Monday, December 26, 2005


I'm taking the week off, Bush. See yesterday's entry for my holiday greeting. We'll talk in the New Year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Day...

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

This is our tree, Bush (apologies: NO pun intended!) A bit unconventional, no? But nice. Our daughter's friend Ed brought it down yesterday, Christmas Eve, made with his own hands. He calls it "The Money Tree". It needs a word of explanation: the tree was created over a period of months, using every piece of junk mail delivered to Ed's mail box since his birthday last April. It's a nicely ironic reconversion of a sadly abused natural resource into an imitation of the nature from which it was plundered by human hand--the hand that destroys, the hand that creates. It's also a poignant reminder of the commercialization of this once-religious festival, and the transformation of an annoying invasion into the privacy of our daily lives into an object of wonderful and, yes, a-musing beauty. We're delighted to have it grace our home, instead of another small, pathetic tree uprooted from its forest home.

I trust you had a rewarding visit from Santa, Bush. Although... did you ever stop to wonder how he got the "Santa" bit? I mean, it's girl saints, generally, who get the Santa honorific: Santa Maria, Santa Ana, Santa Barbara...? No? The guys get a good, strong, healthy "San": San Juan, San Diego, San Antonio...? So what's with this "Santa" Claus? Something vaguely disturbing in that confusion, when you think about it. Could that old bearded guy with his white beard and his ankle-length red robe (!) and his deep-voiced HoHoHo be hiding something imponderable about his (her?) sexual identity? To what murky secrets are we exposing our children, Bush? Now THERE's something your O'Reilly could really sink his teeth into. Anyway, no big deal. Just wondering.

Happy Christmas everyone! And a Merry Hanukkah to all!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Day Before...

It seems to matter little to you, Bush, but I do love to read or hear the English language used with eloquence, easy articulation, and subtle expressiveness. I say this after going to see the newest version of "Pride and Prejudice" last night, and enjoying it partially as a feast of delicious language. In Jane Austen's world, recreated with eminent success in this 21st century movie, I thought, people spoke to each other with respect for the subtleties of social relationships, with a desire for the precision of thought and attitude, and with a certain pleasure in the ability to articulate their communication with greater concern for civility than haste.

What a difference from the world of the United States today, with our emailing and text-messaging, our mumbling speech, our haste to get the minimum said to convey a single, thin idea. How little we concern ourselves with the niceties of speech, or with the way in which language itself can express or refine how we stand in relationship to others. I myself tend to think, Bush, that ideas cannot exist without the language in which they are realized, and that consequently subtle, difficult, carefully modulated thoughts are impossible without the language to express them. Simple language reflects a simple mind, and simple minds--to my mind--are dangerous things because human beings and their relationships are infinitely complex.

Which brings me, Bush, to your language skills, which are frankly lamentably lacking. Oh, you can read a fine speech written by one of your trained speech writers, with only a few flubs and glitches, or echo the phrases that are fed to you by your masters of political spin. But try to say something off the cuff, or genuine, or respond to a reporter's question, and you're lost. You sound like a sixth grader trying to comprehend mysteries far beyond his ken. Worse, Bush, you seem to pride yourself on this deficiency, playing to the yahoo gallery as though it were somehow unmanly, or unAmerican, to use good English. Say what you will about Bill Clinton and his blow job, but he spoke the language with ease and with some obvious relish, and I liked him for that. When you boil things down to their most simplistic level--"good and evil," "it's a hard job," "freedom and democracy" come to mind--you risk sacrificing the complexity of the real world we live in, and acting instead on the basis of your simplifications, with often disastrous results.

You seem to be hot on testing everyone else for their language skills, but my judgment is you're a little "left behind" in this area yourself.

Christmas Eve! I have visions of Uncle Dick coming down the White House chimney with his red suit, his white beard, and his HoHoHo. Put your stocking out, Bush, and hope for some nice surprises.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Day Before the Day Before...

I was driving around doing Christmas errands in Christmas traffic this morning, Bush, and I confess I tuned in to a talk radio station. I haven't actually done this for years, because it had gotten so grating, so one-sided, so polemical that I just couldn't stand it any more. I couldn't even laugh at it. Well, I was right. This morning the station offered a smorgasbord of three different hosts--I won't mention their names, although two of them I'd never even heard of. But I was frankly sickened. Not by the conservative point of view, Bush. I think I can handle that, no matter how much I may disagree with it. But by the tone. The aggressiveness. The aggrievement. The intolerance. The anger. And, yes, the absolute absence of any sign of charity toward the targets of their wrath. And their callers were no better.

These are the same folks who have been whining about the war on Christmas, Bush. As though such a war existed. As though the sounds and symbols of Christmas weren't everywhere in evidence, as though you could walk into a mall or a supermaket anywhere and not be regaled by Christmas carols heralding the birth of the baby Jesus! As though Christmas had not already been stolen by those who have turned it into the festival of commerce--with whom these belly-achers presumably have no quarrel.

What struck me as remarkable on my return visit to talk radio, though, was the venom. The vitriolic name-calling. The hatred for those they rant against, the verbal abuse. It's worse than ever--worse, certainly, than when I last tuned in. So much for Christian charity on the occasion of Christ's birth. So much for the vaunted spirit of Christmas. So much for loving your neighbor as yourself and turning the other cheek. I'd love to hear you, just once--at Christmas, maybe--disown some of this poisonous cant.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Look Who's Talking

I wonder, Bush, are you celebrating the "victory" of the approval of the budget, with your Cheney dashing back from half the world away to cast the tie-breaking vote, in a pathetic pretense at reducing the deficit by slicing out $40 billion slated for medical care for the poor and student aid? Noble work, Bush! Or are you fuming over the rejection of your military spending plan on account of the cynical inclusion of your Arctic oil drilling obsession--presumbly with the thought that the Democracts would never dare to oppose a military spending bill in time of war? Are you fretting over your federal judge's resignation from the surveillance court because of his discomfort with your (probably illegal) initiative approving secret spying on American citizens without judicial oversight, as required by law? And the rumored mutiny of three others of his brethren?

Well, we do know that you're mad about the Senate's demurral over the renewal of your Patriot Act. "This obstruction is inexcusable," you ranted on. And your Republicans are screaming bloody murder over the Democrats proposal for a three-month extension, to soberly consider what, in the Act, is needed for "homeland security", and what is simply intolerable overreaaching on the part of your administration. Fair enough, I would have thought. But it does, of course, offer you the irresistible opportunity to tar your opponents once again with the unpatriotic brush.

But anyway, Bush, beyond all that, there's trouble for your henchmen brewing on the near horizon. Just look who's beginning to talk, in hopes of some kind of a plea deal for himself--maybe to reduce the number of years he'll be required to spend in the federal clink. It's Jack Abramoff, king of the K Street lobbyists. The bosom buddy of your Delay, the fundraising tsar, who saw to it that so many of your friends enjoyed the benefit of extravagant junkets supported by the fruits of American Indian gaming. I heard you try to pre-empt the danger, Bush, by dismissing the man as "an equal money dispenser" on the news last night. Well, no. Two-thirds of the money he dispensed went to Republican causes, and one-third to Democrats. The one-third, it seems likely, a necessary compensation to avoid the appearance of partisanship and, for a lobbyist, also a necessary means to buy support even from the other side, when needed.

My hope is that Abramaoff will be induced to spill the beans on the whole corporate, show-me-the-money lobbying system that nowadays calls the shots in our so-called democracy. The stink could be powerful enough to raise the roof in the halls of Congress. It could expose the history of means by which your Republicans acquired, and conspired to hold onto near-absolute power in our three branches of government. If the American people can be induced to pay attention for more than a few moments, the Abramoff debacle could prove the start of a real revolution in the way our nation's business is done. It could pave the way to cleaning out some of the steaming, redolent excrement that's piling up in the back yards of our stables.

So, keep talking, Jack. Let it all hang out. We need to hear this stuff, from the mouth of a staunch Republican. Maybe then we'll begin to see through the smoke and mirrors to the corruption that has been rotting the core of American democracy for decades. Oh, and Bush, excuse the intolerable mix of metaphors. I got carried away. Again.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Americans Who Tell the Truth

A good friend of mine brought me a newspaper clipping last night, about the exhibition "Americans Who Tell the Truth", a collection of portraits by the artist Robert Shetterly. They're intended to remind us of a noble old American tradition, now in danger of being forgotten, and I thought you might be interested in seeing them, Bush. Amongst them, you'll note, is that notable truth-teller, Cindy Sheehan. Remember her? Also a lot of good American heroes. Enjoy!

Breathtaking Inanity

Kudos to federal Judge John E. Jones III for a bold, incisive decision on intelligent design. Much is made in the media of the fact that Judge Jones is a Republican and was appointed by none other than your good self, Bush. I say he's simply a thoughtful, honest man who values (yes!) intelligence above ideology and cant. "In making this determination," he wrote, "we have address the seminal question of whether I.D. is science. We have concluded that it is not."

Well, bravo, and thank you! The imperfections of Darwin's theory of evolution, he wrote, "should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom of to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions." The judge noted, moreover, that the citizens of the affected school district "were poorly served bby the members of the board who voted for the I.D. policy. It is ironic that several of those individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the I.D. policy." He names the school board's decision for what it is: a breathtaking inanity."

Well, Bush, I've no doubt you'll be amongst those the good judge anticipates will criticize his own decision as "the mark of an activist judge. If so," he adds, "they will have erred, for this is manifestly not an activist court." You would do well, I believe, along with other creationist enthusiasts, to heed this voice of reason from one who shares your political conservatism.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of religius blowhards, haven't we heard enough of this absurd "war on Christmas" invented by some of your loud-mouthed radio flacks? I mean, Bush, this is no more than a transparent effort to change the subject from the disastrous failures of your administration. Still, if it satisfies those malicious idiots, I myself, on behalf of The Bush Diaries, will declare this war: I think the whole thing is has been turned into nothing that a commercial plot to part gullible American citizens with their hard-earned money. Christmas, let's face it, Bush, is dead, along with the Jesus I learned about as a child--that Jesus who preached peace, and care for the sick and needy, and generosity of spirit. That same Jesus who must be turning in his grave if he happens to hear about the actions of your Republican congress, cutting funds intended for the poor and handing the proceeds to the rich. So Jesus is dead. Long live that dangerous old man who joyfully stuffs the stockings of the children of the wealthy, Santa Jolly Olde Claus.

Oh, and Bush, forgive my cynicism. It's all this breathtaking inanity that gets to me sometimes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

A Shameful Act

I didn't follow your press conference yesterday, Bush. I was at the gym, and while their TV set was tuned to CNN, my elliptical walker was faced in the wrong direction to see the screen without twisting my head. But I caught a glimpse of you up thee, behind your podium. Oh, and saw a few clips that were rerun later, on the news. I particularly liked that bit about the "shameful act" of leaking the information about your authorization of secret spying on American citizens to the press. It must have been personally somewhat embarrassing to you, Bush, to have been revealed as someone who considers himself above the law. Not that it's any great surprise to those of us who have always seen that curious little trait in you. (Remember the 2000 elections?) But no wonder there's such outrage, not only among Democrats but within your own ranks: what people can't understand is why, when there was a perfectly legal way to do the job, you chose instead to skirt the law. Must be the influence of your wicked uncle, Dick.

Anyway, that was strong language, Bush, that you used to condemn the revelation. "A shameful act," indeed! Funny, I didn't hear you express the same kind of indignation at the outing of Joseph Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent. We hardly heard peep from you on that subject, as I recall. Oh, there was some vague thing about wanting to know if anyone had broken the law... But no sign that you were particularly perturbed by the fact that someone in your White House had obviously revealed the identity of a CIA operative as an act of vengeance against her husband--a shameful act, if ever there was one. Perhaps even treasonous. But I guess that was a leak that worked in your favor, not against you, and if nothing else, you're a practical guy.

Just thought I should point out the double standard here, Bush. I see that your favorable poll numbers leaped up to 47 percent today. Ah, well. I suppose that proves the point that you can fool some of the people some of the time. As for me, I got out of bed the wrong side this morning. I'm just grumpy.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Two Options?

I did watch your speech to the nation last night, Bush. I haven't heard much in the way of response, but I understand in a general way that you were praised for having reached a new level of candor regarding responsibility for the mistakes made both in the intelligence leading to the war, and in its conduct. Bravo, I guess.

But for myself there remained two important points of disagreement. On the first, everything you have to say presupposes the necessity of the war in the first place: on the terrorists/insurgents, you still seem to harbor the misguided notion that your invasion of Iraq was predicated on the imperative of 9/11, to protect this country from the threat of international terrorism. I could see your point if you were talking about Afghanistan. But you turned your attention from that pursuit to something quite different in Iraq, where no one believed--even those who were persuaded by your WMD alarmism--that Saddam was in cahoots with the religious fanatics and ideologues who form the core of terrorism. Except, it seems, your Cheney, who still blows occasional, foolish farts on that utterly discredited trumpet. And you, who made another half-hearted attempt at it last night. Won't wash, Bush. No one is buying that story any more. No, it was you who imported terrorism into Iraq. It was your efforts that opened this opportunity for them, that provided Bin Laden and his like with the best recruitment tool and training ground they could possibly have hoped for.

My second point is this: you keep asserting that there are only two options left, victory or defeat, as though this were some inarguable truth. I disagree with that view profoundly. It's that kind of black-and-white thinking that gets you into trouble with everything you touch. Victory and defeat are precisely the two least desirable options open to us. Defeat... well, Bush, you've lectured us about that option many times, and I do agree that simply to abandon the Iraqis to their fate after what we've done to their country is not an honorable course. We have created chaos there. We need to help clean up the mess.

But victory? To me, that implies that America has somehow won a war that was not about America in the first place. It isn't we who should emerge the victors from this disaster, it's the Iraqi people. It shouldn't have been our fight in the first place, and it shouldn't be ours now. Given that you have marched in and trashed the place, it has become our unfortunate responsibility to support their efforts and help create the kind of playing field where they can set up a new game according to their own rules. But your mistake is to keep busying yourself with setting the rules for them. For you, it's democracy or bust. For them, there appear to be political imperatives--those, particuarly, having to do with the role of religion in public life--which may prove to be incompatible with the ideal of democracy that we, in this country, purport to aspire to. (Though that, too, as I have said many times, has been imperiled by the attidues and practices of your administration.)

Bottom line: it's simplistic to keep repeating that same old mantra, victory or defeat. What's needed is neither of these options, but a middle ground, a negotiated settlement between the warring parties over there; or perhaps, more accurately, a provisional settlement that's open to continuing negotiation, since no single answer will ever resolve all the conflicting interests in the region. And it's disingenuous to keep smearing your critics with "defeatism", as though defeat were what they are proposing. As I hear it, they are talking about a careful, planned withdrawl of the American presence, a gradual shift of responsibility that takes into account the need for continuing security and reconstruction, but makes it clear that it's not about America or American interests, but rather about what the Iraqis may wish to build for themselves. Even, Bush, if that's not democracy.

But I'll be interest, this morning, to hear what others say. Have a good week, Bush. Though it doesn't bode well.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

1,000 Words

Well, Bush, they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and there you were, on the front page of both the New York and the Los Angeles Times this morning:

your good self, making your lashing-out speech (see yesterday's entry), in which you castigated those senators who had dared speak out against your (quite possibly illegal) directive ordering the wire-tapping of those you, in your wisdom, deemed a threat to our fellow citizens in the wake of 9/11. In the Roosevelt Room! That's Teddy Roosevelt, I suppose, since you're standing there in front of that famous portrait of the genial Ted astride his prancing steed, about to lead the charge up San Juan Hill, if I'm not much mistaken. A veritable hero! Pure genius, Bush, to borrow that aura and that energy when you need them! And those flagstaffs with their proud eagles on either side! How very nice of those two newspapers--and I suppose many more--to print this glorious Associated Press image front and center on their Sunday morning edition! Because of course this was a radio, not a television speech. Nicely done.

Modesty, I'm sure, will prevent you from choosing this same venue for tonight's promised speech on the success of your Iraq elections. Good luck with it, Bush. I'll be interested to hear what you have to say, and hope very much that it's not the same old drivel about freedom and democracy. Because your actions over here make a mockery of your promises to deliver these benefits to the people of distant countries like Iraq. I imagine they're smart enough to see the hypocrisy. Anyway, I expect that I'll be listening. Watching, I should say. And I'll be interested to see where they have you placed for this one.

The Roosevelt Room, Bush! With Teddy on horseback! What a kick!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Lashing Out

So, Bush, I hear you're lashing out today at lawmakers who dared to rebuke you for your secret authorization of the wiretapping of American citizens to protect us all from terrorism. Not a good week's end for you, I guess. You must be mortified: at precisely the moment when you expected to be able to crow about the success of the Iraq elections, you're forced instead to dine on crow with John McCain at the White House, having failed to cram your torture program down the throats of the Congress and the American people. Now your attempt to renew the horribly misnamed Patriot Act has been foiled by a strong Senate vote, and all you can think to do is lash out, once again, in an attempt to discredit thoughtful men and women who opposed you. Not a good week's end, Bush. Not at all. The irony is that your strong words serve only to make you sound weaker.

Re: that election, by the way. I'm delighted that it went so well. I'm delighted that the Sunnis joined in. I do hope that it proves to be the turning point, as you so stridently claimed a couple of days ago. I do hope that it leads to a stronger sense of the common good, to greater security, a more reliable social infrastructure to the benefit of those suffering citizens; and, of course, to a peaceable resolution of religious and political differences. I hope it unites the various factions against the insurgency, and provides the ground for a mutually tolerant society. This would be the truly desirable outcome of your adventure there.

Would it all then have been worth it, should all these outcomes be achieved? Would it have been worth the loss of American credibility in the world, the renewal of emnities in the Arab world, the lasting hostility--not to mention the loss of life, the cost? Would it prove that yours was the only or the best way to undermine the dreadful dictatorship of Saddam Hussein? Or conduct your war on terrorism? I think not. And you know, Bush, I might--just might--have been tempted to give you a bit more credit, at least for the demise of the despicable Saddam, had you not made such an appalling hash of the whole affair. Had you not shot from the hip, blissfully heedless of the complex social, political, and relgious consequences of your action. Had you made less arrogant assumptions about your power, your military strength, and your moral rectitude.

All in all, though, I think the American people now realize that the answer is a resounding No. It was not worth it. AND it was hopelessly mishandled. AND that the prospects for all those potential outcomes remain dim. AND that as a country we are much diminished by it. We have lost any moral high ground that we might have held.

Not a good week's end, Bush. Be well.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Scary Movie

Want to see a scary movie, Bush? You need look no further than "Good Night, and Good Luck," the story of Edward R. Murrow's exposure of the ruthless attack on the United States' constitution by Sen. Joseph McCarthy--the "junior senator from Wisconsin," as Murrow dismissively calls him. That infamous episode in American history was brought vividly to life by the movie's blend of first-rate black and white photography, film and television clips from the period, and a stunning portrayal of the journalist by lead actor David Strathairn. The rest of the movie, actually, is pretty much extraneous. But the core thread was enough in itself to satisfy this one viewer.

Why scary? Because the simple mental substitution of a single word throughout--"terrorism" for "communism"--brought the events of this movie right up to date. It's all there: the bully tactics, the blatant fear-mongering, the bending of the truth to fit an ideological agenda, the indecent smearing of opponents, and the basic ignorance (or cynical flouting) of what this country's founders meant by the freedom they envisioned--all were were a healthy reminder of the tactics of your administration and supporters. Contemporaneous speeches--recorded in shaky, out-of-focus newsreel film and early television tape by McCarthy and Murrow (as well as a stunner by then President Eisenhower) seemed as fresh, and challenging, and relevant today as they were back then. The red-herring threat of international communism, the abrogation of basic freedoms for fear of the enemy within, the abuse of patriotism as the chosen attack weapon against perceived enemies... It all recalled the post-9/11 world that you've created, Bush, in a thoroughly alarming way.

So the scary part is how this shameful past is re-enacted in today's world, with the media subservient to corporate and political interests, politicans beholden to the power of lobbyists, the suspension of civil rights, the assault on privacy and independent thought. When I look at despots like your belligerent Delay, your sleazy Rove, your sepulchral Cheney, the ghost of Christmas past comes rattling his chains at us, Bush, and that's what's scary.

Back home, I watched the latest rave by the irrepressible George Carlin. He has aged considerably, white and thinning on top, a little jowly around the jaws. He has always been a keen observer of social and political restrictions on individual freedom, and last night was no exception. He dwelled a lot on death, Bush, and on suicide--and managed to be funny even on these topics. But his tone had changed, I thought. The seriousness behind the satire was closer to the surface this time, and more biting. There was anger, certainly. Almost despair, as he lampooned the easy surrender of our individual rights to those who exercise the real power in today's society. Not, Bush, not you, and not the politicians, whom Carlin lambastes as mere puppets operated by the super-wealthy, super-greedy folks at the very top of the social heap.

It's how I see your good self, Bush. A marionette. A toy president, nothing more than a make-believe plaything in the hands of unimaginable, dark forces bent on extending their empire into mindless infinity. And the tragedy is that we allow ourselves, complacent in the unprecedented material ease of our lives, to be lulled to sleep while they contaminate our bodies and our minds. But it's not funny any more, Bush. The odd thing was, as Carlin ranted on, that no-one was really laughing any more.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Same Old Same Old

They say you're changing your tone, Bush, in your recent series of lectures to the American people, intended to buff up your tarnished image and muster support for your ill-advised adventure in Iraq. The tone, maybe. Though we talked about that yesterday, right? They also say you're conceding that mistakes were made. Well, in my book, any credible admission of past error involves a commitment to making changes to assure the error won't be compounded or repeated. And that's exactly what I haven't heard, Bush. I've heard hollow acknowledgments of responsibility. I've heard you're listening to sound advice. But I don't see any substantial change. And I don't see any of those whose bad advice you listened to before being thrown out on their ears, or new ones being brought in to replace them. I think of your Rumsfeld. Your Rice... They say that you yourself don't think you're in that famous bubble, Bush, that they keep talking about. I guess the point is, you just don't see the bubble when you're inside it. Out here, though, Bush--outside the bubble--we do see it. Listen to us. We're talking to you. The American people are talking to you. Nearly sixty percent of us, last I heard, believe that you're dead wrong with your war in Iraq. We don't believe you're bringing the blessings of democracy to the Middle East. We don't believe you have justfied the lives or the treasury you've squandered. Listen to us. We're trying to tell you something. Something important, Bush. Something urgent. And most of us are simply getting angrier that you refuse to listen, or change. That you keep feeding us the same tired lies, the same false justifications, the same rosy predictions. That you insist on your own rightness, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So when do you start to listen to someone other than yourself, and your sycophants, and your hand-picked audiences, and your false prophets, and your ideologues, and those who have so badly misguided you in the past? When do you start to listen to the views of the rest of the people with whom we share this planet? When, Bush? When?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More Or Less...

It's kind of a verbal shrug, Bush. "About 30,000, more or less," I heard you say. You happened to be talking about Iraqi citizens killed in your "initial incursion" and the subsequent insurgency--or whatever we're calling it these days. "More or less" makes it sound like you don't really care too much whether it's actually "more" or "less."

Oh, well.

One thing that seems to elude you and your PR handlers is the importance of tone in conveying a message. You seem not to cotton to the fact that we humans read beyond the lines of the actual meaning of the words themselves, and "understand" a lot from the tone in which they are delivered. You, Bush--in my judgment--are basically tone deaf. And it's not only tone of voice I'm talking about. It applies equally to the "tone" of facial expression and body language. All of which, when you read your lines, say "callous," "out of touch," "arrogant," "privileged," "contemptuous."

More or less.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Tale of Two Williamses

The first, of course, is Stanley Tookie Williams, who was put to death early this morning by the State of California. It took them twelve minutes, I hear, to find the vein. I don't suppose you're shedding any tears, Bush. It's well known that you support the death penalty, and that you have refused to use your power to spare lives on many occasions in the past. For me, all the arugments about rehabilitation and remorse are eventually beside the point. It shouldn't be about who can persuade one man, a politician, the Governor of the state, that this man has proved he's worthy of continuing to live. No, it's really about who we are as a society: do we want the blood of revenge and retribution on our hands? Are we not, along with every one of our major allies on the world stage, civilized enough to be able to counter the inhumanity of some of our members with our own humanity? Must we be like the worst of us, and kill--simply to satisfy an ancient, barbaric need for vengeance?

The second Willaims is Brian, of NBC, whose self-congratulatory, soft-core, deferential interview of your good self has been released in teaser segments by the network over the past couple of days. I'm sure the White House PR team must be delighted with the images of the good-hearted, smiling, Christmas Bush, whose over-simplified messages of good cheer surely appealed to numerous consumers of the network product: not information, of course, but entertainment. What a platform for you, Bush! It's my own view that a national television news service should ask more of itself than to provide a convenient outlet for your propaganda, but maybe I'm just being naive as usual. There's corporate profits to be borne in mind.

Incidentally, Bush, have I mentioned that I've been working on a book version of "The Bush Diaries"? Provisional title is "Talking to Bush"--along the lines of "Conversations with God", but not aiming quite so high. Anyway, that's why I neglected you yesterday. All in a good cause. I've been working on the Foreword, which tries to say something useful about what we're doing here, and what makes this book different from all other Bush books. I'll plan to post that essay for you when it's ready.

Oh, and by the way, re: today's entry. In the interest of full disclosure I should reveal that I'm a Williams, too. Well, half a Williams. On my mother's side. Have a good day.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Little Cabbage

And now the French weigh in with revelations similar to those coming out of Germany a couple of weeks ago: that the U.S. was warned repeatedly before your war, Bush, that the intelligence on which your justifications were based was deeply flawed. The Los Angeles Times reports today on disclosures made by one Alain Chouet, a former French intelligence official, that "the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation" that Iraq had been trying to buy materials for making nuclear weapons in Niger. Joe Wilson, as you may recall, Bush, had drawn the same conclusion--along with the vengeful ire of your administration.

Chouet, of course, means "little cabbage"--though it's usually used by the French in its feminine form, "chouette", or its big form, "chou", as a term of endearment. This particular little cabbage, though, must be anything but endearing to those of your people who are still, unbelievably, trying to maintain the credibility of the original premise(s) for your war. Including, of course, your Cheney, who continues blithely to trot out the Saddam-al Qaeda myth as though it had not been thoroughly discredited by and sundry other than his good self.

One more smokescreen coming up this week, I hear, in the form of another election. I look forward to hearing from your lips all the predictable pronouncements on the huge success of your effort to democratize this intractible region of the world. But no matter how many times you assert that it's happening there, Bush--that democracy is taking root and that soon, very soon (in time for the 2006 elections) the Iraqis will be able to "stand up" and our troops will be coming home--I just don't even for one second believe it. Troops coming home, yes. For political reasons. A democratic, peaceful Iraq, no. Your rosy pictures fly in the face of so many centuries of history, they have a kind of fairy-tale innocence about them. I mean, I'd like to believe you, Bush, but I gave up on the tooth fairy a good number of years ago. As for Santa Claus, he used to frighten me so horribly as a little boy that my father revealed the secret before I was even six. Maybe this is just the "old European" skeptic coming out in me, but I'll believe your claptrap when I begin to see results other than more violence and discord.

By the way, Bush, my son came out to visit yesterday from Iowa, where he lives. You may remember that we spent a weekend with him around this time last year, in Tuscon, Arizona, but he hasn't actually visited us in at least five year. A momentous occasion, then. I may be a little more irregular than usual in our converstaions.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Flat Wrong

I say, Bully for Bill, Bush! Bully for Bill Clinton who had the conviction and the heart to go up there to the UN conference on global climate change in Montreal yesterday and tell the world what the vast majority of us Americans believe: that you're flat wrong. In your obsession with the need to protect American business, you're not doing them a favor, Bush, and you're further negating our responsibility for leadership in the world. As Clinton pointed out, your overprotection ofr American business is a wrong-headed approach, which serves only to stand in the way of the imaginative entrepreneurship that has served our country well for over a hundred years. You're castrating business interests and disempowering them under the pretense of keeping them strong. And in the meantime, thanks to our failure of leadership, the planet continues to suffer from a surfeit of the poisons we produce.

So what's so special about us that we can't even agree to negotiate with the other nations of the world? What is it that dictates that arrogant refusal to get down and talk to those we share the planet with? Your representatives at the conference--our representatives, I'm ashamed to say--rejected every proposal toward progress that was put forward on the table. I know, I know, Bush: other nations have been equally protective, equally short-sighted, equally blinded by what they perceive to be their national interests. But we're the richest, the most powerful nation in the world. Aren't we supposed to lead the way, not coddle ourselves and our superrich corporations? Can't we trust our magnificent business ingenuity to find solutions--profitable solutions--to these problems? Do we have to be the leading desecrator of our planet, not its leading friend and advocate?

So, yes, I say again, Bully for Bill, Bush. And bully for Jimmy Carter, while we're at it, who has had the guts to speak out against our arrogant attitude toward the rest of the world. I know it's not the custom for American ex-presidents to come out and criticize their successors. But you, Bush, are leading us so badly in the wrong direction that they cannot and should not remain silent. Clinton's right: you're flat wrong in your climate change policy, just as you were flat wrong in your precipitous decision to lead us into war before every other option was explored; just as you're flat wrong in your absurd addiction to tax cuts for the wealthy while the poor of this nation--not to mention the rest of the world--go ill-fed, without access to proper medical care and now, in the wake of natural disasters everywhere, often without shelter.

Flat wrong, for too many of the people of this world, means dead wrong, Bush. And if your policies pesist, it will mean dead wrong for many, many more.

Friday, December 09, 2005


I hadn't actually been intending to watch a videotape last night, Bush, but I needed one to test out the reconnection of our VCR/DVD player (finally!) and believe it or not, I couldn't find a single tape or DVD in all our unpacked boxes. So I went down to the local rental establishment to obtain one of each. Quite an eye-opener down there: it has been a while since I visited a rental store because we have been seduced by the convenience Netflix. Our old haunt is transformed. Where just a couple of years ago there were rows and rows of videotapes and just a few rows of DVDs, the video area is reduced to just a couple of desultory shelves, mostly for the sale of odds and ends of used tapes. A kind of junkyared. A sign of the times, I guess.

Anyway, that's not what I started to talk about. I needed a tape, and picked out, almost at random, a 1966 movie by Derek Jarman, Caravaggio, not really intending even to watch it, just to use it for my test. Well, Bush, I'm glad I did. It's not often that you come across a movie that's almost purely lyrical, like this one. By that I mean that it works more on image, association, rhythm and tone than on word and narrative.

Best of all, Jarman managed to capture the visual power of Caravaggio himself, the dramatic interplay of light and shadow that is the essence of chiaroscuro--the title, incidentally, Bush, of my first novel: a murder mystery set in the art worlds of New York and Los Angeles. (I've always thought that the mystery genre is the literary equivalent of chiaroscuro: it's melodrama, contrasting the light and shadow sides of human nature or, as you might prefer it, Bush, good and evil). Jarman's stark use of highlight and shadow, his understanding of Caravaggio's love for the dramatic power of the diagonal thrust of form in a painting, his ability to mime the rhythm of a Caravaggio work, as well as the tonality, the occasional, brilliant flash of color, the overt sensuality and the ubiquitous decadence result in a movie in which every frame is a visual poem in homage to the master.

The recurrence of images, too, works much as metaphor does in poetry. Drapery, fruits and vegetables, straw and wood form a kind of visual thematic undercurrent. The knife, too, with which the artist plays, is wounded, wounds, and kills. It's his tragic umbilical to life itself. Coins, too--from the coins counted out on the rough kitchen table as the deal plays out for the sale of the young Caravaggio by his parents (the source, in Jarman's narrative, for the fury that fuels the passion of his work)--to the coins with which he pays his lover-model, piece by piece, as the young man grabs them and thrusts them sensually in his mouth: their fist kiss is an oral exchange of coins. To the final imaqe of the use of coins to close the eyes of Caravaggio's corpse.

Especially provocative, in the context of a sixteenth century setting, is Jarman's casual insertion of images from other periods: a Renaissance grandee toys idly with a credit-card slim calculator over dinner, the young model is shown fixing his motorcycle--and throughout, we hear the sounds of modern traffic, the roar and whistle of passing trains. It's fun, funny, purposefully strange and--as I see it, Bush--it helps the movie transcend the centuries in a light-handed kind of way.

As for the narrative, the story is told in flashbacks from Caravaggio's deathbed: the painter's struggle with his rage, his contempt for authority, his rejection of religion and the church, his sado-masochistic fascination with the erotic, seamy side of life--and his consuming passion for painting. At the end, we're witness to his angry refusal of repentence or redemption other than through personal conviction or through art. It's a profoundly irreligious movie, Bush, deeply engaged in the complex moral problematics of life itself--the profound, perennial struggle of body and soul, human mortality and the singular, inevitable truth of death. I don't think you'd actually like it. But it would be a salutory experience for you, of that I'm sure. Try it one night, in the White House screening room.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Back in the Saddle Again

It's galling, isn't it, Bush, to watch that man take control of his own trial. Unbelievable. First the rants and raves, and now the non-appearance. And even by not being there, he manages to control the proceedings. You have to grant him, Bush, he has cojones. The man has an innate power. A tyrant whose ruthlessness and self-importance knows no limits. Even as a prisoner in the dock, he knows how to wield this quality to his advantage. He makes the rest of those around him, including the judge and the prosecutors, look puny by comparison. The power he disposes might be evil--and certainly has been turned to evil purposes--but as raw, human power, it's breathtaking.

Looking at the clips that were played back on the television news, I couldn't help but think back to Nuremberg, with the likes of Hermann Goering in the dock--arrogant, unrepentent, contemptuous, perhaps, but essentially powerless. They had a kind of pathetic look to them. They were beaten, and they knew it. This guy, though... there's something in him that refuses to admit defeat. Which is not great fot the political situation over there. The trial, surely, was intended as a kind of public exorcism for the country, and to demonstrate democratic justice at its finest. The danger now, as I see it, is that Saddam will manage to turn this intention on its head, and fix the blame, in the mninds of his Sunni supporters if not other Iraqis, back on the invader.

This thing is teetering on the edge of anothernfarcical disaster, Bush. And I don't think there's a damn thing can be done to save it. Imagine... a possible acquittal! I see a real possibility that this mass murderer could walk away from his crimes for no better reason than that his trial was hopelessly mishandled.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Lies, Damn Lies, and Technical Exactitudes

I watched your Rice dancing around with language, before she left for Europe yesterday, in an effort to answer--no, to avoid answering--European questions on two subjects: the existence of secret CIA jails at locations in Europe, and the practice of "rendition"--air freighting detainees to other countries for interrogation. I was not convinced, Bush. And I'm sure that those Europeans--many of whom are skeptical buggers, as I'm sure you know--will be no more convinced than I was.

I mean, she put on her sternest face and came up with tough-sounding words, Bush, but none of them answered the question. Are there secret CIA jails in Europe? Her failure to come up with a simple "no" is a tacit acknowledgement that yes, there are. And given that their presence remains undenied, if they did exist, she suggested, and if interrogations had been taking place there, it would have been for the purpose of protecting European lives from the grievous harm that might otherwise befall them. No specifics, of course. Just dark hints and blanket assertions.

As to rendition (presumably to allow for interrogation techniques that might not be acceptable on home territory), "The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances." And "The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture." Ample wiggle room there, I think. Ample grounds for arguing that the truth has been told, without actually having told the truth. And by the way, how do we define torture? By our own standard, which tends to shift according to what your administration deems necessity? Or by the accepted standards of the rest of the civilized world. Hmmm. Perhaps that should read simply, "by the civilized world."

"So, George, did you chop down that apple tree?" "Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did not chop down the vast majority of the apple trees in the orchard. Nor did I chop down a single pear tree, nor a plum tree. George Washington does not make a practice of chopping down apple trees. He does not condone the chopping down of apple trees. And besides, he does not possess an axe of his own with which to chop them down."

Ah, well, Bush. I saw that old warhorse John Murtha interviewed on the television this morning. He said, and I paraphrase this first part: we need some hard, honest appraisal of our situation in Iraq. And added--and here I quote directly--"We're not getting honesy from this White House." My point exactly.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Teenager nation

I was sitting with friends at brunch yesterday, Bush, when one of them came up with this provocative idea, that our nation is a troubled teenager. She pointed to the 1950s at the period of the compliant child, when we all follow the rules set up by Mom and Dad without ever stopping to doubt or question them; the 1960s as the time of the raging hormones and the flowering into adolescence; and the 1980s and 1990s as the self-indulgent, me-first narcissism of the fifteen year old. Now, she argues, we’re into that nasty, aggressive self-assertion of the late teenager, where no one else’s rules apply to us and we’ll do what we damn well please, no matter what anyone says.

I know, I know, Bush. Her theory makes for a long period of infancy. By her standard, the baby steps lasted for two hundred years and the pre-teens only a decade or so. But it’s an amusing and, as I say, provocative thought. And the best part is, if her theory holds water, we can still look forward to actually growing up one of these days! Meantime, though, I hope we’ll soon be mature enough to quit acting up and move on to the college years on the world stage.

Apologies for the brevity. Monday’s not the best of days for me these days. It’s an early workout in the gym and an hour or more on the freeway, back to L.A…and then the inevitable reappraisal of what happened, or didn’t happen in our reconstruction job last week. And making lists and laying out plans for the coming one. No one will be happier, Bush, than I, once all these work folks finish their jobs and leave us to the pleasures of our new house.

See you Tuesday, Bush. I hope.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Drizzly Saturday

Woke early this morning in a panic that I'd forgotten to transfer money to my checking account to cover the automatic monthly deduction for the mortgage payment. Does that happen to you sometimes, Bush? Nothing I could have done about it anyway, at five o'clock in the morning, but that was the end of the possibility of sleep. The mind was wide awake. I took it to the small bedroom that serves as my study down here at the beach and satisfied its anxiety by glancing at the checkbook. It was okay, of course. I hadn't forgotten. Once that was out of the way, I tried to settle the mind down once again with a forty minute meditation. With beneficial results. Not the perfect equanimity, Bush, that I strive for. But not bad for a Saturday morning after a busy week.

Not much to say to you, except to observe the painful reality of the death of another ten US Marines in Iraq yesterday. Ten young lives. And this at the end of a week's broadside from you and your Cheney against those who dare to raise their voice in opposition to your war. At the end of a week of hot air promises that things are getting better over there, that more and more Iraqi soldiers are being trained, that soon they'll be able and willing to defend the democracy we have so generously gifted them. Another week of empty rhetoric before your handpicked audiences, Bush.

All we are saying--as the late, still sadly lamented John Lennon chanted, leading a world of people in his wake--is give peace a chance. And nothing will ever come of an approach to peace that will settle for nothing less than "complete victory" of the US forces and the US vision for the country we invaded. That's your position, as I understand it, Bush. A complete vindication of your initial, terrible error of judgment. No compromise. No cutting and running, whatever that means. Victory! What a concept, Bush. It sounds almost quaint--and certainly no less hollow than "Mission Accomplished."

Remember that one, Bush? The banner? The aircraft carrier? The flight suit? That one blew up in your face, though, didn't it? And yet your people were tin-eared enough to remind us of that absurdity with the "Plan for Victory" banner they stretched behind you for your Annapolis speech this week. Victory? In my view, we have already lost too much: too much affection and respect for our country in the rest of the world, too much in the way of infinitely precious human life, too much of our national resource, too much of our national unity and self-respect. Even if your war were to end tomorrow in the victory you aspire too, we would still have lost too much.

Time to transfer some real, hard currency into your account, Bush, before your checks begin to bounce and your mortgage payment gets rejected by the bank. Watch out!

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Quality of Mercy

Well, Bush, I see that our mutual friend Arnold is faced with the weightiest of all decisions: whether another man should live or die. No man, as I see it, should be burdened with such a responsibility, but that's what comes of our national insistence on the barbaric old custom of putting people to death--a custom long since abandoned in every Western country save our own. As I recall, you showed no mercy as Governor of Texas. You signed numerous death warrants on the rather casual say-so of your Gonzales, now attorney general of these United States. But this in itself is old, if documented history. Water, to put it all too kindly, under the bridge.

Now it's Arnold's turn. I believe he has declined a couple of appeals for clemency already, leaving some doubt as to whether he'll be open to this one. Stanley Tookie Williams, founder of the Crips street gang, has no hesitation in admitting to an atrocious past--though apparently he still denies responsibility for the murders for which he was convicted, nearly a quarter century ago. His plea for mercy is based on what he has managed to do with his life since then, from his prison cell, as a writer of children's books and a protocol for peace treaties between gangs, and as a leading activist against gang violence.

There are many, I know, who have come to Williams's support, and there will be many more voices heard before his scheduled execution date in a couple of weeks from now. There will be the voices of the death penalty proponents, too. For myself, this is, as the detestable phrase goes, a no-brainer. First, I reject the arguments for the death penalty. A society that practices the same violence against those it condemns has no claim to enlightenment. Second, I do believe in the quality of mercy: it ennobles those who practice it, whether earned or unearned by its recipient. And third, this man in particular has made every effort to demonstrate, through practical action, remorse for his past actions, and his potential to make a positive contribution to the common good while serving a life sentence. His death would be a useless act of vengeance.

Speaking of which, I found myself wondering, this morning, whether I would feel the same as the mother of that little girl in Florida, whose abductor and murderer was sentenced, yesterday, to death. She wanted him dead immediately, no delay, no appeals. He was still breathing, she complained, outraged: her daughter was not. Why should she, the mother, have to go through the agony of waiting for years while her daughter's convicted killer eked out time through the appeals process?

Who could fail to empathize with this woman's pain and anger? And, as I say, I do wonder whether I might not feel the same as her in similiar circumstances. Would my reasonable self fly out the window? Would I, in my pain and anger, be demanding death? I can't sit here and swear I wouldn't. There are those, however, in the same situation, who have extended extraordinary forgiveness and mercy toward those who have so desperately wronged them. All things considered, I hope that I might be among them.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Too much

There's just too much for us to talk about today, Bush. There's The Speech, of course. I'll leave others to deal with that. Both the New York and the Los Angeles Times came up with pretty scathing reviews this morning, and I have to agree with them. The Today Show chose John Kerry as the counter-spokesman, and I found myself wishing it had been someone else. He sounded, well, academic, rather than just plain angry. Bottom lines: nothing new. The same old rhetoric, the same old refusal to recognize past mistakes, the same old denial of the stark realities we hear from others on the ground, including your military. And the "report", for God's sake, Bush! The grand plan for the Iraq war, now finally declassified! Give us all a break! Watching the early news, it was Ellie who wondered, aloud, "What is this new, pompous walk, with his chest all puffed out. I'd noticed it, too. The commander-in-chief walk. To go with the talk, I guess. Both equally unconvincing.

And then there's World AIDS Day. And Rosa Parks Anniversary Day--commemorating her refusal to give up her seat on the bus. And the signing of the bill authorizing a statue of the same Rosa Parks for the Capitol Rotunda. Nice photo op, Bush. Though it must have been tough to smile and shake John Kerry's hand when he's turned out to be one of the loudest and sharpest critics of your war. Lots of cheery black faces, though. Did anyone else catch the near miss in your speech, when you tripped up over "school integration", and it nearly, nearly came out at "school degradation"? you caught that one just in time, Bush, before it got added to your growing list of malapropisms.

One thing did worry me, in the Rosa Parks celebration: all the self-congratulation being handed around so generously seemed to gloss over the very real, continuing plight of so much of our population of African descent. It had been so recently, and so blindingly revealed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the general aura of euphoria over progress in this area since the heyday of the civil rights movement seemed a tad misplaced. Recent information I've been reading about the state of the inner city schools, the resurgence of de facto segregation, the persistence of abject poverty and unemployment all suggest that the unrestrained celebration of progress is premature, to say the least; and that we still have a long, long way to go. The recent efforts of your Congress to find budget cuts in programs for the poor in order to protect your tax cuts for the rich do not encourage me to believe you're much concerned about this problem, Bush--despite your fine speech for Rosa Parks.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"By Golly..."

... quoth your Rumsfeld, Bush (and I paraphrase him from here on, because I didn't have a notepad to hand when I caught the broadcast of his remarks) "why can't you people believe in the incredible progress we're making in Iraq? Why, the Iraqis are very nearly ready to take over their own security." The report that followed, based on interviews with both American and Iraqi officials on the ground over there, failed to share your Rumsfeld's enthusiasm, Bush. By virtually any standard, they have a long, long way to go before they can handle things alone. Even your right-wing supporter, Bill O'Reilly has lost patience: he has a good point when he challenges rosy assessments like your Rumsfeld's. It takes six weeks, O'Reilly claims, to train an American soldier and get him into battle. And we've been training "these folks" for three years, and they're still not ready. So when will they be, he demands to know.

Then there's your new series of speeches, Bush. From what I heard this morning about the first of them, at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, you have nothing new to say. Desperate, it seems, to reclaim the political high ground, you have even put out a report outlining your strategy in Iraq (back-dating it to reassure the American people that the plan has been in place all along!) And your Rumsfeld and your Rice are busy out there pushing a newly-coined set of words to bring us all along: "clear, hold, and build." Nice sound-bite, Bush.

And then your Rumsfeld plays around with more new words to describe the enemy in Iraq. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, he wants to retire the word "insurgents" in favor of "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government." "These people don't have a legitimate gripe," he said. "This is a group of people who don't deserve the word 'insurgency.'" His Pentagon folks are having a tough time keeping track of the change, it seems. On the same podium as your Rumsfeld, Marine Gen. Peter Pace let slip the offending nomenclature, and felt obliged to apologize. But he added, "I can't think of a better word right now."

But it's not about words, really, is it, Bush? Your people keep trying to find the palatable phrase, the one that will make the other guy look bad, and you look good. But you all keep saying the same old thing, and it won't wash. Your speech this morning was just another fancy way of saying, Stay the course. I hate to agree (even half-way) with the likes of Bill O'Reilly. He thinks it's all so simple, so clear: stop fooling around with excuses, go ahead and win. That's a part of his appeal, I think. He reduces everything to the simplest terms, the simplest solution, and that appeals to minds that reject the complexity of the real world. But it's not so simple. What you've created over there is a military, social, political, cultural and religious morass, and it won't be easy to "win". It won't be easy to extricate ourselves without leaving murderous sectarian chaos behind us. And, Rumsfeld's rosy assessments notwithstanding, I believe it's going to take a long, long time.

Meantime, while you and Rumsfeld talk, more innocent Iraqis are killed, and the hostage strategy seems to be back in vogue amongst the insurgency. Four Christian activists and, separately, a German archaeologist and aid worker with her driver. It's a dire situation, Bush, and I think that you have steered us into dangerous, turbulent waters over which you have virtually no control. You're way out of your depth there, and I see you flailing about like a man about to drown. By golly, by gosh, and by gum.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


You have to hand it to Saddam, Bush, for sheer bloody aplomb. Sitting there in the dock, on trial for his atrocities, he calmly writes a poem. A poem! And then he has the gall to read it aloud during a court break! Forgive me, Bush, but I can't quite see you doing that. Not the poem part, anyway. What I found amazing, as I watched those little snippets that they played on the evening news, was the way this maniac managed to control the courtroom, even with that distracted and dishevelled look about him. Protesting his shackles. Instructing the presiding judge to ORDER--not request, Bush, ORDER--the American guards to attend to his complaints. "They are in our country," he snapped back at the judge: "You are an Iraqi. They are foreigners and invaders, so you must condemn them." Talk about turning the tables, Bush! Talk about balls! No doubt about it, he's going to be a tough one to prosecute.

And while we're on the subject of atrocities, I've been hearing more and more about our country's use of white phosphorous--in Falluja, last year, if not elsewhere. This morning's New York Times comes out with a lead editorial on the subject, and I have to say, I'm thoroughly appalled. Our military leaders argue that the use of this chemical weapon is legal on the battlefield; and Falluja, so the argument goes, was considered a battlefield at the time. But to resort to such techical arguments in defense of the legality of a weapon that "rains balls of flaming chemicals, which cling to anything they touch and burn until their oxygen supply is cut off" seems outrageous beyond belief. Hardly a "precision weapon", Bush, I think you'll agree. And it was deployed by our own troops in a city still known to be home to plenty of innocent civilians.

Aside from the moral questions the use of such weapons raises, how about the purely practical ones? Is this any way to win the hearts and minds of a people we're supposedly trying to liberate? Is this any way to persuade them of the glories of democracy? It's a peculiar and unpleasant irony, too, that this was precisely one of the chemical weapons that Saddam himself is accused of having used against the Kurds.

So what makes it any better for us to employ such tactics? Explain to me the difference, Bush. Is it okay to use weapons of mass destruction when we, in our special wisdom, consider the cause to be just? Are we so righteous in our cause that we can do these things without answering for them? Should someone--whoever authorized the use of this dreadful weapon--not be sitting in that dock along with Saddam? Not that this in anyway exculpates him from his crimes against humanity. But do we really have to stoop to his level of cruelty and ruthlessness in order to vanquish him?

Monday, November 28, 2005

What Happened Here

I happened to be reading this small book of truths at the same time, last week, that you and your Cheney were spewing venom at those who sought to set the record straight about the origin of your war. The book, Bush, is Eliot Weinberger's What Happened Here, a collection of essays whose subtitle--"Bush Chronicles"--initially attracted my attention because of its similarity to the one we have given to these pages. The similarity, Bush, does not end there. Weinberger shares my perspective on your presidency, and the first of these essays dates from the time of your first inauguration. From there--with a brief sideswipe at your linguistic gymnastics--the chronicle moves on to the day after 9/11, three weeks after, one year after...progressively tracking your response, and eventual use of that dreadful event to promote the agenda of your war.

It's a remarkable book, Bush. It combines carefully--though passionately--argued opinion with long sections, toward the end, which simply provide long litanties of plain facts and unglossed quotations from your own mouth and the mouths of your enablers. In all, it's a damning history of the lies, half-truths, exaggerations and deceptions with which you and your people justified the march to a war which had been intended, if not planned, well before the events of 9/11 provided you with the perfect pretext with which to persuade the American people. It's also a pitiless exposure of the inbred cronyism of the small circle of your supporters and your administration, and a history of the utter managerial incompetence to which this cronyism has led.

In fewer than two hundred pages, then, Weinberger manages to condense a fully reasoned, fully coherent, albeit angry opposition to the policies and practices of your administration. It's unfortunate that his voice is heard more abroad, in Europe, than in our own country, because it is an essential and implacable one. It pulls no punches. It lets you get away with nothing, Bush. The breadth of his resources of information, along with his devastatingly accurate eye, exposes your duplicities without mercy. I hope it finds a lot of readers amongst those who follow "The Bush Diaries."

I sense a kingship with Weinberger, since we both come from a literary layman's point of view. He lays no claims to punditry. His book does differ, though, from what we're doing here. First, it covers a much greater time span: we have been working on this diary only since your second (questionable--Weinberger touches on this, too!) election. It's much less friendly, much less conversational, much less personal. But indispensible, I think, in its overview. I wish you'd read it, Bush. But I doubt you will.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


It's a truly spectacular Sunday here, Bush. The Santa Ana winds have pushed all the pollution back, or out, or wherever it pushes the particles that habitually hang around in our air, and the sky is a deep, clear blue. Reflecting it, the Pacific Ocean is steel blue, calm, serene, and the horizon line is as crisp as I ever saw it. The wind persists, though, lifting the heads of the eucalyptus and the palm trees, and sending the leaves and the dust and the rest of the natural detritus skittering along the ground. Ellie has been out there on the patio, sweeping leaves in a futile gesture to the neatness to which she customarily aspires; and the leaves drop from the trees by their thousands to make a mockery of her work.

This morning, an hour's sit in our "sangha"--our meditation group--and an hour of good, authentic, heartfelt talk to follow, with our fellow-sitters; each one of them speaking of their individual experience in words I could have used to speak about my own. It's a joy to be reminded that we humans are not so much different from each other, when you get down to the deep stuff, Bush. When you manage to bypass the trivia and get down to the important stuff of life. We hear that the teacher who comes to lead us in our practice once a month, and for special days of study in between, is to be honored in Thailand next month for his exemplary meditation practice and his teaching. A Westerner trained in the Thai Forest monk tradition, he is now the abbott of a monastery not too far from here, and he is to receive his recognition--something akin to a British knighthood, as we understand it--from the king. We are all delighted for him, and proud of our association with him. He has brought huge gifts into our lives with his patient answers to our questions and the wisdom of his thought.

All of which leads me to that familiar sense of wonder at the distance between this powerful practice and the peace of mind toward which it leads, and all those other things I choose to dwell on in these pages. It all looks like lunacy, Bush, in the light of the simple clarity and serenity that become available to the quiet mind. The kind of clarity, for example, that arises from asking simply whether my action will help or harm myself or others. The kind of serenity you can experience simply by sitting still and watching the mind perform its antics, or the heart go through its changes, without getting hung up on outcomes.

There's always the temptation to withdraw completely from the insanity of today's overpopulated, revved-up, competitive world, in which the poor, the sick, and the needy are constantly elbowed aside by those greedy for wealth, success, and the illusion of the good life. Sometimes I find myself so angry with you, Bush, and the things you do, that I wonder where the benefit of all those hours of meditation has disappeared to. I find myself unprofitably hooked on bad news, bad policy, the actions of venal politicians, the murderous callousness and evil of which we humans are too readily capable.

And yet... there seems to be something inside that forbids me to step back and ignore it all. Otherwise, perhaps, like our teacher, I'd be in a monastery. A good place to be, and one that I respect--but not, apparently, the place for me. I guess I'll just have to continue sweeping my leaves, even while the winds continue to blow, and more leaves fall.

So much for the Sunday sermon, Bush. See you in the coming week. I hear it said that you're working on a big speech about Iraq. Here's hoping you have some new thoughts to share with us, instead of just trotting the old ones out for yet another airing. We'll see.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


Remember all that capital you boasted about having earned, Bush? That would be about a year ago, I guess, after your re-election. I kind of doubted at the time that you'd earned as much as you seemed to believe, but look how little of it there is left at this point. And it's not that you've actually spent it, Bush. we might be seeing some results from that. No, you've squandered it, recklessly.

I think it was the columnist, David S. Broder, who pointed out on Washington Week last night that the coin of the realm, for a president, is credibility. That's his capital. A renewable resource, for those who use it wisely. But also a rapidly depletable resource, for wastrels.

So where have you chosen to spend this capital? Well, of course there is your war in Iraq--increasingly unpopular for your Rumsfeld's conduct of it, for your constantly shifting justifications for it, and for the deception it took to get us there in the first place. And there is the sheer, unbelievable incompetence of your administration, in handling everything from the nation's deficit to the aftermath of the Gulf Coast hurricanes. Then, too, you were elected basically on your promise of safety, and you have delivered only escalating insecurity.

It might still be possible for you to recover some of this diminishing resource, but only, I think, if you're ready for the kind of action that has proven impossible for you in the past: you need to clean house. You need to proclaim, loudly, your understanding that the people you have chosen to surround yourself with have failed you and the American people; and you need to recognize, publicly, that their services have proved inadequate, then fire them and find competent replacements. To do this, you'll need to listen to someone other than the advisors who have let you down so badly in the past, and to voices other than those of your right wing evangelical "base".

Because your credibility has eroded in large part thanks to your poor judgment of character, your belief that loyalty, along with a common ideology, is enough to assure competence. I know you find this hard to believe, Bush, because it's something you pride yourself on. But at some point, finally, the reality becomes unavoidably plain: these people you've chosen--from your Rumsfeld at the Pentagon all the way down the line to your Brownie at FEMA--have proven horribly incompetent in the jobs you've handed them. If you don't see this, Bush, believe me, the rest of the world does. How much more needs to go wrong, at home and abroad, before you recognize this simple truth?

The thing is, Bush, at this juncture, the rhetoric will only wash so far. No matter how hard your Cheney blows, no one believes him any more--with the possible exception of your good self and a small handful of the faithful. In fact, what you're getting now is the blowback effect: the more you repeat the same tired old assertions, the less we folks out here are likely to believe you. And there's not a single voice in your adminstration, so far as I can tell, that's ready to tell you that it's time to contemplate the kind of change you need to make, if you're to reverse the current disenchantment with your presidency.

So stir it up, Bush, for God's sake. For ours. For your own. Let some big heads roll. Tell us that you've come to understand that things have not been going so well on your watch, that we need a course correction, a few new faces in the crew, a few new voices in the chorus, singing a different tune. Then, and only then, you might see the store of your capital begin to grow again. Perhaps only tentatively, at first. But any small sign of change at this stage would be welcome. Any small sign that the reality is sinking in.

Friday, November 25, 2005

No Fake Turkey...

... this year, Bush. You got some shit for that in the media at this time last year, right? Serving up a plastic bird to the troops for the photo op, with a big grin on your face. You have to admit, it was just a little on the tacky side. Just goes to show, you shouldn't always listen to your PR people. Sometimes they get things wrong, and you end up with egg on your face. In this case, presumably, plastic turkey egg. This year, I hear, the Thanksgiving gesture was ten personal calls to your soliders in different parts of the world, to thank them for their service to the country. From the comfort of the Crawford ranch. Do these media people really think that calls like this are going to transform your somewhat remote and uncaring image into warm, presidential sympathy? Just speaking for myself, Bush, I have to say that this, too, flopped as a PR gesture. Too cavalier. Not enough personal sacrifice. But then, some folks are never satisfied. In your case, I guess I'm one of them.

But that's not the big news for the day, of course. The big news, which has every network and every TV station in a tizzy, is the annual post-Thsnkgiving shopping frenzy. What joy and rapture everywhere. Santa Claus (who used to be St. Nicholas, remember?) shows his ruddy face and his white beard again, a good month before he's due, to play his traditional role in the wild commercial ride toward Christmas. Ho, Ho, Ho, Bush. What a jolly fellow, stimulating sales. For God's sake, what are we teaching our children about peace and goodwill? Much more, alas, about gimme, gimme, gimme...

Anyway, listen, Bush, another thing: I'm distressed about the way in which technology has intruded on the gift market. It seems like everything these days is high-tech--from good old parlor games to dolls and truccks. For kids, so little room for the imagination any more: the lead soldiers (heaven forbid!), even the tin ones of yesteryear look hopelessly quaint beside the hyper-realist video games that encourage the bloody slaughter of enemies on the battlefield--or in the streets. Dolls speak, respond to questions with preprogrammed messages, walk, weep, and pee in their pants. No make-believe there. Are we leeching the imaginative faculty from the minds of kids? Are we training them to be as literal-minded as our sad-sack adult selves?

As for the older kids, the teens, there are the I-Pods, the Blackberries, the digital cameras, the cell phones that now, I understand, not only take snapshots, but also receive your favorite television program at the touch of your keypad. It's all such alienating stuff. The lesson: be anywhere but where you are. Forget the immediacy of the present moment, forget the reality of lived experience, move on into the ethernet and tune in to experience at one remove from life, as mediated by electronic technology.

I don't know. Am I sounding like a Victorian Scrooge, Bush? Or the Grinch? Maybe so. But while I'm at it, on another front, I'd also be interested in hearing what proportion of the items purchased today are manufactured anywhere outside the U.S.--China? Korea?--and to what extent these purchases contribute to the country's trade imbalance. I don't suppose I'm likely to hear that statistic on the evening news, Bush. But wouldn't it be interesting? Really? Wouldn't it give us all pause, if this information were to be included with the noisy boosterism that passes for the news of the day? Wouldn't we have to stop and rethink our priorities, if only just a little bit?

Now that, Bush, that would make me happy!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Bird Day

Gobble, gobble, Bush. It's that day again. Daydreaming in bed this morning (and giving thanks, of course!) I found myself thinking about birds--in the context of your current predicament, that is: in the early days, I watched you preening like a peacock, and swooping to the attack like a rapacious hawk (or a thieving magpie.) I hesitate to mention the dreaded chicken, but the truth is I've always sensed that scattered presence behind the rooster's strut. It's a toss-up, of course, whether you choose to crow (then)or are maybe forced to eat it (now). We understand that you were gulled by your pee-wit intelligence, whose lies you and your people parroted endlessly to the nattering flock of us American sparrows. In this, you were undoubtedly egged on by your vulture of a vice-president and your popinjay (erstwhile) national security adviser. Anyway, you've ended up a sitting duck for the critics of your war and--do I dare to hope?--a lame one. Watch out, Bush, or your goose is cooked. Then we'd all give thanks. Meanwhile, though, have a happy Turkey Day. Cheep cheep.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Tuesday got swallowed up, Bush. I honestly don't know where it went. A blur of office work, a heated session with our contractor about why the job was never getting finished, a tour of the garden with the dog, maybe a bite of lunch in there somewhere... and at the end of the day, fatigue. Ah, but did I mention this, Bush? Our new little place has a sauna! Tucked way in back, behind the bedrooms and the closets, a beautifully crafted Swedish sauna. Turn the heater on, leave it to do its work for fifteen minutes, then pour some water over the hot rocks... Bliss! Then a cool shower, and a man begins to feel like a human being again.

Still, no blog, for which I apologize. I guess I could have found, or made the time, but the spirit simply wasn't willing. I thought for a while about your Cheney's duplicity, complimenting that bold House Representative, John Murtha, on the one hand--and on the other, savaging Democrats for their "corrupt and shameless revisionism" in questioning your good faith and wisdom at the start of your Iraq war. As a letter writer in today's New York Times pointed out, "Is it not the vice president himself, and the president and other administration figures, who have shamelessly revised this country's justification for going to war?" To which I add a hearty British parliamentary "Hear, Hear!" (Or is it "Here, Here?" I was never entirely sure.)

All of which seems frankly trivial beside the enormity of the problems we are facing, both here at home and out there in the world. These political games are getting more and more tiresome, Bush. And worse, they are cynical distractions from those things we should be paying attention to: the escalating deficit, and the effects it will have on future generations; our disastrous health care system--or the lack of it--at the cost of countless of our less fortunate compatriots; an education system which is shamefully inadequate, ignores the plight of those disadvantaged by it, and leaves high school "graduates" unprepared to read a newspaper or balance a check book; a deteriorating infrastructure of highways and power systems; a reliance on fossil fuel energy and a refusal to offer more than a token (and politically-motivated) glance at alternative energy sources; a rapidly self-bankrupting and often plainly corrupt big business sector, with major corporations failing their employees, their customers, evend their shareholders, while their top executives pocket billions and party on; a communications media that chooses endlessly to celebrate--and feed--itself rather than broadcast inconvenient truths; an entertainment industry that makes no discernable distinction between "reality" broadcasting and the "news"; a Congress that kisses up to powerful lobbyists and butters its own bread whilst ignoring the needs and opinions of its constituents--not to mention the good of the country and the world.

And if that weren't enough, there's the mess abroad: Iraq. The Middle East. Africa... My God, Bush, last night the BBC World News led off with a report on the famine in Niger. You might not have heard about this one, I suppose, in your daily briefings. Not a high priority for your staffers. Caused by a combination of locusts and drought, it's been going on for months now, with the whole world looking on. Children starving to death, or dying of disease. Mothers unable to feed them. Men disempowered, desperate, at the mercy of a situation way beyond their control. Months now, and the world--our world, including our America, Bush--has not seen fit to send in enough food or medical supplies to scratch the surface of the need.

And in the meantime, we sit around and bicker about politics. That's what's corrupt and shameless, Bush. Tell that to your Cheney. Tell him to quit his bellyaching, get off his duff, and do something constructive for a change. Revisionism, my ass! Oh, and yes, I am, in case you should be wondering, yes, painfully conscious of my own complicity in all this, sitting blissfully in my sauna. I comfort myself with the notion that I do at least make the effort to pay attention, and be heard.

Monday, November 21, 2005

No, Seriously...

They put on a good show last night, Bush, some of the best comedians in America, in aid of the effort to put the brakes on global warming. No, not a telethon. Not a fund-raiser. More, really, of a consciousness-raiser. All they were asking of what they hoped to be a substantial national audience was that they check in with stopglobalwarming.orgto join a virtual march to protest your administration's lack of serious attention to a problem that is already adversely affecting our planet.

A noble cause, Bush. And not merely noble: an increasingly urgent one. While you still act the skeptic and ask for further studies, virtually every reputable scientist in the field accepts that global warming is a proven fact, and that it is we humans who are causing it to happen. Your disregard for science--and your blind support for everything that, in your short-term view, promotes American business--is no longer questionable. Your scorn for the opinion of the rest of the world and for the well-being of all but the wealthy few is also well established. Your inability to listen to anything but your own pre-set opinions is something we have talked about together numerous times in the past. But your failure to commit this country to the global effort to slow the destruction of our protective ozone layer may well turn out to be your costliest lack of judgment.

I had a good few laughs as I watched the show, Bush. But I switched off my TV set with a sense of real discomfort that it should take a bunch of comedians turning verbal somersaults to awaken us to the urgency of this issue. The program was long on both wit and slapstick, but remarkably short on what the American audience most needs: hard information on a subject their leadership has dismissed as being of scant importance. Even the disastrous hurricane season and the destruction of a major American city seem to have done little to increase the outrage at your contuinuing support for the abuse of our natural environment. Have we really, finally turned into a catatonic flock of incurious, indolent children, Bush, that we need to be entertained by clowns--no matter how brilliant or funny--in order to listen to a simple message? Imagine what kind of an audience would be turning on their TV sets to watch a science program!

Hand it to Robert Kennedy, though, who managed, at the end of the show, to introduce some valuable truths in his few minutes of showtime. Who declared the basic facts of global warming with commendable brevity and clarity, and who was careful to make the point that this was not about curtailing business, but rather about stimulating growth and productivity for a new age. There's a Kennedy I'd vote for. Would that we had more men of conscience and ability like this one! And you, Bush... Isn't it time to finally join the rest of the world in some real, effective action? Why don't you lend an ear, at least, to Tony Blair, who has supported you beyond your due? Give us all a break, Bush. Listen up!

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Brawl

I must say I was somewhat heartened, Bush, by yesterday's congressional brawl. The Democrats seem to have naively believed for years that civil discourse and rational argument were effective weapons of choice in political debate--while for years, your Republicans have been using bare-knuckle bully tactics, along with the rhetoric of slander and deception. Two different games, in which the poor, misguided Democrats have consistently lost to a bunch of gangsters playing by a different and frankly ruthless set of rules, shouting down the smallest voice of opposition as soon as it makes itself heard.

What the Democrats may finally have learned is that your people simply do not listen. The debate is always one-sided, because you're incapable of seeing that another side exists. You're always right--and I guess the pun is appropriate here! I've heard you say again quite recently, Bush, that criticism is legitimate--but then you immediately deprive it of its legitimacy by countering with your own tired cliches: today it was "the defense of freedom" that we're fighting for. No matter that we happen to be depriving countless people of their freedom as we fight. Depriving them, in fact, of their very lives. You shout it loud enough, and often enough, and hope that the truth gets lost in the sound and fury.

Perhaps, then, finally, yesterday will mark a turning point. The disgraceful Republican counterattack on Rep. John Murtha may back-fire, revealing the depths to which your folks will sink to promote their view in lieu of listening with any semblance of thoughtful attention to the views of others. Perhaps we Americans will learn to recognize the bully tactics for what they are, and demand instead a return to rational argument and civil discourse. To me, it seems like a no-brainer. Sadly, though, after countless Swift Boat tactical operations on the part of your sdministration and its supporters, I'm not holding my breath.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh, Katie!

I'm sure you were as shocked as I was, Bush, if you happened to have caught this morning's lead story on NBC's Today Show. A car bomb attack, it seems, on the very hotel in Baghdad where NBC has its headquarters. The plan appears to have been a typical one: a first car bomb makes a hole in the blast wall defense system, then a second larger trcuk bomb careens through the gap to do the greater damage--and kill some Americans. In this case, the first suicide bomber muffed his mission, and the truck then exploded outside the blast wall, leaving the foreign journalists at the hotel unharmed--but eight innocent Iraqi bystanders dead. To which news Katie Couric exclaimed, "Thank God no one was hurt!"

Okay, poor Katie, a slip of the tongue. What she meant to say, of course, was "none of our own people." Fair enough, to be relieved not to lose friends and colleagues. Still, behind the slip was an attitude that's common enough: that American lives are more important than other lives. I've said it often enough in these pages, Bush: the American press chooses not give and accounting of the Iraqi dead. We don't hear the same mounting tolls that we hear daily about the American troops. And again, fair enough, in a sense. They are family. Even so, I regret the propensity to pass over those others, who are just as dead. You like to talk about terrorists targeting "innocent Americans." We need to remind ourselves that the civilians killed on the Iraqi streets are no less innocent.

Along these lines, another thing seems curious to me, Bush. When disaster strikes abroad, our media are always anxious to keep a running count of the dead and be sure that we are informed of the dreadful numbers. But they have been much more reticent about the numbers left dead by Hurricane Katrina. (That said, the smaller numbers killed by less devastating recent events--tornados, floods elsewhere in the country--have been faithfully reported.) I just wonder what's behind the relative silence on those numbers from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Perhaps it's just the difficulty in keeping accounts, with so many still missing. Still, it does seem odd...

I hope things are going as well as can be expected for you out there in the Far East, Bush. At least it puts some distance between you and the escalating rebellion over here against your policies. Judging from news reports, you seem to have heard that things are not going too well. Still, rest assured: your folks are fighting back. They've been working on the spin factor with outstanding diligence. They just can't help it if it all rings a bit hollow. The truth is, I fear, there's nothing solid underneath.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Fight Back

Nice work, Bush. Always good to piss off your host country just before you visit. Another cosy lecture on democracy, this time directed at China, where I hear you're due to visit in a couple of days. I'll bet they were thrilled to hear from you, and valued your wisdom on their favorite topic.

For today, though: I've noticed how your mind grabs on to a particular word, from time to time, and keeps repeating it, with emphasis, at every opportunity. Maybe they've been telling you that's the way to make the idea stick in the American consciousness: repeat it often enough and everyone believes you. The latest word is "irresponsible." I must have heard it twenty times in the past few days, from you and your chorus line. "It's irresponsible," you said yesterday, "to say I've misled the American people." Irresponsbile? Come on, Bush: it's the simple truth!

That's the new Bush administration strategy, it seems, now that you're losing the confidence not only of the American people but even the hear-no-evil Congress. Attack. Well, not such a new strategy: more of a Bush pattern, really. When in doubt, in the face of ctiticism or question, get angry and--instead of answering the question--blame the questioner. Your Cheney did a notable job for you yesterday, too, but at least he found alternatives to "irresponsible." It's "dishonest and reprehensible," he said, with his customary ominous glare, to promote these "cynical and vicious falsehoods" about the origins of your Iraq adventure.

Meantime, on the truth front, reports today of five more US Marines killed in action, and another soldier dead. Did anyone count the civilians?

On a gentler note, to complement Tuesday's "Moonset", here's "Sunrise", from the selfsame balcony:


Sunrise glitters, dazzling
gold in distant windows.
The soft, insistent roar
of traffic from the city.
A chill wind rises. "Le vent,"
the French poet wrote, "se leve,
il faut tenter de vivre".
"The wind is rising. We must
try to live." A line I loved
greatly in a younger day.
Now, though, in an older one,
I say, No. No must
about it. And no trying. Trying
never gets it done. Let's live,
simply, and with joy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


It's the disconnect that's not working for you, Bush. People read their newspapers, watch their television, surf the Internet for news... and then they hear the words that you recite from your crib sheet or your teleprompter, and they see the disconnect. Today we read about the malnutrition and torture of scores of Iraqi prisoners by their Iraqi captors, in an apparent return to--or reversal of--the bad old practices of Saddam Hussein. This time it's the Sunnis at the receiving end. But you have to wonder, Bush, don't you, what's going to happen when we pull our troops out? Back to square one?

Listen, even the Senate is fed up, as we learned from yesterday's vote, demanding, pretty much, that you finally take a hard look at the reality of the situation over there, and start to tell the truth. They're fed up with the repitition of the same old "stay the course" lecture, the same old promises that our troops will leave as soon as the Iraqis have learned to take care of themselves, the same old reassurances that things are looking up. Evidently, Bush, the Senators read their newspapers, too, and watch their televisions. And register the shift in the political winds when their constituents begin to mutter amongst themselves. I had to chuckle at the spin your people tried to put on the Senate vote--that it endorses your position. For the rest of us, Bush, it represents a long-overdue rebuke.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An Elder Voice

Should you choose to listen to the voice of a true elder of our large tribe, Bush, you could do not better than read Jimmy Carter's column in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. He wrote, to my mind, an exemplary masterpiece of clear elder wisdom--one that combined a broad, intelligent, and critical understanding of the world with a load of thoughtful patience and compassion. Above all, he wrote as someone who no longer has a petty, personal stake in the outcome of events, but a very deep and thoroughly grounded sense of responsibility to his country and his world. His vision was broad, comprehensive, even, and his tone was that of a wise and kindly grandfather--but not pompous, Bush. Not at all. And not smart-ass or self-righteous. He avoided paternalistic scolding in favor of a genuine sensitivity and seriousness of purpose. Yet he made clear his concern for the direction in which your administration is now leading the country.

I fear you listen too much to your Cheney, for an elder voice--a man who appears, at least, to carry the weight of elderhood, but whose stake in power and wealth is all too clear. He speaks with the semblance of wisdom, ponderously, but his words are informed not by the embracing breadth of a true elder, but by a carefully concealed anger, a meanness, a spirit of revenge, an obsession with power.

One of the spiritual assets we have sacrificed, in our society's haste for progress and insatiable appetite for material well-being, is the value that tribes older and perhaps in some ways wiser placed on the importance of elders in the community. True eldership brings with it a sense of detachment that is the better part of wisdom. Our personal needs grow less--at least the material ones--and our vision, as a consequence, grows less dependent on them. By the same token, understanding becomes broader, more inclusive, more complete.

So thank you, Jimmy Carter, for modeling this kind of wisdom with such eloquence. And thanks to the Times for giving him the platform. While on the subject of the op-ed pages of the Times, however, I need to wonder aloud what has been going on with Robert Sheer? Has he been fired--not to put too fine a point on it? Discontinued? Superannuated? And what does he himself have to say about the abrupt disappearance of his weekly column. The note in today's Times was a poor excuse for an explanation. If you want to fire someone, I say, fire Michael Ramirez! Not your voice-in-the-wilderness on the left.

Oh, and I watched the moon-set over the Hollywood Hills at around six this morning, Bush. A few words to celebrate that special beuaty:


Full moon set
on the Hollywood Hills.
The tall heads of the eucalyptus
bob in the breeze.
Down there, the lights
of the city. Silence
feeds me.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Real Americans

As I told you yesterday, Bush, I has fully intended to take the day off today, but I was moved to make this entry by the story on "60 Minutes" last night of thirteen young paramedics from New York who had taken it on themselves to respond to the need for their skills in the earthquake-devastated mountains of Pakistan and Kashmir. They went there unbidden and unpaid, simply because they felt the call to be of service, relieving some small part of the suffering of their fellow human beings. Ignoring the personal risks, the communication problems, the dangers of disease and anti-American anger from the Muslim population, they were busy doing what they knew best: healing the hundreds of sick and injured, who had no other access to medical aid in these remote areas, and who had been neglected, thus far, by international rescue efforts.

The devastation caused by the earthquake was incredible, Bush, seen from the comfort of our living room. They say that some ninety thousand people have been accounted dead to date, along with countless thousands badly injured. And these thirteen men had simply rolled up their sleeves and gone to work with whatever supplies they could lay their hands on. The people they were there to help responded, as you would expect, with gratitude--and with a new respect for Americans. One told the tale of a man, unable to communicate in English, who came to him with insistent signs and gestures to indicate that both of them had fingers, both had hands, and wrists, and arms--that both were human, and the same.

These are the real Americans, Bush. They are practical, competent, resourceful, and compassionate. They come without swagger and self-importance, without the need to assert superior knowledge and power. They come with an abundance of love and care for those less fortunate them themselves, and with skills to serve. They bring not guns and mortars, but bandages, splints, and hypodermic needles. And this was Bin Laden territory, Bush. They were not there to hector the people about freedom and democracy, or show them the error of their traditional Muslim ways. They were just there to help. And heal. I suspect, though, that these thirteen New Yorkers taught more about America and Americans--and more about democracy--than everything that you and your people have done in that part of the world since your election.