Monday, December 14, 2009

Me You Don't Even Hear What I'm

In the context of the national healthcare and insurance debacle, some terrible truths about real life horror and love disappear into smoky political horsetrading and policy gaps. This video arrived in email today from my friend, poet and a photographer Dwyer Jones, whose personal story kicks the shit out of most people's. Please watch this performance by Laurence Cantor of Dwyer's Caregiver's Resume. Please listen. Please overlook the filmmaker's kind of adorable errors.

Dwyer's wife, a painter and poet in her own right, is notably absent here in story form. We who have the accidental privilege of good health and relative stability can imagine a sudden bad break for ourselves - a car accident, a shadow on the X-ray - but we can't follow a chain of events starting with someone else's misfortune that ends with the loss of everything we have and are. As long as health care is a shell game with clear financial winners and broken losers, catastrophic illness or injury anywhere around us threatens each of us and there's no protecting ourselves from it. We think we can by tut-tutting when our cousin smokes or when Uncle orders a steak or when Mama pours herself a scotch, but clucking doesn't help. Clicking your seat belt won't prevent the semi from missing the exit ramp. Some suffering is random; it is without meaning and that's all there is to it. The best we can do is provide health care for all people so the suffering doesn't spread.

And when suffering does spread, it is the duty of an enlightened society to refuse to make it worse.

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lay It All Down

Veterans Day 2009.

When are we going to learn?


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Of Anything At All


William "Jim" Haynes II, the man who blessed the use of dogs, hoods and nudity to pry information out of recalcitrant detainees, proved to be a model of evasion himself as he resisted all attempts at inquiry by the Armed Services Committee.

Did he ask a subordinate to get information about harsh questioning techniques?

"My memory is not perfect."

Did he see a memo about the effects of these techniques?

"I don't specifically remember when I saw this."

Did he remember doing something with the information he got?

"I don't remember doing something with this information."

When did he discuss these methods with other Bush administration officials?

"I don't know precisely when, and I cannot discuss it further without getting into classified information."

"I don't recall seeing this memorandum before and I'm not even sure this is one I've seen before. . . . I don't recall seeing this memorandum and I don't recall specific objections of this nature. . . . Well, I don't recall seeing this document, either. . . . I don't recall specific concerns. . . . I don't recall these and I don't recall seeing these memoranda. . . . I can't even read this document, but I don't remember seeing it. . . . I don't recall that specifically. . . . I don't remember doing that. . . . I don't recall seeing these things."

In two hours of testimony, Haynes managed to get off no fewer than 23 don't recalls, 22 don't remembers, 16 don't knows, and various other protestations of memory loss.

Our Watergate hearing nightmares have become the horror of our waking life.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Story Of How We Begin To Remember

Tristero at Hullabaloo published a blog post the other day that made me frown.
Al-Qaeda As Catch-All Term

by tristero

Glenn Greenwald rightly takes Kenneth Pollack to task for this idiocy from the NY Times:
Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain's portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a "perfectly reasonable catchall phrase" that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, [emphasis: Greenwald's] a place that "does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing," said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

What Glenn doesn't realize is something that Pollack surely knows, which is that Philip Bobbitt is trying to make the catch-all "al Qaeda" academically acceptable as well. From a review of Bobbitt's latest:
Bobbitt’s central premise is that today’s Islamic terrorist network, which he calls Al Qaeda for short...

I frowned because a few weeks ago in conversation I heard two adults discussing how sane and level-headed John McCain was and I said, "No, no. He's batshit crazy, which will be unmistakable at some point soon." MaCain had already begun conflating Sunni and Shi'ite, Madhi Army and al-Qaeda, which is inexcusable but sounded like a mistake the first time, the second time, even the third. Twice, Joe Lieberman whispered in McCain's ear and McCain corrected himself. The sixth and seventh time the candidate misspoke, it was apparent to keen observers a pattern had developed. Hopefully, I thought, a good night's sleep and a little gingko biloba might fix up the old coot. He's disqualified himself from serious consideration for the office in question by virtue of being unable to state who's the actual enemy we're pretending to fight, but maybe he'll be okay at dinner parties. Except, that's not what's happening here.

This morning, Pete turned on CNN while we did that daily How Many Fingers Am I Holding Up? ritual. While I was in the "Three - no, two!" phase, our blond newscaster talked and talked and talked. Each story seemed unbelievable to her. The sound of her voice reminded me of Drew Barrymore's Jillian on Family Guy, which is already annoying before coffee. Then our story turned to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr - that's who we were looking at - but the broadcaster talked about "al-Qaeda in Iraq." I sat up straight and growled. She went on to say al-Sadr had indeed warned the Iraqi government to cut out what it's doing. I have no opinion about who is good or bad in this situation, and I won't be drawn into discussion of it.


What pissed me off beyond the ability to speak was the presumption that I, CNN viewer coming to on Sunday morning, don't know that al-Sadr is Shi'ite, allied with Iran and al-Qaeda is profoundly, deeply Sunni, allied with Saudi Arabia, and these two groups are not fucking conspiring. They hate each other so much, so thoroughly and for so many hundreds of years they haven't joined up to destroy the occupation.

Sure, it's all about me, and by me, I mean news-watching registered voters. Here is a related CNN story that is more clear about who's who, but not by much.

CNN has some explaining to do. Care to ask them to try?

Update: Crooks and Liars takes up Intellectual laziness and the ‘al Qaeda’ shorthand as our chief diplomat calls al-Sadr "coward."


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Like A Record, Baby

Let's talk about focus. Here are 41 seconds of the tightest focus you may ever see.

On Monday, I got into it with the emotionally charged commenters at Shakespeare's Sister, which has happened before. This morning, I found I'd written about it several years ago.
Siobhan: You're talking about Shakespeare's Sister?
Tata: Yeah, how'd you know?
Siobhan: That's the expression your face gets everytime.
Tata: What? I have a look just for a person I've never met?
Siobhan: At least she makes you think!

Life is short, unless you're in prison. A gal's got to pick her battles and fewer of them as age creeps up and metabolism slows. For instance: that I get to work in the morning is a daily miracle; there's no way I'd have the time or energy to pick a fight with a bigtime blogger and pin him to the mat. So I'm watching the fracas with the expression on my face that says, "Look at that girl go! She's gonna run out of stomach lining before she runs out of opponents."

Except in this case, I'd said to Melissa, "Let's make some noise," and the ensuing ruckus turned out to be just another pointless argument with misogynist trolls. It was disappointing, but I remember a time when I thought it was simply peachy to vent my frustrations in bar fights. Nothing changes when energy is dispersed this way. I don't have the strength anymore to argue, let alone to no result, and Shakespeare's Sister is not my blog. In my vast middle age, I prefer direct action to simmering in my emotions: I gather information, then write letters or phone. Here, Digby lays out the facts.
As you well informed blog readers all know by now, last week ABC broke an interesting little story. It was about how Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, Colin Powell, George Tenent, John Ashcroft and other Bush "Principals" all gathered in regular meetings in the White House to discuss and approve of the various torture methods being used against prisoners held by the United States in the War On Terror. ABC interviewed the president a couple of days later and asked him if he was aware of these meetings and he said he was not only aware of them, but that he'd approved of them. Moreover, he specifically said he had no regrets about what was done to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who we know was tortured with simulated drowning --- also known as "waterboarding" -- which is considered by the entire civilized world to be torture.

As I said, we know all this. The blogs have been writing about it non-stop since last week, stunned and appalled at the picture of these high level public officials sitting around watching power point presentations about the efficacy of sexual humiliation and CIA operatives "acting out" various torture techniques for their approval. (According to ABC's source, they went farther than the Yoo memos and mandated that certain techniques could be used in tandem to make the "enhanced interrogations" even more painful.) At the CIA's request, they explicitly signed off unanimously on each instance of torture -- torture which included many of the techniques described here by former POWs of North Vietnam. POW's like John McCain.

Please read the rest. It's concise and effective, leading to a plan at Firedoglake.
Bush Approves of Torture. We Don't.

In a stunning admission on April 10, George Bush admitted that he approved of torturing detainees in U.S. custody.

Write to the editors of local and national newspapers to help get the word out that while Bush approves of the U.S. torture, we – the American people – do not.

Individual effort. Focus. A tidal wave of voices. I like it. I'm going to write, and I hope you will too, wherever you are. And for the time being, I'll avoid comments threads steered to time-wasting nowhere by the whims of trolls.

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Sunday, April 13, 2008

You Should've Left the Light On

ABC News:

President Bush says he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details about how high-value al Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, according to an exclusive interview with ABC News Friday.

"Well, we started to connect the dots in order to protect the American people." Bush told ABC News White House correspondent Martha Raddatz. "And yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

Game over. That's an admission to a war crime. In any civilized nation, the people would have taken to the streets and demanded the head of that lawless bastard on a pike, but no. We've got dentist appointments and Monday morning commutes. Via Hullabaloo, where the analytical mind goes to scream into its pillow:
"When word of torture and mistreatment began to slip out to the American press in the summer of 1969, our public-relations-minded captors began to treat us better. I'm certain we would have been a lot worse off if there had not been the Geneva Conventions around."
- John McCain

The current administration has disposed of habeas corpus. McCain now says torture is hunky-dory. We are in grave danger.


Monday, April 07, 2008

People All Over the World Are Shouting, "End the War."

On Saturday night, I had dinner with friends. I was seated across the table from a very close friend whom I love with my whole black heart. A guy I don't know well asked my friend, a George Bush fan, a question about politics. My friend and I know better than to discuss politics because my dear friend stopped thinking for himself in 2000. It's deeply disappointing. Moreover, even though I broke my own rule by answering a direct question, then not backing down or away from my opinion, this conversation really got under my skin.

A few things:

1. To say that John McCain is the most sensible candidate Republicans could have fielded is to disqualify yourself from adult conversation. McCain has repeatedly conflated Iran and al-Quaeda and doesn't know the difference between Sunni and Shi'a. Further, no one on an international stage should apply for a diplomatic position by stepping up to a mic and singing, "Bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran." This is a disaster in the making, at a time when we are seen internationally as a lawless superpower, a bully with nukes.

Surely, there must be one sane man in the Republican Party. Why isn't he running?

2. Discussing winning the war in dispassionate terms does not mark one as mature or serious: it's monstrous. For no discernable reason, we have destroyed a sovereign nation. If we invaded for oil, we're not going to get it. If we invaded to take out Saddam, we've murdered him. If, as I more and more hear, we invaded to restore our Vietnam-wounded pride, we have done the very thing that will insure this pride is injured further.

(As an aside, what is it with men who were too young to serve in Vietnam and who didn't bother joining the service talking about what WE lost? I was in pigtails and ballet slippers, and I'm not stewing. And that these same dodos end arguments by shouting, "We saved your ass in WWII!" speaks volumes about great insecurity rather than great accomplishment.)

3. The Middle East is not a fucking game board. Real people live there and die there when we take our giant dick substitutes out and fire off a few missiles. Now, just because we forget and go play somewhere else does not mean the survivors won't remember. Think for a second about Israel and Palestine. How far does that little tiff stretch back in history? Is it...ALWAYS? Why yes, yes it is. And these people, whom we've only noticed because they stand on oil, will remember that we've dropped bombs on them. We may forget. They never will. Weren't we trying to win their hearts and minds?

We cannot make the Middle East anything other than what it is.

4. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. It must arise from the people, who must be willing to die for it. The think tank assholes who keep saying Democracy can be exported know that no such thing is possible and they're only saying it to people too stupid to read their own nation's history.

Democracy has nothing whatever to do with what our government's done to Iraq. It's an invasion, pure and simple, for oil and George Bush's Daddy problems. Imperialism is not democratic.

5. The war cannot be won.

6. The military is being destroyed in the war that cannot be won.

7. No one has any idea how to pay for the health care for the veterans of the war that cannot be won.

8. My favorite:

"I believe in less taxes."
"I believe bridges should remain standing. One of us is going to be unhappy."

One more thing: when you're talking politics and you shout at me while I'm discussing peace you've told me you know your argument's weak. It is the refuge of the man who factors the sufferings of other human beings - especially women - into the cost of doing business and doesn't give his part in creating it a second thought. If you know your argument's weak, rethink the question.

I've tried to reconstruct this glittering little quotation but I've failed.* The point is really important. I'm paraphrasing:
The role of Commander In Chief is the smallest part of the American Presidency because war represents the failure of diplomacy.

We're not electing a Commander In Chief. We are electing a President, hopefully a person smart enough to guide our nation to peace, prosperity and energy independence.

So maybe I'm in a mood.

*If you have a line on who said the line I can't reconstruct, shout it out, my dahhhhlink.

Update: The salute I think of each time minstrel mentions Reagan's fetishy love of pomp and parades.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Got To Make The Best Of

The primary season long ago lost its tinny glamor. The vote's behind us and I am aware that the Republican noise machine engineers dirty tricks, scandals and rumors into our political campaigns. Until and unless indictments are unsealed, I simply will not listen to rumor or innuendo. I won't listen to the insinuating chatter of reporters who have nothing to say. I'm not going to listen to anyone calling for any Democrat to apologize, to cast off an ally, a secret religion, to consider someone else's penis. No. I won't hear another word on the subject of entitlement, and you shouldn't either.

We are being manipulated. Indulge me just a teensy moment, please!

Perhaps you have a favorite candidate. Perhaps you've invested scads of time verbally excoriating his, her or its opponent. Perhaps you've gone so far as to instigate a comments thread where rash words were exchanged.

Hmmm. My darling, come sit next to me. Comfy? Can I get you a cup of tea? You're cutting down. I see. Okay, then. How's your blood pressure? Pounding in your ears? My sweet, it's time to reconsider.

Recently, I've heard people threaten to vote Republican if their favorite candidate doesn't win the Democratic nomination. These passionate, dedicated people have lost sight of what's at stake. They're not really Democrats, or liberals, or progressives, and they're certainly not people interested in justice or changing the world. No, they're handicappers, more concerned with betting the right pony than Civil Rights. They don't care whether or not children have health insurance, if the wars go on forever, if the economy tanks, if the government spies on its citizens, if the CIA operates secret prisons and tortures. Nope. These fuckers care about stomping their widdle feet and getting their way. Fuck the poor. Screw the Constitution. They'll show you!

That kind of unforgivable selfishness will get us nowhere. Let's look at one thing we must surely always keep before our eyes.

Say you're a human. Say you need medical treatment after January 2009. Say it's something you want to get over with and put behind you. You want and need to address your medical problem with all haste and in the manner you choose without interference from anyone. You want that. And you want to be left alone.

Now, say that means that for whatever reason, and there are many in the wide world of human disasters, you need an abortion. Or your wife needs an abortion. Your daughter, your granddaughter, your niece, your ward, your sister or your mother needs an abortion.

If you vote Republican, the religious right will be appointing Supreme Court Justices for the next four years. That abortion becomes less probable with each appointment; out with the bath water goes birth control. The Supreme Court is one provincial Republican appointee from grave danger to Roe v. Wade and two away from overturning it and throwing a picnic on the mall.

One more time, my pet: another Republican administration, Roe v. Wade, overturned. And it's not just safe, legal abortion. You know that. This is the tip of the Make Your Own Decisions, Occupational Safety, Environmental Progress, National Park Preserving, Equal Rights For Everyone, No Torturing, Rule Of Law, Privacy Respecting, Trade Balancing, Reasonable Search and Seizure, No Outsourcing Iceberg.

Let's take a deep breath, then, shall we? The other day, one of my blogmates told me on a third person's blog to go Cheney myself, presumably over the assertion that a woman president would be dandy. I did not respond to his vitriol because why should I lose my temper, my stomach lining or - Kali forbid! - develop a wrinkle because he's lost the plot? I'm beautifying the world one room at a time, so leaving a rumpled karmic mess is absolutely O-U-T out!

Appearances may deceive, my love. Nader cannot save us. McCain is not a reasonable centrist. Clinton is not Satan. Obama is not a terrifying racial cipher. Politicians cannot ride to our rescue from global nightmares of our own making. If we know what is good for us and our general health, we will carefully purge the junta and go about the next five years putting our nation, our international credibility, our infrastructure, our scientific community, our economy and our ethos back together. A great deal of work lies ahead of us. Now is the time to rest. When the election comes, you'll know what to do.

Well, I'm glad we've had this little chat. I hope you hear what I'm saying: disengage from the utterly irration media circus. Go for a delightful walk outdoors. This weekend, daffodils will bloom in New Jersey. Gazing at sunny yellow flowers is positively tonic.

Care for a crumpet?

Updated to correct amusing typos.

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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Until She Slipped Into My Pocket

I'm wimping out here, to which I freely admit. It's raining a little, cold and the wind is blowing through the trees along the river with some force. Am I going outside to take a picture? Fuck no. Instead, you get a picture Pete took of wine in a jelly jar while he was chasing the pussycats around the living room. I love the honey-colored light, the glistening glass surface, the smoothness of the table, but I also see this still life as a very active image. To my eye, this glass looks still only at its center, the way candlelight is always in motion. I know this room was alive with cats running in circles and one athletic man fiddling with the flash - even I was laughing. This is what we distill of that moment.

On Friday, minstrel wrote about a report that lengthy, repeated tours of duty are destroying the armed forces. I'd read this report, too, but I don't have the same capacity he does to break out meaning. The article:
The report showed that 27.2% of noncommissioned officers - the sergeants responsible for leading troops in combat - reported mental health problems during their third or fourth tours.

"Soldiers are not resetting entirely before they get back into theater," said Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, who headed the team that conducted the study. "They're not having the opportunity to completely recover from the previous deployment when they go back into theater for the second or third deployment.

Note the inconsistency within the article: the first paragraph cites third or fourth tours; the second paragraph mentions problems beginning with second and third tours of duty. This is not a small discrepancy. It means that problems start even sooner than anyone is willing to discuss: with a second tour of duty. A second. We're sending them in for a fourth. Minstrel:
They are driving the army straight into the ground. Also, these type of endless and back to back deployments have never happened. No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Let's read those words again: No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

No one else in the history of warfare has done this to their troops.

Rumor has it the tours of duty are about to be extended again, and it will be done quietly. When the destruction of our armed services is an undeniable fact in history, will you then support the war crimes trials of the people whose thoughtless cruelty, greed and hubris left you more truly vulnerable than you have ever been in your life?

What will it take for you personally to get off your ass and do something about this?


Friday, February 08, 2008

Evil Is An Exact Science

Being Carefully Correctly Wrong

Click play, read on.

This week, the news out of Washington confirmed what we have long believed: we have become our worst nightmare, a totalitarian nation of the kind we once fought because we believed in our innate goodness and rightness; no more, and not again in our lifetimes.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Waterboarding is necessary though probably not legal, CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress Thursday as Attorney General Michael Mukasey said he would not open a criminal investigation into the CIA's use of the technique.

Strapping a person to a surface, covering their face with cloth and pouring water on their face to imitate the sensation of drowning could be used if "an unlawful combatant is possessing information that would help us prevent catastrophic loss of life of Americans or their allies," said Hayden.

"In my own view, the view of my lawyers and the Department of Justice, it is not certain that that technique would be considered lawful under current statute," he told the House Intelligence Committee after publicly disclosing that the CIA had used waterboarding on three of the enemy combatants.

He explained that the method was used because of "mis-shaped and misformed" political discussion about waterboarding.

In the jungle of the senses
Tinkerbell and Jack the ripper
Love has no meaning not where they come from
But we know pleasure is not that simple
Very little fruit is forbidden
Sometimes we wobble sometimes we're strong
But you know evil is an exact science
Being carefully correctly wrong

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody's happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

Hayden reiterated that the technique is not part of the interrogation program now and that the waterboarding techniques, when they were used in the 2002 and 2003, were limited to three top al Qaeda suspects

Also Thursday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey told lawmakers he will not open a criminal investigation into the CIA's use of waterboarding on terror suspects.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers asked Mukasey bluntly whether he was starting a criminal investigation since Hayden confirmed the use of waterboarding.

"No, I am not, for this reason: Whatever was done as part of a CIA program at the time that it was done was the subject of a Department of Justice opinion through the Office of Legal Counsel and was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then," he said.

Mukasey said opening an investigation would send a message that Justice Department opinions are subject to change.

We feel like Greeks we feel like Romans
Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
We drink elixirs that we refine
>From the juices of the dying
We are not monsters we're moral people
And yet we have the strength to do this
This is the splendor of our achievment
Call in the airstrike with a poison kiss

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody's happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

"Essentially it would tell people, 'You rely on a Justice Department opinion as part of a program, then you will be subject to criminal investigations ... if the tenure of the person who wrote the opinion changes or indeed the political winds change,'" he said. "And that's not something that I think would be appropriate and it's not something I will do."

Conyers, D-Michigan, and Mukasey argued over whether the Justice Department will provide documents on the waterboarding opinion to the committee.

Mukasey refused, saying the documents are highly classified and that he had already said he is not going to open an investigation.

Conyers and other House Democrats then called for the criminal investigation.

How bad it gets you can't imagine
The burning wax the breath of reptiles
God is not mocked he knows his buisness
Karma could take us at any moment
Cover him up I think we're finished
You know it's never been so exotic
But I don't know my dreams are visions
We could still end up with the great big fishes!

Priests and cannibals prehistoric animals
Everybody's happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home.

Okay, let's practice a little intelligent selfishness, just for black-humored kicks:

What do you think this means to our troops, taken prisoner?


Monday, December 17, 2007

A Spot On the Sidewalk In the City


Pete has a cold but we still have scads to do, so yesterday, whenever possible, he held still and stayed warm in front of the TV. I made yogurt for the week, then made crepes for the Italian Christmas Eve manicotti. When I emerged from the kitchen, Pete was watching The Sand Pebbles. At intervals I didn't understand, film guys sitting on film guy chairs would talk about the historical context of the movie, which was the Yangtze River in 1926. Let's just say it was a bad year to be an American imperialist, but an even worse year to defend American imperialism on a Navy gunboat, especially if you weren't an American. This movie is full of torch-wielding angry mobs.

Gritty. A minute or two after the end of this clip, the student-soldiers marched into the square and stood at attention for a while, looking for all the world like boys playing dress up. Our ingenue skipped lightly down the stairs and I said, as Candace Bergen, "Who wants cookies?" Then I went back into the kitchen to make breakfast. When I returned to the living room, where Pete was stationed on the couch, with breakfast on giant plates, one of those angry mobs was chasing Mako down a pier. I got a sick feeling and ducked into the kitchen for my coffee. A minute later, that mob had caught Mako and was in the process of torturing him as his shipmates looked on helplessly from a safe distance when this happened:

Tata: What the fuck is going on here?
Mako: [Screaming]
Chinese Character: Poor Po-Han! Someone should shoot him.
Mako: [Screaming]

No white man would suggest such a thing; thank Christ the Chinese guy is there to think outside the procedural box. Steve McQueen grabs a gun and runs somewhere for a clear shot. Richard Crenna chases him as if to stop him. Steve McQueen takes aim and hesitates. He loves Mako!


Steve McQueen shoots. Mako recoils, obviously dead. I spend the rest of the day trying not to throw up.

Tata: Have you seen this movie before?
Pete: My parents took us to the drive-in and we sat in the back seat.
Tata: How old were you?
Pete: Six or seven.
Tata: Jesus Christ. That same scenario came up in The Cowboys and made me sick for weeks. I'm almost afraid to ask what they were doing to Mako.
Pete: It was the death by a thousand cuts. Can you imagine bleeding to death by a thousand cuts?
Tata: I would never have guessed that from what we saw, and I saw too much. That's going to bother me for a while.
Pete: They cut a lot out. That scene's been bothering me since I was a little kid.


The unnamed university employs a man who does one thing, and one thing only: he removes gum from sidewalks. This is his whole job. Each day, he goes to buildings on campus, of which there are a great many, and scrapes gum off the sidewalk. Though I've worked at the unnamed university nearly all of my lengthy adult life, I had not encountered this man until a couple of months ago, when I was startled to realize the sidewalk leading from the street to the library was generously dappled with gum. Since then, I have stared at this walkway many times. There's gum everywhere I had not noticed. It would not occur to me to stand next to a garbage can and drop gum on the ground. It's an idea I would not have, and though the thought disgusts me, apparently a lot of people can have the same disgusting idea, at least in passing.


There is no excuse for torture, and no excuse for defending it.



Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Up To You, Yeah, You

Last week, we talked about the care package project. Let's review:
The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:

We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

Ah, memories! Remember the next thing that happened was California caught on fire? Did you feel torn? With my teeny budget, I did, because I wanted to help. While there's still a whole lot to talk about with regard to what happened in the wake of the wildfires, let's focus a minute on the care package project. A year ago, I assembled care packages for two Marines as part of Coalition of the Swilling's project. The thinking, shopping and packaging for the mail was a huge challenge for me and I enjoyed thinking about the needs of someone I could only imagine.
Were it truly up to me, I'd mail them tickets home on Air Jamaica, but one doesn't always get to choose the best gift options, and nowhere in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog does one find a six-pack of Skillful MidEast Diplomats, which is what these kids truly need. Yesterday, I sent out an email to a handful of my favorite people, asking the musical question, "What should I send them? How shall I send them?" I got a few responses but for the most part, even my very favorite people do not at all want to talk about this, which is interesting but not surprising. Here's what I've got so far.

beef jerky
eye drops
nail clippers
lip balm
writing paper/envelopes
instant coffee
instant foods
bungee cords/giant twist ties
magnets/wall hooks
foot care stuff
herbed salt
scotch/duct tape
unscented moisturizer
puzzle magazine
Rolling Stone/People/Ya got me, what?
deck of cards

The contents of that list have settled with time. Last year's project was a box sent to a specific person with one name and one probable set of needs. This year, this box goes to a place where people will sort what they receive and re-package. It's a different animal. Last year, I was inclined to include crayons and a coloring book. This year, I wrote a note to Martha Stewart's foundation, asking if they'd like to donate - say - thousands of white pillowcases to the Sweet Dreams project.

Then, of course, there's only so much a person can do. Let's not allow ourselves to get overwhelmed. I'm interested in you, now. I'm sending out a box this morning, and I'll send another in a couple of weeks. Will you join me?


Monday, October 22, 2007

Faces At the Edge of the Banquet

Mr. Sasha, my son-in-law, is stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Miss Sasha points out Vandenberg's got a care package project going.* I hope you'll be inspired to either help out or call up a base near you and find a project you can get involved in.

The following items are of great use to the deployers:

Black/brown t-shirts and black socks
crystal light packets
individual size beef jerky
energy bars
lip balm
sun screen
foot powder
baby wipes
hand/antibacterial soap
individually wrapped hard candy
phone cards
blank greeting cards/letter writing materials
sunflower seeds
assorted snack items

You can send some items, all these items, a case of any one kind of item. They will be grateful for what you send, regardless. Also: they especially want hand sanitizer and baby wipes.

Not on the list: I have heard that eye drops are also prized. Books are also great.

My contact with the program, who shall remain charmingly anonymous and not a person I made myself, says also:
We also have a program for our families called Operation Sweet Dreams. In this program the family member sends us a digital photo, we transfer to a pillowcase and the family gives to the deployed member to take with them or is sent to the deployed location. With that we would need plain white pillow cases.

Donations can be dropped off or mailed to:
Airman & Family Readiness Center
706 Washington Ave
Bldg 10122
Vandenberg AFB, CA 93437

*The short version: I'm 100% opposed to the war and have been since 9/12; even so, our military comes down to individual persons who in my opinion should never get the idea that individual civilians don't give a shit what happens. This is not a contradiction. It is the simple notion that every person - every single person - matters just as much as I do in the world. And they might need socks.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

To Gather Stones Together

Sometimes, one locks the door and the truth smashes a window to break in. Minstrel Boy:
I'm dragging myself through the morning today. Muttering to myself. Slouching and bitching through the chores. In three short hours I will be playing yet another funeral for a fine young man who has fallen due to the misguided policy and schemes of George W. Bush and also because of the craven cowardice or callous cynicism of the Congress that refuses to do their duty and stop this shit.

I'm doing this because it fucking hurts. That's right. I'll say it again, I'm doing this BECAUSE it hurts.

It hurts to see that another young person has been brutally killed. It hurts to see the faces of the surviving family. It hurts to stand with honor guard and play sad songs on the harp and pipes. It hurts even more when it is the child of a neighbor, it hurts even more when it was a kid that I knew.

Want to know something else? It hurts even more when I'm going to or leaving something like that and realize that most of this country doesn't even know, or much care, how bad it hurts.

Damn it. Just - damn it.
Here's my challenge to you. Find a way to make this personal. Do like Jersey Cynic and Liz did over at BlondeSense did. They got out in the street to protest. They even got Jim Yeager of Mockingbird's Medley to join them. You know Jim. He used to blog as Mimus Pauly, now he's just doing it under his name.

Make it personal. Find a way to make this shit mean something deep inside you. Make it hurt. Then Do. It. Some. More. Feel the pain, feel the sadness when a 20 year old kid gets rolled over in a truck wreck. Then go to the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Keep. It. Personal. Do that and you might find a way to ensure that this madness stops. Drag people along with you so that they know how much it hurts.

My cousin and his partner are coming to the funeral with me today.

That's two more people.

Maybe we won't stop this war. It has the distinct potential of stopping itself. The military can simply break down and cease to function like it did with Alexander. Of course, it just might get worse. Still.

I'm keeping it personal. I'm going to walk through the hurt, the grief, the pain and do what I can to make something, some fucking where a little better.

That's what I'm doing.

How about you?

Frankly, I don't know if I have the strength to do as MB asks, but he is right and I have to try.

How about you?

Crossposted at Brilliant@Breakfast.

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Something We Could Die About

This morning, a friend who was undoubtedly the most Nordic bar mitzvah boy since - since - ever, pointed me to the blog of another young Jewish man advocating for the war. I'm not linking to him, forget it. Look, everyone's entitled to his youthful indiscretions. Everyone's entitled to make mistakes in judgment. I make 'em all the time, but I am a little old Jewish lady. One of these days, I'll eat dinner at 4 and tuck butter pats into my oversize purse for a needy later that never really comes. And that fucking kid is an embarrassment to my adopted people.

If you are a young man or woman who supports the war: enlist. Period.

If you are a young Jewish man or woman who supports the war: good for you. Enlist and shut up. If you agitate for endless war you think you're too good to fight you're reinforcing stereotypes about Jews. Zip it, idiot. Let's hope you grow out of this foolishness.

Oh Lieberman, Novak, Goldberg, Goldstein, Perle, Wolfowitz, Kagan, Kagan, Kagan and the absolute ghoulish worst Kristol... God damn it, stop what you doing.

Recent political discussion has included a lot of shoulder shrugging and blame shifting, the most notable of which has been the refrain "No one could have known..." applied to an appalling variety of disasters. The fact is a great many people did know, told you and you didn't listen. Moreover, you're not listening now, after you've been proven wrong over and over. I don't know what could be in it for you to keep sputtering that more time, more money and more death will ultimately prove you right, because at this point, being proven right about any one thing you say will not be enough to counterbalance the damage you've done.

Finally, intention is nifty but outcomes are what count. It does not matter what you intended to do. What matters is what you've done.

Whose suffering did you mitigate? Whose life did you save?

What have you done?

Update: I wrote our young chickenhawk (correction: Yellow Elephant) that it wasn't too late for him to enlist. He sent back an email with the subject Don't waste your time, my time or our country's time, including only a link to his FAQ titled Am I A Chickenhawk? My response: As a little old lady, I think it's your duty to defend me. He's blocked me from his site, so I can't mentor this promising young man.
Non-enlisting chickenhawk (Yellow Elephant)

This is Josh Levy. He wants a bigger military he doesn't want to join, but you or your children should. Stop by and encourage him to consider an alternate career path.

Update-update: Mr. Blogenfreude points out that our boy Josh is not a chickenhawk; he's a Yellow Elephant. I'd do the fancy strike-through text but I can't. Born before the cut off date and all. As you were!


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Under the Mountain

I called Grandpa. He couldn't hear me. I called back. He couldn't hear who I was but asked me to call back in ten minutes. Nine minutes later, Mom called.

Mom: Dad just called me. Were you trying to talk to him?
Tata: I was! He couldn't hear me. I standing in my office, shouting, "It's me, your granddaughter Domy" but he couldn't hear.
Mom: Nobody calls you "Domy."
Tata: He has, all my life.
Mom: What?
Tata: What?

Seconds tick by.

Tata: He said he was waiting for a phone call?
Mom: Yes. He needs a prescription refilled, I think. He calls the VA in Providence, and they call the pharmacy in Hyannis.
Tata: You're kidding!
Mom: The VA system is hard for him. I don't know how they think 90-year-old World War II veterans, who have communication issues, are supposed to communicate with them through phone trees.
Tata: What? WHAT?
Mom: It's a disaster.
Tata: That's...not funny.
Mom: No kidding.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Smile Up At the One Standing Proud

In this time of terrible cognitive dissonance, we can best honor soldiers and veterans by caring for their medical and occupational needs after they serve, because the dead need only love. As a person deeply opposed to war, I am also opposed to the mistreatment of people who trust us not to expend life and limb foolishly. There is everything to say now and no way to say it anymore.

This song still brings tears to my eyes. For a youthful, stylized version of what we had and lost, have a look at this.

Peace be with you this day, whoever you are.


Monday, February 19, 2007

We Found You Hiding, We Found You Lying

Courtesy of Mr. Blogenfreude comes this nearly rational bon mot from Jonah Goldberg:
I don't trust Dana Priest that much, and I am suspicious of some of possible motives behind the series, so with those caveats in mind, I still think the Post's series (See here and here ) on what some of our wounded troops go through is must-reading. Hospitals for vets returning from the front should be palaces and the last thing in the world any of them deserve are bureaucratic hassles. Though I should say that I've visited wounded troops and from my very limited experience they are surrounded by people who really do care.

Still, here's an idea for Fox News. Take Geraldo Rivera off the Anna Nicole beat and put him full time on this one. I'm not exactly a huge fan of Rivera's but he launched his career exposing the scandalous condition of mental hospitals if I recall, and he has just the right amount of preening self-righteousness (see Hurrican[sic] Katrina) to scare the bejeebers out of the relevant bureaucrats and politicians.

"Bejeebers"? Jonah, you can say "shit" like other grownups now.

See, even if we spot him a few points for attempting to behave like a human, Jonah's still a mouth-breathing, basement-dwelling blob. He does, however, have a point: Geraldo's insufferable. I'm suprised those Hurrican[see above] Katrina survivors Geraldo carried out of the wreckage didn't slap him, at least a little. That, friends, is every bit as important as Jonah's trust issues and specialized language-mangling. What's "must-reading"?
On the worst days, soldiers say they feel like they are living a chapter of "Catch-22." The wounded manage other wounded. Soldiers dealing with psychological disorders of their own have been put in charge of others at risk of suicide.

Disengaged clerks, unqualified platoon sergeants and overworked case managers fumble with simple needs: feeding soldiers' families who are close to poverty, replacing a uniform ripped off by medics in the desert sand or helping a brain-damaged soldier remember his next appointment.

"We've done our duty. We fought the war. We came home wounded. Fine. But whoever the people are back here who are supposed to give us the easy transition should be doing it," said Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, 26, an amputee who lived at Walter Reed for 16 months. "We don't know what to do. The people who are supposed to know don't have the answers. It's a nonstop process of stalling."

Soldiers, family members, volunteers and caregivers who have tried to fix the system say each mishap seems trivial by itself, but the cumulative effect wears down the spirits of the wounded and can stall their recovery.

"It creates resentment and disenfranchisement," said Joe Wilson, a clinical social worker at Walter Reed. "These soldiers will withdraw and stay in their rooms. They will actively avoid the very treatment and services that are meant to be helpful."

Danny Soto, a national service officer for Disabled American Veterans who helps dozens of wounded service members each week at Walter Reed, said soldiers "get awesome medical care and their lives are being saved," but, "Then they get into the administrative part of it and they are like, 'You saved me for what?' The soldiers feel like they are not getting proper respect. This leads to anger."

There is, once again, no excuse for this bullshit. When you consider the costs of war, you take for fucking granted you will be caring for the injured decently. If you don't, you haven't calculated your probable costs correctly. Now, tack on some bigotry.
Family members who speak only Spanish have had to rely on Salvadoran housekeepers, a Cuban bus driver, the Panamanian bartender and a Mexican floor cleaner for help. Walter Reed maintains a list of bilingual staffers, but they are rarely called on, according to soldiers and families and Walter Reed staff members.

Evis Morales's severely wounded son was transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for surgery shortly after she arrived at Walter Reed. She had checked into her government-paid room on post, but she slept in the lobby of the Bethesda hospital for two weeks because no one told her there is a free shuttle between the two facilities. "They just let me off the bus and said 'Bye-bye,' " recalled Morales, a Puerto Rico resident.

Morales found help after she ran out of money, when she called a hotline number and a Spanish-speaking operator happened to answer.

"If they can have Spanish-speaking recruits to convince my son to go into the Army, why can't they have Spanish-speaking translators when he's injured?" Morales asked. "It's so confusing, so disorienting."

And how about some plain incompetence?
Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.

Shannon had led the 2nd Infantry Division's Ghost Recon Platoon until he was felled in a gun battle in Ramadi. He liked the solitary work of a sniper; "Lone Wolf" was his call name. But he did not expect to be left alone by the Army after such serious surgery and a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He had appointments during his first two weeks as an outpatient, then nothing.

"I thought, 'Shouldn't they contact me?' " he said. "I didn't understand the paperwork. I'd start calling phone numbers, asking if I had appointments. I finally ran across someone who said: 'I'm your case manager. Where have you been?'

As if that weren't bad enough, contempt for the injured is standard operating procedure.
Maj. Gen. George W. Weightman, commander at Walter Reed, said in an interview last week that a major reason outpatients stay so long, a change from the days when injured soldiers were discharged as quickly as possible, is that the Army wants to be able to hang on to as many soldiers as it can, "because this is the first time this country has fought a war for so long with an all-volunteer force since the Revolution."

That emphasis is mine because I just can't stand it. That is so far beyond the bounds of decency I want to sit up and bark like a dog so I don't have to share a species with douchebags like this:
Part of the tension at Walter Reed comes from a setting that is both military and medical. Marine Sgt. Ryan Groves, the squad leader who lost one leg and the use of his other in a grenade attack, said his recovery was made more difficult by a Marine liaison officer who had never seen combat but dogged him about having his mother in his room on post. The rules allowed her to be there, but the officer said she was taking up valuable bed space.

"When you join the Marine Corps, they tell you, you can forget about your mama. 'You have no mama. We are your mama,'" Groves said. "That training works in combat. It doesn't work when you are wounded."

Whether you are military or civilian, you know - or you should know - that in their most vulnerable state, patients absolutely need someone watching out for them. Even the most attentive medical practioners make mistakes, let alone caregivers who can't actually find their patients. It should be the military looking out, but apparently the military cares more about keeping up its numbers than caring for its constituent individuals.

I could toss my waffles. I could just puke.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

And Your City Lies In Dust

Night before last, I was doing my nearly nightly blog-to-blog thing when I landed on gttim's Better Inhale Deeply and ran into an issue I probably should've noticed a week ago. Generally, I'm both up on the news and out of the loop, so I conferred with my esteemed colleague DBK, who is a grown up and doesn't have imaginary friends. At all. DBK did not recall seeing anyone else blog this story. Then I got angry all over again and stomped my tiny foot. Gttim:
From Newsweek, an article on who should pay for healthcare for returning injured vets:
With record numbers of soldiers surviving injuries that would have killed them in earlier wars, veterans' organizations are questioning whether the federal government is able--or is willing--to cope with the demand for health-care benefits, rehabilitation services and ongoing treatment. And if Washington can't do it, then who should?

Who should fucking pay? Which idiot is truly asking that question?

My grandfather, my uncle, cousin, brother-in-law and son-in-law are either veterans or members of the military. I pay attention. Besides gttim, who else saw this? Where's the full-scale outrage? Here's a concept: if we can't take care of our war wounded WE CAN'T MAKE ANY MORE. Yes, I'm going to get a grip now.

We're - nationally - having a problem with stupid premises. We don't have Newsweek's "boy problem" - we have a stupid assumption problem. Contrary to what people seem to think, boys are not supposed to do better than girls. Our president did not tell us the truth about why we're at war. The media is not going to protect us from ravenous corporations. The French are not our enemies. Unchecked government power does not enhance personal freedom. When veterans' organizations wonder if Washington is WILLING to care for veterans we have an enormous problem. And we should actively prevent our kids from enlisting until that problem is fixed.

Who pays for veterans' care should never, never come up for debate. We pay for it. Our nation pays for it. Our veterans' administration pays for it. Figure it into the war budget, and if we can't afford the aftercare WE CAN'T AFFORD THE WAR. Damn it, we might have to try fucking diplomacy. Use your words, kids, not your fists.

I'm not the Voice of Reason; I'm the Voice of No Reason Whatsoever. I can't get through dinner without chasing something shiny across the dining room, but this is has my attention and it should have yours:
"I don't think anybody in the world expected the numbers of wounded coming back [from Afghanistan and Iraq]," says Bill White, the Intrepid Fund's president. "In Vietnam, they would have died. And it's wonderful that they're alive, but they've survived catastrophic injuries that require them to get special help to rehabilitate."

White, bless his philanthropic heart, tiptoes around the administration's creepy hope that vets needing medical attention drop dead in a timely manner. Nobody expected them to survive? Where've we heard that before?

Nobody expected the levees to break.
Nobody expected our troops to meet with insurgency.
Nobody expected bin Laden to actually do it.

This refrain is like that new Nickelback song that makes you want to stab your eardrums with knitting needles.

Anybody who's ever asked a slumber party of ten year old boys who put the remote control in the microwave knows nobody expected it won't cut the mustard with the cable company's customer service department. You're going to pay for that. The United States of America will pay for the rest of our and our veterans' lives for the Bush administration's inexpicable inability to foresee probable events and reasonable outcomes but that's not the worst of it. What could be worse?

Let's imagine January 2009.

You: Hooray! We're free of the loathsome and larcenous Bush team! I feel better than I have in YEARS! The sun's come out and my Congressperson's holding hands with Bruce Springsteen and Larry David's wife! My life has meaning again! Let's get Thai food and sing along with the Munchkins, Ding dong, the witch is dead!"

Not so fast, my darling. No matter how the 2008 election turns out, we must be realistic about what we face. The Treasury's empty. Our armed forces are depleted. Our natural resources are being plundered at an unprecedented rate. Peak oil is behind us and competition for what remains may mean the difference between life and death for whole nations. The housing market crashed, banks foreclosed when the noteholders on the US economy - the Chinese - collected their chips. Millions of formerly middle class Americans were thrown into the streets. The Depression now looks like a picnic when even soup kitchens close. This is a completely possible future.

Someone not named George W. Bush takes office. The bill's on the table, and nobody reaches for a wallet because wallets are all empty. The President of the United States says, "We partied, we spent, we lived high on someone else's hog. Now we're broke, and we're going to be broke until we're paid up. Our civilization's in ashes. We have What's His Face and his corrupt cronies to thank for it but blame doesn't help us now. Stick with me. We can work it out together." That worked in 1930. In 2009, it will never fly. Our stupid premise is we're rich and always will be, no matter how much money we don't have. All we can do is offer that messenger a blindfold before the firing squad.

If you can see a problem coming you have a chance of avoiding it. This one's parked in your lane, and baby, I hope there's time to stomp that brake pedal.