Friday, December 22, 2006

Signing Off

the highwayscribery board of editors has decided to take the rest of the year off. See you in the new one.

Peace on Earth.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bubble Boy - The Sequel

As might be expected, the man in the bubble either doesn’t get it, or doesn’t want to get it.

Or perhaps, the (p)resident, once again, is just showing his natural disdain for democracy by interpreting the November elections as, “people wanting a change of direction,” in Iraq, as opposed to wanting out of Iraq.

Michael Abramowitz of the “Washington Post” notes that “President Bush has been busy listing how his policies [in Iraq] will not be changing. There will be no timetable for removing American troops, no high-level dialogue with Iran and Syria, and no slackening of support for the widely criticized government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.”

And what’s more, Bush doesn’t want less troops, he wants more.

Of course.

But things are different as the scribe noted in “Bush at War: Total Repudiation.”

Junior’s had his toys taken away from him, but he just doesn’t know it yet.

Stenny Hoyer, the new Democratic majority leader in the House had this to say in the same piece: “There hasn’t been a change from the president. The president may be trapped in his own policy, sensing, ‘If I don’t succeed, it will be a huge blot on my record, and so therefore I have no choice but to try to succeed’.”

Thank you Stenny Hoyer (he’s the ‘silver fox’-looking character in the picture), whoever you have been, for a short, sweet and easy-to-understand analysis of what’s going on.

Now we must have a conversation with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid that, no, it’s not okay to fund a “temporary surge” in troops as the (p)resident wishes.

There’s no such thing and if we’ve (re)learned anything from this ghastly affair, it’s that war is much easier to start than stop, and that violence spirals.

Talking a little more sense is the “Post’s" David Ignatius. He’s the one who doesn’t look like a Zakaria in the little banner with talking heads at left (and up a little).

We defer to Ignatius because he doesn’t live Iraq through other peoples’ eyes the way the scribe, for reasons of family, finance, and fear, does. He was there in August when the, “army had launched an aggressive campaign to regain control of Baghdad’s toughest neighborhoods. We rumbled through Doura and Amiriyah in a little convoy of armored Humvees, and, sure enough, the show of American force seemed to be working – for a while. The insurgents and death squads slipped away. But as soon as U.S. forces moved on to pacify other areas., they came back. A new surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad could repeat this cycle on a larger scale, but to what end?”

the scribe is not a military scientist, so you can weigh for yourself some of Ignatius’ ideas about what a new U.S. strategy might look like.

If you’re looking for some military scientists, here’s another “Post” piece on Pentagon reticence to send more meat over to Iraq for grinding.

They disagree with the (p)resident, who ostensibly holds authority over them, but remember who has the guns in the end. That is probably why Bush pledges not only more troops, but a bigger military bought with more of your health care and education money.

That might bring them around.


Washington Post GlobalChat (plus)

Here is the interesting question posed over the weekend by "Washington Post" GlobalChat blog (in bold) followed by the highway scribe's answer, in which he somehow manages to (legitimately) plug his book.

And then a fellow named Daniel engaged the scribe in a back and forth which we reproduce here for your enjoyment.

Are women making real breakthroughs in the 21st century or is it still one-step forward, two steps back for half the world's population?

A fine and important question posed in a season of hope for renewal.

Women have gained some and yet the world has not changed much.

You can lead Germany, but some daffy dope from Texas can find it within his right to give you a public back massage.

You can be a woman in power, but not rule with woman power.

On this planet the maxim that “might makes right” continues to reign. You can elect Margaret Thatcher, but she must start wars in distant lands to gain legitimacy. If she possesses any particular feminine wisdom, you will never know it.

You can give a woman all the rights in the world, but alone on a street she must still be afraid for masculine physicality remains highly valued and too often utilized (ahem) preemptively.

the highway scribe wrote his novel from a woman’s perspective; a definite no-no in today’s environment where only blacks can write about blacks, Latinos about Latinos, and women about women.

Where do you come off writing from a woman’s perspective, highway scribe? What do you know about what a woman feels?

Until we can transcend this easy conceit, we can never understand women, blacks, Latinos and other losers on the balance sheet of violence. We must learn to accept the difference between us as the gift. the scribe’s simple answer to his critics was that he listened to women and put the feelings they expressed to him in his story about La Vedette, Gloriella, “she who brings to mind the words of Arabi who said the sight of God in woman is the most perfect of all.”


highwayscribery, I find myself puzzled by your post earlier. You seem to believe that a woman must be a liberal to be a woman--that if she is not liberal she is being forced to act like a man or something (or put in a subordinate position).

For example you trash Bush for rubbing Merkals back which would classify as putting woman in a subordinate position. Then you point out Thatcher as an example of woman not being put in a position of subordination but being forced to act like a man to get legitimacy.

So according to your scheme a woman is not really a woman if subordinate or demonstrating male characteristics.

I really would like to see what women think of that.

Even more problematic you go on to complain that the book you wrote was not greeted well by women and then you insist you do understand women.

But women cannot demonstrate male characteristics like Thatcher while you, super sensitive and totally in touch with woman, can understand the feminine?

Logic would dictate that if you can be Mr. Sensitive a woman can just as well be highly masculine and compete with men without having been expected to act like a man by men.

I think your liberal politics has totally confused you--so overlapped your notions of male and female that a woman must be a liberal and cannot be anything else unless forced into subordinate position or irrationally made to act like a man by men.

This political position of yours might be for the emancipation of woman in the sense of removing her from being subordinate, but it prevents her from acting like a man because in your scheme of things for her to act like a man is to be Republican (to be forced to act like a man to gain legitimacy).

Furthermore we can add that your scheme of things shortchanges men because they are forced into both allowing women to become more powerful and to act only in a "feminine" manner (nothing which may be construed as Republican). Essentially men must become more feminine as you understand it...

So you have this notion of the female that not only men must conform to, women must conform to it as well...

I suggest you do not understand men and women at all. I suspect men as well as the women you "write for" feel you have no understanding.

You have simply overlapped political categories on notions of male and female--and for that reason it can be said you have no understanding of politics either.

But perhaps you can write a book now explaining me as a man.

the highway scribe:


You make some fine points, if in a rather cantankerous way. the scribe doesn't claim to be either "super sensitive" or to understand women, because he's not, and doesn't (his wife can vouch), but thinks it important to try. the scribe feels activist women should be taken to task for joining other "identities" in claiming their experience can only be expressed through themselves, because that means we lose opportunities at comprehending one another. the scribe grants that you are correct regarding his "confusion" about the sexes today, which, he thought, was somewhat universal. Still, it must be said that there are masculine and feminine archetypes, and the highway scribe's liberal politics didn't produce them (his analysis is typically anarcho-syndical). Out here in California we have a governor whom referred to his "left" opponents as "girlie men" long before there was a highwayscribery. When the president massages Germany's leader (it's Merkel, I recommend you try the "preview" feature before you post), it's hard not to notice he didn't choose Tony Blair instead, or Gerhard Schroeder long before her, because that would have been a feminine and productive thing to do, given their relationship. Your best point involves the emancipation of a woman precluding her from acting in a masculine way, which, it's true, would sort of un-emancipate her, but the scribe would hope the elevation of women's status and power might offer us a broader, kinder horizon. If he's wrong, then it's kind of too bad, no?

Daniel's rejoinder:

I thought about your earlier post some more and it seems to me now what you actually did rather than superimpose your liberal beliefs on how you expect women to behave is superimpose something of an idealized feminine on the entirety of existence as poets do...

In other words you have an idea of the idealized feminine toward which liberal politics must move and this of course must replace Republican politics...

I can understand now why liberal women would feel you do not understand them. Instead of emancipating woman you expect her to conform to the idealized feminine and for this to rule the world.

According to your scheme women must not only resist being subordinated (which is correct and liberal) they cannot act as men as Thatcher did without somehow having been forced to act contrary to their nature (forced to act like men to gain legitimacy).

But the latter portion is not conducive to the liberation of women at all. It might be that some women are forced to act like men, but other women actually do have male characteristics and consider the release of them perfectly consistent with liberal politics...

It seems you are so against Republican politics and have such an idea of the idealized feminine that you are something of a super liberal toward which everyone must conform...

What makes it even more strange is that you have a particular idea of the idealized feminine--in other words there is not just one idealized feminine.

Your idealized feminine is totally non-violent, completely nurturing,--a total opposition to male characteristics.

But if you study the features of the statue of liberty or the myth of Pallas Athena or other conceptions of the idealized feminine you find that by no means is there a consensus and that in fact a woman can be quite masculine, beautiful and powerful without this being at odds to womanhood or manhood...

This discussion is getting interesting. I wonder now how much politics is getting both confused and clarified by changing conceptions of the sexes. We have a left and right politically and male and female. How do these dualities influence and interpenetrate each other? How can they be disentangled and then reentangled for maximum movement and development?

Sorry Merkel for misspelling of name. Spelling is not my strongest point....


Daniel, thanks for your response. the highway scribe can't help but feel you are more trapped in a "liberal/Republican" paradigm than he; who never once uses either term. Is the scribe's feminine a poet's idealization? Perhaps. Does he care about its relationship to GOP or Democratic politics? Not a wit. And the scribe never said women don't think he understands them. He said certain women don't feel the scribe, or any man, should attempt to express feminine realities in literature. Again, the scrivener thinks it's good to walk some miles in someone else's shoes in the name of deeper understanding. Reading your comments the scribe can't help but feel you're twisting yourself in a knot trying to paint him as something "other" than yourself, and is somewhat flummoxed at how a rather whimsical and sentimental post -- bereft of real political rhetoric -- so repulsed and raised your ideological hackles. There is no "scheme" proposed in that first offering; no call to "superimpose" anything on anyone, and, for the world, the scribe doesn't see where you got any of that. Try "Vedette" (Buy My Book! $$$) You will find nothing in her that is "non-violent, completely nurturing" as you put it. If there is nothing transcendent about the female, if she is not the missing ying to our unbalanced and violent yang, if women are naught but another political interest out to get theirs at the expense of others, then why should we care? Finally, you're right, the discussion is interesting, but woefully underattended by comparison to other GlobalChat topics. That may speak to this question better than all the words spilled between us.

Join the conversation here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Three More

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Three Miramar Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Cpl. Matthew V. Dillon of Aiken, SC, Lance Cpl. Budd M. Cote of Marana, AZ and Lance Cpl. Clinton J. Miller of Greenfield, IA:

"The call of duty takes our troops into dangerous situations that require tremendous courage. Cpl. Dillon, Lance Cpl. Budd and Lance Cpl. Miller exemplified that courage and gave their lives to protect our freedoms. Maria and I wish to express our deepest condolences to Matthew, Budd and Clinton's families as they mourn the extraordinary loss of their loved one. These brave individuals served our country with valor and they will be remembered as heroes. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families during this painful time."

Dillon, 25, Cote, 21, and Miller, 23, died Dec. 11 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. They were assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Dillon, Lance Cpl. Cote and Lance Cpl. Miller, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Liquid Life (installment seven)


Elendele was a Democrat at the polls, but fell outside the mainstream political prism at the meal table.

One day in bed, she said to Saturn and I, that you could tell in high school what parties American children would belong to their whole lives. Those kids who needed to ask credit for class participation would be with her crowd. Everybody body else was with everybody else.

She did more than criticize. Her prescriptions for social head colds were many and she talked often of opening the world’s first political science store.
Her polity was not without bureaucracy. That, she believed, could not be helped.

What she envisioned were all-inclusive bureaucracies, buttressed by the fact that those people administering them did so because it affected them directly. Farmers directing agriculture, and without pay, so that only when problems arose would they convene out of common concern for their own creature comforts. Or something like that. She could explain it better, and look better doing it, but she really felt everybody should be treated the same, and that democracy wasn’t democracy unless everyone was working at it.

She believed that single people’s pets should be covered by their company health plan because she believed in loose family and natural tribes.

I told her that once I was a Democrat too, but that having met her, I’d since converted to monarchist. That is to say, she convinced me of the natural aristocracy.

But touched by flattery she was not, noting that there were neither Gods on earth or
heaven, “at least since the end of Viet Nam.”

There is a politics of love, she’d maintained, and hers was rooted in the notion that trust was not necessary for a good relationship.

“Men and women all caress some secret, keep a little life apart. To smother them in vows of trust is to doom it from the start.”

Then she declaimed, “Just what does all this social Darwinism have to do with civilization anyway? Either we’ve done nothing more than institutionalize Hobbes’ state of nature, or we’ve come together to make gentler the life of the world like Bobby Kennedy said we should.”

Saturn tried to shatter her: “What about the countless failed attempts at redistributing the wealth.”

“That’s a problem that has always been gone about improperly,” came the counterthrust. “What we need is a ruling party to convince people that, like me, all they ever really need to live fully and freely, are coffee, candy, and cigarettes.”

“There are lots,” answered Saturn, “and that’s not a novel idea.”

It is unknown to me whether the words sophistication and sophistry share the same root. But in Elendele’s world they had been knotted nicely neat with her achieving the former by taking the back door provided by the latter.

Then I asked her, “Do you like Jews?” and she said, “Well yes. That is, some Jews I like and some other I don’t.”

Then she quickly changed the subject again, deeming it important for me to know that, in extinguishing a joint, you don’t have to rub it out.

“Just lay it down and let it burn its own slow epiphanies.”

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Two More

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Redding Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Micah S. Gifford of Redding, CA:

"Our heart goes out to Spc. Gifford's family as they suffer the extraordinary loss of their loved one. Micah was a heroic soldier and a brave leader who fought with determination and dignity. Maria and I offer our condolences to his family, friends and fellow soldiers."

Gifford, 27, died Dec. 7 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit while on patrol during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Fort Richardson, AK.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Dustin J. Libby of Presque Isle, ME:

"Cpl. Libby answered the high calling of military service courageously serving our country and making the ultimate sacrifice. Dustin's loved ones have lost a cherished family member and our country has lost a valiant Marine. Maria and I extend our heartfelt sympathies and will pray for their comfort."

Libby, 22, died Dec. 6 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Major McClung

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Maj. Megan M. McClung of Coupeville, WA:

"Today, we honor Maj. McClung for her courageous service to our nation at home and abroad. Maria and I offer our sincere condolences to Megan's family, friends and fellow Marines as they mourn this extraordinary loss. Megan's commitment to duty and loyalty to our country reflects her noble character. Her honorable sacrifice will not be forgotten."

McClung, 34, died Dec. 6 as a result of injuries sustained during combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. She was assigned to I Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group, I MEF, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Maj. McClung, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Gore Vidal in Cuba

You won’t be reading this stuff in the mainstream media, regardless of the fact that with 35 novels, numerous produced scripts for features and small screen alike, and an endless array of essays on an endless array of subjects, Gore Vidal is our primary literary figure today.

The respectable consensus says it is right and good to ignore an 81-year old intellectual with some serious national history in his sack of knowledge. There is not even a sense of respect in recognizing that these are the final chapters of a man who dedicated his days and work to the public life of the United States. No appreciation.

And if Gore Vidal was not sexy enough for your average $58 zillion a year anchor, the fact he was in Cuba could not have made the story more saleable.

Cuba, the sensible word has it, does not exist, a fact which precludes anything good or interesting from ever happening there.

But try to imagine how distinct a place it is, outside the mediated vanity fair of global consumer life, without advertisements, the endless pitch, without ambition even.

But the cameras will not arrive until Cuba has been turned into a 7-11 and the public eye will see what it needs people to see.

Which leads us to the whys and wherefores of your friendly global neighborhood blogger who, almost unwittingly, pours either bile or passion into a gaping hole left in the new information market by the old ways of reporting.

So, in case you thought it interesting, highwayscribery wanted to let you know about an article in today’s edition of Mexico’s “La Jornada,” reporting on Gore Vidal’s visit to Habana, Cuba, for a concert commemorating the 26th anniversary of John Lennon’s terrible murder.

Vidal told the Communist Party newspaper “Granma” that the United States, with George W. Bush at the helm, is under “dictatorship.”

“Try to find the adequate expression for a political system that has suppressed the writ of habeas corpus, that makes incursions upon individual rights, and discards legal protections consecrated in the Magna Carta,” said Vidal.

Asked how he feels when called a “bad American” for his scathing critique of our ruling grandees, Vidal responded, “I feel like the last good American. At least I’m an American concerned with defending ethics and history in my country in the hopes we’ll return to being decent and respected. I dream and work to prevent them from taking more of the republic the United States once was, that republic which has collapsed under the present regime.”

(the scribe needs a pithy or poignant observation to break up these two quotes, but can't think of anything).

“John Lennon,” Vidal concluded, “was life, the complete opposite of people like Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and W. Bush, who incarnate death.”

Monday, December 11, 2006

Augusto Pinochet: Good Riddance A-hole

Augusto Pinochet has finally died. Here is the rather surprising White House statement on this event:

"Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile represented one of the most difficult periods in that nation's history. Our thoughts today are with the victims of his reign and their families."

The tyrant lived longer than he deserved and the world is better for his passing. In celebration, highwayscribery re-runs a post from Sept. 11, 2005:

Today we remember another country’s 9/11.

In 1973 Chile, one of the oldest democracies in the Western Hemisphere, was subjected to a military coup d’etat concocted largely by the Nixon administration and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

The government of Salvador Allende was leftist in orientation and duly elected by the people of Chile. To view films of an overjoyed multitude marching through the capitol city following his electoral victory is to recall a kind of innocent belief in democracy's transforming power.

Eventually, and with the backing and blessing of the United States Government, a military junta led by a butcher named Augusto Pinochet literally bombed the presidential palace. Allende, according to the conquering generals, died by his own hand rather than surrender.

What you have above is the last picture of Allende alive, outside the presidential palace, machine-gun under his right arm (wearing the glasses), accompanied by his aides, looking up at the planes that had come to kill them all.

Next to it is a French cartoonist’s interpretation of 9/11; a kind of hybrid that mixes Allende’s 9/11 with those who died in New York City’s 9/11.

(p)resident Bush, you will remember, attributed the terrorists’ actions to the fact, "they hate freedom," which was to flatter a national conceit, rather than an honest assessment of the way our policies are perceived throughout the world.

The cartoon (you have to click on the image to view it in better detail) asserts that we’ve screwed a lot of people, worthwhile people, pretty badly over the years and that our chickens came home to roost on Sept. 11, 2001.

Here is a portion of Allende’s final radio address to the people of his country on September 11, 1973:

"I will pay with my life the defense of the principles that come at a price in this country. A curse will fall upon those who have violated their duty, breaking their word, and the doctrine of the armed forces.

The people should be alert and vigilant. They should not allow themselves to be provoked, nor be massacred, but should defend their conquests. They should defend their right to construct with their own might a life that is dignified, better...

..In the name of the most sacred interests of the people, in the name of this nation, I call upon to keep the faith.

For history cannot be detained with repression or with crime. This is a hard and difficult moment, but we shall overcome it. It’s possible that they will crush us, but tomorrow will belong to the people, to the workers. Humanity will advance toward the conquest of a better life.

Countrymen, its possible they will silence the radios, and so I say farewell to you all. In this moment the airplanes fly overhead. It’s probable that they will murder us. But you should know that we are here, by way of example, to show that in this country there are those who know how to meet their obligations. I will do so by a mandate of the people and with the will and conscience of a president who maintains the dignity of his charge.

This may be the last time I will ever address you. The air force has bombed our radio stations. My words are without bitterness, without disappointment, and will be the moral punishment for those who have betrayed their oath.

Soldiers of Chile, commanders-in-chief and admirals of the Navy: General Mendoza, low-rent officer who only yesterday pledged his loyalty and solidarity to the government, has now declared himself director general of the national police.

Before these deeds I have only this to say to the workers: I shall not resign. Placed in a transitional moment in history, I will pay with my life this loyalty to the people. And I can say to you with certainty that this seed we plant in the consciousness of thousands and thousands of Chileans cannot be suppressed indefinitely. They have the forces, they can bring us to our knees, but social processes cannot be detained with neither crime nor force.

History is ours and is made by the people."

Pinochet went on to rule in a brutal fashion for another 17 years or so, throwing people out of airplanes over the ocean, exterminating political opponents, and shutting down a model republic to ensure that the Chicago School of economic theory could be implemented without opposition.

In 1987, the scribe published a poem in the "The Guild Reporter," national organ for The Newspaper Guild of which he was both a card-carrying member and shop steward.

The verse was in response to press reports regarding the death of Jose Carrasco Tapia, a journalist who got picked up from his house by government "security forces" in the middle of the night and was found dead, shot 13 times, in a cemetery outside of town.

Here it is:

Don’t bring your shoes Jose Carrasco Tapia
you won’t be needing them
here in Chilay much longer
that’s what they told him
when they came at 5 a.m.
And he said
to his wife
Saint Jose +
the barefoot journalist
in a crispus attucks attack
Jose Carrasco Tapia +
the man whole damn war was declared
on he’s gone now
in a brutal way just
leave the shoes Don Jose +
you won’t be needing them where
you are going

But the real reason the scribe is delving into the horrid events of long ago, in a distant country, is rock and roll and a band that was very good at it: The Clash.

That band did a song, "Washington Bullets," which can be found on the landmark, triple-disc "Sandinista" album from 1980. It is an homage to the revolution in Nicaragua and a celebration of Jimmy Carter's restraint in allowing it to happen.

In that song the singer, the late Joe Strummer, says, "Please remember Victor Jara, in the Santiago Stadium..."

And so we will remember him here tonight at highwayscribery.

Victor Jara (HA-ra) was a guitar player, singer, and songwriter who chronicled the lives of Chile’s poor. If we were to produce them in detail, or type out some lyrics, his songs might seem, through the prism of the present upon the past, trite or maudlin.

They were anything but. They were haunting tributes that worked and moved many and revealed the soul of a sweet and tender man.

In the hours after Pinochet took control of Chile, thousands were rounded up and taken to the soccer stadium in the capitol city of Santiago. There they were tortured, shot, and "disappeared" as it was known in the vernacular of the time.

Jara was singled out for special treatment. The charming men who saved Chile from godless communism and agrarian reform took delight in breaking his hands and then daring him to sing without the benefit of a guitar.

Few witnesses survived the massacre, so we must trust or distrust the legend which has Jara singing the anthem of Allende’s Unity Party, and being joined in chorus by others awaiting their own turn to be broken on the wheel.

And then they killed him. A pop star.

Above the picture of Allende's terrible moment is another of Victor Jara whom we remember many years after his terrible death on this September 11 that has different meanings for people in different countries.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Liquid Life (installment six)


The most obvious thing about the salon was its size. An expansive thing both horizontally and vertically, it was a small palace done in the French Normandie style, with a few innovations not seen elsewhere then or since.

There were few, if any French Normans in that neighborhood. Elendele could afford the rent because it was low, because sometimes she carried a gun just to and from her car for safety. But that wasn’t the worse thing, she’d bemoan.

“The worse thing is this goddamn music at whatever hour of the morning or evening they please. It doesn’t matter we’re only ten feet across an alley from them. Nobody else matters,” flowed her typical stream of intolerance and hypocrisy.

Elendele’s building was higher than the neighbors’. She, being on the top floor, didn’t have to look straight into another apartment, across the alley, and actually had a pretty good jazz rooftop view.

But when the latest brass and banana offering from Sonora would explode in yellow across the night, Elendele would rage, go into a closet full of bottles she’d stored away and launch her empty Molotov at the ledge of the window from where the music was coming. She was a good shot. Sometimes it worked. Other times it just made them play louder, or worse yet, longer.

“I think you’re going against your own liberty principles, Elendele,” scratched the Saturn cat over her breakfast beer. “I detect a slight trace of the race thing, too.”

“And I don’t think you would know a principle even if it had a dollar sign stamped to it,” came the block and counterjab.

That wasn’t fair, but Elendele was scored by the criticism. So, she husked me down to the city library where she desired to delve into the topic of freedom, because she was confused about its boundaries and valuations. What she found was that most everyone to ever pick up a pen had written something on the topic. She was overwhelmed, but took what she needed and locked herself in a room, and for a few days, Saturn and I were forced to consider the limited possibilities of the twosome.

It took a week before she emerged with her latest revelation.

“I must say that I’m pretty surprised at the influence of Locke and Rousseau and their finding rights out in nature, like figs.”

“Oh yey!” cheered Saturn. Rousseau was one of her favorites.

“I learned,” Elendele lessoned, “that while not very glamorous thinkers today, the two of them could roll kings’ heads in their time, and that many of the basic assumptions that define our daily dealings are a direct growth of their mind-seeds.”

And that was all she said, before she reopened the bed so that the games could re-begin.

Some days later, we three slept: Elendele bookended by me and Saturnina, when the midnight mambo broke loose like an old Dutch dike. Sound was flooding everything with the smells of some ranch in Oaxaca.

The curly menace swung about and elbowed me in the nose, and somehow hit Saturn across her right cheek. She flashed to the window, slung it up and got a gun crack sound from the impact, which caused the band to stop.

Then she yelled into the night, as always, finger in the air, “I have been vindicated by Locke and Rousseau. Nowhere! Nowhere in the theories of these possessive individualists is there any mention of man’s right to play his music as loud as he likes, and whenever he wants, in his fruitless pursuit of happiness.

And the neighbor told her, “Das no my prolem, homegurl. Das you problem.”

There was a pause and then she closed the window quietly and climbed back into bed between us. “I’m trying. I’m trying to understand,” she explained, and then locked her mind shut to sleep while Saturn and I nursed each other bruises.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bush at War: Total Repudiation

Boy what a difference a month makes. Thirty days ago voters swept the Democrats into power and if you feel like you are waking up to headlines and news from a different country, that’s because you are.

Minute by minute the perverse edifice that was w’s base crumbles a little more and this when, technically, the Democrats aren’t even in power yet.

In his post-election analysis, “Isis Left,” the scribe pointed out that every politician has a rise and fall and that Bush’s, given the tinny underpinning of his preparation and raison d’etre, was on par with those who came before.

But those who came before have rarely been subjected to the immediate humiliation and dressing-down that Bush has undergone.

He has been divested of any purpose and the only time anybody talks to him is when they want to say something unpleasant, but truthful.

Look at the cartoon above from Steve Breen of the stolidly conservative “San Diego Union-Tribune.”

The implication – no scratch that – nothing implied there, the assertion is that Bush and his neo-con friends were akin to children who broke into the pantry and raided it for purposes no one would ever have otherwise approved.

The second part of that narrative is open to question from an anarcho-syndical perspective. Many who could have said or done something sat on their hands or carried the administration’s water in the lead-up to the war.

Now, of course, everybody is aghast, as well they should be.

the scribe is young enough to have missed the “big wars” but there have been plenty in his lifetime. Suffice it to say, he has never seen anything like the living, rotting, glass-sharded, chemically poisoned, blood-river hell that is Iraq.

And we’re responsible.

But we were talking about Bush’s humiliation and it’s so easy to get distracted because all roads lead to Iraq.

Six years ago, on a dark December evening, the highway scribe rejected the (p)resident-elect’s call for national unity and wrote the Texas governor in his mansion promising to fight with every intellectual tool at his disposal the coming disaster.

the scribe officially lays down those tools of intellecual war today and turns to others more rewarding and forward-looking.


Rumsfeld is officially gone, his whole approach to military science under immediate overhaul at the Pentagon where highwayscribery readers took notice of the point, made in “Isis Left,” that more needed to be undone than done.

Meanwhile, somebody’s locked the door to Dick Cheney’s favorite bunker for he is nowhere to be seen; just reward for his role in helping set up the ghastly affair that has been American governance over the past six years.

And John Bolton. Ah, John Bolton. The president can stand at a press conference in Jordan with Prime Minister Maliki and tell the American people their desire for a graceful exit from his war “just isn’t going to happen,” but that’s the usual on-message-media horsecrap, and the food of staged events.

At the Capitol Building, where the only thing that matters is a good hard vote count, Bush had to relent on Bolton; no sloppy recess appointment, just the testy responses of a man who had to rise to the top of the planet and destroy a few countries before he finally heard “no” when it counted.

Who cares about something like l’affaire Bolton? the scribe posits that the defeat of Bolton, and others of his ilk, will weaken the conservative movement for years to come. These were the guys who nurtured a dreamland where the United States took the gloves off, ditched nettlesome and effeminate socialist allies, and showed what real power is and how much good it can achieve.

For decades conservatives seethed at America’s abiding by the rules of an international game everybody helped draft, because doing so was unnecessary, when imposing order worldwide is a merely a question of the man with the biggest (canon)balls.

They were wrong and now what will motivate them?

But that’s the future. For now, don’t expect to see anyone introducing a proposal to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, because that’s just not going to get out Barbara Boxer’s Senate Environment Committee. Soon we can begin rollback of that legislation making torture a part of our national policy, if the Pentagon hasn’t dropped it in a shredder with the rest of Rumsfeld’s cat litter.

Sit back, take a deep and satisfying breath as James Baker, that icon of establishment sobriety, flogs his special report dressing down his friend the former president’s son the president, and wait for that apology about your early march against the invasion of Iraq.

Which were you, Looney Left or just a simple-minded Bush-hater?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kennedy On Poetry (reprint)

Those who know the scribe personally understand how he has been guided by conflicting lights over the years: Jack Kerouac and Jack Kennedy. He has essentially chosen a path hacked out of the cultural forest by the former, but now and again allows himself a lapse into fantasy about public service so remarkable in the latter.

Here are some thoughts Kennedy had about poetry from a speech given at Amherst College in honor of Robert Frost in September 1963. For one moment, at least, the President sounds a little something like Kerouac.

It ran in the January/February issue of the “Atlantic Monthly” from whence it was transcribed.

It is unfathomable a politician of our own era might say such things, and it’s both clear and sad the things Kennedy envisioned did not materialize in this America that grew up in the shadow of his murder.

A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.

The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation’s greatness, but the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable, especially when that questioning is disinterested, for they determine whether we use power or power uses us...

When power leads man toward arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the areas of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses, for art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstones for our judgment. The artist, however faithful to his personal vision of reality, becomes the last champion of the individual mind and sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state. The great artist is thus a solitary figure. He has, as Frost said, “a lover’s quarrel with the world.” In pursuing his perceptions of reality he must often sail against the currents of his time...

If sometimes our great artists have been the most critical of our society, it is because their sensitivity and their concern for justice, which must motivate any true artist, make them aware that our nation falls short of its highest potential.

I see little of more importance to the future of our country and our civilization than full recognition of the place of the artist. If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him...

In free society art is not a weapon, and it does not belong to the sphere of polemics and ideology. Artists are not engineers of the soul. It may be different elsewhere. But in a democratic society the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist, is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may. In serving his vision of the truth, the artist best serves his nation...

I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral strength, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.

I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past, and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.

I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.

And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world, not only for its strength but for its civilization as well.

And I look forward to a world which will be safe, not only for democracy and diversity but also for personal distinction.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Andalusia and Mexico

Below is a speech given last week at the international book fair in Guadalajara, Mexico by the Spanish philosopher Adolfo Sánches Vazquez entitled "Andalusia and Mexico."

We run it here because it fits perfectly with the highwayscribery pledge to meld politics, poetry and prose; for its focus on Andalusia in the Spanish Civil War (setting of the novel "Vedette"), and because we are linked to Mexico both through common interest and work.

To begin, let me express my deepest and heartfelt gratitude to the Andalusian government, and in particular, the Minister of Culture, Rosa Torres, for the high honor she bestows upon me by distinguishing, in her own words, my “personal and professional trajectory.”

On this occasion I would like to make the following observations: that trajectory developed in its totality in Mexico, during the unveiling of a long exile and the years that followed it. Within that long arc I should note that it was in Andalusia, specifically in Málaga, were my early vocations flowered. The first was literary and which translated into a book of poems (“El Pulso Ardiendo”) “The Burning Pulse” and the found of the review “Sur.” All of this was encouraged by my great friend, el gran poeta, Emilio Prados, who founded the review “Litoral”, with cohorts of the Generation of ’27, and made Málaga the capital of Spanish poetry. The second vocation, rooted in the convulsive Málaga of the ’30s, was politics, which found its voice through my active militancy in the Comunist Youth and after, when they joined the Young Socialists to form the Unified Young Socialists. In the same vein, I should highlight the fact that the long path of my work as a professor was always marked by the values of liberty, justice and social equality and a personal ideology that was humanist and, particularly, socialist. An ideology that inspired me from the earliest days of my youth to the present.

Andalusia is not only directly tied to my life, my poetry and philosophical efforts, but is tied to it in a substantial and constant way, because in Andalusia not only was I born physically, but also spiritually, forged in her earth, the malagueña especially, where the previously cited values impregnated the whole trajectory honored here today.

It was, definitely, in Andalusia where I absorbed thse values in reaction to the reality laid out before my young eyes. It was the Andalusia of peasants farmworkers who worked from sol a sol, seasonally, for one peseta a day while the landowners of usually large estates, led a dissipated life thanks to the exploitation they exercised, in the company of generals and aristocrats, and of those who promoted the legend of the happy tambourine Andalusia. Counter to this vision was an exploited and miserable Andalusia of the farmworkers and miners who expressed their terrible situation in the bitter moanings of Cante Jondo and, at times, their rare and healthy joy found within that music: in her bulerías. In that Andalusia torn by such bitter contrast I was born, again, spiritually; that is to say, I made mine the humanist and socialist ideology that has inspired and enriched my entire literary and philosophical body of work; ideology that, in spite of its perversion and even negation during a long period in countries proclaiming socialism, I have maintained both as a part of my thoughts and actions.

In that rebel Andalusia of workers battles and peasant agitations I lived just 21 years, until seven months into the war, unleashed by the most reactionary social and political classes, Málaga fell and I found myself forced to abandon her in the tragic exodus along the coastal road to Almería, and in this way, leave Andalusian soil for 35 years.

I had the good fortune, as did thousands of republicans, to settle down after the war at the hospitality, as generous as it was disinterested, extended to us by the President of Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas. And it was here where I launched the career today honored by the Andalusian government, which dignifies and represents the idea of la Andalucía demócrata and autonomous of today, the one I first knew and later dreamed of during so many years of exile.

I should note now, as I do every time I have a chance to, that the fruits of my teaching career over 50 years, and the 30 books published on philosophy, political theory, Marxism, and the philosophy of praxis – as with the work of countless other exiles – would not have been possible without this hospitality, given that the alternative awaiting us in our home country was prison or death.

I should also express, as I have on other occasions, that this body of work would have been impossible without the presence of an institution offering us the opportunity to realize that work and to which we tried to correspond, even if in a partial way, to the unforgettable shelter that Mexico offered us. That institution is the National Autonomous University of Mexico, in which the conditions of liberty of thought and its material support and spiritual nutrition allowed me to unburden myself intellectually, humanely.

For me, this honor is the source of great satisfactions. One of them is that it should be celebrated within the confines of an international book fair quite so prestigious as that in Guadalajara, precisely when Andalusia, as a special invitee, can demonstrate her grandness both traditional and modern.

Another cause for pleasure is that this act of honor takes place here, in the Paraninfo of the University of Guadalajara, with which I am joined through my years as a resident professor and which presented me with an honorable doctorate two years ago. And enormous satisfaction is produced within me to count upon the participation of my friends and colleagues: Federico Alvarez, María Dolores Gutiérrez Navas, Javier Muguerza, Ambrosio Velasco y Luis Villoro.

And so I put an end to my reiterations of emotion and gratitude to the ministry of culture for this act recognizing my personal and intellectual trajectory and my triple condition as andaluz, exile, and militant from a house of humanist, libertariann, and socialist ideals, to which I’ve tried to remain loyal from my days of youth in Málaga to the present.

Two More Fallen

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Aguanga Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Jeromy D. West of Aguanga, CA:

"Lance Cpl. West committed himself to protecting our country at home and abroad. Maria and I send our deepest condolences to Jeromy's loved ones. Every time we lose a member of our nation's armed forces we are reminded of the sacrifices made for our freedoms."

West, 20, died Nov. 25 as a result of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Phelan Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Jeffrey G. Roberson of Phelan, CA:

"Spc. Roberson will be remembered for his courageous service and dedication to this country. Maria and I want to extend our sympathies to Jeffrey's family, friends and fellow soldiers. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during their time of mourning."

Roberson, 22, died Nov. 28 as a result of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations in Logar, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 230th Military Police Company, 95th Military Police Battalion, 18th Military Police Brigade, Kaiserslautern, Germany.

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

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Liquid Life (installment five)

Running material from the 1980s can make a writer sqeamish. There's plenty about "The Liquid Life," to criticize; the density of the prose, the expository ending, the in-your-face drug-taking (the world has changed a lot). But this character is one of the scribe's favorites. Sometimes he wonders if all the energy and detail pumped into Elendele are merely a set-up to her step-sister's soft counterpoint. She makes a second appearance as Seri in the screenplay, "Lunches w/ Actresses."


Her name was Saturnina. A woman younger than twenty-three who marveled at the rocks on the beaches of her fearless and far flung journeys; who dreamed of starfish and drew them in charcoal on an easel first thing each morning; who picked sky clowns out of clouds the way demented people like to do.

I repeat, she was a softer, less focused version of Elendele and the blood relation – no matter how incomplete, was undeniable. Same curls, curvier body with rings around her waist and wrist, like the planet she’d named herself after on the plane ride over.

She talked and I listened. When she stopped, I asked her more questions.

“Didn’t Elendele tell you anything about me?” she queried.

“Elendele doesn’t talk about anybody but herself.”

Elendele gets a little mad at this talk and I am pleased. So is Saturn. So are the stars in their distant humming. The new friend sing-songs that it’s time for her little magic crystals and she cuts up enough methedrine to keep a stallion from sleeping.

Elendele refrains because it’s a thing that makes her horny.

Saturnina tells me about how she is fascinated, in particular, with the study of systems of thought. The isms for order in the world, and the investigation into each’s undeniable, singular failure.

“Surrealism, futurism, socialism, I have embraced them all like lovers at my favorite bar,” she says, “and of course have had my flings with Allesandro Nata and his shameless ghost of an Italian Communist Party.”

She now only believes that there is something, somewhere worth believing in.

“My engine needs only a spark, the faintest glimmer of hope to fire its pistons, and I don’t believe in being tired, either.” These, she explains, are the sturdy root elements of a philosophy she and Elendele are developing for the coming centuries – unfinished, but in a triumph of style, already named “Intra-realism.”

The Intra-realist revolution, she says then, has more to do with high fashion than fatigues, and she still wants to sleep with Princess Stephanie whom she’d had debates with in Washington Square.

Elendele pretends to fall asleep, listening in, but the conversation goes on for hours and her light flickers finally. Saturn pulls a bottle of candy red liquor out of her bag of kicks and mixes Campari shakers for the two of us. We spend the rest of the evening drinking – she spinning a spell, and me, swinging in its sway.

Finally, an arcane and enlightening discussion of the seventeenth century rift between Galileo Galilei and Pope Urban the VII, at her suggestion.

“That rumble cost the astronomer a lifetime under house arrest,” she showed her feathers. “He was furthering the teachings of Copernicus, talking here and pamphleting there, about how the sun was the center of the universe. Not the earth, as the church had been saying for a pretty long time, Dominique.”


“The lies of religion,” Saturnina illumined, “had been revealed under the exacting gaze of the newly-improved telescope.”

Unlike Elendele, she was practically an ally of positivism.

“Now that it’s all been fought and mopped over anyone would have the right to think they’d have stood with Galileo in his cause. Or with Abraham Lincoln in his freeing of the slaves, or with Buñuel in his rampages over proper Paris…But they don’t know how untrue that is,” she furthers me. “Genius which portends massive changes in perception is mostly feared until those in the next millennium of the mind can posthumously come to understand it.”

Outside, dark blue had turned to silver, pulled back a layer onto gray, and ignited butane blue. Elendele wakes creaseless and peaceful, fresh in the face of our bloodshotness, our drooping, drunken countenances.

A good sport, she mixes up a breakfast for us all of strawberry quick-milk, cinnamon rolls and oranges.