December, 2007

Happy New Year, 2008

Monday, December 31st, 2007

December 31, 2007
Looking at America

There are too many moments these days when we cannot recognize our country. Sunday was one of them, as we read the account in The Times of how men in some of the most trusted posts in the nation plotted to cover up the torture of prisoners by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators by destroying videotapes of their sickening behavior. It was impossible to see the founding principles of the greatest democracy in the contempt these men and their bosses showed for the Constitution, the rule of law and human decency.

It was not the first time in recent years we’ve felt this horror, this sorrowful sense of estrangement, not nearly. This sort of lawless behavior has become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001.

The country and much of the world was rightly and profoundly frightened by the single-minded hatred and ingenuity displayed by this new enemy. But there is no excuse for how President Bush and his advisers panicked — how they forgot that it is their responsibility to protect American lives and American ideals, that there really is no safety for Americans or their country when those ideals are sacrificed.

Out of panic and ideology, President Bush squandered America’s position of moral and political leadership, swept aside international institutions and treaties, sullied America’s global image, and trampled on the constitutional pillars that have supported our democracy through the most terrifying and challenging times. These policies have fed the world’s anger and alienation and have not made any of us safer.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen American soldiers abuse, sexually humiliate, torment and murder prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few have been punished, but their leaders have never been called to account. We have seen mercenaries gun down Iraqi civilians with no fear of prosecution. We have seen the president, sworn to defend the Constitution, turn his powers on his own citizens, authorizing the intelligence agencies to spy on Americans, wiretapping phones and intercepting international e-mail messages without a warrant.

We have read accounts of how the government’s top lawyers huddled in secret after the attacks in New York and Washington and plotted ways to circumvent the Geneva Conventions — and both American and international law — to hold anyone the president chose indefinitely without charges or judicial review.

Those same lawyers then twisted other laws beyond recognition to allow Mr. Bush to turn intelligence agents into torturers, to force doctors to abdicate their professional oaths and responsibilities to prepare prisoners for abuse, and then to monitor the torment to make sure it didn’t go just a bit too far and actually kill them.

The White House used the fear of terrorism and the sense of national unity to ram laws through Congress that gave law-enforcement agencies far more power than they truly needed to respond to the threat — and at the same time fulfilled the imperial fantasies of Vice President Dick Cheney and others determined to use the tragedy of 9/11 to arrogate as much power as they could.

Hundreds of men, swept up on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, were thrown into a prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, so that the White House could claim they were beyond the reach of American laws. Prisoners are held there with no hope of real justice, only the chance to face a kangaroo court where evidence and the names of their accusers are kept secret, and where they are not permitted to talk about the abuse they have suffered at the hands of American jailers.

In other foreign lands, the C.I.A. set up secret jails where “high-value detainees” were subjected to ever more barbaric acts, including simulated drowning. These crimes were videotaped, so that “experts” could watch them, and then the videotapes were destroyed, after consultation with the White House, in the hope that Americans would never know.

The C.I.A. contracted out its inhumanity to nations with no respect for life or law, sending prisoners — some of them innocents kidnapped on street corners and in airports — to be tortured into making false confessions, or until it was clear they had nothing to say and so were let go without any apology or hope of redress.

These are not the only shocking abuses of President Bush’s two terms in office, made in the name of fighting terrorism. There is much more — so much that the next president will have a full agenda simply discovering all the wrongs that have been done and then righting them.

We can only hope that this time, unlike 2004, American voters will have the wisdom to grant the awesome powers of the presidency to someone who has the integrity, principle and decency to use them honorably. Then when we look in the mirror as a nation, we will see, once again, the reflection of the United States of America.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company


Friday, December 28th, 2007

(with a Nod to Texaco Lights), a short short story 

I had an appointment with my shrink in LA this morning so I left Palm Springs promptly at 8:00 a.m. for my 11:30 a.m. breakfast meeting.  I arrived at 11:50 a.m., twenty minutes late.  The 10 interstate was clogged like shit in a commode.  The fact that it takes more than 3 1/2 hours to drive 123 miles in southern California is only half the problem.  The other half is that my Jag died driving back from LA this afternoon.  I was zooming along, listening to Randi Rhodes on the radio, the ice cold AC blowing on my feet and face when suddenly my car started to sputter.  I was pressing the accelerator but no gas was getting to the engine.  Going 10 m.p.h. on a freeway where the average speed around me was 80 m.p.h., I crawled the Jag across 4 lanes of traffic.  And I made it to the edge of the 60 without getting hammered.  I reached under the seat for my shoes (I drive barefooted) and called AAA.  I was told to immediately press my membership number into my cell phone.  First of all, the AAA card is in my wallet in my bag on the floor.  Second of all, I’m sitting in 110 degree heat on the side of the 60.  Third and final, I couldn’t find my reading glasses.  So, not wanting to exit the car and get crushed, realizing it would be hours before my road kill DNA was found if I did, I turned the key and the Jag started.  I pressed on the gas, my goal being the exit I could see ahead of me.  I made it to the top of the exit.  Then the sputtering started again.  I drifted down the exit ramp, off the 60, onto a half-paved road with nothing around but buildings being built.  I coasted to what could have been called the side of the road if there was a side to the road.  I  turned off the car.  This time when I called AAA I had my reading glasses on, my AAA card in my hand, and I was off the freeway.  AAA put me in touch with their local contracted tow company and I decided to use them.  After I cut a deal with the tow truck driver, a young kid with work on his hands, he agreed to secure my Jag on top of his flatbed and haul my ass to Palm Springs, all for 300 bucks.  For the first 1/2 hour of the 1 hour drive home,  Ribergo played bone shaking rap in the cab of the tow truck, lots of pussy and fuck and cunt and fag and nigger.  I rattled and watched the windmills spin in the heat wind.  The second 1/2 hour he turned the sound off.  He asked me if the fake police car was still parked alongside the 111 going into Palm Springs.  I told him I thought it was.  He said I was his last tow for the day.  I said he ought to hang out and have some fun.  He rolled down the windows, the AC still blasting.  He relaxed, lit a cigarette.  I felt more comfortable than I’d felt in a long time inside the tow truck cab.  Plus, I’d pay almost anything to sleep in my own bed. 

Political Posers

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

I’ve heard more about the war against Christmas (who knew) than I’ve heard about the war in Afghanistan and the occupation of Iraq.  The television media personalities have turned into posing opinionists, worried so much about access and power that their opinions don’t matter anymore.  

“Baby boomers, exit the stage.”   

The Prez Race

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

My obsession with politics needs a Viagra.  I can’t get it up anymore for the horse race and backbiting along with the focus on God and Jesus when the country is bankrupt, troops are dying, and neo-fascists are sawing down our rights — the debris so deep I need hip boots.