Saturday, August 23, 2003

Baghdad as it is

A new blog from Baghdad, here, provides experiences and insights I didn't appreciate, and I read up on the Iraq situation quite a bit, using the alternative sources. So if this woman's take on what's happening in Baghdad is for real, we have made one hell of a mistake, and are perpetuating it. How ugly can this get?


Unarmed Truth

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become reality. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty years ago

The fortieth anniversary of the March on Washington is Sunday, August 28. I feel the need to do something special to observe that day. I listened to Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech this evening on the History and Politics Out Loud site that I mentioned in an earlier blog; also heard his sermon entitled "Why I Oppose the War in VietNam." Truly inspirational, but with the ever-widening disparity between rich and poor in this country and throughout the world, with the imperial warmongering of the Administration, with the repression of civil rights in the United States and elsewhere, I wonder how Dr. King would find today's world.
Inspirational...but saddening to hear how little we've evolved in the generation-plus since the sixties. Indeed, hearing the hopeful voice, the reasoned tones of Dr. King, leaves me with the impression that we haven't evolved at all, that instead we've become a mean-spirited, angry place, full of self-hate, bigotry and greed.
Yeah, I need a dose of inspiration and will seek it out between now and eight days from now, in celebration of that Sunday, forty years ago.


Good News

Feeling a little cranky, I went searching for some good news. I found some on, in the form of an AP story citing a decline in favorability ratings for President Bush here in the Golden State. A hairline break in the thick marine layer of stupidity that is California politics.


Thursday, August 21, 2003

cockamamie regulations

I think John is right on this. My Dad worked for Edison for 35 years as a lineman, and that’s basically how he sees it too. Without the plants they were forced to sell off, Edison and PG&E couldn’t ramp up to meet surges in demand. Or something like that.

Electric Utilities Dereg, redux

Here's a hint: The electric utilities were *not* deregulated. Instead,
they were subjected to a cockamamie set of new regulations that
eventually led to the catastrophe we face today. Here's an example:
"The new regulations forced utilities to sell off their gas and
oil-powered plants, which caused utilities to lose control over power
production and to become dependent on power plants for the electricity
they needed to serve their customers. California legislators also
forced utilities to buy electricity strictly on a daily basis. The
rationale put forth was that in such a setup utilities would be
prevented from closing long-term deals with power plants that might keep
competitors out of their market. The chaotic effect of this regulation
was that utilities had to renegotiate their electricity prices with
power plants every day, and therefore endure huge energy-price
fluctuations." < >.



Pssst, seen Osama?

OK, here's the latest rumor. One of the 135 candidates for governor of California is really Osama bin Laden, in disguise. Wanna know which one? I'll give you a hint: it ain't Ahhnold. Pass it on.


Bobblehead Rhetoric

The Bush administration is all about disinformation. Take the comments of Paul Bremer in Baghdad today. He said two things that jumped out at me:

First, that we are engaged in a war that was declared against us on 9/11/01. Really? I thought we declared war on terrorism. And what about the USS Cole, the US embassies bombed in 2000, etc., etc. What were they, pre-war skirmishes? It might be argued that Bremer’s comment didn’t mean anything literal, that it was just rhetoric. Right. And another opportunity to use “9/11” in public comments, just to keep the public disfocused on the disissues.

Second, he said that if we don’t succeed in fighting the terrorists over there, by which I presume he meant in Iraq, then we’ll have to fight them here, in US cities. Whoa, Nellie. The Bush administration, to and including the President, has not missed an opportunity to remind us that Al Queda is already here, that the threat of attacks in the US is “very real.” They want to use planes against us, and trains, and … what was it? Ferry boats? What kind of vacuous, bobblehead rhetoric is this?

I am aware that Mr. Bremer was perhaps speaking under some duress, in the shadow of the attack on the UN headquarters. I imagine he lost friends or colleagues there. It would be beneath me not to acknowledge this cause for grief. It was another tragic waste of life in a rising tide of such tragedies, which US foreign policy seems hopelessly impotent to stem.


Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Revisionist history

The amendment of the former headline on the White House website from Bush "announces combat operations in Iraq have ended" during his speech atop the aircraft carrier to the present headline that he "announces major combat operations have ended" is indeed chickenshit. From a president who doesn't comprehend the concept of "revisionist history" when attacking those who are calling him on his lies about the prewar intelligence, he sure knows how to engage in it when it suits him. It's amusing to see his minions in action, dutifully changing the headline three months after the fact to fit the later-developing data of the state of combat operations. Chickenshit, yes. Amusing, too. And hypocritical. You betcha. Stupid to get caught at it, see here, yeah, that too.


What's the big deal?

I don't get it. What's the big deal about the headline
change? So, maybe the headline writer and his superiors thought that
the demise of the Baathist government meant the end of combat
operations. So what? So what if they were wrong? So what if they
later corrected the headline? That's the beauty of the Internet. You
can correct yourself on the fly.

The question of whether or the invasion was a good idea is a completely
separate issue. This business about the headline is chickenshit.


Texas twostep

What's going on in Texas is every bit as dire a travesty as the grotesque circus of politics in California. Here's a letter, written from exile in NM, by Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis.

Memory Hole

There's a site that doesn't allow us (them, too) to forget the error (read lies) of the past. Like "The Shadow," the Memory Hole knows. Heh, heh, heh. (BTW, for old broadcasts of The Shadow, The Whistler, Superman, Texas Rangers, Jack Benny, etc., go here.)
So what they don't want you to recall is Bush's words when he landed on the carrier. See the old version and the new version of the White House hype about the end of "combat" in Iraq here.



Yes, my friend, President Bush was right about one thing: He said that this would be a long hard fight. In fact, I remember many times, listening to him before the war, thinking that he was doing his level best to prepare us for his long and dismal madness.


Tuesday, August 19, 2003


Let's see, before the Iraq madness began:
(1) The "appeasers" were saying "let the UN keep inspecting, because it's hard to find those weapons real quick." Turns out the appeasers were right.
(2) The appeasers were saying an invasion would give rise to "a hundred Bin Laden's." Turns out the appeasers were right.
(3) The appeasers were saying an occupying nation would spend billions rebuilding Iraq. Turns out the appeasers were right. And right about the difficulty of enforcing the "US brand" of "democracy" on Iraq, and right about the cost in human life, and right about the outrage of other Muslim nations, and right about the loss of credibility among other nation-states.
What was Bush right about? Anything?


Electric Dereg

Well, I don't know about the rest of the treehuggers, but I'm sitting in front of my fan, wondering if I have the energy to go empty the dishwasher.

The definitive picture of LBJ - reader's comment

Per your suggestion, I have accessed and viewed the pix of LJB. I
agree, the guy looks unhappy. I even agree that it is a poignant
portrait of the limitations of power taken in the very seat of
unlimited power. But there my interpretation begins to differ from
yours, alas!
To maintain on the grounds of this photo that LJB and his official
standpoint vis-a-vis USA's participation in the Vietnam war can or
should be exonerated on the basis that he is capable of feeling and
expressing distress at the fate of one near and dear to him and to
assume that he was capable of experiencing the same emotion for the
thousands of men, women and children whose lives were affected by the
war is a story untold by this photo. The basic human skills required to
feel and express sorrow regarding the distress of a loved one are
commonplace. As regards the alternative, to feel for face-less
thousands, a different set of skills is required: courage,a social
conscience,and a sence of responsibility for all life,not just those of
neighbors or "kin", which should be a prerequisite for power.
The latter are not apparent in the photo I viewed, while LJB's record
during the war documents that he did not own those skills. He is not a
different caliber of Texan in my book, rather Bush is just another
example of the same kind of "a man's got to do what a man's got to do"
mentality that Texas seems to excel at producing.


Deregulation of electric utilities

I have a question. A few years ago, I attended a gathering here in Santa Barbara to learn the pros of electric utility deregulation, a gathering that was well attended by enviros, who supported deregulation entirely. There were graphs and charts of benefits to the consumer: lower rates, better service, stuff like that.
Am I dreaming? I think not. So my question is this: Where are the enviros (one of which I was and am) now that deregulation has been found out to be evil incarnate?


Monday, August 18, 2003


Had George W. Bush been president in 1938, I don't think it can be assumed that he would have joined forces with Chamberlain, or that the US would have been among the Allies. Of course, that question just begs the conundrum of nature vs. nurture. Is Mr. Bush a product of his intrinsic ideology or his times, and can the former prevail a priori? If so, given his self-assured arrogance, and the kind of men he places in seats of power, WWII may have looked much different.

Of course, I prefer to believe that the surpassing goodness of the American heart would've won out. But isn't the heart of the German people also good? Oh what a world it might've been. And still might be.


Can't shut me up

I just read that Sunday's Nielsen Ratings were way down for the PGA golf championship last weekend, doubtless because Tiger Woods wasn't in the hunt for the Wannamaker trophy. He ended up tied for 39th place or something and the final round was a battle, a thrilling one to be sure, between two normies: decent-looking nobodies who played good golf but had no hype, no endorsement packages, nothing but solid shot-making. Tells you a bit about the power of advertising, but nothing we didn't already know. But here's the deal. First realization, the ad-makers, the image-makers, are being hoisted on their petards by such an occurence. True, they make millions (with a "b") when Tiger's in contention. but conversely they lose money when he's not. And with golf (unlike, for example, Tour de France) "on any given Sunday."
Which, however, gives rise to a fine idea for a plot for a made-for-TV movie: Star golfer (or tennis player or cyclist or whatever) isn't in the hunt for the title because of the fates or a case of the yips or indigestion or whatever and the network can't handle it and so they bribe the leader to take a fall, to dump a few wedge shots in the lake, to hit a few volleys into the net, just to advance their baby into the final-day battle. Good setup. Now to write the script.


A welcome response


I wonder how George Bush would be remembered had he been President in 1938, having joined forces with Chamberlain to take out the Nazis? I'm certain that an assembly including C. Lindberg, J. Kennedy, Lord Darlington and E. O'Dowd would have jeered this most uncalled-for violation national sovereignty. They would have assured us that negotiation, and the good offices of the League of Nations would have avoided the sensless death of hundreds of our soldiers, bringing us instead peace in our time.



A thousand bites

"Wag the Dog," fascinating premise, is now passe. The effective means by which to distract the American public from the Administration's mad machinations is by an ongoing series of fascinations, perfect sound-bite-sized stories with visuals of mass appeal: murdered wives-with-child, momentary massive blackouts, weather stories (always good), and of course jet-fighter landings on aircraft carriers. These are cheaper than wars, and much more manageable; and the moment one wears out, a new one may be proffered.


LBJ's image

This is, for me, the definitive photo of LBJ. He's listening to a tape from his son-in-law, Captain (now Senator) Charles Robb, who was serving in Vietnam. It's said that LBJ was overcome by emotion on hearing the tape. He doesn't look likely to holler "bring 'em on!" does he? This was a different caliber Texan.


Another dead soldier

This is how sick I am. Another GI died today and I'm glad. Why? Because with each death, the toll rises and the idiocy, the consummate madness, of our imperial conquest becomes manifest. Also, on a personal note, I am validated in my daily display of a sign that I carry around (holding at conspicuous places in Santa Barbara, lodging through the sunroof of my Volvo when I park conspicuously) that says, "Hey, hey, USA, How many soldiers died today?"
This madman in the White House has driven me to my own madness. I hate him for it. Or is it him I hate?

Oops: New to this

The URL for the History and Politics Out Loud site I wrote about above is

History and Politics Out Loud

A modest site, with amazing content: Audiotapes of luminaries from FDR to Clinton, including, of course, Nixon's extended conversation with Haldeman/Ehrlichman about the Watergate breakin, with a running transcript to assist. Even more illuminating is a series of phonecalls LBJ made in 1964, agonizing with advisors and friends (anyone who would listen) over the decision to increase the military commitment in VietNam. It's important to hear, especially for us old Johnson-haters. The man really was tormented over his options and he got precious little help from those he consulted. Whatever I thought of LBJ, I know now he's not at all the madman who now occupies the White House -- Mr. "Bring 'em on!"-- who pumped his fist, saying "Feels good," moments before he announced to the nation that he was ordering the invasion of Iraq.
And, for fun, you can listen to a cut of a tape of Clinton denying sex with various ladies.

Glad to be here (and where, sir, is that?)

My first blog entry, ever.
Look out, cyberworld, I am unleashed. No longer merely a pitiful comment-maker, no longer relegated to wimpish email reactions to others' writings, I have entered your world, bloggers. Incisive observations, written with deft craft and hip wit, to follow. Sometimes.

Home Movies

In today’s LA Times, I read an article about Home Movie Day at the Japanese American National Museum in LA. People took their old home movies, “old canisters of film, stored away for decades, glimpses of lives and places that no longer exist.”

It seems the purpose was not only to share them with others, but to be able to view them for the first time in many years, perhaps the first time ever. The article didn’t explain this, but I imagine a lot more people possess old movies than have the old equipment needed to view them.

This was a very emotional process for the participants. I can only imagine. People have grown up, grown old, passed on. Homes have been left behind or have disappeared. Communities and landscapes have changed. The film archivist who lead the session said, "The world is changing in really subtle ways."

We don’t really have any old movies in my family. We have lots of photographs. And I can relate to the fundamental constant of human life, that the precious past is falling away into a yellowing mist. Those were the days. Beautiful days.

But what really jumps out at me from this article — just as clearly as the fact that I miss grandparents, dogs, childhood, the youth of my parents and the innocence of my community — is that the world is changing. Not just my subjective experience of it, but the world itself. The world is different, we are adapting to its new character. Is it still home? If so, what does that say about us? If not, what then?