Some 9,000 Gaza residents were injured; 2,704 homes to some 20,000 people were razed by the IDF's bulldozers and assault helicopters; 2,187 were partially destroyed. Some 31,650 dunams of agricultural land were left scorched.

What talent it takes to live for 35 years in a flourishing park and splendid villas just 20 meters from overcrowded, suffocated refugee camps. What talent it takes to turn on the sprinklers on the lawns, while just across the way, 20,000 other people are dependent on the distribution of drinking water in tankers; to know that you deserve it, that your government will pave magnificent roads for you and neglect (prior to Oslo, before 1994) to the point of destruction the Palestinian infrastructure. What skill it takes to step out of your well-cared-for greenhouse and walk unmoved past 60-year-old fruit-bearing date trees that are uprooted for you, roads that are blocked for you, homes that are demolished for you, the children who are shelled from helicopters and tanks and buried alongside you, for the sake of the safety of your children and the preservation of your super-rights. Were the American donors 'rewarding' the settlers for developing land that wasn't theirs? Was the Palestinian response so predictable as to be a propaganda victory for Israel, well worth a few million American dollars? Were the American donors suckered as to the value of the greenhouses?

It's often said, "Two Jews, four opinions." Add the Palestinian views, and it's suddenly Rashomon. I don't know what to think about this. Do you?

The Beauty Part

Listening to 'Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1'--Jackson Browne's new 'live' CD--I time-travel back to 1966. I was 20, and, in my prodigious way, writing a piece about a young singer for a national magazine. We spent the afternoon together, we had dinner, and then Billy James, her manager, said he had a little surprise.

Billy James is a man to be taken extremely seriously. He had been at Columbia Records when Dylan came along, and he had recorded the first known interview with him. He knew everyone in LA. He had a magnificent wife and a radiant son. He wasn't the Pied Piper, but he surely had the Piper's private number.

We repaired to Billy's hotel room. An herbal remedy was produced. Candles were lit. Billy switched on a tiny reel-to-reel tape recorder. And a man and woman sang:

I say goodbye to Joseph and Maria
They think I see another sky
And from my fallen window I still see them
I'll never free them from the sky

The song was 'Colors of the Sun.' The singers were Jackson Browne, then unknown, and Nico, the Andy Warhol protege who sang with the Velvet Underground. The effect was magic.

There were a few more songs on the tape. When it ended, Billy told me about the singer-songwriter who grew up in the Republican stronghold of Orange County--no kidding; its airport is named after John Wayne--and who surely had some kind of future.

Well, yes: Jackson Browne turned out to be the West Coast Bruce Springsteen. More melodic than The Boss. More lyrical. More personal (I can't imagine Springsteen writing a song like 'Here Come Those Tears Again'.) More political. And, on the flip side, less of a showman. Less of a generational statesman.

'Solo Acoustic, Vol. 1' is a lovely CD because it strips the songs to their bones.

Thought for the Week

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
-- Buckminster Fuller

Weekend Thoughts: Harriet Miers

Was that the longest holiday weekend of your life? When it started, the sun was shining and the Yankees were on a roll; by the time it ended, rain had flooded the streets and the Yankees were finished for the year.

I read, thought, gnawed my nails over my thoughts--the usual weekend activities. The only diversion was dribbles of information about Harriet Miers, the President's choice to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

Re Miers: It's weird. All the people who believe, as Miers does, that George Bush is a genius seem to oppose this nomination. Why? Do they suddenly want government officials to have actual qualifications for important jobs? Or do they fear that she's a secret swinger--her friend, the Texas judge, seems to be an actual boyfriend, rendering all those '60 year-old virgin' jokes obsolete--who just might not agree with this President's 'culture of life' philosophy two decades from now?

I know it sounds petty to say that if all these wingnuts hate Miers, I'm for her. But that's sort of how I feel. Yeah, she knows as much about constitutional law as Caligula's horse--but do you think Bush's next candidate will know more? Some of the women he passed over are borderline insane; they love the fetus and hate real people, and as for sex, they only like it straight, no chaser. And there's always the chance--Bush is never not vindictive--that his next choice won't even be a lawyer. I mean: If Ann Coulter (an actual lawyer) turns Bush down, there's nothing to stop him from appointing Loose Canon to the court. (And don't think it hasn't occurred to her.)