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.