Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Gaza -- still

Finished a 15 day "burst" of steroids, but I don't feel that much better. I'm trying to maintain a positive, creative attitude but can't seem to get Gaza off my mind. Angry when I hear news reports, angry when I don't.

Posting two youtube links which I think say it all. Then I'll get back to art.

The first is BBC interview interview from several days ago. Even soldiers in the Israeli military see the injustice.

The second is a song I picked up from the "Raising Youssef" blog. The song is powerful; the pictures take my breath away.

I'm just hoping I can work out these feelings in the studio rather than sliding into another exacerbation.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gaza on my mind




CNN: Waiting for dawn in Gaza. It's 5:30 pm here in Belenistan so in a few hours we should see what has become of Jabaliya and Beit Hanoun and Rafah and Gaza City after the overnight ground incursion.

You don't need to be prescient to know that after seven days of air bombardment, it will look like Dresden after the firebombing and feel like Guernica.

I weep.

Friday, December 05, 2008

New Attitude


Feeling pretty good. Others seem to be monitoring the news and stating the obvious lately, so I've started a new "art" blog, Belenistan Studio

Plan to post some of the pieces completed in the last few months. Please have patience as I work through the process of posting.

Then I'll brave the cold to get my act out into the unheated studio and MAKE ART.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Palin's Pin

Doing my best to stay out of the election fray this time around, but some things just can't be ignored: The fake outrage at Obama's 'lipstick on a pig' remark when it was obvious that the 'pig' to which Obama referred was the Bush policy and the 'lipstick' was the McCain camp's spin; the irresponsibility of McCain's choice of VP ... someone who will be one heartbeat away from the presidency chosen because she brings in 'the base' while having no understanding of international issues or relations and whose speech borders on warmongering with every declarative sentence; the deference of the media (McCain's true base) and the kid gloves worn around McCain (the war hero) and Palin (the little woman), refusing to call a lie a lie even as McCain's drawers go up in flames.

But I digress, as usual. In an era when a person's patriotism is measured by the size of his flag lapel pin, Palin's red, white and blue rhinestone broach is as large as her head! Is this supposed to be a measure of her love of country? The thing is so over the top, so tacky, so shiny, so ongepatshket (sin brechen) that I fear if it had one more rhinestone, the sheer weight of it would topple her over backwards!

It's not about the lipstick. It's not about the pig. It's about the damn flag pin!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Incident?

The MSNBC crawl caught my eye this morning. Civilian casualties from a US air strike in Nuristan Provence, Afghanistan, now number 47, all members of a wedding party -- including the bride. The US military is investigating the incident.

Incident? Incident? We used to refer to collateral damage, e.g., when we dropped bombs on a wedding party in western Iraq in the first year of the war and tried to white wash it. Now, it seems, civilian casualties have been downgraded to "an incident" ...

If this had happened on a college campus in the US or to a Christian wedding party in Lebanon, it would be reported as a massacre. The press would be all over it for days with a CNN reporter rushing to the scene.

Incident? How cheap other peoples lives have become.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Steroid Rant on Nakba

The 60th anniversary of the Nakba and I'm on another steroid rant. Bush 43 is celebrating in Israel while Gaza does without water and power and the Palestinians in the West Bank are on virtual lock down. How can a group of people be oblivious to the plight of its neighbor? It's too painful.

As I grow weaker, my ability to feel the pain of others only becomes more painful: the Palestinians, the Lebanese, the victims of the cyclone in Burma, the earthquake in China, the genocide in Darfur, the never ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan only add to the pain. I need to learn to differentiate between personal pain and Weltschmerz.

Listening to the news, even the 'real' news (Democracy Now, Keith Olbermann, Jon Stewart), only creates exacerbation. Which leads to being back on steroids. But there is the occasional laugh along with the heartache, like when the local news anchor out of Albuquerque spoke of two troops killed by an IUD and didn't even realize her mistake.

Imagine, soldiers killed by contraceptives. Now that's an argument for the religious right.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prison Break

God bless the people of Gaza. While the American media talks about Gaza being closed since the Hamas takeover (read election) last June, Gaza has been a prison for over 40 years. With the withdrawal of the settlers, the IDF totally surrounded this narrow strip of land and its 1.5 million citizens, bombing and bulldozing and terrifying children with nightly sonic booms. They've reinforced the walls on the north and east, the gates of which are rarely opened while the west is patrolled by the Israeli navy. As for the south, the wall separating Gaza from Egypt was built on the Palestinian side so that the area between Palestinian Rafah and Egyptian Rafah has been a no-man's land in theory. The Israelis have actual control of who comes and who goes, who lives and who dies. And countless innocents have died awaiting crossing and transport to hospitals and clinics outside of Gaza.

The fuel freeze of the last week was not the first. Gaza has been down to one working power plant for some time so electricity is scarce, the water pumps don't work and the sewage problem has actually killed women and children.

So watching the news of the women of Gaza trying to storm the Rafah crossing only to be turned back by the Egyptian army spewing water cannon and firing live rounds was disheartening, to say the least. But then, Tuesday night, reading the news of the wall tumbling down was breathtaking.

If only for a day or so, the people of Gaza will have had a taste of freedom. They will have petrol and medicine and flour and pride. And they will have the illusion of control for however long it lasts. God bless the people of Gaza. Allah Ma'kum.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Surge Success

After months of doubt about the success of the American surge in Iraq, today the Iraqi Parliament produced its first sign that the parties are reaching an agreement -- they've agreed to a new Iraqi flag. Although the new flag is considered "interim", pending a better flag within a year, agreement was reached to remove the three stars which originally symbolized pan-Arab unity and, when that didn't pan out, was changed to promote the ideals of the Ba'ath party. The new flag will retain its original colors but will include the Arab script inserted by Sadaam Hussein in 1991 in response to American threats over Iraqi's annexation of Kuwait. However, rather than looking as it did from 1991 through the fall of Sadaam, the script will be changed to the new and improved Kufic type font. The message remains the same: "Allahu Akbar".

At some point in the not too distant future, the Coalition of the "Whoops-Where-Did-Everybody-Go" will find an Arabic speaking translator to let them know that the phrase on the new and improved flag translates as "God is Great".

So the Pan-Arab flag, which was replaced by the Ba'ath Flag, which was replaced by the post-1991 flag promoting Sadaam's attempts at pacifying his Muslim citizens will now be replaced by a temporary Iraqi flag containing the Islamic rallying cry of "Allahu Akbar" (in new and improved Kufic type face).

Score one for the American Surge and its progress. Now if the Parliament can only agree to convene once again in the American-protected "Green Zone" and find a way to get the power back up and running, get potable water to the people, clean the streets of streams of sewage, find jobs in reconstruction for unemployed Iraqis, put the oil industry back in Iraqi hands, reopen safe schools and well-stocked hospitals and clinics, get the 2 million Iraqis who have left the country to return and find homes and jobs for the 2 million internally displaced, the Americans can claim that the Surge actually worked! And the Parliament can ask the Americans to leave.

Somehow, I don't find great hope in this. It's beyond FUBAR -- it's a tragedy of errors in cosmic proportion.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Scandal

Breaking News: Baseball players taking steroids. I seem to recall a line in one of Bush's early State of the Union addresses about the import of this issue, just as he also stressed that Laura Bush should be the "gang czar" in another address. But scandal?

Scandals, as priorities, are different for everyone. In my mind, outing a CIA agent is scandalous, spying on Americans is scandalous, holding people in detention on or off-shore for years without benefit to legal recourse is scandalous, torture is scandalous, cover-ups are scandalous, refusing to testify before Congress is scandalous, not funding health care for poor children is scandalous, lying to the American people is scandalous, using cluster bombs is scandalous, making up your own science is scandalous, benefiting from war is scandalous, killing civilians is scandalous, giving Israel more time to smash southern Lebanon is scandalous, ignoring the plight of Gaza is scandalous, interfering in the elections of others is scandalous.

But baseball? Give me a break ...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nakba

Another November 29th ... and the situation in Gaza and the West Bank, not to mention the dozens of refugee camps in Lebanon, seems worse, if that's even possible. Less fuel, less food, less medical care, less work, less housing, less hope. International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

What was that nonsense in Annapolis with Bush II earlier this week? It certainly wasn't solidarity. More like a two-day photo op during the last inning of a losing game ... everybody loses. What an embarrassment, what a sadness.

I haven't blogged for a while and everything is bottled up. Eventually I'll blow and write for hours and hours. But tonight I just couldn't let another November 29th pass with remark.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Relief for River

It is with a great deal of relief (tinged with a fair amount of sadness) that I finally saw a post from River at Baghdad Burning I have been concerned for months ...

Ilhamdul'Allah.

I encourage others to read her story about the decision to leave Baghdad and head to Syria. This egregious war does have a human face -- something Americans tend to forget as we only count our own killed or maimed in combat and the government suggests that the rest of us "go shopping."

Bless you, River.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Remembering Naji Al-Ali

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the assassination of Naji al-Ali in 1987. In the early 1980's I had the good fortune to meet this talented Palestinian artist and journalist at a showing of his work at USC.

At the beginning of the first Intifada, I wrote this poem in his memory:

Remembering Naji Al-Ali

The return address on the envelope says "Handhalah..."
The envelope is empty.
I wait.
The voice on the answering machine whispers "Handhalah..."
But there is no number to call.
I wait.
The lettering on the back of the T-shirt
Of the boy running past reads "Handhalah..."
I walk faster.
And in my dream Handhalah approaches.
For the first time I can see his face,
He is smiling.
I awake and sit at my desk in the night,
And write a check.
At the bottom where is says "for:"
I write "Stones."

(c)1988

Friday, July 13, 2007

As my heart breaks

My heart is breaking. A million reasons for not blogging lately (too many topics, too much anger) but truly no excuse.

Today the horrible, unnecessary, ugly war in Iraq hit home in the WalMart parking lot here in Belen(istan). La Luz, my caregiver, was pushing the basket and loading the car with groceries while the WalMart greeter followed my slow progress in the little electric wheelchair and was helping me into the car. What do you talk about with a total stranger who is younger than your granddaughter? We talked about the weather, how hot it is and (I just couldn’t resist) how much hotter it will become once Americans realize that global warming is real and here to stay.

The girl said that she'd heard about global warming and she hated it. Her fiancé had recently died of heat stroke in Iraq. It took my breath away! This smiling bit of a girl was back to work just a week after the funeral I’d watched from my kitchen window as it left Our Lady of Belen Church, streaming past my house as it headed toward I-25 and the military cemetery up in Santa Fe.

I’d actually heard about his death from my friend "T" before it was announced in our little semi-weekly throw away paper. "T" knew the family and had told me that his core body temperature had been 130 degrees, a fact I’ve yet to read on line or elsewhere. But here are the facts as I know them:

PFC Henry G. Byrd III, age 20 of Veguita, New Mexico died in late June in Germany from “illness” contracted while in Iraq. He had been standing guard near a tank being repaired at the side of a road and collapsed from the heat. His body temperature was at least 109 degrees as he was flown to Germany and all his major organs and body functions shut down. And no one noticed him lying there.

How can this happen? Where were his comrades? His water? How much armor was he wearing? Too many questions – no answers.

All I could do standing in the heat between the wheelchair and the car was hug her, a simple girl, a total stranger. As she helped me into the car she lifted my necklace in a very feminine and personal gesture, examining the talismans I always wear: the Hand of Fatima, the Masha’Allah, the carnelian carved with “Muhammad Rasul Allah”, the blue “eye bead”. She looked me in the eye and tilted her head; the question unasked. But I offered: “Yes, I am Muslim and I absolutely hate this war with its 3611 American service people dead as of yesterday and the Iraq number untold.” She smiled kindly and said that she also hated that we were fighting the wrong war in the wrong country, but took comfort that her fiancé had died doing what he loved best, working on tanks and serving his country. I checked my tears and hugged her a second time and she helped me into the passenger seat.

I feel devastated. I’ve lost acquaintances to terror: from Alex Odeh in the early ‘80s in the Orange County explosion of the ADC offices and Mustapha Akkad a year or so ago in the hotel bombing in Amman, Jordan. And I worry every day about folks I’ve met on line. No word from Riverbend (BaghdadBurning.blogpot.com) or the guys at BethlehemGhetto.blogpot.com in months. But this was in my own back yard.

I’ll blog on the ills of this administration/regime and its failures and crimes another day. Today I just have to think abut this young man, his fiancée, and feel my feelings.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Dear Turkey

Dear Turkey,

Speaking lovingly of you last night with my friend F from Los Angeles. We are very concerned about your desire to join the EU at any cost. We feel you might just sell your soul for a chance to party with the west.

Please, please reconsider. "They're just not that in to you". You're not white, you're not Christian and you just can't change enough to ever please them. (I know this feeling at a personal level and it feels ugly.) Why do you want to play with kids who don't want to play with you? It's as though you're the little skinny girl in the corner at the dance, just waiting for the right guy to come over and ask you to waltz ... but he never does. (Again, personal, but apropos.)

My advice? Forget the dance; just go bowling. Face east and look for partners who will love and value you, like the Turkic-speaking republics of the former Soviet Union. They have the oil; you have the labor force, the pipelines and the access to the sea.

I know this sounds like an intervention, but I miss you and only want the best for you. I'd hate to see you change what is essentially your heart and soul in order join the EU.

With great love,
Francine in Belenistan

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Creative Accounting

Granny Franny's Unified Theory of Everything: Chapter 37 - Creative Accounting

George W. Bush, "The War President", has filed his 2006 Federal Income Tax Return and has taken the $40 War Tax Rebate. This just frosts me. The rebate was intended to reimburse Americans for a tax we've been paying since 1989 to fund the Spanish-American War. Most of us will get $30; some large businesses will get more. Am I the only one who thinks it's bizarre that the man who has declared himself "The War President" has the nerve to request a $40 war tax rebate?

Still on the subject of Creative Accounting, I'm not surprised that Paul Wolfowitz, a long-time neo-con and one of the architects of the Iraq war, now head of the World Bank (the entity responsible for helping poor nations rise out of poverty) is under scrutiny for arranging a cushy job ($193,000+/year) at the State Department for his "girlfriend". All these guys are a bit slimy. But what man his age has a girlfriend? Isn't she a mistress or a companion or a significant other? Calling her a "girlfriend" is akin to calling a grown man "Scooter" -- ooops.

So much for helping poor nations. So much for supporting the war. The hypocrisy never ends ....

Thursday, April 05, 2007

My Brain on Drugs

This is my brain on drugs with a side of bacon:

Iraq, Iran, Darfur, Palestine -- all have taken a back seat lately on the 24/7 news cycle on cable TV. Tonight it's the Teenage Squeaker on American Idol. Last week it was Anna Nicole Smith. And before that it was Bald Britney and Crazy Astronaut Diaper Lady. Everyone's entitled to their 15 minutes of fame, but when did thousands of dead become news only in the crawl or below the fold or on an inside page? Halaas! Enough already ...

It's been four years since the Jenin Massacre, but there's no mention in the American press. Can anyone else recall IDF tanks rolling down empty streets, purposely running over parked cars with Palestinian plates just to watch them crumble? Where's the outrage?

It's been four years since Rachel Corrie was mowed down by a Caterpillar earthmoving machine in Gaza, but there's no mention in the American press. Where's the outrage?

It's been four years since Shock & Awe and Mission Accomplished and They Hate Us For Our Freedoms, yet the same Washington Crowd and the same Talking Heads tell the same tale tales and talking points over and over again with no one calling them on it. Where's the outrage?

Since I don't eat pork, maybe I just need better meds...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Scary Movie

Last night I watched the scariest movie ever: "Jesus Camp".

Now I know there are no axe murderers in this film, no blood or gore or guts, but I was truly frightened by what I saw. The documentary film makers captured what is perhaps the most frightening trend of our times in America -- the Evangelical Movement at work training children to hate and fear, accept guilt, follow blindly, and then pass it on to the next generation.

Folks, these are the real culture wars. We're not battling an enemy abroad. We're battling an enemy within our own borders and it is us. Children across America are being trained to pray for George Bush, pray for Supreme Court justices who will limit reproductive choices, and praying for your soul, my soul, anyone's soul who does not conform to their world view. Many of them are home schooled and being taught that science is bogus, that evolution is a myth, and that there is no such thing as global warming.

Their brand of Christianity has nothing to do with Good Works or Charity or Brotherly Love. It's all about Good and Evil, Moral and Immoral, Black or White. And if you don't listen to their message, these little pre-pubescent kids are taught to label you as sinner, or worse: Muslim. They consider themselves warriors and are in training, for what, I'm hesitant to speculate, but I am afraid, very afraid.

What happened to the America in which I grew up? And when did it happen?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Driving Naked

Long time between blog entries -- too much food for thought, too much sadness...

I seem to remember a bumper sticker from the 60's which read: "Friends don't let friends drive naked!" I think George W. Bush has no friends for he is barreling down a road to total destruction and it's fairly evident that his "emperor clothes" caught fire along with his pants. Bush has said that he will persevere even if Laura and Barney the Dog are his only allies. Lately I'm convinced that Laura is a Stepford Wife. George and Barney are all that's left of the "Coalition of the Oops, Where Did Everybody Go". He certainly doesn't listen to his generals, to his advisors, to the American people or to the folks from the Iraq Study Group aka Baker and Hamilton. In just six years, Bush, acting with a sense of executive privilege and impunity, has all but destroyed 225 years of balance and rule of law.

As for the 110th Congress, everyone is so busy jockeying for position in the 2008 election that no one is standing up for what is right in the here and now. And people are dead and dying because of it. Every day that Congress hems and haws, posits and positions, people die -- people in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in the Occupied Territories, in Somalia, in the U.S., in the military, in the National Guard, in Darfur, in the prison that is Gaza, and in places whose names we don't know and can't pronounce.

The occasional byte of truth slips through. As Bush was threatening Iran on prime-time television, another aircraft carrier was headed toward the Persian Gulf and five Iranian diplomats were arrested by US forces in Kurdistan. ABC News ran a two minute clip of a female Israeli settler in Hebron taunting a group of frightened Palestinian women locked into their home, behind a wire cage, the settler yelling, then whispering "sharmuta" (whore) at them, threatening them, as the settler's children lobbed stones at the caged women and the IDF stood by their tanks and looked on, passively.

But for the most part, the mainstream media ignores all but the most blatant incidents of mass death and destruction, jumping at the chance to focus on fires, train derailments, O.J. Simpson, snow in Denver, boys lost and found, while it adopts the Regime talking points and Rovian language of "Syrian-backed Hezbollah"," Iran's Nuclear Ambitions", "Al Qaeda in Iraq", "cut and run" and "flip flop". I'm beginning to think that Muqtada as-Sadr's first name is "Radical Shi'a Firebrand" and that the pronunciation of Iraq's Nuri al-Maliki's name is up for grabs as no one can agree on a standard and the media doesn't check with Arabic speakers on such mundane issues (or on facts).

Don't get me started on the ethnic cleansing of what was New Orleans. Or the sad state of water or telephone or electric services to the Navajo Nation. Or on the mess that is Medicare. Or the plight of the working poor. And if I hear one more pundit blame the victim, they'll hear me scream all the way up in Santa Fe.

But mostly, I'm just sad...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Democratic Dominoes

Went to bed last night high and happy -- the Republican Regime had lost the House. (I really am a political junky.) Better news at noon -- bye bye Rummy. And this evening, it appears that the Senate has gone to the Democrats. These are not my Democrats (the centrists, the compromisers), but it's a first step towards righting the wrongs of the past six years.

Feel like it's my birthday or 'Eid or Christmas or Hanukkah. And I want a hot fudge sundae or cheesecake or both. But I settled for a large pizza from Domino's, delivered (yes, we do have delivery in Belenistan).

When and if I find out that Patricia Madrid has won over Heather (oh my God, my son has seen Janet Jackson's nipple during half time and I'm totally apoplectic) Wilson, I may treat myself to that hot fudge sundae.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Broken Glass

I'd love to be in the "GLASS IS HALF FULL" group, which prompted the uncharacteristic optimism of my last post on voting. The "GLASS IS HALF EMPTY" group is negative and wishy-washy, implying that with a little push from below (or above), the liquid in the glass might rise slightly (or that the glass will shrink, giving the appearance of fullness).

But today I feel that THE GLASS IS BROKEN. No Democratic majority in the house or senate can fix what has been broken in the last six years. Broken glass is broken glass. It cuts, it shreds, it maims and murders. It can't even be swept away with any certainty. And, if walked on, it will only break further.

Didn't the authors of our constitution have solutions (within the rule of law) to remedy a broken executive, a broken judiciary, a broken congress? And why are we just sitting on our hands, waiting for November 7 to hope and pray for the glue or bonding agent which might put the glass back together? Hey folks, it ain't gonna happen. Broken is broken.

When the entire system is corrupted by large sums of currency, large infusions of power, and some crazy form of religious zeal intent on controlling our bodies, our thoughts, our diets, our money and our children, we need to look to the constitution for the remedy. And failing that, can we screw the rule of law, the constitution, and the power structure and just revolt? Isn't that what the founding fathers really had in mind? "The revolution (may) not be televised" but there's nothing saying it can't be sent out over the internet, at least not yet (as long as we still have some measure of net neutrality).

I may not live long enough to see redress (impeachment is way too good for the shrub called Bush, the evil Cheney and all the other players who appear to be the illegitimate love children of Barbara Bush and the Pillsbury Dough Boy), but I'd like to see the beginnings of an outrage, an outrage that builds across middle America over our wars of aggression, the decimation of our political and judicial system, the death of our civil rights, the loss of human dignity, and our blindness to how the dots are connected from the White House to Congress to K Street to Tel Aviv, to Gaza, to Baghdad, to Tehran, to South Lebanon, to New Orleans, to Blackwater and Halliburton and KBR, to the loss of independent media, to the stripping of our language as an exercise in Orwellian semantics, to Guantanamo and Baghram and Diego Garcia, to Belenistan and Kazakhistan ... just fill in the blanks.

The Red Queen (with grey hair flying) rises painfully and, between hits of oxygen from the durable medical equipment throughout her house, shouts hoarsely, "OFF WITH THEIR HEADS!"

To quote the Red Queen:

"Freedom is on the march..." George W. Bush
"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose..." Janis Joplin

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Vote!!!

Vote! Please, please, please vote!

Vote your conscience, vote your wallet, vote your heart. Vote for what will matter to you most in the coming years: your social security, your personal safety, the lives of those your love. Vote for the Gold Star Mothers so that there will be no more Gold Star Mothers. Vote against violence, aggression, hatred and bigotry. Vote for what you believe in, what will serve you and your community.

Vote for health care, clean air and water, nutritious food, better education, good resources, your grandchildren (born and yet to be born) who are too young to get to the polls and vote on their own.

No excuses, no lesser of two evils, no party line. If weather is a problem, vote absentee, but vote. Don't vote what your minister or husband or lover or boss advises. Look at the issues on your own. Really listen to the attack ads on television and figure out who is doing the attacking and why. Look at the faces of those asking to be reelected and ask if you would want them in your home for dinner or coffee. Would your trust them to baby sit? To fix your car? To balance your checkbook?

Listen to what the candidates say in your town hall, on your television, on the Sunday Morning talk shows. Does any candidate who answers a direct question with "I don't recall..." deserve to have that job? When appearing on TV to answer questions, is any politician who says "I haven't read/seen/heard the article/report/book" really doing his or her job? Would you hire them?

Look at the faces of those asking to be sent to Washington and ask if you think they're smart enough, honest enough, independent enough to work for you over the coming years. You are the boss. This is your country. Washington is supposed to be doing your bidding, not the bidding of the corporations and Wall Street and K Street. Not even Main Street. The folks who get elected in two weeks are supposed to be working for those who live on your street, USA.

Voting is not a luxury. It's not even a privilege, at this point. It's an obligation you have to the future -- yourself, your children, your grandchildren and their grandchildren.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

9/11 - A Test of Faith

I knew. I knew the minute I turned on the television, before my first cup of coffee, before I could light my candle, before the sleep was out of my eyes. I knew. I knew that what I saw transpiring some 2,000 miles away on my television screen was going to be a test. A test of my faith as an American Muslim.

After five years, my faith as a Muslim remains unshaken. Sadly, I can't say the same about my faith in America and Americans.

This was not my first personal test and I'm not a wuss. I've lived through three major earthquakes and two riots in Los Angeles, two battles with cancer, marriage, divorce and a 10 year battle with COPD. But they were nothing compared to 9/11.

Nor was this my first political test. I lived through the protests against the war in Viet Nam in the 60's, organizing and protesting the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 (and then losing my job because my boss saw me on television protesting in front of the Israeli Consulate), physical attacks and death threats from the JDL (and losing a friend to a bomb planted by the JDL on the door knob to his office in Santa Ana, California) and having my birthday clouded forever by the coincidence of the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. But they were nothing compared to 9/11.

I lived through setting up press conferences at the Islamic Center to defend Islam as a peaceful religion in the wake of the terror attacks on Istanbul's synagogues in 1987, being strip searched at Heathrow in January 1991 (and the horror of watching bombs fall on Iraq a few hours later), worrying about friends stuck in Kuwait and unable to flee the invasion, and the first attack on the World Trade Center a few years later. But they were nothing compared to 9/11.

I lived through all of the above and more. But I always felt like an American. Now? Not so much ...

In the days immediately after 9/11, I noticed the flags. Flags, flags everywhere. On poles, on cars, on pickup trucks, on clothing and lapels. Red White and Blue. But more importantly, I noticed the rhetoric. Phrases like "crusade", "clash of civilizations", "with us or against us".

And living, as I do, alone, 30 miles south of the middle of nowhere and 250 miles west of East Armpit, Texas, for the first time in my life I began to be afraid, very afraid. Not afraid of an airplane crashing into my house. Not afraid of another terrorist attack. But afraid that, isolated as I am, I needed to be very aware of my surroundings, my neighbors, my internet activities, my phone conversations.

In the first year, my health deteriorated sharply. I stopped teaching Arabic and giving seminars on Islam and the Muslim World. I relied on my dogs to alert me to strangers on my property. And I actually read the "so-called" Patriot Act and HEPA and all the other pieces of new legislation meant to "protect us". I even called the police one night to come replace a burned out porch light because I was frightened, disabled, alone and more than slightly paranoid as Jenin was being decimated and the US marched blindly towards war in Iraq ... and the police came and put in a new light. (There are advantages to living in a town this small.)

I changed. I could no longer watch a sitcom with a laugh track on television. Still can't. And I take notes while watching the news, often taping one program while watching another. In five years the rhetoric has only become more strident, with even the President using terms like "Islamic Fascists". Every utterance by a talking know-nothing head, a "so-called" expert, a media darling, or a member of the Bush Regime spouting the hateful talking points of the day, grates like fingernails on a blackboard.

If I was a news junky before 9/11, I'm a full-blown addict now. But over the last five years I've narrowed down the voices I can trust to just three: Amy Goodman, Keith Olbermann, and Jon Stewart. The fact that the third is a comedian speaks volumes...

So this weekend, as every television station is commemorating the 5th anniversary of that horrible morning, as ABC is getting ready to air yet another inflammatory made for TV movie, as CNN continues to run "In the Footsteps of Bin Laden", as the talking points roll around the echo chamber that is the media, and as more and more truths come to light in the mainstream, I mourn for my American identity. I mourn for the faith I had in this country and its people to always do the right thing -- eventually. I mourn for the America that came together to rescue Baby Jessica from the well. I mourn for my lost innocence.

Every morning I light a candle which burns throughout the day on my kitchen stove. And on that candle I place my prayers for my family, my friends, for women and children everywhere, for Iraq and Iran and Palestine, for Darfur and Gaza, for troops everywhere in harm's way and for the victims of collateral damage.

Starting tomorrow, I will also place prayers for my lost America.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Truce?

As Rome burns, Nero diddles in Texas and we approach the fifth anniversary of the "Global War on Fundamentalist Extremist Factions and Non-State Actors who would do us harm because they hate our freedoms and want to see Islamic Fascist Anarchy from sea to shining sea while they carry out their barbarous acts of mayhem and murder on our bravest and finest as well as innocent civilians, purposely refusing to wear a recognizable uniform and stand in a straight line and shoot like real men but opt instead to pursue Weapons of Mass Destruction related capabilities funded by narco-terrorist states collaborating with teenage immigrant welfare mothers on drugs (apologies to the Austin Lounge Lizards) who have entered our fine country illegally and use the internet in an effort to cut and run back to their reality based world."

This weekend, the major television outlets turned their attention, 24/7, to the arrest of terrorist suspects in the UK and the logjam at European and American airports, a relief from the need for "talking heads" to reiterate their "expert opinions" and their "faith-based facts" on Hezbollah's connections to Syria and Iran and Israel's "right to defend herself" against aggression.

I am bone weary of the opinions of Israeli ambassador to the United States Dan Gillerman and the American Zionist Alan Dershowitz. No one reports on the bombing of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon (or even explains why Palestinians have been in these camps in Lebanon for the last 58 years). And I've stopped waiting for that "Anderson Cooper/Katrina" moment: Cooper, along with all other major broadcasters, have so drunk the Likud Kool-Aid.

While the world's attention was focused on Lebanon (and now Heathrow), Israel continued to cut access for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, stage mass arrests, and kill children and women with impunity.

As for looking for the "precipitating event" for the July 12 incursion across the blue line into South Lebanon, George Monbiot, writing in The Guardian, may have answered my question:

"On May 26 this year, two officials of Islamic Jihad - Nidal and Mahmoud Majzoub - were killed by a car bomb in the Lebanese city of Sidon. This was widely assumed in Lebanon and Israel to be the work of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency. In June, a man named Mahmoud Rafeh confessed to the killings and admitted that he had been working for Mossad since 1994. Militants in southern Lebanon responded, on the day of the bombing, by launching eight rockets into Israel. One soldier was lightly wounded. There was a major bust-up on the border, during which one member of Hizbullah (sic) was killed and several wounded, and one Israeli soldier wounded. But while the border region "remained tense and volatile", Unifil says it was "generally quiet" until July 12."

Then an Israeli soldier was captured in Gaza and two Israeli soldiers were captured in Lebanon and all hell broke loose. The response was immediate and totally out of proportion -- obviously the Israelis had another agenda (see Seymour Hersch's article in The New Yorker).

What gets little press is this: Of the casualties on the Israeli side, at least 2/3 of them are military; and of the remaining 1/3 (civilian) deaths, about 40% are Arab (Palestinian) Israelis without access to bomb shelters and/or air raid sirens. And Israel's inflated injury figures include citizens suffering from "anxiety", according to an Israeli military source. Anxiety? Don't get me started ...

So, we are now into the 15th hour of a cease fire -- and we'll see just how long this lasts. It pains me to say, but I doubt Israel wants a true peace with its neighbors. If it did, it would have acted in 1967 and implemented UN Resolution 242 instead of waiting 39 years for 1701, which does not address the root issue of the Palestinian people and their right to a state, a homeland.

Dare I ask, at what point does a country lose its right to exist?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dear Anonymous

Sorry, friends, but I need to reinstall the word verification filter that prevents spam from being posted on my blog. If you want to comment on any of my thoughts, just follow the instructions and the comments should post and come through to me via my e-mail.

Wish the web were a friendlier place for bloggers, but I guess there will always be jerks who feel the need to "flash" the world (or just make trouble for the sake of trouble). But I can blog on trouble later ... There's certainly more than enough to go around.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Day 16

Day 16: This war has gone on long enough for CNN to have accumulated "stock footage" to run as filler on all of its programming -- a woman wailing in a Haifa doorway, leaflets falling from the sky in Tyre, tanks lining the road on the Israeli side of the Lebanese border, motorbikes dodging rubble in southern Beirut. I keep waiting for that "Anderson Cooper/Katrina" moment when someone in the western media will finally have seen enough carnage and wanton destruction to finally question why 2,500 lb. bombs are falling on civilian slums and speak truth to power. Waiting. And waiting ...

Tonight I noticed that most of the coverage is coming from south of the blue line (because its far safer?) And the IDF will not allow embeds. So the few journalists left in Lebanon do "talking points" rather than actual reporting and answer only the questions that are asked, never deviating from the script.*

Much has been made of the ball bearings in the Katyusha rockets, designed to inflict "maximum civilian damage" -- Katyusha rockets which are basically "point and shoot" like my $6 camera, with no targeting capability. Yet there's little mention of cluster munitions and phosphorus bombs being dropped on civilian areas of Lebanon with great precision, except when one happens to take out a UN station or a string of Red Cross ambulances "by accident". Since the US is providing these laser guided missiles and bunker busters (on a rush basis, I might add), I wonder if they, too, are tipped with depleted uranium such as the US military has been using in Iraq and what the long term environmental/health effects will be.

So far, in addition to UN outposts and Red Cross vehicles, the IDF has managed to hit roads, bridges, food depots, airports, gas stations, fuel depots, Palestinian refugee camps (dating back to 1948), civilians holding white bedsheets out the windows of minivans while attempting to flee to higher ground, and even make several successful strikes against Lebanese Army barracks, the very same Army that the world is counting on to take up the slack (under UN Resolution #1559) once Hezbollah is eliminated, or at least contained. Does anyone else see parallels with Fallujah in this picture?

In addition to the stock footage, new myths (or talking points) have developed over the last 16 days: Hezbollah as Jihadist, ties to Syria, Iran and even Al-Qaeda, a new Caliphate from Iran to Spain, and the ever popular (and particularly disgusting) Islamo-Fascism. As Gaza and the West Bank fall off the media radar and Iraq and Afghanistan recede into the background, all the rhetoric is now applied to Lebanon. Shrill voices are calling for Lebanon to uphold UN Resolution #1559 while the 66 plus resolutions (beginning with 242 and 338) regarding Israel's occupation are forgotten. (And John Bolton will probably squeak through the Senate towards a permanent appointment to the UN and be in a better position to keep the 66 plus resolutions regarding occupied territories, apartheid walls, civilian infrastructure, water grabs, land grabs and the protection of civilian populations under occupation from ever being discussed, let alone enforced.)

The US is generously giving $30 million in emergency aid to Lebanon. That's 1% of the $3 Billion given annually to Israel. One percent. The Bush Regime likes quantifiable data and metrics, to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld. How's this? The Bush Regime has quantified Lebanese (or Palestinian) life as worth one percent of Israeli life.


*A footnote: Did anyone else think that Prime Minister al-Malaki's speech before the bicameral session of congress sounded like it had been written by Karl Rove or Dick Cheney and then translated into Arabic?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Clean Up in Aisle L

So ill from the news. Shades of 1982, 1988, 2000, 2003. I won't update this site with *news* because anyone who has found the site has already heard it all. But the idea that the Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora is talking of suing Israel for damages struck me as not quite good enough. I put forth the following:

Sue George W. Bush and Condi Rice for not demanding that Israel stop the indiscriminate killing and wanton destruction in Lebanon from Day One. The idea of giving Israel "another week or so" to clean out Hezbollah is just disgusting. It will only create more destruction and more enemies.

Sue every member of the Senate and the House, present and past, living and dead, for the last 58 years for gifting $3 billion plus of American tax dollars annually to the State of Israel to use as it will, ignoring any caveats against the use of funds for construction in the occupied territories and/or offensive war.

Sue every major (and minor) weapons and equipment manufacturer who has sold weapons to Israel which are now being used to target civilian populations and infrastructure. And don't do it in American courts but on the international stage, beginning tomorrow.

Once all these lawsuits have been filed, I'd suggest that it's time for Abu Mazen to think of a Clean Up on Aisle P (which includes W and G), beginning with a lawsuit against Caterpillar. Let's not wait until even more Palestinian infrastructure is demolished, more Palestinian land appropriated, more women and children dead.

Of course, none of these lawsuits will bring back the life of a single child. Time for me to cry now.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

War on Wheat?

After watching 24 straight hours of news on CNN and MS-NBC, I've concluded that Israel has declared a "War on Wheat".

Words like "asymmetrical", "disproportionate" and "restraint" have been repeated until they have lost their meaning. The media keeps reminding me that Hamas started this cycle of violence by kidnapping an IDF soldier on June 25, while neglecting to mention that on June 24 the IDF kidnapped a Palestinian doctor and his brother from their home in Gaza and they have not been heard from since (see Ha'Aretz's Gideon Levy's reports of July 8) or that the previous months were a living hell with indiscriminate rockets, bombs, gunboat and helicopter strikes against 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza, the nightly sonic booms keeping frightened children awake, the closing of border crossings turning all of Gaza into one large open-air prison. Nor do they discuss the incursions into the West Bank, the land grabs, the detentions and the arrests which occur on a daily basis.

But, unlike Gaza, where every missile or bomb is a direct hit on a "munitions factory or warehouse" and all the dead and injured are "militants and/or armed terrorists", there are actually international media in Lebanon who can send out live feeds and actually report what might pass for a truth if there weren't so much ridiculous and ill-informed commentary.

In retaliation for Hezbollah's attack on IDF forces at the blue line of Israel's northern border and the capture of two soldiers, 15 civilians in a minibus were obliterated in Southern Lebanon Saturday while trying to seek protection from nearby UN forces. Other "legitimate" targets have included airports and landing strips (3), border crossings into Syria (2), roads, bridges, ports, lighthouses, gas stations, petrol tanks and reserves, religious and political offices in heavily populated civilian neighborhoods, television and radio stations and several actual Lebanese military installations.

But strangest of all, the Israelis targeted and took out three wheat silos. Since when does a country declare a "War on Wheat"?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Eyeless in Gaza

Eyeless in Gaza -- apologies to Aldous Huxley.

Eyesless in Gaza -- as the mainstream media avoids reporting on Gaza (for days on end) until today's events on Israel's northern border. And, once again, Israel uses a blow torch to swat a fly. And, once again, Palestinians (and now Lebanese) pay the price while the Regime in Washington tries to drag Syria and Iran into the conflict.

Eyeless in Gaza -- now eyeless, headless, and homeless. No bridges, electricity, running water, sewage or trash services; no food, medicine, money; no access or exit; no airport, sea port, border crossings; no hope. Was this the plan behind Sharon's unilateral withdrawal 11 months ago -- to create one large open air prison where not even the press or NGO's can access the truth and to drive 1.3 million men, women and children (mostly children) either mad (as in insane) or mad (as in another generation ready to experience yet more war)?

Eyeless in Gaza -- no witnesses. Only tears falling from blind eyes.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It's the Economy (Stupid!)

Watched the Dow plummet 135 points on Friday due to a variety of factors, one of which was fear of inflation due to the dramatic increase in the average hourly wage paid in May -- an increase of 0.5%. The "average hourly wage" is more than three times the "minimum wage" of $5.15 per hour (which Congress refused to increase -- again -- while voting themselves a hefty sum). Didn't catch the exact number quoted for the "average hourly wage", but it was less than $18 per hour.

I'm not a math whiz, but 0.5% of $18 is nine cents. So a whopping nine cents sent the Dow reeling at week's end. Interesting ... I wonder who got the nine cents (72 cents per day), what he or she plans to spend it on, and who will take the blame the problems with the economy (stupid!)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Not Getting "It"

I don't get it ... It's justified as self-defense for the IDF to target cars carrying elected Hamas officials with missiles fired from helicopters and to bomb a Hamas-run Islamic University in Gaza, but if the PA or Hamas were to target a Yeshiva in the Occupied Territories, it would be labeled as anti-Semitic; if a Muslim were to damage one stone of a seminary anywhere in the Western world, it would be considered an act of Islamic terrorism.

I don't get it ... It's perfectly acceptable for George W. Bush or any number of talking heads from the US government, its think tanks or the media (Fox News, CNN, MS-NBC) to make reference to "Islamo-Fascism", but if anyone were to refer to Judeo-Fascism, they would be labeled as anti-Semitic; if anyone were to utter the words Christian-Fascists, they would be considered a threat to Western Civilization as we know it.

I don't get it ... The Bush Regime labels Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the "Axis of Evil". Then the Regime refuses face-to-face talks with either Iran or North Korea, but invades Iraq (Hello? No WMD!), continues to threaten Iran (while still refusing two-party talks), and is "shocked, just shocked I tell you", when the one country who actually may have or want such weapons attempts to launch a missile that might, just might, have the range to hit Alaska. And Bush still refuses face-to-face talks, calling for six-party talks that have never worked.

I don't get it ...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Miami Heat

Got caught up in CNN's coverage of last night's raid on a poor section of Miami and the arrest of seven would-be "terrorists". For three hours I watched (and listened closely) as various reporters on the ground, pundits, experts and politicians tried to fill hours of air time with little or no information.

After years of being a news junkie, my first prayer was: "Oh God, please don't let them be Muslim or Arab or Black." Don't think He heard me. But as the evening unfolded on CNN, I watched the case unfold as well.

A reporter on the ground was asked to describe the neighborhood and he obliged with: "Well, it's lower cla... I mean, lower income." That was a brilliant start!

Another pundit was asked to speculate about the seven men arrested and he obliged with: "They may be Nation of Islam or Black Muslims or Black Separatists or Black Panthers or Five Percenters." (My God, does he even understand what a Five Percenter is?)

And within an hour it was pretty clear from the coverage (and lack of information) that this would be a case of "conspiracy" trussed up by an "undercover informant/agent" and that the whole thing smacked of entrapment.

My instincts aren't bad. Today's four separate news conferences outlining the four "conspiracy charges" against the seven alleged terror suspects reinforced my initial reaction that this would probably fall apart on grounds of entrapment.

Unfortunately, the damage has been done to both American Muslims and Blacks, immigrants and Haitians. Tonight's press release from CAIR (the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations) requesting that "...media professionals not to refer to the seven terror suspects arrested in Miami as 'Muslims'" came 24 hours too late. As the story continues to unfold and more is learned of "The Seas of David", CNN (and every other major news outlet) had carried the water for the Bush Regime, once again.

The more important story of today's revelation about a secret government program to track global bank transfers was buried. And the image of "Home-Grown" Muslim Terrorists "conspiring with Al-Qaeda" in the Miami Heat is what everyone will remember.

V-Day and Iraq: an Analogy

As part of Granny Franny's Unified Theory of Everything, I've been pondering V-Day, Wednesday's call for awareness of and action to prevent violence against women.

I've come up with a rather strange analogy and, please bear with me, it may or may not make sense. But I feel compelled to post it anyway.

Iraq is a woman abused

Iraq is a woman raped, plundered and battered, then impregnated by her abuser (a cop) with a myriad of unruly children which she can not control. Her only option is to marry her abuser and now, three and a half years on, she sees no way out of a bad, very bad situation.

Like most abused women, she has been divested of any funds or resources, her attempts to rid herself of her abuser have gone awry, and with each passing day, the situation grows more dire. The children (read various militias) are totally out of control. She looks to her abuser for everything from shelter to food to keeping the lights on. And it's simply not working. Yet she sees no way out of the situation as she continues to give birth to even more unruly children, some of whom she doesn't even recognize.

The rescue options available to most abused women -- family, friends, cousins, siblings (read Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran and Turkey) -- have been demonized and/or frightened by both the situation and the abuser into ignoring her plight. Her only other option (without actually sticking a knife into her abuser in his sleep and setting the bed on fire) is to appeal to the authorities (read UN), but they, too, are powerless to help her as her abuser is part of that authority, i.e., he is a cop.

Cut and Run

We've heard all these stories before about abused women and why they stay with their abusers. And, lately, we've heard a hell of a lot against what is being called "cut and run". In this case, the abuser has no desire to cut and run. Why should he? He's got it made. But perhaps Iraq can do it for herself, with some help from the progressive left and the worldwide antiwar movement.

Here the analogy starts to fall apart; Iraq can't really leave Iraq, although her best and brightest have been doing so for the last three years.

But if enough people, through various NGOs, pledge their support, perhaps it makes sense for the woman to demand a divorce, push the abuser out the door and then call in the therapists, the professionals, and the neighbors to help heal the unruly children, clean the place up, bring in a few groceries and help her get a fresh start.

Somehow we're going to have to act or the abuser will simply move next door (Syria or Iran) and repeat the same pattern with his next victim. And we'll have even more broken households, battered women and unruly children to deal with. We need to stop this abuser in his tracks, now.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Freedom?

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." (Janis Joplin)

Can there be freedom under occupation? All I'm seeing is more civil war, more atrocities, more 'collateral damage' and more Press, Pentagon and Washington spin while Congress debates the "important" issues like preventing those dangerous gays from marrying, keeping angry protesters from burning the red-white-and blue and making sure that the wealthiest 2% get yet another tax break (the so-called Death Tax -- Orwellian-speak for the estate tax that the 2% didn't pay before they were taken up by the Rapture). Somehow, this is supposed to create more jobs for white Americans, help small businesses, keep our borders safe from small brown people and help pay for the War on Terror.

While wasting time and treasure on the above, there's little chance Congress will get around to the growing debt, rising oil prices, falling stock market, fixing the levies, discovering who (or rather how many) leaked the identity of Joe Wilson's wife to Robert Novak, or any of the other issues which are not quite so "sexy" but are matters of life and death to folks like you and me and the folks on both sides in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, by the way, am I the only one who heard what Bush said during the Bush/Blair (Eng/Cheng) prime time joint news conference just before he disclosed the one or two "mistakes" he had made in the last five years? Didn't I hear him use the phrase "Islamic Fascists"? Like nails on a blackboard, if Bush gets off script he's likely to say what he really thinks as opposed to what his minders have coached him to say. Ooops ...

Angry? Who me? I'm just exercising one of my constitutional rights while I still have any and there still is one (constitution).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Outrage Fatigue

Outrage has paralyzed me for the last several weeks. Anger, outrage, disbelief -- all have contributed to a downward COPD spiral, bordering on exacerbation. But, my hero, "The Steroid Steed", has come to the rescue and I now feel I can at least begin to address the myriad of notes and scribblings I've accumulated while watching CNN and MS-NBC and put my thoughts into some sort of cohesive order. Or it just may be the steroids talking ...

My old mantras, "Semantics Matter" and "Connect the Dots", are now joined by "Follow the Money", and "Who Stands to Benefit?"

Who benefits from diverting public attention away from Iraq and focusing it on undocumented workers aka "illegal aliens"? Has anyone else noticed that the estimated numbers have risen from 8 million a month ago to 12 million and now 20 million? And that the folks calling for English as the National Language (the mono-linguists who run Washington) can barely speak it themselves? Who benefits from this diversion? What investigations have been put on the back burner while Congress hammers out ridiculous legislation to strip even more small brown people of their basic human rights? Which corporations are quietly getting rich and watching the price per barrel of oil steadily rise while righteous Americans call into talk radio to vent their collective racist spleen at the rest of us?

Who benefits by starving the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, withholding their tax revenue, allowing only a trickle of medical supplies to seep through while Hamas and Fatah battle it out in the back alleys of Khan Yunis and Rafah? And who benefits from Israeli air strikes on cars carrying mid-level Islamic Jihad functionaries (as well as women and children)? Certainly not the Palestinians. Do the Israelis even benefit in the long or short term? If someone wishes to follow the money trail it probably will lead back to Washington -- politicians, of course, but also the religious right and their corporations.

Who benefits from the Apartheid Wall which continues to snake through the West Bank, creating new "facts on the ground" daily as Olmert and Bush shake hands in the White House over the idea of a unilateral pullout from small parts of the Occupied Territories, leaving Bantustans of Palestinian farmers who can't access their land and whose water rights are being usurped? Even Bush and Olmert know that these actions are against all international laws and treaties governing occupied peoples, as well as against a myriad of injunctions in scripture against the destruction of fields and olive trees and date palms, but who's paying attention? Oil is not the only motivating force in the Middle East -- the Water Wars have already begun.

Who benefits from threatening Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and any country in the Western Hemisphere who dares to believe and then elect a leader who will stand up for the rights of the Indigenous, the concept of fair and equitable land distribution, the concept that mineral resources belong to the people under whose homes they lay? Once again, look to Exxon, Halliburton, Bechtel -- all the usual suspects are still the usual suspects, even if the names change. The fact of robbing the poor to feed the rich and fat remains the same no matter who wears the mask.

If you're looking for answers to any of these questions, sorry. You've come to this blog on the wrong day. I may not have the resources to actually follow the money trail, but it doesn't mean that I can't see it just as clearly as if it were a Yellow Brick Road leading to Oz. Pull back the curtain, and the Wizard is probably Cheney (or someone who looks a lot like him).

It's a small planet, folks. All the dots connect, semantic still matter, and you and I are definitely not benefiting from any of this.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

"You're doing a heck of a job (insert name here)"

Warning: I'm in a snarky mood, but please indulge me. After all, I'm BWM (Blogging While Muslim) and just can't help myself ...

This seems to be the week that Hell may freeze over. Good old Rummy is still doing "a heck of a job" and Cheney is scarce, but Rove has had his duties limited to smearing the opposition in the upcoming mid-term elections and poor Scott McClelland has gone bye-bye. Poor Scott. I always wondered if there was a little man sitting behind the podium during the daily press gaggle, holding a fire extinguisher, ready to put out the fire in Scott's pants at a moments notice. And we never saw Scott in profile -- always full on. Was that because his nose was growing? It can't have been a fun job. The bets (as of 7:00 p.m. this evening) are that his replacement will be someone from Fox News, sort of lateral a move, as it were.

Speaking of smears, has anyone else notice how hard the right wing echo chamber is trying to get word out on John Conyers, Jr.'s alleged misconduct regarding using staffers as babysitters? Even CNN has drunk the Kool-Aid. But so far, it all points back to the American Enterprise Institute. Just how stupid do they think we are? The Honorable Congressman from Michigan has been very busy on the Hill, trying to get to the bottom of everything from the Downing Street Memos to impeachment hearings for Bush and the gang and gathering support for a single payer health plan for all Americans. Conyers is not DeLay (thank God) and the smear just won't stick, no matter what knife they use to spread it. So enough already. The story doesn't have legs. Just give it up. You're picking on the wrong guy.

On the topic of wrong, just whose idea was it to crown a Miss Iraq in the middle of a war? The poor girl was not the first choice (others had rejected the offer for good reason). But Miss Iraq has now gone into hiding in fear for her life. Why do I get the idea that whoever staged a Miss Iraq pageant during a time when all of Iraq is in turmoil, can't form a government four months after elections, and is still dealing with electrical grid problems as they come up to their fourth long, hot summer since "liberation", is part of the same gang that designed the "new" Iraq flag during the early Bremmer regime? Remember the one? A white flag with two dark blue horizontal bands with a religious symbol in the middle? If you squinted even a little, it looked Israeli. Ooops. That flag, needless to say, never flew in Iraq. Back to the drawing board.

And still on the topic of "wrong", what is Karen Hughes, our Good Will Ambassador to the Middle East, doing in Latin America? Does she now have a team of Spanish language translators or is she still using the Arabic ones? Having Karen Hughes as an Ambassador to the Islamic World was on a par with appointing Laura Bush to head a Gang Task Force (whatever happened to that brilliant idea from one Bush's State of the Union addresses?) or making steroid use in baseball a "federal case" via another State of the Union address just after the Mission was Accomplished in Iraq.

Priorities, folks. Priorities.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Skating with "Scooter"

At 9:50 a.m. (MDT) today, I celebrated as though it was my birthday, 5 months ahead of schedule. On hold with my home oxygen provider, watching MS-NBC with the sound off, I witnessed a "Breaking News Story" of epic proportions. It was akin to getting a brand new pair of roller skates (with key), an electric wheelchair, new power tools and paint brushes for the studio, and a TV that is not only cable ready, but has a built-in VCR and DVD player and actually will pick up public television in Belenistan, 30 miles south of the middle of nowhere and 250 miles west of East Armpit, Texas! It was better than a birthday!

It was the day that the prosecution in the Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame case announced that Libby had outed both Dick Cheney and George W. Bush as the sources for the NIE statement, declassified by Bush, for the purposes of outing Ms. Plame in order to cover up the infamous 16 words in the State of the Union address.

I feel I must backtrack: Since I first heard Ambassador Joe Wilson allege that Robert Novak outed the Ambassador's wife, a CIA undercover operative working on weapons of mass destruction, in July 2003, I have been waiting for this day. Wilson said he wanted to see Karl Rove "frogmarched" out of the West Wing and while there is no Karl Rove in today's announcement, it is nearly as satisfying. I had set Google Alerts for any mention in the media of Valerie Plame Wilson and/or CIA and Rove set on my computer (along with any mentions of torture and John Israel or torture and Diego Rivera -- not realizing that there is a ball player by that name!) for nearly two years before the Fitzgerald investigation began to actually make more news than my e-mail inbox could handle. I was profoundly disappointed when it seemed that the trail would end with "Scooter" Libby and mere charges of obstruction of justice and perjury. But patience is rewarded -- eventually. (Hey, maybe that's the definition of patience...) And today was the day.

Unfortunately, for the next few hours, the 24/7 cable news outlets downplayed the significance of the story and made excuses for Bush as Justice-Commander-Theologian in Chief (he can declassify whatever he wants, apparently, at whim). But by this evening it seems that the outrage moves forward. (And under the radar of this story, Bush appointed Mr. Duct Tape and Plastic Sheeting to head FEMA. But I'll let that go ...)

I can only hope that we will see Rove and Cheney and Bush "frogmarched" out of the West Wing before I actually celebrate my birthday in September. If that happens, I'll just settle for one new paint brush and maybe a ride on the back of my son J's skateboard.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Rant #3 - The Wall and the Lobby

Unreported in mainstream media that at least two people died in a flash flood in the Palestinian town of Bil'in because of the construction of the "security fence" aka "apartheid wall" or "land and water grab barrier". Also largely unreported, the deaths of dozens (many of whom were women and children) in rocket and helicopter attacks into Gaza and other Palestinian areas by Israeli Defense Forces (a misnomer on the order of the U.S. defense Department, formerly known as the War Department).

The land grab goes on and on while the Christian Right in this country line up behind AIPAC to form mega-lobbies to ensure that there is no peaceful solution in Palestine. They'd rather bring on "the rapture" than give an inch or a (hectacre). While I've said elsewhere that our own southern border is basically arbitrary, there is nothing arbitrary about the method by which the Israelis are redefining "facts on the ground." Wish I had solutions. Wish someone had solutions. The only two that come to mind are moving the wall to the 1967 border, making everyone on the west side an Israeli citizen and everyone on the east side a Palestinian citizen (including those who wish to remain in their settlements) and making al-Quds (Jerusalem) and international zone or country a la the Vatican. Or, remove the wall, dismantle the current governments and establish one large country from the River to the Sea under secular law, one person, one vote, and the freedom to practice one's religion but not impose it on a neighbor.

Of course, I'm dreaming. No one could possible think outside the box to that extent. Rational solutions need not apply.

Rant #2.1 - OUCH

On the non-political front, I think I broke my toe. Running barefoot through the house in a race to the fridge at midnight, dodging a sleeping pug in the hall and a wolf-hybrid doing his ritual evening "happy dance" in the living room, and trailing 50 feet of oxygen tubing behind me with my crazy hair (sha'ir majnoon) flying every which way, I caught my foot on a chair around the bend, not for the first or tenth time. But this time I my have broken something -- my foot is swollen and black. Naturally, I didn't stop to ice it but, mishuginah or majnoona (crazy person) that I am, I decided, then and there, to rearrange the furniture in the kitchen so I'd have something new to bang myself on next time. And I'm not even on steroids (since last September) -- just adrenaline. Can't even remember what I wanted from the fridge!

Anyone out there with a remedy for a broken toe?

Rant #2 - No News not Good News

Very little news coming out of occupied Iraq and occupied Palestine. Mainstream media busy covering pedophiles, Tom DeLay, border issues and Black congresswomen "attacking" heavily armed Capitol police with dangerous cell phones. (Ouch!) At least there are no runaway brides this week.

But seriously, when the mainstream media is quiet about the war, I start to panic. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is making noises about not wanting Ibrahim Jaafari to hold office. The media alternates between referring to the young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a "firebrand", a "radical", a "terrorist" and a "militia leader". The administration and media refuse to accept that Iran just might want to enrich fuel to generate electricity. Just how many Iranian spokespeople can say it, how many ways, before the US accepts that they might just be telling the truth? (And just when is Ambassador John Bolton's term up as a recess appointee to the UN? Not soon enough, I fear.) Nor can anyone in power believe that the last thing Iran wants or needs is an uprising on their long, long border with Iraq.

Unreported, the true locations of the insurgency and the fighting. "Somewhere west of Baghdad", "somewhere north or south of Baghdad". What does that mean? Why don't they just own up to the fact that fighting going on in Tal Afar (the US military success story of the month), in Fallujah (which looks worse than Rafah in the Gaza Strip or Jenin after 2003), in Baghdad (where only the Green Zone is secure) and around Balaad (where the US has built a mega-base complete with fast food joints and cinema -- a hard, permanent base complete with shopping malls and underpaid foreign [non-Iraqi, non-American] workers.)

The leader of the "Free World", with his zeal and fervor to spread "democracy and the rule of law", should probably consider accepting the votes of the majority in Iraq, Palestine, Venezuela, Bolivia, Haiti, Iran. Last time I looked, democracy did not mean meddling in the business of foreign entities and sovereign states, nor did it mean national building or micro-managing the planet and executive power only.

And in the same vein, someone in Washington should look up the meaning of "rule of law". They obviously don't know since they use it to justify all sorts of malfeasance.

"Rule of law" means that "no branch of government is above the law, and that no public official may act arbitrarily or unilaterally outside the law". It also means that "no written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice that transcend human legal systems". It does not mean issuing secret "signing statements" along with the signing of legislation, basically saying that the chief executive does not have to abide by the law just signed (i.e., Patriot Act and anti-torture legislation) and ignoring international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions. In other words, crossing one's fingers behind one's back while putting pen to paper and saying "Na nana na na" just doesn't cut it when we're supposed to enjoy separation of powers.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Rant #1 - Xenophobia

My brain is about to explode because I haven't blogged in quite a while. So I'm hoping to catch up and empty my head, one subject at a time. Please bear with me. I'll start with Immigration.

I was born in East Los Angeles and I'm so proud of the kids in LA who left school and took to the streets to protest draconian immigration reform. (I remember their parents and/or grandparents doing the same in 1968.) And I'm proud of Los Angeles in general for the half million or more who marched last weekend and the hundreds of thousand across the country who also participated. Tonight's local news out of Albuquerque ran a story about a town in Texas which is banning students who marched there from attending their senior prom. Why am I shocked?

If I hear one more newscaster or politician deny being "xenaphobic" I'll start throwing darts at the TV. I think "xenaphobic" means fear of pointy breasts and bad dialogue. It's "xenophobia", guys. And you are xenophobic, all of you who think of the 10 or 12 million undocumented workers in this country as "illegal". There are no illegal people, except perhaps George Bush and Dick Cheney and all the illegitimate love children of Barbara Bush and the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

There has to be a better solution than suddenly declaring workers and their support groups (priests, nurses, teachers, doctors) felons. Aren't are prisons full enough already? And do we really want to break up families, leaving children here under an already stressed foster system as we jail and/or deport their parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles? Didn't we do that in the 30's and the 50's, sweeping up thousands of American citizens in the process and dumping them across the border into Mexico?

My grandmother never did learn English and didn't become a citizen until well into her seventies after she'd lived and worked in this country for more than four decades. But she didn't take anyone's job or money nor did she hurt a soul as she struggled to raise four children on her own. Besides, there was no country for her to return to once the Ottoman Empire collapsed. And many of the folks we are demonizing in the press feel that they have no place to go either.

It's time we began to think outside the box on a host of issues, beginning with our own borders. They are arbitrary as well as porous. They're not carved in stone. There must be a better solution to fixing a broken system, like scratching it and starting over.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Numbers

Numbers. Math. Numbers. It always comes down to the numbers.

Administration poll numbers are down and the number of Americans dead in Iraq are up (2311 earlier today and counting), but no one counts the maimed, the injured or the irreparably damaged on both sides, the number of years it will take to rebuild Iran, the number of hours of electricity that can be counted on each day or the number of children who will be born with defects due to the use of depleted uranium by US forces.

The debt ceiling has been raised to $9 trillion so that we can keep spending money, money that belongs to my granddaughters and their granddaughters.

Three years on and the world is worse than ever -- Iraq, Gaza, America, the real Triangle of Death. Cheney, Rumsfield and Rove -- the real Axis of Evil. Washington, DC and Crawford, TX -- the real Outposts of Tyranny.

Today the talking heads on the morning shows were debating the definition of a civil war and analyzing the success of the latest air war in the so-called Sunni Triangle. Reading River's blog at "Baghdad Burning" and wondering if anyone at CNN, MSNBC, or even the Pentagon, has spoken with a real live Iraqi in the last three years. Not the Iraqi talking heads living in the relative comfort of the Green Zone or the Iraqi exiles who returned after the Mission was Accomplished, but a real Iraqi, living somewhere in Baghdad or Ramadi or Samara. But guess what, folks, it's hard to get the opinion of the man or woman on the Arab Street if the Iraqi is terrified to leave the relative safety of his/her home or apartment and if the one asking the questions never steps foot on the street without a military or paramilitary escort and a team of translators and the experts reporting from Baghdad each evening never leave the roofs of their hotels.

(Three years on and we still don't have an Arabic speaking military. It's not brain surgery, guys. It's a language. Children learn it. Or are they busy studying Farsi in anticipation of the next great experiment in forcing democracy and "civilization" down the throats of yet another people -- more on the looming threat to Iran later ...)

Meanwhile, the third anniversary of the murder of Rachel Corrie by Israeli forces using a Caterpillar bulldozer went largely unmarked in the mainstream media. This was supposed to be "Sunshine Week", the week in which the media would shine some light on what goes on behind the scenes in government. But that's a bit hard to do if the Senate is proposing legislation that could result in the arrest and jailing of journalists who disclose information about government surveillance programs or any other information which could be classified or re-classified at a later date (retroactively making the disclosure of same a crime).

Al-Jazeera is reporting that the UN is warning that starvation is just around the corner for 1.5 million souls in Gaza since for the past two months the border crossings are not allowing wheat flour to enter the Strip (nor allowing greenhouse grown produce to get to market, thereby strangling any hope of an economically independent Palestine). Forty percent of the children in Gaza already suffer from malnutrition. Palestinian funds are frozen and the Israeli ministers are calling the lack of flour and foodstuffs "a diet". I don't see too many Israeli politicians going hungry ...

Secretary of State Rice has testified that there is no greater threat to America and Israel than Iran but no one -- and I truly mean no one -- has offered a shred of proof to back up her statement that Iran (whose clerics have issued fatwas against nuclear weapons) is hundreds of times more dangerous now than ever. Hundreds of times? A hundred times zero is -- well, zero. You do the math.

(A snarky aside that I just can't resist -- Speaking of math, last year CNN's Kyra Phillips did an interview with a spokeswoman from the Texas Eagle Forum who was trying to pass legislation in Texas to prevent homosexuals from fostering and/or adopting children. She claimed to have a study that showed that children raised in gay and/or lesbian households were 11 times more likely to become gay -- not 11%, 11 times! Phillips did not ask the name of the study nor did she question the math. Okay, folks: Social scientists agree that one in ten people (that's 10 percent) of the general population, worldwide, is homosexual. So, following the math presented on CNN if one in 10 children are gay and the other nine are 11 times more likely to become gay if raised in a homosexual environment, then 99% of non-gay children raised in a homosexual home will become gay. Didn't anyone bother to check the facts or the numbers on that one?)

The only number which seems to have any meaning anymore is the number of days left before the next presidential election, which I believe is 963 and counting down ... Feel free to check my math and get back to me.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tone Deaf? Tone Deaf??

If I hear one more pundit say the Administration and/or Bush is "tone deaf" I may never be able to stop screaming. Bush is to tone deaf as Ray Charles was to near sighted! Where do they come up with these inane phrases? Is there a committee? Or can anyone submit the phrase of the week: We do not do torture. We don't want to play the Blame Game. You're either with us or you're with the enemy. We can't comment on an ongoing investigation. Freedom is on the march. We'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up. No one imagined that the storm would breach the levies. We've turned a corner.

Well, there's a corner I'd like for them to turn (180 degrees) -- tell the American people the truth. Bush is not Jack Nicholson and Americans can handle the truth. Don't compare apples and tennis shoes. There is no comparison. The truth is the truth; there are no mixed realities. Keep it simple.

We've gotten into Iraqi based on lies and greed and hubris. We don't know how to get out. We've wasted billions in funds, buckets of blood, tons of depleted uranium and thousands of lives. All of the reconstruction money has gone into building prisons, hard bases and outsourcing security. And there is no "coalition of the willing" -- only the "coalition of the oops, where did everybody go ..." We can't keep trying to micro-manage the world, the United Nations, South America and the Middle East. It's not what the American people want. (And no one else wants us meddling in their business.) We've done some very, very bad things but we'll own up to them if given the chance. Truth and reconciliation can work.

Instead of threatening the press with sedition for publishing leaks, we should be rewarding whistle blowers. And it's ridiculous and confusing to classify then declassify and then reclassify bits of information at whim. Who the hell can keep track? We should all stick our heads out the window and yell, "What part of 'bend over' are we not understanding?" 'Cause we're all getting screwed by an administration that believes that the only entitlements are their own, that a plant can be called a leak, that poverty is a crime, that plausible deniability is equal to ignorance as an excuse for stupidity or cupidity, that blatant racism can be covered up, that it's okay to practice selective ethics, that hubris is a virtue, that liberal is a four-letter word, that torture and extraordinary rendition and wiretapping are acceptable practices that can be excused because of a fabricated war on an unknown enemy for an endless amount of time, that tapes and transcripts will and can disappear and, that if caught, one can plead that one is tone deaf ...

Friday, February 17, 2006

History and Bumper Stickers

Who said that those who don't read history are condemned to repeat it? Okay, so Bush and the gang don't read. But you'd think they could watch a movie and learn something.

Last week I watched "The Battle of Algiers". This week I rented the late Mustapha Akad's "Lion of the Desert", the story of Omar Mukhtar battling the Italians in Libya in the years between the wars. I first saw it in 1981 but today it's messages are even clearer. People don't like occupation. Colonialism is ugly. Asymmetrical warfare (guerilla warfare) is never pretty. And the occupier eventually loses (except in the case of the Americas and Australia, but that's yet to be proven -- history is long).

I guess if you don't read you take the word of folks like Richard Pearle, Douglas Feith and Daniel Pipes and their interpretations of biased "scholars" like Bernard Lewis and Raphael Patai, canonize them, and wind up with never-ending torture at Guantanamo and Abu Graib, insurgencies in the so-called Sunni Triangle, and some very unhappy Shi'a in and around Basra. And because you don't read and are unable to think for yourself, you stick to your slogans and never say "Ooops".

"When the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down" is not a strategy. It is a bumper sticker. My all time favorite is still "Semantics Matter", followed by "If all the world's a stage, I want better lighting", and "Friends don't let friends drive naked". But this week I think I'll design a new one: "Guns don't shoot people, Dicks do".

Sunday, February 05, 2006

State of Disunion and Wardrobe Malfunctions

Still recovering from Tuesday's "State of Disunion", even though I decided against watching it. I opted to watch Gilmore Girls and a video instead because throwing socks at the TV screen in the hopes of banging one off Bush's nose is no longer fun -- just stupid. But of course, media junky that I am, I couldn't help myself from catching it all on the back end for the rest of the week from the likes of the CNN talking heads, administration stooges like MS-NBC's Chris Matthews, and even the good folks on PBS who think they're unbiased but who play right into the hands of those in power. Only Jon Stewart grabbed my undivided attention when he pointed out the take-away line about Bush warning us to be vigilant about preventing doctors from doing interspecies cloning. (Now that warrants wall-to-wall prime-time coverage.)

I doubt it's a coincidence that this is the week that the Muslim world is up in arms over culturally insensitive cartoons published first in Denmark and then reprinted in media from every xenophobic country in Europe. You can tell who welcomes dark-skinned folks and who shuns them by the news that filters in on the margins. Basically, all of Europe (and much of the U.S.) is anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-brown, anti-anyone not "one of us", whoever "us" is defined as.

Before the speech, CAIR urged Bush to avoid loaded terms in his address, terms such as 'Islamo-fascism,' 'militant jihadism,' 'Islamic radicalism,' or 'totalitarian Islamic Empire' I've yet to read the address in its entirety, but I heard all of these terms on the back end from those who carry the water (and drink the kool-aid) for the administration. Just as Rumsfield was so eager at one point to rename "The War on Terror" the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism", semantics do matter. Whether or not these terms were used, anything which confuses 9/11 with Iraq, Usama bin Laden with Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, and Hamas with international terror is not accidental. And as Knight Ridder reported, on Wednesday, one day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic advisor said that the president didn't mean it literally.

It is also no coincidence that this is the week in which we've pushed the Iranians' buttons to the point where they're ready to throw out the inspectors. Or that, surprise of suprises, White House e-mails covering the period around the outing of Valerie Plame have gone missing from the government's computer archives (as in "the dog ate their homework.") Or that, as Juan Cole points out, 120 Bulgarian troops have been stationed at an airforce base in Iraq to guard 4000 members of an Iranian dissident terrorist cult which has been instrumental in manufacturing stories about Iran's desires for nuclear weapons.

Or that (and this part is really frightening) Business Wire has published that the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) component has awarded KBR, the engineering and construction subsidiary of Halliburton, an Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (ID/IQ) contingency contract to support ICE facilities in the event of an emergency. With a maximum total value of $385 million over a five-year term, consisting of a one-year base period and four one-year options, the competitively awarded contract will be executed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District. (More jobs for Texas.) KBR held the previous ICE contract from 2000 through 2005. The contract may also provide immigrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts. (Has no one asked where they were after Hurricane Katrina? It's only paranoia if they're not watching you ... I can't imagine a scenario in which the U.S. would have to house enough illegal immigrants to warrant a $385 million facility. But I can imagine such a facility housing American dissidents...)

Doesn't any of this sound at all familiar? Were we not in this same place three years ago with the infamous 16 words? Or are we all, as a nation, too wrapped up in Superbowl Sunday and the 5-second delay which ABC has put in place so that our poor, innocent children will not be subjected to a horrific repeat of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction by the Rolling Stones during the half-time show...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Granny Franny's Unified Theory of Everything

Reading Elizabeth de la Vega's January 18th piece at www.TomDispatch.com gives me hope that my own theories are not as crazy as some may think. If Congress, Justice and the Courts can let GWB get away with his "Unitary Executive Theory of the Presidency," I should be able to get away with what my friend T. calls "Granny Franny's Unified Theory of Everything."

Granny Franny's Theory is still a work in progress but basically it involves connecting the dots -- all the dots, everywhere. I began to connect the dots in late-2000 when the Supremes handed GWB the presidency, continued through 9/11 and its aftermath when my phone line would automatically begin dialing in the middle of the night and I would hear my computer or fax machine make the noise that we used to call "shaking hands", when long-distance calls to friends would suddenly be interrupted or begin to echo on only one side of the line, when mail arrived late (or opened by accident), when I had to sign HEPA forms to get my oxygen, my prescriptions, see my doctor or dentist but no one had actually read the forms which were being signed, especially the part about the government being able to access one's medical records in case of (undefined) national emergency (it's only paranoia if no one is actually watching you!!).

More dots evolved as the Mission was Accomplished in Iraq and the war against a few dead-enders escalated to the point where the insurgency was "in its last throes", when "the L word" began to mean Liberal and "the P word" Progressive, when comparing someone to Michael Moore became an insult rather than a compliment, when Terry Schiavo was pronounced medically viable by the Senate and the President, when Cindy Sheehan became "anti-American", when athletes on steroids and gang activity warranted mention in State of the Union addresses, but the Downing Street Memo didn't warrant the same concern, when Abu Ghraib fell off the radar and no one in the media seemed concerned that any one of the many hurricanes heading toward the U.S. were projected to pass right through Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when free elections in Iran, Palestine, South American and the Caribbean were called into question even as our own 2004 election passed muster (though votes were still uncounted in Ohio, Florida and New Mexico) and "Brownie" was doing a "heck of a job" for FEMA -- well, the dots began to form a pattern. (Whew! That was one heck of a run-on sentence!)

As we enter the sixth year of the Orwellian world of the propaganda and disinformation machine variously called "The Media" or "The Administration", I continue to connect the dots. If I ever get all the dots connected and "Granny Franny's Unified Theory of Everything" is published, it will come with a free yellow bumper sticker which will read "Semantics Matter."

Monday, January 16, 2006

I have a dream

If The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was alive today, could he, would he make a speech beginning with the words: "I have a dream." Or would he revisit his speech of four decades past and say, "I had a dream ... and it is unfulfilled." I still have trouble listening to the speech in its entirety because every year I start sobbing part way through and then have to turn away in shame and embarrassment because we have failed King so terribly, so completely. And each year it is only worse.

I wonder what King would make of Guantanamo, Iraq, Abu Ghraib, talk of crusades and waterboarding, unfettered presidential or executive power, the wretched masses left behind by FEMA in New Orleans, the uninsured and underemployed, the idea of school vouchers and no child left untested, the disenfranchisement of black voters in Ohio and Florida, the redistricting of Texas, the various scandals and inquests and investigations and the notion that high crimes and misdemeanors can be used for sexual misconduct but ignored for graft and corruption and abuse of power and people. (That's one hell of a run-on sentence but this is, after all, a blog.)

If I knew more young people I might be more optimistic. My grandchildren seem upbeat; by children less so. Is this pessimism a byproduct of age or has our age become so bad that one can't help but be pessimistic.

I'm not framing these thoughts as questions because I expect no answers. But, the pacifism of King and Gandhi and Nelson Mandela aside, I sure would like to see heads roll.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Schadenfreude

I'm a horrible person. All my good intentions and resolutions for the new year -- down the drain. Heard the "news" about Jack Abramoff pleading guilty to felony charges in exchange for testimony against his friends on The Hill and my face lit up like a Jack-o-Lantern. (Never mind that the Abramoff story was two and a half years in the making ((www.sourcewatch.org)) and that commentators and Washington insiders claimed to be "shocked, just shocked I tell you.")

Add the Abramoff story to the NSA/FISA scandal, the ongoing CIA leak investigation, the unresolved Downing Street Memo/Impeachment hearings and a dozen other open questions making their way through the halls of Congress and the White House, and I'm experiencing extreme Schadenfreude.

It's not the war in Iraq, Osama bin Laden or our dwindling status on the world stage that will bring down the Bush Administration and the GOP; it'll be domestic issues like bribery, incompetence, cronyism, FEMA, the rigged Medicare drug plan with its nonexistent savings and Washington's infamous revolving door.

My friends may get their Schadenfreude fix by watching sitcoms or reality TV or American Idol; I watch Washington. As I said, I'm a horrible person.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Smoke and Mirrors and -- oh yeah, more Smoke

My mother, of blessed memory, used to say, "You can't pee on my back and make me think it's raining." My new take on this old piece of wisdom is, "Don't blow smoke up my butt and then bill me for a colonoscopy." Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, but in this age of "Smoke and Mirrors" it seems more appropriate. This year I've been tempted to call the Whitehouse switchboard and ask, "Just what part of 'bend over' am I not understanding here?" But for all I know, I'm already on more than one of their secret lists. Do I really need to be on another?

Thinking about the Gregorian year ending this weekend and what we, as a nation, have managed to accomplish. We are now spying on Quakers and folks who don't wear fur. We are no closer to the truth on Plame-gate than we were a year ago. We are watching the Apartheid Wall expand across the Occupied Territories of the West Bank while we talk of a new wall separating us from our cousins to the south. We continue to put faith in the "trust me" administration and avoid words like "impeachment" and "unindicted coconspirator" lest we be called un-American. We await election results from the third Iraqi election this year and believe that this time -- for sure -- we will be able to hand sovereignty back to the people from whom we took it nearly three years ago. We are counting our dead but not counting their dead -- admitting to "30,000 more or less" as though we were guessing at how many jellybeans are in the jar. We continue to wave red flags at the Iranians on a weekly basis but are shocked -- just shocked, I tell you -- when they wave a red flag back at us. We are still debating a Patriot Act that has nothing whatsoever to do with patriotism while watching absolute power corrupt absolutely.

Personally, I am thinking of a number between one and 100,000 and two naked emperors -- George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon (which is not an image I want stuck in my head for more than a nanosecond) -- while passively watching the administration and the media add new words and phrases to our collective vocabulary as a nation, such as permanent vegetative state, Qur'an abuse, stress positions, extraordinary rendition, Bridges to Nowhere, Minutemen, Gitmoize, unlawful insurgency (a true oxymoron), punditry, evil doers, cut and run, girly men, nuclear option, public scatology, blame game, talking points, Intelligent Design, wardrobe malfunction, recess appointment, donor fatigue, neo-Caliphate and the truly offensive phrase of the month: Islamofascism -- would anyone dare to say or print Judeofascism? -- I seriously doubt it.

One year and forty-nine weeks ago (1/19/04), Dick Cheney told USA Today in an interview that he was not worried about his image as the administration's Machiavelli, skilled in the quiet arts of persuading his "Prince" to pursue questionable policies, and adding, remarkably, "Am I the evil genius in the corner that nobody ever sees come out of his hole? It's a nice way to operate, actually."

Not much has changed since then. Cheney is operating a bit more out in the open since the 2004 election. And I've noticed that we now have a new alphabet soup on the shelf. Anyone my age will remember when the accepted abbreviations consisted of MD, PhD, CPA, H2O and AT&T and we all knew exactly what each of those letters stood for. Now CPA has a whole new meaning and we have added FISA, FOIA, NSA, CIA, FBI, WMD, FEMA, DHS, ACLU, ADL, ADC, CAIR, AIPAC, RNC, DNC, GOP, ANWR, OPEC, CAFTA, NAFTA, WTO, IMF, WHO, IAEA, AEI, DOD, GAO (which changed its name earlier this year but is still abbreviated as GAO) and, of course, the ubiquitous K Street.

Lurking somewhere amid the smoke, mirrors and alphabet soup there has to be a tipping point. If not, next year at this time we'll still be shoveling shit and hoping for a pony.