Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter Five

Chapter Five

Things sure had changed since those days when Corey’s parents had paired-off in matrimonial bliss. Just as planned, he’d surpassed them according to standard measurements of achievement. His father had been a union carpenter in Eastern Massachusetts and his mother the member of a once-thriving, but now extinct guild: the stay at home wife.

If Dad had aspirations to be anything else, anything grander or worldlier, he kept them secret. Day in, day out he’d gone to work and brought home a paycheck that grew steadily, if not dramatically, for years. Childhood always seems longer so that the time his father spent with shoulder to grindstone struck Corey as having been an eternity. Despite his being an adult, it seemed so to Dad as well.

Corey knew, however, that it was not. He knew that when Dad was the age he was now, Corey was already fourteen years old. The reality was disquieting. Here he was, at 34, a college graduate (unlike his father), employed in a tony job with an irreverent name and flashy business card, yet without child or real estate.

To his father’s eyes, Corey and Clarisse had opted for a lifestyle that rendered parties an obligation because of the need to make contacts and forward themselves when really, on many nights, they preferred to stay in, rent a movie, and get some rest. He was covered by a patchy health care plan and Clarisse, who made good money as a waitress, was uninsured.

Somehow, highly educated, doubly employed and free of children, the couple was unable to duplicate the modest and steady life Corey’s parents, and for that matter, Clarisse’s parents across the ocean had enjoyed.

Somewhere along the line, Corey felt, wealthy America had wearied of dragging a permanent middle-class around and forgotten the perils of living in a country without one.

He could not help but think that things had somehow been easier and fairer under earlier regimes. It was all a freewheeling scheme that left one independent to improve their credentials, lay down some money and go in for their chances.

If they failed, people were condemned to swim naked with their clothing bundled under an arm, because society was no longer in the business of rescuing its own shipwrecks.

“Treading water,” is what Corey deemed it, in an ocean proffering a beautiful island holding all great things that might happen like a mirage in the distance.

That mirage was an only comfort and the reason-to-be for those living lives filled with more promise than posterity would ever make good on.

Corey, by most standards (save for Dad’s), had worked hard and woven an ingenuity typically touted as the key to success. Starting out but a few years before, while doing medium-well as a salesman for an engineering parts firm back home, Corey perceived the coming of the digital age. He was an acquaintance to many computer aces at work. When upper-level management was suddenly hit by one of the periodic downsizings that convulsed it, Corey saw the handwriting on the wall. He wasn’t too clear on what it said, but instinctively decided to update his skill-set so that the company didn’t shrink his life, too.

He could not afford classes because he went out every night, purchased stacks of stereo equipment, and had a weakness for designer-grown marijuana. So he offered part of the marijuana to some of the office chipheads in exchange for lectures and lessons at the central processing unit.

Note please, the enterprise and motivation Corey demonstrated: he saves money by sharing something he’s already paid for and simultaneously lessens his intake of mild narcotics. Rather than go home to watch football, baseball, hockey or Xtreme-games (there was no end to the permutations on this male-targeted fare and the beer commercials that came with them), he “stays late,” one of the corporate regime’s most treasured employee virtues.

Technologies race and he purchases a high-powered (for a fleeting moment) computer. He quits to hang out his own shingle in the computer services game. His particular skill, at this time, is not crucial to the story and would only serve to date it for future generations of book buyers. But soon enough he is hired by a new technology company, the stated mission of which is to develop (according to a press release) “the next generation packet-based technology enabling us to provide a multi-service environment in which traditional ‘telephony’ and data features are integrated in a packet environment, supporting convergence at the network core.”

Corey is never quite sure what that means, but the base salary will do.

The situation holds for a while, but technological jobs are almost always rendered obsolete by new innovations and Corey finds himself in just such a situation – again. The digital economy morphs along and 18 months later he turns to night classes at a renowned local university for yet another academic retooling; getting a masters degree in the computer science known and in universal use, again, for the fleeting moment.

Rather than consolidate his status, he is exposed to a high-pressure situation requiring groundbreaking (and profitable) ideas to hold position. He moves to his current place of residence where all of this stuff occurs in a natural way, moving along at speeds greater than elsewhere in the world. His degree opens doors for him, gets him desk jobs at self-described “dynamic” new companies, but no relief from accruing student loan debt until he generates that evolutionary innovation.

At this point in his story, employer and wife are still sitting in expectation of them – the innovations. They know he’s bright, they know he’s well prepared, and they also know that it takes a lot of faith whilst living day-to-day in expectation of the big score. The employer will have to wait. Corey has lived too long at the mercy of companies to hand over his heart. He knows that they will not take care of him before they take care of themselves. He is using his present employer, the way it is using him, rooting around for a truffle to couple with his talent and win big – on his own.

All he needs is an idea. It doesn’t even have to be a good one because, through hard work, he’ll sell it anyway.

Clarisse, as has been noted, is a waitress. Like lots of people in town, she does this while waiting for her good fortune to arrive on a very slow boat from China; the country where all the jobs went. When out at one of the endless soirees the couple attend in search of gatekeepers to economic security, fame, and world travel, she always answers “furniture designer” when asked that most American of queries: “What do you do?”

And she is a furniture designer, an avant-garde creator of marvelous pieces capable of altering an entire room – whole houses even – for the better. They are bookcases and shoe racks and storage chests that break the mold people show up to her studio with.

She enjoys, on occasion, an opening at a gallery specializing in such items. Nothing ever comes of it except an increase in the storage bill for her pieces; obligating Clarisse to give them away as gifts. It is an always embittering defeat sweetened only by the notion that at least somebody will see it.

“Somebody” is whom Corey and Clarisse attend the parties in search of: somebody that will offer him scads of money for an idea of his, (yet to be hatched); somebody, maybe a rich heiress who will walk into one of her shows, be thoroughly bowled over, purchase everything she’s made and then spread the word to other heiress friends (heiresses hanging out together as they do) who will backlog her order book for three years. Then, exhausted but exhilarated, she and Corey can purchase a place on the Mediterranean coast of Morocco and live half the year there and half the year in Western Civilization, alternating epochs of escape and creative validation.

Corey’s Dad knows that this is his son’s and his daughter-in-law’s fatal flaw. They don’t know the simple joys, the things that nature can give: a family; home; and the humble struggle to keep them afloat, moving slowly forward through honest labor before selflessly passing on hard-earned and incremental gains to the next generation. He knows that is why they spend enough money on health clubs, workouts and facials (for him!) to raise twice the number of kids he did. No, Corey’s Dad is not fully aware of what it takes to pay for a kid in today’s world, but he’s not far off the mark on his other assertions. For Corey and Clarisse know friends who have made it big in the game, who enjoy stylized houses, maids, broods of children without stress and occasional interviews in glossy magazines from which they evolve their own aesthetics and desires.

And they want all of this, too.

His Dad remembers that in his day Hollywood actors and actresses, the odd novelist or Nobel Prize-winning scientist, and the President of the United States were the only famous people. He recalls how they led their special lives while everybody else watched in fascination. Now anybody could be famous: a designer, home furnisher, car company executive, hotelier, storeowner; the proper mix of money, success, and calculation could elevate them unto the public eye and blessed attainment.

And his Dad thought it was all so much bullshit. For a time he was proud of his son’s outsized ambition and believed it was what he himself had worked for. Now he saw in Corey a big baby boy who didn’t have the guts to deal with the real things; who had trapped himself in an urban situation that was both too expensive and more provincial than his son could see.

And he wanted grandchildren and he wanted to see them in a suburban house so that he might rest assured that, God forbid, if anything happened to grandpa or grandma, there was a place for them to bail in this increasingly unkind world.

And the kid was out all the time at parties, his debt level rising to a point where the big score would be all but a wash and the years beginning with the prefix forty- weighing more heavily than he ever imagined. Young people, the old man fretted, don’t know what getting old means.

Worst of all, his Dad had a presentiment, which he would never admit out loud, that it was his favorite country in the whole entire world that had made his son like this (He certainly wasn’t to blame). It was a country that had offered him (Dad) a square deal in exchange for honest work, but had since pulled out of that handshake across the kitchen table with the common man. In exchange, it had offered his son a small steel ball at the roulette wheel, or (insert the cheap casino metaphor of your choice) a pair of dice bouncing across a green velvet table. It had turned life into a crapshoot in which the common man might get very rich or, more likely, very beaten. And the reason Dad never admitted this presentiment out loud was its similarity to the speech his son had been hiding behind for a couple of years now.
Corey didn’t get it completely. He wanted to dream big and reach for the stars; so much of what he’d been fed had encouraged this. His family, he thought, was seeking to limit his horizons. Life, he bum philosophized (the concept gaining an increasing hold over him), was a risky affair and, properly lived, one faced its peril head-on rather than lying low in a company job, which was, in any case, a thing of the past; little more than a myth with which parents might beat their offspring over the head.

Anyhow it didn’t matter because Clarisse and Corey were out, again, to some pricey eatery they could not really afford to be at, nor afford not to. They justified their presence through a logic born of their own experience that only when things got truly expensive did they find they were getting what they paid for: proof positive the economy had drifted toward servicing the more profitable predilections of the rich.

We join them now at an establishment located on a street boasting a string of similar restaurants catering to a class of ambitious go-getters that comprise city nightlife. As it turned out there did not seem to be many people worth meeting and so they were kind of glad to sit and enjoy their exquisite entrees in peace. Not a lot was being said between them, however. This was not new and had been eating away at the couple for some time. It wasn’t a question of having nothing to discuss. It was just that they had reached a pause in their marriage, a point at which their lives together, however fun, had become something of a rerun.

“So,” said Clarisse, mock innocence in her voice, “when are we going to haf a bayby?” Corey sighed aloud, frustrated. She inevitably took this as a sign that he did not want to have a baby, which was not true.

“Why you do sigh?” she asked. “You don want to haf a baby?”

“We’ve been over this. I do. I just don’t know how to go about it.” Thusly did the rerun always begin and then Clarisse would uniformly respond, “Well, why we don jus do eet? Look at de Mexeecans. They don worry about money. They haf tree or four chilren. And I want a cat and you won let me haf a cat!”

To which he invariably would answer, “Mexicans live in the worst parts of town. If you want to get a prefabricated place with cottage cheese ceilings east of Western Avenue, let’s do it.” There was more than a grain of truth to this, which shut Clarisse up, but left her totally unsatisfied. So Corey would break the unhappy silence with, “I know I don’t make a lot, but you can quit your job and we can somehow make it. We can move out to the exburbs or get a smaller place (although they’d be growing) and make it work.”

“What about my career?” she would say, plaintively.

“You’ll have to give it up…for a while.”

From this point the conversation would inevitably degenerate into a revelation of how Clarisse wanted it both ways: to strive for fame and a distinct, elevated social identity, and to enjoy the warm rigors of motherhood all at a time. Briefly, and pointlessly, she would ask, “Why you don give up you job?” which was a perfectly legitimate question save for the fact men don’t give up their jobs for babies. Women have made much headway, but not quite so much as to convince the masculine half that it should fully engage the business of child rearing (see: “diaper changing”), and Clarisse and every woman in her position knew it.

And this was their quandary, just as Corey’s father perceived it. They could have a kid and risk being run out of Bigtown – surrendering their cheap champagne lifestyle – for a slot, maybe, in a tinny suburbia or pass on the baby, roll those dice, and wait around for dimming prospects of wealth and celebrity to pay off.

It was an utterly distasteful deductive process that always left them disheartened and always led to Clarisse expressing the desire to go outside for a moment and smoke a cigarette.

And this is, in fact, what she did.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Our Good Man Gore: He writes his own material.  Posted by Hello

An American Heresy

Albert Gore gave a speech on Wednesday night at the Hyatt Regency in Washington D.C.

It’s a measure of corporate, right-wing America’s control of the mass media that a speech by a former vice-president and guy who was robbed of the presidency merits no attention.

But we’ve got the Internet now, and we’ve got the highway scribe who promises to keep an eye on this most excellent of men. To hear (or read) Gore’s speech on the (r)epublican effort to do away with the filibuster is to wax nostalgiac over the intellect we might have had in our leader instead of the boob(y) prize we ended up with.

the scribe does not know who Gore was addressing in the hall, but the fact of the matter is his comments were directed at five or six (r)epublican senators with functioning brains who must decide whether to buck the brown shirts who discipline their party.

We here at highwayscribery hope they were listening.

Gore, unfortunately, must always use the manner in which he lost the presidency so as to assert his relevance, and he shouldn’t have to. But he pointed out that once the Supreme Court delivered its boner decision in Bush v. Gore, however much he disagreed with it, the veep pulled the plug on his bid for the presidency.

The reason, he said on Wednesday, is because we are a nation of laws, not of men and that the rule of law depends upon “the respect of each generation of Americans has for the integrity” of the nation’s legal process.

You can guess where our good man Gore was going with this: the current generation of (r)epublicans simply has no respect for the rule of law, only a lust for power.

Gore spent a lot of time discussing the deliberative nature of the Senate, as our founding fathers designed it, and why the confirmation of judges, who are supposed to be independent, were entrusted to a somber, respectful institution of members with longer terms and therefore insulated somewhat from the heated political passions of the moment.

He quoted Alexander Hamilton in article #78 of the Federalist Papers: “The independence of judges is equally requisite to guard the Constitution and rights of individuals from the effects of those ill-humors which the arts of designing men...have a tendency, in the meantime, to occasion dangerous innovations in the government, and serious oppressions of the minor party in the community.”

He cited James Madison’s introduction to the Bill of Rights: “Independent tribunals of justice will consider themselves guardians of these impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislature or executive.”

He drew upon these sacred democratic sources to sway those presently seeking to rewrite the hallowed laws of an institution Mr. Gore both served in as a senator from Tennessee, and presided over as vice president.

Then he got to the meat of the matter, quoting Tom Delay who wants to “de-fund” the courts and said “Judges need to be intimidated.”

He recalled the worlds of the Senator from Texas who seemed to be saying the murder of a federal judge in Atlanta, and the killings of another’s family in Chicago could be attributed to “judges making political decisions.”

He quoted Ann Coulter who said, “liberals should be politically intimidated.” the scribe would not have wasted his breath on so unserious a thinker. We have the dolts at “Time” to do that.

But here’s Al on his own. “The spokesman for the [(r)]epublicann chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said: ‘There does seem to be this misunderstanding out there that our system was created with a completely independent judiciary.’ Misunderstanding?”

He said these dangerous statements, and others akin to them, are “reflecting an even more broadly held belief system of grassroots extremist organizations that have made the destruction of judicial independence the centerpiece of their political agenda.”

He’s talking about the Christian right and its current stranglehold on politics in this country.

“It is not accident,” Gore roared, “that this assault on the integrity of our constitutional design has been fueled by a small group claiming special knowledge of God’s will in American politics. (the scribe's favorite line) They even claim that those of us who disagree with their point of view are waging war against ‘people of faith’. How dare they?”

And more good stuff by a guy who writes his own material: “This aggressive new strain of right-wing zealotry is actually a throwback to the intolerance that led to the creation of America in the first place.”

In other words, people were fleeing people like he’s just quoted by coming to America.

“Unfortunately the virulent faction now committed to changing the basic nature of democracy now wields enough political power within the (r)epublican party to have a major influence over who secures the (r)epublican nomination in the 2008 election. It appears painfully obvious that some of those who have their eyes on that [(r)epublican presidential] nomination are falling all over themselves to curry favor with this faction.”

He’s talking, of course, about Senate majority leader, Dr. Death, Bill Frist.

“They are the ones demanding the destructive constitutional confrontation now pending in the Senate. They are the ones willfully forcing the Senate leadership to drive democracy to the precipice that now lies before us.

“Most people of faith I know in both parties have been getting a bellyful of this extremist push to cloak their political agenda in religiosity and mix up their version of religion with their version of right-wing politics and force it on everyone else.

“They should learn that religious faith is a precious freedom and not a tool to divide and conquer.

“I think it is truly important to expose the fundamental flaw in the arguments of these zealots. The unifying theme now being pushed by this coalition is actually an American heresy – a highly developed political philosophy that is fundamentally at odds with the founding principles of the United States of America.”

It is a stark commentary on the state of affairs in this country that Gore felt obligated to deliver a fifth grade civics lesson to the country (or that part of it that even listens anymore).

“We began as a nation with a clear formulation of the basic relationship between God, our rights as individuals, the government we created to secure those rights, and the prerequisites for any power exercised by our government.

“‘We hold these truths to be self-evident,’ our founders declared, ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights...’

“But while our rights come from God, as our founders added, ‘governments are instituted among men, deriving their just power from the consent of the governed.’

“Any who seek to wield the powers of government without the consent of the people, act unjustly.”

And that goes for a president and party who are perfectly happy governing for half the country (that’s the scribe interjecting).

Gore then went on to quote, in a literary manner must unsaleable in this country, folks and people and things that happened which highlighted the importance of governing democratically and how the senate, with its tradition of unlimited debate (read: filibuster), are part of the whole majestic set-up.

Then he pointed out how the plan to get rid of the filibuster is justified by some “crisis” or other in the judiciary.

He noted how that crisis, like the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the fiscal peril of Social Security is, well...bullshit (only he didn’t use that exact term).

Gore read off some very damning figures that illustrated the much larger numbers of rejections his colleague Bill Clinton suffered in trying to leave the imprint of an eight-year Democratic reign upon the judiciary.

By the time he was done, Gore left it plainly clear there is no crisis in the federal judiciary. In fact, the number of vacancies, 47, is lower than it’s been in years.

“This fight,” he asserted, “is not about responding to a crisis. It is about the desire of the administration and Senate leadership to stifle debate in order to get what they want, when they want it. What is involved here, is a power grab – pure and simple.”

Gore went on to enumerate exactly who wants that power: “Right-wing religious extremists and exceptionally greedy economic special interests.” The mere seven judges that Democrats refuse to permit a life on the federal bench reflect those radical interests’ desires, he said

“The proposal from the Senate majority leader to abolish the right of unlimited debate is a poison pill for America’s democracy. It is the stalking horse for a dangerous American heresy that would substitute persuasion on the merits with bullying and an effort at partisan domination.”

Call Bill Frist up (we’ll get you the number in a second).

Tell him you’ve heard what Al Gore has to say and that if he’s truly a “conservative” then he should protect institutional traditions that have served us well for 230 years rather than destroy them.

Dr. Death: (202) 224-3344.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

highwayscribery endorses... Posted by Hello

Mexico Rising?

the scribe’s a little late in reporting on this report (which is sort of what we do here at highwayscribery) from Copley News Service’s S. Lynne Walker.

She/he? profiled Andrés Manuel López Obrador (we’ll be dispensing with the accent marks from here out) who is the mayor of Mexico City and the prospective presidential candidate of the Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), which is Mexico’s progressive grouping.

highwayscribery discussed, in an earlier posting (“Power and Impunity” April 13), efforts by the country’s two other corrupt parties, to drum him out of office on piddling charges, because, it would seem, Lopez Obrador is on his way to being the next national leader.

You’re not hearing a lot about the groundswell gathering beneath him in the U.S. press because he is (glp!) a left-wing guy.

But the scribe likes what little he’s reading.

As a young man and functionary of the long-reigning Revolutionary Institutional Party (more institutional than revolutionary!) he was put in charge of dealing with indigenous peoples and got quite a shock at the poverty in which they lived.

Walker writes, “He helped farmers improve their production and paved the roads to their towns. He sent tons of cement to impoverished villages to build houses instead of straw shacks. He set up a breakfast program for students and made junior high available to Indian children.”

Here at highwayscribery we believe if government doesn’t do this kind of stuff, it should be shut down.

He wanted to be governor of Tabasco, but the PRI had somebody else in mind so he united a number of smaller leftist parties under the revolutionary democratic banner and built his base with poor and indigenous people.

Quoting again: “[H]e began to read the teachings of Mohandas Ghandi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘the great ones of resistance,’ said Auldarico Hernandez, former state president of the PRD.”

And if you don’t like those teachings, maybe you should find another blog.

He ran for governor and lost and then gathered up his ragged troops and marched on the national oil consortium to protest the pollution that was destroying local agriculture and fisheries.

The article recounts that his first political meeting in 1988 drew ten people and that he said, “Today were are just ten. Tomorrow there will be 11. That is how it has to begin.”

Last week one million gathered in Mexico City in a silent march in his defense.

He told them: “We are talking about a country for everyone, a country for the poor, for the disposed and humble. We cannot govern our country, nor have progress, nor tranquility, nor social peace with an ocean of inequality.”

Which is why we focus upon him here today.

As mayor of Mexico City, “He gave modest monthly stipend to elderly and disabled residents, awarded scholarships to children who couldn’t afford pencils and books and founded the University of Mexico City. He also built double-decker highways to speed traffic and renovated the historic downtown...The mayor traveled across the city in an aging economy car and lived in a crumbling apartment building near the university where he had earned his degree...He worked long hours, sometimes sleeping only three or four hours a night. When his wife died of lupus in 2003, he returned to work two days later...”

If you get a candidate like that running for mayor of your city (and you won’t) give him your vote.

More to come on this intriguing politician and human being.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gernika - "In all my recent works of art, I clearly express my abhorrence of the military caste, which has sunk Spain in an ocean of pain and death." Pablo Picasso in a letter to the "New York Times," December 1937.  Posted by Hello

Gernika - Sixty-Eight Years Ago Today

Sixty-eight years ago today bombers of the Nazi Condor Legion, doing the bidding of Spain's fascist elements, obliterated the hamlet of Gernika and its civilian population.

It is a day and event worthy of commemoration given all it signifies for the innocents and powerless who suffer the consequences of schemes conjured by the unsettled minds of egomaniacal people seeking satiation through power over others.

It represented, militarily speaking, the first time air bombing had been used upon the unarmed going about their lives in the centuries-old way.

Gernika was only the first, but once the genie was out of the bottle, Belgrade, Dresden, London, and others leading up, catastrophically, to Hiroshima would all serve as targets in the cruelest kind of warfare imaginable. The tactic has been popular and useful ever since.

the scribe takes a break from pithy commentary on the pawns and pukes that pass for political leaders today and reproduces – in selective form – an account of what happened at Gernika written by a British writer for the “The London Mercury,” G.L. Steer.

The situation in Iraq, where thousands of civilians have died from bombings committed by bothinsurgents and occupying army alike, is invoked here. Americans’ casual insensitivity to the suffering our weapons have brought upon others needs to be shaken. We must know what our tax dollars are going to; must be aware of the suffering children, elderly, of the young and strong alike and must face up to our responsibility for it.

It is simply too easy to endure these living room wars. the scribe is particularly disheartened by how September 11 served to refine our callousness, rather than open our hearts to the realities of massive, organized, scientific violence.

Gernika remained a modest Vizcayan country town. The population behaved itself, the priests walked about in the cloth, mass was held in the churches all day and every day. At four there were farm carts coming into Gernika, rolling on solid wooden wheels and drawn by oxen whose heads were shaded under fleeces of sheep. Basque peasants in their long puckered market smocks walked backwards in front of them, mesmerizing the oxen to Gernika with their slim wands, with which they kept touching the horns and yoke gently. They talked to the oxen. Others were driving sheep to market. There was an assembly of animals near the parish church, a stately structure cavernous and dark within, standing upon a flight of thin steps like leaves piled one upon the other...

...It is improbable that anyone was thinking about the war, when at four-thirty the church bell rang out loud. All over Spain a peal on a single bell is an air-raid warning...

...In a few minutes a Heinkel III came over and dropped six medium bombs, probably fifty-pounders, near the station, with a shower of grenades...

...A few minutes later another Heinkel III appeared, to bomb the same area, but nearer the centre...

...The parish priest, Aronategui, left his church with the sacraments, for dying people were reported near the railway station. He went calmly through the deserted streets with the bread. No fires had yet started...

...Fifteen minutes passed, and the people were coming out of their shelters. A heavy drumming of engines was heard to the east. It was what we called in lighter moments the trolley cars – the Junker 52s who were so clumsy that they seemed to clang rather than fly...

...Over the town, whose streets were once more empty trenches, they dispersed their load a ton at a time...

...Besides many fifty- and hundred-pound bombs, they dropped great torpedoes weighing a thousand. Gernika is a compact little town, and most of these hit buildings, tearing them to pieces vertically from top to bottom and below the bottom. They penetrated refuges. The spirit of the people had been good, but now they panicked...

...An escort of Heinkel 51s had been machine-gunning the roads around Gernika, scattering, killing or wounding sheep and shepherds. As the terrified population streamed out of the town they dived low to drill them with their guns...

...The little fighting planes came down in a line, like flashing dancing waves on shingle. They burst in spray on the countryside as they merrily dived. Twenty machine-guns working together in line, and the roar of breakers behind them from ten engines. Always they flew nose towards Gernika. For the pilots it must have been like surfing. The terrified people lay face down in ditches, pressed their backs against tree trunks, coiled themselves in holes, shut their eyes and ran across sweet green open meadow. Many were foolish, and fled back before the aerial tide into the village. It was then that the heavy bombing of Gernika began.

It was then that Gernika was smudged out of that rich landscape, the province of Vizcaya, with a heavy fist.

It was about five-fifteen. For two hours and a half flights of between three and twelve aeroplanes, types Heinkel III and Junker 52, bombed Gernika without mercy and with system. They chose their sectors in orderly fashion, with the opening points east of the Casa de Juntas and north of the arms factory. Early bombs fell like a circle of stars round the hospital on the road to Bermeo: all the windows were blown in by the divine efflatus, the wounded militiamen were thrown out of their beds, the inner fabric of the building shook and broke.

On the shattered houses, whose carpets and curtains, splintered beams and floors and furniture were knocked into angles and ready for the burning, the planes threw silver flakes. Tubes of two pounds, long as your forearm, glistening silver from their aluminum and elektron casing: inside them, as in the beginning of the world in Prometheus’ reed slept fire. Fire in a silver powder, sixty-five grammes in weight, ready to slip through six holes at the base of the glittering tube. So as the houses were broken to pieces over the people sheathed fire descended from heaven to burn them up.

Every twenty minutes fresh raiders came. And between the explosions and the spurts of flame as the burning metal seeped into curtains and beams, doors and carpets, while a grey pall stood over Gernika supported from below by white pillars where fires were starting, in the pauses of modern battle the population ran about the streets to clear away the doors of smothered refuges, to pull children and other small worthless belongings from houses afire...

...In the intervals people moved out of the town, but the fear of the fighting planes and separation from their families persuaded many to remain in Gernika. And then the planes returned with their tinsel tubes to shower over Gernika and another part was destroyed, and more were buried in the shelters...

...At seven-forty-five the last plane went away. One could hear now, through ears half-numbed by the engines of the heavy bombers and explosion of the heavy bombs, the nervous crackle of arson all over the town and the totter and trembling collapse of roofs and walls. Gernika was finished, and as night fell and the motorized police stumbled along the road to ring up Bilbao to say that all was over, the total furnace that was Gernika began to play tricks of crimson colour with the night clouds...

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Photo by Anna Siciliano. Posted by Hello

Happy Blue Day!

If you’re a Democrat, a progressive, or just a regular person without a label who thinks the country should be run in a fair and equitable manner for all, Monday was a pretty good day to read the newspapers.

Charles Babington at the “Washington Post” wrote an analysis regarding the Democrats’ unexpected cohesiveness in Congress.

“They have,” he wrote, “stymied [(p)]resident Bush’s Social Security plan and held fast against judicial nominees they consider unqualified. To protest a GOP rules change, they have kept the House ethics committee from meeting. And they have slowed – and possibly derailed – Bush’s nomination of John R. Bolton to become ambassador to the United Nations.”

Okay, so we’re not talking about universal health care, withdrawal from Iraq, and a new tax bracket for price-gouging oil companies. Still, Bush is an arrogant re-elect spending his “political capital” pushing judges already once rejected, and foisting an arrogant and abusive man (Bolton) on what is a diplomatic entity, and he needs to be stopped by the opposition.

Of course, Bush has no capital, he just lives in capital’s bubble where nothing he does is wrong and everybody must needs applaud at all times. And if he keeps spending on stupid notions and bad nominees, he’s going to go broke very shortly.

What really happened is that the machinery that coalesced around Kerry in 2004 (or against Bush as many would have it) is in place and well-oiled.

By contrast, after years of shucking and jiving, the Republicans are being forced to make good in their devil’s deal with the Christian right.

And it’s exploding in their faces.

Babington writes that House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Harry Reid promoted solidarity among Democrats and reassured their respective caucuses that the (r)epublicans were “overplaying their hand.”

Translation: the (r)epublicans didn’t win as much, or by as much, as they and media claimed in November.

The famous political scientist at Rutgers, Ross Baker, is quoted in the article as saying, “I think after an extended period of reconsideration and soul-searching [following the 2004 elections], the Democrats have decided they’re going to fight back. The sense that they were cowed was very widespread, but I think they just realized what they suffered was a defeat, not a humiliation.”


“The Post” also released a poll, the results of which are that folks line up 2 to 1 against the idea of eliminating the filibuster.

Dan Balz and Richard Morin wrote the piece which says, in part, “Even many Republicans were reluctant to abandon current Senate confirmation procedures: Nearly half opposed any rule changes, joining eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 political independents.”

The 60-day “blitz” to sell the privatization of Social Security is moving backwards and “the poll also registered a drop in key Bush performance ratings.”

Such phenomena are oft-times, though not always, tied to key drops in performance.

The poll also has bad news for Tom Delay who, unlike Don Rumsfeld, probably won’t shake the tail of reporters, pols and plain ‘ol people who want him out of Washington. Stay tuned.

And if that weren’t enough to make the morning coffee go down a little easier, The “L.A. Times.” penned an editorial called “A Blue Tinge in the West” highlighting “a changing Western political identity and independence,” observing that, “[t]he social conservatism that keeps the South red may not be enough for the West. Old-fashioned individual liberty and Democratic populism are getting a hearing.”

The editorial notes that the West is “bulking up” population-wise with refugees from the cold and “blue” Northeast and Midwest, as well as from Golden, but overpriced, California.

And speaking of California, “The Times” also ran an article, nicely done by Mark Barabak and Robert Salladay, about how “Nurses, firefighters – even widows – have put[Governor Schwarzenegger] on the defensive and his agenda in disarray.”

They write that while Schwarzenegger was humping it around the state saying his opponents were “hanging” and doing nothing, what they were in fact up to was molding a tightly knit coalition for the purpose of screwing him and screwing him good.

Their idea was to put a human face to the “special interests” Schwarzenegger rumbles on ad nauseam about, using nurses, teachers, and firefighters.

The trick was double-edged from what the scribe can see. Not only do you attack a dishonest and unqualified governor, you actually define who it is you are, what you do, and why you get taxpayers’ money.

According to the article, “The effort worked far better than either side anticipated, according to dozens of interviews reconstructing the turn of events. In just a few months, Schwarzenegger has gone from seeming invincibility to a politically precarious state, his approval ratings sagging and his staff plagued by internal scuffles. He has abandoned key parts of his reform agenda and signaled his eagerness to bargain on others.”

Schwarzenegger wanted to crack the last nut of post-war prosperity in going after public employees, their job guarantees, and their benefits. George Will predicted the “transformative” governor’s success would roll across the country.

Well it’s not for now, and it won’t. And while the scribe doesn’t want to beat on a dead horse, pull that carcass up here...

...the trade union is the most effective way (to date) of pooling your work with those of others in an effort to match the might of those more powerful and less friendly to your interests (than you).

The writers say Democratic efforts have been boosted by the “political allies, particularly the well-funded public employee unions.”

All of which is about time.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapters Three and Four

Chapter Three

Randall was home bum philosophizing. He’d decided that despite his timely answers to Jordan’s question about John Maynard Keynes’ “in the long run we’re all dead,” he’d actually gotten away with one there. A tight linguistic tautology that repulsed all inquiry was not the thing he was after. Slightly older than those other Sidewalk Smokers, he was unfortunately smitten with traces of an earlier idealism, an idealism that did not hamper the rabid upward strivings of generations X, Y, and Zzzzz.

Randall wanted to be remembered after he was gone, but he did not seek a monument built upon greenbacks. He desired, corny though it seemed at such a late date, to make a difference in peoples’ lives – for the good. The distinction is important, he bum philosophized, because Western Civilization – or the mess which passes for it – had grown so twisted, so focused upon a success associated with life in the public’s eye, that outrageous, ignorant, and even criminal behavior had all become legitimate means to notoriety. And notoriety was most cherished. With their images conveyed across the space of flows, mass murderers developed fans and/or immoral athletes gained lucrative endorsement contracts from product peddlers seeking bold or radical spokespeople whom tested well in focus groups of 14-year olds.

He chewed on this and decided to make it bum-friendly: “Bad stuff gets good life.”
Guided by his formulation, idiots seeking to bypass the time-tested, slow, hard path to success through work could use bum philosophy and chart a different course.

“Bad stuff gets good life,” was an immoral nod to the mass market, he admitted to himself, a ploy for popularity and wealth. And yes, as stated above, he wanted to make a difference for the good. But after all – he equivocated away – a thinker’s intentions are not even half the game and folks are going to get what they want from an idea anyway.

Secretly he hoped the deeper moral implications of the “bad stuff gets good life” phenomenon would affect souls properly prepared to absorb them. The brighter lights, propelled by bum philosophy in a different direction, would fight for the better world; conducting themselves according to such antiquated niceties as charity, solidarity, and uncommon sense (bum philosophy holding that sense was not at all a common occurrence).

It was a double-game imposed by the market. “Bad stuff gets good life,” as product to the cynical because a guy’s got to eat. “Bad stuff gets good life,” as a warning and desperate call for decency.

And so, this is what Randall is supposedly about (at this point), decency.

He began to boldly write. “We’ve gotten away from what the dead white men hoped for.
They knew that siccing us on each other had its risks. And they gave us laws that were supposed to teach tolerance and understanding. And they hoped the decency would make us close.

“But the civility is gone,” he scribbled on. “Anything not nailed down is fair game, and people can profit from stealing your mail, your identity, your car’s hood ornament. Every once-open and free space has been closed amen to a covetousness reinforced by the ‘bad stuff gets good life’ principal. Sole responsibility for ourselves has freed us from worrying about others.”

It was all about class clowns and daffy charmers riding the waves of a success so narrowly defined as to curse those it blessed. The humble, the generous, the honest and struggling folks got to sit on the side and watch the brash and brassy enjoy the fruits of labor not theirs.

Randall’s mind was overheating. He dropped his pen. It could not keep pace with the canter of his thoughts, which concluded that favoring ugly winners at the expense of beautiful losers would ultimately rot the very core of the apple that provided the civic body its nutrition. These last thoughts swirled around inside of he, Randall the Good, only to be locked out of his opus. For although it was true, it was decidedly academic and unbum-like.

How he longed to tell it to the world. How uninterested the world seemed (and was).
Randall stepped out to his front sidewalk for a smoke. He inhaled long and the infusion relaxed him for a few moments.

He looked up at the nimbus accumulations unfurl and roll above, unimpeded in their cyclical motion by those things perturbing his spirit.

“The happiest man,” he mused, “lives his life as a floating cloud.”

Chapter Four

Jordan, meanwhile, was floating like a cloud, pushed by a high-speed wind.

The ambulance ride was fun. It was dark and a relief from the bright clinical light under which had cooked for hour after hour at his first stop on the health-care-go-round. The vehicle’s high speed and the lovely anaesthetic each left Jordan with a sense of having escaped the affliction and accompanying nightmare. The attendants were, well, attendant and assured him the doctors at “county” were actually quite good, “because they get so much practice,” which was comforting in its way.

They rolled Jordan in on a Gurney and quickly departed with blessings of life and good luck, which took on a greater meaning and resonance than in more quotidian situations. His innate cultural sensitivity notwithstanding, Jordan noticed how county hospital was rife with people of colors different than his. The emergency room was packed with them, but no wispy nurse to badger. A perfectly nice fellow wearing what looked like a shower cap came along after about an hour and moved the patient into another room more in line with what a military hospital might look like. Six beds against one wall and another six across the opposite one. Another fellow in green scrubs and a shower cap came by a little later and administered more anaesthetic. Jordan was wide-awake, but his pain had become a part of the recent past and he decided, rather redundantly, to lay low.

There was a commotion as they rolled a great whale of a young Latino man into the bay adjacent his own. Jordan could discern from surrounding conversations that the patient had been shot and was in a fight for his life. They did not put a paper bag over his face and tell him to breathe. Rather they stuck an oxygen mask there and began working his chest in a manner that struck Jordan as frighteningly akin to rummaging. Embarrassingly healthy all his life Jordan was, quite simply, shocked at how rudimentary the practice of medicine remained. His idea of the steady handed surgeon with lithe, delicate fingers, aided by all manner of computerphernalia had been put to rest for years to come.

There were, however, elements of hospital emergencies that did correspond to the television-inspired notions cramming his head. For example: the gun-wound-guy was hooked up to the machine that beeped with the beat of his heart, which was, Jordan thought, not feeling very beepey. They took those giant prongs from TV and crammed them into the poor guy’s chest, too. The sound of electronic jolts was just like what he’d heard on the medical dramas, although there was a fleshy wetness that lent it an authenticity the spectacle-makers would be hard-pressed to duplicate.

Jordan was impressed with the sheer number of people trying to save this guy, whom by all appearances was a criminal, and the feverishness with which they worked.

After what seemed like a few hours into this noble, selfless exercise the machine stopped beeping and went monotone. The room’s energy level dropped all at once. Somebody said, “Call homicide.”

This was certainly dispiriting and the rest of the evening was hardly much better. Ensuing cases included fuzzy drug-heads, confused hysterics, folks who thrived on the attention being sick offered them, and all manner of flotsam and jetsam which Jordan habitually voted to fund and care for, but had little occasion to meet first-hand. Having now done so, he lamented the haughty attitude he’d taken with his latest set of bosses. His access to that kind of white-collar employment was all that had stood between he and these unfortunates; perfectly good folk badgered by senseless violence and stranded in a deadening purgatory.

This is what Jordan’s parents, whose attitudes he’d mocked since the college professors had gotten their paws on his mind, had worked so hard to shield him from. Born to them, Jordan thought cleanliness, security and access to education were givens. Now he was seeing how, with a simple change in the address of his birthplace, it might easily have been otherwise. Dead as political crowd pleasers, race and class remained big players on the game board of life.

Jordan closed his eyes in the company of no one and fell asleep after God knows how many hours of this Friday night parade, this tale from the crypt, and awoke in a different room that was carpeted, softer and infinitely more placid in atmospherics.

Again, he lay around for a few hours before anybody attended to him. Were he at a restaurant Jordan would be screaming bloody murder, but he wasn’t. These folks weren’t feeding him an expensive meal financed by his good fortune. They were battling a pain in the stomach, a service for which he would feel forever indebted – figuratively and literally – to them.

Finally, and at long last, a man in a white coat, maybe a doctor, maybe not, came by and queried Jordan regarding his readiness for surgery. Given the implicit severity in having a scalpel put to one’s body, he responded with an understandable dose of skeptical consumerism. “Well, do I have appendicitis or not?”

“Well,” the guy in the lab jacket said, “you can’t really tell one hundred percent, but we’re pretty sure.”

Jordan had watched the news magazines, was thoroughly up-to-date on the tragedies
visited upon unsuspecting schlumps just like him by under-funded and harried hospital teams.

“Whaddya mean pretty sure?”

The guy looked at his watch in a gesture suggesting impatience and then confirmed it with what he said next. “Look, you saw a little bit of what we went through last night. Tonight’s Saturday and it’s going to be three times as bad. Kids are going to be coming in here shot up and crying for their mothers and you’re not, I’m sorry to say, going to be a priority. Now, you can go home and wait for the anaesthetic to wear off or for your appendix to explode and kill you, or we can go ahead and cut that thing out now, while there’s still time.”

And so, Jordan reluctantly assented to the carving of his loins.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Et tu Morrow?

Today highwayscribery takes up the Academic Bill of Rights movement pushed by the conservative juggernaut working at seemingly every level of organized life.

the scribe has been conscious of a slow and steady stream of articles portraying the noble fight being carried on by conservative student groups in liberal academia. Good for them.

This other thing is fleshed out in a “San Diego Union-Tribune” article written by Lisa Petrillo (take a close look at the end of this address, before html)

The idea is to regulate what professors can talk about in the classroom so as to protect some students from being ideologically bullied.

There is, of course, no code to speak of here. The idea is to protect students from bullying liberal professors and their wrong-headed dogma.

(there’s the (r)epublican in the thing).

According to the article there is a bill in Congress aimed at controlling the content of classroom discussion and like measures have passed the Georgia legislature and the Florida House.

In California the effort is being spearheaded by Sen. Bill Morrow (r) of Oceanside.

His SB 5, which can be found at, assays the situation in this way:

“[i]ntellectual independence means the protection of students from the imposition of any orthodoxy of a political, religious, or ideological nature. To achieve the intellectual independence of students, teachers, should not take unfair advantage of their position of power over a student by indoctrinating him or her with the teacher’s own opinions upon the matters in question, and before a student has sufficient knowledge and life experience to form any definitive opinion of his or her own...”

Which is all well and good, were it not already the case in American universities.

There is an inherent judgement in the proposal that some of these things are occurring and others of them are not. That university life is broken over the workbench of liberal politics.

There are, it would seem to suggest, a sea of 20 year-olds out there unable to form definite opinions on their own.

And their parents can’t wait to meet them!

And finally, the professors are “bullies.”

And maybe they are, but them’s fightin’ words and represent a veiled attack by conservative pols on their greatest beast - liberal academia.

the scribe’s not going to say that universities aren’t rife with lesbian women researching matriarchal societies in the sub-Saharan bush. They are and they should be, without apologies.

Many years ago the scribe read an Op-ed entitled “Let the Jester do Somersaults” the gist of which was that university life is perhaps the only respite a growing mind will get from the usual and overwhelming pap about free markets, the wonders of capitalism, and evils of collective co-dependence.

If you don’t want your child to know about communist history, or the general strike of San Francisco 1934, or the medical suppression of 1950s housewives through prescription drugs...send them to business school.

In fact, by his own experience, the scribe would recommend it.

The Academic Bill of Rights movement’s pretension to pluralism is naught but a camouflaged effort to end it in society at large, because universities are the last safe place for progressive people to make a fair living and carry on their work.

They are running from bullies, who have now singled them out for drubbing.

Call Morrow at (916) 445-3731 and tell him to put his small government principles to work by stuffing this intrusive legislation up the old graduation cap.

Kerry Love. More love for the senator from Massachusetts who continues his use of the world wide web in an attempt to construct a functioning opposition. On Tuesday he sent out an e-mail asking folks to visit Sen. Edward Kennedy’s site and sign his petition on preserving the filibuster.

On Thursday Kerry blasted a video message on the same topic

By helping these guys out, following their simple directions, you can take very little time to affect a larger strategic push.

Already, something is afoot and the administration seems at loose-ends, rudderless.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Left to right: Salvador Dali, Jose Moreno Villa, Luis Bunuel, Federico Garcia Lorca, and Jose Antonio Rubio Sacristan in Madrid, 1926.  Posted by Hello

return of the scribe

the scribe apologizes for failing to post on Monday and Tuesday. He finds himself with a sore back and without a nanny who has jetted off to El Salvador in pursuit of a family crisis.

That is the luxury of the blog, it is practically commercial-free and driven by the scribe’s own standards of workplace conduct, which have always been informed by Mediterranean habits and therefore lax by almost any measure.

Meantime there has been plenty of nothing going.

The Vatican has maintained its post as the primary source of news. What with every mainstream media outfit in the world suddenly fitted with the unexpected costs of attending last week’s funeral/festival, it made sense to keep everyone there and get a good report on the choosing of a replacement for the indefatigable one – JPII.

Of course, most reporters are pretty ignorant of the church and its functions. Covering it would certainly require a number of long-groomed contacts and other surreptitious entrees into the ancient bureaucracy.

No one, of course, has that in the U.S. media. It was not long ago that Sen. John F. Kennedy was running for President and trying to assure folks in our largely protestant nation that he would not take orders from the Pope if elected.

the scribe, who lived for two years in Arkansaw, remembers locals referring to his crucifix on a chain as a “Yankee Cross.” The point being that Catholic concerns have been largely anathema to the American citinzenry.

To be sure, the current Pope-mania is not fed by any new sympathy for the Holy Romans. Rather it’s fed by a perfect storm of purportedly surging “Christian” values, an American (p)resident who consults God on geopolitics before his own former-President dad, and the voracious pursuit of spectacle that characterizes news coverage today.

And the Catholics, in dire need of some good PR, pulled out all the stops this time. The “value-neutral” news teams with no opinion on the present state of affairs in that religion rushed to oblige and that’s what you’ve been watching.

What have we learned? Well, we’ve learned that there’s a growing similarity between U.S. and Vatican governing strategies. They do it behind closed doors and you have no idea how the decision was made, and with the Bush administration, we’ve discovered the virtues of closed government as well.

At least The Vatican sends out smoke signals. Maybe we can get that in the U.S. so that after Dick Cheney confabs with the country’s major polluters, they can send out a black signal if we’ll be getting dirtier air, and white stuff if we merely have cleaner smoke to look forward to (those being the parameters in a country with a permanent business veto).

We also learned how to get on TV at these things. At a sporting event, it suffices to paint your face or wear and Afro wig. In the socio-political news drama of the early 21st Century the most effective strategy for getting a camera trained on you is tears.

Cry, please, cry and you’ll be part of Pope-mania two for as long as the uncertainty lasts. Or just be hysterical, but at all costs be antithetical to reason, skepticism, curiosity and any other mental tool fundamental to good democracy.

Be anti-enlightenment, be exciting, be a part of the show.

The general sentiment is toward enjoyment of the church’s hoary rituals. Ah, the good old days when a bunch of old men huddled in a room to decide who would administer the world system...

...and didn’t slavery as a source of cheap labor make for so much more comfort, elegance even?

Anyway, here’s a look at what happens in the real Catholic world away from the gabble about liberal and conservative and hard-line popes as if the eternal institution gave a hoo-ha about political pressure, modernity, or being anything else but conservative and hard-line.

When the scribe lived in southern Spain, he participated in a long pilgrimage through the wilds of Andalusia to the Virgin of the Dew.

“Rocio” as this particular statue is called, enjoys the fervent and mystical loyalty of a cult numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Each May, they converge from all of Andalusia, and beyond, in ox-drawn carriages, to her chapel on Spain’s Atlantic coast.

It is a spectacle without parallel, driven by deep and ornate rituals written up by an essentially magic cult. The flavor is flamenco and the music does not ever stop during the week it takes to arrive at the hermitage, and the week it takes to return once the regimen is complete.

Rocio, more than anything, is a massive party that absorbs alcohol, cocaine, hashish, heroic quantities of food, and sex under the pine trees, amid the smells of horse manure and cut wetlands grass.

John Paul II expressed, at one point, his disapproval of the Rocio ritual, bemoaning the creeping paganism of Spanish Catholicism. Eventually, he was forced to back off and even made the pilgrimage once.

One of the poorest kept secrets about Rocio is the large percentage of gays who lend it the special energy that draws so many.

Of course, gays are not allowed into the sacred community or Holy Romans. the scribe, while on the pilgrimage, chatted with a gay servant of the Virgin, even as his face was alighting in the ecstacy of standing before “her”.

His loyalty to the Virgin in unquestioned, his love of God, deeper than anything else he harbors.

“But there’s this problem...” he trails off.

The "problem,” of course, is that he’s allowed at the party (an very easy agreement between deep-believing Andalusian Catholics and their gay comrades), but not getting the blessings and benefits the pilgrimage allegedly confers.

And so there you are. Catholicism in practice. Regimentation and prohibitions as to who gets God and who doesn’t. Lax policing of its moral code so as not to defend the growing number of revelers attracted to ancient ritual, but bankrupt of the required spirituality and sacrifice. People wanting in, others not getting thrown out. The name of God and purported works twisted to the convenience and worldview of the worshiper.

Distance between institution and layman. A beautiful party under the stars.

And in closing we should not forget all those foreign heads of state were at JPII’s funeral for reason’s other than extreme party envy; the Catholic Church is a political entity.

Popes have commandeered armies, condemned millions to death, and ruled over vast swathes of Europe in centuries past. Not unlike their Muslim counterparts, the eye is on an eternal prize and the idea has been to stay open for business until this secular nation-state-based-on-reason fad passed on.

And speaking of Mediterranean influences, the scribe’s anti-clericism can be traced directly to the writings of surrealist film maker Luis Buñuel. Here we close with two paragraphs from his autobiography “My Last Sigh,” put out by Vintage Books in 1983 (ISBN 0-394-72501-8):

“In 1936, the voices of the Spanish people were heard for the first time in their history; and, instinctively, the first thing they attacked was the Church, followed by the great landowners – their two ancient enemies. As they burned churches and convents and massacred priests, any doubts anyone may have had about hereditary enemies vanished completely.

I’ve always been impressed by the famous photograph of those ecclesiastical dignitaries standing in from of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in full sacerdotal garb, their arms raised in the Fascist salute toward some officers standing nearby. God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.”

Saturday, April 16, 2005

"I love to touch the pack in my pocket, open it, savor the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, the paper on my lips, the taste of tobacco on my tongue. I love to watch the flame spurt up, love to watch it come closer and closer, filling me with its warmth." Luis Bunuel Posted by Hello

The Sidewalk Smokers Club - Chapter Two

Chapter Two

Jordan, at the time, worked in a coffee shop. A prior job in the mass media had ended when he’d run afoul of his bosses over moral questions. Although his three-times-a-day smoking breaks in the designated area outdoors were not approved of, the roots of the rift ran deeper. To the larger world, Jordan had an attitude problem. But to his mind, Jordan the battle had been fought over the rights of man and against the lords of the kingdom.

As far as he’d known, his was a nine-to-five job, and with a few exceptions, that was how he chose to approach it. But upon arrival at the appointed hour to his first day’s work, he found his colleagues already into the hard rhythm of office labor, and knew something was amiss. This impression was compounded by the fact that he alone left at the legislated and contractually prescribed termination of his daily duties. He could stay late on occasion if they asked nicely, or come in early once or twice if needed, but absent the legally required overtime pay for such extensions of demand upon his labor, J. wasn’t about to play martyr to the benefit of another, richer man’s company.

The attitude was morally correct where Christian doctrine was concerned and not indefensible. Whether it was assailable is a separate issue, although in Jordan’s case it usually turned out to be so.

This being an employer’s world meant that Jordan was skating on proverbial thin ice.

When you signed on with an organization, you were expected to be a team player and help management get done whatever it was that needed doing. And if you didn’t like the arrangement, there was probably somebody younger, dumber, and more willing to render the services you refused. The bosses meanwhile, like most authority figures, were expert where a good swift kick in the ass was concerned.

That is how Jordan ended up in a coffee shop, without the vaguest idea of what he would do next.

And so it was that he, being older and more mature than most of the workers at Java World, was pencilled in for the daily morning shift. It was the busiest time of day.

It was when the best-heeled clients, savages of the corporate corps from which he’d been expunged, dropped upwards of fistfuls of dollars for specialty, caffeine-spiked concoctions and oversized finger cakes.

Morning following the night just recounted, Jordan awoke at 6:30 a.m. and took immediate note of a dull and enduring pain from the night before in the pit of his stomach. He recalled the Argentine restaurant and began to lament both the price and volume of the rich repast. He didn’t feel much like getting out of bed and so reached over – not without difficulty – to the phone on his night table and called Carlos, the Mexican (what else?) barista who mostly ran the place.

“Java Whirl!” Carlos answered and Jordan described his discomfort. The Mexican promised to tell the boss and more graciously intimated how much Jordan would be missed when nothing could have been farther from the truth. Not that Jordan wasn’t quite simply a godsend to Java World’s proprietor; a mature white guy who could connect with the clientele and smooth over the unspoken prejudices that existed between they and the mostly Hispanic staff whom global economics had forced upon him. Otherwise, Jordan was mostly a wash; a too-slow coffee server who had trouble with the cash register, barked at the customers and stared like a dog at the young lovelies who frequented the breezy drinkery.

Presently he lay back in bed, stricken by the persistent hankering at the bottom of his gut. Pills he’d taken prior to retiring clearly had not worked and the thing seemed to be getting worse. It made no sense unless the offending meal had been rancid to the point of qualifying as poisoned food. He got up and, doubled over, lurched into the bathroom for a healthy swig of pink goo sold under the pretense of being able to resolve such abdominal complications to the sufferer’s advantage. He maintained a perpendicular posture during his return to the mattress. He forced himself flat on his back and tried to envision the pink fluid seeping toward his entrails and suffocating the burning coal that seemingly smoldered there. Jordan knew that these things take time, but something told him that this time, there would never be enough time.

The minutes rolled and his prediction regarding the failure of his medical assault on the offending army marching through his midsection was, in effect, born out. Jordan was really hurting and he repeated the pathetic trek to his medicine cabinet for newer pills, the exact identity of which he was unawares. He was trying anything now. He dropped back into bed, doubled up in an effort to relieve the droning pain that had possessed itself of his body. The sensations were localized, but something else was amiss throughout the whole of his being, his spirit participating in a plaintive plea for relief from a God whose existence his normal outlook denied. As the seriously jeopardized are given to doing, he figured what the heck? And dropped a prayer into the hopper.

The celestial response was perfunctory and unkind. Jordan began to moan and roll in the sheets. He needed help, but like most bachelors, the very fact he was sick prevented him from obtaining the necessary relief. It was the single man’s catch-22 and he knew not what to do. His hand groped for the wallet on his nightstand. He fumbled through it trembling until he pulled out some five-dollar bills, a month’s-worth of automatic teller receipts (habitually unfiled) and a business card, beige with turquoise hieroglyphics.

It was, he reasoned, no time to be reasonable, much less proud, so he punched the appropriate digits into his phone.

“Joya’s Hoyas,” that healthy cornmeal voice he’d become vaguely familiar with the night before pierced his foggy consciousness like a shot of heavenly morphine. “YeahhitsJordan,” he belched.

“Excuse me?”

He grit his teeth and managed to enunciate the three words separate of each other. “Jordan who?” Joya asked.

“We met last night.”


Naturally, the girl was caught off-guard and Jordan had enough strength and vanity to entertain the fact that she thought he was being overly eager.

“I know we just met, but I need your help.”

She immediately judged Jordan to be but another of the countless loopy available men the local female population were condemned to pick over. But this sentiment was interrupted by a moan Joya immediately likened to rare sick cows that had afflicted the ranch where she’d grown up, before it was purchased by a giant agro-biz consortium. It scared her and she agreed to come right over and help him.

“Right over,” as she has put it, seemed to Jordan like a crossing of the Styx as he wrestled with the idea of an early death, regretted a thousand sexual indiscretions and his spotty history of drug-taking. Lots of images, too many images, went through his mind, all distorted through pain’s lens, while waiting for a knock on the door that finally came when he was sure his time had come. Jordan crawled over to the portal and opened it. This made Joya seem even taller than she was. Her lilacs and patchouli and four-leaf clover essence swept life into an apartment where death had taken a spot on the sofa and posted its feet on the ottoman.

“Well gosh!” she said, helping pull him to his feet. “Look atchew!” He wished she didn’t have to, but she did. “Do you wanta go to the hospital?” He managed to croak out a “yes” that wiped all the easy breeze off her face. “Oh my, let’s do it.”

Joya pulled his suit blazer off the chair where Jordan had left it before diving to his mattress. “Do you need any insurance papers?” He didn’t answer because negatives did not seem to be what the situation called for. He needed momentum. “Where do ya work?” she followed up. “Java World,” he told her and Joya, not being from the neighborhood, mistook the name for something out of the wild and zany world of software and computers she did not know.

Bluntly put, her plan was to dump him – with all gentle graces – at the Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in the hands of the best Jewish doctors HMO coverage would allow and then be on her way.

After all, she did not know him well enough to get any more involved than the basic (and deteriorating) rules governing human solidarity dictated.

“There’s a hundred bucks in a purple sock in my top drawer,” he told her, proof some kind of delirium was setting in. Still, he was gaining strength from the fact his battle was no longer a solitary one. Joya went to the dresser with this thought in her mind: “What’s a hundred dollars going to do?” because even those who are the very expression of health know how that and a prayer won’t get you past the front door of most American medical establishments. It was the great profit motive at work and, although she was a small businesswoman who believed in it, the idea struck her in that moment as somehow obscene.

They stepped out the door and walked about ten feet when Jordan, hunched over, turned back toward his apartment. “Where are ya goin’?” she asked, urgency slipping into her voice. He burst in, reached to the side with his right hand and pulled it back with a pouch of Drum grasped firmly within.

“Well for heaven’s sake!” she scoffed.

Next thing he knew they were in the emergency room. A tall, wispy nurse directed them to sit down. “I don’t think– ” Joya began to explain and was cut off by a finger-pointing and posture that Jordan could not help but compare with popular representations of the grim reaper. They obeyed.

There are many things in this story to recommend Jordan’s noble nature; his lack of covetousness, his personal stands on issues of social justice, and his ability to take the long view while absorbing the short hit. And it’s not a question of writing behind his back when addressing his lesser attributes, because J. would be the first to admit that he was a physical coward.

He really couldn’t bear pain, in general, and the amount he was presently enduring had crossed his tolerance threshold clearly, decisively, and early. He now began to toss and writhe in his seat, moan the way he had while at home. Joya, sitting next to him, determined that he was not up to sitting around waiting for help and that neither was she.

“He’s makin’ an awful lotta noise!” she belted in the wispy nurse’s direction. The woman ignored her as nurses are given to doing in such situations, scared sick persons being their stock in trade. So Joya rose to her full Nordic goddess height and walked over to the reception desk, repeating the phrase in a voice as big as her body. The combination of a beautiful cowgirl bellowing at her from close-range and the pathetic moaning of the patient from afar convinced the nurse to dispense with the matter; she picked up the phone and garbled a few indecipherables before hanging up.

She came out from behind the protection of her bulwark, followed Joya over to Jordan, and helped him to his feet. Each taking an arm, they escorted the patient through swinging doors and into the hospital’s entrails. The hundred dollars evaporated.

“Does he have insurance?” the nurse asked.

“He works at a software company or somethin’,” Joya answered. The intimation of something like a real job was sufficient for the moment. Jordan, who had heard and comprehended the brief exchange, decided it was best to get some treatment before getting into the nettlesome details of his coffee shop career.

Some employees in hospital green met the trio and Jordan was slung onto a rolling rack with cool crackling white paper over its surface. Already he felt better. He relaxed. For the time being this was someone else’s problem, too. Rolling toward eventual recovery he was hooked up to an intravenous machine, which fed who knows what into his system. There went the second one hundred dollars, officially plunging him into a day’s worth of coffeehouse work debt.

The rest was something of a blur for Jordan and, in a nod to the Gods of rhythm, shall be glossed over here. A doctor came in by the name of Singh and among the many wacky and divergent things that went through Jordan’s head were a vision of this man in his native India riding an elephant while studying a clipboard.

He was diagnosed, most tentatively, as having appendicitis, but was subjected to a series of blood tests and other procedures less dignified. More intravenous bags of clear liquid were hooked up and emptied faster than ever into his wrist.
Although she was unaware of the cost, Joya asked at one point, “What is that you’re putting into him?” There was a peremptory response followed by no explanation or detail whatsoever. “Does he need that?” she persisted.

“Not necessarily, but it can’t hurt,” came the response and assessment that would later be clarified to the contrary.

At a number of points in what was becoming a very long day Jordan began to hyperventilate. And so they put a paper bag over his mouth and told him to breathe.

The purpose of this crude exercise amidst so much overpriced technology was to force-feed Jordan’s own carbon dioxide back into his blood and lungs. The actual effect, however, was to make him feel like he would suffocate. He was mortified by the downright primitive nature of the technique. “For chrissakes,” he thought, not being a frequenter of hospitals, “is this the best we can do at this late stage of medical history?” Then out loud, “Get it off! Goddamn it, get it off!”

So they got it off.

“This isn’t going well,” sighed Joya, who remained loyally by the side of a young man she had yet to exchange more than a single cigarette and a handful of words with. They plied him with a sedative while awaiting test results. The nurse figured this lull was good a time as any to get the all-important paper work done.

She approached Joya. “Are you his wife?” Joya, a little tired and more than a hair frightened at this brush with the American health care system shook her head no. “His girlfriend?” Again, a shake of the head and the realization it would not suffice. So…onto the explanation of how she and the patient had only met the prior night, in the street, over a smoke. Jordan’s heart sunk. When finances are being discussed, it’s imperative that an appearance of sobriety be projected. “I see,” said the nurse, as nurses are wont to do. “So how do you know he works for a software company?”

Joya explained that Jordan’s place of employment was called “Java World” and that it seemed to her the name had “something to do with the Internet, or whatever.” The nurse, though sworn off caffeine, was familiar with Java World because it was located near her home. It was at this point that Jordan found it very convenient to lose consciousness.

“Jordan,” Joya shook him a short while later. “Listen, they’re not going to treat you here. You don’t have insurance. They’re going to put you in an ambulance and take you down to county medical okay hon?” He nodded in the affirmative, as he had understood from the very beginning that this might happen, though ignorant as to what form the rejection would take. “Now, I’m gonna let you go because I have to run over to my store. I haven’t been there all day and I can’t afford to be away any longer. It’s late afternoon now. I’ll check in on you tomorrow. Is there anybody you want me to call for you?”

Jordan, like many young and rootless cosmopolitans the world over, was from somewhere else and proximate to no immediate family. He didn’t see the purpose of upsetting his parents when there was little they could do for him other than worry – which was not so much for him as for them, in any case. As far as could be determined, he had appendicitis, although it had been explained to him some time earlier that there was no “full-proof” way of diagnosing that particular ailment with certainty since it did not turn up on X-rays.

He watched her leave, long striding in those blue cowboy boots, and felt terribly alone. “Surely,” he thought, “no one should be forced to go through something like this on their own…without her.”

Friday, April 15, 2005

Where's Dubya?

George Jr., isn’t as good at beating up (r)epublicans as he is Democrats.

There’s Tom Delay out there holding press conferences and setting a national policy of judicial review and purification from his post as majority leader.

(And we have talked here about the operational similarities between the grand old party and stalinist entities “Toward the Back of the Paper” March 26.)

Majority leader, by the way, is not a government post, it’s a party ranking.

And Bush won't rein him in and has nothing to offer but the usual tired morsels about “judicial restraint.”

And the scribe gets the impression George W.’s ultimate goal was reelection and he doesn’t have a plan for what was coming afterward.

Sort of the way Paul Wolfowitz didn’t have a plan for what happened after Baghdad fell, if that’s what it did instead of collapsing around the U.S. military.

And Delay’s out there directing the nation like he was Newt Gingrich, who at least was Speaker of the House.

the scribe has to give Delay credit for the large set of chestnuts, if not for smarts.

He can’t get away with what he’s doing. He’s a party man without a party.

He sold his soul for five congressional seats in Texas and now he smells too much for any kind of mutually beneficial association.

And politics is all about mutually beneficial associations.

the scribe just came off the highway, back from one of his favorite cities - San Diego. Here’s a poem about a neighborhood there in that fine fine fine metropolis.

It is a true piece of highwayscribery from “Spit in a Flower (If You Must")

Passing Through

the English majors of mission beach come
out at sunset in search of winter greenflash.

They are rapt in sweaters and wool hats
and let their eyes water in the wind
with obvious pleasure.

They sit along the stairs of houses
sprinkled pieces from many
too many different jigsaw puzzles.

jutty like the ocean with its jetties

they are not happy and sit or stand
meditating in golden spray over
ways to stay that way.

they are throwing in with distant
lands and heavy accents of

upstream they strive
each scar is a story

they are mission beach ladies
with their lipstick like morning glory.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Pope-mania Redux

The “New York Times” reported Wednesday that there’s a move afoot to make the just-departed Poop a saint. In Daniel J. Wakin’s “Acclaiming John Paul as a Saint Gains Advocates in High Places,” we learn that “The usual process involves years of careful investigation, and it sometimes takes centuries for the final declaration.”

The idea of course, is that a man or woman’s deeds be reviewed with the perspective time necessarily lends things. In the heat of the moment, in the throes of loss, and today, under the white heat of Klieg lights, we can overstate one’s importance and achievements.

But baby boomers are the same everywhere and the careful traditions groomed by generations of people in myriad institutions and handed down to them are naught but obstacles to the satisfaction of their (the scribe should say “our”) own peculiar desires.

Got a big funeral? Make the corpse a saint. Senate rules keeping you from absolute power? Nuke the filibuster.

the scribe insists the Pope was not a great man so much as a magnified man.

In fact, a Reuters report for April 13 observed that, “In the days since the death of Pope John Paul II, U.S. media outlets have showered the late pontiff with mostly uncritical praise while downplaying the more controversial aspects of his legacy, media analysts say.”

Didn’t see that one coming.

Angela Zito, co-director of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University is quoted: “This event put the critical faculties of the media to sleep. They didn’t delve into any of the bad things that happened to Catholicism on his watch.”

Meanwhile, the “San Diego Union-Tribune,” launched a tirade against the Cuban government on Wednesday. “A Flickering Flame: Cuba’s Independent Journalists Need Help,” discussed the Castro regime’s March 2003 crackdown on what’s left of that tropical isle’s rabble rousing class.

It noted that of 75 dissidents arrested, 31 were independent journalists involved in the most courageous kind low-tech, hand-distributed, word-of-mouth publishing. The “Trib” singles out the plight of poet Raul Rivero, who was released, but with the caveat that he keep his couplets to himself.

Others were not so fortunate; 25 remain locked up in the big house.

The editors point out that the United Nations Human Rights Commission ought to cite Cuba for these violations and the fact debate is even necessary, “is a measure of how politically and morally corrupt the U.N.’s annual human rights charade has become.”

Unfortunately, they are right and it’s too bad, because it provides fodder to unserious thinkers like Hannity who have no use for a world body that mediates conflicts and seeks to resolve the problems of hunger and poverty.

the scribe, like most guys on the (glp!) left, has a warm spot in his heart for the Cuban revolution. He thinks the decades-long blockade of the island by the United States is a cruel and vicious policy that has made too many innocents suffer and only served to generate internal sympathy for a regime that might otherwise implode under a lack of spiritual currency.

But that said, it cannot be denied there is something utterly pathetic about Fidel Castro’s long reign and insistence that he knows better than anybody else just how the island should be run.

Decrepit, verbose, rigid, almost quaint if he weren’t so deadly, Fidel has come to fit the prototypical Latin American caudillo described to exquisite perfection in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ “The Autumn of the Patriarch.”

Ditto the theocracy in the Iran, which uses a different set of excuses, these religious, to impart the same kind of oppression upon its people.

the scribe mentions Iran because of another “New York Times” blurb regarding that nation’s decision to keep under wraps the remains of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi. She died in a Tehran jail in 2003. The official explanation was that she “fell and banged her head.”

An Iranian doctor exiled in Canada claims to have examined her and detected signs of rape and torture. Canada asked for her remains, and Iran said no.

We must find time to brood on these individual personal tragedies that end useful lives and do immeasurable damage to those around them. And we must take time to meditate upon the collective tragedy of the Iranian people; lorded over by men so blind to their own unworthiness.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Power and Impunity

“Los Angeles Times” reporter Chris Kraul tells a gruesome story of what is happening in the Mexico of Vicente Fox.,1,2050354.story

Fox, you may remember, was the shining democratic hope who pried the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) (which is infinitely more institutional than revolutionary) from power after 60-plus years in the catbird’s seat.

He’s over now and spends his time at a lot of diplomatic functions overseas which is as it should be.

Why? Well, there’s no more democracy in Mexico now than there was when the PRI ran things. The big story down there presently is the corruption case directed by Fox’s government against the mayor of Mexico City - a guy named Lopez Obrador.

Lopez belongs to (and may even lead) the left-wing entry, the Revolutionary Democratic Party (which is infinitely more revolutionary than it is democratic). He is, for the time being, polling way ahead of potential presidential candidates from Fox’s center-right PAN grouping and the PRI.

Unable to affect real, progressive change in Mexico, Fox’s government has cooked up legal assault Lopez Obrador that is hard to take for anything more than a flimsy, cooked-up piece of nonsense. The ultimate goal of which is to put him jail during the 2006 elections.

The scale of the corruption involved is smaller than anything that Whitewater ever produced on the Clintons. Fox admits this, but is standing on some “principal” or other related to Mexican law, which is something of a first for him; way too late and not better than never at all.

But that’s not what the scribe wants to write about today. That’s just a symptom of the same sad, sick, undemocratic, murderous situation that is Mexico.

So back to Kraul’s article, which ran April 12 and was entitled, “Investigative Journalism Proves Life-Threatening in Mexico.”

It tells the horrifying tale of journalists in particular, and in general, in that God forsaken country.
To wit: Raul Gibb Guerrero, owner and editor of a paper called “La Opinión” in Poza Rica was shot to death April 8, or thereabouts; presumably over his exposes on traffickers of stolen gasoline and drugs in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz.

His family started the award-winning paper 50 years ago and “La Opinión” has locked horns with corrupt higher-ups in the state-owned oil consortium Pemex or Petroleos Mexicanos.

These people apparently had enough and hired four gunmen to pump 15 pieces of lead into Gibb while he was driving home from work. A wife and three kids are left to carry on with the memory and horror.

A few days earlier, Kraul’s fine piece continues, a radio reporter named Guadalupe Garcia Escamilla was shot nine times after leaving the station where she is employed, Estereo (that’s Spanish for “stereo”) 91.

She had, according to the article, been “digging into municipal corruption.” Garcia is not dead, but is in very critical condition.

Less fortunate was 25-year old Alfredo Jimenez Mota who worked for the newspaper “El Imparcial” in the border town of Hermosillo. He had recently done some scribery on drug traffickers and their plans to kills some local officials.

Jimenez disappeared April 2, after receiving threats, and has not been heard from since. If the scribe knows his Mexico and his journalists, he knows Jimenez will never be heard from again.

The security minister in the state of Tamaulipas, where the second and third cases occurred, suggests reporters carry firearms.

So much for the pen being mightier than the sword. It simply cannot be when impunity reigns. For the whole idea of a functioning, watchdog press depends upon the response of civic society and legal authority, both of which are in short supply in the Mexico of Vicente Fox.

It’s a good thing something like that can’t happen here. Or can it?

Let’s just say the scribe never allows himself to feel too safe.

Jeffrey Fleishman, another reporter at the “Los Angeles Times” wrote another article the same day that should scare the bejeezus out of anyone with two strong eyes to read.,1,4839658.story

“Man’s Claims May Be a Look at Dark Side of War on Terror,” tells the tale of Khaled el-Masri who went from Germany to Macedonia to escape the wife and kids for a while.

It was his misfortune to attend a mosque in Ulm, Germany that has been the focus of (p)resident Bush’s rabid war on terror, and to have the same last name as a high-ranking Al-Qaeda operative.

the scribe has been on the road and reporting all day so he’s not going to get too much into the gruesome details. Suffice it to day this guy spent a very uncomfortable five months being stripped naked, beaten, shot-up with drugs, jailed in Afghani cell with dirty drinking water, and interrogated ad nauseum before being dumped from a van in the mountains of Albania of all places.

He was never charged with anything and nobody, as he pointed, ever apologized.

But don’t worry. “A CIA spokesman declined to comment on Masri’s case,” the article reads, “but White House, Justice Department and CIA officials have long argued that U.S. laws authorize such covert operations.”

That U.S. laws authorize such covert operations. (!)

Feeling safer?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Jane.  Posted by Hello

My Sweet Lady Jane

Today the scribe takes aim at one of his favorite targets, Robert J. Caldwell, editor of the "San Diego Union-Tribune" Sunday editorial pullout. His article, "She’s Still Hanoi Jane," stokes up old and festering sentiments, plays into the far right’s penchant for picking and choosing who and what qualifies as American (because they set the standard), and places the deaths of millions at Ms. Fonda’s feet while ignoring the fact we committed our own injustices in a war that, even 30-plus years on, makes little sense to us.

Here’s what the scribe wrote:


Who are you, Dr. Phil?

For some reason Jane Fonda’s admission that posing for pictures and lending her name to the Viet Cong cause were a "betrayal," is insufficient.

An "apology," it would seem, is in order and nothing else will do.

But let’s face it; that won’t do either. Like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, you share a very singular view of what it means to be American and those that don’t fit it, should be gone (though you guys never make clear exactly how).

You write: "Fonda did a lot more in that 1972 visit to North Vietnam than demonstrate her solidarity with those who were shooting down American pilots."

Oh really? And what were the pilots doing? Dropping candy? Or was it napalm on children (pictures we’ve all seen), fire bombs on cities that stripped the trees of leaves and replaced them with human flesh?

"For millions of Americans," you say, "and for millions of South Vietnamese allies, those wounds have yet to heal completely and perhaps never will." (With articles like yours, it’s no wonder).

And what of those on the other side? Children, animals, sentient feeling beings whose only mistake was being on the wrong side of geography, the wrong side of wealth, and the wrong side of an exquisite, technological murder. What of them?

Where is their apology? Where is yours? Where is the apology of the pilots and the silly men who cooked up the domino theory that said if Vietnam fell so would everything else? It did, they didn’t. Remember?

Few act correctly in war, because the rules don’t really permit it. Compared with the common civil discourse, there is something unhinged and inexplicable to those who did not live those times or that particular war. Which is why millions in this country marched against the new war, and why it’s surprising to learn that you are a vet; that having lived the horror, you can wish it on another, soldier or civilian.

Finally, if you love America you must reach out from the flag you’ve swaddled yourself in to those who share the country with you. Those who embrace the right to dissent and find in peace the highest virtue. It may seem silly to you, but it is never a crime.

Hanoi Jane may, like any impassioned young person, have been wrong in the particulars, but she was right about that war, and you are wrong to dredge it up so many years later.


the highway scribe

And elsewhere:

Did you know that the (p)resident Bush’s "No Child Left Behind Act," passed in 2001, requires school districts to provide the Pentagon with students’ names, addresses and phone numbers so that they may be contacted and recruited for military service?

According to an April 11 piece by Dana Hull in the "San Jose
Mercury" ( that’s exactly the case. Parents of high school students are understandably upset and somebody with a brain – Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose) – has introduced a "Student Privacy Protection Act" to turn the current policy around. Call him and call your own representative, (202) 863-8000, and tell them what a good idea that is.

What gets the scribe’s goat here is not the Bush administration, from which such underhanded policymaking is a habitual tic, but the journalism accompanying the law’s passage. Where was that bit of information? Was there not a single journalist at all the flagship and elite outlets who took the time to read the legislation and got to wondering what educational standards that left no child behind had to do with recruitment? What about Bob Caldwell? Didn’t he know?

Also in the news, John Kerry, in his novel effort to lead a permanent opposition, is beating the drum to prevent John Bolton from becoming our ambassador to the U.N. largely because Bolton hates the U.N.

Kerry sent out an e-mail to his online community Monday. It reads in part:

"Have you ever noticed that in the Bush [a]dministration, the only way to get a job promotion is to bungle our national security? As under secretary of state for arms control and international security for the past four years, Mr. Bolton has achieved little. In fact, we secured more nuclear materials in the two years before September 11th than in the two years after. North Korea and Iran are now burgeoning nuclear states. This record earned John Bolton a nomination to the U.N.?"

Kerry should be a blogger!

He’s against the nomination and thinks one (r)epublican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (r-RI) can be swayed. And that’s all it would take to send this hack back to the think tank.

Chafee, by the way, was the guy who killed the (p)resident’s horseshit "Clear Skies Initiative" for dirtying up the skies ("Honky Cat," March 10). Give him a call at (202) 224 2921 and tell him to do the right thing again by shoving Bolton up Bush’s ass.

Finally, Ronald Brownstein, "L.A. Times," wrote an article, "Bush’s Neglect of Consensus May Be Kindling Fiery Senate Showdown," about how W’s sinking poll numbers are not unwelcome at a White House that "operates at the margins" and works merely to please its base.

"He appears content to operate as president of half the country," writes Brownstein, who must have known this before November, but couldn’t find a good reason to write it down.