Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Why Brecht & Weill Matter More Than Ever

I have an erstwhile friend from college days (the 1960's) who insists that the early, socially-conscious works of Berthold Brecht and Kurt Weill (The Threepenny Opera and The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) are "irrelevant," and that all of Brecht's later plays were somehow diminished in stature by the end of the Cold War, the demise of Communism as we knew it, and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I say "erstwhile friend" since I ceased all communication with this person about six months ago. My late mother once told me, "In mixed company, avoid all discussions involving three subjects: sex, politics, and religion." I later learned that there was an exception to that rule. One may discuss such things freely and openly with friends; in fact, one cannot truly count as a friend anyone who so completely disagrees with you on matters sexual, political, and religious that they take issue with your every pronouncement on the matters.

This erstwhile friend -- let's call him Tom -- was a person I looked up to in my undergraduate years in college. He was a year ahead of me and well-read, and I mistook his opinionated loquatiousness for erudition. But, then, to me he was erudite. Not only had I come as a freshman to a buy-your-degree "play" university in North Texas from a small city on the Gulf Coast almost 400 miles south, I virtually threw away my three years in high school in favor of playing class clown. (In retrospect, I think I had A.D.D., but now that we know a lot more about the drugs used to treat it at the time, I am glad that some wise synapse in my mother's brain told her to avoid such things as Ritalin, which might have made me "behave.")

Tom had superior knowledge of the very things that interested me most: film, theatre, literature, and the performing arts. But I soon enough learned that these were the only intellectual pursuits we had in common, for we were, politically, diametrically opposite. He was a Goldwater Republican and I was a Kennedy liberal. Sex and religion did not at the time enter into our discourse. Only later in life would those subjects rear their heads and become for me insurmountable obstacles to maintaining a friendship. To make a long story short, it was Tom's politics that dictated his feelings about Brecht and Weill, politics that seemed to me to have degenerated from Goldwater's libertarian, states' rights brand of conservatism to what I can only describe as the crypto-fascist wingnutiness of the neo-cons.

As the recent PBS broadcast of the L. A. Opera production of Aufsteig und Fall der Standt Mahagonny demonstrated, Brecht and Weill are alive and well in a "City of Nets" near you. Productions of the opera are relatively rare, so it's odd that 2007 saw not one but two of them. One was mounted at the Charleston Spoleto festival (founded in honor of Carlo Menotti); the other, recorded for PBS, at Los Angeles. Reviewing the Spoleto version, opera critic Fernando Rivas wrote in the Charleston City Paper that Mahagonny was a "Marxist scream of defiance against capitalism" and wondered why this particular work had turned up at a music festival that 'is in so many ways the product of a solidly capitalist system."

Rivas then went on to speculate that the schisms between the haves and have-nots that were always at the heart of the Brech-Weill collaborations were possibly prophetic. He asks, "why does that final scene of Armageddon [in Mahagonny] when people unhappy with Mahagonny carry protest signs and kill each other seem so...contemporary?" Then, Rivas asks, "Is it possible that Brecht's larger message, not about socialism and capitalism, but about humanity's inability to resolve conflict and its inability to cope with its own fears and violent appetites is still relevant?"

He also wonders why the subplot of a "hurricane barely missing a city" manages to "hit such a responsive chord" in a place like Charleston? Was the Spoleto audience recalling how our federal big brother mishandled the Katrina disaster even as the nation was bogged down in a preemptive invasion in Iraq? Apropos the invasion, ironically the first Gulf War was called "Desert Storm." Instead of claiming that 9/11 was God's wrath visited upon a wicked nation populated by homos and abortion doctors, perhaps the fundamentalist preachers should have speculated on a different cause: Iraq. But God forbid the fundamentalists should ever engage in arguments from post hoc, ergo propter hoc analysis of events. It would seem to me that if we hadn't been spending so much money in the Mideast, we might have had more resources to aid New Orleans. It is commonly known that many rescues in that city, post-Katrina, had to be called off due to a shortage of helicopters.

Brecht and Weill began their association during the Weimar Republic, a time that has come to be "synonymous with political instability, inflation, and decadence," as one Kurt Weill biographer, C. J. Schuler, has written. It might be observed that these same ills mark early 21st century America, especially if, by "political instability" one points to partisan deadlock in Congress, and by "inflation," the rising cost of all goods and services spurred on by oil selling at record prices, and by "decadence" the gross disparity between the middle class and the super rich. For all their troubles, the Nazi's blamed the Jews, while the Republican Party, in appeals to its base, blames homosexuals, illegal aliens, and pro-choicers. It is the use of fear itself that leads to the sort of insanity seen in the Third Reich, and fear has become the ruling politicians' weapon of choice. All we need now is a Beer Hall Putsch.

Schuler noted that the Reichstag Fire, blamed on Jews and Communists, "led to the suspension of civil liberties." Today, we have our "Patriot" Act -- just possibly the least patriotic legislation ever created and passed by Congress, given that it suspended many civil liberties, including that most important right: habeas corpus. Substitute "Islamic fascism" for Communism in almost any account of the transition from the Weimer Republic to the Third Reich and the parallels are easily seen.

My erstwhile friend Tom's contention that Brecht is "irrelevant" would seem to be based almost entirely on the notion that since Brecht was a Marxist, and since Communism collapsed with the Wall, the message of Brecht is either no longer necessary or meaningful in the context of today. I beg to differ. For one thing, equating Communism with Marxism is misguided if not downright silly. The English Catholic essayist, G. K. Chesterston observed that there was "nothing wrong with Christianity, it's just never been tried." Neither has Marxism been tried. After the death of Lenin and the assassination of Trotsky, the Stalinists and, later, the Maoists, made a mockery of Marxism by justification of all manner of evils, including pogroms that made the Nazi's look like amateurs, in defense of Communism's lifeblood.

As I am forever reminding the fabulously wealthy pastors of so called "Christian" superchurches, Jesus also said that the rich would no sooner enter the Kingdom of Heaven than a camel will pass through the eye of a needle. The early Christians were communists in the finest sense of the word: they held no property in private and shared all wealth, and especially food, clothing, and shelter, with their fellow Christians. Far too many Christians today, perhaps the greater majority, have not only forgotten what the founder of the faith stood for, they've made as much a mockery of his principles as Mao and Stalin did those of Marx.

The "Armageddon" critic Rivas discusses as forming the climax of the opera's second and final act, comes after a collage of set pieces involving the "decadence" of the Men of Mahagonny, consisting of drinking, eating, boxing, and fornicating. (It's not for nothing that Brecht and Weill, when reunited in America after escaping Nazi persecution, immediately collaborated anew on a "sung ballet," The Seven Deadly Sins. Isn't it strange that Brecht, an avowed Marxist, would be so obsessed with the Christian concept of "sin"?) Now, take each of the subjects of the Mahagonny set pieces and one does not have to think long and hard to see our modern parallels: widespread use of alcohol and recreational drugs; a nation with so large a population of obese gourmandizers the government has named it a national health problem; major sports figures convicted of staging dog fights, and sex, sex, sex all over TV, magazines, and DVD'S.

No, Brecht and Weill are just as relevant today as in the '30s. They serve as living reminders of the ultimate fate of those who allow themselves to be distracted by mundane, self-indulgent pursuits while their government is robbing them blind, taking them into evil wars, and stripping them of their liberties.

Friday, August 31, 2007

"Unforgivable": Mitch McComical

Sen. Mitch McComical (R-Ky.) has weighed in on the Craig controversy, saying that what Sen. Larry Craig (R-Id.) did (solicitation of sex in an airport men's room) was "unforgivable." This comes from a Baptist, mind you. What always blows me away is how so many professed Christian people refuse to forgive their fellow man for what the Bible views as "sinful." Forget that if the prophet who gave the religion its name stood for anything it was forgiveness.

Of course, when he condemned his fellow legislator, Mitchie Boy may have had in mind the damage the Toilet Incident may have done to the GOP, which of course really was unforgivable. At least in McComical's eyes. Forget that Reb Yeshua said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." But then, Mitchie Pooh, having never committed a sin himself, no doubt believes that the stoning parable couldn't possibly apply to him.

To express belief in a religion and its moral principles, then behave in utter, complete opposition to them is even more hypocritical than Craig's voting for anti-gay measures then seeking gay sex in a john. Why do these twits insist on piling one hypocrisy on another?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Craig Flynted by Airport Security

Great story in Roll Call (an online Beltway insider publication) about Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) being arrested by an airport security officer after the pol played footsies under a toilet partition, which the cop recognized as "a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct." Craig, in typical Republican fashion, flashed his senatorial I.D. in an attempt to escape arrest, saying, "What do you think of that?" The officer invited him to go quietly, as "I didn't want to make a scene."

I am reading Larry Flynt's Sex, Lies, and Politics, one of the funniest books I have come across in many years. In it, Flynt claims to have coined the word, "Flynted," a reference to his Clinton-era practice of paying informants for dirt on politicians who decry abortion, pornography, and same-sex marriage and attempt to pass Constitutional amendments against such things even as they patronize prostitutes, suck cock, and engage in various other hypocritical activities. The Craig incident is yet another example of why Flynt claims that hypocrisy is the norm in legislative circles -- that such two-faced conduct is the rule rather than the exception. As Flynt likes to say, "I'm accused of being a bottom feeder, which is true...but look what I find there."

And although Larry didn't have to pay a dime for the Craig "Flynting," he really should send a few bucks to the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport police -- at least enough to pay for their annual Christmas party at the A. P. Operations Center, where Craig was led in handcuffs to be interrogated. That's where he flashed his senatorial credentials in a moment of patrician pride and arrogance. Such gestures have become commonplace in Republican ranks, but that party hardly has a monopoly on them. Craig's insistence that he only pled guilty to a lesser offense than he could have been convicted of in order to make the incident go away expeditiously and without bruhaha doesn't make the facts of the airport bust go away at all; if anything, his remarks only make things worse for him.

And what facts! As the TV pundits have all noted (save Fox Noise, which didn't even identify Craig as Republican!), the airport security offense report was both detailed and extensive. It has Craig standing in front of the plainclothes officer's stall, pacing in front of it, peeping into the crack between the door and the partition wall, then entering the stall next to it, where he not only played footsies, edging his oxford under the partition, but used his finger, under the partition, to signal he wanted sex. Later, when Roll Call outed him, Craig told a press conference his actions had been misinterpreted by the officer, that when he squats on the potty, he spreads his legs out, and that he was only reaching his hand neath the partition to recover a piece of paper he'd dropped. The cop noted that no piece of paper was found. He also said that all of Craig's movements were consistent with what he knew of men who are seeking sex.

So here is this conservative Republican senator from one of the most solid red states, a man who sings in a quartet with Sen. Trite Loot and ex-A.G. John Asscrap, who voted for the no gay marriage act, and became a vociferous defender of that euphemism of euphemisms, "family values," soliciting sex in a public toilet. For the secular liberals, Craig is a godsend (you should pardon the expression): a fine example of how "family values" = hypocrisy. Here is this hopelessly closeted tearoom queen blabbing to the media about how he only pled out because he didn't consult a lawyer (when, as everyone knows, any lawyer would have insisted he plead out), and saying -- with a straight (again, you should pardon the expression) face: "I am not gay."

Duh! Oh, really? Then why did you all but out yourself a few years back when congressional pages were going public with tales of wild parties featuring coke and cocksucking, hashish and homosex, marijuana and maricons? You must have anticipated that one of those pages would be naming names and that your own would be batted about. Conscience doth make confessors of us all. Come on, Larry, do the right thing. Tell the truth -- that you are a sneaky cocksucking faggot who doesn't have the guts to go public when caught with his foot loose.

Faggot? Yes, I know, a no-no. A politically incorrect epithet on the same order as "nigger" with reference to a person of color. But guess what? An African-American like Obama deserves to be called an "African-American." O. J. does not. O. J. is a nigger pure and simple. Larry Craig is not a bisexual (he only married immediately after the page scandal, and to a woman who already had children; it was a marriage of convenience if ever there was one). He lends support for the conclusion of Gore Vidal that "there are no bisexuals, there are only uncommited homosexuals." But Craig isn't even that. Craig is a faggot. Craig is a cocksucking homo queer. And the sooner he admits it to himself, the sooner he will be forgiven for his pecadillo in the pee room.

The fallout has been almost immediate and dramatic. Once the senatorial point-man for GOP presidential candidate Mitt ("Varmints") Romney, Craig was quietly removed from that role, and when the beady-eyed Mitt was asked for a comment on the airport incident, he said only, "I don't know the circumstances of his setting." No, no, no, Mitt! It's not the circumstances of Craig's "setting," it's the circumstances of his "sitting."

Now, no one wants to have anything to do with Craig. He has no friends "on either side of the aisle." He is anathema to straights, who shun him as a pansy, a fudge-packer, a queer. And gay people regard him as a closet queen, the worst epithet to those who are "out," either because they choose to be or because they are flamboyantly so. Craig's deep denial serves as an object lesson in proof of the old gay liberationist claim of the 60's, that Freudian projection and self-rejection are the hallmarks of "internalized homophobia" -- rejection of one's very essence, the end result of self-oppression, self denial, and a mindset bordering on schizophrenia. If ever one wondered why gays feel the need to declare their orientation, if ever gay rejection of the policy of "don't ask, don't tell" were clearer, Craig's story explains it all.

To those who would join the chorus proclaiming the efficacy of "family values," Craig's outing cries back the acronym of another 60's phenomenon, the union of prostitutes in San Francisco calling themselves "COYOTE": Come Off Your Tired Old Ethics.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

It Ain't a Surge!

I don't know why everyone is calling the troop increase and Petraeus-led "new strategy" in Iraq a "surge." It ain't a surge, it's a splurge! And, like most splurges, it's a commitment we can ill afford. BRING THE TROOPS HOME N-O-W!!!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Scoots & Bill

Political pundits are weighing in on the likelihood of Dubya pardoning Scoots Libby and, not unexpectedly, there is ample polarization and partisanship, conservatives taking the position that the charges were trumped up and that the prosecution was a farce, a show trial, while liberals point out that the much-talked-about Rule of Law requires punishment for Libby just as it requires punishment for Paris. (Perhaps it was more than just coincidence -- a synchronicity? -- that both of these people were brought before judges inclined to make them do the time for having done the crime.) As one TV pundit put it earlier in the day on one Sunday news and views program, it would seem the "height of hypocrisy" for the Neo Con crowd to lobby for Libby's release when that same, vociferous lot screamed for the head of Bill Clinton during Monicagate.

Taking the bait later in the day, on Fox's Chris Wallace program (examined more closely in an earlier blog of mine) was, again not unexpectedly, Bill Kristol, who condemned the trial of Scoots as a shameless and despicable spectacle, completely without merit. It's like saying, "We're all for the Rule of Law so long as it is only applied to 'Democrat' [sic] party people." Two-facedness never knew such outrages. Double standards have reached a new highpoint. Hypocrisy is alive and well on Fox 'News.' (In quotes because, as a "news organization," Fox is a joke.)

Now, wouldn't it be nice if Scoots was put in the same cell as Paris? He could tell her how to lie to the F.B.I. and a United States grand jury, and she could tell him how to bullshit a county sheriff into sending you home to your palacial 4,000 square foot mansion in Beverly Hills. But, hey, as the fall guy for his boss, Prick Cheney, and for the White House's eminence gris, K.R., Scoots will at least leave the slams to find a huge wad of Halliburton money on deposit for him in an offshore bank. John Dean had it right when he titled one of his books, Worse Than Watergate. It really is!

Friday, June 08, 2007

The Vicarious Life of an American Wife

Boo hoo, Paris Hilton has to GO BACK TO JAIL! How silly of her to think her rich parents could bribe a county sheriff into letting her out for some feigned illness, as it's well known the only sickness she has is terminal boredom -- a malaise that, unfortunately, is spreading. After spending less than six days in the slammer in a cell with about 1/100th of the floor space of her two million dollar mansion, deprived of her swimming pool, wet bar, coke snorting room (it used to be a study), &c., &c., &c., she has decided she is better than anyone else and deserves to stay at home with an ankle brace.

There was just one wee problem. The publicity on which she thrives backfired on her, a torrent of abuse claiming she shouldn't be treated any different than anyone else, and after all, the judge who sentenced her to thirty days in jail for violation of conditions of probation for DUI, signed an order to that effect containing a line about home lockdowns being a no-no. Poor, poor Paris. Boo hoo.

The trouble with cunts like Ms. Hilton is that she forgets that this is a democratic country and nobody is supposed to be treated any differently than anybody else. Had the judge sentenced almost anyone else for probation violation, he probably would have given them 90 or even 180 days. She should consider herself lucky and take the medicine. You do the crime, you do the time. Reminds me of the hapless residential burglar who stood before the court on his third conviction. Sentenced to thirty years in prison, he said, "But, your honor, I can't do that much time!"

To which, the judge replied: "Do what you can, son."

Ms. Hilton may have a famous name and tons of money and celebrity status in a country that lives vicariously in the papparazi world of movie and TV stars, sports figures, and American Idols, but she's managed to forget the simple fact that when she deposits turds in the crapper, it stinks up the bathroom. This is clearly a woman who will do just about anything to get attention, even fuck on video, pretending it was just horrible, horrible I say, how those thieves made off with the production and sold it to the porno producers. It was a trick she'd learned from Tommy Lee and that other slut from Baywatch he porked on video. And, who knows, maybe Tommy learned it from Rob Lowe.

Although Ms. Hilton has had more than her 15 minutes of fame -- quite undeserved, since she hasn't a talented bone in her body and seemingly can't do anything but flash that mouth full of carefully cultivated, perfectly capped dentition, she apparently takes pride in being a poor little rich girl and a bad one at that. But she manages to forget something we all have to learn the hard way: in America, we are free to fuck up, but whatever we do has consequences. The consequences of drunk driving sometimes include incarceration. If you are lucky enough to get probation, don't drink or use dope and drive -- at least while you're still on probation. Everyone knows that!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Congressional Sleight of Hand

The U. S. Postal Service (Postal Department until Reagan partially privatized it) almost with clockwork ups the price of an ounce of first class postage, almost always by two cents. The explanations given always sound suspicious, and the current increase, going into effect May 14, 2007, is no exception. It sees a 39-cent stamp increasing to 41 cents. (At least the increase is exactly the same as the previous one; I still have plenty of two-cent stamps and now have a use for them again.) The apologia this time concerns a vaguely-stated necessity of upgrading equipment or procedures to keep up with the competition.

But, all this stuff about the USPS charging more for stamps because it struggles to compete with rival free market services (UPS, Air Express, &c.) is a lot of hokem and bunk. By law, NO carrier BUT the Postal Service can move first class letter mail. The government has given them a monopoly on it. If the rival, private services are more efficient at parcel movement and other services, perhaps the USPS should simply bow out of the market entirely.

Each time they raise postal rates, the services remain the same. In fact, some wags claim that you can always tell when an increase in postage is coming by the way the services decline. Also, from time to time, they change the names of some services, e.g. "library materials rate" to "media mail," but they don't bring us mail on Sundays, in fact threatening perennially to drop Saturday deliveries altogether. They continue to under staff their counter service, causing long waiting lines and great consternation, although it is to be admitted that the clerks at least seem to have had some training in people skills.

And they still refuse to give us the benefit of the doubt when it comes to postage due, again causing consternation when, sometimes, mail is returned to sender for an additional penny or two. The consternation in this event can be extreme, as the postage-due recoil can cause charge-backs by banks, stiff late fees on unpaid bills, and emotional let-downs for things as simple as a missed birthday card. The USPS simply do not give value for the added costs of mailing.

Now, here is the Big Secret about the USPS: the additional stamp money doesn't all go to improvements in equipment, &c. A hefty hunk of it goes to their boss, the U.S. government. It is then spent in such stupid, misguided activities as building bridges across rivers to connect a few hundred persons on both sides of a river; funding studies to determine if the Wisconsin newt actually has the ability to alter its sex at will, and sending young men to die in colossally misguided misadventures in the Mideast. If the USPS were not the best mail service in the world (and, actually, one of the cheapest) the government might privatize first class letter mail, too. But, then, they wouldn't have all that extra revenue to fund their boondoggles.

The new "forever" stamp, which you can buy for a one-time price of 41-cents, and which you can use till Hell freezes over, is a silly idea. It may seem economically sound for some; after all, with these every-two-or-three-year increases of two to three cents, paying 41 cents when others are paying 43, 46, or 49, could bring to your face the kind of smug smile one gets when buying low and selling high in the stock market. "Ha! I told you so!" But, think about it, let's say you're a business person and mail at least 500 first class letters a year. That's going to cost you $205 for each year you figure you will remain in business.

You may die in a year or two. Or you may retire. Congress might throw in the towel and let UPS or some other carrier deliver first class letter mail, in which your cache of USPS forever stamps will be worthless. Assuming the 41-cent rate will be good for at least two years, perhaps you can wait until 2009 before buying the priceless franking. (Again, to borrow from stock market analogies, you might have, within the Postal Service, a tipster, aiding you in some insider trading.)

Then, again, you might do a bit more correspondence by fax or email. Come to think of it, these may put the USPS out of business. How will you get value for all your leftover forever stamps when the seller winds up in bankruptcy?

No, I think I will buy a roll of 41-centers at a time. Somehow I don't trust this forever stamp ploy.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

"Jesus Don't Like Killin' No Matter What the Reason Is...."

I just watched on DVD the docudrama, The Road to Guantanamo by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, which won mostly positive critical praise when released here theatrically. Essentially, it's the story of four young British-Pakistanis who head for the Mideast to attend a wedding only to be caught up in the Afghan War and wind up on troop transport planes bound for Cuba. It's a tale of almost unbelievable cruelty perpetrated by the very people who once claimed to cherish the noble and egalitarian ideals of democracy, but now, in the name of "security," practice the same evils attributed to the Nazi S.S. and other infamous despots throughout history.

I was reminded of a saying we had during the Vietnam Era, actually the title of a book by Edmund Snow Carpenter, a friend of Marshall McLuhan and teacher of anthropology at the University of Toronto and other academic venues. The title was: We Became What We Beheld. I am very much afraid that somewhere along the road to our becoming the world's greatest superpower, the U.S. became what it beheld, and as Guantanamo illustrated so perfectly well, what we beheld was tyrrany in the name of a better night's sleep. I know it is by now a cliche and that saying it invites accusations of traitorous betrayal, but I will repeat it anyway: We are the New Nazis.

What good is torture when it only produces lies and forced confessions not worth the breath that uttered them? There is a beautiful, telling documentary snippet in the Winterbottom-Whitecross movie -- a blend of TV news footage, reconstructed events, and interviews with the three young Islamic Brits who survived. It comes when the groundwork for the interrogation and imprisonment of hostages flown from Afghanistan to Gitmo is being laid and the then-Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is heard to remark that the captor-interrogators (first the Marines, then the FBI and CIA) would be "following the Geneva Conventions...for the most part...."

I am afraid Rummy now belongs to that select group of Americans who cannot safely travel outside the United States due to the ever-growing membership ranks of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. (No wonder the U.S. has denounced the World Court and refused to participate in its doings.) Like Nixon's architect of war, Henry Kissenger, Rumsfeld risks being snatched on the streets of one member nation or another and taken, Milosevich-like, before the Tribunal.

If I had any doubt that what happened at Guantanamo violated the Geneva accords if not to the letter, then certainly in spirit, The Road to Guantanamo removed any veil of doubt that remained. Worse, the later Iraqi misadventure, an unprovoked escalation of hostilities against both guilty and innocent Iraqis at Abu Graib saw wholesale flouting of the accords. We have indeed become what we beheld.

Winterbottom and Whitecross's movie ends with the surviving Islamic Brits being flown home, eventually joining their friends in Pakistan for the long-planned wedding. But all three men tell the camera they've been permanently changed. Actually, it is amazing they remained sane, much less capable of going on with their lives. I am afraid it just won't do for our leaders and our national security people to perpetuate a wicked twist on the old saying that it is better to set one guilty man free to protect all who remain innocent. The modus operandi at Guantanamo turned this notion on its head, insisting as it did on imprisonment and psychological torture of many innocents in often vain hopes of sussing out one or two members of bin Ladin's al Qaida.

There was a bit of talk in the film about the differences between Islamic and American "values." That became the buzzword for the Neo-Cons who put George Bush and Dick Cheney in the White House, the latter at least, it's now known, already with plans to invade Iraq. One is left to wonder, "Whose values?" The same glib value talk held sway at the recent MSNBC Republican "debate." The values they mean -- those of Romney, Tancredo, Huckabee, and Brownback -- are clearly Christer values, which are really bigot values, church-state union values, undemocratic values, hypocrite values. If this is not the case, why did John McCain denounce the two leading Christer fundamentalists months ago only to suck up to them more recently as the time came for his hat to go into the ring?

As I watched the DVD, I was reminded of another saying from the Vietnam Era. One of our finest folk singers, John Prine, a master of irony and the "protest" song, wrote and recorded a little ditty titled "Flag Decal," on the singer's brilliant debut album. The song is too long (not to mention copyright-covered) to repeat at length here, but fair usage might allow me to quote the refrain:

Now Jesus don't like killin'
No matter what the reason is
And your flag decal won't get you
Into heaven any more.

You know, I kinda doubt Jesus would like torture, either. But you certainly see a lot of those yellow ribbon decals on vehicles these days. Do those drivers think their Iraq Era decals will get them past Saint Pete? It amuses me to see that some people, perhaps feeling guilty about the non-WMD, non-al Qaida link, non Saddam nuclear-capability revelations of late, have been trying to scratch their decals off...only to discover that the shitheads who marketed them forgot to make them car paint- friendly. Even if you manage to remove the decal, your paint job is ruined.

To those drivers who've left the the decals in place thinking they'll get them through the Pearly Gates...well, they've got another think coming.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Stewed Newt, Very Tasty With Mustard

Poor Newtie (that's his mom's name for him, not mine). As the first GOP "debates" (the news channel's name for them, not mine) were winding down on MSNBC, Newtie was telling Sean Hannity on rival Fox News he thought it absurd to hold what amounted to a "joint press conference" (NOT a debate) some 20 months before the next president moves into the oval office. Newtie appeared to be turning a bit green. All of the attention was on announced candidates and there was Newtie, still with no hat in the ring, grumbling like a small child running home to blubber, "Nobody wants to play with ME!" Of course not, stupid. You're not running yet.

All the same, these introductory chit chats really do seem not only premature but calculatedly civil. Like the Dems before them, the announced GOP candidates avoided jibes at each other; unlike the Dems, none of them dared criticize the current occupant of the White House, AWOL from some village missing an idiot. To paraphrase an old Marlon Brando movie, the assembled hacks at the GOP "debate" "coulda been contenders," but they were too busy pretending that all is right with the world, that nothing in American is broken, so there's no use in talking about having anything fixed.

There was a decidedly Christer tone to the proceedings. Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said that the reason politics and religion should mix is that "religion influences all of us. We all have values...." It is a perennial complaint of agnostics and atheists from Huxley to Harris (with Madalyn Murray O'Hair thrown in) that this observation carries an inherent argument that if one is not religious, one has no values. Although a fairly obvious fallacy, it's nevertheless one most TV audiences are not likely to grasp.

But that was the least of the logical fallacies. Indeed, one of the worst was delivered by the hands-down (if unofficial) winner of the debate, Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney. Discussing his flip-flopping on abortion, Romney said that he was pro-choice until he got enmeshed in the controversy over stem cell research in his home state, Massachusetts. Stem cell research, he said, "was caused by Roe v. Wade"! I kid you not. He actually said it!

Of all the preposterous foreign policy positions of the night, one "took the cake": Rep. Tom Tancredo's insistence that sending troops into Iran was inevitable because Ahmadinejad believes in the return of the "Last Imam," who will bring about the Islamic equivalent of the Second Coming. (The 12th Imam of the Shiites, Ali ibn Muhammad Simmari, is sometimes referred to as the"Hidden Imam," and many believe he did not die but will return, Jesus-like, in the Shiite version of the Apocalypse.)

This religious-based "fear" of Iran is central to the beliefs of such ultra-fundamentalist groups as the Remnant Church, which you can google if you want to have nightmares. Many ultra-evangelical organizations are in a hurry to bring about World War III because, just as Jihadists see suicidal martyrdom as a swift trip to Paradise, so do the fundies view Armageddon as a promise of their just desserts. It's sickening to think that an Apocalyptic War to the death might be waged over differing eschatological beliefs. (Me, I kinda like living in the here and now, and I wish the Tancredos of this world would simply disappear , and take their goddamned fucking Rapture with them!)

In view of Tancredo's credo, it shouldn't be a bit surprising that when a reader of sent in a question to Sen. John McCain asking if he believed in evolution, he hesitated noticeably before admitting that he did. But when the same inquiry was put to all the other candidates on the dais, three said no, that they did not believe in evolution. Naturally, one of them was Tancredo, but it surprised me that Fmr. Gov. Huckabee of Arkansas agreed; he's appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, hardly a seeming haven for creationists. (It did not surprise me at all that Brownback held up his hand. See my earlier blog about this lunatic.)

Until he back-tracked from social liberalism to quasi-conservatism in an obvious effort to curry the GOP right wing base, I had some hope that Rudy Giuliani (fmr. mayor, N.Y.C.) might be someone I could support, at least in the primaries. But his performance during the debates was pathetic. Not only did he join the phoney homage-payment to Ronald Reagan (I kept expecting someone to quip, "I knew Ronald Reagan, Governor, and you're no Ronald Reagan"), he delivered the most preposterous remark of the night when we finally negotiated release of hostages taken from our embassy in Tehran, their Iranian captors took one look into Reagan's eyes and released their hostages two minutes later.

Yeah, sure, but only after Lt.-Col. Oliver North's little White House basement operation put lies to Ronnie's promises to Americans that there would be "no arms for hostages." Is this the kind of president Giuliani will be? Will he conveniently forget important events and/or statements when the chips are down, as Scooter Libby learned from Reagan?

Worse, Giuliani came off as both slippery and ingnorant. He could not adequantely explain the historic differences between the Sunnis and the Shiites. After five years of Iraqi War, degenerated now into a sectarian battle of attrition, that Giuliani is so poorly versed in Islanic history shows a weakness in foreign policy issues that, increasingly, determine the course for America's future. We can't have another man who needs on-the-job training. Even Hillary would have the edge in that department.

The only candidate who emerged as someone I could cross party lines and votes for in the primary is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a libertarian Republican whose views hark back in some ways to Goldwater. He is a fiscal conservative, which is good. But when it comes to government's involvement in quotidian, purely personal matters (e.g. abortion), he is a hand's-off individualist. It's a throw-away vote, of course, but worth it all the same.

The participants, for the record:

Fmr. Gov. James Gilmore (R.-Va.); Fmr. Mayor Rudy Giuliana (R.-N.Y.C.); Fmr. Gov. Mike Huckabee (R.-Ark.); Rep. Duncan Hunter (R.-Cal.); Sen. John McCain (R.-Ariz.); Rep. Ron Paul (R.-Tex.); Fmr. Gov. Mitt Romney (R.-Mass.); Rep. Tom Tancredo (R.-Col.), and Fmr. Gov. Tommy Thompson (R.-Wis.).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

A Rat Deserting a Sinking Ship of State

Here comes another George (Tenet), hawking his book about the build-up to the second Iraqi war when he was C.I.A. director in the 9/11 era, giving V.P. Cheney his most famous quotation, a claim that the consensus of the intelligence community of the potential for a successful invasion was, to quote Tenet, "a slam dunk." Tenet now claims that the words were taken out of context. (Hey, you're dealing with a Bushite: what else is new?) He now claims that all available intelligence at the time showed that there were no WMD's, there was no Saddam-al Qaida link, there was no nuclear threat, and that sanctions were, to an extent, working. So why the War?

Making the rounds of the talk shows to promote his book, Tenet is armed to the teeth with self-serving, face-saving recollections that are belied by video clips showing his behavior at the time. For example, he claims he had grave misgivings about accepting the Medal of Freedom from the President in a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, but there he is on the dais, shit-eating grin from ear to ear, gobbling up the moment as if it were fine buluga on those tiny pumpernickel rounds only served at the finest festivities. Worse, who can forget Colin Powell, Bush's dupe, trying to sell the United Nations General Assembly on Saddam's threat to world peace, Tenet sitting right behind him all the while?

No, George, it simply won't do. Instead of doing the right thing -- speaking out to let the American people know that Bush's propaganda campaign about Saddam was a huge lie -- you kept your mouth shut. You accepted the Medal of Freedom in the spirit in which it was given: to buy your silence until the nation had turned 2/3rds against the administration and overwhelmingly demanded bringing home the troops. You sat by and said nothing while 3,400 troops died, to say nothing of the 30,000 or so Iraqi citizens.

If the Christers are right about Hell, Mr. Tenet, there is a very special corner of it waiting for you. With any luck you will first be tried for war crimes. You and Rove and Cheney and, yes, Bush. Move over Milosevic. You have new rivals for infamy.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tito and Hussein: A Useful Comparison

The year I was born, Josip Broz became Marshal of the confederation of Balkan countries we used to refer to as Yugoslavia. Known as "Tito," he was a Croatian by birth, but during World War II, he joined the Serbian-dominated, communist-allied Partisans. They were opposed to the Quisling-style traitorous state Croatia had become under the nominally Catholic government of Fascists known as the Ustasha. (Led by a bloodthirsty maniac, Anton Pavelic, Croatia welcomed Nazi invaders and engaged in a pogrom against Serbians, Jews, and gypsies. Some say the genocide that ensued claimed upward of a million lives.) After the war, Tito rose to power, first as premier, then as president, and although he was a dedicated communist himself, his defiance of the U.S.S.R. led, eventually, to Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Cominform. (It's entirely possible that Tito, unlike some die hard card-carriers in the West, knew that Stalinist Russia had more in common with Nazi Germany than with any utopia envisioned by Marx and Lenin.)

Tito ruled the confederated Balkan states with an iron hand. He was hardly a tyrant, though. Under his leadership, faithful followers of Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Islam lived and worshiped side by side in peace and harmony. Although frequently critical of the United States, Tito kept the Soviets distracted and was an unexpected if only de facto ally during the Cold War. When Tito died in 1980, I knew Yugoslavia would disintegrate into chaos, and I was soon proved prescient. (In the 1970's, I had researched Serbo-Croatian relations extensively for a magazine article I did about a Croatian war criminal living in the U.S. with Justice Department complicity.) The rise of Serbian hegemony and subsequent "ethnic cleansing" (a euphemism for genocide) saw takeovers of Bosnia and Croatia, all-out warfare throughout most of the '80's, and the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of thousands, including untold numbers of Muslims. Yet today Milosevic is all but forgotten. We must repeat history when we fail to learn from it.

In some ways, the Second Iraqi War is a repetition of history. For all his evil and anti-democratic ways, Saddam was the only thing between civil war by the two major factions in the Islamic faith: the Sunnis and the Shiites. Saddam is said to have copied his personal Qu'ran from his own blood, but despite the claims of some Neo Con hard liners, the Butcher of Baghdad was a non-sectarian thug whose only allegiance was to the ruling minority party in Iraq, the Baathists. He was shrewd enough to know that imposition of Shari'a on his "subjects" was inimical to the illusion of democracy he wished to perpetuate, and his wars against Iran and Kuwait were not waged for ideological differences but for territorial and economic ambitions.

Yet, so long as he was in power, Saddam protected the Sunni population of Iraq -- and, by extension, the majority of Islam -- from the Shiite revolutionary goals of the Iranians. The latter deeply trouble not only the Saudis but many other countries in the region. The toppling of his regime may have freed the Kurds to live in peace in Northern Iraq and to extend to the majority Shiites rights they'd envied in their Sunni masters, but it provoked a civil war in Iraq that endangers stability in all of the Mideast.

This is precisely what Osama bin Laden wanted, and it has resulted in the Balkanization of Iraq. The stupidity and hard-headedness of the Bush administration has them emulating Cold War East Germany and modern-day Israel in the construction of barriers and walls in hopes of separating the U.S. from Mexico and Sunni Baghdad from their Shiite neighbors. Although the administration labels this "part of the new strategy in Iraq," as if the last-ditch efforts of the "surge" had envisioned it all along, it was only instituted after martyrs blew up part of the legislature's meeting hall within the Green Zone. This sent a double signal to anyone paying attention: not only is the zone of security in Baghdad vulnerable to attack, the surge has only exacerbated the many problems in Iraq. Now-minority Sunnis have already said that they prefer risking Shiite militiamen to being "imprisoned" in their own city -- in a word, ghetto-ized.

After religiously watching a full week of one-hour documentaries on Jihadism on PBS, titled America at a Crossroads, I've come to the conclusion that democracy and Islam are mutually exclusive, which perhaps explains the passivity of Iraq under Saddam, just as it mirrors the fatalistic attitude of the Muslim faith: 'Mshallah is more resignation than blessing. One by one, the Jihadists interviewed said pretty much the same thing, that while democracy emphasizes the freedom of the individual, Islam emphasizes individual submission to Allah. This is at the heart of Islamic fundamentalism, opposed to everything Western, everything "liberal" and democratic.

George Bush began lying to the American people long before the notorious "WMD" and "911-al Quaida" propaganda campaign. He lied during the televised debates when he told the electorate that he did not believe in "nation building." When the nuke and terrorist excuses were exposed, Bush switched to the very thing he had eschewed in the campaigning: imposing democracy on people who can't handle it.

What Bush and the Neo Cons don't seem capable of understanding is that Sen. Harry Reid is right: we really have lost the war in Iraq. Although Reid has backtracked in typical Demo fashion, his heart if not mind was in the right place; what he meant, I think, is that the loss is only military in nature. We may have lost the war, but we can still "win" the peace. The solution is entirely political in nature, and the Bush administration seems completely disinterested in finding a political solution. The Bushites now claim that the war in Iraq must be perpetuated to prevent Jihadists from fighting us on our own soil. This is a phoney line since, as intelligence experts already tell us, Jihadist cells including al Quaida and Hezbollah terrorists are already set up in the U.S., biding their time until a propitious time to strike.

What the Bush argument suggests is that the administration had ulterior motives for going to war in the first place. My wise older brother once told me, "America plans to deplete all the oil of foreign countries before we resume development of our own resources." Time has proved him right.

Monday, April 16, 2007

"My Name...ith Alberto Gonzales Gonzales Gonzales"

Yes, yes, I am using the old Bill Dana shtick as well as the B-movie stereotypical actor, Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez to characterize the halfwit who currently occupies the office of Attorney-General. Events appear to occur "in unison" these days. Scheduled to go before a Senate subcommittee to answer questions about the politicization of the Justice Department, Alberto (VO-5) was said to be having trouble answering questions posed by a mock hearing team when, approximately 24 hours prior to his testimony before Congress, a campus shoot-out in Virginia provided him with the perfect excuse to bow out of the engagement.

Not only that, but just a few days earlier, another case of politicization of public office occurred in North Carolina when that state's highest prosecutor announced that all charges would be dropped against a trio of Duke lacross students charged with the kidnapping and rape of a mentally-imbalanced, drug addicted, topless dancer, a woman who really does merit the description of a "nappy headed ho."

Mike Nifong, the D.A. and Alberto (VO-5) appear to have much in common. Nifong was seeking re-election as D.A. of his county when the Duke fraternity incident went down. Instead of thoroughly investigating the claims of the ho, Nifong used her for his political purposes, taking a tough-on-crime-no-matter-who-the-criminal stance in order to sway the electorate, which may have been thinking the other candidate offered the better of two necessary evils.

Not only did Nifong neglect to interview the alleged victim, he went forward with prosecutorial plans with exculpatory evidence withheld from defense counsel and nothing more to go on than a police report. Nifong also held many press conferences with liberal sprinklings of references to the arrests, characterizing the actually innocent schoolboys as "thugs," &c. , putting them through what one would describe as "a living hell." Alberto (VO-5) may successfully delay the inevitable for a week or two, but Nifong will not escape almost certain disbarment and lawsuits, either civil or criminal or both. Would that we could put Alberto (VO-5) to trial as well!

Horns of the (Bush) Dilemma

A shooting rampage today at Virginia Tech saw a lone killer murder 30 students and wound some 21 others. Bush goes to the microphone for a press conference and tells the nation that we can take comfort in a "loving God." Quaere: If he exists and he's a "loving God," why does he allow such bad things to happen to good people. Balderdash and hocum! The current occupant of the White House is a dangerous lunatic, believing as he does in supernatural mumbo jumbo. This logical fallacy was thoroughly examined by J. L. Mackie in his essay in Mind, a University of Sydney journal (Vol. 64, No. 254, 1955), which you can read for yourself at:

Basically, what Mackie argued was that theism is logically (or internally) inconsistent. He posits that the premises that God is omnipotent, omniscent, and totally good and (or yet) evil (nevertheless) exists presents an affront to logic since the two are inconsistent and not capable of harmonization. A good analysis of Mackie's position is James Still's paper, "Argument Against God From Evil," found at

I won't delve into the matter so thoroughly as Still, but he says that Mackie's argument against God suggests two additional premises: (1) that good is opposed to evil in such a way that a good being always eliminates evil as far as possible, and that (2) there are no limits to what an omnipotent being can do. Again, if there is a God and He is omnipotent, he would have stopped the Korean student from murdering his fellow pupils at Virginia Tech. Each time I argue this position with a theologian, I am told that "God is omnipotent, but He gave Man the power of free will, and that explains the presence of evil."

Still examines this response in light of the writings of Alvin Plantinga, who argues that because we possess freedom of will, we are free to choose "morally significant actions," as Still puts it, and "[s]ome of us spoiled the party by freely choosing the evil rather than the good and these choices are the source of moral evil." Mackie would seem to counter by pointing out that God could just as easily "have chosen to create that one logically-possible world in which everyone who is created choose only the good." As you can see, Mackie, Plantinga, and Still have dived into the deep end of the pool.

So the thought remains: Who is this "loving God"? Due to health concerns, I have been confined to my home for about three weeks, with nothing to do but watch TV. I'd be wealthy if I had a dime for each time a TV reporter or pundit referred to what the Korean student did as "pure evil." The question keeps nagging me. If what he did was evil, why didn't George's "loving God" prevent his doing it?

POSTSCRIPT (04-18-07)

As the "manifesto" mailed to NBC by the Korean now shows, he suffered from paranoia and a persecution complex. What he did was objectively evil, but in his mind, "it was my only option." At that point he certainly fit the narrow definition of insanity in the legal sense, which allows a claim of innocent by reason of madness if it be shown that, because of mental illness or defect, he either did not know the difference between right and wrong, or he was incapable of conforming his behavior to what is required by the law. Pitiable, really.

After the Fox

Fox News continues to amaze -- and to discombobulate. Murdoch's fabulous wealth allows extraordinarily thorough coverage of world events, but the slant is so heavily right-wing it gives laugh to the cable network's claims of being "fair and balanced," and its political pundit programs are so blatantly rightist as to merit the claim they're crypto-fascist (a term I first heard from the lips of Gore Vidal in his famous live debate with William F. Buckley at a national party convention). As anyone familiar with the books, I Hate Ann Coulter and The Republican Noise Machine, and the documentary film, Out-Foxed can attest, Fox opinion programming is like a poker game with the cards stacked in favor of Murdoch's fundie-fascist convictions.

One need not consult such studies to reach this conclusion. I did so after spending some time viewing and analyzing three shows: the weeknightly Hannity and Colmes, the Saturday evening Beltway Boys, and the Sunday evening Fox News Sunday, featuring Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke, and a panel of "experts" made up of Brit Hume, Mara Liasson, William Kristol, and Juan Williams, respectively. David Brock's Noise Machine put the bee in my bonnet when the author suggested that the token "liberals" featured on such programs (Colmes, Kondracke, and Williams) are either dumb as posts, suckup sycophants, or less than fully palatable. That is, Colmes comes off as a myopic spoil-sport (the kind of guy Nixon V.P. Spiro Agnew once called "a pointy-headed intellectual"), while Kondracke simply sucks up to his more self-assured partner, and Williams is portrayed as a lone (and of color) dissenter pitted against three wise ones.

It's pathetic! If it weren't so transparent, one might actually swallow the "fair and balanced" bit. Sean Hannity's tack when interviewing anyone with centrist/liberal views is to interrupt them the moment they indicate having an opinion at odds with his extreme right wing philosophy, and the producer and director allow him much longer dialogues with such guests than they afford the mealy-mouthed Alan Colmes. The result is this: Colmes comes off as ineffectual and, by comparison, less worthy of belief. One is sometimes led to the conclusion that Hannity would defend Hitler if he were a 21st century Neo-Con. But he's not only blindly allied with the Right, he's completely humorless and so smug he reeks of self-righteousness.

Kondracke plays the Colmes role on Beltway Boys, only less effectively, he seems so enamoured of the more self-righteous Barnes. Although Kondracke once stuck his neck out for gay rights in one show, he almost always quickly backtracks and shifts position when he encounters opposing views from Barnes, who plays an avuncular mentor role. Kondracke is even more insipid than Colmes because he comes off as spineless, and the producer and director see to it that he is never allowed to stray too far from the Neo-Con point of view. Again, pathetic! The technique might be called "seeing to it that the liberal debates with half his mouth tied behind him."

It took me a while to figure out that the presentation of views on Chris Wallace's Fox News Sunday is much more devious than the simple three-against one lineup (actually four to one considering Wallace's own pro-Neo-Con stance). As Brock and others have noted, Juan Williams is racially handicapped. At the risk of sounding like a cracker bigot, I must say that Williams will be subjected to audience turn-off among those who cannot yet accept the fact that an African-American has sufficient intelligent to warrant hearing. Many viewers if not the whole of the Archie Bunker bunch, will look at the Wallace panel like a crime victim at a police lineup, so amusingly illustrated by an old cartoon familiar to defense attorneys, depicting a dog surveying a sextet of domestic animals: five other dogs and one cat. The victim dog, pointing at the miscreant cat says, "That's the one, officer! That's the one!"

Hume is just as intractably, blindly rightist as Hannity, and he sometimes gets so impatient with the lone liberal (Williams), he loses his cool, as when he lashed out against Rep. John Murtha with a torrent of blatantly ageist ejaculations, the Neo Con anti-elder equivalent of Don Imus's "nappy headed ho's." Mara Liasson might, considering her background at Public Radio, seem a balancing factor on the panel, someone to compliment Williams, but she appears to have been tainted by the attempted takeover of Public Broadcasting by Paul Gigot et al., or perhaps, being the only female on the panel, she suffers from some form of penis envy. In any case, the moment she departs from the right wing line, she is corrected by Kristol, and this nifty technique is a clue to the producer-director secret that I didn't quite grasp until a short time ago.

The modus operandi is deceptively simple. Wallace stacks the deck by going "down the row" from left to right, with Hume always in the first chair, Liasson in the second, Kristol in the third, and Williams last, sitting next to Wallace himself. The first question is almost always, if not always (I miss the show now and then) addressed to Hume, who is the Arch Crypto-Fascist of Fox. He gives his familiar extremist views, leaving an intimidated Liasson to more or less agree, Kristol to take a similar position (sometimes even more extreme), and Williams to half-heartedly disagree. When the next question is addressed to Liasson, she's caught between two extremists and she usually tows the line in answering, with, again, only Williams to voice moderate dissent. By the time a question is addressed to Williams, Brit takes over like a master inquisitor, backed up to an extent by Liasson, and a more sceptical Kristol. Watch it if you don't believe me.

Worse, when Williams says something even marginally liberal, the cameraman is told to cut to Hume, revealing a scowling, scoffing countenance, intermixed with two-shots of Kristol and Williams during the latter's comments. Pay particular attention to the expressions of Kristol at all times. If he is in agreement with someone, he smiles or dead-pans, but when Williams is talking, he smirks as if he thinks the statements unbelievable or unworthy of an intelligent person's consideration. His smirk outdoes that of Bush! (Kristol is also the worst-dressed of the lot. Some of his neckties look as if he bought them in 1960, a sure indication he's a thorough- going anal retentive, he's so tight with his shekels. But, hey, that's an ad hominem remark, isn't it?) It's the smirk that disgusts me.

These are but three of the Fox lineup of unfair and unbalanced bullshit pundit programs. I do not have time to analyze all of them, but I recommend highly the two books and documentary DVD mentioned above. After the Fox, give me Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC, or Real Time with Bill Maher. They don't even pretend to be fair and balanced, but at least they're honest about it.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Jihadists and Bush: Common Ground Redux"

A new documentary on PBS, *America at a Crossroads,* dealing with the origins of Jihadism and especially bin Laden and al Quaeda, features extensive interviews with Lawrence Wright and others, including the remarkably well-informed, extremely articulate former CIA bin Laden unit member Michael Scheuer. It is Scheuer who answers the question I asked in an earlier blog about the commonality of motive and/or unintended consequences of our misguided invasion of Iraq, confirming all my worst suspicions.

Scheuer says that by invading one of the Mideast's secular Islamic states, the U.S. played right into the hands of bin Laden and his Jihadist ideologues. From Zawahairi, bin Laden gleaned that the equivalent of a third world war "ranging from China to Iran to North Africa" would be brought about no later than 2020 c.e., and although our first taste of the bait in Afghanistan "did not go as bin Laden had expected," our misadventure in its southern neighbor -- first on bogus warnings of WMD'S, then on the excuse that without Saddam the world is a better place -- gave bin Laden exactly what he wanted.

In speeches even today, the Neo Cons, led by Cheney, continue to insist that by taking war to the terrorists, we trap terrorism in the lands they're known to occupy. This betrays blatant ignorance (or obfuscation) of the obvious fact that Saddam did not tolerate or encourage terrorists at any time, seeing them as potential enemies by proxy. Terrorists, Saddam believed, would only "bring on the heat." Apparently Cheney takes to heart his predecessor Goebels's advice that a lie told often enough will eventually be clothed as Truth. (Earlier, on one of the Sunday pundit shows, one of the architects of the War, Richard Perle, reiterated that even if the invasion was not carried out as well as hoped, it was worth it. There is a marvelous irony in the news that his "twin," Wolfie, has been exposed as a cronyist looter of the World Bank, apparently employing a personal secretary at a grossly inflated salary because it was the only way the ugly motherfucker could get laid!)

It's a myth that waging the Iraq War will keep terrorists at bay in Muslim nations. Scheuer -- who just happens to identify himself as "a Republican" -- says that it is just a matter of time before al Quaeda strikes again in the U.S. The worst development of all is the nativity of home-grown, al Quaeda-identified cells having no direct links to bin Laden but learning by his example. My prediction is that the next attack on our own soil will be in the nature of a dirty bomb, probably a nuclear device (or devices, set to go off simultaneously in several major cities) that release chemical agents or epidemic diseases into our waters or the air. It is just a matter of time. It may not have been ordered directly by al Quaeda, as was the 9/11 attack, but it will have that group's earmarks all the same. There are copycat cells all over the world.

The PBS documentary resumes next Sunday. It is a harrowing thing to see. It's to be hoped that the Right people watch it, but then they only place value of what they see and hear on Fox.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Nuthatch vs. Leahy re: Alberto VO-5

On Meet the Press this morning, Senators Orin Nuthatch and Patrick Leahy debated the current flap about Attorney-General Alberto (VO-5) Gonzales. The subject of political-vs.-performance reasons for the firing of eight U. S. Attorneys came up, Nuthatch so defensive on the topic he almost seemed to go temporarily looney. It's hard to put spin on something as blatantly wrong. At one point, Nuthatch, claiming that none of the firings was politically motivated, insisted that one of the axed lawyers "was a law school professor who had no prosecutorial experience." I expected Leahy to respond with what I was thinking, but he didn't. Alberto VO-5 had -- and still has -- no prosecutorial experience. In fact, some wags point out hes's never tried a case!

I also expected Leahy to bring up the Dominici affair, but the program host had to do that. When Sen. Pete Dominici complained about one of the attorneys who wasn't doing what the senator wanted, Rove and VO-5 sent the lawyer packing. Nuthatch kept insisting that nothing illegal could be proved, and he reiterated the by-now wearisome GOP line, "The U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the president." Yes, but the Justice Department is not supposed to be a political organization. I doubt VO-5 is long for this administration now that the Demo attack dogs are on the prowl. The only difference between Pelosi, Conyers, and Leahy and a pack of pit bulls is that sometimes the pit bulls turn loose.

Friday, March 02, 2007

She's Baaaaaaaaack

Just when you thought it was all right to watch the pundit shows, they're now talking about the comeback of Ann Colder after months of relative obscurity and absence from the talk show scene. The news peg? Her speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., where, in closing remarks about Demo prexy candidate John Edwards, she quipped, "I was going to have a few comments about [him] but it turns out you have to go to rehab if you use the word, 'faggot,' so I -- so kind of an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."

In its online report on the speech, *Editor & Publisher* noted that Colder has had similar concerns about the sexual orientation of Bill and Hillary as well as Al Gore. It's beginning to look like all the Colder detractors who claim she is "an obvious lesbian" just may be right. Didn't Freud, in discussing his theory of "projection," point out that people who go about claiming others are gay are really "projecting" their own homosexual orientation, albeit latent, onto others? I wouldn't be a bit surprised if Colder doesn't have a lesbian crush on Hillary. Interestingly, one of her copycats, Michelle Malkin -- the Dragon Lady herself -- dissed Colder for the remarks.

Also interesting is the fact that both Veep Cheney and candidate Rudy Giuliani also spoke at the CPAC event. The former has a lesbian daughter who is partnered and planning a family. The latter once shared a flat in Manhattan with a gay couple since he had nowhere else to stay and he's having to spin his pro-gay social liberal attitude to earn the vote of the crypto-fascist crowd, including CPAC. Seems hypocrisy knows no bounds.

I once advocated stalking Colder at her speeches the better to get close enough and at a moment of distraction to pelt her with cream pies. This won't do now, though, now that she has used the "F" word. I think it's time to put a contract out on her life.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Casus Belli by Counter-Terrorism

How ironic that within 24 hours of George Bush's speech announcing a change of policy in Iraq (call the 20 thousand "new" troops what you will, a turnover or an escalation), coalition forces in that country bombed an Iranian consulate in the northeaster Iraqi city of Irbil, located quite close to Kurdish-held areas of the trouble-plagued nation. Although Condomliza Reece is certainly correct in her explanation that it has long been known that the Iranian regime has been supplying I.E.D.'s and other materiel to the Shiite militias and other warring Iraqis, why did Bush-Cheney time its first provocation of a casus belli for the day after the "surge" speech?

The Iranians have formally protested, but they're too cagey to be so easily provoked. (It is entirely possible that they believe pan-Muslim -- if not worldwide -- opinion will side with them, perhaps considering the attack as belated revenge for the taking of American hostages in the infamous Tehran embassy raid as the Shah went out and the Ayatollah Koumeni went in.) Historians have already drawn a parallel to the Peloponnesian War. But it should be remembered that a more modern, American incident reveals, at least in retrospect, how easily a casus belli can be whipped up by a nation bent on attacking another.

I speak of the "Tampico Incident," which the Woodrow Wilson regime utilized as an excuse to invade Mexico at Veracruz in order to overthrow a Sadam-like tyrant, Victoriano Huerta, becase Wilson thought it about time that "we teach the Mexcians to elect good men." Wilson demonstrated that if one is simply patient, an opportunity will eventually present itself to manipulate public opinion for support of a misguided (and unjustified) attack on another sovereign state.

The Bush-Wilson parallels are almost striking. On April 20, 1914, Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress in an attempt to obtain blanket approval of actions designed to restore American dignity in the eyes of the world. The papers had been full of the Tampico Incident. Reduced to the few facts contained in Wilson's speech, it boiled down to a misunderstanding borne of a visit to the Gulf port city of Tampico by a U.S. Naval ship, the Dolphin, which sent a long boat ashore at the Iturbide Bridge for supplies. Two sailors were forcibly removed from the boat and taken prisoner (though soon released) by Huerta's troops. At the time of the incident, the usurperous Huerta regime, dominant in southern Mexico, was engaged in a prolonged war with the Constitutionalist, rebel forces of the Division del Norte (led by Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza) and the southeastern followers of Emiliano Zapata. It was no secret that the U.S. supported the Constitutionalists, and it is quite possible that the Tampico troops thought the Dophin's landing a preliminary to international warfare.

In any case, the Huertistas apologized, but the "special ceremony" they conducted, complete with salute to the American flag, did not satisfy Wilson, who quoted Admiral Henry Mayo in his speech and made vague references to Tampico's not being an "isolated" episode but one of "a series of incidents" (shades of W.M.D. and a mythical al-Qaida-Saddam connection!). Wilson had imposed an arms embargo on munitions deliveries to Mexico and, again ironic, at precisely the time of the Tampico incident, a vessel bearing American-made arms, the Ipiranga, was under steam, bound for Veracruz. Interestingly enough, the arms of the Ipiranga had been shipped first to northern Europe, offloaded, then taken aboard another ship for Mexican delivery -- a ruse designed by U.S. multinationals to get around the embargo. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Wilson's response to a "Yea" vote from Congress was to invade Veracruz, with much resulting death to Mexican troops stationed there. Veracruz was the railhead for shipments of arms and ammunition to the capital (the Distrito Federal, i.e. Mexico City), and by seizing it, Wilson and his cabinet assumed they would curtail such importations. The ease with which such good intentions can pave the way to hell is clearly indicated by the fate of the Ipiranga munitions. Upon learning of the landing of the Marine Corps, the Ipiranga simply changed course, landed in Puerto Mexico (a.k.a. Coatzacoalcos, some 150 miles away, as the crow flies). There, the arms were offloaded without complications and sent overland to the capital. Huerta must have delighted in the success of the ruse, especially since he would soon be firing on the Constitutionalists -- supported by the U.S. -- with American-made weapons. No doubt he celebrated the occasion with his usual toast: brandy and marijuana.

Will Bush go before Congress, wrap himself in the flag as did his predecessor, and ask for an extention of hostilities, an expansion of the Mideast Conflict into Iran? Will the U.S. withdraw from Iraq and simultaneously march toward Tehran? Will U.S. Navy warships sail into the Straits of Hormuz in ever-increasing numbers and end up bombing Iranian nuclear facilities in the same manner as the Israelis in Iraq?

It is becoming increasingly obvious that the U.S. is looking for a casus belli to launch an attack on Iran, which is most likely just what their lunatic leader Ahmadinejad wishes. It is well known that a significant portion of Iranians dislike his leadership and long for the secularism and democcratic freedoms of the West. These people, mostly young, will be polarized by a U.S. attack, which, again, is just what the Iranian leadership hopes to bring about. Secretary Rice justifies attacks on Iranians in Iraq as "protection of American troops," but Iran (and perhaps the rest of the Islamic World) may regard it as provocateurism, a form of anti-terrorist terrorism.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Wrong Rev. Phred is at it Again

Our esteemed and beloved man of the cloth, the Rev. Fred Phelps, is in quite a quandary. Locally, the TV news people have announced that his Kansas church group, 100 strong, plans to picket the funeral of a local man killed in Iraq. They would, as in the past, hold up signs saying (I kid you NOT), "GOD LOVES I.E.D.'S." But the graveside picketing might not come to pass, since Fred also wants pickets a-plenty at the Gerald Ford funeral in Michigan. What's a fundamentalist geek to do?

You *do* remember Fred, don't you? The slavering twit who showed up at the funeral for Matthew Shepard after the latter's bashing in Laramie, Wyoming, where Felps's group held up placards claiming that "GOD HATES FAGS!" Actually, if there were a god, he or she would hate Fred Phelps, who, incidentally, has a rap sheet of his own and was disbarred from law practice. (Apparently, it is actually possible to be so nasty you're unfit to be an attorney!)

Interestingly, when, later this evening, CNN interviewed former Sect'y of Defense (under Clinton) William Cohen; following a news story that Gen. John Shallikashvilli has recommended doing away with "don't ask, don't tell," Wolf Blitzer asked what chance there is to get such a policy carted off to the dungheap of American history. And Cohen answered that some high-ranking military people are seriously considering it, if only because the all-volunteer army cannot afford to turn any qualified men and women away. (That's nice, we are not good enough to marry, but we are good enough to be blown to bits by I.E.D.'s in Baghdad.) Owning up to the fact that plenty of gays and lesbians already serve, silently, Cohen suggest that a re-thinking is much in order, and he's not unaware that European armies have never made any distinction between gay and straight troops and have had none of the problems with the integrated policy that are usually predicted here.

But he had a caveat. Cohen says that the decision to do it should come from military leaders, not politicians. If the matter is politicized, he points out, it will inevitably become a wedge issue, just as it did for Clinton. It can only be hoped that Rev. Phred Felps had a massive coronary when he heard this news, for if there is a hell, I am certain he is going to it.