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.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pondering the Season and a Prayer

Christmas is not my holiday, yet it's hard to escape if you live in the U.S. I was thinking back to my first Christmas in New Mexico -- at least the first where I actually lived here. Wrote something that's been on my mind since then -- 1995. Found it yesterday on the Winter Solstice. Even ten years later, it still hold up:

O, how I long for more perfect world, but that exists only on another plane, sometimes called The Next World. As always, I try to be ever-prepared for that World, the Next Reality.

Being on The Path changes perception. Not just my perception of myself and my perception of God, but my perception of Reality in general, of the world. As the world is not just the planet, I am not just my body but a synthesis of forces, ranging from intellect to racial or global memory and consciousness. All together this is my soul, my most precious possession, yet not mine -- on loan to me for a short time, entrusted so to speak. I must care for it, protect it, keep it pure. There can be no pride in ownership of this soul The trust is to return it to the Oneness, back to the conscious primordial soup, as pure as I can, so as not to pollute the soup as a whole.

Are there some souls so black that they pollute the soup permanently? Or some so pure that they can save it? The twelve (or thirty-six) righteous men of Hebrew/Hasidic lore, the Twelve Apostles, the twelve Christians afflicted with stigmata at all times -- does it take only twelve souls to keep the whole planet from collapse?

Maybe it takes only one. That may be the real story of Christmas. The consciousness of one soul played out on a global scale. Mother Mary, Isa or Jesus as the Christ, St. Theresa, Mother Theresa, Muhammad vs. Hitler, Reza Shah Pahlavi, Saddam Hussein, Pinochet, Osama bin Laden. And where does this microcosm leave the rest of us? Striving to be one of the twelve? Or just entrusted, individually, quietly to keep the soul with which we've been entrusted pure. Interesting to ponder.

An Artist's Prayer:

I trust in Allah, the Great Creator, the Oneness within the Universe and the Messengers, Saints and Angels He has sent to guide us. I seek guidance on the straight path and His help in doing the Work. Please send a Presence to guide me towards Purity and Beauty. Let me recognize the Presence, remember my Dreams, and create Beauty in Thy Name. Pour water to make my Path easy and guide me back to the Oneness. Provide abundance as I grow to make Growth possible. Strengthen my faith and give me Hope, Charity and Wisdom. But most of all, give me Beauty and Inspiration to create Inspired Beauty.

I place my soul in Your hands, now and in the Reality to come. Let it be pure. Amen.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Don't, Don't, Don't

I've spent a week trying to figure out what this Administration actually does. And all I can figure out is what they don't do ...

The don't listen to polls, they don't do torture, they don't condone torture, they don't watch the news, they don't read, they don't play the blame game, they don't comment on ongoing investigations, they don't believe in global warming, they don't do metrics, they don't allow photos of flag draped coffins returning from Iraq, they don't attend funerals, they don't forge documents, they don't use chemical weapons such as white phosphorus or depleted uranium, they don't engage in extraordinary renditions, they don't sign or honor international treaties, they don't have secret (black ops) prisons in unnamed countries, they don't deport suspects to unnamed countries who engage in torture, they don't get their hands dirty, they don't do nuance and did I mention that they don't read?

Here's a list of my own personal don'ts: I don't understand how two Downing Street memos can go unnoticed. I don't understand how the mainstream media can be deemed so credible when they so obviously lie for those pouring the Kool-Aid and serving the frosted gingerbread snowflakes (cookies). I don't get why Medicare Part D is supposed to be a good thing when my prescriptions will actually cost me more than they do under the current system. I don't watch situation comedies on television and haven't since 9/11 and can't understand how anyone else can. I don't understand why my cost of living increase does not take into account rising energy and food costs and why no one gets it that the elderly and disabled are getting more and more desperate every year. (What part of "bend over" don't we get?) I don't understand why Americans aren't marching in the streets, torches blazing, and calling for heads to roll.

And I don't understand what would be so wrong about just admitting that we made a terrible blunder by invading Iraq, apologizing profusely, kicking out Halliburton, Bechtel, and all the other American and American off-shore contractors, giving however-many-billions of dollars are left after Bremmer, Allawi, Greed and Graft to the Iraqi people c/o a third party NGO to rebuild an infrastructure that was fragile, but working, prior to our invasion, and just leaving before anyone else dies.

But that's just me ...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

You say Padilla, I say Padilla ...

Road trip with my son, J., to and from Santa Fe for Thanksgiving holiday at his home in The City Different. Spoke of many things, mostly political. He asked why the broadcast media was mispronouncing the name of Jose Padilla, "the enemy combatant former known as the dirty bomber" (homage to Prince).

BFO (blinding flash of the obvious) somewhere between Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Since his arrest some three years ago, Padilla has been asking that both L's of his name be pronounced; not the Spanish pronunciation of the LL (ya). The media has been inconsistent; no explanation has been given.

BFO -- if P and B are somewhat interchangeable in Semitic languages and only Arabic speakers pronounce the initial "ayn", in Arabic Padilla becomes Badilla becomes 'Abd'Allah (or Badi'u'llah as suggested by Juan Cole). Of course, Jose Padilla (or Youssef 'Abd'Allah) himself has been in solitary confinement since his detention and unavailable to answer questions (or to even ask questions, like: "Why am I here?" i.e., habeas corpus.) So I guess it will be some time before we ever really know...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Give me slavery or give me death!

Congress has gone on vacation (again) and left a mess in its wake. Except for giving themselves a raise, very little has been accomplished in "The People's House".

Oh, there was a late night session and a great video byte of Freshman Congresswomen Jean Schmidt's hysterical attack on Veteran Congressman John Murtha, calling the decorated war hero a coward and turning red and blue and then later, white, when she had to eat her own words. (That was exciting and very colorful! She actually matched her outfit.) Then there were the cuts in food stamps. And the cuts in FEMA funding for the housing of displaced Louisiana residents.

Outside of Congress, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald called for another Grand Jury and there's news of Bob Woodward's possible involvement in the Valerie Plame leak case. VP Dick Cheney is still begging for a CIA exemption from any torture prohibitions while accusing war heroes of being in the "Michael Moore Camp", whatever that means. And there's been confirmation of the US use of chemical weapons in the form of white phosphorus during the siege of Fallujah last fall. But Dar Jamail reported on that a year ago so it's only news to the CNN crowd.

Plus George Bush using all of his Asian photo ops as bully pulpits to spout bumper stickers like "When the Iraqis stand up, We'll stand down", and "We don't do torture", and "I want my mommy" -- oops. I guess he really didn't say the last one, but that's the distinct impression I got while watching him on CNN with the sound off. But then, I don't read lips.

After four plus years, I'm tired of hearing about the "Haters of Freedom" and "The Evil Doers". Who is the Hell hates freedom, anyway? That's like hating water or air or sunshine or evening or little children. "Hey -- I hate freedom; give me slavery or give me death!" As for Evil Doers, that's Sunday school rhetoric. Look in your own backyard, Georgie. Torture is evil. Lying is evil. Killing women and children is evil. Letting children starve and old people drown is evil. The donut hole in the new Medicare drug plan is evil.

I guess if you live long enough, everything old is new again. But it's only been four years and they've dragged out the rhetoric used after 9/11 and are pushing it down our throats once again. Well, I refuse to swallow. I'll continue to watch CNN with the sound off for a while and make up my own dialogue. It's got to make more sense than what the folks in Washington are actually saying.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Gift That Just Keeps Giving

I fear that the Bush Presidency will go down as "The Gift That Just Keeps Giving", sort of like syphilis or herpes. Because no matter how bad it appears now, it can only get worse. It's really too late for there to be a change big enough, sweeping enough, cataclysmic enough to keep this from being our legacy until the year 2050. My grandchildren will look back on the years between 2000 and 2005 as the beginning of "The Millennium That Couldn't" -- couldn't stop global war, couldn't stop global warming, couldn't stop globalization, period. And, barring Divine Intervention, we've got three more years to go before we can even begin to clean up Bush's nasty mess.

I've been sorting through a week's worth of e-mails, postings and bulletins and getting desperate. Desperately searching for a third party, another choice besides a series of slogans and bumper stickers: "Freedom is on the march"; "We fight them there so we won't have to fight them here"; "We'll stand down when the Iraqis stand up"; "You're either with us or against us"; "These colors don't run"; "We do not torture"; and (my personal favorite), "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie."

Is there anyone out there who can cheer me up?

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Veterans Day. Armistice Day. Watching Ahmed Chalabi spin to AEI, Karl Rove make a rare public appearance, and Cheney lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was bad enough. But the staged press event at which George W. Bush ranted against the Democrats in Congress, the media at large, and anyone else who disagreed with his reasons for this disaster called a war in Iraq as treasonous was like listening to a replay of his 2004 campaign. I couldn't believe cable news devoted so much air time to his speech -- again and again and again.

About the third time around I began to focus on the faces of the servicemen strategically placed as a backdrop behind the president. There was one poor soul (and I won't point out which one -- just watch the tape) who looks like he's either waiting for lightening to strike the president and wondering how in Hell he's going to get out of the way or waiting for Bush's pants to catch fire and hoping that he won't be expected to be part of the bucket brigade to put out the flames. Any serviceman expected to serve as wallpaper for a presidential appearance should receive hazard pay (or sue for exceptionally cruel and unusual punishment.)

Speaking of which, where is the rest of the story behind Cheney's insistence that the CIA be exempt from bans on torture? Will Bush veto legislation that doesn't include this exception? Can Congress really override a Supreme Court decision about fair representation for so-called "enemy combatants"? And when will the people of this country, the ordinary working folks who believe in Mom and apple pie and parades, get fed up enough to stick their collective heads out of the window and shout (a la "Network"), "We're mad as Hell and we're not going to take it any more!!"

As for me, Belen(istan) is so rural that no one would hear my shouts. But I'm still running around the house every morning yelling "Off with their heads!" and freaking out my dogs. Poor dogs ...

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Media Withdrawal

The President has been getting a lot of "face time" this week -- late dinner with Prince Charles and Camilla, meetings in Argentina, and the one platform where he actually spoke: a press conference to alarm the American Public on the imminent danger of Bird Flu. (Having Bush speak on a subject like bird flu is like asking a six-year old to wax eloquent on particle theory). But it sure beat his having to answer any tough questions. The "talking points memo" beat goes on. Just how many ways can one say: "We won't comment on an ongoing investigation." Apparently, the answer is akin to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin ...

And while Bush gets his "face time", others in his administration continue to bully Syria, threaten Iran, lie about WMD, and try to tie Hugo Chavez in with the so-called anarchists. (Just who gets to define who is an anarchist, anyway.) And now it is clear that the media is getting and using the administration (read Republican) talking points, as well. Between hours and hours and hours of Wolf Blitzer's irritating voice on CNN and MSNBC's Chris Matthews' foaming at the mouth, I'm beginning to limit my media consumption to the internet, Amy Goodman, Jon Stewart, and Keith Olbermann (the only mainstream media personality I can stomach at the moment.) Even PBS is getting on my nerves. Is it just me? I consider myself the ultimate media junky and even I can't sit there and watch this train wreck another moment.

When is anyone going to do an in-depth report on Cheney's ongoing role in offshore torture? How mentions of FEMA FUBARs can just fly by without comment and why is Michael ("You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie") Brown still on the FEMA payroll? While the Senate Democrats have begun to stretch their legs and stand up (read: find their cojones) with the calling of a closed door session (rule 21) to finally press for answers on pre-war intelligence, just how many times will the media replay the loop of Senator Frist calling this a "slap in the face".

And now the pundits and advisors are talking of reprising Bush's award winning role as "The Compassionate Conservative" on the domestic stage. Is a Tony or an Oscar in the offing? With all this spin, am I the only one who is nauseous?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Eid M'Barak

All Souls Day, Day of the Dead, Dia de las Muertas, all falling about the time of Eid al-Fitr, the holiday feast marking the end of the Ramadan month of fasting.

I'm at a loss as to what to celebrate. I look forward to the end of Ramadan, not for myself (I'm too ill to fast), but for the Iraqis and Palestinians and Afghanis and Pakistanis and Sudanese whose lives have been made ever more miserable over the last month due to occupation and collective punishment and insecurity and lack of water and food (even during nighttime hours).

My Catholic cousin celebrates All Souls Day and I celebrate him for that. You can visit his web site at Archdiocese of the Internet, and add names for prayers.

Personally, I love Dia de las Muertas, even though I'm Muslim. I like the idea of celebrating the end of life as one does the beginning -- with prayer and food and joy. I love the colors -- the reds and yellows and blues. And the sugared skulls and miniature fruit and vegetables, the candles and all the paper flowers. (Anyone who has been in my home and seen my kitchen will know what I mean -- every day is Dia de las Muertas in Belenistan!)

But it's the Day of the Dead that really troubles me. All the American servicemen and women, over 2,000 dead in this senseless war. All the Iraqis, women and children, grandmothers and grandfathers, civilians, killed by the so-called "insurgents", but mostly by U.S. bombs and rockets dropped by airplanes and helicopters, the multitude of the uncounted. And the Palestinians of Gaza, still suffering collective punishment, more so now that the settlements are gone and there are no witnesses.

So I guess I'll say my prayers for everyone, light all the candles and try to remember as many names as I can over the next few days. Insha'Allah, it will be enough.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Reality -- the anti-climax

This week has sort of been like waiting for the senior prom date to show up. Shopping, shaving your legs, getting dressed, experimenting with make-up, chatting on the phone with the girls. And then there's the knock at the door, your mom calls and you realize that the guy holding the wrist corsage is a real geek and that you've committed to spending the next three or four hours with him, in close proximity, dancing cheek to cheek. Was the week of anticipation and waiting really worth it?

The week was full of anticipation and eventful in its own right: Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination to The Supremes (why did she remind me of my first husband's second wife and was that the real reason I didn't like her?), the casualty count in Iraq surpassed 2,000 (but no one is counting the Iraqi dead or the Americans injured or the babies on both sides that will be born with horrible defects because of the use of depleted uranium), Karl Rove's face was plastered everywhere (again, I can't see him without thinking he's the illicit love child of Barbara Bush and either the Pillsbury Doughboy or Ariel Sharon -- God, I'm an awful person), and I ran around the house each morning, pretending to be the Red Queen and shouting "Off with their heads!" scaring my dogs and tripping over my oxygen tubing in the process.

Yet, the actual reality of the five indictments against I. Lewis "Scooter" LIbby did not feel like a victory. Patrick Fitzgerald was brilliant, thorough and a gentleman, as was Joseph Wilson. But the indictments themselves felt small, insignificant and anticlimactic -- kind of like the prom date with the wilted corsage.

It doesn't roll back the calendar and add the five or twenty or few million more anti-war activists who might have made a difference or bring back even one dead American, one dead Brit or one dead Iraqi. It doesn't repair the Baghdad infrastructure or restore electricity, water and sewage, and it certainly doesn't restore American credibility in the world. It's just the very first step towards a long process -- sort of like growing up.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

After Plame-Gate

It's probable that Fitzgerald will hand down indictments in the Plame-gate affair next week. It is also highly probable that Bush will pardon anyone close to him, even at the risk of tarnishing what he believes to be his legacy and losing whatever "political capital" he things he might have left less than a year into his second term, simply because he is loyal, to a fault, and stupid beyond belief.

I have been watching this drama unfold for more than two years, ever since Joe Wilson first appeared on Democracy Now! I actually had my Google homepage set to send me e-mail alerts with anything that had Valerie Plame's name in it and nothing would pop up for months at a time. It is only now that the media has taken an interest -- after one journalist was sent to jail and another banned from CNN for swearing -- that this case has caught the American imagination.

So the glee that will come with whatever is revealed next week in the indictments (and over the coming months, should prosecutions move forward) is, in fact, a hollow and Pyrrhic victory, at best. We are still at war (with the world), our children are still dying, and we're still killing thousands of innocents around the world with our policies and hatreds and greed and xenophobia.

And none of this will address the questions still open, some of which I list below, in no particular order:

What horrific type of torture is happening on the Island of Diego Garcia that we're not supposed to know about?

Is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi still alive or has he become a convenient composite cartoon for anything that goes wrong in Iraq?

Did anyone ever identify the "John Israel" mentioned in the Taguba Report or is he simply another composite contractor who happens to speak both Arabic and English? Am I the only one for whom alarm bells ring at his name -- the Israeli equivalent of John Doe or the Arabic equivalent of M. Fulaan? And how many of those non-American composite "contractors" are still working as translators and/or interrogators?

Just how many "top lieutenants" and "seconds in command" to al-Zarqawi and bin Ladin can we kill or capture before we get to the lower echelons and is anyone really fooled by this rhetoric?

Whatever happened to the investigation into why the U.S. bombed a wedding in the western desert of Iraq?

Whose idea was it to have Iraqis vote during the Holy Month of Ramadan and to ban cars during the voting so that everyone had to walk to the polls during daylight hours when they were unable to eat, drink, or even brush their teeth?

Where are the wives and families of the Chalabis and Alawis and Jafaris and all the fat cats who sit in the relative safety of the American controlled Green Zone? Do they live in Baghdad and go shopping and hang their laundry out on the balconies when there's water and electricity to even attempt to do laundry and there are no bombs falling out of the Baghdad sky? Or are they ensconced safely in Bahrain or Qatar or London? Shouldn't having one's family in country be a requirement for candidacy?

When did the media and talking heads realize that Mahmoud Abbas aka Abu Mazen was not the same as "Abu Abbas" and why did they persist on this Freudian slip (which was never challenged) throughout his first stint as Prime Minister under Arafat?

Whose idea was it to put Karen Hughes in charge of diplomacy in the Muslim world and to send her out on a meet and greet during Ramadan? And couldn't she at least taken a course in basic Arabic (or cultural sensitivity) before leaving? Just how many diplomats have we trained in Arabic over the last four years? It's Arabic, guys -- not rocket science.

And whatever happened to the idea of having Laura Bush head up a task force to reduce gang activity among American youth? That's been just about as effective as No Child Left Behind (which in Belenistan means No Child Left in School since abstinence only is taught in our sex ed classes and childbirth is the major industry here in central New Mexico).

Just a few thoughts on a Saturday -- a no news day.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

With baited breath

Still waiting, with baited breath (what does that mean?), for more shoes to drop. Looks like Wilkerson is giving an insight into the workings of the Oval Office in the run-up to and the early days of the war (including the abuses at Abu Graib) while lawyers for Libby and Rove are busy pointing fingers in eachother's eyes. Why do I feel that this Administration is still back in the school yard?

Good posts at, including an interesting commentary by Ray McGovern. Worth checking out.

By the way, no posts from "River" (Baghdad Burning) since the day of the referendum. I check almost daily to know that she is well and am thrilled with anything she posts simply because I know another soul has made it through the night.

Hope to keep this updated with news and look forward to comments. Feel free to forward the link to like-minded souls. Much love.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Other Shoe

One eye on the internet, another on CNN, waiting for The Other Shoe to drop... Will Cheney be indicted along with Libby and Rove? Will our Prez be an unindicted co-conspirator? Will anyone bother to point out that having an election, even a referendum, in Iraq during the middle of Ramadan and during a blackout might have been a bad idea? Or that if we can't train the army or even keep the road to the airport open, how can we expect a good result from that election ...

The questions just keep on coming. The answers are few. But I'm just starting this blog so I guess that eventually there may be answers.