Sunday, April 30, 2006

April: Deadliest Month of the War

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death Modesto Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Aaron Simons of Modesto:

"Lance Cpl. Simons fell in battle, giving his life in service to this nation. His sacrifice is a testament to the courage and character of the brave men and women of the United States Marine Corps. We owe Aaron and his fellow Marines a debt of gratitude we can never repay for their dedication to United States. Maria and I wish to express our deepest condolences to Aaron's family as they mourn the loss of a brave young man and a noble Californian."

Simons, 20, died April 24 of injuries sustained while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Book Report: "Snitch Jacket" by Len Bracken

Today a little anarchist literature.

Len Bracken’s "Snitch Jacket"examines the inner phantoms and outer realities of full-time anarchists and dedicated revolutionaries of the anti-globalization movement.

One of the novel developments coming out of the famous Battle for Seattle at the 1990 World Trade Organization talks was the resurgence of anarchists and the prominent role its rank-and-file, popularized through the image of the black bloc, played in the street skirmishes there, and in later protests across the world.

Bracken takes us inside that movement.

“Snitch Jacket” concerns itself with the longings and angers of Alex, whose nature and actions are most characterized by an outsized incisor that makes him look like a wolf. Drunk on Situationist strategies and something called Vin Mariana, a wine either distilled from coca or made something else by the infusion of coca leaf, Alex is a guy for whom crossing over the line is the test to living in truth.

The book opens with him seducing an attractive young media magnate in the Library of Congress, which he sets on fire in the process. During the escape, Alex kills a guy; not his first murder, either.

The setting is Washington D.C. on the eve of George W. Bush’s first inauguration. The anti-global set has gathered to make as much of a mess as possible. Alex serves as a literary tour guide through the local group of anarchists, and other things; the rank-and-file made up of drifters, folks with an axe to grind, former criminals, and journalists who don’t know where the ethical line of their profession lies.

To a certain extent, nobody is completely what they portray themselves to be and, while everybody’s goals are pure and noble, their means are another matter altogether. Some are spying, might be spying, are converted over form the enemy, and there is not structure other than the sex and beer bash through which they might be sorted out.

There are three beautiful women, Chilean, Chinese, and Russian, all with murky backgrounds and deadly dangerous with whom Alex spends of a goodly portion of his time mixing revolution and seduction; later wrestling (but not much) with the friction between his anti-paternal politics and the pull of his prick.

Anyway, these are folks on “the list.” There are no angels and the authorities know of and about them. And for all that, as mentioned, they spend a lot of time partying. Bracken’s portrait of the easy-come-and-go world of true relations between true leftists, influenced still by hippie codes, are lively and enthusiastic and you can feel yourself in the warm spring air of colonial region at an indoor/outdoor beer party.

This has always been one of the left’s downfalls visa a vis conservatives and fascists. They like to party and talk a lot about discipline. The enemy doesn’t and are truly disciplined. The eternal question, of course, (from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective) is who do you want organizing the whole big shindig?

Bracken, a resident of Washington D.C., knows the city well and details every moment of transit with a dissection of what is being seen. Not so much the monuments everyone knows, but the buildings housing lesser-prominent bureaucracies where, the author gives us a sense, less virtuous goings-on are being concocted.

Throughout the street roaming and street life of his protagonist the author tells some of what our government is up to, and where it is done, achieving a sinister portrait of what (and the why) his angry anarchists are up against.

Bracken goes farther along in weaving the sexual lives of his characters into the larger yarn than most writers, dishing up detailed imagery of the numerous couplings not only between Alex and his paramours, but for the uber-kinky, girl-on-girl and all that. The overall achievement is clear as, by mid-book, the sex scenes are really read with a a curiosity about whose using what on whom. Sex as part of the story, as opposed to a forced extraction from the story that says, the story’s stopping here for that great an universal timeout that is “SEX.”

And that’s from an anarcho-syndicalist perspective, too, which is to say Bracken is in friendly territory at highwayscribery.

He is a self-published authored in the same way the scribe is. Like the scribe he also self-brushes his teeth, self-bathes himself, and takes responsibility for himself; all of which makes self-publishing that much easier.

You can buy “Snitch Jacket” at iUniverse and Len will get a cut.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Death in El Valle

“Death in El Valle” is a documentary that tells the story of a Spanish-American woman’s return to her family’s village with an eye, literally, to resolving the mystery of her grandfather’s mysterious death.

Cristina (C.M). Hardt is the woman and film maker. The village is called “El Valle” and is located in the Castilla-Leon region of northwestern Spain.

All her life she’s visited the village where her great grandmother, grandmother and others reside. One of the forbidden topics of family life was the death of her grandfather whom she looks very much like.

The official explanation for his untimely death (35 years old) in 1948 was a lung hemorrhage, but soft rumors told another story, one of repression and extra-legal assassination and Cristina decided, “to make history right.”

In the documentary, she is armed with a video camera and interviews anyone in town who was present that fateful night.

What is fascinating about the story is how those who have been wronged can be forced by the threat of violence to literally forget the loss and trauma dictatorship wrought in their lives.

“I knew nothing then and I know nothing now!” one peasant working the fields tells Hardt, and he is not alone.

There is much resistance to this “foreign” girl's efforts in the small town not least of which comes from her own family.

One uncle, clearly displeased from the very start at being a part of her film/investigation, tells her, “What you don’t understand, Cristina, is that we don’t want to know who killed our father, because we might go find him and kill him.”

But the truth is not always easy to conceal and Hardt makes her own dogged way toward the very man who pulled the trigger, living peacefully, in a nearby town. She is rather stunned that the murder is "such an insignificant thing in his life," and turns her efforts toward determining who betrayed her grandfather.

The family, in particular her grandmother, are forced to revisit painful moments, events, and accusations buried under years of fear and forced repression of their feelings.

“I’m thinking of this,” her grandmother explains, “because you’re forcing me to relive it, but I had forgotten it almost completely. Maybe once in a while it passed through my head, but it was like a wind that came and went.”

By the end, even the film maker is forced to concede, “I wanted to bring my family together, but I did just the opposite.”

Of course, her family may feel victim to her project, but were her grandfather asked, as he lay dying with ten bullets in his chest, whether the story of what happened to him should be remembered, be told, his answer might be obvious.

C.M. Hardt met the obligation imposed upon her by history, both personal and national.

Visit her Web site to learn more about the documentary and sign the Amnesty International petition seeking justice for the victims of Franco’s long and brutal dictatorship.

Two More

highwayscribery is literally becoming overwhelmed with the assumed responsibility of echoing the shortened lives of these men:

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Arcadia Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Kyle A. Colnot of Arcadia:

"Sgt. Colnot gave his life serving his country and defending freedom. There is no greater, more noble sacrifice than the one Kyle made. Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our deepest sympathies to his family and fellow soldiers as they mourn this brave young man."

Colnot, 23, died April 22 of injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 67th Armored Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, TX.

In honor of Sgt. Colnot, 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 Lance Cpl. Stephen J. Perez of San Antonio, TX:

"Today we mourn a brave Marine who fell in battle, defending freedom. Lance Cpl. Perez's dedication to this country and his fellow Marines is a model of the valor of the men and women who serve in our armed forces. His sacrifice will not be forgotten and his memory will live in the hearts of those who loved him. Maria and I send our deepest condolences to Stephen's family and the Marines who served with him."

Perez, 22, died April 13 of wounds received as a result of enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Save the Internet, Mourn the Man

the highway scribe, in a move to protect his own interests, has joined something called the “Save the Internet Coalition.”

The group is fighting a move in Congress to end Net democracy as we know it. What we currently operate under is a concept called “network neutrality,” which prevents large telecommunications companies, as the coalition puts it, “from deciding which Web site work best for you – based on what site pays them the most.”

It means you might have a slower time getting to highwayscribery than you would something more complex and better financed. The offenders include AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast, the companies whose commercials boast that they have built and “own” network systems.

By way of example, provided by the coalition, last year AT&T Canada blocked requests to visit a Web site sympathetic to unions the company was negotiating with at the time. That kind of thing.

We’ve posted a “Save the Net” button above “Vedette” and below the “Powered by Blogger” button. Click there to learn more about this issue and, more importantly, to sign the petition.


And we have more bad news in the war casualty department:

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Navy Corpsman

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcques J. Nettles of Beaverton, Oregon:

"Petty Officer Nettles' service and dedication to his country and fellow citizens will never be forgotten. Maria and I are humbled by his sacrifice and send our sincere condolences to Marcques' loved ones for their tragic loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with them during their time of mourning."

Nettles, 22, died April 2 when the vehicle he was riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq. He was assigned to 1st Combat Logistics Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Petty Officer 3rd Class Nettles, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Venice: A Love Letter

There is, no doubt, a lot of news being bandied about, but it is less clear that anything is really happening.

So the scribe has silenced his guns for the time being, a little bored with the goings-on in government and haunted by a vague sentiment some new calamity is about to befall us.

That said, one can't just lay about, so we will tell you about a rock and roll tour through the New York tri-state area between May 15 and May 21 with guitarist Omar Torrez. We will perform the readings from “Vedette” to works from Omar’s “La Danza” that were tested at the end of last year (“Vedette Does La Danza,” Dec. 19, 2005).

The first date is May 18, at The Wine Room of Forest Hills, 96-09 69th Ave. Forest Hills, NY 11375, (718)820-1777, let's say 7:30 p.m.

Today we’re going to run some of Truman Capote’s “Local Color.” A pure kind of example of what we mean by highwayscribery. We posted from the book before, running Capote’s piece on New Orleans following that city's tragedy (“New Orleans: A Love Letter,” Sept. 1, 2005).

This entry is a modern picaresque about a very interesting denizen of Venice named Lucia:

“A rather mad bus ride that day had brought us from Venice to Sirmione, an enchanted, infinitesimal village on the tip of a peninsula jutting into Lago di Garda, bluest, saddest, most silent, most beautiful of Italian lakes. Had it not been for the gruesome circumstance of Lucia I doubt that we should have left Venice. I was perfectly happy there, except of course that it is incredibly noisy; not ordinary city noise, but ceaseless argument of human voices, scudding oars, running feet. It was once suggested that Oscar Wilde retire there from the world. “And become a monument for tourists?” he asked.

It was an excellent advice, however, and others than Oscar have taken it: in the palazzos along the Grand Canal there are colonies of persons who haven’t shown themselves publicly in a number of decades. Most intriguing of these was a Swedish countess whose servants fetched fruit for her in a black gondola trimmed with silver bells; their tinkling made a music atmospheric but eerie. Still Lucia so persecuted us we were forced to flee. A muscular girl, exceptionally tall for an Italian and smelling always of wretched condiment oils, she was the leader of a band of juvenile gangsters, displaced roaming youths who had flocked north for the Venetian season. They could be delightful, some of them, even though they sold cigarettes that contained more hay than tobacco, even though they would short-circuit you on a currency exchange. The business with Lucia began one day in the Piazza San Marco.

She came up and asked us for a cigarette; whereupon D., whose heart doesn’t know that we are off the gold standard, gave her a whole package of Chesterfields. Never were two people more completely adopted. Which at first was quite pleasant; Lucia shadowed wherever we went, abundantly giving us the benefits of her wisdom and protection. But there were frequent embarrassments; for one thing, we were always being turned out of the more elegant shops because of her overwrought haggling with the proprietors; then, too, she was so excessively jealous that it was impossible for us to have any contact with anyone else whatever: we chanced once to meet in the piazza a harmless and respectable young woman who had been with us in the carriage from Milan. “Attention!” said Lucia in that hoarse voice of hers, “Attention!” and proceeded almost to persuade us that this was a lady of infamous past and shameless future. On another occasion D. gave one of her cohorts a dollar watch which he had much admired. Lucia was furious; the next time we saw her she had the watch suspended on a cord around her neck, and it was said the young man had left overnight for Trieste.

Lucia had a habit of appearing in our hotel at any hour that pleased her (she lived no place that we could divine); scarcely sixteen, she would sit herself down, drain a whole bottle of Strega, smoke all the cigarettes she could lay hold of, then fall into an exhausted sleep: only when she slept did her face resemble a child’s. But then one dreadful day the hotel manager stopped her in the lobby and told her that she could no longer visit our rooms. It was, he said, an insupportable scandal. So Lucia, rounding up a dozen of her more brutish companions, laid such siege to the hotel that it was necessary to bring down iron shutters over the doors and call the carabinieri. After that we did our best to avoid her.

But to avoid anyone in Venice is much the same as playing hide-and-seek in a one-room apartment, for there was never a city more compactly composed. It is like a museum with carnivalesque overtones, a vast palace that seems to have no doors, all things connected, one leading into another. Over and over in a day the same faces repeat like prepositions in a long sentence: turn a corner, and there was Lucia, the dollar watch dangling between her breasts. She was so in love with D. But presently she turned on us with that intensity of the wounded; perhaps we deserved it, but it was unendurable: like clouds of gnats her gang would trail us across the piazza spitting invective; if we sat down for a drink they would gather in the dark beyond the table and shout outrageous jokes. Half the time we didn’t know what they were saying, though it was apparent that everyone else did. Lucia herself did not overtly contribute to his persecution; she remained aloof, directing her operations at a distance. So at last we decided to leave Venice. Lucia knew this. Her spies were everywhere. The morning we left it was raining; just as our gondola slipped into the water, a little crazy-eyed boy appeared and threw at us a bundle wrapped in newspaper. D. pulled the paper apart. Inside there was a dead yellow cat; and around its throat there was tied the dollar watch. It gave you a feeling of endless falling. And then suddenly we saw her, Lucia; she was standing alone on one of the little canal bridges, and she was so far hunched over the railing it looked as if she were going to fall. “Perdonami,” she cried, “ma t’amo” (forgive me, but I love you).

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Difference in Approach to Life

There aren’t too many differences between Democrats and (r)epublicans these days, but they do part ways on the issue of medical marijuana.

Here’s an article from the “New York Times” on an “announcement” by the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA statement was that there were “no sound scientific studies” demonstrating marijuana has medicinal qualities.

And there’s a zinger considering the federal government antipathy to the whole issue of medical marijuana.

There’s no actual report or research being discussed through the announcement, rather feeble reference to “a past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies.”

Whatever that is.

The point being they could have announced this in the past or in the future and that’s something a good journalist, good blogger, and good citizen for that matter, gets to the bottom of why we are being told this.

Because otherwise they might be using their position of authority to "make" news, because the war in Iraq is not going so well or because the guys who are for medical marijuana are doing a strange thing: raising more money for Senate races than the guys who are against it.

Anyway, the piece by Gardener Harris is both superb and critical given its positioning in a mainstream publication circulated atop coffee tables throughout the nation’s capital.

Harris makes it clear the Food and Drug Administration is being pressured by law and order folk at the Drug Enforcement Agency who don’t have any sympathy for people whose pain might be relieved by a variety of marijuana products.

He airs out the claim of conservatives like Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana) that the movement for regulated use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is a “front” to, you know, corrupt the nation’s youth with evil weed (which went out with the masonic threat).

Those of a more bureaucratic bent say the medicinal marijuana issue, as currently embraced, bypasses an approval process set up to protect consumers. But Harris makes it clear that no one in an official capacity is willing to fund or even condone research relative to marijuana.

Also discussed is a study from 1999 that found medicinal values, especially as a pain killer (and why not?), at the Institute of Medicine (which sounds legitimate enough).

That one the feds don’t want to know about. There is, also and again, the familiar charge by some that “politics is trumping science,” which is something we’re used to at this point.

The “San Diego Union-Tribune,” ran this piece on common sense regulation of the medical marijuana industry, which is developing apace and willy-nilly, because as your free market advocates would have it, "there's a demand."

The piece addresses the problem as it exists on the ground, and leaves the fire-eating to guys with badges and nice boys from Indiana.

The whole thing smacks of an attack by one class of Americans by another over a difference in approach to life.

There is no sense on the law enforcement-and-traditions side that one person should live one way, and a second a another way, and that what defines them as Americans is their ability to live side-by-side under those terms.

There is only one good kind of American. And it’s their kind.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Corporal Bachar

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Chula Vista Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Salem Bachar of Chula Vista:

"Each time a member of our armed forces falls the loss is felt by all who knew him. Maria and I wish to express our condolences to Salem's family and friends. We join all Californians in thanking them for raising an individual whose sense of duty and honor has made our world a safer place."

Bachar, 20, died April 13 from injuries sustained due to enemy action in Al Anbar, Iraq. He was assigned to Headquarters Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Book Report: “The Muckrakers”

One of the nice aspects to being sick, and there is a silver lining in just about anything, is that you, if so inclined, can get a lot of reading done. We’re talking mildly sick here; sick so that you drift in and out of swoons induced by stuff you can buy over the counter. the scribe’s Nyquil years are mostly behind him and reveries during this recent lay-up were fueled by Alka-Seltzer flu medicine, benadryl, and Vitamin-C powder packets.

the highway scribe scarfed down a good number of books and reports on them will be spread out over the next few weeks. First to be finished off was "THE MUCKRACKERS"which was edited back in 1961 by Arthur and Lila Weinberg.

the scribe purchased the title at 33 1/3 Books and Gallery Collective while preparing for a reading last year (“Vedette Does La Danza,” December 19).

The tome contains actual writings of the famed muckrakers who wrote in the first decade of the last century. Their specialty was uncovering abuses and those abuses could be committed by labor unions, or government officials, or a church, but mostly they worked to bust up the concentration of wealth as represented in the giant corporate trusts that had surfaced 20 or 30 years before.

President Theodore Roosevelt termed the expression, “muckrakers” in a speech that was largely critical of the era’s journalists who were, otherwise, mostly on his side, or at least shared the same goals of reform and a cleaner running system.

Among the offerings in “The Muckrakers” is the very speech in which Roosevelt coined the term. He drew it from Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress” and “the description of the Man with the Muckrake, the man who could look no way but downward, with a muckrake in his hands; who was offered a celestial crown, but continued to rake to himself the filth of the floor.”

TR went on to preach caution from those leading the crusade and called for an even-handedness that would inform, but not inflame.

As they say, the name stuck.

The book spends some time on the atmosphere in which the muckrakers were born. It talks about the growth of mass circulation magazines such as “McClures” and “Cosmopolitan” that took it upon themselves to finance investigative reporters and publish their in-depth revelations to much scandle and positive affect.

Each section (The City, The State, Pure Food, Child Labor, etc.) is framed with a perusal of the issue at the time, and of a profile on the writer who did the work. Among these names are Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, Ray Stannard Baker, Upton Sinclair, and Mark Sullivan.

the scribe pulled the book for purposes related to his career as a journalist. It’s good to know what pioneers like this did and why. But coming to this book is a little like sampling Elvis after being raised on Pink Floyd. You’re not going to see the novelty in it; and from their novelty were the muckrakers' powers drawn.

This kind of reporting is done today in any number of weeklies and monthly’s on the right and left; “Harpers,” “Atlantic Monthly,” “The New Republic,” “National Review,” and so on. The techniques have hardly changed. This book is about the laying of groundwork.

What’s better and more useful about this collection of magazine articles are the portrait they render of the country in that time. It is a raw powerhouse sprawling its industrial self across a giant and empty continent, mostly lawless, if very Christian.

The essays connect the dots on how the great fortunes of the era – Frick, Vanderbilt, Morgan etc.– were built largely through the acquisition of what was supposedly the public trust. They tell the story of child labor to the tunes of millions across the southern textile belt. The muckrakers spun sturdy yarns of corrupt city machines and detailed even the battles for territory, or the love lives, of immigrant newsboys up from the street.

It is hard to tell whether such an era of excess and abuse of public trust is a reflection on our own times, or if times simply don’t change; that for all our pomp and circumstance, being a thug pays best.

There was a law back in those times, that prevented people from leaving government to lobby the same place he just worked at.

What happened to that?

The work/slave conditions documented by William Hard and Edwin Marshall are not gone, just shipped overseas.

You can be a television cameraman and be killed in Baghdad hotel by U.S. forces, or you can reveal the secrets of a seedy senate and be mysteriously assassinated like David Graham Phillips was for his articles in “The Muckrakers.”

Two pieces at the back of the book, “De Kid Wot Works at Night,” and “The City of Chicago: A Study of the Great Immoralities,” create a rather staggering portrait of the crazy town on the lake at the height of its power.

This Chicago is teeming and active to the outskirts, a city created along mass industrial lines where the human element was not taken into consideration. The city’s largest business is vice, providing cheap (as in money) girls and cheap beer to the great swathes of workerdom serving the meat industry, the railroad, the ironworks, shipping. The girls are innocents pruned from the immigrant class and their trafficking is handled out of a city police department.

And for all that, the actions government took in response, the attention paid by the general population to the muckrackers’ message, are far beyond anything we might to expect today in terms of reform. They would not tread upon the feet of corporate titans they way they did then. They will not impose the will of the state over industry. Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican when blacks voted Republican, did.

And America listened to its muckrakers, rather than label them, and acted according to their recommendations. “The Muckrakers” as a book shows us what that interaction meant, and what has been lost between the press and its audience.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Gore Zeitgeist

On the first Tuesday in November of 2000, the scribe was on the verge of his moment.

The scene was the Stonewall Democratic Club on Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood and the moment was presaged by the announcement that Al Gore had just taken the State of Florida.

The room exploded because, well, that was really it, Gore was going to win. the scribe turned to hug someone and there was this Asian-American guy with spiked hair and an earring standing there, so he hugged him, good and hard.

Usually, and for most of us, presidential candidates hail from a distant world and formation, but in Al Gore the scribe saw a kindred spirit: an annoying liberal White Boy who wore his intellect on his sleeve. A verbal, over-informed know-it-all whose help the world clearly needed (but didn’t want).

The photo above is one of the scribe’s favorites from that campaign. It is the writer/vice president penning his own nomination acceptance speech, something highwayscribery believes should be a requirement of all public office holders.

We like like-minded people leading us, because they take us where we already want to go.

The next best thing is to have a close friend win. If the scribe’s friend Antonio Mendoza became president, there’s a very good chance that, after many protestations that he neither sought the job nor power, the scribe would be forced to accept an appointment heading up the Department of Labor. And then you’d see some stuff.

Of course, the "moment" was not to be, but highwayscribery has never hidden its warmth for the former veep, and we are given to airing his occasional pronouncements as important.

Anyway, sometimes things are not meant to be, but for a good reason.

Here’s an article from the "Washington Post" about Gore’s current obsession, which was his past obsession too, and how he is serving others without having to fly around in a big plane with a fighter jet escort.

Titled, “A Campaign Gore Can’t Lose,” Richard Cohen’s column focuses on Prince Albert of the Tennessee Valley’s latest salvo in the global warming debate, a documentary film marketed as “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The particulars of the film, which in Cohen’s estimation is terribly frightening, won’t be gone into here. Suffice it to say, and borrowing from the columnist himself, our Earth is “in extremis” and Katrina is just the beginning of what will be happening to seaside cities and low-lying coastal regions in years to come.

But here’s the paragraph we like most, because it rings true and shows how time can clarify things and come around to know-it-all, self-styled intellectuals whom people get annoyed listening to:

“You cannot see this film and not think of George W. Bush, the man who beat [ahem] Gore in 2000. The contrast is stark. Gore – more at ease in the lecture hall than he ever was on the stump – summons science to tell a harrowing story and offers science as the antidote. No feat of imagination could have Bush do something similar – even the sentences are beyond him.”

And that’s very true, the deeper point being such was the country’s state of mind in 2000. Now we are someplace else collectively, which is why Al Bore is on the cover of “Vanity Fair” this month, and George W. Bush is on the sole of your shoe.

Here’s more:

“But it is the thought [as opposed to the sentences] that matters – the application of intellect to an intellectual problem...”


“...Bush has been studiously anti-science, a man of applied ignorance who has undernourished his mind with the empty calories of comfy dogma. For instance, his insistence on abstinence as the preferred method of birth control would be laughable were it not so reckless. It is similar to Bush’s initial approach to global warming and his rejection of the Kyoto Protocol – ideology trumping science. It may be that Gore will do more good for his country and the world with this movie than Bush ever did by beating him in 2000.”

Doing for his country and the world. Helping. That should be a new road to our presidency. Early in life, (not 18 months before an election) you start out helping the homeless guy around the corner with a meal now and then. You volunteer at the animal shelter. Then you organize a beach cleaning mission made up of your neighbors. And your circles or waves of mutual assistance move concentrically outward, catching on with others so that one effort, started earlier, merges with a different one started after, and so on until your use to the country is indisputable, measurable by something other than how much money you can raise for paid political spots.

(Just an anarcho-syndicalist thought.)

Mr. Vice President, Cohen says, “at last, is a man at home in his role. He is master teacher, pedagogue, know-it-all, smarter than most of us, better informed and, having tried and failed to gain the presidency, he has raised his sights to save the world. We simply cannot afford for Al Gore to lose again.”

the highway scribe is probably kidding himself in this identification. After all, Gore was a senator’s son and went to Harvard. the scribe’s role model was Brian Jones (“Brian Jones: Rolling Stone,” March 24) and he didn’t go to Harvard. Gore has spent his life in public service; the highway scribe gorging his mind on imagined and stylized stories.

But what is a hero, save for someone you can only emulate and aspire to replicate in action?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Back and Blogging

Whew! That took a while longer than hoped, but the highway scribe is back. The war did not stop with his absence, when it really should have, so we’ll start the week by dispatching with the sad business of making public the most recent deaths of soldiers hailing from California.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Eric Palmisano of Florence, WI:

"Maria and I humbly pay tribute to the sacrifice this courageous Marine made for our nation. Lance Cpl. Palmisano willingly put his life on the line to defend democracy and freedom, a sacrifice we must never forget. We extend our deepest sympathies to Eric's family and will keep them in our prayers."

Palmisano, 27, died April 2 when the vehicle he was riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Transportation Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Ceres Marine
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Juana Navarro Arellano of Ceres:

"The death of Lance Cpl. Navarro Arellano reminds us of the perils that United States service men and women face daily. Maria and I express our deep sadness to Juana's family and friends for their loss. Her commitment to service will not be forgotten."

Navarro Arellano, 24, died April 8 from wounds received while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. She was assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.

In honor of Lance Cpl. Navarro Arellano, 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. Richard P. Waller of Fort Worth, TX:

"Cpl. Waller joins a proud legacy of Marines who courageously served their country by giving the ultimate sacrifice. His loss is a painful reminder of the important work our service men and women do at home and abroad. Maria and I offer our sincere condolences to Richard's family as they suffer this extraordinary loss of their loved one."

Waller, 22, died April 7 from wounds received while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Elk Grove Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Ty Johnson of Elk Grove:

"Maria and I were saddened to hear the tragic news of Spc. Johnson's death. Californians are grateful for his courage and dedication. Our condolences go out to Ty's family and friends. We must never forget the vigilance of the brave men and women who put their lives on the line to defend freedom."

Johnson, 28, died April 4 from injuries sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations. Johnson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, KY.

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

The “L.A. Times” ran an article last week about the very statements we have made it our editorial policy to run here at highwayscribery. It’s called “War’s Cost for All to See.”

The announcements, as our readers know only too well, salute the fallen, not only from California, but those stationed here as well. According to the article, Schwarzenegger has sent out 344 such messages thus far. We also know first-hand that some messages carry the news of multiple deaths.

“Relatives of those killed in action,” the article observed, “say Schwarzenegger’s open marking of each death is significant, especially as the body county grows. By creating a public pause – however brief - the governor’s messages give them hope that the value of their loved one won’t be lost in a crowd.”

That is largely why we run them at highwayscribery, although it is hard to deny that sometimes one gets a sense of a numerous and accompanying ironies, sadness, or protest.

The releases are written by Gina Grebitus who sifts through the Department of Defense Web site for the bad news particular to California.

"Every time we lose a soldier," Schwarzenegger is quoted as saying, "it hits my heart."

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Not Good

the highway scribe is sick as a dog. In what is usually the most productive part of the blogging cycle, he finds himself bedridden with one of the lousy cases of bronchitis that affect him once every five years or so. As such, no posts, but highwayscribery shall return with avengeance one fine day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Check That

No, he didn't. Romano Prodi won. Berlusconi is done for.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Exit Polls

Just as the scribe said: Can't trust those exit polls. Now it looks like Berlusconi won.

Left Turn

The students in France have won.

President Jacques Chirac pulled the new labor law targeting youth that put millions in the street for a month of rabble-rousing.

Chirac and his conservative minions had promised a revision of the law, but protestors in France do not screw around. They said, “Scrap it or we keep disrupting national life.”

Last week (“Protests Here, Protests There, Protests Everywhere,” April 3) the scribe wrote of the French and the demonstrations: “Their democracy is one of the best. Here millions march through the cities in opposition and the (p)resident commends himself on allowing them to ‘speak their minds.’ In France the deal is tacit. ‘You get enough people in the streets, for long enough, you win. We pull the law you don’t like’.”

Which is exactly what happened with the new legislaton. It is the first correct political prediction the scribe has made since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976 – and that was close.

You will now read in the American press about how Chirac “caved” to the pressures of the people he governs and whom were most affected by the law in question. You will hear about how the people of France just won’t admit they have give up the “generous” benefits (which they paid for and are therefore entitled to enjoy). You will read about how that country just won’t be able to compete in this globalized economy we were rushed into, because of its many benefits, and how La France shall now sink without the “flexibility” employers need to make it in the market.

But the battle was about a concept called “precariousness” that has been all the rage in Europe since 2001 or so when radical writer Toni Negri published “Empire” and identified instability as the primary feature of working life in the new millennium.

What does it refer to? It refers to the fact that the scribe, and his wife, craftspeople and members of the workforce for 20-plus years (with considerable achievement and accomplishments accrued) have no health and insurance, nothing put away for retirement, and are condemned to living without a plan for the future because they are “independent contractors,” with no labor protections or guarantees whatsoever.

But that’s personalizing the affair.

Believing in truth, justice and the anarcho-syndicalist way, we’ll turn to some anarcho-syndicalist friends at "Tierra y Libertad" (Land and Liberty) to help (it’s in Spanish).

The Contrat Première Embauche, or “first employment contract” presented in January was directed at young people, among whom unemployment reaches 40 percent in some neighborhoods, one of the highest indices in Europe. The contract permits the employer to fire a worker any time in the first 24 months without reason.”

Of course, that’s standard fare here in the U.S. where the peoples’ welfare is sacrificed to the that of business; the belief being that what’s good for, let’s say Exxon, is good for you or the highway scribe.

You be the judge and back to “Tierra y Libertad”.

“This [new power for employers] is a novelty to French labor law; it would establish a difference in rights between those younger than 26 years old and everybody else... Globally, the contract is a new attempt de generalize precariousness in the labor market, codifying it into labor law, without addressing the new difficulties it imposes upon young people. It represents a continuation of similar measures from the government including the dropping of age for apprenticeships or the Contrat Nouvelle Embauche, which imposes a two-year waiting period before the drawing up of a permanent contract. This contract already impeded the rights of workers to strike, be sick, or be pregnant during its term of applicability.”

As you can see, labor laws in Europe are quite different. You don’t need a union to get a contract. Anybody that hires you must offer one with some pretty decent protections regarding getting fired and what it will cost the employer (in payments to you) that backslides.

The kids won and because of it they won’t be obliged to shop in a Wal-Mart where the cashier is 72 years old and must work to avoid poverty in their dotage. They will continue to live in something resembling a country that is kind to its own, rather than to factory contractors in China.

That would be good enough to start a week off, but the major papers are also reporting a defeat for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Knowing what we know about exit polls here in the U.S., we must hold our breath, but the development would be nice.

Berlusconi is the not-so-new face of international fascism. A guy who owns almost all the television and radio outlets in the country he governs. A man who manipulates political opinion to his own ends, which mostly have to do with passing new laws that make legal his past illegalities as an industrial baron.

He is vulgar in debate, undemocratic, imperious, and leads a coalition rooted in flag-waving nationalism, but which does not serve Italy nearly so well as it serves, well, B-E-R-L-U-S-C-O-N-I.

His defeat would be the second for a national leader who joined George Bush in war without the approval of his own people. The first was Spain’s Jose Maria Aznar, who was going to step down anyway, but whose political party is out of power thanks to the bombings of March 11, 2004.

The last to go is the disappointing Tony Blair who defrauded a new generation’s hope in the Labour Party’s ability to provide an alternative by slavishly following Bush into war, again, against the wishes of his people.

Left turn folks.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Twentynine Palms Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Staff Sgt. Abraham Twitchell of Yelm, WA:

"Committed Marines like Staff. Sgt. Twitchell have made the ultimate sacrifice to help keep us safe and preserve our freedom. Maria and I offer our condolences to Abraham's family, friends and fellow Marines. His patriotism and courage serves as a model for all Americans."

Twitchell, 28, died April 2 when the vehicle he was riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq. He was assigned to the Combat Service Support Group-1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Twentynine Palms, CA.

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

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Four Camp Pendleton Marines

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the deaths of Cpl. David Bass of Nashville, TN, Cpl. Brian St. Germain of Warwick, RI, Lance Cpl. Patrick Gallagher of Jacksonville, FL and Lance Cpl. Felipe Sandoval-Flores of Los Angeles:

"There is no higher calling than to fight for one's country in the struggle for liberty. These four heroic Marines served with determination and valor. Maria and I wish to send our sympathies to their families as they mourn the loss of their loved one. Their courageous example will live on in our hearts."

Bass, 20, St. Germain, 22, Gallagher, 27 and Sandoval-Flores, 20, died April 2 when the vehicle they were riding in rolled over in a flash flood near Al Asad, Iraq. They were assigned to elements of the 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, CA.

In honor of Cpl. Bass, Cpl. St. Germain, Lance Cpl. Gallagher and Lance Cpl. Sandoval-Florez, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Governor Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of South Gate Sailor

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Hospitalman Geovani Padilla Aleman of South Gate:

"Brave members of our armed forces like Hospitalman Padilla Aleman put their lives on the line providing medical care for fellow service men and women. Maria and I send our thoughts and prayers to Geovani's family as they mourn the loss of their loved one. He died with honor and California will remember his service with gratitude and admiration."

Padilla Aleman, 20, died April 2 of injuries sustained from enemy action in Al Anbar Province, Iraq. He was permanently assigned to Bethesda Naval Hospital, USNS Comfort Detachment and operationally assigned to Third Battalion, Eighth Marine Regiment, 2/28 Brigade Combat Team.

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

Friday, April 07, 2006

Oscar Gone Wilde (II)

The well bred contradict other people. The wise contradict themselves.

Dullness is the coming of age of seriousness.

If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

From The Mouth of a Babe

A few weeks ago the folks at WBAI (New York) took the time to interview an eight-year old Iraqi boy who lost his sight and an arm when he was hit by a tank shell.

We focus upon this story because highwayscribery is dedicated to the metaphorical little girl playing with her cat in the courtyard of building in a city marked for war. Our concern is for those “insignificant” lives shattered by the “vision” of dangerous people like the one presently leading the United States, those battered by the broad strokes brush of history.

For highwayscribery, the effect of the war on civilians is the issue. Yet the deaths of Iraqis are reported as if they were ants rather than human beings. We rant for them, but when they can speak for themselves, give way.

The interview was done by Deepa Fernandes (that's her with Ahmed), who does a morning show, “Wake Up Call.” Deepa is but another cool and groovy cousin the scribe picked up through marriage (“Gitmo Girl or Lady Lawyer in Yemen,” March 13) .

chat with young Ahmed Sharif can be found if you scroll down to the March 13 post and click “listen now.” The interview is about 20 minutes into the show.

the highway scribe, however, will provide a rough transcript for your reading:

What happened?

“I was coming back from school, walking home with a friend when a tank shell hit me and I woke up in the hospital.”

What do you remember of the time after you woke up in the hospital?

“I didn’t know what was happening and was scared.”

(To Ahmed’s father) How did you find out?

“We were at home preparing to break Ramadan fast (around 5 p.m.) and all of a sudden we heard a big bang that was the tank shell and the neighbors came and told us it was Ahmed and we had to take him to the hospital.”

Is it something you had feared as a parent?

“Everyone has the fear for everyone else in the society. All the people of Iraq are afraid to go out.”

How do you go about your daily life after what happened to Ahmed?

“Of course our hearts are broken. All of us. We’re all suffering psychologically from that event, adding the problem of the war, there’s no work, we have no money. We’re having a hard time paying the rent at the place we’re staying.”

Ahmed you woke up and you couldn’t see and you were missing an arm. Are you able to go out and play with your friends, or how different is your life for you?

“There is no play. Nothing.”

What’s it like to not be able to see?

“It makes me almost desperate. I can’t do anything without being able to see.”

At this point, Elisa Montante spoke a bit about the boy’s situation and that of other Iraqi children. Montante is the founder of Global Medical Relief Fund - the group that brought Ahmed and his father to the U.S. for medical treatment.

“I started by helping a Bosnian child that had lost two arms and a leg, who had written his U.N. Ambassador for help. I started the foundation after that. We’ve helped 50 children since. Ahmed is just a product of what is happening in Iraq.

Can you talk about the injuries being sustained and what medical help is available?

“Practically nothing. I get requests from the military. There are so many children, civilians too, and there’s a lack of help NonGovernmental Organizations don’t want to go to Iraq. Ahmed’s request came to me and when I saw the situation I needed to reach out. I found a wonderful doctor at Colombia Presbyterian.”

Have there been any moves in general from American aid institutions or from the military to help those they inflict injury upon?

“No. I’ve helped eight Iraqi children so far. There is no follow-up. Children lose their homes and that’s it - they lose their homes. The situation for Ahmed is so horrible that I’m trying to keep him here. There’s no school for the blind and housing is difficult. His family, fleeing for a safer place, had a car accident and his brother died and Ahmed lost his spleen. He has to be on medication the rest of his life. I’m trying to enroll him in a school for the blind and by the grace of God keep him here.”

(To his father) What do you wish for your son?

“I’m asking God to help us especially with eyesight since he has to have attention 24 hours.”

Do you have anger for the U.S. being in Iraq?

“I say, ‘Thank you for taking Saddam out, now let us live a life’.”

Have your lives gotten worse?

“The current situation is dire. The main thing everyone I talk to wants is for the U.S. to leave now.”

Ahmed what would you like to do while you’re here?

“Go to the hospital to see if I can have eyesight.”

Do you want to go back to Iraq?



Other charming byproducts of the ghastly war against a phantom phenomenon involve cellist Yo Yo Ma testifying about how restrictive legislation always sounds great until the restrictions set in.

The upshot of the piece is that post 9/11 visa requirements enacted, along with the Patriot Act, in a moment of national hysteria, is impoverishing us in ways unrelated to the wasteful and direct expenditures for the war in Iraq.

The article is written by “L.A. Daily News” Washington Bureau reporter
Lisa Friedman.

It reads, in part, “With a growing number of foreign artists cancelling their U.S. performances – last week Britain’s Halle Orchestra called of its American tour citing prohibitive visa fees and requirements – Ma said America is in danger of losing meaningful cultural exchanges.”

The Halle Orchestra. You don’t want them getting in.

Yo Yo Ma told the House Government Reform Committee on Tuesday that, “Bringing foreign musicians to this country and sending our performers to visit them is crucial, but the high cost and lengthy timeline make these programs difficult to execute.”

Every visa applicant, under current rules, must be interviewed in person and surrender “biometric” data like fingerprints.

Welcome, maestro, to the Athens of the late modern world.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Omar Torrez Live

Guitarist Omar Torrez will be playing at Temple Bar (Santa Monica, California) this Saturday at 9 p.m. He will be joined by Carlos del Puerto Jr., Emiliano Almeida and John Wakefield. The set will be comprised of all new music. Omar has promised a "Funkadelicious" evening. So there. Information at(310) 428-7910. 1026 Wilshire Blvd.

Protests Here, Protests There, Protests Everywhere

Student protests in France, in the United States, and global economics are all sweetly linked in a piece by
Jim Hoagland of the “Washington Post.” The theme is generational conflict.

The opening is a meditation on French street politics; the world’s most dramatic over the past 1000 years or so. “The French and protests go together like horse and carriage, love and marriage and other natural partners.”

Indeed. Their democracy is one of the best. Here, millions march in the cities in opposition to the war and the (p)resident commends himself on allowing them to “speak their minds.” In France, the deal is tacit. “You get enough people in the street, for long enough, you win. We pull the law you don’t like."

Of course, these things tend to get violent which is the only time there’s real movement, and French protestors come to play. They have a deep tradition in barricades. It is too bad, that leaders should permit things to develop dangerously. The state monopoly on violence comes with a responsibility. Misuse it and you lose it.

“France has moved into one of its periodic dangerous seasons, in which a conservative government has acted as if its fate and the chances for the country’s future economic growth depended on facing down or outlasting massive street protests. Both 1789 and 1968 remind how such calculations can misfire in France.

“Protestors have filled the streets this spring to define themselves and their nation more clearly and aggressively than most of the world would ever care or dare to attempt. The young rebels follow the Cartesian rigor taught in the universities that they are boycotting: I protest, therefore I am.”

For all its Frenchness, the writer sees in the protests over a new employment law, a link to what’s happening here on the immigration front. “In all developed countries, the forces of globalization are changing the rules and even the nature of work – just as demographic patterns are forcing a re-examination of the implicit social contract between young and old.”

There is, Hoagland continues, a “looming conflict between the economic interests of the young, who are just starting careers, and of their elders, who are in or moving into retirements that almost no industrialized country has set aside the funds to finance.”

A point requiring interjection from highwayscribery: There is a lot of talk about pensions and how the western democracies somehow can’t afford them. There is less about how the situation arose.

Those pension promises were based on a different model of industrial employment. When everything became lean and mean, subject to the daily and changing wind of electronic-age Wall St., the number of employees thinned with mature workers being bought out and their jobs left vacant and attributed to attrition. They called it “downsizing” and it remains a common outgrowth of all those mergers you read about. Somebody’s marketing department has got to go, you see.

The point is don’t blame the pensioners. Their resistance can be attributed to self-preservation and money, yes, but also to a sense of outrage at how badly things have been screwed up.

Anyway, the point is, the lines are drawn and there is a battle to be avoided for youth must be served.

Hoagland concludes:

“It is time to forge new global and generational social contracts to recognize and mitigate the inequities that a new world of change fosters.. By raising their voices, France’s young and America’s migrants have called attention to that need.”


Elsewhere, the editor of “Zeta” newspaper in Tijuana, Jesus Blancocornelas, has decided to step down. He has long been at war with corrupt local officials and the drug trade in that dangerous NAFTA city. His partner was killed a number of years ago by bodyguards of the present day Mayor Jorge Hank Ron, whose ascendance may have had something to do with the editor’s departure. Or maybe at 69 Blancocornelas was just tired of driving around with bodyguards. You have to wonder if he’ll ever be truly safe, especially with his son succeeding him.

These are extremely brave journalists. Their daily commitment to saving what shreds of civil society remain in Mexico is a daily date with death, too. They kill reporters in Mexico and they don’t do it nicely. the scribe would not strike such a battle. He’s a product of preexisting rights. Take them, lose him, which is more common than what Blancocornelas has been up to.

The “San Diego Union-Tribune” ran a piece on the top ten protest songs.