Tuesday, February 27, 2007

O the Chimneys

Today is Tuesday, 27 February 2007.

This is one of my favourite poems.

The references extend far beyond Ha-Shoah, the “Holocaust”.

O the Chimneys

By Nelly Sachs

Translated by Michael Hamburger

And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God. JOB 19:26

O the chimneys
On the ingeniously devised habitations of death
When Israel's body drifted as smoke
Through the air -

Was welcomed by a star, a chimney sweep,
a star that turned black
Or was it a ray of sun?

O the chimneys!
Freedomway for Jeremiah and Job's dust -

Who devised you and laid stone upon stone
The road for refugees of smoke?

O the habitations of death,
Invitingly appointed
For the host who used to be a guest -

O you fingers
Laying the threshold
Like a knife between life and death -

O you chimneys,
O you fingers
And Israel's body as smoke through the air!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mission Still Accomplished!

Today is Monday, 26 February 2007.

On Tuesday last, American Army troops raided the offices of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate. They kidnapped five security guards, vandalized the offices, and looted five computers, plus ten portable electric generators meant for the families of assassinated Iraqi journalists. More ominously, the troops stole files listing the home addresses of Syndicate members.

On Friday last, American troops conducted a similar raid on the offices of official newspaper of Dawa, a Shiite political party, again vandalizing and looting.

Also on Friday, American troops temporarily kidnapped Amar Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, son of the leader of SCIRI (Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the largest Shiite political formation). The younger Mr. al-Hakim is a political leader in his own right.

In recent days, car bombs have continued to explode in Baghdad, killing and maiming hundreds. We're counseled to give the Great Baghdad Security Blitz yet more time. Given that we were told this was "Mission Accomplished!" almost four years ago, how many decades should we give it? How many more tens of thousands must be killed and maimed in pursuit of continually-tweaked and continually-failing policies?

Readers of this column will recall that, in recent months, American troops kidnapped representatives of the Iranian government, in Iraq at the invitation of the obviously not-really-sovereign Iraqi government.

The traditional definition of a sovereign government is one which has an absolute monopoly on the use of legitimate violence on its soil. It is obvious that, the pretensions of the Bush-Cheney Junta to the contrary, this has not been the case in Iraq since the Conquest.

I’m certain that many Americans condemned to fight in Iraq believe they are engaged in a noble struggle for the liberation of Iraq. That is their subjective belief. Objectively, they are merely serving the imperial fantasies of W. Bush and the cabal of neoconservatives who seized control of the government after the stolen presidential election of 2000.

Unfortunately, the American military is not serving the interests of the American nation. Objectively, they have been turned into the private militia of Bush and the neoconservatives. Objectively, the role they play is no different than that of competitors such as the Mahdi Army of al-Sadr and the Badr Brigades of SCIRI.

How long will the American people stand by, while their military, whose only legitimate purpose could only be self-defense, is dragged in the mud of aggression and conquest by Bush and the neoconservatives?

And this at a time when returning American troops are subjected to unsanitary and harmful conditions in military hospital wards across the country, and the military admits to a 40% shortfall in the number of psychological professionals needed to assist returning troops with problems of post-combat stress, and there is still a major shortfall in up-armored vehicles and personal armor?

If this is the vaunted “supporting our troops”, what would neglecting them look like?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Tough Question for Obama and Clinton

Today is Tuesday, 20 February 2007.

No one wishes to conclude that the combat death of a child, spouse, sibling, or other loved one was in vain, or in furtherance of a vile purpose. Sometimes, alas, this is the case. To deceive oneself and others serves no nation, or the loved one. Such self-deception does great harm, for it creates additional pressures to throw away more lives.

On 11 February, speaking in New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama said that “we ended up launching a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 of the bravest young American lives wasted”.

The next day, Mr. Obama changed course. “Even as I said it, I realized I had misspoken. What I would say --- what I meant to say --- is that their service hasn’t been honored, because our civilian strategy has not honored their courage and bravery, and we have put them into a situation in which it is hard for them to succeed”.

The problem with the Iraq war is not the strategy, but the purpose. This was not a war to liberate the Iraqi people and prevent additional atrocities by a dictator who had once been Ronald Reagan’s regional darling (because the Ba’athist regime had been the enemy of Reagan’s enemy, and therefore Reagan’s friend; the most excellent reason to become strange bedfellows with a neo-fascist dictator; as a “good Christian” [I use this term by ironic analogy with “good German”), Herr Reagan knew “the ends justify the means”, no matter the human debris which constitute the means).

This war is the product of the unholy confluence of two wicked ambitions: that of the neoconservatives to secure permanent American imperial hegemony over the Middle East and its oil, and that of George Bush, to be recognized in history as a mighty conqueror.

During the Vietnam War, when soldiers were killed in combat, their comrades said they had been “wasted”, meaning it in the common sense: something precious had been, for no good reason, discarded like trash into the hands of death.

If Mr. Obama is serious about values and change, and not just about his ambitions, he must speak truth to power and the American people. He must constantly remind us of the wickedness of this war and its authors. He must strive to awaken the majority of Americans to the fact that these 3,000+, and the 500,000+ Iraqis have died in vain, and in worse than vain. This is the actual “slow bleed” in Iraq, the throwing away of good lives in a mad and vain attempt to resuscitate a plan which was tactically fatally flawed and ethically reprehensible from the beginning.

He must shame and inspire until the majority of American force a corrupt Executive and his creatures to resign, so the war may be ended, and something positive salvaged from the Bush-Cheney-etc. rape of Iraq.

This may not be the safest strategy to win the Presidency, but is Mr. Obama seeking to struggle to right great wrongs, to give refuge to the butchered Iraqi people, to open a door in history by which there might be a better world possible, or is he merely ambitious and covetous, like George W. Bush?

One must ask the same question of Senator Hillary Clinton.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All Honour to Goyaale and Comrades

Today is Saturday, 17 February 2007.

On this date in 1909, died Goyaale, better known as “Geronimo”, of the Bedonkohe band of the Apache.

He was born on 16 June 1829.

He resisted, by arms, the conquest of his people, by the imperial terrorist regime of the USA/USE, from 1858 to 1886.

The Museum of the Bourgeoisis is privileged to recognize: all honour to Goyaale and all comrades, 1492- .

Friday, February 16, 2007

Who Shall Ever Tell the Sorrow of Being On This Earth

Today remains Friday, 16 February 2007.

It was the genius and goal of Walter Benjamin to create works of art which would consist only of passages of prose, and photographs, and music, and all manner of other human artifacts, quotes of each, as it were, unornamented with critical discourse and explanation, just each, cheek by jowl with one another, seeking by each viewer a close and dedicated examination of and meditation upon, thereby producing their own work of art, that is to say, inspiration and understanding.

This evening on the TV, the film, one of my favorites, Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

I wish to juxtapose it with a short story/memoir by James Agee: Knoxville Summer of 1915, as follows.

Take it into who you are, make it yours, transform it in the fiery furnace of your personality and days, and, I hope, as all true art does, the experience, when you exit, you will be ... advanced in humane-ity.


We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville Tennessee in that time that I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.

...It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds' hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.

A streetcar raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints; halts; the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints foregone: forgotten. Now is the night one blue dew.

Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.

Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes....

Parents on porches: rock and rock. From damp strings morning glories hang their ancient faces.

The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.

On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts. We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there....They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine,...with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds. One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me. By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of the night. May God bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.

After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.

Assaults on Women

Today is Friday, 16 February 2007.

An anti-choice (male) Tennessee legislator has introduced a bill which would require doctors to file a death certificate following performance of an abortion.

Tennessee law already requires doctors to file reports on abortions, though without any information identifying the women who receive them. Death certificates require identifying information, such as Social Security numbers.

I think it not uncharitable to presume that the legislator’s real intent is to out women who exercise their legal right to choice, so they may be harassed and attacked by anti-choice extremists.

Fortunately, the bill seems to stand little chance of passage in the Democratic-controlled Tennessee House.

Which brings me to a favorite topic, which some may think is a strange linkage. (I understand the story above and the history below as both symptomatic of patriarchal fascist values.) Why do anti-choice activists, who praise motherhood to the skies and regard abortion as murder, almost invariably support the capitalist system, which puts an economic value of zero on motherhood?

Why an economic value of zero? Originally, most spouses worked side-by-side at subsistence agriculture. As primitive capitalism took form, males began the transition to work outside the home, in a cash economy, while women were overwhelmingly relegated to household tasks. The shapers of capitalism chose to include no mechanism which would place an economic value on “women’s work”, and compensate them accordingly.

Of course, this omission is insoluble under capitalism. I fear humanity is in for a long wait before this System changes for the better.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

W: No Genocide in Darfur

Today is Thursday, 15 February 2007.

In the past four years, the Sudanese dictatorship and its minions have exterminated more than 400,000 human beings and made refugees of more than 2.5 million.

However, according to Andrew Natsios, U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, speaking last week at Georgetown University: “The term genocide is counter to the facts of what is really happening in Darfur”.

One assumes Natsios is speaking as the creature of W. Bush. How many Black Africans must be exterminated before Bush recognizes this as genocide?

And, of course, the faux-Communist regime in Beijing is making cozy with Sudan, which just happens to have oil.

Oh, but this is after all merely an “internal affair” of Sudan, and, since Washington and Beijing don’t want do-gooders messing in their respective internal affairs, they both are content to sit back and enjoy the slaughter.

Let’s face it: nation-states have long been obsolete. There is only one nation, and that is the planet, of which humanity is a component.

Until we recognize this fact, and the majority of people rise up and act upon it, the future of humanity will continue to be drowned in blood.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Tailgunner's Ghost

Today is Saturday, 10 February 2007.

On 9 February 1950, Senator Joseph "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy gave the infamous speech at a Republican gathering in Wheeling, West Virginia, wherein he declared that he held in his hand a list of 205 State Department employees “known to the Secretary of State to be members of the Communist Party”.

He later revised the number to 57, then 81, then 10. He also later claimed that Dr. Owen Lattimore, a distinguished scholar of Mongolian history and culture, was the chief Communist spy in America.

When this claim proved false, Senator Robert Taft (R, Ohio), known as “Mr. Republican”, advised: “Don’t worry, Joe. Just keep slinging mud; sooner or later some of it will stick”.

On 8 February 2007, the Pentagon’s Inspector General delivered a report to Congress “revealing” something everyone who bothers to read has known for some time: that Donald Rumsfailed established a rogue intelligence unit within the War Department, tasked with misinterpreting raw intelligence data so as to “justify’ the conquest of Iraq. (With all the soaring imagination characteristic of Donnie’s handling of the conquest, he named the unit the “Office of Special Plans”, which would seem Orwellian were it not so insipid.)

The happy coincidence of these dates, and the connection between McCarthy and Rumsfailed/Bush/Cheney, is that all relished lying to the American public to further their corrupt ambitions, thereby doing more harm to their country than the enemies whose threats they so grossly exaggerated.

McCarthy died, powerless and in disgrace, of cirrhosis of the liver, caused by a fondness for booze and glue-sniffing. Let us hope that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfailed, Rove, Rice, and their entire crime family are soon also powerless and disgraced.

On this date in 1898, the great German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht was born (d. 1956). Your author’s senior thesis for his B.A. was Galileo in America, a play based on Brecht’s 1948 testimony before the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities.

A special MoB greeting to RtR, who lives in Tailgunner Joe land.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Mitt Romney's Demon Problem?

Today is Thursday, 8 February 2007.

Politics and strange bedfellows, indeed.

Submitted for your consideration: Mitt Romney and the “Religious Right”.

Mitt Romney: currently re-branding himself as a staunch social conservative, after having previously been a flip-flopping waffler on abortion and gay rights.

The Religious Right: comprised primarily of evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, who, by theological definition and practice, judge Mormonism to be a false, demon-inspired and –infested false religion, on a par with paganism, Satanism, and Islam.

Consider this from today’s The New York Times: “Mark DeMoss, an evangelical public relations consultant who represents many conservative Christian groups, said it was “more important that a candidate shares my values than my faith,” adding, “And if I look at it this way, Mr. Romney would be my top choice.”

But the theology of the Religious Right holds that correct values issue only from the One True Faith. Those who refuse the One True Faith and claim to have correct values are at best self-deluded, at worst lying and scheming to deceive The Elect.

How can the Religious Right justify making common cause with a politician whom they judge worships a false god, and tries to convert people to that false god, thus condemning them to certain eternal damnation?

Pragmatism? The greater good of the greater number? Supping with the Devil but using a long-handled spoon?

Or is it simple amoral opportunism and a lust for power at any cost?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Little Local Hitler

Today is Wednesday, 7 February 2007.

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is a curious and scurrilous little extremist group run by William Donohue, Ph.D. Donohue has no discernible political influence. Instead, he makes a living by specializing, like Ann Coulter, in wild, defamatory statements which get him invited on right-wing talk shows to spew hate.

The following, from MSNBC’s Scarborough Country (8 December 2004) is exemplary of his positions: “Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews [my emphasis] who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It's not a secret, okay? And I'm not afraid to say it".

Apparently Donohue believes a good Catholic is one who spouts the Hitler line that “The Jew” controls the media.

In his latest foray, he demands that the John Edwards campaign fire two bloggers. He said, “John Edwards is a decent man who has had his campaign tarnished by two anti-Catholic vulgar trash-talking bigots”.

I don’t know about the two bloggers, but an anti-Semite such as Donohue certainly qualifies as a “vulgar trash-talking bigot”.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

One Enchanted Evening

Today is Tuesday, 6 February 2007.

This evening, a power spike knocked our cable TV out.

When it returned, it was with an episode of the series, The Unit, and the performer was Linda Hunt.

One of our finest contemporary actors, winner of the Oscar for the role of Billy Kwan in The Year of Living Dangerously, one of my fav flicks.

Ca., oh, 1990, I went to Bigelow’s, a chemist (read: drugstore been there since 1838) in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York City.

It was ca. 5 p.m., and I’d gone to purchase lipstick for my spouse.

As I opened the door, Linda Hunt was exiting.

I propped the door open with my heel, and did that sort of 18th century bow … you know the one, both arms out, my body dipping down and back, my head bowed.

I looked up to see her with the widest grin imaginable.

I rose, clicked my heels, and held the door with a flourish.

She realized I knew who she was, and worthy of honour.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lt. Watada: Presente!

Today is Monday, 5 February 2007.

The question before the court martial should be: If one believes sincerely that a war is illegal and immoral, should not one be affirmed in refusing to take part in that war, even if, nay, especially if, one is a commissioned officer of the United States Army?

Another question should be: Is it not historical fact that the principles of the Nuremberg Trial (with legal force under American law and international law) establish that one is not obligated to follow orders, simply because they are orders, if one in good conscience believes the orders are illegal and immoral?

When it is convenient to our rulers, we are told that such is the case, and scapegoats are consigned to military prisons for murdering civilians.

But, that is just the isolated case.

When someone raises such questions regarding an entire war waged by cowards pretending to be President and Vice President of the United States of America … the situation becomes “Befehl ist Befehl”, “Orders are orders”, as the Nazis liked to say, and one must obey.

Today, in a courtroom at Fort Lewis, Washington, began the court martial of First Lieutenant Ehren K. Watada. He is charged with refusing to deploy to Iraq, and faces 1 to 4 years in a military gulag. (He must be made an example of, of course, as the first commissioned officer to, on 22 June 2006, refuse deployment.)

Lt. Watada believes, in all good conscience, so far as I can discern, that the order to deploy in this illegal war is an unlawful order, and must therefore be refused.

Even were one to grant that Lt. Watada is mistaken, which I most emphatically do not, must we not honour the fact he believes the war to be illegal, honour the fact that he refuses in good conscience to obey what he believes to be an illegal honour, and give thanks that he takes such a stand?

Considerations of law and conscience are, of course, only so much garbage to the Bush-Cheney Junta. All that matters is obedience to their mad appetites for conquest.

Lt. Watada is not on trial.

The citizens of the USA are on trial.

Let all those who “support” this war with their mouths enlist, or “surge” into Iraq by any means necessary, and fight and die, or, by their absence, admit they are cowards who delight in the deaths of others whom they force to die for a cause of mad greed.

Why did I title this column, “Lt. Watada: Presente!”?

During the Spanish Civil War, when the Loyalists (i.e., the Anti-Fascists), honoured those who had fallen in combat, it was their custom to assemble in formation, and the names of the dead would be read, and there would be a silence after each name, and then one of their living comrades would shout out, “Presente!”. “Present.”

We suspect the end to the story of Lt. Watada. They’ll lock him up. You won’t do the time; I won’t either.

Lt. Watada will do the time, being present for all of us.

More info and support at: http://www.thankyoult.org/

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Mark Twain, or, Do The Right Thing

Today is Sunday, 4 February 2007.

The Sunday which is known as SuperBowl.

On this day in 1938, a play, which in the estimation of HH, is tied for the prize of Greatest American Play, debuted on Broadway.

Our Town, by Thornton Wilder.

Does anyone ever realize life while they live it, every, every moment?

No. … Well, saints and poets, they do some."

In December 1898, the USA/USE “purchased” the Philippines from Spain.

Does this seem odd? Buying a country, and all the folks in it?

[HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: ca. 1900, the Tsar of All the Russias, Nicholas 2 [let’s postpone comparison of Nickie 2 and Bushie 2, shall we?, but ain’t that a caution!], listed his occupation, on his census form, as “Owner of Russia”.]

Yesterday, 3 February 2007, as a result of the disorder and carnage unleashed upon Iraq by the Bush Junta conquest, more than 130 human beings were killed in a truck bombing in a Baghdad market.

Hey now, hey now.

On this day in 1899, formally began the resistance of Filipinos to conquest by the United States. The war lasted, in its most ferocious phase, until 1902, with the mop-up lasting until 1913.

During the course of the “conflict”, The Army of the United States, by bullet and disease, exterminated ca. 1,000,000 Filipino civilians.

Mark Twain, a notable opponent of the Conquest and Genocide in the Philippines, wrote:

"There is the case of the Philippines. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it -- perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives of those islands -- but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector -- not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from Spanish tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the Filipinos, a government according to Filipino ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now -- why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."

Aint’ it a caution if one repeats those words, with slight change, which I venture to suppose Twain would approve:

"There is the case of IRAQ. I have tried hard, and yet I cannot for the life of me comprehend how we got into that mess. Perhaps we could not have avoided it -- perhaps it was inevitable that we should come to be fighting the natives -- but I cannot understand it, and have never been able to get at the bottom of the origin of our antagonism to the natives. I thought we should act as their protector -- not try to get them under our heel. We were to relieve them from tyranny to enable them to set up a government of their own, and we were to stand by and see that it got a fair trial. It was not to be a government according to our ideas, but a government that represented the feeling of the majority of the IRAQIS, a government according to IRAQI ideas. That would have been a worthy mission for the United States. But now -- why, we have got into a mess, a quagmire from which each fresh step renders the difficulty of extrication immensely greater. I'm sure I wish I could see what we were getting out of it, and all it means to us as a nation."

Mark Twain. A pen name, from a Mississippi River phrase, meaning two fathoms, or 12 feet, of water depth beneath a boat’s keel.

The majority of people of this United States have, through intent and/or neglect, allowed and empowered the Bush Junta to bury the people of Iraq, HUMAN BEINGS, far more than two fathoms, mark twain, down.

Which is to say, the Bush Junta has buried the people of Iraq under such mountains of debris as: of ethno-religious cleansing [i.e., genocide], of destruction of the physical infrastructure we Americans take for granted, etc.

I’m not surprised most of my fellow Americans could care less.

I’m 54 years, so I have experience that cruelty and indifference are essential hallmarks of my fellow Americans. (Not, to be sure, that this makes us/US different from the people of any other nation. And, just to be clear, and to stir the pot, I believe the cause lies more in nurture than in nature.) Ethical responsibility rests upon me, and all my fellow Americans.

I am reminded of a photograph I saved from The New York Times, from the 1st anniversary of the Massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

It was of the lone protestor, an elderly male, with the compassion and courage to show up at the Square that day, being taken into custody by fascist police thugs.

His crime: he unveiled a banner, and shouted, as he was hauled away: “Rise up! Rise up!”

What's difficult is not realizing The Right Thing To Do: what's difficult is choosing to Do The Right Thing, and doing same.

My Fellow Americans:

Rise up!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Vietnam/Iraq Syndrome, or, David Brooks, R.I.P.

Today is Saturday, 3 February 2007.

In his New York Times Op-Ed column of 1 February (“The Iraq Syndrome, R.I.P.”), David Brooks (who refused military service but just knew the Iraq conquest would be a cakewalk to utopia) wrote: “After Vietnam, Americans turned inward. Having lost faith in their leadership class, many Americans grew suspicious of power politics and hesitant about projecting American might around the world. The Vietnam syndrome was real. It lasted all of five years --- the time between the fall of Saigon and the election of Ronald Reagan”.

What a crock.

Those “many Americans” didn’t prevent Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter from supporting vicious dictatorships like the Shah’s Iran and Pinochet’s Chile. Didn’t prevent Carter from funding the war of the Somocista gangsters (who would later become notorious when re-branded as contras) to destroy the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua, primarily by terrorizing civilians and demolishing infrastructure. Didn’t prevent Carter from launching the greatest “peacetime” buildup of military might in American history (for which Reagan later duplicitously hijacked credit).

Need I go on?

Those who “suffered” from “Vietnam Syndrome” weren’t classic Republican isolationists, i.e., those who believed in an America living in splendid and morally-pure autarkic isolation from the Wicked Old Powers of Europe.

Those who drew the correct lesson from Vietnam were those who awakened to opposing American global hegemony as harmful to humanity and to America. The myth of the “Vietnam Syndrome” is simply a re-working of the Nazi myth that the German Army in World War One was defeated, not on the battlefield, but by the “stab-in-the-back” of Jews behind the lines in Germany.

Brooks is correct when he says, “Finally, there has been no change in America’s essential nature. As Robert Kagan writes in his masterful book Dangerous Nation, America has never really been an isolationist nation. The United States has always exercised as much power as it could.” Indeed: ask Native Americans, ask African slaves, etc.

The sentence immediately following, however, plops firmly back into the crock: “It has always [sic] coupled that power with efforts to spread freedom”. As when the USA/USE supported the brutal and squalid dictatorship of Mobutu in Congo, etc.?

Brooks does get it right in his final paragraph: “In short, the U.S. has taken its share of blows over the past few years, but the isolationist dog is not barking. The hegemon will change. The hegemon will do more negotiating. But the hegemon will live”.

True: most Americans still want to deploy American power to drain as much as possible of the treasure of the rest of the world into their own greedy pockets.

At least, so long as others do the fighting and dying.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Happy Joy Joy!

Today is Friday, 2 February 2007.

This is a happy column, for the Princess of the Far and Farm Realms.
Another time, another place.

I turned 18 in 1970, graduated high school, left home for college. For the previous ten years, as with many middle-class white American families in those days, my family took a two-week driving trip somewhere in the country nearly every summer, as my parents believed my sister and I should “get to know the country”. Experiences for which I remain profoundly grateful.

In those days, the “chainification” of America had not yet triumphed; mom-and-pop businesses were still often the rule, rather than the exception.

Burgers, for example. The country was still the domain of thousands of hole-in-the-wall burger joints, most mediocre, but many … one could taste a real difference, some idiosyncratic combination of spices worked into the ground beef, or an original technique for frying onions: you had it one place, one time, in a one-horse town, never encountered that exact taste again, but remembered it forever.

Sure, one can walk into a McDonald’s anywhere in the world, and know one receives reliably a 3.5 out of 10. I’d rather spin the cylinder, and take a chance on a 2.5 coming out of the barrel, knowing that sometimes I’ll feast on a 7, 8, or 9.

On those vacations, we frequently stayed in small towns near really cool natural features or historical places.

Motels were most often mom-and-pop operations of varying quality, so my father would always inspect the room before registration. No need if it was Howard Johnson’s, the nation’s first restaurant franchise operation.

Sadly, only a handful of Howard Johnson’s restaurants survive; one was on Times Square until it was replaced by an upscale specialty retailer in 2005 (46th and Broadway). When my wife and I lived in NYC, we loved to go there and snag the cramped two-person booth shoe-horned into a tiny space just to the left of the entry vestibule, with a marvelous view of the teeming life of the Square.

This being Times Square, this HoJo featured a full bar, so we could enjoy cocktails (bourbon-and-ginger for her, martini for me) before feasting on favourites (mac-and-cheese for her, fried clam strips for me), followed by dishes of the famous 28 flavours of ice cream.

Frozen versions of several HoJo products could once be found in some supermarkets. Word on the street is that, later this year, a new licensee of the name and original recipes will resume manufacture of these treats, and open new HoJo restaurants, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

On related notes:

New Amsterdam, later New York City, was incorporated on this day in 1653.

In 1943, the last German troops surrendered at Stalingrad. Some 850,000 Axis troops had been killed, wounded, or captured, as well as some 1,130,000 Soviet troops. The number of civilians killed or wounded is unknown. (Just had to sneak in something unhappy!)

And, in 2007, Shrub saw his shadow.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In Memory of Molly Ivins

Today is Thursday, 1 February 2007.

I had anticipated that this would be a happy column, since it is the 300th posted since my dear friend and comrade from the days of yore, “RM”, built this venue for me as a birthday present April past.

Instead: it is the privilege of The Museum of the Bourgeois to express profound sorrow at the death of one of the finest journalists of our times, Molly Ivins, taken from us so-far-too-soon at 62.

A character with character. Check out her take on Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 Republican National Convention speech, when Pat declared Culture War: his speech “probably sounded better in the original German”.

I’m sure Molly knew the history of Pat’s term: Kulturkampf, describing Bismarck’s attempt to minimize the political influence of Catholic Germans, particularly in Bavaria and the East. Her comment also evokes the smell of burning books and burning Jews, apropos since Buchanan blames many of the world's ills on "international financiers", that sly old euphemism for "Jewish bankers".

Molly invented the nickname “Shrub” for George W. Bush, marvelous wordplay about the diminished capacities of the son of an already diminished father.

Molly’s column ran in more than 400 newspapers; it is a sad commentary on the political-ethical standards of many, if not most, citizens that she had less distribution and influence than the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Matt Drudge.

The Museum of the Bourgeois extends deepest sympathy to Molly’s family and friends.

It is an honor to me to celebrate my 300th column by saluting Molly Ivins, a great humane being.