Saturday, September 27, 2008


I watched the presidential debate last night with dear friends; and in no time we were screaming at the television. The debate was a great outing for many of the nation's delusions, and its twisted priorities, in the never-ending war, to which the leaders in both parties sadly subscribe. We felt at times enraged by the agreed upon myths, with which both candidates bind us to the weapons makers, the imperial plunderers, and the whole sick notion of the Pentagon's Long War. For this reason the debate around foreign policy was difficult to listen to.

A few days before the debate, McCain announced that he was "suspending his campaign", and flying off to Washington to fight a rear-guard action against the Wall Street bailout. In the newsrooms there began some speculation about him fleeing the scene of the debate, pundits wondered if he was goofing about, or showboating, pulling some stunt; and drama was built up around the idea that McCain's behavior was unsteady. Obama might be expected to show up in Mississippi, and perhaps John McCain would be AWOL.

This was a set-up; and the McCain who has been consistently ridiculed for his senior moments, and the gaffes that have undeniably marred his campaign, showed up in full possession of his faculties. And while Obama handled him with kid gloves, McCain smirked throughout his opponent's comments, and almost continuously avoided looking at Obama.

McCain was well coached, it seems to me, and had made intensive preparation for the debate; while a diversion was presented to the Democratic side of an old man who was coming unglued and would arrive, less than prepared, to meet a statesmanlike Obama.

But this was not the worst of the debacle. Obama studiously avoided challenging the emotional appeals to those popular US myths surrounding our supposed enemies and the widening of the war. Our myth that portrays Iran as an existential threat was touched upon: this narrative that is agreed to by leaders of both parties. The lies about Iran. And the lie about the Russian-Georgian war,--just who the aggressor was,--got tossed like a softball by Obama, and McCain hit it out of the park.

McCain took over where Obama left off, and commanded the debate with a politically resonant (if wrongheaded) appeal to American fears about big, bad, resurgent Russia. McCain did more than appeal to the gut; he smirked dismissively at Obama, dissed him smartly, treated him like some pathetic well-meaning novice, untested by life, and too green to be president.

And it's true that Obama, like McCain, also lures us into the dangerous misconception that Georgia's president, the war criminal, Saakashvili, is a great guy and a paragon of the West's democratic values. So it goes that the republican lion shall lie down with the democratic lamb, declaring that Iran, a nation whose GDP is equivalent to Finland, is an existential threat to Europe, the United States, and nuclear-armed Israel.

There were news reports yesterday that the regular Pakistan army and American forces had exchanged small arms fire, along Pakistan's border.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Been having some dark thoughts, lately, which is generally the kind I tend to have when I allow my mind to wander at will. I see no reason not to share them and spread a little cheer.

The attack of 9/11 struck me at the time as the logical result of a whole series of hubristic behaviors of the U.S. around the world. A week before the attack--I swear this is true--I was having a discussion with a guy in which I argued that it would not surprise me if we found ourselves attacked within our borders at some point. He dismissed the idea almost laughingly, saying our air and naval security were far too sophisticated and strong for that to happen. I said the attack would not be by traditional means, that it would be easy as pie for someone to simply slip into the country and blow up one of our cities with a nuclear device or sabotage a nuclear facility or a train hauling toxic chemicals--that we were vulnerable to a thousand different scenarios. Thus, a week later, when I was watching the events in New York in real time, I was sweating bullets because I was certain that the two planes flying into the Trade Center were just diversionary attacks in advance of the real thing.

I agree with Scott Ritter that If we continue our present course--and I see little reason to think that we won't--that we can expect to lose a city. The Bush Doctrine (that Sarah Palin blanked on in her interview with Charles Gibson) has opened the door for the same to be done to us. Thus, the day McCain takes office, Putin, Iran, others, will have this to think about: that the U.S. is no longer playing by the old rules, that they (Russia, Iran, whoever) are subject to attack by us in advance of any perceived threat. I'm sure they've already considered it, given that Bush and Cheney are still running loose, but once McCain and Palin--two certified lunatics--are installed, the countries we have been threatening so recklessly will have to carefully weigh how long they think they can afford to wait to hit us before we hit them.

Can Obama win? Somehow, I think not. The day before Sarah Palin appeared on the scene, everyone was holding their nose at John McCain. The day after, when I saw the mob's eyes roll back in their heads and foam issue from their mouths, I remembered again what country I'm living in, a country so simple minded and childish that it will get in the car with almost any strange man (or woman) offering goodies with a winning smile. And I find little comfort in the fact that the very things that are drawing so many to Sarah Palin are not all that different from the ones that have been drawing those on our side to Barack Obama--i.e., less issues than charisma and magical thinking. Even now, I know that Americans, having grown weary of the current war (but not tired of war), would gleefully march off to another one on the mere suggestion of a McCain, an Obama, a Hillary, or a gun-toting Sarah Palin. Makes no difference. Hell, we're already in Pakistan and nobody's squawking.

In other words, something is fundamentally broken here--always has been--and I doubt seriously that it can be repaired. One way or another the Neocons are going to win the election. If they don't win it outright, they'll steal it; the voting machines are still broken and easily hacked into. Or they'll kill our candidate. They'll do whatever they have to do.

By the end of McCain's first term in office, the U.S. will have completed its fascist mission and we will be living in a police state. The terrorist watch list--already bloated with over a million names--will have swelled to several million, and by then, no doubt, some mechanism will have been triggered allowing for more aggressive action against all those perceived enemies beyond merely detaining them at airports or relieving them of their laptops and cell phones. For a list of possibilities, I refer you to the Pinochet regime.

Am I discouraged? You're damn right I am. I hope I'm wrong. I hope, come November, I will be looking back on what I've written here and I'll be laughing. I sure as hell hope so.

But in the meantime, anyone who is still somewhat enamored of the idea of democracy might want to get their passports in order.

Friday, September 05, 2008


The Republicans in Minneapolis were sending up a shout of "George Won!...George Won!" to greet the most craven president to ever hold office in this country; and this was only the beginning. The characters seen at the 2008 GOP convention hark back to those who nominated Spiro Agnew and Richard Nixon. The same breed cheered, this week, for the fascist tour de force that was Mitt Romney's speech. They knew what was really important: that feeling of safety which trumps having legal rights. Mitt wasn't worried about habeas corpus or how prisoners in custody are treated.

Republicans are tragically inattentive when it comes to history; and they take this tragic incomprehension as far as it can go, obliterating events that took place a few months, or a few weeks ago. The party's base has put its distaste for John McCain aside, as a man who was not considered one of them; and now they embrace him like a long-lost father. And it's a legitimate concern that Sarah Palin, as McCain's Vice President, might be a projection of the power of this base, the religious right. She might consider it her duty to make us see our War on Terror as a War for Christianity.

It looks like Election 2000 was too long ago, and people can't remember that presidential candidate McCain staunchly spoke out against the class of religious extremists that would include Rev. Dobson. He counts on the support of this base now; and the profoundly crazy Rev. Dobson, who looked upon McCain with a jaundiced eye a few weeks ago, is now one-hundred-percent behind him. And the criteria of McCain's success is that culture warrior, that "pistol-packing" Hockey Mom, Sarah Palin.

The biggest cheers were saved for McCain, as he accepted the nomination for president. But he went too far after accusing opponent, Barack Obama, of seeking the high office as a narcissistic "journey of personal discovery". McCain used the emotional appeal himself, to argue through humility that he, and not Obama, was the selfless public servant that the nation ought to have. In a figurative way, McCain showed us his wounds. But we have to put aside the idea that he was shot down as he was bombing Vietnamese civilians. We have to forget the immoral and unjust reality of the US war against Vietnam, in order to consider him a hero within the narrow framework he provides. McCain's journey of personal discovery, as a POW, as touching as may be, could have been told by a veteran of almost any army in history.

"I Once Had A Comrade", goes the lyric of a poignant German war tune.

Republican delegates were, as always, an ugly and brainwashed collective, shouting "USA...USA...USA" to blot out brief moments of protest, and crying "Drill, Baby, Drill" on cue, whenever their Real Overlords pulled their chain. They are ready of course for the militarist agenda. They have forgotten the million Iraqis killed outright or purged by ethnic cleansing. They have performed their own absolution, disconnecting their personalities from the unjust, criminal pursuit of world hegemony and absolute power. They don't care if they tend to be corrupted or not, or if it is revealed that the greatest corruption is to raise a cheer when someone has humiliated the helpless or plotted a crime against peace.

Responding to America's televised 2008 Republicans, my friend r'giap writes:
it was & remains so macabre. so macabre that it gives you chills with all the old lines returning out of the mouths of madmen & madwomen. you know they have no connection to reality nor want one. i work here with asylums - & there is a kind of patient who prefers the irreality of the institution. healing is beside the point for these people because in a way they cultivate madness as a metier but it is a madness not borne of suffering nor is it ecstatic. it is if you will a mediocre madness

& what i witnessed at the conventions is a microcosm of that mediocre madness - where other people have to suffer because these people are unable to change, to take risks or even to be responsible
From this vantage point, the whole Palin fiasco is like some bizarre work of science fiction, that incorporates speaking in tongues, Pentecostal glossolalia, safaris to shoot wolves from helicopters, lending pristine wilderness to oil men, all personified by an annoying, almost intolerable speaking voice. The republicans themselves are caught playing with the Book of Revelation, like strung-out meth heads cooking up more product in a trailer in back of the RNC:

Robocops. Teen pregnancy and fundie hypocrisy. Fascism with undercurrents of oddball religion. Historical amnesia slouching toward Bethlehem, and the New American Century inventing Big Brother anew, probably as a hybrid of Elmer Gantry and Augusto Pinochet.

We would have to be a mad country, slipping into some narrative introduced by Rod Serling; but maybe this strategy (so damaging to our inner defenses) will yet unravel before the horrified eyes of the nation, and all this will backfire on the authoritarians, and send McCain and his handlers down to defeat.

Monday, September 01, 2008


It has already started, the expected repression at demonstrations around the Republican Convention. Amy Goodman and her two colleagues, Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar, were taken into custody while the police deployed excessive measures against demonstrators.
Goodman was arrested while attempting to free two Democracy Now! producers who were being unlawfully detained...

Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told Democracy Now! that Kouddous and Salazar were being arrested on suspicion of rioting. They are currently being held at the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul. [...]

Democracy Now! stands by Goodman, Kouddous and Salazar and condemns this action by Twin Cities law enforcement as a clear violation of the freedom of the press and the First Amendment rights of these journalists.

During the demonstration in which they were arrested law enforcement officers used pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades and excessive force. Several dozen others were also arrested during this action.

--Democracy Now!
Even before the first demonstrations got underway, police in St. Paul have been conducting pre-emptive raids and making arrests at houses where those planning marches or civil disobedience were discussing details of the protests and assembling leaflets and signs.

Democracy Now! is asking people to call the Ramsey County Jail at 651-266-9350 (press extension 0), and Chris Rider from Mayor Coleman’s office at 651-266-8535. Let them know that Goodman, Kouddous, and Salazar were acting in their capacity as journalists, and should be released immediately.

UPDATE: Raw Story reports the release of Amy Goodman and her two colleagues. Goodman was released after a charge of "obstruction" was filed against her. Kouddous and Salazar may face "felony riot charges", but they have also been released, while charges are pending.

EXTRA: Amy Goodman and Democracy Now! Producers talk about their arrest.

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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...