Saturday, October 25, 2003

Diary Of A Rag And Bone Man

No. 2. The Reader

You will recall I met this homeless person awhile back. I was at Clarke’s Deli reading the help-wanted ads when he walked up. His name is Jack Rafter. For the full story of how we met, you’ll have to skip back a few entries. No, I still haven’t found a job, and I must say, things are getting a little desperate.

Jack has a dog with a patch-eye. He named him Vincent, after the painter, the one who took his own life, using a small caliber handgun. That was sometime back in the century before last. In the meantime, I’m sure any number of artists, poets, etc., and even some non-artists and non-poets, etc., have followed Mr.Van Gogh’s example.

It so happens that small caliber handguns are well-suited for that kind of close-in work. And there are plenty of them lying around. If you need to locate one in a hurry and are having trouble doing so, just ask any small child. For some reason, children never seem to have a problem finding our handguns, especially the loaded ones.

Yes, I did ask Jack how he came to be homeless, but so far, he’s been reluctant to talk about it, much. He did mention that he has a wife and two children. I suppose they must be living with her parents. He visits them sometimes, but I think it’s mostly the children he goes to see. I have a feeling he and his wife are divorced, though I can’t recall if he actually told me that or not.

Anyway, he’s been letting me read his diary, which he carries on his person in a draw-string canvas bag. It’s just an assemblage of notes on scraps of paper he picks up off the street, or used napkins from Clarke’s Deli. The scraps are rubber-banded in the cover of an old book-binding he picked up somewhere. I told him I would be glad to buy him a spiral notebook to write in, but he said he didn’t think his opinions were worth the life of a tree. “Besides, I like recycling trash,” he says with a smile. “And anyway, nothing new has been written since Plato and Homer were around. All our ideas and writings are recycled.” And so, too, is history, I might add.

Actually, his diary is not as bad as its appearance might suggest. I asked him if I could put some of it on the blog, here—you know, just when I can’t think of anything to write on my own, and he said, “Fine.” Yes, he knows what a blog is. He is computer-savvy. He says he goes to the library and surfs the net at least a couple times a week. More often in cold weather. He has a library card and checks books out all the time.

To get a library card, he had to give them an address and a phone number. On the little form they gave him to fill out, he wrote down the address for Clarke’s Deli, since it’s one of his hangouts. And then he wrote down the phone number for the Humane Society.

He said back when everything in his life started going to shit, and the bill-collectors were hounding him every day, he put this message on his telephone answering machine: “Hello. This is the Rafter residence. If you are calling about an unpaid bill, please hang up and call my business manager at the following number.” And he gave them the number for Dial-A-Prayer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003


"I hoped that the pilot who hit our house would be burned as I am burned and my family were burned."

--Iraq war orphan, Ali Ismail Abbas, 13 years old

"The quality of mercy is not strained; it droppeth
As the gentle rain from heaven upon the place
Beneath. It is twice blessed - It blesseth him
That gives and him that takes."

-- William Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice

"Now this bell tolling softly for another, says to me, Thou must die. Perchance he for whom this bell tolls--may be so ill
that he knows not it tolls for him"..."all mankind is of one author--and is one volume;... when one man dies, one chapter
is not torn from the book, but translated into a better language."

"The bell that rings a sermon calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come, so this bell calls us all."
"There was a contention--as far as--which of the religious orders should ring to prayers first in the morning,
and it was determined that they should ring first that rose earliest. If we understand aright the dignity of this bell

that tolls for our evening prayer, we would be glad to make it ours by rising early, in that application; that it might be ours
as well as his whose indeed it is. The bell doth toll for him who thinks it doth. Who casts not up his eye
to the sun when it rises? but who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out?

Who bends not his ear to any bell which upon any occasion rings? but who can remove it from that bell which is passing
a piece of himself out of this world? No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe would be the less,

as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or thy own were. Any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

-- John Donne
From Meditation XVII, 1624

This Iraq War will continue to make Americans feel that they are not respected. The same goes for the Occupation, which is aimed at enriching those who are already privileged. This war will test our capacity to ignore the dead.

And who are these invisible wounded?

Why is it not surprising that the George W. Bush Administration has banned all images of flag-draped coffins? Why are we not inside hospital wards?- acknowledging the sacrifice?- investigating low morale among American soldiers in Iraq? Why is there no serious accounting of Iraqi casualties?

One man dies, and then another.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Who Are These Men?

We are confronted with the most lawless administration in our nation’s history. So crudely are they invested in winning—from promoting their agenda to getting their candidates elected (using the word “elected” loosely)—that they seem to have lost all regard for the democratic process, if, indeed, they had any in the first place.

We have seen that there is nothing they won’t do to achieve their ends, from using rigged electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail, to redrawing the congressional maps of as many states as possible, in order to virtually assure that only Republicans can win elections. They use push-polls to slander their opponents. They lie daily and blatantly on the issues, from health care, to tax cuts, to the environment. They brutishly attack those who oppose them. They fabricate out of whole cloth reasons for wars.

Meanwhile, the President's and his family’s business connections to the Saudis and the bin Ladens, except for the brave voice of Michael Moore, and a few others, remain virtually unchallenged by the media, Congress, Democrats running for President, or anyone else.

In his just released book, Dude, Where’s My Country?, Moore poses seven questions of the President, one of the best ones being, why did his administration assist 24 members of the bin Laden family in getting out of the country after the attack on September 11th? In fact, as he points out, their private jets were actually in the air after the rest of us had been grounded. The F.B.I. was outraged that they were not allowed to interrogate family members of a key suspect of one of the biggest crimes in history.

Among other things, Moore goes on to point out that:

* After leaving office, Bush, Sr. became a highly paid consultant for a company known as the Carlyle Group, that one of the investors in the group was the bin Laden family, to the tune of a minimum of 2 million dollars. The people who run the Carlyle Group include Ronald Reagan’s defense secretary, Frank Carlucci, Bush Sr.’s secretary of state, James Baker, and former British Prime Minister John Major.

* While Bush, Jr. was Texas gov, members of the Taliban traveled to Texas to meet with his oil and gas company buddies.

* The Taliban met with Unocal, the huge oil and energy giant, to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan under the Caspian Sea into Turkey. Ken Lay’s Enron was in on the deal. Cheney’s Halliburton was in on the deal. So members of the Taliban were having big meetings with the major contributors to the Bush campaign. While governor, Bush personally met with Uzbekistan’s ambassador on behalf of Enron.

* Everything was going fine till Osama bin Laden blew up two American embassies in Africa. That was enough for then-President Bill Clinton to put a stop to all dealings with the Taliban. Clinton was not about to let Unocal, Halliburton and Enron be in business with terrorists.

* The new president, Bush, continued meeting with the Taliban. They still wanted those billions from the gas pipeline. Now, they were trying to work out a deal which would involve kicking Osama out of Afghanistan. These talks continued right up until just days before September 11th.

* After that, we swooped down and chased the Taliban and al Qaeda out of Afghanistan. All the big shots escaped.

* We turned Afghanistan over to Unocal. “The new American ambassador to Afghanistan? Unocal consultant and National Security Council member Zalmay Kahalizad. The new American-installed leader of Afghanistan? Former Unocal staffer Hamid Karzai.”

* On December 27, 2001, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan sighed the pipeline deal.

If this President, his cronies, and his family, are in bed with the true enemies of our country, then, is it just possible that he may not be the best person for the job of Commander In Chief of our nation’s military? It certainly might explain why he may have needed to fabricate a scapegoat enemy to go to war against, instead of seeking out the real culprits of 9/11.

All we can do is go on their past behavior—that’s the way you’re supposed to bet. Will they do anything to win the next election? Count on it.

We have a problem, here. We must ask ourselves—who are the real enemies of our country? Who are the real foes of our democracy? And how do we fight them—without becoming them?

As I write, I think of this poem, by Charles Reznikoff:

I will write songs against you,
enemies of my people; I will pelt you
with the winged seeds of the dandelion;
I will marshall against you
the fireflies of the dusk.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Diary Of A Rag And Bone Man

“Am I reduced to poverty?
Am I reduced to penury?
Then let me sift through the leavings
And see what I can see.”

Presenting excerpts from the diary of my friend, Jack Rafter, if, indeed, “diary” is the proper name for something that consists of daily scrawls on coffee shop napkins or scraps of paper retrieved from sidewalks, gutters, and waste bins.

But first, a little background on Jack, beginning with how we met. It happened like this:

I was sitting in my favorite deli one afternoon when this man came shuffling up the walk, wearing a ragged canvas coat that hung past his knees. He was pulling a battered red wagon filled with an assortment of found objects, smashed cans, discarded clothing and a fairly decent looking toaster.

Coming behind the man and the Radio Flyer was an equally ragged dog, tied to the wagon on a four-foot clothesline. I don’t know breeds of dogs, so I couldn’t tell you what this one was, even if I had to narrow it down to three or four out of God-knows-how-many were mixed up in him, but he had floppy ears and curly brown to rust-colored hair with large patches of black, including a patch over one eye that put me in mind of a pirate’s dog.

The man pulled his wagon and dog caravan near the window, close to where I was sitting, enjoying my Ruben sandwich, while going over the help-wanted ads. When the wagon stopped, the dog sat down with an almost cheerful expression on his face. Clearly, he knew this was a deli; I surmised it must be one of their routine stops. The dog turned his smile up at me, and proceeded to lick the glass. From my side, I had a perfect view of the dog’s pink tongue slathering the window with a thick film of drool.

Then, I looked up and saw the dog’s owner’s eyes—the color of my grandmother’s blue china plates—looking back at me. There was something sad, but friendly, there. He smiled and shrugged over his dog’s rather forward, but still probably innocent behavior. I guardedly smiled back, sensing—correctly, as it turned out—that his next move would be to put the squeeze on me.

The man gave his dog a pat on the head, turned and walked inside. I took another bite of my Ruben and buried my nose in the paper, hoping to make myself look as off-limits as possible. But he was already headed in my direction, as if following a homing device.

Approaching my little ace by the window, he gave a slight bow. “Sorry about Vincent,” he said. “My dog,” he gestured with his chin at the critter outside. Vincent was still busily lapping the glass. “Sometimes he forgets himself. See, he really likes this place. He licks things that he likes. It’s just his way.”

“It’s all right,” I said. “No harm done.”

“Do you happen to have a dime on you, Mister? I’m just short a dime for a cup of coffee in here. I’d be much obliged.”

All I had in my pocket was a quarter and some pennies. “Here, I said.”

“I’ll bring you the change,” he replied.

“That’s all right. Keep it.”

He went off and got his coffee. In a minute, he was back. “Mind if I join you, mister? They don’t like low-spenders taking up space in these places.”

“Sure,” I said.

He slid a chair over and sat opposite me. I noticed he had an old canvas bag slung over his shoulder on a rope. Once upon a time it was probably white. I supposed he kept his valuables in it, such as they might be. He smiled. Up close, his blue eyes stood out even more against his weathered and sunburned face. His sandy hair was longish and out-of-sorts, but other than his clothes, which were dirt stained and threadbare around the edges, he looked fairly clean. He may have been living on the streets, but apparently, he had access to soap and water. He glanced down at his dog. The dog returned his look with something like adoration.

“I found him wandering around the freight yards about six months ago,” he said. “Wouldn’t have anything to do with me at first, but then I gave him half a turkey leg, and we’ve been pals ever since. I named him Vincent, after the painter. I’m a big admirer of the arts.”

I nodded. Van Gogh, I thought. Another marginal citizen, manic-depressive, unemployable, who, but for the love of his brother, Theo, probably would have ended up on the streets.

The stranger offered his hand. “Name’s Jack Rafter,” he said.

“Grayson Harper,” I replied, shaking it.

“What you reading, there?” he said.

“The help-wanted ads,” I said.

“Ah, lookin’ for work, huh?” he smiled.

“Yep. It’s come to that.”

He sat for awhile watching me. I tried to concentrate on my business, there, but every time I looked up, there were his blue eyes, his smiling face, an expression much like his dog’s.

Suddenly, I became self-conscious about eating in front of him. “Would you like a sandwich?” I asked him.

“I’d love one,” he said, grinning.

“What kind would you like?”

“Ah, roast beef on rye, with a dill pickle on the side.”

I gave him the money. He returned a few minutes later with the sandwich. “Hey, you want to sit outside?” he asked.


“They got tables out there, you know. It’s a nice day.”

“Well, all right,” I said, not quite certain what I was getting myself into. Picking up my paper, I followed him outside. When we got to the table, Vincent, the dog got up, circled once, then laid down at Jack’s feet. Every so often his master would break off a piece of bread and toss it to the pigeons. Vincent didn’t seem to mind the birds at all, even letting them walk right up to him to snatch a crumb or two.

“What about Vincent?” I said. “Isn’t he hungry, too?”

“Ah, don’t worry about him. We’ll find plenty for him out in the back. People in this country throw away tons of food, you know.”

I went back to my want-ads, but it was impossible. When I looked up, there was the smile again. A smile that seemed to say that he was on to something. After a moment, he said, “Helluva thing, isn’t it?”

“What is?” I said.

“Oh, just life, I guess.”

“Yes," I said, "it is.”

Then, he said, “You want to see something?”

“Sure,” I answered—a little nervously.

He reached in his canvas bag and pulled out a kind of—thing. Then, slid it across the table to me.

“What’s this?”

“Have a look,” he said.

It looked like an old cloth-bound book held together with rubber bands. The title on the faded red cover was Belleview—A Story of the South From 1860 to 1865. But the book itself was missing. Removing the rubber bands and opening the cover, I found in place of the book a stack of papers of various sizes and types, including numerous napkins from the deli. All the papers, front and back, were covered in writing. Pretty chaotic, except that every page was numbered, and they were all in good order.

“My diary,” Jack said. “I’m a writer, now.”

“Oh, you are, huh?”

“Yep, I been writing about our corrupt government. Lemme ask you something. You ever seen such a bunch of low-down, thieving hooligans in your whole life?”

“No, I guess not,” I said.

Then, he started in. It was like somebody had lifted the lid on an overfilled jar and the contents just gushed out on the table.

“This president of ours is the prince of liars. But I guess you know that.” He took another bite of his sandwich, and went right on. “But all his disciples are liars, too, every last rotten one of them. Never seen anything like it. They make Nixon look like an amateur. Next to them, Nixon looks positively quaint. But that’s because, when all was said and done, ol’ Dick was still capable of being shamed. He still had a conscience. You see, it actually mattered to ol' Mill House what people thought of him. He really couldn’t bear to be thought of as a liar or a crook or a no good oily rat. But these people—this Bush character, and this Rumsfeld, and Cheney and Ashcroft, well, they’re just conscienceless. Whatever moral compass they may have had—if they ever had any—is completely dead—a light burned out. Public opinion is nothing to them. And I don’t just mean the masses of people, millions and millions, but even the most honored, most revered, from the Pope to Nelson Mandella, to the leaders of most countries, to writers and thinkers and playwrights and poets, winners of Nobel Prizes and Pulitzers. Bush and his circle no more care what good, decent people think than a fly cares where it lays its eggs.

"Well, that’s my opinion. Only it’s not just an opinion, it’s a proven goddamn fact. Half the people Bush has put in positions of power, who are nothing but his father's cronies, are convicted felons, or should be. I tell you, there are people in prison who are more honest than these frauds, who are better qualified to run the country. I couldn’t keep quiet about it anymore, so I started writing it all down. I mean—everything that's happening, now, is so outlandish and unbelievable. And nobody says anything. Isn’t that weird? It’s like living in the Twilight Zone. Everything's fine, hunky-dory. Meanwhile, on any given day, there’s nineteen jillion people filling these Walmarts and all these Superstores and giant shopping malls. Like lemmings, they follow each other into these places--Abercrombie and Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, Banana Republic--and they follow each other out with huge bags full of stuff. Expensive stuff! Then they hop in their SUV’s, their Hummers and their Urban Assault Vehicles—‘cause I swear-to-god that’s what they’ll be driving next—and head for the nearest Starbucks, where they sit for hours with their lattes and their lap-tops and their little telephones straight out of Buck Rogers. The whole country is living in a make-believe world, a fantasy brought to life by Walt Disney, McDonald's and Chevron, which has an oil tanker named after Condoleeza Rice! They just yanked one guy out of office in California, and who did they install in his place, but a serial groper, a walking cartoon with six Hummers. What does this prove? It proves the country loves assholes. Worships them!

“So I started writing about it. I don’t know. I just had to get it down on paper, somehow, where I could look at it. I couldn’t be one of the millions of sheep just smiling away the hours, or staring vacantly at the TV--not that I have one, actually. But to look at all these smiling people, you wouldn’t know we just invaded a sovereign country against the wishes of the entire world, that our citizens and theirs are dying for no good reason, but simply on the whim of a nest of liars. The President just asked for another 87 billion for his war, an amount of money so vast, nobody can even grasp how much it is. Meanwhile, here at home, half the states are going broke, they’re slashing health care for children and old people. And literally thousands are being evicted from their homes every month.

"I just keep hearing the words of this song going around in my head, a fine old song by John Prine:

‘How the hell can a person
go to work in the morning
come home in the evening
and have nothin’ to say?’

“So. . .” he said, “I’ve been writing.”

He watched me. I was looking closely at his diary. Page after page of copious notes. . . .

Friday, October 10, 2003


Pundits on the abrasive side of political discourse are driven by the heat of emotion, pushed by compulsion, toward personal attacks against their partisan enemy. American talking-head and author, Ann Coulter, is a very focused sort of character, who transforms the otherwise banal and scurrilous war of words into something far more methodical and dangerous. She is pleasing to the eye, telegenic, always elegantly dressed and poised. It is George Gurley, in his interview, who describes the look of her: "The cab stopped outside the Empire State Building. Her long, skinny legs stretched to the sidewalk,"..."I looked up at her from the taxi. She seemed very tall against the sky." Despite reports of her high-riding mini-skirts and her own admission - "I've dated every right-winger" - the fact remains that Ann Coulter is not a cheap woman. It's illogical to confuse her commitment with promiscuity. She is considered to be something of a thoroughbred. Born in Connecticut, she emulated her father by pursuing a Law Degree. Her course of study led her to Cornell University and the University of Michigan Law School. After the Newt Gingrich Republicans took power in 1994, she came to Washington to join the staff of the then Senator Spencer Abraham. Ms. Coulter intervened with advice and suggestions for Paula Jones and Linda Tripp, with respect to those witnesses and America's long national melodrama. And her first fully matured obsession was concentrated on the President, her visceral dislike for Clinton and anything to do with him, and of course his sexual scandal, and anything likely to lead to his impeachment. But to understand Ann Coulter, you must take into account her rapid rise to notariety in television interviews and especially in book sales, in the aftermath of 9/11. It is disconcerting to consider the avid readership of a book like Slander, which came out shortly after the catastrophe in New York. Treason, a book every bit as strange as its cousin, is now released in hardback.

It is important to look at the virulence that is embedded in Ann Coulter's language, and to examine how it has been trivialized and made to appear harmless in some establishment press, The Wall Street Journal, for example. Consider Melik Kaylan's column (WSJ, Aug. 31, 2003) and his flippant treatment of Coulter's post 9/11 article, which appeared in the National Review. It was the harshness of her language, and her subsequent refusal to accept moderate advice from her editors, that led to her departure from that online magazine. In this widely quoted column she wrote...

"We know who the homicidal maniacs are.
They are the ones cheering and dancing now.

We should invade their countries, kill their
leaders and convert them to Christianity.
We weren't punctilious about locating and
punishing only Hitler and his top officers.
We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed
civilians. That's war. And this is war." (NRO)

And some time later she was quoted in an interview with George Gurley. She asks Gurley to turn on the tape recorder, and makes this statement:

"My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he
did not go to the New York Times Building."

But Kaylan's comment is more than just deficient in addressing her violent streak. His commentary is filled with celebrity and entertainment buzz-words. She is described as the "celebrity firecracker" ..."She surprises at the most basic level, by her effortlessly guilt-free flights of extroversion, her fierce--but never humorless--conservatism." Kaylan goes on to compare her to funny and not-so-funny people: Reverend Farakhan, Angela Davis, George Carlin, Lenny Bruce. And indeed there is no intimation that American virtues must include killing people. But Kaylan thinks there are killjoys among us who are suffering from "a lazy assumption". The Black Panthers played for keeps; but according to Kaylan, Ann Coulter is a very funny woman, she's a kidder. "Why would anybody even pretend to believe that Ms. Coulter wishes any real harm to the New York Times or wishes to convert all Muslims forcibly to Christianity." But then of course, Ms. Coulter's ethic belongs to a society without any fragility, without "rifts" or "flaws". Yes, hers is a "sturdier America", "self-confident", "unapologetic", "centered somewhere in the heartland". It's journalist, David Neiwert, who offers the most telling critique of this article and others like it: "This kind of meshing of mainstream corporate interests with right-wing thuggery is in fact a hallmark of incipient fascism. A compliant media that portrays this kind of phenomenon as unremarkable is also important in its development." We don't have to read between the lines in Coulter's harsh column: she is saying we should kill indiscriminately, just as we carpet-bombed those cities in World War II. She is saying convert them to Christianity by the sword; she is saying invade countries, kill leaders. And that business about Timothy McVeigh going to the New York Times Building; it's just eerie that she asked her interviewer to turn the machine on, to get it on tape.

In her new book, Treason, Ms. Coulter maintains through her thesis that Democrats [liberals] are naturally disposed to be traitors. As she puts it, "Liberals have a preternatural gift for striking a position on the side of treason." She goes even further by saying, "The only patriotic liberal in the world is Tony Blair, and he's in England." She expands her thesis into three main points:

(a) Liberals are disposed to be traitors.

(b) Unlike conservatives (who are pious) liberals worship Man, and consequently betray both God and Country.

(c) In the final analysis, liberals consider that they themselves are gods.

This constitutes the entire arc of Coulter's design and must represent a kind of core belief in her avid readers. She is in a hurry to leave the realm of history, fact, and rational inference; since few Democrats, living or dead, seem excluded from the rigor of her conclusion.

Joe Conason expressly reminds us that her strange book omits any reference to conservatives who are opposed to the Iraq War. Why? "Their existence can't be acknowledged--because if they do exist they are traitors too." Unsurprisingly, if Pat Buchanan, Cato Institute people, Congressman Ron Paul and other like-minded conservatives are opposed to Bush's War, it becomes an unwelcome distraction from her thesis. Moreover, it's no small comfort to liberals to know that there are conservatives who also oppose preventative war. Coulter, on the other hand, insists that you hate your country if you hold to this principle.

But her most sinister ambition is aimed at historical revision and the rehabilitation of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Her center of gravity seems to reside in his personality. She takes her reader back to the 1950's. McCarthy was mentally ill and he drank to excess; history is not wrong about that. His process in the Senate was described as "red-baiting" and he held the door open for a kind of hysteria. The accused were marginalized, demonized, stigmatized. In the end McCarthy was censured by the Senate, having been cornered by the Army-McCarthy Hearings. "McCarthy was brought down by his own televised misconduct during those hearings--and by the outrage not of Democrats but of Republicans, including President Eisenhower and a caucus of courageous GOP senators"(Conason). Ann Coulter tries to impeach this history with dishonest scholarship, counterfeit logic, and illegitimate power.

Her hero, Senator Joe McCarthy, means everything to her.

"The rote smirking at McCarthy by conservatives is
linked to their psychological compulsion to snobbery.
McCarthy was a popularizer, a brawler." (Ann Coulter, Treason, p. 70)

"The Communists may have had patricians like Franklin Roosevelt.
They may have had the diplomats, the Supreme Court justices,
the scribblers, the ponderers, and the Smith College girls. But
McCarthy had the hearts of American workers." (Ibid, p. 70)

"Normal Americans could not believe their fellow countrymen
could be so dastardly as not to love their country. For them,
McCarthy was a poet." (Ibid, p.69)

"In 1954, when the liberal loathing for McCarthy had reached
a fever pitch, CBS ran a vicious, deceptive hatchet piece on
him viewed by millions of Americans. It was produced by
Edward R. Murrow, friend of Soviet spy Laurence Duggan.
Other organs of establishmentarian treason followed suit.
The Senate voted to hold a censure resolution against McCarthy." (Ibid, p.120)

An essay written by Joseph Wershba, a colleague of Murrow's at CBS, describes the atmosphere of the McCarthy Period:

"Murrow did not kill off McCarthy or McCarthyism, but he helped halt America's incredible slide toward a native brand of fascism. Unbelievable. You had to live through the times to know how fearful--indeed, terrorized--people were about speaking their minds. The cold war with Russia, and the threat of a hot war with China, security programs and loyalty oaths--all had cowed the citizens of the most powerful nation on earth into keeping their minds closed and their mouths shut."

"When we looked at the near-final cut of the McCarthy broadcast" (for CBS's SEE IT NOW)..."and the staff showed fear of putting it on the air, Murrow spoke a line that landed like a lash across our backs: "The terror is right here in this room.""

But it's best to take a look at the transcript of SEE IT NOW from the television broadcast of March 29, 1954:

"Edward R. Murrow: Senator McCarthy claims that only the left wing press criticized him on the Zwicker case. Of the 50 large circulation newspapers in the country, these are the left wing papers that criticized. These are the ones which supported him. The ratio is about three to one against the Senator.

The Chicago Tribune: McCarthy will better serve his case if he learns to distinguish the role of investigator from the role of avenging angel.

The New York Times: The unwarranted interference of a demagogue--a domestic Munich.

The Times Herald, Washington: Senator McCarthy's behavior toward Zwicker is not justified.

Milwaulkie Journal: The line must be drawn and defended or McCarthy will become the government.

The Evening Star of Washington: It was a bad day for everyone who resents the bully boy tactics which Senator McCarthy often employs.

The New York World Telegram: Bamboozling, bludgeoning, distorting.

St. Louis Post Dispatch: Unscrupulous, McCarthy bullying. What a tragic irony it is that the President's political advisors keep him from doing what every decent instinct must be commanding him to do.

Well, that's the ratio of a three-to-one, so-called "left-wing" press."

Five decades ago, Edward R. Murrow said "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty"..."We will not walk in fear. We will not be driven into an age of unreason"..."No one man can terrorize a whole nation unless we are all his accomplices."

"If none of us ever read a book that was 'dangerous', nor had a friend who was 'different', or never joined an organization that advocated 'change', we would all be just like the kind of people Joe McCarthy wants."

Ann Coulter, who has called herself "an open controversialist", metes out charges of treason on the likes of former President Carter, for his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway, in December of 2002. The Pope, of course, is not an American, but don't be surprised if Coulter holds him up as a traitor; after all, he agrees with Carter and opposes the Iraq War.

Historian Anne Applebaum says "whatever side this woman is on, I don't want to be on it." But we are left with Coulter's alarming words, and so we ought to reflect as carefully as possible on her methods, and judge her simply by those words.

"What the country needed was Joe McCarthy. His appeal was
directed to a sturdier set - the mass of ordinary Americans." (Ibid, p.69)

"When Republicans ignite the explosive energy of hardhats,
liberals had better run for cover." (Ibid, p.69)

Ann Coulter must be in some spellbound meltdown with the late Senator Joseph McCarthy; like him she's capable of brutish, menacing language, and a sudden flippancy and laughter, that tries to brush it off as a joke. She is half-condescending, half-manic. She inhabits a world of ludicrous victimhood, and an avenger's world, where the deviant and the treasonous are one class of objects. What would her All-Republican America look like? It would be seamlessly patriotic, to be sure. No protest, no demonstration, just good little girls and boys. The streets would be swept clean of strangers.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

copeland morris KALAVRITA

The inhumane persuasion of history, dark uniforms
Ruthless voices, machine-guns; as flesh torn away
Exposes bone...and bone is covered by earth.
Above the town on the hillside, the common grave,
Relentless memory, suspended as so many clouds,
A never forgotten absence of fathers and sons.

The guest, arriving by accident here, steps down
To words of Greek, into shade, a cafe outdoors.
In moments, the hotel clerk has bid him welcome
Checking passport casually, tactfully placing
One finger under the photograph, casting up
A smile with unexpected, pensive sorrow.

A hush within the shrine, a woman in mourning,
Draped from her ancient brow, a fine black lace,
The sight of men and boys being marched uphill,
No further than the little hill by the town.
And all she can see, as season replaces season,
Reminds her of ships, abandoned at their moorings.

A clear solidarity, being with them in the ground,
Remembering that they are the last of their issue
Behind the door that passes into the grave;
And all the darkened lamps on monumental pendants
Hang from the ceiling, suspended as so many clouds
Above the hillside of fathers, brothers, sons.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...