Sunday, August 31, 2008

Election '08: You Make Me Feel So Young!

Sarah Palin sports a funny T-shirt during her college days at University of Idaho. Credits: Heath Family/AP
Scripture says, "No one knows the Father but by the Son." Therefore, if you want to know God, you must not only be like the Son, you must be the Son.
---Meister Eckhart
Zen is like a spring coming out of a mountain. It doesn't flow in order to quench the thirst of a traveler, but if the travelers want to help themselves to it, that's fine. It's up to you what you do with the water; the spring's job is just to flow.
---Alan Watts
To be satisfied with a little, is the greatest wisdom; and he that increaseth his riches, increaseth his cares; but a contented mind is a hidden treasure, and trouble findeth it not.
Yep, I can hear Sinatra singing that tune, Nelson Riddle and his fiddles kickin' the arrangement along. "You make me feel 'sthough Spring has sprung!" We'll be voting with youth and age side by side. Young and tempestuous, old and experienced. Mixed races, mixed religions, the roles of women, Viet Nam, mooseburgers, what else could we want?
They say if you want to stay young, get yourself a younger mate. The younger the better. I know McCain still is the presumptive nominee at this writing, and therefore Palin is too---so the Convention still could change everything. Maybe they'll save money, surprise us again, and not even have a convention. Call it off and send contributions to New Orleans. It's all TV and they want us to stay tuned.
But anyway, if it is McCain/Palin, does McCain look younger to you now with runnerup Miss Alaska by his side? I think he does. How does Obama look next to Biden? If there's another Bush/Cheney situation it's these 2 guys. Joe can't help himself. He always looks as if he's showing Barack around. I even saw him, their arms around each other side by side, turn Obama in the direction of the most cameras. We live in such interesting times.
The press descended on Wasilla, Alaska Friday, and headed for the Heath's A-frame hunting lodge where they got handed the family album. As a result, we get all these candid shots of the small-town girl on the way to marrying her high school sweetheart. Even the Senior Prom picture. Sarah's husband, who works for BP (surprise, surprise!), has parents who know McCain's VP choice pretty darned well. "We don't agree on everything. But I respect her passion," said Faye Palin. "Being pro-life is who Sarah is." (and don't miss the pictures) The Governor also sued Bush when he declared the polar bear endangered. Oil drillers prefer to shoot bears if they come around. Palin's mother-in-law had been thinking of voting for Obama. Maybe not everybody in Alaska is a Republican.
There's so much stuff in the Sunday papers this morning, it's hard to know where to start---or maybe you've decided not to bother at all. There certainly is a great list of assembled reasons as to the advantages and risks of the Republican choice. I can direct your attention to a couple of articles if you like. One is in this morning's Long Island Newsday...and the other is Maureen Dowd's hilarious piece today.
Why Obama treads carefully on GOP's veep pick
August 31, 2008
PITTSBURGH - With one calculating ad and a surprising vice-presidential nomination, Republican John McCain is seeking to turn the tables on Democrat Barack Obama.
After treading lightly for months to avoid a slip or slight that could be seen as a racial attack, McCain's camp converted the glass ceiling into thin ice for the Obama campaign. They did it with a pick that almost dares Democrats to criticize Sarah Palin and risk charges of insensitivity or sexism.
The New York Times
August 31, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist Vice in Go-Go Boots?
The guilty pleasure I miss most when I’m out slogging on the campaign trail is the chance to sprawl on the chaise and watch a vacuously spunky and generically sassy chick flick.
So imagine my delight, my absolute astonishment, when the hokey chick flick came out on the trail, a Cinderella story so preposterous it’s hard to believe it’s not premiering on Lifetime. Instead of going home and watching “Miss Congeniality” with Sandra Bullock, I get to stay here and watch “Miss Congeniality” with Sarah Palin.
Sheer heaven.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Republic Of Georgia: Hypocrisy

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline

...and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden croft,

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

---John Keats

Yield to the willow

all the loathing

all the desire of your heart.


Shadow owes its birth to light.

---John Gay

I was watching the Opening Ceremonies from the Beijing Olympics. I confess to remaining ignorant of what time and what day it is in China, but NBC was broadcasting it last Friday night at 8:00 Eastern Time. About half an hour into the spectacle, there was footage of President Bush and spouse in their box seats. The President had his suitcoat off and sleeves rolled up in the 85 degree heat of the open-air stadium. Matt or Bob commented that Russian Prime Minister Putin was calling to Bush, and we were seeing a shot of Putin, 3/4s turned away from the camera, shouting something the 10 or 20 feet between them. Bush turned around, scowling, and shouted back clearly, "NO!" The significance of the interchange became clear about an hour later when the commentators announced the Republic of Georgia had launched a missile attack upon the "breakaway province" (whatever that means exactly) of South Ossetia.

I had gotten to know a very little bit about Georgia because our town had been visited by a touring folk group from there last November. The program for the Zedashe Ensemble told us, "These songs have been forged by the flames of centuries of war and oppression, baptized by the free-flowing blood of our ancestors, blessed by the tears of our saints, who pray constantly for their burning motherland, and raised like a phoenix from the ashes by a nation that passionately seeks to preserve its voice." Sure enough, there was some very primitive, yet harmonically complex, music, somewhat Eastern European but with a Far Eastern mix, climaxing with a sword fight dance that had sparks flying literally from the clash of heavy metal. The language was Georgian, and they were adamant about it.
A couple days later there were news reports of fighting going on in that country, and I was worried as to whether the troupe would be stuck over here. We had a Georgian exchange student at the high school, and I had come to think of the place as remote but with great variety of mountains and the Black Sea. Indeed it is the crossroads between Asia and Europe. It is said winemaking originated in the Caucasus. It looks like a wonderful spot to explore. So besides the strategic location, what did these people have to fight about?
The day following those Olympic Ceremonies the Russian army marched in. Its jets attacked Georgian military bases, and President Saakashvili announced the 2 countries were at war. There were hundreds of casualties. Surely Bush and Putin, those good ol' pals of eyegazing trust, weren't negotiating these matters in the stadium. We're aware the Bush administration has been working on both Georgia and The Ukraine to join up with NATO---right there on the Russian border. We know Bush and Saakashvili had some friendly talks a couple years ago. We know there's something about a BP pipeline going right through the country (and Turkey) out to the Mediterranean, carrying Asian oil to the rest of the world. Georgia has been revived by the pipeline which promises to completely replace Russian oil with a cheaper BP price. With all those developments, would Georgia undertake military operations without some communication with us or them?
Bush gave it a few days to straighten out, but Cheney immediately called for punishment of those Russians. There's quite a bit of history here and some treaties, and here's some of it in a dispatch from the London Financial Times on August 7th.,dwp_uuid=66e078d0-66ca-11dd-808f-0000779fd18c.html With everybody in Beijing, did Saakashvili figure he just had to go it alone? Or was it planned that way? I'm sure both Bush and Putin like a good alibi.
How much support the Georgian president actually has among the people is open to question. The "democratic" elections both there and in The Ukraine were contested. Saakashvili's public statements about US support first sounded disappointed, but with Bush's announcement of "vigorous and ongoing" humanitarian aid delivered by American troops he's much more upbeat. “'We already saw U.S. Air Force landing in Georgia despite Russians controlling the airspace,' he said, after a C-17 had touched down. 'And we will see U.S. military ships entering Georgian ports despite Russians blocking it. That we will see.' He added, 'These will be serious military ships.'”
The Russian view was presented well in the Financial Times on Tuesday, by the Russian Foreign Minister. With the announcement Secretary of State Rice and the troops are on the way, Sergei Lavrov yesterday warned the US choice of Georgia over Russia is a sacrifice of the "real partnership" our countries have forged since the fall of the Soviet Union. Of course there's also feeling in Russia the US has been walking all over that reeling state while it's been down. Missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland and now NATO expansion hardly seem the stuff we thought would happen after Putin in the Rose Garden.
Furthermore, Robert Scheer found it interesting on Tuesday that John McCain's chief foreign policy advisor was a paid lobbyist for the Georgian government until just 4 months ago. Prior to that Randy Scheunemann was a director of the Project For A New American Century and after 2000, headed the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which championed the U.S. invasion. Scheer believes what we have here is an August Surprise, specially calculated to give McCain the steam he needs and muddy the waters for Barack Obama.
All of that of course is a horror to contemplate. But what gets me is how righteous the US is sounding against Russia's response to a call for help in defense of its citizens and sympathizers. I don't support such incursions but isn't this precisely what the US said it was doing in Iraq, to liberate those poor beseiged people? Is it what we said in Kuwait, Panama, Granada? When the Soviet Union chugged its way toward Cuba with missiles onboard in 1962, we shouted about our "sphere of influence." I remember well, as I was prime pickin's at 1-A draft status. Are other countries allowed such a sphere? We hear about "territorial integrity." That's a pretty hazy category. Surely we look like hypocrites once again, spinning the world and all the people in it our way.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Shocking Indictment

Anything more than the truth would be too much.

---Robert Frost

River whispering over the stones,
Sunlight streaming through frozen pines.
In this still pool, in this falling light,
Zen conquers the dragon of delusion.

---Li Po

The merit of (the rooster's call) is in its freedom from all plaintiveness. The singer can easily move us to tears or laughter, but where is he who can excite in us a pure morning joy? When, in doleful dumps, breaking the awful stillness of our wooden sidewalk on a Sunday, or, perchance, a watcher in the house of mourning, I hear a cockerel crow far or near, I think to myself, "There is one of us well, at any rate"---and with a sudden rush return to my senses.

---Henry David Thoreau

This is Naomi Wolf, born in San Francisco in 1962. She was an undergraduate at Yale, then did graduate work at New College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar. The Beauty Myth, her first book, was an international bestseller. She followed that with Fire With Fire: The New Female Power and How It Will Change The 21st Century, published by Random House in 1993, and Promiscuities: The Secret Struggle for Womanhood, published in 1997. Misconceptions, released in 2001, is a powerful and passionate critique of pregnancy and birth in America. In 2002, Harper Collins published a 10th anniversary commemorative edition of The Beauty Myth. She is the author, most recently of The End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot and the forthcoming Give me Liberty: How to Become an American Revolutionary. Her essays have appeared in various publications including: The New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Glamour, Ms., Esquire, The Washington Post, and The New York Times. She also speaks widely to groups across the country. She's on the hit list of the usual suspects among the right wing.

I'm sure there is nothing new about women maintaining the conscience, as well as sometimes the home fires, of this nation. What is new and welcome to me, at least in the last quarter century, and particularly on the Internet, is the frequency and brilliant integrity of their verbal artistry. Is it my imagination or are female writers speaking truth to power, at least on the left, better than ever...and just where and when we need it? Thus was I stopped in my tracks this morning by a reference to an article Ms. Wolf published on Friday, in the Daily News Egypt. Where?

I had not heard of the paper, but I have neglected to become more expert in the journalism of the Middle East. First published in Cairo in 2005, The Daily (Star) News Egypt claims to be an independent, privately-owned publication, intent upon unbiased reporting. It's in English. Ms. Wolf's article is entitled "Dear World, Please Confront America," and I suspect we'll hear more about it during the remainder of the week. Naomi Wolf's endorsement of Barack Obama can be found at the website . Let me tell you, even I was a bit shocked by the appearance of this piece.

Dear world, please confront America
By Naomi Wolf
First Published: August 1, 2008
Is it possible to fall out of love with your own country? For two years, I, like many Americans, have been focused intently on documenting, exposing, and alerting the nation to the Bush administration’s criminality and its assault on the Constitution and the rule of law — a story often marginalized at home. I was certain that when Americans knew what was being done in their name, they would react with horror and outrage.
Three months ago, the Bush administration still clung to its devil’s sound bite, “We don’t torture.” Now, Doctors Without Borders has issued its report documenting American-held detainees’ traumas, and even lie detector tests confirm they have been tortured. The Red Cross report has leaked: torture and war crimes. Jane Mayer’s impeccably researched exposé “The Dark Side” just hit the stores: torture, crafted and directed from the top.
The Washington Post gave readers actual video footage of the abusive interrogation of a Canadian minor, Omar Khadr, who was seen showing his still-bleeding abdominal wounds, weeping and pleading with his captors.
So the truth is out and freely available. And America is still napping, worrying about its weight, and hanging out at the mall.
I had thought that after so much exposure, thousands of Americans would be holding vigils on Capitol Hill, that religious leaders would be asking God’s forgiveness, and that a popular groundswell of revulsion, similar to the nineteenth-century anti-slavery movement, would emerge. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, if torture is not wrong, nothing is wrong.
And yet no such thing has occurred. There is no crisis in America’s churches and synagogues, no Christian and Jewish leaders crying out for justice in the name of Jesus, a tortured political prisoner, or of Yahweh, who demands righteousness. I asked a contact in the interfaith world why. He replied, “The mainstream churches don’t care, because they are Republican. And the synagogues don’t care, because the prisoners are Arabs.”
It was then that I realized that I could not be in love with my country right now. How can I care about the fate of people like that? If this is what Americans are feeling, if that is who we are, we don’t deserve our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Even America’s vaunted judicial system has failed to constrain obvious abuses. A Federal court has ruled that the military tribunals system — Star Chambers where evidence derived from torture is used against the accused — can proceed. Another recently ruled that the president may call anyone anywhere an “enemy combatant” and detain him or her indefinitely.
So Americans are colluding with a criminal regime. We have become an outlaw nation — a clear and present danger to international law and global stability — among civilized countries that have been our allies. We are — rightly — on Canada’s list of rogue nations that torture.
Europe is still high from Barack Obama’s recent visit. Many Americans, too, hope that an Obama victory in November will roll back this nightmare. But this is no time to yield to delusions. Even if Obama wins, he may well be a radically weakened president. The Bush administration has created a transnational apparatus of lawlessness that he alone, without global intervention, can neither roll back nor control.
Private security firms — for example, Blackwater — will still be operating, accountable neither to him nor to Congress, and not bound, they have argued, by international treaties. Weapons manufacturers and the telecommunications industry, with billions at stake in maintaining a hyped “war on terror” and their new global surveillance market, will deploy a lavishly financed army of lobbyists to defend their interests.
Moreover, if elected, Obama will be constrained by his own Democratic Party. America’s political parties bear little resemblance to the disciplined organizations familiar in parliamentary democracies in Europe and elsewhere. And Democrats in Congress will be even more divided after November if, as many expect, conservative members defeat Republican incumbents damaged by their association with Bush.
To be sure, some Democrats have recently launched Congressional hearings into the Bush administration’s abuses of power. Unfortunately, with virtually no media coverage, there is little pressure to broaden official investigations and ensure genuine accountability.
But, while grassroots pressure has not worked, money still talks. We need targeted government-led sanctions against the US by civilized countries, including international divestment of capital. Many studies have shown that tying investment to democracy and human rights reform is effective in the developing world. There is no reason why it can’t be effective against the world’s superpower.
We also need an internationally coordinated strategy for prosecuting war criminals at the top and further down the chain of command — individual countries pressing charges, as Italy and France have done. Although the United States is not a signatory to the statute that established the International Criminal Court, violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions are war crimes for which anyone — potentially even the US president — may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions. The whole world can hunt these criminals down.
An outlaw America is a global problem that threatens the rest of the international community. If this regime gets away with flouting international law, what is to prevent the next administration — or this administration, continuing under its secret succession plan in the event of an emergency — from going further and targeting its political opponents at home and abroad?
We Americans are either too incapable, or too dysfunctional, to help ourselves right now. Like drug addicts or the mentally ill who refuse treatment, we need our friends to intervene. So remember us as we were in our better moments, and take action to save us — and the world — from ourselves.
Maybe then I can fall in love with my country again.