Friday, December 31, 2004

A Truly Happy New Year

I was all set this morning to write about 2004 as a "catastrophic success"--to borrow your felicitous phrase, Bush. But then I began to wonder what was successful about it. For you, I can see, your reelection could be seen in that light. For me… well, honestly, as I'm sure you'll understand, it belongs pretty much in the catastrophe column. Otherwise, 2004 was a real stinker. We had your war in Iraq. We had the sheer, wall-to-wall unpleasantness of your election campaign. Thank God that's over. And to add foul insult to injury, we had the tsuami disaster. In our family, we had the shingles… and that was just for starters.

So I when I began to tot things up, I realized that the year was pretty much all catastrophe. At the same time, the last thing anyone needed was another jeremiad, so I resolved instead to submit a cheerful little jingle. Like this, perhaps:

Goodbye, goodbye, two thousand and four,

We couldn't have wished for a moment more;

Hello, hello, two thousand and five,

I only hope that we'll all survive.

We won't, of course. Not all of us. More men and women and children will die horribly in your war. More men and women and children will die as a consequence of the tragedy in Asia. And many, many more of us will die quite simply because our time will have come. That's just the way things are set up, on this planet. I hope it's not me. I take that to be a good sign--that I'm still more than grateful to wake up every morning. At my age, each morning is a gift to be valued and savored for the privilege of living it.

And I hope it's not you, Bush. Truly. In part, obviously, because then we'd be stuck with Darth Vader; or, if Darth Vader's heart succumbed to the excitement, I guess your job would pass on--isn't this the way it goes?--to the House Majority Leader. Tom Delay. Enough said.

But no, all nightmare scenarios aside, I'm rooting not for your demise but your awakening. To reality, Bush. And for your true happiness. My Buddhist teacher instructs that "true happiness" can only come from within; it does not involve detracting in any way from anyone else's happiness, so it's not a selfish wish. If we were all to find true happiness, my teacher says, the world would be a much better place. Hard to argue with that logic, Bush, I think you'll agree.

So here I am, wishing you a Happy New Year. A "truly happy" one. Good luck with everything. And please take care of yourself, so we don't get stuck with Darth Vader or Delay.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Magnanimous Bush

In view of the gravity of the situation in Asia, Bush, would it not be possible to forgo some of the hoopla around your second inauguration?

What a grand gesture that would be! What a magnanimous Bush the world would see! What an example of unselfish sacrifice to the rest of the country! To say no to extravagant celebration, and yes to the profoundly needy--in distant countries, with no vote! And the hardest hit amongst them, Indonesia, a primarily Muslim country. Wouldn't they have to see Bush in a slightly altered light? A Bush who announces that he's prepared to do without aggrandizement, so that tens of thousands of other human beings may, quite literally, live.

Because that's what it's about at the moment, as I understand it, Bush. It's about food and water. It's about shelter. It's about the medicines needed to fight off disease. It's about bare-bones survival.

Oh, I'm realist enough to know that dollars spent here don't necessarily have to do with dollars spent there. But this would be about image, Bush. We know you understand about image, because your people used it to devastating effect in the election. Here's the chance to burnish your (admit it!) somewhat questionable image in the world--an image only recently further tarnished by your silence: A three-day delay in finding the time away from your brush-clearing activities to make any personal response, in public, to the disaster? Not good tactics, really.

And yes, I understand the value of pomp and circumstance in the national agenda. It's not trivial stuff. And I realize, Bush, that much of the money for the inaugural comes from privately donated sources: to be charitable myself, I won't even raise the issue of about what might motivate those sources. But couldn't you do what so many people do at funerals? "In lieu of flowers, please send a donation to…" The Red Cross? Doctors Without Borders? Care USA?

But then I guess your inauguration isn't a funeral.

Although, on second thoughts… If we go on like this, it might be ours.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Real Bush

I realize how it must seem to you sometimes, Bush: it must seem like I never have a good word for you. Well, just to remind you, only yesterday I approved your brush-clearing at Crawford. Good, healthy, mind-clearing work. Today, well… I watched a couple of clips from your speech this morning, about the tsunami disaster in Asia, and what the U.S. is doing to help. And I'm glad we're sending $34 million, and that this, as you promised, is only the beginning. I'm really glad...

... But what struck me as you spoke, as is often the case when I watch you, Bush, is the extraordinary difficulty you have in simply appearing real. That may seem like a strange thing to say, but I find that I just don't buy the "President" that you're presenting us with. It's partly that you seem unable to speak without a script. What could it have cost you so have said a few heart-felt, unscripted words? Just a touch of spontaneity for the world at large at this dreadful momnt? I mean, I have to believe you have a "real" voice, not just that strange, robotic monotone in which you always address us on all subjects, from election victory to global tragedy. I hear the words "say" that your heart goes out, that you're distressed, that you're praying for the victims. But I just don't "feel" it, Bush. It always sounds like something you were told to say.

I hate to say this, Bush, because it seems unkind. But we did agree from the start that we were going to be completely honest, right? And the truth is, the only time I feel in touch with the genuine, authentic Bush is in those moments of smug self-satisfaction, when that famous smirk appears. It's sad to have to admit this, but it's only when you smirk like that I feel I'm seeing the real you. It's what I've heard called a "truth response." And I believe it.

Ah, well. A poem for you, called


Think of the depths
of the Indian ocean
as the earth's heart. Think
of how her heart was ruptured,
torn apart.

Think of yourself
as her lover, how you have used
her body for your pleasure
and to satisfy your needs
and then betrayed her,
casually, when it suited you.

Think of the tremors
as the heart's raw pulse,
the heart's last desperate effort
to feed her body. Think
of the great waves as her rage;
the lives lost as tribute
exacted for her rage.

Then think of the enormity
of the pain, so much inestimable
grief, so much regret. So much
reparation to be made. So much
in the earth's heart
to be healed. Let's
get to work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Death by Tsunami

I saw a human body
dangling in the sky,
arms and legs spread
lazily as if floating
in water, but not, not;
a body plucked
from the still restless
ocean, suspended
from the belly of a helicopter.

On the shore, men gathered,
arms reaching upward,
to receive it as though
for some eagerly awaited
offering, on the sand,
as it descended; one dead,
whose naked body speaks
for twenty-five thousand
humans, lost.

Brush Clearing

Good morning, Bush. I hear as how you're in Texas, clearing brush and thinking about what to say in your State of the Union address. I approve. Clearing brush is a great way to clear the mind. As for the State of the Union, I have a few modest suggestions you might want to bear in mind:

1) To your evangelical Christians: Bless you. But keep your nose out of the country's business. I've paid my debt to you, so don't plan on cashing in any more chips--and that includes judicial nominations. I plan to look for men and women who view the world through something broader than your narrow focus. Besides, the majority of American people are fed up with your moralizing. They think you're full of something other than piety.

2) To your neocon hawks: Back off. You've done enough damage to my presidency in my first term. I don't plan to listen to you unless you can come up with some good, solid ideas about how to extricate us from this mess your advice got us into. No more wars. I've seen enough death and destruction to last me a lifetime.

3) To the wealthy: Get ready to pay your fair share of taxes. You've had your day in my sunshine, baby. It's time for you to make some sacrifices.

4) To your corporate supporters: Okay, guys, enough is enough. I've done what I can to help you maximize your profits, now it's time for you to put out for your consumers. You drug company and medical insurance CEOs, be prepared to take cuts in your executive salaries if necessary--what with your perks, they're obscene enough as it is. You power companies and bankers, too. Americans need good, sound, reliable, trustworthy services, not exploitation of their naivete when it comes to money. Shape up, slim down, and get a conscience, buddy.

5) To the lobbyists: Get off my hill, and take your consultant fees with you. I need untainted senators and congressmen around me, not men and women who are bought and paid for by your special interests, and who cower before you in fear of what you can do to their reelection prospects.

6) To the American people: I pledge to keep my pledge to work for you without partisan agendas. I will not a) increase the deficit by another penny; b) destroy a social security system that can easily be saved by other means than selling it out to Wall Street; c) continue to imperil your environment by allowing corporate and commercial interests to exploit your land, and air, and water for their own profit. I will work my ass off a) to see that every one of you has access to affordable health care; b) that every one who needs it has access to a reasonable job; c) that the civil rights of each and every one of you are protected. Oh, and I may need to have you pay a little bit more in taxes, too. Get real. Take a look at what your peers in every other civilized country have to pay!

7) To the people of the world: Open your arms, if you can, America's coming back. I promise that we'll listen to you from now on, and respect your views, on every issue from war, to third world economies, to the protection of the earth's natural environment. I promise that America will use its power for the benefit of all, not just for America. I promise that my first priority will be to become a good world citizen. We've reached a crisis point in the history of the planet where we really are all one people--and one people at common risk, in danger as much from ourselves as from each other. That thought will guide all my policies in my second term.

8) God bless not only America, but the world and all its people.

Ah well, Peter. Dream on!

Monday, December 27, 2004

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An Angry Word from Mother Nature

Welcome back, Bush! I trust that you and yours had an excellent and peaceful Christmas down there in Crawford, and that you added fewer pounds than I around the waistline. It's back to work for you today, though, I expect, like me; and today, Monday, the day after Boxing Day, it's all about Mother Nature.

That earthquake in the Indian Ocean, and the tsunamis that struck out from its epicenter, in all directions! Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives… the thousands of lives lost--this morning they're saying more than twenty-two thousand--the hundreds of thousands of homes wrecked and people displaced. We are all humbled by this demonstration of nature's massive and capricious power, are we not, Bush? I'm planning to send a check to one of the relief agencies. I heard you were planning to send "appropriate" aid from the U.S. The tragedy does give us the opportunity to show our heart, doesn't it? Let's hope that when we show it, it's a big one, and that our wallet can be made to stretch proportionately. The world is convinced of our aggressiveness; it needs to see something more of our kindness and compassion.

I'm wondering, too, how your fundamentalist friends square this kind of disaster with their beliefs. If you believe in an omniscient and all-powerful God, how do you understand His hand in catastrophe? After 9/11--not a natural event, of course, but a man-made one--we heard voices interpreting the attack as divine retribution for our sinfulness, notably homosexuality and abortion. To which you could add, I'm sure, those dangerous liberal attitudes. Those voices were quickly hushed in the public media because they risked giving evangelical conservatism a bad name, but I'm sure they had been heard and approved amongst the faithful before the pro forma retractions. Still, that pesky, perennial philosophical question does inevitably pop up in such circumstances: if God is all-powerful, how can He allow--or cause--such things to happen in His world? Does it take so many lives and so much human anguish to remind us of our venality or mortality?

But Mother Nature also has her vulnerable side, and I've been meaning to bring this up with you again, Bush. I did mention it in passing the other day, but it calls for a wee bit more of our attention. Clearly, our planet is a vast and intricate system of complex interdependencies between species--flora and fauna and, of course, the most powerful of all, the human species. Given our privileged custodial position in relation to every other species, plant or animal, not to mention mineral resources, it behooves us to take our stewardship seriously. Yet just last week your people issued new National Forest regulations abdicating federal responsibility in favor of local and regional supervisors, in the full expectation that they will open the lands under their protection to development and exploitation.

"The price tag," writes the LA Times editorialist today, "may include the loss of endangered species and habitat, irreparable damage to wild land owned by all Americans and the silencing of public comments on logging and mining in remote areas, all in the name of 'efficiency.'"

Shame on you, Bush, and on your bureaucrats, for this abandonment of a sacred human duty. Shame on you, for sacrificing the future of the planet to base current contingencies. Shame on all of us, for allowing you the power to get away with it. Perhaps, I'm thinking, it's not your God, but Mother Nature herself, the ultimate Goddess, getting back at us! Perhaps, today, we human beings need to sit up and pay special attention to this awful demonstration of the revenge she can wreak on us, when she has a mind to.

Sometimes, Bush, we forget how much we depend on her. And how much she depends on us. This terrible catastrophe could serve as a timely reminder of our breach of trust.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Happy

Well, Bush, so much for bi-partisanship, eh? And Seasons Greetings to you sad-sack, liberal, PC democrats! I'm sitting here trying to think of a single thing you've said or done--aside from a perfunctory remark in your victory speech--to acknowledge the fact that nearly half of all Americans rejected your policies on Election Day.

But that's all water under the bridge. It's Christmas now! Your screw-you revival of previously rejected judicial nominations just confirms what many of your critics have told us all along: that your political spin doctors have managed to persuade you to interpret your narrow majority as a "mandate", and that you plan to use it in the attempt to shove not just a conservative, but an extreme right-wing agenda down our collective throats.

I very much fear that you'll end up destroying this country that you claim to love. Yesterday's pronouncement of your abdication of responsibility on the environment--a virtual invitation to further commercial exploitation of this irreplaceable asset--was apparently not enough. Today we get news that your judicial agenda remains oblivious to the wishes of all but the most conservative amongst us.

No wonder you have your Dr. Frist and his senate allies attempting to subvert the fillbuster, to disempower the minority of the only weapon left to defend the values of half the good people of this country. We had a great bunch of people over last night, at our house, for a seasonal party, and the political talk--as you might have guessed--veered off in the liberal direction. You'd hardly be surprised to learn that almost all our guests left saying how much they appreciated having spent an evening with like-minded people. It was like a great relief for all of us, just to be heard speaking our minds aloud.

Anyway, one of our friends was arguing, at one point in the evening, that another four years of the Bush train-wreck would be sure to convince Americans of their wrong-headedness in re-electing you, and set them off in the direction of greater sanity. I have to admit that I was less optimistic, Bush--if you can call his position optimism. As you'll have noted in your daily reading of this diary, my own conviction is that this "superpower" is already following the way of all superpowers throughout history: through its own arrogance and its dependence on military might, it's cycling rapidly into decline. Like the Roman Empire. And, yes, like the British Empire. Everything you're doing, Bush, and allowing your people to do, is hastening that decline.

When I was growing up in England, the seasonal greeting for tomorrow was "Happy Christmas." Over here, you-all say "Merry." It has always been a puzzle to me, that the great nation that dominated twentieth century history should revert to the Dickensian nineteenth on this annual occasion. And, myself, I've always found it difficult to say "Merry." The word feels so… well, artificial to me. But then, alas, so does the festival these days. I guess I'm just an aging cynic, Bush. Anyway, if we don't talk tomorrow, Happy Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

They wear clothes...

"They wear clothes," your Air Force General Richard B. Myers sputtered, outraged, at his press conference yesterday with Rumsfeld, "like every other Iraqi."

He was referring, of course, to the perpetrators of the chow hall bombing in Mosul, where so many good people were killed, so many injured… So terrible. And yet, tragically, so predictable. Is it really any wonder that "they wear clothes like every other Iraqi"? I mean, that's who they are, Bush, isn't it? Iraqi citizens, some of them; others, fellow Muslims with angry, passionately-held beliefs. Call them fanatics, Bush (just as they call us infidels!) Call them terrorists. Call them insurgents… But from the point of view of this one, admittedly inexpert observer, it seems obvious that people with a passionate belief as their core idea--even if we consider that idea evil or fanatical or misguided, even if it's no better an idea than hatred for America and everything it stands for--these people will always win, eventually, over those trying to persuade them by force that their idea is wrong. I understand, Bush, that you believe that our idea of freedom is better for them than their idea of freedom--and you could be right; but I also understand that those resisting us don't see it that way.

Believe me, I'm not naive enough to think that they're nice people who do these things. Quite obviously they're not. All reasonable people must condemn their tactics. But this is not about "nice". It's not even about good and evil. It's about reality.

And about those good Iraqi citizens--those many who don’t take up arms against us, and might indeed have welcomed liberation from a terrible oppressor: what are they to think now, eighteen months later, living without security in their streets and homes, without the basics of water and electricity, without jobs, and beholden to an alien power for their protection? What are they to think of us, their liberators, who brought them an idea, yes, but nothing to back it up with in the real world in which they live? What if they think, as many Sunnis apparently do, that the vote we pride ourselves on having given them is worthless against the combined power of the Shiites and the Kurds? Of what value, then, is the one thing we lay claim to having achieved--or are about to achieve in the forthcoming election?

Bottom line, Bush: If we believe they'll be better off doing freedom our way--and even assuming this to be true--we will only persuade them with the power of more powerful ideas, through education, compassionate understanding, and the example of our action in the world. We won't do it by trying to beat them into submission. Because even people who use reprehensible tactics won't roll over just because we have superior military might. The Viet Nam model seems more and more appropriate in this tragic situation.

Wish I had better things to say to you, Bush, on the eve of Christmas Eve…

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A Mixed Bag from Santa

A mixed bag this morning, Bush, reflecting my scattered state of mind. The holiday season is on us with a vengeance. There's shopping to be done. Party preparations to be made. You may find that you get short shrift from me in the next few days. Advance warning, too: I may even miss a day or two.

Anyway, first, do I detect a slight change in attitude toward your Rumsfeld? Just a few months ago he was doing "a superb job", as I remember. Now, yesterday, at your press conference, it was only "a fine job," you said. A not-so-subtle difference, I think you'll agree. There's many out here, these days, who have concluded that he's doing a lousy job--need I go through the list? How long before you join them? After "fair" and "poor"? But that could take months, at this rate...

An image. You were there, you must have seen it, though perhaps not from the same angle as the television cameras, because he was sitting alongside you: John Williams, at the Kennedy Center Honors award ceremony, listening to his music for "Schindler's List" played by Itzhak Perlman. I was imagining the feelings coming up for him--not only those from the music itself, and the whole Weltschmerz (that's the world's pain, Mr. President), the immensity of grief that the Holocaust evokes; but also the feelings between artist and artist, between the composer who sits by and listens, and the great musician who brings his work to life. Basically, an act of love, and even on the television screen you could sense the love that flowed between them at this moment. I found it intensely moving, Bush. And I imagine you found it doubly moving, being there to witness it.

And Christmas. The Holidays. The outrage some of your furthest right supporters are expressing over their perception that Christmas is being taken away from them by politically correct leftists who recoil at the very word. What these guys seem to miss is the simple fact that Christmas was taken from them long ago, not by any vile conspiracy on the left, but by commercial rape. What is left of Christmas these days but jingle, overeating, overdrinking (there I go again!), overshopping, overgifting? Was this the lesson of your Jesus's arrival here on earth? Was it just about the word, "Christmas", and whether or not we feel entitled to use it? And whether or not we accuse other people of stealing it from us?

Growing up Christian, I learned that the message of Christmas was "peace on earth and goodwill toward men"--though I suppose the PC folks might boorishly insist on including women. I don't see much of either, Bush, from those bellicose left-bashers who spend their time spewing intolerance and cheerleading your bloody war, even as they petulantly whine about the theft of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


How do they let you get away with the stuff you pull at your (precious few) press conferences, Bush? I mean, I'm serious now. I'm really pissed. I think I've been really considerate myself until this moment, but now's the time for a little honesty between us. Like yesterday. I watched your press conference for about a half hour and was astounded at the simplifications, at times, yes, the blathering incoherence that came out of your mouth. Sorry, Bush. It's truth-telling time.

This wasn't just a matter of not answering questions--though you did seem to find a way around most of them. It wasn't just the awful, unfunny jokes--at which the press laughed anyway, dutifully, awed, perhaps, by your ability to condescend to human level. No, it was the simplistic, uninformed content of what you had to say. It was the language, Bush, the terrible clichés, the endless repetitions, the solipsisms, the apparent incomprehension of the questions, the reduction of complex issues to simple-minded pablum. It was the tone--a mixture of whining defensiveness and aggressive condescension. It was the snickering little laugh with which you sought to convey your judgment that your questioner was either naïve, or ignorant, or stupid, or all three.

I'm sorry, honestly, Bush. But this is how I heard it.

And my anger is not so much directed at you as at the gutless press. Is no one out there in medialand ready to tell the simple truth: that this was a dismal intellectual performance, from the man who so readily claims leadership of the free world? That, yes, we people out here have the right to expect thoughtful and intelligent responses to thoughtful and intelligent questions from journalists, and not simply the re-mouthings of a few canned responses, clearly prepped for you before the session began? Nothing spontaneously argued out, nothing directly from a thinking mind, registering the subtleties and specifics of the question and responding in kind. I saw a man struggling to remember precooked words and phrases. Are the media so damn respectful that they don't dare to come back with tough follow-ups (or are they not permitted?) Nor to comment forthrightly and critically on what they've heard? Have they buried their critical faculties in a dung-heap of respect for the "office of the president."

Come on, somebody say something! For God's sake, is there no one to tell us in all honesty what the emperor was wearing at his press conference yesterday...

Monday, December 20, 2004


I'm taken to task, Bush, by one of my correspondents. Not just for my reprehensible liberal views, but for disrespect--specifically in addressing you as Bush, as I do, rather than as Mr. President. I actually prefer the term "irreverent", but he has a point. I have to cop to a certain disrespect. At the same time, I do happen to think that it's a legitimate rhetorical ploy, a hint of satire that works well for my purposes. Oh, and by the way, I didn’t notice a whole lot of respect for your opponent in the recent election, Bush, on the part of your supporters, and I heard no criticism of them on your part. As for your predecessor in office… well, let's not even mention that episode. Remember, though, what's good for the goose… etc.

There's also some deep, dark place inside, where I do have the inkling that I'm not really addressing you. It would be nice to think you settled down to read my meanderings every day, but I rather suspect that you have other things on your mind than PeterAtLarge and his blogifying. I'm just about smart enough to recognize that I'm really talking to myself. I find that a pleasant and useful thing to do. I listen to what I have to say, and find it pretty much edifying--at least some of the time. It tells me a lot about myself and keeps me, in a certain way, honest, and clear about where I stand in relation to the world. If others care to join me, then I'm thrilled. If they care to disagree with me, that's fine with me, too.

I think fairly often of my daughter's astute remark: that you have become a kind of muse to me, Bush. You inspire me, in a funny, maybe even somewhat perverse kind of a way, and I appreciate that. I look forward to writing to you every day. But I do plan to keep on addressing you (or myself, if you choose to have it that way,) as Bush.

Meanwhile, a propos of nothing I can think of, here's a poem:

Moon Flight

Last night we flew
to the moon together. Our landing there
was smooth, uneventful. Everything
was perfect, if you can
imagine. Outside, romping
like kids, we saw our reflections
in the glinting visor of the silent
astronaut, our guide and escort,
sent to supervise our weightless
explorations with the solicitude
of a benevolent teacher
in the school yard. Everything
was moonlit, at once bright
and silvery-shadowed. Rocks,
sharply defined, stretches of sandy
dirt, almost bone white,
untrodden, perfect…

It was on our return to earth,
though, that we were most amazed.
We gazed up at the distant moon
from a place where many people
gathered, for reasons that were not
quite clear, but yet, we knew,
necessary; people
who had never been there
as we had, who sat quietly
at outdoor tables, drinking coffee
seriously, in white cups. And we told
each other the story then, told those
others, too, who listened to us,
in astonishment: Just yesterday,
we said, we were there, on the moon's
surface, and it was beautiful beyond
the daily worries of the mind,
beyond all words. And we were
there, in moonlight, if you can
imagine, wandering
hand in hand, like kids,
across the dunes.

PS Just caught a few minutes of your news conference, Bush. Way to go! Give 'em hell!

Sunday, December 19, 2004

On ignorance

There were a couple of us at a party last night, Bush, talking about ignorance. My interlocutor made the point, rightly, that you don't win too many hearts and minds by calling other people ignorant. True enough. But I heard also that he was faulting the Democrats, in their recent election loss, in part for implying that folks on the other side were ignorant. And in part, too, because they lacked a leader who could put out their vision/version of the truth. Everything, he seemed to be saying, is opinion--and the power with which it's held.

Some truth there, certainly. But my point was that ignorance is ignorance. No matter what your opinion of the war in Iraq, for example, for or against, it's ignorance to believe--no matter with what intensity--that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, as many Americans continued to do despite evidence to the contrary. Including, it seems sadly, your Vice President. It's ignorance to believe, as many did, that Saddam was directly involved in 9/11, and that he and Al Qaeda were in cahoots. Even the evidence coming from your own people points the other way.

But your election team, Bush, played on that ignorance. Your passionate supporters among the media--in television news and on talk radio--promulgated and perpetuated that ignorance amongst your voters.

Passionate belief, as I see it, is not a useful substitute for honest knowledge. Creationism, for example, is not the equivalent in its truth quotient to evolution. Sorry. To dismiss decades of diligent and rational scientific inquiry in favor of belief--no matter how profoundly held--is willful ignorance. I have no desire, Bush, to diminish those beliefs. Those who hold them are good people, for sure--but in this instance they have chosen the path of ignorance. And their choice, in my view, diminishes even the God they believe in. How much greater and more complex the mind of a creator who ordains the process of millennia than one who accomplishes the whole shebang in seven days. Well, six, if you knock off the day of rest.

What's wrong with ignorance? It leads us, Bush, to make bad, uninformed choices. It leads us into hasty commitments--to go to war, say--that thoroughly researched knowledge might have kept us out of. It encourages us to pursue paths that bring nothing but misfortune to the world. And allows us stubbornly to believe ourselves right, even at those times when we have made a terrible mistake. Ignorance, Bush, has consequences, and none of them are preferable to the consequences of informed knowledge.

Have a good Sunday.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

On strength

Something else we can agree on, Bush! I saw a news clip on television where you said, straight out: "I believe that justice should be fair." No quarrel with you there, Bush! Your comment says it all.

Seriously, though, I received a response yesterday from a correspondent who was perplexed by a couple of lines in the poem I wrote you on Thursday. I had written about "those moments when the fear/shines through from beyond/the bravado", and he wrote back to say this: "I fear that I never saw 'when the fear shines through', as you put it. All I ever saw was arrogance, dogma and ignorance. Are we seeing the same Bush? You can't experience much fear with the above qualities even during microseconds."

Not a kind appraisal, Bush, but he does have a point. I thought about what he said and wrote back as follows: "My thinking is that behind every bully lies a fearful man. By the same token, I believe that dogma and ignorance are both born of the fear that drives us to protect ourselves from unpleasant truths. With Bush, I see the fear in the body language, the evident armoring: his "strength" seems to me quite brittle. But maybe that's just me."

We men try to fool each other with our strength--and often succeed. I was talking, also yesterday, to a Viet Nam vet who is suffering terribly from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The situation in Iraq is ringing all kinds of bells for him, and he is trapped in a burning internal rage about those men and women who are being dispatched to face death and debilitating injury on the basis of what he perceives to be lies and deception. He sees in them, I believe, a mirror image of himself, and knows that the wounds they return with--if they have the good fortune to return--are deeper and darker than the physical ones. This man wanted me to know that he has recently reloaded his shotgun--not to harm himself, he insists, but as a kind of symbolic gesture to give expression to his anger and his inner turmoil.

Often, when we try hardest to project the image of tough masculinity, we are hiding something like this man's inner turmoil, Bush. Perhaps less intense than his, at the present moment, but all the more powerful for the fact that it is hidden. You need to project your image of American strength in the world, but it is a brittle image. And no one else believes it. We are posturing, strutting across the face of the globe. If we can't believe in who we are without having to prove it with force of arms and remaking everyone else in our image, what are we, Bush, but a bunch of bullies? But maybe that's just me.

Friday, December 17, 2004


Uh-oh, Bush. Word is, the vultures are beginning to gather around your Rumsfeld. Republicans, too. McCain. Trent Lott, now. I think that others will start to pile on, now that it's getting politically safe to grab a bite of him. The sad thing is, it should have happened long ago, when it was already evident that his planning and handling of your war was a disaster. He spoke once contemptuously of "old Europe", but it turns out that it was his own thinking that was old. Blitzkrieg, Bush. It worked in the short run for Hitler. That was nearly seventy years ago. It worked in the short run for your Rumsfeld. In the long run, though, it failed for both of them.

I happen to be among those who believe that violence and aggression always fail in the long run. Your Rumsfeld's war fell apart the moment his enemy capitulated. You should have known that as soon as the looting started; as soon as it was clear that the looters were doing a more effective job of destroying the country's infrastructure than anything your troops could do--with Rumsfeld's hopelessly inadequate force there to protect it. In retrospect, that moment seems like the beginning of Saddam's counteroffensive, and you and your Rumsfeld have been slowly losing that battle ever since. You fight with the army that you have, he says, with cynical disingenuousness. That man fought, Bush, with the army that he asked you for!

And now… the elections? If you do manage to shove this sham demonstration of democracy down the Iraqis' collective throat, are you going to get what you've been fighting for? Suppose--it seems not unlikely--that you get the Ayatollah Sistani, Bush? Does the prospect of a Shiite-led Iraq next door to a Shiite-led Iran begin to worry you a bit? A possible alliance of theocratic states? A new nuclear superpower in the Arab world, if Iran succeeds in its plan to develop nuclear weapons? With a strangle-hold on a vast part of the world's oil supply? Was this what you envisioned? Will you not have marvelously achieved precisely what you set out to prevent?

And isn't this always the way with violence, Bush? I mean, honestly. You beat your kids, you end up with vicious and resentful adults. You invade your neighbor's yard, and all his friends gang up on you. You wage the war to end all wars, and end up with more war. What does it take for us to learn the truth of that old, simple-minded chestnut, that the pen is mightier than the sword; that the power of ideas will always, in the course of time, trump the power of military might?

I have a modest proposal for you this morning, Bush. You Presidents are fond of wars: the War on Poverty. The War on Drugs. The War on Terror. (And which one of them, tell me, was ever half-way won?) So how about a War on War, Bush? Wouldn't that be timely? Wouldn't that get you in the history books? Let me know what you think.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


Ah, yes, Bush. The missile defense system. Another failure yesterday, when the interceptor failed to launch, due to some "unknown anomaly", just two years after the last interceptor failed. Eighty billion dollars spent, and fifty million more to be spent in the next five years. Marvelous. And you and your generals are planning to go ahead and begin deployment of this man-made disaster? Have any of you taken a look at what's happening in the world today? Where the whole panoply of American military might is pushed to breaking point by a handful of "insurgents"? And was, already all those years ago, by the Viet Cong. Have we learned nothing? All the military might in the world becomes irrelevant when any fanatic with a minimum of know-how can sneak a dirty bomb into the country in a shipping container, or launch a biochemical attack without the benefit of intercontinental missiles.

It's a new world, Bush. And the old, Cold War solutions, no matter how hi-tech, can't help but look creakily antiquated in the light of new realities. So who are you building the anti-missile defense to protect us from? Terrorists? When you call yourself a "war president" (can't help but think of "The Godfather", Bush!) is it not the war on terror you're referring to? And even that one is costing far more than you can afford, far more than you dare to ask us current taxpayers and voters to ante up for: that's for your--and our--successors to worry about.

So what kind of Wonderland are we living in, Bush, where this all makes sense? Can't we think of better ways to spend our hard-borrowed funds than this? The health, education, and welfare of the people of this planet seem to me to offer better returns than a scheme that's not only irrelevant, but also doomed to failure. I'm tempted to wonder whether that "unknown anomaly" might not be related to that higher authority you've claimed as your personal guide. Might He not be offering you a not-too-subtle hint?

Oh, and I have a poem for you today, as follows: It's called "Your Eyes, Bush."

Sometimes, Bush
when I see you
in your photo ops
I am inspired
to feel sorry for you:
those moments when the fear
shines through from beyond
the bravado, when your eyes
ask plainly, When
will they find out
who I really am?
At such moments, Bush,
I see you little-boy naked,
all revealed before
the camera's eye, the emperor
with his once fearsome
dick and balls shrunk up
in terror. And my heart
goes out to you
at such moments--that is,
if I manage to catch it
before the cruel laugh.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Election fraud movie volunteers

Note to readers: Anyone out there in the L.A. area interested in volunteering a few hours a week for the next two to three months for the producers of ", The Movie"? They have been traveling with Bev Harris and documenting her work on election fraud, and they need some volunteers to help. If so, please contact me by clicking on my profile and emailing me from there. Thanks.

She's got eyes of blue...

It's funny how the unconscious mind works, isn't it, Bush? I say this because I woke up this morning with the snatch of an old ditty from the 1920s or 1930s on my mind:

She's got eyes of blue,
I never cared for eyes of blue,
But she's got eyes of blue
And that's my weakness now.

Remember that one? It has a catchy tune, to go with the catchy chorus. Anyway, to my knowledge I haven't heard or thought about the song in years; it's not as though it had been playing last night on the car radio and I'd picked it up that way. It just arrived, unbidden, as I woke up, and wouldn't go away.

She's got eyes of blue...

So I lay there in bed and puzzled about it for a while before the answer came: my unconscious mind wanted to talk to me about my weakness.

Now I'm a pretty disciplined kind of a person, Bush. I was drilled in self-discipline in years of private boarding school in England. But my discipline seems to crumble at the sight of food and wine. I lose it. I lost it last night, again, when our group of artists met at one of our member's homes, and our generous host had laid on a feast for us. Neat, beautifully presented hot hors d'ouevres--miniature quesadillas, tiny pizza slices, shrimp tempura… I couldn't stop. A choice of red or white wine. Drank a couple of glasses of white before switching to red when it came to the entrée: a choice of pasta, salad, a nicely constructed ham and cheese sandwich on a tasty, small round bun, poached salmon with cucumber sauce, a slice of garlic-buttered bread. Nothing bad, then. I couldn't choose, so I ate all of it. And then, for dessert, a generous bowl of chocolate mousse with a dollop of cream on top. Irresistible...

The thing is, Bush, I know that I really can't afford this. Not that I'm obese or anything, but probably fifteen pounds weightier than I should be, for good health--and looking toward (optimistically) the last third of my go-around on this planet. I know what good sense dictates and in most other aspects of my life, as I say, I'm pretty much disciplined. It's just in this one little area that I go crazy. Well, maybe one or two others, too...

You'd think that my daily meditation practice would help. But no… I just pig out. Every time. So this is the weakness that I think my unconscious mind was just trying to remind me of this morning.

You might be wondering why I'm telling you all this. Well, the reason I bring it up is pretty simple, really: I wanted to ask you, Bush, what your weakness is? I know you came out of your annual medical saying you were a few pounds overweight, but to look at you on the TV, I wouldn't say you shared my weakness for food--and certainly not for wine. We know about that. An occasional cigar, I hear: that's something we have in common.

So what is it, I wonder? Not knowing you too well in person, I'm not sure what your vices might be. Given your religious bent, I don't suppose you have too many of the common sins. I could be wrong, but I don't see you doing a Bill Clinton in the Oval Office, for example. One hint, though: if I were you, I'd be looking in the general area of, um... pride? Dogmatism? Inflexibility? Closed-mindedness? Impulsiveness? That kind of thing. I mean, if any of them fit… I hesitate at the word arrogance. But maybe... So. Just wondering, Bush, as usual. Give it a thought, and let me know what you think, okay?

And that's my weakness now...

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Once again...

... check in, please. Quite a number of you have told me in private that you're enjoying this journal, and I do appreciate the feedback. You can help me out in a couple of different ways: 1) Respond. Easy enough, by clicking on the "Comments" button at the bottom of each entry; you don't need to register--just go to the "Anonymous" choice (you can still sign, if you wish), write your comment, no matter how brief, and send. Your response will be posted AND reach me at I'd love to hear from you. 2) Keep passing the URL on to friends, especially in different parts of the country, and abroad. The URL is

Both Sides Now

There was a report on CBS News last night, Bush, about a topic I've raised with you before: sex education in the schools, and how your people have multiplied enormously the funds that go to programs supporting abstinence-only teaching. $900 million, I heard. At the expense, needless to say, of programs that teach young people today's realities about safe sex, for example, and the use of condoms to avoid pregnancy and disease--let alone the emotional responsibilities involved in sexual activity.

It's a little like teaching creationism as though it were some kind of equivalent or plausible alternative to evolution. Hard science, proven facts, and rational critical thought are shoved aside in favor of the way your fundamentalist supporters believe things to be--or ought to be--with nothing but faith on their side. I have to think that your God, in His Goodness, would want us to teach our youngsters truths that could save their lives. And that He would approve of our human efforts to discover and reveal the truth about His reality. Surely, if He's up there in His heaven somewhere, He would not want us to hide from the potential He has given us, to think, and reason, and make sensible judgments about the way we take action in the world.

No matter, I didn't start out to rant about sex education this morning. I actually wanted to talk about CBS and its reporting, in which that "both sides" attitude resulted once again in a distortion of the story--as though there were a perfectly sound argument on either side. There isn't. There's good, solid evidence, founded in research, that shows that "abstinence-only" simply doesn't work in the real world. And yet CBS presented lots of authoritative voices--teachers, principals--spouting on about the wonderful results of preaching the benefits of abstinence before marriage; and stacked these up against a couple of wide-eyed teenagers asking for a more complete and credible approach. No mention of inconvenient, but widely available information--such as the fact that 88% of those youngsters who are prevailed upon to take the chastity "pledge" succumb to the temptations of their sexuality way before marriage anyway; and that, when good intentions fail them, they engage in sex more dangerously for the ignorance they have been sold instead of useful and important knowledge.

Is this about ratings, Bush? Has our Dan learned his lesson from your people after the forged document debacle? That to keep his audience, he must produce the pablum that your supporters want to hear--or at least show nothing to alienate those people with anything as unsettling as the truth?

It's subtle and insidious, the way things get distorted, Bush. But pervasive. It won't be long, at this rate, before we live in a society based on ignorance, half-truths, deceptions, outright lies. I watch this happening in disbelief, anger, sadness...

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Only Game in Town

Santa Lucia. St. Lucy's Day. The Festival of Light. And, not coincidentally perhaps, our daughter Sarah's birthday. Although my mother, a good Anglican who observed the calendar of Saints, told us that she should rightly have been called Lucy.

Did you catch the piece on the front page of yesterday's New York Times? About luxury, Bush. "Right now," a Bear, Stearns analyst who tracks the performance of high-end merchandise is reported as saying, with something of a gloat: "luxury is the only game in town." Which had me wondering, because of St. Lucy's Day, whether there was some old etymological root connecting luxury with light? I was thinking, perhaps mistakenly, that the Latin for light was lux. Maybe not. My Latin is very rusty and I don't have a Latin dictionary to hand. But as for "luxury", it seems that the derivation is from the Latin luxuria, meaning excess, extravagance--derived, in turn, from luxus, whose meaning has to do with disconnection, probably from luctari, "wrestle" or "strain." Interesting, Bush, but not quite what I expected. Though I'm not sure what I really expected from a connection
between luxury and light.

But I'm rambling. Anyway, the NYT article was an eye-opener. High-end sales are soaring, while the lower end retailers are having a hard time. Says something about our times, no? The very wealthy have money to burn, whilst others are having trouble with the basics. Not much trickle-down, so far as I can tell. Look at the art markets. Booming. The money at the top stays there in the form of luxury acquisitions. The benefits of your tax cuts, Bush. When do we see some results at the lower end of the income scale? Or at what point do you begin to take a look at the financial realities down where the majority of Americans live, and maybe re-evaluate?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Nannies, and more...!

Ah, yes, the nanny thing, Bush… Too bad about your Kerik. It's happened to many a good man--and woman--on their way to serve their president and country. It does seem like a peccadillo, too. I mean, how many of us are guilty of slipping, unknowing perhaps, into the crime of hiring an illegal, and them somehow forgetting to pay their taxes? A good many of us, I bet. It does bring to mind some faintly disturbing echoes of indentured servitude, of course. The old slavery issue. Our country was founded on it. It's almost "American". But all in all it does seem like a small offense. Unless, of course, the guy was diddling her on the side, which would raise much larger moral issues. I'm sure your born-agains would find that to be definitely non-kosher.

Which brings me to another subject I've been meaning to raise, though with a certain reticence because the last thing I would want to do is cause offense: I've been worrying a bit about you and Laura, whether you're both getting what you need. If you know what I mean. In the intimacy department. Because I know you're a busy man with all the weighty issues of the world on your mind and--just based on my own limited experience--I know that this kind of distraction can be a disaster for the old libido. But then again, if he's not able to take care of these things in the marital bed, so to speak, a man's attention does begin to wander. It's only natural.

I wonder, for example, if things come up unexpectedly in the course of a cabinet meeting, say, when you're looking across the table at your Condi. Does Nature sometimes present you with a certain, possibly embarrassing challenge? And if so--which would be perfectly understandable--does the non-dominant presidential hand (the one that's not holding the pencil) wander casually beneath the table to check up on His Excellency's well-being? Understandable, of course--and surely not much greater a sin that Jimmy Carter's lusting after women "in his heart"--even though it does involve some minimal action.

And while we're on this somewhat delicate subject, Bush, do you sometimes find yourself taking things, so to speak, into your own hand? That too would be absolutely understandable. I've had occasion to speak to numerous men on precisely this subject--we could maybe talk about the context on another occasion--and I know that almost to a man, if pressed, they will admit to resorting, at least from time to time, to this particular masculine practice. I know that you Biblical folk refer to it as Onanism. That's as user-friendly a term as any. I'm honestly not sure where it rates on your sin scale, but I imagine that it's a good deal further down the list than your predecessor's infamous predilection. Am I right?

Anyway, forgive me for teasing you a bit about these things. Maybe it was rude of me to bring it up, especially on a Sunday. It's just that I'm curious, and anxious for us to get to know each other better. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Check in, please

Quite a number of you have told me that you're enjoying this journal, and I do appreciate the feedback. You can help me out in a couple of different ways: 1) Respond. Easy enough, by clicking on the "Comments" button at the bottom of each entry; you don't need to register--just go to the "Anonymous" choice (you can still sign, if you wish), write your comment, no matter how brief, and send. Your response will be posted AND reach me at I'd love to hear from you. 2) Keep passing the URL on to friends, especially in different parts of the country, and abroad. The URL is

On the side of the hawks!

My wife wonders (aloud, and in my presence--though I must admit her opinion was solicited) whether I'm not getting a bit long-winded in this journal. Will my reader's attention flag, she asks, if I make too burdensome a demand on their time? Good question. I trust you'll let me know, Bush, when I begin to bore you.

Meantime, I'm very excited this morning. I think I've finally found an issue on which we might both be able to end up on the same side: the side of the hawks. You've probably been reading about those good rich folks on the Upper East Side of New York City--the board of a fancy co-op on Fifth Avenue--deciding to destroy the nest of a pair of red-tailed hawks who had been happily residing, rent-free, at this upscale address for years, and raising a succession of families there. Their eight-foot wide nest of twigs and debris, which straddled a cornice on the twelfth floor, was deemed unsightly; the hawks' droppings were causing damage to a canopy down below; their habit of bringing back live prey--rats, etc., for God's sake!--at dinner time and, I guess, tearing their red meat apart and causing acute distress to residents of more delicate sensibilities, was considered beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior; and to top it all, they attracted bird-watchers with cameras and binoculars in the street below. Imagine how unpleasant for the likes of the camera-shy Paula Zahn--one of the offended residents--to be exposed to the daily stares of a bunch of Audubon Society freaks!

Anyway, Bush, they tore down the nest--to howls of protest from the many New Yorkers who had taken some understandable pride in the welfare of their wild and handsomely feathered fellow-citizens. So what I want to know is: which side are you on? Instinct must surely draw you to the side of the hawks. On the other hand, political contingency might constrain your support for the ultra-wealthy. A quandary for you, Bush. But I think you'll be happy to hear that I, for once, am firmly on the side of the hawks.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The Scott Peterson TV Show

It's Friday, Bush. As some might say, thank God. But I'm sitting here wondering what you've been thinking about the death penalty phase in the much over-hyped Scott Peterson trial. Though I imagine that you might have had your mind on other things--like your Rumsfeld's performance at that town-hall meeting with his soldiers, or your announcement, yesterday, that there would be no increase in payroll taxes to pay for your social security reform scheme. I have to say, I thought Rumsfeld's performance was particularly disgraceful: his "stuff happens" approach to the lives of those brave souls with which you, Bush, have entrusted him, is quite simply appalling. It's hard for most of us to understand why you didn't fire him long ago, when the results of his disastrous "strategic thinking"--as head of the Pentagon, no less--became readily apparent.

Still, Scott Peterson… Doesn't it bother you, Bush, to see a human life depend on the emotional squabble between two distraught groups of family and friends? The victim's family are called to the witness stand and--big surprise--they want the perpetrator dead. The perpetrator's family are called and--big surprise--they want him to be allowed to live. Everyone's heart strings are tugged at, one way and the other. Everyone weeps. The mother of the victim weeps. Understandably. The mother of the murderer weeps. She shouldn't? The members of the jury dab their eyes. Why not? The emotions run as deep as human beings are capable of. Rage, love. Grief, protectiveness. Life, death… It can't get much deeper in the human heart than this.

But, truly, Bush, is this a way for society to decide on whether a person lives or dies? I know you and I disagree on the death penalty. You sent… how many? Hundreds, including the mentally handicapped and at least one born-again Christian... to their deaths in Texas, which got to be the death penalty capital of the world under your aegis. I have to conclude that you believe it to be appropriate for society to avenge itself by killing its killers. Like most of the civilized world, I go along with the notion that society can be less barbaric than the most miserable and vicious of its members--the lowest common human denominator. We have moved--haven't we?--beyond those Biblical times of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Beyond those barbarous times when a man could be hanged as a horse thief. Or haven't we?

Maybe you share with me at least the notion that the spectacle in Northern California is made the more disturbing for the media vultures hovering around it, purveying the latest breathless detail to a public hungry for sensation? Up-to-the-minute TV coverage from all the major networks? What does this say about us as a country, Bush? Heaven help us!

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Speaking of values, Bush, did you hear about our Martha? Martha Stewart, that is. Does it strike you as peculiar that she's planning a new television series from her jail cell? Mark Bennett--the Brit who packaged that whole "Apprentice" deal for Donald Trump--is working with her to develop the new show, and proud of it. He thinks that Martha took the rap for a whole lot of corporate malfeasance, and she's paying the price for being the world's foremost woman billionaire whose success is threatening to those of us who can do nothing but envy her great genius.

Okay, some truth there. But listen, Bush, it's not really about that, is it? Those arguments, and others like it, neatly circumvent that fact that Martha simply lied. Under oath. She'd be my hero too, perhaps, if she'd just been able to come out and say it: "I lied, folks. I did a bad thing. I broke the law, and I have no excuses. Or rather, I have lots of them, but that's all they are: excuses. I hate to say it, but I deserve my little jail sentence. Please be careful not to follow my example."

Because the other stuff, well, we could surely forgive her that. She's a nice person, I'm sure. And even the lie is forgivable, right? It's kind of understandable. It's the refusal to accept responsibility for her action that makes me mistrust her.

There I go again, right? Holier than thou. But here's another thing that galls me, Bush, perhaps more even than the denial of responsibility: the blatant, in-your-face exploitation of the fact that crime--at this level of the social ladder--does pay. Celebrity and wealth seem to multiply exponentially, no matter what. Martha's sentence has only made her a more valuable commodity, and marketing this new product she's cooking up--forgive the pun--should be a cinch. The Donald, who, some say, has often proved a disaster as a business man, gets to star in a TV show that promotes his brilliance as a business man. It might be the most successful thing he's ever done.

Ironies, Bush! Ironies!

Call it envy, if you like, but the whole thing pisses me off.

The trilogy, by the way, is coming along. I'm walking a fine line myself between putting my judgment out there and practicing the self-righteousness that I'm always railing against. That's what's holding me up a bit, Bush. I know I run the risk of coming across as a pompous ass, and I'd prefer that not to happen. Anyway, I might have a piece of it for you tomorrow. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bush, the Wise Man!

Bush, the Wise Man, eh? A new twist. I see today where the figures in Madame Tussaud's Christmas crib in London have the faces of celebrities. The Wise Men, it seems, are Tony Blair, Prince Phillip, and none other than… George W. Bush! Well, congratulations! I mean, this is quite an honor, no? A Wise Man from the East, who arrived by camel, following the star. I didn't notice, though, whether you were the one bringing gold, or frankincense, or myrrh… Maybe the gold. The rich American. It has to be a bit galling to play second fiddle to a Spice Girl and a soccer star (David Beckham), who lend their famous visages to Mary and Joseph. Still, you could have ended up a shepherd, on bended knee… So I guess you're happy to settle for Wise Man at this point. Very gratifying. Especially with the whole world figuring you for anything but.

A good thing that Madame spared your Jesus the same fate, as I imagine you'll agree. Just another pretty baby face for Him.

Sorry about the trilogy. It's taking a lot longer than I'd thought. Hope you had a great Pearl Harbor Day.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004


Just to touch base, Bush: the work-in-progress that I mentioned yesterday is going to need more time. It's developing into a kind of three-part piece about the experience of spending those few days in Arizona, and I don't want to send it out until it gets closer to where I want it. Although I may choose to send it out one part at a time, as completed. We'll see. But I'm quite excited about how it's shaping up, and I think you might enjoy it.

Meantime, though, I have to tell you that I'm more than a little unhappy about the way you're continuing to pander to that right wing of yours. I don't suppose you read the op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times about sex education? According to the writer, who should know (she's CEO of the L.A. branch of Planned Parenthood), the programs that you and your federal people are backing--to the tune of $168 million in fiscal 2005--serve only to please that "base." In terms of the health and welfare of our young people, they're worse than useless, according to serious studies: in the first place, abstinence might seem like a great idea to prevent unwanted pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease, but it seems oddly to lack appeal to the audience you're preaching to. Worse, though, are the programmatic lies and half-truths that are taught in these programs as factual: that condoms "fail to protect against HIV", for example; or that "touching another person's genitals" can result in pregnancy. I guess some young people swallow the lies that feed their ignorance; others must recognize them for what they are and learn only to distrust their teachers more.

So, Bush, tell me: which is it? Do you actually share the ignorance that these programs promulgate? I find that hard to believe. Or do you not know what you're paying for when you lend them your support? No better, in my opinion. Or do you know the programs are preaching a pack of lies and distortions and support them anyway, to cater to those who hate sex, or fear it, and choose to close their eyes to the reality of the world--and whose support you no longer really need?

Isn't it time to quit pandering to the blind, the self-righteous, and the ignorant? And to quit wasting all that public money (you, Bush, asked for $270 million!) to spread more ignorance--and, with it, more disease, more teenage pregnancy, and consequently more need for the abortions your people claim to abominate? The whole thing would be merely silly, if it didn't have tragic consequences.

Enough for one Tuesday, Bush. But think about it, please. Meantime, I'm getting back to my trilogy…

Monday, December 06, 2004

Monday, December 6

Just back from Tucson, and have a work-in-progress that I want to send you. But it will have to wait until tomorrow… Need a little trip recovery time. Be well..

Friday, December 03, 2004

Until next Tuesday...

Friday, December 3

I'm off this morning to meet my son Jason in Tucson, Arizona. Haven't seen him for too long, and we've been promising each other this rendezvous for months. So, Bush, you'll probably be relieved to hear that I'm taking a vacation from our daily exchange until next Tuesday. Meantime, for today, I thought you might not have seen this letter that was meant for you, but reached me via an email forward from a friend. I'm sure the original sender won't object to my sending it on to you, in case you might have missed it. Enjoy, and have a good weekend. See you Tuesday.

Dear President Bush,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's Law. I
have learned a great deal from you and understand why you would propose
and support a constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage. As
you said, "in the eyes of God, marriage is based between a man a
woman." I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.
When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I
simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an
abomination... End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements
of God's Laws and how to follow them.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can
you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
price for her? (I'm pretty sure she's a virgin).

3. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord - Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They
claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

4. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus
35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated
to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it? How can I help
you here?

5. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an
abomination - Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than
homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there 'degrees'
of abomination?

6. Lev.21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have
a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does
my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

7. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?

8. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes
me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

9. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev.19:19 by planting two different
crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of
two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends
to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all
the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them?
Lev.24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family
affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and
unchanging. It must be really great to be on such close terms with God
and his son, ... even better than you and your own Dad, eh?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

O Canada

So, Bush: Halifax, eh? Nova Scotia? It might surprise you to know that I lived there once. This was back in the early 1960s, the first time I had ever crossed the Atlantic. I took a teaching job there, at the Halifax Grammar School, at $5,000 a year. It seemed like undreamed of wealth to me at the time, coming over from Europe. I wonder if the school is still in operation? My older son, Matthew, was born there and proudly holds on to his Canadian nationality, forty years later.

I wonder, too, how you found Nova Scotia. When I was there, they had only recently completed the St. Lawrence Seaway--with the result that Halifax, having been the major port for all the shipping to the major Canadian cities, had become this little backwater (sorry, Haligonians!) where nothing much ever stopped.

But it was a beautiful little town in those days, Bush. Cold. Though they used to say it was tempered by the waters of the Gulf Stream, driving north. And the people there were great. I hear the reason you went there was to thank them for their hospitality to the 33,000 Americans whose flights were delayed for days after 9/11. (Anything to keep that memory fresh! That's your cachet...) I'm not surprised they acted as they did; that's the kind of people they are. Word was rife, amongst us giddy liberals during the 2004 election campaign, that we'd all be "moving to Canada" if you won. I don't know how many did. I haven't actually heard of any. But I recall the same kind of word being passed around in the days of the Viet Nam war--and not only amongst those who wanted to dodge the draft. There was a kind of shame involved, about the way our country was then acting, just as there is now.

So what is it about Canada? From down here--and from this shamelessly radical, left-wing point of view--it does look like a more humane, more rational, more civilized society. There's a national health care system. I'm sure it has its flaws, but it does take care of people in need! Everyone is covered. I'm sure there are racial problems, too; but when Ellie and I spent time in Montreal and Toronto a couple of years ago, we remarked on the noticeable lack of tension and anger between the races: it seemed to us like an easy and mutually agreeable mix. And the power struggle between French and English speakers seems almost quaint compared with our red state-blue state political divisiveness here, though I acknowledge that it must cause pain and anguish to a number of Canadians.

And then there's guns. Remember the scene in "Bowling for Columbine", Bush? Though you probably didn't see it. Where Michael Moore goes around knocking on doors in Toronto, and is surprised to find them open, unlocked, welcoming. He compares not only Canadian and American attitudes to gun possession, but also the different social consequences in each country. And no matter what you think about Michael Moore (I imagine you have certain reservations, right?) he makes some seriously good points. Statistics bear him out, that Canadians seem mysteriously less prone to shooting each other than Americans, and are consequently less fearful of being shot. And certainly, on a broader scale, the whole country seems less bellicose, doesn't it? It doesn't strut around the world brandishing its weaponry.

One more thing that I suspect may be a factor in all this: I understand that Canada is far less crowded, population-wise, than is this country. Oh, the cities are busy alright, and the citizens live, and commute, and work in shoulder-to-shoulder competition for the air space there. But from my admittedly limited and casual observation, there's a sense of air left over for everyone to breathe--a sense that is increasingly lacking over here, where communities everywhere are spilling over into each other, and people seem forced into contention with each other, battling continually for their "rights."

Is this all myth? It maybe so. In your speech in Halifax, you announced your intention to "reach out" in your second term to friends--without, of course, deviating in the slightest from your course, and in the context of what you deem "the nightmare world of danger." (Back here at home, meanwhile, one of your Republican senators was loudly calling for the resignation of the UN's Secretary General: how's that for currying international favor?) Oh, yes, you sprinkled your speech with a few timely witticisms, too. This was perhaps what the Canadian newspapers referred to as your "charm offensive." Sorry, Bush, but I tend to see it rather as "offensive charm."

Wednesday, December 01, 2004


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Wednesday, December 1

San Francisco airport, 8AM. A break today from the weighty responsibilities of politics, Bush. For me, at least. I see you're up there in Canada, mending fences. I did pick up my NY Times and noted from the headline that your Ridge had handed in his resignation. Does this mean no more color-coding? And I note that you "declined" an offer to speak to the Canadian parliament--where heckling is not unusual. So when do you plan to risk exposure to the nasty world of those who dare to disagree with you...? Just a question, Bush.

But really my mind is still on Sam. I want to tell you about Sam, and the family and friends who gathered last night to see him on his way. These words came as I sat and gazed at the small altar, waiting for the memorial service to begin:

Well, Sam, they had you
finally in a small wooden box
surrounded by white flower
displays. Your framed photo
gazed out at us with a half
serious smile. To your left
the Stars and Stripes, folded
in a neat triangle--reminder
of your service to the country.
A parachuter? Sam, I never
knew this, or perhaps did,
and had forgotten. Hard,
though, to imagine you,
jumping from an airplane!
To your right, your book
of Tamura Ryuichi's poems,
the work of years, a work
of true devotion to what
you thought was beautiful
and true, what you deemed
your work must be, to share
with the rest of us. White
candles flicker on either side,
reminders of the fragility
of your lost life, and ours.
The thin and twisting wisp
of smoke from an incense
stick, rising past your photo,
past the flowers, fragrant.
And, after all our words
of regret, after the words
of admiration, deep respect
and, yes, Sam, genuine love,
after everything we could
think to say in solace to
each other and ourselves,
then came the slow chant
of the Buddhist sutra, Okyo
and Oshoko, rising, sad
and reverent, as we offered
incense at the altar. Sam,
my friend, I do remember
your dislike of the word
God, but now you're gone
I dare to say it to you
anyway: God speed you
on your journey, wherever
your spirit takes you from
this day.

Afterwards, at a small dinner at Sam and Yumiko's, I told the story of my nightmare journey north to the memorial service: of realizing, en route to the Los Angeles airport, that I'd left the contact information for my rendezvous at San Francisco airport at home; of losing my wallet between the remote parking lot at LAX and the Alaska Airlines electronic check-in point--no money, no credit card, no photo ID for Security; of the interminable wait--already short of time--for the bus to return to the remote lot in hopes of finding my wallet turned in to the office there; of the miraculous discovery by one of the passengers, once the bus finally came and was headed back to the parking lot, of my lost wallet under his seat; of the rush back to Alaska Airlines, and the rejection of my e-ticket information by the electronic system; of waiting in line--still less time now; growing panic--to see an agent, and of his pointing out the fine print on the ticket, that I should check in for this Alaska Airlines flight at the American Airlines terminal (of course!); of the mad dash half-way round LAX to American Airlines, and the rejection of my e-ticket information by their electronic check-in system; of the renewed wait in line for an American Airlines agent--only to be told, on reaching the counter, that I was "too late" to check in for the flight. At which point, my patience snapped. I made it clear that my good friend had died, and that I did not intend to miss his memorial as a result of some idiotic bureaucratic foul-up.

Well, the agent finally relented. He gave me "two minutes", and I ran.

I caught the flight. You will have guessed by now, Bush, that my unconscious mind was in denial. It did not want to accept the reality of my friend's death, and did everything it could think of to sabotage my efforts to get to his memorial. Interesting, no? The power of the unconscious mind…

Still, I would not have missed the memorial for anything. A sad and joyous event, which brought together friends and family, some of whom I had not seen in many years, some of whom I had known through Sam and Yumiko, but never met. It was a joy, particularly, to see their beautiful daughter, Junko, now a young woman, last seen when she was a little girl; and her husband, Igor, whom I met for the first time. We parted early this morning with both joy and sadness in our hearts.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Tuesday, November 30

I just don't get it, Bush. I mean, this marijuana thing is totally beyond me. Why would your Ashcroft, presumably a busy man even in these post-resignation days, persist in persecuting a poor, sick, suffering woman in California who, with the approval of a vast majority of voters in her state, grows a few cannabis plants at home to use for medicinal purposes, with the guidance of a licensed physician, to alleviate her suffering? As I hear it, he sent in a couple of his federal goons to drag her off to jail--a fate from which she was saved, temporarily, it seems, in a stand-off between the feds and the California cops. Imagine the scene, Bush! Hard to decide between farce and tragedy.

I mean, come on… What's the great principle to be defended here, that your Ashcroft needs to pursue all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States? The spectacle of those nine robed sages debating the right of one lonely woman in a distant state to grow a few pathetic herbs for her own consumption is nothing less than mind-boggling.

Okay, I can get my mind around the idea that pharmaceutical drugs need to be tested before they're marketed to the public. (See Vioxx, of course--which your FDA continued stubbornly to approve despite dire warnings from the scientific community, beyond even the point where the producers' conscience forced them to withdraw it from the market. Another small irony here, Bush? The multi-zillion drug company gets a more than free pass, whilst a poor little sick lady in California brings down the wrath of the federal government on her? But that's another story.) And yet there are plenty of "medicinal" herbs out there being marketed and self-prescribed, without the benefit of medical advice, without arousing your Ashcroft's vengeful ire. And marijuana, as I understand it, has been used for centuries without dire results as a natural palliative for pain.

So what is it about Mary Jane? Are we still in "Reefer Madness" days? Does ignorance and prejudice trump the experienced judgment of scientists and physicians? And what is it with those meddling "friends of the court" who rush in to gang up with Ashcroft on our poor heroine (sorry, no pun intended)? I heard a woman on NPR (apologies again, for invoking this scurrilous left-wing media outlet) representing a whole organization of busy-bodies out to defend their fellow-citizens from the evils of cannabis. She had lists of facts and figures as long as your arm and spoke at least in the tones of a rational human being. But what kind of self-righteousness, Bush, allows her the presumption to seek in this way to impose her antediluvian views on the vast majority of California voters? I ask you, what business is it of hers what this ailing woman does in the privacy of her home?

So doesn't your Ashcroft have anything better to do with his time? I realize that this is the old parking meter argument, but really… Aren't there a ton of white-collar corporate malfeasants out there, stiffing the public for zillions of dollars? And what about the real illegal drug market, with its sleazy dealers profiteering in the mean streets? My God, Bush, surely your Ashcroft's feds have something more sensible to do than hound the sick and suffering? Isn't there something just a little off-key in this story?

Enough. I'm out of time. I'm catching a plane in a couple of hours to attend the memorial for my friend Sam.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Monday, November 29

…and speaking of market (and television news), I saw the new talking George W. Bush action doll on the news last night! Did they run this one by you, Bush? I know Arnold has a lawsuit pending--or was it settled?--against a toy company for appropriating his image for a similar product. On the premise, I suppose, that his image is his "intellectual property." This George W. Bush has two different costumes, a grey business suit and a flight suit (remember that aircraft carrier?!) and speaks a couple of nice patriotic phrases (in your voice, Bush!) when you push a button. I guess they've brought it out in time to market it for Christmas. Forgive my brevity this morning, Bush. I'm frankly a bit dispirited by all this holiday spirit, but I do have a poem for the day, to celebrate the new arrival.

Here he is…

Well, here he is, neatly
packaged in his small
box, ready for the Xmas
market, the all-new
George W. Bush talking
action figure. Really.
If you don't believe me,
check it out online.
He has two costumes,
his grey business suit
with its bright red tie
and his fighter pilot
flight suit. When you
push his button he has
some nice patriotic
words for your children
to remember. Maybe
George could play with
Ken and Barbie. He could
send Ken off to his war,
and hump Barbie while
Ken is gone. He could
drive Barbie's pink car
and swim in her pool with
her friends. He could
take off in a fighter plane
and land it on the deck
of a US aircraft carrier.
He could climb down from
the fighter plane and say
"Mission Accomplished."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Sunday, November 28

Did you see any of those television reports on the post-Thanksgiving Day shopping spree, Bush? Did it fill your heart with pride to see all those good folks stampeding through the starting gates to get their "values"--and contribute to the health of the economy? (I recall you did tell us all to go out and buy after 9/11!) Or did it turn your stomach just a little bit?

They say that your election was won on the basis of "values", and I suppose by that they mean "moral values" and not "mall values"--only a slight phonetic shift. But the spectacle of the malls reveals another of those uncomfortable ironies, as I see it: the confusion between the values you hope to cash in on at the superstore and the values you take home with you to the dinner table--the ones we all hope to live our lives by. The way I was brought up, mall values have to do with me-first concupiscence and, yes, sometimes, honestly, sheer greed. Moral values have to do with generosity and selflessness--the ability to stand back and put others first. Forgive me, but I don’t see much of the latter in the stampede for post-Thanksgiving bargains.

Am I belaboring the obvious here, Bush? Am I getting preachy in my senility? I started out, earlier this morning, thinking to write about religion, and now look what happened. I got sidetracked. I should take my wife's advice, and watch less television news...

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Saturday, November 27, 2004

Saturday, November 27

I heard yesterday that my friend Sam Grolmes died on Thanksgiving Day, the same day as his mother. This seems like a good time and place to tell the world that Sam was a gentle, decent, thoughtful, honorable man. He devoted his life to his beloved wife, Yumiko, and to poetry. Together, they are chiefly responsible for making the work of the great twentieth century Japanese poet Ryuichi Tamura available in English. This work, along with their other important collaborative translations, was, as they say, a labor of love--a quality that Sam had in no short supply. The world is poorer by one gifted man without him.


Otherwise, today, just a little business: my blog site just got a little more sophisticated yesterday with the help of my trusty computer genius, Scott. I'm hoping that today's entry will include at least one link (above: we'll see in a moment if it works!) And, Bush, you'll be happy to hear that you can now comment or respond without having to register, as I believe you did before, when you hit the "Comment" button at the end of the entry. Now, when you hit that button, you'll be able to click on "Anonymous" and simply write in your response--though you do not need to remain anonymous: you are still at liberty to sign it. That comment will be available to blog readers by clicking on the "Comment" button if it indicates a comment has been made; and will be forwarded to me at Another way to respond is to connect with my profile and click on my "Email" link there.

Here's hoping all this sophisticated stuff will work, and wishing you a wonderful weekend…

Friday, November 26, 2004

Friday, November 24

How's this for a laugh, Bush? Last night I dreamt I was President and stopped the war. We packed up all our tanks and helicopters, our automatic weapons and artillery, our night vision goggles and body armor, and came home. Oh, I know it's all a lot simpler in dream than in real life. But sometimes I have to wonder how "real" life is for you, Bush. You, who think your Rumsfeld is doing "a superb job" when he has so obviously bollixed the whole thing up. Who seem to think the war is going great.

And then I also have to wonder what kind of judge of character you are. Numerous examples there, too, for anyone who looks. But I remember particularly that time you looked in Putin's eyes and saw the goodness of his soul, and now look what has been happening in his Russia of late: the summary justice, the return of political repression, the encroachments on basic freedoms… And now your chum is siding with the ancien regime in the Ukraine, despite what seems to be indisputable election fraud. I'm afraid you might find yourself head-to-head with your soul-mate one day, maybe soon. Another Cold War? Brrrr…

Did you eat too much yesterday, Bush, like I did? (I know you didn't drink too much: you gave that up, right?) I have to say, though, it was a marvelous feast. I was the lone ex-Brit amongst a family American enough to make you proud. Good people, sound to the core, with great, big, open hearts. Though I sometimes wonder, on Thanksgiving Day, if you-all hadn't done better to stick with us Brits.

The Artist

He lay down
on a bed of dry
pebbles. Then the rain came.
When he got back up
he left behind
the light gray shadow
of his body
on the dark, wet stones.

He walked through the village
gathering dandelions
in a bucket
at the roadside,
in the hedgerows;
then took them out
to the river. Finding
a round pool in the rocks
he filled it up
with dandelion heads,
revealing at once the surprising
receptiveness of rock,
and the brilliant, golden
beauty of the dandelion.

A movie to see, Bush: "Rivers & Tides", about the work of the British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Such small and simple gestures in the natural world, and yet so filled with depth and grandeur. You can rent it out on Netflix

Thursday, November 25, 2004


Thanksgiving Day, Bush, and I don't know about you, but I have a lot to be grateful for. I'm thankful, above all, simply to be here. In August, I started my sixty-ninth year of this present existence (still hoping for others!) and am grateful for my health, the strength of my body, my breath, for the slowly increasing clarity of my mind--all of which allow me the joy and the privilege of continuing this great adventure.

I'm grateful, too, for the love I am able to share with my wife, Ellie, and with my wonderful family; for the generous love I receive from them, and for the love I am able to give them in return.

I'm grateful for my friends; especially, this year, for my friend Sam, for the example of his courageous and mindful journey toward death; and for my friend Michael, for his example of courage in adversity. They are both inspirations to me.

I'm grateful to you, too, Bush. As I think you know by now, you represent everything I oppose in my life. I sit daily in heavy judgment of who you are and what you do. And yet your re-election has been a great gift to me--the proverbial "gift wrapped in shit." I say this with the understanding that the gift to the rest of the world may be more dubious, and I feel somehow apologetic for that fact. But for me it has opened up a whole new direction and dedication for my writing: for the first time in quite a while, I wake each morning looking forward to the opportunity simply to write down what's on my mind--and in my heart. This blog I have discovered is a joy, entirely unanticipated, and all the more welcome for its surprise. It's an adventure in itself, and I have been looking for adventure…

And there's more. You have become my "great teacher." Your actions, misguided as I believe most of them to be, keep me conscious and alert. I believe and hope that they are making a multitude of minds throughout the world more conscious and alert. My own mind has become sharper, more attentive, more fully responsive to our global predicament. And you offer me a mirror in which my shadows inescapably appear: my fear, my anger… not to mention my greed, my arrogance. (I'm not saying, Bush, that these qualities are yours: only you can judge of that. I'm just saying that you awaken the awareness of them in myself. Otherwise, they remain dangerously hidden.)

So, Bush, there's a great deal to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day. I wish you and your family well. And I thank you for being, for me, the great Opponent. I look forward to our continuing to have it out in these pages…

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Wednesday, November 24

I wish you could have been with me last night, Bush. Ellie, my wife, and I went with a friend to see "The Motorcycle Diaries." I doubt you will have seen it, or that you will, since it's about that famous socialist revolutionary Che Guevera, who was killed back in the 60s for his involvement with the Castro revolution in Cuba--reportedly with at least the tacit assent help of the CIA. As a medical student, the scion of an affluent, loving, and sophisticated urban family, he sets out on a lark with his friend to tour the length of Latin America on a dilapidated motorcycle… and finds a heart and soul he did not know he had, along with a mission that guides the rest of his short life.

What opens his eyes along the way is the incredible suffering of the people he meets. The film is unsparing in its exploration of the multiple faces of this suffering: the impoverished peasant farmers, the Indians evicted from their homes by the insatiable greed of developers and industrial exploiters, those lucky enough to find employment forced to work for below-subsistence wages in dangerous mines, lepers exiled to an isolated colony run by Catholic nuns and a handful of dedicated medical professionals. He's confronted everywhere by hunger, poverty, injustice, exploitation, ignorance, and deprivation. And yet--this is the amazing part, Bush--the deepest lesson offered by these people reduced to bare subsistence is the lesson of human nobility. There's a depth of soul and even, yes, an access to the joy of being human that is profoundly moving: amidst the worst imaginable of economic circumstances, they dance, they sing, they love… And it's the combination of the two that makes the film at once tragic and inspiring. You leave--we left--the theater with a renewed sense of the irreducible value of human life.

Obviously, the effect of this experience on the young Che was to inspire him with thoughts of socialist revolution. I had those same yearnings as a young man, though I lacked the total, unselfish commitment that made of him a leader and--dare I say it?--a martyr to, the cause of social justice. Which leaves me wondering about you, Bush. Did those revolutionary yearnings ever touch your soul? Surely they did. I think they touch the soul of every young person when he or she first becomes aware of human suffering…and who has not become aware of it, in one way or another? And if you did experience those revolutionary yearnings, would they have been for some kind of a right-wing, conservative revolution?

Because that's what I see you trying to realize now, Bush. It's almost a slow Republican coup that has been taking place in this country over the past few years, and this is the culmination of it. You talk about "compassionate" conservatism, as though you really wanted to address the problems of our less advantaged citizens. But your revolution seems to lead only to greater power and wealth for those who already have it, and greater suffering for the less fortunate. I wish you could show me some small evidence to the contrary, but I don’t see it, Bush. I just don't see it. I don’t see the smallest evidence of your vaunted compassion.

That's why I wish you’d been with me last night. Like me, I believe you would have learned something more about compassion. You might even have been inspired.


Oh, and I wrote this poem for my friend, who's dying. I wanted you to have the opportunity to read it. It's called:

"A Slow Man"

Sam, she said,
is a slow man.
He does things
slowly. For months
now, he has been
dying. Slowly.
Meticulously. Out-
lasting all professional
predictions, and with full
attention to the detail of
that process. This week,
she said, he has been
declining, slowly. Just
yesterday he slipped
quietly into a coma;
they thought he would
not last the night.
But then this morning,
he opened his eyes
again, and smiled
at the touch of her
fingers on his face,
and nodded at her words,
content to wait yet
another day, content
to leave us

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Tuesday, November 23

Yes, Bush, I am deeply
sickened by those images
now emanating from
your conquered Falluja:
the torture cells, the blood-
spattered walls, that black
mask like those we saw
worn by those terrible
assassins, standing indifferent
with automatic weapons
behind their victims. Yet
I confess I would be more
deeply disturbed had I not
seen those images emanating
from your Abu Ghraib:
the bleak, feces-covered
cells, the naked prisoners
subjected to sexual mockery
and piled in pyramids for
the pleasure of the guards
with their leering grins
and their victory signs.
So are there degrees
of inhumanity, I must ask
myself? I suppose perhaps
there are: still and all,
I find it hard to summon
much in the way of self-
righteous indignation, given
the crimes we have committed,
you and I, Bush, in the name
of freedom. I do not wish
to seem unduly sarcastic
or facetious, and yet I feel
compelled to ask, How do you
square this, Bush, with the one
you claim as your personal
savior Jesus, when you pray
to him? Because I remember
we tortured and killed him,
too, didn't we, gruesomely,
and with maximum cruelty?