Archive for March, 2008

Hilary Rodham Clinton, Pr… Pre… Pres…
March 31, 2008

Much has been written about Mrs. Clinton. Much has been said about Mrs. Clinton. Much of it is not true. She really didn’t kill Vince Foster.

The Lion admits that Mrs. Clinton hasn’t been on his radar, at least not prominently, since well before her run for the Presidency. She was the senator from New York. She was Bill Clinton’s wife. She was a smart broad succeeding in the rough world of essentially male politics. Good for her!

And then there she was running for President of the United States. All she had to do to get into the final was beat a skinny Midwestern black man who actually seemed to be honest and knowledgeable about the real world and determined to bring about a sea change in American politics.

Two tough campaigns by two tough campaigners slugging it out.

Until it got dirty, and it was the Clinton camp slinging the dirt as their money ran down and the numbers ran against them. But this is America. We’re used to that. We’re actually idiot enough to think that it’s okay to throw dirt and twist things into falsehoods about the opponent.

Still and all, eventually one of these two would be the Democratic nominee, and The Lion would vote for that person, Obama being the preferred candidate, more so as the Clinton camp upped the weight of the mud they were throwing. But, still and all…

And then Mrs. Clinton lied about Bosnia. And other lies came out. Chelsea at the Towers on 9/11. The Irish peace negotiations. Other bits and pieces. Not just exaggerations, not just a coat of makeup, but flat out lies.

Some of these things are subject to interpretation, of course. But the big one, Bosnia, that’s on tape. No bullets. No ducking. No running for cover. Not even close. No one in those images looks even slightly concerned. No question. She lied. Several times.

The Balkans were a miserable, misbegotten, deadly place, a hell for civilians. And Hillary Clinton lied about it to make herself look… Presidential.

Instead she looks like a cheap lying hussy who is so hungry for power that she will walk over the bones of the dead to get into the White House. She’s shown that she understands nothing of what similar people have put this country, and the world, through for the last eight years.

She cannot be trusted, not after having lied so gravely, so profoundly, not after washing her campaign in the blood of dead Bosnians, not after trivializing that brutal war.

The Lion once thought he would simply vote for whoever the Democratic nominee was. Not so. He won’t vote for the equally mendacious McCain, but neither will he vote for Hillary Clinton should she succeed in wresting the nomination from the convention.

We’ve had enough lies and deceit and all the foul filth of death and destruction and dishonor that comes with them, physically, emotionally, and morally. The lesser of two evils is still evil. It’s time we fight for something better in this country, and Hillary Clinton is not that something.

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Little Bits o’ News
March 30, 2008

From the AP wire in today’s Globe, in a story about food prices rising around the world:

Eugene Thermilon, 30, a Haitian day laborer, can no longer afford pasta to feed his wife and four children since the price nearly doubled to 57 cents a bag. Their only meal on a recent day was two cans of corn grits.

Fifty-seven cents. What did you eat today?

 

From the New York Times wire in today’s Globe, at the end of a story on the militias battling the so-called government of Nouri al-Maliki and the United States:

“Unfortunately we were expecting one thing but we saw something else,” said Ali Hussam, 48, a teacher, who said that after Saddam Hussein’s fall the people of Basra hoped for peace. “But unfortunately with the presence of this new government and this democracy that was brought to us by the invader, it made us kill each other.

“And the war is now between us,” he said.

Does anyone think George Bush can hear this through the thunder of his delusions?

 

From the Los Angeles Times in today’s Globe, a story about the resurgent cocaine industry in Peru:   

Peru’s cocaine industry, the world’s largest and most violent in the late 1980s and early ’90s, is on the upswing again. Plots of coca bushes, whose leaves yield cocaine, have increased by about one-third since 1999, according to Peruvian and United Nations estimates.

And…

The (President Alan) Garcia administration initially agreed to suspend eradication efforts, a mainstay of the US-backed antidrug policy. But Garcia later reversed course and even suggested that clandestine laboratories be raided and bombed. With US aid of about $50 million a year, Peru has trained hundreds of antidrug police officers. “If we don’t kill the danger now,” Garcia said, Peru could be confronted with a large insurgency.

Can we have some applause now for the United States Government’s amazing so-called war on drugs and for all those hopped up steroid-using cops whose biggest thrill in life is busting some poor sonofabitch for having a joint in his car?

The Grumpy Contest. Enter Now! Win Big Prizes! Yay!
March 28, 2008

The Lion has been feeling burned out lately on politics and wars and economics and all the stuff going on in the States and the world and in the state of the world. The Lion’s sensors feel fried. The news all sounds the same, looks the same, and a more cynical person would say it’s all blah blah blah.

In an effort to revive The Lion’s sensitivities, he is sponsoring a contest. It’s free. No entry fees, no gimmicks. No prizes either (the headline is a lie).

All you have to do is tell The Lion what you would like to see him write about. Don’t send a long, complex request. Just a sentence or two, or a word or two. The Lion will turn it into one of his inimitable pieces of literate…fanginess.

Your reward, should you choose to accept it, will be to see the beacon of hope igniting neurons in The Lion’s brain as he charges once more into the fray. Otherwise The Lion’s brain may self-destruct in five seconds.

Some requests will not be acceptable. Porn, for example (private consultations available). Silly political ideas, such as why George Bush is the greatest president in the history of the country. You get the idea.

A really clever suggestion might merit a Fangie Award, but no promises.

All proceeds will go to The Lion’s new expatriate fund, to be used in case of an emergency in November.

This Sporting Life
March 27, 2008

     I got the phone call from Johnny Ball at two in the morning. At first no one said anything, but I quickly figured it was Johnny because in the background I could pick out the sounds of an NFL game, a baseball game, a basketball game, and underneath it all the buzz of stock cars. Only Johnny had enough digital video recorders to do that all at once.
     “Johnny,” I said, stifling a yawn. “What’s up, John?”
     “There’s something terribly wrong.”
     Stroke? Heart attack? Ex-wives stoning the house and cutting the cable?
     “Help me. Please help me,” he whispered.
     Johnny Ball was a sports freak, always had been. Played three sports in high school, lettered in all of them, married a cheerleader. He exuded all the confidence of a jock his whole life. He could recite detailed statistics from baseball, football, and basketball, and was one of seven Americans who knew the names of all the pro hockey teams. He loved sports. But on the phone he sounded like a wreck, a pathetic empty hulk with an ego shrunken to the size of a marble.
     “I’ll be right over, Johnny. Hang on.” I grabbed a bottle of American beer I kept for emergencies such as home team losses and suchlike. Never touch the stuff myself. It’s all commercial and no flavor. Johnny loved it.
     When I got to his house the front door was wide open. I thought maybe he had been burgled and someone had stolen his sports equipment. The televisions and stuff. But that wasn’t the case.
     I found him in his Sports Den, slumped in his super recliner, in the flickering lights of half a dozen television screens, a half-full beer bottle dangling from one hand, the universal super multi-remote control clenched in the other.
     He looked up at me. A single tear coursed down his cheek. I took the remote from him, gently unclenching his fingers.
     “It’s all gone,” he said. “It’s gone. My whole life’s work.”
     “Johnny, what are you talking about?” He didn’t have a life’s work. He managed a bank.
     He waved loosely at the bank of televisions on the wall. “Omigod! Gone, all gone. I’ve lost the edge, pal, I’ve got nothing to live for anymore.” He dropped another tear.
     “Did you forget to pay your cable bill?”
     “No,” he moaned. “No no no. It’s much worse than that, much much worse.”
     I couldn’t conceive what might be worse in his life than that.
     “Look, let’s turn on some lights, maybe you can relax some, and tell me what’s going on, okay?”
     He looked awful in the light, so I turned the dimmer down some. “What’s happening, Johnny?”
     He looked at me with the face of a little boy whose dog has gone missing. “I, I, omigod, I had an epiphany.”
     Johnny was not given to epiphanies.
     “A sports epiphany,” he said.
     “I don’t understand. Epiphanies are illegal in America. Only effete Europeans have epiphanies. Does Homeland Security know?”
     “No. Listen, I was flipping through the channels, very innocent like, and I stopped on a soccer game. A European one. Just out of curiosity, you know. Not out of betrayal.”
     “You’re treading a very fine line.”
     His lower lip trembled. I feared for his manliness.
     “I- I couldn’t stop watching.”
     I felt his forehead. “No fever. Maybe something you ate?”
     “The worst part? I liked it. I got excited. I cheered.”
     “Who was playing?”
     “I don’t know. It was blue uniforms against red uniforms. English teams. But they never stopped. I only caught the second half. They never stopped.”
     “Now, see, it must have been a hallucination. They would have had to stop for commercials and referee conferences.”
     “No, no, no.” He grabbed my arm and squeezed. “There were no commercials. None. Zip. Nada. Nought.”
     “That’s impossible. What’s a ball game without commercials?”
     “And did you hear me say ‘Nought’?”
     “I tried to ignore it. You are my best friend.”
     “An Englishism.”
     I tried to reassure him. “Look, fire up an NFL game on the DVR and in a few minutes you’ll forget all about soccer.”
     “I tried that. It didn’t work. I started timing the game. Do you know that a play averages about three or four seconds? That during a three hour NFL game there’s only about fifteen minutes of actual play? Fifteen minutes!”
     I had been suspicious of the NFL for a long time, but had never been able to put my finger on what was wrong. But Johnny was right.
     “And another thing,” he said, starting to get wound up, “why are there seven referees on the field? Soccer has one guy running the whole game. Twenty-two players. One ref. And everybody runs for ninety minutes.”
     “Well, sure, okay, but there’s not much scoring, you know. That’s not so exciting.”
     “What’s exciting about the score? It’s the play that matters. And soccer is all play, up and down the field. My emotions were swinging constantly, and when the red guys scored it was huge. That’s when I had my epiphany. One to nothing.”
     “C’mon, Johnny, one to nothing?” I scoffed.
     “Did you ever watch a three nothing NFL game?” he countered.
     I shuffled my feet and looked away.
     “Look,” he said, “one ref. No commercials. Constant play. Everybody gets to work the ball. What’s not to like?”
     “Well, it’s kind of an effete game.”
     “The goalkeeper had a fractured skull two months ago. He’s in there playing. No pads. Nobody has pads.
     “And,” he went on, “if you do something really bad, the ref throws you out of the game and you can’t be replaced. Your team plays short. And you don’t get to play the next game. Break someone’s leg in the NFL and it costs the team fifteen yards.”
     “Jeez, Johnny, next thing you know you’ll be raving about rugby.”
     He grinned. “They play eighty minutes, nonstop, no pads, one referee, no commercials, and those guys are tough.”
     “C’mon, they can’t be as tough as NFL players. No way.”
     “NFL guys are sissies compared to these guys. They’d never keep up.”
     I seriously contemplated calling Homeland Security and turning in my best friend. I never thought I would be put in a position like that. But it seemed like a serious breach of patriotism. After all, the NFL, with its rigid rule structure, its authoritarian hierarchy, its social hierarchy where only a few got to handle the ball, its finely honed consumerism, its constant graphics and replays that fool us into thinking we’re actually watching a lot of football… umm… well, anyway, the NFL is one of the highest expressions of American values and to turn away from it for a foreign game… umm… well, maybe baseball is a better exemplar, with its rigid rule structure, its authoritarian hierarchy… umm.
     Johnny offered me a European beer, sat me down in the guest recliner and said, “Watch this.” He worked the remote and soon had an English Premier League soccer game on one set and an international rugby game, with Australia playing New Zealand, on another.
     Several hours later we went out for breakfast. Next week we’re going to Europe to follow the soccer season. Nuts to the NFL and Homeland Security. They deserve each other. We deserve better.

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Why No Child Left Behind is a Raging Success
March 27, 2008

     On a fine Spring morning, late morning to be exact, when the tree leaves glowed light green and birds chirped annoyingly, I was walking slowly down Ferbish Street, enjoying the warm air and the scent of automobile exhaust when the kid skidded around a corner, almost coming out of his sneakers, ran up to me, took my hand and said, “Pretend like you know me, please.” He was about twelve years old. I was too taken aback to mumble anything coherent and the day had been boring, so I said okay.
     A beefy gentleman wearing a tight suit and an oh-so-military haircut rumbled around the corner a moment later, stopped, looked around, and then looked suspiciously at me. For a second I thought he might ask to see my turban and my Koran. Then he looked suspiciously at the kid. Then me. Then the kid. I was getting dizzy.
     “I was chasing a kid. You seen one?” the haircut said.
     “It’s probably not a good idea to be chasing kids. People might get the wrong idea.” I think the hair at the front of his head stood at attention.
     “I’m a truant officer, pal. It’s my job. Now, you seen any suspicious kids?”
     I looked down at the kid. I said, “Only my nephew. Morty. We were just enjoying a walk in this fine Spring weather.”
     The haircut eyed Morty. “Why ain’t he in school?”
     “He’s from out of town,” I said. “From Maine. Northern Maine.”
     “Yeah. Maine,” the kid said. “Aroostook County, where the potatoes come from.”
     “Izzat so?”
     “Yes,” he said, “yes it is.”
     “Hmmmph. Alright. But you guys didn’t see a kid come running around the corner?”
     The kid said, “He went down that alley there. Really fast. I wish I could run that fast.”
     “Yeah. Thanks, kid.” The haircut took off and rumbled into the alley.
     “Up that alley it’s a maze that puts the Casbah to shame,” the kid said.
     “And how would you know about the Casbah? You’re apparently allergic to school.”
     “I spend a lot of time in the public library. Reading. Come on, I’ll buy you a coffee. Mr. Dallagento’s got a nice coffee shop about a block from here.”
     I had never been able to find Mr. Dallagento’s, though I had heard of it. It was down a tiny side street, well hidden from all but the cognoscenti and the neighborhood folk, and inside it smelled of strong coffee, pastry, cinnamon, and fresh bread. And the coffee was real. You could get it black, with sugar, or with milk or cream, or with sugar and milk or cream. In one cup size. Real ceramic cups. That’s all.
     We sat at a small table in the window.
     “You gotta love this place,” the kid said.
     “Mmmmph,” I mmmmphed, washing down a bit of fresh warm bread and butter. “Listen, kid, what’s your name?”
     “Morty’s good. Call me Morty.”
     “Alright, Morty. So tell me, why aren’t you in school?”
     He bit a piece of cheese danish, chewed thoughtfully, and swallowed. “Because I’m smart and I’m bored and I don’t test well.”
     “Well if you’re smart I should think you’d test very well.”
     “No, you don’t get it. See, that’s all they do at school, ever since Bush suckered everyone into supporting that No Child Left Behind law.”
     “I thought that was supposed to help. Make poor schools better. Get everyone on the same page, testwise.”
     “Testwise? You’re one of them, aren’t you?”
     “Most assuredly not. I just heard a bureaucrat say that on television. I thought it was a technical term.”
      Morty laughed. It was a bitter laugh, but quite infectious and in a few seconds we were both laughing bitterly.
     “Why are we laughing?” I asked him.
     “Probably because we both know how bad things are.”
     “So do you go to school at all?” I didn’t see how he could not.
     “Nope. No point to it. I told you I don’t test well.”
     “I don’t get it.”
     “See, it’s all about numbers. I bring the numbers down, so they would rather I didn’t take tests.”
     “But they sent Mr. Haircut out to find you.”
     “That’s just for show. He does it once a year. They send me an email telling me when. Otherwise, they don’t bother with me.”
     “Once a year? Morty, how long have you been out of school?”
     “Let’s see, since third grade.” He slurped his coffee. “Yeah, third grade. About four years.”
     I couldn’t comprehend how a kid could be out of school since the third grade, and nobody would notice or care.
     “What about your parents? What do they say?”
     “They think I’m doing fine. I make up report cards on my computer. They both work two jobs. They tell me ‘Study hard, Morty, and you’ll get a good job and not have to work like we do.’”
     “Maybe they have a point?”
     He sneered. “Do you know how many Master’s and Doctorate degrees are driving cabs these days? See the pretty woman behind the counter? She has two Masters. She’s working a coffee shop. The only people making money are politicians, lobbyists, and obscenely wealthy people.”
     “True enough.” I nodded sagely. “But still, don’t you miss being with your friends?”
     “My friends are out here with me. We go to the library and read. I’m in the middle of Don Quixote. It’s overrated. My friend Fernando is teaching me Spanish. Tomorrow three of us are going to the art museum for a new opening. This afternoon I get to watch the city orchestra practice. I do some errands, they let me watch. One woman is going to teach me violin, just to see if I like it. We make up our own field trips. We play pick up sports where winning doesn’t matter near as much as playing does.”
     “Sounds like fun, but school?”
     “Look, mister, all they do in school now is teach kids how to pass The Test. That’s it.”
     “Surely not?”
     “Surely. It’s Washington, it’s a numbers game. It’s just to make things easier for the bureaucrats. Give them one or two numbers, then they don’t have to really look, don’t have to really think or figure anything out. Bad number, bad school, they take away some money until you get better.”
     “But, but, that’s backwards. You can’t run a school without money.”
     “That’s the idea. Republicans don’t like public schools. They can’t make a profit off them.”
     “Well what do the kids in school think about it?”
     “That’s just it. They don’t think anymore. Nobody’s teaching them how to think, how to be independent. Just how to pass The Test.” He waved his hand dismissively. “They’re zombies.”
     “You shouldn’t call them zombies, you know.”
     “Yeah? You know what the schools do?”
     “Not so much, apparently.”
     “They give the names and addresses and phone numbers of the kids to military recruiters. It’s the law. So it’s perfect. Teach them not to think so they can be good little workers and good little soldiers. A zombie army to go out and Bushify the world.”
     “Hmmm. But how did you figure all this out when you were eight years old and decided to drop out?”
     “Oh that’s easy. I used to watch the news programs before the zombies took them over. There used to be news then. Didn’t take a genius to see what was coming.”
     “So you’re not a genius?”
     “Good grief, no. I’m just a kid.” He paused. “A really smart kid.”
     “And you’re the child left behind.”
     “Yeah. Ironic, ain’t it?”

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Democrats Throwing Away The Election To Bloody Each Other
March 25, 2008

The Democrats are destroying their chance to uproot the Republican disaster that’s running and ruining the country.

The Clintons (the battle isn’t just Hilary Clinton; it is, as usual, The Clintons) are letting their unbridled lust for power drive a bloody wedge into the party. It should be obvious by now that The Clintons will do anything, no matter how despicable, to get back into the White House.

Hilary Clinton has been caught too many times now in lies and distortions and misrepresentations. She seems to have a decided preference for John McCain as a better man than Barack Obama, despite McCain’s record of corruption, mental failures, love of failed conservative policies, and desire to kiss Bush’s armpits. image

And while Clinton and Obama savage each other over the ridiculous and the ludicrous, McCain just trots along with a free pass from the same press and media that got us into Iraq and that failed to question boneheaded economic policies. They will just continue to ignore the arrogance, the ignorance, the lust for war as a first resort, and the failure to understand virtually anything outside a narrow military mindset. They will pimp McCain from now until the election.

Barack Obama, while not without his faults, is the only candidate with any vision that rises above the petty nonsense that is defining the primary campaigns. But if he keeps getting in the gutter to slug it out with The Clintons, there’s an excellent chance the Democrats will lose the election.

Consider the view from outside. The Democratic candidates are clawing at each other, bloodying each other, while the country sinks deeper into the foul morass Bush has wrought at home and abroad. People look at this so-called battle and ask themselves how can Democrats govern when they can’t even keep their party together.

Democratic apologists will say such a battle is good for the party, that it makes stronger candidates, and that when the convention comes, everybody will kiss and make up. They’re wrong.

The Democratic party right now looks like the family of louts and ignoramuses who live at the end of the street in the house that looks to be falling down, in which people are always fighting and screaming, where somebody is always drunk, and to which the police make regular visits and come away shaking their heads. The neighbors are fed up, and they are not a little frightened by these people and want them out of the neighborhood.

People are looking for some certainty, some answers, some end to their anxiety and fear, and they aren’t seeing any of what they want coming from the Democrats. They do see grandfatherly old McCain offering certitude, and they don’t see much, if any, questioning or doubt in the media about him. People will vote what they feel, and what they feel from the Democrats is chaos, anger, uncertainty, doubt. What they feel from McCain is calmness and certainty.

Without a change, soon, McCain will win the general election. And he may well return Republican majorities in the Senate and the House, presaging a catastrophe in American politics and quite possibly the end of American representative democracy. He will continue the incompetent and corrupt, financially and politically and ethically, practices of the Bush government. And the war will go on and on, with no end in sight, no hope in sight, with nothing more than an endless plain covered with the bodies of the innocent dead.

Since The Clintons won’t withdraw from the race, despite their slim chance of winning the nomination, perhaps it’s time for Obama to change tactics, to change strategy. Perhaps it’s time for him to act as if he is the nominee, to ignore, for the most part, the slash-and-burn actions of The Clintons, and to start attacking the Republicans and John McCain. He should keep fighting for primary delegates, to be sure, but he should fight for them by attacking the real enemy, Bush, McCain, and the Republicans. He should let The Clintons sink of their own weight into the gutter of their own making.

What Would The J-Man Do?
March 24, 2008

     Sunday morning, on my way home from not going to church, an activity which I observe religiously, I stopped at Arnie’s Sidewalk Café to partake of his generous Atheist Coffee Hour. As I munched on an Atheist Cinnamon Bun, shaped like an angel, the J-Man sat down at my table.
     “J-Man, how you doing?”
     He looked puzzled. “You recognize me?”
     “Sure. The white robe, the long hair, the silky beard, the healthy glow. And that little halo thingie up there.”
     “Damn. I thought I had that taken care of.”
     I shrugged. “Hard to get good help these days.”
     “I just came from church. Nobody recognized me. They looked at me like I was a freak.”
     “It’s the clothes, J. Robes are out. Tell you what, I’m almost finished here. Let’s go over to Wal-Mart and get you some jeans, a nice shirt. You want shoes or keep the sandals?”
     “Sandals are good.” He peered down at his toes.
     “Umm. How about underwear? You wearing any?”
     “That’s sort of personal, don’t you think?”
     “I’m cool with it.”
     He looked around nervously for a second. “Maybe we could skip Wal-Mart and go to, oh, I don’t know, maybe that store over there.”
     He pointed across the street at Joe and Annie’s Good Time General Store and Computer Repair.
     “Sure. I know Joe and Annie a long time.”
     “Good. Good. It’s just that the Old Man doesn’t really approve of Wal-Mart. They don’t treat people right.”
     “Amen,” I said.
     I bought him some nice Pakistani jeans and a white shirt with just a touch of red and yellow embroidery, and we went for a walk in the city park down the street.
     When we settled into a nice walking rhythm, I said, “So J-Man, what are you doing here? You didn’t come to try to convert me again, did you, because we had that talk when I was twelve.”
     “You were thirteen, and no that’s not why.”
     “Okay. What’s up then?”
     He fidgeted, picked up a rock and threw it in the lake. It skipped all the way to the other side and hit a duck. “Damn. You think he’s alright?”
     “You hit him in the butt. His dignity’s ruffled is all.”
     “Everything’s out of quack.” He smiled, then shrugged.
     “Good one.”
     “It’s all these people going around asking ‘What would the J-Man do?’”.
     “Yeah, that would get annoying.”
     He smacked his forehead. “It’s getting worse than all the praying. You don’t know how many times I’ve had to listen to the Old Man rant about that. ‘Why don’t they get off their asses and their knees and do something instead of whining to me? Tell me when I designed pathetic whining into them, tell me! Whine, whine, whine. Please fix Aunt Jean’s liver. Please kill the dictators. Please get rid of Bush. Please kill all the Muslims. Please help Anna Nicole’s baby. Please find money for heat. Please fix my car. What in Hell do they think I am?’ Yada yada yada. He goes on for years sometimes.”
     “Must be tough in the god business these days.”
     “You’ve no idea. Oy!” He shook his head. He looked at me curiously. “You’re an atheist. Why are you even listening to me?”
     “You’re an interesting guy. You tell some funny stories.”
     “I’m supposed to be your God.”
     “You hit a duck in the butt.”
     “Good point.”
     “Look, even if you did a miracle right here in front of me, I’d just shrug and tell you that David Blaine can probably do it better.”
     “You know, him and Copperfield have really messed up the miracle business. I saw Blaine levitate once, on the street, in front of people. He had me convinced.”
     “He has a god-given talent.”
     “I should mess up your karma for that one!” He laughed. It was good to see him laugh. When I was thirteen he had been so serious I was sure he was headed for a heart attack or a stroke.
     “So what about this WWJD stuff?” I said.
     “Well! I mean, it’s ridiculous isn’t it? First time I’m back I see a 747 roaring in over my head. I was terrified.”
     “Probably not a good idea to come back in an airport.”
     “Yeah. And trying to cross a city street for the first time? No oxen, no horses, no asses.”
     “You haven’t seen some of the girls, have you?”
     “Whole other story. I actually tried to chastise some of them for their immodesty. They laughed.”
     “They ask to see under your robe?”
     “The redhead did.” He paused. I think he blushed. “I was tempted. She was really very pretty.”
     I let him have his moment.
     “And TV. First time I saw TV I tried to find out how the little people got in the box. And where’d they come from? We didn’t make them. I told people it was sorcery, and they threw me out of the bar.”
     “Yankees, playoffs, right?”
     “Oh yeah. I learned not to mess with people’s Yankees.”
     We walked on in silence for a few minutes along the edge of the lake. Lots of people were out enjoying the sunshine, walking, jogging, playing with their dogs. Several of the women cast appraising glances our way. Well, his way.
     “J-Man, you should pick up one of these women, have a few drinks, go out on the town, relax.”
     “I know, I know. That’s what my therapist tells me. Loosen up, loosen up, she says. But this WWJD stuff…”
     “Well, what would you do?”
     “What difference does it make? They know what to do. They don’t need to be pinning it on me and the Old Man. They’ve got science and reason. Can’t any of these people think through a problem and come up with solutions? They have to whine to us about it? It’s pathetic.”
     I nodded.
     He said, “The world’s going to hell, they’re responsible, and they won’t do anything about it. Look at me. I come from a two thousand year old village barely out of the freaking Stone Age, and they want me to fix the world. They think that the stuff written by a bunch of post-Stone Age fanatics, neurotics, psychotics, poets and essayists is what ought to govern the world. These people are on drugs.”
     “And I thought I was alone in thinking that.”
     “Nah,” he said quickly. “But don’t tell anyone I said so.”
     “My lips are sealed.”
     “Do you think that duck is really okay?”
     “Sure. Trust me, they see worse every day.”
     “Yeah, I guess. Want to go to the Yankees game today? Double header. Drink some beer, flirt with the girls a little.”
     “How’re we gonna get tickets?” I said.
     “Dude, I’m the J-Man.” He flashed a couple of tickets seemingly out of nowhere. “I may not be David Blaine, but I’ve got some pull.”

My Neighbor Charlie Runs For President
March 24, 2008

     My neighbor, Charlie, the accountant, has thrown his hat in the ring. Actually, it’s a baseball cap for the Mets, but he never wears it backwards.
     Charlie is certain he has the right stuff to be President.
     “On September 11 I was walking around New York City, brushing the dust off myself. I led a small group of people into a storefront, so I was in charge,” Charlie told the local news reporter, Miss Emma Fitzfitz, an octogenerian with bad hearing.
     “Were you ever cruel to animals, sir?” Emma asked.
     “I certainly was. I yelled at my dog once for hiding one of my slippers.”
     “How does that qualify you?” I asked.
     “Well, terrifying my dog shows that I do what’s necessary, no matter what, doesn’t it?” Charlie said.
     Miss Emma nodded her head. I shook her awake.
     “Where do you stand on evolution, sir?” Miss Emma said.
     “I can pander to the religious right just as well as anyone.”
     “But where do you stand on evolution?” she repeated.
     “I think I’m quite evolved,” he said, breaking a little sweat.
     “Of course you are, sir” Miss Emma said. She said to me, “He’s quite wonderful, isn’t he?”
     “What’s your religion, Charlie?” I said.
     “I’m glad you asked that. It’s very important.” He fiddled with his cap. “What else do you want to know?”
     “I want to know what your religion is.”
     “Well, I’m a Morchrisjewian. But that’s not really important. I would never let all of my faith’s tenets dictate my actions in office.”
     “Just some of them, then, sir?” Miss Emma said.
     “Precisely.”
     “How will you fight the war on terror?” I asked.
     Charlie brushed some dandruff off his plaid shirt. “Well, I’ll fight them in Iraqistan so they don’t come over here and marry my daughter.”
     “You don’t have a daughter,” I whispered to him.
     “Shhh,” he whispered back. “My people are going to rent one.”
     Miss Emma chimed in with, “Sir, should we attack Iranistan?”
     “Of course. We have to keep them from building nuclear power plants and getting all modern and then coming over here to marry my daughter.”
     “What about the illegal immigration problem, Charlie?”
     “That’s an easy one. Round them up, send them home, collect a fine, and make them come back in later.” He grinned and waved at the crowd. Well, at me and Miss Emma.
     “But, sir, the Congress just rejected that approach.”
     “Well, harumph, then I’d build a fence along the entire Canadian border. What did you think of my harumph? I’ve been practicing.”
     “Good harumph, Charlie. But it’s not Canadians crossing the border. It’s Mexicans.”
     “Well, we have to start somewhere. And I love Mexican food. Canadian food, too.”
     “Sir, would you pardon Scooter Libby?”
     “I’d pardon all my friends. What’s a President good for if he can’t pardon his friends? It’s the American way, right?”
     Miss Emma wrote that down, and announced that she had to toddle off to cover a flower club luncheon.
     “Well, I think that went okay, didn’t it?” Charlie said, watching Miss Emma toddle away.
     I nodded sagely. “You’ve got all the important things down, that’s for sure, Charlie. But what about money? It takes a lot of money.”
     “Oh, no problem. Remember? I work for Incredibly Huge Accounting Company. We have government contracts. There’s lots of money there for the taking.”
     I cocked my head and stared at him. “Republican, right?”
     “Of course,” he harumphed.

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Quick Notes Or, If You Will, Quickies
March 23, 2008

Chertoff Wrong Again, But He’s The Boss…

In Parade magazine this morning, there is a brief interview with Michael Chertoff, the skeletal head of the Department of Homeland Security.

[P:] What are the biggest terrorist threats to the U.S.?

[C:] The largest threat is still al-Qaeda, but we’re also focused on international criminal gangs that are working with terrorists and drug traffickers. These groups, which are highly organized and possess strong technological capabilities, have great potential to inflict harm on us.

It’s probably too simple-minded to point out that international criminal gangs and drug traffickers are unlikely to commit terrorist acts against the United States, which is, after all, their biggest market. Those folks are much happier seeing us fat and happy and paying attention to American Idol and Survivor than focusing on their criminal activities.

As for al-Qaeda, or whatever it has become, they’ve pretty much been on a winning streak since the United States invaded Iraq. It’s hard to think of anything that could have done more for them than invading Iraq and opening torture hellholes like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Of course it’s also probably too simple-minded to suggest that one powerful way to cut the legs out from under international terrorism and criminal gangs and drug traffickers would be to legalize and regulate drugs, and provide effective rehabilitative and other support for addicts who want such support. That would be far cheaper than the ludicrous so-called war on drugs, it would provide tax revenue, it would make taking drugs a lot less romantic and attractive and exciting, and perhaps then we would also be spared the sight and sound of shave-headed cops hopped on steroids crowing about taking a vial of crack or a stick of marijuana off of some poor sod they’ve got on the ground in cuffs. Not to mention the costs of imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people for so-called crimes that amount to little more, and probably less, than going on an alcoholic bender on the weekend.

Cheney-Bush Message To The Palestinians…

Dick Cheney went to Israel, sat down with the Israeli government, and told the Palestinians they should have a ‘new beginning’.

How many ‘new beginnings’ at the hands of a brutal and sadistic Israeli occupation, enabled and supported by a United States wallowing in the mythology of Jewish victimhood and Israeli chicken-soup goodness, can the Palestinians stand?

World War II is over. ‘Never again’ has proven to be a false promise time and again, even today, in Darfur. And while Jews were the primary civilian target of Hitler in that war, the world has easily forgotten the other six million people murdered in the camps – the Gypsies, the gays, the politicals, the retarded, and all the other inconvenient humans. The world also seems to have forgotten that some of the most effective anti-Nazi guerillas were Jewish partisans, who numbered some twenty to thirty thousand.

Perhaps it’s time the world stopped viewing the Israelis as victims of past crimes and started looking at them as accountable actors in an ongoing crime. If a child is beaten and abused, we don’t, when he is an adult, forgive him for murdering the neighbors and burning their house down.

If the world won’t hold the Israelis accountable, there cannot ever be peace in the Middle East. To blame all the problems there on Palestinians fighting for their homeland, with rifles and rockets and mortars against a modern, mechanized army, and to ignore Israeli crimes against Palestinians, guarantees a perpetuation of the violence, and means keeping open the abyss that swallows all efforts to bring peace to the region. But that is, unfortunately, American policy, and, as usual, Cheney and Bush have got it wrong.

Who’s Listening? Or Are They All Dicks?
March 21, 2008

The other day Dick Cheney, reputed to be Vice President of the United States and not some pathetic, mentally disturbed old man, answering a reporter’s question regarding the 63 percent of Americans who think the war is a waste of lives and treasure, answered, “So?” So, as in “So what.”

While it is a truism that one cannot govern by polls, and equally a truism that there are too damn many polls invested with too damn much importance, it is also true that a leader who demonstrates such contempt for the people on such an important matter should be turned out of office before he can do any more harm than he already has done. In Cheney’s case, turning him out of office should include locking the sick bastard naked in a cell in Guantanamo for the rest of his life.

Be that as it may, it has become a truism that politicians no longer listen to the people, except at election time when they stage so-called town meetings and so-called listening sessions at which they pretend to listen. The pretense is what they hope will get them elected, because few of them have the intellectual grit or the moral courage to actually act on behalf of the people.

The politicians will, of course, proclaim that they have the people’s interests at heart. And they very well may. But that is as far as the people’s interests will get. The people’s interests do not get into legislation as often as do the interests of the corporations that pay the politicians’ bills.

Ask who benefits from the war in Iraq. Certainly not the people of the United States, who are paying three billion dollars a week, with no end in sight, for a Republican and Conservative wet dream of empire.

But the corporations are benefiting handsomely. KBR makes money hand over fist providing bad food and bad water to the troops at war. Halliburton also. Blackwater also. Do they provide any value to the people of the United States?

No.

They profit from death and destruction and suffering on a massive scale, with no goal nor care other than profit. When George Bush, Dick Cheney, and John McCain speak of a romantic war without end against an endless supply of Islamic cannon fodder, the executives at Halliburton and KBR and Blackwater, and the others, gather around the boardroom conference table and engage in mutual orgasms, leaving the mess to be cleaned up by the little brown people on the janitorial staff.

They will protest otherwise. They will be lying. Corporations and the highest reaches of corporate officialdom are amoral, at best. In the name of profit they can convince themselves that torture is not only morally acceptable, but a moral necessity. In the name of profit they can convince themselves that a war that is tearing this country apart is just and necessary and that they are morally commanded to make as much profit off of it as possible and in any way they can. Corporations cheat, lie, and kill. For profit. And they buy politicians to help them.

And if maintaining their business in the United States becomes inconvenient, they go someplace else, someplace where child labor is acceptable, where slave labor is acceptable, where the Internal Revenue Service can’t reach and sully corporate profit with taxes that support the people and government of the United States.

Of course all that has been said before, many times, and certainly better, and often with more optimism. And has gone equally unheard, receiving the moral and actual equivalent of Cheney’s “So?”

The politicians listen to money most of the time. They listen to the songs of power accruing or tempting. They do not listen to the voice of the people, whether in legitimate polls or around the table set up under the television lights to prove they are listening.

Only when the politicians are hungry for the political job or in danger of losing the political job do they put on a show of listening.

But they do not hear. And not hearing, they have lost their moral compass, or substituted an amoral compass that they got in a popcorn box from the corporations.

So, if no one listens, if no one hears, then why speak?

Why do thousands of political bloggers, sitting alone in front of  computer screens, tap their keyboards and produce, on aggregate, tens of millions of words every week, voicing opinions, spewing rants, or herding closely reasoned arguments?

There can be found some measure of satisfaction, of course, in getting off one’s chest the anger one feels at matters of policy, of injustice, of lies and immorality and amorality and just plain evil. And of course for every particular issue there will be bloggers, or writers (not always the same), firing from all ten sides of the issue.

Do they write because they think they can make a difference, that someone in power will take notice and take action? These days it is more likely that strong criticism may draw action in the form of an FBI visit, while strong support will go unnoticed. Nonetheless, do all those thousands write because they believe that there is some small chance they will be noticed and heard? Do they write because they need to spit out the bile that has built up? Do they write simply because they know a few people, with no more pull or power or capability than themselves, will listen and respond and understand? Do they write for some mix of all these reasons?

Why do you write? Why do you put your voice, your beliefs, your heart, into the public sphere? What do you gain? What do you lose? Who hears?

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