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michael bishop
Posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 07:27 am:   

Friends,

Several people, this past week, sent me e-mails documenting a soldier's perceptions of the good things that the U.S. has done in Iraq. I had to sit on my hands not to reply to these e-mails. First, I support our troops, and I'd like to see us succeed in giving the Iraqi people a real shot at democracy -- although that is clearly not why the Bush administration took us to war there. (Also, the Iraqis might well choose to elect repressive clerics, thereby blowing their chance for future democratic elections.)

Our president's first two stated reasons for invading Iraq -- 1) stockpiled weapons of mass destruction; 2) a connection to Al Qaeda -- proved impossible to document and were supported in advance of the invasion by falsehoods, a couple of them, in my view, deliberate. Only after these reasons proved untenable did the administration trot out its fallback reason, namely, 3), the moral monstrousness of the killer and torturer, Saddam Hussein.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison -- which this administration knew about and which military commanders condoned before digital photos found their way to the public through the good offices of the free press, which Rumsfeld and others in this administration would use as a scapegoat for their own lack of foresight and wisdom -- totally sabotage our claim of holding the moral high ground (at least in Iraqi eyes) and put our troops and any other Americans in-country in mortal danger. (The abuse techniques that our military personnel were using, by the way, were not ones that innocents would come up with independently; they were trained, or at least told, to carry out the kinds of abuse in which they engaged, for these techniques targeted specifically Muslim perceptions of dignity and self-respect. Only the naive can seriously believe otherwise.)

"Well, at least we don't behead people," I've heard some Americans rant in defense of our tactics and our presence in Iraq, but that argument doesn't wash with the Iraqi people and it shouldn't wash with us. (Come on: How compelling and/or noble is the defense, "At least we're not as brutal as they are"?) A recent poll, which concluded before the prison-abuse scandal became known, showed that a majority of the Iraqis want us out and regard us not as liberators but as occupiers. Perhaps they're self-deluded, and we really have put their country on a firmer educational/technological footing. But we're deluded, too, if we think that our having done so matters in the absence of general Iraqi cooperation and/or any real Iraqi perception that we actually have their best interests at heart.

What follows is a column by ultraconservative Pat Buchanan, a man whose political views seldom mirror my own, about the mess that exists in Iraq, why it is a mess, and what we should do about it. I don't agree with everything he says -- some Americans appear quite willing to waste our lives, our spirit, and our material treasure pursuing this administration's neocon blunder to the very end -- but perhaps the arguments of a man whom no one can call a liberal will penetrate, a tad, the fog of denial surrounding lockstep supporters of this hubristic President.

Remember: the words below aren't mine, they're *gasp* Pat Buchanan's.

Mike


Wednesday, May 12, 2004

A time for truth

Posted: May 12, 2004 1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Patrick J. Buchanan

© 2004 Creators Syndicate, Inc.


With pictures of the sadistic sexual abuse of Iraqis in Abu Ghraib prison still spilling out onto the front pages, it is not too early to draw some conclusions. The neoconservative hour is over. All the blather about "empire," our "unipolar moment," "Pax Americana" and "benevolent global hegemony" will be quietly put on a shelf and forgotten as infantile prattle.

America is not going to fight a five- or 10-year war in Iraq. Nor will we be launching any new invasions soon. The retreat of American empire, begun at Fallujah, is underway. With a $500 billion deficit, we do not have the money for new wars. With an Army of 480,000 stretched thin, we do not have the troops. With April-May costing us a battalion of dead and wounded, we are not going to pay the price. With the squalid photos from Abu Ghraib, we no longer have the moral authority to impose our "values" on Iraq. Bush's "world democratic revolution" is history. Given the hatred of the United States and Bush in the Arab world, as attested to by Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, it is almost delusional to think Arab peoples are going to follow America's lead.

It is a time for truth. In any guerrilla war we fight, there is going to be a steady stream of U.S. dead and wounded. There is going to be collateral damage - i.e., women and children slain and maimed. There will be prisoners abused. And inevitably, there will be outrages by U.S. troops enraged at the killing of comrades and the jeering of hostile populations. If you would have an empire, this goes with the territory. And if you are unprepared to pay the price, give it up.

The administration's shock and paralysis at publication of the S&M photos from Abu Ghraib tell us we are not up to it. For what is taking place in Iraq is child's play compared to what we did in the Philippines a century ago. Only there, they did not have digital cameras, videocams and the Internet.

Iraq was an unnecessary war that may become one of the great blunders in U.S. history. That the invasion was brilliantly conceived and executed by Gen. Franks, that our fighting men were among the finest we ever sent to war, that they have done good deeds and brave acts, is undeniable. Yet, if recent surveys are accurate, the Iraqis no longer want us there. Outside the Kurdish areas, over 80 percent of Sunnis and Shias view us as occupiers. Over 50 percent believe there are occasions when U.S. soldiers deserve killing. The rejoicing around every destroyed military vehicle where U.S. soldiers have died should tell us that the battle for hearts and minds is being lost.

Why are we so hated in the Middle East? Three fundamental reasons:

1) Our invasion of Iraq is seen as a premeditated and unjust war to crush a weak Arab nation that had not threatened or attacked us, to seize its oil.

2) We are seen as an arrogant imperial superpower that dictates to Arab peoples and sustains regimes that oppress them.

3) We are seen as the financier and armorer of an Israel that oppresses and robs Palestinians of their land and denies them rights we hypocritically preach to the world.

Until we address these perceptions and causes of the conflict between us, we will not persuade the Arab world to follow us.

What should Bush do now? He should declare that the United States has no intention of establishing permanent bases in Iraq, and that we intend to withdraw all U.S. troops after elections, if the Iraqis tell us to leave. Then we should schedule elections at the earliest possible date this year.

The Iraqi peoples should then be told that U.S. soldiers are not going to fight and die indefinitely for their freedom. If they do not want to be ruled by Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr or some future Saddam, they will have to fight themselves. Otherwise, they will have to live with them, even as they lived with Saddam. For in the last analysis, it is their country, not ours.


The president should also offer to withdraw U.S. forces from any Arab country that wishes us to leave. We have already pulled out of Saudi Arabia. Let us pull out of the rest unless they ask that we remain. Our military presence in these Arab and Islamic countries, it would seem, does less to prevent terror attacks upon us than to incite them. A presidential election is where the great foreign-policy debate should take place over whether to maintain U.S. troops all over the world, or bring them home and let other nations determine their own destiny. Unfortunately, we have two candidates and two parties that agree on our present foreign policy that is conspicuously failing.

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S. Hamm
Posted on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 05:58 pm:   

Michael,

I've found myself linking to Pat Buchanan articles more than once in the last few weeks, and it's truly a bizarre sensation. Today, thank goodness, you've taken care of Pat, so I'll use this opportunity to link to Seymour Hersh's latest New Yorker blockbuster, on how Don Rumsfeld's SAP came to Abu Ghraib.

S.
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mike
Posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 - 05:02 am:   

S.,

The last line in Hersh's article is "Rumsfeld has lowered the bar." This point is in reference to the statutes of the Geneva Convention, and it has real significance to the treatment of American prisoners of war by the enemy, any enemy, anywhere in the world, but especially in the Middle East. Which is to say nothing at all about the vileness of the policy that the incidents of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib document for the world. Anyway, thanks for the link.
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Bob K.
Posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 - 04:36 pm:   

I forwarded your post to several friends and family members this past weekend. So far no response, but hopefully it's provoked thought. Buchanan's remarks about digital cameras brings up a point that I've been thinking about for some time and seems to be gaining more attention in the media -- namely, that recent technology has created a view into what war's really about that we've never had before. The point was made in Vietnam and the last Gulf conflict, but the media channels in both cases were relatively fixed and certainly one-way. There's been a lot of discourse the past few decades about how media technology has helped open up totalitarian countries. Well, now it's starting to open up the grim machinery of our foreign policy. That, at least, seems a hopeful development in this mess.

Bob
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T Andrews
Posted on Tuesday, May 18, 2004 - 01:08 pm:   

S. Hamm~ fantastic link. It's a sobering read!
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - 09:14 am:   

Michael,

Somewhat akin to the unique power of Nixon to open China and Clinton to reform welfare, it may be necessary for the Right to confront the errors of the Right. Maybe those of us on the other side can only provide comfort to our own, while Bushco might listen to the Buchanans, Wills, and Kristols.

Thank you for the posting. As a neighbor from Waverly Hall, it's good to hear a kindred spirit from these parts.
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mike
Posted on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 - 01:05 pm:   

Tom,

Thanks for dropping by, and for commenting. I would have been here earlier but I spent my morning pressure-washing the front porch of our house, knocking off clumps of slopping Astroturf-like moss or algae that had attached to the shingles over the past several years. Forgive that aside -- I think you're right about how only the right can have real impact on Bush & Co, unless of course we manage to turn them all out this coming November. Waverly Hall, eh? I'm glad to know that someone else in this neck of the woods occasionally drops in on the Night Shade Books message boards.

Bob, I like your observations about digital cameras having the same effect on American foreign policy that they do on the policies of totalitarian countries. And not just digital cameras, of course, but communication technology in general.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2004 - 08:16 am:   

Mike,

Constant maintenance is one of the "joys" of living in the country. Right now, we're battling the march of the centipedes,rising up out of our pond seeking cooler climes inside.

I'm definitely with you about throwing them out in November, but I'd like to see them stop the killing asap. We need to do everything we can.

Concerning Nightshade, I'm just exploring it for the first time. I found it after looking up your "official" website. We've recently returned to the area and I am very interested in bringing together some of the local artist/writers/etc. with an eye toward bringing some "culture" to the county.

We met at a Writer's Guild meeting in Talbotton a long while back and I've kind of followed your creative evolution over the years.

Anyhow, good talking to you. Maybe we can get some Mexican food in Pine Mountain sometime !
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mike
Posted on Thursday, May 20, 2004 - 01:18 pm:   

Tom,

Thanks for reminding me about that meeting in Talbotton. I don't know about any more meetings per meetings, as I just attended one today at LaGrange College for those teaching the Humanities program there in the coming academic year. But I'm sure that at some point we can hook up for a get-together.

A good message today from William Rivers Pitt about the Abu Ghraib mess. It begins with these paragraphs:

[ Back in November of 2003, retired Special Forces master sergeant Stan Goff played the role of prophet in an open letter he wrote to American soldiers engaged in the occupation of Iraq. In his letter, Goff wrote:


[ "Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses. So if your rage needs a target, there they are, responsible for your being there, and responsible for keeping you there. I can't tell you to disobey...But it is perfectly legal for you to refuse illegal orders, and orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Ordering you to keep silent about these crimes is also illegal."


[ Orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Orders to keep soldiers silent about these crimes are also illegal. Six months after Goff wrote those words, we find ourselves drowning in the exact catastrophe he warned of. Seven U.S. service people are accused of visiting torture and abominations upon the bodies and souls of Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Prisoners were beaten, sodomized with chemical lights and bananas, raped, molested, attacked by dogs, and their dead bodies were mocked and defiled. ]

. . . and there's more. Enough to convince any rational person of the need to bring about a change not only in Iraq, but also in the leadership of the United States.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 07:56 am:   


The AP ran a story yesterday quoting an MP's account of duty in Abu Ghraib: "We never talked about the things we did. There were no orders. It's just the way things were. There was nothing to talk about." Reminiscent of Hannah Arendt's "banality of evil" in reference to the Nazis.

The constant rat-a-tat of "War on Terror" truisms has painted a picture of a dehumanized enemy that has to look a lot like anybody with a mustache and/or turban to an 18 year old trying to do his duty.

People of good will have a duty to provide an intelligent response that points to the true picture with all the facts we can get hold of. No agenda but the truth. An answer, not an echo.
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mike
Posted on Friday, May 21, 2004 - 05:38 pm:   

Amen.
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mike
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 05:59 am:   

Bush spoke about the war last night and proposed tearing down Abu Ghraib and building a brand-new, wholly modern prison facility in its place. I know that if I were an Iraqi, I'd be thrilled. And it's not that I think tearing down Abu Ghraib a bad idea (although one gets the sense that Dubya came to it a little late), it's rather that building a new prison falls a little short of hearts-and-mind-winning inspiration. It's sort of like resolving to replace an ancient, dilapidated eyesore with an up-to-date, architecturally innovative eyesore. An old cesspool with a new one. It's not exactly thinking outside the spirit-muffling parameters of the current debate. . . .
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Tuesday, May 25, 2004 - 08:35 am:   

Gosh, I really thought everyone would be tremendously inspired and relieved by the knowledge that we would be rebuilding the prisons of Iraq.

Joe Biden's apoplectic reaction to the speech last night best reflected my own feelings: these people don't understand that wishing and praying just won't make "democracy" happen.

America must show by example that problem solving begins with understanding the people and situations you're working with and constantly retuning your efforts, not "staying the course", particularly if, in the words of Gen. Zinni, the "course is taking you over Niagara Falls."
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mike
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 12:48 pm:   

Halliburton and our tax dollars at work, all on behalf of a more secure society, so long as the reprobates don't blow up everything before we can incarcerate, interrogate, and humiliate them.
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S. Hamm
Posted on Wednesday, May 26, 2004 - 11:25 pm:   

Did you see this article, in which various Iraqis express complete indifference to the idea of razing Abu Ghraib?
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mike
Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 06:31 am:   

Hadn't seen this particular article, but had seen other pieces pointing out that most Iraqis don't see any great value in tearing down the prison; they would rather that both American and Iraqi officials take steps to put period to abuse of any kind in the facility; they consider demolishing Abu Ghraib itself a "waste of resources," particularly when the country continues to have major problems with its infrastructure and daily services -- owing to the insurgency, of course, as well as to occasionally bewildering American priorities. Thanks for posting the article.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:03 am:   

Had the misfortune to listen to Sean Hannity on right-wing whack-job radio coming back from Atlanta late last night. He was "reviewing" Gore's remarks, labelling them insane and bordering on treason.

What can we do to affect the hearts and minds of our own people ? This is more than political disagreement. His widely-shared beliefs reflect a looking glass perception of reality that must be the work of a different logic machine. How can a brain be so differntly wired ? Rupert Murdoch can't be the only one responsible !

More importantly, what can we do with words or actions to dent or shatter that looking glass ? I'm going to a Kerry meetup in Columbus tonight, but this problem goes way beyond elections. A fifty-fifty nation where half are the Imhofes, Limbaughs and Hannitys will not be healed by electoral votes.

A little frustration creeping in ? I guess.
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mike
Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 07:18 am:   

We're all frustrated, I think, and it is clearly the case that a black-white dichomoty has arisen in the American political debate. (Or call it red-blue.) Jack McDevitt sent me this observation earlier this morning:

"There's an article in the Washington Post Weekly about why we're [becoming] a red-blue ultra-divided nation. One of the reasons, they say, is the lack of a serious external threat. I suppose we could all agree on how to handle the USSR. But these cutthroats are complicated."

It does seem to me, however, that most sane people, i.e. those not committed to the Bush machine no matter what idiocies it proposes and/or perpetrates, would agree that charging into Iraq with a bogus rationale and no coherent plan for the invasion's aftermath does not serve our nation's, or the world's, best interests. I bailed on Clinton -- except for opposing the impeachment process -- when it became obvious that he was lying through his teeth, but I have the sense that Bush's advocates would continue to support the man if he were caught in flagrante delicto with underage armadillo roadkill. And so one must wonder, indeed, about either their judgment or their sanity. A statement, I note with some chagrin, that makes me sound a little like the egregious Mr. Hannity.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, May 27, 2004 - 09:02 am:   

Tom Friedman's column this morning in the NY Times suggests a viable beginning. He urges us to adopt a policy that emphasizes the bedrock American values of democracy:

"Unfortunately, the Bush team reacted to 9/11 as if all the old rules and methods had to go. I believe 9/11 was gigantic. But the old rule book —emphasizing allies, the Geneva Conventions, self-sacrifice, economic development, education, Arab-Israeli diplomacy — was and remains our greatest source of strength in the effort to promote gradual reform in the regions most likely to breed threats to our open society.

The answer for us lies not in what has changed, but in recognizing what has not changed. Because only through this recognition will we focus on an effective multilateral response to W.M.D. proliferation, the creation of real stakeholders in globalization among the world's poor, the need for reform in the Arab world and a style of U.S. leadership that seeks to build our base of support worldwide by getting more people to voluntarily sign onto our values. We need to remember that those values are the real foundation for our security and the real source of our strength. And we need to recognize that our enemies can never defeat us — only we can defeat ourselves, by throwing out the rule book that has worked for us for a long, long time."

He advocates a series of measures that would reduce our dependence on Mideast oil, encourage more foreign students to study American values and introduce fairness in our Trade policies. While I don't always agree with Friedman, he often focuses on the Islamic youth, the potential enemies of our grandchildren. If we don't offer them alternatives, we will face a "neverending war."

I agree that handling the Soviet Union was a more comprensible problem, but I don't think whipping the country into unquenchable rage based on fear will bring peace to anyone. We must look beyond the horror of behadings to face the real truth behind our enemies' acts, and our own.
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mike
Posted on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 06:47 am:   

Tom,

The comment "The answer for us lies not in what has changed, but in recognizing what has not changed," contains a subtle, but also a great deal of practical, wisdom. And we should apply it. I agree wholeheartedly with the statements in your final paragraph.

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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, May 28, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

The insight expressed in that statement moved me as well. Heading to the mountains of Colorado for the weekend. Maybe the thin air will prove restorative. Wisdom from anoxia ?

Have a great weekend !
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mike
Posted on Saturday, May 29, 2004 - 05:32 am:   

Tom,

Likewise. Take a couple of good gulps of that mountain air for us.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Tuesday, June 01, 2004 - 08:17 am:   

Absolutely beautiful in Denver. The blizzard in Winter Park was even more refreshing in its own way. A nice break from the humidity we had down here.

The back side of Berthoud Pass is just starting to develop, so the spring snow flocks only scrub, trees and rocks. Whether or not the promised wisdom arrived, it’s hard not to be moved by the awesome physical beauty of this country. This land: America.

Flag-wrapped plans and policies drenched in greed, self-interest, destruction and blood are almost obscene. The land doesn’t cry out for jingoistic nationalism. It resists possession. The old barbed-wire fences, long overrun by sage, allow the visitor to wander unimpaired through forest, pasture and stream. Freedom.

Three thoughts: 11 minutes of Sixty Minutes devoted to unnamed photos of the 807 soldiers killed in Iraq. An unbroken stream of fresh-faced smiling kids. You could taste the loss, the broken dreams. I found myself crying.

Bookended the trip with Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air and Into the Wild), two Mormon Fundamentalists told by God to slash the throats of a mother and infant, and Greg Bear's Darwin’s Children with its terrifying Emergency Action folks doing their Ashcroft imitation.

I hope you don’t mind my use of your message board for general rumination. It’s become a very comfortable outlet.
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mike
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 06:32 am:   

I don't mind at all. My experience of this board has been that nothing sustains discussion very long, as a thread topic, except sports and manuscript-preparation inquiries. There's a really long thread on the F&SF board, for example, about preferred keyboard fonts (to which I actually contributed a message, alas), so I'm glad to have you drop in and talk about Denver, Winter Park, Berthoud Pass, the photos of 807 soldiers killed in Iraq (allegedly for "freedom," but practically, I fear, for the political and mercenary ends of the chickenhawk neocons currently misdirecting the executive branch), and the books that you're now reading. God save us all from the God-bespoke.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 07:23 am:   

"mercenary...chickenhawk...misdirecting" ? When are you going to stop beating around the Bush and say what you really mean ?

You don't think we should keep following Ahmad Chalabi toward the light at the end of the drilling rig, I mean tunnel ?

Thanks for the welcome.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 09:11 am:   

" My experience of this board has been that nothing sustains discussion very long, as a thread topic, except sports and manuscript-preparation inquiries."

I think, Mike, you left off movies and music from your list. My feeling about message boards is that they're perfect for such trivial matters and not so good for anything else, because--for one thing--you never know when some troll is going to drop in and mess things up. (Actually, I'm not sure how much I value serious political discussion in any forum, but that's another matter). Further, serious political discussion on message board tends, in my view, toward the establishment of simplistic polarized attitudes. For instance, I have great respect for Seymour Hersh as a journalist, but the Kenneth Roth quote with which he concludes his piece referenced at the top of this thread, the ultimate summing-up point he seems to be trying to make, is insupportable in my view. Here it is:

"We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar."

The article itself is excellent, but this "moral of the story" hits a joltingly sour note. As if the world needed an excuse to ignore the Geneva Convention. As if everyone is following our noble lead in prisoner treatment and, now that we have fallen from our high standards, they--in their leaderless confusion, bereft of our unsullied moral light--are beginning to maltreat their captives. As if we have a grand and glorious tradition of benign inmate treatment in our "non-political" prisons.

When I was in jail in NYC many years ago, I awaited trial at the Brooklyn House of Detenton, a very soft prison compared to the others in the state system. A number of guards at Brooklyn House were buying heroin from prisoners who had strong outside connections and walked around wasted and in a foul mood. Most of the guards were dead bored and borderline psycho from having to spend a goodly portion of their lives in the deranged facilities of the prison and random beatings and degradations were the order of the day. I myself was beaten on several occasions with leather-sheathed blackjacks for offenses such as having inadvertantly gotten into the wrong lunch line and meeting one of the guard's eyes. Brooklyn House is ten stories tall, designated for youthful offenders, and one is assigned to a certain floor and cellblock according to the nature of one's crime. At that time the tenth floor housed both the commissary and a cellblock. I was incarcerated on the fourth floor (car thieves, drug offenders, B&E suspects), but once a day I was permitted to go up to the tenth floor to buy cigarettes, candy, whatever. From the commissary queue, you had a fine view of the tenth floor cellblock, where murderers and homosexual offenders were housed together. I can't recall a single day when a brutal fight or beating was not in progress. The guards would watch, laugh, sometimes make bets, and every once in a while, standing outside the block, they would turn a fire hose on the combatants, and thereafter they would clear the commissary and go into the block with weapons drawn. I would hear screams from the block as I was herded into the elevator. I could go on with a list of further atrocities and violations, one that would at least equal in infamy those we know occurred in Abu Gharaib, but hopefully the point is made.

I'm a leftist, and this war strikes me as a particularly odious instance of Democracy in Action. Cambone and Rumsfeld ought to be handed over along with Iraq, IMO. But the kind of liberal finger-wagging with which Hersh concludes his piece disturbs me, and it saddens me when people don't react to it other than to nod their heads and say, Oh, my! The Geneva Convention is an admirable stance, but as a practical matter, it's a joke. The USA has not been, if ever it was, a role model, especially as regards any aspect of its foreign policy. World domination has been the goal of this county since the idea of such domination became plausible. George Bush is just the latest chapter in a long ugly story.

In any case, this is not an attempt on my part to disrupt your thread, to argue about the relative horrors of this or any war, the sins and virtues of America, but rather seeks to defend the essential triviality of message boards. Obviously, everyone should use them as they wish. That's fine. But for my part, the board is where I come to be trivial and I think I do a damn fine job of it. :-)
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 09:51 am:   

Lucius,

While I may lean in the same direction and share a lot of your views concerning America's historic role, I am a little confused about your take on the trivial nature of our opinions of music, movies, and the politics of the country. If our means of individual expression and social interaction are trivial, what isn't ?



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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 10:23 am:   

Tom, I consider gassing about movies and music and sports et al, because they're entertaiment, and it's the cyberversion of water cooler talk--despite the increase of fan violence, I seriously doubt me and Alex Ivrvine, Laker and Piston fan respectively, will come to hooks over the outcome of the NBA final, or that Jeff Vandermeer and I would go to the ground vis a vis the role of Slint in the evolution of indie rock. There is, I believe, a distinction between those topics and politics, in that politics evokes a more virulent and volatile brand of passion and, if we are to take the matter seriously, demands of us a more passionate involvement, more conviction, and more sacrifice. In my time, I've not expended a great deal of energy toward saving the indie film or freeing rock and roll from the grip of its corporate oppressors, but I've had occasion to contribute poltically in a small way and that has taken a lot of time and energy. So, I'm speaking relatively here. I don't believe sports or art in any form can have a profound positive influence in the world today, whereas there's some scant hope remaining for political action. Perhaps "trivial" is not the most fortunate of terms, but when the adverb "relatively" is added in, I'll stand by the statement.
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R.Wilder
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 01:47 pm:   

Politics is a grim serious business and movies, music and sports is way cool fucking shit. So we got grim and serious as opposed to cool and fucking. Fucking trivial? Nahhh. Cool shit trivial? Uh uh. And not grim, dark heart wrenching cesspool, like politics. Serious.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2004 - 02:20 pm:   

Well, like it seems to be a matter of defining one 's terms. I have a Roman Catholic background and so cool fucking shit is to be decried, ergo -- trivial. :-)
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 06:54 am:   

I guess the key word is "gassing". Just talking about art and politics does amount to very little in the long run, but actions might.

As an early Civil Rights and peace activist, I too encourage participatory response rather than self-congratulatory rhetoric, but I still have to disagree about the role of art in human events. Politics is the action-reaction to individual situations. The arts move and change the soul (Roman Catholic enough for you ?). Discussion and participation in them can result in changed agendas, real change. Is Iraq really about WMD's or evildoers ? Or the soul of the neo-cons ?

After forty years, early-Vietnam and Gene McCarthy, I have almost given up on the political fray. Too often it serves only the ego of the party loyalists. I'll support anyone against BushCo, but I want to get to the issues beneath the "issues". I've seen what a literary, musical or theatrical experience can do to a group of people, even if for only a short time. Maybe only one in a thousand takes that experience into their home or marketplace, but the effect can be extraordinary.

The Trivial Pursuit, ego-massage, aspects of movies or music discussions aside, the response of one human being to the expression of another does matter. As to sports: Go Jackets !!! And occasionally, "cool fucking shit" is as good as it gets !
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 07:34 am:   

I wish, Tom, I was less cynical and could accept the fact that art changes souls, or habits, or instititutions, but I just don't buy it. All the poets and writers and etc whom I read when I was a teenager, those who professed a belief in the power of art to effect significant change, I now think they were either sophomoric idiots or in love with the sound of their own prattle. Even if I grant they were right to a degree in their own day, anyone saying the same thing today...Well, it's not that I don't believe entertainment can't be coercive and persuade you to buy chocolate bars wrapped in blue instead of red, okay? But I think the audience for the kind of art that might effect soul-change (if such is possible) has been drastically shrunk. As to the sort of change you speak of, the group experience, I liken that to the effects of revivalism. When people go to a revival meeting and, amidst a group fervor, accept Jesus, then go home and sin their butts off, which is what seems to happen, I don't give it much credulity. Maybe one person in a thousand does take something real home with them, but by the time it's filtered, processed, regurgitated, and re-interpreted by another audience,the good effect has been so diluted, it's like spit in a river. This doesn't mean that I'm endorsing giving up the effort. Sysyphean effort is the lot of humankind. But a real, pronounced effect...? Guess we're gonna have to disagree on that point.
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 08:13 am:   

I think Lucius is essentially right. I think of how many Republicans I know who listen to the Sex Pistols or other bands and really love that music, totally missing the point of what the lyrics are saying.

I do think that writers of fiction can still serve as effective chroniclers of the politics and injustices of their times, so long as it is hardwired into character and plot, and is not done as lecturing. Who it convinces who otherwise would have gone over to the "dark side"? Probably no one. But such fiction can, I would imagine, bring into focus for like-minded readers *why* they feel the way they do. That's much more limited an effect, though, than what's been discussed.

JeffV
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 09:04 am:   

So the art you both have been exposed to, or that which affected your family, friends, etc. had no effect on your current beliefs ? Sounds like your statements beg the question. Something made you who you are. Was it just the market ? Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood ? Personal experience alone ?

Art doesn't have to preach, but it must have an effect if it is any good at all. I agree about the "revival" effect, but I will continue to encourage all of us to "spit in a river". Limited effect, maybe, but it's all we've got.

I'll continue to look for "Uncle Tom's Cabin", Bob Dylan, Camus, Beckett, Walt Whitman, Miles Davis, Rage Against the Machine and NWA. The corporate entertainment complex may try to suck the life out of any "real" expression, but every kid out there struggling with a paragraph, blues progression or rap lyric advances the cause.

Keep pushing that rock.
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JV
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 09:08 am:   

Tom:
There's bigger game afoot than political expression in most fiction I read.

Yeah--go look for Bob Dylan. I think you'll find him in a Victoria Secret store somewhere near you.

Jeff
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 09:32 am:   

You're right about that. Breaks my heart, but the Stones sold out a while back too. We all do.
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Lucius
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 10:55 am:   

Something made you who you are....Yeah. But was it art? Well, in a way it was, but, in my case, it was art weilded as a weapon. I was forcefed literature, opera, etc, when I was kid, and though I did my best to break that conditioning, it came back on me later in life. So what essentially made me who I am wasn't art but the obsessions of a crazy old man, and art just happened to be part of his obessessiveness. Certainly what I read played a part, certainly you can't isolate a single causal element out for any human result, but if my old man had been into carpentry and not James Joyce and the romantics, I'd be banging nails, probably, and listening to white-boy rock, not mostly jazz. I find that people such as you cite -- Camus, et al -- don't influence me as much as they reinforce things i believe. Influence is hard to pin down. I've been asked, as every writer has, what writers have influenced you, and I never know how to answer that, because I write nothing like the writers I most revere. I usually just come up with some bullshit answer, because I don't know - I think people often cite as influences people who reinforce something they know about themselves or something other people see in them, and they may be less clear about who their real influences are.

Anyway, I agree Tom...keep spitting. I simply don't feel it changes the flavor of the water that much...
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, June 03, 2004 - 12:37 pm:   

All this started with a discussion of whether art or talking about such things was trivial or not. I think all of us agree that it is one of many influences in our lives. OK. Let's just keep at it and its ultimate consequences be damned.

I'd just rather encourage self-expression before it does become homogenized and digested by the corporate beast. It's one of the few things left that may be real. If talking about it makes it a little more present in our lives than something has been accomplished.

I'm neither a writer, artist nor musician, but I won't live without any of them. They make me whole and keep me open to others. That's enough.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Saturday, June 05, 2004 - 08:25 am:   

An old hero:

Published on Wednesday, May 12, 2004 by In These Times

Cold Turkey
by Kurt Vonnegut

Many years ago, I was so innocent I still considered it
possible that we could become the humane and reasonable
America so many members of my generation used to dream of. We
dreamed of such an America during the Great Depression, when
there were no jobs. And then we fought and often died for that
dream during the Second World War, when there was no peace.
But I know now that there is not a chance in hell of America’s
becoming humane and reasonable. Because power corrupts us, and
absolute power corrupts absolutely. Human beings are
chimpanzees who get crazy drunk on power. By saying that our
leaders are power-drunk chimpanzees, am I in danger of
wrecking the morale of our soldiers fighting and dying in the
Middle East? Their morale, like so many bodies, is already
shot to pieces. They are being treated, as I never was, like
toys a rich kid got for Christmas.

-------------------------

When you get to my age, if you get to my age, which is 81, and
if you have reproduced, you will find yourself asking your own
children, who are themselves middle-aged, what life is all
about. I have seven kids, four of them adopted.
Many of you reading this are probably the same age as my
grandchildren. They, like you, are being royally shafted and
lied to by our Baby Boomer corporations and government.
I put my big question about life to my biological son Mark.
Mark is a pediatrician, and author of a memoir, The Eden
Express. It is about his crackup, straightjacket and padded
cell stuff, from which he recovered sufficiently to graduate
from Harvard Medical School.
Dr. Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: “Father, we
are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever
it is.” So I pass that on to you. Write it down, and put it in
your computer, so you can forget it.
I have to say that’s a pretty good sound bite, almost as good
as, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A lot
of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the
sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by
Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, 500 years before there was
that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus
Christ.
The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the
formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used
gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then
that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was
another one.
But back to people, like Confucius and Jesus and my son the
doctor, Mark, who’ve said how we could behave more humanely,
and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my
favorites is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state
of Indiana. Get a load of this:
Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was only 4, ran 5
times as the Socialist Party candidate for president, winning
900,000 votes, 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you
can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while
campaigning:
As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.
As long as there is a criminal element, I’m of it.
As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Doesn’t anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like
great public schools or health insurance for all?
How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the
children of God. …
And so on.
Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly
Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.
For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never
mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes,
they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public
buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t
heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the
Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.
“Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the
peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

-------------------------

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I
don’t know what can be done to fix it. This is it: Only nut
cases want to be president.
But, when you stop to think about it, only a nut case would
want to be a human being, if he or she had a choice. Such
treacherous, untrustworthy, lying and greedy animals we are!
I was born a human being in 1922 A.D. What does “A.D.”
signify? That commemorates an inmate of this lunatic asylum we
call Earth who was nailed to a wooden cross by a bunch of
other inmates. With him still conscious, they hammered spikes
through his wrists and insteps, and into the wood. Then they
set the cross upright, so he dangled up there where even the
shortest person in the crowd could see him writhing this way
and that.
Can you imagine people doing such a thing to a person?
No problem. That’s entertainment. Ask the devout Roman
Catholic Mel Gibson, who, as an act of piety, has just made a
fortune with a movie about how Jesus was tortured. Never mind
what Jesus said.
During the reign of King Henry the Eighth, founder of the
Church of England, he had a counterfeiter boiled alive in
public. Show biz again.
Mel Gibson’s next movie should be The Counterfeiter. Box
office records will again be broken.
One of the few good things about modern times: If you die
horribly on television, you will not have died in vain. You
will have entertained us.

-------------------------

And what did the great British historian Edward Gibbon,
1737-1794 A.D., have to say about the human record so far? He
said, “History is indeed little more than the register of the
crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.”
The same can be said about this morning’s edition of the New
York Times.
The French-Algerian writer Albert Camus, who won a Nobel Prize
for Literature in 1957, wrote, “There is but one truly serious
philosophical problem, and that is suicide.”
So there’s another barrel of laughs from literature. Camus
died in an automobile accident. His dates? 1913-1960 A.D.
Listen. All great literature is about what a bummer it is to
be a human being: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn, The Red Badge
of Courage, the Iliad and the Odyssey, Crime and Punishment,
the Bible and The Charge of the Light Brigade.
But I have to say this in defense of humankind: No matter in
what era in history, including the Garden of Eden, everybody
just got there. And, except for the Garden of Eden, there were
already all these crazy games going on, which could make you
act crazy, even if you weren’t crazy to begin with. Some of
the games that were already going on when you got here were
love and hate, liberalism and conservatism, automobiles and
credit cards, golf and girls’ basketball.
Even crazier than golf, though, is modern American politics,
where, thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can
only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or
a conservative.
Actually, this same sort of thing happened to the people of
England generations ago, and Sir William Gilbert, of the
radical team of Gilbert and Sullivan, wrote these words for a
song about it back then:
I often think it’s comical
How nature always does contrive
That every boy and every gal
That’s born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative.
Which one are you in this country? It’s practically a law of
life that you have to be one or the other? If you aren’t one
or the other, you might as well be a doughnut.
If some of you still haven’t decided, I’ll make it easy for
you.
If you want to take my guns away from me, and you’re all for
murdering fetuses, and love it when homosexuals marry each
other, and want to give them kitchen appliances at their
showers, and you’re for the poor, you’re a liberal.
If you are against those perversions and for the rich, you’re
a conservative.
What could be simpler?

-------------------------

My government’s got a war on drugs. But get this: The two most
widely abused and addictive and destructive of all substances
are both perfectly legal.
One, of course, is ethyl alcohol. And President George W.
Bush, no less, and by his own admission, was smashed or
tiddley-poo or four sheets to the wind a good deal of the time
from when he was 16 until he was 41. When he was 41, he says,
Jesus appeared to him and made him knock off the sauce, stop
gargling nose paint.
Other drunks have seen pink elephants.
And do you know why I think he is so pissed off at Arabs? They
invented algebra. Arabs also invented the numbers we use,
including a symbol for nothing, which nobody else had ever had
before. You think Arabs are dumb? Try doing long division with
Roman numerals.
We’re spreading democracy, are we? Same way European explorers
brought Christianity to the Indians, what we now call “Native
Americans.”
How ungrateful they were! How ungrateful are the people of
Baghdad today.
So let’s give another big tax cut to the super-rich. That’ll
teach bin Laden a lesson he won’t soon forget. Hail to the
Chief.
That chief and his cohorts have as little to do with Democracy
as the Europeans had to do with Christianity. We the people
have absolutely no say in whatever they choose to do next. In
case you haven’t noticed, they’ve already cleaned out the
treasury, passing it out to pals in the war and national
security rackets, leaving your generation and the next one
with a perfectly enormous debt that you’ll be asked to repay.
Nobody let out a peep when they did that to you, because they
have disconnected every burglar alarm in the Constitution: The
House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the free press
(which, having been embedded, has forsaken the First
Amendment) and We the People.
About my own history of foreign substance abuse. I’ve been a
coward about heroin and cocaine and LSD and so on, afraid they
might put me over the edge. I did smoke a joint of marijuana
one time with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, just to be
sociable. It didn’t seem to do anything to me, one way or the
other, so I never did it again. And by the grace of God, or
whatever, I am not an alcoholic, largely a matter of genes. I
take a couple of drinks now and then, and will do it again
tonight. But two is my limit. No problem.
I am of course notoriously hooked on cigarettes. I keep hoping
the things will kill me. A fire at one end and a fool at the
other.
But I’ll tell you one thing: I once had a high that not even
crack cocaine could match. That was when I got my first
driver’s license! Look out, world, here comes Kurt Vonnegut.
And my car back then, a Studebaker, as I recall, was powered,
as are almost all means of transportation and other machinery
today, and electric power plants and furnaces, by the most
abused and addictive and destructive drugs of all: fossil
fuels.
When you got here, even when I got here, the industrialized
world was already hopelessly hooked on fossil fuels, and very
soon now there won’t be any more of those. Cold turkey.
Can I tell you the truth? I mean this isn’t like TV news, is
it?
Here’s what I think the truth is: We are all addicts of fossil
fuels in a state of denial, about to face cold turkey.
And like so many addicts about to face cold turkey, our
leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little
is left of what we’re hooked on.

© 2004 In These Times
###

© Copyrighted 1997-2004
www.commondreams.org

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Tom Walsh
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 08:32 am:   

Am I the only one not afflicted with total amnesia of the Reagan days ? What corporate media plan is being foisted upon us with 24/7 media coverage of a flag-wrapped box and drooling "tributes" by the boys of 1994 and their talk-radio flaks who wouldn't exist without "this gallant grandfather of our country" ?

Does no one remember Mike Deaver's festooned White House MGM set and the rehearsed, if not fabricated, bon mots of this actor ? His destuction of the Air Traffic Controllers, monster deficits, recession and Iran-Contra ? If for no other reason, his spawning of Rush, Sean, Ollie, Ann Coulter and their ilk, not to mention the availability of a microphone to his son Michael, should be enough to sully his memory forever.

I was not overly impressed with the House Democrats, Carter or Clinton either, but let's not let the contrast with this background cloud our memory of the Gipper. He was a nasty, befuddled old man with a Hollywood smile and a mean-spirited wife.

Some of us remember.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 01:31 pm:   

You're not alone, Tom. I've found myself lunging to shut off the radio just like I did 20 years ago whenever the idiot was on the air. Life is too short to waste any of it listening to people praise a man who did so much damage to our country, not to mention the world.
Be glad you're not in Washington, where there are apparently many thousands of people standing in line to look at Ronnie's coffin. (I say apparently because I'm not about to go over to Capitol Hill and check out the crowds for myself. Don't like crowds.) Not to mention jets flying around everywhere and traffic completely screwed up by motorcades and such.
On the bright side, I got an extra day of vacation out of all this hoopla, and I don't even have to take it on the day of the funeral. First time I ever got something of value because of the man.

Nancy
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, June 11, 2004 - 07:12 am:   

Enjoy your day off whenever you take it. Maybe you can consider it a day in honor of Ray Charles, a man at least as deserving of recognition. His version of "Georgia" still makes me cry, and I'm from New York.
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mike
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 07:07 am:   

Wow. I've been gone a little over a week, and a real discussion took place on this thread in my absence. Suggests strongly to me that I ought to go off into the wilderness more often. In any event, I find the exchanges from June 2 forward pretty energizing, if only I had the time to comment. I especially appreciated Lucius's dropping in and talking about his experiences in the Brooklyn House of Detention. I'm of the (fairly constant) opinion that righteous political action can have its effect, but that, eventually, you -- or someone -- will have to engage in the same or a similar battle again, because of the entropic pattern of human as well as natural events. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, as somebody said. But eternal vigilance appears to be the cost of just about everything of value. Got to get off and go back to work.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 16, 2004 - 07:14 am:   

Entropy, Sisyphus, spitting in a river ? Bright, sunny, hopeful place you've returned to. Sounds like the wilderness might have been a better choice !

Welcome back, Mike. You've been missed.

Unfortunately, the news doesn't seem to have changed much, except now we can expect pictures of naked, hooded American mechanics standing wired on boxes. Reagan's shoe-shine boy and 3rd grade classmates have all finished testifying to his saintly nature; Ron Jr. has been appropriately chastised for his anti-religious hypocrisy fervor and Rush Limbaugh's third wife dumped him. So God's in his heaven and all's right with the world.

"Shared pain is lessened, shared joy is increased. Thus do we refute entropy" - Spider Robinson
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mike
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 12:31 pm:   

Spider Robinson a philosopher? Yes, maybe he is. I can only concur in this case. Thanks for the welcome home. I've been working hard ever since getting here, and this was my first chance today to drop in on the Abu Ghraib thread.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Thursday, June 17, 2004 - 03:25 pm:   

You all might be interested to learn that the Center for Constitutional Rights has brought a class action against the private contractors who apparently handled interrogations at Abu Ghraib. The suit is on behalf of the detainees and the relatives of any who died. I don't know how far it will get -- cases that involve foreign plaintiffs against US defendants for actions that took place in another country are difficult to bring, but this one obviously involves unusual facts. I'll keep you posted as I hear more.

Nancy
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mike
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 06:23 am:   

Nancy, thanks for this information. By the way, have you heard anything from H. Morhaim? After forwarding your letter, with encouraging remarks of my own, I've heard nothing. If need be, I'll inquire again. Let me know.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 06:50 am:   

Forget the song, the word "Georgia" makes most decent folks cry. :-)

Be interesting, not that the Walil death in the Afghani detainee camp has been revealed, whether there will be murder charges. Beaten to deatth with a flashlight ought to warrant at least a second degree charge, you figure.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 08:08 am:   

Crimes against "evildoers" don't always incur the fairest of punishments. The lawsuit Nancy mentions is significant, though. It's important to chase these people out of their spider holes by every means necessary: the press, Senate hearings and the courts.

Without a critical mass of public outrage, stories tend to vaporize. How many Abu Ghraib stories have you seen lately ? Their shelf-life has almost been lived. It's all about pressure and shining the light on their criminal intent, see "Rumsfeld, Donald".

I still maintain that the root of the problem is that we continue to see these people as "other". The administration and the corporate press continues to see to that. As long as we perceive them as existing apart from the the human community, we can beat them with the heaviest object we can find.
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Lucius
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 08:17 am:   

"Their shelf-life has almost been lived. It's all about pressure and shining the light on their criminal intent, see "Rumsfeld, Donald".

Well, there was the Wail story today, which, while not stricly Abu Ghraib, is associational. Now Regan's in his box, the news stories will resurface. We have trials to come, more investigative stuff. It's not a gimme by any means that the story is dead. It's possible it is, but there's hope.

The root of the problem, IMO, has nothing to do with prejudice and everything to do with the corporate media and the increasingly dumbed-down state of the public, two items that walk hand in hand. The white noise of the media machinery eventually erodes every sensibility.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 08:36 am:   

Oh, by the way, Lucius, as a transplanted New Yorker and Coloradan, I've found a lot to love about Georgia. There are those peaches ! :-)
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Friday, June 18, 2004 - 08:44 am:   

Whether we get there through prejudice or corporate brainwashing or both, we must resist the knee-jerk impulse to destroy "those people". We still have to share the planet with them for the forseeable future, so we'd better figure out how to do that. Ashcroft, airport and shopping mall security will not protect us.

BTW, Todd Gitlin has a good book on the white noise, whose name I can't remember, but it came out within the last year or so.
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mike
Posted on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 04:18 am:   

I, too, think the stories will resurface. But the beheading of Paul Johnson by Al Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia will reinvigorate those who justify our own brutalities by pointing to those so much more barbaric brutalities of Bin Laden's henchmen.
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Lucius
Posted on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 05:40 am:   

What the beheading mainly does is threatem teh House of Saud. It doesn't matter how the American public reacts, it's how the Saudi public reacts. So far they seem rather ambivalent, which denotes that the Saudi royals are on shaky ground. If the Sauds are overthrown, then the shit really hits the fan in the Middle East. The House of Saud is a pretty horrid mix of old ruthless sheiks who like American cash and young ruthless sheiks who swing the other way. Hell, they may bring themselves down.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 08:17 am:   

You know that when that happens, or even threatens to happen, Bushco will have their ultimate justification to move in and colonize the entire peninsula militarily. Added to our economic colonization, it will be the motivating force behind the New American Empire. This would be an ironic reinterpretation of Bush 41's New World Order.

Rumsfeld's lean and mean hi-tech Army will be even more inadequate to the task, and we'll get to do the Draft all over again. maybe then the American electorate will finally understand what's going on. Imagine all the Abu Ghraibs full of evildoers that our sons and daughters will be asked to guard then !

Once the colonization effort is complete and Old Glory flies from every oil derrick, we will all be able to buy Hummers and be safe from deranged Somalis blowing up our shopping malls. And other fairy tales...

Meanwhile it is projected that 300,000 Sudanese refugees will die of disease and hunger in Darfur. Perhaps John Kerry might endorse a shift in the priorities of our foreign policy.

On a lighter note, if you look up "Darfur" on the Excite Homepage, the fifth entry is for thousands of "Darfur items" for sale on EBay. Ah, capitalism !

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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 09:41 pm:   

One reason that won't happen.

We simply don't have the combat power.

And the American public isn't going to tolerate a draft (nor, for that matter, is the military).

Take it or leave it. But if the House of Saud does fall, then the shit does hit the fan.

That being said, one of Osama's main goals has always been to kick the Sauds out of power and install a government closer to his liking. It has been that way since the first party in the sand in 1991.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com

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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 08:31 am:   

I hope Steven is right about the American people not tolerating a draft. I don't have a lot of faith in the American people right now, but perhaps if the children of middle class families are threatened, they'll do something. God knows I have a nephew and a number of young friends in the right age group, and it scares the hell out of me.

I've also got some friends in the military right now, and I know that economics played a role in why they're there. I don't want to lose them in unnecessary war, either. I wish the American people would stop tolerating nonsense like our current foreign policy before it threatens them personally. I can, of course, come up with many more reasons to oppose our foreign policy besides loss of our soldiers, but I suppose loss of our people is the best way to get the public's attention.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how people are willing to put their lives on the line if they're convinced it's for the greater good -- for protecting their families or bringing democracy or making the right man king. Hell, there are lots of people who thirst for that kind of purpose to their lives. And leaders throughout history have exploited this willingness for incredibly selfish ends.

I got on this kick watching a production of Henry IV, Part II. It's much talkier than Part I -- all the action is off stage -- and you really start to understand that all these people are dying because of a power struggle among a few men. Some of the officers are taking the risk because their own power is tied to one man or the other, but the average soldier will be in the same boat no matter who's king. And yet they go out to die for one of these men, and many of them believe in it.

As an aside -- am I the only person who seriously doubts that the "terrorists" the Saudis killed a few hours after Johnson's death was reported were actually major players or even involved in his death?

Nancy
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 09:10 am:   

I understand what you both are saying about the draft and agree that it is highly unlikely. But just raising the issue might go a long way toward raising the consciousness of the middle class. That's where a good proportion of the voters are and currently they're on "all ragheads are evildoers" auto-pilot.

As for the Saudis, nothing they say can be taken at face value: one report mentioned that the reason they always kill their suspects very quickly is that the interconnections between rulers and "terrorists" run so deep that a testifying captive could prove quite embarassing.

If today's gas prices and the lines of the 1980's are a 6 on the Misery Index, a total breakdown of the world oil market is an 18 ! Even the Chinese can't let that happen. And someone tried to blow up Pakistan's natural gas fields yesterday.

Military force cannot solve this problem. You're right. We don't and never can have enough combat troops to fight in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Palestine, Sudan and Indonesia. Intelligence, law-enforcement, diplomacy and economic pressure must be used in concert to eradicate the use of terror.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 11:30 am:   

Oh, I'm right about the draft, and about not having enough combat power. The military is one tool of many that we should be using with concern to our current troubles.

Here is how I see our problem, and it has been this way for decades.

Our problem is that we, the United States, can't identify our enemy, fix them in place, and find a way to:

1. Kill them.
2. Co opt them.
3. Reason with them.
4. Neutralize them (money, culture, whatever).

This problem, it should be noted, isn't the military's to solve. The military is effectively a weapon and a fine one at that.

But we're blind due to slipshod intelligence, political agendas (and I hold everyone responsible for this, not just one party) and a lot of finger pointing.

You can give a blind man the most accurate rifle in the world. He still won't be able to hit shit with it if he can't see.

Having said that, I'm not in the camp of "We shouldn't be using the military" to facilitate a solution. Again, it is a tool we can and should use. I also don't have any qualms with the theory of using force in a preemptive manner, but as even I learned with the Iraq War, are we absolutely sure that we can interpret the actions of another nation as our intelligence capabilities currently stand?

So I think diplomacy (both the hard and soft kinds) along with law enforcement and economic pressure should be brought to bear.

But all of those tools in addition to the military will avail us not if we can't accurately:

1. Identify our problem.
2. Come to a common cross political party consensus on security issues.

The United States hasn't done either and thus, our problems will continue.

Regardless of who is president.

I thought I'd drop in and say something about this nonsense I hear from time to time about the U.S. going to invade other countries. It is physically impossible as the Army and Marines currently stand. And the military itself is resistant to a draft.

Even if we boosted the Army back to Gulf War strength, there still wouldn't be enough troops, nor of the quality (because quality troops require training and that is what costs so much in addition to weapons and support) we need.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 06:54 am:   

Steven's points are all well taken, but they beg the question: What is the problem we must identify ?

Is the problem America's overwhelming economic and cultural dominance ? Our intolerance of societies and cultures we don't understand ? Our greed ? Or our arrogant belief in a manifest destiny of the Judaeo-Christian belief system supporting market-driven, laissez-faire democracy as the only political system ?

We must protect ourselves in the short term, but we must find a more tolerant, less heavy-handed approach to the evangelical, missionary zeal with which we spread our message.

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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 07:09 am:   

Well Tom, I'd say the intolerance of societies and cultures that one doesn't understand is hardly just an American problem. Our Islamic Terrorist counterparts are hardly advocates of a diverse, egalitarian, tolerant society.

Intolerance is a human problem.

Second, find me a human who isn't, at heart, greedy and I'll show you either a liar or a hypocrite.

As for a laissez-faire economy, while the current version is hardly perfect, we are a long way from 1890.

Personally, with our current enemy, I think the problem is really simple to identify. This is a culture that, contrary to their own religious texts, treat women like dirt.

I think their main problem with us is that once their women get a good dose of Western Culture, they won't put up with the wife beating, the stonings for rape and infidelity, more or less the whole second class creature thing.

In other words, they don't want their women standing up and saying, "If you hit me one more time, I'm going to cut your nuts off while you sleep and shove them down your throat."

Having said that, we in America still have a ways to go on our own gender issues, but I think it all boils down to sex with our current enemy.

As for the "heavy-handed approach to the evangelical, missionary zeal," thing, I'd tell you that it wouldn't matter what ideology any particular American was spouting.

Every American who was deeply political that I have ever encounter, by they a Right Winger or a Left Winger, thumps everyone else in the head with their own particular brand of political evangelicalism.

It is especially prevalent in literature. You can't pick up a novel anymore without it reading like a political op-ed. I get sick of it, regardless of whose point of view it is.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 07:55 am:   

Whether intolerance or missionary zeal are specifically American or not, they definitely contribute to the perception of our country in the world. This perception is at least a contributing factor to the current problem.

I'm not sure we're as far from 1890 as you say, but I know that the Wall Street Journal Editorial Page would sure like to take us there.

And while the radical Islamic approach to women is repugnant, I'm not sure that its reversal would solve the whole problem. Unless we turn Iraq et al over to the women and let them kill or castrate all the males. That might help, but some of our guys may not want to be around for the party. (cf. Air Force Academy and othe Army sex scandals !)

Didactic fiction usually sucks, but writers can't be forced to strip their work of all traces of their philosophy.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 09:18 am:   

Sure America contributes to the problem, but laying the blame solely on one participant (American or the Terrorists, take your pick) doesn't bring us any closer to solving it either.

And fortunately for most of us, the Wall Street Journal Editorial page isn't the only one that has a vote in the elections (just as, thankfully, the NY Times or Washington Post doesn't either).

On the culture side, I don't think we can ignore that one of the main problems Islamic Fundamentalists have with American culture is not our economic power (others have that problem) but our views on gender relations and sexuality. They're perfectly happy to take our money from us but they don't want their women driving cars or in leadership positions. It upsets their particular cultural applecart.

As for sex scandals, that would require a whole other thread, in my opinion. And I don't think anyone here at Nightshade would cotton to what I have to say about it.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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mike
Posted on Monday, June 21, 2004 - 12:28 pm:   

"You can give a blind man the most accurate rifle in the world. He still won't be able to hit shit with it if he can't see." True.

"Find me a human who isn't, at heart, greedy and I'll show you either a liar or a hypocrite." Not true, I think, unless you redefine avarice to include -- in some rare people's cases -- a greediness to see others prosper. I've known several folks who have behaved in that rare way without seeming in the least "liars" or "hypocrites." You'd have to read their hearts and find horrible larceny to make your "Find me a human" challenge work.

"As for sex scandals, that would require a whole other thread, in my opinion. And I don't think anyone here at Nightshade would cotton to what I have to say about it." Start another thread, then. I'm always glad to read about sex scandals. And so far I haven't seen anyone at Nightshade exercising heavy-handed censorship.

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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 07:35 am:   

Well, the thread is loosely about the Prison Scandal (which, btw, I'm as angry as everyone else. The soldiers involved should be put the wall and shot). Thus, I'm disinclined to push a threadjack much further than it has already gone.

Certainly no one around here practices outright censorship. However, my time is valuable (as is everyone else's) and a discussion about Army Sex Scandals is likely to consume a great deal of time without changing anyone's mind.

Thus, what's the point? It'll lead to a flame war and this board is known for flame wars.

As for the greed, I'd just say check your history books. Altruism is not a common human trait.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com

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mike
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 08:23 am:   

I respect your disinclination to push this thread any further than it's already gone, and I, too, worry about wasting time (hence the brevity of some of my postings).

The daily examples of altruism that impact people's lives on more levels than we sometimes care to admit simply don't get into the history books. I'll add that your point is taken, but that your "liar or hypocrite" formulation paints with an awfully wide-mouthed sprayer. Maybe we're arguing degree or semantics, but those are often what people argue about.

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Tom Walsh
Posted on Tuesday, June 22, 2004 - 08:45 am:   

Hobbes, Rousseau, Original Sin ?

Most of our actions are motivated by greed, fear or lust. Our basest instincts can be moderated by our need to get through the day with as little pain as possible and as much pleasure as we can get. Sometimes we do really bad things. Often we do really nice things. Pretty simple, huh ?

The thread seemed to deal with the reasons for Abu Ghraib, both proximate and ultimate. We're getting there. It's been good to talk to y'all.
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Lawrence A
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 04:43 am:   

I don't usually find myself agreeing with Murphy at Asimov's, but he seems to be the only one here who is not caught up in the PC "America is the Great Satan and if it weren't for US foreign policy and White House thuggery there would be peace and love in the world" hooey rubbish coming from the Left.

Yes the White House is ruled by a bunch of greedy thugs and superstitious zealots who are solely interested in serving the interests of the super-rich, who are never rich enough, and increasing the superprofits of the death merchants who go by the name of defense contractors. And this makes the US government different from any other government in the world, how so?

Despite the erosions of civil liberties in the US, it is still a freer place to live than most, where women are at least regarded as human beings who have, for the most part, equal rights - unlike in much of the Third World where they are nothing but baby machines and sex slaves and subject to routine beatings and honour killings, this happens every day. Unlike America, the great Satan, there is child slave labour throughout much of Western and Central Africa esp on the cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast and Ghana. See the post of mine on the thread on Africa at Asimov's entitled "Rwanda/Darfur" (it is still up on the General Discussion board) and the Left's deafening silence on the topic.

Tom Walsh actually in classic PC style thinks America is hated for the wrong it does in the world. Wrong, it is hated because it gives libeties and civil rights to women, because it does not always tolerate and look away from and justify the brutalities of Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic fascism and the tyranny that goes with it, like Europe. Like the Left full stop. While the Left express outrage at homophobe hillbilly Bush, at least American gays have for the most part liberties they do not possess in much of the 3rd world. Even in so-called moderate Egypt, homosexuals are routinely jailed, in other countires they are beheaded or stoned to death, gay men and women. Yet homosexuality is paradoxically as rampant in these nations as in SF and NY. Anyhow the Left have nothing to say about the demonisation and persecution of gay men and women in the 3rd world, can't pin that on the Great Satan, so we'll just ignore that.

America is hated because it theoretically at least and occasionally in practice, does allow free expression and dissent and criticism of the government, freedom of religious expression, freedom of association, freedom of movement. In a country like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Algeria or Burma, China or North Korea, Angola or Zimbabwe, or Iran, or even Pakistan and Indonesia etc etc; such criticism of their respective governments by their citizenry as is doled out on this forum and throughout the US by PC Leftists, would result in either exile or imprisonment, torture and execution depending on which doe-eyed, angelic, benevolent and enlightened nation (sarcasm on) we are talking about and depending on the "subversive crime" one is charged with.

America was hated by the innocent doe-eyed 3rd World (yes I am being sarcastic) long before Bush JR was "elected" to the White House, and would be hated even if Gore was in DC, and we had never gone to war in Iraq. I don't remember the rest of the world getting all shrill and hysterical and self-righteously outraged by the Iran-Iraq war which cost both sides over a million casualties; or for that matter the ongoing Russia-Chechen conflict, so much like the current Iraq fiasco; or the ongoing murder, decimation, marginilization, land theft pertaining to native Americans in Latin America by the powerful rancheros and their hired thugs, often in collusion with their governments and military. And no it is not all the fault of US foreign policy, it would be happening without the US, like it has for centuries ever since the Spanish first arrived in the 1500s.

And Europe with its multi-billion dollar a year arms industry selling weaponry - assault rifles, mortars, artillery, tanks, frigates, missiles, bombs, warplanes etc to whoever will buy it - suddenly the biggest bunch of so-called peace lovers! So I guess there was this sudden change of attitude and thinking in Europe on the 8th May 1945 and now they are all peaceful and benevolent. Puleez, they're exactly the same as they have always been. The more of them I meet the more I understand how the horrors of European Empires, of WW1 and WW2, of Nazism were inevitable. Europeans have the same mentality as they always have, unfortunately. They resent America because America has usurped their power and doesn't appear to kow-tow to and support Islamic fascism like the good dhimmi (look it up) Europeans. Truth is we are actually kow-towing to Islamic terrorism just like Europe - look at how buddy-buddy we remain with Saudi Arabia because of special interests, and anyhow America has its own Ayatollahs to worry about such as Ashcroft, Bush and Falwell and the rest.

Murphy is right that most everyone is greedy, especially those who think they are not. I personally witness rampant unbridled greed, corruption and self-interest among numerous NGOs, who you all probably think are doing so much good in the world. The money you give to OXFAM, WWF, Medicins Sans Frontieres, know where it really goes? Even the most cynical of you would be shocked I promise.

In South Africa, all the top trade union bosses supposedly fighting for the worker during the apartheid era are now mine bosses, or high up in big business or else high up in the ANC robber-baron kleptocracy feeding at the trough while the poor who they sold down the river just get poorer. The unions in America are a big joke, everybody knows they are controlled by the mafia. Yes there are people who are not greedy, but they are very very very few.


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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 06:42 am:   

As a distinctly non-PC leftist, let me comment briefly (because I have to get working).

"I don't remember the rest of the world getting all shrill and hysterical and self-righteously outraged by the Iran-Iraq war which cost both sides over a million casualties; or for that matter the ongoing Russia-Chechen conflict, so much like the current Iraq fiasco; or the ongoing murder, decimation, marginilization, land theft pertaining to native Americans in Latin America by the powerful rancheros and their hired thugs, often in collusion with their governments and military."

Judging by the foregoing, I'd have to say your memory is deeply flawed. There has been a great deal of outrage and activisim directed toward the massacres committed by finca owners in Guatemala, for instance. I was personally involved in it during the 70s and 80s. The fact that this dissent has not been covered by the American media may be in part responsible for your inability to remember it and for many Americans even to know about it. In other words, what you describe as "the deafening silence of the Left (as opposed, I imagine, to the knowing silence of the Right)" is in large part a conjuration of media silence.

"And no it is not all the fault of US foreign policy, it would be happening without the US, like it has for centuries ever since the Spanish first arrived in the 1500s."

I agree with most of what you have to say as regards the reasons America is hated; but this particular statement is not reflective of cognitive thinking. Of course, colonialist excesses have been going on in Latin America since the 1500s. However, the Court of Spain has not been instrumental in the region for quite some time and they left behind no mandate that would cause us to ape their misrule. The United States HAS been instrumental in the region n recent times, and had we used our power to effect land reform and so forth, we would have allies in the region and not subject states; and, though greed would still exist, though human nature would not be greatly changed, something of a healthier political condition may have been established and the lives of a great many people may have been drastically improved.

Your entire post seems to have as its thrust the idea that nothing can be done, or perhaps even should be done. It serves in a passive sense to justify political excess, to say that our excesses are no worse than anyone else's, and, indeed, because we have at least the semblance of freedom, we are better than the rest. Well, if we are to any degree better, fairer, freer, then we have a responsibility to do what we can to help the world so long as it does not threaten national interest. In my view, we have done a lousy job of that, and simply because it makes us no worse than anyone else...that's no reason to maintain or support such a stance.

"Murphy is right that most everyone is greedy, especially those who think they are not."

Murphy's not right. Murphy's never right. Even when his facts are straight and he's mouthing words that seem reasonable, he's using these facts and words as a justification for an australopithocene view of foreign policy. As to greed, well, yes...people are infected with greed. More pertinently, they're infected with fear, which is the father of greed. But again, simply because this is true doesn't mean we as individuals need to accept it as either a commandment or a limitation. As Mike points out, there are people in the world who have managed to neutralize their base tendedncies. I'm as cynical as anyone about human nature, but I also know that people can rise above their natures from time to time. Our governments may be beyond repair, our systems may be flawed, but as individuals we can achieve some good effect and I've always felt that we have a responsibility to do so. Now this may be a form of greed alive in me. People are often greedy to feel good about what they have done, but greed or not, if they have achieved some good, then who cares about their inner lives?

"The unions in America are a big joke, everybody knows they are controlled by the mafia"

There's a labor lawyer on this board who, I hope, will comment on this dismissive estimation of the labor movement. I don't have the time.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 09:14 am:   

Of course, Lucius is imminently reasonable and infaliable.

[Murphy rolls his eyes and smiles] Yeah, right.

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 23, 2004 - 09:34 am:   

I am old enough to remember a time when it would have been laughable to compare anything America is or does to Syria, Pakistan or Angola ! But then again back then it would have been laughable to expend the kind of military and economic effort that we've seen on a country like Iraq.

Why does every criticism of American policy always evoke an angry response that "we're better than Algeria, dammit !" ? That usually precedes a "love it or leave it bumper-sticker epithet.

The provocative labelling of arguments as Left, Right or PC really contributes little to the discussion. Why not argue the facts presented rather than what Rush told you that the Left always says ? Setting up straw men or arguments only to make yourself feel good by knocking them down seems a little pointless to me.

There sure seem to be a lot of issues like union-bashing, women's rights and Euro-resentment underlying otherwise unrelated remarks. I do concur with the labels "greedy thugs", "superstitious zealots" and "death merchants" though. But just saying Cheney, Ashcroft and Halliburton/Rumsfeld would have saved space !

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mike
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 05:51 am:   

This country puts itself forward -- before the world -- as embracing higher standards. The Bush administration, in particular, especially takes great pains to stress this point, even if its actions repeatedly betray that sentiment. And if one points out this documentable, daily quite conspicuous fact, the response is indeed something like "we're better than Algeria, dammit!" or "Shut up." This morning, in the Atlanta paper, a reader noted that the Iranians had blindfolded eight British sailors, but that the "liberal" media were unlikely to go on about this barbarity for two weeks, as it has gone on for months now about Abu Ghraib. I could only scratch my head. The media appear to me to be holding the Bush administration to standards that Bushco itself says we implicitly adhere to, because of our fundamental goodness, and yet those supporting these folks want to give them a pass and bash the messengers of the bad news that we are as human as anyone else. Which strikes me as another strong point for stressing the value of agreed-upon laws over personalities.
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Friday, June 25, 2004 - 03:34 pm:   

Did anyone see a "Serbia Body Count" banner during the two Balkans Air Campaigns? Did we see any dead women or children during those two campaigns? War is war and I'm sure, as hard as we try not to, some of that aerial firepower probably blew some poor Serbian boy or girl's arms off.

Since I was opposed to both operations, I kept waiting to see everything I've pointed out above.

Never saw a thing. Nothing. Nada. Just Serb Run Concentration Camps (totally ignoring that our "allies" in those operations weren't any better, they just happened to be losing until we stepped in).

I don't think it is the "standards" issue when it comes to media coverage. It is the way they pick and chose to suit their own agenda.

Got a friend who is IRR Army that might get activated and sent to Kosovo (we're still there, remember, the Balkans mission was only supposed to last ONE year). The Guard unit he will be assigned to gets regular reports that the stuff you hear about happening in Afghanistan and Iraq also happens in Kosovo.

Not a word hits the news.

I think that is why there are people out there who look at the media, especially American reporters and say, "Fair and balanced, my ass."

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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mike
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 08:58 am:   

In reference, of course, to Fox News?

In some areas the mainstream network press has been quite deferential in treatment of this administration. I won't argue the point that the media "pick and choose to suit their own agenda," except to question the notion that some units of the American press have any undergirding agenda at all; they're reactive rather than otherwise, and much of what gets on the air is dicated by their perception of what will boost ratings, a point that goes just about equally for those leaning to the left and those tilting through inertia to the right. And most Americans simply weren't very interested in anything happening in the Balkans. Just as we weren't very much interested in stuff happening in Rwanda. Everyone, however, is intensely interested in what's happening in Iraq because it's daily costing money and lives. Forgive me, but I see the responsibility for all these lost lives, and for all this squandered treasure, as lying quite undeniably before the overweening political hubris of our current dyslexic occupant of the White House. And I believe we need to find him a new place of residence, as he has had his chance, and he has more than simply screwed it up. Don't like John Kerry? I'm not sappily enamored of the man myself -- who is? -- but Bush and his Skull & Bones Buddies have forfeited any "mandate" the first contested election may have given them and their performance these past four years does not warrant handing them another term.
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Dr. Seuss
Posted on Sunday, June 27, 2004 - 09:04 am:   

"ME...ME say I'm sorry! Kings never say 'I'm sorry!' And I am the mightiest king in all the world!"

Bartholomew looked the King square in the eye.

"You may be a mighty king," he said. "But you're sitting in oobleck up to your chin. And so is everyone in your land. And if you won't even say you're sorry, you're no sort of a king at all!"

-- Dr. Seuss, Bartholomew and the Oobleck
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Lawrence A
Posted on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 05:33 am:   

OK off the bat, I know Lucius Shepard knows far more about Latin America than I do and most everybody else, this is obvious from his writings, most notably LIFE DURING WARTIME, which I recommended as required reading for SF fans at Asimov's when the stupid invasion of Iraq began as "SF reading matter for our time" or words to that effect, along with Haldeman's THE FOREVER WAR, Capek's THE WAR OF THE NEWTS and Stapeldon's LAST MEN IN LONDON. You can all add to the list.

"Judging by the foregoing, I'd have to say your memory is deeply flawed. There has been a great deal of outrage and activisim directed toward the massacres committed by finca owners in Guatemala, for instance"
It's not a case of my memory being flawed, I was only born in 1970, I was just a teenager in the 80s and growing up in South Africa (I only moved to the States in the early 90s) and while the townships were burning in the 80s, well that was where my focus was. I know there was some protest against US foreign policy re Latin America from the Left at the time, perhaps it was greater than I had been led to believe.

"In other words, what you describe as "the deafening silence of the Left (as opposed, I imagine, to the knowing silence of the Right)" is in large part a conjuration of media silence"
So the North American and European Left had a problem with the Iran-Iraq war? They have a problem with the Russia-Chechen conflict? Or the war in the DRC, the worst war in the world over the last few decades? Or the genocide in Sudan, or the recent horrors of Sierra Leone etc? No when I mean deafening silence of the Left, I mean deafening silence on the Left, not media silence. Of course there has been media silence, but I'm not talking about the media, I'm talking about the Left. I do know the media is not "liberal".

"(as opposed, I imagine, to the knowing silence of the Right)"
Do I sound like a right-winger to you, so what do I care for "the knowing silence of the Right"? We're not talking about the Right's silences and hypocrisies, what for? Why preach to the choir on the brutality of the Right? A waste of time and bandwith and energy better expended elsewhere. Nobody made a bigger noise against the invasion of Iraq at Asimov's Discussion Forum than I did (and lets face it, Asimov's was not really the place for it), ask Gardner. Hell Murphy can tell you that much.Yes, the Right were/are knowingly silent on practically everything pertaining to any facts whatsoever, that is when they are not distorting or lying about the facts. I'm just not a Leftist, not anymore, and my first post gave some of the reasons.

I see that the meaning of my first post has been misconstrued, this is my own fault for I was not clear about what I wanted to convey, I am often poor at expressing myself or getting the thrust of my argument across. One reason why I could never be a writer. I am not saying "we are better than Algeria dammit, so just let the excesses of the White house ride", although on rereading my post, that is the meaning that is unfortunately conveyed - my fault. Truth is I am just so tired of the Left shooting itself in the foot, and losing whatever credibility and integrity it once had (in the West at least), in many ways no different or better than the lockstep Republicans, and no I do not think I am exaggerating the stupidites and dare I say it crimes of the Left.

When Ayatollah Bush conned his way into the White House, nobody was more depressed and frightened by this tragic horror than I was. My first response was "God help us all, we have just put a Jesus Freak in the White House, OK his Supreme Court buddies did, but you get the point - this is going to be an unmitigated disaster, come back Dan Quayle (who is a towering intellect by comparison), all is forgiven." Bush Jr is even worse than Nixon, because even a cunning crook is usually less dangerous than a Zealot who thinks he has God on his side when carrying out the Devil's work (I probably have to explain here since you all don't know me, that I mean the Devil figuritively, not literally).

And of course events have proved this to be true. Walsh puts up an intelligent piece by Vonnegut on this thread, but Vonnegut himself does not seem to realise where the true problems lie, he talks about the corruption of power, not the superstitious zealotry and ideological delusions and unquestioning patriotism that are the true problem here, not just with the White House and Capitol Hill but with the nation itself, and they always have been the true problem. The Left ("mainstream" - whatever we mean by that, radical Left and I include Libertarians here although we can get all pointlessly pedantic about this) in my eyes are not that different from the Right, in so many ways they are exactly the same. And in the last decade or so, more than ever before. They do not look any deeper into things, most especially themselves, although they pretend to, and thus get caught up in so much baloney, just like the Right.

To get to the true purpose of this post - Bishop's thread on Abu Ghraib and my serious objections here (which I should have elucidated in my first post); for despite the "I do not care for Buchanan's politics" intro the fact is Bishop quotes, of all the people in the world who have commented critically and thoughtfully on Iraq and Abu Ghraib, the racist and thuggish, paranoid and delusional Pat Buchanan - he hates blacks, he hates Hispanics, he hates gays, he hates women, he hates Jews. His track record, his public utterances reveal him to be the type of man indistinguishable from the numerous redneck thugs Bishop portrays so accurately and harshly in his stories. And Bishop quotes him with glowing approval!!

And frankly this is among the several reasons why I have long since left the Left. Bishop's thread here is symptomatic of a severe malaise among the Left, even among the more intelligent and sensitive and thoughtful of them. It seems to apply to Bishop, who is smart enough to know better, to know better than to endorse anything spoken by Buchanan. Yes I know he doesn't endorse Buchanan or his politics, obviously not. Yet Bishop does endorse a piece by him.
I hope what I am saying will not be completely misunderstood. I'm just saying that Bishop ought to know better than to endorse and heartily agree with anything at all spouted out by a racist thug like Buchanan, even when Buchanan has his facts straight.

But what the heck Buchanan opposed the war, even as he has the mentality that is responsible for war, pogroms, discrimination, sadism and tyranny in every way and at every level of society. He opposed the war even as he is responsible for it, since he possesses the mindset that makes war inevitable.

Osama, Saddam, Hamas, Assad, all the Ayatollahs and Robert Mugabe opposed the American invasion of Iraq so I guess they are all a bunch of peace-lovers, according to the illogic of so many on the Left. Those killers whose hands are drenched in the blood of children would have similar things to say about Abu Ghraib, not really any different from what Buchanan says, so why not put up a thread from some of that ilk, Mike, with approbation, agreement and endorsement, just like you did with Buchanan? After all, what difference? Nobody on this thread dared to point out Buchanan's hypocrisy, shrill fatuous self-righteousness and predictable anti-semitism just on the piece that Bishop quotes with such hearty agreement.
Why not, because it didn't occur to anyone?
Because Bishop is such a smart thoughtful guy, he couldn't possibly reveal such a lack of judgment? Such a lapse of reason?

If I were to put up a piece by an oppressive Ayatollah, say Khameini himself, condemming the American war in Iraq, and Abu Gharaib itself in he same way and for the same reasons that Buchanan does, but I was to write "I do not endorse the politics of Khameini or support Khameini himself in any way", would you all not have a problem, not only with the obvious hypocrisy of an Ayatollah condemming sadism, war and power-mania, but with the obvious hypocrisy of endorsing anything a man such as Khameini says?
A man who formally endorses Jihad, for crying out loud!
Buchanan is not Khameini, but he is a man very much in the same mould, just like Bush and Ashcroft, all so alike in so many ways.
So who is Buchanan to complain about the White House? His hypocrisy is unsurpassed here. Buchanan ought to look in the mirror, if he wants to know why the world is in such a terrible state.

This is Buchanan for God's sake.....
[source: Steven Rendell at http://www.mtsu.edu/~baustin/buchanan.html]

-------------------------------------------------------------

After Sen. Carol Moseley Braun blocked a federal patent for a
Confederate flag insignia, Buchanan wrote that she was "putting on an act"
by associating the Confederacy with slavery: "The War Between the States
was about independence, about self-determination, about the right of a
people to break free of a government to which they could no longer give
allegiance," Buchanan asserted. "How long is this endless groveling
before every cry of'racism' going to continue before the whole country
collectively throws up?" (syndicated column, 7/28/93)

On race relations in the late 1940s and early 1950s: "There were no
politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The 'negroes' of
Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses,
playgrounds and churches; and we had ours." (Right from the Beginning,
Buchanan's 1988 autobiography, p. 131)

Buchanan has repeatedly insisted that President Reagan did so much
for African-Americans that civil rights groups have no reason to exist:
"George Bush should have told the [NAACP convention] that black America
has grown up; that the NAACP should close up shop, that its members should
go home and reflect on JFK's admonition: 'Ask not what your country can do
for you, but rather ask what you can do for your country.'" (syndicated
column, 7/26/88)

In a column sympathetic to ex-Klansman David Duke, Buchanan chided
the Republican Party for overreacting to Duke and his Nazi "costume": "Take
a hard look at Duke's portfolio of winning issues and expropriate those not
in conflict with GOP principles, [such as] reverse discrimination against
white folks." (syndicated column, 2/25/89)

Trying to justify apartheid in South Africa, he denounced the notion
that "white rule of a black majority is inherently wrong. Where did we get
that idea? The Founding Fathers did not believe this." (syndicated column,
2/7/90) He referred admiringly to the apartheid regime as the "Boer
Republic": "Why are Americans collaborating in a U.N. conspiracy to ruin
her with sanctions?"
(syndicated column, 9/17/89)

Buchanan, who opposed virtually every civil rights law and court
decision of the last 30 years, published FBI smears of Martin Luther King
Jr. as his own editorials in the St. Louis Globe Democrat in the mid-1960s.
"We were among Hoover's conduits to the American people," he boasted (Right
from the Beginning, p. 283).

In a 1977 column, Buchanan said that despite Hitler's anti-Semitic and
genocidal tendencies, he was "an individual of great courage...Hitler's
success was not based on his extraordinary gifts alone. His genius was an
intuitive sense of the mushiness, the character flaws, the weakness
masquerading as morality that was in the hearts of the statesmen who stood
in his path." (The Guardian, 1/14/92)

Writing of "group fantasies of martyrdom," Buchanan challenged the
historical record that thousands of Jews were gassed to death by diesel
exhaust at Treblinka: "Diesel engines do not emit enough carbon monoxide
to kill anybody." (New Republic, 10/22/90) Buchanan's columns have run in
the Liberty Lobby's Spotlight, the German-American National PAC newsletter
and other publications that claim Nazi death camps are a Zionist
concoction.

Buchanan called for closing the U.S. Justice Department's Office of
Special Investigations, which prosecuted Nazi war criminals, because it was
"running down 70-year-old camp guards." (New York Times, 4/21/87)

Buchanan was vehement in pushing President Reagan -- despite protests
-- to visit Germany's Bitburg cemetery, where Nazi SS troops were buried.
At a White House meeting, Buchanan reportedly reminded Jewish leaders that
they were "Americans first" -- and repeatedly scrawled the phrase
"Succumbing to the pressure of the Jews" in his notebook. Buchanan was
credited with crafting Ronald Reagan's line that the SS troops buried at
Bitburg were "victims just as surely as the victims in the concentration
camps." (New York Times, 5/16/85; New Republic, 1/22/96)

After Cardinal O'Connor criticized anti-Semitism during the
controversy over construction of a convent near Auschwitz, Buchanan wrote:
"If U.S. Jewry takes the clucking appeasement of the Catholic cardinalate
as indicative of our submission, it is mistaken. When Cardinal O'Connor of
New York seeks to soothe the always irate Elie Wiesel by reassuring him
'there are many Catholics who are anti-Semitic'...he speaks for himself. Be
not afraid, Your Eminence; just step aside, there are bishops and priests
ready to assume the role of defender of the faith." (New Republic,
10/22/90)

In a 1977 column urging a "thrashing" of gay groups, Buchanan wrote:
"Homosexuality is not a civil right. Its rise almost always is
accompanied, as in the Weimar Republic, with a decay of society and a
collapse of its basic cinder block, the family." (New Republic, 3/30/92)

"Gay rights activists seek to substitute, for laws rooted in Judeo-
Christian morality, laws rooted in the secular humanist belief that all
consensual sexual acts are morally equal. That belief is anti-biblical
and amoral; to codify it into law is to codify a lie." (Buchanan column
in Wall Street Journal, 1/21/93)

On AIDS, Buchanan wrote in 1983: "The poor homosexuals -- they have
declared war upon nature, and now nature is extracting an awful retribution
(AIDS)." (Los Angeles Times, 11/28/86) Later that year, he demanded that
New York City Ed Koch and New York Gov. Mario Cuomo cancel the Gay Pride
Parade or else "be held personally responsible for the spread of the AIDS
plague." "With 80,000 dead of AIDS, our promiscuous homosexuals appear
literally hell-bent on Satanism and suicide," Buchanan wrote in 1990
(syndicated column, 10/17/90). In the 1992 campaign, he declared: "AIDS is
nature's retribution for violating the laws of nature." (Seattle Times,
7/31/93)

"Rail as they will about 'discrimination,' women are simply not
endowed by nature with the same measures of single-minded ambition and
the will to succeed in the fiercely competitive world of Western
capitalism." (syndicated column, 11/22/83)

"The real liberators of American women were not the feminist
noise-makers, they were the automobile, the supermarket, the shopping
center, the dishwasher, the washer-dryer, the freezer." (Right from the
Beginning, p. 149)

"If a woman has come to believe that divorce is the answer to every
difficult marriage, that career comes before children .. no democratic
government can impose another set of values upon her." (Right from the
Beginning, p. 341)

----------------------------------------------------------------

Lucius wrote with respect to SF Murphy:
"Even when his facts are straight and he's mouthing words that seem reasonable, he's using these facts and words as a justification for an australopithocene view...."
You have just described Buchanan so accurately Mr Shepard, you have Pat down pat. Not so?
Even when his facts are straight, as they are on Abu Ghraib, he does use these facts to justify his own warped, delusional, paranoid and bigoted world-view.

And yet unlike the vast majority of people, including Leftists, most of whom have the insight and probity of Michael Moore (hence their adoration of him) and the clear-headedness and reasoning ablility of Noam "I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the holocaust" Chomsky, which is precisely why they (the student and faculty leftists) love him so dearly on campus, from Berkeley to NorthWestern to Stanford and Columbia; Bishop is obviously a smart, sensitive and thoughtful man (obvious from his writings). Yet he makes this blunder, re Buchanan that is, that nobody but myself points out. And what else do you call "perhaps the arguments of a man whom no one can call a liberal will penetrate... the fog of denial" but an endorsement, even if only a partial and conditional one? One can object that Bishop is only agreeing with what Pat says re Abu Ghraib and Iraq, not with the man or his politics; but as I have pointed out above this reflects a lapse of the usual thoughtfulness and introspection on Bishop's part.

Also what is one to make of this statement of Bishop's,
"...a column by ultraconservative Pat Buchanan, a man whose political views seldom mirror my own...". Seldom mirror your own, you mean on occasion at least you agree with him politically? Mind telling us on what issue re politics you are in agreement with him on? And remember that while Buchanan may have his facts straight on the rare occasion, he is still always wrong, as Shepard points out, with respect to somebody else, but it applies just as much to Buchanan and his ilk.

The Left are in lockstep with ultraconservatives (or to put it more accuratley - rightwing fascists) on certain issues, they have a common enemy - in their eyes at least. If you do not know what I am talking about you are either not quite au courant with the Leftist rhetoric of late, or are deliberately going out of your way to ignore it, or else you share in the delusions and bigotry of the Left and Far Right. Frankly, I don't see any reading this to get what I am referring to, perhaps Shepard, perhaps.

Actually I have made very clear exactly what it is, but never mind. And when I say Left, the so-called liberals, I don't mean the extreme Left, I mean the Left. It is why I have left the Left, and not for the Right, but for an apolitical/non-political stance, kind of like the trees and ants and bees and bears and our pet dogs and cats, yes I know I am being trite but nevertheless I think am making an important point. I have had my "darkness at noon" enlightenment, and I do not make the same mistakes as say a Horowitz, a Hitchens, or Koestler himself; which is then to run to the opposite camp, to become reactionary in other words.

Mike Bishop:
"and yet those supporting these folks want to give them a pass and bash the messengers of the bad news that we are as human as anyone else."
This is the point I intended to make, it is my own fault that I didn't - that Americans are as human as everyone else. To the Left outside America incl Canada though the atttitude is we are worse than they are, it is this staggering hypocrisy that grates. My fault for not elucidating this point in my first post. I have to travel a lot around the world, I know what I am talking about here. My problem with the US Left largely lies elsewhere and I have hinted at it above.

Let me give an example of the stupidity and iniquity of the Left that I personally experienced and that you won't have read about at Salon or The Village Voice - I was in my hometown of Johannesburg in 2002 during the stupid Summit of Sustainable Development, which I was periphally involved with.
The first one was in Rio 10 years before that and that got more media attention remember? Robert Mugabe was a guest of the Joburg Summit of Self-righteous Fatuous Indignation and Pointless Ignorant Rhetoric, he received a standing ovation by many of the delegates, no kidding. While America was predictably berated for not signing the pointless, misguided and idiotic Kyoto Accord by everybody there and in the same vein, all the scientifically illiterate environmental "experts", most of whom couldn't tell me what a thermohaline cycle is, berated America for its fossil fuel burning. How fashionably stupid, how very Leftist.

If you think this (global warming) is the problem as far as global ecological degredation and destruction is concerned (which is all too real and horrific), let me tell you it is a big red herring, worse - it is a myth. And this is reflective of an ignorance of the worst kind. Check out something called the Oregon Institute Petition, you might all learn something. I assume none of you know anything about it. But there is a leftwing PC political agenda disguised as science along with, and feeding off paradoxically, an Armageddon/Apocalypse-like thinking derived from deeply rooted Christian delusions in our society. [Yes I know this is somewhat off the point, but this is probably news to all of you.]

They (these delusions) infect most everyone including most definitely the so-called non-Christian or post-Christian Left or whatever they want to call themselves, who are often so very very Christian in their (non)thinking and attitudes, although they would be the last to see it. Let me put it this way - the Left, who are so convinced they get irony, unlike the right-wing yahoos, don't. Who gets this irony - Gore Vidal is so very Christian along with his fellow left-wing intellectuals, Voltaire was so very Christian? But Vidal and Voltaire himself would be the last to see this, naturally.

The Left who moan about the Christian Right's hijacking of the White House, are so very Christian, and I mean wrt everything that is wrong with Christianity, Christian in the worst way, not whatever is good and noble about it; but this is doubtless too cryptic and subtle for many so-called thoughtful Leftists to comprehend. I hinted at it in my first post in my scathing attack on the Left and above in this post re Leftwing bigotry, a point which everybody chose to ignore and it is anything but a straw-man argument. Let me put it this way, Europe has never been more Christian than it is now, despite their so-called secularisation, hell if only they were secular as they claim to be. The American Left too, is so very Christian, in many ways even more Christian than the Christian Right. They just don't know it. But no doubt still too cryptic. Even though I am repeating a point I have made a few paragraphs above.

Walsh:
"The provocative labelling of arguments as Left, Right or PC really contributes little to the discussion. Why not argue the facts presented rather than what Rush told you that the Left always says ? Setting up straw men or arguments only to make yourself feel good by knocking them down seems a little pointless to me."
I actually do not see much of a difference between Left and Right, which I think I made clear in the above paragraph, and Walsh I just know that you would have no idea what I am talking about when I talk about the so-very Christian (non)thinking of the Left. I only speak in terms of Left and Right because unfortunately people do herd themselves into ideological camps for the most part and in order to communicate my notions, I unfortunately do have to employ the language that people use and understand.

"rather than what Rush told you that the Left always says?"
I had to read this a few times, so shocked was I by it, I thought I must be misunderstanding you; because even by the standards of a Michael Moore, this is an obtuse remark.
I get my info on the Left from Limbaugh? Really, is there anything in my first post that is even remotely suggestive of that? I get my info on the Left from the Left, it's why I left the Left behind. Your remark here merely proves my point on the Left.
I do not care for the tactics and hypocrisies and delusions of the Left, therefore I am a Limbaugh fan - that's right, Tom. How very insightful. Kind of like if I knock the Catholic Church, I must be a Protestant. The conflict between the Right and Leftists in the industrialised world (let us not just focus on the US, I include esp Europe, UK and Canada) kind of reminds me of the conflict between Catholics and Protestants during the 30 Years War. So very alike in so many ways, hence the conflict. In fact more than so very alike, so identical.

Lucius: "well, yes...people are infected with greed. More pertinently, they're infected with fear, which is the father of greed"
So so true, and fear is of course the father of surely all our delusions and destructiveness, including our superstitions and our silly ideologies, our tribalism and nationalism, all feeding off one another and reacting to one another, all born of the same diseased parent - fear. I can see how my own greed or ambition or whatever you want to call it is born of such deeply held insecurities, I wasn't even consciously aware of them. The more conscious we become of these fears, the less overtly greedy or possessive we become. But this greed, or to be more accurate, the fears and the insecurities that father this greed, are shared by almost everybody, including communists, socialists, anarchists and those who identify themselves as liberals. You can see this once and if they get into postitions of power. Hence our hypocrisy in condemming the thuggery of the Republicans because we all share and contribute to the every-man-for-himself culture in ways we are not remotely aware of, even as we pour scorn on it.

Walsh again:
"There sure seem to be a lot of issues like union-bashing, women's rights and Euro-resentment underlying otherwise unrelated remarks."
I never bashed the unions, or rather the ideal as well as the working stiff the unions are supposed to represent. I merely bashed the unions for what they have become, in certain parts of the world. Namely they have sold out in many, obviously not all, cases or they are so deeply corrupted. Shepard is right though that I should not make such sweeping and cynical generalisations.

On women's rights, well they are half the population, you know us being mammals, I fail to see how it is "unrelated" - all forms of brutality and tyranny are related. When people complain about America's tyranny but support and carry out the tyrannical oppression of women or in the case of the Left (yes there are exceptions here), just ignore it - I fail to see how that is unrelated to tyranny in whatever form or wherever in the world it may exist. All forms of tyranny and sadism re-inforce and feed off one another, wherever they are practised and whether they get media attention or not.

As far as Euro-resentment goes, yeah I do have a problem with Europe. Newsflash - everything that is wrong with America can be traced to Europe, not the Sioux or Washo or Cherokee; a little of what is good or noble about the US exists inspite of, for the most part, that oxymoron called "European culture". I have no more or less resentment of Europe than I do of America or Australia or Asia or Africa, I just thought I would point out somethings that I have not really seen mentioned much by anybody, not on any side of the political spectrum, that's all.

On women's rights again, here's Murphy:
"This is a culture that, contrary to their own religious texts, treat women like dirt."
This remark proves my point mentioned earlier that there is not really much to distinguish the Left from the Right in many ways, they both share and perpetuate many of the same errors, including conventional PC baloney such as the above.
How do you know that treating women like dirt is contrary to their religious texts, you are familiar with these texts, are you? You are familiar with which texts, the Qu'ran, the Hadith? I think not. Maybe they're just being true to their religious texts - shock, gasp, horror. Nothing maybe about it, they are just being true to their religious texts. Do some research - you'll be in for a big surprise.

Mike Bishop, I am a fan and I hope you don't take my post in the wrong way even though I know a lot of what I write is fighting talk. I really hope you don't misunderstand me re Buchanan. I am not saying that you are a racist, unlike Buchanan, although I know I have not made this clear enough, so let me apologise in advance for that if you take what I write the wrong way. I often express myself poorly, I could never have been a writer. I just think that you have made a lapse of judgment and I am not above calling you out for it, precisely because I have such respect for you and your insight into the horrors and stupidities of bigotry and its terrible consequences.

This theme of bigotry is of course a constant in your writings and this is why I think that whilst you don't have the fame or readership of a James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison or my compatriots J M Coetzee and Andre Brink, your stories are just as important in this regard and every bit as insightful, even though Lucius S has commented elsewhere that literature don't change a thing. Harlan Ellison said the same thing here. Said he should have become a plumber for all the difference he made.

I remember the first Bishop story I ever read, as a South African I was blown away by "Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecia Thubani", which I read in Full Spectrum 3. I would go as far as saying it is one of the best stories pertaining to South Arica I have ever read. Not only does Bishop get the mentality and behaviour of the the white protagonist right, as well as the white cops but also he gets the milieu of late 80s South Africa so right that if you didn't know better you would think Bishop was South African or at the very least had spent considerable time in that country. He doesn't just get the Afrikaans right, but the Afrikaans slang right too, and yet he has never set foot in South Africa which makes his feat even more remarkable. How on earth did you do it? Did you have the help of a South African as far as research goes? Just doing research in a library or watching some documentaries doesn't explain how uncannily accurate you are in portraying SA.

Often it helps to be an outsider in portraying another country and its peculiar insanities, because it is easier to see things from a more objective perspective, and hence with more insight. One of the best stories about the tragedy of the US/Vietnam era I have ever read is South African writer J M Coetzee's story (I forget the title) published in his first book "Dusklands", although Coetzee had been living in the US. It deals with the psychopathic breakdown, and its horrific consequences, of a B-52 pilot back in the States after his tour of duty is over. It is a story that has always stayed with me as has Bishop's South African one.

So impressed was I by "Apartheid..", that I tried to track down as much of Bishop's writings after that. What is obvious of course about Bishop's stories is the outrage and anger, despair and insight into the universal scourge of racism and all the horrors and injustices that go with it.

Lastly, Mike Bishop, how about a sequel of sorts to Apartheid...but set in present day "democratic" South Africa. A few South African writers have addressed the "new" South African nightmare such as J M Coetzee in his Disgrace, Andre Brink's The Rights of Desire, John Coyningham's The Lostness of Alice, Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness and no doubt many others I know nothing about. Writing a story set in post-apartheid apartheid South Africa wouldn't necessarily warm the cockles of your pseudo-liberal fan club. You know, the kind who don't want to know about South Africa these days, although they were all flustered and focused on my nation in the 80s. No longer the flavor of the day.

But now that a bunch of ANC fatcats whose economic policies are indistinguishable from the Republicans are in power serving the same apartheid-era profiteers with undisguided kow-towing (all the while the SA Communist Party remains in alliance with the ANC), and I include the sacred cow of all sacred cows here - Mandela (the clueless buddy and pawn of all the rich and powerful in SA, who spent his presidency entertaining numerous dictators and endorsing neo-con agendas and pro-corporate economic and fiscal policies, and travelling the world having his Jupiter-sized ego soothed by the adoring masses, all the while SA sank ever further, what a non-surprise, into ever deeper poverty and despair); well who wants to know? Maybe it will not be an easy story to sell, Mike? In our PC climate, I mean.

Mike, if you're too miffed at me and what you may think is my misunderstanding of what you were implying re Buchanan to reply, or not think it worth bothering with, I would more than understand. But let me just say this, I wouldn't bother wasting my time arguing with a bunch of Republicans or Jesus Freaks about anything, I have learned the hard way you can't change their minds, they are set in ther ways, congnitive dissonance and all that. I only wrote what I did, because I know you are a thoughtful and kind-hearted man, not inspite of this. Given all the terrible compromises I have made in my life, which still give me sleepless nights, I know you are a better man than I am, and I am being more than a little hypocritical in calling you out on Buchanan. But I do so nevertheless BECAUSE of your tireless attacks on bigotry and the ignorance that lies behind it, not inspite of this.

Let me repeat this, because it is the pertinent point I really want to make:
But what the heck Buchanan opposed the war, even as he has the mentality that is responsible for war, pogroms, discrimination, sadism and tyranny in every way and at every level of society. He opposed the war even as he is responsible for it, since he possesses the mindset that makes war inevitable.

Bishop again,
"Forgive me, but I see the responsibility for all these lost lives, and for all this squandered treasure, as lying quite undeniably before the overweening political hubris of our current dyslexic occupant of the White House."
This is the big man theory of history, let us put the blame on one man, so we do not have to look at where the problem really lies, society as a whole, our very selves.
Why was Bush even put into the White House, where and how did he learn to be such a thug and liar? Where does it all come from? He is a product of our society, of our frenetic do-not-know-yourself culture, our delusional economic absurdities and corporate philosophy, the superstitions that allow it all to be accepted with resignation and justification, depending on which side of the economic divide you find yourself. Bush was not raised in a vaccuum, nor did he rise to power in one. How is Bush worse than the average Joe? Truth is he isn't, and that is too terrible to face, so let's turn away from that.

Sincerely
Lawrence A
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 07:03 am:   

And I thought brevity was the soul of wit !
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Steven Francis Murphy
Posted on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 08:53 am:   

I can vouch for Lawrence A. He was pretty vigorous in his opposition to the war in Iraq. I think probably the singular more vocal critic (and perhaps a bit more effective) was SF author Charles Stross.

It was a pretty long argument that petered out about the time Baghdad fell. No one, including myself, has been in a big burning hurry to restart that firefight over at Asimov's.

Besides, they are presently arguing about Michael Moore's new propoganda film (which, btw, isn't going to change anyone's mind).

Respects,
S. F. Murphy
http://sfmurphy.journalspace.com
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mike
Posted on Monday, June 28, 2004 - 11:51 am:   

I'm not a bit put out by anything that Lawrence A. has written, and I appreciate the kind words about "Apartheid."

Quoting myself: "Forgive me, but I see the responsibility for all these lost lives, and for all this squandered treasure, as lying quite undeniably before the overweening political hubris of our current dyslexic occupant of the White House." I stand by this statement. Bush and his cohorts are in positions of significant power, and they chose to go to war in Iraq. They could have chosen not to. The American public was not clamoring for war in this instance, but the administration threw its weight behind that option, and so we invaded. I don't regard these opinions as endorsing any particular theory of history, or even any particular party platform, as most accounts agree that Bush, Sr., a moderate on the right, did not see his own son's actions here as necessary.

I honestly don't have time to write more, but I appreciate the considered input of everyone who has contributed to this thread.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 07:05 am:   

Mike, is your story "Apartheid, Superstrings and Mordecia Thubani" available in a collection ? I don't believe that I have come across it.
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JV
Posted on Tuesday, June 29, 2004 - 07:28 am:   

It's in his Golden Gryphon collection, Blue Kansas Sky, and I can verify--as if it needs verification at this point!--that it's a brilliant piece of work.

More info here:
http://www.goldengryphon.com/blue-frame.html

JeffV

P.S. I thought Lawrence's post was extremely interesting--it made me think about the issues in a more focused way.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - 06:53 am:   

I restate my opinion that all postings that replace reasoned argument with the shorthand of Left and Right deprive both writer and reader of the opportunity to truly reflect on the issues at hand. The issues are important and difficult. If the "right" answer was so easily available, half the country wouldn't be stumbling around in the dark.

I admit to being guilty of this myself. It does make us feel better to throw mudpies at the streotypes of the other side in the company of like-believers. Maybe we need that occasionally to "self-verify". I just don't think it accomplishes much beyond that. Maybe that's why a previous post dimissed our discussions as trivial. What has the publication of a thousand pro-Bushco diatribes and the thousand answering Bush-burning tracts accomplished ? It has just trivialized the whole discussion into a food-fight interesting only for its entertainment value ? CNN & FOX just love a good fight.

I'd like to see us raise and argue issues and, heaven forbid, even move beyond words to actions. I don't doubt the sincerity of the poster. I just think that straw men and epithets generate more heat than light.

The mentality of Buchanan, Cheney, et al is the root cause of Abu Ghraib and the war in general, but even they make arguments that can be used to weaken their misguided attempts at world domination. That seemed to be the point that we started from and I think it's a point well taken.

Thanks for the info on the story.

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mike
Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - 09:10 am:   

I concur that adopting a position that is either conspicuously to the left or conspicuously to the right, with no room for any further mental maneuvering, benefits no one. I would like to say about George W. Bush, our president, that he strikes me as worse than many of those in office because he appears -- to me, anyway -- to have tried to assume a role with which he is not in the least comfortable, that of the courageous leader of men and women, and that his efforts to convince himself of the legitimacy of this flattering self-casting have required others to pay in blood for his role playing, a great deal of which strikes me as compensation for his own documented cowardice and/or incompetence. Cheap amateur psychoanalysis? I think the facts of his life and career document it. And so, yes, I think George Dubya Bush is worse than most, and that he has abused the power with which the office of the presidency willy-nilly invested him. I think his religiosity merely compounds his egregiousness as a leader, and I think it's very important to find an alternative to him in the next election, even if the electorate cannot work up a great deal of warmth for the candidate on the Democratic ticket. I am astonished that even relatively sensible Republicans appear to give him a free pass for his shortcomings, including his inability to go before the 9/11 commission without the equally egregious Dick Cheney holding his hand. Perhaps I'm deluding myself, but I don't think I'd be defending a Democratic president this psychologically screwed up or this lacking in leadership ability. Clinton's behavior in the Lewinski scandal, although not in my view grounds for bringing impeachment proceedings, generated outrage in me. I don't see Bush's party, or any of its ostensibly responsible members, doing anything but circling the wagons, and their president's errors in judgment have cost our country lives, inflicted death on others, and tarnished our reputation as a bastion for the values that Dubya and company claim to uphold.
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Lucius
Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - 09:42 am:   

"I concur that adopting a position that is either conspicuously to the left or conspicuously to the right, with no room for any further mental maneuvering, benefits no one..."

Adopting an extreme position may not be fruitful for the purposes of conversation, but for the purposes of action it is often unavoidable.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Wednesday, June 30, 2004 - 01:32 pm:   

Adopting an extreme position may be helpful for political theatre or other forms of artistic expression. It does provoke reactions and is often extremely effective. And fun !

It is not necessarily an effective means of accomplishing political ends. Compromise is sometimes the distasteful but necessary answer.

I agree with Mike that in this case, it is about the lives (and the lies!). There can be no compromise. Bushco must go. They are portaying their cowardly slink from Baghdad as accomplishing their goal two days early. They have no shame. I guess they wanted to avoid images of CPA personnel hanging from helicopters a la Saigon.

Kerry may not be exciting, but this isn't a summer blockbuster. Give me a candidate capable of complex thought any day.

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mike
Posted on Friday, July 02, 2004 - 07:15 am:   

A quote from Lawrence A: "Lastly, Mike Bishop, how about a sequel of sorts to Apartheid...but set in present day "democratic" South Africa. A few South African writers have addressed the "new" South African nightmare such as J M Coetzee in his Disgrace, Andre Brink's The Rights of Desire, John Coyningham's The Lostness of Alice, Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness and no doubt many others I know nothing about. Writing a story set in post-apartheid apartheid South Africa wouldn't necessarily warm the cockles of your pseudo-liberal fan club. You know, the kind who don't want to know about South Africa these days, although they were all flustered and focused on my nation in the 80s. No longer the flavor of the day."

This is a legitimate challenge, and these are astute comments on the ephemeral nature of the public's attention span. Would that I had a "pseudo-liberal fan club." (Would that I had a fan club, period.) I will say that I think a helluva novel could be written, although probably not by me, about the ongoing AIDS crisis, and that bringing this topic into any speculative story or novel set in South Africa would heighten its relevance and authenticity. This comment goes pretty far afield from Abu Ghraib, I suppose, but we do seem to be talking here about the politics of confrontation, the politics of politics, and these matters have real weight in the world. If I go by the amount of effort that "Apartheid" required of me, though, I would have to devote the next five years of my life to the subject(s) to produce a novel worthy of them, and even then I'd have no guarantee that I had done the issues justice.
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Tom Walsh
Posted on Saturday, July 10, 2004 - 10:34 am:   

I received an interesting e-mail containing the following article. It goes back to the earlier isssue of the conservative view of the news.

Sorry I haven't been online for a while. We're opening a small restarant in Hamilton, GA and it's been taking all my time. Not much has been changing on the world scene in the interim, I see.


Subject: Is there hope?

You might be interested in the following just written by Charley Reese
of the Orlando Sentinel. If you know the writer and his strongly
conservative reputation, you should find it eye opening. Note
particularly what he says about John Kerry. The conservative journalists Robert Novak and
William Kristol happen to be saying the same things.

Subject: Right-winger support for KERRY
Here’s a column from the VERY CONSERVATIVE Charley
Reese of the Orlando
Sentinel.



Vote For A Man, Not A Puppet


Americans should realize that if they vote for President Bush’s re-election, they are really voting for the architects of war - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of that cabal of neoconservative ideologues and their corporate backers.

I have sadly come to the conclusion that President Bush is merely a frontman, an empty suit, who is manipulated by the people in his administration. Bush has the most dangerously simplistic view of the world of any president in my memory.

It’s no wonder the president avoids press conferences like the plague. Take away his cue cards and he can barely talk. Americans should be embarrassed that an Arab king (Abdullah of Jordan) spoke more fluently
and articulately in English than our own president at their joint press conference recently.

John Kerry is at least an educated man, well-read, who knows how to think and who knows that the world is a great deal more complex than Bush’s comic-book world of American heroes and foreign evildoers. It’s unfortunate that in our poorly educated country, Kerry’s very intelligence and refusal to adopt simplistic slogans might doom his presidential election efforts.

But Thomas Jefferson said it well, as he did so often, when he observed that people who expect to be
ignorant and free expect what never was and never will be.

People who think of themselves as conservatives will really display their stupidity,
as I did in the last election, by voting for Bush. Bush is as far from being a conservative as you can
get. Well, he fooled me once, but he won’t fool me twice.

It is not at all conservative to balloon government spending, to vastly increase the power of government,
to show contempt for the Constitution and the rule of law, or to tell people that foreign outsourcing of American jobs is good for them, that giant fiscal and trade deficits don’t matter, and that people should not know what their government is doing. Bush is the most prone-to-classify, the most secretive president in the 20th century. His
administration leans dangerously toward the authoritarian.

It’s no wonder that the Justice Department has convicted a few Arab-Americans of supporting terrorism. What would you do if you found yourself arrested and a federal prosecutor whispers in your ear that either you can plea-bargain this or the president will designate you an enemy combatant and you’ll be held incommunicado
for the duration?

This election really is important, not only for domestic reasons, but because Bush’s foreign policy has been a dangerous disaster. He’s almost restarted the Cold War with Russia and the nuclear arms race. America is not only hated in the Middle East, but it has few friends anywhere in the world thanks to the arrogance and ineptness of the Bush administration. Don’t forget, a scientific poll of Europeans found us, Israel, North Korea and Iran as the greatest threats to world peace.

I will swallow a lot of petty policy differences with Kerry to get a man in the White House with brains enough not to blow up the world and us with it. Go to Kerry’s Web site www.johnkerry.com magazine profiles on him. You’ll find that there is a great deal more to Kerry than the GOP attack dogs would have you believe.

Besides, it would be fun to have a president who plays hockey, windsurfs, ride motorcycles, plays the guitar,
writes poetry and speaks French. It would be good to have a man in the White House who has killed people face to face. Killing people has a sobering effect on a man and dispels all illusions about war.

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Lawrence A
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 05:03 am:   

Yeah Tom, good article and you are right - it shows that it is ridiculous to see this as a Right vs Left thing. It is merely a question of seeing Bush and his backers for what they are, irrespective of one's political ideology (unless of course one has a vested interest in the war). It's that simple. I'm always amazed though how working class people can time and again vote against their own interests, even if they are of a conservative bent.

There are a fair growing number of conservatives in full agreement with Reese, most notably Richard Clarke and O'Neil of course.
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mike
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 06:53 am:   

I can only agree with these last two postings. I might mention in passing here that I quoted from Pat Buchanan at the beginning of this thread solely to demonstrate that objections to this administration do not arise solely from an unthinking liberal and/or progressive perspective, that, indeed, they are plenty of good reasons to consider this administration one of the most dangerous to our self-alleged values and convictions ever to have come to power. In any case, thanks for these two postings.
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Minz
Posted on Monday, July 12, 2004 - 01:06 pm:   

The following is a transcription of a New School commencement address from Ted Sorenson (granted, he's no conservative, but as he pleads in his speech, this isn't about politics):

http://www.commondreams.org/views04/0621-13.htm
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mike
Posted on Tuesday, July 13, 2004 - 06:50 am:   

I encourage everyone to read the piece by Sorenson whose URL Minz has provided. Its tone reproduces almost exactly my sense of what this nation has sacrificed as a direct consequence of our invasion of Iraq. Yesterday, in a single speech, Bush repeated eight times that our country is safer today because we took out Saddam Hussein. That repeated assertion -- as if saying something is so will make it so -- lifts the act of protesting too much into the rhetorical stratosphere and underscores the moral (or psychological) bankruptcy of the speaker himself.
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mike
Posted on Friday, July 16, 2004 - 07:15 am:   

Not to flail a dead goat, but a Washington Post columnist said almost exactly the same thing that my previous posting says, comparising the President's insistence on our increased safety today (vis-a-vis pre-invasion-of-Iraq days) to an East German official's insistence, back during the Cold War, that East Berlin was beautiful and that West Berlin was cold, sterile, and ugly. He was rebuking the columnist for saying the opposite, of course, and the columnist -- sorry, I've forgotten his name -- could only try not to let his jaw drop at the sheer self-deluding audacity of the terms of this rebuke.

But perhaps we've exhausted this thread. Maybe somebody -- here, or elsewhere on the board -- should open up a discussion of the pending party conventions and the campaigning that will both precede and follow them. Ralph, you out there? Answer your country's call.
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Ralph
Posted on Saturday, July 17, 2004 - 09:11 am:   

I intend to run anyway. I just can't remember the name of my vice-presidential running mate.

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