Friday, June 30, 2006

Supreme Court Ruling on Guantanamo

POTUS to SCOTUS: Screw You

Nice work again, Bush. The justices of the Supreme Court of the United States in their collective wisdom make a ruling that does not support your policies and you tell them, basically, to go jump in a lake. Here's the comment I read attributed to you: “To the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so.” Now I'm no legal expert, but this sounds like a familiar attitude, Bush. What I'm hearing is, I'll obey the law… so long as it doesn't stand in my way. And if it does, I'll have it changed to suit me.

We've heard this from you before, have we not? What was the phrase for that nice piece of legal trickery you use when you sign a bill into law? The one that allows you to interpret the law to mean anything you want it to mean? Ah, yes. "Signing statements." We talked about these back in May, if you remember. From my admittedly inexpert point of view. Back then it was reported that you had used this subterfuge no less than 750 times--more than any other president in history. By now, perhaps, more. To the extent to which… [it meets with our imperial pleasure] … we will comply. Some cheek, Bush! I wonder what Their Honors have to say when you come back at them with this. Or do they, like the congress and the media, just roll over? Clarence Thomas, a dissenter along with Scalia and your new guy, Alito, opined that the decision "flouts our well-established duty to respect the executive's judgment in matters of military operations and foreign affairs." It would seem to me that the jutices' "duty to respect" would last only so long as the executive's judgment proved sound and fair within the law.

And of course, as is your custom, you could not resist grabbing a good bit of political advantage at the same time. “The American people," you added, "need to know that the ruling, as I understand it, won’t cause killers to be put out on the street." Shades of Willie Horton, Bush! The club your good old Dad used to clobber Michael Dukakis, way back then. And here's the redoubtable George Junior raising the same specter of letting killers out on the streets to slaughter innocent Americans, taking a brave stand to prevent those disreputable and thoughtless Supreme Court Justices from recklessly exposing the American people to harm.

So for now, according to your people, this judgment is a mere technicality to be swept away as soon as possible. Already you are devising a strategy to avoid making any change in the objectionable policy and the imperious presidential attitude it embodies. Instead you plan to address what you see to be a mere legal technicality by getting your compliant Congress to change the law to make it legal!

For how much longer can you continue thumbing your nose at the rest of the world and get away with it, Bush? At what point do we all rise up and say NO to disgraces like Guantanamo? The suspension of basic human rights is not what America is all about. The rule of law is fundamental to the democracy that you so earnestly tout, and no one is entitled to take the law into their own hands, not even--in all your post-9/11 posturing as the "war president" charged with the onerous task of "protecting the American people"--not even your good self.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wild Parrots

Should you need a brief break from the burdens of office, Bush--as surely you must, from time to time--and opt for something other than the mountain bike, you could do a lot worse than rent yourself a copy of "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill." It's an hour and a half of sheer pleasure, and places not too great a demand on a brain that might be weary from the challenges of a day in the Oval Office.

Okay, so it sounds like a movie about birds, and in a way it is. There's a flock of some forty-five of these small-ish green and red parrots that have made this hilly green patch at the center of San Francisco their habitat. No one seems to know quite how they got there, but they are clearly not native inhabitants: the breed originates, as I understand it, in South America and they are imported to this country and sold as exotic pets, so it's entirely possible that the first arrivals escaped from the confinement of their cages, or were unceremoniously ejected by their owners. They are noisy creatures, with their constant screams and squawks, their table manners are messy at best--and they do have to answer the call of nature from time to time. Human pet owners notoriously have a nasty tendency to acquire their animals with little regard for the potential hazards, and are known to dispose of them heartlessly when they become a nuisance.

No matter how they arrived, there they are: beautiful with their flashes of bright green and red, a chattering community of exotic invaders that graces this small urban enclave with its restless, noisy presence. But the story is only partly about them. It's really about the salvation they brought to a lost human being who came to San Francisco as a would-be rock musician and spent years living on the streets, casting about for some anchor and direction in his life until he found them--and fell in love.

For a period of several years, Mark Bittner took up residence with the birds on Telegraph Hill. He fed them, named many of them, studied their individual quirks and characters, observed their pairing, mating and breeding, and cultivated their friendship and trust. When they were sick or injured, he took them into the home that he "rented"--at no cost: he had no job, no source of income, no money, and the owners of his tiny abode, I suppose, sensed the quality of the man and the goodness of his intentions, and simply allowed him to live there. He found similar means of support in the local community, and attracted crowds of fans to the spectacle of his special relationship with his flock of winged friends.

Bearded, burly, slightly unkempt and heedless of the conventional props with which we humans surround ourselves for our comfort, Bittner devoted himself to the birds. So perhaps he was guilty of a little anthropocentrism, a little projection of his human qualities and feelings onto these creatures of the wild. Perhaps he used them more than a bit to get the love that he failed to attract, for whatever reason, from his fellow human beings. Or was unable to give. But at the same time, he recognized and nurtured their special character, respected their wildness and freedom, took joy in their company.

In return, they changed his life. From a rootless, restless vagabond, he became something of a St. Francis of Assisi. He developed a real sense of mission, a sense of responsibility for himself and the world around him, an understanding of his own need for freedom and the limitations of the freedom he could choose. With a great blend of humor, tenderness and devotion, he charms us into accepting him precisely for what he does not want to be known by--his eccentricity. He engages us with his delightfully individual humanity.

And we, of course, learn about our own humanity along with him. We laugh at the birds' antics, we admire their devotion to each other, we worry about their welfare, their protection from predatory hawks and prying humans, and their future in an urban environment where civic bureaucrats are empowered to destroy them. We find ourselves reflected in their love affairs and lovers' spats, we watch them jockey for position and indulge in both vanity and wounded pride. We learn that there are risks in asserting our freedom, and that the world around us is not always benign. We learn about heroism, and about the pain of separation and death.

Oh, yes, be warned, Bush, if your heart is soft: there are tears as well as laughter in this short film. I won't spoil it for you by revealing how it ends, but be prepared for heartbreak as well as for redemption. Perhaps we humans really can't have one without the other. Rent it, anyway. You'll get a rich reward.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flag Burning

Democrats cornered--again

I don't like to get righteously indignant, Bush, but there seems to be no end to the political cunning of your Rove and his cohorts, and I'm outraged once again. Not that there's any particular orginality to their strategy: they repeat the pattern over and over again, and you'd have thought the electorate might be wise to it by now. Alas, it seems not. Otherwise why would they be doing it once more?

The tactic is simple: pick a red meat issue that's of interest only to that "base" of bigoted, ignorant, belligerent zealots these folks have carefully cultivated through years of tendentious talk-show rhetoric. Gay marriage, say, a few weeks ago. Or, yesterday, flag-burning. Bully it through to the floor of the US House of Representatives or the Senate--or to the forum of public opinion--and force it into a totally unnecessary national debate. In the case of the House or the Senate, you force it to a vote. In so doing, you've created a no-win situation for anyone with the slightest spark of decency or conscience. For a congressperson or a senator, the choice is invidious: vote no, and you've handed opponents a massive club to beat you with at the next election; vote yes, and you've betrayed your own intelligence and your sense of justice, along with the fair-minded majority of your constituents.

I was dismayed, yesterday, Bush, to hear one of my senators whom I would otherwise want to respect--Diane Feinstein--blathering on ridiculously about the flag flying over the Capitol building, the flag flying over her house in Washington, DC, its protection for the future of this country...a stream of shameless rhetorical nonsense uttered with every appearance of sincerity. And then casting her vote for a constitutional amendment to ban the burning of the American flag--a phenomenon, Bush, that has not happened to my knowledge in the past thirty years.

A constitutional amendment! What a sickening spectacle, Bush, to see our country's senators desecrating the floor of their historical chamber with such an absurd and meaningless debate. That in itself would have been bad enough. But to think that this senseless effort was defeated by one single vote!

To what pitiful state have we fallen, Bush, when good government is abandoned to the game of politics? When the efforts of political hacks like your Rove dictate the national agenda? These men and women of the Senate allow themselves to be cornered into casting their votes on such an issue while they surrender their constitutional duties to your aggressive White House on issues of vital interest to the people: the health care crisis, a badly malfunctioning education system, the erosion of civil and human rights, a deteriorating infrastructure, dependence for energy on unfriendly if not overtly hostile nations, the ominous threat of climate change, our national unpreparedness for disaster--whether at nature's hand or the hand of man--not to mention the promulgation of economic policies the drive us ever deeper into debt with countries we once distrusted or despised, a foreign policy that earns us the distrust and scorn of even our traditional allies, and an endless, unnecessary war.

Shame on them, Bush! Shame on us all for allowing our elected representatives to indulge in such a sickening spectacle! And thank God for a growing groundswell of American progressives who have had enough of this drama and are determined to make changes. Sooner or later, Bush--I have to believe this--human decency and sanity will again prevail. Until then, although with much greater sadness than pleasure, I reserve the right to voice my righteous indignation.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Stephen Hawking Predicts...

Life on Mars... and Beyond

I wonder who'll be going? I mean, we're not talking covered wagons any more when we talk about the next frontier, are we, Bush? If Stephen Hawking, the eminent British astrophysicist is right, we humans might have a colony on Mars in the next 40 years. We might need it, he says, if our species is to survive the excesses of its own kind.

Here's Hawking--one of the greatest human minds of our time, wrapped up in the most dreadfully deprived of human bodies: "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," he said at a recent lecture in Hong Kong. "Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

So your idea of an outpost on the Moon as a way station to Mars might turn out to be not such a bad one after all. The newest Wild West might be a tad less inviting than the one that Ellie and I watched in the Robert Duval miniseries the past couple of nights. Oh, there were the bad guys alright, with their grim faces and scars, their six-shooters and shotguns, but at least the scenery was pretty terrific--the vast prairies and the snow-covered mountains, the majestic rivers and green alpine meadows... None of that on Mars, Bush. "We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system," noted Hawking, adding that we might well have self-supporting, independent space settlements within the next hundred years.

What I've seen of Mars has not, honestly, been hugely enticing. Long stretches of red dirt relieved by the occasional boulder or crater. It might be fun driving one of those rovers around for the first half hour or so, but after that... what's to do? Besides, the climate sounds awful. I guess we'll be living in self-sustaining bubbles of some sort, with all the usual amenities--condominiums, restaurants, movies, a concert hall here and there. Maybe even a library. Though I guess we won't be taking all that much in the way of books with us. Too heavy. Might as well take the digital versions.

Will it come to this for our species, Bush? Survival in a bubble in some distant, inhospitable planet? Or will we, as Hawking suggests, with perhaps more optimism than is warranted by our human capacities, discover some alternative green and blue Earth in another star system--and start polluting that one too?

I was chided just the other day by a reader who scoffed at my credulity when it comes to global warming. If you look back over millions, not thousands of years, he insisted, you'll see times when the Earth warmed up, and times when the Earth cooled down. There's nothing we humans can do to control these climate changes, in this reader's view, and to add one's voice to the current dire predictions about global warming is no less reprehensible than your administration's shameless fear-mongering about global terror.

Well, I must say that I'm happy to have no less a brilliant mind that Stephen Hawking's on my side--along with the vast preponderance of scientific research and the mounting, by now surely irrefutable evidence that the current phenomenon of global warming has been brought about by human activity. I had not, honestly, gone so far in my thinking about other possible catastrophes as Hawking has done: nuclear war, yes. I have certainly entertained that possibility. It would be foolish, given the misplaced power of the dangerously deranged Kim Jong Il and the fanatical, hate-fueled Ahmadinejad, to ignore that possibility. But a "genetically engineered virus"? Mon Dieu! I must, however, concede the field of scientific prediction to Hawking's superior intelligence.

On which happy note...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Russ Feingold...

Russ Feingold, Markos Moulitsas, and the Myth of the Leaderless Democrats

One of the more successful strategies of your vast right wing conspiracy, Bush--and let's admit it, Hillary was right on this one--has been to promulgate the myth of the leaderless Democrats. Not only do they lack leaders, they lack ideas, according to this myth. You have been so successful, indeed, in achieving this dual goal that it's now almost axiomatic in American manstream thought: oh, the Democrats? They have no strong leaders. And they're clueless when it comes to generating an idea.

The strategy has been to identify any emerging leader with sensible ideas and to marginalize him or her by whatever means necessary: you smear, you sneer, you vilify, you emasculate, you ridicule, you minimalize or otherwise sideline any person who gives so mush the appearance of challenging your myth. Look what happened to Bill Clinton, despite the success of his policies. Look what happened to Hillary... So many good Democrats with so many good ideas.

Or look what happened to Howard Dean, a powerful Democrat who emerged as a leader in the early stages of the 2004 presidential election. He had the excellent idea that a return to liberal goals would serve to change the direction of this country in a positive way, and that the electronic medium of the Internet could provide an important new way to communicate this idea to the electorate. One little crack in the surface of his growing reputation was enough to allow you to destroy him--not the man, of course, because he continues to give leadership to the Democrats to this day, but his chances at the election.

Consider, very recently, the case of Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, who had another excellent idea: that the power of the blog could be harnassed to the service of progressive ideas and challenge the hegemony of a mainstream media that had done little, during your increasingly imperial administration, Bush, but roll over and feed your pablum back to the credulous American public. The attempt to minimalize and marginalize him found its spearhead in the New York Times column, yesterday, by David Brooks--an inspired choice, perhaps, because Brooks embodies the image of the serious, thoughtful, fair-minded intellectual conservative. His gravitas could provide a serious counterweight to the young and bouncy Markos. A nice strategy: to accuse the man of precisely the tyranny he has set himself up to oppose. Hoist him, as that old chestnut goes, his own petard.

I'm sure that Russ Feingold's turn will be coming soon, especially after putting in such a strong appearance yesterday on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press." The senator came across strong, confident, in command of the language and the ideas he was articulating, and possessed of the kind of good looks and charisma that seem to be demanded by the American voter. He showed himself to be a straight-talking, no bullshit Democrat, whose ideas on the progress of your Iraqi war and other matters vital to the national interest were well-formed, well thought-out, and well expressed. I'm sorry to have to say this, Bush, but in terms of the authority and the personal power he projected, this man made you look like a midget.

The question will be, of course, what kind of venom your political hacks will find to spew at him. "Defeatism" is already in the air, because he favors a plan to haul our troops out of the morass you, your Cheney and your Rumsfeld have created for them. Feingold, who opposed the war from the start, is clear that your invasion of Iraq was "one of the worst mistakes in American foreign policy"; that it deflected attention from the important purpose of dealing with the terrorists who attacked us and instead created the ideal recruitment tool and training ground for Al Qaeda; and that you, Bush, have committed "a more impeachable offense than Nixon" by your imperial power grab in the wake of 9/11.

Strong stuff. I was impressed. And I'm quite sure, as I say, that your ruthless political machine will sooner or later go into high gear to disempower this powerful opponent. The question is whether it can repeat the successes of the part, or whether the American people are now, finally, wise to its chicanery and deceit. I guess we'll find that out as the 2006 election approaches.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Global Warming: a Reminder

Just a quick note to be sure you check out the front page article in today's Los Angeles Times, with more bad news on global warming. Just another indication that it's no longer good enough to be sitting around talking, Bush, even assuming that you're finally halfway out of denial. This is urgent business. Let others argue the degree to which steps like increasing the fleet mileage requirements for automobile manufacturers will help: they sure are not going to hurt the environment and, God knows, they might even stick a pin in the indolent rear end of those self-protective executives and lead to some great technological innovations. There are many other steps that could be taken right now, as of tomorrow, if the political will were there. Here's your chance to make something of your presidency in its waning two years. Carpe diem, okay? (I trust you know your Latin, Bush: it means "seize the day"!)

And while we're at it, how about that gasoline tax? And putting the money into research for alternative energy sources?

Have a great Sunday.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Salman Rushdie

I was impressed by Salman Rushdie in his interview with Bill Moyers on public television last night--even though I only caught parts of it. He seemed like a thoroughly civilized, thoughtful, and compassionate man. The interview series is about one of your favorite subjects, Bush: faith.

I trust you might be able to watch it, because we the word "faith" has been bandied about too much of late by those who seek to exploit it for political gain, and listening to a man like Rushdie has to be a broadening experience. While he himself is a confirmed and joyful atheist, he nonetheless professes great respect for religion and religious people--a respect learned from a beloved grandfather, a deeply religious and practicing Muslim who was, as Rushdie described him, also the most tolerant man he ever knew.

Educated in part at my own alma mater, Cambridge University, Rushdie is in a position to know both the Islamic culture into which he was born and the Western culture he has thoroughly assimilated. In today's world, he points out, "We are inescapably involved with each other. We have to deal with each other." He sees the struggle in the Muslim world as being not primarily about Islam: "The IRA," he astutely notes, "is not inherently Catholic." Fanaticism, in his view, is no more than "a pimple on the nose" of Islam, and it's incumbent on the moderate Muslim world to reject it.

"There is so much incomprehension between the West and the rest of the world," he laments," adding that "We need to understand imaginatively who each other is." He sees this imaginative understanding to be the primary task for himself as a writer and, he adds, for virtually every other writer he knows. I find that aspiration to be a noble and appropriate one, Bush--and one that I hope to be following with you here in The Bush Diaries. It's all about learning to be more fully human, as I see it--about becoming more fully conscious of the breadth and depth of the human species and its infinite potential. And writing is the only way I know to do it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

It's NOT the Economy, Stupid

So now we begin to see the shape of the November election strategy, Bush. It's more of the same. It has worked in the past, why should it not work again this November? It's tar and feather the Democrats with taunting labels: "cut-and-run," "defeatist," and the good old tried and tested "unpatriotic." Make them look like a bunch of softies on Iraq and "homeland security." Rattle the sabers and beat the drums of war, talk up the "victory" angle. And justify the argument that "we have to fight them there so we don't have to fight them here" by stage-managing a terrorist round-up for the media...

Yesterday's loud message to the American people? Be afraid. Be very afraid. And of course: see how well we Bushies have been protecting you? Your Gonzales gets to go on national television with a press conference this morning... and the media show up in droves because it's "breaking news."

This is crap, Bush. But we can expect more of this sickening stuff in the coming weeks, if your Rove has anything to do with it. As he most certainly does. Fresh out from under the shadow of possible indictment for his suspected participation in the truly cowardly act of outing the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, and flush with vindication, he's on the loose again and more toxic than ever. Tighten your seat belts, Democrats. Be ready for a bumpy ride between now and November.

What would your Rove advise them, Bush, these Democrats? I think, were he on their side, he'd be inciting them to go for the jugular. There's nothing to lose, he'd say, but another election. And go for the gut. Forget about reason, rational argument... forget even about the truth. That's not what counts. What we now know for sure is that it's not about the debate of vital national issues. It's not about talking common sense or appealing to the self-interest of voters. It's not even particularly about those famous "moral values." No. So what is it about? It's about emotion. It's about appealing to the fear, the pain, the anger, the frustration... I'm ashamed to even have to suggest this, but it is also about hatred. It's about unvarnished, ill-considered judgment, the gut response.

At this point in our history, you won't win presidential elections on the basis of a thoughtful and enlightened vision for the future of the country. You'll never win by seeing both sides of an issue and addressing its complexity. The famous Bill Clinton adage no longer applies: it's NOT the economy, stupid.

Consider the amazing spectacle of suffering working and middle class Americans avidly supporting those who so obviously labor mightily against their economic interests--providing stupendous tax cuts for the very rich and vast debt for the rest of us and our children to pay off; short-changing the needy on medical care and health insurance, as well as educational opportunity; allowing the nation's infrastructure to fall apart as gasoline prices skyrocket; looking on as well-paid jobs are lost and young people fail to find a place in the working world; claiming to honor the free market even as they protect their privileged clientele with subsidies and tax benefits. And so on.

No, Bush, it's no longer the economy, stupid. It's the heart, the gut, the often irrational emotional core. That's what your Rove goes for. The Democrats don't have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell if they fail to grasp this elementary and by now self-evident truth. They need to figure the emotional angle and work it to the bone.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Contrition in Europe

I hear how you expressed regret for Guatanamo to those European leaders yesterday, Bush. Said you wished you could close the place down. And I'm sure that's true. It's causing us much grief in the world: we're no longer that shining city on the hill, that beacon of hope--none of those inane platitudes that were once used to describe us.

The trouble with contrition is that it's never quite enough to be sorry. As with much of what you have done with your position of privilege and power, you should never have done it in the first place. The idea of imprisoning people--even "enemy combattants"--without recourse to any kind of justice was a bad one from the start. It flew in the face of centuries of jurisprudence, dating from that famous Magna Carta King John was forced to sign in 1215, the origin of much of the Western tradition of human rights.

In case you might have forgotten your history, my trusty Encarta Encyclopedia notes that "Clause 40 promises, 'To no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay right or justice.' This clause establishes the principle of equal access to the courts for all citizens without exorbitant fees." Clause 39, Encarta continues, ensured that “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.”

Not sure what "disseised" means, Bush, quite frankly, but in the context I'd say it's not exactly kosher. Anyway, these principles were established nearly eight hundred years ago. They are the seed and keystone of what you like to refer to (often) as democratic freedom. I take some pride in the fact that they were written in my own country of origin.

I wonder if you now also regret the legalistic flouting of the Geneva convention that was justified by your Gonzales (who thought the Geneva convention "quaint") and your Rumsfeld, under whose authority the atrocities of Abu Ghraib took place? The current shameful revelations of war crimes by American military personnel are all too easily dismissed as the work of a few "bad apples". No senior officer has yet been held to account for the actions of his command. Nor has your Rumsfeld.

The tragic fallout this arrogant abrogation of the great traditions of civilized behavior, even in times of war, is that our moral grounds for condemnation of brutal acts on the other side have turned to quicksand. The dreadful story of those two captured American soldiers, tortured before they were mercilessly murdered, is uhappily a case in point. I very much fear that what you and I condemn as an act of "barbarism", Bush, is celebrated with glee by those to whom its message is addressed. My guess is that those disposed to hate us see no difference between the actions that purportedly took place at Haditha and the murder of those solidiers.

I would lay odds that if you could be honest with us--and with yourself--you would regret your invasion of Iraq as much as you regret Guantanamo. The consequences have been dire for the country and for your administration, and threaten to blacken forever the memory of your presidency. But you can't afford to be honest with us, and for that reason I doubt very much that you're able to be honest with yourself. You're condemned to put a brave face on it, to make those meaningless speeches about staying the course and "standing up and standing down", and to brand all those who oppose you as cowards and traitors to their country.

What a sad picture this is, Bush! But sorry doesn't cut it. It doesn't solve Guantanamo, and it doesn't bring our suffering soldiers home.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Dark Side

We had dinner in the heart of Pasadena last night, Bush. Ate at one of the sidewalk tables of an Italian restaurant there. Took George, the dog, with us because he's allowed to join us at outdoor tables. Sitting there in the warmth of an early summer evening (actually, Ellie tells me, the last of spring), we watched the parade of local citizens. Very pleasant.

Then we came home and watched "The Dark Side" on public television.

It's a disturbing story. There was not much that I had not known about or suspected before, but it was all put together in a well-told narrative that made coherent sense of the disparate events that led to your invasion of Iraq. An exposure of the dark side, the behind-the-scenes manipulations of your Cheney and his cohort of true believers to promote their vision of the world, and to prevail in their attempt to dominate your thinking; their distortion of the facts to suit their purposes; their creation of a whole intelligence branch under Rumsfeld in the Pentagon to cater to their demand for "information" justifying their pre-formed intentions; their successful campaign against George Tenet at the CIA and Colin Powell in the State Department; and their eventual control of... well, basically, Bush, your mind.

The dark side of government may lie in its secrets--what happens in the back corridors of power. The dark side of the mind is the part that we hide, repress, and deny--that part of the mind that controls our actions without our even being aware of it. The shadow side. It's my belief that these men acted out of shadow, not out of consciousness, their minds manipulated by dark forces they were not aware of or did not wish to acknowledge even to themselves: forces like vengeance, greed for power, the need to punish, self-assertion, self-righteous conviction... even blood-lust. The potential of these forces exists in every one of us human beings, in the dark side of our minds, and the only thing that holds them in check, in my view at least, is consciousness.

Ellie, watching the program beside me, kept muttering, "These men are evil." That's a tempting way to look at the dark side. It's a rich word, morally satisfying and filled with resonance in human history. You yourself, Bush, have used it on more than one occasion, and to great effect. As I see it, though, evil is no more than potential--a potential that can be realized when our consciousness and our conscience fail us, and we relinquish control of our actions to those parts of our mind that are formed by fear and trauma.

I see you, Bush, not as an evil man, but a man whose actions are determined by forces other than rational consciousness. And some of those forces, clearly, lurk in the darkest corners of your administration, in the minds of those who have mentored and advised you. The results of those forces, though, are manifest in actions and events. They are manifest in the terrible things which are now unhappily associated with America's name in the world; things like war, the killing of innocent civilians, torture, imprisonment without recourse to the law, rape of the environment, neglect of the poor and needy, contentiousness...

We like to believe, of course, that these things are not truly American. We would be deluding ourselves, though, if we fail to acknowledge that we are seen that way. We are known today in many parts of the world by our dark side, Bush. We're the Ugly American again. I submit to you that it's past time for a little en-light-enment at the White House, a return to the generous and benificent influence of the light. And that means unimpaired clarity of vision and relentless self-examination for the integrity of our motivations and our actions, the demonstrable congruity of our words and deeds.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Provocative Act

(NOTE: I realize all this might seem more than a little confusing: first, a blog, then no blog, then an alternative blog, then two blogs and now, finally, back to the one, the only "The Bush Diaries". "The Bush Diaries II", after two days of stalwart service, is now officially closed. Readers can return to doing what they always did, click on The Bush Diaries and receive their pearls of wisdom. Once again, best thanks for your patience with the technological ineptitudes.)

So, Bush, welcome back to your familiar surroundings. You must be as relieved as I am. I imagine you must be in some discomfort, though, about that troublesome "axis of evil." We see now the results of the aggressive international policy promoted early in your White House tenure by your neo-con chums: the saber doesn't rattle with quite the same ferocity these days. Your Rice was out there, telling North Korea that launching its newest long-distance missile ("it could reach Alaska!) would be considered a seriously "provocative act", but I'm honestly not sure why anyone should listen any more. When Kim Jong Il sees Iran's Ahmadinejad thumbing his nose at us over those nuclear weapons, what's he to think?

Here's how I see it: that speech you gave about the axis of evil puts those three nations on notice of your hostility toward them; the invasion of Iraq for trumped-up reasons confirms their understanding that your hostility might easily be followed up with military action; the strategic and tactical fiasco in Iraq and the drain on the American military there emboldens Iran and North Korea to harden their own attitudes and bolster their military reserarch and hardware; Iran ignores international pressure with impunity; and Kim Jong Il fuels his rockets.

Okay, that's a simplistic narrative, but there's a serious point: if you poke the big stick you're carrying into a hornet's nest and stir, you're going to get some nasty creatures buzzing around your head. It's my belief--and one shared by the majority of Americans these days--that the hasty invasion of Iraq without significant international support sent dangerous signals around the world about America and its intentions, and that we're now reaping what you, Bush, sowed on the planet Earth. What reason have we given Kim Jong Il (and believe me, I have no time for this poster child for insane megalomaniac dictators) to believe us, or if believing us, to take our threats seriously? Should he see us as the benevolent peacemaker, intent only on making the world safe from nuclear weapons? Or as the aggressive intruder who rushes into action without provocation? I understand that you would like to be seen as the former, but unhappily your actions might understandably be interpreted to suggest the latter.

Enough for today, Bush. Just getting back into the swing of things, here, after a serious break in the momentum. Next, the big push on the book... Starting today.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Dare I believe my eyes? A fix? Wonder of wonders!


It was a truly unsettling week, last week. I arrived back from Las Vegas with high hopes, as I say, for a bump in our readership and for a good launch for the book version, The Real Bush Diaries. My intention had been to send out the first salvo of PR on my return, but then the blog went down and it would have seemed the worst of timing to get people interested in the book without a strong reference to the blog. So that effort got delayed. I'm still in two minds as to whether to restart it now, or await the repair of the original Bush Diaries.

Now as I sit back and survey the ruins of a week gone badly awry, I ask myself what the gift might be. I always believe, Bush, that there's a gift wrapped in the shit that comes my way. Some lesson to be learned. In this particular bundle of excrement, I suppose the gift must be the acknowledgement of that Buddhist wisdom of non-attachment: things do happen beyond our control, sometimes precisely those things we would have most wished to avoid.

In the case of The Bush Diaries, I had become deeply enmeshed with the daily process of it and with the expectations I had developed along the way. I had made assumptions about its importance to myself and others, and was unpleasantly humbled when those assumptions were rudely snatched away with a word of warning.

So I suppose the wisdom here has been to find a different path through the technology, and to begin again; and to hold off on the PR for the book until a more propitious moment comes. A well-deserved lesson in patience, perhaps--since I am not a patient man--and in understanding that things do not always fall my way.

I would imagine, Bush, that this is a lesson that you too would need to be learning slowly: when the universe keeps slapping us down and souring the outcome of our best-laid plans, it's time to learn the humility that enables us to re-evaluate them. It would behoove you, in my view, to bear this in mind as you insist, in your various but unchanging ways, on "staying the course" in Iraq. I do believe that you, and the country that you claim to lead, will continue to reap nothing but suffering as a result of the experience over there, and that we need to step back for a moment, question our assumptions, curb our arrogance, and listen up to what the universe has to say.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Welcome, I Hope!

Well, Bush, when I wrote an entry called "A June Surprise" I sure didn't expect it to be the last one I'd be able to post on The Bush Diaries--for now, at least, until they fix an apparently endemic problem with Blogger. Nor, when I mentioned "a new look" in the Your Rove entry, that people were going to have to search so hard to find it. Anyway, here's hoping some of our readers will find their way here, and that we'll be able to keep things going adequately until the problem is fixed.

Meantime, regrets to all who have been trying to check in for the past few days and have found nothing. And thank you for your patience.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Well, Bush, I guess we owe our good readers an apology--especially those who have recently checked in and found that nothing has changed for the past three days. It's not that we haven't been posting, it's that our posts simply haven't shown up on the blog. They've been sitting patiently in the "Edit" section waiting for us to get our technology act together enough to eliminate the block that's been standing in the way.

It's been a couple of days of intense frustration, doubly so--well, probably triply so--because we only just now came back from touting these pages to all and sundry at the big YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas. They must be thinking we're a couple of real flakes, Bush, and I for one am disappointed that we haven't been able to do better for them than this.

After much agonized searching among the various threads in the blogger's support section--and discovering that it's well nigh impossible to get through to a real, live, human technical assistant--the bottom seems to be that something has happened to make the system think we're a couple of sploggers, and not the rightful owners of this blog. So it's shutting us out, along with the wonderful entries we have been writing.

The latest: I did manage finally to find a way to send an email to the Blogger tech folks, and am--hopefully, prayerfully--awaiting their reply. I have also had my own friendly tech advisers working on the problem, vainly, to date; but the word last night was that they "might" have found an "easy fix."

Let's hope so, Bush. I don't know how the world will survive another day without us.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Trouble on the Line

I couldn't post yesterday's entry, Bush. Some kind of problem with the Blogger. I'm still trying to get it sorted out. Meantime, though, in hopes that I'll soon be able to post again, here's a word for the day.

I was watching your encounter with the press yesterday with an eye to your strategy. Interesting. Not that I haven't observed it before, not that others haven't. But it seemed particularly virulent yesterday. The first part is to shame or belittle the questioner: calling on a press corps man (unknown to me) whose name was Roger, it was "Roger, Roger"; and to the new reporter on the block, "Hmmm. Not a bad question for a substitute guy." And was Jon Stewart right about the man you made an effort to ridicule because he was wearing sunglasses--that your victim had a congenital eye disorder?

Next, it's the tone of withering condescension with which you answer questions, as though the questioner were an idiot, incapable of discerning the unquestionable quality of your knowledge and veracity.

Oh, and then the patent disconnect between your words and the evidence about the America we know. We live, you reiterated for the thousandth time, "in a transparent society." Oh really? How about a little transparency on the outing of Valerie Plame. For instance. And then, "People will be held to account, according to our laws." This in response to a question about Abu Ghraib, a disgrace in which only the very lowliest were "held to account," and those truly responsbile, the ones who tacitly encouraged such behavior, were rewarded with accolades and promotion.

Enough. Enough for today. I don't even know that this will ever get posted. Keep your fingers crossed, Bush. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Your Rove

So, Bush, you will have already noticed a new look this morning. It's something I have been meaning to do for the past week, but have been too busy to take care of--what with that trip to Las Vegas and attendant preparations. I'm also, sadly, not savvy enough myself on the technical front to be able to do these housekeeping chores myself, so I had to find someone to help me.

Anyway, there it is, in all its glory: the cover of our book (and a link for those who might wish to purchase it!) As I think I may have mentioned, it was designed by my friend Jeff Koegel, an artist who is a regular at one of the artist forums that Ellie and I host here at our house. I think he has done a terrific job on the cover: it makes for a distinctive look, and one that makes an immediate impression--with a hint of humor, a bit of smart aesthetic irony in its reference to the late Andy Warhol and a couple of other, more recent art contemporaries, and of course its relevance to what we're all about. What do you think?

Well, back to our sheep as the French say. Your Rove. I suspect he's been doing his own little celebration dance since the announcement that he will not face indictment from Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald. You aid yourself this morning, at your press conference, that you breathed "a sigh of relief when [Fitzgerald] made the decision he made." Well and good. The problem is, we're still left in the dark out here. Somebody--or bodies--in your White House gang was the source of the leak that outed Joe Wilson's wife, CIA operative Valerie Plame, in an act of pure political revenge for his op-ed piece in the NY Times exposing your State of the Union lie about that non-existent yellowcake from Niger.

My own guess, frankly, is that Fitzgerald simply couldn't find sufficient evidence to include Rove in his indictment. Okay, so it's just a guess. But I find it hard to believe that your Rove, of all people, was not included in the circle that made this despicable decision, along with Cheney and his chief of staff, Scooter Libby--the only one the prosecutor seems to have been able to nail in his investigation to date.

Here's the thing, though. We ought to know. You talk glibly in public, as you lecture other countries, about the "transparency" of your administration while that same administration remains the most opaque in living memory. You said it again this very morning: "Ours is a transparent society," you said with a straight face; and "people will be held to account according to our laws."

Beyond the legality, there's also a moral question here. And a question of managing authority. It seems to me, Bush, that as the man responsible for the affairs of the White House, you yourself should be demanding answers and taking the action that you promised us a while ago--to root out leakers and send them packing. I would expect you, a self-professedly righteous and morally courageous man, to be outraged by so cowardly and treacherous an act. Unless, of course, as we're left to suspect, you already know the answers and don't want them known because of the damage they might do.

In any event, it seems your Rove is off the hook for now, and you persist in fending off any and all questions (again this morning!)under the convenient umbrella of the "ongoing investigation." Meantime, Rove is free once again to pursue his nefarious political career and vent his venom, as he did again yesterday, first chance he got, on Democrats: he targeted Kerry and Murtha as "profoundly wrong" on the Iraq war and accused them, falsely, of advocating a course to "cut and run--as Democrats, he could not resist insinuating, always do.

It doesn't matter to Rove, I guess, that neither one of them actually took the position he imputes to them. The only thing that matters, as with your Delay, is to win elections for right-wing Republicans, and to crush all opposition along the way. A sad state of affairs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A June Surprise


I got the wrong month, Bush. I was hanging around awaiting an October surprise. Then woke up this June morning and found you in Baghdad with a big grin on your face, shaking hands with the new guy, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Nice photo op. Nice PR coup to touch up that old tarnished image. Nice June surprise. A five-hour stay in Iraq, I heard. Am I right? A bit too sleepy to catch the details, but the picture was clear: courageous Bush, braving all dangers to fight evil where it lives, in the heart of enemy territory. Standing tall. Grinning like the proverbial hyena...

Okay, a cynic might say you were after that bounce in the polls, but I don't want to play the cynic. Not this morning. I do have to play the skeptic, but that's different. I'm feeling generous today. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief for just a bit, and I'm ready to give this one credit as a real effort to build on the momentum created by the new government, the death of Zarqawi, and the appointment (finally!) of those two key ministers.

So I wish you luck. Really. I hope you succeed. I hope the Iraqi security forces prove capable of taking on the responsibility for the safety of that country's citizens, and that we can begin the process of bringing our own people home. I hope the sectarian violence comes to an end. I hope that we can get back to the original task of disempowering those terrorists who hate us, and restoring peace and security to the world. It's past time. And believe me, come November, we have plenty of other issues to confront you on.

Onward, to victory! (For us, I mean, Bush. For all of us.)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Las Vegas, cont'd...

(... but first a quick word of appreciation for the brilliance of the Guantanamo brass for labeling the three suicides there as "an act of war." I just hope that no one on our side got caught in the crossfire!)

Anyway, Las Vegas... I believe you've actually succeeded in creating a monster, Bush. Well, not single-handedly, perhaps. You've had ample help from your superlatively incompetent administration of neo-cons and cronies; from your disastrous war and the lies you used so shamelessly to promote it; from a disgracefully compliant, fear-driven US Congress; from your oligarchy of corporate puppet-masters and their insatiably greedy band of lobbyists; from a cabal of print and electronic media all too content to feed at the trough of slop your people fill for them. Between the lot of you, you have created out of outrage a monster whose dimensions and energy you have not yet begun to imagine.

I've had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with the monster this past weekend. Some call it people-power. But it's not the fuzzy-thinking, tie-dye, turned-on, flower-child people power of half a century ago. This is a brand of people power conjured up by some very smart, uncompromising minds and fueled by the infinite communication potential of the Internet; it's a caring monster, scary only to those who have managed to exploit the treasure and the vast human resources of this country to benefit none other than themselves. It's an exponentially growing community of people angered by what has become of American values as a result of that "vast right wing conspiracy" and impatient to make change.

I have to tell you, Bush, this convention was a refreshing gulp of air for one who has tended, frankly, recently, toward pessimism. The fact that no less than four presidential hopefuls showed up is a good indication of their assessment of the need to listen to this voice. I myself loved the spirit that I found there, the ability to think hard and long, and argue, and talk, and laugh, and listen to each other. I loved the dismissal of the tired old cliches and received ideas--my own included--in favor of new vision and a passionate belief in the real possibility of change. I have always followed Maureen Dowd with pleasure and, most frequently, agreement, but the cynicism in her column about the convention in last Saturday's New York Times was so far removed from my own experience of the event that I wondered where she could have been. Too bad. Call me a wide-eyed optimist (not a label I'd normally expect,) but the experience left me with something I had come close to abandoning: hope.

I see this morning that you've withdrawn to Camp David, Bush, with your coterie of sage advisers to get a new perspective on your war. I'm afraid you'll just come up with more of the same old "stay the course" nonsense, or some window-dressing efforts to get your party through the next few months to the elections. I wish you could have taken a few of the "progressives" from this convention with you, and listened to their views.

Some hope! But watch out for the avalanche, Bush. Believe me, it's headed your way.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Leaving Las Vegas

Thought I was leaving plenty of time to blog from the airport, Bush. Not gonna happen. Brought my rental car back in nice time, dropped it off, took the bus to the airport and was about to give the bus driver a tip for his pains...

No wallet. No jacket. I'd left it on the back set of the rental car. Took the bus back to the Budget office, ran a search on the jacket, and fortunately they found it. Bus back to the terminal. A nightmare line at security--though happily I found myself next to a trio of enthusiastic young Democrats from Missouri. A treat to talk to them, and hear their elation in the wake of their own conference here--maybe another little gaggle of readers for us, Bush.

Oh, and then there was an anomoly, it seems, as my bag ran through the scanning machine and they took me aside for a search. Turns out that a couple of magnet bumper stickers I'd picked up at the convention read like sharp edges. Problem resolved. So I arrived finally at the gate with just enough time to catch my breath. This will have to suffice for today. More on the YearlyKos convention tomorrow, then. Assuming I wake up in time...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Las Vegas II: Hope

I realize now how close I have been to despair these past few months, Bush, sitting by on the sidelines and watching your march from post re-election triumphalism (remember your gloating about all that political capital and how you planned to spend it?) to virtual powerlessness. Where's that capital now, and what have you bought with it? Or how have you invested it in America's future? When your people have to pretending that gay marriage and flag-burning are the major issues of the day, you've come to a pretty pathetic pass. Sof far as anyone can tell, no one has burned a flag for the past thirty years.

Okay, a pretty depressing spectacle, this march, as I think you'd have to agree if you possessed some last, small shred of honesty. But what I've discovered here in Las Vegas is reason to hope. About a thousand people here, many of them young and filled with bnoth energy and determination--and quite a number of older, if not necessarily wiser. Every one of them knows that something has gone dreadfully wrong with the direction of their country, and is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to set it right.

The arrival of Barbara Boxer was a stirring spectacle. Her reception--a prolonged standing ovation--was overwhelming even to its recipient. As one of the last remaining liberals in a country where your people have turned that wonderful concept into a dirty word, she has earned that ovation, in my view. And she spoke with eloquent simplicity not about the distasters of your years in office but about the work ahead. In answer to a question about impeachment--and there's strong sentiment in favor of that action here--she was quick to point out that there are more important things to do in the next two years than embroil ourselves in an attack on what she described as an already "dangerously incompetent" White House.

No point in undeermining our weakened position in the world still further, Bush. We'll likely be living with you for another two years and, what?, six months or so. And you with us, increasingly restive folks down here on the ground of the real world. The hope is that you and your fellow travelers have laid the seeds of your own decline and eventual destruction, and that there are willing hands to take over the reins.

These good people here at the Las Vegas conferencehave poeculiar power. Each one of us reaches dozens, or hundreds, or thousands, or hundreds of thousands of others through the power of the blogosphere. In not a few cases, millions. Your bloggers on the right have one terrible disadvantage: their offense is turning into defense and they deal increasinly in lies and calumny. These people here are grounded in reality: they recognize and speak the truth.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Las Vegas

This is a kick, Bush. Truly. Imagine yourself in a room filled with a thousand liberal bloggers. Well, bloggers, superbloggers, readers, lurkers, techhies and so on. Not your usual croad of (p)sychopants, then. Smart, savvy, committed, engaged, well-informed, witty, passionate, all bursting with the energy it will take to get you off your throne and put this country back on track. I'm impressed. With people like this, I see a ray of hope for all of us.

I was thinking yesterday in the plane about the death of al-Zarqawi. I think your military guys have earned some congratulations on that achievement, Bush. Good intelligence. A precise hit. It was all over the morning news before I left, and then again at the airport, along with a smorgasboard of pundits--most of whom cast the news as a major political victory and the prelude to a much-needed jump in the polls for your good self.

I can't say I mourn the man myself. A nasty piece of work. How can you reconcile the actions of a brutal, fanatical killer of this kind with the religion he purportedly embraced?

That said, I'm not a hundred percent in agreement that this single hit will turn out to be the victory--or even the great turning point--that these pundits predict. The fear is that in cutting off the Hydra's head you've cleared the way for a hundred more to sprout. Dragon's teeth. How many more radicalized "insurgents" will this death inspire? I doubt, too, that the action will make us any more beloved in the Arab street. Or even in the Arab world at large. Zarqawi's death, we can be sure, along with that of his "spiritual adviser", will be seen by many as a martyrdom, and will serve as another call to action for those who already choose to hate us.

Of far greater--and of course less broadcast media-heralded--significance is the story in yesterday's New York Times headline: the bungled CIA strategy in Somalia and the rise of a Taliban-like cabal to power there. Our interference seems to have facilitated the creation of another fanatical religious state, a potential safe haven and training ground for the very terrorists with whom you, Bush, purport to be at war.

Ah, well. Enough for this morning. I'm off to the convention to plot the overthrow of your own fanatical religious state. Be a little bit Buddhist today, Bush. Try, if you can, at least to do no harm.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


... we're off today, Bush. Me and "The Bush Diaries" and "The Real Bush Diaries." Into the wild blue. If you think of the liberal blogosphere as blue, which it largely, I suppose, is. There will be dyed-in-the-wool Democratic politicians on hand, I hear. Barbara Boxer. Howard Dean. Nancy Pelosi...

The intention I'm making for myself before I go is to make these pages better known and to increase our readership. Not looking for fame and fortune, then, but a voice. I started out thinking this was something I could actually DO at a moment--the moment after your "re-election, Bush--when I was feeling stunned by the sheer, unbelievable ignorance and gullibility of the American electorate. I'm a writer, I thought then: at least I can write. I stumbled innocently into blogland--and found it the ideal medium for my purpose. To not bury my head. To stay awake. To speak the truth as I see it, in what I hoped would be a voice of sanity in a world gone mad.

And now it's mid-term election time, and I find there's more that I want to do: I want to contribute that voice insofar as I can to the reversal of your fortunes and to your party's long-overdue disempowerment. I want to join the now very considerable effort to return this country to its rightful destiny as a great and peaceful warrior in the defense of the planet Earth and her inestimable beauty. I want us to cease being the villain of the story of this twenty-first century and become, if not its hero, at least a conscientious player in the continuing human drama.

As for "The Real Bush Diaries", well, I get to see my first actual copy today. I heard yesterday from Las Vegas that my shipment had arrived at its destination, and I'm look forward to feeling the heft of the thing. I spend a lot of time looking into this damn screen and being dazzled by its peculiar, magical energy and light. But it's no substitute, so far as I'm concerned, for the weight and substance of a real book, with real pages you can turn.

So I do hope to sell a few copies out there in Las Vegas, Bush. But more than that, I trust that "The Real Bush Diaries" will be a useful tool in bringing us new daily readers for this journal. That's what it's all about.

So... as I sometimes--often--ask you, Bush: wish me luck.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

That's My Excuse. What's Yours?

I now finally understand, after all too many years of blissful ignorance, that it's not my fault when I get mad at the dumb driver who cuts me off on the freeway. It was never my fault when I flared up at my kids when they were acting up. It's not my bad temper. It's Intermittant Explosive Disorder.

I received my enlightenment on this delicate subject this very morning, Bush, while watching NBC's (now Katie-less!) Today Show out of the corner of an eye as I was getting ready, later than usual, to face the day. What we used to call a "bad temper" is in fact the result of a chemical brain imbalance, for which I am no more responsible than the wolf with his appetite for lambs: it's simple brain chemistry. I'm relieved to know this, because I have often been unjustly chided by my wife for an occasional, eminently forgivable lapse of language on the freeway; and I have certainly been subject to the pangs of guilt at times when I have overstepped the bounds of paternal benevolence with my children. When they were children. Alas, now no longer.

Now, I do hate to sound like a libertarian, or worse. You likely know by now that I'm no right-wing talk-show conservative. And yet... and yet... I do have pause to wonder sometimes, Bush, where personal responsibility has gone. I have ample reason to believe in the potential ravages of wacky brain chemistry, since I have watched them at first hand. But it does seem to me at times that once we have a name for everything, we have an excuse for everything.

With all this in mind, I've taken to wondering whether our national affliction might not be written off to a collective chemical imbalance in the brain and, if so, what name might be given to it? That is, if we're averse to calling it plain, short-sighted me-firstism, or willful stupidity. The Beyond-the-End-of-the-Nose Eye Failure Disorder? The Protect-Your-Wallet-at-Any-Cost Disorder? The Better-Believe-Whatever-I-Tell-You Disorder? The Morality-Is-a-Virtue-(for-Others) Disorder? Whatever it is, it's certainly not our fault.

Anyway, if you have any suggestions, Bush, I trust you'll let me know.

(By the way, a reminder: I leave tomorrow morning for YearlyKos, that liberal bloggers' convention in Las Vegas. Hope to make some new contacts for our blog and maybe sell a few books. Who knows? Not sure, then, that I'll have time for entries in the next few days. Check in, though. I may have some words about the event, and it should be interesting...)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Eight Heads

Election Day in California, Bush. I'm headed out to do my civic duty, so I'll be brief. Just wanted to post the poem that came to me this morning as I woke. I hate all this bloody violence, which succeeds in nothing but the creation of more bloody violence. We remove Saddam Hussein (good thing) and leave the country at the mercy of intolerant religious zealots (bad thing). And the killing doesn't stop.


Eight human heads
in a fruit crate. Eight
human heads, eight heads
once human, now severed
from their bodies, discarded,
so much rotten fruit packed
in a fruit crate for disposal.
With them, tucked in, a note
of explanation: these were men
of a different sect, of different
beliefs in the same god,
suspected to have killed
doctors, the note said,
of their religious rivals.

Eight heads, then, found
in a fruit crate, wrapped
in blankets to be carried,
reverently, from the place
of their discovery. Such
are the acts of war. We saw
the pictures. We recoiled
in horror at the barbarity
of such acts of vengeance.
Recoiled, even though
our own men are reduced,
by war, to similar acts
of bloody, violent revenge.

We, the rescuers, who came
here, to this place, to save
a people from their tyrant
by acts of war. Violence
begets violence, begets
violence. And human heads
are severed, served to us
in fruit crates, while innocent
civilians, men, women, children,
beg for their lives before
the vengeful hail of bullets
from their saviors’ guns.

Such are the acts of war.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The Suspension of Disbelief

Okay, Bush, I have another confession to make. I'm blushing again, if only you could see. I admit it: I went to see "The Da Vinci Code."

Well, my excuse is that people had been telling me thyat the movie was a whole lot better than the book. I'd also heard it wasn't nearly as bad as the critics said it was; that it was really quite a good thriller. So I went.

Big mistake. It is a dreadful movie. The kind of movie where you find yourself laughing out loud at what are supposed to be the most dramatic or tender moments because the plot is so patently absurd or the dialogue is so ridiculous.

All of which got me thinking about the willing suspension of disbelief--Coleridge's term, if you recall, for our ability to set the everyday logic of reality aside and be swept into the fictional world of literature. It can happen with the most implausible of plots, so long as the language is right, or the characters, or their dialogue. It's a kind of magic. We can suspend our disbelief simply because the speed of the action (think "24") whisks our brain along to the next plot point before it has time to analyze the last. We can suspend our disbelief simply because we trust the narrator enough not to mislead us, or because the main character is seductive enough to charm us into spellbound assent.

Which got me thinking once again, Bush, about you, and about the current erosion of that "willing suspension of disbelief" that allowed you to seduce the American public into electing you, to reward the already wealthy corporations and the superrich with escalating wealth and power, and to lead us into this dreadful quagmire of a war. (More hideous deaths in Iraq yesterday, Bush: more beheadings, more bombs--and still no appointments to key ministries in the new "government." Is there no end?) It was all based on misplaced trust. Your Rove--along with his political hacks and his cohorts in the media--managed to persuade enough voters to trust you, despite clear evidence that your policies ran counter to their interests on almost every front. They managed to persuade enough of us that true was false and, conversely, that false was true.

It was, I suppose, the appearance of piety that persuaded many of those who voted for you to suspend the common sense and practical analysis that could have told them that you shared the bully's pathological need for power, that in the interests of self promotion you favored the rich and powerful--and certainly not the average voter himself. If properly analyzed in the light of your actions, that piety too turns out to be a sham. True Christians, in my view, are made of more compassionate stuff. Yet we were sold, apparently, as a nation, on the persuasive fiction of that one neat, disingenuous phrase: compassionate conservatism, and people willingly ignored the obvious in favor of the saleable.

It's all falling apart now, though. Once we have seen the foolish little man behind the curtain, the great Oz has lost his magic. Oh, there are still those willing enough to suspend their rational judgment--or perhaps those who have none--to allow the charade to continue. But largely speaking the trust is gone. Whatever it was that persuaded us that the fiction offered by your spin doctors was real is now eroded. Sometimes, it seems, reality is just too powerful. It just jumps up and slaps you in the face.

Even so, as T.S.Eliot famously observed, mankind cannot bear too much reality. The danger now is that your fictioneers on the right will once again drive enough fear into the hearts of enough Americans that they will find it preferable to keep living in the fictional world they have helped create rather than face a truth that is truly frightening: that we are betraying not only our country's values and its reputation in the world, but very possibly the future of the world itself. Such is the terrible power of the willing suspension of disbelief.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Win-At-Any-Cost, 2004 Version

As I've told you on more than one occasion, Bush, I'm no conspiracy theorist. Like many others, I was surprised by the outcome of the 2004 election, and suspected that some fudging of the results had been going on. A few months later, at the nudging of a friend and sometime reader of these pages, I checked out the John Conyers report and was pretty much convinced by it that Ohio had been stolen. This throughly-researched and plainly-written article by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., though, is a sad reminder of the trickery and chicanery that your true believers resorted to in order to secure your re-election.

We were talking only yesterday about the win-at-any-cost ethic and its manifestation even on the pure, steep slopes of Mt. Everest. I guess you reached the top of the mountain, Bush. But at what a cost to the people of this country and the people of the world.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Black Rider

Theater last night, Bush. Well, more than theater really. Call it Uebertheater. It was drama. It was grand opera. It was grand guignol. It was circus. It was Renaissance tragedy. It was farce. It was modern dance and classical ballet. It was American musical. It was pop/rock/jazz concert. It was mime and tableau vivant and performance art. It was, as the technical term has it, a Gesamtkunstwerk (an altogether art work, for non-German speakers.)

It was "The Black Rider and the Casting of the Magic Bullets."

"The Black Rider" is a musical and theatrical extravaganza resulting from the collaboration of the late writer, William S. Burroughs, artist/designer Robert Wilson, and song writer and gravel-voiced growler Tom Waits. Based on the medieval German legend of man's pact with the devil, "The Black Rider" provides an unmatched evening of sheer brilliant entertainment.

It's a non-stop source of visual treats and delightful surprises. It's costume party, a feast of sometimes amusing, sometimes awesome sets, of puns and proverbs, high wit and cliche. It's about languiage, and art, and music; about stories and story-telling; about the dark side of human existence, and the light. It's sad-funny and funny-sad. Music ranges from sweet mock lyrical to operatic aria to sheer bloody cacophony, degenerating often into sequences of weird, primitive sounds that speak to the ear from some deep and ancient memory of animal existence. There's jazz and blues and pop song, African rhythm and folk music... It seems sometimes that the production wants to leave no medium and no artistic convention unturned on its head. It's radically subversive, a play on color, movement, sound and shape; a play on expectations and traditions; a play on play.

And yet, and yet, and yet... In all this brilliance, there was something missing for me, and I'm not sure what it is. Call it heart. With all the irony, paradox and surprise, and with all the clever, complex multiple references there was a heady quality to the fun that left me with this vague dissatisfaction--the kind of feeling you have after indulging scrumptiously in an over-rich dessert: that the whole production was, after all, no more than a confection. Brilliantly concocted, but yes, a confection. And why not, I suppose? We all have a need for it. I was grinning with the pleasure of it most of the way through, and laughing aloud more often than I've done for quite a while. Why not? Who could ask, in the words of one memorable song from years ago, for anything more?

Thursday, June 01, 2006


I have a triple header for you today, Bush. Check it out.

First, a great cause for celebration: our book is out! A handsome job, I think you'll agree, with a superb cover designed by my friend, the artist Jeff Koegel. I'm hoping that our many readers will rush to click the link and place their order--an easily accomplished feat at The Real Bush Diaries. I'm hoping, too, that they will alert all of their many friends and email contacts to this wonderful opportunity to lay their hands on a copy of our historical collaboration. If they wish to forward the URL, here it is: All they need to do is highlight, copy, and paste it in their email. If there are problems or questions, I'm sure they'll let us know. (Seriously, friends, I do need your help in getting a bit of a buzz going here, and will appreciate anything you can do to spread the word.)

Next, Iran. I'm not quite ready to buy in to the general celebration of this "dramatic reversal" of US policy, Bush. Your Rice delivered her statement yesterday with her usual icily dismissive demeanor and her familiar scowl. Its condition seemed calculated to invite rejection. Ahmadinejad has making such political hay out of his intransigeance, it would be almost impossible now for him to back away from his insistence that Iran will continue to pursue its nuclear ambitions no matter what the cost, or what the world may think.

The latest initiative of the US, it seems to me, is the kind of move you make when you simply want to make yourself look good, and the other guy look like the villain in the eyes of others. It doesn't surprise me that it was dismissed immediately as "propaganda." I could be wrong, of course. You could have China and Russia in your pocket, all ready to go along with UN sanctions. In which case, Iran could be in a tight spot. I guess it's a poker game. We'll see eventually who's bluffing. If you win, of course, I'll be eating crow--and not for the first time, Bush. Meantime, I'm playing wait-and-see.

And lastly, sadly, Everest. I used to think of mountaineers as the last great heroes in an otherwise much-debased world. I remember the very moment of the announcement of the conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing: I was about seventeen years old, sitting with a bunch of friends on the tree-lined sidewalk on The Mall--that elegant avenue in London that leads from Buckingham Palace to the Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square. We had spent the entire night there, awaiting with a mob of patriotic Brits the passage of the carriage of Queen Elizabeth on the way to her Coronation.

What a moment, when the news about Hillary and Tensing reached us over the radio! Having long resisted, the mountain had finally succumbed to the assault of these two intrepid climbers. They seemed to us--to me at least--the highest of all mortals, men of such inestimable achievement that their heroism was above question. There was a moral dimension, too, to their ascent: these men must be gifted, I thought, with an extraodinary strength and purity of chracter, and the bond of trust between the Caucasian climber and his Sherpa guide must be powerful indeed to permit so great a human victory over nature.

Now it seems all it takes is a stake of ten to forty thousand dollars (according to today's Los Angeles Times) and you're on your way to the top of the world. We've talked a few times recently, Bush, about the win-at-any-cost ethic that drives the business world--an ethic that has now spread to the heady world of mountain climbers. It's dog-eat-dog, succeed-who-may, as climbers hike on past the dead and dying lying by the wayside without a thought for anything but their own success and their own survival.

It's understandable, perhaps, when you think that to stop and attempt to help an apparently dying man might well result in the loss of two lives, both rescuer and rescuee. And yet... well, I just have to wonder what they're doing there in the first place. When men are left to die and the dead left unattended, along with the rest of the trash accumulating on the mountainside, it's no longer about a moral victory over great odds and extraordinary human achievement.

Something important has been lost in the rush to the summit of our tallest mountain, Bush, and I suspect it's something not simply about mountain climbers, but about the rest of us too. We have learned that to get to the top it's okay to leave a few corpses in our wake.