Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Baby, too

The scribe is going to run the same poem from last week. We should all repeat ourselves in poem, since repeat ourselves we must. And remember kiddies, revisiting works read in the past makes for good literary practice.

Even in desert ranges
Far from where you
I can’t sleep well
I’m an empty seashell
on a

Men of their "Times"

Today the scribe gives amplification to two guys who you would think don’t need it - Bob Hebert and Paul Krugman, both of the "New York Times."

These two fine gentlemen have been hammering away at the Bush administration’s immorality from the moment it stormed into office with a superior legal team and close friends on the Supreme Court.

They can be incessant and therefore, at times, dull the force of their worthy efforts. Which is to say people expect them to be against Bush. And of course they write for a liberal newspaper in a liberal state.

But they write good things and in the scribe’s experience it’s not every day that somebody says, "Boy did Paul Krugman nail it today," or "Bob Hebert certainly ripped the (p)resident a new one this morning."

So here’s a little on Hebert’s column from March 28 entitled, "Is No One Accountable?" and on Krugman’s piece the next day, "What’s Going On?"

Hebert has been and remains upset at this whole business of the United States sending people overseas to be tortured by foreign and friendly governments or just torturing and killing them in our own jails.

We cover this here at highwayscribery not because it is merely critical of the administration, but because it focuses on the little people with whom we concern ourselves; those who get caught up in great historical events launched by powerful idiots like George W. Bush.

Hebert focuses on Arkan Mohammed Ali, a 26-year old Iraqi who was detained by the U.S. military for a over year. Again the litany: beaten into unconsciousness, stabbed, shocked with an electrical device, urinated on and kept locked - hooded and naked - in a wooden coffin-like box.

And that’s for a guy who wasn’t charged with anything.

Unluckily for Donald Rumsfeld (and maybe this is the point), Ali did not join the numbers of men killed in custody that the CIA and military are starting to own up to (And if they say 26 died please, by all means, permit yourself to inflate that number).

Now Ali’s suing Rumsfeld, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of course, and although it’s a long shot, sometimes these guys actually run afoul of the wrong judge or jury.

One can hope.

Here’s Hebert: "These atrocities have been carried out in an atmosphere in which administration officials have routinely behaved as though they were above the law, and thus accountable to no one."

Come on, Bob, where do you find the inextinguishable fountain of indignation?
They are above the law, they are not accountable to anyone.

He continues: "People have been rounded up, stripped, shackled, beaten, incarcerated and in some cases killed, without being offered even the semblance of due process. No charges. No lawyers. No appeals."

All of which is apparently okay with the American people who grow dumber and more numb by the day.

Once someone had the audacity to blow up buildings of ours, the gloves came off, international protocols were scuttled, and we began turning military prisons into test locations for "Fear Factor."

After 9/11 no country was too poor to bomb as a "threat" and no human and international pact of decency was worth abiding by. This had been done to us!

Well it’s been done on a greater scale to most of the western democracies, which is why they tend to go their own way and leave us alone on these issues; because war and death suck and they know it first hand. We get one day of infamy and crap our pants, ditching alliances and civil liberties as if they were only good when some kind of make-believe game were afoot.

Stop and think for a moment. Put yourself in a room, sitting in a chair, with hands bound behind your back, circulation cut at the wrists. Make yourself naked. Naked. Go ahead! Put a pool cue over in the corner. Place an electronic-looking device with probes trailing out from it down to the floor in front of you. Sprinkle a power drill into the scene. Put three roughnecks who never went to school and were sexually abused by their fathers in front of you dressed in black, masked maybe.

Tell them you have rights. That you want to make a phone call. That you don’t know anything and it’s all a case of mistaken identity. Watch them laugh and move in, mouths twisted in perverse pleasure. Let your imagination run wild, as wild as possible, because you can’t imagine.

Hebert informs that 70 percent of the people detained in Iraq had been done so by mistake. And that’s a lot of misery for Karen Hughes to fix.

But on to Paul Krugman who would like us to know what’s happening in the country and makes use of the following quote from Tom Delay, beleaguered (r)epublican crook and House majority leader from Sugarland (where else?) Texas.

Delay’s quote: "One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America."

Hence the title of Krugman’s article: "What’s Going On?"

Hence Krugman’s answer: "One thing that’s going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Schiavo’s parents, hasn’t killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards."

That’s because they’re so into "life" you see.

And, Krugman adds, politicians are increasingly willing to violate the spirit of the law in order to cater to the religious right.

He writes: "There has been little national exposure for a 'Miami Herald' report that Jeb Bush sent state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice - a plan called off when local police said they would enforce a judge’s order that she remain there."

Krugman says that what the scribe refers to as "the sickness" is spreading, with doctors in many states now empowered to "refuse" treatment or prescription where it runs contrary to their personal (read: Christian) beliefs...

...that some 31 percent of those surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present creationism in the classroom.

Krugman’s answer is simple in delivery if not so in its execution. He’s asking that moderate people stand up to these lunatics and he’s reminding them the country’s founding principals are on their side.

Finally, and sadly, it was reported today that Terry Schiavo’s parents would sell the mailing list of contributors that helped finance their legal battles to... conservative activists.

Real sentimental.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

Candy's Room

"In Candy’s room there are pictures of her heroes on the wall
but to get to Candy’s room
you gotta walk
the darkness of Candy’s hall..."

Bruce Springsteen broke big back in 1975. "Circus" and "Creem" magazines oozed fabulous, "he hath arrived," encomiums. The radio stations the scribe was synchronized to played him on and on.

"Strangers from the city call my baby’s number and they bring her toys
When I come knocking
she smiles pretty
she knows I wanna be
Candy’s boy..."

the scribe listened and listened well, but he could not hear "Bruce."

Songs like "Candy’s Room" were sung in the voice of a guy named Johnny living in Queens, Hoboken, Union City who weren’t aware the fifties were long over, what with their leather jackets and straights jean pant.

They went to vocational school had Irish and Italian names that twisted the tongue and they loved cars. They got jobs to get the cars. They got cars to keep the jobs. They stayed home.

"There’s a sadness hidden in that pretty face
A sadness all her own
from which
can keep Candy safe..."

Johnny lived in a building where his old man rented a unit. You could get to it by skipping yards, rattling chain link fences and dropping down and bouncing off the small shed and onto cold winter concrete with little nicks of ice shimmering in the dirty moonlight.

You scraped your knee and breathed frost. Johnny’s mom heard you show up and offered food when she saw the friendly face of Johnny’s friend.

So close. the scribe and those he allied himself with where only a small green lawn away from all that. And they wanted to get as far from Johnny as they could: found prep, hippy, nicknames and distant places with magic names like Arizona with which they identified, but never got to see.

But Johnny wanted out, too. A great riff of gangland film circa 1940s and 1950s: "Some day we’re gonna get outta here and drive out to Arizona and a little sunshine baby..."

And "baby" was this girl called "Candy,’ or some other name promising more than it could ever possibly deliver.

"We kiss, my heart rushes to my brain
The blood rushed in my veins rushes towards the sky..."

Meantime, the city is black, the room a walk up with a view onto the El clattering past,
constantly reminding renters of nature’s tenuous arrangement with us all.

They were the sons of men who worked in factories and companies and believed in unions and went to church and to war. They knew only the psychology of violence for keeping the kid in line.

"We go driving
driving deep into night
driving deep into the light in Candy’s eyes..."

Everything to fear. How you’d end up if you didn’t go to college. And Candy, too.

"She says baby if you wanna be wild
you got a lot to learn,
close your eyes let them melt
let them fire
let them burn..."

Springsteen’s songs were about the factories closing and the whole stinking way of life with it; newspaper articles for the ear. the scribe was not equipped then to understand what he was after: All this that you know and think is so permanent is already gone. You’re living among ghosts. And they’re all named Johnny.

"Cause in the darkness there’ll be hidden words that shine..."

Now those places are places the scribe has been and others have not and, now that they are gone, never will.

Like Candy’s room, those places are bathed in blue-collar nostalgia. Industrial smoke tears the eyes. They are the good old days we could not bear. But now, like Candy’s room, and like
Bruce’s songs, they are safe and easy places to be.

"When I hold Candy close she makes these hidden worlds mine."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Toward the Back of the Paper

Canada denied a U.S. soldier evading the war in Iraq political asylum. That’s not too good for those want to sit this monstrosity out, and they are legion, though only "dozens" are present in the Great White North, according to the article by Associated Press reporter Beth Duff-Brown.
The panel in charge of the matter told the Army paratrooper gone AWOL that he might face some discrimination upon returning home, but not to the extent a human right was being violated.
Unless of course he was apprehended under Patriot Act. Let’s explode the myths. This stuff is happening here. People disappear.
The soldier’s name is Jeremy Hinzman and he quite correctly pointed out at his proceeding that if he went Iraq he’d be forced to commit war crimes since that war is illegal.
But you’re never going to get anywhere with high-minded stuff like that where draft is concerned. They’ve heard it all and either you’ve gone to war or you haven’t.
The mythical and liberal Canada of our unrequited dreams is not interested in any anti-war migrants even if Canada herself was and is anti the war.
During Vietnam, American communities sprouted up in places disparate as Toronto and Torremolinos in Franco’s Spain. There will be a lot less room to escape in today and without Canada those of us with sons and brothers who we dare not sacrifice to such adventures, will find it harder to protect them.
But anyway, now it’s really lights out for Tom Delay.
There’s no better communist party than the (r)epublican party with its iron discipline and premium on loyalty. It’s solid as a rock and organized as any Bolshevik front so that when a loyal soldier like the "San Diego Union-Tribune" craps on Delay, you know the goose is cooked.
That’s how they work. Like Stalin dispatching an anonymous secretary to bury a published attack on someone in the newspaper, someone on the way out, so do the party’s many useful hands get put to use with a word from the top.
The only difference being that in the old Soviet Union you were off to the gulag. These guys get nice jobs on Wall St.
Mind you Tom’s done nothing wrong. It’s just an unfortunate thing with the media hounding him and, well, he’s become a liability.
He’s a liability alright, an across the board liability and that’s when pieces like "Disgraceful Delay," start surfacing.
"How distasteful" the editorial board riffs off the headline, "that Delay would try to use the heart-wrenching Schiavo story to try to explain away the ethical cloud that now follows him."
They say his conduct has been an affront to conservatism. Get this:
"What happened to the preference for a smaller and less intrusive government? What happened to right of the individual simply to be left alone without the interference of government? And what about moral consistency? These are the same conservatives who usually espouse the virtues of federalism and leaving most matters to the state, and here they can’t wait to involve the federal government."
Yeah! What happened to all that stuff?
And here’s something interesting. Titan Corporation, a military contractor based out of San Diego, has lost 136 employees in Iraq. The company mostly provides translators to the army, but has gotten into a little trouble with one human rights group suing it for involvement in the Abu Ghraib tortures. The company says it employed no such persons.
They’ve got 4,000 people over there involved in the rebuilding of Iraq and would appear to be making good money The second most deadly company to work for is the famed Halliburton, which has lost a modest 36 employees since the war began.
And here’s a portrait by Theodor Aman. the scribe doesn’t know thing about the artist in as much as he pulled the book of his work from the garbage and it is written in what appears to be a Magyar script.
The paintings are mostly pastorals of a particular region in Eastern Europe. But the scribe is prone to romantic cliches and thinks that as Gypsy girls go, this a good one.

Tiganca Posted by Hello

Friday, March 25, 2005

Ethan Allen's Point of View

And Terry Schiavo will finally be set free from the prison of her body.

Those who have grown cynical with the country’s direction can’t help but be a little shocked at the courts having withstood the passions and pressures of Congress, the White House, and the church crowd.

Bush and Co., took the same path that led to victory in the 2000 election, through the south and finally to friends at the Supreme Court.
But they were told that once is enough and that the other case was, well, special. But otherwise the law’s the law and the people down in Florida have settled this matter for themselves.
The courts refused to be a part of the three-ring circus this majority has turned the Congress into: suspension of voting rules to pass the Medicare bill, firing the ethics guy for saying they were unethical.
In the Schiavo case they fashioned congress a rubber stamp, convening at night, dispensing with debate, committee work and other dispensable democratic niceties.
But they were had. The Democrats let them leave the building with a bad law the courts couldn’t work with. Ah! those tiresome parliamentary tactics.
In the end the system worked, pushed to its limits, the built-in checks and balances finally pushed back and the rule of law in a case that has taken years to develop was, lo and behold, respected.
Meantime, those who can only enjoy their special relationship to God within the framework of a camera lens do a medieval wail outside the place where the poor woman lies.
They are so much more American than you and me.
And their spectacle of saintly suffering brought to the scribe’s mind some excerpts from the writings of Ethan Allen cribbed out of a biography done many years ago by Stuart Holbrook.
Allen was a frontiersman and intellectual who gamed George Washington into allowing he and his friends in the Green Mountain Boys a state all their own, Vermont, amen to their help in the revolutionary war and other cagey states craft.
He was from the "Don’t Tread on Me" wing of that glorious revolution, like Tom Paine, a member of the artisan class and somewhat beneath Jefferson, Franklin, Washington and the other fancy boys who went on to run things.
He was rougher. The way Walt Whitman saw rough. More like lusty.
After being released from British capture he declared, "The taking of my lickers was an abomination."
He wrote a melodramatic book of his travails in captivity to fan the flames of revolution and it worked.
A lesser-known founding father, here are some of his thoughts as culled by the scribe from Holbrook’s book while working as a reader at the Creative Artists Agency:
"If we could comprehend God at all, he would cease to be what he is. The ignorant among mankind cannot even understand the wise of their own species, much less the perfection of God."

"A feasible suggestion would be to lay out the money paid to priests and preachers in good wine or old spirits to make the heart glad, and then laugh at the stupidity or cunning of those who would make us mere machines, incapable of conducting our destiny."
"He who waits for the aid of devils, prayers or miracles to help him in some enterprise had better spend his time by the application of his natural powers."
"[Christ] was an honest man who never claimed to be God, but specifically ranked himself with finite beings. He would be astonished to know what the prophets and scriveners have done to him."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


Even in desert ranges
Far from where you
I can’t sleep well
I’m an empty seashell
on a

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

A Dangerous Place

April 8, 2003, 12 p.m.
COLONEL PHILIP DeCAMP: "Who just fired on the Hotel Palestine?"
DeCAMP: "Did you just fire on the fucking Hotel Palestine?"
(more silence)
CAPTAIN PHILIP WOLFORD: "Yeah, yeah. There was an observer up there."
DeCAMP: "I suppose you didn’t have fire at the hotel."
The exchange over military radio was overheard by an Associated Press Photographer, Chris Tomlinson and relayed to a pair of reporters from Spain’s "El Mundo" daily newspaper.
In the aftermath, Taras Protsyuk, a Ucranian cameraman lay dead on impact in room 1503. One floor below, Jose Couso, a Spanish cameraman lay wounded in his left leg, face, and thorax. He would die a few hours later.
Shawn Gibson, the sargent in the M1A1 tank who fired the shot which killed both journalists told Belgian television in May: "I’m deeply pained, but that’s war. I think a lot about what happened and will think about it for years to come. It’s difficult to express what I feel. Every time I do, I stop, pray, and try to carry on. I saw an individual on a balcony with binoculars and he was talking as if he was pointing us out. I didn’t fire immediately. I spoke with my superior to tell him what I saw. Ten minutes passed and then he responded ‘fire.’ And that’s what I did."
The superior who gave the order, Captain Philip Wolford explained to France’s "Le Nouvel Observateur" that, "We’d been hours in battle, taking on fire without stop from that place as well as from others and so we returned fire. We never doubted: that’s the rule. Twenty minutes later I learned we had hit the hotel with all the journalists. I feel terrible and so do my men."
highwayscribery focuses on this senseless death, just one in hundreds of thousands since (p)resident Bush launched this ghastly affair two years ago, to highlight the suffering of innocents, give voice to the pleadings of the journalist’s family, and to question the motives of the American military visa a vis journalists.
The actions of the soldiers are only partially at issue here. These men don’t make policy; although they have made a commitment to blindly follow decisions made by others. Somebody, somewhere had to say it was okay to fire on a hotel in which CNN and other media outlets both small and large had bivouacked 300 reporters.
A colleague of Couso’s, Jon Sistiagi said, "I think they deliberately fired on the journalists’ hotel...first they take out Al-Jazeera, then Abu-Dhabi a half-hour later, and a half-hour after that, why not? with the same tank they shoot at the hotel housing the rest of the international media."
Couso’s camera captured images of the tank shooting another camera off the roof of the offices of Abu-Dhabi Television. Later, it would record the shot that took his own life.
When confronted by a Spanish reporter over what happened to Couso and Protsyuk at a press conference one month later, Bush, in characteristically poor English responded: "I think war is a dangerous place, and I think that nobody would kill a journalist intentionally."
Well if they didn’t, it was one hell of an accident deserving an apology that never came. Javier Couso, Jose’s brother told a Spanish magazine, "The word to define the American attitude could be ‘insulting’."
The government of recently departed Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar, Couso continued, "acted at all times as a crony of the U.S. government, complying with and accepting the different justifications which Bush’s government fabricated."
Aznar’s Popular Party, which ignored the fact 90 percent of the Spanish citizenry were against the war, was voted out of office when that war came home to Spain and 200 people were
massacred ("Madrid My Dove," March 11).
The Socialist Party got in as a result and President Jose Luis Zapatero pulled Spain’s troops out. On January 21 of this year, Spanish Labor Minister Jesus Caldera officially condemned the attack and posthumously awarded the Medal of Merit at Work to Jose Couso.
Now, the scribe was not there and is not going to get into whether what happened was intentional or not, whether there is a policy of harassing and even killing journalists or not. But the scribe is a journalist and understands only too well how governments and cabals engaged in nasty activity prefer that activity to remain under wraps.
And the scribe is aware that just a few weeks ago a news executive at CNN, who ought to know a little about the matter, had to resign for suggesting the armed forces were targeting journalists. And the scribe knows you can’t have a free country and declare topics out of bounds, because then...well... it’s not a free country.
And the scribe also knows that he can surf the Internet any time and get a more harrowing idea of what’s happening in Iraq than anything served up by the mass media in America. And finally, he knows the torture of Iraqi prisoners came to light on the World Wide Web, too.
And so highwayscribery dedicated today’s post to the story of Jose Couso and those who firmly believe they have a different story to tell than that which has been (barely) disseminated.
Again, the scribe’s not going to say the U.S. kills journalists as a matter of policy, but he’s not pleased when discussing it is strictly forbidden.
Couso’s family began a tour of the United States, "Jose Couso: Breaking the Impunity" on March 19 that will run through April 8.
Today there will be a screening in New York of the documentary "Hotel Palestine" with the help of "Democracy Now" radio producer Amy Goodman.
The show moves on to Chicago’s DePaul University March 28, followed by a screening at University of Loyola on March 30. Heading west, film and family reappear in Seattle at the Keystone Congregational Church April 3, and then at San Francisco’s New College on April 5. Two days later the Grand Lake Theater will play host before the entourage return to Washington D.C. for an memorial on the second anniversary of Jose Couso’s death.
You can find more information, though mostly in Spanish, at
If you have no reporters that are free to do their job and say or write whatever they want, you simply have no democracy.
And yes Mr. Bush, "war is a dangerous place."
By the way, "San Diego Union-Tribune" ("'Journalist' Indeed" March 22) got back to highwayscribery yesterday and said, "Love it! Thanks. Keep reading."
Count on it.

"Journalist" Indeed

When the scribe started this blog it was promised that his long-time vocation of hounding journalists who kiss power’s keister in exchange for fancy business cards and healthy paychecks would be shared with his readers ("Why Highwayscribery" March 7).

Turns out a Sunday column published by the "San Diego Union-Tribune" penned by Ruben Navarrette really got the scribe’s goat.

This piece of Schwarzenegger hagiography can be found at

It’s entitled "The Real Strengths of This Governor," and gives the impression of presenting an opinion when it’s merely a reinforcement of the (g)overnor as he sees and projects his "self."

By way of background, Navarrette is "The Trib’s" token Latino who replaced Jim Goldsborough. He quit after the election when the paper refused to run his piece critical of the Bush administration. Goldsborough was the last (or only) progressive on staff and so Copley News Service went over to the "Dallas Morning News" and hired Navarrette.

Much the same way hiring Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell allowed the administration to appear progressive by hiring African-Americans who are not at all progressive, hiring the Latino Navarrette provided "The Trib" with similar cover.

Navarrette deigns to speak for Latinos the way Republicans claim to speak for God. Problem is they both do it out their ass.

But enough history and character assassination, on to the article:

Ruben likes Arnold’s plan to get the heck out of the political schoolyard if "Democrats and special interests don’t let me reform our system of government."

You see, Arnold is already rich and famous and doesn’t need to sit around and take guff in order to achieve those most American of benchmarks through something quite so low as politics.

Cooing about the (g)overnor’s "enormous self-confidence...incredible work ethic, and unshakeable belief that, in this magnificent country, anything is possible" Navarette notes that already being rich and famous is a good position from which to negotiate - "and an even better one from which to govern."

He’s a kind of neo-Platonist, Navarette. By his reasoning we should jettison democracy and throw our lot in with the philosopher-king since his ambition won’t get in the way. Ruben’s got a lot of faith in the political system if he believes everybody save for established celebrities are in it to get "rich and famous."

Schwarzenegger’s brutish babbling about "politicians" does a tremendous disservice to our system of government (which he loves so much), feeding as it does into plebeian notions of miscreants and greed in every corner of public life (except his own cigar smoke-choked hole).

Navarrette says Schwarzenegger’s real asset is "his fearlessness...He’s not afraid of being picketed by nurses and firefighters, angry over some of his budget tinkering."

"Budget tinkering." Really? the scribe would venture it’s a little more than tinkering that has union members following him around the country in such a foul humor ("Honky Cat" March 10).
How fearless is he really?
In a March 19 editorial entitled "Nursing a Grudge," the usually staid "L.A. Times" reported how one of the (g)overnor’s bodyguards forcibly removed a union member from a movie screening Schwarzenegger was attending ("incredible work ethic"), because of the threat posed by that union member's presence.

She was a nurse and was shadowing the Lord of the Manner because he had suspended a new law nurses fought years to get requiring, God forbid, a lower patient-to-nurse ratio in California hospitals.

That means if you are in the hospital and quite ill, the nurse taking care of you has 10 other patients instead of, let’s say, 25.

But let me quote "The Times," because this is good: "With his usual swagger, Schwarzenegger dismissed the protesting nurses as just one of many ‘special interests’ who don’t like him because ‘I am always kicking their butts.’

"It turns out they kicked his. A Superior Court judge earlier this month ruled that the governor had misused the emergency order and had no authority to suspend the law."

Maybe this is what Attorney General Bill Lockyer means when he accuses Schwarzenegger of introducing the "scent of Austrian politics" into the California political system.

Navarrette says the media made too big a deal about Schwarzenegger’s fund raising in distant states, "but didn’t mention that the fund raisers were part of [his] campaign to raise $50 million to promote ballot initiatives he hopes to put before California voters."

And so the scribe wrote Ruben at, but never heard back from him:


You're kidding with this valentine to the (g)overnor, right?

Or is it an apologia? Remember his campaign commercial? "The special interests have a stranglehold on Sacramento" (he told a room filled with fake citizens). "Here's how it works. Money goes in; favors go out. We need to send a message. Game over."

You say the media has failed to note that his out-of-state travels "were part of Schwarzenegger's campaign to raise at least $50 million to promote ballot initiatives he hopes to put before California voters." What on earth is the difference? How is the game over?

What's so great about his redistricting reform? "Retired judges" will draw up the new map? So, who appoints them, an impartial deity or politicans? Newt Gingrich is retired. He doesn't seem less partisan to me than before.

Who's giving the governor money? Business interests. Are they different than special interests? Does he owe them nothing? Let the scribe tell you, the scribe covered the last bill-signing session in August/September and what the California Chamber of Commerce wanted, it got.

There's nothing "fun" about this guy signing budgets with deficits larger than his predecessor's, and just as late, if not later. There's nothing "fun" about his solutions for taking money out of workers' pockets even as he barks on about being for "da peepul."

He's a macho fool who confuses movie-script lines with information and you ought to be ashamed of yourself for not calling him on this cant.

And don't send me one of those wussy-assed automatic replies you're prone to, because this column is an abuse of your public duty as a journalist.

Friday, March 18, 2005

On Jack and Death and Dying

Today a judge ordered the tube pulled out of a vegetating woman’s body down in Florida. (r)epublicans in the Senate and House of Representatives, obviously with nothing better to do, spent some two days trying to pass legislation to prevent this. At one point, reaching the height of absurdity, the Senate invited her to testify.
Despite being an ideologue himself, the scribe has no use for this kind of philosophical commitment in government, which should concern itself with cleaning up dirty waters, filling potholes, finding people good doctors, and getting them to work.
These same folk who run around spouting the word "life" as if they invented it and only acted through the benevolence torturing their hearts won’t lift a finger for anybody who’s actually living.
We know their policy on health care (pay for it!) and one has to wonder who’s footing the bill to keep this woman alive (for lack of a better word). the scribe doubts they are interested in helping out financially.
They propose that we live in a perfect state of nature where your wits and talent get you a job or you go to hell for lack of either them [the wits] or luck; where any mistake or monstrosity should be born because life, rather than the quality of it, is what’s at issue.
But they do not speak for God, Our Lord Jesus or any other permutation of the Holy Trinity. They speak for corporations and chambers of commerce, spending the rest of the time on this sort of spiritual marketing and window dressing.
the scribe hopes Terry Schiavo finds a little peace and that those around her do, too.
Now it may seem heavy to go from that to this but you know the scribe really just wanted to do a little literature before signing off for the weekend. It’s just that that came up and got in the way of this.
This is a letter written by Jack Kerouac, another hero here at highwayscribery, which is a concept he verily invented all on his own. The letter is addressed to the great Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and written at an obviously difficult point in Jack’s life. Close friends are not responding to his eventual masterpiece, "On the Road," in a manner he finds very flattering and the missive lets them all know exactly what he thinks.
the scribe likes this letter. It demonstrates that great people stumble in taking the smallest steps, have feelings, and often worry what the hell the point of it all is. It also shows how friends who love each other deeply can suffer moments of deception. It is a lecture on the truth that people are usually wrong and right at the same time.
The letter can be found in "Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956," from Viking Press and which is edited by a lovely lady named Ann Charters whom I had the pleasure of interviewing and meeting during a brief stint as managing editor at the "L.A. Downtown News."
Laugh, think, and enjoy.

Jack Kerouac Posted by Hello
October 8, 1952

This is to notify you and the rest of the whole lot what I think of you. Can you tell me even for instance...with all this talk about pocket book styles and the new trend in writing about drugs and sex why my "On the Road" written in 1951 wasn’t ever published? – why they publish [John Clellon] Holmes’s book ["Go"] which stinks and don’t publish mine because it’s not as good as some of the other things I’ve done? Is this the fate of an idiot who can’t handle his own business or is it the general fartsmell of New York in general...And you who I thought was my friend – you sit there and look me in the eye and tell me the "On the Road" I wrote at Neal’s [Cassady] is "imperfect" as though anything you ever did or anybody was perfect?...and don’t lift a finger or say a word for it...Do you think I don’t realize how jealous you are and how you and Holmes and [Carl] Solomon all would give your right arm to be able to write like the writing in "On the Road"...And leaving me no alternative but to write stupid letters like this when if instead you were men I could at least get the satisfaction of belting you all on the kisser – too many glasses to take off. Why you goddamn cheap little shits are all the same and always were and why did I ever listen and fawn and fart with you – 15 years of my life wasted among the cruds of New York, from the millionaire jews of Horace Mann who’d kissed my ass for football and now would hesitate to introduce their wives to me, to the likes of you...poets indeed...distant small-sized variants of same...baroque neat-packaged acceptable (small print in the middle of neat page of poetrybook) page...Not only have you grieved me now by your statement that there is nothing in "On the Road" you didn’t know about (which is a lie because at just one glance I can see that you never knew the slightest beginning detail of even something so simple as Neal’s worklife and what he does) – & Solomon pretending to be an interesting saint, claims he doesn’t understand contracts, why in ten years I’ll be lucky to have the right to look into his window on Xmas eve...he’ll be so rich and fat and so endowed with the skinny horrors of other men into one great puffball of satisfied suckup...Parasites every one of you, just like Edie said. And now even John Holmes, who as everybody knows lives in complete illusion about everything, writes about things he doesn’t know about, and with hostility at that (it comes out in hairy skinny legs of Stofsky and "awkward" grace of Pasternak, the sonofabitch jealous of his own flirtatious wife, I didn’t ask for Marian’s attentions...awkwardness indeed, I imagine anybody who walks on ordinary legs would look awkward around effeminate flip-hips & swish like him) – And the smell of his work is the smell of death...Everybody knows he has no talent...and so what right has he, who knows nothing, to pass any kind of judgment on my book – he doesn’t even have the right to surl in silence about it – His book stinks, and your book is only mediocre, and you all know it, and my book is great and will never be published. Beware of meeting me on the street in New York. Beware also of giving any leads as to my whereabouts. I’ll come up to New York and trace down the lead. You’re all a bunch of insignificant literary can’t even leave New York you’re so stultified...Even [Gregory] Corso with his Tannhauser chariots running down everyone else has already begun to pick up...Tell him to go away...tell him to find himself in his own grave...My heart bleeds every time I look at "On the Road"...I see it now, why it is great and why you hate it and what the world is...specifically what you are...and what you, Allen Ginsberg, are...a disbeliever, a hater, your giggles dont fool me, I see the snarl under it...Go ahead and do what you like, I want peace with myself...I shall certainly never find peace till I wash my hands completely of the dirty brush and stain of New York and everything that you and the city stand for...And everybody knows it...And Chase knew it long ago...that is because he was an old man from the start...And now I am an old man too...I realize that I am no longer attractive to you queers...Go blow your Corsos...I hope he sinks a knife in you...Go on and hate each other and sneer and get jealous and...My whole record in NY is one long almost humorous chronicle of a real dumb lil abner getting taken in by fat pigjaws...I realize the humour of it...and laugh just as much as you...But here on in I’m not laughing...Paranoia me no paranoias either...Because of people like you and Giroux...even with G. you fucked me up from making money because he hated you...and came in with Neal that night and Neal right away wanted to steal a book from the office, sure, what would you say if I went in your N O R C and stole things and made fun of it...and Lucien with his shity little ego trying to make me cry over Sarah and then telling me at the lowest ebb of my life that I would be awful easy to forget...He must know by now unless be-sotted and stupid with drink that it is so about easily one may disappear...and be forgotten completely...and make dark corruption spot in dirt...well alright. And all of you, even Sarah I don’t even care to know any more or who will ever hear of this insane letter...all of you fucked me up...with the exception of Tony Manochhio and a few other angels...and so I say to you, never speak to me again or try to write or have anything to do with me... besides you will never probably see me again...and that is good...the time has come for all you frivolous fools to realize what the subject of poetry die...and die like men...and shut up...and above all...leave me alone...& don’t ever darken me again.
Jack Kerouac

Thursday, March 17, 2005

A Kerry Good Day

The scribe doesn’t want to get too crazy backing one Yale graduate over another, one wealthy scion over another wealthy scion, nor does he want to repeat himself. We did go over John Kerry and his novel idea of maintaining a thread of opposition to Bush’s policies both before and after the election, but the blueblood was at it again on Thursday.

Ronald Brownstein of the “L.A. Times” covered Kerry's speech before a D.C. think tank.

In his famous 2000 interview with “Esquire” magazine Bill Clinton said there was one journalist in Washington who mostly got it right and that was Brownstein. His piece was refreshing during a day when the White House press corps had outdone itself in craven admiration for the commander-and-thief. Brownstein’s colleague Peter Wallsten chipped in and I wrote him about it:

That piece on Bush was the biggest bunch of fluff since kids started skewing marshmallows for barbecueing. What was the news value of this personality profile on the most flattered man in America? What were they feeding you guys two days ago that so many respectable scribes representing papers from coast-to-coast should sing the praises of our mighty Wizard? Awful. Isn't it bad enough the administration is spending millions in taxpayer dollars on fake and deceptive news "reports" to forward its policies without you pitching in? Aren't there enough nefarious things being done by these people to cover? If Maureen Dowd can have her press pass revoked and still provide insight on the House of Bush, why can't you?
the highway scribe

Unfortunately, the e-mail address I guessed at was wrong so there’s no answer from him, but I’ll try a new one tomorrow.

But anyway, back to the real journalist’s piece: “Kerry’s tough words on domestic and foreign policy continued his unusually rapid reemergence as a leading opponent of the man who defeated him in last year’s presidential race,” Brownstein reported.

What did Kerry say? Well, he said that the budget that just cleared the Senate with the underhanded inclusion of a provision for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (see “United in Dividing,” March 16) failed to uphold values of “honesty, opportunity and responsibility...By any standard this budget fails to measure up and I believe it even sells out our most cherished values.”

Then Kerry let Bush have it on his appointing Undersecretary of State John Bolton to be our ambassador at the United Nations, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to preside over the World Bank.

the scribe doesn’t want to get too wonky for you folks with cats to feed and coffee to drink so let’s just say the guy that’s going to the U.N. has always hated the U.N. and is about as diplomatic as an oil well on a wildlife refuge. Wolfowitz, the guy who may now head up the world body most responsible for development in poorer countries, is the same clown who drew up a plan for attacking Iraq, but not for what would follow the attack.

What the scribe means is, he’s great at tearing down, but not much at building up; a characterization that could be applied to both Bushes and their clod-hopping administrations.

Anyway, Brownstein went on to report that, in the wake of his defeat, Kerry will be launching a variety of organizing projects now with an eye to the 2008 elections. “We had millions of people traveling and out there working and doing things. What we didn’t have was enough local people in some places who were engaged in that effort. And you don’t begin four and a half, five months out. You begin now. That’s when Karl Rove began last time; that’s when we have to begin – now.”

And that's what we mean by opposition here at highwayscribery.

And now, this excerpt from a “Newsweek” obituary of Hunter S. Thompson, the inventor of Gonzo journalism and personal hero to the scribe, who killed himself a few weeks ago.

“In a 2003 column, he went from the subject of his hip replacement into one of those rants whose joyously righteous anger used to belie their apocalyptic despair: ‘I am surprised and embarrassed to be part of the first American generation to leave the country in far worse shape than it was when we first came to it,’ he wrote. ‘Our highway system is crumbling, our police are dishonest, our children are poor, our vaunted Social Security has been looted and neglected and destroyed by the same gang of ignorant greed-crazed bastards who brought us Vietnam and Afghanistan, the disastrous Gaza Strip and ignominious defeat all over the world...Our armies will never again be No. 1 and our children will be drinking filthy water for the rest or our lives...Big Darkness, soon come...’ If that’s what he thought he is not alone...and he hurt too much to fight any longer, he’s well out of it now.”

Rest in Peace beloved crazy man with pen and pipe. This poem's for you and all Gonzo-minded friends:


To not be
a three-legged table
left to the
side of a road Not
a tumbleweed rolling
through scrap heap pushed
by a large whispering

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

United in Dividing

The (r)epublicans finally got their victory on drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The question now is exactly what is it a refuge from? The animals and mother nature will find no peace while these men who view the earth as theirs, as opposed to being of the earth, run things.

In any case, a Washington insider tells me it’s much ado about nothing; that the little Republican trick of tacking it onto the budget diminishes the achievement given that there hasn’t actually been a budget bill since the (r)epublicans began running things there.

Sen. Ted Stevens (r-Alaska) said the majority had no choice but to pull that underhannded parliamentary maneuver because the Democrats “just can’t abide by majority rule.”

Well another majority at some point in time must have thought it was okay to set a remote part of the country aside for something other than, God forbid, industry. Where’s the respect for past leaders and past majorities? These conservatives conserve nothing.

In the end the scribe can’t help but think this isn’t about “reducing our dependence on foreign oil” at all. We went to war ensure that dependence. It’s really about shoving it down the other half of America’s throat. The Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh school of patriotism whereby anybody who doesn’t see things their way, should get the highway – place of birth notwithstanding.

Screw them.

Hats off to Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) who, instead of going home to lick his wounds, went back to the Senate and took the fight to (p)resident Bush. Journalists don’t quite get it; they can only see Kerry’s activism through the prism of “will he or won’t he” run for President again. And then they pout about a lack of commitment and authenticity in the political class.

Kerry’s doing what you do in Europe after dropping an election. You go back and lead by example, familiarize the people with your positions, and give them another look at you. For example, the last president of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar, lost three elections before finally prevailing and governing for two terms. What Kerry’s up to is unique and we should be pleased to have a man of his talent going to bat for our interests.

Three Democrats voted for this thing. Daniel Inouye (202 224-3934) and Daniel Akaka (202 224-6361) of Hawaii, and Mary Landrieu of Lousiana (202 224-5824). Call them and tell them thanks a hell of a lot.

Sen. Norm Coleman, a (r)epublican from Minnesota, voted with the minority, which lost by a single vote. The reason? “I made a campaign promise,” he told the “New York Times.”

Good for him.

And now, here’s some poetry from Jean Arthur Rimbaud’s “A Season in Hell”:

And drunkenness! And tobacco! And ignorance! And devotedness! Isn't all that quite far from thought, and Oriental wisdom, and the original native land? Why a modern world if such poisons are invented? Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


Sorry for the gap in coverage, but the scribe was actually on the highway this weekend.

Destination was Stockton, Calif., to see the mother-in-law, with wife riding shotgun and kid in tow. There are few things more dangerous than driving with a toddler hoisted upon his legally required throne in the back. Were the scribe confessing to having driven cars at different times under the influence of different controlled substances (and he’s NOT), he would have to say such (alleged) instances were safer than this last trip. Never mind Mothers Against Drunk Driving; there should be a Drunks Against Mothers Driving, because the peril is equal if not greater.

Prior to leaving, walking the streets of this blue city, the scribe had a moment of repugnance at the cool and aloof faces populating its cafes and sidewalk terraces in high fashion and fru-fru haircuts. “Maybe those red state people are right,” went the gist of his revery. “Maybe we urbanites are a bunch of self-involved so-and-so’s missing out on the greater values of family, God, and country.”

Needless-to-say, after three days out there in the hinterlands all such thoughts were put to rest. Perhaps it’s because the areas near freeways are typically rundown and peopled with wayfarers, but the heartland ain’t what it used to be, what with all those shaved heads, piercings, gang kids, and drifters asking for “any spare cash” (apparently they’ve moved beyond “spare change”).

It’s riddled with the awful sameness that terrifies we blue people and which causes us to pay such obscene rents to avoid it.

There’s nothing to eat but Jack in the Box, Burger King, In-N-Out, and of course the ubiquitous McDonalds (over and over and over).

We did see a Green Burrito along the way, but did not stop because burritos shouldn’t be green. Instead we chose a Wendy’s that made us wish we were eating a green burrito.

No wonder folks are so fat; once you leave L.A. County you can’t get a spring mixed green salad until you reach San Francisco. And they are fat, terribly so, by comparison to the svelte and vanity-ridden denizens of John Kerry country.

You get the same movies, too. Every single theater runs the same card. This week it was “Hostage,” “Robots,” “Man of the House,” “Million Dollar Baby,” (brought back because it won the Oscar) and two other pieces of drub so unremarkable that I forget their names.

The suburbs, Stockton at least, are as deserted and terrifying as ever. Where do 168,000 people hide all day and night? Do they “beam” themselves to work and back? Creepy.

The “W in O4" bumper sticker was ubiquitous. There was another one that proclaimed “Kerry is Scary.”

How so? Because he’s going to take away this lonely landscape of ticky-tack houses, isolated developments, factory outlets, Wal-Marts, and abandoned, beat-up people?

the scribe even found the homeless to be more threatening and desperate than the loose loons that infest his own neighborhood. “Folder Boy,” a very handsome guy who sits daily on our corner and placidly rifles through his neatly organized possessions was a welcome sight after some of the characters out there in pick-up truck Arcadia.

And another thing; the cities have no monopoly on gangs, either.

the scribe isn’t sure whether it was in Earlimart, Famoso, McFarland, Delano, Selma or any of the other agricultural hamlets we sped past on our sojourn through the San Joaquin Valley, but he was struck with the t-shirt worn by one of the countless shaved-head Latinos that ultimately make up the (quiet) bulk of this state. “In Loving Memory of Rooster, RIP - 1980-1999” it said and the scribe’s guessing “Rooster” didn’t die in a cockfight.

End of rant.

Congratulations to the Old Dominion University Monarchs for making the NCAA tournament.

And thanks to the American Society of Journalists and Authors for accepting the scribe’s membership application.

A fan e-mailed this submission (folks, apparently, are having trouble posting on highwayscribery).

“Taking Up the Leash" (that’s the headline)

"The duffel is packed, the ammo is loaded, but what about Fido? Many soldiers shipping out for duty, especially reservists with little advance warning have no choice but to give up their pets to shelters, abandon them or even have them put to sleep. Anne Dizicksa, an Army reservist now stationed in Germany, was forced to have three elderly cats euthanized before an earlier activation. This time she turned to Operation Noble Foster ( which matches called up cat owners with families willing to take in their pets. “Having my pets in foster care and knowing I am coming back to them is extremely calming,” says Dizicksa. Another organization, Military Pets Foster Project ( offers the same service for cats, dogs, birds, fish, and even horses. The sites are free, though soldiers are asked to pick up food and vet bills (most families decline the food money). If you’re interested in signing up, visit the Web sites to fill out forms and provide references.”

The person who submitted the entry concluded with: “Mr. Bush opened a Pandora’s Box of misery that just keeps spreading. Parece el demonio (Seems like the devil)”.


Small things as victims. This has always been the scribe’s beef with war and institutions that profit from them. When the U.S. military announced its plan to “shock and awe” Iraqi armies into surrender (not too sure how well that worked out), it was the little girl playing with her cat in a courtyard somewhere in Baghdad that concerned him. That’s who we’re for here at highwayscribery, the regular folks getting run over by the grand historic designs of men like George W. Bush, who never do anything small, because they can’t rest until everyone knows what big shots they are.

National Public Radio recently did a story on how the children in Iraq pee their pants at the sound of breaking glass, thundering garbage trucks, firecrackers and other loud noises. A direct outgrowth of “shock and awe,” which never considered the people it would kill and destroy.

We are fragile.

If you detain and torture someone who turns out not to be a terrorist, you have ruined him and those who depend on him.

Fragile. That’s why we have habeas corpus, the right to make a phone call, and the right to an attorney. Because no institution is wrong quite so often as the government, whether you have terrorists (and you have always had them) or not.

Now the administration dispatches motor-mouth Karen Hughes to improve our image in the Middle East. Good Luck.

Italy’s pulling out, by the way.

And how about those reports of U.S. soldiers bringing digital video cameras into battle, shooting footage, and then editing-in their favorite pop tunes as soundtracks for Internet consumption? What’s the difference between that and the beheading videos of Al-Qaeda/Al-Zarqawi?

Wherein lies our moral superiority?

Friday, March 11, 2005

Madrid My Dove

Eyes Wide Open, the American Friends Service Committee’s widely-acclaimed exhibition on the human cost of the Iraq War, features a pair of boots honoring each U.S. military casualty, a field of shoes and a Wall of Remembrance to memorialize the Iraqis killed in the conflict, and a multimedia display exploring the history, cost and consequences of the war. Read more about it at Thanks Bets for all you're doing.

I was going to spend some time letting Tom Delay (r-Texas) have it, but there's either too little peace in the world tonight, or too little of it in my soul to waste time on him. Needless to say the conservative revolutionary (an oxymoron for morons) may soon be on the chopping block. But don't be too happy. They'll always find another prick.

Here's a poem from my collection "spit in a flower pot (if you must)" to soothe you all instead:

Vanilla High

A smooth-tone Goddess
complacent with privilege
carelessly shakes out
a white sheet of
sleep-in Sunday
off from Godess-ness
and launches a crush of cranes
flapping into her
pillows the clouds
concede little
to those clarinets of pain
and flight.

She does not find it odd;
their urgency
stretches across the
humid spider silk
closing here eyes
and sighs
a tempest system.

One year ago today, some 200 people living in a city that has been kind and decent to me were massacred by messengers of God. Madrid I remember. Madrid te quiero. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Honky Cat

Let’s start with culture tonight, even if it's lowbrow. Having just watched UPN’s “Kevin Hill” the highway scribe would like you to know what a great show it is. A rare find: an hour-long (that’s an HOUR) drama with real actors (ACTING) working from scripts possessing both a main theme and subtext. There is no contest involved at all, promise.

If you don’t know about “Kevin Hill” it tells the story of a cool New York lawyer, a black guy, who suddenly gets a baby dumped on him by a deceased cousin. “From Mack Daddy to Snack Daddy” his partner in chick-cruising immaturity, Damien Ruiz, quips in one episode.

The writing is crisp and though sometimes the court cases drawn up as counterpoint to whatever’s affecting the single dad are a little farfetched, other times they’re not. And Kevin loses frequently, which is very endearing and even, gulp, realistic.

It’s an urban tale. The apartments are a little too cool, but you’d like to live in them. The cocoa-skinned girls the protagonist crosses swords with are a refreshing departure from the endless, decades-long parade of stick blondes Hollywood never seems to tire of; and yet there’s one of those for you, too (yes you!). It’s tempting to say the gay nanny is obvious or overdone, but you’ll like him too much
to do so.

What I love about "Kevin Hill" is how it reflects the reality our country is less Honky and increasingly Funky.

The incorrigible high school antics of Damien and Kevin are shown clearly for what they are: the behavior of two guys who don’t want to accept having grown up, because now that they’ve got real jobs and fat paychecks they’re not about to miss out on the fun they’ve been led to believe they’re entitled to. And that said, the show celebrates them, never getting preachy; reminding us that a lot of what is fun in life stems from the silliness humans are prone to.

The women, on the other hand, are far from being the boys’ Kewpie dolls, calling them on their crap and, in one case, blasting Damien a black eye.

A few weeks ago, Kevin and the all-girl law firm he was forced to sign-on with for the benefit of a mommy-flex schedule, got a case involving the Patriot Act. The defendant was picked up in the airport returning from her native Greece with U.S.-born husband and baby-boo. She was a photographer and a wacky neighbor with too much time on her hands recognized a boxed shipment of some chemical on a list put out by the Department of Homeland Security.

When Kevin and Co. manage to make a good case, Uncle Sam gets mad and digs a little deeper. He finds the lady knew someone in college who’s now on “the list” as it were (read: TERRORIST!). She’s offered a chance to rat on him and stay, or deportation. She leaves. Pretty stern stuff out of the idiot box.

Which brings us to the (p)resident.

When an article appearing in the morning paper had Bush bowing to international law and deciding 49 Mexican nationals on death row in the U.S. were entitled to new hearings, it seemed time to give the dolt his due. The scribe was cooking up a dish all about W. looking to a distant future, when pit bulls like Bill O’Reilly wouldn’t be around to tell everybody how friggin’ great he is, and cultivating a more palatable image before history, which is more than likely to ream him a new one.

It works like this: Back in the 1960s, the U.S. proposed something called the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. It said if you were jailed abroad you had the right to see a diplomat from your home country. It was designed to protect U.S. citizens.

But before fingers could start punching keys the (p)resident followed up his action by pulling out of the pact hereafter, because he doesn’t like the way opponents use it for capital punishment cases in death factories like the one he ran so well in Texas. So, you know, take that you murderin’ beaners!

On the brighter side, the administration’s “Clear Skies” initiative for rewriting the nation’s Clean Air Act so that industry might pollute with greater ease bit the dust in something called the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It’s chaired by a blowhard from Oklahoma named James Inhofe (r) who thinks global warming is a “hoax.” (r)epublicans of course, ruling the roost as they do, have a majority on that committee, but the bill still died in a tie vote.

One of their own, Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, thinks the polar ice cap melting is a proof enough that there is no hoax and he voted with the liberal elitists to kill the thing. Call him and tell him how cool that was (202) 224-2921.

In California, (g)ov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (r) is finding his sophomore year to be jinxed.

Hell-bent on using the initiative process to reduce pension benefits of state employees for the good of “Califlower and da peepul,” he’s run into some opposition.

Schwarzenegger’s running around the country raising money for his 2006 reelection campaign which, by the way, he’s quite good at. But this particular tour he’s being shadowed by members of unions from California and their brethren in the visited cities.

A great piece by Jim Puzzanghera of the “San Jose Mercury News” Washington D.C. bureau fills in the details. In New York at a (r)epublican fundraiser, Arnold ran into 20 members of the California Nurses Association, a sprinkling of L.A. County Firefighters, and 50 folks from the local union ferment.

The reporter said Schwarzenegger, who lives for, and by, the klieg lights, was dodging in and out of the fundraisers by back doors and such.

“We’re going to follow him wherever he is, and we want people to know who he is,” said Beth Kean, a nurses union rep.

Skipping out on the first event with a pile of pledges in the sack, Schwarzenegger headed for the famous 21 Club where the nurses again awaited him, their numbers swelled by some firemen from Massachusetts. As it happens, a firefighter from Santa Clara was on vacation in town and got a call from some buddies alerting him to the (g)overnor’s appearance, and so the guy made a reservation there and confronted Schwarzenegger over the pension issue.

This is what I like about unions. You get help so that you're tough to beat, and it feels great doing it collectively. There’s no comparison to the prevalent American archetype of the finger-flipping individual bulling his way through a day in which every other citizen is naught but an obstacle to his ambition.

Schwarzenegger went to Washington the next day and the nurses and their allies were again waiting for him in the snow outside the St. Regis Hotel.

I’m going to quote directly here: “Attendance at the luncheon cost a minimum of $5,000. For $11,150, each contributor received two seats and a “photo opportunity” with Schwarzenegger. For $22,3000 – the maximum allowable individual contribution to Schwarzenegger’s fundraising committees – a donor got four seats, a photo opportunity for two, and a seat at the the round table with Schwarzenegger afterwards.”

Stuffing six figures worth of “the peoples’” money into his fat wallet, the (g)overnor slipped “down a stairwell to a service entrance” (again using the reporter’s words), only to find the union folks awaiting him with a hearty round of boos.

I’d like to personally thank Puzzanghera for his gutsy reporting. He’s obviously immune to “stardust” and the obsequious behavior it seems to bring out in his fellow craftsmen.

Good job, Jim. I hope it doesn’t cost you your job, seriously.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Another day, another dollop

We are pleased to report an overwhelming response to the first highwayscribery blog installation. All ten of you responded. Special thanks to Anibal Sincero whom we don’t know, but posted anyway.

And yes Anibal, I think the plan is to shoot us, so pay attention.

The promise was to keep it short and sweet while covering such diverse topics as politics, culture, poetry, journalism, literature, and social commentary, but there was a considerable amount of politics today:

On Monday the (r)epublicans in the Senate beat back a Democratic proposal to increase the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over an 18-month period. That’s $206 a week or $824 a month.

Lucky the (r)epublicans were able to save the working poor from those liberal elitists.

Now, in the “Kissing Power’s Keister” category we have Todd S. Purdum of the “New York Times” toasting the (p)resident’s “vindication” over the “thaw” towards democracy in the Middle East.

Let’s be clear, the demonstrations and dissent happening over there are anathema over here where you get a billy club to the backside in response.

In the wake of stories Bush has been sending terror suspects to places like Syria for torturing (since our nettlesome civil rights prevent it here) one has to wonder whether he has quite that much to celebrate. If they get democracy, where are you going to hold their heads under water until they crap?

I don’t know anything about Purdum, but his writing speaks for itself. Like a member of the team that plays the Harlem Globetrotters, he’s clearly paid to lose, parroting the administration’s every manipulation as news, rather than cant to be called out on.

(r)epublicans love democracy in other countries and hate it at home, because debate and dissent go against their God-given right to be correct at all times. Back in the 1980s Ronald Reagan fired thousands of striking air traffic controllers (and we don’t know how many died at the hands of their inexperienced replacements), while maintaining a soft spot in his heart (and pocketbook) for the Solidarity union in Poland.

Which brings me to a Reuters story about how unions here are being audited by the government at tremendous cost to their treasuries and strain on their staffs. They (the unions) say it’s payback for going all-out against Bush in the elections.

That’s because he’s a uniter and once the elections are over we’re all Americans...

I know that for a lot of people unions are not a very cool thing, but I’ve always believed in them strictly because the best job I ever had was as a member and shop steward with The Newspaper Guild.

You get enough people to pitch in and pay for a lawyer and voila! The workplace becomes a pleasant place. A manager on a little power trip has to think twice before someone files a grievance and an arbitrator goes through that manager’s underwear draw. After a while, mutual respect sets in and the culture of a company really changes. On top of it, you sit down to talk about a raise every three or four years.

Try these things at work on your lonesome.

“Salon” did a nice piece on how the administration schedules the return of wounded soldiers so that they arrive in the U.S. at night, out of the pesky press’ view. It’s all about supporting the troops you see (as long as you don’t). Once the dye is cast you don’t want to go around questioning things and “aiding the enemy.”

Never mind how that’s an excellent incentive for presidents to cook up wars; you’re getting into democracy now and that’s what they’re working on over in the Middle East, not here.

The Italians are pretty upset that U.S. soldiers shot up a car full of agents rushing a one-time hostage to safety. I don’t think they did that on purpose, because such a thing requires top-notch intelligence operatives. But if it didn’t happen we would not have known it is U.S. policy to discourage negotiations and instead let these people get beheaded for the larger aim of.... yup, democracy in the Middle East.

Do U.S. soldiers shoot at journalists? Well, the family of the Spanish cameraman killed by a U.S. tank crew a year or so ago (filming from a hotel full of reporters) have a chilling story to tell about how that went down. And a CNN executive had to resign two weeks ago for suggesting the same.

I can tell you that here, being a journalist isn’t what it used to be when folks talked to you, because a free press was an important institution to a country they cared about. Well they don’t necessarily talk to reporters anymore because they are the enemy, like the environmentalists, and trial lawyers; with no purpose other than to muck up the smooth running of the stock market and the little government we have mounted to assist it.

(r)epublicans, of course, think journalists joined the hippies in subverting the war effort in Viet Nam. Stupid planning, a determined enemy, and an ignorance of history had nothing to do with it.

Which brings me to Dan Rather who took on the Bush crowd and lost his job as a result. Not that he probably didn't deserve it. Danno had a juicy story with a former Texas legislative leader admitting making calls to save W. from nasty turn in Viet Nam, but got greedy, running a story that wasn’t properly vetted.

Maybe Rather let the popular myth he brought Nixon down get to his head. I could have reminded him that what journalists do is shed light on corruption and let the body politic do the rest, but I’m a blogger (for two days at that). Rather goes a ways back with the Bush folks. How many remember his tet-a-tet with George Sr. back during the 1988 campaign, from which he came out the worse for wear, as well?

Walter Cronkite got some play today, piling on and saying Rather’s job at CBS should have gone to Bob Shiffer or Schiffer or whatever his name is, back in the day. But I read Cronkite’s autobiography in the mid-nineties and he clearly felt pushed out by Rather, or because of him.

He was from a different era, Walter, when folks were nicer and loyalty counted for something. His demise coincided with the nasty business of corporate takeovers and media mergers that is still with us, like an intractable skin disease, to this day. The book, characterized by his uncanny reporting, paints a grim portrait of a legend’s final disposal.

You don’t get the sense of a shining intellect from Cronkite’s book: more a picture of what open territory existed for those who managed to get through World War II in tact.

But as a transition into the literary portion of today’s installation let me quote him in a high moment:

“Can we believe that the beleaguered peoples of the world will long be tolerant of those who possess the tools, but who can’t make them work for the good of humankind everywhere?”

I like that.

So onto literature before I sign off. I’ve been reading T.C. Boyle’s “The Inner Circle” this past week. Boyle’s been around a while, but I never read him because I was sticking with dead, classic writers whose success was less upsetting to my own literary aspirations.

Now I’m more mature and have accepted the fact I’m not the smartest, most important person in the world. This realization has been made easier to stomach by the fact I have a fabulous head of hair, well into my mid-forties, that could make Donald Trump scream. I mean, were I at a party with Trump and some model...but wait, I digress and do damage to myself as a level-headed man of reason with gadfly impulses.

T.C. Boyle. There are other books of his I would have preferred to read, but my sister bought me this fictional account narrated by a supposed collaborator of the famous sex researcher, Dr. Kinsey. I haven’t finished the novel yet, but so far it is quite delightful.

The sexual revolution did not (as I thought) begin with women burning their bras in the 1960s, but with this courageous and offbeat man in the 1930s and 1940s. That he was able to do this from a university in Indiana is all the more impressive.

Indiana, despite being north of the Mason-Dixon Line, is the most redneck state in the union. It’s as if someone was using the U.S. to make an omelette and flipped it so that Mississippi was superimposed over Indiana and then when it opened up during the eating (to get at the cheese and mushrooms inside), all the conservative attitudes from Mississippi were left on top of Indiana.

Of course you’re saying, “Sure highway scribe, but wouldn’t that mean Mississippi would be less reactionary after it got pulled off Indiana and left all its conservative goop behind?”

And highway scribe would have to respond, “You’ve obviously never been to Mississippi.”

Anyway, it’s quite impressive the way Boyle sprinkles historical facts and details in so casual and unforced a manner. And his portrait of the obsessive great man and the way he used the fact most of us like to talk about ourselves and sex to propel his “project” says a lot about, well, us and sex. The rendering of Kinsey's many facets and enthusiasms draws a kind of map for those who want to avoid the trap of mediocrity.

Boyle finds interesting ways to express everything that’s going on without ever seeming to try very hard; and that’s not easy.

And there’s the little bit of literature to hopefully sweeten up the bitter upper parts of today’s installation. News permitting, I will write much less tomorrow.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Why highwayscribery?

Here I am, the highway scribe and my topics of discussion will be sweet, brief, but wide in variety. Journalism, literature, poetry, culture and social commentary of the highest and lowest strains will be found here, day in, day out.

"Highwayscribery" is a relic from an earlier life I led, traveling tirelessly and writing down what passed through my mind, soul and bowels on an old Underwood named "Barton Fink."

On that typewriter I wrote a novel called "Vedette." You can buy it (and should) at after using the title for a search on that publisher's Web site.

Barton's gone, long since been lost to some lucky soul in southern Spain, and now that I'm married with a child and living quietly in Los Angeles (if such a thing is possible) the road is but a figment of my imagination.

But imagination is where I'm at and living most of the time, so that reduced travel time is but a technicality. I am and remain, the highway scribe in my mind.

I'm going to open this blog with one of my favorite exercises, which is writing to hacks who do the bidding of the Bush Administration and other right wing interests. I've been a professional journalist since 1983 (do the math) and have had the unpleasant experience of watching the craft go to hell in a corporate handbasket.

You're supposed to represent a counterbalance to power in journalism, call it (power) on its cant and make those who bow before it uncomfortable, too. Because that's my understanding of the craft, I've been bounced out of the more high profile jobs fortune sent my way.

What you have today are any number of guys (the business is infested with them) who spend their time writing off the top of their heads (rather than reporting) in support of the corporate interests that finance their well-heeled existences.

Today, you can e-mail these guys by clicking their address at the bottom of the piece or trying a few simple combinations like or I'm going to relay these missives of mine to you, my august readers. Sometimes these clowns write back and when they do, you'll get that, too.

Two of the worst offenders work at the "San Diego Union-Tribune." They are Joseph Perkins, whose primary credential is having worked on Dan Quayle's staff. Talk about blue chip. The other is the editor of the Sunday editorial pullout, Robert Caldwell.

You don't need to read Caldwell if you can get your hands on a copy of the Republican "talking points" for a given week, because that's his template.

For a while he wrote me back, but he's not smart enough to match me thrust for thrust and so I just fire away, mindful of the fact he knows I'm watching and writing. This newfangled blog thing makes me even more of a threat.

I like to call him "Bob" because that's all the respect he rates in my book, which is filled with reverence for Kerouac, Marat, Azana, Boyle, Marquez, Mills, Hunter Thompson, and our last political/literary lion, Gore Vidal.

On Monday, March 7, Bob wrote an article about the "revolution" being offered up by (g)ov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (r) here in California. The Austrian actor and bodybuilder, Caldwell promises, is out to do away with the "entrenched" interests and give government back to the people, by passing over the legislature and running a movie star media campaign to divest it of significant, constitutionally granted duties.

Here's what I had to say. It's nothing earth shattering, just something I did this morning before the idea of starting a blog took over my mind:


So now you're a revolutionary (Along with Martin Kondracke, George Will and all the other pinstriped sans culotte)

Really, of all the crap out there, the notion that this guy, who rode establishment money into office and reappointed what was left of Pete Wilson's old administration, is representing "the people" is the crappiest of all.

The legislature, by the way, are the folks we out here in the real world vote to represent us. Unions, in turn, are large collections of "the people" who organize to bargain collectively and put the lie to nonsense like this most recent shill from you, the shiller of all things Republican.

Why don't you put a little elephant where your byline is?

Your article does not mention, perhaps because you don't report this stuff, that his reforms and appointments are being quietly returned to him on a daily basis and he's dead in the water, smoking stogies, up in Sacramento.

Now you are all hoping his movie star road show works, but it won't, because yes, as you point out, we will spend. But he started it.

This guy's not going to get what he wants, because what Tom Daschle and all Democrats who bought the Republicans' "bipartisan" crap learned is just that - it's crap.

Bush governs thusly: "I've got the votes in Congress, screw you."

Well we've got the votes and majority here in California Arnold. Screw you. This isn't a movie.