Sunday, July 31, 2005

Flowers for Armando - short story

I find it difficult to believe but tonight is the first anniversary of morialekafa. I have written this blog almost every night since my first essay, "On Deodorant." There have been 37 rather curmudgeonaly essays, 11 short stories, a few tanka and other poems, but mostly just political comments. Very few people seem to read morialekafa but it pleases me and allows me to rant and rave as I choose.

As so little seems to happen on weekends, or at least gets reported, I have decided to offer another short story.

Flowers for Armando

As the anaesthetic wore off the room came slowly into focus. The institutional green walls were bare except for one inexpensive landscape hanging crookedly from the wall to my left. The blinds on the windows to my right were half closed, softening the harsh afternoon sun. The other bed, between mine and the windows, was unoccupied. Immediately in front of me was an open bathroom door through which I could see the sink and part of the toilet. The mirror above the sink revealed a sign hanging immediately above and behind my head. Deciphering it backwards I read in large handprinted letters, "Nothing rectally."
"What's that for?" I pondered, "Are people going around arbitrarily sticking things up people's rectums?" The intravenous needle in my arm was uncomfortable. I wanted to change position. I was barely able to push the button raising the head of my bed. I undid the huge bandage and inspected my belly. The incision ran all the way from my navel to my groin. The two edges were neatly held together by metal staples. "Must be something new," I said out loud to the empty room.
Just then one of the nurses brought me a roommate; a poorly dressed nondescript looking little man who followed her dutifully as she entered the room and pointed to his bed. "You can take your clothes off in there," she instructed, indicating the bathroom. "Put this on." She handed him a hospital gown and departed. In a short time he emerged, holding the flimsy gown awkwardly together with his left hand. He slowly climbed into bed and lay back with a quiet sigh. I noticed that his face was brown and weathered. He had brown eyes and straight black hair. I assumed he was probably a Mexican. It was impossible to tell how old he was; he could have been anywhere from thirty five to sixty five. He was quite obviously frightened. The two of us rested there in silence. Exhausted, I fell asleep. When I woke he spoke for the first time.
"Sir, are you a Christian?"
Surprised by the unexpected question I had to pause before I could answer. Considering the question carefully I answered, "No, not in the way you mean, I guess."
He seemed to accept the answer, then announced, "I am a Catholic. I wear a cross. But I also wear a star. You see, my father was Catholic but my mother was Jewish."
"An interesting variation on Pascal's wager," I thought cynically.
Do you go to church?" he persisted.
"No. Not since I was a boy."
"I am a good Christian," he said with obvious pride. "I go regularly to mass and confession." When I did not reply he changed the subject, "Have you been here long?"
"No. I just had surgery this morning."
"What was wrong with you?"
"Cancer. Of the prostate. They took it out."
"Oh," he said, obviously not sure what I meant. "I'm sorry. They don't know what's wrong with me. But I have a lot of pain. It hurts when I pee and there is blood. My doctor sent me here for more tests. I don't know what they are going to do to me. Did you have a lot of pain?"
His English was somewhat hesitant but I could tell from his voice how frightened he was. "No. I had no pain at all. They just found the cancer when I went for a physical."
"Did you have blood in your pee?"
"No. I had no symptoms at all."
Just then an intern entered the room. "Armando Blanco?" he asked, looking at me. I shook my head and indicated the next bed.
"Mr. Blanco," I heard him say. "I am Doctor Bowers. Are you comfortable?"
"What is wrong with me doctor? What are you going to do?"
"Now don't be alarmed Mr. Blanco. You need to have some tests so we can learn exactly what the problem is. The nurse will help you get ready. Don't worry, everything is going to be all right." He left the room, nodding to the nurse who had just arrived.
The nurse explained to Mr. Blanco how to take an enema, illustrating by showing him the squeeze bottle and reaching behind her to where he was to place it. He seemed to understand but sat dejectedly on the side of his bed for a full ten minutes before disappearing into the bathroom. He emerged shaking his head slowly from side to side and muttering to himself in Spanish. An hour later they came for him.
Early the next morning the first of the flowers arrived for me. It was an obviously expensive arrangement sent, I believed, out of obligation rather than affection. As there was nowhere to put them on my side of the room the delivery man placed them on the window ledge.
"What beautiful flowers," my roommate observed, with genuine wonder in his tone. "I love flowers. I have many flowers in my garden. Every year I have flowers. They are so beautiful."
"I'm glad you like them Armando. That is your name isn't it?"
"Yes sir," he replied meekly. "Armando Blanco."
I started to ask him to call me by my first name but realizing that he wouldn't do it and not wanting to embarrass him I said nothing. We lay quietly, admiring the flowers.
"Sir," he began again, "Do you think it is a good thing for a young man to join the Marines?"
After pretending to think about it for a moment I replied, "I don't know. Why do you ask?"
"My son. He is seventeen. The youngest. He wants to join the Marines. I don't know if he should. He is a good boy. I am so proud of him."
Having no idea what to advise him I said, "Armando, I'm very tired. I think I'll sleep for a while." I turned away.
When I woke it was late at night, the darkness broken only by the hall light coming in through the half closed door. A faint smell of disinfectant drifted through the hallways. Someone was speaking in gentle tones with Armando. I listened but could not understand the Spanish except for a few words. There were two female voices interrupted occasionally by Armando's low but steady comments. They talked softly into the wee hours of the morning and then departed. I heard Armando trying to choke back his tears.
After breakfast, which neither of us could eat, Armando said proudly, "My wife and daughter were here last night. My daughter came all the way from New Mexico on the bus. It took her two days and one night. She has to go back now. She has a good job."
"Yes, I heard you talking in the night. How many children do you have?"
"Six. Four boys and two girls. They are all fine children. I am very proud of them. I have seven grandchildren, too."
"Seven," I said, "How wonderful." There was an awkward silence. Then I asked, "What kind of work do you do?"
"I used to do construction work and sometimes I worked as a gardener. But then I had this pain and I couldn't work. I haven't been able to work for several months. And now they don't know what is wrong and I am frightened. I am frightened that I will never be able to work again."
"Did you get the results of your tests? What did they tell you?"
"They don't know what is wrong. They told me I had to have more tests."
"Do you still have blood in your urine?"
"Yes. Always now. And it hurts. It hurts me so much sometimes I can hardly stand it. Do you have pain?"
"No. Not now. They apparently have morphine in this thing," I said, indicating the intravenous bottle, "so that if I feel any pain I just push this button and it goes away. Something new. They claim it works much better than when you have to ask all the time. Seems to work."
Armando obviously did not understand. I began to explain it more carefully but just then four older doctors entered together followed by young doctor Bowers. They crowded around Armando's bed and pulled the sliding curtain around them all. They succeeded well enough so I could not see them but of course I couldn't help but overhear.
"Mr. Blanco," one of them began, "I am sorry to have to tell you that you have cancer of the bladder. We will have to operate. But before we do you will need to have some more tests. We think it may have spread but we don't know how much. You will have the tests tonight and we should know by tomorrow when to schedule the surgery. Do you understand?"
Armando must have nodded as I did not hear him respond. The doctors left the room but stopped to confer in the hallway. Although I could hear only snatches of their conversation I heard enough to realize the doctors knew much more than they had told the unfortunate Armando. The cancer had spread widely throughout his organs and he had no realistic chance of survival. The surgery was little more than experimental; something they had never attempted before.
Armando was quiet the remainder of the morning and throughout lunch which, again, neither of us could eat. After lunch three more ostentatious bouquets arrived for me and were placed alongside the first, filling all the available space on the windowledge.
"You must have many rich friends," Armando observed in a sad voice. "They have sent you so many beautiful flowers."
I knew that with one exception the flowers were from co-workers who ordinarily paid little attention to me, but, not wishing to explain, I said simply, "Yes, many friends." I forced myself to get out of bed and, pushing the wheeled metal stand holding the urine bag, attempted to walk down the hall as I had been instructed to do. I moved as slowly and cautiously as I could but still the catheter pulled at me uncomfortably. I passed a woman in the same predicament. Although we passed close to one another both going and coming she would not look at me.

"Mr. Blanco?" the man asked as he entered our room. He walked past me and stood at Armando's bedside. "Are you Armando Blanco?"
"Yes sir."
"I have come from the church to pray with you. To help you through your ordeal."
The unexpected visitor was shiny faced and plump and dressed in a stylish suit with a tie obviously picked to match. He looked like a huge self-important four-year-old whose mother had just dressed him for Sunday school.
"Are you a priest?" Armando asked.
"No. I'm sorry to say I'm not. But this is my church work. I visit those in hospitals and try to help them be at peace." He was very pleased with himself. Armando obviously did not know what to make of him but said nothing.
"Come, Armando, let us pray." Without waiting he began, "Our father who..." In a moment Armando picked up the cadence and the two of them recited the prayer together. When they finished the visitor began praying extemporaneously, making it increasingly obvious that he knew nothing about either Armando or his illness. Smugly satisfied he said, "Well Armando, I must go. I have several other patients to see. Remember," he gushed, "God loves you." He waddled out the door and down the hallway, looking at room numbers as he went.
"If God loves him so much," I thought, "why in hell has he done this to him? And why did he send such a pompous self-righteous ass to impose on him?"
Armando said nothing for the next hour. Finally, when a nurse came by he asked, "Please Ma'am, could I see a Priest?"
Although I was exhausted I couldn't sleep. Armando's misfortune and my own kept occupying my thoughts. "Why?" I thought, "should such a gentle person as Armando have to suffer so? And why should he have to die while I am apparently to live? He has a large family," my mind raced on, "while I have no one. He is a good person, goes to church, is proud of his children, has probably never harmed a fly. I've not been a very good person and certainly I've sinned. Yet I am being spared and Armando is not. What kind of a god would permit such a thing? Perhaps I'm just smarter, smart enough to go for a regular physical, whereas Armando was not. But, then, probably he just couldn't afford to go? Whatever the case, what good do those ridiculous medals do? They certainly didn't protect him from harm. And the prayers, too, what good are they? What nonsense. But, still, he believes. How can he continue to believe when he knows how sick he is? See, there, I hear him crying again. Poor Armando!"
I began to reflect on my life, trying to think of whatever good things I might have done. There were few and at the moment seemed remarkably trivial. Of course all the stupid, mean, and terrible things I had done forced themselves unwanted into my consciousness, causing me relive the shame and embarrassments all over again. "Why is it," I wondered, "that all of the rotten things you do continue to haunt you throughout your life, coming back over and over again, while more pleasant memories do not? Or is it that I have no pleasant memories?" The thought worried me. I tried to get rid of it by thinking of other things. I must have finally fallen to sleep in the early hours of the morning, a troubled sleep at best. Over breakfast, which we both merely picked at, Armando asked, "Sir, does it hurt when you have the surgery? I keep thinking about it. Does it hurt?"
"No, Armando. It doesn't hurt a bit. They'll put you to sleep. You won't know what is happening. You won't feel a thing. It hurts afterwards for a time. But they'll give you something to help. Like me, see? All you do is push this little button and the pain goes away."
Armando's expression indicated he was doubtful. Indeed, that he was terrified.
"I'm going to have the surgery this afternoon. The doctor told me. I guess this cancer has spread and they aren't sure what will happen." He paused and then went on. "What will happen to my family? We have only a little money. My wife is sick and can't work. My children can't help much. What will happen to them?"
"Perhaps God will provide," I thought sarcastically. To Armando, however, I said feebly, "Things usually work out for the best." Again my mind raced through the injustice of it all. "If there is a god, he certainly works in strange and malicious ways," I thought. The existence of evil tormented me while death sat at Armando's bedside. I fell back heavily onto my pillow and tried to put it all out of my mind. I tried to imagine myself fully recovered and walking in the park near my home. "The leaves will be turning colors and starting to fall," I thought. And then I thought of death. Thinking of the falling and decaying leaves and the mystery of the changing seasons I suddenly realized that death was somehow just part of life. But I could not fit Armando's impending demise into this picture. It was premature. Unnatural. I became angry at my inability to understand.

"It's time to go," the nurse announced cheerfully. "I'll help you with your things. I struggled painfully to get out of the high hospital bed, careful to manage the urine bag now strapped unpleasantly to my leg. I put on my soft jogging suit and the canvas shoes I could slip into easily. The wheelchair to transport me was waiting at the door with a sour faced young man ready to help. The nurse began to place my flowers on a cart so I could take them home. "No!" I said firmly. "Leave them." Instead of walking to the waiting wheelchair I went awkwardly to Armando's bedside. "Good luck Armando," I said, looking directly into his frightened eyes. He said nothing but took my hand in his and squeezed it gently. I turned to go. When I was almost to the door I turned and made my way painfully back to him. Placing my hand tenderly on his shoulder I said softly, "Remember, Armando, God loves you."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

CNN continues to do their part

You will remember that last saturday on CNN's new program "On the Story," no story involved Karl Rove and/or treason. Today they did the same thing. And they indicated that next week's program would do the same. CNN apparently doesn't believe that treason and a conspiracy to lie us into "war" is worthy of their attention. Actually, they are just following the dictates of the Republican party - distract everyone from the Rove scandal with a concentration on John Robert's nomination for the Supreme Court. Now, of course, they throw in a bunch of uttter BS about how it is that next spring we will start bringing troops home. How convenient, just as the 2006 elections are starting to shape up.

It appears that Cheney is going to make a recess appointment of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. As Bolton has failed to be approved by the Senate, for very good reasons, Cheney is going to show everyone just who is boss. Of course it will be Bush who makes the appointment but as usual that is just to do Cheney's bidding. Bolton, with a recess appointment, will be a paper tiger, but what Cheney wants, Cheney gets. Bush probably cares less who the Ambassador is, he's going to be busy cutting brush on his fake ranch for the next month.

There is a growing movement to impeach Bush. I saw somewhere today that fully 42% of Americans think Bush should be impeached if he lied about going to "war." I don't know if those figures are true or not, but I do know there is a growing movement to impeach. You will not, of course, see any mention of this on the MSM, nor will you see any report on the gigantic march on Washington that is to take place on September 24th. If you are not on the internet you won't know any of this. This points up another remarkable division in American society - those who get their information from the internet (computer) and those who get informtion from the MSM and their preachers. This shapes up as the informed versus the uninformed or, in my opinion, the relatively sane against the obviously questionably sane.

I repeat what I have said before: there ought to be a required course in citizenship for all citizens, just as there is a requirement for getting a driver's license. Is getting a driver's license more important than being a responsible voter?

The final proofs of my forthcoming book, The Cham Stones, are in. Now, apparently, all we need is a cover design. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 29, 2005

The game of politics

Politics in the United States no longer has anything to do with looking our for the well-being of its citizens or the nation. It has just become a game. It's a pretty rough game. As McCain has said, in response to being asked how he can possibly suck up to Bush after what Bush/Rove tried to do to him during his presidential bid, "politics is not bean bags." It's not bean bags but it quite definitely has become nothing more than a game. Each side hires coaches and players. The goal of the game is simply to win. It doesn't matter what is at stake, "just win, baby."
How else can you describe people like James Carville and Mary Matalan? If either one of them truly believed in what they were doing they could not possibly stay married. They are coaches, just as Karl Rove is a coach. They know and interpret the rules and advise the players what to do. And obviously they are not above bending the rules when it suits them. And don't forget the mindless cheerleaders, the Limbaughs, Hannitys. O'Reillys, Coulters and others who don't care what they say or how outrageous they are as long as the can denigrate the other team and motivate their own. Republicans, Republicans, sis boom bah, Democrats, Democrates, ha ha ha. This, unfortunately, is what American politics has become.

And just like any other game, when a game is over the losers congratulate the winners. Witness Bill Clinton palling around with George Bush, a captain he both won and lost to. Clinton could not possibly forgive Bush and what the Republicans did to him if he did not fundamentally believe it was all just a game. And witness Hilary joining with (of all people, the world's premier hypocrite) Newt Gingrich. Notice, too, how they all engage in the game of "gotcha." The plan is to try to slyly trap one of the opposing players into making some kind of mistake at which point they can yell "gotcha" and thereby win some points.

One of the problems here, just like in all professional sports, is that some teams (in this case the Republicans) have more resources (money) than others. Therefore they can hire better coaches and players, or at least more coaches and players than the other team. They can also have better facilities, press converage, and so on. The beauty of politics as sport is that it need have nothing whatsoever to do with public policy, national well-being, or even reality. The Iraq "war" is surely a case in point. An unnecessary, immoral, illegal, unconstitutional "war" that has now virtually disappeared from the front pages while we concern ourselves with the various strategies required to deal with it. The fact that thousands upon thousands of people, including thousands of non-combatant women and children, have been maimed and killed isn't even worth reporting. We are concerned, however, over the rules. Should they be counted or not? What actually constitutes a combat related death (home run), should the players be replaced or reassigned (move the players to different positions or replace them). Who should be allowed to umpire? Should some of the rules be changed? "Show me the money."

Also, it would be most unsportsmanlike to quit before the game is over. That is, before there is a winner. Furthermore, there has to be agreement on the rules (is torture acceptable or not? What actually is torture? Who has the authority to decide? And who will decide when the game is over?).

The fans (public) believe the outcome of the game is vitally imortant. They buy their t-shirts and flags and oversize hands and caps and imitation uniforms (as well as their magnetic stickers, ribbons and slogans) and faithfully cheer on their team. That this is all just a game is lost on them. What does it matter who wins today? The game will go on tomorrow, along with another six-pack. Osama bin Who? Who's Rove? Never heard of John Roberts. Condi...that black lady with the funny name, yeah, I heard of her. What does she do? The vice-president? I think his name is Chaney or something like that. Who's starting for the Yankees tomorrow? No, I don't vote. What's the point? It's all fixed anyway. They just take turns ripping us off year after year. It's some kind of game and I don't know the rules. Are there any rules? Who decides?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Senate Republican leadership working for we the people

What I said in my blog last night is true. The Republicans have truly gone past all dishonor. The latest examples are so blatant I wonder that anyone, even most Republicans, would want to try to justify them.

First, as you may well have heard, Frist pushed aside the hearing on the Defense Authorization Bill for another bit of legislation that was more important to him, namely legislation to protect gun manufacturers from civil lawsuits that might arise from people using their guns to commit crimes, etc. This, of course, was an NRA bill that in Frist's judgement was more important than the defense bill. I guess we all have our priorities.

If that is not outrageous enough, consider Tom DeLay's attempt to add a 1.5 billion dollar giveaway to Halliburton and others. He slipped this in at 4 a.m. apparently thinking no one would notice. Why isn't he in jail where he certainly should be?

The White House is refusing to turn over documents relating to Roberts that Democrats have specifically requested. Not only that, they refuse even to turn over his recent tax records. In the past it has been normal procedure for Supreme Court candidates to have to provide the last three years of their tax statements. The Bush/Cheney administration secretly changed the rules (or at least most of the Senators were not aware of this change) so that the IRS only has to provide a one page summary.

It now appears that Condi Rice may be up to her eyeballs in the Rove scandal. She was on the plane when the memo passed around, marked S for secret, mentioned Valerie Plame. As Condi was involved in the false claim that Iraq had WMD's she obviously had an interest in and a motive for attacking Wilson and his wife. And, of course, she had every means to leak. So now we are pretty certain that Rove, Libby, Rice, possibly Fleischer, Novak, almost certainly Miller and others were involved in a conspiracy to "out" Plame to punish her husband and frighten off other whistleblowers. If you believe all of these people were in some way involved and don't believe this leads directly to Cheney, and probably Bush himself, you perhaps ought to seek some kind of medical attention, certainly psychiatric.

How much longer is anyone going to put up with this stuff? Even non neocon Republicans must be getting a bellyful. So why don't they do anything about it. Because as I argued last night, THEY ARE NOW PAST ALL DISHONOR.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Past all Dishonor

Most of you probably don't remember this book by James M. Cain. It has been over fifty years since I read it and aside from the title I don't remember much about it. As I recall it takes place at the time of the Civil War or immediately in the aftermath. It has to do with a man who, under the spell of a woman, ends up doing things that he would not otherwise do. He just keeps degenerating in his morals and behavior. The reason I bring it up here is that it seems to me the perfect description of the current Republican Party.

It is clear that Bush/Cheney and the neocons have taken over the Republican party and are in complete control. But what about those Republicans who are not neocons, those who consider themselves more traditional Republican conservatives. Are they so stupid they don't realize what is happening? Can they possibly be unaware that Bush/Cheney, et al, deliberately lied to start an unnecessary, immoral, illegal, and unconstitutional "war." I don't believe they are all that stupid. But why, then, do they continue to support the Bush/Cheney administration?

And now, even though it is perfectly obvious that Rove, Libby, and no doubt others were engaged in a conspiracy to trash Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, and committed an act of treason, they are going out of their way to come up with the most fantastic explanations and excuses for this absolutely unforgivable "outing." Can they truly be so stupid as to believe this didn't/isn't happening? Of course not. They have to know.

They also have to know that the Democratic party, being currently in control of nothing, can realistically do nothing to stop all of this. Bush/Cheney should clearly be impeached (and tried for war crimes as well). But the only way this could come about under the present circumstances is if Republicans themselves realize they need to rid us of this cancerous tumor that is destroying our country. But they do nothing. They just continue to support Bush/Cheney no matter how outrageous the offenses to the American public, the nation, and, indeed, humanity.

It is not at all clear that the Democrats would do much even if they could. Many of them seem to go along as fellow travelers, especially those that follow the DLC which is simply a branch of the Republican party. The DLC sucks from exactly the same corporate teats as the Republicans. Nonetheless, it is true that Democrats are rendered impotent because of our strange system that disenfranchises entirely the minority party (this is something that sorely needs correcting).

But it remains true that Republicans could do something if they had any genuine interest in our nation's well-being. They alone have the power to start impeachment proceedings or at least demand accountability from Bush/Cheney and the neocons. But they do nothing.

The only explanation I can see is that they must realize the crimes committed are so terrible, so monumental, so egregious, so unforgivable, they know that to admit to them would destroy the Republican party for an extremely long time, if not forever. Even here, however, you see loyalty to party before loyalty to the nation, justice, decency, and yes, even to humanity itself. They are truly past all dishonor.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Way of All Scandals

Are we really going to let it happen again? Is Rovegate going the way of all scandals just as all the other scandals of the Bush/Cheney administration? I don't watch any of the major news networks except occasionally CNN so I don't really know whether they are continuing to cover this story of treason. CNN didn't mention it at all on their new saturday program "On the Story." And they barely mentioned it today on "Inside Politics." I would wager the other networks are also mostly ignoring it. They are, of course, doing exactly what Bush/Cheney/Rove want them to do - focusing on the Roberts nomination for the Supreme Court. As near as I can figure out his appointment is a done deal. And do not for a moment think this was a recent more or less last minute decision on the part of our charismatically handicapped "war President." The adminisration has been touting Roberts for years to the fundamentalist right and, indeed, Robert has been groomed for this from the beginning of his career. Although he claims to have no memory of being a member of the Federalist group he clearly has been active with them and their scheme to take over the legal system of the U.S. (a fact the White House tried to cover up). He appears to be not only a lawyer's lawyer, but also a conservative's conservative. The fact that he is so acceptable to the ultra-right should in and of itself be enough to tell you what he is and what he is likely to do if he gets on the court (which apparently he will with no trouble - but we might still hope for a little while).

Does anyone in their right mind, or even with half a mind, not believe there was/is a high level conspiracy to ruin Wilson and Plame? It is all falling into place and is not going to settle just on the "little guys." Bush/Cheney/Rove/Libby/Miller/Novak and no doubt still others are involved - no doubt about it. The only thing in doubt is if anything will come of it. After all, I guess Bush could just pardon everyone just like his daddy did. And you notice, I hope, that Republicans are going to start an investigation of Fitzgerald's investigation. Now isn't that interesting? Why do you suppose they would do that? I guess it must be because he has been at it for 18 months and they want to know why he is continuing. I guess they think it may be costing too much money. They certainly worried about the expense when they had Starr investigating Clinton for years and years. Why didn't they investigate Starr's investigation? Silly question, I know.

While I was never a Republican (heaven forbid!) I know there used to be some Republicans with a semblance of dignity, honor, and fair play. But apparently no more. They all are putting loyalty to party above loyalty to the nation. Just as there is no honor among thieves, there is no honor among Republicans. Oh, I guess there really isn't any difference between the two groups any longer.

Be of good cheer. And when the DLC speaks, hold your hands over your ears and turn away. Unless, that is, you want to watch another Walmart going up.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Conned again

Now that everyone is finished praising Bush's choice for the Supreme Court (because it could have been so much worse) reality is beginning to raise its ugly head. It is becoming more obvious that the nomination of Roberts is just another Republican scam. Roberts is an unabashed Republican neocon-type conservative who has been groomed for the Supreme Court from the beginning. His most commendable virtue is his adoration of the Executive Branch of government, and more specifically, George W. Bush. This is no last minute decision because of some mythical Bush "weakness." That is, Bush decided on Roberts because he thought he could not appoint someone more controversial at the moment. What BS! Bush cleverly used his perceived weakness to nominate a genuine conservative who would do what he wished and is trying to pass it off as a truly thoughtful and fair choice. Roberts is clearly anti-abortion and pro-business. A perfect choice to satisfy the mindless Christian right as well as the corporate masters that control the world. Brilliant! And he is almost certainly going to get away with it.

We just tonight had a meeting with our Democratic candidate for the House to replace Butch Otter (who is going to run for governor). This is very unusual given that first of all we seldom have a Democratic candidate for anything and, when we do, they rarely if ever visit North Idaho. But he was here, and for our little local Democratic party we had a remarkably good turnout. I like him. I thought he was bright, well informed, soft-spoken but effective, and most of all, opposed completely to the Patriot Act (which he says, and I concur, should never have been passed in the first place). Of course he's a lawyer (are all candidate for office in the U.S. lawyers? It does seem so). Anyway, for the most part I thought he was okay and there is no doubt that he will have my support. However, he somehow idolizes Roberts and thinks that he will be wonderful on the Supreme Court. I gather he thinks this because he thinks Roberts has a wonderful legal mind and because of that has an awesome respect for the Supreme Court. Personally, I don't think the one follows from the other. He may have a brilliant legal mind, and he may also respect the court, but he may very well respect the Executive Branch even more (which appears so far to be the case). Another question can be raised here: should a President whose poll ratings are so abysmally low, and who really ought to be facing impeachment hearings, even be allowed to make a Supreme Court nomination? I don't think so, especially as ultimately the Court could decide on Bush/Cheney's fate. Interesting, no?

Unfortunately, during our conversation the question of Rove and treason did not come up. When I questioned him about homophobia he did not answer. With respect to abortion he apparently takes Hilary's position - we are not in favor of it (as if anyone is actually in favor of abortion). I wanted to ask him what he though about Hilary but time ran out. All in all I liked him. And there is no doubt we Democrats here will support him. But one further problem bothers me.

You have to understand that I am absolutely anti-war. I think we should get the hell out of Iraq now. NOW! Our candidate, however, like so many others including Dean, Kerry and so on, takes the position that as we are occupiers we have legal responsibility to insure the health and safety of the occupied country and, therefore, cannot just pull out. I find this a curious kind of argument. We totally ignored international law when we started this illegal "war" and we have ignored all international law with respect to torture, killing civilians, war profiteering, etc., etc., but now we are supposed to respect international law about how to treat Iraqis? This is just the usual bullshit. We are not going to stay because we are concerned about international law. We are going to stay because we want to control the oil of the Middle East. We are going to establish a puppet government that will do as we say, and we are going to maintain troops there to make sure that is what happens. The Bush/Cheney administration has no plan to ever completely withdraw American troops from Iraq. People who talk about bringing the troops home and/or wating until the Iraqis can manage themselves might as well be baying at the moon. The only way we will get out of Iraq is if there is a change in the leadership of the United States. That is, the neocons have to go - preferably into prison.

Our candidate's solution to the Iraqi problem is to divide the country into three different independent areas - one for the Kurds, one for the Shiites, and one for the Sunnis. He bases this on the idea that Iraq was never a nation in the first place. Not a bad idea except for the fact that it would be totally impossible. So the Kurds would get Kirkut and all the oil wealth there, the Shiites would get the south and all the oil there, and the Sunnis would get the middle and what was left. I don't think so. But again, what do I know? I said Ronald Reagan could never be elected president. I said the Gropenfuhrer could never be elected governor. Actually, I also said Jimmy Carter could never be elected president. Obviously I am a real winner. So maybe Bush/Cheney are not so bad after all. IN A PIG'S EYE!!!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Rove, Libby, Bolton = Cheney

Like all such scandals the cover-up promises to be more important and damaging than the initial problem. So now we know for certain that Rove and Libby were involved in spite to two years of lying by the White House. Now it appears that John Bolton may also be involved, in fact, involved big time. If he was a source for Judith Miller he may be the one she is covering up for. But think about it. Libby is Cheney's Chief of Staff and Bolton is his "boy." Do you think it at all likely that Libby and Bolton did something Cheney knew nothing about? Of course not. So ultimately Judith Miller is covering for Cheney, which makes perfect sense. But now all we can do is hold our breath and wait to see what Patrick Fitzgerald is going to do. He must be going to do something or he would not have put Judith Miller in jail. Bush himself is not entirely in the clear on this. Did Rove or Libby or Cheney tell him what was going on, which they should have been obliged to do, or did they not. Either way Bush is going to look like a perfect fool (which, of course, he is).

You have to admit that whatever the outcome of all this, these are certainly interesting times. The U.S. will never be able to take our place in the global community unless Bush/Cheney are not only impeached but also prosecuted for war crimes. Alas, that does not seem likely to happen - but it surely should. Does good triumph over evil? Is their any justice? Can we survive these dismal times? This is both a good and bad time to be alive. Stay tuned.

The clock is not merciful.
Time passes swiftly.
Alone now with memories,
no one can help you,
when the grim darkness appears.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

CNN falls in line

Until very recently there was a long-running saturday afternoon program called The Capital Gang. I used to occasionally watch this predictable waste of time but now, thank goodness, I won't ever have to see it again. It was like an earlier version of crossfire where the two Republicans would inevitably take that side, the two Liberals would take the other side, and an rather unpredictable Margaret Carlson would say something-or-other. At least now we will no longer have to suffer Robert Novak, an obvious Republican operative, or Kate O'Beirne, the most mindless voice of Republican schlock ever.

This program has been replaced by something called "On the Story" and features some big name CNN reporters such as Amanpour and others. On today's version of this new program they discussed the London bombings and spent a very long time discussing how exciting it was leading up to Bush's nomination of John Roberts. They were especially impressed with how the White House managed to keep the "secret" right up until the last minute. It obviously could not have been a big secret to everyone as the very next day appeared a slick commericial touting Roberts (I assume they do not usually produce slick commercials overnight). In any case, this long discussion of how reporters work and how right up until the last minute their "sources" just didn't know who it would be, and so on, managed to co-opt much of the time. They discussed some other topic that was so newsworthy I can't even remember it.

The one thing of significance about this farce was that they did not discuss the question of Rove, treason, and the obvious conspiracy to lead us into a totally unnecessary "war." The name Rove did appear once but in the context of suggesting that it was somehow diverting attention from the real story - the nomination of Roberts. I guess CNN just doesn't think treason and lying to Congress and the American people is important enough to warrant a story. So...Bush's strategy of moving up his appointment of Roberts by a week to distract from the Rove problem certainly resonated with CNN. The only real difference between CNN and Fox is that CNN is usually somewhat more subtle in their support for this criminal administration. I wonder what Ted Turner thinks about all this.

The British police shot to death a Brazilian national who had nothing whatsoever to do with the bombings. They have as yet given no explanation for this. They did express their regret. No doubt that will make the family very happy.

As I predicted, Roberts is going to be confirmed with no problems. Democrats, just like Republicans, are fawning over this apparently sinless Eagle Scout type (I have no idea if he is actually an Eagle Scout or even a Boy Scout). His wife apparently belongs to some feminist organization that is opposed to abortion even in cases of rape. It is utterly amazing how these people believe they should be able to control other persons' bodies. Anti-abortionists and Missionaries of all kinds have to be the most arrogant creatures ever conceived.

If the DLC speaks, cover your ears and turn away immediately.

I am still waiting for someone to tell me one thing that George W. Bush has ever done that could be described as honorable.

Sleep well, knowing you are in such good hands. Remember, everything is just hunky-dory and going well. CNN also had a "Progress Report" on Iraq. Depends on the meaning of what "is," is, I guess. And don't forget, when it comes to the bottom line, it's all Bill Clinton's fault. Rumsfeld certainly had nothing to do with it. Nor did Bolton, Wolfowitz, Rice, Cheney, or anyone else in the current administration.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Senator Craig, what would it take?

I mentioned before that in a letter from Senator Craig dated June 22, 2005, he refused to believe that Bush lied about going to war. He said he "respectfully disagreed" and that "President Bush made a solid decision based on the evidence that was available, and also on the past actions and noncompliance of the former Iraqi regime." In a more recent letter, July 6th, 2005, he repeats the same tired phrase.

By now it is obvious to the entire world that Bush/Cheney and the neocons lied repeatedly to get us into "war." At least one of the neocons admitted they used the threat of WMD's only because that was the best argument. There are the Downing Street Memos. Craig refers to the first one as the "so-called" Downing street memo. What, pray tell, is so-called about it? There are also books by O'Neil, Clark, Bernstein, and others that indicate clearly what was going on. In short, it is perfectly obvious they lied.

They also lied about Sadam not being in compliance with the UN about the inspections. He was in compliance. Furthermore, they knew perfectly well he did not have WMD's. Powell and others, including the UN inspectors all knew he did not have them. So when Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice/Perle/Wolfowitz, et al claimed they did they were lying. There is nothing that could be more obvious. Yet Craig continues to claim they did not lie. Either Craig is totally uninformed, an idiot, or a liar himself. Take your pick.

And what about the argument from noncompliance? Israel has been in noncompliance since the very beginning of the creation of Israel. Just now, even though the UN has determined the obscene wall they are building is illegal they just arrogantly ignore it. Some say the publicitiy over the Gaza pullout is just a smokescreen so they can illegally annex more Palestinian land. It is probably true. The Israelis have constantly tried to gobble up more Palestinian land and water. So let's not have anymore BS about noncompliance. At least Sadam was in compliance at the time Iraq was attacked. Israel has NEVER been in compliance.

No doubt Craig, simple-minded party hack that he is, probably thinks Karl Rove is innocent, or at least he will toe the party line and parrot the talking points, all of which have been shown to be utterly ridiculous. Like Watergate, Iran-Contra, and other such scandals, the longer they go on the deeper and deeper in they get. Of course Rove is guilty of leaking, an act of treason. But if Rove goes down so will Bush and Cheney and others as well. There obviously was a conspiracy to discredit Wilson. Rove knows too much about it, as well as all of the other scandals, almost certainly including the Gannon/Guckert business. Will the American public accept still another rotten administration attempt at stonewalling and lying? Wait and see.

It is truly frightening to think that the future of American democracy at the moment seems to rest in the hands of one man, Patrick Fitgerald. Pray for his health and safety. Rove/Cheney will certainly do everything in their power to either discredit him or worse.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Charlie the Hook - short story

His real name, we knew, was Charles Wilhelm Chedsey, but all of us in the bar called him Charlie the Hook. He showed up faithfully every afternoon except Sundays; had for as long as any of us could remember. While you couldn't set your watch by him you could be certain that he'd be there between six and seven o'clock. He'd drink scotch and sodas until ten or eleven when he'd switch to wine spritzers to sober up. He'd been doing that for years. You could tell he was drunk when the "hook" came out. Charlie would wrap his huge left arm around the neck of anyone he could catch and they'd be trapped, listening to him carry on about whatever it was he had on his mind at the moment. Most often it had to do with children. Charlie loved children. He'd ask about your children and then he'd drag out the worn pictures he carried of his own two. It came to be a joke in the place, the bartender and the waitresses would warn each other, "Watch out for the hook." They knew enough to avoid him, but even so, once in a while, one of them would forget. Of course Charlie never hurt anyone, he didn't even get fresh with the waitresses, he just wanted to talk. He seemed to genuinely like everybody. Everyone liked Charlie in spite of the hook.
It was a good thing he liked everyone because Charlie was big. He must have been six feet five without his shoes; probably weighed around two fifty. He seemed even bigger because he was so rugged looking. He wasn't really homely, just rough looking with an unruly mop of sandy colored hair, a nose that bent off to one side where he had been stepped on playing football, and ears that stuck out a trifle more than the ordinary. One of them had a little nick out of the edge barely large enough to be noticeable. He had broad shoulders and large arms with enormous hands that dwarfed any ordinary bar glass. Although he dressed expensively he always looked rumpled. But he always looked comfortable, like he belonged there, slouched over the bar, toying with his glass, talking with whomever.
No one was certain what Charlie did for a living. The majority believed he wrote for a long-running but very pedestrian television show. A customer once insisted he was a producer. One of the waitresses swore he was an agent. I think the owner, Antonio, knew what he did but didn't want to spoil the mystery. Whatever he did, he had money, and he was generous with it, buying drinks, tipping, and, although it was not well known, occasionally helping someone out with a much needed loan he didn't always get back. Charlie was a constant. You could depend on him. I don't know why someone didn't just ask him what he did but no one did. In fact, people didn't seem to ask Charlie personal questions of any kind, which was not so odd as it might seem given the way he operated the hook. No one knew where he lived, how old he was, or even which direction he came and went. Of course you could guess he was between forty and fifty, you assumed he was divorced because he spent too much time alone there in the bar, and he must have a car because it was a roadside place you couldn't easily walk to. Everyone just accepted Charlie in the same way they accepted the opening and closing times, the steak and lobster menu, and the giant baked potatoes in foil that came with the place.
Everyone, that is, except Alma. Alma was the oldest waitress in the place and also had worked there the longest. For whatever reason Alma didn't like Charlie. He was aware of it and she was the only one who had never experienced the hook. Alma's basic position on Charlie was that he was a drunk. She was right, of course, but as it didn't seem to interfere with his making a living or hurt anyone else, I guess most of us didn't think of it that way. She also thought there must be something else wrong with him.
"Why else," she argued, "does he spend all his free time in bars? That's just not normal. There must be something bothering him, some kind of trouble, something on his conscience maybe."
People agreed she might have a point but as Charlie was so seemingly well adjusted and friendly they soon forgot about it.
"Why doesn't he have any friends?" Alma demanded to know. "What kind of person has to come to a bar every night to find someone to talk with? There's something really funny about him."
Alma's suspicions might have been taken more seriously if Alma herself had been more popular. She certainly didn't go out of her way to get along. We all thought she'd been there too long. Antonio, we knew, thought she was too old for the job but, knowing she had two children in school, had not been able to bring himself to let her go. She did look out of place among the other waitresses, all twenty years her junior, with her peroxided hair in an unfashionable bouffant and her eyebrows plucked and repainted in a most unlikely place. The contrast wasn't helped by the skimpy costumes the waitresses wore which made Alma look rather like grandma trying to pass for Little Red Riding Hood. She still had a passable figure but the cellulose arms and legs betrayed her even in the darkness of the roadhouse. When Charlie politely inquired about her children, which he sometimes did, she was barely civil. We agreed she must be taking out on Charlie the animosity she felt toward the husband who had abandoned her. She didn't seem to have any more friends than Charlie.
Antonio's wasn't what you'd think of as a neighborhood bar; it stood isolated on a major highway midway between two large suburbs. Nonetheless it had a regular bar clientele which was quite distinct from the transient restaurant trade. Charlie was only one of many customers who came regularly to drink and talk in the dim atmosphere of the original but no longer appropriate Mexican decor. I guess what set the place apart from other bars for the regulars, in addition to the oversized comfort of the place, was Antonio. You could find him there with the same people virtually any afternoon. The place operated as a message center where some of them received mail and telephone calls, several kept running tabs they paid faithfully but irregularly, Antonio cashed their checks, and it was not uncommon for him to screen their calls and even provide an occasional alibi provided, of course, it was for purely domestic reasons. For many of them, like Charlie, it was very nearly a second home.
Although Charlie was considered a member of this quasi-group we all knew far less about him than he did about us. When he got you with the hook you rarely escaped before Charlie knew who you were, your marital status, how many children and how old, what you did for a living, and all the other mundane details that help to locate individuals in the social scheme of things but don't actually let you get to know them. He kept you so busy answering questions you didn't have much chance to learn about him. If you did ask him a direct question about himself he cleverly managed to obfuscate and was quickly back on the offensive. He obviously preferred it that way; it wasn't until he disappeared from our little society that we understood why.
The patrons of Antonio's bar came in time to know each other by their first names. They shared drinks and conversation, discussed sporting events and movies, and even politics in season, but they never became emotionally involved. Oh, they'd chip in if someone had a run of bad luck, and they'd express their regrets when someone had an illness or a death they heard about, they'd even listen sympathetically when someone blew up about his wife or their boss, but that was it. The most upset I ever saw them was over Charlie.
It all started one afternoon with the dog. Antonio had this miniature dachshund he took everywhere. It was a nice little dog, quiet and well behaved, and it almost never barked or made any noise. But one day when Charlie arrived something was troubling him. He nervously played with his change and looked around like he might jump up and leave at any moment. He was more rumpled than usual, even a little bit dirty, but it was when he made no attempt at conversation that we knew he was seriously upset. We just left him alone. When Charlie bent down to pet the dog, which ordinarily responded to him enthusiastically, it cringed and began to whine in a most abject manner, then retreated to a corner where it sat, continuing to whine. The dachshund made an awful sound, the pitiful kind of whine you might expect if it had been run over by a car or beaten. But it hadn't. The dog had been perfectly fine before Charlie arrived. It wasn't long before everyone in the place was disturbed. Most everyone tried to pet the poor creature or play with it but it stopped only as long as you were paying direct attention to it. As soon as you stopped the dog started staring at Charlie and whining again. Even Antonio had no luck trying to get it to stop. Of course everyone began looking at Charlie. You couldn't help it with the sad eyed little dog fixated on him with its incessant whining. Charlie pretended to ignore it but after a while it became impossible. Everyone's attention was centered on the dog and Charlie. Conversation came to a standstill, the silence punctuated only by the whining and Charlie fiddling with his change.
Alma had witnessed the entire scene. It was she who, with a disgusted look at Charlie, finally interrupted the hypnotic scene. She picked up the dog, carried it into the kitchen and demanded the cook give him a bone. In a short time conversation resumed but as it did so, Charlie left abruptly saying goodbye to no one.
"I wonder what's with him?" Alma said.
Antonio simply shrugged his shoulders.
"There's something really creepy about that guy," she went on. "I've always thought so. I wouldn't trust him with my garbage."
Naturally we all wondered what was wrong with Charlie. And we certainly remarked upon the strange behavior of the dog. But people have bad days and dogs are peculiar creatures so after a short time we all forgot about it in the pursuit of our own, to us, more pressing issues.
We all noticed when Charlie didn't show up the next afternoon. It was the first time he had missed in as long as any of us, including Antonio and Alma, could remember. But we still didn't think too much about it until he missed again the following day.
"What do you suppose happened to him?" Alma asked. "I bet he's in some kind of trouble."
It's funny how people can so irrationally have it in for someone. We all knew Alma didn't like Charlie. We also knew she had no reason whatsoever, at least no reason that had anything to do with Charlie. He'd always been decent to her, to everyone.
"I always knew there was something fishy about him,' she remarked to anyone who would listen. "Now I know it."
She didn't know any more about it than the rest of us -- until the next day when we all found out. As we arrived on our idiosyncratic schedules we were greeted by the news clipping Antonio had scotch-taped to a wooden pillar just inside the door:
"Los Angeles. Charles W. Chedsey has been arrested on charges of child molestation. A police spokesman said he had been positively identified by two boys he is reported to have picked up outside a private school near Chatsworth. It is also reported that Mr. Chedsey had a long history of child offenses and has twice served jail terms. He is said to have been under psychiatric care until recently."
Needless to say this created a sensation in Antonio's bar. Everyone had shown Charlie pictures of their children, told him where they had attended school, as well as where they lived. It was the topic of conversation for several days. People began to remember how Charlie had acted strangely, how they thought it odd at the time, how there was something weird about the way he never talked about himself, how bizarre his drinking was, and how he always tried to be friends with everyone.
"There's something funny about a man who wants to be friends with everyone," Alma declared, just before Antonio let her go.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

How dumb are we?

Mark Shields today, in an article featured on Buzzflash, poses the question, "How Dumb do They Think We Are." He is referring to the absolutely ridiculous arguments that have to do with Karl Rove's attempts to dissociate himself from the leaks he gave to reporters about Valerie Plame. You have to admit, they are pretty far-fetched claims.

But in answer to Shield's question: "they" think that "we" are pretty damn dumb. They are the Republican party, especially the neocons in power, and we are the American public. But why would they not think we are dumb? First of all, 50% or more of Americans don't even bother to vote. Probably 25% have no idea whatsoever of what the issues are but vote anyway (like my mother-in-law, "We have always voted Republican so I'm going to vote Republican"). The other 25% (this may be generous) think they know what they are doing. However, this did not keep them from allowing Republicans to blatantly steal two elections, to lie about virtually everything for the past four and half years, including the reasons for starting a totally illegal and unconscionable "war" against a sovereign country that was not threat to us. Now they are lying just as blatantly about Karl Rove's leaking of classified information. All they ever do is lie. I seriously doubt they have ever told the truth about anything. In fact, their lying is so blatant, so predictable, so frequent, that I believe people have lost their capacity to tell lies from the truth anymore. They don't just THINK we are stupid, they KNOW we are stupid. We prove it to them every day.

I could be wrong (I often am) but I believe if Fitzgerald's investigation runs its course it is going to lead directly to our Vice-President, Dick the Slimy. Nothing happens in this administration that he doesn't know about. Bush is too simple-minded to have come up with a plan to smear Wilson on his own (but he probably giggled and thought it was a really clever idea, just as he thought fixing the voting machines was a clever idea). Don't forget that at one point before the last election Bush proclaimed with genuine authority, "I'm not going to lose." He obviously knew the fix was in.

I don't believe Rove and Libby are going to get off free this time. I think Fitzgerald already has enough to convict them of something even if only lying. But he is obviously after bigger game. That is why he has Miller in jail and now threatening her with criminal prosecution if she doesn't come clean. And he has the approval of other judges who have reviewed his request and think it is reasonable. This can only be because the threat to national security is so serious as to override reporter's protection of their sources. Reporters have no right to protect felons or traitors. Who could be important enough for Miller to protect? Not Rove, he's already fingered. Not Libby, he, too, is already known. So who? Bush himself or Cheney?

Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the Supreme Court nominee. He will pose problems of a different sort. But Rove committed treason. That is not something we should just casually shrug off along with Gannon/Guckert and the other nasty scandals of the Bush/Cheney administration. By the way, whatever happened to Gannon?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A brilliant choice?

As much as I hate to say it, Bush's choice of John Roberts was brilliant. Remember there was some concern that if he picked a pro-corporate person he might risk losing his fundamentalist base and vice-versa. So he managed to find a candidate that was both pro business and anti-abortion. John Roberts, Republican, must have emerged from the womb waving an American flag and vowing to be a Republican forever. A white male, 50 years old, two small children, said to be a brilliant lawyer, congenial, clever, and whatever. And because he has no paper trail to speak of he will be very hard to oppose. NARAL is outraged. The Democrats are not happy (although I will bet you whatever you want they will approve him). Republicans will try to manage the news so that the Rove scandal will take the back burner (if not disappear entirely). They can't be allowed to get away with this. I suggest that one of the ways to make sure this doesn't happen is to question Roberts repeatedly about what he thinks should happen to Rove and Libby.

I can see that from Cheney's point of view Roberts may be an ideal choice (I seriously doubt that Bush had much to do with it). But here, again, the Republicans are trying to get away with something. There was pressure to appoint a woman, and now there will be only one woman out of nine justices (when women, you might recall, make up more than 50% of the population). There was pressure to appoint a Hispanic (as there is no Hispanic on the court even though they now make up a very substantial proportion of the population). Indeed, apart from Clarence Thomas (who never should have been appointed in the first place) there are no minorities represented on the court. So why appoint a 50 year-old white male? Because he represents exactly what they want - an anti-abortion, pro-business candidate who will be difficult to oppose. Brilliant, however disgusting. I'm sure everyone will breath a sigh of relief - because it could have been worse. But could it?

While I cannot be certain I am pretty much convinced that this is by now a fait accompli. I'll bet the Democrats have already agreed to this even though they will probably go through the motions of resisting. Never forget, our current Democrats are in the same boat with Republicans. They only pretend to be an opposition party. The very few Democrats that might honestly be opposed to the current Republican takeover of our country are simply ignored. Rove/Libby should surely be fired. Bush/Cheney should surely be impeached. Good should triumph over evil. Don't hold your breath. This is American 2005. It no longer operates as a functioning democracy. If we continue much longer along the current path it may not function at all. Oh, by the way, send more money to Israel. Their genocidal attack on the Palestinians can always use more money. They probably need to build an even bigger illegal wall.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Bush raises the bar

I trust you all noticed today that Bush slyly raised the bar with respect to punishing anyone in his administration who leaked information. Remember, in the past he and McClellan merely said if anyone was found to have leaked they would be fired, or as Bush put it, "dealt with." As of today, however, Bush said, if anyone committed a crime they would be fired. They obviously think that Rove will not actually be convicted of a crime (as it is virtually impossible to get that kind of conviction in this particular kind of case). It appears that all Republicans support Bush on this. What this means is that even though we know for certain that Rove was involved in outing Plame, and did so to punish her husband, because he may technically escape a criminal conviction this treasonous behavior is believed to be okay by Republicans. In other words, treason is perfectly alright if it helps the Bush/Cheney administration. If this is not the most foul, disgusting, outrageous, unpatriotic, indecent, yes, treasonous behavior you can imagine I don't know what would be. Republicans are fouling their own nest with this and unless Bush declares martial law and establishes himself as dictator they are going to pay big time for this travesty. This is just another example of Republicans depending upon the stupidity or inattention of the American public. Karl Rove? Who's he? And you can bet even bigger bucks that most Americans have no idea who Lewis "Scooter" Libby is.

Who is Lewis Libby? Merely the chief of staff for Dick the Slimy, our President, who pretends to be only the Vice-President. Do you believe that Libby would leak Plame's situation without Cheney knowing about it? I don't. Personally, I believe Cheney is probably behind the whole thing. He and Karl are two of a kind: dishonest, sneaky, cowardly, and with no saving graces whatsoever. The fact that the Republican party tolerates these two and even defends them tells you just how low they have fallen. But because at the moment Republicans control everything we can only hope they will clean their own house, just as they did with the Nixon administration. If they can't bring themselves to come clean and rid themselves of this cancer there is just no telling what the outcome will be.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Republican treason?

It should be perfectly obvious by now that Karl Rove certainly did something he should not have done. Whether he will ever be charged with a criminal offense cannot be known at the moment. But what is known is that he is guilty of being involved in a conspiracy to "out" Valerie Plame and thereby to punish her husband for daring to challenge the White House's war plans. The outing of a CIA operative is an act of treason. Republicans, however, seem to think Rove did nothing wrong, or if he did it was all the fault of those nasty reporters who filled his head with information they should not have had. I find it utterly amazing if not actually unbelievable that Republicans would try to defend Rove's act of treason. Can it truly be the case that Republicans think retaining Rove (and protecting Bush/Cheney and Republican power) is more important that national security? Apparently it is as they go around now spouting their talking points: Karl did nothing wrong, he didn't know her name, it's all Democratic politics, etc., etc. It doesn't appear to me that this defene is going to fly, now that Bush/Cheney have been more and more identified as utterly dishonest and their poll numbers are approaching SOS appeals. Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of war criminals and right-wing whackos.

Want to have some fun? Go to google and type in "Is Karl Rove gay?" Very interesting.

It seems to me Bush cannot possibly keep Karl Rove in an official position. If Rove doesn't resign or get fired what in the world is going to happen? Republicans seem determined to stonewall this and refuse to act until they leave us no choice but to begin an active rebellion. You can already see this in the usually docile White House Press Corps which now seems to have reached the point of such utter frustration they are actually attacking McClellan on a day to day basis. I hope this proves that there is, indeed, a point at which the American people just "won't take any more."

Where has Dick the Slimy been recently? I find it impossible to believe that our de facto president has been "out of the loop" on all this Plame business. But he seem to be remarkably silent on the subject. Does he believe Rove is innocent? Does he believe Rove ought to be fired? Does he believe Rove even did anything wrong? The one thing you can be reasonably certain about is that if Cheney does speak out what he says will be either a lie or just plain wrong, or both.

I fear the fate of American Democracy (if it still exists at all) is now completely in the hands of Patrick Fitzgerald. I hope he will turn out to be as honest and dedicated as he seems to be up until now. I also hope he doesn't fly on small planes or go anywhere without some super bodyguards. The Bush/Cheney administration has made it quite clear they will do anything to hang on to power, anything at all. Sleep tight America, knowing that you are in the good hands of Bush/Cheney and the neocons.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Are we getting "warmer?"

Remember that game you used to play as a child. Someone would hide something and someone else would look for it and you could say, "you're getting warmer," or "you're getting colder?" Doesn't that pretty well describe what is going on now with respect to the Rove scandal. With every denial, every obfuscation, every denial of previous statements, etc., we seem to be getting warmer. There seems to be no doubt that Rove is guilty of something, whether illegal or merely unethical. But his attempts to defend himself are just leading us further and further into a much more complicated criminal conspiracy. How did Rove come by his information so that he could assure Novak that, yes, he knew about that. It is pretty obvious that he did not hear it first from Novak as Novak claims it was given to him, not vis-a-versa. And who is the second "High-level Source" that Novak claims to have spoken with? There are so many questions involved here and they appear to be breeding very fast.

The one most important question in my mind at the moment has to do with Judith Miller. What source is she defending? It is clearly not Rove as he has already been outed. It seem to me most unlikely that she would go to jail to protect McClellan or Ari Fleisher or even some other relatively low-level source. Whoever it is has to be a player of genuine importance. So how about Cheney? He would have known about Plame's position in the CIA. He would have been angry with Wilson. Miller was not just a reporter, she was a player. Could Cheney have leaked Plame's name to Miller? And Miller, in turn, playing her part in the conspiracy, made sure it got to Novak? Remember Fitzgerald wanted her jailed, an unusual demand in such a situation. Other lawyers, judges, or whomever, reviewing the situation agreed that it is of such national importance that she should, indeed, be compelled to testify. She could also be charged with criminal contempt which would keep her in jail for a much longer time. She has to be covering for someone of real importance, not sacrificing herself for some (in this case) very questionable cause. She is not a martyr but, rather, a key figure in some criminal conspiracy that involves someone very high up and very powerful. Don't forget that she played a key role in leading us into this obscene war because of her connection with Chalabi. And who were Chalabi's backers in the administration? Why, Dick the Slimy and the rest of the neocons. Imagine.

Whatever the outcome of this mess it is clear that Rove did wrong. But he is still just one player in a criminal conspiracy of monumental significance. If Bush doesn't fire him watch out. They are not going to be able to just stonewall this one into oblivion like they have all the other scandals. Hope for the best.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Pro-war democrats

On Democracy Now today Norman Solomon observed that there is not one single Senator who will come out against the war in Iraq. And as Dean is now on record of saying we have to stay the course one can only conclude that the Democratic Party is pro-war. How terifying is this? Plenty! This only confirms what I have been saying all along, Democrats and Republicans are in this together. They all draw their largesse from the same gigantic corporations that now effectively control not only the U.S. government but, in fact, the world. Or they are very near to doing that. At this point it is very hard to see what might be done about it.

For example, there is no doubt whatsoever that Bush should be impeached for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is a war criminal. But as the House is under Republican control that is not going to happen. Furthermore, even if it did, Cheney would become President, a fate too awful to even contemplate. If both Bush and Cheney could be impeached Hastert would become President. But as Hastert is nothing but an errand boy for DeLay that would be an even worse disaster. Republicans control everything except the Supreme Court and they are on the way to controlling that as well (they almost control it anyway even without the next appointment). In order for Bush to get the pressure off Rove by nominating someone for the court he would have to nominate someone like Jack the Ripper (don't bet he won't).

Democrats are basically powerless. They don't control any committees, they can't supoena anyone, they can't even get a decent room for a hearing. What do they do about this - they join the Republicans in their obscene warmongering and disastrous tax cuts, ignore health care and the environment, and do not even attempt to distance themselves from Republicans. Hilary Clinton, for example, votes 33% of the time with Republicans. She is also, I believe, on the Board of Directors of Wal Mart. Aside from Ted Kennedy and one or two other Democrats the rest of the Democrats are about the same. In other words, don't expect anything much from Democrats. They have a chance now to do something, what with the outrageous behavior of Karl Rove and others, but don't depend on it. Look what they have completely failed to do with the Gannon/Guckert scandal.

I will personally not support any Democrat for President unless they are anti-war and unless they are willing to curb Israel (the root cause of most of the trouble in the Middle East). And they will have to swear to remove American troops from Iraq and stop building permanent bases there (it is perfectly obvious that Bush/Cheney and their ilk have absolutely no intention of ever giving up Iraq, at least not until they are assured of a puppet government that will do their bidding, and even then they will have to maintain at least some American forces).

Someone observed today that we are in big trouble. That is putting it mildly. If Rove, Novak, probably Miller, and others get away with treason the jig is up, so to speak. It is already obvious that Republicans believe the U.S. economy is more important than the planet itself, and that the Republican party and power are more important than treason against the United States.

In ordinary circumstances I would say Bush has no chance of surviving the Rove scandal. But these are hardly ordinary circumstances. Indeed, we find outselves in a totally unprecedented situation. I don't know what the solution might be but I can tell you what it certainly is not - NO MORE REPUBLICAN-LITE! Get rid of the DLC and insist that the DNC get real.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

School plays - essay

As neither President Bush nor Scott McClellan can comment on the Rove scandal "until the investigation in complete" (even though we all know already that he is guilty as hell), and as I am a good loyal American who follows our President in awe of his keen intellect and mastery of the language, I have decided to forego any further comment "until the investigation is complete" (which I assume will occur sometime in the year 2050, if ever). So let us for the moment turn our attention to more serious matters.

I wish to discuss a ubiquitous, indeed, probably universal childhood experience – the school play – a minor form of child abuse that has received far too little attention up to now. I suspect that virtually all people, when they were helpless, gullible little children, were asked, tricked, cajoled, bribed, bullied, or otherwise forced into participating in some kind of class or school play. I suggest that while parents, particularly mothers, think these childhood attempts at thespianism are “cute,” (no one could seriously consider them educational) the participants themselves are most often embarrassed, mortified, humiliated, terror-stricken and traumatized. It is not far-fetched to believe that in some cases they may be damaged for life. The fact that I can still remember my own experiences in this enterprise after SEVENTY YEARS testifies to the lingering effects. Oh, I know there may be an occasional child (most probably a girl who has been brainwashed by her mother) who actually enjoys these events and the spotlight, but I am pretty certain these children are rare and unusual. I speak from experience.
I don’t wish to boast, but I am not without this type of theatrical experience myself. I was introduced to thespianism (kicking and screaming) at an early age. In the first grade, for example, I played the part of a court announcer. I was dressed in a rather feminine costume with lace cuffs and baggy trousers (I suspect they may have been a cast-off pair of some dowager’s bloomers). My role, which I had been assured was an important one, was to come onstage at the very beginning and announce the queen. I was to sound a loud clear clarion call and then recite my one and only line. Unhappily it was a toy bugle, and unpredictable, so as might have been expected, it did not work the first time, although I grew quite red in the face with repeated attempts to make it perform. Undaunted, I returned to the wings to make the entrance once again. The second time did not go much better. I walked out, timidly, knees shaking, hands trembling, and idiotic expression of sheer terror on my face and again, the recalcitrant instrument refused to sound a loud clear clarion call. But by this time I had had quite enough, so rather than make the entrance once again, I simply uttered my line with all the forcefulness a shy, confused, frightened, nervous resentful six-year-old could muster. I announced in my loud but squeaky and trembling voice, “Her Queen, the majesty.” Needless to say this brought down the house and my future career was beginning to take shape. My parents, bursting with pride, had to be pried out from under their folding chairs. This did not, however, prevent my mother from selling me down the river again the following year.
In this second production, no doubt believing they could outwit me, they gave me no speaking lines at all. Instead I was made up as a character in a famous painting. I have successfully repressed what painting it was but I think it was a Rembrandt. I had on some kind of medieval lace collar over a blue blouse of some kind (to add insult to injury it was a girl’s blouse!). I was made to pose, straddling a chair, behind a large picure frame, and instructed not to laugh or smile (who could laugh or smile at such a moment?). As I was totally embarrassed and blushing heavily I’m sure I must have looked rather like a ripe tomato wrapped in satin and lace. While I was unwillingly and uncomfortably posing in this absurd manner a little girl named Sarah Jean (whom I detested as my worst enemy in the whole world) with bangs, freckles and long sagging white stockings, screeched a violin solo in my ear. I have never forgotten it. To this day the sounds of “Just a Song at Twilight” sends me into convulsions resembling an epileptic fit. Although I had no lines I managed by clever pantomime and my naturally comic face, to upstage her quite effectively. Again, I was the hit of the evening.
Then, in the third grade, I played “Man With a Hoe” so forcefully and with such realism that my father was subsequently obliged to repair the hardwood floor in the schoolroom, to say nothing of the teacher’s shoes. This effectively ended my career as an actor. When fourth grade came around I stubbornly, adamantly, belligerently, uncompromisingly refused to cooperate. No amount of pleading, begging, bullying or trickery worked. My mother was forced to capitulate. To admit defeat. I was ecstatic. My father was relieved although he could not say so.
I confess that even now, much more than half a century later, the thought of being in a play or going on stage threatens to bring on a nervous breakdown. I still have recurrent dreams in which I am being forced to perform in a play. I wake up in a cold sweat. I suggest that the one way to end this abominable school custom quickly would be to insist that only volunteers could participate. While you might conceivably succeed in having a school play once in a while, the odds would be somewhere in the vicinity of a million to one. Hundreds, thousands, probably even millions of children would be saved each year from the threat of this unwelcome and unnecessary parent/teacher conspiracy. They could lead happy, carefree lives, as children should, free of the worry and embarrassment that accompanies these tyrannical and traumatic events. So how about it? No more cries of “aren’t they cute,” no more frilly home-made costumes, paper wings and halos, papier-mache, cardboard castles, wooden swords and forgotten lines. Let the curtain go down!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Republican meltdown?

Blair said yesterday there was no relation between Iraq and the London bombings. If he actually believes that, which I seriously doubt, he is more divorced from reality than Bush (if that is even possible).

Bush's nickname for Rove is apparently "turd blossom." Isn't that cute? Perhaps not as cute as "Pootie-poot."

It seems to be commonly believed that the Democratic party is seriously disorganized, without a clear vision, powerless, confused, as well as divided. I believe that is probably true. It would help if the DLC would give up pretending they are Democrats and just formally join the Republicans. The DNC might then be able to pull itself together and possibly come up with something useful (other than just blindly supporting Israel and the occupation of Iraq).

However demoralized the Democrats may be it seem to me the Republicans have a much greater problem. They are confronted with a situation that is far worse than anything Democrats have to worry about. That is, they can either continue to support Bush/Cheney and the neocons, which will clearly destroy their party for years to come, as Fascism is the only logical outcome of this kind of support and must inevitably fail, or they can cleanse themselves of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Perle/Wolfowitz/Rice/neocon delusions of empire and try to re-establish themselves as a credible and worthy party. Neither outcome is desirable from the point of view of the Republican party but they have brought it on themselves. If Republicans believe, as Bush/Cheney seem to believe, that the U.S. economy is more important than the planet itself, if they continue to deny global warming, block stem cell research, pump money into fundamentalist churches, try to do away with legal abortion, and even the morning after pill, keep insisting on tax breaks for the obscenely wealthy, ignore health care, etc., they are doomed to oblivion. If they give up on these absolutely wrong-headed issues they will lose the support of much of their base and thereby lose the power they now have (and it will probably be a very long time before they can make amends for the terrible destruction they have wrought both at home and around the world).

The only way they will be able to stay in power now is by fixing the coming elections as they have fixed the last two. But that involves nothing less than more Fascist tactics that will eventually bring them down (it may take a while but it is inevitable). Bush/Cheney and their ilk are international war criminals. The whole world knows it. The U.S. will have no credibility in world affairs unless they are held accountable for their intolerable behavior. And even if they are, it will still be a very long time before the U.S. will recover from what they have done. If there are any honest, honorable Republicans (which I have to doubt) they will do something about this cancer in their party they have neglected too long. If they refuse to act it will surely destroy them.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Things are heating up

I'm sure you are all aware that the news today was primarily concerned with the Karl Rove story. When a story like this reaches CNN's Lou Dobbs it has probably gone too far to just be stonewalled, even though that is the obvious strategy the Republicans are attempting. The White House, and especially McClellan are under siege. Even the usually docile Press Corps began asking difficult questions. McClellan simply refused to answer any of them, giving the same stock phrase, "it's an ongoing criminal investigation," etc. Apparently today, when asked if Bush still had confidence in Rove, McClellan said yes. If that is so things are going to get even more interesting. How can Bush possibly avoid firing Rove or at least insisting that he resign? With all he pressure on the White House at the moment I cannot see how he can possibly get away with just ignoring the situation.

Just where does Dick the Slimy stand on all this? He has been remarkably absent from any of the discussion. Perhaps he can't find his way out from under his latest rock, perhaps he knows when it is better to hold your tongue (this would seem unlikely given his record of speaking and being wrong about just about everything). Given that Rove apparently had information he had no business having it is fair to ask where he came by it. Does the name Cheney ring any bells? Obviously this is a complicated situation and we are far from having all the answers. But it does look more and more like a conspiracy on the part of several members of the administration to discredit Wilson. It also seems to involve Miller and Novak although they are not actually part of the administration (but both seem to be Republican operatives of some sort).

Who knows what will ultimately come of all this. In the meanwhile I still want to know about Gannon/Guckert and who was his "mentor" in the White House. I guess I just have prurient interests. A known male homosexual prostitute wandering the halls of the White House? What the hell was he doing there, soliciting? Come on, give us a break. If this had happened during the Clinton administration we would still be hearing about it 24/7. So who is covering it up. Obviously someone with a lot of power, probably much more power than McClellan. No reporter seems willing to touch it. Why?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Senator Craig - unbelievable

I received a letter today from Senator Larry E. Craig's office. It appears to have been signed "Larry" by some kind of machine. In any case I found his statements absolutely incredible. He begins by saying, "Many have claimed that President Bush lied to the American people regarding the war in Iraq; I respectfully disagree. The President made a solid decision based on the intelligence that was available"...and blah, blah, blah.

This leads me to believe that (1) Senator Craig inhabits some solar system so far away from ours that he simply doesn't know what goes on here, or (2) he is so uninformed, misinformed, and/or imbecilic that he actually believes this, or (3) he knows perfectly well that Bush lied but, being a good and loyal Republican he is willing to aid and abet war crimes to serve party purposes (like clinging to power) no matter what.

He then goes on: "I stand firmly behind the President's decision to remove Sadam Hussein from power. Although we have not yet discovered weapons of mass destruction, I have no doubt that Saddam had chemical and biological weapons and was aggressively pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Iraq is a large country"...and blah, blah, blah.

Can you believe this? Craig still believes that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction even though it has been proven conclusively that he did not. The search for such weapons has been formally discontinued. They have admitted he did not have them. What in the world more does Craig need?

The entire world knows that Bush lied. There is now even physical evidence that he lied. How on earth can a presumably serious U.S. Senator claim that Bush did not lie, that he did have weapons that we all know he didn't have? Party loyalty is one thing, but absolute idiocy is another. There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that if George Bush was caught having sex on the White House steps with a goat, Craig and Crapo would defend him somehow. These two Senators from Idaho are hopeless. We would be better off with a pair of robots. This letter from Craig is so outrageously stupid and wrong-headed, so incredibly ignorant, so far from any semblance of truth that he ought to be impeached, just as Bush/Cheney should be impeached (and tried for war crimes as well).

As far as I know I have never agreed with Senator Craig on anything. But until now it never occurred to me that he might just be an absolute imbecile.

Now the Republicans are going to tell us that because Karl Rove said "Wilson's wife" instead of Valerie Plame he is not guilty of outing her. And Scott McClellan is going to stonewall until the end of time, hoping as always that the American public has such a short attention span this will just disappear along with all of their other scandals. We should all do everything in our power to make sure this doesn't happen. Furthermore, they are hoping that the question of how Karl Rove came to know this will be forgotten. Rove was a purely political appointment, not a government official, not somehow priviledged to know about such things. So how did he know? Who told him? Why? There is far more to this than meets the eye.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


You must have all at some point been involved in a situtation where words simply fail to have any further use. No matter what you say you cannot get any satisfaction at all. This is something like the frustration-aggression hypothesis. If you become frustrated enough you tend to turn to aggression. I think a large portion of the American electorate may be reaching that point.

It has now been pointed out over and over again that the Bush/Cheney administration lied repeatedly to start an illegal, unconstitutional, immoral and unnecessary "war" against a basically helpless country that was not threat to the U.S. But nothing happens. Bush goes around the world acting what he seems to believe is presidential, mouthing the same utter nonsense over and over again, and no one seems to even question it, at least not to his face.

It is almost certainly the case that Karl Rove "outed" Valerie Plame. If not Rove then certainly someone in the White House. Bush said that if anyone in his administration leaked they would certainly be "taken care of." But of course Bush has done nothing whatsoever along these lines.

A known male homosexual prostitute with no Press credentials or experience was repeatedly given Press passes and lobbed soft questions whenever the need arose. Not only that, he was given passes over thirty times to the White House when there were no Press Conferences. So who arranged this? What was he doing there? Who was he with? What was the purpose of his visits? Why was this allowed to happen? This subject has simply disappeared, apparently completely. It seems that no one even asks about it any more.

This is the kind of thing that happens over and over with this administration. They just simply ignore their scandals knowing that the attention span of the American public is very short indeed. They tell one outrageous lie after another - so many lies that no one even expects the truth anymore. And nothing happens. Nothing.

Then there is the DeLay thing. And the Bolton thing. And now there will be the Supreme Court thing. Overriding all else but apparently a taboo subject is the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians. Nothing happens even though the Israelis have defied the U.N. from the very beginning and continue to so so today. They also defy the Bush administration with no fear whatsoever. It is just ignored except for a few meaningless words about it now and then.

Bush is quick to comment on the barbarity of others, totally ignoring his own unbelievable savagery vis-a-vis Iraq and Afghanistan. What he says of others is precisely what can be said about his own behavior. Nothing happens. He takes great pride in his criminal acts. Nothing happens. Cheney says things totally divorced from reality. Nothing happens. Rumsfeld has been a total disaster as Secretary of Defense and should have been fired or resigned long ago. Nothing happens. Bremer was a total failure in Iraq. Something happened there. He was rewarded, along with Tenent and others who all screwed up monumentally. Nothing happens about any of this either.

If this is not frustrating it is not clear to me what would be. How much longer will people put up with this? Is there nothing that can be done to put a stop to this absolutely outrageous behavior on the part of Republicans? Have they actually succeeded in establishing their one party fascist state? Are there no honorable Americans left?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Evolution and Intelligent Design

I think I may have figured this out - at last. It is basically very simple. What could be more intelligently designed than evolution? This is a natural process that occurs over time and systematically eliminates those creatures and species that don't have what it takes to make it in the rough and tumble of everyday life. What a brilliant creation! Only a super-intelligent, concerned, dedicated, and thoughtful Supernatural Being could have come up with this idea. It works perfectly, and has for millions of years, just as planned. I suspect that most human beings understand this, however subconciously or unconsciously. That is why everyone in one way or another has faith in some kind of supernatural being or beings. How else could all this have come about? It makes perfect sense. There is this mysterious process by which creatures continue to live and multiply over time, a process that is not within the bounds of human control, that brings about changes over time, no matter how slight, and continues endlessly. It links us to our ancestors and/or other supernaturals in ways we do not completely understand but becomes very real to each of us. Whoever he/she/it is that came up with this absolutely marvelous process of intelligent (I use intelligent here in its broadest sense) selection certainly should be in line for a Nobel, Pulitzer, or other prize. Personally I am jealous with envy.

Yes, I know, there is a problem with Bible believers. Obviously this intelligently designed process could not have occurred in a mere 4004 years, and probably no one ever got swallowed by a whale or hijacked onto an ark, or parted the Red Sea, or performed other strange miracles. Surely we know by now that the age of the earth is unbelievably old by human standards, that dinosaurs actually existed, that we are linked biologically to other species, that there were pre-human ancestors, that White Male Europeans are not truly the absolutely highest form of creation, and so on. So why do some few people cling to the Bible as the absolute truth? Obviously evolution, which takes time, has not completely caught up with them yet. Being completely out of touch with reality is not very useful if the goal is survival. They will surely go the way of the dinosaurs or the Dodo birds as they pretty much have except in the U.S. which is still a very young nation, comparatively speaking. You notice that Europe doesn't have this problem of nonsensical fundamentalism (and can't understand why we still do). Some American Indians understood this perplexing problem very well. That is why they prayed simply to the Great Mystery. That is what we desperately need at the moment, prayers to the Great Mystery. Never mind "put one hand on the radio and one hand on the afflicted part," or "Drop Kick me Jaysus Through the Goal Posts of Life," or "I don't care if it rains or freezes I'll be safe with my plastic Jesus." Why do I even bother with all this utter nonsense? As George Bush Senior's pal, Bill Clinton, would put it, "because I can." Be of good cheer.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Packaging - essay

It was some years ago now, when I had just returned from a very remote part of the world where some would say, "they were still living in the stone age," that I first became aware of "packaging." I recall entering a supermarket to buy some cheese, a luxury I had gone without for a long time. I did not realize what I had until I arrived home and began to unpack my somewhat modest purchases, including the cheese. I found to my amazement that each individual slice of cheese was wrapped in its own carefully sealed (and difficult to open) cellophane wrapper! The individually wrapped slices were carefully packed together inside a larger cellophane wrapper which was, in turn, encased in a box. The box was in a small brown paper bag that was inside a larger brown bag. In other words there were were FIVE different wrappers for each small piece of (not very good) cheese. It was, for me at the time, quite surprising. An eye-opener, you might say.
Having had my attention drawn to this strange and totally unnecessary, even ostentatious phenomenon, I began to pay more attention to packaging. What I learned was terrifying! It would appear there is an international packaging conspiracy dedicated to not only packaging the smallest most insignificant items in as many layers as possible, but also to making it as difficult as possible to unpackage them. Everything nowadays, at least everything in what we like to think of as 'civilized" countries, comes in its own little package - tiny packages of salt or pepper, sugar, both cubed and otherwise, even things like mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup (ugh!). Tiny containers of cream or the equivalent "non-dairy product." Small and large packages of screws, nails, nuts and bolts, even items like padlocks, screwdrivers, and pliers come in their own plastic, sealed and difficult to open vacuum packed containers. Vacuum packed! Why on earth do pliers and screwdrivers need to be vacuum packed? Bologna and salami, maybe. But those come vacuum packed, like everything else, in such a way that after you open them you have to create some new container because of course you can't put anything back in the one you just opened. True, they try to make packages of meats that can be re-closed, but how well does that work? Ridiculous? You bet. Furthermore, it would be interesting to know how many people are injured every year just trying to open their purchases. I bet there are very many but of course the packaging industry lobby would never let you know of such a statistic.
What is equally or more frustrating are so-called "child-proof" containers now so popular with the drug industry. Child-proof indeed! Adult-proof is more like it! I wonder if anyone ever actually tested any of these devices on children? I doubt it. The designers probably designed what THEY thought would be child-proof. Children seem to open the damn things with no trouble whatsoever. I find that I can only open them with great effort. Usually I have to ask my wife to do it. No, she's not childlike, if that's what you’re thinking. She's just more patient (and perhaps more competent) than I.
I am convinced now on the basis of my many years of experience with this phenomenon that the packaging industry has contests to see who can make the most difficult to open packages, who can use the greatest amount of the most exotic material for the most insignificant items, who can invent the most totally irrelevant and useless packages, and so forth. They have also now invented plastic wrap that is virtually impenetrable. Not only that, they are not satisfied to leave perfectly adequate, even superior forms of packaging alone. They are trying, for example (horror of horrors!) to get people to drink wine out of cardboard and plastic containers. The first aluminum beer can might have been a warning of things to come! Who knows how this obsession with packaging has already affected the foods we eat? Who knows what the future will bring? We should stop it now before it gets further out of hand. Square eggs are surely on the horizon. Think how much easier they could be packed. Never mind the poor chickens. Never mind that the eggs will probably taste like some new type of foil. Foil! That reminds me. Did you ever try to unwrap one of those little pie-shaped pieces of assorted cheeses that come eight to a box? Now even going to the grocery store requires a monumental decision – paper or plastic? Thus you must choose between destroying the forests or polluting the landfills. Life is just not simple like it used to be. Where I was living, if you wanted a package you just made it yourself out of a bit of grass, a piece of bamboo, or a few banana or other leaves. Then you just left it to decompose and add to the soil. Oh, happy days!