Saturday, August 27, 2005

Showing me nothing, but telling me everything

Reading the White House’s PR (or even listening to it in the president’s own voice) is quite easy these days.  You can read the news reports of it…or you can go directly to the source.  If you’re expecting information, though, you won’t find it here.  Christopher Walken in True Romance describes these weekly radio addresses better than anyone.  

The level of non-information is laughable.  What’s the point if you’re just going to spew a lot of buzzwords and useless adjectives?  The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is termed “a courageous and painful step,” and Sharon is described as “bold.” That's like calling coffee hot.  The droning, formal tone in these messages lulls the audience into a hypnotic non-thinking state, where you accept what is being told to you, not because it's true, but because nothing is really being said. Appearances do have to be maintained, after all.

The appearance being that Bush's foreign policy, especially when it comes to Iraq, is right and working, and of course neither is correct. The "wrongness" in started this unneccesary war with Iraq will be obvious in years to come, if it's not already. Hussein had no WMD, didn't plot or support Al Qaeda, but he presented a strategically convenient target. (If he were a more benevolent ruler who didn't openly despise the Bush family, I wonder if it wouldn't have been so easy to take him out.)

The fact that his policy isn't working can not only be seen in the casualty rates--which haven't been falling, for either US military personell or Iraqis-- but in the contentious process that Iraqis are going through to get a constitution. Don't believe me?

Take a look at the latest reporting. The Washington Post quotes a Sunni leader:
"The chances of bringing Sunni Arabs to the political process are almost lost," said Salih Mutlak, the most vocal and publicly unyielding of the Sunnis involved in talks on the constitution. "The Sunni Arabs will suffer a lot, unfortunately. Everybody in Iraq is going to suffer from this."

That contrasts starkly with Bush's boundless optimism.

The post article also hints at the beginnings of a civil war, made easier by everyone's favorite terrorist:
In Qaim, near the Syrian border, at least 35 people were killed in mortar, rocket and small-arms battles between a local tribe allied with Abu Musab Zarqawi's insurgent group, which has vowed to kill anyone who takes part in elections, and a rival tribe that has worked with the local government, said tribal leaders and hospital officials.

In Dawr, another mostly Sunni city north of Baghdad, bombers blew up a mosque that the Iraqi Islamic Party was using as headquarters and badly damaged a school serving as a voter-registration center, party and school officials said.

This is muslim-on-muslim violence revolving around the shape and scope of the new Iraqi government. Just remember that when Bush conjures images of 9-11 and Osama Bin Laden to make the flock go "ooh" and "aah." It's not about killing Americans or hating our freedoms. It's not about fighting the terrorists over there so we don't fight them here. It's about figuring out whether we helped or hurt the Iraqis by liberating them from Saddam, and the jury is still out on that one.

Eleanor Clift has a great piece in Newsweek, which you can read on MSNBC here. It brings up a point that isn't discussed much, Bush's coziness with the Saudis and his apparent hypocrisy when it comes to waging his "War on Terror." Iraq gets invaded, but the king of Saudi Arabia gets invited down to the ranch. Makes sense when you think about it, right?
When the phenomenon of suicide bombers first surfaced in the 1980’s, it was confined to three or four countries and fewer than a half dozen groups. It has spread to 25 countries with some 35 sponsoring groups. Eighty-one percent of the attacks have occurred since 9/11, raising questions about whether U.S. policies have helped transform suicide terrorism from an aberration and an isolated fear into something that is sickenly commonplace. For every bomber lost, twelve more can be recruited, Dr. Bloom noted. These are portrayed as acts of desperation by angry, frustrated, mostly young men, but they are an instrument of war and require planning and surveillance along with a sufficient pool of people to be cannon fodder. We are not like Europe, which has a large underclass of disaffected Muslims, “Pakistanis in America become IT professionals and dentists, they don’t become Jihadists,” said Dr. Bloom.

Who are the suicide bombers? The answer shouldn’t surprise you. Just as Saudi young men were 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/ll, Saudi nationals are behind 75 to 80 percent of the attacks in Iraq by foreign fighters-and 90 percent of the attacks in Iraq are not perpetrated by Iraqis. A survey of Jihadist Web sites culled hundreds of names of Saudi suicide bombers, many with a phone number where you can call to congratulate the family. The Bush administration hasn’t done enough to crack down on the Saudis, who continue to “export” terrorism, says Bloom. The Saudis refuse to control their borders, and jihadists travel unimpeded to Syria or Turkey and then into Iraq. Saudi nationals are the most sought-after recruits because they have money. There’s a lot of wealth in the royal family and some of it is funding terrorism. There are 35,000 people in the extended family, and they don’t all get invited to Crawford, Texas to hold hands with Bush the way King Abdullah did earlier this year.

Is it possible that President Bush himself is undermining the "War on Terror?" Put that one in the definitely maybe category.

Next post, I promise won't be about Bush or the war. I'm this close to finishing Olympos, Dan Simmons's latest SF epic, so I think some good ole fashioned literary critism will be on deck. (Considering the scope of Ilium/Olympos, that should push Bush off the schedule.)

Plus I have a very sad story to tell you...


I yelled at a panhandler today.  He was waiting for us as we got off the highway, his shiny white uniform pressed and clean, a big grin on his face and a bucket in his hands.  We were sitting ducks trapped behind the red light and the guy in front of me decided to wave the panhandler over…as the light turned green.

My horn doesn’t work, so I barked out, “Hey!  Get outta the way!”  

And they did.  As I drove by the panhandler, he smiled at me.  “Sorry, sir,” he said.  “God bless you.”  Yeah, whatever.

A recent study revealed that the citizens of Denver shell out $4.5 million to panhandlers a year.  That’s some bucks.  A campaign is under way to discourage the panhandling, saying the generosity doesn’t help the recipients and instead may be contributing to whatever problem has them on the streets.  Reggie Rivers of the Denver Post says to keep giving.

I point Reggie to the guys in the white suits and big smiles.  To the crazy priest that has been wandering the streets of Denver for years, asking for donations and scratching lottery tickets on the 15 bus.  What about that one-legged guy parked on the corner of 6th and Federal?  Surely the contributions he’s received over the years would be able to get him a prosthetic, if not a place to stay.  He’s not the only one-legged man in this town.

The truth is that most of them don’t need your help.  They want it.  Just like they want to sit on street corners with a cardboard sign.  Some of them are drunks.  Some of them are drug addicts.  Some of them are mentally ill. (The Priest is definitely missing a few screws.)  But none of them can be helped by spare change.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Revolution Will Not Be Advertised

You would have thought from the comments to my last post that I struck a nerve, but seems that what really happened is that I’ve been slimed by adbots.  So I’m implementing a little security measures.  I’m not getting rid of the comments, because I like the feedback.  But you’re going to have to enter a secret word now.  Sorry.

I will not have my blog used as free advertising for shysters and spammers.

Update: The offending comments have been removed forever. Happy "real" commenting.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Every now and then I'll get one of those inspirational Christian e-mails from a family member about the "real war in Iraq," you know the side you don't see on the news. It's a bunch of kids, smiling, or soldiers handing out food or something. It's inspirational, see. It's to remind you of all the good we're doing over there, that if we trust our President and pray, everything will be fine.

It's blatant propaganda, but I suppose it's neccesary in some way to make people feel good about something they don't want to think through or take moral responsibility for.

This story from Slate might be considered propaganda by some, but unlike those cutesy e-mails, this one feels a little more "real" to me. The photo gallery is worth a look, if you can stomach it. Perhaps the most disturbing, from a visceral point of view, is the photo of the suicide bomber, his whole middle blown away, just a head on two splayed legs. Grim. And very very real.

Thoughts of the war have been weighing on my mind lately, as they have throughout the whole thing. Most people could care less really. They go on about their lives. Today, I went to work, and sat in an air conditioned office and typed into a computer. After work, I went to the library. After I finish this post, I'm going to go water my tomatoes.

But there's a war going on. And it pisses me off that George W. Bush, the guy who never fails to remind us that he's Commander-in-Chief, says that it's important for him to have a life, that he's taking the whole month of August off, while the military does his dirty work. I'll be writing more on that subject in an upcoming post.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Music Minute

Got a minute?  Listen to this.

That is the sound of Count Basie and his orchestra.  Legend has it that his band improvised it on the spot during a recording session and when the producer asked him what the song was called, Count Basie asked him what time it was.  It was one o’clock, and that’s how this song got the name One O’clock Bounce.  

Garden of Eden

Salsa season is almost upon us. I have a chili plant that's producing some big fat peppers, and from the tiny one I sampled last weekend, these babies are going to be HOT. They're already as fat as my fingers and I have some fat fingers. Once they get a little longer, I'll start plucking them.

The tomatoes are coming along too. Just look at these little guys. The plants are healthy and producing lots of tomatoes. Many of them are still small and green, but they're turning red. Hopefully they'll get big and juicy soon! I can't wait to make the all-garden salsa. ( I'll need to get onions, garlic, and cilantro, but I swear the tomatoes and chilis will be grown from mine own hand!)

Look at how red these guys are. They're only about the size of golf balls, but that's promise, isn't it? Take a look below at the habanero, one of them already as long as my hand. Then look at those big fat jalapenos! How many do you count?