Thursday, June 29, 2006

Blog-Slapped: You Guys Call That Reporting?

Today’s subject is bad governance coupled with bad journalism.

Peter Baker of the “Washington Post,” has written an
article giving wind and wings to (p)resident Bush’s hypocrisy.

w. was in Missouri yesterday under the pretense of pulling Sen. James Talent (r) chestnuts out of the electoral fire. Talent’s in trouble and Bush thinks by showing up there and accusing the Democrats of surrender on Iraq, this guy will hold his seat.

If the people of Missouri’s voting track record in recent elections is any indication, he may be right.

And that would be a shame.

Here’s Bush, who put himself before another crowd of flagwaving idiots so that he could get another gratuitous standing ovation: “There’s a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done,” Baker dutifully reports. “They’re willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off, and the world would be worse off.”

Yep, things here and abroad are certainly a lot BETTER than before we invaded Iraq.

Here’s some more for that article: “Bush’s tone has turned tougher as he appears at more political events [since there’s nothing to do in Washington]. At a Washington fundraiser this month, he said it was important lawmakers ‘not wave the white flag of surrender’ without asserting that any of them were actually doing so. In his appearance in a St. Louis suburb, he said directly that some Democrats want to surrender, adopting the more cutting approach of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove.

Bush also took the media to task for writing about he and Snoopy Cheney’s precious spooky programs.

But he better be careful because the U.S. Supreme Court he normally gets rubber stamped from just delivered a
"stunning rebuke" to his obviously illegal military tribunals plan for the people he has illegally detained at Guantanamo Base, Gitmo, Cuba Linda.

Of course, everyone knows Bush is full of shit with a “trustworthy” poll rating in the dumps.

What’s annoying is the report by Baker, and this
undercooked filet by Matt Spetalnick of Reuters, amplifying whatever the (p)resident, says sans critique or an opposing point of view.

What Baker and Spetalnick did not mention in their stories is the fact General George Casey, the highest ranking military guy in Iraq, made a presentation at the White House detailing a pull-out plan last week. No less than the
"The New York Times," reported on it, but neither scribe saw fit to point it out or use them to contrast Bush’s fightin’ words.

WBAI’s “Wake Up Call” did give voice to California Sen. Barbara Boxer (D), who noted that the plan presented by Casey resembled that offered up by the Democrats and which Bush is now seeking to make hay out by doing his favorite thing, calling himself COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF a lot, and painting the Democrats as pinko-cowards.

So the scribe wrote Baker today, thanks to the great device that allows readers and bloggers to communicate with reporters who are shoveling drivel at them. Here’s what it said.

“Mr. Baker,

I'm ready to blog-spank you. This report is incomplete and fails to take note of the president's hypocrisy. You and I know both know the military in Iraq has been putting together a plan for withdrawal that would achieve the same thing the Dems plan would.

When you dutifully report the president's every utterance, without contrasting and balancing information, you're serving as his bullhorn, not as a journalist."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Pause Again

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Deaths of Three Camp Pendleton Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Benjamin Williams of Orange, TX, Pfc. Christopher White of Southport, NC and Lance Cpl. Brandon Webb of Swartz Creek, MI:

"Maria and I are deeply saddened by the news of Staff Sgt. Williams, Pfc. White and Lance Cpl. Webb's death. These three Marines willingly put their lives on the line to serve our country. We will keep Benjamin, Christopher and Brandon's families in our thoughts and prayers. Their brave service is an example of the determination and courage that makes our nation strong."

Williams, 30, White, 23, and Webb, 20, died June 20 of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. They were all assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Staff Sgt. Williams, Pfc. White and Lance Cpl. Webb, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Ukiah Soldier


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Jason Buzzard of Ukiah:

"Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the tragic loss of Sgt. Buzzard. Risking his life to serve his country was a duty that Jason bravely undertook. He died with honor and we will remember his service with gratitude and admiration."
Buzzard, 31, died June 21 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HEMTT cargo truck during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Sgt. Buzzard, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Lancaster Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Christopher Leon of Lancaster:

"Today we honor Cpl. Leon for his devotion to serving our country. Maria and I join all Californians in offering our deepest sympathies to Christopher's loved ones. We must never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of our armed forces to ensure our freedoms."

Leon, 20, died June 20 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 5th Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

In honor of Cpl. Leon, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Snoopy

First it was unauthorized wiretapping that was done, unilaterally, and without consulting anyone because it was a necessary and indispensable measure in the WAR ON TERROR.

Then it turned out the Bush administration, which is on a crusade to democratize the middle east, was sifting through everybody’s phone calls, unilaterally and without consulting anyone, because it was a necessary and indispensable measure in the WAR ON TERROR.

Now it turns out that unilaterally, and without consulting anybody at all, the administration has been sifting through everybody’s financial transactions, because doing so is a necessary and indispensable measure in the WAR ON TERROR.

Soon there will be a poll finding that Americans think that’s just fine because they spend their lives fretting they will be the targets of a terrorist plot.

Folks, the endless uncovering of “terrorist plots” notwithstanding, you have more chance of being killed in a hail storm.

Sure, there was 9/11, and that was terrible, a downer, but it’s time to start facing up to the fact Bush knew there were threats, but chose to clear brush in Crawford.

Translation: The buck stopped with him.

And it’s time to start owning up to the fact this decadent country of watchers and pleasure-seekers crapped its pants and handed over every right anybody ever died for to the government in exchange for protection.

Now you see what protection is. Government in your soup.

“Decadent country of watchers and pleasure seekers?” Whoa scribe, you’re getting downright personal.

Indeed. Rather than be sensitized to the horrors of violence in the wake of 9/11, the American people endorsed more violence and supported this band of thugs in their unprovoked invasion of Iraq, because there was a WAR ON TERROR.

The result has been the death of thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians that is unconscionable and which we are all guilty of permitting and condoning.

Vice Decadent, Prick Cheney, was of course, and once again, “vigorously defending” the administration’s wanton violation of Amendment IV, Bill ‘o Rights, which states, and the scribe quotes:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.”

Boy, those Founding Fathers could write!

And the scribe isn’t sure how packing the Supreme Court with executive lackeys like Samuel Alito and John Roberts makes the part where it says, “and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,” somehow less clear or open to new interpretations.

the scribe abhors Dick Cheney because the scribe loves America, while Cheney loves corporate America.

And here are some other reasons outlined in a letter sent to the “L.A. Times” a few years ago, (January 28, 2002 to be exact), but which was not published because of how true it was.

“Thanks for your story on Vice President Dick Cheney’s Sunday television interview (“Cheney Defends Refusal to Detail Energy Meetings,” Jan. 28). It’s high time [a long time ago] for a debunking of the myth that Bush & Co. did nothing to help their most prodigious campaign backers.

The question is what the administration did for Enron before its collapse; not after it began and the company became so radioactive that no politician with a pair of half-functioning antennae would touch it.

Cheney said his looming battle with the General Accounting Office is really over, ‘the ability of the president and the vice president to solicit advice from anybody they want in confidence.’

Cheney and the administration are all about confidence. He condescends to television journalists by deflecting queries with assurance that he has been around longer and refers to the Federal Reserve Board chairman as “Alan;” a fellow he knows better than anybody. His boss seals the records of prior presidents (such as his father’s) from public purview with a quietly issued executive order.

Government to the Bush administration is a privileged little club of insiders that should operate in ‘confidence’ without having to deal with bothersome matters like Congress’ constitutionally granted power of oversight. The public, it would seem, possesses no right to know what was discussed with corrupt executives at a meeting convened by Cheney in his capacity as an elected official of the American people.

The United States, to this bunch, is an affair of the few – themselves – not to be hampered by the will, rights, or growing rancor of the many; not a vote-driven democracy at all, rather a little aristocracy of arrogant know-it-alls.”

The “Times” wouldn’t take the letter, but highwayscribery did. That’s why you gotta love blogging.

That’s why you gotta love the First Amendment, while we still have it, because here’s what Cheney had to say about the press uncovering his precious secret snooping program for all those who have a right to see and know:

“What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people.”

If you gave up the Fourth Amendment because of the WAR ON TERROR, why wouldn’t you give up the First Amendment for the WAR ON TERROR?

Here’s Cheney crying about the press doing its job again.

“That offends me.”

Here’s the highway scribe:

“Good.”
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Friday, June 23, 2006

Book Report "The Name of the Rose" Umberto Eco

the scribe just finished, after a true reader’s via crucis, the long and impressive "The Name of the Rose,"by UmbĂ©rto Eco.

The book came to him through his old man, whom got it from somebody he works with at the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Fund.

the scribe has always wanted to read the book: first, for its beguiling name, second for all the great covers depicting a deep medieval ambience, and third because Eco is an Italian intellectual, which the scribe believes makes them kindred spirits, if not seriously linked at some unseen level of things.

Nonetheless, the book was more a labor than a love. The beguiling name, it turns out, was chosen for how little it revealed. We know this because Eco has penned a considerable “postscript” in excess of 30 pages.

If the scribe were allowed that kind of indulgence he wouldn’t take it, because that would be explaining the book. You can explain a book a little - the scribe’s adaption of passages from “Vedette” to the wonderful music of Omar Torrez are a case in point – but not too much, as least not as much as Eco has.

After all, you’ve written a book and that should be explanation enough.

The author opens the p.s. with some observations on how titles can give a book away, or worse, mislead readers, and has some fun with classic titles that even a guy as famous as he shouldn’t, at least out of false humility, compare his own book to.

“Perhaps,” he writes, “the best course is to be honestly dishonest, as Dumas was: it is clear that ‘The Three Musketeers’ is, in reality, the tale of the fourth.”

He chose “The Name of the Rose” because, “the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left...The title rightly disoriented the reader, who was unable to choose just one interpretation...”

Which is to say the scribe was tricked, which is no small trick.

Beguiled by a title not the book’s own, the scribe hoped the promise of medieval culture, the repairing to a quiet soul-enriching world of chants and hooded monks, grassy quads spreading over a scholastic abbey peopled by pure men, held firm.

And there, Eco, a self-described medievalist, keeps his promise, but to the point of distraction.

Disclosure here. Historians, those of the Spanish Civil War in particular, have been cool to the scribe’s “Vedette,” which was something of surprise because things Spanish are always underwritten and neglected in the U.S. press.

And the many professors who received the novel free of charge have never penned an insulting letter dubbing the scribe as a lying, licentious poet-so-and-so.

But neither have they done the opposite and after reading Eco the conclusion would lead a novelist to suspect jealously at the root of the snub, because one thing is a painstaking and scientific accumulation of facts, the other is spinning an exciting tale.

Eco leaves no middle-aged stone unturned and ultimately bludgeons the reader with facts, architectural essays to the minutest detail, and historical reviews of sectarian battles in the Catholic Church of that time so that the story itself seems an afterthought.

At least so it seemed to the guy writing this book report who remained focused and oriented through repeated playings of “Chant: The Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos.”

Among the problems are a cast of monks (Jorge of Burgos, Salamander of Sweden) too long and too difficult to distinguish from one another so that you – or maybe just the scribe – have to just kind of trundle along with the ensemble, taking them in and listening when they reappear without ever being sure when their last showing was, nor its narrative significance.

Eco’s architecture leaves something to be desired as well. The narrative, such as it is, meanders along over a few macabre murders and some confusing visits to the impenetrable library of the abbey in which it is set, as co-protagonist William, and the narrator/voice Adso, traverse great swatches of Catholic/European history in conversations most remarkable for the distance between start and end.

When Adso takes a backseat to Ubertino, or the Abbot, or one of the many other hooded theologians peopling the interminable text, the form is imposed anew as two elderly men talk at each other in pages-long dissertations that make “The Sidewalk Smokers Club” seem like a snappy, noir-yarn shorn of all excess (which it’s not).

By this the scribe means to say that if Umberto Eco were not Umberto Eco, and instead were master of the highwayscribery universe, this book might never has seen the light of day, let alone become a bestseller.

“Story of the Rose,” does have a number of messages and that’s fair reward for someone who grants Eco the respect we are told he’s due and stays the course.

What the scribe took from it was a reinforcement of his perception regarding the savagery in European man and the endless and senseless deaths sacrificed to the Christian mono-God.

As a non-believer the scribe finds it absolutely astounding that millions of people lost their lives to men of the kind portrayed here, and the cruelty of those deaths horrifying.

And it really happened.

Eco’s a smart man who’s trying to tell us something about the inquisitorial urge, its unstoppable momentum and irrefutable logic (they have God on their side), and the poor uses to which ostensibly spiritual mechanisms have been put to use since the pagan world collapsed.

May God help us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The (republican) War and Poverty Program

Two things happened yesterday that paint the clearest picture of the options facing Americans in November, and in most years for that matter.

The (r)epublican party will spend the next few months trying to cloud that picture by waving banners of nationalism, by waving banners of fear.

As of yesterday, and for the expressed purposes of electioneering, the GOP is mostly on record as being in favor of that disaster brought to you by the administration and known as THE IRAQ WAR.

It is also in favor of poverty, having rejected, yet again, and shamefully, a Democratic attempt to jack up the minimum wage.

First the war. Jim Rutenger annd Adam Nagourney pen the piece, “GOP Decides to Embrace War as Issue.”

Like they had a choice in the matter. The “Washington Post” scribes noted that, “As [p]resident Bush offered another defense of his Iraq policy during a visit to Vienna on Wednesday, [r]epublicans acknowledged it was a strategy of necessity, an effort to turn what some party leaders had feared could become the party’s greatest liability into an advantage in the midterm elections.”

Could become its greatest liability?

The liability is, or certainly should be, there already. The thousands of soldiers dead, the innocent aid workers and journalists captured and beheaded, the “30 or 35 thousand” dead Iraqi civilians Bush breezily admitted this ghastly affair had claimed are there for all to see.

And the vote is there, too; for all to see. They’re for it. The War. The (r)epublicans. They put it up there on the docket, called their opposite numbers in both houses of Congress “defeatists”and now we’ll have to see if it washes.

An barely lesser disgrace, for the moment, are the Democrats, led by Hillary Clinton, who didn’t back John Kerry’s call for a withdrawal.

Here’s Kerry’s list of friends in the Senate.

Call ‘em up and say thanks for the chutzpah.

But make no mistake, you can browbeat Democrats into playing it safe on such votes – political charades cooked up for the peanut gallery – but they’re not the party of war. They’re simply not the party to stop it.

According to the “Post” piece, there now exists a 74-page briefing book to Congressional offices from the Pentagon, “to provide ammunition for what White House officials say will be a central line of attack against Democrats from now through the midterm elections: that the withdrawal being advocated by Democrats would mean thousands of troops would have died for nothing, would give extremists a launching pad from which to build an Islamo-fascist empire and would hand the United States its most humiliating defeat since Vietnam.”

the scribe understood the armed forces to be nonpartisan.

Of course, before the Bush administration, he also understood there was a right of habeas corpus and a crazy little executive inconvenience called congressional oversight.

So we are on notice. And we should have answers: No more men and women should die for nothing. The “launching pad” for terrorists didn’t exist until the war was cooked up and that was cooked up by a failed (r)epublican strategy, and the same goes for the defeat, which, unless they’ve got proof to the opposite (and they don’t), is already the most humiliating defeat since Vietnam.

And the question should be. “Whose fault is that?”

The follow-up should be, “And do they deserve to govern anew.”

The rest is up to the American people whose judgement has proven less than sage in recent electoral convocations.

Of course the war and beheading of innocents and such is all in a far away place, being handled by underpaid minions of the growing American poor and underclass.

Here at home, if you want to avoid getting tortured and beheaded in that nasty Mesopotamian snake pit, you’ve got to earn some money.

And the (r)epublican party isn’t making that any easier.

Clear choice here, too. The Senante vote was 52 to 46 in favor of raising the wage, but you need 60 for it to happen. So, no raise for our (nonunion) coffee servers, janitors, etc. since 1997.

That’s absurd.

And by the way, have you ever noticed a lack of interest in the big immigration issue from highwayscribery?

That’s because its purveyors would have preferred a healthy and secure wage rate for the people that had been doing those jobs in the first place. Our government saw fit, instead, to roll with the manufacturers associations and clamp wages. And the people they can’t wait to throw out of the country are the one that filled the resulting cheap positions.

It shouldn’t have happened save for the cheapness, austerity, and heartlessness of the global economy, which is administrated largely out of our nation’s capital by the (mostly) men we vote to represent us.

The article, written by Molly Hennessy-Fiske, quotes a (r)epublican representative on the House appropriations committee who voted for the increase. “It could harm us,” he said, “if we don’t address it. I think we are too hung up on philosophy and not looking enough at reality.”

No argument here.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Update Bolivia



the scribe was listening to WBAI/New York's "Wake Up Call" via the Internet this morning and imbibed an interview with Christian Parenti who writes “Letter From Bolivia,” for the venerable old torch-bearer of all things utopian, “The Nation.”

He provided a detailed and in-depth perspective of what has changed since Evo Morales’ indigenous and socialist movement took over things in La Paz. The interview can be found at the Wake Up Call web site, by clicking on the June 20 show, 8 a.m. segment.

the scribe went to the the article and read it.

Progressive people can find themselves watching goings-on in rare and distant lands when the rare and distant occurrence of a left wing government pops up.

We’ve already discussed Morales, his movement, and some of the perils threatening him at highwayscribery (“Oil, Natural Gas, and Evo Morales,” May 6).

Parenti’s piece suggests a modest but definitely left-wing government with the threat of violence looming from an old class of big ranchers.

It turns out the much ballyhooed nationalization of the natural gas industry focused upon the three largest foreign energy companies operating in Bolivia. For a while the government will soak the companies for the resources they exploit on Bolivian land to the tune of 82 to 18 percent.

But that’s just for a while, things even out over time. The government maintains a 51 percent control in the company so the power is not monolithic and dictatorial. There are more than 20 other such companies maintaining a presence in Bolivia that will remain “untouched.”

The country will net $700 million, which is what the players on the New York Yankees will pocket collectively over the next three summers.

Leftists are already crying sell-out, but that’s what we do.

The report claims the government told the International Monetary Fund to piss off, raised the minimum wage, and promised a 300 percent increase in health care spending.

We should try some of that here.

The revolution also has its colorful, old-school intellectuals the left is so endeared of: “I meet Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, who is sometimes said to be the ‘brain of the government’ – Evo is clearly its soul. Only 42 years old, Garcia Linera has a resume that already includes stints as a former guerilla, ex-prisoner, powerhouse author and intellectual, and now one of the most important politicians in Latin America.”

Love that literary angle. Writers must and do commit to the process in Latin America.

Maybe the scribe will run for Congress.

Here’s what the poet-warrior vice president has to say: “Transnational corporations are welcome in Bolivia, but they will not dominate the economy. They should expect to pay taxes and submit to reasonable environmental and social regulations, but they will still make profits.”

And we should try that here.

The business class is behind Morales thus far. They’re done with neo-liberal palliatives cooked up in Beltway think-tanks and well, you know, all that stuff had a good, long run anyway.

And we should get our business class to buy into that truth, too.

There are other items about the government’s desire to grow the internal market in its own country that may or may not interest you, but it doesn’t matter because that is the beauty of the blog.

The article covers some of the more intricate indigenous claims and designs upon the government handsomely dissecting meaningful but not always perceptible difference between communities viewed from that outside as monolithic.

Monday, June 19, 2006

And One More

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hemet Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Michael Estrella of Hemet, CA:

"With respect and gratitude, Maria and I express our sympathies to the family and friends of Cpl. Estrella. As a Marine, Michael courageously fulfilled his duty to service and responsibility. We owe a debt of gratitude to Michael, his family and all other service personnel for the sacrifices they make to ensure our freedom."

Estrella, 20, died June 14 of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Base Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

In honor of Cpl. Estrella, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sargeant Lawson plus 5 more


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Sacramento Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. 1st Class Issac Lawson of Sacramento:

"Words cannot adequately express our gratitude to Sgt. 1st Class Lawson for his service and sacrifice for our country. Maria and I join all Californians in sending our deepest sympathies to Issac's family, friends and fellow soldiers for this painful loss. His leadership and inspiring dedication in serving our country will be remembered with honor."

Lawson, 35, died June 5 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. He was assigned to the National Guard's 49th Military Police Brigade, Fairfield, CA.

In honor of Sgt. 1st Class Lawson, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Watsonville Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Bernard Corpuz of Watsonville, CA:

"Maria and I, along with all Californians, are saddened by the loss of Cpl. Corpuz. Bernard faithfully served our nation with true valor and pride. We extend our sympathies to Bernard's family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn the loss of a brave individual."

Corpuz, 28, died June 11 as a result of injuries sustained when his convoy came under enemy small arms fire and an improvised explosive device detonated during combat operations in Ghanzi, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 303rd Military Intelligence Battalion, 504th Military Intelligence Brigade, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Cpl. Corpuz, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Ryan Cummings of Streamwood, IL:

"Maria and I offer our condolences to the family and friends of Cpl. Cummings. In selfless service to our nation, Ryan courageously undertook his duties and responsibilities. We mourn and honor him for his sacrifice."

Cummings, 22, died June 3 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Cummings, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Two Twentynine Palms Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Lance Cpl. Salvador Guerrero of Los Angeles and Lance Cpl. Brent Zoucha of Merrick, NE:

"Lance Cpl. Guerrero and Lance Cpl. Zoucha's death is a sobering reminder of the high price paid for our freedoms. Maria and I honor Salvador and Brent and their families for fulfilling the noble duty of service to our country. We will keep them in our thoughts and prayers."

Guerrero, 21 and Zoucha, 19, died June 9 of wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. Both were assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Guerrero and Lance Cpl. Zoucha, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Sailor


Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Hospitalman Zachary Alday of Donalsonville, GA:

"Hospitalman Alday fulfilled a tremendous service to our nation and its citizens. Zachary's commitment to duty and loyalty to our country reflects his noble character. During this painful time, Maria and I send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends."

Alday, 22, died June 9 of injuries sustained when the vehicle he was riding in struck a land mine. His unit was conducting combat operations against enemy forces in the Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 7th Regimental Combat Team, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Hospitalman Alday, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

World Cup Fever



There are days one is glad to get up.

Such was this morning. the scribe was forced to awaken at 6 a.m. to begin is quadrennial love/hate/torture relationship with Spain’s national soccer team. Spain has brutalized and tantalized its fans for decades with beautiful play and poor final results. Knowing little about the quality of the first opponent, Ukraine, the scribe made his espresso and settled in for the worst.

Two hours later he was getting an e-mail from his pop asking, “Wow, are they that good?” Another friend sent an e-missive with the subject line, “Iberian Dreams.”

The final score was four-nil and they looked fabulous. The announcers on Univision (bless their wall-to-wall coverage) remarked that Spain was not dominating the game, but “exercising a monopoly” over it, adding that the squad was the most complete to debut thus far.

Then the scribe went to the Web site of WBAI New York to learn the hostess of the chunky, funky Urban texturized collage show “Wake Up Call”, Deepa Fernandes, had opened the morning featuring recordings from the recent tour of New York, “Vedette Does La Danza,” with Omar Torrez.

What’s great is having these recordings within a news-of-the-day context. Hear Hillary Clinton get booed as she tries to establish herself as a “serious” and plausible presidential candidate by going pro-war.

Shame on her.

What’s also great is having your novel and your partner’s music plugged on a great progressive radio station in the largest media market in the world.

Anyway, back to the World Cup, the ratings for which, Associated Press reports are
soaring.

Viewership is up 65 percent over the last time. The writer fails to note that the 2002 festival of joy and roundball was held jointly in Korea/Japan, which meant the games were on, typically, at 4:30 a.m.

But the piece serves our purposes so we dish it up to you anyway. Lots of journalism is actually arranged like that, you know.

The “San Diego Union-Tribune" ran a nice piece Tuesday in its Opinion section entitled, "World Cup Unity."

Commenting on the fact that, “crowds are gathering at restaurants and bars throughout San Diego County to root for their favorite teams during the 2006 World Cup. The tournament is being played in Germany, but interest in the games spreads around the globe.”

The piece focused on the local passion behind the match between Mexico and Iran, which the Aztec team won 3 to 1 noting, “The whole display was colorful and beautiful and harmless. These were Americans, who, for a few hours, had the chance to root for the homeland of their ancestors in a soccer tournament that – at least in some parts of the world – stirs more excitement than the Olympics. This wasn’t an act of subversion or cultural separatism. This wasn’t an insult to the culture of the United States.

“Rather, it was a clear illustration of what makes this country such a magnificent place – that we can celebrate our differences while still keeping first in mind all that we have in common.”

Okay, that last paragraph is in line with the jingoist journalism the “U-T” is prone to, but highwayscribery applauds them for taking note of an event happening halfway around the world featuring the prowess of other countries rather than that of the United States.

highwayscribery wanted to use the occasion of Spain’s glorious victory to highlight an article written by Henry Kissinger on the eve of the 1986 final between Germany and Italy in Mexico City.

The first part of the article, about the game’s evolution isn't quite so interesting as the second part that observes the modern game is a, “very tactical game, its complexity becoming a fascinating reflection of national attitudes,” and then goes onto analyze the styles of then-West Germany, Brazil, Italy and England.

His observations are delicious:

“The German national team plays the way its general staff prepared for the war; games are meticulously planned, each player skilled in both attack and defense. Intricate pass patterns evolve, starting right in front of the German goal. Anything achievable by human foresight, careful preparation and hard work is accounted for.”

Kissinger goes on to point out that West Germany’s post-war soccer successes have been ample, but that, “At the same time, the German national team suffers from the same disability as the famous Schlieffen plan for German strategy in World War I. There is a limit to human foresight; psychological stress on those charged with executing excessively complex maneuvers cannot be calculated in advance. If the German team falls behind, or if its intricate approach yields no results, its game is shadowed by the underlying national premonition that in the end even the most dedicated effort will go unrewarded, by the nightmare that ultimately fate is cruel...”

The opposite, he says, is the case with Brazil. “Its national teams are an assertion that virtue without joy is a contradiction in terms. Brazilian teams display a contagious exuberance; Brazilian fans cheer them on to the ecstatic Beat of samba bands. Brazil always has the most acrobatic players, the individuals one cannot forget whatever the outcome of the match. But, as in Brazil’s political institutions, this individualism is combined with an extraordinary ability to make the practical arrangements required for effective national performance.”

Okay, that last part is not exactly an anarcho-syndicalist view of the unequal and troubled country, but let’s move on.

The Brazilians on the attack look like, “a dancing band at Carnival. Wave after wave of yellow shirts roll against the opposing goal until the opposition is overwhelmed without being humiliated; it is no disgrace to be defeated by a team whose style no one else can imitate.”

No, but it hurts like hell anyway. Ask any of the other teams that usually get eliminated during the yellow-shirted magicians’ march to the title.

Kissinger says the flaw of the team is that, “The players sometimes are so intoxicated by their brilliant maneuvers that they can occasionally forget the purpose of the exercise is to score goals.”

Just as there is no more West Germany, in the scribe’s opinion, that samba-band-Brazil is a thing of the past, too. They have found defense and, yes, violence and dirty play; developments which have served to cement an impression the soccer Gods are Brazilian, because they are perpetual favorites.

Anyway, that’s a sample. Read the article for the former Secretary of State’s geopolitical insights into the playing style of Italy and England.

Y Aupa Espanya!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Civic Porn



Some countries have all the fun. Or some cities at least. Spain’s “El Mundo” daily reported last week that the City of Madrid’s administration, which happens to be run by the conservative Partido Popular, appropriated 8,000 Euros – about $14,000 – to a festival of pornography called “Pornolab.”


The poster the festival’s organizers are using to publicize the event riffs on World Cup fever and the Spanish team’s inability to score goals. It features a quote from present coach Luis Aragones who told the media some time ago, “Nobody should say we have problems sticking it in.”


That’s pretty good stuff. Here your $14,000 tax contribution gets you a cluster bomb to be used indiscriminately on some Iraqi child or, at least, another beat Cop.

The festival’s commercial tag line is “100 Percent Pigs.”

According to the article by Marta Arroyo, “the program includes activities with such suggestive titles as “Do it yourself,” “Tri-Devils,” a campaign in favor of the legalization of the [menage a trois], “Wax, knives and other painful pleasures,” “Robotica Erotica,” “We’re girls and we’re going to film a porno,” and “Deep throat workshop for boys and girls.”

The stated object of “Pornolab” is a serious one that attempts to, “question the validity of mainstream porno [there’s an oxymoron for ya], reconsider the possibility of individuals constructing a personal pornography beyond the industry, its interests, and myopias.”

(And you get to watch people have sex on film, too!)

The old Generalissimo Francisco Franco is spinning in his grave. The quiet cultural revolution unfolding under the aegis of Socialist President Jose Luis Zapatero continues apace. And it does so in the face of the same obstinate half of the country we are seeing across the democratic world where razor-thin elections are now the norm. In Spain, la gente de orden, or “people of order,” are still reeling from the government’s legalization of gay marriage a year ago.

The festival may seem excessive and off-point for a municipal administration with concrete problems, but that’s what happens when you repress and punish people for their private pleasures for decades, (centuries if you throw the inquisition in) you get the counter-reaction deserved.

The hedonists and hopheads of Spain know full well the emotional nose-tweaking they are delivering the good people of order and they also know it is well-deserved.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

And Nooooow...Asymmetrical Warfare!

Three detainees at Guantánamo Base in Cuba committed suicide a couple of days ago. The U.S. Government’s response was to call the self-inflicted deaths something like, “acts of violence in an asymmetrical war against us.”

How convenient.

No really, how convenient. It will be a better world now that these guys can take it to us without killing anybody. Suicide without the bombs.

“Hey scribe, some guy hates your blog, so he killed himself. Take that!”

Ouch.

And what on earth is “asymmetrical” war anyway? As far as the staff at highwayscribery can discern, that’s when a guy with no weapons, who walks around in irons and an orange jumpsuit wondering what happened to his family, kills himself.

See the asymmetry?

It has got to be tough flacking for the Bush administration, given the boldface lie, the Orwellian nuance, daily hurled at a thoroughly unbelieving country and world.

How dare they?

The U.S government runs a dragnet across the Afghani landscape and other selective locales, arresting people without charges, throwing them into what Amnesty International has called a gulag, letting them sit there for five years without telling them why, without providing any legal representation, and without permitting the slightest communication with their families, and then accuses them of violence when they can no longer stand the psychological torture and end their thankless lives.

We are, of course, expected to believe these are terrorists of the worst kind, in the same way we were supposed to believe a mushroom cloud was soon to blossom over an American city of Saddam Hussein’s choosing: without proof, without evidence, without a legal process of discovery, with only the blatant and constantly stoked fear of ANOTHER 9/11.

This is dictatorial, barely discriminate state killing, and you cannot preach democracy (and expect people to believe it) when you are practicing the exact opposite.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi This; Idiots

While the media, in its bovine and herd-like instinct to do the same story everybody else is (but louder), was giving itself an orgasm over the murder of a man/myth in Iraq, New Orleans continued to rot, schools continued to crumble, and the country’s debt continued to rise.

In addition, reality was coming from strange quarters, those of Sen. Arlen Specter (r), who chairs the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. That post puts him in charge of intelligence matters sort of.

Specter has not been pleased by reports the administration is eavesdropping on Americans and that telephone companies have been handing over records of the calls you’re making to the spook-set under the administration’s thumb.

The good senator is playing the checks-and-balances card calling the administration on its constitutional carelessness when he’s probably just upset about being left out of the loop.

Anyway, he’s been trying to set up some hearings on the telephone company records stuff. Some parliamentary fine-points came up and Specter needed to get the CEO’s on board without subpoenas by calling a “closed” hearing. A “closed” hearing, by the way is one you don’t know what’s going in.

Like the scribe said...out of the loop.

So what happened next was that Specter wrote a letter to the (v)ice (p)resident since he’d heard Dead Duck Dick was lobbying members of the judiciary committee behind his back, because the administration doesn’t want any hearings.

This is par for the course (of course), it’s just that now congressional (r)epublicans are beginning to feel bereft of that thing between their legs, mostly because that thing’s gone after six years of lock-step (goose-step?) obedience to our infallible leader.

A couple of weeks ago, “U.S. News and World Report” did a pretty big story on “the most powerful man you’ve never heard of.” The reference was to a guy named Addington who is Cheney’s right-wing when it comes to the matter of expanding presidential power to do things like make energy policy with oil guys, torture people in secret prisons around the world etc.

The story talked about how he and our torturer-in-chief, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, have been waving Article II of the Constitution around since these jerks stole the 2000 election.

That Article establishes the President as commander-in-chief, without getting into details, but making clear Congress has a role in all of it, too. Actually the Congress stuff is in Article I and you gotta believe them there Articles were listed in order of importance.

Anyway, these guys have used this innocuous and largely prescriptive bit of the Constitution for six years in an effort to write Congress out of the political picture.

Congress, of course, stands as the people’s representative.

So Specter wrote Cheney: “I was further advised that you told those Republican members that the telephone companies had been instructed not to provide any information to the Committee as they were prohibited from disclosing classified information.

“I was surprised, to say the least, that you sought to influence, really determine, the action of the Committee without calling me first, or at least calling me at some point. This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican Senators caucus lunch yesterday and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions enroute from the buffet to my table.”

(the scribe put that in because he finds the bit about the buffet priceless)

But here’s the good and true stuff the inquisitor of Anita Hill should be congratulated on: “There is no doubt that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which sets forth the exclusive procedure for domestic wiretaps which requires the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. [scribe’s emphasis]. It may be that the President has inherent authority under Article II to trump that statute but the President does not have a blank check and the determination on whether the President has such Article II power calls for a balancing test which requires knowing what the surveillance program constitutes.”

He goes on to do a little (long overdue) threatening with subpoenas and pointing out that, all the media hoopla and poll taking-aside, the administration is givenn the American people the middle figure by continuing to eavesdrop (illegally).

Folks, this battle about rights is the stuff of good politics and there’s not enough of it out there to keep the scribe from drifting, again and again, into poetry and prose.

When you kill a man with a five hundred-pound bomb and spend the day whooping it up, you’ve taken war as politics by other means too far. You are glorifying death and murder (at the expense of extinguished innocents) and you’re not acting like an enlightened nation, but rather like a bunch of savages.

But that's not news.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Two More Fallen

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Two Camp Pendleton Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Capt. Nathanael Doring of Apple Valley, MN and Cpl. Richard Bennett of Girard, KS:

"Capt. Doring and Cpl. Bennett sacrificed their lives in service to America. They join the ranks of heroic and brave Marines who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Nathanael and Richard's families, friends and fellow Marines."

Doring, 31, and Bennett, 25, died May 30 of injuries sustained as a result of a non-hostile helicopter accident near Al Taqaddum, Iraq. They were assigned to Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron-169, Marine Aircraft Group-39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Capt. Doring and Cpl. Bennett, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Four Recordings: Vedette in New York




Deepa Fernandes producer and hostess of WBAI's "Wake Up Call" has provided us with some links to the recordings guitar wizard Omar Torrez and the scribe completed while on the highway through New York. the scribe will be wrestling with the mechanics of this and posting them throughout the day.

They are MP3 segments, whatever that means. Maybe your computer company stuffed the necessary audio player into your machine. Omar and the scribe hope so:

"The Origins of Vedette's Truth" sets up the oppressive religious and patriarchal situation the protagonist is born into and explains how her penchant for never telling a lie was born. It’s adapted to Omar’s piece, “Abuelita.” (Page 14 in the book).


"The Seduction of Father Olivares" details Vedette’s escape from the Carmelite convent in Seville during the bienio negro. Held as prisoner, Vedette is unaware of the great general strike of 1934 occurring on the outside, but she too senses the time to act has come. It is recited to Omar’s interpretation of a Venezuelan Waltz, “Pica Pica.” (Page 99 in the book)


"Vedette and El Fariz in Las Marismas" Having seduced the priest and secured her release, Vedette encounters her mentor and representative of all things Arab in Spain – El Fariz. Together they traverse the wetlands of the Guadalquivir River - las marismas - as the dervish sets her off on the next stage of her spiritual journey. The Torrez’ composition is entitled, “Spanish Romance.” (Page 113 in your epistle)

"The Broken-Hearted Bullfighter" Much of the book having passed, her anarchist federation thrown out of the fictional village of Cueva del Rio, Vedette and her compatriot Rufian take refuge in the abandoned cortijo of the bull breeder, El Conde de Lagrimas. There they come upon three love letters from the bullfighter Zulano de Chiclana to his paramour Rocio, which remind each of pre-revolutionary love’s class cruelty and all they have lost in the fascist repression. The guitar is “Etude in E Minor”. (Page 284 in the novel)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bobby Kennedy - On the 38th Anniversary of His Murder


Bobby. Posted by Hello


(Reprinted from last year)

Tonight the scribe takes special pleasure in updating this Web log, for the subject is the memory of the late Bobby Kennedy. June 5th was the 37th anniversary of his assassination in Los Angeles.

the scribe thought it was today, and it is a reflection of our rightward drift and division that so little, if anything, was written on Sunday about this man whom, whatever his political inclinations, gave his life to the country.

In any case, we’ll do this a few days late; the sentiment is no less deep or profound.

Once a guy is dead and not around to defend his own name the enemy tends to do a dance all over their reputation. The Kennedys, Jack and Bobby, were by virtue of their murders raised to the level of saints. In reality they were politicians with all that implies and which left them open for some pretty vicious hits post mortem.

And furthermore, the scribe doesn’t go in much for family dynasties, which by their very nature are anti-democratic. You only need to look at what’s going on now to get an idea.

Nonetheless, the scribe lives his life in the belief that Senator Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign represented the high point of the American experience and that his murder marked the beginning of our decline as a special and enlightened nation which, through its ideas and not its armies, led a democratic revolution around the world.

To go back and listen to Bobby’s speeches from that terrible and tremendous time is to wonder what country they might have been delivered in, because it’s not the America any of us are experiencing. He and his brother the President were the closest thing to social democrats the post-war United States ever produced and both were shot like dogs for their efforts.

His own presidential candidacy featured a discussion about inequality and poverty never, ever repeated in American politics. He took the anti-war movement mainstream and gave it a head of steam and respectability it did not lose until they had killed him.

If you ever get frustrated at Democratic presidential candidates and wonder why it is so goddamn hard for them to just come out against a war they know is wrong, remember what happened to the last guy who tried it.

As they say in Spain, “Haz bien, trae mal” or “Do good, bring bad.”

That he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan is a certainty. That more bullets than the eight Sirhan’s gun could hold were found is also a certainty. That the doorway beam from which two bullets were pried was inexplicably burned by the Los Angeles Police Department is also a known fact. The rest can be left to those with the time to sort out conspiracies; for us it serves as a stark reminder of how the American right wing plays for keeps.

They talk a lot about the bankruptcy of American liberalism, the loss of direction and lack of ideas. They never wonder what the murders of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., meant in that regard. They were young men, standard-bearers of the left with many years of fight, maturity and leadership still ahead when they were struck down. And they could not be replaced.

We should remember that.

The recently departed Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Kennedy in his classic “Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail ‘72”. He was addressing the McGovern campaign’s idea of using Bobby’s voice on commercial spots:

“In purely pragmatic terms, the Kennedy voice tapes will probably be effective in this dreary campaign; and in the end we might all agree that it was Right and Wise to use them...but in the meantime there will be a few bad losers here and there, like me, who feel a very powerful sense of loss and depression every time we hear that voice – that speedy, nasal Irish twang that mailed the ear like a shot of ‘Let It Bleed’ suddenly cutting through the doldrums of a dull Sunday morning on a plastic FM station.

There is a strange psychic connection between Bobby Kennedy’s voice and the sound of the Rolling Stones. They were part of the same trip, that wild sense of breakthrough in the late Sixties when almost anything seemed possible.

The whole era peaked on March 31, 1968 when LBJ went on national TV to announce that he wouldn’t run for re-election – that everything he stood for was fucked, and by quitting he made himself the symbolic ex-champ of the Old Order.

It was like driving an evil King off the throne. Nobody knew exactly what would come next, but we all understood that whatever happened would somehow be the product of the ‘New Consciousness.’ By May it was clear that the next President would be either Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy and that the War would be over by Christmas...”


the scribe lived that connection before ever reading the passage. The Stones marked the boundaries of his lifestyle as a young rake, Bobby his political activism as a reformed one.

As a reporter with the “Los Angeles Business Journal” the scribe had to do a story about the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was slain. He asked to be taken into the infamous “pantry” where the nefarious act went down. He didn’t stay long.

In 1966, Kennedy gave perhaps his most famous speech to an arena filled with young people in Cape Town, South Africa.

We close tonight with an excerpt from the same:

“[T]he belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

“It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Let it bleed indeed.

Book Report: "Dreams from My Father," by Barack Obama


highwayscribery wanted to spend this day on a book report of Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama’s autobiography, 'Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance"

The book was a Christmas gift from the scribe’s sister Rosemary and was received with the usual mild surprise that accompanies the reception of a book you don’t really want to read.

highwayscribery enjoyed Obama’s colorful and deftly delivered speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (included in the book put out by Three Rivers Press). But in ensuing months it seemed the newly elected senator’s name popped up too often in association with positions a little beyond his experience, like vice president or president.

There’s a Democratic Party discussion in there somewhere: Is the glass half full because Obama’s rise among what former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Georgia) used to call “the great mentioners” reflects his amazing talent? Or is it half empty because a guy starts jumping ranks thanks to his world beat name and a decent speech two years ago?

The highwayscribery creed encourages the acceptance of given books as a kind of natural instruction from the world itself, from forces beyond our own (book) consuming impulses.

And the book is quite good as it goes about detailing Obama’s unique, yet quintessentially American pedigree and journey. A kind of Tiger Woods to the progressive political world, Obama is African-American, without the tragedy of slavery separating him from old country forebears.

He knows his lineage, his father, his grandfather. He returns to his native Kenya where a grandmother explains how, “First there was Miwiri. It’s not known who came before. Miwiru sired Sigoma, Sigoma sired Owiny, Owiny sired Kisodhi, Kisodhi sired Ogelo, Ogelo sired Otondi, Otonidi sired Obongo, Obongo sired Okoth, and Okoth sired Opiyo. The women who bore them, their names are forgotten, for that was the way of our people.”

His father, a scholarship student from Kenya to the University of Hawaii, met his mother in that distant American outpost. She came from Kansas stock, her father a soldier of fortune and westward drifter on the trail of the big break.

His place in time as a man educated in the west at the height of the African liberation from its European colonizers forces the senior Barack Obama home, abandoning the young boy in Hawaii for good.

That is the DNA, much explained and dissected for it is the point of the book, and somewhat the point of the politician – race and its subtleties.

The greatest surprise was the book’s prose. Obama was, at one time, editor of the “Harvard Law Review.” highwayscribery has never had occasion to read that particular publication, but must admit to a sense that brand name conjures up ponderous articles short on good and engaging narrative content.

But it may be a place where good writing is encouraged because he possesses a comfortable mastery of the written word. We’re not talking the heights of prosodic beauty, but a facile ability to render crucial insights his unique path and intelligence have provided, into the written word. One thing is to have led an interesting life, it is another to successfully convey why.

The highpoint of the book may be the following passage. The set up is that Obama Sr. has come to meet his son, who is ten years old, and it really doesn’t go too well. As the father is leaving, he decides to play a recording of music from the families tribe, the Luo:

“‘Come Barry,’ my father said, ‘You will learn from the master.’ And suddenly his slender body was swaying back and forth, the lush sound was rising, his arms were swinging as they cast an invisible net, his feet wove over the floor in off-beats, his bad leg stiff but his rump high, his head back, his hips moving in a tight circle. The rhythm quickened, the horns sounded, and his eyes closed to follow his pleasure, and then one eye opened to peek down at me and his solemn face spread into a silly grin, and my mother smiled, and my grandparents walked in to see what all the commotion was about. I took my first tentative steps with my eyes closed, down, up, my arms swinging, the voices lifting. And I hear him still: As I follow my father into the sound, he lets out a quick shout, bright and high, a shout that leaves much behind and reaches out for more, a shout that cries for laughter.”

So you get an idea that it’s not some kind of policy book or rhetorical disquisition. It’s a young man’s story and takes the reader through Obama’s developing sense of the black reality in America, his clumsy first steps as an organizer on Chicago’s South Side, a rare portrait of the legendary Mayor Harold Robinson, and over to Africa in discovery of family lore and luggage.

Obama’s rise to prominence represents something of a bellwether in less than obvious ways. Sure, he’s one of only a handful of blacks ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, but in this story he weaves the consumption of marijuana, alcohol and even cocaine into the fabric without using overly bright colors and without trying to sugar-coat it either.

He plays basketball, he “adopts” in his own parlance an identity from those being offered-up by the pop culture of the 1980s - the years of his flaming youth. And now he’s a senator and all of that without having had to live like a Mormon.

And that’s good, as there is much else good about Obama, a writer to rank with those who make a permanent vocation of writing, an intelligent fellow with the honesty to talk about black-on-black gripes, to wrestle with the loss of blackness success in the white world represents, to convey the suffocating sense that the white world is the only game in town.

* * * *

Here is a video being put out by the Save the Internet Coalition

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Indian Dreams, Indian Nightmares

SAN DIEGO - highway scribe here, out from under the post-tour deluge awaiting upon return from the exciting days of road writing and investigation and music and poetry back in New York.

Reading this morning’s (June 1) “San Diego Union-Tribune” an article about discrimination favoring vegetarians in India seemed to offer a strange insight; proof that if we turned our Western World upside down, it would be right-side-up to somebody else.

Favorite topics here include alternative ways of living the world and the possibilities posed by different arrangements, configurations, societal organization and what have you.

The article, by the Associated Press’ Ramol Talwar Badam, bears the headline, “In Bombay, meat is getting harder to find.”

There are 16 million people in Bombay, a populous city in a teeming country, and realtors increasingly won’t sell to meat-eaters. The vegetarian habits are born of religious belief, chiefly Hindu, although the writer mentions Jains, whatever that is.

The town is growing more “cosmopolitan’ according to Badam and that means more people coming from Gujarat and Rajasthan, which are “strongly vegetarian” states.

That makes diet sound like politics, which of course vegetarians in the U.S. and other Western democracies have been trying to tell us for a long time. Remember The Smiths’ album back in the ’80s, “Meat is Murder”?

Folks don’t like being kept out of certain realty enclaves in Bombay, but their court challenges have been denied because the law is essentially on the veggie side.

“It’s just not fair. It’s a monopoly by vegetarians,” one interviewee laments. “If you step out to eat, there’s nothing for miles because everything around is veggie.”

(!)

Which must be a relief to members of the animal kingdom throughout the subcontinent.

It really sounds crazy, like there’s another bizzaro world the U.S. can see by passing through the watery surface of a mirror.

Another article, in the same issue of the “Union-Trib,” demonstrates for us, nonetheless, the sliding rule of justice as it adjusts to fit different countries and cultures. In the very same India where farm animals get a break, it’s not always so easy to be a human being.

You’ll remember from high school or college, (hopefully) lectures about the caste system in Indian whereby a high class of philosopher/priests known as Brahmin get all the breaks, which are distributed downward until you get to the untouchables, whose plight it is never to catch a break.

Anyway, another Associated Press piece with the headline, “Government doctors end strike in India,” tells the story of a work stoppage by folks throughout the medical professions and schools that went on for over two weeks in India.

They were protesting a government plan to reserve more places for “low-caste Hindus and ethnic minorities.” They didn’t like it and shut things down pretty good as a result.

And these are the people who are supposed to take care of the people.