Thursday, October 25, 2007

The War Party and Party Party

Ich bin ein Berliner!” it was not.

Of course Europeans aren’t listening to Geo. w. Bsh., any more than those of us in this country. And like everyone else, they are just hoping he will quietly retire before blowing up the entire planet.

Thanks to w., the folks at
Washington PostGlobal are debating whether we are on the verge of World War III.

Never much attuned to the Old Continent, Bush makes a habit of astounding Europeans with his proud ignorance of their ways, customs, and generally held beliefs.

There was a time (somewhere about 1960) when an American president carried messages of hope, freedom and liberty during visits abroad.

Now we have one that talks about them through a prism of death and destruction, which doesn’t sound the same.

James Gerstenag of the “Los Angeles Times” just did a piece entitled,“
Bush backs missile defense” in which w. said from Washington that he backs missile defense...for Europe.

Dan Froomkin’s “White House Briefing” delves into some of Bush’s inaccuracies. Especially the claim that MISSILE DEFENSE ACTUALLY WORKS.

But the administration has never been bothered with such niceties as research and evidence.

More importantly, Bsh. sayeth, Europe would be vulnerable to attack from Iran, which, of course, is allied with a number of those same supposedly vulnerable states.

“The need for missile defense in Europe is real and I believe it’s urgent,” Bush said in a speech to National Defense University, whatever the hell that is.

Also urgent is the need for more money to finance the Iraq boondoggle. the scribe doesn’t remember when it was Bush squeezed the American people for an earlier $147.5 billion, but it doesn’t seem long ago. And that was just a fraction of the true cost of war as demonstrated by our favorite cost-of-war ticker, compliments of the National Priorities Project.

We are told any opposition to this expense, a small portion of which would have helped end the California firestorm, will be a Betraeus, er um, Petrayal of our troops.

Said the president: “I know some in Congress are against the war. But they ought to make sure our troops have what it takes to succeed.”

Here we go again. Sign sealed delivered it’s his, because in spite of the cliff he’s leading the Republican Party over, GOPers have no problem, ideologically, with backing Bsh., on children’s health care or the war, for which they are THE OFFICIAL PARTY.

The War Party.

That’s right Americans, Europeans, Antarticans, when w. goes there will be a prick to take his place.

Right now that is looking like Rudy Giuliani who thinks that a new war with Iran is a great idea, much as the administration does.

If you want to read some of their reasons, you can click on an earlier edition of “White House Briefing” or TiVo yourself back to those heady days prior to the Iraq invasion, because they are, brazenly, the same pack of lies.

In “Giuliani’s War”
Richard Cohen of the “Washington Post” discusses one of Rudy G.’s characteristic moments when he told a New Yorker who disagreed with his plan to make ferrets illegal as pets that, “There is something deranged about you.”

Ann Coulter’s got to be thrilled.

Cohen, who has the patience to actually sit through the Republican presidential debates, says Giuliani is “treating Iran as a nation of ferret owners” [that’s good] by threatening to strike that country militarily if it develops nuclear weapons.

It was Giuliani said, “not a threat, but a promise,” according to Cohen who added that, “The other Republican candidates do not, for the most part, disagree.”

Of course they don’t.

Which brings up a problem highwayscribery first identified in
“Giuliani and the Politics of Defeat,” as response to a comment by Hizzoner who claimed we can never go back to life the way it was before 9/11.

The GOP always points to the peacenik strain laced through the Democratic Party as something defeatist. Only those who want to send boys and girls over as IED fodder are lovers of America.

But as the scribe noted in that post, “So who is defeatist? Don’t tell the highway scribe he will be removing his shoes before boarding planes the rest of his life...Fix the problem.” etc.

War, war and war. That’s what they have to offer and highwayscribery hopes you’re in the weapons dealing business because otherwise your just another citizen whose lost their civil rights in a declining country.

Meanwhile, John McCain seems to have revived his presidential prospects with a commercial mocking Hillary Clinton’s support of a Woodstock Museum in New York.

McCain said at a recent debate that he was “sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event” and then used the recording of his big laugh-line in the commercial as voice over to images from that great day in American history. “I was tied up at the time.”

Oh well good for you. As the scribe sees it those dancing people were upset you and others were over there killing and being killed; they were leading by example, showing how life should be lived with joy and in community rather than under the perpetual rain cloud the Republicans promise.

You have to love the Republican way. Your chances of getting into the true club (not the one that merely votes for it) are pretty slim, but they’ll mock you for being an outsider every chance they get.

With all the squalor and misery, with the perpetual fear, the environmental degradation and enmity between peoples all over the world, they have maintained throughout the years a smug smirk reserved for those who would dance and preach peace.

For the Party Party.

It’s worth noting the Woodstock museum funding Clinton voted for was $1 million.

Last time the scribe looked, the Iraq war, which McCain is dead set against ending, had cost $463 billion, but that was half an hour ago.

And now a little something about Woodstock...

the highway scribe did not make it to the actual festival, although even at the age of 10 its tremors shook him from a distance.

A year later, his mom took the scribe, his sister Rosemary, and baby brother Bradley, up to Woodstock. It was near the place where they made Corning Wear, which mothers cooked their casseroles in back then.

The town was overrun by long-hairs whom, as has been the case across urban American in ensuing years, had done much to improve it with color, creativity, art, and vibrance. the scribe bought a patch for his jeans that said “LSD” designed in the same graphic style as the STP Oil label, which seems to have disappeared from the commercial scene.

At one point in our incense-inspired walk through the leafy burg, we stopped to watch a stream flow under a small wooden bridge. We were approached by a young man with a beard that made him appear less young to us. Our mother was elsewhere, but this was in a time before amber alerts.

UnAmerican, he talked nothing about himself, but patiently asked questions of us and recorded the answers in a notebook. He assured us that we were very interesting and that he should know, because that is what he was dedicated to doing: listening to people and recording their stories. He left with a smile shortly thereafter. We were never abducted or molested.

the highway scribe made a career out of his shining example.

Years later, the scribe and friends used to go to a nearby independent theater to see the Woodstock movie, which you may not know, was edited by Martin Scorcese. The music, of course, is astounding, but what used to excite the crowd most were the words of an old-timer on a porch who spoke to the film makers.

The exact words escape now, but to paraphrase he said that people of the rural farm town did not quite know what to think when all these scruffy items waltzed in singing, dancing and drinking, but that as the days wore on, it seemed to him their behavior was unimpeachable, that their example was one that might serve the whole world, that they’d be welcome back any time they saw fit to return, which he hoped would be soon, and that he himself would never forget how wonderful they were.

In today’s world, that’s worth $1 million and a museum.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"Smokers" Smokes

the highway scribe awoke this morning to learn "The Sidewalk Smokers Club" received an honorable mention from the DIY (Do It Yourself) Book Festival/Los Angeles edition. DIY is one in a handful of outfits helping sort out the quality from the slop in the print-on-demand/self-publishing universe. You pony-up anywhere from $50 to $100 bucks and as many as five copies of your own book and see what happens. It is a first run for "The Smokers" and the relative success basically means the scribe must now spend a few hundred more dollars on similar contests. That's fine. the scribe has scrolled down through lists of winners and honorably mentioneds before, heart contracting as his title failed to pop up. It's a grim and lonely moment. Here's the list for DIY. If you scroll down to the "Fiction" category, you will see that "The Sidewalk Smokers Club" is right beneath the winner. The litany's not being alphabetized is a fairly good sign the book came in second. highwayscribery titles have been at the end of such lists and, in those instances, there was no denying what it meant... so please, raise a glass to the scribe, or the muse, or to "The Smokers" themselves.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Folks in the mainstream media have come around to Al Gore.


On George Stephanopolous’ ABC Sunday show, Cokie Roberts, for example, was simply effusive in conceding, “Good for Al Gore. He deserved this.”

Cokie like Stephanopolous, who referred to Gore as a “political carnivore” after his second debate against the Texan during the 2000 campaign, was never truly on board.

highwayscribery, a force to be reckoned with throughout the information constellation, has decided to prolong the news cycle dedicated to Gore’s triumph by doing another post a few days after the fact of his winning the Nobel Prize.

First, we’d like to point out how much we like Gore and how often we’ve trumpeted him when it went against the grain of American opinion to do so.

We’ve covered some of the controversial speeches he made as an early critic of the administration when that was not popular. We thought we sensed something of a surprising “Gore Zeitgeist,” in April 2006, and were tuned-in like nervous teens when he won an Academy Award, waiving off all the inconsequential categories like “Best Actor” and “Best Actress” so they could get to the all-important “Best Documentary” category.

So, we told you so before the rest of them did, which should make all 27 of you feel like you’re onto something hot and inside-y with your dark highwayscribery habit.

Aside from the early morning Associated Press report leading the charge last Friday morning, Gore got some kindness from the “New York Times,” and writer Jim Rutenberg, who noted that for Gore, “winning the Nobel Peace Prize today is the latest twist in a remarkable decade of soaring highs and painful lows.”

To Rutenberg’s credit he highlights Gore’s politics over his “pop culture” triumphs as those who deign to damn him with faint praise refer to his Oscar, his Emmy, his Webby, and his successful stab at becoming the world’s biggest rock promoter on the first go-round.

Long before these things began to congeal into the Gore Zeitgeist, Gutenberg says Prince Albert of the Tennessee Valley, “was growing in stature for another reason: his early opposition to the war.”

We’re not sure that’s the case. In fact we’re not sure that being anti-war in the United States ever gets anywhere with the big outlets. As the Brits say: “It’s just not done,” but Rutenberg’s point demonstrates the retroactive nature of success and validation.

In short, once you’ve had success, you’re whole backstory gets a boost. Former flubs become painful but necessary detours on a destiny marked for distinction.

More from Rutenberg on the Gore and the war: “He had initially voiced it [his opposition] in 2002 in an address that his newly galvanized supporters now describe as uncannily prescient and unfairly dismissed, though it was seen as a politically off-kilter at a time of great popularity for [p]resident Geo. [w.] Bsh.”

Even second tier operations like the “San Diego Union-Tribune” got into the act.

The “U-T” as it is known locally and colloquially, usually contracts out its opinion section to the syndicated gang, but the Copley crew let a staff writer named Peter Rowe air it out about a reliable whipping boy to rather pleasurable effect.

“Maybe he really did invent the Internet,” Rowe wrote.

“Al Gore’s résumé includes just about every other distinction: an Emmy, and Oscar and now a Nobel Peace Prize. His impressive run has been unmatched by anyone in our culture. (Other than Oprah, of course). Just seven years ago, though, Gore was considered a schlub.”

Rowe goes onto survey the accolades accorded the former veep across the culture and across the political spectrum. Save, of course, what he refers to as “the Limbaugh-Hannity-Coulter Axis of Conservative Commentary.”

Not that these folks haven’t been a boon to the conservative movement, but at this late hour the brand has to be getting tarnished with the association. Their inability to even see an American in someone wafting a whiff of progressivism has all but polished that little nub of imagined credibility into the flat marble surface of their imagined reality.

Even Arnold Schwarzenegger had the decency to release an officious statement reading: “Congratulations to Al Gore for receiving this great honor, recognizing his important work on climate change. Climate change is a global crisis that transcends politics and party affiliation and that's why there are leaders from across the spectrum calling attention to this critical issue.”

But generally, when you lack grace at lower levels, it’s because you lack it at the very top and rather than the typical congratulatory note proudly reserved for citizens that ennoble their country with an achievement such as the Nobel, White House mouthpiece Tony Fratto came up with an extemporaneous, “Of course we’re happy for Vice President Gore and the IPCC for receiving this recognition.”

Then how come you had to be asked? the highway scribe was so happy he called his mom to ask what she thought, but she beat him to the punch because she was so happy, too.

Paul Krugman of the “New York Times” took at stab the burning question, What is it about Mr. Gore that drives right-wingers insane?

Gore's message is deeply threatening to a party living in the stone age, Krugman suggests.

“Today,” he wrote, “being a good Republican means believing that taxes should always be cut, never raised. It also means believing that we should bomb and bully foreigners, not negotiate with them."

But Gore’s belief in diplomacy before war and the reigning in of our mutual lifestyles to something more dignified than pigs at the trough is only the beginning.

The biggest reason the right wing hate him so is that, “the smear campaign has failed. He’s taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy.”

Music, sweet music.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Three More

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Oxnard SoldierGovernor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Gilberto A. Meza, of Oxnard, CA:

"Corporal Gilberto Meza's allegiance to freedom and his dedication to protecting the ideals of our country warrant the highest appreciation of all Californians. Maria and I want to express our sincere condolences to Gilberto's family and friends as they endure the terrible loss of this courageous soldier. We will continue to pray for them."

Meza, 21, died Oct. 6 as a result of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit in Baghdad, Iraq. Meza was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, United States Army, Vilseck, Germany.

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Hayward Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Avealalo Milo, of Hayward, CA:

"In valiant service to our country and his fellow Americans, Specialist Avealalo Milo made the ultimate sacrifice protecting our nation abroad. Maria and I express our deepest sympathies to Avealalo's family and loved ones. His loyalty and courage will forever be cherished by all who knew him."

Milo, 23, died Oct. 4 as a result of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Baghdad, Iraq. Milo was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, United States Army, Vilseck, Germany.

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Camp Pendleton Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Lance Cpl. Jeremy W. Burris, of Tacoma, WA:

"My heart goes out to Lance Corporal Jeremy Burris' family, friends and community at this very difficult time. Jeremy's bravery and commitment to our country is an inspiration to all Americans and we honor him for this ultimate sacrifice. Maria and I hold the Burris family in our thoughts and prayers."

Burris, 22, died Oct. 8 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. Burris was assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book Report: "40 Years With The Blues Legends" By Deacon Jones

the highway scribe would like to gather up his red Fender Starcaster and his 22 watt amplifier and go over to Deacon Jones’ place for a jam.

That way he would be associated with Jones, and all the legends Jones has jammed with and recounted in his charming autobiography,"The Blues Man: 40 Years with the Blues Legends."

That way the highway scribe could tell his grandchildren he’d jammed with a guy who’d jammed with all those famous guys.

Which would be an improvement on the scribe’s current career trajectory.

But seriously, Jones’ story is a lot like the blues itself. It's sad, but it sounds good so that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“I guess the only reason that I haven’t given in is because I don’t know how to quit. I’m sort of like a Timex watch; I take a licking, but I keep on ticking. I just hope and pray that one day the sun will shine on Deacon Jones and I’ll finally get lucky and hit it big. It seems that every time I’m near the top, something goes wrong and I fall down again.”

Here’s a gentleman who has played with Baby Huey and The Babysitters, The Impressions, Curtis Mayfield, John Lee Hooker, Freddie King, Elvin Bishop, Buddy Miles, Greg Allman, Willie Dixon, Carlos Santana and a veritable who’s who? of sixties/seventies music stars.

It’s a classic story about the music industry.

Says Deacon (with the help of an able M. Jonathan Hayes):

“In 1965, we finally settled into a regular gig at the Thumbs Up on the North Side. They started us off at one night a week, $5 each, and all we could drink. And everyone wants to know why I got to be an alcoholic.”

Keeping in mind that Melvyn’s story (that’s his real name) winds through the early ’60s and is still unspooling, drugs and booze are a part of things, given the predilections of his lively and special generation.

Here’s an accounting of an all-star jam with Buddy Miles, Noel Redding [Hendrix’ bassman] Eric Clapton, and Deacon’s boss at the time, Freddie King.

“The music and the vibes were just blowing everyone away. Eric was a monster on guitar but he was pretty blitzed. During the performance, he came over and sat down on the organ bench next to me on my right side. It was pretty cool except that he started leaning into me while I was trying to play, bumping into my right arm during my solos. I was whispering to him out of the side of his mouth. “ Eric, Eric, I can’t play.”

“Oh, sorry mate, sorry,” he would gurgle and sit up straight for a moment. It was hilarious. Soon he was tilting to the side gain, leaning into me."

That was the joy, but in the crazy world of endless travel, shoestring budgets, and reckless lifestyles, there was much sadness for Deacon, too.

Jones, who was born in Richmond, Indiana while the gale winds of World War II were blowing full force, headed north to Chicago at a tender age with a very large fellow from the neighborhood named Jimmy Ramey, who took the show name of Baby Huey and sang for “The Babysitters” of which Deacon formed a part.

Maybe you have to be a music junkie to enjoy Jones’ stories about how this guy did not like to practice, or that guy couldn’t remember the lyrics, or couldn’t play lest he was stoned out of his mind or had some fried chicken first, but the book contains lots of personal peculiarities of people elevated by stardom who are really, just people.

Freddie King, for example, was a great lead guitarist, but couldn’t “chord” very well, which is a way of saying he loved the spotlight, but wasn’t crazy about driving the band with a little mundane dirty work.

Ramey, who only knew two numbers when the joint venture began (“Peanut Butter” and “Wiggle Wobble”), “was kind of lazy when it came to learning new songs. I told him he had to know more songs if he was going to make it with any band. We learned, ‘Go, Gorilla, Go’, by the Ideals, and some Four Tops, James Brown, Stevie Wonder songs. The number one song we learned that always got the crowd going was Stevie Wonder’s ‘Uptight, Everything is Alright’ .”

highwayscribery includes the anecdote because it shows the book for what it is: a recounting from the stage and from the rehearsal room by a craftsman in pop and blues, rather than a conceptual rambling about the black roots of music, slave canticles and what have you.

Deacon went on stage and played songs. That was and is his life and through him the reader learns the nuts and bolts of performing at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre and how perilous it could be when the organ player printed up a few shirts to make an extra buck selling them outside the show.

Ramey liked his drugs apparently, though Jones never specifies. He recounts how he’s was having cereal for breakfast one morning at Baby Huey’s place when his “drug kit” fell out of the Wheaties box when Deacon turned it over to fill his bowl.

“All of a sudden there was a loud demanding knock at the door. A big voice yelled, ‘ Chicago Police - open the door - now.’ Ramey calmly dropped his kit back into the box and the wax paper on top of it. Someone opened the door and in comes all these burly task force narcotics officers with bullet proof vests, holding semi-automatic guns and big pistols. One of them barked, ‘ Freeze. Don’t noboby move!’

“Ramey looked up and said nonchalantly, ‘ Can I finish my breakfast?’

“ A cop said, ‘ Yeah smart ass. Go ahead’.”

“The man” looked everywhere in that place, except the Wheaties box.

But Ramey could not escape himself and died of an overdose just when Curtis Mayfield was about to make him a star.

A lot of tragedy. Dennis Moore, drummer for The Babysitters dropped out of school so he could go to Paris with the band. There they were a smash with the crowde and press, but had failed to get a contract and came home empty-handed.

For Moore, it was worse. The Viet Nam War was happening and leaving school cost him his draft exempt status. He served, but came back and found he could not play anymore and killed himself.

“A drummer is the only musician who can’t put his instrument away for a couple of years an come back. Everyone else can quit and come back and continue where he left off but the drummer.”

And there’s lots more where that came from. Deacon got his job with the Impressions when the backing band was killed in a car accident rushing to a gig, weighted down with musical equipment.

Jones was hitched well to Freddie King’s rising star, although there were always the attendant ambiguities of the artistic life.

They opened for Grand Funk Railroad at the height of that band’s popularity, which, for those of you who don’t remember, was considerable. The ticket played Madison Square Garden and rocked the house, according to Deacon who made $35 for the night.

“It didn’t matter that it was a huge show before a zillion people with news reporters, celebrities, flashbulbs clicking the whole night, interviewers in our dressing room after the show, pictures in the papers the next day. The fans didn’t know that I didn’t have a nickel to my name. They didn’t know that I lived hand to mouth at home and on the road. I probably slept on a box spring that night. I was an organ sideman with nothing living the glamorous life on the road with a superstar.”

But even that came to an end. Again, with superstardom within a finger’s length, King died at the age of 41, leaving Jones to start all over again.

And start he did, introducing himself to the legendary John Lee Hooker and asking to sit in for one night that turned into many.

Again, Jones was close, but left without that fat cigar. He has some complaints about these big boys, their broken promises, the waiting until the next big break that never came, but that’s the arts. Deacon takes his space to gripe, but it is only a way of completing a picture mostly filled with the privilege of having talent and shared it with others in similar possession.

Hayes lets Jones tell it his way and Jones tells it well, in an authentic voice, carrying many a keen observation.

It’s not all music because when you’ve lived through such times and such people, you’ve been a part of history, too. A historical event is something that encompasses everybody, not just the direct protagonists.

For instance, while students and radicals were demonstrating at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, Mayor Richard Daley declared martial law.

“I was driving my station wagon one night, back to the house where we were all living near Hyde Park. I pulled up to a stoplight and heard chinka chinka chinka right next tome and I thought, what the hell is that? I looked over and a Sherman tank had pulled up along side of me - on Garfield Boulevard. A soldier’s head was sticking out of the little hole on the top of the tank and he was looking over at me. He pointed to his watch and I yelled out, ‘I know, I got 10 minutes.’

“He said, ‘You got far to go?’

“I said, ‘Just two minutes and I’ll be home.’

“He said, ‘You better hurry,’ and hurry I did.”

Deacon Jones is a black man and the story is laced with occurrences that could happen to a black man, without the organmeister necessarily pointing it out. In just one anecdote does he air his despair.

It involves a car trip from Los Angeles to South Carolina with a quarter pound of weed stashed somewhere in the vehicle and a New Mexico State patrolman. Without probably cause, but highly suspicious, the officer is unable to break the cool musicians’ united front.

Sending Jones back to the car, the cop begins to work over drummer Jeff Miller, a white guy, trying to “divide and conquer,” offering to let him go and arrest the black guys if he’d share the secret about where the drugs were.

“[A]ny time you’re looking at a police officer who has an American flag on his collar and handcuffs for a tie tac, he’s not going to take a bag of weed over there and dump it out. And by trying to divide us racially, you could tell he was a racist. He didn’t like two white guys and two black guys traveling together...

...He was the nightmare of America."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Blackwater U.S.A. : A Literary Analysis

"In the morning the rain had stopped and they appeared in the streets, tattered, stinking, ornamented with human parts like cannibals. They carried huge pistols stuck in their belts and the vile skins they wore were deeply stained with blood and smoke and gunblack."

Cormac McCarthy, “Blood Meridian”

Maureen Dowd, back in public after some 18 months of sequestering under the “New York Times” attempt to charge extra for internauts who enjoy their best opinionators (Frank Rich, Bob Hebert, Paul Krugman etc.) took a stab at the Blackwater U.S.A. scandal a day or so ago.

Adept at skewering politicians Democratic and Republican alike, Dowd founders in conjuring the evil behind this particular brainchild of the shrinking w. regime.

She quotes Nietzsche saying something about the abyss staring back at those who stare at the abyss, but is limited to anecdotes about that crazy Blackwater crew filtered by news agencies and Iraqi-English translators; dulled by our own dimmed wits that have been subject to similar fare for nigh on five years.

She talks "abyss" but does not conjure the abyss, so the highway scribe wanted to turn to literature where accuracy is not so important as legend, volume, word of mouth and, yes, art, which we know can never imitate life.

“Blood Meridian or The Evening Redness in the West” was written by Cormac McCarthy. the scribe read it about ten years ago, with his jaw-dropped, in about 12 hours time, horrified by the verismo accounting of how the West was truly subdued and entranced by the author’s overwrought, overwritten, and too numerous pastoral sequences.

Unable to get the stark renderings of Western moonscape and wretched accounts of senseless massacre out of his mind, the scribe recently went out and purchased the novel for a re-reading that has been no less satisfying the second time around.

“Blood Meridian” ostensibly follows the wanderings of a 14-year-old piece of Tennessee trash referred to only as "the kid," but is really concerned with a cabal he falls in with: Joe Glanton, The Judge, and an ensemble of often and easily replaced mercenaries working on behalf of certain Mexican municipalities seeking protection from the Comanche, Apache, and other “aborigines.”

McCarthy, as a novelist, can go where the journalist Dowd cannot and when he does, leaves our hair standing on end. The first reading through, the many massacres of Indians in the book filled-in a large blank in the scribe’s understanding of American history.

To wit: You gotta kill a lotta injuns to vacate a continent of them and “Blood Meridian,” written by a respectable North American pensman, provides a very plausible rendering of how that was achieved.

highwayscribery’s suggestion here is that strong parallels exist between the Glanton Gang and those who have been so arrogant of the law and human decency in Iraq as to garner headlines in the likes of the “Washington Post.”

Even though we’re not winning the war at many levels, we have the arms to wage it and to do so with open-ended staying power. Only domestic politics might stop the war. Guns we will not run out of and early in “Blood Meridian” Glanton is sampling a special pistol offered up by a man named Thayer.

“When all the chambers were loaded he capped them and looked about. In that courtyard other than merchants and buyers were a number of living things. The first that Glanton drew sight upon was a cat that at that precise moment appeared upon the high wall from the other side as silently as a bird alighting. It turned to pick its way among the cusps of broken glass set upright in the mud masonry. Glanton leveled the huge pistol in one hand and thumbed back the hammer. The explosion in that dead silence was enormous. The cat simply disappeared. There was no blood or cry, it just vanished.”

Properly equipped, the gang depart from Chihuahua City with a contract that will pay them one hundred dollars per Indian scalp. That’s a lot of money in 1849 so that while stopping in an “ancient walled presidio” Glanton puts the same gun to an innocent old woman’s head and kills her, ordering the Mexican in his crew, McGill, to collect the “receipt.”

“He took a skinning knife from his belt and stepped to where the old woman lay and took up her hair and twisted it about his wrist and passed the blade of the knife about her skull and ripped away the scalp.”

Just practicing. Later they approach a thousand Gileño Indians camped along the shoreline of a shallow lake. Coming upon an old man at the outset of the early morning ambush they club him to death, stampede the village and kill a few overmatched warriors with bows and arrows.

“When Glanton and his chiefs swung back through the village people were running out under horses’ hooves and the horses were plunging and some of the men were moving on foot among the huts with torches and dragging victims out, slathered and dripping with blood, hacking at the dying and decapitating those who knelt for mercy. There were in the camp a number of Mexican slaves and these ran forth calling out in Spanish and were brained or shot and one of the Delawares emerged from the smoke with a naked infant dangling in each hand and squatted at a ring of midden stones and swung them by the heels each in turn and bashed their heads against the stones so that the brains burst forth through the fontanel in a bloody spew...”

When Yahoo news tells you American forces have killed 70 “insurgents” or “terrorists,” remember that the Indians were the terrorists and insurgents of those times and that the lexicon of war permits the indiscriminate taking of lives, be they of women, children, the old, or young.

As The Judge lectures the men before a campfire: “Moral law is an invention of mankind for the disenfranchisement of the powerful in favor of the weak. Historical law subverts it at every turn.”

The harvest complete the band return to Chihuahua City where they are roundly remunerated and fêted, but overstay their welcome, raping the town’s young girls, elevating the status of whores, emptying pantry and kitchen, first with money and then with the threat of guns, until finally a desperate citizen scribbles on a wall, Mejor los Indios.

We’re better off with the Indians.

Having stripped the town of all worth, they depart and quickly slaughter a “peaceful band of Tiguas” before riding into the Mexican town of Nacori where a cantina spat spurs them to kill twenty-eight Mexican men whose scalps they also collect - scalps, “of the people they were paid to protect,” the author observes.

McCarthy has a kind of reverse literary triumph here. It is very rare you don’t root for the people you’re following in a story. A murderer escapes from jail and flees through a swamp and you find yourself pulling for him to evade the hounds and coppers.

In “Blood Meridian” you ask, Can’t the authorities do anything to stop these monsters?


In fact, one of the more poignant sequences occurs shortly thereafter when the mercenaries decimate a corps of mounted Mexican cavalry:

“They wore tall shakos faced with metal plates and horsehair plumes and they wore green coats trimmed with scarlet and scarlet sashes and they were armed with lances and muskets and their mounts were nicely caparisoned and they entered the street sidling and prancing, horsemen riding upon horses, all of them desirable young men. The company looked to Glanton. He holstered the pistol and drew his rifle. The captain of the lancers had raised sabre to halt the column. The next instant the narrow street was filled with riflesmoke and a dozen of the soldiers lay dead or dying on the ground. The horses reared and screamed and fell back upon each other and men were unhorsed and rose up struggling to hold their mounts. A second fire tore through their ranks. They fell away in confusion.”

This is what you get with mercenaries and one must wonder how many good Iraqis hoping to help their country in the police or the nascent army have died the same way as the young lancers.

A third of “Blood Meridian” takes place at the Colorado River near Yuma and across the region spreading west to San Diego, where Glanton and Co., abduct the mayor, his wife, and the grocer good enough to trade their stolen gold for dry goods, “to an abandoned hut at the edge of the ocean eight miles south of the settlement,” tie them up and leave them for dead.

Ironically, Blackwater U.S.A. wants to open an 824-acre training facility in the same region, in east San Diego County. So angry are the residents of Potrero - which sounds like something out of the novel - at the planning commission that green lighted the scheme, that they voted to set a recall election for the whole slew of them.

And it’s not looking good for the currently seated officials.

So maybe, hopefully, Dowd is right when she writes, “Americans have been anti-mercenary since the British sent 30,000 German Hessians after George Washington in the Revolutionary War.”

the highway scribe has never been to war, but he did waste a lot of time trying to sell screenplays in Hollywood, which is similar, what with the immorality and whores and betrayal typical of the Glanton clan, but without the blood (for the most part).

There was forewarning in this screenwriter’s quest and the plan as drawn up was to make a stake and get the hell out.

But there is no “out” for mercenaries of the kind detailed by McCarthy. No matter how much money they steal or gold teeth they pull from the jaws of weaker souls, they never choose to leave for greener pastures; never settle down on that ranch with the little woman to propagate more mercenaries.

That’s because the money’s nice, but the thing they like is the killing. And so mercenaries hang on until they’re murdered and cremated by vengeful Yumas... or left hanging from a bridge in Falloujah.

And therein may lie one reason you don’t see the U.S. making its way for the door in Iraq. The people running the show wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.

Mejor los Indios.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Five More

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Los Angeles Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Sgt. Robert T. Ayres III, of Los Angeles, CA:

"Sergeant Robert Ayres will be remembered as an example of valor and commitment to duty. Maria and I mourn the loss of this courageous soldier and we send our prayers to his family and loved ones. Robert's sacrifice is a somber reminder of the dangers inherent in protecting our country."

Ayres, 23, died Sept. 29 as a result of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Baghdad, Iraq. Ayres was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, United States Army, Vilseck, Germany.

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Cameron Park Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Pfc. Mathew D. Taylor, of Cameron Park, CA:

"Private First Class Mathew Taylor proudly stood beside his fellow soldiers defending our country overseas. He embodies the incredible spirit of commitment and courage displayed every day by the members of our armed forces. Maria and I send our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to Mathew's family, friends and loved ones."

Taylor , 21, died Sept. 26 in San Antonio of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle July 23 in Sarobi District , Afghanistan . Taylor was assigned to the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, United States Army, Vicenza , Italy .

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of San Diego Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Anthony K. Bento, of San Diego , CA :

"Answering the highest call of duty, Corporal Anthony Bento gave his life fighting for freedom. The allegiance and fidelity of Anthony's service warrants the highest appreciation of all Californians. Maria and I wish to send our sympathies to his family, friends and fellow soldiers as they mourn his loss."

Bento, 23, died Sept. 24 as a result of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using small arms fire in Bayji , Iraq . Bento was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, United States Army, Fort Bragg , NC .

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Novato Soldier

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Spc. Nicholas P. Olson, of Novato, CA:

"Maria and I extend our profound sympathy to the family and friends of Specialist Nicholas Olson, who gave his life with honor to protect our nation and our values. Nicholas' bravery and sacrifice will always be remembered. We will pray for the comfort of his family during this painful time."

Olson, 22, died Sept. 18 as a result of wounds sustained when an improvised explosive device detonated near his unit during combat operations in Muqdadiyah, Iraq. Olson was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division (Stryker Brigade Combat Team), United States Army, Fort Lewis, WA.

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

Gov. Schwarzenegger Issues Statement on Death of Redding Marine

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of Cpl. Travis M. Woods, of Redding, CA:

"Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the tremendous loss of Corporal Travis Woods. A brave and committed Marine, Travis will be forever honored for his willingness to answer the call of duty as a member of our armed forces. We send our prayers and sincere condolences to his family, fellow Marines and the community of Redding during this difficult time."

Woods, 21, died Sept. 9 as a result of wounds suffered while conducting combat operations in Northern Helmand province, Afghanistan. Woods was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, United States Marine Corps, Camp Pendleton, CA.

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

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tlatelcolco 39 Years Later

In Mexico today, they (or some) are commemorating the 39th anniversary of the government's wholesale slaughter of protesting students in Tlatelcolco.

A couple of months ago, Aug. 4 to be precise, highwayscribery broached this topic through a book report on Paco Ignacio Taibo II's "1968."

Elena Poniatowska, the author of "Tinísmima," a wonderful biography of actress, photographer and communist militant Tina Modotti, told a gathering in memory of the dead that, "Mexico doesn't deserve the government it has today."

Mexico, it would seem, is somewhat split on that question.

highwayscribery was never crazy about how the current President, Felipe Calderon came to power and has maintained a soft spot for his lefty-wing opponent, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or AMLO as the media like to call him (charges of messianism and personalism notwithstanding).

John Skaglund, an acquaintance who recently became a resident of Mexico -- Morelos specifically -- told the scribe he appreciates Calderon's efforts to bring a little order to Mexico, that "any time somebody doesn't like something, they go out and block the roads and shut everything down and at least he [Calderon] is trying to do something about it."

highwayscribery is hardly frightened by such stories: that's democracy, which in its purest form, is rather sloppy.

On the other hand, it's easier to write about such things than it is to live them.

highwayscribery saint Luis Buñuel noted that the Spanish Civil War caused some second thoughts relative to his personal philosophy. In his charming autobography, "My Last Sigh," he wrote: "The first three months were the worst, mostly because of the total absence of control. I, who had been such an ardent subversive, who had so desired the overthrow of the established order, now found myself in the middle of a volcano and I was afraid...As usual, I was torn between my intellectual (and emotional) attraction to anarchy and my fundamental need for order and peace."


In any case, highwayscribery's point of view is that the pictures above speak for themselves. That, anarcho-syndically speaking, government should always act with the consent of the governed and that it is highly unlikely anyone thought it a good idea to go out and massacre the nation's youth. That little boy was someone's child and even those opposed to the students, of which there were obviously many, would hardly "consent" to his death by shooting.

People have a right to speak out and demand change in a democracy. Where there is disagreement, there is discussion and debate and, in the end, it is the government that serves the people that should concede; not those for whom the government was hired to work.

What you had in Mexico City circa 1968 was a government acting on behalf of its own will to power, rather than for the general good.

highwayscribery hates the idea of police force being used against people exercising their right to speak out on their own behalf, demanding the kind of treatment they are entitled to. It is bullying and undemocratic and the scribe has been in too many demonstrations where too many innocents have been clubbed and clobbered by under-educated idiots, brutes, sent out on behalf of our own elected officials.

Mexico has no monopoly on this behavior. It is endemic to all those in power who seem to develop a natural haughtiness where their "authority" is concerned.

It is happening in Myanmar where shooting monks is presently the popular sport, and we had it here in Los Angeles on May Day, when the goon squads of the Los Angeles Police Department took it to some people who were doing nothing, at all, wrong.

And highwayscribery, blood boiling at the thought of each individual instance, sends every one of them straight to hell.

Mexico's "La Jornada" is running a special section on Tlatelcolco with more pictures and some articles for those who read Spanish.

Have a nice day.

Monday, October 01, 2007

"The Sidewalk Smokers Club" (officially released)

the highway scribe’s book “The Sidewalk Smokers Club” is hereby proclaimed released.

Actually, it has been available for a month or two, but we wanted to wait until everybody was stuck back in their seats after all that summer fun before making the announcement. The premise of “Smokers” is simple enough. Some people who wouldn’t be friends become so because they’re not allowed to smoke inside. Essentially aging urban hipsters, they become involved in each other’s efforts handling the absurdities of modern life most of which you will recognize as your own (hopefully) That’s how the scribe hopefully gets you to relate to them before engaging you on their side in the name of habit you probably consider disgusting.

Anyway, their frequent sidewalk congresses eventually become intertwined with more public crusades so that sidewalk smoking becomes something of a fashion in the unidentified burg where the drama transpires. Eventually, The Smokers are targeted for elimination and bare their teeth in an effort to keep their sidewalk free from regulation. The book tries to address an underappreciated issue - the loss of personal freedoms in the United States and our intolerance of one another’s excesses - with other questions facing most modern societies, always with its tongue in cheek and an eye on a good laugh or insightful tidbit. Get it by clicking on the book cover to the left (under "Vedette") and enjoy!