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.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Demise of Democracy, Pt.III

Well, Bush, remember the "Demise of Democracy" show I juried for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art? I wrote about the selection process a while ago and then, more recently, about the opening event. We got a review in today's Orange County Register, and I thought you might be interested to see it. Not bad, I thought, to have it end up begging for a sequel! On the less pleasant side, I hear via the gallery's director that she has received hate mail and angry calls about the show--which may be another token of the show's success. From my point of view, it tends to prove the point: criticism of your administration--and your good self--is apparently not acceptable to some of your supporters. And there I thought that it was the healthy exercise of democracy itself!

This posted late Sunday in lieu of an entry tomorrow, Monday, which promises to be another hectic day, from dawn to dusk. I'll plan to spend some time with you on Tuesday. Until then, good hunting!


Credibility is an evanescent quality, Bush. Once you've compromised it, it's gone. Completely. No half measures. No way to bring it back. Once you've lied and been exposed to the whole world as a liar, there's no way anyone's going to believe you any more. Once you've raised the alarm and the alarm has been unmasked as demonstrably false, who's going to be there for you the next time, when the danger might be real? Like the little boy who cried Wolf, you're learning this the hard way. Trouble is, it's not just your personal credibility you've squandered, Bush. That would be your problem. No, it's America's credibility. Which makes it our problem.

These thoughts prompted by the piece in today's New York Times about the efforts of American intelligence officials to persuade the international community that Iran is in serious pursuit of nuclear weaponry. They have a stolen Iranian laptop to prove it, with huge amounts of corroborating data. Still, some say--remembering the hue and cry over Saddam's WMD--that the incriminating data would be easy enough to fake. Some say, too, persuasively, the Iran was the real threat all along. And now, if they indeed develop nuclear weapons to arm existing missiles that can easily reach Israel, and given their new President's declared belief that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map, where does that leave us, Bush? Unable to persuade others of the seriousness of the problem because we're working from a history of distortions and lies.

All of which leaves the world a lot less safe for all of us. Your hubris and intemperate rush to war have significantly destabilized the least stable region of the world, and the loud, now transparently false claims that supported your action have deprived you and your administration of the credibility that might be needed in a new, more threatening context in the very near future. Not a comforting scenario, Bush. And you ran for office on the strength of your much-touted integrity... Funny, how things turn out. Well, not so funny, really.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Brave Words

I saw some parts of your Veteran's Day speech replayed on television last night, Bush; and read more in the newspaper today. Brave words, attacking those who dare to question your wisdom on the invasion of Iraq and the conduct of the war. Now it's the Democrats at fault, who "had the same intelligence" and voted for the invasion (not quite accurate, since you had much more of the intelligence at your disposal, along with the ability to pick and choose what you wanted to be made available; and had the power to influence the very nature of the intelligence that was generated by your agents.)

What struck me once again, however, was the disconnect between the words you spoke and the manner in which you spoke them. I realize, of course, that Presidents themselves write little of what they say in public, especially in formal speeches like yesterday's. It's all written down for you by experts--in writing and communication as well as in political spin. But unlike other Presidents before you--Ronald Reagan is the prime example--the words seem to come as uncomfortably from your lips as those of a child in a fourth grade reading class; as though they were strange and foreign things, whose meaning was not quite clear to you, but which you are called upon to utter despite your discomfort with them. Your conviction always seems to be at an odd remove from the words.

Now I choose to believe that this is because you are at heart a simple, credulous and essentially gullible man, with a poorly developed sense of his own strengths and weaknesses, and that you know the words they write for you to be misleading and untrue. At the same timne, the disconnect between you and the words you are given to speak reflects some truth about yourself. I choose to believe you are caught in an immensely complex web of lies that others have been creating for you since long before you were elected, in their militaristic pursuit of economic power in the world, and that you can no longer extricate yourself. I believe that under all the swagger you have some inner consciousness (perhaps more accurately, an unconscious realization) that you have been nothing more than a tool in their hands, and that you have no choice now but to speak the words they write for you. I believe--have always believed--that you are simply out of your depth in an ocean of secretive and powerful currents that sweep you along in a course that they, not you, determine.

I have to add, Bush, that my suspicion continues to center on your Cheney and his neo-conservative cabal. I watched your Darth Vader lay his wreath at Arlington in the Veteran's Day ceremony yesterday, and my stomach turned. How could this man approach the tomb with such a pompous display of reverence, when he himself--and this is the conspiracy theory I subscribe to--was largely instrumental in sending so many to their unnecessary deaths? Talk about irresponsible, Bush! You throw that word at the Democrats who have finally found the guts to raise some difficult and important questions. But you turn a blind eye to the immeasurable irresponsibility of those who, through you, both conceived, incompetently planned, and conducted this dreadful war.

Fire the lot of them, Bush. Your Cheney, your Rumsfeld, your Rice. All of those people who led you so wickedly astray. That action, and only that action, would give you the credibility to turn this thing around and regain the confidence of the American people that you are, as you say, a "leader." But at the level of my own deepest intuition, I don't believe that you're capable of this, because it is they who have enlisted you in their service, and not the other way around. It is they who lead. The rest of us have simply followed them into disaster.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Eleventh Hour...

... of the eleventh day of the eleventh month... Ellie and I decided on a truce. That's right, Bush: we put an end to three years of "living in sin," as it used to be called in my parents' day, and, not incidentally, to the illegitimacy of our soon-to-be-born daughter. We presented ourselves before a downtown judge and spoke the words and signed the forms and... we were married! At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, together with our good neighbors who had accompanied us as witnesses, we raised a glass of champagne (which we could ill-afford at that time) at the downtown Biltmore. Now, thirty-three years later, you'd be proud of us, Bush: we look back at a long, I suppose somewhat conventional marriage, with some justified pride in having made it last through our share of hard times and upheavals--the lastest of which is currently, as you know, occurring! We've had our share of happiness, too, and ease. So we can look back on our years together with a good measure of joy.

Even so, Bush, we always remember that other significance of the eleventh hour, or the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. I was reminded of it last night in a segment of (I think) the BBC news, with the interview of an old, old, old old soldier reminiscing about the "war to end all wars." The camera took us back to a courtyard in France where deserters were shot. Seventeen year-olds, too scared or too shell-shocked to follow the order to leave the trench and charge directly into a hail of enemy fire from the opposite trench, and condemned to be shot by a firing squad of their of mates for cowardice. Our hero recalled how it was to receive orders for this duty the night before, how many got drunk while the condemned men waited in their bare cells with boards for a bed and a bucket in the corner for a toilet; and how, either too tired or too hung-over to shoot straight, or too sick at heart to do the job right, they often missed their mark and left him wounded rather than dead; and how an officer would then need to put a bullet through his head.

What barbarism, Bush. And how little we have learned since then. With World War II, and Korea, and Vietnam, and Iraq I, and now your Iraq II. With men getting killed for the sake of other men's greed and egos. And more and more now, in these days of sophisticated weaponry, with women and children getting klled. With non-combattants getting killed. With ordinary soldiers being condemned for crimes condoned by thier seniors who go unpunished. With men and women coming home without arms and legs, with brains shot through by the terror of their acts, and the acts of others.

In England, as you may have noticed on TV reports from the British Parliament yesterday, men and women wear a red poppy in remembrance of those tens of thousands who died in the poppy fields of Flanders. And I recall that Latin line that ends, so bitterly, the poem by Rupert Brooks, who died there in those fields, and which we were taught, Bush, in my school days: Dulce et decorum est, pro partria mori. It is sweet and fitting to die for your country. To which I now say, Bullshit, Bush. This is no sweet and fitting way to die. And still less today, nearly one hundred years later, when those young men and women are dying in Iraq. Was there really no other road to take?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

No Time

I have no time for you today, Bush. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An Anniversary Forgotten

So, Bush, yesterday passed without a mention of the fact that it was the first day of the second year of The Bush Diaries. Yes, I forgot. Forgive me. I had fully intended to celebrate in some way, if only to pass on greetings, but I got so busy with the house that it completely slipped my mind. Here’s my intention, though: very soon—as soon as I can clear my head a bit from all this nonsense--I plan to explore ways to put out a printed, book version of the “best of” our first year. Meantime, I’d like just to take a moment to congratulate ourselves on the accomplishment. I started out, remember, with the vow to write something every day. Well, I admit I haven’t quite fulfilled that promise to myself—and you. But darn near, Bush. Pretty damn close. I hope you’ve been enjoying the process as much as I have.

One of our artist groups met last night, and we got into a heated discussion on a subject dear to your heart: church and state. One of our number expressed dismay at the news of that Episcopal church in Pasadena, now under investigation by the IRS for having the temerity to allow a guest minister to sermonize against your war in the Middle East during last year’s election campaign. They are threatening to remove its tax-exempt status for having used their pulpit for political purposes, even though their guest speaker refrained from asking parishioners to vote for either candidate—you or Kerry. He simply asked them to wonder whose side Jesus might be on.

Well, Bush, another of our members responded, passionately, saying—I hope I’m not misrepresenting her in my paraphrase—that she thought it was not such a bad idea, that it might set a healthy precedent for action to discourage religious organizations of all kinds from indulging in political action. She was angered by the fact that the Catholic church, for example, had gotten away with its open attack on Kerry for his stance on abortion, and by the undisguised support you yourself received from the evangelical right. This action against one church, she thought, might prove the exemplary case that would lead to others.

Would that it were so, Bush. I fear greatly, though, that this is just another example of your people’s tactics of petty revenge against anyone who dares to question their wisdom or your leadership. As with Valerie Plame, my instinct tells me that they chose to attack this particular church to put the fear of God—excuse me, Bush, for taking His name in vain—into those with liberal religious leanings. Still, let me honor our dissenting friend with this challenge: that you immediately instruct the IRS to conduct a similar investigation of the Catholic church in America, including especially those whose bishops or pastors spoke out against John Kerry; and of every evangelical church whose minister urged his flock to vote for you. Then, Bush, and only then, would I begin to see some good in this stupid, spiteful action.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Paris IS Burning

The current unrest in France is ominous. It could have happened, surely, in any of those European countries with huge immigrant populations rife with anger, a sense of injustice, and a perception of racial and religious discrimination. As I see it, the situation results in part from global overpopulation, in part from the heritage of colonialism, in part from the growing discrepancy between the rich, developed countries and the poor, undeveloped ones. It's a vexing problem, with no easy or obvious solutions. On the one hand, there seems to be no just or effective way to halt the global population shift; on the other, immigration brings its own problems, the results of which are exploding in France today.

As to the future, it's anyone's guess as to how all this turns out. What will the world and its people look like fifty, a hundred years from now. If it survives the greed and the needs of its most voracious species. For our part, as humans, we have to finally recognize that we cannot continue to expand our demands on the Earth with impunity, that we must learn to control both the sheer numerical growth of our species and the ways in which we use the resources at our disposal and share them with the needs of our fellow-travelers on this planet.

That's my brief wisdom for the day, Bush. Now to get some more of those boxes unpacked!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Reality Strikes

I know it must seem like I've said this twenty times before, Bush, but today it gets real. Until now, a month after escrow closed on the sale of our old house, we have found our escape hatches. We've been commuting to the city from our beach cottage. We've had our full week in Mexico. And today, finally and unavoidably, we drive back up to the city and have no place to go except our new place, still unfinished, and will spend our first night there. A mixture of excitement and dread. The dread, I think, has partly to do with not knowing what we'll find when we get there--not having seen the place for nearly two weeks, but knowing that our contractor has himself been out of town for most of that time. We're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll find at least enough progress to settle in, make a meal, watch the news, have a comfortable night's sleep.

One thing I should tell you. We had our cable service transfered and activated in the new house, but last time I tried I failed to get an online connection through the high speed modem. I don't know whether I'll be more successful this afternoon. If not, of course, you won't hear from me tomorrow. Let's just hope it works out.

Are you back on American soil already, Bush? I feel a bit out of touch--even though I did get to look through the newspapers yesterday. Not much luck down there in the southern hemisphere, I gather. Is it possible, do you think, that the opposition to your economic policies for the region might have something to do with the fact that they're simply not working here at home? Where the super-rich get super-richer, and nothing trickles down, and the debt for our children and grandchildren continues to grow. The result of what your Dad aptly labeled "voodoo economics." I mean, Bush, let's get serious. Might it not finally be time to re-evaluate, make a course adjustment, take a good look at your priorities, and even... um, consider ways to increase the revenue to match up with the spending?

Just a thought for an overcast Monday, down here at the beach. Meanwhile, welcome back to the chaos. And wish me luck.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Demise of Democracy--the Sequel

Remember, Bush, we talked a few weeks ago about the process of jurying an exhibition for the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, "The Demise of Democracy"? I wrote back then about the difficult choices to be made in deciding what work to include, and what to turn down. Well, the show opened last night, and I was delighted not only with the choices I'd made, but with the entire installation. A lot of good work, a lot of good insights into political and social issues, a lot of poking fun--some good-natured, some less so, and some frankly angry--at what's happening in the country today.

A good crowd, too. Ellie was taken ill during the day--perhaps with some post-travel intestinal bug--and was not well enough for the event, but I met up with my daughter, Sarah, and her friend, Ed, and the three of us enjoyed the show, and the evening in that small quarter of Santa Ana where the arts are flourishing. The Chicano presence was particularly evident last night, with celebrations of the Day of the Dead (a few days late by Mexican standards, but timed to take advantage of the weekend.) Lots of shrines set up in the alleys, along with raucous music, street theater, and a fashion show on the plaza. You could almost think you were back in San Miguel de Allende.

You could almost think, too, that democracy was thriving in Santa Ana last night--despite the pessimism of those artists in the gallery. Almost. The people were certainly out on the streets. There was talk, and laughter, and general celebration. If only I hadn't arrived there, Bush, after reading the day's papers and listening to the news--the best part of which were the images of Charles and Camilla up there in Bolinas, honoring that small corner of America as the center of organic farming.

Good for Charles, I say, to bring international attention to the work and dedication of these people who are as yet far out of the mainstream but who may, hopefully, prove the pioneers of a healthier and more environmentally responsible future for all of us. We could use more of them. Whole armies, in fact, to provide an alternative to your outrageously subsidized corporate heavyweights of agriculture, whose success derives from poisoning our biological systems with pesticides and growth-promoting chemicals. So sad that Charles has been treated by the media as a nut case for his long-practised dedication to the production of good, healthy food. Wish you'd listen to him, Bush, instead of the folks who seem to think that money trumps nature every time.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Guy Fawkes Day

I hate to say this, Bush, but it looks like you're no more popular in foreign parts than you are here at home. I mean, actually, even less so. The sixty percent of Americans who disapprove of the way you're running things mostly stay at home and grumble to themselves or to their friends. Down there in Argentina, bless them, they're out in the streets, vociferating loudly. Which leads me to wonder whether private outrage and public apathy will be the undoing of those of us who disagree with you. We tend to throw up our hands and say, What can we do? And decide that we can do nothing but wait for things to change.

The list of dreadful disasters that you and your people have managed to perpetrate in lieu of good, effective government grows longer by the day. The scandal pit grows deeper, and smellier in its depths. Others, in your circumstance, Bush, would surely be making pretty damn merciless inquiries into the behavior of those who claim to serve them; would be doing some head-rolling. But you seem content to pat everyone on the head and tell them what a wonderful job they're doing, instead of holding them the least bit accountable. You seem to believe that the soporifics that your spin-masters put out will work effectively to put the sleeping spell on the American public.

And the sad thing is, I've come to believe that you're probably right. Neither I, nor any of my friends who share my views, are out there on the streets. I can't honestly kid myself that these journals that we write together are a serious way of taking action. Our readers in these pages, Bush, are self-selected, and the vast proportion of them already agree with what I write. Maybe it's time to follow the example of those hot-blooded Latins and get out there on the streets, with banners, and loudspeakers, and intemperate speeches. Would you get the message if we came to Washington and shouted it?

And the message, Bush, in case you hadn't heard it yet, is that many of us are frankly ashamed of what America has become--in the past fifty years, perhaps, but particularly, and definitively under your watch: a bully nation, preaching values to the world that we ourselves don't practice; super-protective of our super-rich, and careless of our own poor and needy; loudly proclaiming our religious righteousness while behaving in the least Christian of ways; denying of self-evident facts, and skewing the truth to suit our purposes; contemptuous of science, and obstructive of its potential to solve some of the world's most vexing problems; and self-involved to the point of narcissism.

What we want from you is not to stay the course but to change it. We want you to get rid of those in your administration who, through laziness, greed, or venality, are serving their own prejudicial attitudes rather than the interests of this country. We want you to be accountable, informed, and active in the pursuit of incompetence, and to insist that those you hire be held equally accountable. We want you to be able to recognize, and tell the truth when it stares you in the face. We want you to be able to admit mistakes, and work relentlessly to correct them. We want you to stand up to the excesses of your "base," and tell those people unambiguously when they're full of shit. We want you to honor the work of scientists, even when they bring bad news about such things as disease, the natural environment, population growth, and global warming. We want you to honor the counsel of your top military men, and question that of men who have never been to war or faced the real possibility of dismemberment or death.

We want all this, and so much more from you. And, frankly, if you can't give it to us, we want to be rid of you, Bush. We want you and your people to go away. We want another chance to redeem ourselves--both in the mirror, and in the eyes of the world.

A final note: today, if you didn't know it, is Guy Fawkes Day in England--a day that celebrates the arrest and execution of the scoundrel who was bold enough, at the beginning of the seventeenth century, if I remember right, to attempt to blow up the King and his government. So my inevitably question on this particular day is, Where is our Guy, Bush, when we need him most?

Friday, November 04, 2005

Back Again

Hello, Bush. Back, last night, from our week in San Miguel de Allende. Much to be grateful for. Now it's catch-up for a day or so: over three hundred emails, most of them spam. And the rest of the neglected business to deal with. In short, bear with me. I'll get back to normal as soon as possible. Did I see you'd landed in Argentina? Must catch up with the news...

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Dinner with new friends under the stars last night, Bush—and under an outdoor heater: it gets pretty chilly here after dark. One of our new-found friends, when put the question, confessed that, in politics, he was “more on the conservative side.” Which prompted a reaction from the other four of us, who were all “more on the liberal side.” It started out calmly enough, with our friend complaining, with good reason, that we have reached a point where those on the far left and those on the far right are unable to talk to each other any more. My own view was that, while this was true, it seemed to me that those on the right were less open to concession and compromise than those on the left; that there was more hard-line holding on your side of the spectrum, Bush, than on mine.

Alas, we four on the left then started to prove his point, with some frankly far out—and far reaching—conspiracy theories. Well, a conspiracy theory has its own inarguable logic to the theorist, but to the skeptic, it often seems outrageous. And attributing even the Kennedy assassination to your family, Bush—as frankly one of our liberal forces did—was a bit much for our more conservative friend. The discussion grew more heated than any of us had intended at the outset, and ended up with our friend feeling unpleasantly ganged-up upon, and pushed, I think, much further to the right than he would have wanted otherwise to go.

We managed, between us I think, to defuse a situation that threatened to become ugly. And it was interesting, certainly, to watch the process of polarization in which we had so easily become engaged. It’s a process, as I say, that proves our friend’s point—even though he proved mine by being far more intransigeant that us. Well, that was my own view. He was totally unable to see how wrong he was. Of course.

Turns out our friend was one of the walking wounded from the Vietnam war. When I say walking wounded, I mean that he still carries the scars. A parachutist by training, he was stationed in Alaska at a time when close buddies of his were volunteering for service in Vietnam, and coming home in coffins. The feeling that he had let them down, he says, still haunts him, and I had the sense that the passion with which he entered the evening’s political fray was fueled in part by this experience. In the work I do with men, I have met any number of strong, decent, powerful veterans from the period, and few of them have escaped without their scars. Some on the right, Bush. Some definitely on the left. Some angrily supporting your action in Iraq, Some opposing it with equal rage.

So that’s how it was, our last evening in San Miguel. Passionate. And I for one do not regret the passion, on either side. I liked our conservative friend immensely, and could only admire the honesty and integrity of his point of view. I trust that feeling was returned.

See you back States-side, Bush. I’ll be back in touch as soon as I get settled back into the old routine. (I wonder if you’ve noticed that we have an anniversary coming up? We started these diaries on November 8 last year. We’ll have to do something to celebrate!)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Day of the Dead

Well, Bush. This is it. The Day of the Dead. Down here in Mexico, the “people of faith” believe that their dead loved ones return to visit them. They set out food and drink, along with flowers whose scent attracts the dead and shows them the way home. In this way, children can visit with their grandparents in their homes, lovers with their lost beloveds, widows with their departed husbands. A joyous reunion of a kind, then. Yesterday, we visited the main cemetery here in San Miguel de Allende and were much moved to see the loving care with which gravesites were cleaned with pails of water, some of them repainted with a fresh coat of colorful paint—bright blues, greens, yellows—and decorated with displays of flowers, some real, some gaudily artificial, but all placed with love and with respect.

And the families were already gathering at the cemetery yesterday. Today, we hear, there will be huge crowds of them, assembling at the graves of their loved ones, chatting quietly or sitting there together in quiet contemplation. And, watching them, I thought it sad that my own parents would have no place to return to—no ancestral home where their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren still lived, and where their own grandparents had lived so many years before. No flowers to lure them there, no food and drink for them to enjoy. (We discovered that the people here believe that the dead have partaken of their feast when the taste has gone.)

Our family is scattered, as are the vast majority of families these days. Especially, I think, in the United States, Bush. Even in Europe—that “old Europe” that your Rumsfeld so readily dismissed, remember?—there are still places where ancestral traditions continue. But in the USA? We have lost that geographical center to which our dead, if they chose to, could return. How bewildered they must be, floating around in the ether with no place to go! How cavalierly we treat those who have gone before. Only the elders of some Native American tribes, perhaps, understand and follow this ancient lore of heritage, this connection with the ancestors. And bless them for it. The rest of us have sacrificed it, I believe, greatly to our cost.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


... are just about all I have the time for today, Bush. It's tough to get these entries in with everything else that's going on. Breakfast this morning at the "Kiosk," crowded with a dozen wonderful ex-pats, all much engaged in the joy of life in San Miguel: artists, writers--creative people of all kinds. Good conversation, great passion. The downside--at least for you, Bush--is that there's not much sympathy for you or what you're doing in the world out there. Still, not having read a newspaper or seen a news broadcast in several days now, I have no idea what kind of mischief you've been making. I'll catch up with you in a couple more days. Until then, be well. And try not to do too much in the way of harm. Okay?