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.