27 July 2006


“Israeli officials said they regarded the failure of an international conference to reach agreement on a cease-fire plan as clearing the way for further assaults.”

That’s the subhead on the story at the upper left of the New York Times Online webpage at 7:22 a.m., California time. The headline reads: “Israel Debates Strategy Shift After Truce Talks Fail.”

Um, excuse me?

The first thing I thought upon reading that subhead was, “they’re like little boys who, while Mom and Dad fight over whether or not it was a good idea for Dad to give them that Bowie knife, go out and start practicing their magic knife-throwing act with the neighbor kid as the target.”

My second thought was, “is there some reason they can’t just, you know, stop firing bombs into Lebanon? And vice versa? So they won’t keep killing and maiming and displacing and destroying hundreds of innocent bystanders? People who aren’t part of the fight at all?”

This is distinctly female thinking, I know (Condi Rice excepted, obviously) but as a mother of some experience, I want to take bad boy Israel and the bad boy Hezbollah and stand them in separate corners.

And cheerleader Condi should be sent to bed without her supper.

Once they’ve figured out the kind of serious trouble they’re in, they ought to be forced to clean up the mess they made by a very stern and angry world. And pay for it out of their allowances.

“Later, she [Rice] defended the United States’ refusal to call for an immediate cease-fire, saying: “It doesn’t do anyone any good to raise false hopes about something that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen. I did say to the group, ‘When will we learn?’ The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires.”

"The fields of the Middle East are littered with broken cease-fires."

A true statement, unfortunately. Yet surely, trying in good faith for an immediate cease-fire, with negotiations for a sustainable cease-fire following, is far better than the continued, wholesale slaughter of innocents.

This is a shameful fight. It will not solve Israel’s problems in the Middle East; indeed, it is only making them far, far worse. Of course, people like Codpiece and Condi are cheerleading Israel’s bloody-mindedness for reasons of their own. In their cracked minds, they see fanning the hungry flames of this conflict as bringing the world ever closer to that magical moment when Rapture comes.

Cretins. These violent, bloody, terrible deaths – the deaths of innocent children, of innocent men and women, young and old, who have no part in the fight – are on their hands.

And, sadly, on ours. We’ve enabled them.

In the meantime, the hell we’ve made of Iraq continues burning merrily, unchecked.

25 July 2006

Finally cooling down

Those who float mumbo-jumbo weather predictions are telling us wilting Left Coasters that today may be the last day of serious heat wave.

Let me be among the millions of sweaty ones to say “Hear, hear!”

I expected a long, hot summer. This is normal in California. Most people who live here do it because they love the bright sunshine and the heat, which makes them, inexplicably, feel good.

I am not among them. I live here because of family ties. After many years of living in the faraway, even putting the entire Atlantic Ocean and most of the landmass of Europe between me and sunny California, it was finally time to come home and be close enough to my aging parents to be a daughter again.

But let me tell you. When the thermometer hits 110 in the shade, this wee bird has her doubts about family loyalty. Like (insert plaintive whine) “Why can’t they come live near ME in some cooler part of the world?”

Up here in the mountains, the wren’s nest sweltered right along with the rest of the West (and, I hear, quite a lot of the East, South and Center). The little thermometer I have stuck on the refrigerator in the kitchen has been steady at 83 since last Wednesday, except in the wee hours of the night, when it drops down to the mid-70s. The outside thermometer, at one point, edged up over 106.

As you might have surmised, The Wrens do not have central air conditioning.
What we do have is a swamp cooler in the master bedroom window, a whole house fan that burned out its “high” setting last summer, ceiling fans and, here in my little den, a free-standing swamp cooler that I pour cool water into the back of. Frequently.

Swamp coolers, for the uninitiated among you, are low-tech evaporative coolers of the genius variety. A continuous supply of fresh, cold water fills a wide, inch-deep pan at the bottom of the machine, a pump forces the water up to the top of the boxy contraption, and then then it trickles down through a filter as a fan blows air through it. The water cools the air, which blows into the house. And the house stays cool, the air moist and healthy.

That’s the idea, anyway.

When the outside temperature stays below, oh, 90 degrees Fahrenheit, this little system works nicely. The cooler isn’t powerful enough to cool the entire house, but it makes a fair stab at it. Supplemented by its smaller, portable cousin in my den, the ceiling fans and then the whole house fan after the blazing sun sets, we stay pretty comfortable here in the summertime.

But holygod. When the outside temperature goes above 90, the hellish indoor heat we’d successfully held at bay wins the game. That poor old swamp cooler just can’t keep up. The water in the pan gets warm, then very warm. And the air that blows into the house is warm, too, though it’s still a couple of degrees cooler than the outside.

And if the power fails, we’re cooked.

So I’m very glad to know the Heat Wave of ’06 has broken, even as I remind myself that in Iraq, our soldiers are dealing with temperatures much higher than California dishes out. And the Iraqis are suffering terribly, with only a few hours of electricity a day, gasoline that requires maneuvering through a shooting gallery to obtain, and civil war all around them.

I’m having a hard time even thinking about what’s happening in Israel and, particularly, in Lebanon right now. That situation is pure evil.

I guess I have it pretty good.

18 July 2006

Caveman in Chief

I've been thinking about that little shoulder-rub Codpiece gave German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the G-8 Summit on Sunday.

Most of the commentary I've read glosses over it as a casual, friendly little touch, the kind of familiar caress a close buddy, relative or spouse might give to help you relieve a little tension.

It might even (reading the mild words describing the touch) pass muster in a modern workplace where the touch wouldn't be taken as sexual or as subtle harassment.

Or, the commentary calls his behavior simply boorish.

And most of it describes Chancellor Merkel's reaction to Codpiece's hands closing, suddenly and without warning, on her shoulders as a "smile."


Germany's leader was startled. She jerked halfway out of her chair. That expression on her face was not a smile, not playful acquiescence. It was an unmistakable grimace of fright.

I'm not denigrating her. Hers was an instinctive, defensive reaction. Any woman, touched like that unexpectedly, would respond in exactly the same way. Men can be dangerous beasts and every woman on earth knows it deep in her heart and soul.

However, one does not expect the President of the United States to act like one.

Chancellor Merkel covered her distress quickly and with grace. She's the powerful leader of a European country, not some helpless, low-paid and disrespected minion whose only function in the eyes of the boss with the ugly, roving hands is to provide him with a little distraction and suggestive entertainment. I'll bet her neck and shoulders itched for hours afterwards. I'll bet she couldn't wait to bathe.

I'll bet she wished she'd had a gun.

Bush humiliated and denigrated the Chancellor of the Republic of Germany in the most basic and symbolic way there is: A man putting a woman in her place by closing his hands on her neck while standing above and behind her so that she cannot defend herself.

What in hell was Bush thinking? Does he think? He's the President of the United States! Has he no manners or sense of protocol? No inkling of the gravitas of his position? No clue as to his role as the representative and ambassador of his people?

Is he truly the world's most powerful walking asshole?

My God.

Would he sneak up behind UN President Kofi Annan and give him a little squeeze? Or England's Prime Minister, Tony Blair? How about Russian President Vladimir Putin, or any of the other male world leaders in the room?


Chancellor Angela Merkel got the smarmy, hey-little-lady neck rub because she is a woman, and Codpiece has no respect for her as an equal in any sense of the word. In fact, the touch was a jaw-droppingly open display of thuggish male dominance.

I wish she'd had the presence of mind to whirl out of her chair and slap the holy shit out of him. I wish she'd given him the dressing down he deserved, right there on camera for the whole world to see. I wish she'd fucking decked him for daring to humiliate her that way, in front of her peers and in front of the world.
But because she's the Chancellor of Germany and posseses the grace, dignity, sophistication and sense of decorum her position requires, she allowed it to pass.

Once again, George W. Bush, Caveman in Chief, walks away sniggering.

16 July 2006

Winning hearts and minds ...

Once again we hear from Riverbend.

Her post is dated July 11. It has been almost exactly one month since her previous post, about the death of Zarqawi.

Her voice is tired. So very tired.

Her voice, which once was filled with hope and even concern about the young American soldiers who occupy her country, is now full of quiet, hopeless fury.

She writes about the young Iraqi girl who was raped and murdered by American soldiers:

“In the news they're estimating her age to be around 24, but Iraqis from the area say she was only 14. Fourteen. Imagine your 14-year-old sister or your 14-year-old daughter. Imagine her being gang-raped by a group of psychopaths and then the girl was killed and her body burned to cover up the rape. Finally, her parents and her five-year-old sister were also killed. Hail the American heroes... Raise your heads high supporters of the 'liberation' - your troops have made you proud today. I don't believe the troops should be tried in American courts. I believe they should be handed over to the people in the area and only then will justice be properly served. And our ass of a PM, Nouri Al-Maliki, is requesting an 'independent investigation', ensconced safely in his American guarded compound because it wasn't his daughter or sister who was raped, probably tortured and killed. His family is abroad safe from the hands of furious Iraqis and psychotic American troops.

“It fills me with rage to hear about it and read about it. The pity I once had for foreign troops in Iraq is gone. It's been eradicated by the atrocities in Abu Ghraib, the deaths in Haditha and the latest news of rapes and killings. I look at them in their armored vehicles and to be honest- I can't bring myself to care whether they are 19 or 39. I can't bring myself to care if they make it back home alive. I can't bring myself to care anymore about the wife or parents or children they left behind. I can't bring myself to care because it's difficult to see beyond the horrors. I look at them and wonder just how many innocents they killed and how many more they'll kill before they go home. How many more young Iraqi girls will they rape?

“Why don't the Americans just go home? They've done enough damage and we hear talk of how things will fall apart in Iraq if they 'cut and run', but the fact is that they aren't doing anything right now. How much worse can it get? People are being killed in the streets and in their own homes- what's being done about it? Nothing. It's convenient for them- Iraqis can kill each other and they can sit by and watch the bloodshed- unless they want to join in with murder and rape.”

So. We're over there "Winning hearts and minds." Take a look into Riverbend's heart and mind.

And weep.

Lemmings ...

This is an all-over-the-place post. Forgive me. It’s disjointed, but so is the world right now. I feel like we’re caught in the middle of a bad melodrama written and performed by juvenile actors on meth.

I believe this new, bloody and horrifying war between Israel, Palestine and Lebanon, (even as the USA’s wicked, bungled war and now terrible civil war in Iraq continues) is merely a precursor of far worse things to come.

My gut belief is this is all about an eventual, long pre-planned attack on Iran for American control of oil resources in the Middle East. You just wait. Codpiece will get to use his bunker-buster nukes.

It started with the remarkably convenient attack (for the Bush administration, at least) on Sept. 11, 2001, not quite a full year after Bush stole the Presidency of the United States. Bush poodle Tony Blair of Britain went along for the ride, as did several other small countries who really needed the dough. Mercenaries, after all, are cash-hungry. After a fast marketing campaign littered with lies, we went to war against Iraq, who hadn’t threatened anyone, let alone us, with more than impotent, chest-beating bluster since 1990.

More than three years later, we are still fighting this war. We have not won, nor have we negotiated a peace. We have not done anything except kill, maim, and destroy both our perceived enemies and ourselves, both in Iraq and at home.

But where will it end? We lost 3,000 civilians to a bunch of nuts with box cutters on 9/11. Now, we’re working our way up, by dribs and drabs, to that same number of U.S. soldiers lost in Iraq.

At the same time, thousands upon thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians have died, too, numbers that dwarf those lost in the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in 2001. And thousands have died in Afghanistan and continue to die there for the foreseeable future.

This isn’t a War on Terror. This is a War of Terror.

In other news, Our Great Leader, George W. Bush, made a short visit to the new German Chancellor in a small town along the Baltic Sea in Germany a couple of days ago. It’s real pretty up that way – I spent some time along the West German edge of the Baltic when I lived there some years back. Flocks of swans dot the Baltic shore in the summer.

As Israel rained rockets and bombs on Palestine and Lebanon, and Hezbollah rained rockets back on Israeli military positions, Codpiece’s most memorable remarks were regarding the roasted wild boar he was going to get wield the knife over at dinner that night. Our Great Head of the Table. Codpiece referred to the boar, boorishly, as a “pig,” (yeah, a boar is a porcine relative of the domestic pig, I know, but sheesh, what is it with this guy? Dubya, honey, yer not in Texas anymore! You're embarrassing us!).

In spite of being asked several rather pointed questions by reporters about more important and pressing world issues, he insisted on going back to the succulent subject of his upcoming dinner, the pig and his gleeful anticipation of slicing it up.

I guess he was hungry. Or high.

More recently, Codpiece waved to us merrily from the back of his long-suffering mountain bike as he took his daily, never-to-be-missed-no-matter-who’s-blowing-up light exercise at the St. Petersburg, Russia, site of the G-8 Economic Summit. I note with some distaste that he has really pasty skin and hairy knees. But more than that, I can’t help but wonder why his handlers are letting him play on his bikey (“What I Did for My Summer Vacation”) when he should be playing at being a World Leader.

No, wait. Snark aside -- How dare he get to play at all? Do you see any other World Leaders outside playing in shorts like a bunch of blithe children while the world burns down around them?

To Codpiece’s minor credit, so far, he’s urged the Lebanese government to, you know, do something about Hezbollah, the militant army which resides there and is currently firing the rockets it got from Iran at Israel.

But Lebanon has little or no control over Hezbollah. Lebanon’s government is on fairly shaky ground itself.

On the other hand, Codpiece pointedly did not ask the Israelis to stop bombing Lebanon or show even a little restraint, considering small children are being blown to bits. And guess what? America does have quite a lot of influence over Israel.

GeeDub did say something breezy and upbeat regarding Democracy In Iraq. This prompted the reptilian Russian President Vladimir Putin (imagine HIM in shorts) to comment, in turn, that Russia would prefer not to be subjected to that sort of democracy, thank you very much anyway. You could just see him thinking, “What an idiot. Where’s the door?”

In the New York Times, the headlines shriek of Hezbollah rockets killing Israeli civilians in Israel. Yet more than 85 Lebanese civilians have been killed by Israeli rockets and bombs as of this morning. Somehow, that wasn’t noted in a headline. And no one’s talking about how many Palestinians have died so far in this latest round of bloodletting. Perhaps this is because the Palestinians are always the last to be noticed, unless they live on real estate where the Israelis want to live.

Then they just get their homes bulldozed. Or bombed.

Please, don’t get me wrong. I’m not ignoring the Palestinians’ culpability for the years of suicide bombers who’ve plagued Israel and killed so many civilians so horribly. I’m just saying that none of these countries can wash the bloodstains from their hands.

And our hands, I’m afraid, are also stained red.

As best as I can make out, this latest war in the Middle East got started because of the “kidnapping” of three Israeli soldiers. Pardon me, but isn’t this a slight semantic faux pas? Last time I checked my handy warfare manual, soldiers, which are the armed forces of a state, cannot be “kidnapped,” but they can be “captured.” It’s different. Really.

Civilians can be “kidnapped.” Putting the right words in the right places is very important. When used correctly, they evoke uncomfortable images, like the thousands of Palestinian civilians now being held in Israeli jails for supporting Hamas, or the hundreds of Iraqi civilians moldering away in American-run prisons in Iraq.

Were those civilians “kidnapped?” Or were they “captured?” Hmm.

Until this morning, when they sent a rocket into a train station in Haifa, killing eight Israeli civilians, Hezbollah was targeting Israeli military positions, as is proper in a war (if anything can be proper in a war). Evidently Hezbollah decided that since Israel was making no attempt to differentiate between military and civilian targets, why should they?

Indeed, it does give one pause.

To be honest, I don’t understand any of this. I only know it makes me very apprehensive, and it makes me feel a little better to write about it. Maybe I’m just ignorant. But I am trying to understand it all, at least. I have to, because I think we’re approaching that point in our old world’s history, once again, where the Beast takes over and holds sway, and if I live through it, I'm going to need to be able to tell the story. To tell the truth.

By referring to the Beast, I’m not referring to anything particularly religious, though religion is most often its catalyst. I’m referring only to that gibbering, black part of our collective human mind that loves war, pestilence, misery, destruction and the pig-iron taste of warm human blood.

Perhaps we’re like lemmings after all, running pell-mell at our collective abyss, the only way we have of reducing our numbers before we overrun and destroy our world.

"Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity ..."

"... And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?"

-- William Butler Yeats

12 July 2006

Always right

When he’s right, he’s right.
When he’s not right, he’s right.
When he’s misinformed, he’s right.
When he’s uninformed, he’s right.

Which means:

If we’re right, and he’s right, then we’re both right.
If we’re wrong, and he’s right, then he’s right.
If we’re right, and he’s wrong, then he’s right.
If we’re misinformed, and he’s wrong, then he’s right.
If we’re misinformed, and he’s right, then he’s right.
If we’re uninformed, and he’s wrong, then he’s right.
If we’re uninformed, and he’s right, then he’s right.

It’s very simple, Grasshopper.

“The president is always right.”
--Steven Bradbury, head of the Justice Department’s office of legal counsel

Hat tip to Atrios.

11 July 2006

Messy Desk Contest

You may have noticed that I haven’t been posting with quite the frequency that I was, oh, say, a month ago.

One reason – the main one – is that I’ve been so busy at work that by the time I get home in the evening, I can’t muster up enough energy for a decent post. Lord knows I want to, but when I put fingers to keyboard, nothing much appears. I’m just too wiped out.

Another reason is that my Outrage Meter is stuck way over in the red. If I were a radiator, I’d have exploded by now. This is not a good condition for writing reasoned and considered commentary on much of anything, let alone the current state of the world and the interesting times we find ourselves living in.

So, I’ve been sitting on the side of the road, steam billowing from under the hood as I watch other excellent bloggers whiz by at full speed. I know they’re all doing a fine job of keeping up on things outrageous while I cool my jets for a while.

However, because I'm a writer, I'm compelled to write. Something. Anything. I have to or my brain will will burst.

So, as I sat here contemplating the blank page, I thought, how about I invite my Wren-friends to compete in a Messy Desk Contest? I’m almost sure I’ll win, but it’s only fair to give everyone else a chance. The prize is my ripply copy of the Hammond World Atlas, Superior Edition, MCMLXXXI.

Here’s what on my desk, right now (along with a thick layer of dust):

1.) An empty Stella Artois Premium Lager Beer bottle. This is, the label tells me, Belgium’s Original Beer since 1366. The fledgling wandered in with the bottle
about a week ago. It was half-full then – she’d opened it, started it and couldn’t finish it. So I did the duty. It was good. A bit thick and yeasty for my taste but I’m no expert. Mostly, beer makes me sleepy. I prefer Corona or Harp.

2.) A kitchen timer shaped like a tomato.

3.) A magnifying glass. Since I passed 45, it seems to come in handy now and then. Dammit.

4.) A “Windjammer in Bremerhaven, 16-19 August 1990” coffee mug, picked up as a souvenir during that event in that year in that city in Germany. It’s jammed with pens (some of which actually work), mechanical pencils, a pair of scissors and a fat nail file for those dratted chipped-nail moments. There’s a laughing pig made of some sort of ceramic, a gift from a favorite aunt, hanging by his arm off the side of the mug, too. Looking at them both makes me nostalgic while I grin.

5.) Two luxurious live beta fish in two separate bowls. We play.

6.) A terrarium with a 10-inch, live rubber boa inside. The fledgling, who loves
snakes, caught the little fella last year and feeds it tiny baby mice occasionally while I hide my eyes.

7.) A black Russian lacquerware box shaped like an apple.

8.) A small bottle of organic lavender hydrosol, given to me by a friend who swears it will cool me down during hot flashes. I’ve tried it, but it just turns to
steam. Imagine spritzing a red-hot, glowing iron ingot with a gentle mist to
cool it down. Still, the stuff smells nice.

9.) A bookshelf with a bunch of music CDs; the “Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Region”; “HTML4 for Dummies; the Pocket Oxford Irish/English Dictionary”; “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis
Stevenson; “Soul of a Citizen” by Paul Rogat Loeb; Strunk and White’s “The
Elements of Style”; and “The Oxford Book of the Sea”.

10.) Two earrings; a dead wristwatch; a stack of magazines I keep meaning to read, and a paper maché Easter egg from Germany. Oh, and “Edith Hamilton’s Mythology”, 1999 Warner Books paperback edition, spine-cracked and very dog-eared.

Your turn.

07 July 2006

Got you, Pluto, loud and clear...

Convicted swindler Ken Lay dies at age 64 while vacationing in Aspen, Co., awaiting sentencing in October.

The Mesa County Coroner quickly releases information (I mean, within hours of the initial report of Lay’s death) regarding the manner in which he’d died. It was a massive heart attack, brought on by heart disease. The coroner even said, helpfully, that Mr. Lay had suffered a previous heart attack, though he didn’t speculate on when that might have been.

Not since Enron went belly up, certainly. In fact, Mr. Lay appeared quite hale and hearty during his trial in May, even rather arrogant and belligerent with the prosecution. And a man with Lay’s wherewithal surely had the best cardiologists money can buy, even if his lawyers let him down.

I know this puts me into the company of those rather intense souls who pick up alien broadcasts from Pluto on their fillings (along with Fox News Radio and Bill O’Reilly), but ... puh-leeze. Is it not within the realm of rationality to speculate that Lay might have been offed?

I mean, could his sudden death have been any more convenient for Darth Cheney and Codpiece the Orc King?

Not that I’m sorry Lay’s gone. It was too damned easy for him, though. I’d much have preferred seeing him in an orange jumpsuit, behind bars for a very, very long time.

And I know, I know. The man is dead. Don’t dance a jig on his grave. “There but for the grace of God go I,” and all that. And I’m sure there were people who loved Ken Lay – his wife (recipient of a $200,000 yacht for her birthday in 2001), his children, his grandchildren and the Bush family. And I’m sorry for them, because they had little to do with his black, amoral heart, and I know they’re grieving him now, even if he was a viper.

Maybe I’ve spent too much time over the years reading espionage and political thrillers (and trying to write them, too, more’s the pity), but when someone as potentially explosive and damaging to a corrupt government as Ken Lay was dies all of a sudden, it piques my curiosity. In fact, when I heard on the radio going to work the other morning that he’d died, the very first thing I thought was, “they snuffed him.” Honestly. All it would take would be a sneaky little injection of potassium chloride, which interferes with nerve signals and stops the muscles from working, causing a heart attack. Can take just seconds, depending on the strength of the dose. It’s an easy poison for the coroner to miss, too, particularly with men in suits breathing down his neck and whispering about last year’s tax return.

Really, I’m sure these days there are many wonderful drugs that would accomplish the same thing even better. Perhaps as something easily slipped into an iced tea, tasteless and made to work in a time-release manner.

I usually keep my tin foil hat packed away, I really do.

Still, I expect now we’ll probably never learn what Mr. Lay knew about the Cheney Energy Task Force. I’m guessing it was a lot. And had he decided to get back at Codpiece, who went from calling him “Kenny Boy” to “Who?” in the blink of an eye, there’d have been hell to pay.

I suppose Lay’s death could have been perfectly innocent and natural. Lots of people succumb to heart disease all the time, regardless of their financial and social standing in the world. But Ken Lay? Now? In a couple of months, he was going to be sentenced for fraud and conspiracy. And perhaps the idea of spending many, many years – perhaps even the rest of his life – in prison was just too stressful for a man who told the jury, regarding his personal spending habits, that it was “difficult to turn off that lifestyle like a spigot.” The very idea just ... gave him a heart attack.

I don’t really believe that, though. Do you?

06 July 2006

Busy as a ... (fill in the blank)

Haven’t had much time to post lately. July came in with a bang *grin* and I’ve been running like the proverbial rat on a treadmill. Two weeklies, a monthly and a tab to bed since June 29, and the rest of the month looks about the same. What’s all this happy crappy I keep seeing in the papers about the hot beach reads? Who has time for the beach? Who has time to read?

I’ve hardly even had time to pay attention to the news, though I managed to at least skim the headlines each day.

Lessee. In this, the first week in July (in no particular order) we’ve seen North Korea launch a slew of missiles on the 4th of July, even though the rest of the world said they’d better not, or else; Ken Lay did us the favor of keeling over in his Aspen vacation home, and thus will not be costing us any more taxpayer money to keep him incarcerated with three squares and a bed for the next umpteen-years; and Joe Lieberman has decided that he knows who should be in his Senate seat better than the voters do, so he’ll just ignore the Connecticut primary results if he loses to Ned Lamont and run as a “petitioning” Democrat anyway come November. So much for the will of the people. The Democratic leadership, with a few notable exceptions, seems to be OK with this.

And they wonder why they’re losing elections. Sheesh.

Then there were further Dire Rumblings about the press and its freedoms. As in, how we should be curtailing them. Censoring them. Charging them with treason if they say stuff Codpiece doesn’t want them to say. One paragon of journalistic virtue opined that Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, ought to be executed.

That was pretty dispiriting, I’ll admit.

I was pleased, however, that the Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Roberts having the grace to recuse himself because his hands were all dirty, decided that it’s unconstitutional to continue to detain prisoners without hope of trial – or even charges -- at Gitmo until hell freezes over, just because we can. That was nice.

As for Iraq, well, things still don’t look to be turning that wonderful corner just yet. We’re still waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel to appear. For the page to turn and the other shoe to drop, you know. Current U.S. soldiers killed: two thousand, five hundred and thirty nine.

Iraqi civilians killed: Somewhere between 38,000 and 43,000. Give or take a child or a grandma or two.

I know that’s not all the stuff that’s happened this week, but it’s about all I have the energy to comment on tonight. Good night and good luck.

02 July 2006

A dark Independence Day

I find it ironic that on Independence Day 2006, America is the closest it has ever been to serving a monarchy since 1776, when we declared independence from King George’s England.

As I write, the current Republican leadership of our great democracy is working feverishly to curtail and eventually destroy the freedom and civil rights of all Americans.

In a move that would make the Founders take up arms again if they were around to see it, the Republicans, led by the current would-be King George, are slowly but surely dismantling America’s great Constitution and Bill of Rights.

It’s hard to believe that in less than six short years, more than two centuries of hard-won, precious democracy are coming to an end. And it’s all because one village idiot, lurching around on strings jerked by the clever, wicked puppet masters who created him, was able to shyster his way into the presidency and appoint a cabinet of made up entirely of greedy, evil fools.

It was a coup in slow motion. And because 230 years have passed since Americans have felt the yoke of monarchy or the whip of tyranny, we sat on our hands, looked the other way and allowed it to happen. Fat and happy, complacent and apathetic because our lives were easy and our government (we thought) was on our side, we hemmed and hawed and looked the other way as the presidency was stolen. It was hard, you see, to understand. And so rather than work to understand it – and thus fight it and set it right – we took the easy way out and accepted it. We didn’t want to rock the boat. We wanted to put the uncomfortable moment behind us and move on. To get along. Because Americans are nice people.

That was our first mistake.

Our second mistake came after a small group of Islamic extremists, armed with ridiculously simple weapons, hijacked four jet airliners and crashed two of them into the World Trade Center, the third into the Pentagon, and the fourth into a field in Pennsylvania, killing 3,000 innocent Americans in the process. Shocked, stunned, deeply frightened, angry and wanting revenge against those who’d hurt us, we placed the power to declare war solely in the village idiot’s eager hands. At the same time, we passed without thought the Orwellian-named Patriot Act, a law that put our most precious civil liberties at grave risk, thinking that this was what we had to do in order to avoid another such tragedy.

Our thinking was shallow and fundamentally, deeply mistaken. To save the house from fire, we burned it down and breathed a chuckleheaded sigh of relief.

Since those scary, purple days in September 2001, when we handed them complete power over us, the village idiot and his warped masters haven’t looked back.

They took us to war against the Taliban in Afghanistan because it aided and abetted the ones who’d attacked us, Osama bin Ladin and his ragtag network of terrorists, al Qaeda. That seemed the right thing to do, and if felt mighty good to whack someone. While we crowed over our “victory,” though, we let Osama get away from us because catching him was, to quote the village idiot, “hard work.” And then instead of rebuilding the country we’d bombed and occupied, we set up a weak, puppet democracy, refused to spend any more treasure on it than we absolutely had to, and abandoned it, because, you know, rebuilding a country is hard work, too. Today, the once-ousted Taliban is regaining strength and numbers, the hapless people we “liberated” are pretty damned tired of being left with nothing but rocks to eat and hovels to live in and are taking up their pitchforks, and the puppet government is virtually powerless outside its fortifications. We are, once again, facing more war in unfortunate Afghanistan and with squandering more treasure (a projected $83 billion by the end of 2006, according to costofwar.com). As of June 30, 308 American soldiers have been killed there, and there’s no accurate count of the number of Afghanis killed and injured. But it’s hard work, so we’re just sitting back and watching as Afghanistan falls apart, rather than acting.

In the meantime, the village idiot and his masters took us to war against Iraq, a country which had nothing to do with the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 but which was both an annoying pebble in the idiot’s shoe and a wonderful opportunity to stuff vast treasure into the mattresses of his masters. To get the American people to go along with pre-emptive war, they lied.

They told us that Saddam Hussein did too have something to do with Sept. 11 (though they were fuzzy on exactly what that “something” was) and even if he didn’t, he would have if he’d thought of it – he certainly had box-cutters! Besides, he had Weapons of Mass Destruction squirreled away. And not only that, he was surely dreaming of making nuclear bombs, which he’d sell to Osama for a discount, and we all know what he'd do with them. Mixing metaphors with gleeful abandon, they told us if we didn’t act right now, we just might see the “smoking gun become a mushroom cloud.”

So, ever credulous and still wetting our panties over phantom Osamas, we did it. We made war upon a country which posed no actual threat to us, toppled its leader and bombed the holy crap out of thousands of innocent people. It was a great series on TV – lots of boom-boom, though it was a little disappointing when we weren’t greeted with flowers like the puppet masters promised us, except for a couple of staged incidents. A few months later, the village idiot dressed up in a manly flight suit with parachute webbing that cupped his balls prominently for all the world to see, strutted around on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier and declared “Mission Accomplished.”

Except, it wasn’t.

There was that niggly little matter of “post-war planning,” which would have taken too long, gotten in the way of the successful marketing plan and was, you know, really, really hard work.

Today we still occupy a country made up of many different, volatile religious sects who hate each other at least as much as they now hate us. Because the pebble in the idiot’s shoe hurt his foot – and his masters are hauling in lucre hand-over-fist – we’re making the Iraqi people live in bombed-out rubble, we’ve taken away their clean water, food and electricity, and killed and injured so many of them that their doctors, hospitals and morgues can’t possibly keep up. We’ve destroyed their precarious economy, their hopes, their dreams and their lives – and we don't have a plan, let alone a clue.

It’s been over three years since we started the war in Iraq. There were no WMD. For most of that time we’ve been fighting an insurgency, a guerrilla war our forces are badly suited for but which works a charm for the insurgents. We’re very good at firing rockets from the sky at buildings and blowing them up (along with anyone unlucky enough to be inside them) and at looking through infrared goggles so we can see bad guys at night, but we haven’t a clue what to do about dog carcasses stuffed full of explosives. And although we’ve spent $292, 944 billion -- and counting -- on the war so far, our soldiers still don’t have adequate body armor or armor for their vehicles. When they leave their fortified camps, they're sitting ducks. Whadda way to support our troops.

As of July 1, 2,533 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. Of those, 2,396 have died since the idiot declared “Mission Accomplished.” The official estimate of American soldiers wounded in the war stands at 18,490. With the summer heat soaring to 120 degrees Fahrenheit and higher, if they’re lucky, Iraqis get a couple of hours of electricity a day, courtesy of the American occupation. The drinking water supply is intermittent and toilets don’t work. Bombs go off with boring regularity, killing one, five, two dozen at a time. The sectarian violence has increased to a point where dozens of bodies are found nearly every day, people who were tortured to death or, if they were lucky, summarily executed with a bullet through the head. Buying gasoline for generators to cook meals and provide enough electricity for a few hours of light, or perhaps a brief respite from the heat, is an exercise in misery and terror. Iraqis wait in long lines of traffic under a blistering sun to fill gas cans, hoping the car next to them isn’t full of explosives about to detonate. And in a twist of terrible irony, in a country with the second-largest supply of oil in the world, gas is expensive.

“When the Iraqi people stand up, we can stand down,” says the idiot. More recently, he assured us that we won’t bring troops home from Iraq while he still “occupies” the White House. By that time, we’ll have been at war in Iraq for six years. God help us.

Here at home, the village idiot and his masters have worked hard to slash and burn the civil rights and freedom of all Americans, while preserving and fattening the bank accounts of the wealthiest 2 percent among us. They’ve destroyed America’s reputation and credibility around the world. While we blithely watch “American Idol” and Bill O’Reilly flap his poisonous lips about the War on Christmas and invite Osama to bomb Coit Tower in San Francisco, home of “liberals,” the Idiot Who Would Be King and his thugs have shamed America by engaging in the torture of prisoners, “renditions,” and the indefinite detention of prisoners without charges or hope of a fair trial.

They’ve spied on us, wiretapping our phones, perusing our e-mails and website visits, and looked at our bank accounts. They’ve kowtowed to the Religious Right, threatening our right to safe, legal abortions and even our right to use birth control. They’ve stacked the Supreme Court with their friends, raised the cost of Grandma’s Medicare and gleefully allowed the pharmaceutical companies and healthcare conglomerates to bleed us dry, while still not providing adequate healthcare to millions of Americans. They’ve played politics with our national security and stood idly by while their cronies rake in political payback, and in spite of all their shrieking over the “War on Terror,” they’ve left America just as unprotected as it was on Sept. 10, 2001.

They watched, deaf and dumb, as New Orleans drowned in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and, nearly a year later, still haven’t fixed the levees or provided safe and adequate housing for the thousands who were left homeless. They control all three branches of government – and blame the press for reporting information they’ve already leaked themselves.

“But we haven’t been attacked again on our soil!” the village idiot and his masters crow. Indeed we haven’t. There has been no need for Osama bin Ladin and his ilk to waste money and manpower on attacking us again. They’re just sitting back, safe and sound, cheering us on as we pour gasoline over our own heads and light a match.

Happy Fourth of July.