30 September 2006

Power of fear

“Can't the United States see that when we allow someone to be tortured by our agents, it is not only the victim and the perpetrator who are corrupted, not only the "intelligence" that is contaminated, but also everyone who looked away and said they did not know, everyone who consented tacitly to that outrage so they could sleep a little safer at night, all the citizens who did not march in the streets by the millions to demand the resignation of whoever suggested, even whispered, that torture is inevitable in our day and age, that we must embrace its darkness?

“Are we so morally sick, so deaf and dumb and blind, that we do not understand this? Are we so fearful, so in love with our own security and steeped in our own pain, that we are really willing to let people be tortured in the name of America?”

Graphics courtesy The Heretik

Don't fence me in

And the hits just keep on comin’.

As if a productive week of torture legalizing and habeas corpus flushing and indefinite detainment cheering wasn’t enough for the Orc Congress, the Washington Post notes that they also approved 700 miles of fencing along the U.S./Mexico border late last night.

Slipped that one in under the cover of darkness, they did.

The “fence” will cost an estimated $6 billion between now and 2008, when it’s supposed to be finished.

Um, guys? Our soldiers need new fortified vehicles. The old ones are junk, and there were never enough of them in the first place. And body armor. They really, really need adequate body armor.

Those who didn’t have the fortified vehicles and were issued either substandard armor or none at all are straining the military health care system at the seams in their thousands. Six billion dollars would go a long, long way towards thanking our brave and maimed boys and girls for their sacrifices: their arms, legs, hands, feet, eyes and often, brains. They’re going to need lifelong care from the country that destroyed their futures. And you know, it’s not like their numbers won’t keep growing, what with George W. Bush still madly determined America will “stay the course” in Iraq, even as he lobs firecracker-stuffed frogs at Iran.

Of course, the Secure Fence Act is pure politics. There’s a real good chance the fence won’t ever be built, because the terrain it will follow is just too wild – mountains and gorges and rivers, oh my – so I guess that means the $6 billion in taxpayer dough will mostly be wasted. How much you want to bet Halliburton builds fences, too?

Makes me proud to be an American.


Via Hullabaloo, I note that Susie of Suburban Guerrilla noticed it was Michaelmas yesterday, the old holiday celebrated by Christians, Muslims and Jews alike that honors St. Michael the Archangel, the protector of light against the forces of darkness. She suggests that those of us who oppose the destruction of America by the Orcs adopt St. Michael as our patron saint.

I’m not Christian, Muslim or Jewish, and I wouldn’t know a patron saint from a Flat Daddy, but hey – sounds good to me. We could use a pissed-off archangel on our side, you know?

There's a lot of excellent thinking and writing at Hullabaloo today, as usual. I never fail to learn when I stop by for a visit with Digby, Tristero and Poputonian. Drop in and say "hi".

29 September 2006

Last chance

Yesterday, Sept. 28, 2006, Congress passed the torture bill and destroyed American democracy as we know it. Even if the Supreme Court overturns the bill as unconstitutional, America has been changed forever.

I was nose-down at work all day, busy getting a newspaper and an advertising tab ready to publish. Not a single person who came through my chaotic office mentioned the dark work Congress was up to. Talk was about everyday things: the nice weather, a jammed thumb, the tasty bread, fruit and vegetables available from the local farmer’s market. Candidates running for local boards stopped by or called to make sure we knew their views on things important to the community. The Department of Homeland Security awarded the local fire department a big grant – close to a million bucks -- to hire more firefighters over the next five years to protect the growing bedroom community from wildfire and, one guesses, to try to save our lives should we be attacked by terrorists wielding bio-bombs and box cutters. Yet another local kids’ soccer team won yet another local championship, and adult league volleyball got off to a nice start.

But on this sunny, early autumn day, no one talked about the torture bill. It was a day like any other. Late in the afternoon, I got a news alert e-mail from CNN that told me the Senate had passed the bill. Now it will go on to the president, who will sign it, and in so doing, end this great democratic experiment.

I used to wonder how it was that the German people could accept Hitler and his Third Reich. I wondered how they could avert their eyes as the killing commenced all around them. I wondered why they didn’t rise up in outraged protest.

I don’t wonder anymore. Now I know how they did it, and I wish it was something I’d never had to learn.

Taken on day-to-day basis, the process of changing the face and workings of a government seems very, very slow. We have busy personal lives. There’s a paycheck to earn, bills to take pay, meals to cook, bathrooms to clean. The front lawn needs raked and kitchen floor swept, that report to the boss has to get done, the kids need help with homework. The dog upchucked on the carpet, it dried into a gristly crust and now we need to figure out how to clean it up. We have family get-togethers to attend, funerals, weddings, graduations. We go to church and bible studies, to the gym, to cultural events.

By the time all that’s done, most of us want nothing more than to be left alone for a few hours. We watch TV, play video games, read books. Some of us fill those few empty hours with volunteer work, others with hobbies. We sleep at night, then get up and start all over again.

In the meantime, the outside world in all its legal and governmental complexity continues on around us. Most of us aren’t very interested in politics. We complain about higher gas prices, cuss at the price of a cut-up chicken at the grocery and bemoan the gridlocked traffic we fight each day as we go to work. The high cost of health care and prescription medications make us hot under the collar.

But these things are beyond our control, we think. They’re just the way things are. The only option is to tighten the belt another notch and get up a little earlier so we show up at the job on time. Without a paycheck, it all falls apart.

The TV we watch doesn’t tell us the whole story about the larger world. We get skewed and, increasingly, propagandized snippets that tell us only part of the story. What we learn from the talking heads convinces us that whatever it is our country is doing out there in “the world,” it must be right, because America is always on the side of right.

We’re the good guys, the white hats. We’re the culture that came up with Superman, right? Our parents were the “Greatest Generation.” We’re doing what we can to live up to them -- and many of us have.

So when we learn that our government has just legalized the detainment and torture, without hope of trial or release, of anyone declared an “unlawful enemy combatant” – including American citizens living on American soil -- we hardly miss a step. Can’t be real. Oh, it is? Well, our government knows what it’s doing.

Doesn’t it?

Yes, it does. Just as the German government knew what it was doing, ruthlessly and in cold blood. And it’s brought us to this point in just five short years.

I’ve decided I can’t call George W. Bush “Codpiece” anymore. It felt good to throw some snark at him, but the time for that is over. For the last six years, this president has run roughshod over America, her People and her Constitution, doing exactly what he damn well pleases. He cheated his way into the presidency in 2000, ignored warnings of terrorist attacks against the United States on our soil, and after the attacks happened, started two wars – one to make him look good, which he dropped in favor of prosecuting a second war against a weak but oily and strategic country. He did this based on lies and the excuse of his illusory War on Terror. He sent our soldiers into combat without adequate body armor, support or equipment and refused to allow us to mourn their deaths properly. He ordered the return their broken bodies, in flag-covered caskets, to their country only during the dark of night and kept the press from making a photographic record of his -- and our -- shame.

After barely being re-elected in 2004, he turned his dark attention on his own country and began waging war here, blatantly breaking the laws that make America what she is and systematically shredding the Constitution. Today, Americans are the victims of eavesdropping, without a warrant, on their phone conversations by our own government. And now, that same government can, simply by calling you or me an “unlawful enemy combatant,” abduct, detain, and torture us – while not allowing us any opportunity, ever, for a fair trial or justice.

This president and his followers have turned America into a police state.
The only way we, as patriotic Americans, can fight back against this tyranny is by voting. It is, literally, the only way we have to make our voices heard in a country that is increasingly fascistic. The election on Nov. 7 may be our last chance to force change, even in the face of huge odds.

I’m furious with the Democratic party for staying spinelessly silent in the run-up to the vote on the torture bill, and I have little respect for any of them anymore, even if most of them voted, in the end, against it. It was too little and too late, the latest instance of their abject cowardice in the face of political aggression. They’ve let their country down over and over again since the turn of the century, and they make me sick.

Nevertheless, regaining a Democratic majority in Congress is the only hope we have as Americans for preserving our America, the nation that once stood for freedom, liberty, equality, and justice for all.

Please, as angry as you are, as discouraged as you may be, cast your vote on Nov. 7.

If the Republican Congress maintains its majority, and continues to give the lawless and law-breaking George W. Bush and his corrupt and power-hungry administration free reign, there will never be another chance.

27 September 2006


I do hope that the members of the Senate who vote “aye” on the torture legislation (the House did so, today) realize that once it’s done, we can’t go back.

I’d like to think they’ve thought this through (fat chance) because it has a far broader purpose, in its vague wording, than to simply allow the government of this country to torture “terrorists” in the hope of getting information that will help keep all Americans safe from attacks like those on Sept. 11, 2001.

The language is so vague, and so broad, so easily interpreted to mean whatever the interpreter wishes it to mean, that it will turn America into a police state.

Under this legislation, anyone who “engages in hostilities against the United States” now includes “anyone who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States.” Under this legislation, people who do this are “unlawful enemy combatants.”

Once again, we’re engaged in a war of semantics, one that no one can win. What defines “support?” What does “hostilities” mean? How about “purposefully?”

At this moment, there are good Americans all over this nation who are appalled by this torture legislation, and large numbers of them are speaking out against it, as they have the terrible stupidity and crime of the war in Iraq and against the very thought of attacking Iran, with or without nuclear weapons.

Will these Americans one day be victims of the easy, broad interpretation of the torture bill? By speaking out, will their government consider them as “unlawful enemy combatants?”

25 September 2006

'Tis the season

When Congress decides this week how it will vote on Bush’s torture legislation, which will condone and, in this country at least, make legal the savage torture of our fellow human beings and, in effect, pardon a president and administration who have been, methodically and quite blatantly, breaking the law of the land for several years, I would ask that they think, just for a moment, about the season.

Our representatives and senators are in an big hurry to get torture legalized so they can get out on the campaign trail, since an awful lot of them have an awful lot of ‘splainin’ to do to the Americans they represent. The sooner the better, I guess, since the torture legislation, which makes it OK to attach wires to a detainee’s genitals and turn on the juice, is well, a little uncomfortable. You know. They feel, rightly, that if the vote is rushed, the People won’t have time to really think it through. And then it won’t matter, because it will be too late, and the People will be busy watching the new fall line-up on TV anyway. They’ll forget all about that mean old torture legislation. They will, at least, until they discover that their president can call, say, blogging about their unhappiness with him, an act of terrorism. At which point, they’ll remember the torture legislation very, very well. Perhaps even first-hand.

But let’s move on. Other than the general election on Nov. 7, when the People will decide whether to keep the status quo or wipe the slate clean, what else do we have coming up in November?

Well, let’s see. There’s Veteran’s Day, on Nov. 11. That’s the day we set aside to honor those who’ve served our country in military service, particularly those who’ve served – and survived – war. What better time, then, in light of legalized torture, to consider their sacrifices? Our veterans served and fought for their country – the greatest country on Earth, proudly and without question because it, and it alone, stood for freedom, liberty and democracy. Equality and the right of free speech and the right to worship – or not – as we please. They worked to keep our country safe and preserve the bright light of her Constitution. I’m sure they’ll feel especially honored this year, 2006, since their Congress legalized waterboarding and blunt-object beatings.

Then, we have Thanksgiving. Now this one is near and dear to all Americans’ hearts, the day we stop everything to give thanks for the bounty we enjoy in our lives. Good bread, good meat, good God, let’s eat! Children all over the nation will make paper cutouts of pilgrims, Indians and turkeys to go along with the story of the Mayflower, the ship that brought the first pilgrims from England to America’s shores. And they’ll learn that those good people came to America because they wanted to be able to worship their god freely and as they wished, far away from the rigid, cruel and imperial rule of a King. As we sit down to our Thanksgiving turkeys and honey hams, our big bowls of dressing and boats of gravy, our cornucopias of fresh vegetables, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pies, let us, for a moment, consider the detainees who, even at this moment, will be getting their sustenance through a tube jammed up their noses, down their throats and into their stomachs, courtesy of the torture legislation condoned by good Americans everywhere.

Finally, it's Christmas. Jingly joy! As we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus, meek and mild, and go on our yearly buying spree in the name of Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men, we might pause for a second or two and think about the detainees being held all over the world by our great democracy and how they might be feeling a little, well, passed over this Christmas season. As they shiver in their cells, hung by their arms on the wall, their only gift a bucket of ice-cold water thrown on their naked, shrinking bodies, they might be moved to question the good will and godliness of a People who could legalize such treatment and then, turkey sandwiches in hand, get together to sing Silent Night and laugh, good-naturedly, at the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

And so, as the holiday season looms, tantalizingly, just a few months away, I would like to ask my representatives in government to consider the abject hypocrisy of passing the president’s torture legislation. As good Christians, I think they owe the American People -- and the world -- that much.

24 September 2006

Throw da bums out!

Need a simple, compelling reason to vote the current leadership in Washington, both Republican and Democrat, out of office in November and, more thoroughly, in 2008?


"A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

"The classified National Intelligence Estimate attributes a more direct role to the Iraq war in fueling radicalism than that presented either in recent White House documents or in a report released Wednesday by the House Intelligence Committee, according to several officials in Washington involved in preparing the assessment or who have read the final document.

"The intelligence estimate, completed in April, is the first formal appraisal of global terrorism by United States intelligence agencies since the Iraq war began, and represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government. Titled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,’’ it asserts that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

"An opening section of the report, “Indicators of the Spread of the Global Jihadist Movement,” cites the Iraq war as a reason for the diffusion of jihad ideology.

"The report 'says that the Iraq war has made the overall terrorism problem worse,' said one American intelligence official."

Pass it on.

Once we’ve booted the incompetents, the fools, the enablers and the downright wicked out of American government, what then? How will we deal with the terrorists they inspired and created?

How about addressing and working to mitigate the underlying issues that make people desperate and angry enough to strap bombs to their bodies and blow themselves up in crowded places in the first place?

I’ll defer to my smart friend Will for a thoughtful explanation. Do go read.

23 September 2006


I'm all a-twitter. Ask the fledgling -- just a little while ago I was running through the house, waving a couple of pages in my hand and saying, "A Big Fat Slob loves me!"

"You shouldn't talk about Dad that way," she said.

"No! Not him! A Big Fat Slob! He chose me for his Blog of the Week!"

"Oh." She read Slob's kind words. "Cool," she said, and went back to playing Mass Murder in Space on the computer.

"Well, I think it is. He's a really, really good writer and an astute thinker, and I'm honored," I said, and wandered back down the hall.

I really am. I love writing, but it can be a lonely business. You spend a lot of time in your own mind, in your own little world, and until someone else takes the time to read and notice what you wrote, you don't know if you've really succeeded in making your point or telling the story. Blogging is a delightful way to put it out there and let the comments fly. It doesn't matter if they're praising you or panning you, they're reading you, and that's what counts.

Thank you, Slobby, for all those nice things you said about me. You made my day. And welcome, readers of A Big Fat Slob, one of the best blogs out there.

22 September 2006

This is America?

Throw away all the legal language, all the big words, all the distancing tactics and take a look at what it really is our country is poised to do.

We’re about to say, with our eyes wide open, that torturing other people is acceptable.

Our mad president, who tortured small animals as a child, is about to be given the power to decide what “torture” is.

We’re saying this is OK because the people we’ll torture are bad guys. Terrorists. They want to hurt us, so they don’t deserve any better. Make ‘em scream.

But this behavior destroys not only those who are tortured, but those who practice torture. The world has a long and dark history of torture and inhuman behavior. Human nature, always a slavering beast under the thin veneer of civilization, loves a good bloodbath. And once you start, stopping is nearly impossible.

So today, we’re good with torturing people we decide are terrorists, even though it’s been proven time and time again, throughout history, that torture doesn’t work.

Tomorrow, perhaps we’ll torture other people who we think are out to do us harm.

The day after that, the definition of who we torture will grow fuzzy. It could be just about anyone we decide is a threat.

It could be your son or daughter, your mother or father. Your neighbor. Your best friend. It could be me.

It could be you.

You think this couldn’t happen in America? Think again. We’re considering savagery in broad daylight. We’re considering barbarism at the highest levels of our government. Our government in America is representative – it does what we, the American people, want it to do.

Because we’re fearful and think it will make us safer, we’re saying we want our government to shackle people to walls in 50 degree rooms while we throw ice water on them. Or force them to listen to music at decibal levels that can burst their eardrums. We’re saying it’s just fine to attach wires to the most sensitive parts of their bodies and send bursts of electricity coursing into them. Or perhaps merely beat them with fists and boots and truncheons until they’re screaming in agony.

Goodness. Why be coy? Just get the pliers and rip out their fingernails by the roots.

I’m sure that my limited imagination hasn’t even touched on the many ways we can make people suffer horribly. And as long as they don’t actually die, we think this is ... OK?

Is this America?

Is this the “land of the free, and the home of the brave?”

What’s brave about torturing other human beings? We fought two world wars and a Cold War for this?

This is the face of evil, of power gone rancid. This is the face of cowardly fear. This is the face of barbarism, of savagery, the face of a twisted people who’ve lost their souls.

No. No lost. Willingly given them up. And for what? What will America get in return for going over to the dark side?

You know, try as I might, I can’t think of a single good thing that can come of this. Instead, I see nothing but infamy and shame, a once-great country destroyed.

Is this not exactly what Osama bin Ladin wanted when he sent airliners hurtling into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? My god, it only took five years to bring us down.

We have a brief window of time. We can reject this. We can BE the land of the free and the home of the brave, show some courage, show some moral strength, show that we’re more than vindictive, spoiled, psychopathic children.

We can tell our leaders “NO,” that Americans have honor, that Americans do not torture.

But we’d better not wait long to stand up to those who’d take us, willingly, into the abyss with them. Or it will be too late.

Once it’s done, America will be no more.


So let me get this straight.

The United States of America will be the first country since the Geneva Conventions were created to pass laws saying we get to ignore them and torture anyway, neener neener neeeeener!

My god, I’m proud.

So our Democratic leaders are pleased John McCain and their Republican Daddies stepped up and found a way to rewrite the torture legislation so it sounds a little more ... delicate. That’s nice.

They can all crawl back under their beds now, one thumb in their mouths and the other up their butts, like usual. The whole bunch of them ought be real worried about their jobs, come 2008. I don't know about my fellow Democrats, but I'm not going to vote for a single Democratic incumbent.

I know. It hardly matters anymore whether I vote or not. But at least I can still do that. For now.

Codpiece never cared how Congress would vote on the terror legislation one way or another, of course. Cuz he tortures if he wants to, period, just as he eavesdrops on us if he wants to.

Laws? Hah! Who cares about stinkin’ laws?

He’s the Decider. He was just gonna add one o’them handy little signing statements to the bottom of the legislation saying he didn’t have to follow the law if he didn’t want to, anyway. So there.

And now, he doesn’t even have to do that.

Tristero, over at Digby’s Hullabaloo says,

“So tell me, my fellow Americans:

"How does it feel knowing that your government will pass laws permitting the violation of the Geneva Conventions against torture?

"How does it feel knowing the taxes you pay from money you earned are going towards the salary of legally sanctioned torturers?

"How does it feel knowing that the only political party with an organization large enough to stand in opposition to the American fascists in charge of this country's legislature and executive were actually boasting that they were not going to get involved in one of the most important moral debates of our time?

“And how does it feel to have George W. Bush, that paragon of moral probity, mental stability, and well-informed intelligence, granted the legal right to determine what is and isn't torture?”

I don’t know about you, but I feel ashamed.

Update: I understand that a vote on the torture legislation has not yet been taken by the full House and Senate, but that the Republicans are now all singing the same song, basically giving Bush what he wants: A legal by-your-leave to torture people. This means that there's still a chance that this legislation might not pass into law, but without a mighty roar of outrage from the People of the United States of America and from the Democratic Party, it's pretty much a done deal. Call your senators and tell them how you feel about America taking its place among the other countries that sanction torture, like Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

21 September 2006

The button

It has always bothered me, in a vague sort of way, that the President of the United States was a “push-of-the-button” away from starting a nuclear war.

It was commonly believed that a Secret Service agent followed the President everywhere with a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. Inside that briefcase was “the button.” If the Soviets launched nuclear missiles at us, the President would open the briefcase, “push the button” and launch our nukes at them in return.

He could “push the button” at a state dinner. Or while traveling. Or in the Oval Office.

I always hoped he had a bunch of very sober, very serious advisors nearby, too, and that he’d be the kind of man who’d consult closely with them before he “pushed the button.” The President, I hoped, would be a sober and serious sort himself, one with a good understanding of the world and of the consequences of his actions. I hoped he would understand that when he “pushed the button” he would actually be “ending the world.”

Because of the twin horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we believed that the United States would never, ever again “push the button” first.

What bothered me about all this – what niggled -- was that one day we might elect a President who would “push the button” not because there were already missiles streaking from Russia toward us from the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere, but just because he could.

When the Cold War ended, so did a lot of my vague worry about such things. Soviet-style Communism collapsed. We had nuclear non-proliferation treaties. The Doomsday Clock was set at 7 minutes to “midnight” by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947 to convey the particular peril posed to the world by nuclear weapons.

Since then, the clock’s minute hand has moved forward and back 18 times. The Bulletin set it at 3 minutes to midnight in 1949, when the Soviet Union tested its first nuclear missile, and down to 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 when the U.S. and the Soviets tested thermonuclear devices within nine months of each other.

In 1991, with the end of the Cold War, when the United States and the Soviet Union signed the long-stalled Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and announced further unilateral cuts in tactical and strategic nuclear weapons, they set the Doomsday Clock back to 17 minutes to midnight.

Since then, nuclear weapons have been tested in Pakistan and India, and the world faces the risk of nuclear “leakage” from poorly guarded facilities in the former Soviet Union. Little progress has been made on global nuclear disarmament, and in 2002, the United States rejected a series of arms control treaties and announced it would withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Today, we fear terrorists seek to acquire and use nuclear and biological weapons. The Doomsday Clock stands, once again, at 7 minutes to midnight and has since 2002.

Could it be that George W. Bush is the insane President I always worried about, the one who’ll “push the button” because he can? He’s certainly been making all the right noises, with his “bunker-buster” nukes and chest-beating talk about Iran.

16 September 2006


I’m reading a book by Cormac McCarthy called “Blood Meridian.” It’s a western, but unlike any other western I’ve read in my life. In it, the author describes a world that is totally amoral, a world in which people kill each other with stunning off-handedness. Human life has no value. “Survival of the fittest” applies here in a way that would leave the anti-Darwinists among us slack-jawed.

The story takes place in the 1850s along the Texas-Mexico border. McCarthy’s prose is so starkly beautiful that it’s almost a relief from the unrelenting, mindless cruelty and misery his words depict. Based on historical papers, “Blood Meridian” describes a world where cowboys and Indians slaughter and scalp each other and where some cowboys are making a lucrative profit selling Indian scalps. The line between good and evil is so obscure that it’s all but invisible.

Reading about that world from my vantage point today is jarring. I can’t help but think about how far Americans have progressed in the mere 150 or so years since the time depicted in McCarthy’s novel. It’s hard to reconcile the world of “Blood Meridian,” with its casual slaughter and gore and its filthy idiot cowboys with today’s sparkling grocery stores, McMansions, SUVs, laptop computers, polo shirts, Dockers and athletic shoes that light up when you walk. We might be living on a different planet, not just in a different time in American history.

And yet ... and yet. The old saying, “the more things change, the more they stay the same” comes to mind.

Just the other day, the President of the United States lobbied Congress to validate and approve his ongoing practice of torture as a necessity in our trumped-up “War on Terror.”

The characters in “Blood Meridian” would have recognized George W. Bush instantly, but I don’t think he’d have lasted long enough in their world to do the kind of damage he’s done in ours. Someone would have, without the least regret, shot him in the face or gouged his eyes out and slashed his throat with the jagged end of a smashed whiskey bottle.

An editorial in Friday’s Washington Post had this to say about Bush’s shyster visit to our Congressional leaders:

PRESIDENT BUSH rarely visits Congress. So it was a measure of his painfully skewed priorities that Mr. Bush made the unaccustomed trip yesterday to seek legislative permission for the CIA to make people disappear into secret prisons and have information extracted from them by means he dare not describe publicly.

Of course, Mr. Bush didn't come out and say he's lobbying for torture. Instead he refers to "an alternative set of procedures" for interrogation. But the administration no longer conceals what it wants. It wants authorization for the CIA to hide detainees in overseas prisons where even the International Committee of the Red Cross won't have access. It wants permission to interrogate those detainees with abusive practices that in the past have included induced hypothermia and "waterboarding," or simulated drowning. And it wants the right to try such detainees, and perhaps sentence them to death, on the basis of evidence that the defendants cannot see and that may have been extracted during those abusive interrogation sessions.

I pick up a book written with talent and craft – even genius -- and find myself, shuddering, transported to world in which everyday people are slope-shouldered monsters, cold-blooded killers with no sense of morality and only the barest shellac of civilization.

Then I read today’s news about what our leaders have in mind for our country, and realize with a jolt how short a time 150 years really is. With their brand-named, snake-oil War on Terror, the Bush Administration seems very much like the cowboy scalp-hunters in “Blood Meridian.” Already, they’ve transformed Iraq from a relatively modern country into an abattoir in which human life has little value, only the strongest survive for long and the corrupt of mind and soul gleefully exploit the situation and rake in the cash.

They’ve made all Americans unwitting accomplices to their whooping, degenerate rampage of death and destruction. Now, they’re pushing us to join the scalp-hunters willingly, with our eyes wide open, and sell our souls.

*Thanks to Tbogg, that “somewhat popular blogger,” for his post on “Blood Meridian,” which inspired me to buy and read the book.

Update: Billmon at Whiskey Bar takes a clear-eyed look at what tossing away the Geneva Conventions regarding torture would do to America. And Glenn Greenwald walks us through the legal forest of Arlen Specter's flimflamming warrantless wiretapping bill so we can see the trees. Please go read both posts. They're excellent.

11 September 2006

Illegal hero

I was talking to friend the other day about how aggravated waiting for help on the phone make us.

“What I really hate is when I get someone who can’t even speak English!” she said, and launched into a story about calling about her telephone company and having to speak with a customer service rep who had a very heavy Asian accent.

“You’d think,” she said with disgust, “that at least if they aren’t going to hire an American, they could get someone who can speak the language!”

It’s not the first conversation like that I’ve ever had, and I guess it won’t be the last. But her intolerance bothered me. It wasn’t malicious – she’s a nice person – and she has no real animosity that I know of against immigrants or foreigners. Instead, it was her attitude of entitlement that got to me.

As Americans, we do tend to think that way. We irks us when we hear a foreign accent over the phone, particularly when we’re not expecting it. For some reason, we feel that people who immigrate to America should step off the plane or over the border already fluent in English. And when we travel to countries where English isn’t spoken, we expect that people will speak it for us anyway.

Relatively few Americans can speak a foreign language or bother to learn one. It makes for a very narrow world.

Just how narrow came home to me a few weeks ago. In the town where I edit the newspaper, a paraplegic man and his small son were driving along, headed out to get haircuts. It was a lazy Saturday afternoon in this quiet bedroom community.

As he drove, his van, which had been modified so that he could drive it and get in and out in his wheelchair, inexplicably caught fire.

He was able to pull over and stop -- in spite of the transmission and brakes failing -- by running the van halfway into a ditch. His made his son get out. But the door on his side of the van wouldn’t open, and he was unable to move himself from driver’s seat to his wheelchair. Even if he’d been able to, the ramp he needed for entering and exiting the van wouldn’t work, either.

People stopped when they saw burning van, and some tried to get to him, but the fire was too intense. He was trapped in the van as the flames grew around him, as his small son watched, screaming. He described, later, how it felt to watch the van melt around him as he tried to breathe, his face between his knees. He knew he was going to die and said he felt terrible that his son was going to witness such a terrible thing.

A Mexican landscape worker on his way home from work saw the burning vehicle and stopped, too. Without hesitation, he picked up a big rock, ran up to the van -- which was now completely enveloped in flames -- smashed out the window, and without any regard for his own safety, reached inside.

The victim saw his hand through the smoke. He grabbed it, and with phenomenal strength, the landscape worker dragged the helpless man out of the fire to safety.

Miraculously, neither of them were injured. Someone called the disabled man’s wife, who came to pick him up as the local firefighters arrived. The Mexican landscape worker – the hero -- gave his business card to one of the onlookers, got into his car and drove home.

When we got wind of this amazing and dramatic story at the paper, tipped off by the witness who’d been given the business card, we went after the story. We talked to the paraplegic man and his son. But when we tried to talk to the hero about his bravery and what had compelled him to take such a grave risk, to do such a brave and selfless thing, we were stopped in our tracks.

He was willing to talk to us, but he couldn’t speak English.

We couldn’t speak Spanish.

Eventually, we were able to find someone fluent enough in Spanish to ask him questions for us over the phone and to relay back to us his translated answers. I knew it had to be inaccurate and I hated having to tell his story second-hand, but it was the best we could do with a tiny staff, other stories to write and edit, and a deadline looming.

He told us he thought that there were children in the van, and that they were going to burn to death unless someone did something. He said he wouldn’t have been able to sleep that night, knowing that he’d only watched while children died. And he was glad he’d been able to save the man’s life.

He hadn’t stayed at the scene because he wasn’t hurt, the victim and his son were being tended to, and there didn’t seem to be anything further he could do.
Later, we learned through the fire department, which very much wanted to honor his act of heroism and bravery with a public ceremony that would include the press and the disabled man, that the hero was an illegal immigrant. Because of that, they were not allowed to do it.

The disabled man got in touch with his rescuer privately to thank him.
We’ve considered pursuing the matter further in the paper – if for no other reason that such an act of selflessness and bravery deserves public recognition -- but we don’t really want to draw more attention to this good man. It could well lose him his home and his livelihood, if it hasn’t already.

As of today, I don’t know if he’s even still in the area. He hasn’t returned our calls.

10 September 2006

In Memoriam, Sept. 11, 2001

Heal Us All

Great Spirit,
heal us all.
We walk wounded,
each of us in different ways.
May our wounds heal.

Give us the strength and the spirit
to heal each other
and every being in our world.

And may the seed of compassion
in the heart of each of us
grow and bloom like a flower
and send warmth and color and light and love
to every heart we touch.

We walk wounded,
each of us in different ways.
Great Spirit,
heal us all.

--Eric Skagerberg

09 September 2006

Scared, yet?

Osama bin Laden is surely just pleased as punch.

Since he made his initial investment in convincing a bunch of dimwitted Muslim jihadists to hijack four American airliners with bollocks and boxcutters and steer them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and, abortively, a Pennsylvania cornfield, he’s had to do little but settle back and enjoy the show.

Five years out, Sept. 11 just keeps paying dividends. His co-investors, the Bush Administration, have made sure of that.

The images of those huge airliners smashing into the Twin Towers are as clear in my memory as if it happened yesterday. And it’s not because I watched the endless replays of the moment on TV, or gazed in fascination at the many images that filled the Web, because after the first day or two, I couldn’t watch. I couldn’t gaze. The horror was too huge, my imagination too vivid, my heartbreak for the victims too complete.

Like just about everyone else in America and the world, I was stunned.

I discovered it was happening when I turned on my computer in the quiet half-hour before I left for work, sitting down with my cup of coffee. There, on the MSN homepage was a photo of the first tower, a huge fireball blowing out its side near the top. As I recall, the headline read, “Airliner crashes into World Trade Center.”

My initial reaction was one of deep irritation that MSN would put what was so obviously a promotional photo and hed for some new disaster movie on their news site. It was, I thought, a truly nasty bit of bad taste.

And yet, because it was such a shocking image, I could hardly believe that they had done it as some promo. Surely, this couldn’t be real. I clicked on the hed.

Of course, it was happening at that very moment. It was terribly, mind-bogglingly real, and by the time I’d scurried into the living room to flip on the TV, the second airliner had hit its target.

By the time I got to work, both of the towers had collapsed.

As an act of terrorism, it was flawless, a work of dark genius. For weeks, Osama’s masterpiece terrorized my nation and got the rapt, horrified attention of the entire world. The scale was truly awesome.

If there was consolation – and it was no consolation, not really – it was that of the many, many thousands initially thought to have been in the destroyed structures, just under 3,000 people actually lost their lives in the attack.

Bad enough, certainly. A nightmare of mythic proportions.

And there in 2001 it could have stayed, a terrible, sad memory of mass death, casualty, destruction and terror. Sept. 11 could have gone down in history with other horrific acts of war, terror and genocide like Pearl Harbor and the Oklahoma City bombing in the U.S., and the Holocaust, the Gulag, the Munich Olympics and Locherbie, the suicide bombings in Israel and others in Europe, Russia and the Middle East.

With quiet, determined intelligence and intense police work on an international scale, Osama bin Laden and the members of his al Qaeda terrorist network could have been captured and brought to justice, and the training camps in Afghanistan destroyed.

It would have cost a lot of money, but it’s unlikely that any American would have begrudged it. Nor would’ve the world, which mourned with and supported America like nothing seen before or since. For a brief time, we were all in this together.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” said President Theodore Roosevelt, quoting a West African proverb. Never one to behave passively, either domestically or on an international scale, Roosevelt understood the benefits of diplomacy backed by action.

But the administration of George W. Bush had and still has no interest in history or lessons learned. Forget that all that pansy-assed diplomacy shit: America threw a shrieking hissy fit and loaded its peashooter.

The American people, fully prepared to make personal sacrifices in order to catch and bring to justice the mastermind of the terrible crime committed against them, were told to be very, very afraid, but go ahead and go shopping. In fact, we were told to shop more for America, you dweebs.

Osama couldn’t have asked for better return from his investment. Bush and Company just kept giving and giving. In the five years since Sept. 11, 2001, we’ve exceeded his wildest and most florid dreams of death and destruction for his enemies. And he hasn’t had to lift a finger or spend any more of his money. We’ve taken over for him.

And if our swaggering resolve flags even a little, well, he just records a video from his undisclosed location (a few doors down from Big Dick Cheney’s) and has one of his gofers drop the CD or tape off at the nearest news outlet. Then he sits back, once again, to watch the show.

And what a most excellent, rewarding show it has been and continues to be.

Since Sept. 11, America has started and waged war on two Muslim nations, enthusiastically supported the Israelis in a third and is throwing another hissy fit in preparation for a fourth. In the three it’s already been up to its neck in, thousands upon thousands of innocent people – people no different than the Americans lost on that bright September morning -- have been killed or maimed.

Untold numbers of good people, who might have otherwise gone about their quiet lives as taxi drivers, computer techs, storekeepers and scholars, farmers and shepherds, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and wives and husbands, have been justly enraged by the senseless, mindless mass murder visited upon them and inspired to become terrorists themselves. For generations to come, their children and grandchildren will do the same.

Thousands of American soldiers have given their lives or their limbs.

On this, the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, the Bush Administration and the Republican Party have absolutely outdone themselves as they’ve humped their way through bin Laden’s wet-dreams.

They’ve taken the United States of America from being the greatest democracy the world has ever known to being a whining, swaggering, musclebound, idiotic, cowardly and bad-tempered theocratic kleptocracy. As Bush and our Republican-controlled governent rush us blindly and with cheerful enthusiasiasm toward the abyss, they’ve destroyed our credibility and standing among the great nations and peoples of the world. At home, they’re busily destroying our rights, our liberty and the very freedoms our country was founded upon.

With the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11 coming just the day after tomorrow, ABC/Disney plans to release a six-hour propaganda deluge called “The Path to 9/11.” The right-wing, evangelical and conservative Republican extremists who funded and produced this two-part movie, which will be shown tomorrow night and on the night of Sept. 11 itself, claim that it’s based on the 9/11 Commission Report. They claim that it’s historically accurate, this “docudrama.”

But in reality, using the vehicle of this gravely flawed motion picture, they hope to rewrite history in the minds of the American people – for generations to come – by blaming Osama’s terror attacks on the Clinton Administration and the Democrat Party.

Although it cost between $30 and $40 million to produce, ABC/Disney plans to air this right-wing propaganda blitz commercial-free, telling us that they're doing so because of the solemn gravitas of the subject matter. My guess at the real reason is because no corporation with any vestige of capitalistic self-interest wants to associate its name with such blatant right-wing propaganda. If the whole thing somehow goes south, they'd rather not have their products and services boycotted.

Now that August is over (one doesn’t start a marketing campaign in August, ex-Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card famously reminds us), this latest conservative propaganda joins the massive Republican campaign/propaganda blitz now underway in our country. Since it worked so well in 2002 and 2004, we’re once again inundated with words and speeches designed to scare the crap out of us with the threat of Evil Osamas under the bed so we’ll keep those chesty, brave Republicans in office. And, as before, they’re calling call those who question and object to these self-serving political lies traitors, unpatriotic, un-American and – a brand-new label !-- terrorist appeasers.

In just two months, a national election, which could well break the Republican death-grip on power and bring America’s slide into ignominy to a screeching, heart-thumping halt, will take place.

And right on schedule, bin Laden has released yet another scary video and BushCo has decided to come clean regarding those CIA "black sites" all over the globe. Lo and behold, they've been holding a bunch of the terrorist big-wigs responsible for Sept. 11 in them for years, but now, they're moving them to that model of modern gulags, Gitmo where they'll be held until the kangaroo courts, complete with "secret" evidence, commence.

This, one supposes, is to make the Republicans look like good protectors to the mouth-breathers among us. And don't forget -- look for those ever-popular color-coded alerts to start popping up with alarming frequency over the next several weeks.

With a national press which has forgotten how to ask pointed questions of elected government officials, and which now focuses its attention on important matters like George Bush’s alleged summer reading list , I think this is a good time to revisit ol’ Teddy Roosevelt and take a hard look at what he had to say about the American presidency:

"The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

--Theodore Roosevelt,
in an editorial for the Kansas City Star,May 7, 1918

By the way, what are we doing about Osama bin Laden? Well, as long as his popcorn supply holds out, he’ll sleep well at night:

"The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him."
-- President George W. Bush, Sept. 13, 2001

"I don't know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don't care. It's not that important. It's not our priority."
-- George W. Bush, March 13, 2002

Scared, yet?

Update (Sept. 10, 9:45 a.m.):

This is just ... surreal.

Just went to the Yahoo home page to check my e-mail, yawning a big ol’ Sunday-morning-on-vacation yawn. And what do I see but this big ol’ photo of Condi looking all kittenish as she glances over her shoulder, her red lips pursed and her skeletal hand to her throat as if saying, “Moi?”

Next to the photo, the headline reads, “Rice: U.S. Not Entirely Safe From Attack.”

No! You’re kidding, right, Condi? You mean ... you mean those nasty terrorists could attack us again?

My Cap’n Crunch just turned to chaff in my mouth.

I mean, I thought all these wars and things were to get those meanies! Aren’t they supposed to be blowing up our kids in uniform over there so they won’t think of blowing us up over here? I mean, these terrorist types are really stooooopid, aren’t they? Did I miscombobulate that somehow?

I’m ... well. I’m just steamin’, here. Dang, I even forgot to turn on my Mr. Coffee!
Honestly. Never mind that it’s always seemed a little, well, off to me that we’ve sent our kids to Iraq with the intention of using them like a tethered goat kid in a clearing, hoping to draw tigers, but the jungle turned out to be packed so full of tigers they’re slaughtering kid after kid so fast we can’t get a good shot at ‘em.

Too bad Big Dick isn’t there. He could whip it out and shoot ‘em in the face. That’d show ‘em.

But I digress.

Condi, honey, you mean all of this, all this stuff we’ve been doing for the last five years, all this death and destruction and Constitutional shredding and wearing flip-flops on airliners and stuff is like, for nothing? We aren’t even safe?

I dunno, gang. My head aches. I think maybe we’ve been had.

07 September 2006

Aw, damn. Not Uncle Walt, too...!

One of the fondest memories of my childhood in the late 1950s and well into the 60s was sitting down to watch “The Wonderful World of Color,” the Walt Disney family program that came on every Sunday evening at 7 p.m. It was, to my young mind, as magical as it could be.

One of my favorite parts of that program was when Uncle Walt himself sat in his office, surrounded by the accoutrements of adulthood – but also with Mickey Mouse – and talked to us kids.

I can’t recall now what he said – it was far too long ago, and I was too young – but my memory is of warm and gentle words, spoken with love and what seemed like genuine care and concern for his young audience.

Uncle Walt would never, ever lie to us.

Well, Walt Disney is long gone. I’d like to think he’s rolling in his grave over the current ugliness Disney and its affiliate, ABC TV are embroiled in. But the cynic in me wonders if maybe kind old Uncle Walt might have gone right along if he’d been around today, given the huge sums of money involved. The figure $40 million – the amount ABC has already spent on producing the propaganda and disseminating it to rightwing media outlets – comes to mind.

Yes, money talks.

What’s it about? Rightwing propaganda, no less, a 6-hour miniseries called “The Path to 9/11.” It’s a “docudrama” filled with misinformation, historical revision and outright lies that cast culpability and blame on the Clinton Administration and Democrats for 9/11. It’s about to be broadcast over the airwaves on the evenings of Sept. 10 and 11, just in time for the fifth anniversary of that terrible day and, incidentally, just two short months before the November election.

You know. The one the Republicans’ heads are on fire over.

You’ve no doubt heard about the whole thing. If you haven’t, take a few minutes of your time to go read this.

Update: So much for the Magic Kindgom. I never knew this before, but Uncle Walt was a Communist baiter, (see the post, "The American Scene," on Digby's Hullabaloo) looking to bust the unions that were forming in the Hollywood studios, his included. He and the other Red-baiters of his time ruined countless lives, and for what?


Is it possible to OD on outrage? I think I just did.

Want more? Read this, too.

06 September 2006

Braying ass

“There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act, against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo. In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda. In other words, they're all for winning the war on terror, but they're all against -- they're against providing the tools for winning that war.”

That was White House Press Secretary Tony Snow yesterday during the press gaggle across the street from the White House.

What a braying ass. There are so many glaring falsehoods in his statement, it almost hurts to read it. And why, why, why didn’t that whole roomful of journalist jump all over him for it? I'm telling you, they make me ashamed.

First: “There have been some in the Democratic Party who have argued against the Patriot Act ...”

“Some” is that famous straw man that the Bush Administration loves to trot out whenever they intend to lie but want to hide the lie behind a kernel of truth.
Snow’s right, there have been Democrats who’ve argued against the Patriot Act. I’m one of them. But my argument against the Act hasn’t been because I don’t want my country protecting me from terrorism. My feeling is that the Act, initially put into place very hastily and with little thought on the part of our leaders from both parties, goes too far, and in doing so, tramples the civil rights and freedoms of all Americans.

You cannot convince me that forcing my local librarian to hand over a list of the books I’ve checked out lately will help us to catch terrorists. I’m not concerned about anyone knowing which books I read – but I am concerned about these bozos deciding, because I’ve read books on Islam, on terrorism and guerrilla warfare, on the Irish Republican Army, etc., that I’m about to form my own cadre of terrorists and massacre innocent civilians.


Uh, no. However, I am attempting to inform myself about these groups and religions in an effort to understand better how and why they exist. In addition, I’m a writer and I’ve been pecking at writing my own book for several years – predating Sept. 11 – and the subject matter involves terrorism.

Introduced in the House of Representatives on Oct. 23, 2001, the USA PATRIOT Act was passed by the House on Oct. 24, by the Senate on Oct. 25 and signed into law by Bush on Oct. 26. The large document, some 132 pages, is broken into ten sections, and each of those sections is further broken in to subsections. Its primary drafters were the now-Director of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, and Assistant Attorney General Viet D. Dinh.

You also cannot convince me that Congress really dug into and read the Act they were about to rubber stamp. There simply wasn’t time, and there was little or no debate. They were railroaded into approving this law – and reading it afterwards as they wept – by the threat of being called unpatriotic if they didn’t. How do you say “nay” to a law called “The PATRIOT Act?”

Well, you could, but that’s another post.

Moving on:

“ ... against the terror surveillance program, against Guantanamo.”

“Some” Democrats (like myself) and indeed, many Americans have argued against wiretapping our phones and against holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But we aren’t arguing against these things because we don’t want to stop terrorism. Indeed, the vast majority of Americans in both parties are all for wiretapping, as long as a warrant, issued in accordance with existing law by the FISA Court, has been obtained or will be obtained within the time limit specified by that law.

Until recently, the FISA law was working just fine. The secret FISA Court very rarely refused to issue a warrant for wiretapping to authorities, but when they did, it was because the evidence justifying the eavesdropping simply wasn’t strong enough.

President Bush, defended by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his predecessor, John Ashcroft, has been disregarding the FISA law for years now by conducting surveillance upon Americans without bothering to get a warrant for doing so. They couldn't get a warrant – they've been conducting surveillance without sufficient evidence that such surveillance is vital to national security.

The possibilities for misuse – and abuse -- of this particular power are mind-boggling.

What Democrats like myself want is for this administration to behave lawfully. The FISA Act, as it stands, is a wonderful tool – and protects my Fourth Amendment rights to privacy as a U.S. citizen at the same time. By ignoring it, the President has broken the law of the land. There is no need to amend the law -- it's just fine as it is. Indeed, any such amendment would only ignore the fact that the law has been broken by the President of the United States – and then would allow him to get away not only with breaking the law, but to continue to do so by eavesdropping on whoever he wants, whenever he wants, with the blessings of Congress and the Judiciary.

This is not democracy. This is tyranny.

I’m opposed our policy of detaining prisoners at Guantanamo for one reason only: My government has not charged these prisoners in a court of law with any wrongdoing, but continues to hold them in detention.

Detaining them indefinitely without charges is wrong. It flies against everything America stands for. American democracy is a governmental system based on law, and by disregarding it, we’re behaving not as a democracy, but as a tyranny.

If the detainees have committed crimes against the American people, then they should be charged and tried, and if found guilty, punished appropriately. If the evidence is not strong enough to do so, then they must be released – like it or not. In America, the idea is that you’re innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. And you’re guaranteed legal representation.

The Guantanamo detainees have not been proven guilty of anything, and they’ve been denied legal representation and a trial by jury. Held under unspeakable conditions and tortured by American military and intelligence operatives, these men have been detained for years – and they have no hope of their detentions ending or for any compensation for the loss of their livelihoods, their health or those terrible, lost years of their lives.

This is un-American, Mr. Snow. This is wrong.

“In other words, there are some people who say that we shouldn't fight the war, we should not detain -- we shouldn't apprehend al Qaeda, we shouldn't detain al Qaeda, we shouldn't question al Qaeda, and we shouldn't listen to al Qaeda.”

Oh, what wicked twaddle.

There’s that straw man again: “some people.” No one is saying that we shouldn’t take steps to fight terrorism. What war is Mr. Snow referring to? The war in Afghanistan? I had no problem with that one. We were going to catch Osama and bring him to justice for masterminding the terrible Sept. 11 attacks, after all. We were deposing the Taliban, which had harbored Osama and allowed al Qaeda training camps to operate within its country’s borders. I didn’t like that Afghani civilians were hurt or killed in the fighting, but I’m a grown-up. I understand that this sort of thing is pretty much unavoidable when you’re fighting what is essentially a police action with soldiers, guns, tanks, rockets, grenades and aerial bombing.

You don’t fight terrorism with soldiers and war. All that does is further disenfranchise people and create more terrorists. You prevent or stop terrorism through good, solid, investigative police work and, on a larger scale, with negotiations and diplomacy and a real commitment to get to the root of the issues and problems that are generating the terrorism itself.

I'm a Democrat, and I'd very much like to see Osama bin Ladin captured and tried in an international court of law. I doubt that there are many of my fellow Democrats who feel differently.

Iraq had nothing to do with Sept. 11 or Osama, but everything to do with George Bush’s fantasies of revenge, empire and power. For that reason, I’m against the war in Iraq. I was against it from the start and continue to be today because anyone with any elementary understanding of the history of that region could have predicted the terrible, tragic aftermath of “Shock and Awe.”

Saddam was a strong man who used fear to make the various religious factions under his rule behave themselves and endure each other. He was a bad man, but a successful one. Once he was toppled, all hell broke lose and our Prez and his advisors never gave it another thought.

“Stuff happens,” said Mr. Rumsfeld.

In the meantime, Osama bin Laden is still at large. The rumor (about three years old now) has it he’s hiding in Pakistan’s mountainous border region. Pakistan is our ally, though, and somehow it doesn’t fall under the “you’re either with us or against us” edict, so we can’t (won’t?) capture him and bring him to justice.

Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that Osama is far too valuable, politically, to the Bush Administration to catch. He's much more useful to them at large, out there somewhere, a scary presence. Without Osama, their fearmongering propaganda will be rendered ineffective and they’ll get their asses kicked out of Dodge.

I, and other Democrats, have never argued that the U.S. shouldn’t apprehend al Qaeda operatives. Indeed, we’d love to see them caught and held with the provision that they’re given access to a court of law and legal representation. That is how civilized societies conduct themselves.

We’ve ("some" Democrats) said al Qaeda shouldn’t be questioned? Puh-leeeeze Mr. Snow, you’re making my head ache. We’ve said al Qaeda shouldn’t be listened to?

Who are the Democrats you’re asserting say all this stuff? Name some names, Mr. Snow.

You can’t. Your "some" are just straw men. It’s a bad idea to put words into the straw mouths of straw men. No Democrat has ever said that we shouldn’t detain, question or listen to al Queda. To contend that we have is to baldfaced lie.

Ah, well. We are talking about the Bush Administration, aren’t we.

03 September 2006

On a different subject...

As a birthday gift to myself, I signed up for a six-week tai chi class. It starts in early October, once a week for six weeks. Since my birthday is near the end of the month, this was a very early gift, something to anticipate.

It’s something I’ve been musing on for a while now.

This particular birthday is a milestone for me. And there’ve been times over the last year when it has felt more like a millstone. You see, Wren-friends, I’ll be turning 50.

Of course, I don’t feel that old. I feel like me, like I’ve always felt. My mind is roughly 18. It’s the rest of me that ... well.

For you 30ish types out there, this is fair warning: It’s coming. That 50th birthday seems like it’s a long, long way off, but believe me, it’s tomorrow. My own experience was that after I turned 30, time actually collapsed.

After 30, the whole shebang sped up, and each year seemed to go faster and faster. I understand now why old-timers say “I remember it like it was yesterday...” when referring to a moment that took place 20 or 30 years before – it’s because, in their perception, it was yesterday.

Wasn’t it?

Now, I have friends who tell me, “Don’t worry about 50, dear. My 50s were the best years of my life.”

I believe them. And I’m slowly bringing myself around to seeing this half-century milestone not as a millstone but as a new beginning.

Yeah, it sounds trite. But I’m a great believer in the power of the mind. I believe that how we think really does shape our lives in a myriad of tiny ways. While it’s in remission now, mostly, for a period of about 10 years I battled rheumatoid arthritis nearly every day. There were times when it damn near crippled me. But I still had to go to work, still had to cart laundry up and down four flights of stairs each week, still had to take the dog out for walks every morning and every night, still had to cook meals and raise a child. During that time I learned the value of mind over matter. I learned the art of distraction. I told myself I’d get through this workday, this dog-walk, this next load of laundry.

And I did.

I’m not starting this new half of my life expecting to look like a starlet. I had my starlet-like time, and it went by so fast that I hardly noticed. Now I’m delighted just not to be gimping around each day, smelling of Tiger Balm. I’m glad to be healthy and glad to have an inquisitive mind and a wild imagination.

I’m a work in progress, for sure, but aging is something that I believe can be approached gracefully and with dignity, and I’m gonna do it.

Hence, the tai chi. If there are any readers out there about my age who have tried it, or are practicing it now, I’d love to hear from you. I’m studying up. I’m looking forward to these classes.

And maybe, for my 51st birthday, I’ll take up snowshoeing.

The party of war


Honestly, the mind reels.

In yet another attempt to reframe our despicable war of convenience in Iraq, Codpiece and the Orcs have coined a catchy new word. Bandied about during the marketing-dead-zone month of August, one can only guess that the word, with it’s implications of scary times past, is meant to soften us up for the new war marketing campaign that they’re gleefully ramping up.

Who's the lucky country this time? Iran.

They're hoping the word will help the floundering Republican Party, too. With so many bright triumphs to trot out since the turn of the century, the Party of War needs a little lift if it hopes to keep its majority in both Houses of Congress. Once again, the idea is to scare the bejesus out of the patriotic and mentally dense -- but voting -- portion of the population.

Islamofascism. The image is of Mussolini striding around in flowing desert garb, trailed by cowed figures in black burkhas.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, the blathering idiot who brought us the humiliating failure to capture Osama bin Ladin at Tora Bora and, as a Keystone Kops denouement that just won’t end, Iraq, now has his eagle-eye fixed on blasting Iran to smithereens. He’s done such a spanking bad job so far, it’s almost inevitable.

After all, with Codpiece’s blessings and lame-witted encouragement, he has two more years left to really fuck things up.

But now, the people are waking up. Sixty percent of Americans don’t support the war in Iraq any longer. They’ve finally begun to see it, and this administration, for what it really is – and, with dismay, for what it always was: barking, frothing mad.

There’s a real good chance that come November, a whole slew of warmongering, greedy, let’s-get-ours-while-the-getting-is-good Republicans will find themselves unceremoniously kicked out of Congress. And a few Vichy Democrats, as well. In a fairly short time, a lot of them just might find themselves facing charges of corruption and perhaps even treason. They’ve spent the last six years cheerfully and methodically doing everything they could to destroy America, from ripping her great Constitution to shreds to pocketing her treasure for themselves.

Not to mention killing thousands of innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supporting Israel as she does the same in Lebanon.

They’re desperate. So desperate, they’re trying out that new word, Islamofascism, to see how it plays. My fear is that in their desperation to retain power and not get caught gobbling and snorking in the national cookie jar, they’ll launch nukes at Iran prior to the November election.

Unbelievable as it is, Codpiece is already giving creepy speeches that sound very much like the ones he used to delude us into supporting a war in Iraq. Parts of them are just about word-for-word.

And with nukes, you don’t need to wait until the weather is nicer. No need to hold off until March.

With America mired deeply and irrevocably in yet another terrible war, the Republican carpetbaggers think we’ll be afraid to toss them out on their well-upholstered asses.

The nightmare is they could be right. America, the land of plasma TVs and SUVs, where the people sacrifice by going shopping, frightens easily and learns slowly.