Saturday, September 13, 2003

Michael Moore and The General

Michael : Mike's Words

Michael Moore's letter to General Wesley Clark. Don't miss this.

A Sad Farewell, well not really

This is the last dispatch from Sergeant Sean___ from Iraq. For months, he has maintained the blog, Turning Tables, but tonight is his last post before he returns (without injury, thank God) to the States. He gives a long interview, which is posted to his site, that lays out his experience.
A gentle soul, a sensitive, benign voice of our military. He will be missed.

Patriot Act rears its ugly head again

Yahoo! News - President Asks for Expanded Patriot Act

The USA Patriot act of 2001 is a monster that eats people. It’s a threat to our civil rights and a callous insult to every military man and woman who has served to secure our liberty.

Now the president, apparently oblivious to the public’s disdain of his Orwellian affronts to the character of our republic, is seeking to expand the act again. I thought this was dead months ago, but obviously the neocons are tenacious as terriers.

What irks me the most about the president’s position is the assertion that law enforcement is hamstringed by the law. Two thoughts: 1) If they can’t enforce the law within the law, they’re an ineffectual joke and I don’t want to hear them crying. 2) Duh, no joke George. The constitution, the codes and case law have sought to protect the people from the tyranny inherent in power since this nation was founded.

"The House and the Senate have a responsibility to act quickly on these matters," Bush said. "Untie the hands of our law enforcement officials so they can fight and win the war against terror."

This is no joke. President bush wants “Administrative Subpoenas,” giving prosecutors the power to demand documents from citizens without court approval. And the power to hold people in jail without bail, without have to show that they’re dangerous. Both are so unconstitutional, it’s staggering.

Past efforts by John Ashcroft to expand Patriot have included revocation of citizenship of terrorism suspects, the withholding of information about detainees, and … get this … a DNA database of people associated with terrorist groups. That’s frightening; the kind of desperate power-mongering I never thought I’d see.

If there is evidence sufficient under the Fourth Amendment, let the accused terrorist be brought to justice as provided by our laws. That’s what we do, because that’s who we are.

An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.
- Thomas Jefferson

"Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action."
- George Washington

Friday, September 12, 2003

The horror, the horror

My God, Where have I been? It just now coalesced in me, the observation that my coblogger, Kyle, made a few posts ago (that the US Army is recruiting Mexicans and Latino US citizens to do the fighting in Iraq) with Bush's announcement that we've made Iraq our battleground against terror, the effect of which leads to the endless nightmare that Riverbend describes regularly in her blog from Baghdad.
Here's the coalescence: We've manipulated the press, the world, even our enemies, into a war that we are fighting using others' bodies to do battle on others' soil. The classic, "Let's you and him fight."
Too bad for Bush it's still killing GI's regularly, but not as bad for Bush as it is for the dead GI's, Iraqis and Mexicans.

The bigger they are...

I just revisited the site I referred to in my previous post and saw something I'd not focused on before. Of all the recent presidents whose polling numbers were charted, only Bushes I and II hit those nutsy highs in the eighty-plus range. Neither Reagan nor Clinton, the "popular presidents" reached such heights. They wallowed in the fifties/sixties ranges--and were re-elected. But Bush I collapsed, from super-inflated numbers to the thirties as the election approached.
I dunno, but as a Bush-despising observer I gotta say, I love what I'm seeing.

Fun, fun, fun

A fabulous site to follow, if you're a nut about such things, as I've become, is Polkatz's charts of the various polls. He's tracking nine polls, showing the ups and downs of Bush's popularity as well as public reaction on other questions. Very thorough, very revealing.
Most fun, at the moment, is watching the striking parallel between the downward slopes of Bush I's popularity during his one term and Bush II's. The latter's spiked about as high as his father's (both tirggered by wars against Iraq) but has plummeted similarly and now has fallen faster, sooner than his Dad's.
Let's hope Bush II keeps up the good work.

I concur

Being of Swedish descent, having visited that fine country many times--lived there for a year in my youth--and with many cousins and a sibling who reside there, I feel as does my co-blogger, deep sadness and sympathy for the Swedish people. I don't follow politics there very much, but I do recall that twenty-something years ago their prime minister, Olaf Palme, was similarly killed. He was out walking his dog, or something. Wthout bodyguards, as was Ms. Lindh.
That tells one much about Sweden, doesn't it? I hope they don't over-react, as the US invariably does, and turn into an armed camp as we have. I understand their sadness--feel it myself--and even rage. I just hope they continue to display the goodness that abides in their nature.

Swedes Mourn Lindh

Headline: Swedes to Mourn Lindh at Rallies Before Euro Vote

This blogger would like to express his profound sadness at the brutal murder of the Swedish Foreign Minister, and sympathy with those who've experienced this loss. My thoughts and prayers are with our friends in Sweden.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

It could have been...

The attacks on 9/11/01 were a chance for us as a nation to love and be loved. I am convinced that if we would've reached out to the world with love and in peace, we would have brought the terrorists to their knees.

Words fail

I attended a candle light vigil this evening on the second anniversary of the 9/11 attack. A sweet, nonpolitical gathering in the courthouse garden in downtown Santa Barbara. Some singing, some praying. Very solemn.
But later, after an hour or two of late-night surfing of the usual leftist crazy websites, I again grew enraged at the course our nation has taken, the mad rush to war, the killing and maiming and endless warmongering. But then that anger morphed to dismay, to sad disappointment, when I found this site, this powerful series of photos taken a few days after 9/11/01, showing how loved this nation was around the world, photos taken in major cities and small towns throughout Europe, the middle and far east--everywhere--of people crying over our loss, placing wreaths at our embassies.
This lost love, this lost honor, is the fault of one man. George Bush. He has made this a hated nation. This makes me sad, so sad.
And mad as hell.

It Doesn't Get Any Better Than This

If you maintained any lingering doubts about parallels between America's present course and that of the Roman Republic--and if you want a finely painted overview of the decline of Rome into an imperial dictatorship--click here. Can't wait to buy the book!

Black Copters

Headline: Black copters over Oregon

Check out this cool conspiracy theory involving black copters, forest fires, and a visit from ... well, let's just say he ain't Smokey the Bear.

Bush Resigns!

For the full text of his resignation speech, on the eve of the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, click here.

Salam Pax Webchat

BBC Webcat with Salam Pax:

This is really interesting. Basically, Salam Pax is interviewed online by the BBC audience. Here's a sample:

"Question: When do you expect / hope the coalition will pull out of Baghdad and give you back your city?

Answer: As soon as we're back on our own feet. If they pull out of Baghdad too soon, we'll have chaos. If they stay after we have a government, and when it looks like we are able to run things, it would be unacceptable. For the moment I think we need their help. It's less the military force, more people helping us in governance issues, administration, showing people the way. "

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Raed is making money

To Kyle and others who want to know whazzup with Salam Pax's blog lately (his latest post is 8/31) I must admit my earlier suggested link to a RealPlayer interview with him by way of Daily Kos is not fruitful any longer. Lost in Kos' archives, I guess. But you can learn what Salam has been up to here.

Don't consider the source

Okay, so the source is Al-Jazeera, but the report is too crazy not to be true. Not only are we running out of cash from the seized Iraqi assets that we've been using as handouts and salaries, we've been duped about a reported find of gold bullion. Not likely this item will find its way onto Faux News.

"A senior Congressional aide described the cash crunch as a “mess”.

“Seized assets are down to almost nothing. Oil money is a mirage in the near term,” said the aide who asked not to be identified.

And according to a recent report to lawmakers, gold-coloured bars which were seized with much fanfare by occupation troops in Iraq, appear to be melted-down shell casings made mainly of copper. US officials had believed they would be worth at least $600 million."

As I said, too funny to be fiction.

Where is Salam Pax?

Where is Raed ?

No entries on his blog since 8/31. Anybody know what's up?

The good old Cold War

I was researching the famous Nixon-Khrushchev "kitchen debate" in connection with the book I'm working on and found this edited transcript. My reaction was this: Nostalgia.

Oh, how tranquil was this exchange compared to the rhetoric of today. And this was at the absolute height of the Cold War. Khruschchev was USSR's most belligerent Premier and Nixon was soon to run for president (against JFK) on a platform that urged even greater containment of "Soviet expansionism. " Can you imagine such dialog between Bush and Osama, Bush and Saddam, Bush and anybody he deemed our enemy?

Shock and awe

The Independent article that Kyle links to in the immediately preceding post is so .... so .... I'm blogless.

Latinos: Uncle Sam Wants You!

News: "But while officials praise the willingness of Mexican Americans and other Latinos, the strategy has been denounced by anti-war groups as a cynical exploitation of impoverished young men who are lined up to be little more than cannon fodder."

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

It works if you work it

I think we should admit we're just causing more problems by continuing to occupy Irag and Afganistan with our troops.. We need a strategy of fighting terrorism that doesnt involve the use of our military. We should create a fund for reconstruction of Iraq that could only be used for contracts with corporations from nations in Europe and the Mideast which would be selected by the UN. Part of the job of reconstruction should be providing security and consultants in organizing a democratic government. Putting the UN in control and supporting its efforts will make the US again a member of the democratic international organization that should have the responsibility for this task.

Sorry, I Gave at the Office

Iraq Estimates Were Too Low, U.S. Admits

You need how much now? $142 billion? Gee, I'm sorry, but no. I feel bad about it, I really do. I always hate to turn people away when they ask, especially when they ask nicely. But it's just got a good time for me to be supporting another country, especially since the one I'm propping up now is running $180B in the red.

Look, Mr. Bush, thanks for stopping by. I wish the answer could be positive. What? We're going to have to fight them in our streets? Well, hopefully they'll be able to read my No Soliciting sign. How's that? You've got 'em on the run? Good for you, dear boy. But my answer is a resounding Hell No. Please don't take it negatively. Careful crossing the lawn, don't step in the wmd.

Responsibilty for Bush

Yeah, I suppose I agree with Kyle's observations about our common responsibility for the present administration. Grudgingly so, because I am a lifelong liberal-to-leftist. But I do indeed drive a vehicle with more horsepower than I need, I live fully immersed in Americana (but without TV), and I buy groceries with way too much packaging. So, Bush is my president, Rumsfeld's Secretary of my State, and so forth. I'm responsible for those ogres, just as, I suppose, Bush is responsible for all the lies he uttered in his State of the Union Address.
Okay, I am part of the "we," and as such am hell-bent on changing the direction of this nation. Too long have we been bullies, not custodians, on this planet. Our force conquered this land, subjugated its peoples and plundered its resources--and the peoples and resources of other lands--and we whities wallowed in our resultant wealth. Then, when we won the Cold War, we wasted the victory by dancing in the streets and going on a buying binge.
I agree with Kyle, that "we must be the change we wish to see in the world," no less thoroughly than Gandhi was during his life. It's not easy, with all the distractions and troubles, but it's harder not to be.

Salam Pax emerges

For those of you who are fans of the the "Baghdad Blogger," whose blog, Where is Raed?, has become famous on the web, you may now listen to its author (Salam Pax is not his real name), courtesy of BBC. To link to the Real Player presentation, go to The Agonist blog and scroll down a bit.
The interviewer asks Salam about that awful night before the "Shock and Awe" bombing began, when Salam had learned by telephone from Britain that squadrons of B-52s were taking off from an airbase, Baghdad bound. Salam launched this news on the Internet and we readers of his blog waited for the duration of the six-hour flight, hoping he'd survive the bombing. He did survive, of course, but his blog was silent for three days and we feared the worst.
It felt, for me, a bit like that final, fabulous scene in the oldie, Foreign Correspondent, where Joel McRae is broadcasting to America from London as the German bombs are beginning to fall, telling America that the lights are still burning in England. One of the great moments in film.

All, all honorable men

Last night, I wrote of my reactions to Mr. Bush’s speech. I wrote, “They say you get the government you deserve, and I'd like to know just what the hell we did to deserve George Bush the Sequel. Come to think of it, I can think of a few things. We're doomed.” This prompted Erik to ask who is the “we” I was referring to.

Well, the people of the United States, generally, and in a broader sense, the secular establishment of the western world. The citizens of the empire.

George W. Bush is not an anomaly in human experience. He is not some Klingon commander that hijacked our ship and crew; at least, not without a little help from the Courts. He is, as we all are, the product of our history. We have made him out of our collective choices, when we’ve chosen how what passes for American culture will be expressed, and how we will deal with other peoples and the environment.

President Bush is the product of the conservative, authoritarian, militaristic, manifest destiny attitudes that has been a pervasive thread in American life for a long time. He is a manifestation of our impulses to get revenge and assert our might, to exploit our natural resources, to have some damn law and order around here.

OK, some of us identify ourselves with other threads in America’s history: liberal, progressive, libertarian, anarchist, indifferent, oblivious, etc. That’s valid; we can say, “he’s not my choice.” But he’s still our mutual problem, our mutual responsibility. So we begin with some questions: What is the payoff to us, generally, of having a man like this in the oval office? What are the costs in terms of economics, conscience and blood? Are the costs so great that we’re willing to vote in someone else, and give up the payoffs, the empire, and the profits?

Are we willing to be the change we wish to see in the world, or shall we leave that role to the Germans and the French?

He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? …
O judgment: thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Demand that Bush learn to speak English?

One of my favorite blogs, Daily Kos, has opened a delicious thread (with hundreds already posting to it) that seeks suggestions for the precise form of the pound of flesh to be exacted in exchange for the 87 billion dollars Bush has asked for for his wars. The thousands of you who are reading this blog are, with no reluctance whatsoever, directed there so long as you return shortly.

Building or rebuilding?

I've wondered about this for some time: These astronomical quotes of sums to "rebuild" the electrical, water-delivery and oil-delivery systems, as well as the other infrastructure items (including, I read somewhere, a number of hospitals and schools in the thousands), are all these "rebuilding" projects or "building" projects? I mean, I don't recall being told that we bombed their water supplies and oil wells. In fact, I recall that we avoided such targets and that in fact very few oil wells were set afire by the Iraqis as we advanced. And we certainly didn't bomb schools and hospitals. Did we?
It's likely, seems to me, that in these humongous numbers we taxpayers are being asked to build a new, shining nation, not simply to repair the damage we did when we invaded. Indeed, words like "modernizing" have crept into the post-Iraq lexicon. If that is so, I ask, what about our own schools, hospitals, infrastructure and, for God's sake, our own power grid?
If Bush's buddies build a new nation for the Iraqis at our expense, do we at least get to visit from time to time? What will a day pass cost to IraqLand? Does that include rides on the Baghdad bullet train and the the Tikrit trolley?

A deadline worth watching

This Saturday, a "coalition" policy of disarmament goes into effect in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, site of the recent bombing that killed the Shiites' important cleric, Ayatollah al-Hakim. The decree was put off for a week after the bombing, but now will be enforced, says the Army.
But it's not going to be obeyed, say the Shiites. No way will they leave their religious leaders exposed to attack, since there have been repeated attempts on the lives of their imams (the bombing that killed al-Hakim was the second attempt), and the US has proven itself incapable of providing protection.
The disarmament will initially be effectuated by Iraqi police (that will be fun to watch--a civil war), then by the US Army if necessary. What's Arabic for "my cold, dead hand"?

Blunders on blunders

We are now told that although we don't need more American troops in Iraq, we do need more troops/police/border patrols, provided by other nations or by Iraqis. And so why did we disband the Iraqi Army, and why did we disable all midrange Baathist civil servants? I'm not crazy in wondering these things. A former Iraqi Army officer, now out of a job, is too.

We Missed Him, and Our Chance

Headline: Dalai Lama offers guidance in Indiana

I can't believe we missed him. The Dalai Lama was here in California yesterday. Talk about the perfect choice for Governor of California. Maybe he could have been persuaded to serve. He could do it from Dharamsala; Californians are no strangers to absentee government. At least we'd have leadership that makes sense. Can you imagine what a man like that could do with the job?

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.-- The Dalai Lama

Speaking of leadership that makes sense, the speech from the Cabinet Room this evening left me feeling like a fish out of water. My dog's water dish has more depth than the president does. My dog has a clearer, more self-aware sense of her place in the world. They say you get the government you deserve, and I'd like to know just what the hell we did to deserve George Bush the Sequel. Come to think of it, I can think of a few things. We're doomed.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

To the victor goes the truth

This video, "The Victor is Not Asked if He Told the Truth," about five minutes long, is entertaining, provocative. I especially like the scenes and score from "Deliverance." Makes me want to learn how to produce bigtime stuff on the Internet.

From Bush to Bust

Bush's speech was just vapid crud. Almost as vapid as the various quoted reactions of other "leaders," including Democratic contenders for his job. Dean spoke out a bit, but Gephardt, Kerry, Edwards. These people don't belong in the opposition to Bush. They belong in his gallery.

If you believe all's well in Baghdad, Colin, read this

A day in the life of postwar Baghdad: in searing heat,filling water bottles from a dripping faucet and hunting for a long-disappeared neighbor. Baghdad Burning

Funtime at the madhouse, or is it madtime at the funhouse?

This piece in the Guardian Observer/UK makes my day—and it’s still early morning! My favorite things to read (besides anything I write) are well-written, insightful essays about the agonies of bad guys in the White House. I recall relishing the Washington Post’s Chinese water-torture of Nixon after the Watergate break-in; the drumbeat of the peace movement that drove LBJ out of the presidential race in 1968; and now—a comparison of babyBush’s poll numbers to his father’s at comparable times in their first (and only) terms as President. The neo-cons on the run? Gotta love it.

In Bush’s address tonight, I, like Kyle, expect short bursts of monosyllabic platitudes expressing resolve and reassurance. This feels so much like those similarly hastily-arranged speeches LBJ and Nixon gave on their way out the door: “I am not a crook,” of course, and “Light at the end of the tunnel” (although that was Kissinger’s phrase, and contains a word with two syllables).

So you know where I’ll be for fifteen minutes this evening. For sure.

Speech Predictions

I predict he will speak in short, declarative sentences, in a style designed to hide the dank and murky swamp behind his rhetoric. Prevarication hiding in plain site. Because it is engrained in us Americans to believe that the more plainly a man speaks, the less likely it is that he's lying. Any man who speaks in setences with commas in them must be hawking some gall-dang snakeoil.

His remarks will be full of nationalist fervor but lacking in moral bedrock or lucid motives. I predict the vast majority of people will believe him. So we’ll see that, as usual, most of the fools are on the same side. That's the quick definition of a majority, right?