by Gilles d'Aymery
"Atmosphère ! Atmosphère ! Est-ce que j'ai une gueule d'atmosphère ?"
—Arletty, Hôtel du Nord, 1938
(Swans - March 28, 2005) FRANK RICH JOINS SWANS! Well, not exactly, but here is the good news: Yes, I know, I look like a pitied Cassandra most of the time, but there are neat news bits here and then. This time, it comes from The New York Times, no less. Remember when, last January, I suggested, recommended that Frank Rich be brought back -- in chains if necessary -- to the Op-Ed page of the august paper? Well, Arthur Sulzberger listened and obliged. As of April 10, 2005, Rich will join the fiery Maureen Dowd to blast the faith-based America. Being a Cassandra, however, has its privileges. One of them is to ask a simple question to the Gray Lady's owner and editorship: Why getting Rich out of his Arts & Leisure columns, where he could write 2,000-word trenchant pieces, and limiting him to 500-word weekly "opinions"? Could Daniel Okrent, the public editor, answer the question? Is Rich being muffled after all? For the record (a fundamental trait of the paper of record), I suggested that he, Frank Rich, be allowed to write again in the Op-Ed pages, even if he had to be paid $240,000 a year (hey, Frank, could you spare some change? John, in Krakow, keeps struggling with the monthly rent...). I did no ask or suggest he be removed from his lively arts columns... There're many ways to shut a voice down... Bush pays them to do his bidding... The NYT pays them accordingly...
IT'S TOO BAD -- Rich's columns had a huge following; they consistently made the list of the Most E-mailed Articles on nytimes.com; his writing was engaging, refreshing in the midst of the deepening sclerosis that has overtaken the Gray Lady, infused with mordant irony, and insightful inasmuch he meshed with great gifts popular and political cultures, showing their debased symbiosis in their rush to the bottom... Let's hope he will carry on the genre in his Op-Eds. At least he'll join Maureen Dowd to combat or counter-balance the honeyed mediocrity of Nicholas Kristof and David Brooks, the vileness and arrogance of Thomas Friedman, the dryness of Paul Krugman, and the fake-outraged Bob Herbert.
OPEN INVITATION: Frank Rich is welcomed to join Charles Marowitz, John Steppling, and the gang... He'll be amazed by the opportunity to express one's thoughts in a censorless environment. The pay is worth the freedom...no?
MORE GOOD NEWS: Cassandra went to Santa Rosa, California, this past week. Just about 5 or six trips she had to do in the past 10 months. She was accused of DUI (Driving Under the Influence, in modern imperial lingua franca, aka being drunk when driving.) Drunk driving in the U.S. is equivalent to being Abu Ghraibed in slow motion, Hollywood-like. Well, the DA (district attorney, aka the people) could not make the case, since the arresting officer (not a "peace officer" anymore), a law enforcement thug, lied either in his field report or in his sworn deposition, which contradicted the field report, or both -- it was both!). The DA then went for a lesser charge... wet reckless driving (you'd be amazed by the creativity of the "justice" system, to cook up charges...so that a trophy can be walled in on a future political career and a scalp be hung on a cop's desk), but Cassandra did not go for it. How far would she go, wondered "Justice," knowing that she has already wasted over $7,000? Her attorney reassured them...how far it will take...Let's go to trial...let's tackle the officer's truth... Cassandra will not plea bargain... Well, Cassandra did, after all. She accepted a no contest dry reckless driving, just so she could save herself and her loved one another $2,000 and spare a few trips to the bowels of US Justice... Lucky, Cassandra is, compared to the poor souls she saw time and again during her appearance in court. I suppose she will have much more to tell about this in the forthcoming months. And, if John Steppling, who has an intimate knowledge of the system, helps, people will be entertained, indeed!
FOR INFORMATION ONLY: Black people make up 6.4 percent of the California population, but 29 percent of state's prisons population... Now, if you are interested in finding out more about the correctional facilities and population of the oh-so-liberal blue state of California, visit this page of the California Department of Corrections Web site. You'll even be greeted with a "Welcome to California" header!
IT'S EASTER, so let's see what our god-inspired president has to say:
For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary (Crawford, Texas)
March 24, 2005
President's Easter Message
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 I send greetings to all those celebrating Easter, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through His sacrifice and triumph over death, Christ lifted the sights of humanity forever. In His teachings, the poor have heard hope, the proud have been challenged, and the weak and dying have found assurance. Today, the words of Jesus continue to comfort and strengthen Christians around the world.
During this holy season, we thank God for His blessings and ask for His wisdom and guidance. We also keep in our thoughts and prayers the men and women of our Armed Forces -- especially those far from home, separated from family and friends by the call of duty. May the joy of Easter fill our hearts with gratitude for our freedom, love for our neighbors, and hope for peace.
Laura and I wish you a Happy Easter.
GEORGE W. BUSH
QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy."
--Maureen Dowd, "DeLay, Deny and Demagogue," The New York Times, March 25, 2005
VENEZUELA WATCH -- 100,000 AK 47s: On my, oh my, poppy Rhumsfeld is getting ballistic on his Cuban Rhum. How come the Venezuelan traitors (going so...CIA...list, democratically or not, is a treason in Rummy's book) dare buying all those rifles from has-been, old Russia? They -- the traitors -- don't need no guns (well, we woulda sold our M 16s if they had asked) since we have a monopoly on the killing hardware and we're good at it and we are willing and able to defend 'em, as we defend the whole world (right?) with candor and benevolence. When will the world understand that we, exceptional goody Americans, truly behave in the name of our exceptionalism and godliness? We want and will save the world in the name of god and democracy, and for the benefit of our SUVs. People, says Rummy, we will save the world... Hear the sound of music...democracy is coming to Venezuela...Venezuelans rejoice... You'll be saved, You'll be saved, so help us godly Rummy...the world asunder notwithstanding...
SERIOUSLY, imagine the reaction in Washington and in the media if President Chávez went to Canada and told the press there that the obscene amount of US WMDs and the ever increasing militarization of the country were a destabilizing force for the hemisphere, indeed the entire world, and asked the U.S. to stop producing all these high-tech killing machines, bring the troops home, leave Iraq, and address poverty at home and abroad by transferring wealth from the wealthiest of the wealthy to the poorest of the poor. You know what, even the lib-labs would be outraged by such show of arrogance. But that's exactly what the U.S. does to the world day in and day out. Tom Engelhardt offers a good demonstration of this phenomenon in his latest dispatch, "One-Way Planet." For good sake, we are even destroying Babylon! "Outrage is hardly the word, this is just dreadful," said Lord Redesdale, an archaeologist and head of the all-party parliamentary archaeological group. "These are world sites. Not only is what the American forces are doing damaging the archaeology of Iraq, it's actually damaging the cultural heritage of the whole world." (The Guardian) Cultural barbarians...and no one peeps a word in this country, but they'll bloviate ad nauseam on the right to life of a brain-dead woman! I mean...I mean...I mean... WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE?
YES, MS. DOWD, we "really are in a theocracy," corporate-funded, and we are cultural barbarians embarked in an orgy of destruction all over the planet. When will you, Ms. Dowd, get real and address these issues in the company of Mr. Rich?
ANOTHER QUOTE FOR THE AGES: "Nothing is ever lost that is done for the great ideal of social justice, freedom, human brotherhood, and the liberation of all peoples."
--Rudolf Rocker, The London Years, AK Press, p. 9
BILL BLUM has more to say on Venezuela and other matters in the latest edition of his excellent Anti-Empire Report, No. 19, March 21, 2005. Of particular interest in light of George F. Kennan's Famous "Quotation," which he reproduces, is his own take on the matter:
This [quotation] is worth repeating not only for its intrinsic interest and its significance as a document of US foreign policy history, but as a means for making a comparison to present day policy. Those who intensely despise the leaders of the Bush administration are convinced that they are uniquely vile in American history. I would maintain, however, that there's very little of what we've come to fear and loathe about the Bushgang that can't be found in many previous administrations, and that if George W., on a purely personal level, were not such a crass, ignorant, dishonest, and insufferably religious jerk, his policies would be much more readily excused by liberals (though not by radicals) as they excused similar policies under Clinton and other Democrats going back to Truman.
What has distinguished the Bush administration's foreign policy from that of its predecessors has been its unabashed and conspicuously overt expressions of its imperial ambitions. They flaunt it, publicly and proudly declaring their intention -- nay, their God-inspired right and obligation -- to remake the world in their own image. The utterly callous attitude toward human suffering that marks the current administration's philosophy differs from Kennan's cold-blooded amorality in that the Bushgang has rejected his advice and do indeed talk about human rights and democracy ... ad infinitum. But so has every administration post World War II. Kennan was surprisingly out of tune with international public relations, or maybe he was just too honest to be a diplomat.
Bill is evidently correct, with the exception that, as many, he takes the truncated quotation out of context (Kennan was refering to the Far East only (please read PPS23, FRUS, 1948, volume 1, part II, pages 510-529 in its entirety at Why-US.org, or the section of the document related to the Far East, from which the quotation was assembled, in my article "Context And Accuracy." But, this said, there's been a remarkable continuity in the geopolitical strategy of the U.S., pursued by both democratic and republican administrations. Whether the players were or are "realists" or "idealists" they certainly all were and are ideologues. Whether Mr. Kennan was "too honest" to be a diplomat...well, Bill should know...right? Finally, Bill's remark on the "cold-blooded amorality" of Kennan (and by extent, I surmise, all the players) strikes me as culturally Americanocentric. Foreign policy has nothing to do with morality, which is best left to the church and philosophy seminars; foreign policy is based on power and national interests, pure and simple. I've always been baffled, since I came to this country in 1982, how much US nationals tend to look at everything in terms of morality... Perhaps it's their Puritan heritage, I don't know, but this is something I'd like to expand on, one of these days. Anyway, Bill's monthly Report is always filled with pertinent observations.
THE END OF A VIABLE PALESTINIAN STATE: How many times have we heard that we were at a historical "crossroads" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; that peace was there, right there to be achieved, and that Israel and the U.S. want a viable Palestinian state created in the West Bank (with "some" adjustments) and Gaza? How many times? A viable state? Says Jeff Halper, head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD):
This is what Israel seeks to prevent. Ever since becoming the head of the Ministerial Committee on Settlements in the Begin government back in 1977, Ariel Sharon has been completely up-front about his intention of securing the entire Land of Israel for the Jewish people. "Security" has nothing to do with Israel's expansionist policies. Successive Israeli governments did not establish 200 settlements because of security. Nor did they build a massive infrastructure of Israeli-only highways that link the settlement blocs irreversibly into Israel for security reasons. Nor can the route of the Separation Barrier, nor the policy of expropriating Palestinian land and systematically demolishing Palestinian homes be explained by "security." They all derive from one central goal: to claim the entire country for Israel. Period.
Jeff Halper, "E-1: The End of a Viable Palestinian State," ICAHD, March 27, 2005.
Thanks to Ed Herman for forwarding this article. You should be able to read it on the ICAHD Web site, in the Articles Index section (it's not posted yet, as of this writing, but should be there soon enough). Israel does not want a Palestinian State; never wanted, never will... Read, or read again "Instructive Quotations: Behind the Israeli Propaganda." There is overwhelming documentation and factual evidence, year after year, decade after decade, to prove this point. Not that there are not many Israelis who genuinely wish a two-state viable solution. There are, of course (as there are many Americans who did not want to see Iraq invaded and raped, and want the troops to go home). I've known, and worked with, many such Israelis... But the State of Israel from its inception -- and even before -- has always claimed the entire land (and even the entire "biblical" land for the most extreme colonizers). All its political leaders from Ben Gurion onward have laid claim to that land, and their policies over the decades have been stubbornly consistent with their claims. There will not be a viable Palestinian state till the "international community" imposes it on Israel (which, without the U.S. has no chance to happen) or when the Palestinians themselves, through immense suffering and struggle, make it too costly (in lives and money) for Israel to pursue its colonial expansion -- or a combination of both. It's that clear and simple. Even right now, in the center of this latest crossroads, the State of Israel continues to demolish or confiscate Palestinian homes, groves, and land. And here too, thinking of Bill Blum and the "amorality" of the situation...it's pure, raw power and national interests that are at play. The "morality" game, like "security" and all other nicely-packaged notions, are honeyed PR to cover the harsh reality on the ground... Bring on Lieberman et al., and the humanitarian gullibles will sing in unison!
AESTHETICS: Recent attention has focused on suicides from San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge after a filmmaker produced a documentary showing 19 such acts, and pressure is on the bridge district directors to place "suicide barriers" so that people can't jump. The city has rounded up $2 million for environmental studies and a preliminary design for a barrier, estimated at $15 million to $25 million (so double that...)
ABOUT 1,300 have jumped from the bridge in 68 years. Meantime, San Francisco boasts 6,248 homeless people on the streets or in jails, shelters, rehabilitation centers or other emergency facilities, and now the health department is proposing $25 million in budget cuts for services for, of course, that much-empowered constituency comprised of substance abusers, the mentally ill, people with AIDS and shut-ins. One has to wonder if the health department is in cahoots with the bridge district, by creating more potential victims that cannot jump off the bridge, thereby justifying the value of the project which will have completely destroyed the aesthetics...but hey, the world is not a pretty place these days...
WATCHING VIDEOS while driving the California roads is becoming a road hazard. "The number of citations issued statewide for drivers distracted by video screens in their vehicles has risen from 105 in 2000 to 920 last year," the California Highway Patrol said. You mean it's not safe to watch movies while driving?
EVEN WORSE, "We've had a number of people complain that stopping at a light they've seen sexual acts of the kind we don't want to speak of displayed on the video screen in the car in front of them," according to CA Assemblyman John Benoit, a former California Highway Patrol commander. A good Republican from Palm Desert (Riverside County), he introduced a bill to outlaw X-rated videos on vehicle video screens, making illegal any sexual material that could be visible to the public. Just imagine kids being subjected to a few scenes from "Caught from Behind" on their way to the mall... "Mummy, mummy, look at what they're doing...oh la la..." The bill, which was supported by the Traditional Values Coalition and the California Family Alliance, was eventually defeated in the Public Safety Committee. Whew, it's still legal to watch porn videos while driving! Incidentally, the bill would have required the drivers to monitor their passengers, what they read, what they listen, what they watch... One of these days, all new cars will be sold with a wireless candid camera and mics that will be monitored directly by the CHP...
BOONVILLE NEWS: Jan Baughman is back with me (and me with her) day in and day out (yes Virginia, we are making love). It took the loss of her job to achieve this though...
A reader writes,
Frankly, I'm not terribly impressed with where David Severn has taken the Anderson Valley Advertiser (AVA). It's my opinion that, from a purely political perspective, the AVA has become largely marginalized under Severn's stewardship. "No Stems, No Seeds, All Happy" "Peace to the potfields! War on the Blue Meanies!" I bear no real animosity towards potheads. In fact, I was one for a spell, back in the 1970s, while flirting with a liberal arts degree. It just seems that, though willing to pay lip service to a variety of issues, they generally only turn out and activate themselves when decriminalization is the issue on the table. Intoxication has a way of compromising commitment.
Now, don't take me wrong. This is not a personal attack on Mr. Severn; it's a criticism of the effect he has had on the AVA since taking over the editorship. What crime has the poor man committed, after all, except that of not being Bruce Anderson? Well, I'm not either... My disappointment over the fate of the AVA, following Bruce's departure, offers no excuse for an attack on David, who seems, based on his writing, to be a very decent man. Decent undoubtedly, but darn bland and boring...as you justly noted a few weeks ago...
Well, what can I add to what I already wrote in my blips #10? They are getting more advertisers, which pay the bills... So, they are doing something right, no? As to the rapidly declining quality of the paper, oh well, ç'est la vie... (I have received another rant in the same vein, which I may or may not eventually include in this page.)
And so it goes...