Thursday, May 31, 2007
Okay, so Senator McCain is on Bill O'Reilly's "No Spin Zone" on Fox News talking about the new immigration bill that's wending its way through Congress (or maybe not), and O'Reilly says, "But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you're a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have."
The white, Christian, male power structure?
The context of this remark was O'Reilly's contention that Congress needs to put a cap on the eventual number of immigrant workers we allow into the country, lest the white, Christian, male power structure find itself swamped by sheer numbers. And at the end, McCain (who supports the bill) says "I agree with you."
The "No Spin" Zone? What fantasy universe of the nonexistent past are these guys living in?
I'd like to find out what they're smoking, so I can be sure to avoid it.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
Noting that a majority in Congress calls the new war funding bill "supporting the troops" while she calls it "stealing Iraq's oil," Truthout.org columnist Ann Wright* on Saturday made a couple of very serious accusations:
"If the Iraqi Parliament refuses to pass the (oil) privatization legislation (i.e., the new Iraqi oil law which would give control of most of the country's petroleum resource to foreign companies for the next 30 years), Congress will withhold US reconstruction funds that were promised to the Iraqis to rebuild what the United States has destroyed there," Wright said, and adds the further charge that "The privatization law (was) written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration."
Unfortunately, Colonel Wright did not support her accusations with documentary evidence such as hyperlinks or citations. If these very serious charges were true, I wanted to find the evidence. Wright accused congressional Democrats and Republicans alike of shamelessly blackmailing the Iraqi people by shaking them down for their oil, their only source of wealth, and also of open and blatant premeditated acts of brazen piracy, larceny, and brigandage.
She's accusing the Democratic Party especially of betraying not only the American people who voted them into power, but of betraying the Iraqi people as well, by turning them over to Cheney the Pirate.
Her accusations, as it turns out, are 100 percent accurate. A CBS News story from last Friday, published in the wake of the the congressional vote on the war funding bill, notes that "Continued U.S. reconstruction aid would be conditioned on progress toward the so-called benchmarks." And we also know that the passage of the Iraqi oil giveaway law by the Iraqi parliament is one of the bill's "benchmarks," because, as Robert Naiman noted at the Huffington Post on March 14, "Representative Dennis Kucinich is asking for something to be removed from the supplemental - the 'benchmark' that requires the Iraqi government to pass a new oil law."
Proving the second of Wright's accusations -- that the proposed Iraqi oil law was "written by American oil company consultants hired by the Bush administration" -- is also a slam dunk. Having studied the Arabic version of the proposed law for purposes of making and publishing an English translation of it, the Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar notes that the Arabic of what was purported to be the original draft of the law looked "weak and translated. I have no doubt that the English version of the law is the original one, and that the Arabic one is nothing more than an edited translation of the English origin. The few changes in the content, between the Arabic and English versions show clearly that the Iraqi lawmakers who worked on the law did not change any of the parts that relates to foreign investments," Jarrar concludes.
He also identified the original source of the proposed new oil law by noting that the English version of the law which leaked in 2006 "shocked a number of specialists, like Erik Leaver from the institute for Policy Studies, because it had some exact text from a previously leaked seminar papers produced by a private contracting company called 'Bearing Point.'" In fact, the Virgina-based consulting firm BearingPoint, one of the world's largest, richest, and most powerful energy consultants, was hired by the Bush administration for no other purpose than to write the Iraqi oil law the American (especially Exxon) and European (B.P. and Shell) oil giants demanded of them.
The website Oil Change International reported the details of BearingPoint's Iraq contract: "BearingPoint, a Virginia based contractor is being paid $240m for its work in Iraq, winning an initial contract from the US Agency for International Development (USAid) within weeks of the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. A BearingPoint employee, based in the US embassy in Baghdad, was hired to advise the Iraqi Ministry of Oil on drawing up a new hydrocarbon law."
Apparently their advice consisted of writing the law, then handing it to the Iraqi parliament and the Oil Ministry, and threatening them with the withdrawal of reconstruction funds if they are unable to see the virtues of the new law.
Oil Change International adds that "BearingPoint employees gave $117,000 to the 2000 and 2004 Bush election campaigns, more than any other Iraq contractor."
This Iraq war is now demonstrably the most openly criminal and larcenous act of international pillage since the King of Belgium grabbed the Congo in 1876, with the sole intention of robbing those hapless Africans of their ivory and rubber. Oh yes, and he mentioned something about spreading Christianity and Democracy as well. Big deal. History doesn't repeat itself, but as Mark Twain said, "It rhymes."
Furthermore, the war and especially the latest war funding bill have laid bare the utter bankruptcy and moral depravity of the American political system, and of both major parties. Forget elections, folks, and forget about improving the American political system. The so-called system has degenerated into a simple dictatorship, and the only way it can be improved is out of existence.
When you have rats, you get a cat. When you're troubled by too many cats, you get a dog. If you've got dogs, find yourself a tyrannosaurus.
And if you've got Republicans and Democrats, and they're working together to promote international crime and mayhem on a cosmic scale, get yourself a Samuel Adams. Or a Tom Paine. Or a Robespierre. Or a Lenin. Or a Ho Chi Minh.
Hell, get all of 'em.
Friday, May 25, 2007
No, Virginia, there is NOT an opposition party in this country. Yesterday's vote on war funding proves it.
Since a Democratic Congress was elected in November of '06, why is the war still going on?
Why is impeachment "off the table?"
If you really want to know the answer to that question, read this. But fair warning: don't read it unless you REALLY want to know.
If you're like the rest of us -- I mean the 70 percent or so of American adults who don't like things the way they are -- do yourself a favor and abandon all hope.
Hope is for saps and wimps. It's the friend of the tyrant and the sly, fat fascist. The rich capitalists in their mahogany boardrooms who have hijacked our political system (including the party of Democrites), and the perps running the machine which wages perpetual war for perpetual profit, will not relinquish power because we hope they will, or because the Democrites ask them nicely to give it up.
They have to be overthrown.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
"We are what we think," the Buddha said, or something very similar, as those monosyllables are not only attributed to him, but are the opening words of the most basic text of Theravada Buddhism, The Dhammapada.
"All that we are arises with our thoughts," he continues, and then, "With our thoughts we make the world."
The Buddha was capable of great subtlety, but he never hid anything, and the Dhammapada's most important words come first, at the very beginning. How like him.
Is the Buddha saying that there is no such thing as objective reality, and that reality, to the extent that it exists at all, is purely subjective, and only found in our minds? Not at all. Any child knows there is an objective reality outside his own head, even if he or she doesn't realize that it can only be experienced "from the inside," as it were.
"Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you..." Siddhartha said next. There is a subtle implication here, (overtly stated in the second stanza*): look at the world with a purified mind and your senses will apprehend the world as it actually is, just as a spotless and true mirror reflects what is held in front of it.
Which brings us to why the U.S. is in so very much serious, serious trouble these days.
"Last week," Truthout.org columnist Dean Baker wrote yesterday, "I was struck to see a well-respected centrist foreign policy analyst discuss President Bush's 'surge' as a serious policy for bringing stability to Iraq. This sight was striking, because at this point it is very difficult to imagine the surge as a serious policy. It seems evident that the surge is a desperate gambit by a president who does not want to acknowledge the failure of his invasion, and instead is willing to see the deaths of thousands more US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians."
Baker is of course, pointing out the obvious, and at the same time laying bare one of the more frustrating and maddening tenets of mainstream American punditry: the tendency of "serious" political commentators to give solemn consideration to shit that every idiot knows is patently untrue. They do this only because the idiots in charge, who are more often than not so pathetic that they believe their own bullshit, are putting this utter nonsense forward as serious policy which has a chance of success.
We've learned nothing from the Iraq War. But nothing.
Dean Baker's whole essay is worth reading, and as you read keep in mind: "Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart."
*We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.
Monday, May 21, 2007
If I have any regular readers here (and I hope I have a few), I apologize for not having been around for a week. I've been dealing with the effects of quitting smoking, and while I've had plenty of time, I've had neither the energy nor the inclination for blogging.
It seems the unlovely combination of bronchitis and emphysema finally did what the simple desire not to smoke (and thus be cool, yogic, serene, organic, and wise) was unable to do -- make not smoking a pleasure. And even though I'm still alternately on edge and listless, it really feels good not to be sucking those toxins into my lungs and coughing them back out. Ugh.
In addition, I can't quite get over the feeling that on a mainly political blog there's not much to write about these days. We're stuck having to bear the current unbearable situation another 19 months, and there ain't a whole lot anybody can do about it, except maybe Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and they ain't doin' it.
But that's OK; we're not dead yet. The earth is still producing crops, and some of the bees are still alive. We haven't attacked Iran yet, and maybe we won't. And I'm still here and still breathing, although I'm not quite sure why or how.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Acting as if he were the latest incarnation of the dark and ominous priests who blessed the European conquests of the New World and the dismembering of its native cultures, Pope Benedict XVI declared while visiting Brazil yesterday that the Roman Catholic Church had purified America's natives, and that a revival of their religions would be a backward step.
The Church, the Pope added, had not imposed itself on the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Rather, he said, they had welcomed the arrival of European priests at the time of the conquest since they were "silently longing" for Christianity.
Indian leaders in Brazil and elsewhere reacted with outrage and disgust, and called the Pope's comments "arrogant and disrespectful." That's putting it mildly. This Pope, a former German cardinal, known as a serious scholar and accomplished theologian, has once again shown himself to be an ignorant and deluded fanatic who seems hell-bent on destroying what's left of the Church hierarchy's reputation.
Beginning with the gross and disgusting crimes against the Arawak people by Christopher Columbus, who was not particularly interested in converting them to Christianity, the European conquest of the Americas shifted into high gear with Hernan Cortez's Church-sanctioned invasion of Mexico shortly before 1520. By 1522, with his destruction of the Aztec Empire accomplished, Cortez began the systematic decapitation of native culture, replacing indigenous languages with Spanish and the MesoAmerican religions with Catholicism, whose cathedrals and churches soon became the central features of every city, town, and hamlet in New Spain.
An unintended but nevertheless useful consequence (in terms of easing the conquest) of the Europeans' arrival was the sudden unleashing of diseases against which the natives offered no acquired resistance. Some of these were brought by the Spanish themselves, and others by the animals or vermin that accompanied them. Unknown numbers, perhaps 90 percent, of the Indians died of these various pestilences.
By the time the aging Indian who called himself Juan Diego experienced his celebrated vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe in 1529, the conquest of Mexico was complete. But Juan Diego's Catholicism blended elements of the old Aztec religion with Roman orthodoxy; his Virgin incorporated elements of the Indian moon goddess Tonantzin. Fragments of the shattered Aztec culture remain embedded in Mexican Catholicism to this day, from its exuberant idolatry to the old native death cult preserved in its bleeding crucifixes.
The European conquest of the rest of what would become Latin America followed in quick succession, although the Portuguese reduction of Brazil's Indians was slower, less comprehensive, and continues down to the present day. Deep in the remaining rain forests of the Amazon basin, Indians are still being brutalized and torn from their old lifeways as more and more of their ancestral lands are "developed."
The conquest continues, and this is what made the Pope's ahistorical remarks yesterday so profoundly offensive. "We repudiate the Pope's comments," said Sandro Tuxa, a Catholic priest and Brazilian Indian who heads the movement of northeastern tribes. "To say the cultural decimation of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening."
The tragedy in all this is that Tuxa and thousands like him throughout the region are the voice of the Church at the grassroots, which is often doing necessary and courageous work among dispossessed people who have no other advocates. If the Church was an irrelevant artifact of the past from head to root, the Pope's profound stupidity wouldn't matter. But the roots are still viable, and apparently the Catholic Church is that most unusual of institutions, rotten mainly at the top.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Green has suddenly become the "in" color for this summer and the coming fall season, and while your neighbor's Toyota Prius may be black or silver, everybody knows that underneath it's as green as a gas-burning car can get. "Going green" is both a fashion statement and a serious crusade that proponents believe will save the planet, save the American economy, and restore people-friendly communities and lifestyles, free of the alienation and ugliness that characterizes so much of American life today.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford implies, but does not say directly, that the green movement we see all around us will be our salvation. In his May 2 article "The Hippies Were Right!" Morford cites "...energy-efficient light bulbs...organic foods going mainstream...chemical-free cleaning products widely available at Target...saving the whales and protecting the dolphins and...yoga studios flourishing in every small town..." and adds, "Look around: we have entire industries devoted to recycled paper, a new generation of cheap solar-power technology and an Oscar for 'An Inconvenient Truth' and even the soulless corporate monsters over at famously heartless joints like Wal-Mart are now claiming that they really, really care about saving the environment..."
Morford seems to be saying that the Green Movement which began with the hippies in the late 60's will save the planet and the soul of America because the decision to go green is economically unavoidable. What "consumers" demand, Wal-Mart and Target must deliver, according to his cheery and optimistic analysis.
There are some, however, who think greenies like Morford are naive and shallow, and believe that instead of heading for a green renaissance, the U.S. and the rest of the industrialized world are on a collision course with economic collapse, environmental disaster, and a period of intensified warfare in which the most powerful countries fight to the death over the world's few remaining resources, especially oil. The most pessemistic and well-spoken representative of the "Armageddon" faction is James Howard Kunstler.
Kunstler believes "alternative" fuels, hybrid cars and the green movement generally are manifestations of self-indulgent, adolescent fantasies, and entirely inadequate as solutions to the disasters to come. In today's weekly essay at his blog Clusterfuck Nation, he predicts a catastrophic, sudden collapse of "the car-crazy infrastructure for everyday life, and all the activities supporting it, that most Americans now living regard as the natural and normal medium for human existence, as salt water is the natural and normal medium for squid. The public brings no critical reflection to being in it, and so its failure will eventually come as a deadly surprise -- as a red tide surprises the denizens of a tropical sea. When it occurs, the public will not be able to escape from their investments in this way of life. Some may feel swindled, but they will not lose their sense of having been entitled to a happier destiny, so the chances for the acting-out of massive political grievance are high.
"It's a tragic irony that we got so good at the advertising game," Kunstler continues, "...because in doing so we rigged a sub-system dedicated to reinforcing all our false entitlements. So when the dreadful moment of recognition comes that we can't possibly continue being a nation of happy motorists shuttling between the strip malls and subdivisions, the bewilderment will be monumental. Nobody will believe that it is happening, or have a clue how we got ourselves into such a fix."
Difficult as it may seem, I believe both Kunstler and Morford are right. The collapse Kunstler forecasts will certainly come, but not as suddenly or catastrophically as he predicts. Kenneth S. Deffeyes*, perhaps the world's best-qualified authority on the future of oil, tells us that "World oil production has ceased growing, and by the year 2019 production will be down to 90 percent of the peak level.**" This means that the catastrophe Kunstler sees coming for suburbia will be more like a slow slide than a sudden collapse. Year by year, the suburbs and strip mall complexes farthest away from the central cities will slowly die and be abandoned, but the process will be gradual and incremental, not sudden. The prices of gasoline and other fuels will follow the same pattern, gradually increasing from three, to four, to five dollars a gallon, rather than suddenly spiking to ten.
And as the present-day, unsustainable American lifestyle slowly dies, the green revolution Morford predicts will slowly but inexorably supplant and replace the petroleum-based, car-centered existence we've come to think of as normal.
But it won't be an easy transition, and Deffeyes believes that "On a fifteen-year time scale, I have no doubt that human ingenuity will find adequate energy sources with nice adjectives like 'renewable,' 'nonpolluting,' 'sustainable,' 'alternative,' 'organic,' and 'natural.' For the five-year time scale, we have a shortage of good adjectives. 'Diesel,' 'coal,' 'nuclear,' don't sound warm and fuzzy."
I believe we will be able to make the changes Morford sees in store, but it's going to be a bumpy ride. Get ready for a nuclear power plant next door to your organic vegetable patch.
*Kenneth S. Deffeyes is Professor Emeritus of geology at Princeton. Prior to becoming a university professor he spent 30 years in the oil business as an engineer, specializing in exploration and development.
**The quotes are from Deffeyes's book, "Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak," Hill and Wang, 2005, pages 7 and 8.
Saturday, May 12, 2007
The best reporting on the Iraq War over the past four years has been done by the Irish journalist Patrick Cockburn, and his 2006 book "The Occupation: War and Resistance in Iraq" should be required reading for anyone who sincerely wants to be well informed about the complex reality of this conflict.
What makes Cockburn's analysis particularly accurate is his familiarity with both the people, culture, and politics of the region (he's been a mideast correspondent for the Financial Times and the Independent since 1979) and the simple-mindedness and ignorance of the Bush regime's architects of the war. Cockburn sneaked across the border from Kuwait in 2003 and, completetly unembedded, covered the invasion. He wrote at the time:
[T]he civilian leadership of the Pentagon… are uniquely reckless, arrogant and ill informed about Iraq. At the end of last year [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz was happily saying that he thought the Iraqi reaction to the capture of Baghdad would be much like the entry of the U.S. Army into Paris in 1944. He also apparently believed that Ahmed Chalabi…, then as now one of the most unpopular men in Iraq, would be the Iraqi Charles de Gaulle.
These past mistakes matter because the situation in Iraq could easily become much worse. Iraqis realize that Saddam may have gone but that the United States does not have real control of the country.
And as, "The Occupation" chronicles, they never did gain control of it.
Cockburn has written a new forward to his book which will appear in the paperback version, slated for release this coming fall. This essay is reproduced in full in Tom Engelhardt's column of May 9, which ran at WorkingForChange.com and elsewhere, and is the best short synoptic history of the war -- its disastrous course and the reasons for this tragedy -- that anybody has yet produced.
Cockburn spends a lot of time in country; he's been in and out of Iraq since the conflict began, and was there for the entirety of Gulf War I. But his understanding of the intricacies of Iraqi reactions to the invasion and occupation are matched by his grasp of the simplicities of the regime which spawned the war. His new essay contains this razor-sharp observation:
America blithely invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein to show its great political and military strength. Instead it demonstrated its weakness. The vastly expensive U.S. war machine failed to defeat a limited number of Sunni Arab guerrillas. International leaders such as Tony Blair who confidently allied themselves to Washington at the start of the war, convinced that they were betting on a winner, are either discredited or out of power.
At times, President Bush seemed intent on finding out how much damage could be done to the U.S. by the conflict in Iraq. He did so by believing a high proportion of his own propaganda about the resistance to the occupation being limited in scale and inspired from outside the country. By 2007, the administration was even claiming that the fervently anti-Iranian Sunni insurgents were being equipped by Iran. It was a repeat performance of U.S, assertions four years earlier that Saddam Hussein was backing al-Qaeda. In this fantasy world, constructed to impress American voters, in which failures were sold as successes, it was impossible to devise sensible policies.
"The Occupation" has been nominated for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle award for nonfiction. It's already been nominated -- and won -- my personal award for the only book anyone has to read in order to know everything one needs to know about the Iraq War. And if you don't have time to read the whole book, you can get by with just the book's new forward, published in Engelhardt's column and linked above.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Be sure to check out our newest link, the Greenashville Blog, whose proprietor is my friend Ocean, and which documents the expansion of development nightmares and the metastisizing of beige suburbs in his home state of North Carolina.
We need a network of blogs like this, because what Ocean is blogging is happening nearly everywhere in the country.
Another linked blog, one coming at you from the opposite direction, is Earth Home Garden, which is a couple of old hippies living up in Big Bear who are leading the good life and can teach the rest of us a few things about how it's done. Great photography.
Finally, don't forget to scope out New Yorker Jimmy Higgins's little-known but quickly getting better known Fire on the Mountain. Jimmy is an old fart, about my age, and something of a Marxist, so be forewarned if you have delicate middle-class sensibilities. I don't want to be responsible for anyone collapsing backward in her overstuffed chair, gasping for breath and clutching her pearls.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
On Sunday evening I took a drive through the immense and rapidly-expanding Nation of Slurbia (suburban ready-made slums), which threatens to engulf the entirety of Southern California and many other large parts of the country.
Driving CA-79 through the eastern margin of what used to be the tiny town of Hemet, and then coasting down through Murietta, the casual tourist passes miles upon miles of closely-packed housing developments crammed behind noise walls, two-story "homes" which are badly built, egregiously overpriced, and utterly devoid of any sort of soul or persona.
These are truly the cities of the damned.
I was genuinely surprised to see most of these oversized vinyl-clad shelters being lived in. Why Slurbia continues to metastisize I can't really say. One would think that in the face of collaspsing real estate prices, the exploding default rate on so-called "sub-prime" housing loans, and record-high prices for gasoline and other petroleum products, building contractors would see the laser printing on the vinyl wall and abscond with their ill-gotten gains, leaving the Slurbian masses to ponder their fate, stuck with huge monthly payments on property which is declining in value, in a wasteland of monotonous and affectless beige developments flanked by strip malls stocked with plastic-and-glass boxes housing the "standard brands" -- Burger King, Pet Smart, Midas Muffler, Bank of America, etc. etc.
But the beginning of the end of Slurbia might not be far off. Writing on his once-weekly blog Clusterfuck Nation, Jim Kunstler noted a couple weeks ago that "The fiasco in real estate and mortgage lending seems finally to be breaking through the reality shield of the mainstream media. Last week, for example, NPR's nightly Marketplace show actually ran a segment saying that the production homebuilders were choking on unsold houses and that (as if NPR had just discovered this) the mortgage industry was rife with irregularities in lending standards!"
Kunstler has been the loudest, most pessemistic, most insistent, and most irrefutable Jeremiah of the apocalypse hidden in the modern American landscape, and he sees the carcinogenic growth of Slurbia as both the effect of a declining morality and regard for the future at the top of American society, and the cause of alienation and the fiscal disenfranchisement of the American public, or "the consumers" as we are sometimes insultingly designated by professional economists and the mainstream media.
I sometimes wonder if people stop to consider what they're actually getting for the typical $300,000 price tag they're asked pay back with varying rates of interest over a 35- or 40-year stretch. Not long ago these buyers assumed they were acquiring properties which could only appreciate in value, but that's certainly not true today.
Kunstler, who knows architecture, insists that they're chumps getting robbed. Commenting on current building practices, Kunstler says, "The design failures of (Slurbian housing) might be attributed to a loss of knowledge and a lack of attention to details, but I think a deeper explanation has to do with the diminishing returns of technology. We've never had more awesome power tools for workers in the building trades. We have compound miter saws, electric spline joiners, laser-guided tape measures, and many other nifty innovations, and we've never seen, in the aggregate, worse work done by so many carpenters. For most of them, apparently, getting a plain one-by-four door-surround to meet at a 45-degree miter without a quarter-inch gap is asking too much. In other words, we now have amazing tools and no skill. What you wonder is whether the latter is a function of the former. Is the work so bad because we expect the tools to have all the skill?
"Another issue is the choice of materials. As you march down the decades from the 1950s, the materials-of-choice for finishing the exterior are more and more materials not found in nature...After the 1980s, there is a distinct acceleration in the use of vinyl for practically everything. The vinyl clapboards, soffits, window-surrounds, et cetera, are often little more than stapled onto the house. And naturally they begin to sag and pull apart instantly. After twenty-odd years of that you end up with a house that looks like a birthday present wrapped by a five-year-old."
Current litigation is following the trajectory of rapid decline Kunstler chronicles. Currently, residents of a Desert Hot Springs slurb have formed a united front and brought a class-action suit against the builder of their project, because their "homes" are falling apart after two years of being lived in and subjected to the baking heat and gritty winds of a desert hilltop.
People tend to dismiss Kunstler because he's been predicting the decline and fall of Slurbia for years, during which time it has only continued to metastisize. But that decline and fall will come, and the rising costs of fuel will be the shot to the heart of this odious carcinogenic enterprise. Many residents of Hemet and Mureitta commute to Los Angeles for work. As the price of gas reaches, then exceeds four dollars a gallon, the sustainability of more new suburbs, located further and further away from the center must certainly collapse, and the unfortunate residents of Slurbia will be forced to move to where the work is, and abandon the now nearly-worthless houses which they are still paying large mortgages for.
And what will be the ultimate fate of the beige subdivisions of Slurbia?
When Debra Yang quit her job as the U.S. Attorney for the district which includes Los Angeles in October of 2006, the U.S. Attorneys scandal was still just a gas bubble in the swampy minds of Karl Rove and White House Counsel Harriet Miers. The eight attorneys whose firings would blow up into that celebrated scandal were not yet purged from the Justice Department and wouldn't be until December, long after Ms. Yang departed her job. Discussions of their eventual fate -- and Ms. Yang's -- were still only the subjects of internal White House e-mails and memoranda.
But recent articles in the mainstream press, most recently and most notably in the New York Times, question whether Debra Yang was privy to inside-the-White-House information, and quit her job because she knew she was about to be fired. Even more ominously, these articles ask whether Yang's current employer, the southern California law firm Gibson, Dunn, and Crutcher, might have been secretly induced by someone in the White House to offer Debra Yang the $1.5 million signing bonus which helped finalize her decision to quit her job with the Justice Department and go to work in the private sector.
What makes these questions particularly explosive is the delicate legal standing of Riverside congressional Rep. Jerry Lewis, one of the most powerful Republicans in the House of Representatives and, until the change of majority leadership in January of this year, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
At the time of her departure from her U.S. Attorney position, Ms. Yang was investigating Lewis, focusing on his close ties with Brent Wilkes, the lobbyist implicated in the bribery of convicted and jailed San Diego Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Wilkes has contributed to Lewis's campaigns and at one time also employed a lobbying firm headed by one of Lewis's closest friends, Bill Lowery.
When she went to work for Gibson, Dunn, Debra Yang was already very familiar with that firm, because they represented Lewis in Yang's investigation of the congressman.
Yang is no fool, and has prudently recused herself from any direct involvement in Gibson, Dunn's defense efforts on Jerry Lewis's behalf. Instead she is, according to Adam Cohen of the New York Times, "co-leader of the Crisis Management Practice Group" and working closely "with Theodore Olson, who was President Bush’s solicitor general and his Supreme Court lawyer in Bush v. Gore."
Keeping the Story Alive
The questionable circumstances surrounding Debra Yang's departure from the Justice Department came to the New York Times's attention from two primary sources. One is the tireless bird-dogging of all aspects of the U.S. Attorney scandal by Josh Marshall, proprietor of the "Talking Points Memo" blog, and his writers and reporters at "TPM Muckraker." The Muckraker's Paul Kiel first broached the questions about Yang's post-election departure from Justice on March 4 of this year. The other source was the tenacity of California Senator Diane Feinstein's attention to this story (Feinstein serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee), and her repeatedly telling reporters throughout March that she had questions about the timing of Yang's departure from Justice, to which Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales and other witnesses were not providing satisfactory answers.
Feinstein wants to know whether Debra Yang was tipped off in advance that she was about to be fired. E-mails turned over to the Judiciary Committee reveal that White House Counsel Harriet Meiers and Kyle Sampson, the Justice Department underling delegated to wield the axe in the attorney firings, were frequently discussing whether Yang should be fired as early as September, 2006. Since Yang was a member of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, a group Gonzales has called "a small group of U.S. attorneys that I consult on policy matters," she may very well have had inside information that her job was on the line.
Another possibility is that someone inside the White House, perhaps Karl Rove, who is now known to have instructed the spear carrier Gonzales to target any U.S. Attorneys who were investigating important Republican targets, finagled the Republican-connected Gibson, Dunn firm to get Debra Yang out of the way by offering her the rich financial incentive they eventually did proffer, and thereby monkey-wrench the Lewis investigation, which has gone cold since Yang's departure.
Yang has refused to make any extensive public comment on any of these possibilities, and is striving to maintain an extremely low profile. She says only that she is a single mother who is highly motivated by financial considerations, and that she left her job at Justice for purely personal reasons. She may not have known that she was about to be fired in December along with the eight attorneys who eventually met that fate. But it would have been impossible for her not to be aware of the highly partisan political connections of the firm she went to work for after leaving Justice.
This case raises too many unanswered questions to go away. Meanwhile, long-time congressman Jerry Lewis is amassing funds for his 2008 re-election bid, which, barring a miracle or a Justice Department investigation, will be successful. He was re-elected in 2006 virtually without opposition.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
If you're planning to engage in either politics or commercial pornography, you'd be well advised not to use your real name.
I've noticed that Hillary Rodham Clinton has dropped the "Rodham." Too aristocratic sounding. These days you want something that will appeal to minorities.
Barack Obama. Barack Hussein Obama. Barack Bob Obama. Nguyen Jamal Singh Greyfeather Hinojosa.
If you want to be a porn star, you derive your screen name this way: name of first pet plus name of the first street you lived on.
My pornstar name is Ralph Glenaven. What's yours?
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Memo to Karl Rove
Dear Karl: I understand you're a neocon, or so you call yourself. I was wondering if you're familiar with Groucho Marx's famous message to the Friar's Club? He sent them a wire saying "Please accept my resignation. I don't want to belong to any club that would accept me as a member." Just asking. He also said, "I never forget a face, but in your case I'd be glad to make an exception." Yours Sincerely...
Groucho Marx was a well-disguised subversive and anti-authoritarian, as is anybody who mocks and ridicules the powerful, the pompous, and the proud. On receiving a copy of Richard Nixon's book "Six Crises" from the man himself he wrote back, "From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend reading it." Actually, that's not true. He wrote that to his friend S.J. Perelman regarding the latter's book, "Dawn Ginsbergh's Revenge" (1929), but I enjoy indulging in political fantasy. It's a form of revolutionary idealism, and as Jawaharlal Nehru once said, "Today's idealist is tomorrow's realist."
Which brings us to John Lennon and his song "Imagine," the perfect song for this May Day, 2007. It's been sung by tons of people, many of whom have no idea what the song is actually saying, since its lyrics seem harmless at first glance, are set to a very pretty tune, and are frequently mistaken for an inane bit of liberal, bleeding-heart fluff, sort of like "Puff the Magic Dragon."
Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do;
Nothing to kill or die for...
This is the most radical sort of anarchism expressing itself in the sweetest, simplest, way. But it's up to us who have seen this world descend into the nightmare of perpetual war to do away with the fiction of "sovereignty," and to move on to a world where no country, such as England, or Rome, or the United States, is able to suffer under the delusion that she owns the world, and inflict enormous suffering on the the rest of humankind as a result of it.
Will there ever be a world where all people have the right to live with basic human dignity, without being threatened with bombs and death for being in the wrong country? You have to imagine it first for it to ever happen.
...And no religion too...
Lennon recognized that even worse threats to world peace and understanding than nationalist fanatics are the furious agents of the divine will, medieval relics like Pat Robertson and the Taliban mullahs, who invoke God's authority to justify their murderous rage against against the human race.
When God handed down the rules and laws to Moses on Sinai, an idea the Jews acquired from the earlier examples they saw in Mesopotamia and Egypt, people lived in preponderantly rural societies where 90 percent of the population were illiterate peasants or herdsman. They needed to be tended, shepherded, led.
It's a different world now. We all read, we all think, we all have hopes, aspirations, and dreams, especially the dream of peace for our families and loved ones. We no longer need the Daddy God and his agents of repression to tell us right from wrong. And there's no longer any profit in our hating each other because of lines that politicians drew on maps.
Lennon was not the first who had the right idea. "Man will never be free," said the pre-revolutionary encyclopedia editor Denis Diderot, "until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest," (a quote often misattributed to Voltaire).
That was another world, however. Humans living in this one won't be free until the last nationalistic war machine is monkey wrenched, capped, and disabled, the last nuclear bomb buried and the recipe forgotten, and the last medieval fanatic who makes a career of stoking the fires under those machines locked up for his or her (and our) own good.
You might say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.