Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Mournful Thanksgiving

The painting by John Schutler is Home to Thanksgiving, published 1867 by Currier and Ives.

Space and Time! now I see it is true, what I guess'd at, What I guess'd when I loaf'd on the grass, What I guess'd while I lay alone in my bed, And again as I walk'd the beach under the paling stars of the morning.

---Walt Whitman

Even if our efforts of attention seem for years to be producing no result, one day a light that is in exact proportion to them will flood the soul.

---Simone Weil

There is no end to the opening up that is possible for a human being.

---Charlotte Joko Beck

I'm sure Americans gathered around their tables on Thursday, grateful for companionship and family...but uncertain how far the "commonwealth" spreads anymore. What we still can hold in common, even the values, seems up for grabs from all sides. Conservatives talk about compassion, but the world they live in resembles the cave and Hobbesian misery.

At more than a few Thanksgiving dinners, probably the name Scott McClellan was mentioned. He was the cute press link to the Oval Office for 3 years, dancing around questions daily. Much of what he had to do was keep things secret. We're at war and only Commander Decider can know...or the case is in litigation and it wouldn't be proper to comment...or Congress is investigating and we'll see what they find out. On April 21st next year a book by McClellan will be published, entitled WHAT HAPPENED: Inside the Bush White House and What's Wrong with Washington. Probably nobody would have noticed this coming event had not its distinguished publisher, PublicAffairs Books, put an excerpt bombshell on its website:

"The most powerful leader in the world had called upon me to speak on his behalf and help restore credibility he lost amid the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So I stood at the White house briefing room podium in front of the glare of the klieg lights for the better part of two weeks and publicly exonerated two of the senior-most aides in the White House: Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. "There was one problem. It was not true."I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the President himself."

The item really hit the news the day before Thanksgiving, and so there were whispers and hushed tones midst the dressing and drumsticks Thursday. What will happen? Will anything happen? Why do we feel like conspirators with such talk? Is this East Germany before the Wall came down..or is this the Free World? Why does the war machine roll on, looting the Treasury, robbing us blind? In a column on July 6, 2007, Joe Galloway asked why the Bush administration "looks remarkably more like an organized crime ring than one of the arms of the American government?" It must be fear that silences the nation. Cat's got our tongue.

Galloway published on the McClellan excerpt right away, and I hope you read it. During the Vietnam War, he served three tours in Vietnam for UPI, beginning in early 1965. Decorated for rescuing wounded American soldiers under heavy enemy fire during the battle at Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Valley, he was the only civilian awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. Army during that war. In 2000 he voted for Bush who promised to give a government "whose appointees would be honest, upright, fair and moral." Now he devotes himself to asking What happened?

McClatchy Washington BureauPosted on Wed, Nov. 21, 2007Commentary: Good riddance to them allJoseph L. Galloway McClatchy Newspaperslast updated: November 21, 2007 06:24:25 PM

I mentioned the commonwealth in my musings, and it's not a term we use as much in the States as they do in the country to the North. Of course, the Common was central to every town in New England, and in many places still is an important gathering place for the people. When I travel in Canada, I feel a sense of community there that is more than the neighborhood block party we sometimes celebrate down here. As friendly as we get with neighbors nowdays, we don't forget that the leaves on my lawn drop off the tree that belongs to my neighbor...and so shouldn't he rake them up? Stuff like that. We were more as the Canadians have remained in the 1950s I think. There still was a sense that an uplifting of community, rather than just my private fortunes, will be good for us all.

I thought about this on Thanksgiving, and then again this morning when I read an excerpt from Thom Hartmann's new book Cracking The Code: The Art and Science of Political Persuasion. You probably know about Hartmann, but I was impressed with this description of him at Wikipedia:

"Hartmann is also a vocal critic of the effects of globalization on the U.S. economy, claiming that economic policies enacted since the presidency of Ronald Reagan have led, in large part, to many American industrial enterprises being acquired by multinational firms based in overseas countries, leading in many cases to manufacturing jobs - once considered a major foundation of the U.S. economy - being relocated to countries in Asia and other areas where the costs of labor are lower than in the U.S.; and the concurrent reversal of the United States' traditional role of a leading exporter of finished manufactured goods to that of a primary importer of finished manufactured goods (exemplified by massive trade deficits with countries such as China); Hartmannn argues that this phenomenon is leading to the erosion of the American middle class, whose survival Hartmann deems critical to the survival of American democracy. This argument is expressed in Hartmann's 2006 book, Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class and What We Can Do About It. (Also noted: corporate deregulation and the end of enforcement of the Sherman anti-trust act. Consequent media deregulation leading to corporate media shifting the American consensus towards the acceptance of privatization, massive corporate profits -which causes the shrinking of the middle class.)"

In the excerpt from the new book, he seems to be talking a good deal about the traditions of America and how they are rooted in the notion of what we share in common~~~

Whatever Happened to 'We the People'?By Thom Hartmann, Berrett-Koehler PublishingPosted on November 23, 2007

Thom Hartmann's website has more excerpts~~~


jazzolog said...

I hate to ruin your Sunday with more ghastly news, but then 13 is an unlucky number. Or another way to look at it: here's something to pray about if you're somebody who goes to church on Sunday the 13th.

There's a terrible report in the Sunday New York Times about murders, man-and-womanslaughter and other violent crimes charged against returned Iraq War veterans recently. They're numbering into the hundreds. This is long, so it must be in the magazine...but it starts out~~~

"Late one night in the summer of 2005, Matthew Sepi, a 20-year-old Iraq combat veteran, headed out to a 7-Eleven in the seedy Las Vegas neighborhood where he had settled after leaving the Army.
"This particular 7-Eleven sits in the shadow of the Stratosphere casino-hotel in a section of town called the Naked City. By day, the area, littered with malt liquor cans, looks depressed but not menacing. By night, it becomes, in the words of a local homicide detective, 'like Falluja.'
"Mr. Sepi did not like to venture outside too late. But, plagued by nightmares about an Iraqi civilian killed by his unit, he often needed alcohol to fall asleep. And so it was that night, when, seized by a gut feeling of lurking danger, he slid a trench coat over his slight frame — and tucked an assault rifle inside it."

Also, check out the photos, slide show, charts and other statistics.

McClatchy put this story out on Friday~~~

In voiding suit, appellate court says torture is to be expected
By Greg Gordon | McClatchy Newspapers
Posted on Friday, January 11, 2008

WASHINGTON — A federal appeals court Friday threw out a suit by four British Muslims who allege that they were tortured and subjected to religious abuse in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a ruling that exonerated 11 present and former senior Pentagon officials.

It appeared to be the first time that a federal appellate court has ruled on the legality of the harsh interrogation tactics that U.S. intelligence officers and military personnel have used on suspected terrorists held outside the United States since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The detainees allege that they were held in stress positions, interrogated for sessions lasting 24 hours, intimidated with dogs and isolated in darkness and that their beards were shaved.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the detainees captured in Afghanistan aren't recognized as ``persons'' under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because they were aliens held outside the United States. The Religious Freedom Act prohibits the government from ``substantially burdening a person's religion.''

The court rejected other claims on the grounds that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft had certified that the military officials were acting within the scope of their jobs when they authorized the tactics, and that such tactics were ``foreseeable.''

``It was foreseeable that conduct that would ordinarily be indisputably `seriously criminal' would be implemented by military officials responsible for detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants,'' Circuit Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson wrote in the court's main opinion.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown dissented with parts of the opinion, saying that ``it leaves us with the unfortunate and quite dubious distinction of being the only court to declare those held at Guantanamo are not `person(s).'

'`This is a most regrettable holding in a case where plaintiffs have alleged high-level U.S. government officials treated them as less than human,'' Brown wrote.

After being held for more than two years, the four men were repatriated to Britain in 2004, where they were freed within 24 hours without facing criminal charges, said Washington lawyer Eric Lewis, who represented them along with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

Three of the men — Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Rhuhel Ahmed — say they traveled to Afghanistan from Pakistan in October 2001 to provide humanitarian relief but were seized by an Uzbek warlord in northern Afghanistan the next month and sold to U.S. troops for bounty money. The three said they were unarmed and never engaged in combat against the United States.

The fourth, Jamal al Harith, said he'd planned to attend a religious retreat in Pakistan in October 2001 but was ordered to leave the country because of animosity toward Britons. When he tried to drive a truck home via Iran and Turkey, he says, his truck was hijacked at gunpoint and he was handed over to the Taliban, who jailed him and accused him of being a spy. When the Taliban fell after the U.S.-led invasion, he was detained and transported to Guantanamo.

The detainees filed suit in October 2004 against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, former Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, and nine other senior military officers. They allege that the Pentagon officials violated the Alien Tort Statute, the Geneva Conventions, the religious freedom law and the Constitution with their harsh treatment.

In upholding a lower court's rejection of all the claims but those under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the circuit court said that the interrogation tactics, which Rumsfeld first authorized in 2002, were ``incidental'' to the duties of those who'd been sued.

``It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency,'' said Lewis, the detainees' attorney, ``when a court finds that torture is all in a day's work for the secretary of defense and senior generals. . . . I think the executive is trying to create a black hole so there is no accountability for torture and religious abuse.''

Lewis said his clients intended to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the ruling.

McClatchy Newspapers 2008

On Thursday The Wall Street Journal published a commentary by a person who calls himself Karl Rove. Remember him? Supposedly "retired" to be with his loving family (though I never believed that for a minute) he has stirred to respond to Hillary's victory in New Hampshire---and to do a little slamdunk on Obama.

Fortunately the blogs went after him at once, the best being one called Cerebral Itch Scratch Pad, which I immediately bookmarked and will be checking often. I urge you to get to know this author, who writes brilliantly.

jazzolog said...

The normally staunch and staid London Economist published this week a farewell to the President of the United States. The article's author is Ann Wroe, identified as the obituary writer for the magazine~~~
End of an aura
Nov 19th 2008
The Bush administration will come to an end on January 21st

With Jimmy Carter it was the teeth, big, straight and white as a set of country palings. With Richard Nixon it was the eyebrows, surely brooding on Hell. Abe Lincoln had the ears (and the beard, and the stove-pipe hat); Bill Clinton had a nose that glowed red, almost to luminousness, as his allergies assailed him. But George Bush’s most extraordinary feature was his nostrils, and they will be missed.

It is not just that they were large, and lent his face a certain simian charm. They were also uncontrollable. When the rest of the presidential body was encased in a sober suit, and the rest of the presidential face had assumed an expression appropriate to taking the oath of office, or rescuing banks, or declaring to terrorists that they could run but they couldn’t hide, the nostrils would suddenly flare and smirk, as if Mr Bush was about to burst out with something outrageous or obscene, or flash a high-five, or hail his deputy chief of staff as “Turd blossom”.

Occasionally, a real gaffe was about to emerge. Watched closely, the nostrils no doubt gave advance warning of the moment when, addressing the Pentagon’s top brass, Mr Bush said: “Our enemies...never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” More often, nothing exceptional was on the way to being said. But the nostrils ran ahead, twitching like a bull in a rodeo or a frisking wild horse, hinting at danger to come.

When he was debating with Al Gore in 2000, Mr Bush’s language was polite and the policy statements well coined, but the nostrils declared they couldn’t take the whole thing seriously. With hindsight, when the 2000 election became the closest ever, the Florida shenanigans seemed prefigured in that sniggering expression, which less became the 43rd president than Alfred E. Neuman of MAD magazine.

Being bigger and better than most people’s, the presidential nostrils were also more acute. They could sniff out WMD in Iraq as snappily as hot dogs at a football game, though it took the UN many years to come up with nothing. Yellow-cake uranium could be nosed as far away as Niger, and Saddam Hussein’s connections to al-Qaeda were as odorous as a Texas feedlot. The nostrils could smell victory, too, especially on that morning in May 2003 when, standing on an aircraft-carrier with “Mission Accomplished” fluttering on a banner behind him, Mr Bush breathed in the tang of the ocean and of power.

Much else alerted those nostrils when others were indifferent. Oil, for example, even when buried under hundreds of feet of environmentally protected Arctic tundra. Cheese, as eaten by the feckless French and other effete gastronomes of old Europe. Red meat, when demanded by the right-wing base which so often found this president disappointing, in the form of tax cuts and suspended regulations. And danger, as personified by suspicious individuals from faraway countries, whose proper place was to be in orange pyjamas at
Guantánamo Bay, well out of reach of a lawyer.

An aroma of pork

Disloyalty, or the whiff of it, set off a particular quivering. When Paul O’Neill, Mr Bush’s ex-treasury secretary, revealed that Saddam had been targeted from day one of Mr Bush’s first term, and when Scott McClellan, his former press secretary, wrote that the Bush White House lacked both candour and competence, the nostrils assumed an air of outraged innocence: the same look, in fact, they had assumed on the worst day of Mr Bush’s presidency, when an aide leaned down to tell him of the attack on the twin towers and the president, busy reading “The Pet Goat” to a class of Florida children, could not for a moment engage either his brain or his mouth to take the news.

All the stranger, therefore, that the noble orifices had their shortcomings. They could not smell the putrid mud that covered the ninth ward of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina passed, or the stink of subprime mortgages leaching their poison into the financial system. They found nothing especially noisome about the presence of Dick Cheney and his oilman cronies in charge of the national energy task-force. Sensitive as they were, they were unimpressed by levels of arsenic in drinking water or particulates in the air. And though Mr Bush had sold himself as a lean-spending, small-government man, they could not resist the aroma of a trillion-dollar budget stuffed with choicest pork.

Most curiously, they failed to detect the poisonous atmosphere that swirled around him abroad. Granted, the most revolting protesters were kept away. But even so the nostrils, proudly set even when the eyes blinked and the mouth pursed and wavered, maintained an extraordinary belief in the wisdom of the president and the rightness of his cause. One day the rest of the world would wake up and be grateful. One day the Bush administration would come up smelling like a rose.

Copyright © 2008 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group