Thursday, December 13, 2007


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


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 ...


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."


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 ( or the guys at 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...