Thursday, October 28, 2004

110. Back to Basics!

As I went out walking in Derry City (click on photo) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

108. "New Yorker" Endorses Kerry

This Presidential campaign has been as ugly and as bitter as any in American memory. The ugliness has flowed mostly in one direction, reaching its apotheosis in the effort, undertaken by a supposedly independent group financed by friends of the incumbent, to portray the challenger—who in his mid-twenties was an exemplary combatant in both the Vietnam War and the movement to end that war—as a coward and a traitor. The bitterness has been felt mostly by the challenger’s adherents; yet there has been more than enough to go around. This is one campaign in which no one thinks of having the band strike up “Happy Days Are Here Again.”

The heightened emotions of the race that (with any luck) will end on November 2, 2004, are rooted in the events of three previous Tuesdays. On Tuesday, November 7, 2000, more than a hundred and five million Americans went to the polls and, by a small but indisputable plurality, voted to make Al Gore President of the United States. Because of the way the votes were distributed, however, the outcome in the electoral college turned on the outcome in Florida. In that state, George W. Bush held a lead of some five hundred votes, one one-thousandth of Gore’s national margin; irregularities, and there were many, all had the effect of taking votes away from Gore; and the state’s electoral machinery was in the hands of Bush’s brother, who was the governor, and one of Bush’s state campaign co-chairs, who was the Florida secretary of state.

Bush sued to stop any recounting of the votes, and, on Tuesday, December 12th, the United States Supreme Court gave him what he wanted. Bush v. Gore was so shoddily reasoned and transparently partisan that the five justices who endorsed the decision declined to put their names on it, while the four dissenters did not bother to conceal their disgust. There are rules for settling electoral disputes of this kind, in federal and state law and in the Constitution itself. By ignoring them—by cutting off the process and installing Bush by fiat—the Court made a mockery not only of popular democracy but also of constitutional republicanism.

A result so inimical to both majority rule and individual civic equality was bound to inflict damage on the fabric of comity. But the damage would have been far less severe if the new President had made some effort to take account of the special circumstances of his election—in the composition of his Cabinet, in the way that he pursued his policy goals, perhaps even in the goals themselves. He made no such effort. According to Bob Woodward in “Plan of Attack,” Vice-President Dick Cheney put it this way: “From the very day we walked in the building, a notion of sort of a restrained presidency because it was such a close election, that lasted maybe thirty seconds. It was not contemplated for any length of time. We had an agenda, we ran on that agenda, we won the election—full speed ahead.”

The new President’s main order of business was to push through Congress a program of tax reductions overwhelmingly skewed to favor the very rich. The policies he pursued through executive action, such as weakening environmental protection and cutting off funds for international family-planning efforts, were mostly unpopular outside what became known (in English, not Arabic) as “the base,” which is to say the conservative movement and, especially, its evangelical component. The President’s enthusiastic embrace of that movement was such that, four months into the Administration, the defection of a moderate senator from Vermont, Jim Jeffords, cost his party control of the Senate. And, four months after that, the President’s political fortunes appeared to be coasting into a gentle but inexorable decline. Then came the blackest Tuesday of all.

September 11, 2001, brought with it one positive gift: a surge of solidarity, global and national—solidarity with and solidarity within the United States. This extraordinary outpouring provided Bush with a second opportunity to create something like a government of national unity. Again, he brushed the opportunity aside, choosing to use the political capital handed to him by Osama bin Laden to push through more elements of his unmandated domestic program. A year after 9/11, in the midterm elections, he increased his majority in the House and recaptured control of the Senate by portraying selected Democrats as friends of terrorism. Is it any wonder that the anger felt by many Democrats is even greater than can be explained by the profound differences in outlook between the two candidates and their parties?

The Bush Administration has had success in carrying out its policies and implementing its intentions, aided by majorities—political and, apparently, ideological—in both Houses of Congress. Substantively, however, its record has been one of failure, arrogance, and—strikingly for a team that prided itself on crisp professionalism—incompetence.

Read More

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

107. West Texas Wahabbism


Cultural savants have been vague in ascribing a starting point to the Post-Modern Age. Some date the end of industrial modes of thinking and the dawn of television-saturated consciousness with the publication of Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media in 1964; others place the epiphany earlier or later in the twentieth century. Four decades after McLuhan's book, Chuck Spinney, Pentagon reformer and author of Defense Facts of Life, was evidently so disgusted with the infantile spectacle of Post-Modernism that he began sarcastically referring to the contemporary Zeitgeist as the Post-Information Age. Yet even that formulation has been left in the dust by events: the medicine show that is the American scene has ushered us into an even more bizarre period: the Post-Reality Age.

Journalist Ronald Suskind introduces us to this concept in his recent article in The New York Times Sunday Magazine. [1] In his chatty tour d'horizon of the President's philosophy and management style, Suskind recounts an interview with a "senior White House advisor:"

" . . . then he told me something that at the time I didn't fully comprehend -- but which I now believe gets to the very heart of the Bush presidency. "The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality judiciously, as you will we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.'"

It is really a pity that Suskind does not identify this West Wing Nietzsche. The author is hardly protecting a source, since the aide is depicted as supporting, rather than criticizing, his employer. In any case, Suskind has hardly left any bridges unburned with the White House, so he cannot be ensuring future journalistic access to a Bush White House. The uncertain identity of the source leads to the question: is it genuine?

There is certainly no question that Suskind has put on the record many sources, both Democrat and Republican, with unflattering and controversial statements about the administration. Under those circumstances, it is somewhat less likely that he fabricated a quote just for dramatic effect. And several other accounts, neutral and even favorable, confirm the general mindset of the administration and its chief executive as Suskind describes it.

For his first book on the current administration, Bush at War, Bob Woodward received assiduous cooperation from the White House and favorable reviews from the same quarter - it was only his second book, Plan of Attack, which incurred the wrath of Oval Office. Yet Bush at War contained the following Presidential quotes, which somehow escaped notice at the time of publication:

"I'm the commander-see, I don't need to explain-I do not need to explain why I say things. That's the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation."

That is an interesting take on the accountability of the chief executive under the Constitution, to be sure. And the President offered Woodward the following strategic insight, so redolent of neoconservative influence, about Afghanistan:

"Look, our strategy is to create chaos, to create a vacuum."

Finally, Woodward recounted a statement from the President that is hard to reconcile with Compassionate Conservatism:

"We will export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of our great nation." [2]

A reading of Woodward by no means exhausts the available quotes. There is an article in the Israeli daily Haaretz which describes what the President allegedly told Palestinian Prime Minister Mamoud Abbas regarding an Israeli-Palestinian cease fire:

"According to Abbas, immediately thereafter Bush said: 'God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.'" [3]

Even presumed acolyte Richard Perle damned his patron with faint praise when he told journalist Sam Tanenhaus in the July 2003 Vanity Fair:

"The first time I met Bush 43, I knew he was different . . . one, he didn't know very much. The other was that he had the confidence to ask questions that revealed he didn't know very much."

Neoconservative David Frum, former speech writer for the President (and later co-author with Perle of a book with the significant title, An End to Evil), offers this curious assessment of his former boss clearly an odd way to show gratitude to a former employer in The Right Man:

". . . often uncurious and as a result ill informed . . . ."

One could pile on quotes ad libitum, but their general tendency is not at variance with Suskind's article. The combined effect explains better than orthodox political ideas, economic theories, or military strategies, the contemporary world we confront. For instance, a non-reality based paradigm explains the following:

* How an effort to avenge the September 11 attacks got diverted into a feckless occupation of Iraq, a country that had less to do with 9/11 than, say, Hamburg, Germany (where much of the 9/11 plot was apparently hatched)[4] - or Hollywood, Florida (where several of those the U.S. government identifies as the conspirators lived). [5]

* How Afghanistan remains a warlord-infested chaos beyond the environs of Kabul, while al-Qaeda regroups along the border with Pakistan: the U.S. government's objective all along was "to create chaos, to create a vacuum."

* How 40 percent of Americans (and 63 percent of Republicans) still believe Saddam was linked to 9/11: they obviously eschew the judicious study of "discernible reality" in favor of "reality TV."

* How the first administration since Herbert Clark Hoover to see a net loss of jobs during its tenure can trumpet that its economic policies are working.

* How a projected 10-year surplus of $5.6 trillion which turned into a projected deficit of $3.3 trillion - an $8.9 trillion reversal - is considered a paragon of prudent fiscal management.

One can multiply examples of this kind almost without limit. It must be refreshing to be unconstrained by discernible reality. Sooner or later, one ends up talking like faithful Party member O'Brien in George Orwell's 1984, in a passage that sounds eerily like the words of Suskind's senior White House advisor:

"We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not do. Invisibility, levitation - anything. I could float off this floor like a soap bubble if I wish to. I do not wish to, because the Party does not wish it. You must get rid of these nineteenth century ideas about the laws of Nature. We make the laws of Nature."

It used to be comforting to believe that 1984 was considered fiction.

(WERTHER is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst).

[1] "Without A Doubt" by Ron Suskind, The New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.
[2] The neoconservative impulse to create chaos, vacuums, and destruction reaches an apotheosis of sorts in neocon panjandrum Michael Ledeen. This Garment-District Goebbels wrote in his book Machiavelli on Modern Leadership on the need for "total war" through "creative violence." There is no such thing as peace between nations, he claims; peace is just an interval between wars.
[3] "'Road Map is a Life Saver for Us,' PM Abbas Tells Hamas," Haaretz, 24 June 2003. While this quote has been reproduced countless times on the Internet, no one has as yet commented on its strange enumeration of Godly powers: The Almighty is content to manifest His will in military invasions, but not in the quadrennial circus of U.S. elections. So much for the belief in vox populi, vox dei.
[4] Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, page 160.
[5] Ibid., page 528 (Notes to Chapter 7).

Friday, October 22, 2004

106. War Stories (poem)

this blood-dripping
saddle says to me
my lord will not
be returning

to spreading green swards
under monkey-puzzle trees

he was a very silly
man, we all agree,
but it was not
a bad thing

to die in glorious battle
for the sake of something

he's dead
that's that

and we have to look
to the future
in which certain
things will happen

not, perhaps, good
things, but we are

secure, for the moment,
among nervous friends
and a plague
of drunken sycophants;

there is a chance
that the whole
wobbly edifice
will crumble
and fall

(I would vote
if we had elections;
I would laugh
if my mouth
wasn't covered
with bandages.)

You have to
go your own way
-isn't that what
we have learned
leaving others
to pick up the pieces。

War is not so bad
you can pick up
a few things
here and there
as long as you
don't get killed.

Being young
and obedient helps;
but now
we have to drag out
more screaming

you sit at home, but
democracy is a tough job

you sit at home, and
I envy you at times
but you can't do
what I can do

I can kill people

When I go home
I can work in the store
stacking shelves
but I think I might
go to college.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

105. A (reluctant) Conservative for Kerry

There is little in John Kerry’s persona or platform that appeals to conservatives. The flip-flopper charge—the centerpiece of the Republican campaign against Kerry—seems overdone, as Kerry’s contrasting votes are the sort of baggage any senator of long service is likely to pick up. (Bob Dole could tell you all about it.) But Kerry is plainly a conventional liberal and no candidate for a future edition of Profiles in Courage. In my view, he will always deserve censure for his vote in favor of the Iraq War in 2002.

But this election is not about John Kerry. If he were to win, his dearth of charisma would likely ensure him a single term. He would face challenges from within his own party and a thwarting of his most expensive initiatives by a Republican Congress. Much of his presidency would be absorbed by trying to clean up the mess left to him in Iraq. He would be constrained by the swollen deficits and a ripe target for the next Republican nominee.

It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Bush has turned into an important president, and in many ways the most radical America has had since the 19th century. Because he is the leader of America’s conservative party, he has become the Left’s perfect foil—its dream candidate. The libertarian writer Lew Rockwell has mischievously noted parallels between Bush and Russia’s last tsar, Nicholas II: both gained office as a result of family connections, both initiated an unnecessary war that shattered their countries’ budgets. Lenin needed the calamitous reign of Nicholas II to create an opening for the Bolsheviks.

Bush has behaved like a caricature of what a right-wing president is supposed to be, and his continuation in office will discredit any sort of conservatism for generations. The launching of an invasion against a country that posed no threat to the U.S., the doling out of war profits and concessions to politically favored corporations, the financing of the war by ballooning the deficit to be passed on to the nation’s children, the ceaseless drive to cut taxes for those outside the middle class and working poor: it is as if Bush sought to resurrect every false 1960s-era left-wing cliché about predatory imperialism and turn it into administration policy. Add to this his nation-breaking immigration proposal—Bush has laid out a mad scheme to import immigrants to fill any job where the wage is so low that an American can’t be found to do it—and you have a presidency that combines imperialist Right and open-borders Left in a uniquely noxious cocktail.

During the campaign, few have paid attention to how much the Bush presidency has degraded the image of the United States in the world. Of course there has always been “anti-Americanism.” After the Second World War many European intellectuals argued for a “Third Way” between American-style capitalism and Soviet communism, and a generation later Europe’s radicals embraced every ragged “anti-imperialist” cause that came along. In South America, defiance of “the Yanqui” always draws a crowd. But Bush has somehow managed to take all these sentiments and turbo-charge them. In Europe and indeed all over the world, he has made the United States despised by people who used to be its friends, by businessmen and the middle classes, by moderate and sensible liberals. Never before have democratic foreign governments needed to demonstrate disdain for Washington to their own electorates in order to survive in office. The poll numbers are shocking. In countries like Norway, Germany, France, and Spain, Bush is liked by about seven percent of the populace. In Egypt, recipient of huge piles of American aid in the past two decades, some 98 percent have an unfavorable view of the United States. It’s the same throughout the Middle East.

Bush has accomplished this by giving the U.S. a novel foreign-policy doctrine under which it arrogates to itself the right to invade any country it wants if it feels threatened. It is an American version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, but the latter was at least confined to Eastern Europe. If the analogy seems extreme, what is an appropriate comparison when a country manufactures falsehoods about a foreign government, disseminates them widely, and invades the country on the basis of those falsehoods? It is not an action that any American president has ever taken before. It is not something that “good” countries do. It is the main reason that people all over the world who used to consider the United States a reliable and necessary bulwark of world stability now see us as a menace to their own peace and security.

These sentiments mean that as long as Bush is president, we have no real allies in the world, no friends to help us dig out from the Iraq quagmire. More tragically, they mean that if terrorists succeed in striking at the United States in another 9/11-type attack, many in the world will not only think of the American victims but also of the thousands and thousands of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed by American armed forces. The hatred Bush has generated has helped immeasurably those trying to recruit anti-American terrorists—indeed his policies are the gift to terrorism that keeps on giving, as the sons and brothers of slain Iraqis think how they may eventually take their own revenge. Only the seriously deluded could fail to see that a policy so central to America’s survival as a free country as getting hold of loose nuclear materials and controlling nuclear proliferation requires the willingness of foreign countries to provide full, 100 percent co-operation. Making yourself into the world’s most hated country is not an obvious way to secure that help.

I’ve heard people who have known George W. Bush for decades and served prominently in his father’s administration say that he could not possibly have conceived of the doctrine of pre-emptive war by himself, that he was essentially taken for a ride by people with a pre-existing agenda to overturn Saddam Hussein. Bush’s public performances plainly show him to be a man who has never read or thought much about foreign policy. So the inevitable questions are: who makes the key foreign-policy decisions in the Bush presidency, who controls the information flow to the president, how are various options are presented?

The record, from published administration memoirs and in-depth reporting, is one of an administration with a very small group of six or eight real decision-makers, who were set on war from the beginning and who took great pains to shut out arguments from professionals in the CIA and State Department and the U.S. armed forces that contradicted their rosy scenarios about easy victory. Much has been written about the neoconservative hand guiding the Bush presidency—and it is peculiar that one who was fired from the National Security Council in the Reagan administration for suspicion of passing classified material to the Israeli embassy and another who has written position papers for an Israeli Likud Party leader have become key players in the making of American foreign policy.

But neoconservatism now encompasses much more than Israel-obsessed intellectuals and policy insiders. The Bush foreign policy also surfs on deep currents within the Christian Right, some of which see unqualified support of Israel as part of a godly plan to bring about Armageddon and the future kingdom of Christ. These two strands of Jewish and Christian extremism build on one another in the Bush presidency—and President Bush has given not the slightest indication he would restrain either in a second term. With Colin Powell’s departure from the State Department looming, Bush is more than ever the “neoconian candidate.” The only way Americans will have a presidency in which neoconservatives and the Christian Armageddon set are not holding the reins of power is if Kerry is elected.

If Kerry wins, this magazine will be in opposition from Inauguration Day forward. But the most important battles will take place within the Republican Party and the conservative movement. A Bush defeat will ignite a huge soul-searching within the rank-and-file of Republicandom: a quest to find out how and where the Bush presidency went wrong. And it is then that more traditional conservatives will have an audience to argue for a conservatism informed by the lessons of history, based in prudence and a sense of continuity with the American past—and to make that case without a powerful White House pulling in the opposite direction.

George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies—a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft. His immigration policies—temporarily put on hold while he runs for re-election—are just as extreme. A re-elected President Bush would be committed to bringing in millions of low-wage immigrants to do jobs Americans “won’t do.” This election is all about George W. Bush, and those issues are enough to render him unworthy of any conservative support. 

By Scott McConnell
November 8, 2004 issue
Copyright © 2004 The American Conservative

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Monday, October 18, 2004

103. The Times That Are In It

Busy week: I was off to Mie-ken on Wednesday afternoon, arriving late. Business hotel (usual crap) then off to a Private Schools Conference with 600-odd suited teachers --plus a sprinkling of women. I had to give a presentation on "Writing in the High School Classroom" which I carried off with great elan and class -- I had been thinking about what to say for about a month -- and I got a great response from the younger teachers in the audience (late 20s, early 30s) -- while the rest of the older crowd looked upon me as if I had grown horns and scales.

Murasaki Angels. Check it out!!

I spent the following day in Nagoya browsing in the bookstores and buying loads of cheese and blueberry jam and indescribably volcanic hot sauce. The things we can't get at home.

Off again on my travels the next morning. It was the finals of the English Speech Contest in Shizuoka. Met Memi (our contestant) at the station at 10.30 and we went down together. Memi is a sweetheart. Spent the whole day listening to a clatter of earnestly delivered English -- they haven't heard about jokes, or else wisely avoid them. Memi came through like a jewel,and won Second Prize for the Returnee Group (kids overseas for more than six months).

Something to take home. We're doing OK. We've won the Western District contest for 3 years in a row, placing second in Shizuoka twice during that time. In the past it was all good fun but now it is getting very serious where a win is a Big Deal in the PR pamphlets. The student population is going down (parents hadn't been doing the business 15 years ago; they are still not producing enough children) so we are in competition with the other public - cheaper - schools for a dwindling student population.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

102. German Joke

Christian Democrat:
They own two cows. Their neighbour owns none.
They keep one and give the other to their poor neighbour.
Afterwards they regret it.

They own two cows. Their neighbour owns none.
The government takes one away and gives it to their neighbour.
They are forced to join an agricultural collective in order to help
their neighbour care for the animal.

Social Democrat:
They own two cows. Their neighbour owns none.
They feel guilty, so they vote for a government that taxes their cows. In order to pay the taxes they have to sell one. The government takes their money, buys a cow, and gives it to their neighbour. They feel self-righteous. Udo Lindenberg sings for them.

Free Democrat:
They own two cows. Their neighbour owns none.
So what?

They own two cows. Their neighbour owns none.
The government confiscates both cows and sells them the milk. They have to wait in line for hours for the milk. It is sour.

They own two cows. They sell one and buy a bull in order to breed a herd.

EU Bureaucracy:
They own two cows. The EU takes both away, slaughters one, and milks the other. The EU pays them an indemnity for the loss of milk income and dumps the milk into the North Sea.

American business enterprise:
They own two cows. They sell one and lease it back. They form a corporation and compel the cows to produce four times as much milk. They are surprised when one dies. They hold a press conference and announce that their costs have gone down 50%.Their stock values rise.

French business enterprise.
They own two cows. They go on strike because they want three.
They go out to lunch. Life is beautiful.

Japanese business enterprise:
They own two cows. Using the latest genetic technology they reduce the cows to a tenth of their former size with a twenty-fold increase in milk production. Then they come up with a clever cow cartoon, call if Cowkimon, and market it world-wide.

German business enterprise:
They own two cows. Using modern genetics the cows are redesigned so that they are all blond, drink gallons of beer, produce loads of milk, and can run at 160 kilometers per hour. Unfortunately,the cows demand 13 weeks vacation each year.

British business enterprise:
They own two cows. Both of them are crazy.

Italian business enterprise.
They own two cows, but they don't know where they are.
While looking for the cows they meet a beautiful woman.
They take a lunch break. Life is beautiful.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

100. Say It Ain't So

The whole business is inflammatory, Joe. This is an election for the future of the world. Non-Americans all over the planet are 70% in favour of Kerry, which translates into 70% disapproval of Bush. Who or what is Kerry, never mind, get the Shrub out of there double quick.

Bush was sending a message to his "core people" with that reference to Dred Scott. He does this all the time. His speeches and public pronouncements are laced with buzz phrases that are lifted directly from the apocalyptic vocabulary of Protestant Fundamentalists -- including even the Rapture people. Never heard of them? Unfortunately, a lot of policy decisions of the present administration start to fall into place when you hear of this agenda.

Incompetent idiots we can just about put up with; running a national government in line with undisclosed religious beliefs, totally impervious to factual counterchecks (reality, in other words) is a frightening -- and inevitably disastrous -- way to run any country, never mind the most powerful country in the world

This is only a random selection. Do a "Google" and you will come up with dozens of these sites.

Does Bush believe in this stuff? I don't know. He is certainly behaving as if he does.

on 10/10/04 5:52 PM, Joe XXXX at wrote:

> I hope this is not too inflammatory, but for all of you who were
> wondering why Bush brought up Dred Scott in the second debate, the
> answer is here
> dred_scott_all_.html#more
> cheers
> joe

99. The OTHER George Harrison

George Harrison, patron of Republican Sinn Fein and celebrated
veteran Irish Republican, died on October 6th at his home in
New York.

The following article by Jimmy Breslin for Newsday recounts a
life in struggle against British colonialism, oppression, racism
and inequality.

At the "Maid of Dunloe" pageant in bleak Donegal, in Ireland,
the young women had good milk-white Irish skin that could last
about 15 minutes in a weak sun. Now into the contest came Ms.
Felicia McLean, who was of color. A young, shimmering, beautiful

Immediately, the BBC crew covering the event rushed up to her.
"Are you from somewhere in the musician's family?" one of them

"No. I was sent here from Brooklyn by Mr. George Harrison of the
IRA. He doesn't like the British."

He sure did not, did George Harrison. He was a stocky man with a
full head of black hair. Once, he could run far and fast. His
motto was "Brits Out!" He sent guns to Northern Ireland. On so
many Saturdays, he picketed the British office building on Third
Avenue. If it rained, George found it easy. Wasn't he from
Shammer, outside of Kilkelly, in County Mayo, where there was as
much rain as there was air? He walked without noticing the
coldest of days. He had his dislike of the British to keep him

He lived on Prospect Park Southwest in Brooklyn and spent his
days at political protests. Once, he rounded up 35 Irish
republicans to parade in front of the South African mission to
the United Nations, protesting racism. They held an Irish flag.
There was not a black.

"What in the name of the Lord did we do to Ireland?" a South
African complained to the newspapers.

At a protest in Foley Square over the police firing 41 bullets into
an unarmed Amadou Diallo in his vestibule in the Bronx, only one
white face could be seen - George Harrison.

In the late '70s, he bought guns from a Mafia gun runner named
George DeMeo. George bought submachine guns from DeMeo and shipped
them to the north of Ireland by freighters leaving the Brooklyn
docks. Then DeMeo was arrested for being a gangster. He gave up
Harrison. The FBI was jubilant. The American administration at that
time ran errands for the British.

One day in 1981, George bought 50 submachine guns and one artillery
piece from a man DeMeo recommended. The man was an agent.

In speaking about the piece over the phone, trying to fool anybody
listening, Harrison's partners said, "We have to feed the animal.
The animal is hungry."

The FBI arrested George and a couple of others in October of 1981.
The lawyers practiced opening statements to a room of students at
Cardozo Law School. One young woman said that, "I'm wondering if
you are in a CIA exercise."

George Harrison got up in a fury. He would not stand for a defense
that left him looking like a CIA agent. They finally calmed him
down the next day and the case went on in federal court in

The prosecutor told the jury that George had been running guns out
of this city for the last six months.

George Harrison was outraged. His lawyer, Frank Durkan, rose and
told the judge, "Your honor, the prosecutor has just charged my
client with running guns for six months. My client is deeply
insulted. Mr. Harrison has been running guns for the last 25 years
at least." Harrison was acquitted.

He was the last of the Irish who base all behavior on the 1916
uprising against the British. George was 89 when he gave it up on
Wednesday, as he sat in one of his two apartments on Prospect Park
Southwest. He was talking to Priscilla McLean, the contestant's
mother. She was a nurse for George through so many long months.
George sent her and her daughter on a vacation in Ireland.

He was a ceaseless pamphlet man. Almost every day, a letter arrived
for many people from George Harrison dealing with British
atrocities against the Irish, and American politics. "Bush and his
people intend to turn this republic into an imperialist power."

If the politics of a person was far enough to the left, George
Harrison regarded them as a relative. "Take something for me," he
told Frank Durkan, who was going over to Ireland. It was a bottle
of whiskey for Owen Patton of Mayo, whose brother died in the
battle of Madrid in the Spanish Civil War. Durkan found Owen in a
small cottage. Owen walked backwards to get away from the bottle.

"Harrison is trying to make an alcoholic out of me. Everybody who
has come to this house has brought me a bottle. I can't take it."

He grieved for so many people, and ran more funerals for them, and
helped more Catholic priests and their church buildings that his
record seems that of a deeply religious person.

He was. But it was his own religion. His will states that there was
to be no funeral service.

"Are we going to get George buried out of a church?" somebody asked
Mike Dowd, one of the lawyers at George's big trial.

"If you tried it, he'd come out of the casket with a bat in his
hand," Dowd said.

Irish Republican News

Address: PO Box 160, Galway, Ireland Fax: +353-1-633-5590


98. The Rise of Pseudo-Fascism


Call it Pseudo Fascism. Or, if you like, Fascism Lite. Happy-Face Fascism. Postmodern Fascism. But there is little doubt anymore why the shape of the "conservative movement" in the 21st century is so familiar and disturbing: Its architecture, its entire structure, has morphed into a not-so-faint hologram of 20th-century fascism.

It is not genuine fascism, even though it bears many of the basic traits of that movement. It lacks certain key elements that would make it genuinely so:
-- Its agenda, under the guise of representing mainstream conservatism, is not openly revolutionary.
-- It is not yet a dictatorship.
-- It does not yet rely on physical violence and campaigns of gross intimidation to obtain power and suppress opposition.
American democracy has not yet reached the genuine stage of crisis required for full-blown fascism to take root.

Without these facets, the current phenomenon cannot properly be labeled "fascism." But what is so deeply disturbing about the current state of the conservative movement is that it has otherwise plainly adopted not only many of the cosmetic traits of fascism, its larger architecture -- derived from its core impulses -- now almost exactly replicates that by which fascists came to power in Italy and Germany in the 1920s and '30s.

It is in this sense that I call it Pseudo Fascism. Unlike the genuine article, it presents itself under a normative, rather than a revolutionary, guise; and rather than openly exulting in violence, it pays lip service to law and order. Moreover, even in the areas where it resembles real fascism, the similarities are often more familial than exact. It is, in essence, less virulent and less violent, and thus more likely to gain broad acceptance within a longtime stable democratic system like that of the United States.

And even in the key areas of difference, it is not difficult to discern that those dissimilarities are gradually shrinking, and in danger of disappearing.
That this is happening should not be a great surprise.

The final morph into Pseudo Fascism occurred under the dynamic under which the "conservative movement" operated after taking control of all three estates of American government in 2000. By seizing the presidency through means perceived by nearly half the nation at the time as illegitimate, conservative-movement ideologues were forced to govern without anything approaching a popular mandate. But rather than responding by moderating their approach to governance, the Bush administration instead acted as though it had won in a landslide, and proceeded to follow an openly radical course:
-- Instituting a massive transfer of the tax burden from the upper class to the middle, an approach that deepened the nation's economic malaise.
-- Appointing radical right-wingers to key positions in the nation's court system; shifting the emphasis in national security from terrorism to missile defense, a policy that left us vulnerable to the Sept. 11 attacks.
-- Instituting, in the wake of those attacks, the radical "Bush Doctrine" of unilateralist pre-emption.
-- Further using the attacks to undermine civil liberties under the Patriot Act and creating a policy of incarcerating citizens indefinitely as "enemy combatants".
-- Invading another nation by raising the false specter of the "imminent threat" of weapons of mass destruction.
-- Allowing intelligence officials to run amok, violating the Geneva Convention in interrogations at Bagram, Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
-- Fighting, for clearly political reasons, every effort to have a thorough examination of the causes of the 9/11 security failures.
Moreover, at every step of nearly every policy it has pursued, the administration has erected obstacles to transparency, making clear it intends to operate in utter secrecy whenever possible.

The radical course followed by the Bush administration was, in fact, guaranteed to further divide the nation rather than unify it in a time of need. Moreover, the administration clearly proved itself wrong on so many major counts -- the economy, the pre-Sept. 11 handling of the terrorist threat, the rationale for war, the postwar occupation of Iraq -- that under normal circumstances, their competence above all should have come into serious question.

Maintaining power and instituting their agenda in this kind of milieu meant, for the conservative movement, a forced reliance on sheer bluff: projecting "strength and resolve" while simulatenously attacking their political opponents as weak and vacillating. To pull this bluff off, it required the assistance of a compliant press eager to appear "patriotic," and it received it in spades.

Mostly, it has succeeded in doing this by a constant barrage of emotion-driven appeals to the nation's fears in the post-9/11 environment:
-- Calling 9/11 "the day that changed everything," the Bush regime and its conservative-movement supporters have consistently projected a sense of overwhelming national crisis that requires reaching beyond traditional solutions and instituting a number of clearly radical steps.
-- Conservatives have continually stressed the primacy of Americanness, a group identity to which we are obligated, as "patriots," to subordinate all kinds of civil rights and free speech.
-- They have consistently emphasized the nation's victimhood in the 9/11 attacks -- and attacked any suggestion of a more nuanced view as "unpatriotic" -- and have further argued consistently that the 9/11 attacks justify nearly any action, regardless of legal or moral limits (see, e.g., Abu Ghraib), against America's enemies.
-- A favorite conservative theme is a dread of national decline under the corrosive effects of liberalism, often identifying it with equally dreaded alien influences. (See, e.g, Sean Hannity's bestselling screed, Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism.)

They have consistently argued for a closer integration of a purer American community under the aegeis of "national unity." However, this unity is not a natural one reached by compromise; rather, it can only be achieved by a complete subsumation of American politics by the conservative movement, creating essentially a one-party state. Citizens can join by consent if they like, or they can face exclusion as a consequence.

While denouncing their opponents -- especially Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry -- as "weak on terror," conservatives have consistently portrayed George W. Bush as the only person capable of making the nation not only secure from terrorists, but the dominant political and cultural force in the world, a role often portrayed in terms of a national destiny as the "beacon of democracy."

Most of all, they have stressed Bush's superiority as a president because of his reliance on his instincts and "resolve" and his marked refusal to engage in abstract reasoning.

At times, conservatives have even trod into arguing in favor of a war ethos at other times -- as in all the talk about "shock and awe" in the Iraq invasion -- they have even suggested there is a kind of beauty to violence, especially in the service of the imposition of American will.

Finally, in defending the administration's actions -- particularly in invading Iraq under the pretense of a nonexistent "imminent threat," and for encouraging conditions that led to international-law violations at Abu Ghraib -- many conservatives have simply dismissed the critics by invoking 9/11 and the larger right, by sheer virtue of our national military power, to dominate other nations and individuals with no restraint.

All of these appeals have come wrapped in the twin themes that are central to the appeal of the conservative movement:
-- An insistence that the movement represents the only "real Americans."
-- Pervasive expressions of contempt for the weak.
These latter traits, in particular, expose the underpinnings of the "conservative movement" for their genuinely corrosive and divisive nature.

But does all this add up to fascism?

Not in its fullest sense. But it does replicate, in nearly every regard, the architecture of fascism in its second stage of growth -- the stage at which, in the past, it has obtained power.

All that is needed for a full manifestation of American fascism, at this point, is for a genuine crisis of democracy to erupt. And if that occurs, it is almost inevitable that the differences between fascism and pseudo-fascism will vanish.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

97. Haiku - The Pond and the Frog

The most famous haiku in Japan was written by Matsuo Bassho back in the 1600s:

furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

In English (forgetting 5-7-5):

an old pond
a frog jumps in
sound of water

Like, what???

This is the thing with haiku that takes a while to understand: there are NO similes, there are NO metaphors, and there is a very sparing use of adjectives and other qualifiers. It's poetry cut down to the bone. In simple terms, the poet presents two distinct visual images and the third line obliquely explains and/or hints at the relationship between them. The reader is left to make the connection.

Haiku are not just 5-7-5 blank verse arrangements: they are (for want of a better comparison) Hegelian: thesis, anti-thesis, synthesis -- except that doesn't quite explain them either. There are lots of conventions involving season-words. Polite middle-class haiku are produced on a regular basis by conventional middle-class Japanese: they are technically impeccable and rely a great deal on seasonal plants and flowers. They are also very predictable and boring poems. The great haiku poets wrote from within the Edo Period and early Meiji, from the late 1600s to the early 1900s. There has been nothing like them ever since.

Why is this poem of Bassho (quoted above) so loved and respected in Japan? I'll try to explain.

An old pond -- this represents the unchanging eternal world.
A frog jumps in -- this represents actions in the here and now by living creatures.
sound of water -- the frog hits the pond, in this single momentary action the temporary (mortal being, including human life) comes in contact with the eternal (nature, spiritual eternity).

Is this for real? Maybe you have to be a Buddhist. But the haiku are definitely for real: image, image, zen moment.

Make of it what you will. In closing I will leave you with an American reaction to Bassho's famous poem (I wish I had thought of this by myself but I didn't):

An old pond
A bullfrog sits on a rock
Waiting for Bassho.

Ah, yes, the power of the media. Don't forget to vote!!

Friday, October 08, 2004

96. Je ne regrette rien (JALT)

Words in the Text:
JALT - Japan Association for Language Teaching
Eikaiwa- English Conversation
Gaijin - Japanese word for 'foreigner'.
NPO - Non-Profit Organization
Chapter - local group living in the same area
SIG - Special Interest Group - members with a shared interest in certain aspects of language teaching but not living in the same area

Can you remember grade school? I do. I had a Mr Foster in the American School in Wiesbaden (Germany) who was the best teacher I ever had. He took us out on field trips all the time and we had to write reports on wineries, Roman ruins, traction railways, the Rhein River (after a boat trip) and then he took us all off to Amsterdam -- that's when I started thinking this guy loves what he does, he has a great job.

Many years later, after blah-de-blah experiences (fill in the blanks) I ended up on these shores in an Eikaiwa school and the Spirit of Mr Foster revived within me. How would Mr Foster do this? Once you start thinking like that it becomes very hard to stop. I reckon I could have worked things out on my own but contact with JALT about 4 years in changed the horizon. Now I could talk to other people trying to do the same thing.

Oh, it was magic. That was JALT before it became elderly, mature, institutional, an NPO accepting all major credit cards.

JALT was totally volunteer, it was brilliant. It was sinn fein - we ourselves - mostly, but not all Gaijin, marginalized ON PURPOSE in our separate schools, universities, and institutions and saying -- whoa, whoa, no more of this shit. Gaijin teachers getting organized -- oh no, they didn't like that!!

God be with the days.

What do we have now? Now we have 7th-8th generation JALT (in terms of officers) which is still financially shaky but respectable to the point of boredom. We put on great annual conferences, that's true, and for the rest of the year it depends on local personalities in the Chapters and SIGs.

Some of the new people have the fire but most of them expect to walk into a ready-made situation. Casual lazy passive types, many of them.

Back in the old days (say 20 years ago) we really had to fight for the independence of this organization. It wasn't easy but it was necessary to organize and fight against local controls. We organized, used volunteer skills, and we usually won. Plus we spent a lot of time fighting against each other because JALT became the only open political forum for foreigners in Japan.

The Good Old Days?

Yes and no. No, because it's no longer a seat-of-the -pants, hanging in by our toenails organization. That's good. JALT is established, it has a profile, international speakers compete for invitations to our conference. We can no longer be entirely ignored by the Ministry of Education and by the schools in which our members are employed. That's a plus. On the minus side, people just don't volunteer any more. We've lost the hard edge of commitment (laced with a bit of anger) that got this organization off the ground in the first place. People are willing to take in the benefits as paying consumers (a despicable word, if you stop to think) and have become spectators instead of players on the field. We need more players on the field.

In musical terms -- pardon me for throwing this in --JALT in its formative years back in the late 70s and early 80s was Creedence Clearwater and Hendrix and U2, plus BB King and the Grateful Dead. And Charley Parker.

Now we seem to be in our Justin Timberlake phase.

96. Poetry Exchange

An almost-haiku regarding pantaloon
-- see Post 91. A Pantaloon (for Shane)

The bed, warm and soft
the rain outside, cold and hard
turn around and sleep.

A Rubáiyát for Isagel

with you beside me oh my dear
the wind and rain can bring no fear
now let you soft and safely sleep
the morning calm is drawing near.

A Rubáiyát (?) for dedalus

Come, be still and let us sleep in
on crumpled sheets, in morning din
our bed an island, far at sea
like soft waves the noise rush in

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

95. TomDispatch: Withdrawal on the Agenda?

The "Enduring Camps" that couldn't be seen

As those of you who read Tomdispatch regularly know, I've long hammered away at our permanent bases, also known in Pentagonese as "enduring camps" – something close to an oxymoron. If you didn't factor those "camps" into the equation that was Iraq, the Bush administration's policies there made no sense from the start. (And almost no American could have done so, since almost no one knew about them.) If you did, they made a mockery of the neocons stated desire to create an independent, "democratic" Iraq rather than an occupied, acquiescent client state at the heart of the Middle East.

The planned (and now built) bases, obviously already in the works before our invasion even began, were proof that the Bush administration was, from the beginning, ready to settle into Iraq, however peaceable it might prove, for a long, long stay. If, of course, you were a visitor to political websites and blogs on the Internet, you would probably know a little more about the existence of such bases from places like Tomdispatch,, or to give a recent example, Justin Raimondo, columnist for; if you wandered the foreign press on the Internet, you might have found the odd piece on the subject in the British Observer or, say, Middle Eastern papers like Jordan's al-Arab al-Yawm.

But around this crucial subject a silence, until recently, lay like a pall; this despite the fact that our press regularly covers the Pentagon's global basing policies; despite the fact that, given all the problems involved in covering the Iraqi story (see below), American reporters are assumedly still capable of visiting U.S. bases like Camp Victory in Baghdad or Camp Anaconda near Balad with its 12 ½ mile circumference, its first-run movie theater, its two swimming pools and fitness gym; despite the fact that reporters in touch with me insisted they were indeed considering taking up the subject. Some of these bases, after all, are elaborate facilities, comparable to those we built in Vietnam in another era, and they must be impressive indeed. (Check out Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan).

What isn't being reported on what isn't being reported

You turn on the TV and there's a CNN reporter standing on what looks like a porch set against the night sky of Baghdad; from there he offers us a report on the situation in Iraq. Only one problem, he's more or less stuck on that porch. It would evidently be difficult, if not impossible, for him to hear about a breaking story, jump into the nearest car or taxi, and head down the road. The danger to foreigner reporters, especially Western ones, especially American ones (and, of course, the Iraqis they interview) is now simply too great.

Trapped much of their time in their hotels, or perhaps in their company offices, or in the U.S. occupied and fortified Green Zone -- the six square miles of Baghdad that we set aside 18 months ago to house our occupation and have never given up -- western reporters, unless embedded with U.S. troops, now act largely as collators of government or military news (or leaks), of reports from Iraqi stringers (who can move somewhat more freely through an increasingly dangerous landscape), of gossip or rumors from elsewhere, and even of information that can be picked up off the Internet on, say, Juan Cole's Informed Comment website; but they're increasingly not reporters a lot of the time -- and so what passes for Iraqi news in our media turns out to be a very limited diet indeed. And yet, I haven't seen a single serious report on the subject of reporting from Baghdad in our press.

Then, last week -- still with not a single My-Day-in-Baghdad piece published by a single Western reporter in "Iraq" -- a fascinating thing happened. It turned out a reporter had written just such a story -- shocking, honest, blistering. It began: "Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under virtual house arrest." And it continued:

"I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling. And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second."

When it came to Fassihi's piece on her life as a reporter, the only catch was: It wasn't a Journal piece at all, but an e-letter to friends that somehow was released onto the Internet where it sped around like a demon.
It's worth considering, though, why Farnaz Fassihi -- and perhaps other reporters like her with real stories about the ever more constricted nature of the reporting they're doing -- had to write this to friends and not to her editor to be published for the rest of us. Why was this story not fit for American readers? We have to assume, after all, that those editors back in New York or Washington or Chicago or Los Angeles are dealing daily with the difficult dilemma of ensuring their reporters' safety and so would find Fassihi's comments no surprise. But amid all the news that's fit to print, news that would make sense of Iraqi reportage clearly wasn't. Thank god for the Internet.

This is not a small matter when you, as a "consumer" of news, try to assess the quality of the news you're getting. So I say again, it's strange the way certain subjects percolate up into our world out of the political part of the Internet, which is increasingly becoming our great percolation range (and is sometimes used as such by mainstream publications). There, you can find a kind of unvarnished writing like Fassihi's, but unlike hers actually meant for the public.

To give but two recent examples: The biting William Saletan of Slate and the always sharp Chris Dickey of Newsweek (but only in a "web exclusive commentary" for that magazine) have written scathingly of something that should have been more widely noticed and reported on in the mainstream: The Bush administration has continually claimed that escalating violence in Iraq was only a sign of oppositional desperation, a last gasp of effort before a certain date. Last spring, it was the June transition of sovereignty; now it's the November election in the U.S. or the January elections (that may or may not happen) in Iraq. As the date passes and violence and opposition only escalate, administration officials simply push the ever-receding violence horizon on to the next event. About this, Saletan wrote:

"Three months after the handover, the attacks continue to escalate. Fallujah is completely out of control. Is this failure? No, it's success. Things are getting even worse because we're doing even better. Now it's the January 2005 Iraqi elections, not the June 2004 handover, that's supposedly inspiring the enemy's desperation. If we stay the course till January, we'll turn that corner we thought we'd turned in June."
Dickey's version of what he calls the administration's "hallucinatory rhetoric" was:

"Will Iraqi elections in January solve this problem? No. The elections are yet another artificial deadline or milestone declared by the U.S. government largely so it will have something to tell the American public. Since the summer of 2003 we've heard repeatedly that if there's an increase in violence, it must be because the insurgents want to undermine some great new American accomplishment just over the horizon. The through-the-looking-glass logic is that the more successful we are, the more violent the opposition becomes. But, then, the event passes, and the killing just keeps getting worse. The death of Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay in July 2003 did nothing to stop what was then an insurgency in its early stages. Neither did the capture of Saddam himself in December 2003, as the rebellion continued to spread. Neither did the supposed transfer of sovereignty in June, which was followed by the appearance of no-go zones for U.S. troops in much of the Sunni heartland."

Withdrawal on the agenda

We know Iraq's a mess -- that's now widely accepted -- though it wasn't back in October 2003 when I wrote: "The president of the greatest power on Earth is being forced by events in ‘5% of Iraq' to call in his advisers for endless meetings, shake up the structure of his administration, hold sudden news conferences, offer new and ever more farfetched explanations of American actions, and backtrack on claims -- all because of Iraqi resistance." And I added the historically obvious: "Invade Texas, invade Iran, invade China, invade Albania, invade Lebanon, invade Iraq -- name your place, in fact -- and you better not assume there won't be resistance. Someone always resists. That single sentence sums up the last two centuries of global history."
Back then, having reviewed our sordid history in Iraq from the 1950s on, I tried to sum up our Iraqi problem in four sentences:

"History, long term and more recent, is not on our side.
"We are a war-making and an occupying force, not a peacekeeping force.
"We never planned to leave Iraq.
"Time is against us.

"Or to boil all this down to a sentence: We are not and never have been the solution to the problem of Iraq, but a significant part of the problem."

Should John Kerry be elected, the question is: Will he and his advisors feel themselves trapped inside his campaign promises to "win" the war in Iraq and by a fear of being labeled -- by the Republicans who are sure to give him a post-election day respite of perhaps 30 seconds -- the flip-flopper-in-chief? Even now, inside his "winning" strategy lie the seeds of a withdrawal strategy, including a no-oil, no bases pledge; but he won't have long to get out. As the canny columnist William Pfaff wrote, citing the way French President Charles De Gaulle once bit the bullet over Algeria and negotiated a French withdrawal:

"If John Kerry wins the U.S. presidency in November, he will find himself in the same plight as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon when they took office. Each inherited another man's war. Each prosecuted that war -- Johnson reluctantly, Nixon because he thought he could do better. Both failed and were destroyed by the war…. Kerry expresses no such doubts. He apparently accepts what ‘everyone knows' in Washington today: that ‘failure in Iraq is not an option.'

"This is true, but not in the way they think. Failure is no longer an option; it is a certainty. The questions that remain are failure's timing, and the gravity of its consequences... If Kerry is elected president, he will have the de Gaulle option. He will have a window lasting a few months during which he could reverse U.S. policy and expect, provisionally, to carry public opinion with him…

"The consequence of failure in Vietnam unseated the Johnson and Nixon administrations. Revolution in Iran and retreat from Lebanon in 1983 damaged the Carter and Reagan administrations. This year Iraq may defeat George W. Bush. Why should Kerry, an intelligent man, wish to be next?"

Withdrawal has bubbled up, finally, into the mainstream, though not yet quite into the realms of policy-making. That may not be enough, but it is something. Let me end with my final words of October 31, 2003. I don't think one of them yet needs to be changed:

"For me at least, the imperial occupation of the lands of this earth – whatever the empire – is unacceptable. Any armed occupation will always be part of the problem not the solution on this planet. In our present world, such acts can only lead to hell. We need to pressure this administration hard to step outside the box it has created for us, our troops, and the Iraqi people who truly did deserve a liberation and not the occupation and looting that they are living through. They are not the spoils of war.

"Let us offer Iraq genuine help, reconstruction aid, and support of all sorts afterwards, possibly indirectly through groups whose interests can't be mistaken for ours. But our troops are an occupying army. They can't keep the peace. They are the war."

Tom (click here for full article)

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

94. John Pilger

Where are the Martha Gellhorns of today?

In an exclusive extract from his new book, John Pilger argues that investigative journalism still matters

04 October 2004

A favourite quotation of mine is by the great Irish muckraker, Claud Cockburn: "Never believe anything until it is officially denied." Cockburn might have been referring to Wilfred Burchett, the Australian journalist whose extra-ordinary and often embattled career included what has been described as "the scoop of the century".

While hundreds of correspondents "embedded" with the Allied occupation forces in Japan in 1945 were shepherded to the largely theatrical surrender ceremony, Burchett "slipped the leash", as he wrote, and set out on a perilous journey to a place now engraved in the human consciousness: Hiroshima. He was the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the atomic bombing, and his front-page report in the Daily Express carried the prophetic headline: "I write this as a warning to the world."

The warning was about radiation poisoning, whose existence was denied by the occupation authorities. Without hesitation they denounced Burchett, with other journalists joining in the official propaganda and orchestrated attacks on him. On his own, courageously, he had exposed the hidden horror of the nuclear age.

What Burchett did was to hold great power to account, which is journalism's paramount role. Is that role now lost? Are great mavericks such as Burchett, and Martha Gellhorn, Seymour Hersh, Amira Hass and Paul Foot and Robert Fisk no longer the models for young journalists? Corporatism and consumerism are laying to waste the breeding grounds of free, inquiring journalism when it has never been needed more. Cockburn's cry that officialdom, the state, routinely lies is not what the media courses teach. If they did - and the evidence has never been in greater abundance - the cynicism that many young journalists believe ordains them as journalists would not be directed at their readers, viewers and listeners, but at those in false authority.

In his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm, George Orwell described how censorship in free societies was infinitely more sophisticated and thorough than in dictatorships because "unpopular ideas can be silenced and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban". It is more than half a century since he wrote that, and little has changed. This is not to suggest a "conspiracy", which in any case is unnecessary. Journalists and broadcasters are no different from historians and teachers in internalising the priorities and fashions and propriety of established power. Like others with important establishment responsibilities, they are trained, or groomed, to set aside serious doubts. If scepticism is encouraged, it is directed not at the system but at the competence of its managers, at personalities, or at popular attitudes as journalists perceive them. . . . That the systematic, historic terrorism of states, especially the imperial Western, dwarfs the sporadic terrorism of al-Qa'ida and other sects, is unmentionable. "Normalising the unthinkable" is Edward S Herman's apt description for the role of journalists in the division of labour in a great imperial task like the attacks on Vietnam and Central America and the lies that led to the invasion of Iraq.

In the United States, which constitutionally has the freest media in the world, the suppression of the very notion of universal humanity has become standard practice. Like the Vietnamese and others who have defended their homelands, the Iraqis are unpeople: a mob, tainted, to be abused, tortured, hunted. "For every GI killed," said a prominent letter in the New York Daily News, "20 Iraqis must be executed." The New York Times and The Washington Post might not publish that, but each played a prominent role in promoting the fiction of Saddam Hussein's weapons arsenal. In the run-up to the invasion, neither published a single investigative piece that seriously challenged the lies. Had they, together with the broadcasting companies, done so, and had they exposed Bush's lies, tens of thousands of people might be alive today. Putting aside the honourable exceptions, the same can be said for most of the British media.

There is a surreal silence today, full of the noise of "sound bites" and "grabs" of those with power given opportunities to distract us from their crimes. …Never has there been such a volume of repetitive "news" or such an exclusiveness in those controlling it. In 1983, the world's most powerful media were owned by 50 corporations. Rampant de-regulation has ended even a semblance of diversity. In February, Rupert Murdoch predicted that, within three years, there would be just three global media corporations and his empire would be one of them. Perhaps he exaggerated, but not by much. Even on the internet, the leading 20 websites are now owned by the likes of Fox (Murdoch), Disney, AOL Time Warner, Viacom and a clutch of other giants; just 14 companies attract 60 per cent of all the time Americans spend online. Theirs is a global ambition: to produce not informed, free-thinking citizens, but obedient customers.

The mantra that leads us down this road includes something called "competitiveness". Like "democracy" and "reform" and "free market", this does not mean what it says. It is monopoly of ownership, and thought. The Blair government's assault on the BBC is part of this. The BBC's power lies in its dual role as a publicly-owned broadcaster and a multinational business, with revenues of more than $5bn. More Americans watch BBC World than Britons watch the main BBC channel at home. What Murdoch and other ascendant media barons have long wanted is the BBC broken up and privatised and its vast "market share" handed over to them. Like godfathers dividing turf, they are impatient ...

On the worldwide web, the best "alternative" websites are already read by millions. The courageous reporting of a new breed of freelance journalists and non-journalists, "citizen reporters", is already making itself felt in dangerous places like Iraq. We need a new generation of "honourable exceptions", like Hersh and Fisk, who are prepared to report, as Martha Gellhorn put it, "from the ground up, not from the top". The best traditions of journalism never change; the public has every right to demand their return.

John Pilger's 'Tell Me No Lies: Investigative journalism and its triumphs', is published on Thursday by Jonathan Cape (Random House)

U.S. Policies Stir More Fear Than Confidence: A growing number of nations no longer look to the U.S. for leadership and sanctuary. The Bush administration's unilateralist policies in Iraq and its perceived aloofness have left it less trusted at a time of widening global vulnerability, according to polls and interviews in more than 30 countries.

93. Rubaiyat

a pretty lass sat on my knees
with gentle talk I sought to please
but when she heard my gold was gone
she flounced away, the little tease.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

91. A Pantaloon (for Shane)

Waking up in the morning
is less fun than it was before
I used to spring out of bed
but I don't do that any more.

I used to spring out of bed
and greet the day with a silly grin
now I peep from a jaundiced eye
and decide I will stay in.

Now I peep from a jaundiced eye
and stare at pictures on the wall
I think of a hundred reasons
why I shouldn't get up at all.

I think of a hundred reasons
then I think of a couple more
I stare at cracks in the ceiling
at peace in the deep heart's core!

Saturday, October 02, 2004

90. Mutt and Jeff in Miami

A selection of comments on the First Presidential Debate

After about 45 minutes, I’m looking forward to what Kerry has to say, and am surprised by that, because I’ve not felt that way since, basically, ever. The de Gaulle story is fantastic. JFK’s Secretary of State Dean Rusk is over in France — what did Dean Rusk look like? Probably crewcut gray hair in a dark suit. He’s with the French president during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rusk reaches down to take out a folder of photographs and says something like, "Mr. French President, I’m going to show you — and your mistresses if you like — that our assessment is accurate. We have photographs." But de Gaulle waves him off and says that the word of the president of the United States is good enough. Kerry asks, "How many leaders in the world today would respond to us as a result of what we've done in that way?" This really hits home for me. Wham.

Yes, it’s annoying that Kerry doesn’t know the Pottery Barn rule. (It’s you break it you "own" it, not you "fix" it — which, by the way, is not their rule.) On the other hand, Kerry has me feeling serious and manly — all these threats that I need to take seriously: about North Korea, which scares the hell out of me, and about Iran, and about loose nukes in Russia, about which Bush has done — what? Anything?

Now Bush seems to be disappearing. Says the same things over and over again. No subjects in his sentences. There’s a quality to him that says, "I don’t need to explain myself because I’m right."

I just know how this world works.

I know how these people think. I deal with them all the time.

I remember that, at the Republican National Convention, my simian brain just loved Bush. No matter what other thoughts kept coursing through me, in some basic way, by the end of that speech, I wanted to be in that room full of good-looking white people, and go get dressed up and drink tall legal cocktails — Cosmos and Manhattans and maybe even dance to "Come On Eileen" by Dexy’s Midnight Runners at the end of the night.

But now I remember those protestors being dragged out of the Madison Square Garden, by their feet it looked like. The emotional effect of that was like embracing a lover, and then seeing her start to squawk into digital bits and bytes — "Shit, I thought you were real." (I’m not saying this happens — just that, if it did happen, it would be freaky.) And I think about how all Bush does is speak and talk in controlled rooms. Doesn’t even read the newspapers. No chance that he’ll hear a heckler, even, as wearing a t-shirt that says "Kerry" will get you arrested at a Bush rally — arrested for "trespassing." Now a president who never sees his critics is being forced to spend 90 minutes with one. He seems to consider it an imposition. He reminds me of Jack Nicholson on the stand in "A Few Good Men." Could he crack? When Kerry insists that "the enemy" that attacked us was not Saddam Hussein, Bush whips around. "Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that." It’s like he’s a 14-year-old who when asked if he’s done his homework insists that he knows how to tie his own shoes.

I think about a play I saw a long time ago. "The Man Who Had All the Luck," by Arthur Miller. There’s a character named Amos, who, throughout the play, is being groomed by his father, Pat, to be a star pitcher. Pat trains him relentlessly, drilling him in their basement, working him out in a place where there will be no distractions. Everyone expects that Amos is going to be a big star, and finally, he goes before a big-league scout. But the scout takes one look at the kid, and says that he doesn’t have what it takes. The father is stunned. Why? This kid has trained relentlessly, with no distractions. That’s just the point, the scout says. The kid is undeniably good, but at crunch time, when he’s in a stadium with a crowd screaming, he gets rattled. He’s spent too much time in the basement.

-- Joshua Wolf Shenk is a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly.

While there were few fireworks, I suspect swing voters did come away with a few perceptions. First, Bush knows what he's trying to accomplish. He believes deeply in the rightness of the war in Iraq and its centrality to the larger War on Terror. His message is the same message voters have heard since 9/11 -- we will go on the offensive to fight terrorists wherever they are found to keep this nation safe.

On the other hand, voters saw Kerry continue to struggle to define his position on the war -- justifying his latest position, which is to call the war a mistake, while promising to bring new allies on board to fight for what he terms a "grand diversion."

He failed totally to make a convincing case for either his strategic vision, what there is of it, or his so-called four-point tactical plan for winning in Iraq which bears a striking resemblance to what the Bush administration is already doing.

Perhaps the most telling moment was the exchange between the two candidates on the issue of North Korea's nuclear program. Here, Kerry, who harshly criticized Bush for rejecting multilateralism in the leadup to the Iraq war, was equally critical of Bush's insistence on maintaining a multilateral approach in dealing with North Korea today. Consistency is clearly not Kerry's strong suit.

For all practical purposes, Kerry's debate performance was little more than a replay of his campaign stump speeches. Even his close -- "I defended this country as a young man and I will defend it as president" -- was almost verbatim from his acceptance speech. It didn't work then, and it won't work now.

Kerry needed to win this debate decisively. Bush not only held his own but, in a plainspoken passion, showed why voters have more confidence in his leadership in the War on Terror.

-- David Winston is a veteran GOP political consultant and columnist for Roll Call.

If Republicans were overconfident going into the debate, Democrats had begun preparing themselves for defeat. Kerry had given up so much ground that he was close to being written out of the race. Voters had absorbed the image of Kerry as a flip-flopper without core convictions. A very different Kerry showed up in the debate hall. He was calm and disciplined while Bush was "slouching and praying for the light to go on so he wouldn’t have to think of anything else to repeat," said a Democratic strategist.

Kerry spoke crisply and clearly, and he looked presidential. He defended his position on Iraq as consistent—agreeing with Bush that Saddam Hussein was a threat, but saying he would have handled the situation differently. When Bush confronted him with that old saw about how he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it, Kerry scored big, saying, "I made a mistake in how I talk about the war. But the president made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is worse?"

This was Kerry’s best performance since, perhaps, ever. Like Lazarus, he is back from the dead. He energized his own Democratic base, which had begun to drift away in despair. Democrats now believe he has a chance to win. Standing alongside Bush, he showed himself to be more than up to the task. The contrast could not be greater between Bush, a man who passionately believes in the rightness of his convictions to the point of willfully excluding facts, and Kerry, a man who operates by reason and intellect. Before Thursday night, Bush had made a mockery of Kerry, using ridicule and sarcasm to turn his opponent into a cartoon figure. That will be harder now that voters have gotten a fuller picture.

A single debate probably won’t determine the outcome of the election, but with two more debates ahead, the Bush team has got to be worried. It’s a tactic of Karl Rove’s to create an aura of inevitability about Bush, and he no doubt convinced the president the debate would be a slam dunk. Bush strode onto the stage with his customary swagger, but it was downhill from there. He had that deer-in-the-headlights look for much of the time, and he repeated stock phrases so often, he became a caricature of himself. This was reality TV, and it was not kind to Bush.

-- Eleanor Clift in NEWSWEEK

Bush could not but win the debate. Kerry has taken such awkward and obviously wrong positions that Bush had to emerge as last night's winner.

But Bush seemed disengaged, distracted and, at times, even bored. His performance reminded me of the style -- or lack of it -- that he brought to the pre-primary debates of 2000.

He seemed to convey a message of: Don't bother me, leave me alone, you don't understand and I can't bother to explain what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

The president's closing statement was so focused and polished, so intent and energetic that the contrast between a speech he has memorized and one which he ad-libs was obvious to all who watched. If the Bush of the last two minutes was on display for the 90 minutes, the election would have been over last night.

By contrast, Kerry looked presidential, collected and, above all, strong and confident. If you'd seen the two men without knowing which was the president and which the candidate, you'd have guessed wrong. Kerry looked like the guy in charge.

The essential message for Bush is that he had better get his head back in the game and pay more attention to his performance if he doesn't want to get massacred in the second debate -- which will focus on domestic policy, Kerry's strong suit.

Bush needs to undergo the same kind of transformation he went through in the 2000 primaries. He started smirking his way through those debates, obviously resting on his lead and feeling put upon to have to debate the pigmies vying for the nomination. But when he understood that he was facing a life-and-death challenge from John McCain, he got it together and showed energy and determination and won the subsequent debates.

He has to realize that he is in the fight of his life and bring passion, discipline, focus and commitment to the next debates or he will lose.

Mr. President, last night you looked like it was the end of the fourth quarter, and you were running out the clock. This is a tough race, and it's going to take your focused energy to win it. Last night you looked like you were just mailing it in.

-- Dick Morris in NEW YORK POST

Immediately after last night's first presidential debate, the chattering class appeared unanimous in saying that Kerry had won the debate. I hold a heretical view: I think it was a tie.

More specifically, I think the debate had two parts. Bush clearly won the first half hour, while Kerry clearly won the remaining hour. But the first half hour is crucial: it is perhaps the only time in the campaign that the two candidates had the nation's undivided attention.

It is true that Bush got repetitious and uninspired in the second part of the debate. But that means that the whole debate got boring. The feeling was that the same points were rehashed over and over.

Unfortunately for Sen. Kerry, debates are not scored like boxing matches. In a debate, the later rounds -- absent a knockout, and the consensus is there were no knockout blows last night -- don't matter as much. That is when viewers start to tune out, channel surf, do the dishes. Kerry's superior performance during the second part of the debate did not have as strong an impact on them as it had on the political junkies M.C.-ing the networks' and websites' post-debate analyses.

-- Uriah Kriegel of TCS

The snap polls taken by networks immediately after the debate found a decisive edge for Kerry. Yet it's doubtful the overall dynamics of the race were altered much. These 90 minutes, in a way, reinforced the fundamentals. Bush is the fellow with the uplifting themes: we're fighting for freedom, democracy, and our own survival in Iraq against killers who want to shake our will; it's tough work; the costs are indeed high; and I will be the strong and resolute leader who leads us to triumph. Kerry is the one with the sobering words: Iraq is a mess; we're not any safer; we must change course; and I have a better plan. It's inspiration (arguably misguided) versus critique (arguably not so inspiring). These are two rather distinct approaches, and they represent more of a psychological than an ideological split. Partisans on each side have already lined up with a candidate, and such voters are not likely to shift their loyalties on the basis of a debate performance (or anything else). The question is whether those legendary undecided voters will be responsive to the stirring tones that Bush aims for or will they be convinced by the pointed, rational arguments that Kerry seeks to present. Polls show that most Americans believe the war in Iraq was a mistake. But does that mean voters will automatically gravitate to the finger-waggerer who says he has a plan instead of the swaggerer responsible for the screw-up? Voters who now consider the war a blunder could still favor the candidate with the more upbeat or rousing message. In his closing remarks, Bush declared, "We've been challenged, and we've risen to those challenges. We've climbed the mighty mountain. I see the valley below, and its a valley of peace." Kerry said, "I believe America's best days are ahead of us because I believe that the future belongs to freedom, not to fear."

-- David Corn in THE NATION

Our President told the debate audience, "You cannot lead if you send mexxed missiges." I certainly hope not.

10/01/04 "ICH" -- But that's exactly what we got. You watch our President, the nervous hand-hiding, the compulsive water-glass-fondling, the panicked I-wish-I-had-a-whiskey look, and you think, "My god, this is the guy who's supposed to save us from al Qaeda."

And how are we going to win the War on Terror, Mr. President? "First of all, of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us. I know that," he said. Well, that's a start, I suppose.

But it doesn't have to stay this way. This is America, home of the brave and where, I remember from school, we could vote for president and the votes would count. So we looked to the tall man next to him to show us the way out.

In Iraq, "We don't have enough troops there," said the tall one. Really, Senator? We should send MORE? Not exactly: Mr. Tall's got a plan to get our troops out. He'll have a big meeting of "allies," and after he talks with them, they will all jump up and volunteer to send THEIR kids to Fallujah. France and Indonesia and Kuwait can't wait to ship in soldiers and extra body bags. Right. We love you, John, but there’s no band of Hobbits coming to the rescue -- that's just a movie.

Well, he looked kind of "presidential." But given the line-up includes Nixon, Ford and two Bushes, that's not a big trick.

I'm sorry. I know I'm supposed to stand up and cheer that John Kerry didn't get Gored. In fact, if you look at presidential debates the way the media plays it, as something akin to Olympic figure skating, where you score for the competitor’s style, you could say Kerry won.

But I don't feel WE won anything.

I mean, when Jim Lehrer asked how the candidates would make America safe from terrorists, Mr. Tall said he'd hire more firemen. And add more cops. Maybe he thought he was running for mayor.

It was disappointing, but then Mr. Small's answer was downright frightening. We have to "stay on the offensive," and "stay on the offense," and "I repeat, stay on the offense." We have no doubt that Mr. Small can be extraordinarily offensive, but even he can't take his offensiveness to the bad guys if he doesn't know where they are. And on that point, he's clueless.

There were two words I was hoping to hear from Mr. Tall: "Saudi" and "Arabia." Imagine if he laid it on the line, "The terrorists didn't put the hijackings on a credit card, Mr. President. Their Saudi sponsors are fattening on the bloated war-driven price of oil. But you can't touch your buck-buddies in the Gulf, can you, Mr. President?. As Commander-in-Chief, I'd cut'm off at the spigots, beginning with the release of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve. And then I'd seize their fat assets in the USA to compensate the victims of terror attacks."

When Mr. Tall was asked what whoppers the President has told us, surely there was something a bit more memorable than Mr. Small's failing to win over allies for his whacky crusade.

Here's what Mr. Tall said … in my dreams:

* "Beginning in March 2001, your Administration began a series of meetings with oil company executives to map the conquest of Iraq and its oil, a plan Americans would pay for in blood. You originally called this scheme, 'Operation Iraqi Liberation' -- O.I.L. We don't appreciate your little joke, Mr. Small."

* "One month after seizing Baghdad you fired General Jay Garner, the man you put in charge of Iraq, after he called for rapid elections in Najaf; after he refused to impose your plans to sell off Iraq's oil fields. In Najaf, citizens denied ballots, turned to bullets. And then, as General Garner predicted, the seizure of Iraq's assets resulted in the type of war one expects -- when seeking to impose colonial control."

* "Mr. Small, you claim we've given a thousand lives to bring democracy to the Mid-east. But so far, your democracy, Mr. Small, comes down to a puppet prime minister, we've installed in Iraq and a puppet government, the Saudis have installed in Washington."

OK, I can't expect all that in a presidential debate, where the message has to fit through a tube. But still, Mr. Tall could have won my vote with two words. It's the two-word answer John Kerry gave three decades ago when asked the same question -- "How can we get our troops out of a disastrous war?"

Then, the clear-minded, tall young men said, "In ships."

-- Greg Palast on ICH (Information Clearing House)

Friday, October 01, 2004

89. E-Mail Exchanges

Japan is always going to play second fiddle in Iraq (well hidden in the orchestra of the Coalition of Hope, just as their soldiers are pretty well-hidden -- when is the last time an Iraqi saw a Japanese soldier?) as long as they expect America to help them with problems closer to home -- think North Korea.

The Japanese national government (particularly after the recent Cabinet
shuffle) represents little more than the aspirations of a conglomeration of
power elites. America seems to be in line to follow this excellent business
model. Unfortunately, generating profits in a debt-ridden American economy
seems to depend on endless war. Cheer up, that's what's on offer when Bush
gets re-elected.

The problem is finding enough people to go out and fight these wars (you
can't keep sending the National Guard, and the Neo-cons and other politicos
are certainly NOT going to send their own kids) so it seems that all
American expats with US passport-holding kids approaching military age will
have to figure out what to do when the draft notices come.

And they will come. Get your heads out of the sand, chaps. Bush will put a
lien on your kids (want that passport renewal?) and send them off to war. Do
you have enough money and influence to buy your sons out?

-------- dedalus -------------------------

>And they will come. Get your heads out of the sand, chaps. Bush will put a
>lien on your kids (want that passport renewal?) and send them off to war. Do
>you have enough money and influence to buy your sons out?

You're heading for a hand slapping lad! Might even get tossed off the
list! I'm going to enjoy seeing how D handles this one...

Made my day!!


A hand-slapping is a local thing. I can live with that. Getting your kids registered for the Army (with the clear prospect of getting called up) is going to affect a lot of people we know. LC has young sons in their early 20s, so has GVT. There are others. I'm not trying to score points off D or anybody else. I think it is should be fairly obvious what is going to happen if Bush gets re-elected. And, yes, it will affect our American friends with teenage children in Japan. I'm just stating the bloody obvious, so let D do as he likes. How else can Bush carry on his wars?

PS - Less glee, pal. I know the Yanks are in it up to their armpits but these idiotic imperial fantasies (Bush & Co.) are going to have an effect on a lot of people we know before long.

------------- dedalus --------------------

>PS - Less glee, pal. I know the Yanks are in it up to their armpits but
>these idiotic imperial fantasies (Bush & Co.) are going to have an effect on
>a lot of people we know before long.

Glee about America?? That's one thing I don't have... they scare me
shitless. Watching Bush's UN speech left me stunned, and closing it
with 'God bless you all' -- I'm sure all our non-Christian friends
REALLY appreciated that one.

And he's just one of them...

Yeah, I do despair... and just take each day as it comes.


The Moslems are moving into Europe and have been for years. Now there are more and more of them coming and not just to the obvious colonial heartlands such as Britain, France, Italy, and Spain (not to mention Germany). We have new communities in such unlikely places as Norway, Portugal, and Ireland. Nobody wants to Christianize them -- we are barely Christian ourselves these days -- but we do want them to integrate into the local community, learn the language, send their children to the local schools. The great danger is when they stay aloof from the host country and look for their political and intellectual allegiances overseas. The immigrants (for the most part economic refugees) are not the problem. The problem lies in the fact that they are a natural target for Islamic fundamentalists who play on their sense of alienation. This is why the French put a ban on headscarfs, just to give you a recent example.

We are trying to deal with this new phenomenon in Ireland as well. The government is well-meaning but they don't really have a clue. When immigrants and asylum-seekers are forbidden to work and get dumped into low-income areas you can almost guess what is going to happen -- they undercut the locals for wages on the Black Economy and then the locals get pissed off and start beating them up. The middle class is then shocked at working class "racism". Think of the millions who went to America, blah blah. They are wrong on 2 counts. First, it's a simple competition for jobs and Second, the Irish had a very tough time in America, probably worse than what happens to some of these people now.

Bush is trying to push us all towards a confrontation. We don't WANT a confrontation. We are trying to deal with the influx of immigrants in our own way (limited, stupid at times, but learning as we go) and we honestly believe we can end up with black or coffee-coloured Irishmen and Irishwomen who will play on our national teams (they do already) and contribute something to the life of the nation -- THEIR nation as well as ours. That's the whole point, to get the kids to identify with the country they live in. The breeding grounds for Al Quaida are not only in the frustrated misgoverned lands of the Middle East but also in the countries of the West in which the religious minority (Moslems, previously Jews) feels alienated from the life of the society around them.

I think we can deal with this. Bush and his "Clash of Civilisations" is not making it any easier. Quite the opposite.

This is too long for a letter. Should post it on the Blog -- it has become the literary equivalent of a compost heap: whatever seems halfway good, stick it on. Every time you cut your finger, bleed on the Blog -- organic, you know. Your reply also, goes without saying.

But I'm not finished. This is just the first half. The second half is the weird peculiar mindset of isolationist Americans -- not, by God, their government!!

Been another long day. Get back to you later.

----------------- dedalus -----------------------------------

> American expats with US passport-holding kids approaching military age will
> have to figure out what to do when the draft notices come.
> And they will come. Get your heads out of the sand, chaps. Bush will put a
> lien on your kids (want that passport renewal?) and send them off to war. Do
> you have enough money and influence to buy your sons out?

You are right and your comments pulled my head out a bit. Last night the
Mrs and I talked. Since my boys have both passports, if the call ever comes
we might tend to let our oldest (21 and in Australia on a Working Holiday
visa on a Japanese passport) just give up the US passport. This would be
his own choice but we would go along with it. (Actually, I never formally
registered him for the draft at the US Embassy. It never seemed pressing.
But the world is changing...) Both of my boys think of themselves as
Japanese. It has evolved like that. I wrote an article about it in the
Bilingualism SIG journal. Are you a member of that SIG? If not, I could
send a copy. Interestingly, JS has a similar situation and I based
some of my article around comments he made at a presentation.
If you travel today be sure to carry your St. Christopher medal.

P.S. Next Wednesday I'll probably visit the Detention Center again. I'm
prepared to be depressed so perhaps I won't be so depressed this time. When
Father introduced me he said, "This is M-----" and sometimes the
prisoner/detainee offers their hand but there is a glass so you can't touch
so you just put your hands in the same place and say, "Nice to meet you."
Strange feeling.


We're living in dangerous times, since America - the most powerful country in the world these days (but watch out for China) -- is not under adult supervision. It's time to start thinking ahead. I'm not sure if your sons would want to forgo their right to American citizenship (in a normal world) but there's no point either in setting them up as cannon fodder for a rabidly aggressive US regime. It can't last forever, but that's not much consolation at the moment. I would be very suspicious and distrustful if I were in your position -- after all, we know they tell lies whenever it suits them. My daughter is in her senior year in a Quaker school in Pennsylvania (I have a lot of respect for the Quakers who tend to quietly go their own way) but she tells me she wants to come back to Japan for college. In her own words, "This country is just getting a little too strange for me, Daddy."

Bush & Crew have STOLEN the country. I think Americans who believe in the Constitution (Patriot Act???!!) and the Bill of Rights and the bloody Declaration of Independence should fight tooth and nail to get this country back to where it was -- a beacon of freedom and opportunity in a pretty sorry world. That was then. We have more (measurable) personal freedom in the EU these days. Europe is aghast at Bush and his antics. This is seen as a joke in America (well, we all love to trash the French, even in Europe!) but you are painting yourselves into a corner by extending the reaction to Al Quaida into a free-for-all against the Muslim world in general.

I have been reading James Carroll's new book "Crusade: Chronicles of an Unjust War" which has just come out. It comprises a series of articles in the "Boston Globe" from 9/11 on to September last year. Carroll is a strong Catholic (an ex-seminarian by the sound of him) and he brings a moral dimension to the American reaction to 9/11 which is notably lacking in the "kick ass" pronouncements of the current administration. It is a very chastening read. The guy could see it all coming because he is steeped in the history of the original Crusades. He puts an historical overlay on current events and you can see quite clearly how short-sighted and ignorant (historically speaking) Bush & Crowd, plus the Neo-cons really are. Carroll doesn't say "I told you so" because he is writing as he goes, as events occur. It amounts to a prescient and damning condemnation of the assumptions which underlaid the American attack on BOTH Afghanistan and Iraq.

You can get it on by typing in the author's name and/or the title. It runs to about Y2,500. Worth every penny. You say you are not a subscriber? There are times, mo chara, when you manage to amaze me.

Yes, I would like the article from the Bilingualism SIG, because I am not a member. I am no longer a member of JALT, come to think of it, because I resent and procrastinate over these direct assaults on my beer money.

I admire the fact that you visit the Detention Center. It's a difficult thing to do. Don't fool yourself by thinking you are in any way morally superior to the people on the other side of the glass. The only difference is that your crimes (as my own) are not on the statute books: they fall into the categories of COMMISSION and OMISSION, mainly, perhaps, the latter.

Cowardice is endemic, but it is never an excuse.

----------------dedalus ---------------------------------------

(I am going to post this on the Blog. Your identity is safe if that is a source of worry. Everybody else seems to be keeping their heads well below the parapet these days which is probably quite sensible. )