Thought for Today

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we've been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We're no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It is simply too painful to acknowledge--even to ourselves--that we've been so credulous.
--Carl Sagan

Guest Rant: What We Really Learned from This Election

"We've learned a lot from this election. We've learned that Jerry Springer airs on PBS in Oklahoma. We learned that we should post signs on the side of the highway when you cross the Mason/Dixon line that say, 'Caution: Minds Narrow.'"

I read those opening lines of a blog essay called "The Fundamentalist Right: an oxymoron"--and I was hooked. And I thought: Hmmm...why does the Daily Rant have to be mine? Why can't I drag in some angry guys like this from time to time?

So here's Mike Dugan [scroll down], who surely has what, in polite circles, they call a "point of view" on the Followers of Falwell and his ilk:

They don't want teenagers to have condoms, in that "Silence of the Lambskins" campaign they're running. Then they still try to blame teen sex on rock and roll music. Teenagers have sex because they're horny and because of peer pressure. If you're going to peg teen sex on rock and roll, why don't we just blame incest on Country and Western?

Regarding a woman's right to choose, everyone is entitled to their beliefs; this is America. My belief happens to be that life begins when you start minding your own f---g business. I have a theory that the religious right wants to haul all of the coat hangers out of the closet to make room for the gays they want to shove back in.

[...] And, finally, they refuse to believe in evolution. That part I can understand, actually. Because if you subscribe to the theory of evolution, well then, there's a tacit obligation to PARTICIPATE in evolution. For some people that's a little too much pressure. Many of the righteous can't recognize that Faith is a way to avoid responsibility. It's always the people with recessive genes who don't believe in evolution. "I believe in Creationism," they'll say. Really? I believe in critical thought. But then, my reading matter is a little more up-to-date than yours. Adopt a Soldier: The Follow-Up

Judging from your e-mail, lots of activity in your homes yesterday--many of you filled boxes for soldiers. Bless you, all.

And I heard from Cornbread: "Please tell everyone helping we said 'Thanks, and we're proud of you!' You're good people."

Also heard from several of you who all had the same question: "Why are we buying socks and blankets--blankets!!!--for soldiers? Doesn't the government do that?"

Well, we do this because our government is consistent--it consistently doesn't give a damn for our troops.

You red-staters thought it was liberal propaganda when I (among many others) pointed out the scarcity of Kevlar vests and armor for Humvees, didn't you?

Well, now the rubber meets the road--and everyone can see that the tires are bald.

Because these are our own soldiers telling us: We need the basics.

Once more, and maybe with a a few more voices singing with the choir: Shame on our wretched warmakers, driving to work in their big cars, wearing fine threads and eating healthy food!

If you signed up to Adopt a Soldier, these are some of the instructions you got in the return e-mail:

First, never put the service member's rank on the packaging, as it could endanger them, and therefore the package will not be shipped. Here are some other listeners' suggestions:

A way to keep your packages from getting stolen is to mark socks, T-shirts, or candy on the package. Mark the pack worth less than $20.00 or no worth to you at all.

Put items inside a popcorn can or cookie tin, the RATS are horrible and are eating more of the stuff than the Soldiers do. Great, huh? We can't even guarantee secure delivery.

But, okay, there's a (sort of) bright side. As a friend put it:

Why are we sending these things? Because we feel powerless to prevent the slaughter--and because Carl Rove is a satan/genius. He knows our hearts are much bigger than theirs and we will rush in to fill a gap that, if otherwise filled, would cost them way more than $87 billion and counting.
Whack a Mole Warfare: We Shut Down Falluja to Make Baghdad Unsafe

As if to prove the Iraq situation is as dire as our soldiers' requests suggest, here's a report on the war that couldn't be gloomier. Naturally, this didn't run in an American paper--this is from The Independent, in London:

Disintegrating security in Baghdad was underlined in a sombre warning yesterday from the British embassy against using the airport road or taking a plane out of Iraq.

The embassy says a bomb was discovered on a flight inside Iraq on 22 November. It shows that insurgents have been able to penetrate the stringent security at Baghdad airport. The embassy says its own staff have been advised against taking commercial planes.

The warning is in sharp contrast to more optimistic statements from US military commanders after the capture of Fallujah in which they have spoken of "breaking the back of the insurgency."

The embassy says that the road between Baghdad and the international airport, perhaps the most important highway in the country, is now too dangerous to use. The advice says starkly: "With effect from 28 November, the British embassy ceased all movements on the Baghdad International airport road."

Danger levels in the capital are also increasing; some of the resistance fighters who were previously in Fallujah have taken refuge in Baghdad... The Beauty Part

A candy bar. Yes, you read that right. Click here.

Thought for Today

Some things to do before the Inaugural:
1. Get that abortion you've always wanted.
2. Drink a nice clean glass of water.
3. Cash your social security check.
4. See a doctor of your own choosing.
5. Spend quality time with your draft age child/grandchild.
6. Visit Syria, or any foreign country for that matter.
7. Get that gas mask you've been putting off buying.
8. Hoard gasoline.
9. Jam in all the Alzheimer's stem cell research you can.
10. Stay out late before the curfews start.
11. Go see a Bruce Springsteen concert before he has his "accident."
12. Go see Mount Rushmore before the Reagan addition.
13. Use the phrase "You can't do that -- this is America."
14. If you're white, marry a black person; if you're black, marry a white person.
15. Take a walk in Yosemite without being hit by a snowmobile or a base-jumper.
16. Enroll your kid in an accelerated art or music class.
17. Start your school day without a prayer.
18. Pass on the secrets of evolution to future generations.
19. Learn French.
20. Visit Massachusetts while it is still a State.
--Letter going around the internet

Won't You Please Adopt a Soldier?

Just back from a weekend of writing and hibernating. When I looked up, nobody but Mrs. Uptown was talking about the war. Gee, maybe if we all hush up, it will just...vanish?

Then Mrs. U sent me an e-mail, saying that we had signed up for the Adopt a Soldier gift program, sponsored by "Cornbread," a DJ on a country station in St. Louis. The idea: shower soldiers stationed in Iraq with gifts they can use.

Adopt a Soldier is a terrific way to do a good thing this season. It's not political. It's just...good. Red state, blue state: We can agree on this.

It couldn't be simpler. Go to the site. Scan the list of soldiers. Pick one who moves you--pick more if the year's been good to you or you just feel the urge. The radio station will send you an e-mail telling you how to send your package to Iraq.

Mrs. Uptown--Our Lady of the Bleeding Heart--chose a chaplain named Mark Thompson because--how like a chaplain--his request was not for himself.

Here's his entry: "Chaplain in Iraq would like to request clothing, socks, shoes and baby blankets for infant to 12 yrs old for injured children in combat hospital. Clothes need to be easy to get off and on due to injuries.TV/DVD purchased by staff so they need kids' movies."

If you're going to do this, please jump in today. Iraq is distant. Time is tight (but the Post Office says it will do everything it can to get your package to Iraq before Christmas). And this is one gift box that will absolutely make a difference.

So Who is Cornbread?

Swami dropped in on the WIL website to learn about Cornbread. Can't tell how much of this is true, but here's some of what he has to say about himself:

I was a case study slacker who took 9 units of junior college, had a bad haircut, and was delivering papers out of my car... good $, no pressure... I could fold, rubber band and throw a newspaper like nobody's business...(as a matter of fact, every now and then I'll slip the neighborhood kid a $20 to let me throw his route).

My only problem was that I had this inner voice.... and I know what you're saying... "Cornbread, get some professional help".... the voice told me to strive for more and dress up as the Indian Chief from the Village People.

About that time I received a call on my answering machine from a guy who ran a radio station.... Ya see, I used to put a crazy message on my machine every day and word got around so much that I'd come home and have 50 messages from people I didn't even know... this man was one such person.... he liked my message so much he told me to come by the station for an audition. Right. A DJ. With a big mouth. And--it turns out--a big heart. I listened to his show this morning. He talked about hunting. I loathe hunting. But I love this guy. And, now, I love the tie that binds us.

Why is Iraq like Vietnam? (This Is Not a Riddle)

Answer: because we're using napalm. We're "allowed" to do this because we refuse to sign weapons treaties outlawing napalm--as a result, we're the only nation using napalm. But the Brits have decrees against napalm. Which gives Tony ("The Poodle") Blair a bit of a problem. From the London Sunday Mirror:

US troops are secretly using outlawed napalm gas to wipe out remaining insurgents in and around Fallujah.

News that President George W. Bush has sanctioned the use of napalm, a deadly cocktail of polystyrene and jet fuel banned by the United Nations in 1980, will stun governments around the world.

And last night Tony Blair was dragged into the row as furious Labour MPs demanded he face the Commons over it. Reports claim that innocent civilians have died in napalm attacks, which turn victims into human fireballs as the gel bonds flames to flesh.

Outraged critics have also demanded that Mr Blair threatens to withdraw British troops from Iraq unless the US abandons one of the world's most reviled weapons. Halifax Labour MP Alice Mahon said: "I am calling on Mr Blair to make an emergency statement to the Commons to explain why this is happening. It begs the question: 'Did we know about this hideous weapon's use in Iraq?'" Evangelicals to Bush: You Owe Us

If you believe the spin, the religious right made "moral values" the key issue of the election, thus guaranteeing Bush's victory.

If you read Frank Rich in the New York Times, however, you see that the facts suggest otherwise:

The mainstream press, itself in love with the "moral values" story line and traumatized by the visual exaggerations of the red-blue map, is too cowed to challenge the likes of the American Family Association. So are politicians of both parties. It took a British publication, The Economist, to point out that the percentage of American voters citing moral and ethical values as their prime concern is actually down from 2000 (35 percent) and 1996 (40 percent).
Because the Religious Right isn't up on the facts, they're pounding the table for their reward. ABC reports:

Among some conservative Christians, there is a belief that President Bush received a "moral mandate" to win the recent presidential election - and they are calling on him to act on their agenda now.

"I believe Our Lord elected our president and I believe he put him in office and it is my prayer that he will sustain him in office," said one woman at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Another was asked if she believed that God intervened in the election. "Absolutely," she said.

"Values" voters delivered for the president, and the president must now deliver for them - especially in the courts, said Gary Cass, head of a grassroots political organization affiliated with Coral Ridge, called the Center for Reclaiming America.

"It's about the next 40 years and how the courts are going to affect the world in which my children and grandchildren are going to be raised in," he said.

Cass wants a U.S. Supreme Court that will outlaw abortion and gay marriage. "Do you want to take your children to a National League baseball game for instance and have homosexuals showing affection to one another? I don't want my kids to see that," he said. Why stop there? In the NFL, guys pat each other on the rear all the time. And in baseball, when a team wins a pennant, all the guys jump into a pig pile that looks like a sex photo from Abu Ghraib. And....but at this rate, we'll want the end of all sports, won't we?

Too Broke To Go to Conferences?

Looks like we're doomed to be champions of landmines. It's not that we love 'em. It's that we can't afford plane fare for a government drone to go to a meeting. The Denver Post reports:

The United States will not attend a major review conference this week about a 1997 international treaty on land mines because of the cost of participation and disagreement with crucial elements of the pact.

In making the announcement Friday, the State Department said the decision should not be seen as a sign of U.S. indifference. "We share common cause with all those who seek to protect innocent civilians from indiscriminately used land mines," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

The conference, starting Monday in Nairobi, Kenya, will review compliance with the Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines. Ratified by 143 countries, the pact bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of anti-personnel mines and stipulates that mined areas be cleared within 10 years.

The United States, China and Russia are among 51 countries that have not ratified the treaty.

Thought for Today

My coming to faith did not start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another. Like lily pads, round and green, these places summoned and then held me up while I grew. When I look back on some of these early resting places, I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today.
--Anne Lamott, quoted in The Writer's Faith, a spirit-filled 2005 calendar created by the noted photographer Jill Krementz. (Ms. Krementz also has a large show--more than a hundred photographs--called "Writers Unbound" at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, running through January 30.)

Thanksgiving Thoughts

Lucky. That's what I feel today. Lucky-squared, in fact. Lucky-to-the-max, lucky-to-the-google-power.

Yes, it's the war that makes me feel lucky--a war in which we've thrown away all the traditional rules of engagement. If it walks, it's an enemy. If it's dead, bulldoze the building.

But no choppers fly over my house, raining death. No tanks roll through my streets. No depleted uranium pollutes my wounds. My child is fed, my neighborhood hospital is staffed, my computer is powered 24/7. Oh lucky me. Oh charmed Mrs. Uptown. Oh-so-blessed Little Uptown.

Ninety-nine per cent of the world hates this war. And hates us not only for waging it, but for the way we wage it. They know the ugly truth of the post-World War II U.S. Empire--that we'd never do this to white people. Our savagery is reserved for Asiatics and Arabs (we apply a different savagery, more passive, to Africans).

You think our cause is just? Well, could George Bush say, as Abraham Lincoln did in his Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1863:

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign states to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere, except in the theater of military conflict....
I think not. And I think, as the law of karma decrees, that we will pay for the war we have waged against Iraqi civilians and our own institutions. But John Lennon was wrong: Karma isn't "instant." The wheels of justice grind slow. Astonishingly, we are--for now--"getting away" with this criminal enterprise.

So I pray the prayer of the dissident: that my family, which has opposed this war from the beginning, will be spared the inevitable "payback" and "blowback."

Then I expand the prayer, and hope that those we have wronged will forgive us. And that those who support this war will find a safer way to siphon off their aggression. And that all who are afflicted by our hardhearted policies will be fed and clothed and cared for.

And then my prayers go grand. They become like the Kurt Vonnegut fantasy: that time race backwards. Please, God, let the bombs that kill come together again and fly safely back to the bombers that dropped them; let bullets be wrenched from the dead and wounded and returned to the guns that fired them. And let everyone come home. Safe. Now.

What Would Jesus Do?

The story of a guy who truly wanted to walk the walk. From The Anchorage (Alaska) Daily News:

Matanuska Christian School's principal has been fired and a teacher has quit over a disciplinary incident in which the principal had himself whipped in front of two students.

Principal Steve Unfreid, who said he was inspired in his choice of disciplinary tactics by the actions of Jesus, asked teacher Joe Brost to whip him in front of two male students in the school's basement last month after the boys were caught kissing girls in the locker room for the second time in a week....

Since coming to the school as a teacher several years ago, he said, he pushed for the school to admit a married student, laid on hands in an effort to heal a girl basketball player's injured ankle, and has taken troubled students into his family's home.

"The vision I had is the love of God can change everything," Unfreid said.

When the two seniors, 17 and 18, got caught kissing girls in front of younger students in late October, Unfreid said that while contemplating what discipline to hand out, he woke at 3 a.m. and prayed how to avoid expelling them. He said that was when he remembered years ago he had cured his son of chronic lying by telling his son to hit him with a wooden ladle instead of spanking the youngster.

Later at school, Unfreid walked the boys down to a basement room with Brost. He told them, "'Guys, this has gotta stop,'" he said. "'I've let the atmosphere get too lax. I share in this discipline. This is a one-time deal.'"

Then the principal took off his belt, gave it to Brost, and instructed the teacher to "discipline me like you would discipline your own son," he recalled.

He told the teacher to stop only when the students acknowledged their mistake. The whole thing, starting with the trip downstairs, lasted 5 to 10 minutes, he said. Is Fallwell Married?

From Jerry Falwell's November 21 televised service, noted by Media Matters:

"And we're going to invite PETA [to 'Wild Game Night'] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

...Calling NOW the "National Order of Witches" was far from Falwell's first expression of his opposition to feminists. Falwell mobilized opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment through his organization The Moral Majority. In 1989, Falwell stated:

"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals ... These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it, and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men; that's their problem."
Is Falwell married? Is there a woman in his life who eagerly awaits his arrival at night? Who lusts after him? Boggles the mind....

The Beauty Part

He more or less invented World Music--when he was 21 years old, back in distant 1962. No words. Just stringed instruments that take you from culture to culture, one great cut at a time. Who was he? Sandy Bull.

Thought for Today

Right now, our whole country's on life-support from Beijing and Tokyo. But the more money they lend us as the dollar weakens, the more money they're going to lose. At some point, China might decide it's best to cut us off this welfare scheme and start spending the money on their own citizens.
-- Peter Schiff, who heads Euro Pacific Capital in Newport Beach, quoted in The San Diego Union-Tribune

Hearts and Minds

And yet there are those who call what we're making in Iraq "progress." From The Star Tribune:

Acute malnutrition among young children in Iraq has nearly doubled since the United States led an invasion of the country 20 months ago, according to surveys by the United Nations, aid agencies and the interim Iraqi government. After the rate of acute malnutrition among children younger than 5 steadily declined to 4 percent two years ago, it shot up to 7.7 percent this year, according to a study conducted by Iraq's Health Ministry in cooperation with Norway's Institute for Applied International Studies and the U.N. Development Program. The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition that includes chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

"These figures clearly indicate the downward trend," said Alexander Malyavin, a child health specialist with the UNICEF mission to Iraq.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, a central African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is far worse than rates in Uganda and Haiti.

Voting Fraud?

Keeping away from the voting fraud story until it really is a story. But it is interesting to note the Christian connection. From the Washington Monthly (scroll down to 11/21):

A quartet of companies control [80% of] the U.S. vote count. Diebold, ES&S, Sequoia and SAIC are all hard-wired into the Bush campaign and power structure. Diebold chief Walden O'Dell is a top Bush fund-raiser. According to "online anarchist community" Infoshop.org, "At Diebold, the election division is run by Bob Urosevich. Bob's brother, Todd, is a top executive at 'rival' ES&S. The brothers were originally staked by Howard Ahmanson, a member of the Council For National Policy, a right-wing steering group stacked with Bush true believers. Ahmanson is also one of the bagmen behind the extremist Christian Reconstruction Movement, which advocates the theocratic takeover of American democracy." Sequoia is owned by a partner member of the Carlyle Group, which is believed to have dictated foreign policy in both Bush administrations and has employed former President Bush for quite a while.

Masturbation: A Sin and a Crime

No need to comment. The story itself suffices (scroll down to 11/21):
Did you realize that last year when Justice Scalia dissented in the Lawrence v. Texas decision, the one that overturned ant-gay sodomy laws, he angrily included a long list of things that the state would no longer be able to regulate as a result of the Lawrence decision - i.e., things that Scalia and his religious right ilk WANT to be able to regulate:

State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers' validation of laws based on moral choices. Every single one of these laws is called into question by today's decision; the Court makes no effort to cabin the scope of its decision to exclude them from its holding.
Could Michael Powell "Resign" Too?

Your FCC chairman in action, from The Washington Post:

Jeff Jarvis, TV Guide's last good TV critic and now prominent in the blogger universe, uncovered a stupefying example of how the process works and how unfair the FCC's actions are. He filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the 159 complaints supposedly received at the FCC because of an April 2003 Fox special, "Married by America." Now 159 seems like an insignificant enough number, but when Jarvis checked further into the case, he found that most of the letters were identical, produced by an "automated complaint factory," and that the number of authentic, actual, original letters of complaint was not 159 but . . . three. Yes, three.

Result: [Chairman Michael] Powell's FCC slaps Fox with a $1.2 million fine.
Thought for Today

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war,
I will find no exit, for thou art in office.
Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term,
And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.
-- "The 23rd Sigh," now making its way around the Web

And God Said: Let There Be War!

Where does war start? Bill Moyers looks to religion for the origins of conflict:

In the opening chapter of Genesis--the founding document of three great faiths--the first murder rises from a religious act. You know the story: Adam and Eve become the first parents to discover what it means to raise Cain. God plays favorites and chooses Abel's offering over Cain. Cain is so jealous he strikes out at his brother and kills him. Sibling rivalry for God's favor leads to violence and ends in death.

Once this pattern is established, it's played out in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and down through the centuries in generation after generation of conflict between Muslims and Jews, Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, so that the red thread of religiously spilled blood runs directly from East of Eden to Bosnia, Beirut, Belfast, and Baghdad.
And God Said: Let There Be War!

Where does war start? Bill Moyers looks to religion for the origins of conflict:

In the opening chapter of Genesis--the founding document of three great faiths--the first murder rises from a religious act. You know the story: Adam and Eve become the first parents to discover what it means to raise Cain. God plays favorites and chooses Abel's offering over Cain. Cain is so jealous he strikes out at his brother and kills him. Sibling rivalry for God's favor leads to violence and ends in death.

Once this pattern is established, it's played out in the story of Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, and down through the centuries in generation after generation of conflict between Muslims and Jews, Jews and Christians, Christians and Muslims, so that the red thread of religiously spilled blood runs directly from East of Eden to Bosnia, Beirut, Belfast, and Baghdad.
War Update

If you haven't been paying attention, we're doing better in Iraq--killing more of "them" (whoever "they" are) while not losing more of our own than we can stomach. Or is that no one gives a damn either way, so this disaster can just roll on until, with more bogus evidence, we decide to roll into Iran. I thought I'd use a bit of this space for a wake-up call.

  • Pictures of the effect of depleted uranium in our weapons (yes, we use depleted uraniam). You are warned: these pictures are horrifying.
  • New Art from Iraq. Four figures. Invaders all. With a difference: "The first three are American marines, the fourth is a Mongol warrior," says Karim Khalil, 45, an Iraqi painter-sculptor. "They have all occupied Iraq and destroyed its culture. But while the Mongols were primitive savages who burned the libraries, the Americans, who call themselves a civilised nation, stood watching as the Iraqi museums were looted."
  • The injured we don't count:
  • Today, Schneider walks with a limp, on his artificial leg. But even though he was injured while on a mission in a war zone - and even though he'll receive the same benefits as a soldier who'd been shot - he is not included in the Pentagon's casualty count. Their official tally shows only deaths and wounded in action. It doesn't include "non-combat" injured, those whose injuries were not the result of enemy fire.

    "It's a slap in the face. Although it was through no direct hostile action, I was on a mission that they'd given me in hostile territory. Hostile enough that we had to have a perimeter set up at the time of my accident to prevent from an ambush or an attack," says Schneider. "For those of us that were unfortunate enough to get injured. Whether it was hostile action or not, we're all paying the same price."

    How many injured and ill soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines - like Chris Schneider - are left off the Pentagon's casualty count?

    Would you believe 15,000? 60 Minutes asked the Department of Defense to grant us an interview. They declined. Instead, they sent a letter, which contains a figure not included in published casualty reports: "More than 15,000 troops with so-called 'non-battle' injuries and diseases have been evacuated from Iraq."

  • A soldier's story:
    I was in Falluja during the last two days of the final assault. My mission was much different from that of the brave and weary infantry and marines involved in the major fighting. I was on an escort mission, accompanied by a squad who's task it was to protect a high brass figure in the combat zone. This particularly arrogant officer went to the last battle in the same spirits of an impartial spectator checking out the fourth quarter of a high school football game.
  • Once we got to the marine occupied Camp Falluja and saw artillery being fired into town, the man suddenly became desperate to play an active role in the battle that would render Falluja to ashes. It was already rumored that all he really wanted was his trigger time, perhaps to prove that he is the toughest cowboy west of the Euphrates. Guys like him are a dime a dozen in the army: a career soldier who spent the first twenty years of his service patrolling the Berlin Wall or guarding the DMZ between North and South Korea. This sort of brass may have been lucky to serve in the first Gulf War, but in all actuality spent very little time shooting rag heads. For these trigger-happy tough guys, the last two decades of cold war hostilities built into a war frenzy of stark emptiness, fizzling out almost completely with the Clinton administration.

    But this is the New War, a never ending, action packed "Red Scare" in which the communist threat of yesteryear was simply replaced with the white knuckled tension of today's "War on Terrorism". The younger soldiers who grew up in relatively peaceful times interpret the mentality of the careerists as one of making up for lost opportunities. To the elder generation of trigger pullers, this is the real deal; the chance to use all the cool toys and high speed training that has been stored away since the '70s for something tangibly useful.and it's about goddamn time. Thought for Today

    I'm a Buddhist, I'm a Muslim, I'm a Christian. I'm whatever you want me to be...it all comes down to the same thing.
    --Jim Carrey, on "60 Minutes," this Sunday

    In Haste: Thoughts from My Day

    Still in Charleston. The big news here is that Steve Spurrier will replace Lou Holtz as coach of the USC football team. Yesterday, sat at a restaurant booth with a plaque commemorating the visit of President Bush last winter--the Secret Service sat here while the President ordered ribs for the plane. Say what you will: This President knows ribs.

    To those who have commented about the childhood sexual abuse program I'm here for--I'll have some answers for you next week.

    To the bloggers sitting in for Loose Canon, There are some unresolved--and often undiscussed--issues between us. Maybe you'd share your views: Is faith connected to works? Is faith alone sufficient for spiritual merit? Or will works do it? And, by the way... Iraq?

    Send A Letter To Tom DeLay's Pastor

    Chuck Currie, a blogger who is a United Church of Christ seminarian, has been thinking more about Tom DeLay--the soon-to-be indicted House Majority Leader--and moral values. As he notes, "indicted members of Congress have been required to give up leadership positions." But the Republicans changed the rules this week to keep their leader around. So Currie writes:

    Isn't it ironic that DeLay is supposed to be the face of moral values in the House? The Republicans did everything they could to claim the mantle of moral values in the elections last month. I think they should be held to that high standard. After all, they asked for it. So did the evangelical Christian supporters of DeLay and other conservative Republicans.

    So today I took the opportunity to write DeLay's pastor, Dr. Scott Rambo of First Baptist Church of Sugar Land, Texas. Currie's appeal to a "higher father" asks Rambo to call for DeLay's resignation. Nice idea--let's see if these guys about talking the talk or walking the walk. Very simply, in Currie's words: "Is the cry for moral values just a campaign slogan?"

    Why don't you shoot an e-mail to Dr. Rambo? Start here.

    Mental Health Report

    Since the election, I've been sharing e-mail from friends who were deeply committed to regime change--and are now struggling to put their lives together again. Here's another in their series, from a pal in California.

    I became a Partner Member of Human Rights Campaign. Every month a certain amount is charged to my credit card. I've rarely felt better about actively supporting a cause I believe in.

    No longer a meat eater, I also made a decision to give up fish from my diet. A small contribution to curbing cruelty in this world.

    Strangely, I've felt pretty content--quite happy even--for the last two weeks. When I listen to Bowie or The Cranberries, the songs sound better than ever. I savor my hikes more. I'm laughing harder than ever at "South Park."

    There is so much I cannot control in this world (a shallow media, a corrupt administration and so on) that I am determined to better enjoy the things I can control.

    That's the balance I've been going for--making positive contributions when I can, refusing to surrender my happiness to external events, and keeping a sense of humor ("O'Reilly WHO? Hmmm...sorry, can't place the name"). Not rocket science, I know, but it's been working well for me.

    It's going to be a rocky road ahead, but I am honestly optimistic. Our country's been through some ugly patches before. McCarthyism. Internment. Interracial marriage bans. You name it.

    But progress and fairness usually win out in the end. We've shown an ability to the right our wrongs in the past and I think we will again--in the meantime, keep on rockin' in the free world! The Beauty Part

    "It is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives within you. No one else can bring you news of this inner world. Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time, loudly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in the paper, in books. The noise of words keeps what we call the world there for us. We take each other's sounds and make patterns, predictions, benedictions, and blasphemies. Each day, our tribe of language holds what we call the world together. Yet the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relentlessly creates. Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible."

    That's John O'Donohue--Irish, a former priest, a constant seer--in his wondrous book, "Anam Cara : A Book of Celtic Wisdom." An excellent book for this season. Or any.

    Thought for Today

    There is such an enormous gap between our words and deeds! Everyone talks about freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and peace; but at the same time, everyone, more or less, consciously or unconsciously, serves those values and ideals only to the extent necessary to defend and serve his own interests, and those of his group or his state. Who should break this vicious circle? Responsibility cannot be preached: it can only be borne, and the only possible place to begin is with oneself.
    --Vaclav Havel

    Living with Childhood Sexual Abuse for Two Days

    The reason Swami's short today--and is likely to be again tomorrow--is that I am in Charleston, South Carolina for two days of meetings. The purpose: fine-tuning a training for teachers, coaches, group leaders and others who deal with kids. The goal: reducing our national epidemic of sexual abuse of children. The organization: Darkness to Light. My role: member of the advisory board.

    It amazes me that I'm here. I'm totally in over my head--for the first time in my life, I'm the C-student. My skills are reading, writing, knowing Boldface Names. I'm surrounded by smart, caring people with real skills. And, mostly, I'm surrounded by The Problem.

    Talk about a real issue: One in four American girls and one of every six American boys will be sexually abused before reaching l8--and one only out of ten will tell a parent. And yet most of the parents of kids who are being abused consider themselves "good" and "responsible." Can you spell "clueless"?

    The Darkness to Light message is a welcome one for the simplest of reasons: Telling kids to make distinctions between "good touch" and "bad touch" is ridiculous. When it comes to abuse, the power relationship isn't equal--the adult usually rules. The kid may want to say no, but in most cases, the kid is small and the adult is big, and... But you know how that goes--so why dump the responsibility for stopping abuse on kids?

    At Darkness to Light, the responsibility is on the adult--on you, pal. You let your kid be alone with the priest/teacher/Scout Leader? Well, don't. Not without really serious investigation.

    Darkness to Light is about to offer a training program for those who work with kids, to help them recognize--and prevent--abuse. We watched a close-to-final cut of a 90-minute film that Darkness to Light has made. It contains wrenching, courageous interviews with adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse--men and women who, with the help of therapy and will and faith, have healed themselves.

    What a message of hope for those who are suffering in silence! What a warning to parents, teachers and others who work around kids! And what an amazing group of people I have fallen in with. How I wish I had more to give than my passion and my words.

    If you are a parent, teacher, mentor--or, dare I say, member of the clergy--you ought to be clicking on the Darkness to Light site right now. Because this is a commercial. For your kids. For all kids.

    Thought for Today

    Religion is ceremony and symbolism. Writers live off symbolism, and performers live off ceremony. We're made for religion! And yet you see this country, Ireland, ripped over religion, and you see the Middle East. Right now, unless tolerance comes with fervor, you'll see it in the United States.
    --Bono, in the New York Times

    A Christian Cartoon

    Yes. Really. Because impressionable minds shouldn't learn about Islam from Muslims. Click here.

    The Bad News Is the Good News

    Yesterday, Swami's Crystal Ball revealed that America is going to be saved by a most unlikely force--American corporations. (Emerson's Crystal Ball saw this 150 years ago: "Business is divine activity.") I've had some further thoughts, inspired first by an interview I read with Emmanuel Todd, a French historian whose most recent book is "After the Empire: Essays on the Decomposition of the American System."

    Just to give you a sense of Emmanuel Todd's bleak view of America:

    ...the current military activism of the United States reminds me of that of the USSR at the time of the first war in Afghanistan. That was the moment when the Soviet imperial system was ruined completely... The last breath of declining empires is the military gesture...Of course, we must consider a scenario, where, in the end, America wins this war. But, for me, the most probable assumption is that they will have conquered an uncontrollable, uncontrolled, disintegrating country preyed on by internal terrorism. Can one control an exploding colony on the other side of the world with a 500 billion dollar trade deficit?
    From here it was a short jump to pieces that discussed the damage to "Brand America":

    The "America" brand is in trouble. A new study by market research firm NOP World shows that growing global distaste with U.S. policy is beginning to hit the nation's products. An annual survey of 30,000 consumers in 30 countries found, for the first time, that the world's appetite for American brands took a hit last year. Moreover, the United States is no longer synonymous with altruistic concepts such as internationalism and equality. And this was reported before the abuses at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison further inflamed anti-Americanism in the Islamic world, Western Europe, and most other parts of planet Earth.
    What this means: Coke sales down in Europe, sales of Qibla Cola--a Muslim-owned soft drink--are zooming. And so on.

    How long do you think Fortune 500 companies--companies worth more than the GNP of most countries--are going to put up with ideological drivel that drives business away from their products? How sympathetic will these companies be to the Dominion theologians who are so hell-bent on Heaven they've forgotten all about laying in riches on earth?

    The bottom line is a harsh master. Unforgiving. In "The Godfather," Mario Puzo noted that "one lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with machine guns." How about a company of lawyers? Beefy-muscled, passport-poor, blind-for-Jesus Red State Americans don't stand on chance.

    My bet: Big Business is going to make George Bush an offer he can't refuse.

    Is Your Kid Crazy? Your Government Wants to Know

    Your child's mental health--your responsibility, right?

    Your government feels otherwise. NewsMax.com reports:

    Under new law being considered, the federal government would require that every child in America undergo psychological screening and receive recommended treatment, including drug therapies.

    Next week the Senate re-convenes to consider an omnibus appropriations bill that includes funding for grants to implement mandatory universal mental health screening for almost 60 million children, pregnant women and adults, starting in pre-school.

    The bill would fund initiatives of the "New Freedom Commission on Mental Health," including a program designed to subject every school age child in the country to psychological testing and recommendations for treatment. The House has already voted to appropriate $20 million for the plan, and the Senate will be considering whether to bump it up to $44 million. Think this can't be happening? Here's the Executive Summary of The President's "New Freedom" Commission on Mental Health.

    New "freedom," indeed!

    Thought for Today

    Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.
    --Arundhati Roy

    On Loyalty

    Like most of you, I was bummed when I saw that Condi Rice--a talent-free, idea-shy operative who is, on the edvidence, willing to play the fool on demand and perjure herself on cue--has been teed up to be Secretary of State. Colin Powell was no prize--Rude Pundit [caution: violently vulgar language, start to finish] takes the gloves off on him today. But Rice....she's so much worse than Powell, you have to wonder if Bush is actively trying to lower the level of our national conversation.

    Rice's appointment reminds me of a memory I usually suppress: the months I spent writing a "novel" with a mid-level Mafioso. Just as it is for George Bush, loyalty was a big thing with Luigi--because, as I quickly realized, he didn't have another way to bind people to him. Loyalty, for him, was about high you could jump, and how fast, and how often.

    In the wider world, loyalty is the management philosophy of bullies, brats and the second rate. It's the card you play when you've got nothing else. Now, I grant you, my experience in offices is limited. Never went to one every day until I was 50, and when I was relieved of duty, at 55, I didn't see much incentive to find another job-job. Not that I hated the life--I loved it. There's nothing grander than building a cathedral with people who share a dream, nothing better than growing talent and opening fresh vistas--and having others return the favor.

    For the people who worked directly with me, the deal was pretty clear: Our first obligation was to make ourselves happy so we could bring pleasure and wisdom to others. To my bosses, that way of operating wasn't in the manual. Maybe they weren't sure they were lovable. Or maybe they really liked being feared. Either way, they demanded loyalty to such a degree that, when the business started to fail and some change-agents were brought in to salvage it, the new guys made announcements like "It's okay to think again." But it wasn't. And with Rice at State and a Bush loyalist at the CIA, government types won't be speaking freely for so long they may even forget how to think freely.

    Letter from a Friend

    My super-smart pal Sarah writes to her homies:

    After tonight's Condi news, I've decided to jump off the political bandwagon.

    Some of you will be angry with me, others relieved, still others who have used such reassuring phrases as "I don't really care what you think, because my side won," will think the country is just better off with folks like me becoming complacent.

    In fact, I'm doing this for my six-year-old daughter. Not because I don't think reform in this country is important for her--indeed, I do. If, down the line, some strongly organized group gathers enough steam where I feel that a real difference can be made, I will be there.

    But until that time comes, you will find me at the park with my daughter, kicking up the leaves, trying not to ever read a newspaper again. Which leads me to....

    The Open Center and the Message of Hope

    Andrew Weil, who I've known since 1966, was being honored by The New York Open Center last night, so Mrs. Uptown and I hauled down to the United Nations for the Gala Awards Dinner. Mrs. Uptown is known for her good values and low profile; she'd rather go to a movie or a concert than rub shoulders with the swells. So, in the cab, I wasn't surprised to hear her grump: "I see why society women care about dresses for these things--they're so boring there's nothing else to care about." I, for my part, thought about my pal's retreat from activism and my blips of feeling that this winter will be chilly for more reasons than weather.

    So much for expectations. This was a life-changing night. Hard to see that at first; it didn't seem as if we knew anybody. Then I had a short, intense conversation with the editor of Oprah's magazine. Another with a woman who founded a national law firm. And another with a publicist for meaningful projects. "When minds rub against one another, the mental temperature rises," Pierre Teilhard de Chardin said. And, last night, that was true--I could almost feel myself getting smarter by the minute.

    The first honoree was Karen Armstrong, the former nun who is restoring sanity to religious history, one book at a time. She was incendiary. "You can have bad religion just as you can have bad cooking, bad art and bad sex," she said. She called much of what passes for religion as "a cover-up for religion." But then she took a glorious turn and reminded us that "human beings seek ecstasy."

    I had never heard of William McDonough, the second honoree. He's an architect whose thinking goes far beyond buildings; his plans for "the next industrial revolution" start with "Green" Architecture and then move fast into the idealistic zone. Or so I gathered from the stories told by his friend and sometime colleague, Susan Lyons, one of those smart, funny, self-possessed women you see on the street in New York but rarely get to know; here, in five minutes, she revealed herself completely, just by praising her sad-to-be-absent friend.

    And then the film began. McDonough, seated at his desk, talking straight at the camera. A pleasant, owlish guy, with humor in his eyes. But within a minute, you could scarely look--your ears were on fire. Because he was preaching...hope. "I like atomic energy," he said. "In fact, I'm particularly interested in fusion--and there's already a plant pumping that energy out in abundance: the sun. We have more energy than we can use." And suddenly I got it. Or re-got it, because I have always known in my bones that history is never a straight-line projection. Nope, we won't run out of oil. We will run out of the desire for oil, because we will have solar cells everywhere, and a plethora of cheap, clean power. (And won't that be a bummer for the Saudis, who will have to deal with a new reality--they're sitting on sand, not gold.)

    How could Dr. Weil follow this? Nobly, in fact. Self-assured as McDonough, he rolled through his experiences with the Medical Establishment over the last 30 years and explained why he believed traditional medicine would soon change--money. It's just too damn expensive to treat disease in a vaccuum, with no attention on nutrition and natural healing. The system will soon bankrupt itself. Change will come because employers just can't handle the premiums--market forces will make the world safe for Integrative Medicine.

    Three beacons of hope, lined up like planets--we left the UN with our imaginations buzzing. George Bush no longer seemed like the Prince of Darkness. Oh, he's dark alright. But his purpose isn't what he thinks it is--he's going to accelerate America's slide from grace and force new ideas to be tried. Because if there's one thing we all know: Business isn't going down without a fight. Yes, Business helped get Bush elected. But...loyalty? No. Business is loyal to business.

    I'm feeling good tonight. Can't wait to read McDonough's book and report back. Cheer up, Sarah.

    Thought for Today

    I cannot get the image out of my mind of her fetus being blown out of her body.
    --Muna Salim, recalling the moment when the Falluja home of her sister Artica, seven months' pregnant, was hit by two rockets from US warplanes on November 1.

    Weekend Thoughts

  • Does George Bush really want to be President? At Veterans Day ceremonies, I'm told, he just drifted off, shook no one's hand--signs of serious disengagement. And remember how, during the debates, he kept complaining about all the "hard work" he did? Face it, when you love your job, it ain't work. Methinks the President is tired. Clueless about an Iraq exit strategy, victory strategy, any strategy. Not really interested in hanging out with the Taliban of evangelicals who believe they--well, not God, but God-through-them--handed him the election. My interim conclusion: This election was about W wanting to prove that he could do what his father couldn't--win re-election. Once he did that, he had, in his own mind, nothing left to prove. Bet he'd go "home" to Crawford if he could. But which is more dangerous: an "engaged" Bush or Bush as CEO, offloading as much of his job as possible on Dick Cheney?
  • The new AOL TV commercials have to be the weirdest ads ever made. In the three I've seen, AOL execs are meeting with members to hear their suggestions. So, right away, you have an ad that focuses on the members'.....unhappiness. Wow. That's not what we were taught in advertising school. (What happened to "so easy to use no wonder it's # 1"--the slogan AOL hammered home so successfully that many Americans still must think "ease of use" is AOL's DNA? If all those members are filling the AOL campus and the meeting halls, isn't it logical to conclude that AOL is now...difficult to use?) In every one of the new commercials, the execs act as if the customers' ideas dropped down from another universe. They pause, think, and say yes, we'll do that--they come off like denizens of Planet Clueless, like passive idiots who would be spending their days playing Slingo in their cubes if the members hadn't come a-calling with their issues. In his blog, my fellow AOL veteran Charlie Warner makes the case that Time Warner is sprucing AOL up for sale. If so, did Time Warner execs see these commercials before they went on the air? Did AOL czars? My snarky thought: These spots send a message to would-be suitors: When you buy the company, feel free to get rid of everyone on the consumer side of the AOL business. Which is sad. And terrible for morale.
  • Donald Trump. The Fragrance. I just saw the magazine ad of The Donald, his fiancee and her breasts. Alas, there's no fragrance strip. Which saddens me, because I suspect they've made a breakthrough here--they've finally bottled the smell of bulls---t.

    Is The War Strategy Whack-a-Mole?

    Someone smarter will have to explain the logic of capturing Falluja--50+ American lives lost last week--only to have "the insurgents" pop up in Mosul. Which is **CUT OFF HERE**

    Send Bob Dylan to Guantanamo!

    This would be beyond credibility--in a sane country. But in Bush's America, kids singing Bob Dylan just might be threatening President Bush. Here's the latest from Boulder, Colorado:
  • Members of [a high school] band, named Coalition of the Willing, say....they are performing Bob Dylan's song "Masters of War" during the Boulder High School Talent Exposé because they are Dylan fans...But some students and adults who heard the band rehearse called a radio talk show Thursday morning, saying the song the band sang ended with a call for President Bush to die. Threatening the president is a federal crime, so the Secret Service was called to the school to investigate.

    The 1963 song ends with the lyrics: "You might say that I'm young. You might say I'm unlearned, but there's one thing I know, though I'm younger than you, even Jesus would never forgive what you do ... And I hope that you die and your death'll come soon. I will follow your casket in the pale afternoon. And I'll watch while you're lowered down to your deathbed. And I'll stand o'er your grave 'til I'm sure that you're dead."

    "It's just Bob Dylan's song. We were just singing Bob Dylan's song ...If you think it has to do with Bush that's because you're drawing your own conclusions. We never conveyed that Bush was the person we were talking about," said Allysse Wojtanek-Watson, a singer for the band.

    "She never said anything about killing Bush ... It's crazy, it's chaos. We have nothing in there it says about killing Bush," band leader Forest Engstrom told KMGH.

    The principal of the school said he stands behind the students. "Never was it rehearsed or auditioned with a change of lyrics. I want to be very clear about that," Boulder principal Ron Cabrera said.

    Cabrera said Secret Service agents questioned him for 20 minutes and took a copy of the lyrics. They did not ask to speak to any of the students but they did question a teacher who had supervised a student protest that was held at the school last weekend.

    Despite the controversy, the Boulder School District said it will allow the students to perform..... Still, the agents made their point. Which leads us to...

    Anne Frank to the Courtesy Phone

    Last week I noted that "fascism" was a hard thing to recognize because it never takes the same form twice. So if you're on the lookout for guys in brown uniforms and high boots, you're wasting your time.

    As if I had conjured it, on the very next day, this remarkable piece ran on Daily Kos:

    How did it start, Anne? I really need to know this. When the Germans first came. When did you and your father see it for what it really was?

    You didn't have television, I know, but were radio programs censored? Did you assume that the silence of your advocates was a strategy - that they were choosing their battles wisely? Did you think that the majority of your neighbors would never let it happen? Did you ignore the hateful rhetoric as the ravings of a few extremists? Did you think if you stayed you would help to keep things sane? And when they took away your civil liberties, did you think, "That's okay. We have nothing to hide, anyway, this is targeting the criminals."

    Did you think to yourselves, "We can march in the streets when it really gets bad." And when it did get bad, did your rich save themselves, and your advocates become fearful and silent, and were your leaders arrested as extremists?

    And when they took some away, the gypsies and the homosexuals and the political agitators, without trial or explanation, did you think, "Well, they must be bad people - and if they are not, they will be set free"? And did you think, "this is keeping us safer, in the end." When you realized there were more, did you stay quiet because you thought it would end? Or because you didn't want them to hear you?

    Anne, you once wrote "I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are still truly good at heart..."

    Anne, is that why you are dead? What's He Supposed to Do, Shoot Her?

    The American Family Association knocks Dick Cheney. Yes. You read that right. The proof:

    .A Virginia pro-family advocate says the people who helped re-elect President Bush don't support homosexual relationships -- the administration apparently does. Joe Glover, president of the Family Policy Network, has worked tirelessly for family values, including the fight against legalized homosexual "marriage." He says it was conservative Christians who put the president back in office and who held to the belief that the president shared their views. But Glover says the day after the election, that all seemed to go out the window. "The day after George Bush was elected president again, because of this morals revolution taking place in our country, he allows his vice president to not only put his lesbian daughter on the platform, but to bring her lesbian 'partner' up on the stage with him," Glover says. "It almost seems to be a slap in the face from the get-go against the very conservatives that re-elected the president at a time when he ought to paying them some homage and respect." Glover says the Cheney daughter's open flaunting of her homosexuality is the antithesis of what the administration claims to stand for -- and that the post-election display sends a mixed message to Bush supporters.
    Thought for Today

    It was the lightest tap on my door that I've ever heard in my life. I opened the door and I seen the man in the dress greens and I knew. I immediately knew. But I thought that if, as long as I didn't let him in, he couldn't tell me. And then it - none of that would've happened. So he kept saying, 'Ma'am, I need to come in.' And I kept telling him, 'I'm sorry, but you can't come in.'
    --- Paula Zasadny, the mother of Specialist Holly McGeogh, a 19-year-old who was killed by a bomb in Kirkuk, quoted in Bob Herbert's New York Times column

    Real Men Do Cry

    At last! A man weighs in on men:

    Looking at your posts from the last day or so, I realized that nothing will change the impotence, nothing will change the outer conditions until men can cry out their own impotence and frustration at not being able to change the world.
    We've been told that it's our responsibility, to get that hard-on for changing the world. And it's a lie, a big Matrix-program so deeply ingrained that we don't know the truth anymore.
    Maybe it does have to get so bad that the boss cries while trying to read the report, but it's not about the war, not the external one anyway. It's about that internal war that we feel when we don't measure up, can't measure up to the Marlboro male ideal.

    Maybe if we grieved for ourselves, knowing that John Wayne is dead.

    Maybe if we could stop trying to keep that "ideal" alive with false patronizing promises that only suck our souls dry, like the bones in Ezekiel's desert..

    Maybe the tears would bring life back..

    And maybe, when that's done, the external wars will never be necessary.

    Hail to the Chief

    We never saw that George Bush's inaugural route in 2001 was bristling with protesters --- and military --- until we watched "Fahrenheit 9/11" (yet another reason to give props to Michael Moore). But we now have a preview of the Second Inauguration. From The Washington Post:

    An unprecedented level of security will frame President Bush's second inauguration, with officials planning to use thousands of police from across the country, new screening technology for inaugural guests and a military contingent that could include a combat brigade of up to 4,000 troops.

    4,000 active-duty combat forces! By way of contrast:

    About 2,000 troops, including members of the 82nd Airborne Division, were flown into Washington for Richard M. Nixon's inauguration in 1969, and some were stationed along the parade route.

    Twice as unpopular as Nixon? Or twice as scared?

    Meet the New Boss

    The Independent, a London paper, reminds us of some facts about Alberto Gonzalez, our next Attorney General, that American papers may have overlooked:

    An article last year in Atlantic Monthly examined Mr Gonzales's role in the preparation of memos to Mr Bush on 57 death penalty cases in which the governor was required to consider the granting of clemency.

    The magazine's investigation found Mr Gonzales "repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence". The magazine said Mr Gonzales appeared to exclude factors such as "mental illness or incompetence, childhood physical or sexual abuse, remorse, rehabilitation or racial discrimination in jury selection."

    Mr Bush allowed the executions to proceed in all but one of the 57 cases, including that of Terry Washington, a 33-year-old mentally retarded man with the communications skills of a seven-year-old.

    President Bush Gets 'The Word'

    "If you have weaklings around you who do not share your biblical values, shed yourself of them." That's post-election advice to George Bush in a letter from another President, Bob Jones III, head of --- you guessed it --- Bob Jones University. But let's go to Bob's words:

    Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ. Honor the Lord, and He will honor you.

    Had your opponent won, I would have still given thanks, because the Bible says I must (I Thessalonians 5:18). It would have been hard, but because the Lord lifts up whom He will and pulls down whom He will, I would have done it. It is easy to rejoice today, because Christ has allowed you to be His servant in this nation for another presidential term. Undoubtedly, you will have opportunity to appoint many conservative judges and exercise forceful leadership with the Congress in passing legislation that is defined by biblical norm regarding the family, sexuality, sanctity of life, religious freedom, freedom of speech, and limited government. You have four years-a brief time only-to leave an imprint for righteousness upon this nation that brings with it the blessings of Almighty God.

    Amen, I say. Now let us pray --- in a government building, if possible.

    Thought for Today

    My son got shrapnel in his stomach when our house was hit at dawn, but we couldn't take him for treatment. We buried him in the garden because it was too dangerous to go out.
    --Mohammed Abboud, of Falluja, who said he watched his nine-year-old son bleed to death because intense street fighting made it impossible for him to take the boy to a hospital.

    There is not a single surgeon in Falluja. We had one ambulance hit by US fire and a doctor wounded. There are scores of injured civilians in their homes whom we can't move. A 13-year-old child just died in my hands.
    --Sami al-Jumaili, a doctor at the hospital who escaped arrest when it was taken by US troops.

    Veterans' Day: A Time for Tears

    On the eve of Veterans' Day, I got the kind of email that shows up in my box every third week or so. "I think you really need to ask yourself, 'What is the purpose of my Swami Uptown blogging--and does it belong on Beliefnet?'" my correspondent asked. "It would appear that you preach a religion of fear, worry, anxiety and pessimism. This is a spiritual website, not a political one. Please stop with the politics or vent elsewhere."

    My response: I think life is beautiful, and I'm trying here to protect beauty. I think certain people--many of them "religious"--are making it ugly. As for my spirituality, I believe I am writing in the tradition of "engaged Buddhism." And so I'm moving off the election to talk--a lot--about the war, because I think what we are doing is not just politically and militarily wrong, but morally wrong. In fact: I think it is sinful.

    Her reply: Yes, the war is terrible. It is sad. I know that and I believe everyone who reads your blog knows that. So, why talk about it? Somehow, I thought that you were more about uplifting people's spirits.

    My response: I talk about the war to help stop the war. I'm 59. I lived through Vietnam--and I spent a great deal of time writing against it and protesting it. As I have written here often, I think that it was our protest that stopped the war. As I read you, your position seems to be that I should not talk about the war and somehow it will go away. No. Sorry. If I do not talk about the war, even worse things will happen. Indeed, they are starting to happen now: The religious right wants to rule.

    I believe I am uplifting: I am telling people who feel as I do that they are not crazy and not alone--they have power. In that alone, I believe I am saying something very optimistic: Despite the President's repeated statements that he doesn't hear us, my bet is that we can change this. Is that not spiritual?

    My correspondent said that she had to stop writing because she was crying. This prompted my final thought:

    I am so sorry you are crying. But I'm not sure that's a terrible thing, I'm afraid the entire country is going to have to weep before these thick-headed guys in Washington grasp that this war must end. And I'm not sure, but given the hardness of their oh-so-"Christian" hearts, I may mean that literally: the girl at McDonald's weeping as she hands you the #3 combo.... the bus driver patting a handkerchief to his eyes, your doctor turning away before he examines you.... your kid's teacher in the front of the room, frozen, unable to talk.... your boss--your boss!--trying to read a report as his falling tears blur the ink... all of us weeping from the shame of association with this wretched thing we're doing.

    Finally, I believe in Emerson's Law of Compensation--life finds a balance. The balance for what our soldiers are doing in Iraq is, I fear, our grief. It's not a price we agreed to pay. But when it comes to these things, governments never tell you the real cost.

    The Man Thing (Part 2)

    Yesterday's blog spurred a note from my friend Mary Traina, a practitioner of Chinese Medicine who is writing a book explaining and exploding gender myths (because, as she says, "even smart people have trouble understanding the opposite sex"). Her thoughts:

    Lately I've been noticing that men on the street are impatient, unashamedly aggressive--they don't even look, they just 'take' the lead, even when inappropriate.

    Wanna know why?

    Because we got attacked, almost 3000 innocents slaughtered, and although we fought back, we didn't get the guy.

    And most men do not know this. They only know that no matter how many Iraqis we kill, their blood lust is still unsatisfied. And they think, stupidly, ...that somehow this ersatz leader is on their side and will eventually get them satisfaction. And they will support endless aggression, unthinkingly, until they feel satisfied.

    For the same reason, the women go along with the charade, supporting their men, feeling their impotent anger and mistaking it for strength and purpose and allowing their men to be men, even if we have to burn the whole country down and a few others.

    I know a thing or two about male energy--when ultimate satisfaction is in winning, all resources must be used to achieve that goal. Whether they're winning a point or winning a war, not winning feels like impotence. Bush has managed to engender an enormous amount of impotent feeling in the men in this country by not attacking and killing the person who attacked and killed our people. And he has gaslighted the impotent ones by telling them all manner of lies and homilies and bullshit, and they are unaware and undereducated and mostly blinded by their own anger enough that they swallowed it. But nothing that happens in Iraq will change that, and while every mad guy is hungrily watching and waiting for it to feel like a good orgasm, Bush and his coven are busy building up a body count.

    Eventually the count will get too high to bear. At that point, his male supporters will blame it on everyone but the guy in charge. Why? Because they will still think he's their role model--a "real" man.
    Thought for Today

    The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.
    --John Ashcroft, in his letter of resignation as Attorney General

    It was bad, bad. I don't know where the shooting was coming from.
    --First Sgt. Ronald Whittington, with the First Battalion, Eighth Marines. After nearly 16 hours of fighting in Fallujah, five of his men dashed through machine-gun fire to cross the road in front of the mosque--and went down in a single moment.

    Can You Use 'Empire' and 'Women'in a Single Sentence? (Neither Can I)

    Woke up this morning to see that The New York Post had, once again, made me proud to be an American--on the front page was a helmeted, dirty-faced soldier, butt dangling from his lips, under the headline SMOKIN' and over the caption MARLBORO MEN KICK BUTT IN FALLUJAH.

    There, right there, is our big problem.

    Not the guy himself--he's a soldier on the front lines, thus exempt from everything but our prayers for his safe return.

    The big problem is with the men who sent him to Iraq and the men who praise them for sending him. And on the other side, men who hold power because they have their boots firmly on the throat of their women.

    Testosterone. It's deadlier than the A-bomb. More insidious than pollution. Meaner than Dick Cheney.

    I've been musing about a new direction for this blog, and I've decided maybe it's time to turn the conversation to a topic more important than whether Blue Staters need to kiss Red State ass.

    That topic, it seems to me, is men. Specifically, American men. Look at every issue that allegedly determined this election. Iraq. Abortion. Sexuality. Even "leadership" (as exemplified by the Action Hero in the flight suit). Track them back, and when you get to The Source, you're looking into the face of some obnoxious jerk who gets off on having power over anyone more finally calibrated than he is--starting with women.

    In the workplace, it's the brilliant nerd who can do algorithms in his sleep who rises to the top--the day of the hunter-gatherer in the Ford-tough truck is over. Long over. The proof's all around: downsizing, outsourcing, automation. The movie cliche--the classic American hero--is mired in the quicksand of history, and sinking fast.

    But he doesn't go down easily, does he? Howls like a kid with a skinned knee. Flails in all directions, knocking down everyone who might be offering him a life-saving hand. And, all the while, refuses to ask directions.

    Oh, what can you do with a beast like that? For starters, avoid him--and, man, I do. Whenever possible, I work with women. Are they really superior? I like to think so. (They may not be--for all we know, they're just as violent and aggressive as men have been--but why don't we find some way for them to wield all the power until we have some evidence? Consider it a nation-wide science project.)

    Am I the only one who sees our national landscape as some sort of addled junior high school, with cool guys and jocks thrusting out their chins for the benefit of beauty queens they'll dump, two decades later, for fresher flesh? Do you also suspect that adult life is mostly a struggle for better wheels and the window table at the malt shop? And do you also consider the State Championship as just the warm-up for business and politics and war?

    Or am I just blinded by that butch hero on the newspaper cover? Is it just that he's so much more of a man than I can ever be?

    Oh. I do see one bright spot on the male-female front. Viagra. Cialis. And some other cute-sounding pill. The popularity of these drugs suggests that millions of men recognize that something is turning their swords into plowshares--and they've taken steps to deal with it. Good. A guy who's staring at a four-hour erection is more likely to use that than he is to pick up a club, or a gun, or even a phone.

    "Make love, not war." It worked once. Might again.

    Election Fraud

    Could the election have been stolen, you ask? Yes. Of course. Much of the history you studied in school is the chronicle of conspiracies and cabals. Why would that stop just because we no longer joust or send messages via pigeons?

    But as to vote-count irregularities in Florida and Ohio....I dunno. I've read the same articles you have. My take: gather proof, show us it was systematic, and let's start from there.


    We look back at Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass," in 1938, when mobs burned more than 1,000 synagogues) and say: That was the dividing point. After that, the Jews had to know they were in for it. (And then we ask ourselves a more relevant question: How would we recognize a latter-day Kristallnacht? Do neo-Nazis have to wear brown uniforms and high leather boots? Or would the Patriot Act be a sign?)

    So it was distressing to go to Andrew Sullivan's blog and read Bruce Bawer's account of a Kristallnacht memorial in Norway:

    This evening in Oslo there was a march commemorating Kristallnacht. According to TV2 News, no Norwegian Jews were present. The authorities, saying that they did not want any trouble, forbade any Jewish symbols, including Stars of David and Israeli flags. On the TV2 evening news, a group of Jews and their friends who wanted to take part in the commemoration were shown being firmly told by a policeman to "please leave the area." This in a city where Muslim demonstrations take place on a regular basis, and include signs and banners bearing hateful, barbaric slogans.
    Very, very bad. There is a time and place for testosterone, and this was it--Jews should have marched, and the police should been ready to protect them. This is Norway, for God's sake, where many performed heroic acts in WW II to help defeat the Nazis.

    The Beauty Part

    The movie of "The Polar Express," the smart critics say, really sucks. Oh, well, go back to the book. Head Butler (my other persona) tells you why you want this book--especially if you are "sophisticated and hard of heart and bitterly disappointed."

    Thought for Today

    One young man who was involved in heavy fighting during the invasion is now so debilitated by post-traumatic stress disorder that he routinely has flashbacks in which he smells burning flesh; he can't close his eyes without seeing people's heads squashed like frogs in the middle of the road, or dead and dying women and children, burned, bleeding and dismembered. Sometimes he hears the sounds of battle raging around him, and he has been hospitalized twice for suicidal tendencies. When he was home on leave, this 27-year-old man would crawl into his mother's room at night and sob in her lap for hours. Instead of getting treatment for PTSD, he has just received a "less than honorable" discharge from the Army. The rest of his unit redeploys to Iraq in February.
    --- Teri Wills Allison, a mother from Texas whose son is in the military in Iraq

    Iraq: Back on Track for Disaster

    The dazzle of the election has quieted, the camera crews have gone home, and I am left--as some of you are--in the relative quiet.

    Nature abhors a vaccuum. Images appear: Iraq. Again. And, again, I am sickened at what we are doing there. Ashamed of the casualties we have caused, on all sides, simply by our presence. And--circling back to the election--saddened that John Kerry '04 was such a pale shadow of John Kerry '71.

    How I wish that Kerry had bet everything on the war as an issue.

    How I wish that he had said, "There's no connection between this war and the 'war on terrorism.'"

    How I wish that he had punched Bush on the immorality and illegality of our invasion, and had educated America about the 12-14 "permanent" military bases we have awarded ourselves there, and explained how "oil" and "empire" are words that come together naturally in this region.

    And how I wish--in any debate--Kerry had said to the moderator, "You know, although the 9/11 Commission and our own investigators have said there's no connection between Saddam and 9/11, many people who support the President still believe that claim. That's odd, because the President too has said there's no connection. In the interest of an informed electorate, could you ask the President one more time to answer the question: 'What's the connection between Iraq and 9/11?'"

    But Kerry was Bush Lite. (Worse than Bush, really, because he indicated he would stongly consider sending more troops, whereas some Smarter Thinkers like to believe Bush will use the forthcoming election to "declare victory and leave.") And now we are "storming" Falluja.

    Are Iraqi troops going in with us? Nope. They're not to be trusted. (Last weekend, a senior Iraqi officer defected to the insurgents with our battle plans in hand.) So we're shoulder to shoulder with the Kurds--who, whenever this madness ends, will surely want to be rewarded for their support. (Silly Kurds; we screwed them before and probably will again.)

    Our military spokesmen say we want to minimize civilian casualties. Others say we have, in the last 18 months, killed as many as 100,000 civilians--making us the most bloodthirsty war criminals since Milosevic.

    Somewhere in America, there are people who are proud of that.

    Dear Red-State Republican: "I Hope You Got What You Want"

    This e-mail--" A Letter to a Red-State Republican"--comes, many forwards later, from Jerry Rosen, retired violinist from the Boston Symphony and a published poet. It's slightly edited for space:

    Hi there! You voted for George Bush and Dick Cheney, so you must be feeling real good right now. Congratulations. I sincerely hope you get what you wished for.

    Now, to be honest with you, I'm one of those East-Coast liberals that you love to hate. I live a few yards from the town line with Cambridge, Massachusetts, I voted for Kerry-Edwards (and even did some volunteer work too) and for the past few days, I've been feeling kind of low. I can't blame you if your pleasure in victory is enhanced by your knowledge of my misery in defeat. Observing the torment of those condemned to hell only augments the bliss of the saved. Didn't Paul, or was it the Revelations of John, say something like that?

    But don't waste any conservative compassion on me. I'm enjoying my American freedom to pursue my own self-interest, free of government coercion, and the more I think about it, the better I feel. After all, I'm retired, I own my own home free and clear, I made some decent investments, my kid is grown up and doing very well (better than I am in fact). To tell the truth, while I'm not rich, I'm comfortable, doing better than when I was working and even if my Social Security were cut back, I could manage. So long as I only think about me, which is what the Free-Market folks tell me to do, I'm O.K.

    But what about you? Should I worry about you?

    How's the water in your part of the heart-land? Good right now? Let's hope that it stays that way, after your champions deregulate pesticides and let the poison run into your aquifers. The free market in action: some smart businessman will truck fresh water in, and you'll pay for it. Your taxes will be lower, even if the air stinks. But I won't think about you, I'll think about me.

    And don't think about suing that big pig factory farm down the road, even if you are drowning in hog-shit... no lawyer will take that once damage awards are capped and he can't get his fees. But I won't think about you; I'll think about me.

    You want to choose your own doctor and hospital? Damn right you do, even if yes, you are going here is one doctor for your whole county and the nearest decent hospital is 100 miles away. Without some sort of subsidy, doctors and hospitals can't make ends meet in sparsely populated areas. But subsidies mean bureaucrats, and I know you hate government bureaucrats. I suppose you'd rather deal with HMO bureaucrats instead. Yes, you're going to be independent even if it kills you. Now, I've got five world-class hospitals within a twenty-minute ride, so I don't have to worry, even if my premiums go up some. Like I said, I'm comfortable and I won't think about you, I'll think about me.

    Did you have a Mom-and-Pop store in your town one of those down-homey places out of a Norman Rockwell picture, where you could browse and gossip, be just folks for a while? Bye-bye, Mom. Hello Walmart. Let's hear it for free enterprise. I live in a big city, so I can shop around,, and even pay a little more for something better. But this isn't about you, it's about me.

    Families are valuable, no doubt about that. But wouldn't you know it that arguments about money put more strain on marriages, especially new ones, than any other single thing. If the only jobs are minimum wage, and the rent is three weeks pay, both partners have to work. And if there are kids (which there are likely to be if the couple doesn't know how to do family planning) who watches them during work? But raising the minimum wage would be against the free market, and family planning doesn't respect the sanctity of life. But that's not a problem for me; I hope it isn't for you either.

    We are always going to disagree about abortion. See, I can't imagine any way to decide when a fetus becomes a person. You believe that it begins at conception, and I don't. Even St. Augustine, probably the most intelligent Christian thinker in the first millennium C. E. admitted that he couldn't figure out when a soul enters a body. So what makes you so smart?

    OK, OK, that was too sarcastic. Sorry. For argument's sake, let's say you are right and Roe v. Wade gets reversed. Barring a Constitutional amendment, the matter goes back to the states. Some ban it and some don't.

    Now even if it's illegal where I live, it's no never mind to me. If by some sort of foolishness I should somehow need to find a doctor for an abortion I could do it. I know many doctors socially and, just the way it used to be when I was a young man (I've never done it, by the way), I'd pay under the table. But if you are in the same boat but not so well off or well connected, you'd have a tougher time, I imagine. You might go the adoption route, but let's say the mother-to-be is fourteen. As awful as it is to terminate, how less awful is it for her to carry a live baby to term and then have to give it away forever? She might get desperate and since she can't afford to go to a state where it's legal, she'll do what poor women have always done, Roe v. Wade or no. And she'd get what she paid for. She might even die from infection in a very nasty way. Maybe you think that's what the little slut deserves, so I hope she isn't close to you. But I won't think about you; I'll think about me.

    Do you want more? How is Iraq looking to you these days? Osama bin Laden still strutting around Pakistan? North Korean nukes? Feel better now that sociopaths can buy assault rifles at gun shows?

    It would be easy to keep going, and the more I go on, the better I feel. Maybe you get the point. But just in case, I'll nail it down: The crowd you just re-elected with their touching concern for your values has been screwing you for some time, and they will screw you some more with the "mandate" you just gave them. Good luck, Jack. Just hope and pray, real hard, that when the crunch comes for you that they haven't completely destroyed the idea of a common good that is there for all of us when we need it. Because any of us might, at any time.

    Like I said, I hope you get what you wish for. The Beauty Part

    Opening Friday: an exquisite friendship, the inevitable intrusion of Real Life, heartbreak you can scarely bear--and the best performance of Johnny Depp's career. It's called "Finding Neverland" and you miss it at your peril.

    Thought for Today

    The reason the Democrats have lost five of the last seven presidential elections is simple: A generation ago, the big capitalists, who have no morals, as we know, decided to make use of the religious right in their class war against the middle class and against the regulations that were protecting those whom they considered to be their rightful prey --- workers and consumers. The architects of this strategy knew perfectly well that they were exploiting, among other unsavory qualities, a long American habit of virulent racism, but they did it anyway, and we see the outcome now --- Cheney is the capitalist arm and Bush is the religious arm. They know no boundaries or rules. They are predatory and resentful, amoral, avaricious, and arrogant. Lots of Americans like and admire them because lots of Americans, even those who don't share those same qualities, don't know which end is up.

    -- the novelist Jane Smiley, in Slate

    The Election: So....What Happened?

    I'm almost done with the election. Honest. But there's been so much ill-informed punditry on Bush/Kerry that I took time over the weekend to look for some facts. (I also kicked leaves in the park with Little Uptown, drove up to Westchester for a museum dinner with friends against a backdrop of dreamy April Gornik paintings and charcoals, and cheered wildly for the first wave of New York marathoners --- the magnificent, always inspiring handicapped "runners.")

    The first fact I grasped is that 3 million votes is not a relevant number. Only the electoral college matters. And if you shift 20,000-or-so votes in three states or move Ohio into the Kerry column, we wouldn't be having this kind of post-mortem at all --- John Kerry would be the third candidate in a row to win the Presidency with less than half the vote.

    So set aside the fact that Kerry --- despite the Swift Boat assault and the "flip-flopper" charges and the windsurfer and the alleged nutcase of a wife and the unsettling allegations of voter fraud in Ohio and Florida --- nonetheless won the second largest number of votes in American history and almost unseated a wartime President. Call him "loser" and move on to the autopsy.

    The stats sure seem to give the lie to most of the punditry --- in particular, the notion that the "religious right" gave George Bush a "mandate," and that the Democrats need to learn some "moral values" and "reach out" to these people or they'll never win a national election again.

    Believe these canards if you like, but if you do, I fear you're becoming the flip side of those Jane Smiley describes as not knowing which end is up. Consider:

    MORAL VALUES: As Andrew Sullivan reports,

    The percentage of people who said in 2004 that their vote was determined by the issue of "moral values" was 22 percent. In 1992, if you add the issues of abortion and family values together, that percentage was 27 percent. In 1996, it was 49 percent. In 2000, it was 49 percent. So the domestic moral focus halved in 2004. Obviously, the war took precedence, especially if you combine the categories of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism more generally.

    THE RELIGIOUS VOTE: In the Washington Monthly, Kevin Drum breaks this vote down:

    Bush's Protestant base showed up to the polls in slightly lower proportion than in 2000, and their support increased by 3 points, the same as his overall increase in support.

    Regular churchgoers voted in about the same proportion as in 2000, and their support increased by 1 point. In other words, their relative support for Bush actually decreased a bit compared to other groups.

    Conclusion: religious voters supported Bush heavily, but no more so than in 2000. What's more, they didn't turn out any more strongly than any other group. Religious belief doesn't seem to have made much difference in the election.

    So....what happened last Tuesday?

    There's been more than enough simplification about this election. Better that we throw lots of ingredients into the mix. Start with a giant scoop of fear. Add one humongous favor that Al Qaeda did for Bush by staging no attacks on America since 9/11. Pile on two tons of lies about Iraq. Don't forget how inept the Kerry campaign was on more than one occasion, and how slick was the Rove strategy. Drop in a spoonful of Bill Clinton, a consistent drip of willful ignorance (Saddam was involved in 9/11) --- you can make your own list, I'm sure.

    What this means: There is no need --- none --- to "apologize" or "rethink" or struggle to find some amazing way to talk to people who we can never convince of anything. The religious right --- which is not at all the same thing as conservatives who happen to be religious --- is on a mission from God, and it won't quit until the earth is flat. What the Democrats need now is to find some candidates who have more faith in convictions than focus groups, and for all of us who think of ourselves as activists to push the Dems not to be such spineless wimps in Congress.

    As ever, our old pal The Rude Pundit has a clear-eyed take about those in the red states who are, even now, waving their crosses in triumph:

    See, here's the deal: your ignorance affects the rest of us. That's what we're pissed about. When your kids who don't believe in evolution, hate gays, and are filled with sexual repression and self-loathing cross the borders into blue America, we have to deal with that ignorance. And it is ignorance. Can we just call stupidity what it is? It ain't about religion. It's about stupid f---s who can't catch a break in this f---d-up country when it comes to jobs, health care, wages, and real security who rely on the one thing they have, faith, and then are manipulated by power-mad ministers and politicians into translating that faith into policy. The Rude Pundit's been there. He's seen it all firsthand. And you know what? They've been beaten into stupidity by their stupid f---g communities and all they want is their stupidity to spread, as if stupidity were the greatest value of all.

    And when we, the so-called "enlightened," actually say we don't want their stupidity infecting our country, we're called intolerant. That's like when the ass---le in the bar, who keeps shoving you and feeling up your girlfriend, says, "You wanna step outside?" and then after he's gotten his friends to beat you with pool cues, you pick your battered ass off the ground and spit blood in his face, then the ass--le says, "That's not fair" before he starts to kick you repeatedly.

    MY CONCLUSION: Those on the blue side who worked so hard and dreamed so big --- good for you. Look at the bigger picture. Already, since the election, the world hasn't cooperated with Bush's "we are the champions" bragging. Not that this is "good" news, but it does validate our predictions of gloom when the Chinese cut a deal with Iran to grab some precious oil, and China starts selling off its rather large supply of dollars, and our efforts in Iraq seemed destined mostly to achieve, in the words of one of our commanders, "Vietnam-level casualties." Oh, and Bush apparently talked to Clarence Thomas to be Chief Justice (has this joker ever written one opinion?).

    This time, we got an "almost." It wasn't good enough --- the second-terms want to leave a legacy so enduring it knocks the planet right out of its rotation. Take your vitamins, find what heals you, get tight with your home team. But for God's sake, don't tell me --- or yourself --- that we need to try to suck up to people who don't want to be in the same room with you.

    Michael Kinsley: Same Message, Different Style

    Michael Kinsley's view of The Great Divide:

    It's true that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose and where gay relationships have civil equality with straight ones. And you want to live in a society where the opposite is true. These are some of those conflicting values everyone is talking about. But at least my values...don't involve any direct imposition on you. We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same sex, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?

    We on my side of the great divide don't, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist? Which is more contemptuous of people who disagree?

    A Soldier's View: Same Message, Different Style

    A message board post from a soldier who has served in Iraq:

    If you voted for Bush, didn't vote, or voted no on gay marriage, I hope you get drafted. I hope they stick you in my unit, and you go with me to Iraq when my unit goes back in September. I will laugh when you see what soldiers in that country face on a daily basis. I hope you work with gay soldiers too. I did. One of them saved my life. Think he shouldn't have the right to get married? Fuck you. He fought just as hard as I did and on most days, did his job better than me. Don't tell me gays don't have the same rights you do. Think the war in Iraq is a good thing? I'll donate my M-16 to you and you can go in my place.

    Thought for Today

    Games you thought you'd learned
    You neither lost nor won
    Dreams have crashed and burned
    But you're still going on
    Out on the highway with the road gang working
    Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
    Out on the highway with the road gang working
    But the last laugh, baby is yours
    And don't you love the sound
    Of the last laugh going down...
    --Mark Knopfler and Van Morrison, on Sailing to Philadelphia

    A Change Is Gonna Come

    Walking to the gym in the wind this morning, cold air rushing over my knees and my ears full of Mark Knopfler playing "What It Is" at maximum volume, over and over, I kept seeing an image from the darkest days of the Vietnam War--Buddhist monks, in flames, in the lotus position, unwaveringly serene as they burned.

    It is very hard to explain why that image made me so...happy.

    But I think it is this: They weren't attached to an outcome, only to an intention.

    That is, they hoped that their deaths would, in a small way, force America to think about the spiritual price of its criminal war against Vietnamese civilians. But they didn't put a high expectation on their individual contribution. They were simply acting in harmony with their beliefs.

    I've been reading a lot of heartbroken, angry, questioning email these last few days. I've heard friends who always seemed rooted to Manhattan talk about Vancouver and Paris. I have actually had to speak a sentence to Mrs. Uptown that I never thought I'd have to deliver: "Whatever you do, you must not cry in front of the child."

    Somehow I don't think we're suffering at the level of the Vietnamese.


    Yes, I think suffering which feels that extreme will come. I see an economic crash that will, overnight, turn Bush into Hoover. I see the same ugliness moving from Bush's "base" into Bush's agenda that many of you do. I see efforts to shred the Constitution offered up by grinning zealots who will fool millions with their good humor, as if it's no biggie. And I see our soldiers limping home to a "welcome" that lasts until they need any help at all.

    But after a period of mourning and reflection--and, please, take as long as you need--I think we need to get over ourselves. The lights have dimmed, but the world hasn't ended. And we on the blue side have resources that the hard right avoids at all costs: great art, great music, great literature. In moments of crisis, I'll bet Bach and Rumi and Manet--and the genuine connection to the Divine that you and I feel with every breath--are more consolation than the blinkered image of "God" sold by name-an-evangelist and the demonstrably false deities of American Idol, Donald Trump and Bill O'Reilly.

    Change is a friend that's hard to embrace when half of this country is determined to see their guy dial back pretty much every advance since 1932. But if you have a loving and benign intention, if you keep driving forward, if you don't let yourself mirror your opponents. who knows what you can accomplish? And I don't just mean spiritual reward. Even in a bad economy, Right Conduct can lead to tangible rewards as well.

    Change is in the air in this space too. Many times in the last few months, I've felt it was a mistake to commit so much of myself to this blog; your notes along the way have told me how wrong I was. But now that we're on the other side of the election, there may be less need for a daily chronicle of White House folly and more for something else--I don't quite have a handle on that yet. I do know that I have obligations to Mrs. Uptown and the Kid that I'm not meeting because I'm spending so much time thinking about what I do here. And I know that, beyond my duty to them, is my duty to myself as a writer: There's a book-in-progress that needs me to type "The End."

    One thing I'd like: for you to own more of this space. From the e-mail I get, I'm knocked out by the brains and heart of my readers. It gives me great pleasure to open an e-mail and see three or four paragraphs that are Swami-worthy (or better). Consider this an open call: Swami Midtown, Swami Downtown, Swami Suburb--let's hear from you.

    A couple of ideas to get the ball rolling...

    l) So many of you are bummed because you see the government (or the Republican Party) as a giant that gets anything it wants. Not so. Business is much more powerful than government--in Bush's America, government is pretty much business's lackey--and anyone who creates a successful business is not only creating jobs and profit, he/she is generating personal power. "Business," said Emerson, "is divine activity." Yes, sometimes. If approached with Good Intentions. Bet you've got 'em.

    2) Then there is the awesome power of the individual. As I see it, a committed person throws off more energy than a nuclear plant. Energy attracts energy. Next thing you know you've got a commnunity, then a movement. That's what happened in America from l966-l973--a handful of people wanted peace, and they got together, and after a while there were more of us than there were people who really wanted the war, and, after a very long struggle, we essentially overthrew the government. It's rare, but it does happen.

    3) Finally, there is, I believe, a force in the universe that wants this human experiment to work. A friend once wrote in a poem: "How bright a light there must be/to make so dark a shadow." Hold that thought.

    Peace to all. See you Monday.

    Thought for Today

    With a bigger majority, we can do even more exciting things.
    --Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader

    "Why Are You Guys So Frightened?

    A number of Bush voters have written to ask what it is we latte-drinking, Volvo-driving etceteras are so upset about. They think our reaction to Bush's mandate--the skimpiest since Woodrow Wilson's in 1916--is overwrought and hysterical.

    We would counter that they just aren't paying attention.

    Smart, heartfelt e-mails have been flying in the last few days. Makes my job easier. Sometimes other people say it so well that all I have to do is make the introduction and step aside.

    Let's start with this missive from Kara Swanson, author of "I'll Carry the Fork! Recovering a Life After Brain Injury":

    "Is that what you said, America? That it's OK for our troops to be fighting with sub-par and unsafe gear. That you don't mind the troops' families actually spending personal money at home to pay for and ship bulletproof vests, night goggles and radios to their sons and daughters overseas because our government hasn't given them the right equipment to fight. That the humvees aren't protected on the bottom from land mines. That the U.S. is hurriedly sending "support kits" of armor for the sides because we sent our kids over there without right and safe vehicles. Is that what you said, America? Because that's what I heard.

    "Is that what you said, America? That it's OK that we've lost more jobs with this president than any other in 75 years. That the jobs he's replaced average $9,000 less per year. That it's OK our deficit has more zeroes than we can possibly fathom. That it's OK we have been trained to celebrate when gas comes DOWN to $2.02 a gallon. That it's OK my Dad, myself and millions of other older and disabled folks routinely choose between meds and meals. Between meds and utilities. That it's OK we haven't opened the prescription wars with Canada in order to bring down prescription prices. That it's OK when Medicare costs are greater than their minimal raises. That it's OK when countless families are already scrambling to pay outrageous heating costs in early November. Is that what you said, America? Because that's what I heard.

    "Is that what you said, America? That it's OK if gays and lesbians lay down their lives in the war on terror, as long as they don't come out of the closet. That it's OK for them to work around the clock against terrorists and drug lords and dangerous gangs. That it's OK for them to save your lives as surgeons, police officers and fire men and women but it's not OK to have committed relationships. Is that what you said? Beyond the states banning gay marriage, eight states banned civil unions for gays and lesbians. Is that what you said, America? That gays and lesbians can pay taxes and work jobs and pull their load and contribute to the economy and suffer every loss as a normal American except they cannot celebrate a civil union? That they are first-class citizens right up until they fall in love. Is that what you said, America? Because that's what I heard.

    "Is that what you said, America? That it doesn't matter if the world considers us a laughing stock. That it doesn't matter if the terrorists themselves have said George Bush makes their recruiting easier because he is so hated. That it's OK we've alienated all the world powers. That it's OK that we don't have secured ports and borders at home. That it's OK we were lied to about going into Iraq. That it's OK that more than a thousand soldiers have died. That it's OK we are extending tours of duty for soldiers who have already done their duty and who have chosen to leave the service. That it's OK we had the world's sympathy and support after 9-11 and have turned it into ridicule and scorn. Is that what you said, America? Because that's what I heard.

    "Is that what you said, America? That if your daughter is raped and gets pregnant because of it, that she should have that baby. That, if your niece is the victim of incest and is carrying her father's or uncle's baby, that she should not abort it. That if your wife is raped and is pregnant because of it, that you are going to welcome her bastard child. That the decision should be made by politicians and not by the woman whose body has been brutalized. Is that what you said, America? Because that's what I heard.

    "That's what I heard, America. I heard you loud and clear when you said that our situation in every facet of our lives is just fine with you. That Bush did such a great job that he deserves another four years to continue this path. That you take hatred and call it morality. That you take care of the ones who already are well and well off and leave the rest to themselves. That you choose dismal and deceitful and dangerous over different.

    "That's what I heard, America. Sadly, that's what I heard."

    Or Maybe You Need This to Scare You

    But maybe that's not scary enough. Remember the Outside World? From its reaction, it's one huge blue state (with the exception of Osama's camp, where they're surely raising teacups to Bush II). Here's a sample of Foreign Opinion on what the Bush victory means:

    Pepe Escobar at Asia Times, reprinted in DailyKos.com:

    Total concentration of right-wing power legitimized by the popular vote: this is the new neo-conservative dream turned reality. So the road ahead is to flatten the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah in Iraq, bomb Iran because of its supposed nuclear aspirations, depose President Hafez Assad in Syria, crush the Palestinian resistance, and remodel the Middle East by "precision strike" democracy.
    Escobar's assessment: "There will be serious blowback." Huh? What's "blowback"--in the new, know-nothing America, isn't that something that happens to Donald Trump as he walks to his limo on a windy day?

    Iraq: Does Anyone Remember?

    Not that it matters anymore--except to the men and women who die because we failed to protect Al Qaqaa--but The Los Angeles Times offers a freshly depressing update:

    In the weeks after the fall of Baghdad, Iraqi looters loaded powerful explosives into pickup trucks and drove the material off the Al Qaqaa ammunition site, according to a group of U.S. Army reservists and National Guardsmen who said they witnessed the looting.

    ..."We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out," said one senior noncommissioned officer who was at the site in late April 2003. "On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave" so that they could come in and loot munitions.

    "It was complete chaos. It was looting like L.A. during the Rodney King riots," another officer said. Jimmy Breslin: He Went the Other Way

    Jimmy Breslin, the columnist who would always prefer to be called a reporter, is hanging it up. For most of you, that's meaningless; for those of us who always look first to Jimmy, it's a passage.

    What's the deal with Breslin? Start with blunt and opinionated and fearless. Add clear-eyed and funny. And then there was the thing that can't be taught: He was--is--an original, who's too busy going his own way to follow anybody else.

    On the day President Kennedy was buried in 1963, the press was fixated on Mrs. Kennedy and the pomp and the grief. That morning, Jimmy Breslin trudged up to Arlington National Cemetery and talked to the guy who dug JFK's grave. It's a classic piece. Here's how it starts.

    Clifton Pollard was pretty sure he was going to be working on Sunday, so when he woke up at 9 a.m., in his three-room apartment on Corcoran Street, he put on khaki overalls before going into the kitchen for breakfast. His wife, Hettie, made bacon and eggs for him. Pollard was in the middle of eating them when he received the phone call he had been expecting. It was from Mazo Kawalchik, who is the foreman of the gravediggers at Arlington National Cemetery, which is where Pollard works for a living. "Polly, could you please be here by eleven o'clock this morning?" Kawalchik asked. "I guess you know what it's for." Pollard did. He hung up the phone, finished breakfast, and left his apartment so he could spend Sunday digging a grave for John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
    If you love great writing, read it all. And then, with me, mouth a silent "wow" in Jimmy's direction.

    Thought for Today

    Woke up today to everything grey
    and all that i saw just kept going on and on
    sweep all the pieces under the bed
    close all the curtains and cover my head
    and what you wish for won't come true
    you aren't surprised love, are you?
    --"What You Wish For," on Lost and Gone Forever, by Guster

    Awash in Tears: The Fear Factor

    Little Uptown never wakes or cries in the night. But at five this morning she was wailing and sobbing. "She knows," Mrs. Uptown said.

    So we took her from her crib, and, against house rules, brought her to our bed, and hugged her, and soothed her, until she slept.

    We surely weren't the only parents clutching their kids. A mother writes on a blogger's message board: "Last night I was so upset I crawled into bed with my little boy so I could sniff his sweet head and feel as if there were some good, true things in the world."

    You would think that something more than an election was lost, wouldn't you?

    There's a lot to say on a day like this. Everyone on the losing side has an opinion, criticism or psychic wound to share--and I do too.

    But let's not rush through the grief too quickly. Sick animals, Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, curl up in the woods and go to sleep, so their bodies can heal without stress. Let's be just as smart as a muskat. Let's do the decent thing for our mental and physical health--scream and wail, rend our garments, gulp vegetable soup and bourbon, and take to our beds.

    Why such grief? Because dreams died hard yesterday. Some had names: the youth vote (kids stayed home), the women's vote (mothers must really believe their daughters will never need abortions), the black vote (huge, but sorry--you're just a minority), the lives of our soldiers (no price is too high to pay for Halliburton profits). Some were more abstract: the sanctity of the Constitution, leadership in science and medicine, environmental protection, health care for the poor, fact-based education, rights of gay partners, and more.

    Those who are weeping today--and if I know ten, then there have to be tens of thousands--are people with hearts and imaginations big enough to weep for our fellow citizens, our country and our planet.

    Sound overwrought? I think not. Because this was more than an election.

    I hear fear today--justified fear. Here's Andrew Sullivan:

    In eight more states now, gay couples have no relationship rights at all. Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers.
    I hear shame today--justified shame. Here's Rude Pundit:

    We are a nation of savages. That is what we decided last night. We belong to the "most advanced" society in the history of the world, and we decided that we would rather be barbarians, hunched over fire pits, ripping meat off the bones of our enemies, raping our women, howling out at the gods for peace in the afterlife.
    I hear fatigue today--justified fatigue. From an e-mail:

    I'm tired, Swami. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of my heart hurting every time I hear another report about people in need because of other people's greed. I'm tired of knowing that because I have to work to feed myself and my partner, part of my work is paying for killing people I've never met for reasons I had no part in deciding upon. I'm tired of knowing that many of my neighbors and co-workers approve of and endorse the behavior our nation is engaged in. I'm tired of the meanness. I'm tired of the condescension. I'm tired of the playground bullying that is taking place on the world stage. That's a whole lot of tired for one man.
    And I hear a cry for revenge--also understandable. From an e-mail:

    So let there be no whining when your husband's National Guard obligation leaves him under fire for six extra months, or when Granny and Gramps are eating cat food, or when it become increasingly impossible to meet the economic needs of the middle-class family. No complaining. None of it. You wanted this guy. Now you have him, unleashed.
    But mostly, I hear fear. Fear that the 54 million people who voted for a liberal senator from Massachusetts don't matter--just as the majority of voters who preferred Gore to Bush didn't matter once the "Great Uniter" got his hands on the wheel.

    Oh, the speeches were pretty today, everyone reaching across the aisle and pledging to work together. But deeds speak louder. George Bush came into office in 2001 without a mandate and promptly began to dismantle 60 years of foreign policy and social programs. This time, he's got a 3,000,000 vote victory and more of his party in Congress--do you seriously think Dick Cheney, as President of the Senate, is going to start hosting coffeeklatches for Dems? Or do you suspect that, with the election behind us, the gloves come off?

    The latter? Me too. Which is why this feels like sitting shiva.

    Election Results: God 1, America 0

    How bad could it get? A poster on Daily Kos sees "a 20-year creeping coup by the theocrats, the Dominionists." Is he simply crazed with paranoia? Just hear him out:

    Make no mistake, this election was the keystone of the theocrat coup. All that is left now is carrying out the agenda and changing the laws of this nation irrevocably to gut the Bill of Rights and establish a Dominionist government in America.

    In the coming days, Rehnquist and others will resign, including half of the exhausted courageous liberals and moderates who held the line longer than anyone expected, and Bush will appoint a solid theocrat majority to the Supreme Court, and the Dems will not be able to stop it, fillibuster or not. The Dominionists have enough stealth candidates to push through like they pushed through Thomas, and the public pressure will be irressistible. In the next four years, theocrats will fill life-time appointments in the judiciary all over the nation, and essentially open the gates for the coming theocratic legislative agenda....

    Most people don't understand what is really going on here.

    They focus on homophobia as the issue, or they trivialize the Pledge issue as not being critical to Separation traditions.

    The real point is that the theocrats are constricting the courts' ability to challenge the establishment of religion in this country. Making this a Christian Dominionist nation based on literal interpretation of Old Testament law is an explicit part of the theocrat agenda....

    It is just like Germany in the 20's--not like McCarthyism in the 50's. This is far worse, but denial is rampant, because we just don't want to believe that our America could fall to Christian Taliban.

    We've already reached the tipping point. It is only a matter of time, unless people wake up--and I don't think they will, the taboo on confronting the dark side of religion is just too strong here in America.... Crazy, you say?

    Well, is this line of thinking crazier than the vote yesterday, with terrorism a key issue and just about everyone who was near the World Trade Center voting that the guy who was more likely to protect them was....John Kerry?

    Crazier than the unemployed in Ohio voting for a guy whose best idea for new jobs is to send them to community college?

    Crazier than people who don't know a soul of the gay "lifestyle" voting to deny basic legal rights to homosexuals?

    Crazier than Creationists and Flatlanders telling scientists what the limits of their work will be?

    Yes, that was more than an election to choose a President. Very likely we chose a future--a future that, for some, looks frighteningly like the distant past. Score it God 1, America 0. And score all of us, even the winners, as losers.

    Thought for Tomorrow

    Oh, what'll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
    Oh, what'll you do now, my darling young one?
    I'm a-goin' back out 'fore the rain starts a-fallin',
    I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
    Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
    Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
    Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
    Where the executioner's face is always well hidden,
    Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
    Where black is the color, where none is the number,

    And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
    And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
    Then I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin',
    But I'll know my song well before I start singin',
    And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard,
    It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
    --Bob Dylan. Now more than ever.

    Thought for Today

    To-day, of all the weary year,
    A king of men am I.
    To-day, alike are great and small,
    The nameless and the known;
    My palace is the people's hall,
    The ballot-box my throne!
    The rich is level with the poor,
    The weak is strong to-day;
    And sleekest broadcloth counts no more
    Than homespun frock of gray.
    To-day let pomp and vain pretence
    My stubborn right abide;
    I set a plain man's common sense
    Against the pedant's pride.
    The wide world has not wealth to buy
    The power in my right hand!
    --John Greenleaf Whittier

    Let Us Give Praise

    So many people did so much, gave so generously, took time from work and family--this was the greatest mobilization of spirit since those rare weeks of kinship after 9/11.

    I'm grateful for these people, and for tens of thousands of unnamed Americans who stood up to defend democracy, and for those who, in the face of hate and lies, just made the world a bit more beautiful:

  • L.L. Bean: Damn, that barn jacket made John Kerry look good.

  • Billionaires for Bush: Funniest video of the election season.

  • Kristin Breitweiser: Co-founder of the "Jersey Girls," 9/11 widows who pressured Bush into appointing a Commission and campaigned against him this fall.

  • Duncan Black: Proprietor of Eschaton, a smart, progressive site where wingnuts were slaughtered with a single withering word.

  • Tina Brown: Her "Topic A" is a Sunday night beacon of intelligence and taste on a network known best for business news.

  • Brooke Campbell: Her brother died in Iraq, and, instead of mourning in silence, she took her grief public and turned it into a hammer.
  • Roseanne Cash: For merging Dylan's "License to Kill" with Lennon's "Imagine".
  • Juan Cole: The web's historian of the Iraq war.
  • Howard Dean: He led the charge, planted the stake, gave the rebel yell.
  • Daily Howler: Bob Somerby ripped the lamestream press a new one five days a week.
  • Krishna Das: His music kept a lot of us straight and sane.
  • Larry David: For every minute of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" but especially for the scene that has him about to sleep with an actress--until he sees she has a photo of Bush.
  • Christopher Dickey: For peerless war coverage and cogent punditry in Newsweek. Please, CD, don't go back.
  • Steve Earle: Hard-core Movement troubadour. Special thanks for "The revolution starts now/ When you rise above your fear/ And tear the walls around you down/ The revolution starts here/ Where you work and where you play/ Where you lay your money down/ What you do and what you say/ The revolution starts now."
  • Eminem: Dylan in a hoodie, moshing to the voting booth with glide in his stride.
  • John Fogarty: Almost four decades after "Fortunate Son," he choked us up with "Déjà vu All Over Again."
  • Danny Goldberg: Proving yet again that releasing political records isn't death to a music company.
  • Sunny Yeddis Goldberg: a Westchester woman who put her life on hold, organized everyone in sight, sent daily emails ("I'm a blogger?"), begged for one more effort. She wasn't the only one, just the one I know. But, God, it was moving to get a blast of her spirit three, four, five times a day.
  • John Grisham: Just by showing up and signing books, he raised six-figures for Kerry.
  • Thich Nhat Hanh: "Breathing in, I acknowledge my anger; breathing out, I smile to my anger." From such simple techniques comes peace. Nine bows, Thay.
  • Hendrik Hertzberg: Those New Yorker "Talk of the Town" pieces made outrage eloquent.
  • Harold Ickes: King of the 527s, he beat the Republicans at their own game.
  • Robert Kennedy Jr.: "About two weeks ago, the EPA announced that in 19 states, it's now unsafe to eat any fresh water fish because of mercury contamination. One out of every six American women now has so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for a grim inventory of diseases: autism, blindness, mental retardation, heart/liver/kidney disease. I had my own mercury levels tested recently, and my levels are about three times what are considered safe, just from eating fish. I was told by Dr. David Carpenter, who is the national authority on mercury contamination, that a woman with my levels of mercury would have children with cognitive impairment, with permanent brain damage, probably an IQ loss of 5 to 7 points. There are 630,000 children born in this country every year who have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury in their mother's wombs." Wow.
  • Kos (Markos Moulitsas): At DailyKos, he became the center of the grassroots effort. His site was a model of clarity and sanity; if he ever slanted a single piece of information, I missed it. He says we did the hard work. Maybe. But he kept the beat and added just enough of his own words to make this the site to beat. No one even came close.
  • Bill Maher: On HBO, he reminded us how free speech could be.
  • Josh Marshall: Talking Points? More like debating points! He did the research, found the forgotten source, made the case.
  • Peter Lewis: He's great at making money into fun. This time he made it count.
  • Buddy Miller: His gospel CD shows how you can be a born-again Christian without being a missionary.
  • Michael Moore: When all seemed lost, his camera caught them in the act. And this time, he got to the multiplex.
  • Rude Pundit: He reduced politics to the playground. Is there a bully's nose he didn't bloody? I dare that motherf----r to show up.
  • David Rees: Clip art and a deadly ear for stupidity made Get Your War on the comic strip for our time.
  • Christopher and Dana Reeve: Ain't no mountain high enough.
  • David Remnick: A first-ever Presidential endorsement in The New Yorker. Five massively intelligent pages long.
  • Howard Rheingold: So far ahead of the curve he's around the next bend. Two years ago, Smart Mobs told those who were listening that kids with cell phones were.different.
  • Chris Rock: "I ain't afraid of Al Qaeda. I'm afraid of Al Cracker!"
  • Billy Shore: Twenty years after founding Share Our Strength, he's still making sure kids get fed. Is there anything more important?
  • Paul Simon: Thanks for making sure that kids receive medical attention.
  • George Soros: Money talks. This time, it said something profound.
  • Bruce Springsteen: There's something to be said for 35 years of credibility.
  • Stop the NRA: The cause batted .500. No one had ever scored on the NRA before.
  • Andrew Sullivan: Exasperating, infuriating, impossible--but in the end, for reasons only his own, he was the leading Conservative for Kerry.
  • The 9/11 Commission: best book ever written by an anonymous author on a government payroll.
  • Andrew Tobias: Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, finance blogger, best friend to thousands.
  • Mary Wald: founder of The Community.com, the website where Nobel Peace Prize winners have their say.
  • James Wolcott : New voice in the blogosphere, removing the last good reason to pick up Vanity Fair.

    Thought for Today

    "I want you to stand, raise your right hands, and recite the Bush Pledge," said Florida state Sen. Ken Pruitt. The assembled mass of about 2,000 in this Treasure Coast town about an hour north of West Palm Beach dutifully rose, arms aloft, and repeated after Pruitt: "I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."
    --quoted in Whiskey Bar

    Thought for Today: Runners-up

    Sure, only here they'll call it anti-fascism.
    --Huey Long, when asked if fascism could ever come to America

    [The U.S. invasions of] Afghanistan and Iraq will be studied for years for their brilliance.
    --Dick Cheney, campaigning over the weekend

    When I turned my boat in Vietnam into an ambush and I went straight into the ambush and overran it, I didn't see George Bush or Dick Cheney at my side.
    --John Kerry, on CBS, 11/1/04
  • Weekend Update

    Osama: Soooo last week. As a campaign issue, a dud--even Dennis Kucinich wants him dead.

    Halloween: I was Howard Stern. (Much like being Swami. Except for the pay scale.) Mrs. Uptown was a battered Lady Liberty. Her torch flickered, her crown was rusty, her eye looked as if she were married to a batterer. Pinned to her robe was the Bill of Rights. She had redlined every one that the Bush team had touched--only one right remained pristine: the 2nd Amendment, the one about guns.

    Sunday: A beautiful day in New York City. Kerry is up 37 points here. Took Little Uptown to the Bronx Zoo. Occasionally muttered a prayer. Early to bed; we knew we'd need all our wits these new few days.

    Weekend Funnies

    An interesting account from Florida of "this other curious contingent, an obvious bunch of Republicans pretending to be from ACT UP".

    "We're from San Francisco," one of them said. He was wearing Kerry/Edwards pins, and holding a big Kerry/Edwards campaign sign alongside a homemade one that said: SUPPORT GAY ADOPTION. "We just want everyone to know what we support."

    There were four of them, two men and two women, all carrying signs with similar social wedge issues. One of them, wearing ratty boots and a denim shorts and vest matching suit with a leopard skin collar, walked up and down the line, yelling "Vote for Kerry - support gay marriage!"

    "What are a bunch of Republican staffers doing here on Sistrunk pretending to be gay?" I asked the one who seemed to be the ringleader. There's more, and it will spook you--and amuse you.

    A Pleasant Surprise

    A group called Yes Bush Can outfitted a bus and toured the country to rally support for him. But a funny thing happened along the way.....

    ...the Yes, Bush Can team worked earnestly to support him. They went to the Pacific Northwest to promote Bush's Healthy Forests Initiative--and discovered it was enabling the logging industry to cut down our last old-growth forests. They visited a nuclear power plant in Ohio to promote Bush's domestic security policies--and found no one in the guard booth to meet them. In western Pennsylvania, while promoting the President's energy policy, they learned that it allows coal emissions which kill 23,000 people a year. Finally, while defending Bush's war on terrorism, they found out that even Donald Rumsfeld feels the Iraq War has made the world a more dangerous place.

    After many similar discoveries and much internal turmoil, the Yes, Bush Can group arrived at the difficult conclusion that they could not continue their work. At a press conference Tuesday, in order to demonstrate how profoundly they are rejecting their former boss's ideas and policies, they defaced and abandoned the campaign bus they had purchased and outfitted. Election Day

    No news here. (Want the latest in polling, outrages, etc? Go right to Kos.)

    By now, you know the scenario. Big turnout means Kerry, with room to spare. Voter suppression means Bush.

    So, depending on where you live, you have two or three jobs.

    First job: Vote. Even if you have to wait for hours. (Bring water, bring a book, bring Trail Mix.)

    Second job: Get out the vote. Make sure friends and family and neighbors have voted, volunteer (as appropriate) to get them to the polls.

    Third job: Democracy Deputy. That means speaking up if you see something snarky. Protecting the rights of the less assertive/educated/aware.

    Some tools you might need:

  • Election Protection Card. Print it out. Take it with you when you go to vote. You never know.
  • Advice from True Majority: If you are confused about ANYTHING or feel you are being harassed, ask the official poll workers to help. Do not rely on fellow citizens for advice about the ballot, how the voting machines work, or why you are not on the rolls. If someone is challenging your right to vote, ask the poll workers to intervene.
  • If someone harasses you, don't cause a ruckus. Just ignore the harasser, report it to a poll worker, and let the voting process continue. What kinds of things might somebody try? Well, in the past people have insisted on more ID than is required or argued that someone is at the wrong polling place.

    If something goes wrong, document it. Write down what happened, when, and descriptions of the people involved, including their names, if you can get them. If you have a camera or camera-phone, take pictures.

    Report voting problems to an organization ready to respond to problems at the polls:

    Common Cause: Call 1-866-MYVOTE1. This is a hotline you can call to report any voting problems.

    1-866-OUR-VOTE. This hotline has been set up by a coalition of nonpartisan groups to deal with the most serious problems on Election Day. They have hundreds of lawyers standing by to immediately respond to the most egregious problems. 1-866-OUR-VOTE is the "911" of voter suppression hotlines. Please don't call unless your problem is serious enough that you have to talk to a lawyer immediately.

  • Contact the media. If something is going terribly wrong at a polling site and you have reported it to the folks above, you might want to then call local radio, television, and newspaper reporters. Often problems clear up quickly after a reporter arrives.
  • If all else fails, Rude Pundit endorses the Code of the West:
  • ...if you see any f----r stuffing these kinds of letters or flyers into people's mail boxes or on their cars, or if you see some a---hole harass voters at the polls themselves, punch that person. No, really. Punch them. Hard. Enough to drop them to the ground. One punch. They'll crumble like a house of cards. Sure, sure, a couple of people will get arrested, but the poll watcher will run away with his/her tail between his/her legs, and for every one poll watcher sent packing, running for Kleenex to stop the blood flowing from his/her nose, that's hundreds of people who will be able to vote freely.
    Will You Be in South Carolina on Election Day?

    Our friend Sarah Gilbert Fox writes there are likely to be election difficulties in her state:

    South Carolina is going to present one of the biggest problems because we just received the voting machines two weeks ago, i.e., not enough time to train. So now the owners of the machines will be overseeing the voting process. As you can imagine, this is horrible.

    Brett Bursey runs an organization that has scrambled at the last minute to get poll watchers out to all S.C. counties. Unfortunately, as it is such a last minute deal, most counties -- which have 30-70 precincts to watch -- have only 1-2 volunteers per county.

    As we have a hot Senate race, with Democrat Candidate Inez Tannenbaum in a dead-heat race with Republican Jim Demint, S.C. isn't entirely insignificant on the voting map.

    If you are interested in being a last-minute, non-partisan volunteer in SC, write me at SarahGilbertFox@AOL.com. Horton Hears....John Kerry

    And Kate Cronkite, spending Election Week in Florida doing you-know-what for you-know-who, sends a few thoughts on Dr. Seuss and this election:

    Like many of us, I grew up with Dr. Seuss. It was Seuss who provided our moral lessons, along with Shakespeare and the Bible. You could do worse. Horton taught us that "a person's a person no matter how small," and to stand up with integrity, saying, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant/An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."

    Today, I am full of the spirit--the spirit of democracy, the spirit of hope, and the spirit of Horton, Seuss's heroic everyman elephant. I am acting out of my passion for truth, knowing that now is truly the time to stand up for my beliefs and hopes. I am taking this trip with the conviction that no matter how small, we each have a right to feel respected by our government, and we each have a responsibility to do what we can.

    But most of all today, I am thinking of that smallest Who, the one without which Whoville itself would have been lost. I am thinking of the courage and persistance, the vision and the hope of the Whos who dared to think that they could save their tiny, often overlooked, seemingly doomed world from those who mocked, ignored and sought to destroy them. When they were threatened, they pulled together, every last one of them, to make their voices heard. And when that still was not enough, they searched door-to-door to find the one Who, playing alone, oblivious to how important her one little voice was.

    Friends, we are about to be thrown into a boiling pot of oil by those who do not believe we are worth listening to. Now is the time to make your voice heard. Vote on Tuesday to save our little world. Go door to door, or use your telephone or e-mail to call, to explain why it's important, and drag every last little Who to the polls to add their voices to the cause.

    And tonight, when you're reading your kids to sleep, pull down your well-worn copies of Dr. Seuss and read them again. The Aftermath of November 2nd

    Louis Borgenicht, a pediatrician and writer and Swami-reader, has some thoughts on how to handle the flip side:

    A close friend asked me to reflect on the implications of a victory by George Bush or John Kerry.

    Republican-generated vitriol was a disconcerting start to one of the most important presidential campaigns in my personal political history (I am sixty-one). The language was a distraction form the crucial issues that needed public discussion and the undertone of anger gave me pause. Was it possible to put oneself into a peaceable context when bitterness was swirling around you? Could I forgive someone I had come to hate, George W. Bush? Was it a healthy necessity for me to do so? I began to consider the Buddhist concept of forgiveness and got nowhere. The atmosphere was too charged for meditation.

    All this perturbation was energizing. I wrote letters to the editor, op-eds, participated in a monthly discussion group of like minded people, read a piece I had written for a recent University of Utah Humanities Happy Hour and ended up talking about politics at every turn.

    Since there was a definite compulsive component to my behavior, it was essential to find some respite from the intensity of politics. For my mental health, I went fly fishing every week and slept solidly every night without dreaming of Mr. Bush or Mr. Kerry.

    I've finally figured out what to do when the election and its attendant turmoil is over.

    If Bush wins, all bets are off. The travails of the next four years will likely turn out to be unfathomably heinous and democratically dangerous and the intensity of my antipathy will increase to an unhealthy degree. I may need medication.

    If Kerry wins, my mindset will undoubtedly improve and I will wallow in a political environment of involvement and cooperation instead of anger and antagonism. I will relish working to undue the nefarious trends and policies of the past four years.

    No matter who wins, one thing is for certain. I will remove the dozen or so anti-Bush books I have over the past few years. If Kerry wins I will donate them to the public library; or, if Bush wins, in a strike against corporate America, I will return them to Border's for credit.

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