Monday, May 28, 2007
Arlington Cemetery : Memorial Day 2007
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind;
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." -- John Donne
- Here, the deaths haven't been fully absorbed. People talk to their dead. They still see their dead. "Somebody drives by," says Linda Bishop, a few feet from the grave site of her son Jeff, "and you think it's him. You see him." The phone rings, says Xiomara Mena Anderson, standing over the grave of her son Andy, and "I always think it's him."
- Other parts of Arlington wear the dignified repose of old age and bygone eras. Section 60 reverberates with youth and immediacy. Visitors wear long sideburns and spiky hair, flip flops and eyelet skirts.
- Even the names on the headstones sound youthful and vibrant: Megan, Jesse, Heath, Blake. They are names that seem better suited to text messaging -- LOL, BFF -- than to the abbreviated code of the graveyard -- CPL, BSM.
The complete text
By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 20, 2007; A01
In Section 60, death remains too fresh to be separated from life.
You see it in the 17 cigars pushed into the grass near one headstone, signs that a combat unit stopped by.
And in the mother who spent winter afternoons wrapped in a sleeping bag, stretched across her son's grave.
And in the older man who reads Robert Frost to the dead, knowing that their families live thousands of miles away.
Here in Section 60 are the graves of 336 men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- almost one in 10 of the dead. Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have produced the highest percentage of burials at Arlington National Cemetery from any war. For the duration of this war, there have been few photographs of coffins returning home. Section 60 is the one place to get a sense of the immensity of the nation's loss.
The great expanse of the cemetery is known for its orderliness, its precision. Each Memorial Day, the government places an American flag exactly one foot in front of every headstone. Only flowers are allowed on graves.
But in "60," the messiness of life disrupts the order. Picnics are laid and incense burned. Red glass hearts are left atop the headstones. Origami-style sheets of notebook paper are tucked away, safe from lawn mower blades.
Mothers and widows, friends and regretful exes write intimate notes, some as casual as a message stuck on a refrigerator door.
"I called your old cellphone the other day. Someone named Brian has it now, and I couldn't help but wonder if he knew anything about you."
"It was so wonderful having lunch with you. Now that I know how easy it is to get here by Metro, I'll come by way more often."
Here, the deaths haven't been fully absorbed. People talk to their dead. They still see their dead. "Somebody drives by," says Linda Bishop, a few feet from the grave site of her son Jeff, "and you think it's him. You see him." The phone rings, says Xiomara Mena Anderson, standing over the grave of her son Andy, and "I always think it's him."
Other parts of Arlington wear the dignified repose of old age and bygone eras. Section 60 reverberates with youth and immediacy. Visitors wear long sideburns and spiky hair, flip flops and eyelet skirts.
Even the names on the headstones sound youthful and vibrant: Megan, Jesse, Heath, Blake. They are names that seem better suited to text messaging -- LOL, BFF -- than to the abbreviated code of the graveyard -- CPL, BSM.
"I find a need to be there," says Teresa Arciola, who drives from New York's Westchester County every other month to place iPod earbuds on her son's grave and play for him the Temptations and Eminem. She brings him Black Forest gummy bears and, on his birthday, beer that she pours into the ground. At every visit, she sits on his grave and reads aloud from his favorite baby book, "Corduroy." He had just turned 20.
"I feel good while I'm there," Arciola says. "But I don't think there's comfort."
* * *
The graves come quickly.
One mother visits the grave of her casualty officer, the man who was there for her when she first learned that her son had died in 2005.
The funerals require an extra level of choreography.
Two were held Wednesday, back to back. Overhead, thunderstorms threatened, the sky was the color of dark cement and the wind blew flower arrangements to the ground.
By the time the first man was buried -- Maj. Douglas A. Zembiec, a 34-year-old Marine known as the Lion of Fallujah -- the backhoe beside his grave had begun to dig for the next funeral. More than 50 mourners remained near Zembiec's grave site.
Some wandered, visiting other graves. A man in a dark suit sought out two other headstones. A Marine officer spent 20 minutes crisscrossing the section, stopping regularly.
And the backhoe continued to dig. Every mound of dirt scooped from the newest grave was used to finish burying the officer whose funeral had just ended. Rites for Army Spec. Matthew T. Bolar were to begin in an hour.
To stand at the edge of where the graves begin is to see exactly what the war has meant -- what has been lost, what has been sacrificed. The headstones' dark, black lettering seems to endlessly repeat the vague circumstances of each death: Operation Iraqi Freedom . . . Operation Iraqi Freedom . . . Operation Enduring Freedom . . . Iraqi Freedom . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Enduring . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Iraqi . . . Enduring . . .
"Freedom is not free," say the hats and bracelets worn by some visitors to Section 60. And the rows of headstones -- from the just-dug graves back to the those of World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans who died of old age -- are stark, white reminders of how much that freedom has cost.
* * *
The graves spread in every direction, as orderly as crops in early June, lines and diagonals as reassuring as they are mesmerizing.
Although more than 300,000 veterans from every American war since the Revolution are buried at Arlington, the cemetery gained worldwide prominence after President John F. Kennedy was laid to rest there in 1963. It is celebrated as sacred ground for military heroes.
Arciola remembers first going to visit her son Michael after he died in Iraq in 2005. Seeing another mother in a chair nearby, Arciola approached and asked, "Does it get any better?"
Answered the woman, whose son had died about two years earlier, "No."
This is the place where all of the grief, anger and pride at what's going on in Iraq and Afghanistan come together. Children chase each other through the headstones and try to pry rocks from the dirt of freshly dug graves. Their parents stand nearby, introducing themselves and exchanging e-mails and phone numbers.
"They tell me they don't want to go to any more grief counselors or priests. They want to be with people who are going through hell themselves," says Carol Thomas, who stops by regularly and has befriended many of the regulars. Her husband is buried elsewhere in Arlington, and she sees the Iraq and Afghanistan war dead as "all my boys." She sees their mothers and fathers, widows, uncles, best friends and others as "my great friends."
In this place bordered by a canopy of trees, with distant church bells ringing like deep amens to a prayer and a pair of wind chimes sounding like a summertime back porch, mothers call to each other from afar: "How have you been?" "It's good to see you!" They hug and squeeze hands, holding tight and saying silently what no one has to articulate.
"Has the Muslim family come today?" asks regular visitor Joyce Ward on the afternoon of Mother's Day.
"No. I haven't seen them," answers Anderson, whose eldest son died in Iraq a year ago in June. She misses him so completely that the words of his tombstone are repeated across the back left window of her sport-utility vehicle and on a bracelet she wears daily: "In loving memory of My Beloved Son Cpl. Andy D. Anderson." She has spent all day here, filling vases by his gravestone with mums and daisies.
"But I see flowers," Anderson adds, thinking this is a good sign.
"No," Ward tells her, worriedly. "I brought those."
They go quiet for a moment, knowing what the other family is going through, wishing they could help. Another woman nearby says, "The parents are having a tough time, aren't they?"
In May 2005, Beth Belle's son, Nicholas Kirven, was the first to be buried in a brand-new row of graves. Two years later, five rows extend from his headstone. She is talking about the young man who stopped by earlier in the day, the one who still walked haltingly on his prosthesis and had a scar winding around his skull, the one who leaned over to see names on the newest graves, his arms hugging his chest.
"They come, and they cry," Belle says, describing the veterans she has watched and spoken with in the past two years. Only a week ago, while she and her husband and others from their family were fussing over flowers at her son's grave, she noticed a Marine hanging out at the grave of a young man buried two rows up from her son.
"He kept looking over at us," Belle says, until her sister finally told her, "I think he wants to talk to you. You should go over there." He had been back only two days, Belle remembers, and he said, "This is the hardest thing for us to see -- the families."
As she talks, another young man comes and kneels by Larry Philippon's grave, right next to her son's. He starts to cry, and his sniffles seem so loud they almost echo. When he stands, Belle's husband says something to him, and he answers quickly, as though it's all he trusts himself to say: "I played lacrosse with Larry."
When she was talking with the Marine, Belle continues, he became as emotional as the lacrosse player. He told her words she'd heard before from others returning from battle, sentiments she doesn't share. "I let you down," he said. "We didn't bring your son back. I didn't do my job."
* * *
A man with thick, gray hair is reading to the fallen. Midafternoon, Tom Gugliuzza-Smith takes a break, picks up a large, brown watering can and small brush and visits every gravestone on the section's northern end, scrubbing bird droppings. He has been visiting Section 60 since late 2004, when he stopped by a funeral and watched a gangly adolescent collapse over his father's casket. He has since become, in effect, a stand-in for those who can't be there. He reads books such as "The Da Vinci Code" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls," sent by far-away families for their sons.
And now, down York Drive, the shady road that leads straight to Section 60, a tall, slender guy is walking fast. He has shaggy blond hair and Euro-fashionable clothes: dark shirt, skinny jeans, backpack. His stride is long, almost buoyant.
He turns right and threads his way through the gravestones, slowing, then stopping at one that, two-and-a-half weeks ago, lay in the final row. That distinction has since disappeared. A new row of freshly dug graves holds seven headstones.
Sinking to his heels, this young man who, only moments before, looked purposeful and almost brisk seems to crumble. He reaches toward the name etched into the gravestone. He is sobbing.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Lament for Dead Soldiers - One Father's cry from the heart
Parents who lose children, whether through accident or illness, inevitably wonder what they could have done to prevent their loss. When my son was killed in Iraq earlier this month at age 27, I found myself pondering my responsibility for his death.
Among the hundreds of messages that my wife and I have received, two bore directly on this question. Both held me personally culpable, insisting that my public opposition to the war had provided aid and comfort to the enemy. Each said that my son's death came as a direct result of my antiwar writings.
This may seem a vile accusation to lay against a grieving father. But in fact, it has become a staple of American political discourse, repeated endlessly by those keen to allow President Bush a free hand in waging his war. By encouraging "the terrorists," opponents of the Iraq conflict increase the risk to U.S. troops. Although the First Amendment protects antiwar critics from being tried for treason, it provides no protection for the hardly less serious charge of failing to support the troops -- today's civic equivalent of dereliction of duty.
Money buys access and influence. Money greases the process that will yield us a new president in 2008. When it comes to Iraq, money ensures that the concerns of big business, big oil, bellicose evangelicals and Middle East allies gain a hearing. By comparison, the lives of U.S. soldiers figure as an afterthought.
Memorial Day orators will say that a G.I.'s life is priceless. Don't believe it. I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life: I've been handed the check. It's roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning once he starts pitching next month.
Money maintains the Republican/Democratic duopoly of trivialized politics. It confines the debate over U.S. policy to well-hewn channels. It preserves intact the cliches of about isolationism, appeasement and the nation's call to "global leadership." It inhibits any serious accounting of exactly how much our misadventure in Iraq is costing. It ignores completely the question of who actually pays. It negates democracy, rendering free speech little more than a means of recording dissent.
This is not some great conspiracy. It's the way our system works.
The toll in Iraq - May 1 - May 26, 2007
Zachary R. Gullett, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 01, 2007
Johnathan E. Kirk, 25, Marine Lance Corporal, May 01, 2007
Ryan P. Jones, 23, Army 1st Lieutenant, May 02, 2007
Katie M. Soenksen, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 02, 2007
Astor A. Sunsin-Pineda, 20, Army Specialist, May 02, 2007
Matthew T. Bolar, 24, Army Specialist, May 03, 2007
John D. Flores, 21, Army Private 1st Class, May 03, 2007
Felix G. Gonzalez-Iraheta, 25, Army Sergeant, May 03, 2007
Jerome J. Potter, 24, Army Private 1st Class, May 03, 2007
Colby J. Umbrell, 26, Army 1st Lieutenant, May 03, 2007
Andrew R. Weiss, 28, Army Specialist, May 03, 2007
Kelly B. Grothe, 21, Army Reserve Specialist, May 03, 2007
Coby G. Schwab, 25, Army Reserve Staff Sergeant, May 03, 2007
Christopher N. Hamlin, 24, Army Staff Sergeant, May 04, 2007
Larry I. Guyton, 22, Army Private 1st Class, May 05, 2007
Charles O. Palmer II, 36, Marine Corporal, May 05, 2007
Kenneth N. Mack, 42, Marine Reserve Master Sergeant, May 05, 2007
Matthew L. Alexander, 21, Army Corporal, May 06, 2007
Anthony M. Bradshaw, 21, Army Corporal, May 06, 2007
Robert J. Dixon, 27, Army Specialist, May 06, 2007
Jason R. Harkins, 25, Army Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Christopher S. Kiernan, 37, Army Staff Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Joel W. Lewis, 28, Army Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Virgil C. Martinez, 33, Army Staff Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Michael A. Pursel, 19, Army Corporal, May 06, 2007
Sameer A. M. Rateb, 22, Army Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Vincenzo Romeo, 23, Army Staff Sergeant, May 06, 2007
Kyle A. Little, 20, Army Specialist, May 08, 2007
Dan H. Nguyen, 24, Army Specialist, May 08, 2007
Blake C. Stephens, 25, Army Sergeant, May 08, 2007
Bradly D. Conner, 41, Army Sergeant Major, May 09, 2007
Walter K. O’Haire, 20, Marine Lance Corporal, May 09, 2007
Michael Frank, 36, Army Specialist, May 10, 2007
Roy L. Jones III, 21, Army Private 1st Class, May 10, 2007
Anthony J. Sausto, 22, Army Private, May 10, 2007
Jason W. Vaughn, 29, Army Sergeant, May 10, 2007
Douglas Zembiec, 34, Marine Major, May 10, 2007
William A. Farrar Jr., 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 11, 2007
James David Connell Jr., 40, Army Sergeant 1st Class, May 12, 2007
Daniel Courneya, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 12, 2007
Christopher E Murphy, 21, Army Private 1st Class, May 12, 2007
Anthony J. Schober, 23, Army Sergeant, May 12, 2007
Andrew J. Bacevich, 27, Army 1st Lieutenant, May 13, 2007
Rhys W. Klasno, 20, Army National Guard Specialist, May 13, 2007
John T. Self, 29, Air Force Staff Sergeant, May 14, 2007
Allen J. Dunckley, 25, Army Sergeant, May 14, 2007
Christopher N. Gonzalez, 25, Army Sergeant, May 14, 2007
Nicholas S. Hartge, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 14, 2007
Thomas G. Wright, 38, Army National Guard Sergeant, May 14, 2007
Jeffrey D. Walker, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 14, 2007
Jesse B. Albrecht, 31, Army Sergeant 1st Class, May 17, 2007
Victor M. Fontanilla, 23, Army Private 1st Class, May 17, 2007
Aaron D. Gautier, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 17, 2007
Jonathan V. Hamm, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 17, 2007
Steven M. Packer, 23, Army Sergeant, May 17, 2007
Coty J. Phelps, 22, Army Specialist, May 17, 2007
Ryan J. Baum, 27, Army Sergeant, May 18, 2007
Scott J. Brown, 33, Army Sergeant 1st Class, May 18, 2007
III, Anselmo Martinez, 26, Army Sergeant, May 18, 2007
Marquis J. McCants, 23, Army Specialist, May 18, 2007
Casey W. Nash, 22, Army Specialist, May 18, 2007
Joshua G. Romero, 19, Army Specialist, May 18, 2007
David W. Behrle, 20, Army Specialist, May 19, 2007
Ryan D. Collins, 20, Army Corporal, May 19, 2007
Joseph A. Gilmore, 26, Army Specialist, May 19, 2007
Travis F. Haslip, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 19, 2007
Jean P. Medlin, 27, Army Sergeant, May 19, 2007
Christopher Moore, 28, Army Staff Sergeant, May 19, 2007
Jason A. Schumann, 23, Army Sergeant, May 19, 2007
Alexander R. Varela, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 19, 2007
Justin D. Wisniewski, 22, Army Sergeant, May 19, 2007
Brian D. Ardron, 32, Army Sergeant, May 21, 2007
Michael W. Davis, 22, Army Specialist, May 21, 2007
Shannon V. Weaver, 28, Army Staff Sergeant, May 21, 2007
Steve Butcher Jr., 27, Army Staff Sergeant, May 22, 2007
Kristopher A. Higdon, 25, Army Staff Sergeant, May 22, 2007
David C. Kuehl, 27, Army Staff Sergeant, May 22, 2007
Robert J. Montgomery Jr., 29, Army Sergeant, May 22, 2007
Oscar Sauceda Jr., 21, Army Private, May 22, 2007
Robert A. Worthington, 19, Army Private 1st Class, May 22, 2007
Benjamin D. Desilets, 21, Marine Lance Corporal, May 22, 2007
Julian M. Woodall, 21, Marine Corporal, May 22, 2007
Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 23, 2007
Daniel P. Cagle, 22, Army Private 1st Class, May 23, 2007
Benjamin J. Ashley, 22, Army Specialist, May 24, 2007
Robert H. Dembowski, 20, Army Private 1st Class, May 24, 2007
Iosiwo Uruo, 27, Army Sergeant, May 24, 2007
Casey P. Zylman, 22, Army Private 1st Class, May 24, 2007
William Lee Bailey III, 0, Army National Guard Specialist, May 26, 2007
David Paul Lindsey, 0, Marine Corporal, May 26, 2007
Copyright by iCasualties.org
"Ah, Wilderness" - The Seasons
Spring 2007, Slouching toward summer
The effect of warm days was apparent. Most of the wild flowers have disappeared. Saw a lot of sticky monkeys ((Mimulus aurantiacus). The buckeye trees are still full of clusters but they are beginning to turn brown. The toyon, madrone, oak and eucalyptus trees looked strong, ready to face the scorching days ahead.
© Musafir May 26,2007
Blue Dick ((Dichelostemma pulchellum)
© Musafir May 26,2007
A magnificent Oak tree at Long Ridge
Friday, May 25, 2007
Evangelical Moles in Post-Bush America
Think of a generation of scrubbed, clean graduates of Christian colleges doing their thing while waiting for Armageddon.
Until she appeared before the House Judiciary Committee this week to testify about her role in the Justice Department firing scandal, Goodling had been mocked on the Internet and on late-night TV as a certain type: one of a "bunch of hayseeds" staffing the administration, as HBO comedian Bill Maher called her.
Goodling graduated from Messiah College ("home of the Fighting Christies") and the law school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson ("a televangelist's diploma mill") -- both Maher's terms.
Goodling is part of a new generation of evangelicals ushered in by Falwell, who insisted that Christians get involved in politics. They are graduates of the exploding number of evangelical colleges, which no longer aim to create a parallel subculture but instead to train "Christian leaders to change the world," as the Regent mission statement reads.
It used to be that being 33 and in charge of 93 U.S. attorneys would mean you'd been top of your class at Harvard or Yale or clerked at the Supreme Court. Now, Christian schools are joining that mix. Regent has had 150 of its graduates working in the White House; the school estimates that one-sixth of its alumni are in government work. Call them the Goodlings: scrubbed young ideologues, ready to serve their nation, the right's version of the Peace Corps generation.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Democrats Rolled Over
Shailagh Murray in The Washington Post
Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.
Bush, who has already vetoed one spending bill with a troop timeline, had threatened to do the same with the next version if it came with such a condition. Democratic leaders had moved ahead anyway, under heavy pressure from liberals who believe that the party won control of Congress in November on the strength of antiwar sentiment. But in the end, Democrats said they did not have enough votes to override a presidential veto and could not delay troop funding.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
The Jimmy Carter Flipflop - He Was Right on Saturday
On May 20th The Washington Post published a report filed by Associated Press datelined Little Rock, AR, Saturday, May 19, about remarks made by former President Carter.
- "Former President Carter says President Bush's administration is "the worst in history" in international relations, taking aim at the White House's policy of pre-emptive war and its Middle East diplomacy."
- "We now have endorsed the concept of pre-emptive war where we go to war with another nation militarily, even though our own security is not directly threatened, if we want to change the regime there or if we fear that some time in the future our security might be endangered," he said. "But that's been a radical departure from all previous administration policies."
- Carter also offered a harsh assessment for the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, which helps religious charities receive billions in federal grants.
- "As a traditional Baptist, I've always believed in separation of church and state and honored that premise when I was president, and so have all other presidents, I might say, except this one," he said.
Too bad that President Carter decided to retreat. He was right on Saturday when he spoke out about Bush 43.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Novels: Old and New - V.S. Naipaul * Kiran Desai
A blogger friend recently commented about V.S. Naipul's A House for Mr. Biswas and how touched she was by the book. A great novel. I read it decades ago when I lived in India. Naipul's novel, published in 1961, about Mohun Biswas, a man of Indian origin living in Trinidad (under British rule then), had a mixed effect. It grasped my attention and, at the end. left me feeling depressed.
The Inheritance of Loss won the prestigious Man-Booker Prize in 2006. Only citizens of Britain and the Commonwealth are eligible for the prize, and reproduced below is an anecdote about Desai posted in my blog after announcement of her win.
The Inheritance of Loss is one of the nominees for the 2007 Orange Prize. Desai's previous book Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, published 1998, received good reviews.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Defeat for Paul Dundes Wolfowitz
World Bank * Henry Waxman and Karl Rove
According to reports he will leave by the end of June. Corporate America and universities might consider him toxic but he is sure to find a berth in one of the conservative think tanks like the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute. And there will be a book in which he will write about the unfair treatment he received and that he did nothing wrong. George Tenet did just that. Not many people believed him. Karen DeYoung in The Post: "Yesterday, two years later, Wolfowitz resigned from the World Bank, effective June 30. He has become a virtual pariah, forced out by the bank's executive board for ethics violations and reviled by much of the staff as an arrogant intellectual who cared more about his ideas and image than about the institution or its customers."
Wolfowitz and others like him felt that they could roll over those who didn't agree with their management style and policies. Wolfowitz brought two aides from the Bush administration and installed them to do his dirty work. They,too, abused their power. One of them, Kevin Kellems, left before the boss. The second, Robin Cleveland, is most likely involved in job search.
- The immediate cause of Wolfowitz's resignation was a pay deal he ordered for Shaha Riza, a bank employee with whom he was romantically involved. But the public vitriol that poured from the bank once his fall began in late March with revelations about the deal underscored wider problems.
- Far from respecting the bank, member governments and staff charged, Wolfowitz surrounded himself with doctrinaire former White House and Republican officials and gave them wide authority. He altered long-standing policies and imposed new ones without consulting the staff or member governments. He risked the bank's credibility and the future of the poor countries it serves.
Statement released by the World Bank indicates that the Board did concede some points to Mr. Wolfowitz: " Over the last three days we have considered carefully the report of the ad hoc group, the associated documents, and the submissions and presentations of Mr. Wolfowitz. Our deliberations were greatly assisted by our discussion with Mr Wolfowitz. He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that. We also accept that others involved acted ethically and in good faith. At the same time, it is clear from this material that a number of mistakes were made by a number of individuals in handling the matter under consideration, and that the Bank's systems did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed. One conclusion we draw from this is the need to review the governance framework of the World Bank Group, including the role as well as procedural and other aspects of the Ethics Committee. The Executive Directors acknowledge Mr. Wolfowitz's decision to resign as President of the World Bank Group, effective end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2007). The Board will start the nomination process for a new President immediately."
Henry Waxman and his Investigations
Interesting column in the post by by Robert Novak The untouchable Mr.Rove might not continue to remain so much longer.How things have changed after the mid-term election last November. A year ago it would have been unthinkable. The White House had Congress in its pocket. Now the tremors of the shift in power are being felt thoughtout the Bush Administration.
How sweet it is.
On the day presidential senior adviser Karl Rove administered a tongue-lashing to a Republican congressman, disturbing news about his former executive assistant was spread on Capitol Hill. GOP House members learned that Susan Ralston is requesting immunity to testify before Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman's investigating committee.
If her testimony is a dud, that could embarrass Waxman. But he has many other weapons. Since assuming the chairmanship on Jan. 4, Waxman has acted as though he had spent the past dozen years in the congressional minority contemplating how many investigations he could launch. His committee has aimed at the General Services Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, constraints on global-warming scientists, the misrepresentations of Cpl. Pat Tillman's death in Afghanistan, private contractors in Iraq and the Plame leak, among other things.
The Bush team has seemed confused and disorganized in the face of this fusillade. Warnings by Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, Waxman's Republican counterpart on the committee, fell on deaf ears at the White House. The president's agents appear uncertain about how much they should meet Waxman's demand for documents.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Falwell and the Moral Majority - The Wannabe Torquemadas
The news reminded me a statement ascribed to Mike Clark, a reporter in Memphis, TN, back in 1981. "The moral majority is neither moral nor a majority". Time and time again we learn about two-faced leaders of religious organizations who froth at the mouth railing against moral decadency and get caught in sexual scandals. A notable, recent example is former evangelical preacher Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs,CO. Even Republican politicians have toned down their support for them. The family values cow has been milked dry.
John Patterson wrote in The Guardian, on April 28th, about attacks against books and films by the hate-filled, self-appointed guardians of our morals. My friend KCR calls them mandarins of morality. One gets the feeling that if they had the power they would happily follow Torquemada's footsteps.
If only we had more movies based on the religious right's hate list. John Patterson finds rebellious motivation down at the library
Saturday April 28, 2007
With its cheesy special effects and its teen-centric narrative, Bridge To Terabithia is the kind of movie that normally generates no revenue streams whatsoever from my wallet. However, the 1977 novel it's based on, by Katherine Paterson, was the ninth most frequently challenged book in American libraries and school-board syllabi during the 1990s, according to the American Library Association, and thus I found myself automatically rooting for it. (Paterson also wrote The Great Gilly Hopkins - No 21 on the list; clearly she's dedicated to afflicting the uptight.)
Terabithia annoyed the usual people for the usual reasons: its story of two avowedly non-religious kids who attempt to transcend their everyday problems through creative fantasy punches all the religious right's hottest buttons: secular-humanism as a base substitute for The Word; "magic"; godlessness; unsupervised dating, etc. These same people were also up in arms, at different times in different states, about Daddy's Roommate (No 2), Heather Has Two Mommies (No 11), The New Joy of Gay Sex (No 28), The Witches (No 27), Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret (No 62), and A Day No Pigs Would Die (No 17). It's also pretty clear that a lot of them don't like books by or about black folks, which would account for the presence I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, The Colour Purple, Native Son and The Bluest Eye. As Grampa Simpson might say, this stuff "angries up the blood!"
You have to believe that annoying these censorious, yet subliterate bigots is a very good thing, and therefore the more movies we see based on books featured on the ALA's most challenged list, the better off we'll be.
And if you doubt it, just count the good movies that have already emerged from the opprobrium conferred on them by the list: The Handmaid's Tale (the religious right's ambitions for women, helpfully outlined), Lord Of The Flies (there's your "laissez-faire" right there), To Kill A Mockingbird (justice for negroes? Pah!), The Outsiders (justice for teenage hoods? Never!), Carrie (menstruation must never be mentioned!), The Dead Zone, Slaughterhouse Five, Ordinary People and American Psycho.
That's a track record worth envying, so what about the unfilmed masterpieces? Well, the titles are certainly toothsome enough. I don't even have to read The Boy Who Lost His Face or Mommy Laid An Egg to know I need to see movies of them. And it's about time someone took another stab at The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn (No 5), the slyest and wisest child's-eye-view of the adult world ever written - which is precisely why these people all hate it.
Truly, there is a fund of ammunition here with which to annoy the genophobic bluenoses and the militant Christers for years to come. Pick your titles at:
and start your cameras.
Further reading: Censorship Mrs Grundy
Never on Sunday
A lifelong opponent of fascism, In 1981 Melina Mercouri became "the first Minister of Culture in Greece" and served until 1989. She took this office again in 1993, and served until 1994. Source: Wikipedia
Melina Mercouri died of lung cancer 6 March 1994. Now, that was a sad day.
Falwell Moral Majorioty Christian Right Torquemada Melina Mercouri
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Walks in the Woods - Spring 2007
It is the time for wild flowers. This year, low rainfall has prevented great displays. They will be gone soon but there are still some to be found.
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."
-- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
Thursday, May 10, 2007
A Red Hibiscus Bloomed - Jharkhand on my Mind
After being dormant the past 7 months, my hibiscus plant is full of buds and one has bloomed.
Finally, the hibiscus in my garden.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Ségolène Royal Fizzled Out
Nicholas Sarkozy is the winner in French presidential election. The result was expected. Madame Royal lost her cool in the debate on May 2nd with Sarkozy which, to some degree, sealed her fate. But even before the debate there were signs that French voters were losing their enthusiasm for her. Her attempts to gain centrist candidate Francois Bayrou's support fell flat. Many considered that as unprincipled.
Politicians often resort to expediency.Our own presidential hopefuls lining up for 2008 appear to be wiggling to find positions that will appeal to their base. Rudy Giuliani is ready to surrender support for women's right to choose, and Hillary Clinton is staying away from a clear position on Iraq war.
"I want to give French people back the pride of being French -- to finish with repentance, which is a form of self-hate," he said, renouncing a pervasive national malaise fed by economic decline at home and sinking influence abroad.
An unabashed admirer of America, Sarkozy, 52, had a special message for the United States, which has had troubled relations with France under President Jacques Chirac, who led international opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq.
"I'd like to appeal to our American friends to say that they can count on our friendship," he said. "But I would also like to say that friendship means accepting that your friends don't necessarily see eye to eye with you."
In particular, he said, "a great nation like the United States has the duty not to oppose the fight against global warming, but to lead that battle, because what is at stake is the destiny of mankind." Sarkozy said he would make the issue a top international priority as president.
For Sarkozy it is not going to be a bed of roses. Those who elected him will expect results. Backlash against immigrants was a factor in his victory. The growing immigrant population is restive. It could turn out to be an ugly summer.
Democracy in action. Whether or not one admires the French and their culture, 84% of French citizens voted in the election. That is something they can be proud of. For those who are unaware, in the 2004 presidential election only 55% of eligible voters in America participated! Think of what we got!
Friday, May 04, 2007
A Modern Day Sun King in The White House, Nah
"The Commander Guy"
Maybe there were further clues to the president's decision-making style in the rambling talk he gave a couple of weeks ago at Tippecanoe High School in Tipp City, Ohio. He recalled that just before his inauguration in 2001, the head usher at the White House called and asked what color rug he wanted in the Oval Office. He delegated the task of designing a new presidential rug to his wife, Laura.
"But I said, I want it to say something -- the president has got to be a strategic thinker and I said to her, make sure the rug says 'optimistic person comes to work.' Because you can't make decisions unless you're optimistic that the decisions you make will lead to a better tomorrow." The result, he said, is "this fantastic rug that looks like the sun. And it just sets the tone for the Oval Office."
While discussing the situation in Iraq, Bush told the Tipp City audience that "I happen to think there will be an additional dividend when we succeed -- remember the rug?"
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Fourth Anniversary of "Mission Accomplished"
"Sorrowing Lies My Land"
As of April 30th the total for dead American soldiers stands at: 3351 of which 104 died this month.
Since President Bush's "Mission Accomplished" appearance, May 1, 2003: 3211
Since President Bush said "Bring them on" July 2, 2003: 3144
Source: Iraq Coalition Casualties