You Should’ve Left the Light On

ABC News:

President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.

“Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people.” Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. “And yes, I’m aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved.”

Game over. That’s an admission to a war crime. In any civilized nation, the people would have taken to the streets and demanded the head of that lawless bastard on a pike, but no. We’ve got dentist appointments and Monday morning commutes. Via Hullabaloo, where the analytical mind goes to scream into its pillow:

“When word of torture and mistreatment began to slip out to the American press in the summer of 1969, our public-relations-minded captors began to treat us better. I’m certain we would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around.”
– John McCain

The current administration has disposed of habeas corpus. McCain now says torture is hunky-dory. We are in grave danger.

People All Over the World Are Shouting, "End the War."

On Saturday night, I had dinner with friends. I was seated across the table from a very close friend whom I love with my whole black heart. A guy I don’t know well asked my friend, a George Bush fan, a question about politics. My friend and I know better than to discuss politics because my dear friend stopped thinking for himself in 2000. It’s deeply disappointing. Moreover, even though I broke my own rule by answering a direct question, then not backing down or away from my opinion, this conversation really got under my skin.

A few things:

1. To say that John McCain is the most sensible candidate Republicans could have fielded is to disqualify yourself from adult conversation. McCain has repeatedly conflated Iran and al-Quaeda and doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shi’a. Further, no one on an international stage should apply for a diplomatic position by stepping up to a mic and singing, “Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran.” This is a disaster in the making, at a time when we are seen internationally as a lawless superpower, a bully with nukes.

Surely, there must be one sane man in the Republican Party. Why isn’t he running?

2. Discussing winning the war in dispassionate terms does not mark one as mature or serious: it’s monstrous. For no discernable reason, we have destroyed a sovereign nation. If we invaded for oil, we’re not going to get it. If we invaded to take out Saddam, we’ve murdered him. If, as I more and more hear, we invaded to restore our Vietnam-wounded pride, we have done the very thing that will insure this pride is injured further.

(As an aside, what is it with men who were too young to serve in Vietnam and who didn’t bother joining the service talking about what WE lost? I was in pigtails and ballet slippers, and I’m not stewing. And that these same dodos end arguments by shouting, “We saved your ass in WWII!” speaks volumes about great insecurity rather than great accomplishment.)

3. The Middle East is not a fucking game board. Real people live there and die there when we take our giant dick substitutes out and fire off a few missiles. Now, just because we forget and go play somewhere else does not mean the survivors won’t remember. Think for a second about Israel and Palestine. How far does that little tiff stretch back in history? Is it…ALWAYS? Why yes, yes it is. And these people, whom we’ve only noticed because they stand on oil, will remember that we’ve dropped bombs on them. We may forget. They never will. Weren’t we trying to win their hearts and minds?

We cannot make the Middle East anything other than what it is.

4. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. It must arise from the people, who must be willing to die for it. The think tank assholes who keep saying Democracy can be exported know that no such thing is possible and they’re only saying it to people too stupid to read their own nation’s history.

Democracy has nothing whatever to do with what our government’s done to Iraq. It’s an invasion, pure and simple, for oil and George Bush’s Daddy problems. Imperialism is not democratic.

5. The war cannot be won.

6. The military is being destroyed in the war that cannot be won.

7. No one has any idea how to pay for the health care for the veterans of the war that cannot be won.

8. My favorite:

“I believe in less taxes.”
“I believe bridges should remain standing. One of us is going to be unhappy.”

One more thing: when you’re talking politics and you shout at me while I’m discussing peace you’ve told me you know your argument’s weak. It is the refuge of the man who factors the sufferings of other human beings – especially women – into the cost of doing business and doesn’t give his part in creating it a second thought. If you know your argument’s weak, rethink the question.

I’ve tried to reconstruct this glittering little quotation but I’ve failed.* The point is really important. I’m paraphrasing:

The role of Commander In Chief is the smallest part of the American Presidency because war represents the failure of diplomacy.

We’re not electing a Commander In Chief. We are electing a President, hopefully a person smart enough to guide our nation to peace, prosperity and energy independence.

So maybe I’m in a mood.

*If you have a line on who said the line I can’t reconstruct, shout it out, my dahhhhlink.

Update: The salute I think of each time minstrel mentions Reagan’s fetishy love of pomp and parades.

Got To Make The Best Of

The primary season long ago lost its tinny glamor. The vote’s behind us and I am aware that the Republican noise machine engineers dirty tricks, scandals and rumors into our political campaigns. Until and unless indictments are unsealed, I simply will not listen to rumor or innuendo. I won’t listen to the insinuating chatter of reporters who have nothing to say. I’m not going to listen to anyone calling for any Democrat to apologize, to cast off an ally, a secret religion, to consider someone else’s penis. No. I won’t hear another word on the subject of entitlement, and you shouldn’t either.

We are being manipulated. Indulge me just a teensy moment, please!

Perhaps you have a favorite candidate. Perhaps you’ve invested scads of time verbally excoriating his, her or its opponent. Perhaps you’ve gone so far as to instigate a comments thread where rash words were exchanged.

Hmmm. My darling, come sit next to me. Comfy? Can I get you a cup of tea? You’re cutting down. I see. Okay, then. How’s your blood pressure? Pounding in your ears? My sweet, it’s time to reconsider.

Recently, I’ve heard people threaten to vote Republican if their favorite candidate doesn’t win the Democratic nomination. These passionate, dedicated people have lost sight of what’s at stake. They’re not really Democrats, or liberals, or progressives, and they’re certainly not people interested in justice or changing the world. No, they’re handicappers, more concerned with betting the right pony than Civil Rights. They don’t care whether or not children have health insurance, if the wars go on forever, if the economy tanks, if the government spies on its citizens, if the CIA operates secret prisons and tortures. Nope. These fuckers care about stomping their widdle feet and getting their way. Fuck the poor. Screw the Constitution. They’ll show you!

That kind of unforgivable selfishness will get us nowhere. Let’s look at one thing we must surely always keep before our eyes.

Say you’re a human. Say you need medical treatment after January 2009. Say it’s something you want to get over with and put behind you. You want and need to address your medical problem with all haste and in the manner you choose without interference from anyone. You want that. And you want to be left alone.

Now, say that means that for whatever reason, and there are many in the wide world of human disasters, you need an abortion. Or your wife needs an abortion. Your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your ward, your sister or your mother needs an abortion.

If you vote Republican, the religious right will be appointing Supreme Court Justices for the next four years. That abortion becomes less probable with each appointment; out with the bath water goes birth control. The Supreme Court is one provincial Republican appointee from grave danger to Roe v. Wade and two away from overturning it and throwing a picnic on the mall.

One more time, my pet: another Republican administration, Roe v. Wade, overturned. And it’s not just safe, legal abortion. You know that. This is the tip of the Make Your Own Decisions, Occupational Safety, Environmental Progress, National Park Preserving, Equal Rights For Everyone, No Torturing, Rule Of Law, Privacy Respecting, Trade Balancing, Reasonable Search and Seizure, No Outsourcing Iceberg.

Let’s take a deep breath, then, shall we? The other day, one of my blogmates told me on a third person’s blog to go Cheney myself, presumably over the assertion that a woman president would be dandy. I did not respond to his vitriol because why should I lose my temper, my stomach lining or – Kali forbid! – develop a wrinkle because he’s lost the plot? I’m beautifying the world one room at a time, so leaving a rumpled karmic mess is absolutely O-U-T out!

Appearances may deceive, my love. Nader cannot save us. McCain is not a reasonable centrist. Clinton is not Satan. Obama is not a terrifying racial cipher. Politicians cannot ride to our rescue from global nightmares of our own making. If we know what is good for us and our general health, we will carefully purge the junta and go about the next five years putting our nation, our international credibility, our infrastructure, our scientific community, our economy and our ethos back together. A great deal of work lies ahead of us. Now is the time to rest. When the election comes, you’ll know what to do.

Well, I’m glad we’ve had this little chat. I hope you hear what I’m saying: disengage from the utterly irration media circus. Go for a delightful walk outdoors. This weekend, daffodils will bloom in New Jersey. Gazing at sunny yellow flowers is positively tonic.

Care for a crumpet?

Updated to correct amusing typos.

Until She Slipped Into My Pocket

I’m wimping out here, to which I freely admit. It’s raining a little, cold and the wind is blowing through the trees along the river with some force. Am I going outside to take a picture? Fuck no. Instead, you get a picture Pete took of wine in a jelly jar while he was chasing the pussycats around the living room. I love the honey-colored light, the glistening glass surface, the smoothness of the table, but I also see this still life as a very active image. To my eye, this glass looks still only at its center, the way candlelight is always in motion. I know this room was alive with cats running in circles and one athletic man fiddling with the flash – even I was laughing. This is what we distill of that moment.

On Friday, minstrel wrote about a report that lengthy, repeated tours of duty are destroying the armed forces. I’d read this report, too, but I don’t have the same capacity he does to break out meaning. The article:

The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers – the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat – reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours.

“Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater,” said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. “They’re not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.

Note the inconsistency within the article: the first paragraph cites third or fourth tours; the second paragraph mentions problems beginning with second and third tours of duty. This is not a small discrepancy. It means that problems start even sooner than anyone is willing to discuss: with a second tour of duty. A second. We’re sending them in for a fourth. Minstrel:

They are driving the army straight into the ground. Also, these type of endless and back to back deployments have never happened. No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Let’s read those words again: No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Rumor has it the tours of duty are about to be extended again, and it will be done quietly. When the destruction of our armed services is an undeniable fact in history, will you then support the war crimes trials of the people whose thoughtless cruelty, greed and hubris left you more truly vulnerable than you have ever been in your life?

What will it take for you personally to get off your ass and do something about this?

Evil Is An Exact ScienceBeing Carefully Correctly Wrong

Click play, read on.

This week, the news out of Washington confirmed what we have long believed: we have become our worst nightmare, a totalitarian nation of the kind we once fought because we believed in our innate goodness and rightness; no more, and not again in our lifetimes.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Waterboarding is necessary though probably not legal, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress Thursday as Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he would not open a criminal investigation into the CIA’s use of the technique.

Strapping a person to a surface, covering their face with cloth and pouring water on their face to imitate the sensation of drowning could be used if “an unlawful combatant is possessing information that would help us prevent catastrophic loss of life of Americans or their allies,” said Hayden.

“In my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that that technique would be considered lawful under current statute,” he told the House Intelligence Committee after publicly disclosing that the CIA had used waterboarding on three of the enemy combatants.

He explained that the method was used because of “mis-shaped and misformed” political discussion about waterboarding.

In the jungle of the senses
Tinkerbell and Jack the ripper
Love has no meaning not where they come from
But we know pleasure is not that simple
Very little fruit is forbidden
Sometimes we wobble sometimes we’re strong
But you know evil is an exact science
Being carefully correctly wrong

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody’s happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

Hayden reiterated that the technique is not part of the interrogation program now and that the waterboarding techniques, when they were used in the 2002 and 2003, were limited to three top al Qaeda suspects

Also Thursday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told lawmakers he will not open a criminal investigation into the CIA’s use of waterboarding on terror suspects.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asked Mukasey bluntly whether he was starting a criminal investigation since Hayden confirmed the use of waterboarding.

“No, I am not, for this reason: Whatever was done as part of a CIA program at the time that it was done was the subject of a Department of Justice opinion through the Office of Legal Counsel and was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then,” he said.

Mukasey said opening an investigation would send a message that Justice Department opinions are subject to change.

We feel like Greeks we feel like Romans
Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
We drink elixirs that we refine
>From the juices of the dying
We are not monsters we’re moral people
And yet we have the strength to do this
This is the splendor of our achievment
Call in the airstrike with a poison kiss

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody’s happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

“Essentially it would tell people, ‘You rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigations … if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or indeed the political winds change,'” he said. “And that’s not something that I think would be appropriate and it’s not something I will do.”

Conyers, D-Michigan, and Mukasey argued over whether the Justice Department will provide documents on the waterboarding opinion to the committee.

Mukasey refused, saying the documents are highly classified and that he had already said he is not going to open an investigation.

Conyers and other House Democrats then called for the criminal investigation.

How bad it gets you can’t imagine
The burning wax the breath of reptiles
God is not mocked he knows his buisness
Karma could take us at any moment
Cover him up I think we’re finished
You know it’s never been so exotic
But I don’t know my dreams are visions
We could still end up with the great big fishes!

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody’s happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home.

Okay, let’s practice a little intelligent selfishness, just for black-humored kicks:

What do you think this means to our troops, taken prisoner?

A Spot On the Sidewalk In the City


Pete has a cold but we still have scads to do, so yesterday, whenever possible, he held still and stayed warm in front of the TV. I made yogurt for the week, then made crepes for the Italian Christmas Eve manicotti. When I emerged from the kitchen, Pete was watching The Sand Pebbles. At intervals I didn’t understand, film guys sitting on film guy chairs would talk about the historical context of the movie, which was the Yangtze River in 1926. Let’s just say it was a bad year to be an American imperialist, but an even worse year to defend American imperialism on a Navy gunboat, especially if you weren’t an American. This movie is full of torch-wielding angry mobs.

Gritty. A minute or two after the end of this clip, the student-soldiers marched into the square and stood at attention for a while, looking for all the world like boys playing dress up. Our ingenue skipped lightly down the stairs and I said, as Candace Bergen, “Who wants cookies?” Then I went back into the kitchen to make breakfast. When I returned to the living room, where Pete was stationed on the couch, with breakfast on giant plates, one of those angry mobs was chasing Mako down a pier. I got a sick feeling and ducked into the kitchen for my coffee. A minute later, that mob had caught Mako and was in the process of torturing him as his shipmates looked on helplessly from a safe distance when this happened:

Tata: What the fuck is going on here?
Mako: [Screaming]
Chinese Character: Poor Po-Han! Someone should shoot him.
Mako: [Screaming]

No white man would suggest such a thing; thank Christ the Chinese guy is there to think outside the procedural box. Steve McQueen grabs a gun and runs somewhere for a clear shot. Richard Crenna chases him as if to stop him. Steve McQueen takes aim and hesitates. He loves Mako!


Steve McQueen shoots. Mako recoils, obviously dead. I spend the rest of the day trying not to throw up.

Tata: Have you seen this movie before?
Pete: My parents took us to the drive-in and we sat in the back seat.
Tata: How old were you?
Pete: Six or seven.
Tata: Jesus Christ. That same scenario came up in The Cowboys and made me sick for weeks. I’m almost afraid to ask what they were doing to Mako.
Pete: It was the death by a thousand cuts. Can you imagine bleeding to death by a thousand cuts?
Tata: I would never have guessed that from what we saw, and I saw too much. That’s going to bother me for a while.
Pete: They cut a lot out. That scene’s been bothering me since I was a little kid.


The unnamed university employs a man who does one thing, and one thing only: he removes gum from sidewalks. This is his whole job. Each day, he goes to buildings on campus, of which there are a great many, and scrapes gum off the sidewalk. Though I’ve worked at the unnamed university nearly all of my lengthy adult life, I had not encountered this man until a couple of months ago, when I was startled to realize the sidewalk leading from the street to the library was generously dappled with gum. Since then, I have stared at this walkway many times. There’s gum everywhere I had not noticed. It would not occur to me to stand next to a garbage can and drop gum on the ground. It’s an idea I would not have, and though the thought disgusts me, apparently a lot of people can have the same disgusting idea, at least in passing.


There is no excuse for torture, and no excuse for defending it.


It’s Up To You, Yeah, You

Last week, we talked about the care package project. Let’s review:

The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:

We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Ah, memories! Remember the next thing that happened was California caught on fire? Did you feel torn? With my teeny budget, I did, because I wanted to help. While there’s still a whole lot to talk about with regard to what happened in the wake of the wildfires, let’s focus a minute on the care package project. A year ago, I assembled care packages for two Marines as part of Coalition of the Swilling’s project. The thinking, shopping and packaging for the mail was a huge challenge for me and I enjoyed thinking about the needs of someone I could only imagine.

Were it truly up to me, I’d mail them tickets home on Air Jamaica, but one doesn’t always get to choose the best gift options, and nowhere in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog does one find a six-pack of Skillful MidEast Diplomats, which is what these kids truly need. Yesterday, I sent out an email to a handful of my favorite people, asking the musical question, “What should I send them? How shall I send them?” I got a few responses but for the most part, even my very favorite people do not at all want to talk about this, which is interesting but not surprising. Here’s what I’ve got so far.

beef jerky
eye drops
nail clippers
lip balm
writing paper/envelopes
instant coffee
instant foods
bungee cords/giant twist ties
magnets/wall hooks
foot care stuff
herbed salt
scotch/duct tape
unscented moisturizer
puzzle magazine
Rolling Stone/People/Ya got me, what?
deck of cards

The contents of that list have settled with time. Last year’s project was a box sent to a specific person with one name and one probable set of needs. This year, this box goes to a place where people will sort what they receive and re-package. It’s a different animal. Last year, I was inclined to include crayons and a coloring book. This year, I wrote a note to Martha Stewart’s foundation, asking if they’d like to donate – say – thousands of white pillowcases to the Sweet Dreams project.

Then, of course, there’s only so much a person can do. Let’s not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed. I’m interested in you, now. I’m sending out a box this morning, and I’ll send another in a couple of weeks. Will you join me?