Wednesday, October 26, 2005

 

Any Day Now


By Pat Oliphant. Click on image to see larger version.
 

Blind Rage

U.S. deaths in Iraq have surpassed 2,000, which the White House and other Republican partisans are calling inconsequential, an arbitrary landmark. Arbitrary it may be; the President calls for more "sacrifice," an apt word for once.

It's worthwhile to remember that 15,000 soldiers have also been badly injured or permanently maimed. That's a ratio of 1 dead to 7.5 seriously injured. The bare minimum of Iraqis killed is put at 30,000 by most news organizations; if the ratio holds true, we might assume 225,000 serious injuries to Iraqis.

The Republicans are correct that by the standards of most wars, 2,000 dead and 15,000 maimed is paltry. More soldiers died on single days in many of America's wars. Even Iraqi casualties pale by comparison with the wholesale slaughter of Iraq's war with Iran.

There are really only two cases in which the 2k/15k numbers should be significant to us: 1. If our soldiers are dying for a just, pressing, and noble cause; or 2. If they are dying uselessly. In the former case, their sacrifice becomes disproportionately important to the rest of us, on whose behalf they are fighting. (For instance, 507 pilots and aircrew died in the Battle of Britain, an immeasurably meaningful sacrifice. Those dead are still greatly honored in Britain, and probably always will be.)

It is case #2, however, that opponents of the war invoke to claim significance for the 2,000 "mark on the wall." It seems a shame for Americans to have to die for nothing. Or for them to die for some arcane and/or radical notion of oil-related Geopolitics. And if they are indeed dying for a poor cause, then the 2,000 number becomes significant--because it is an outrage, a pity, an affront to decency.

History will record, I believe, that America's leaders were cynical in the extreme in instituting this war--and that the American people, for their part, were merely striking out blindly in a rage over 9/11, not mindful of who was hit...as long as someone was.

That is not something anyone's child should have to die for.



The Quotidian Meander

Monday, October 24, 2005

 

Stolen, by Alec Baldwin

By Alec Baldwin (I stole this from Huffpo, but it sure echoes my sentiments)


In today's NY Times, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, in reference to the Fitzgerald/ CIA leak investigation, is quoted as saying that she hoped "that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn't indict on the crime and so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars."

If you check the online record you will see that this is the same Kay Bailey Hutchison that voted in favor of both counts of impeachment against Bill Clinton. More disturbingly, she writes in the Congressional record dated February 17th, 1999:

"I do not hold the view of our Constitution that there must be an actual, indictable crime in order for an act of a public officer to be impeachable. It is clear to this Senator that there are, indeed, circumstances, short of a felony criminal offense, that would justify the removal of a public officer from office, including the President of the United States. Manifest injury to the Office of the President, to our Nation and to the American people and gross abuse of trust and of public office clearly can reach the level of intensity that would justify the impeachment and removal of a leader."


My question for today is: Why are contemporary Republicans so full of shit? And a follow-up...How did the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and General Eisenhower get taken over by such lying, thieving, self-serving scoundrels?


(Alec Baldwin)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

 

Last Call



I'm going to delete this book from my Lulu account soon (that is, it will no longer be available for purchase), so if you would like a copy, please order it soon.

www.lulu/com/bearpaw

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

 

Arrest warrant issued for lawmaker DeLay

HOUSTON (Reuters)--An arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday and bail set at $10,000 for former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay ahead of his scheduled court appearance this week in Austin, Texas for money laundering and conspiracy charges, a Texas court clerk said.

The so-called "capias" was a "purely procedural event" but would require DeLay to turn himself into authorities to be fingerprinted and photographed, Travis County Grand Jury Clerk Linda Estrada said.

Court officials said DeLay was expected to go to Fort Bend County jail in his district near Houston for booking, but that had not been confirmed.

"To any sheriff or peace officer of the state of Texas, greetings, you are hereby commanded to arrest Thomas Dale DeLay and keep him safely so that you have him before the 331st Judicial District Court of Travis County," the warrant said.

DeLay has been charged with conspiracy and money laundering in a campaign finance scheme tied to his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority.

He has denied any wrongdoing, but is accused of laundering $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions through the Republican National Committee for distribution to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002.

Texas law forbids the use of corporate money in political campaigns.

He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday before state District Judge Bob Perkins.

Neither a DeLay spokesman nor his lawyer was immediately available for comment.

(Reuters)

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

 

Response to Poverty: Cut Relief to the Bone

Hundreds of thousands of Katrina survivors are homeless, jobless, without health coverage--added to the millions already poor in America.

The right wing's response? Cut Medicaid, food stamps, housing and other vital services still deeper.

Hard to believe--but this Thursday the House of Representatives is expected to vote on increasing the cuts in vital programs (such as Medicaid, food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child welfare services, SSI, unemployment insurance, child support, etc.) from $35 billion to $50 billion. Forces in the Senate would also like to cut more. In addition, House right-wing members are calling for across-the-board cuts of all the other programs--including housing, education, public health, nutrition, child care, etc. (True Majority)



Most Americans don't get this. They don't understand that the corporate-fascist imperative is to shower aid and advantages on huge corporations while at the same time reducing or revoking anything that helps individual, everyday citizens.

The emerging world model seems to be, of all countries, China: Near-runaway capitalism coupled to a non-democratic, oppressive, authoritarian social regime. We're not there yet, but America is heading in that direction on rails.

Beware.



The Quotidian Meander

Sunday, October 16, 2005

 

Bush Remains Hugely Popular

I sure wish I wasn't such a slow reader. I read a mere 30 to 50 books a year, and every day of my life I feel the pressure. I have a friend who was a champion swimmer in his youth, and he says he is still haunted by the memory of swimming laps against the clock and constantly being behind, striving to keep up but gradually falling farther and farther back no matter how hard he tried. That's what I feel like when it comes to staying informed and exposing myself to ideas. I'm always behind, and always falling further behind.

And as if that weren't bad enough, I forget half of what I do read. I have an embarrassing habit of forgetting the very titles of the books I've read recently, which makes it seem like nothing stuck in my head at all. It's not quite that bad, but I have to constantly work to try to keep my memory in halfway decent shape.

Re-reading books would help set them in my memory, but, probably owing to my limited capacity to absorb them in the first place, I seldom re-read anything. Recently, however, I've been trying to re-read all of George Orwell. As I've done so, one thing about Orwell (besides what a delight he is to read) seems most prominent.


A fool's game
Predicting the future has always been a fool's game. It is for one thing unprovable until it happens or doesn't happen, so any fool can say anything with about the same chances of truth-value. Consider Marx, for example. Marx's critiques of capitalism were brilliant, and should be read by any individual claiming to be educated, at least in summary. But his pronouncements about the "inevitable" future course of history were, to put it mildly, way, way off the mark.

Even Jesus Christ was woefully bad at predicting the future. As Michael Grant's book Jesus makes clear, Jesus spent most of his ministry preparing for the coming of the Kingdom of God, which he thought was imminent. Almost two thousand years later, the same predictions--called the "rapture" this time, a concept the popularity of which I will never understand--is big business. But it still hasn't happened. (Why the prophets of "rapture" think they're better at predicting the future than Jesus himself was seems a mystery, but never mind.)

Orwell, however, is a different story. He died in 1950, but it's just amazing how prescient he was about what was happening in the world. His insights are still remarkably fresh today. His vision of 1984 hasn't exactly come true, any more than the Russian Revolution took place among farm animals, but in terms of psychological truth-telling it has only gained with the passage of time. Reading Orwell and Affluenza (another of the books currently on my bedstand) at the same time is eye-opening. Orwell's devotion to the unvarnished truth meant that his agenda was formed by his clear vision of the world, rather than the other way around, as it is with most of us humans.


And now for something completely different
Looking at things the wrong-way round is often enlightening. For instance, one thing that's stuck me recently is how the press is universally reporting that Bush's approval ratings are low. Sorry, but that doesn't jibe with the way I see it. A whopping 37% of the American population still thinks Bush is doing "a good job" as President? Holy cow. Given the situation in government and in the country as a whole, that seems to me like an enormous number.

I mean, just take a look at a couple of random facts. The Comptroller General of the United States says that 2004 was the most fiscally reckless in our entire history. Bush's Brain, a.k.a. Turd Blossom, just made his fourth command appearance before a Grand Jury. We have to find a way to dispose of an estimated 22 million tons of wreckage along the Gulf Coast. And of course there's good news and bad news out of Iraq; the good news being that they're making steps towards democracy, the bad news being that if they were truly democratic, they'd promptly vote an authoritarian Islamic theocracy into power.

And, somewhat to my amusement, the President's biggest critics these days are actually Republicans. They've just gotten their first whiff of how terminally pig-headed the man is. After five years of Bush telling the country and the world that it's going to be the way he says it's going to be just because he says so, they're apparently surprised--and in no small measure angered--that he's now doing the same thing to them.

But still, 37% of the population are so partisan, or so brainwashed, or so single-issue, or so corporately co-opted, or so distracted, or so advantaged, that they can still report to pollsters that they think Bush is doing a good job. As I've said before, if that's a good job, one can only wonder what a bad job would be. It's a situation Orwell would have found compelling.



The Quotidian Meander

Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

Coinkydink? You Decide

One of the conventions or truisms in postmodern America is that when something is a "conspiracy theory," it's crazy, perpetrated by outer-fringe whackos who can't tell the Good Book from the Hale-Bopp comet. And maybe the following suggests an M.O. on the part of the Administration that isn't entirely on the up-and-up, which some will reject out of hand on the "conspiracy theory" basis.

Still, it seemed mighty bald to me when Bush made what the Administration termed a "major speech on terrorism" and then, later that same day, New York City was knocked on its butt by warnings of imminent attacks on the subway system.

Turns out that this is not the first time such a thing has happened. MSNBC's Keith Olberman reports that "in the last three years there had been about 13 similar coincidences--a political downturn for the administration, followed by a 'terror event'--a change in alert status, an arrest, a warning."

Click the title to read the whole article.



The Quotidian Meander

Friday, October 14, 2005

 

The "QM" Now a Book!


I'm pleased to announce that the best of "The Quotidian Meander" is now anthologized as a printed book. It's called "Even Hitler Had a Convertible." If you're among those who are concerned about the direction our country is taking, and would either like to have this blog in revised, edited, and printed form, or would like to send it to a friend, please check the link by clicking on the title above.

Apropos of not much, the consarned thing took me forever to lay out. If you find any typos, I'd be obliged if you'd let me know!

Monday, October 10, 2005

 

Suicide Bombing



"Suicide bombing is now so commonplace in our world that most of us have lost sight of just how unimaginable it should be. It is, perhaps, the least likely thing human beings could ever be inclined to do. What, after all, is less likely than large numbers of middle class, educated, psychologically healthy people intentionally blowing themselves up--in crowds of children, in front of the offices of the Red Cross, at weddings--and having their mothers sing their praises for it? Can we even conceive of a more profligate misuse of human life? As a cultural phenomenon, suicide bombing should be impossible. But here it is."

(Sam Harris)




The Quotidian Meander

Saturday, October 08, 2005

 

The Future, by Wendell Berry



The Future
by Wendell Berry

For God's sake, be done
with this jabber of "a better world."
What blasphemy! No "futuristic"
twit or child thereof ever
in embodied light will see
a better world than this, though they
foretell inevitably a worse.
Do something! Go cut the weeds
beside the oblivious road. Pick up
the cans and bottles, old tires,
and dead predictions. No future
can be stuffed into this presence
except by being dead. The day is
clear and bright, and overhead
the sun not yet half finished
with his daily praise.



The Quotidian Meander
(Thanks to WK for sending this)

Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

...And if God Told You to Jump Off a Bridge?

In Elusive Peace: Israel and the Arabs, a major three-part series on BBC TWO (at 9:00 p.m. on Monday 10, Monday 17 and Monday 24 October), Abu Mazen, Palestinian Prime Minister, and Nabil Shaath, his Foreign Minister, describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003:

Nabil Shaath says: "President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq…" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it.'"




The Quotidian Meander
(Thanks to Scott L. for sending this)

 

It Would Be...Noteworthy

Just a couple of odd items: my local news this morning reported that 370,000 people were thrown out of work by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Last night, NBC news reported that the federal government awarded a no-bid contract to an Alaska firm to build a large number of temporary classrooms for Mississippi. An Alaska firm that has never built temporary classrooms before. (They look more or less like large double-wide trailers.) The government paid $85,000 each. Meanwhile, a local Mississippi contractor who has built temporary classrooms before said he would have done the job for $55,000 each--and if he'd gotten the contract it "most probably" would have created jobs in Mississippi.

NBC also reported that the government is paying $2,500 per residence for a crew to cover up the damaged parts of residential roofs with blue tarps. In many cases, that's approximately what it would cost to reshingle the roofs permanently.

Now, you see? This is the big problem with no-bid contracts. Because I, personally, would cover up the damaged parts of residential roofs with blue tarps for only $2,200 per roof. I would do it all day, and into the night. I would do it for as long as the dollars flowed. I would go blue-tarp crazy. I'd be a blue-tarp fool.

And just think of how much that would save the taxpayers.

And so it goes.


P.S. I could not care less if Condi Rice is lesbian. It has nothing to do with her job or her public role. I have to confess, though, that the prospect of a black, lesbian Republican Presidential nominee has a certain, uh, appeal.



The Quotidian Meander

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 

Administration Propagandizing Breaks the Law

"In a scathing report issued on September 30, the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) investigators said the Bush Administration had broken the law by using taxpayer dollars to disseminate 'covert propaganda' in the United States.

"The case in question involves the buying of favorable news coverage of the White House's education policies in the form of payments to conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and the hiring of a PR firm to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party. (The GAO's ruling should lead the mainstream media to broaden its investigation: What other reporters and media outlets are on the government's payroll?)

"But this is the tip of the proverbial iceberg. It's now clear that the Bush Administration represents a broad threat to a free and fair media. The bribing of journalists to report 'friendly' news has to be put in the context of a decades-long effort by the right and its corporate allies to undermine journalists' ability to report fairly on power and its abuse--whether through consolidation, cutbacks in news budgets or by attaching the label 'liberal bias' to even the most routine forms of news-gathering and reportage."

(Katarina van den Heuvel)

Read the whole essay--the title is a link.

Send this to others by clicking on the envelope below.



The Quotidian Meander

Monday, October 03, 2005

 

What, Me Worry?

This morning, Bush nominated his personal lawyer to the Supreme Court.

I've decided I'm not going to worry about Harriet Miers. Anybody nominated by Bush who donated $1k to Al Gore in '88 falls under the category of "not as bad as it might have been" in my book.

But I can't resist one little dig--aren't we glad that the Michael Brown fiasco at FEMA ended cronyism in the Bush White House?

Sheesh.

Well, okay, two digs: Harriet Miers evidently has said that George W. Bush is the smartest man she's ever known.

George W. Bush.

Smartest man. Ever known.

'Kay, now that's a worry.



The Quotidian Meander
 

A Strange Affair

Sometime in the next two to five years, we're going to have the opportunity to read one seriously fascinating book. It will be an exhaustive investigative account of the whole Judy Miller affair.

All I know is that something is seriously fishy here. Nobody seems to know exactly what is going on, although everyone is agreed that it is much more than meets the eye.

One day, somebody will do the digging, and will be able to put the whole thing in perspective--drag the truth, kicking and screaming, out into the light.



The Quotidian Meander

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