Friday, September 29, 2006

Up Next at the United Nations

Today's contribution duplicates what's happening over at the "Washington Post" GlobalChat page. With the scribe having participated in three such discussions to date it would appear the folk back East were not making a mistake or looking for some other highwayscribery. Below are the question asked and the scribe's answer.

LEAD: 15 nations gather this week in New York to conduct a straw vote on who is to be the next U.N. Secretary General. Leading candidates include South Korea's Ban Ki Moon, India's Shashi Tharoor and Jordan's Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein.

QUESTION: Who is the right successor to Kofi Annan? Should the U.S. support reliable South Korea, rising India or a troubled Middle East?

Answer: How about giving a writer and journalist a chance? Sort of youthful (50), India's Shashi Tharror has penned a number of books both fiction and nonfiction, political and literary. These works mostly deal with his native country, although his last, "Bookless in Baghdad," would suggest he's reaching out. Literature and writing are the tools of nuance and understanding and we could use heavy doses of both in the chest-pounding realm of John Bolton. Tharror's an interesting fellow, cut along the lines of the engaged intellectual who can do two things, as his 18 years working at the United Nations would suggest. Korea's Ban Ki-Moon is a diplomat who has done time in Austria as an ambassador, and in Seoul as a government/foreign minister guy, but his track record, at first blush, gives him the pasty pallor of the career bureaucrat (we emphasize "at first blush"). Jordan's Prince Zeid Raad al-Hussein has spent six years at the United Nations, much less time than Tharror, so he'd
lose out on the experience question. He should also lose out by virtue of the fact he's a prince. Surely the U.N. must respect the inner and baroque workings of tiny and ancient member kingdoms, but should preferably lean toward leaders imbibed with democratic sentiment and knowledge of how open and pluralistic political systems work.

The Clinton/Wallace tet-a-tet

Is the scribe the only one with a memory, or the only one with a bad memory?

Back in 1993 when then-President Clinton announced his appointment of Ruth Bader-Ginsburg to the Supreme Court, wasn't it Chris Wallace who asked a question that so upset the president that he short-circuited the press conference and walked out of the room?

Seems their mutual antagonism goes a ways back.

the highway scribe

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Corporal Granados

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Le Grand Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Corporal Cesar A. Granados of Le Grand:

"Corporal Granados' bravery is a shining example of the determination and courage that makes our nation's armed forces strong. Maria and I wish to send our deepest sympathies to Cesar's family and friends. We join with all Californians in mourning the loss of a dedicated individual."

Granados, 21, died Sept. 15 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Corporal Granados, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Sargent 1st Class Merideth Howard

  Posted by Picasa
the highway scribe’s mom likes to say, “Be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

The (r)epublicans wanted a debate on national security to bolster their sagging electoral prospects and they got one, complete with the ghost of Bill Clinton wagging his finger at them.

Talk about a right-winger’s nightmare. Clinton may have disappointed the left, but he never ceased to horrify le droit as they say in La France.

Bush, angry and bent on jailing some reporter for leaking findings in the “national intelligence estimate,” declassified his favorite parts of the report.

The idea was to counter arguments the war in Iraq was helping terrorists recruit and inflame, but it had just the opposite effect.

No clearer example of the (p)resident’s disconnect from the reality of Iraq could be asked for. Even when he reads it, he thinks it says something else.

the scribe likes politics because he’s a leftist who would like to engineer a more just society, so all this national security stuff does not really tune his fork.

Nonetheless, four years of war are four years of war. People keep dying and the world gets more crazy and it’s just a little hard to consciously avoid this ghastly affair unleashed by (w).

Apropos, below, is an article from Wednesday’s “San Diego Union-Tribune” entitled, “Death of gunner, 52, shows strain on U.S.”

Sometimes a headline’s enough to say it all and this is one such case.

Be that as it may, highwayscribery will excerpt some quotes and throw in the usual pithy asides before getting on with the business of the day which, fortunately, does not involve killing or (hopefully) being killed.

Sargent First Class Meredith Howard was an adventurous and trailblazing woman who became a firefighter back in the 1970s and joined the National Guard in 1988. The article suggests she basically went about her business, showing up to drills, handling paperwork, and hoping to get out with some benefits after 20 years service.

But then she got called up, something of a first, to serve in a “provincial reconstruction team” which performed work suggested by its name: a kind of military outfit with civil pretensions. These units, the piece by Kim Barker and James Janega of the “Chicago Tribune” explained, were being filled by a mix of Army, Navy, Air Force and Reserve soldiers as a “stopgap” measure.

That means they were scrambling to staff a project with people who didn’t belong, and it represented the first step toward Howard’s perdition.

Anyway, she didn’t like that work and managed to get herself a position in a gun turret atop one of those ubiquitous Humvees so symbolic of our desperate Middle Eastern missions.

She wanted this and liked it and thought driving around like that would give little, oppressed Afghani girls something to dream about, which should give one pause where the policy of sending soldiers to build societies is concerned.

The article noted, “According to Pentagon policy, women are excluded from serving in combat units, though in the chaotic realities of Iraq and Afghanistan, their support roles have grown ever closer to the front lines.”

That means they are scrambling to staff combat missions with people who don’t belong on them; the second step down her road to perdition.

Anyway, she was killed in (what else?) a suicide bomber attack outside Kabul on Sept. 8, the oldest servicewoman to have died in combat – ever.

The description of how that happened is worth reading, if you’re not already up to your eyeballs in death and destruction.

We run this piece so as to echo the editorial intent of the “Chicago Tribune” and the “San Diego Union-Tribune,” which are to be lauded for assigning and repeating the piece, respectively.

We run it to continue our long-standing focus on the foot soldiers in this war, emphasizing faces rather than think-tank policy arguments, which you can get by early rising and watching Bill Kristol on the Sunday morning talk shows.

Like our regular bulletins from the California governor’s office, we run them to remember those who have died such terrible deaths, to prick consciences, and mold a reflective and critical civic culture.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Post Script: Mexico

  Posted by Picasa
The candidacy of the left-wing guy who ran for president of Mexico and lost, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, is now over.

Since we introduced highwayscribery readers to AMLO (as Obrador is known) and then staked the publication’s nonexistent reputation for clarity with a prediction that ALL HELL WAS ABOUT TO BREAK LOOSE IN MEXICO! we thought it best to address why that did not happen.

Cooler heads prevailed. Demonstrative of his power to screw things up, charged by his detractors with being messianic, Lopez Obrador refused to throw his street supporters into battle with the forces of order. He pulled back and nobody got hurt.

Vicente Fox was cool, too. Circumventing a clash with Obrador’s army he held the national fiesta of “el grito” someplace other than where they usually do, because that was flooded with AMLO’s army.

The government finally declared Felipe Calderon, the conservative guy with a great education, its president.

Lopez Obrador’s people declared him the president of everyone else and the repeated spectacle of half countries disavowing their fealty to a sketchily elected president played out more clearly than ever with his launching of a “parallel” government.

We’ll have to see how that goes.

He got no love from the international press which played it safe and backed the electoral process as presently constituted in Mexico, which is more diplomatic than questioning, but there are limits, to what writing articles about someone or something can achieve.

It was dismissive of those who supported him, happy to accept conservative Mexico’s characterization of them as dangerous and riff-raffy, which they probably were.

Lopez Obrador pushed the system to its limits through civil disobedience, made things uncomfortable for people. But his vaunted and threatened revolutionism turned out to be simple reformism, taking his movement the civic route rather than a violent one.

If he left everything in tact and standing - after intimating he could probably do otherwise - he certainly gave voice to a deep anger from poor Mexico. Those gripes are here to stay and they are no longer poorly kept secrets. It is no mistake that Calderon’s first public pronouncements as president-elect were in the name of “equality.”

That is Obrador’s doing and largely because he had serious backing. By giving the still-new party a moment of rally and a grudging place in the annals of Mexican history, he may have helped to give it an identity as it moves into a position of real power.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Press Freedoms in the United States

In as much as the highway scribe writes all this stuff for free during the few cracks in time his extremely lucrative career affords, today's entry will be the same one requested by the "Washington Post" and its "GlobalChat" offering.

The question being entertained over there today was the following:

Lead: China has just passed a restrictive new press law; the mullahs
in Iran recently closed the country's leading liberal newspaper; a coup in
Thailand threatens press freedom there. And around the world, journalists
who challenge power face personal and professional danger.

Question: How free are journalists in your country? Even where there
isn't outright censorship, how much self-censorship goes on? How can
journalists work together to protect each other and our common goal of open

highwayscribery's response went thusly:

On the Aug. 22 post at “highwayscribery” entitled, "The Bush Government: Your Friend" we took it upon ourselves to reprint a press release from the American Society of Journalist and Authors (ASJA) requesting that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) permit residents of Katrina trailer parks in Morgan City and Davantt, La., to talk with reporters, because they had prohibited them from doing so.

Earlier, March 5 to be exact, we did another post entitled “Reporters on Trial” recapping an article by “The Post’s” own Dan Eggen regarding investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into possible leaks relative to the now infamous secret CIA prisons abroad and the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, and the Bush administration’s plans to charge reporters under espionage laws.

“highwayscribery” noted at the time, “That’s absurd, of course. It is the journalists duty to keep government honest. Calling that spying because of the tiresome and weak argument that we’re ‘at war’ is the height of irresponsibility.”

Last week the highway scribe read in the “San Diego Union-Tribune” that the Department of Justice was opposed to a Reporter’s Shield law trudging it’s lonely way through Congress, the reason for which is unimportant here because it’s the DOJ's opposition itself that speaks to the larger question.

To top it all off, the two guys who wrote the book about Barry Bonds and his steroid use are being sent to jail for refusing to reveal sources.

So you be the judge as to what’s happening to reporters' freedoms here in this ostensibly freest of countries.

FEMA backed down when wind of the ASJA’s campaign reached it. So binding together in unions and trade associations that actively defend our rights to write can work. As long as we can write we must make the issue an important one. We draw up the story board, not Karl Rove and that’s the ultimate power and responsibility.

This and that...

the scribe was down in San Diego on assignment most of last week and decided to take the rest from blogging he'd promised himself, but failed to deliver upon, back around Labor Day. We'll begin to feed the beast again this week. Meantime, go see La Vedette, Gloriella's My Space page where she is featuring a piece from Rafael Cortes, a marvelous flamenco guitarist.

Specialist Andrews

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Weimar Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Harley D. Andrews of Weimar:

"Spc. Andrews fought and died for his country and deserves our utmost gratitude for making the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Maria and I will keep Harley's family in our prayers. He joins a proud legacy of heroes who valiantly served this great nation."

Andrews, 22, died Sept. 11 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Ar Ramadi, Iraq. He was assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion, 130th Engineer Brigade, Warner Barracks, Bamberg, Germany.

In honor of Spc. Andrews, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


You'll note we have linked to the "Washington Post" global chat blog. They contacted highwayscribery and asked if we'd be one of their GlobalMaven "advance blogging team." We said yes without being clear on what that meant, largely because it's the "Washington Post." Nor did we ask why just in case they were making a mistake and really wanted some other blog's input.

We weighed in today for the first time on the issue of whether the Pope's apology to Muslims was sufficient and necessary. Here is the scribe's response.

But you should go to the blog and encourage their efforts to democratize journalism and take the measure of real people out there globally chatting (as it were).

To make room we moved out the "Save the Internet" coalition button because it would appear the big telecommunications bill will not be passed by Congress this year. So we're all equal in cyberspace for another 12 months, thank heavens.

Sargeants Montes and Howard and Corporal Benson

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Alameda Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. 1st Class Merideth L. Howard of Alameda:

"Maria and I are saddened to hear the news of Sgt. 1st Class Howard's death. Merideth braved the dangers of combat to protect our country ultimately giving her life in service. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family during this painful time."

Howard, 52, died Sept. 8 as a result of injuries sustained when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated near her HMMWV in Kabul, Afghanistan. She was assigned to the Army Reserve's 405th Civil Affairs Battalion, Fort Bragg, NC.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of El Centro Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Luis A. Montes of El Centro:

"The men and women of our nation's armed forces like Sgt. Montes put their lives on the line everyday to protect our country. Maria and I offer our sincere condolences to Luis' loved ones. His courageous commitment to our country will not be forgotten."

Montes, 22, died Sept. 7 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, TX, of injuries sustained on Sept. 1 when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Sgt. Montes, 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. Johnathan L. Benson of North Branch, MN:

"Today, we honor a Marine who courageously walked in harms way and risked his life for his fellow Americans. At this incredibly difficult time, Maria and I extend our heartfelt sympathies to Johnathan's family and friends. His loss is a painful reminder of the important work the members of our military do at home and abroad."

Benson, 21, died Sept. 9 as a result of wounds received on June 17 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Monday, September 18, 2006

Wiretapping etc.

(p)resident Bush held a press conference on Friday during which he showed just how out of his depth he is in the job.

He was clearly stewing over the fact that Colin Powell had put the screws to him by coming out against his beloved torture bill, but unlike men of greater gauge and talent, he couldn't conceal his anger nor find the proper outlet for it.

So he took it out on the media, almost yelling and most definitely berating, going into his usual bit about how only he knows what it takes to protect Americans and suggesting that those who disagree are drawing parallels between the morality of Al-Qaeda and that of the American people.

And if you had a hard time following that reasoning, don't worry you're not alone.

Meantime, he's trying to get a law passed making his illegal wiretapping proposal legal.

MoveOn is circulating a petition.

Their presentation can be a little over the top, and sometimes they ape the worst of Karl Rove's tactics and language manipulation, but this one is worth signing.

The "Los Angeles Times" ran an article today entitled, "Head in the Sand Liberals" that's interesting.

Sam Harris basicly states that, even though he's a liberal, he has to admit people on the American progressive front are soft on terrorism and don't understand the severity of threat from radical Islam.

There is, from the scribe's perspective, no doubt about this. After reading about the 2004 murder of Theo Van Gogh in Holland -- in reviews for a new book out about the battle as it plays out in Holland -- the scribe is convinced that something terrible is truly afoot.

You ask, "What took you so long scribe?"

The answer can be found in the piece as well where Harris notes liberals are so blinded by their hatred for George W. Bush that they refuse to see the larger picture and accept the conflict at hand.

True, but who's fault?

The (r)epublicans have used the war to divide the country and to make hay at election time, insisting they be rallied around, and arguing that other matters of national import can be put off until a much later time.

And so we are stuck in the position of having to hope the (p)resident's war goes poorly so that his party will have nothing to campaign on and no success to validate it Otherwise we will never see health care, infrastructural invesments, and an improvement in the lot of those least fortunate among us.


This week "La Vedette, Gloriella" is featuring the music of Glasgovian flamenco artist "Cuffy" on her My Space page. It’s a stunning piece called “La Bola Naranja Rondeña. Check it out.

Friday, September 15, 2006

More on Torture

The following was sent by highwayscribery friend and ally John Rippo following yesterday's post on torture. It should help put the lie to (p)resident Bush's mantra about the need "to protect the American people.

Well put. As a victim of torture myself---one who did not know the answers to questions asked of me by an interrogator----I want to laugh at the notion that this is somehow necessary, relevant, useful and productive.

It isn't.

The idea behind torture as an interrogation method and practice is flawed because it rests on a fundamentally incorrect assumption----that the victim, or the one under Inquisition, actually has knowledge or information that someone wants to know about a particular thing or event. There is no mechanism in the practice to discriminate between someone purposefully with- holding information, and one who has nothing of value to offer. The inquisitive process has no way of dealing with those who do not know, neither does it have a way of dealing with those who do not ask the right questions.

The regular argument made by those in favor of torture, the "dirty bomb going off in an hour" kind of thing is farcical on its face. Assuming that its elements could be correct for a moment, the contest becomes a waiting game. The first lie from a victims' mouth sets off inquisitors on a wild goose chase until the tragedy they wish to avoid plays out. Or, the victim stands tough and waits until his attack has carried off, knowing that he'll die anyway, and prefers to die with the satisfaction of keeping his opponent in suspense until its too late.

The regular argument for torture hearkens back to the days of the Inquisition in Europe; a time of ecclesiastical absolutism that pursued heresy unto death. The inquisitive form of justice is exactly what the United States was founded in opposition to; the notion of rights, derived from a creator, inherent in humanity, not able to be trespassed by any sovereign was a new and threatening development in the world in the 18th century; one that was confidently predicted to fail at its first crisis. Unfortunately, those who took that view may yet be proved right by those who erroneously call themselves "American". The notion of human rights is why we have trials by impartial juries in open courts where an accused can confront his accusers, offer evidence in his defense and where the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a reality. This civilized and eminently respectful approach was immediately and bitterly condemned by Inquisitors of Europe who offered the thumbscrew, the rack and the stake as a Christian form of justice instead.

This American president is a miserable excuse of a human being; one with the sensiblities of a tyrant, the will of a dictator and the guile of circus carny. Nothing calling itself an American should give him or his positions the time of day.

As for me, I was introduced to an old Turkish form of torture as a child called Bastinado which consists of holding the victim in place and hitting the soles of his feet repeatedly until he talks. In my case, the information wanted was confirmation that my father had a mistress. My inquisitor was my mother who thought that she had cancer and would be left for a younger woman. She worked me over for an entire weekend, using wire hangers, a belt, a heavy rolling pin and ironically enough, a meat tenderizing mallet on my feet until they were the color and shape of eggplants. Numb from the waist down and hyperventilating, I passed out more than once and went into shock. On the few occasions that I succeeded in crawling under the bed, she poled me out with a broom handle, and her little games began again. And again. The worst of it wasn't that my dad had no mistress, but that I didn' t understand what she meant and couldn't give my mother any information that would make her stop. At the age of five, I didn't know what a mistress was.

The form of torture---Bastinado---was something that my seafaring family remembered culturally from fighting the Turks in the Mediterranean for centuries. It had been practiced at first by them, later by the Italians against them and framed some of the words of the dialect of their culture. Though painful---I still walk with a cane from it, forty years later---it was fruitless because it was directed at one who had no information of value because there was no information of value to be gotten because the suspicions that spurred the action were groundless.

And groundless suspicion is what the American system of justice was intended to avoid.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"For" Torture?

  Posted by Picasa
The Bush crowd are running around Capitol Hill the past few days trying to get permission from Congress to torture people and tap your phone lines without a warrant.

The administration has always held all these things are legal, so one must assume they want to make them double legal.

Yesterday’s installation of Dan Froomkin’s "White House Briefing" in the “Washington Post” gives a fairly good idea of the arm-twisting Bush, Prick Cheney, and Karl Rove are resorting to.

Bush was busy telling people that “as long as the War Crimes Act hangs over their [interrogators’} heads, they will not take the steps necessary to protect Americans.”

Beware. The administration is breezily making the idea of torture and “protecting Americans” the same thing.

Wonder if FDR needed torture to win World War II?

Among some of the things they’d like is the suspension of “habeas corpus” a fundamental right for all detainees and the thing which separates from the likes of, let’s say, Saddam Hussein.

Froomkin quoted an article in the “Philadelphia Inquirer” by Yale Professor Bruce Ackerman:

“Consider the case of Jose Padilla. A few months after Sept. 11, the president declared him an ‘enemy combatant,’ and locked him up in a military brig for three and a half years. During all this time, Padilla was denied the right to challenge his detention before a military or civilian tribunal...

“This gives the presidency a terrible precedent for the next Sept. 11. We all hope that this attack won’t come for a long time. But the day after the next tragedy, the Padilla case will be invoked to support the president if he sweeps hundreds or thousands into military detention. After a year or two the Supreme Court may intervene on the side of freedom. But perhaps the vote will go 5-4 the wrong way.

“It can’t happen to me, we tell ourselves. Very few Americans have done anything to support the Islamo-fascists, whatever [p]resident Bush may mean by this dark term. But the next attack may be by home-grown terrorists. All of us are potential Jose Padillas, not a select few.”

What Ackerman means is that when Cheney says critics of his tragic war are aiding the terrorists, he may be marking those critics for the big roundup.

That scares the scribe and it should scare you, too.

Anyway, as of Thursday morning, not everything was going the [p]resident’s way with leaders from his own party showing a lack of interest in granting him carte blanche to trash what’s left of our democratic freedoms.

And the Bush crowd's penchant for using and discarding people came back to haunt them when former Secretary of State Colin Powell stepped into the fray and let the administration have it.

“The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,” Powell wrote whoremaster Sen. John McCain (r).

The point here is that they are FOR TORTURE. The administration thinks it can make the Democrats look bad on national security in an election season by making them come out AGAINST TORTURE.

The choice is yours.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

"The Sidewalk Smokers Club:" An Early Review

  Posted by Picasa
Here's a first review of the highway scribe's novel, "The Sidewalk Smokers Club." You can find it at "The Espresso" or read it below. The link to buy gets you an galley copy, which has since been edited. The book comes out next month.

Tobacco Based Rebellion Core of New Novel

The Sidewalk Smokers Club

The Sidewalk Smokers Club
by Stephen Siciliano.
ASJA press. 348pp. paper. $21.95. ISBN 0-595-39581-3. Available at

Stephen Siciliano’s novel is a roller coaster ride of wild juxtapositions of fate, relationships and the importance of having a decent place to smoke. The story centers around a group of misfits drawn together by the need to share a smoke in the common banishment of an impersonal sidewalk outside (and occasionally inside) a beloved restaurant. What starts as a nodding acquaintanceship soon turns into a bond of brotherhood that progresses from mutual assistance to murder, rage against an impersonal political machine, and a merry go round of relationship dynamics. All this while engaged in an increasingly grim fight with city hall and the winning of other battles along the way.

Smokers demands a lot from its reader; the pace of the novel is dizzying for one thing, and the tone is so well conveyed that a reader swears he can hear the characters’ voices instead of reading them off a page. While the book is something one doesn’t want to put down, one often has to run back to unearth significant details that suddenly blossom into full flower in later chapters. Besides that, Siciliano has an ear for tone and accent—this brings his characters and characterizations alive to where the reader must shut the book because the characters are too loud for comfort. Like brilliance on caffeine, Smokers radiates in all directions and dimensions yet returns to its zero point as surely as the swallows return to Capistrano.

Smokers is a hopeful novel; one hopes that one can find the kind hearted people who come to one’s aid as though they’re one of the Three Musketeers, even while off on a quest worthy of Don Quixote. Smokers showcases a world that perhaps we’d all like to inhabit for awhile and be the better for it. Recommended.

Death of a Lady and Lance Corporal Harris

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Redlands Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Hannah L. Gunterman of Redlands:

"As a member of the United States Army, Pfc. Gunterman courageously served our nation giving her life for the cause of freedom. Maria and I wish to send our deepest sympathies to Hannah's loved ones. We join with all Californians in mourning the loss of this brave soldier."

Gunterman, 20, died Sept. 4 of injuries sustained from a non-combat related cause in Taji, Iraq. She was assigned to the 542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion, Fort Lewis, WA.

In honor of Pfc. Gunterman, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Shane P. Harris of Las Vegas, NV:

"Lance Cpl. Harris was committed to the safety and protection of his fellow Americans. Maria and I extend our condolences to Shane's family and friends. He will be remembered for bravely serving our country and protecting our treasured freedoms."

Harris, 23, died Sept. 3 as a result of injuries sustained from combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

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

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Eugene Robinson: Wittgensteinian

  Posted by Picasa
The "Washington Post’s" Eugene Robinson did not use the word “Orwellian” in his recent column on the sinister manipulation of language by the Bush administration.

Maybe that’s because John Kerry used it in a presidential debate and lost points for being too smart.

But Orwellian it is.

Here’s Robinson: “George w. Bush is no great orator, but the White House does understand how language can be used to shape reality. So when the National Security Agency’s unprecedented program of electronic eavesdropping was revealed, it was quickly dubbed a ‘terrorist surveillance program’ – as if, somehow, magically, the NSA’s computers could deduce who was unquestionably a terrorist without ever happening to overhear a single conversation involving someone who is innocent.”

That is how the (r)epublicans get to a place where House Majority Leader John Boehner can say things like, “I listen to my Democratic friends and wonder if they’re more interested in protecting the terrorists then protecting the American people.”

Actually, what Democrats are doing is protecting the American people from being accused of terrorism, something that is happening a lot with things like The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, which goes after people not at all like those who made 9/11 such a big day.

What we like about this article is its focus on language. When he was just a sapling outspoken-pain-in-the-ass back in college, the highway scribe had a wonderful, and since misplaced, mentor named Rick Abel, doctor of political science.

Abel’s metier was a philosopher named Ludwig Wittgenstein who sought to focus his investigations upon the use of language. Among the many things he said was, “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by language.”

You can dedicate a lifetime to studying Wittgenstein, as Dr. Abel did, but, to abbreviate (egregiously), the philosopher found the dictionary to be a useless tool, because it is used to describe words that are, in themselves, descriptions.

Wittgenstein saw words as symbols and signs that merely approximated the “essence” of an object or an idea. The meaning of those symbols and signs change with the sentence and with what he called the “language game” in which they are being used.

An elementary and redundant example could be the hip-hop expression “word up”.

Placed within the language game of slang, violence, and overdone gestures associated with rap music, we know that “word up” does not mean we should look up in the air for a word.

So Robinson is a kind of Wittgensteinian when he takes issue with the expression “homeland security.” And Bush, god help him, is a kind of Wittgensteinian when he chooses to employ it.

Robinson says, “The word ‘homeland’ is a vivid, but relatively inconsequential example – less a true distortion than an infelicitous choice that makes us sound as if we had quaint harvest rituals and a colorful national costume. It strikes and odd note, with its vague connotations of ethnic solidarity and ancient nationalism, and gives off more than a whiff of us-versus-them. This nation does have enemies from whom we need vigilant protection, but something more like ‘domestic security’ would have done just fine, with less baggage.”

Wittgenstein might note that the government has taken a current crisis and used terms from a 1930s German word game to flesh out its profile.

Which brings us back to Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations (No. 119): “The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of nonsense and of bumps that the understanding has got by running its head up against the limits of language.”

Which brings the writer to the highway scribe’s favorite mash-up of conceptual thinking, THE WAR ON TERROR.

Robinson points out that we are in fact at war, two wars justified by pulling “terrorist” from its typical "language game" bounded by the slaughter of innocent civilians in quotidian settings.

A true war on terror involves gritty police work which the administration, Robinson notes, would rather avoid admitting so that they don’t have to heed all those democratic inconveniences they’re always widging about.

“As for the rest of the phrase, terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy.”

Which brings us to the highway scribe’s favorite question: If we’re fighting a tactic, when does the war end, and when are the normal ration protected rights and privacy privileges to be restored?

Friday, September 08, 2006

South of the Border Again

  Posted by Picasa
¿Consummatum est? is penned by Octavio Rodriguez Araujo, about whom highwayscribery confesses to know little other than that his commentary on Mexican society and politics get a fair degree of play.

Published in Mexico City’s lefty organ,
“La Jornada,” the piece is conveyed here in an effort to understand the mind of those in the camp of Andrès Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), whose candidacy was snuffed out by a special court ruling that confirmed the presidency for Felipe Calderon.

AMLO has said that this would not end here, threatened to construct a parallel government, and make life generally miserable for the winners of an election he says was stolen.

Here is something like what those who have camped out in the streets for AMLO in the lead-up to the court ruling feel:

¿Consummatum est? In the Spanish world is simply,
“all is lost,” he notes, “the employment of these words has always been to express disaster and great pain...

“And while the pain and disaster are present, as pictures of those who believed in the institutions crying will attest, but I think all is not over. I think that everything begins here with the clumsy resolution by the court in favor of Calderon.

“I say clumsy because its very explanations carried the contradiction of its conclusions...After saying that President Fox had placed the election’s legitimacy in peril, that business groups had influenced the electoral process, that there were irregularities in voting, that the election commission acted incorrectly, after recognizing all of this, they concluded that maybe there were illegalities, but just a few.

“In a mature democracy,” he rants, “and I don’t grow tired of repeating it, the votes would have been counted in their totality, because it is the only way to make transparent the election.”

highwayscribery would like to point out that in the United States, a fairly mature democracy, the winning side sued to stop votes from being recounted, but this is his space so:

“They didn’t count them, and the tribunal didn’t want to, and now we know why, although we’ve always had our suspicions.”

The result was the court’s collusion, "in a coup d état, from the apparatus of the state itself.”

Which is to say they chose not to give up power and use it instead to stay there.

“The mess the owners of national institutions have created is no small thing. They’ve reduced them to nothing and placed them beyond constitutionality. With this action alone, not to mention still others, they’ve invited the people of Mexico to demand that the institutions serve them. The state, not just the government, has turned its back on the people of Mexico; and it would be just should they, in kind, raise the banner of dignity and reject the institutions, with a constitution in their hand.

“The imposition of an illegitimate president, supported only by legality used in a fascist manner by the collusion of institutional leaders leaves us but one way out, still legal, and rooted in the constitution: civil resistance and popular organization in a national democratic convention that will force a new country in which, for the first time in many years, the power would be of the people for the people.”

Of course, as the glib narrator of “The Sidewalk Smokers Club,” notes: “It is easier for a city attorney to promise such things than it is for a city attorney to deliver on them.”

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Amid all the death and corruption, the highway scribe wanted to let you know his character, La Vedette Gloriella now has her own MY SPACE page. Be her friend.

Here's a poem of hers:

Marfil, Marfil of
womb and dangling
moon down
your rosewood
Don't want to dance without touching
Just want to marry
you and be

Sangria, Sangria you
give your man
a cigarette.
Your face is sweet but
your soul is
cold like
the summer drink for
your name you

the photo is by Robert Vavra.

Sargeant Almazan

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Van Nuys Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. David J. Almazan of Van Nuys.

"Sgt. Almazan displayed tremendous courage and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. Maria and I wish to express our deepest sympathies to David's loved ones. Californians are deeply grateful for his bravery and dedication to service."

Almazan, 27, died Aug. 27 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations in Hit, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.

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

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mexico: Return of the Vacationing Revolutionaries

  Posted by Picasa
It was the first time in history a president was unable to deliver a state of the nation address.

The speech was to have been Presidente Vicente Fox’s goodbye to Mexico.

Legislative members of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) would have none of it.

That’s them in the picture, standing where Fox is supposed to be standing.

Beaten up last week by police at the ruling National Action Party’s (PAN) orders, still looking for answers in the death and torture at San Salvador de Atenco, they rushed the stage and put an end to the ceremony before it ever began.

Fox, dressed up in the tricolor sash of the Mexican republic, his wife in an evening gown, arrived in helicopter, hung around a few minutes, threw the towel in, and left by helicopter.

It was supposed to have been different. The street supporters of Lopez Obrador were supposed to assault the Congress or seal off the building and in preparation the government established something akin to virtual “Green Zone” around the Congress.

The piece by Hector Tobar and Sam Enriquez provides nice blow-by blow, on the ground coverage of a day which saw the forces of public order group en masse ready to beat up some leftists and poor people but ended up eating popsicles, according to the “Washington Post’s," Manuel Roig-Franzia.

He wrote that, “Lopez Obrador’s crowds had slackened in recent weeks, but on Friday there was renewed sense of energy as thousands of college students, recently returned from summer break poured into the square.”

Hey, even young revolutionaries deserve a vacation.

Lopez Obrador told everybody to stay with him and avoid falling for the government’s provocation.

He proved something his critics didn’t want to grant: that he has not only street support, but institutional support as well. Those inside the camera continue to support him, and so AMLO was able to affect an utter scandal on the political class, while flexing his might in El Zocalo.

Missing from the whole drama, Roig-Franzia keenly observed was the guy who supposedly won the election.

It seems, from here, to have been a terrible miscalculation by the government, arming itself to the teeth and essentially threatening the political opposition with mayhem. Lopez Obrador preserved both his troops and established himself as the level head.

The international press, has gone out of its way to suggest otherwise. Here’s an editorial from the “San Diego Union-Tribune”( if you can call that international), calling Lopez Obrador all manner of unkind things, invoking the “grown up” in those around him to take away his toys and allow Mexico to get back to the business of selling its people and wealth off to world corporatia.

As for Lopez Obrador, AMLO, we turn to “La Jornada’s account of what he said, which included, and the scribe translates,

“Should we fall into the trap?” he asked thousands of supporters, “Noooooo” the group responded.

“It doesn’t make any sense. Let them keep there little tanks and soldiers.”

He put the matter to a vote by show of hands and folks decided to avoid getting their heads cracked in with billyclubs and their lungs and eyes seared by teargas.

That was close.

AMLO expressed his respect for the armed forces because, “they protect the nation’s sovereignty” and then slyly invoked a stained history by requesting that the forces or order respect the rights of thousands and, “not fall into the temptation of repression,” by acting as it did in 1968 when students were killed to shut down their dissent, “and other unfortunate circumstances.”

He called for support of an upcoming convention at which a kind of shadow government will be formed and said the planned forum was the real reason the ruling National Action Party (PAN) had placed the Congress “under siege.”

These people are clearly done with the order of things in Mexico. They are not going away, are fairly convinced the election was robbed, and have decided that 1988 was the last time it would happen.

Lopez Obrador has tapped into it. He has used it to fill the streets and a politician who can do this repeatedly, is a politician to be reckoned with.

The drama plays on, Lopez Obrador effectively posing a feint, opting for a kind of parallel civic society, which will sink or swim on his ability to continue the galvanizing effect he’s had on Mexico’s leftish half.

Roig-Franzia keenly noted that the only man missing from this high drama was the guy who won the election, Felipe Calderon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

On Labor Day

  Posted by Picasa
“There are two economies out there,” Charles Cook, the publisher of a nonpartisan newsletter told the "The New York Times" a few days ago.

“One has been just white hot, going great guns. Those are the people who have benefitted from globalization, technology, greater productivity and higher corporate earnings. And then there’s the working stiffs who just don’t feel like they’re getting ahead despite the fact that they’re working very hard. And there are a lot more people in that group than the other group.”

So, if you’re in the “other” group, Happy Labor Day! If you’re in “that” group, keep reading.

The “N.Y. Times” article is written by Steven Greenhouse and David Leonhardt, who do a fine job of parsing recent statistics about how people in “that” group, the working stiffs, are getting stiffed, and then get kind of lost trying to figure out whether the (r)epublicans, who are running every branch of government, will pay, or will not, in November.

highwayscribery hopes the peoples’ verdict is somewhat less mushy than the writers suggest.


The article is about how productivity and profitability are going through the roof, thanks to you, while wages are not only stagnating, but decreasing.

For most of the last century, when you worked harder and produced more, those increases were reflected in your paycheck. But not in recent years. From 2000 to 2005, productivity rose 16.6 percent, but wages rose only 7.2 percent.

You don’t need to be a math genius to see what that means. So where’s that money going?

Here’s a choice quote: “In 2004, the top 1 percent of earners – a group that includes many chief executives – received 11.2 percent of all wage income. Up from 8.7 percent a decade earlier and less than 6 percent three decades ago,” according to two guys you don’t really care about.

It’s that old maxim, “The rich get richer and (fill in the blanks)...”

Now, highwayscribery specializes in an anarcho-syndicalist perspective (that’s a photo of a lady anarcho-syndicalist in Spain circa the 1930s), but Bruce Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank recently gave a speech saying that policy makers need, “to ensure that the benefits of global economic integration are sufficiently widely shared.”

When a blue-blood like Bernanke starts whistling “The International” you know working people have got a problem.

So what happened?

Well, Harold Meyerson at the “Washington Post” has written a timely piece entitled, "Devaluing Labor," the title of which says it all.

the scribe’s going to quote Meyerson and then get on with the weekend, making the best of his devalued wage.

“The young may understandably be incredulous, but the Great Compression, as economists call it, was the single most important social fact in our country in the decades after World War II. From 1947 through 1973, American productivity rose by a whopping 104 percent, and median family income rose by the same whopping 104 percent. More Americans bought homes and new cars and sent their kids to college than ever before. In ways more difficult to quantify, the mass prosperity fostered a generosity of spirit: The civil rights revolution and the Marshall Plan both emanated from an America in which most people were imbued with a sense of economic security.”

For those of you who think voting doesn’t make a difference (at least when they’re properly tabulated), it is worth pointing out how that America was the product of a single man’s drive and effort. And that man was Franklin Delano Roosevelt (who lost out in the highwaysribery photo sweepstakes by a hair to the anarchist girl).

Historian James M. Kennedy, in his fine and weighty tome, “Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War,” noted that only the severity of the economic crisis of the ’30s allowed Roosevelt to separate Americans from their harsh individualism and inbred notion that victims were to blame for their plight, and “provide an unmatched opportunity to affect major social reforms and to change the very landscape of American politics.”

That America, Harold Meyerson notes, “is as dead as the dodo.”

Read his piece, which goes into detail regarding how globalization isn’t all to blame, how the war on American unions begun in the 1970s did much to “decouple” a company’s profits for your earnings, and how behemoths like Wal-Mart have delivered the telling blow, driving down wages and benefits across the economy.

“Devaluing labor is the very essence of our economy,” he notes.

And you should, too.