Sheehan is a clown. There is no real anti-war movement. No serious politician, with anything to do with anything, would show his face at an anti-war rally..."
Karl Rove, September 18th, 2005

Yet an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 antiwar protestors stormed the streets of D.C. on Saturday, September 24th, 2005. I was sad to not be in attendance. As country singer Steve Earle noted during a performance at the mall that day, "Not only is there an antiwar movement, the desire to pull out of Iraq is slowly becoming mainstream."

Publicly Traded Media did its best to downplay the numbers of protestors and its coverage of them in D.C. that day, like it wasn't news and the participants were Protesta Non Grata. We learned our lesson on the homefront in Vietnam, and all that. Well, actually, no.

There's the old form of protest of marching in the streets, but there are also 60 million bloggers in the world, the vast majority of which are strongly against Dumb Wars. Totally normal people like me, Bruce at the River Blog, Hope at Deep Confusion, Naj at IranFacts, and tens of millions of others voicing their disgust over what's happening . It's hard to know how many people read all those blogs, but one thing is sure: a lot more thought and discussion is going on in them than in Publicly Traded Media, and it's a very important form of protest. A self-organizing, evolving, momentum-building form of protest. So whether or not people are marching in the streets bearing signs, baring breasts, and burning effigies, which they have been doing by the millions across the world, the real battle for the media is going on over the Internet.

Earlier today, I linked to an ABC News page which contained the video of Barack Obama's interview with a scurrilous, tough-talking little turn-ass named George Twerpanopolous. The ABC News web page wouldn't allow me to outline text and press "Ctrl-C" to copy it, so I had to go dig it of the source html. Those pathetic bastards. They're trying to squelch bloggers, and they had a section on the page soliciting comments with the link title of "See What Others Are Saying." As of 12PM Pacific time, there were a grand total of three comments. As of 10PM Pacific time, there are a grand total of 20 comments. In the words of Chris Farley, "Well, whoop-dee-frickin' Doo!" In the blogsphere, there were probably millions of comments on Obama's interview today. Will Main Stream Media be able to co-opt the blogsphere and bring commenters into their arms, gaining their attention and trust? Anything's possible. Meanwhile, guess who's winning right now?

The Unreal Anti-War Movement has taped a big "Kick Me" sign on the back of Karl Rove's suit, and the kicks are starting to hurt. "Serious politicians" like Arlen Specter will be lining up for free kicks since someone in the White House sent Murray Waas the Un-Dead E-mails, i.e., the ones Karl stupidly thought he had permanently deleted; he's about to learn the meaning of that old country song, "Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Posts of Life."

There is a real anti-war movement in America. It's just moving in new ways people in the White House are Press Corps are too insulated and ignorant to understand.

It's All Part Of My Neo-Con Fantasy

L. Paul Bremer, part of the Axis of Ineptitude, somehow got to write an exculpatory, self-serving, ass-kissing editorial in the neo-con-trolled Washington Post. There's a reason I refer to that infiltrated propoganda tool as the "WaPoo," and I refuse to read it or to pay for the publication until the blogsphere spits something good out of it, of which there is admittedly some. Besides the cant and propaganda, I hear they have a fairly nice entertainment section. As part of my education, I had to read issues of the Pravda (to get a decent grade) while the Soviet Republic was eating itself from the inside out. Reading the WaPoo is disturbingly similar, as commenter "peterp" notes over in the comments at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

Today it's Bremer, tomorrow it will be Liz Cheney, the day after Ken Pollock or Fred Kagan -- or, who knows, maybe even Paul Wolfowitz.

Reading the Washington Post op-ed page these days is like reading Pravda in the twilight years of Communism. It's an endless series of communiques from leading members of the Politburo -- all insisting that nothing has changed and the party is still the vanguard of history. Meanwhile the crops are rotting in the fields, the factories are turning out crap that nobody wants to buy and the workers are all drunk on vodka. But the propaganda machine keeps cranking away.

Which is appropriate, since telling fairy tales is the only core competency of ideologues.

But, peterp, let's not allow neo-cons to give fairy tales a bad name. Let's focus on the bright, moral side of fairy tales. Like, you know, "The Three Little Pigs." Like "Cinderella." And let's not forget "Their Asses Are Grasses, And We're Lawnmowers."

Obama Takes Up Leadership On Iraq

By pressing to put "benchmarks" down into legislation and by scrapping the "timetable for withdrawal" demand. The Bushies do not negotiate, as Obama realizes, and as long as breath is left in the blow-hard lungs of a few crucial bodies, they will never admit to withdrawal. They may start to withdraw, but they won't admit to it because it'd tattoo them with the "loser" label. Meantime, what they will do is agree to benchmarks, because if you're a Bushite, benchmarks are a way to buy some time, have no immediate cost, and may get Congress off your sore butt for a couple of weeks. (As the Bush Administration knows so well, "Denial" is too a river in Egypt! And they'll smash all you unpatriotic al-Qaeda-supportin' girle-men in the mouth if'n ya say sumpin' else.)

With the benchmark issue, Obama grabbed the mantle of leadership away from Hillary, which is coming right after beating her in individual donations by a 2:1 margin (100,000 contributors vs. 50,000), and probably taking the lead in current donations by a 25% or better margin. In taking this stand, he also seems to recognize the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) is of multiple minds about Iraq, and about the ability to maintain a dollar-based "Sole Superpower" front. Benchmarks are an excellent wedge with which to separate the policy elites who still want to grip the Mid-east tightly from those who have come to the conclusion it's time to leave and invest our money into more productive activities. For the foreign policy dead-enders, separation means isolation. And those lightly granted benchmarks will come back to haunt BushCo like a nest of tarantulas, because we all know Iraq...ain't...coming...back.

While some of his erstwhile supporters are disturbed by Obama speaking to the Israel Lobby and making reassuring noises, and by his talk of making a larger, more "boots" oriented Army, these are the necessary and responsible steps to taking power, not to mention securing the lives of his family. I wish we didn't live in this kind of country, but we do, and Obama is being very smart. It doesn't mean he's going to revoke the things he's worked his adult life for, those being greater income equality, job creation, community activism, youth training, strong churches, and Constitutional law. It just means he knows what it takes to get there. As far as not leaving Israel to the wolves and about a larger Army devoted less to expensive gadgetry, these are solid positions. Strangely, I agree with them.

Back during his campaign, his staff called Clinton "Secretariat" for his thoroughbred abilities and winning ways. They knew if they just put him into the right settings, he'd run away from the competition. I'm not sure what nicknames Obama's staff may have for him, but "Muhammad Ali," after the greatest prize fighter of all time, may be one of them. He's awful hard to hit, and he hits awful
hard. His stint on ABC News with George Twerpanopolous this morning was a showcase for a uniquely gifted leader. "Politics" is often fake, but its contests are real, and its masters are real. I would suggest a listen to what Obama had to say, and video of the interview in full is available at this link. Here's just one excerpt:
"What I don't do when I'm campaigning is to try to press a lot of hot buttons and use a lot of cheap applause buttons, because I want people to get a sense of how I think about this process," said Obama. "I think that one of the problems with political speeches is that we all know what folks want to hear. We know who the conventional, stereotypical enemies are on any given issue, and we have a tendency, I think, to play up to that. And I actually think that we're in this moment in history right now where honesty, admitting complexity is a good thing."
Sound to you like somebody who can lead this or any other country effectively? Sound like a man with a plan whom the times demand? This man just might be able to save our ass. Give him some money, because this old country is running out of time.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


The End Of Bachelorhood

When you're ready to love somebody fully, you lift your feet off the ground. You know they're made of clay, and so are hers, but you decide to stop caring so you can both rise up into sweet vulnerability, security, and trust. I read something like the piece below to my wife soon after I met her, and not much later, I read another iteration from a napkin at the wedding of two friends just before they said their vows. The napkin and the lines went missing and were jumbled up in my mind. For five or ten years. Back where they started, they were about commitment-phobic, globe-trotting, gun-shy bachelors like me who were still hoping to find the right woman. I was lucky, and finally found her, or she found me. Both my feet are still off the ground, and here's my attempt to reassemble the lines I once wrote:
Perhaps you've heard the distant
conversations which went on,
describing "the trouble with Tom."
Good women all, and in many interstices
I tried to suspend my disbeliefs.

Yet their faces failed to float beside me
along the neon lights and dark cornices.
I must admit I thought of settling
for a someone reached by loving,
in her way, and tightening my arms.

But I held out for a Hepburn, an Audrey
or a Katherine, against odds for a woman
to seize the rudder on my African Queen,
to slap mosquitoes past corporate boundaries
and rendevous with me in evening gratitudes.

Long abiding for your exegesis,
I express thee now unblamed.
We will spend our days in understanding,
unlocking ignorant eons and restraints.
Before the heavens, thou wert made.

Come to breakfast with me,
and make whole thy apparitions.
We were sent my dear to steal the purple
woven silks shipped rich from Jaffa,
and your face is already here.