The River

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

President Addresses Nation, Discusses Iraq, War on Terror
Fort Bragg, North Carolina

8:02 P.M. EDT

(excerpt, annotated)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Please be seated. Good evening. I'm pleased to visit Fort Bragg, "Home of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces." It's an honor to speak before you tonight, (because you carry on the proud tradition of American psychopathic violence.)

My greatest responsibility as President is to protect the American people, (which I define as the extremely wealthy elite.) And that's your calling, as well. I thank you for your service, your courage and your sacrifice. I thank your families, who support you in your vital work. The soldiers and families of Fort Bragg have contributed mightily to our efforts to secure our country (in this case, the part of it now located in Iraq, known as The Green Zone) and promote peace (remember, peace is all about killing people). America is grateful, and so is your Commander-in-Chief.

The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror (i.e., we can claim anyone, anywhere, anytime is a terrorist, tortue them, kill them, etc. and no one can do a thing about it). The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001 (thanks to the efforts of Dick Cheney and others). The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent, (Although this last statement describes us, it's ok when we do it, and we have ways of making you love it.) Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own grim image of tyranny and oppression (but we should do it first, thereby reaping immense profits) -- by toppling governments, by driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror, (again, we're the best at this, not them).

To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere, (tossers can't even begin to match our record, though). The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, (as do my supporters), and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again (we will do our best to continue to provoke it). We will defend our freedom, (by putting it under lock and key). We will take the fight to the enemy (which is anyone who knows what freedom is).

Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war, (but never fear, we will roll out new products according to our marketing studies). Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania (yes, we kill, and don't forget torture, innocent men, women and children, but again it's righteous when we do it, not terrorism). There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home (stupidity always being our strong suit). The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq -- who is also senior commander at this base -- General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us." (he then went and choked and gutted a teddy bear)

Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists (damn, it's just like the Injuns!). We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror (free nations by definition always come into existence after genocide). We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren (in other words, they will be killers too).

The work in Iraq is difficult and it is dangerous. Like most Americans, I see the images of violence and bloodshed. Every picture is horrifying, and the suffering is real. Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it (is the war porn on Fox well produced?)? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country (ahem, to the expanding bank accounts of our country's batshit crazy elite). And tonight I will explain the reasons why. (by blathering on about "terrorists" and Sept. 11, projecting like crazy, and planting a few seeds for our future plans for more "problem-reaction-solution" scenarios. Totalitarianism is on the march. There are no alternatives. War, death and privation uber alles.)


Tuesday, June 28, 2005


"The Most Cowardly War in History"

by Arundhati Roy


There are remarkable people gathered here who in the face of this relentless and brutal aggression and propaganda have doggedly worked to compile a comprehensive spectrum of evidence and information that should serve as a weapon in the hands of those who wish to participate in the resistance against the occupation of Iraq. It should become a weapon in the hands of soldiers in the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, Australia, and elsewhere who do not wish to fight, who do not wish to lay down their lives--or to take the lives of others--for a pack of lies. It should become a weapon in the hands of journalists, writers, poets, singers, teachers, plumbers, taxi drivers, car mechanics, painters, lawyers--anybody who wishes to participate in the resistance.

The evidence collated in this tribunal should, for instance, be used by the International Criminal Court (whose jurisdiction the United States does not recognize) to try as war criminals George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi, and all those government officials, army generals, and corporate CEOs who participated in this war and now profit from it.

The assault on Iraq is an assault on all of us: on our dignity, our intelligence, and our future.


You never know what you're going to miss when you're away. I go on vacation and Mike Golby returns! Welcome back, Mike.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Star Wars: What happened?

A very long time ago...

It is nineteen seventy five. Every other boy in the Hometown High School yearbook has long hair. The football team smokes reefer and congressmen are wearing extravagant sideburns. Many people who ten years earlier had been questing for Autonomy gave up and became Born Agains, Greenpeace members, Hare Krishnas, or Investment Bankers. Who will speak for the youth? The Eagles? I don't think so. Allow this mixture to ferment for a few years and the next thing ya know you've got Luke Skywalker riding in to save the day on a white horse and wearing a purple mohawk and large size safety pin nose ring.

-- The Post-modern Autonomous Footsoldier: an Historical Perspective

It’s been almost 30 years since Star Wars blasted its way onto the American scene. 30 years? Can that be right? No wonder I’m having trouble casting my mind back that far. Things, to put it mildly, have changed.

But travel back with me to a more innocent time. 1977. I’m 14. Culture is comic books, Rockford Files, Hollywood Squares, Laugh-In. Paul McCartney and Wings, Elton John, The Captain and Tenille. Jimmy Carter, Six Flags, recession.

I’m on a summer vacation with my next oldest brother and Mom and Dad. We’ve driven up the Eastern U.S. from Atlanta to Atlantic City, with a stop in D.C. Previews for a new science fiction movie have been on TV, some teaser posters have been displayed, but otherwise there hasn’t been much hype or attention to a new movie from the director of "American Graffiti."

It has caught my attention, however. The previews are riveting in a “my curiosity is definitely being piqued here” kind of way. I probably said something like, “that looks kinda good, doesn’t it Dad?” We often watched TV together, particularly The Rockford Files.

The new movie has me so intrigued that I’ve picked up the mass market paperback novelization, and have been reading it in the car. The vacation is almost over. We’re on our way home from up north, and we stop in college town for the night rather than try to drive it all at once. It so happens that it’s a Friday night and Star Wars is premiering across the country. I suggest we all go see it. I look in the phone book to find nearby theaters and call for show times. Yes, it’s spontaneous as hell. We get there uneventfully, on time, feeling good, successfully almost-completed vacation trip behind us. I still remember the college kids standing in the surprisingly long line, couples, date night.

Darkened, full, expectant theater. Previews over, and here it comes. The stage-setting crawl, the music, the imperial cruiser. A desperate message; strange, endearing robots escaping to a desert planet; a young dreamer; a mysterious old man. Adventure. Swashbuckling. A kiss and a swing across an abyss, just ahead of the forces of darkness. It is all fantastic and all real. It is an experience, it is elation, it is hope.

I’m sure we cheered the destruction of the Death Star. And we most certainly weren’t alone.

"For me, Star Wars is Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia" -- friends answer to why he hasn't bothered to see the latest Star Wars trilogy.

Flash forward to 2005 -- "Revenge of the Sith" and George Lucas, who seems to be stuck in some 80s Michael Jackson Thriller video hell. Only his videos are two-hour installments of wooden politics and “the force” mumbo jumbo punctuated by slickly produced, fast but incredibly bland, and, at times, sadistic battles.

The recent trilogy, the one that precedes the original (it makes sense in bizarro world), carries one extremely dispiriting American message: more is better, which has been our mantra since the Reagan and Gordon Gecko ‘80s. Greed is good.

So now, no one blinks when Lucas foists a meaningless piece of cultural detritus on a credulous public. If a light saber duel is cool, then a light saber battle against a droid wielding four of them is better. Isn’t that obvious? If a light saber face-off between arch representatives of good and evil is compelling, then two such battles simultaneously are even more impressive. And look! Light sabers now come in purple!

Unfortunately, more always transfers more of your money to wealthy schemers, ultimately leaving you exhausted and broke. Or, if you apply the paradigm to our government and its wars, exhausted and broken in body and soul.

But, ironically, isn’t Lucas supposed to be telling us that? So, with “Revenge of the Sith” we get pummeled with endless references to “the power of the darkside” and "the empire” and lots of shots of Hayden Christensen peering darkly from under his hood, flames dancing in the whites of his eyes. Do we really need all this pounding over the head, when we instantly understood the dark power of Darth Vader when he first strode through the dead bodies on a rebel ship back in the 70s, black cape flowing?

Do we really need all these references to the force, when we knew that Luke felt the entire panoply of human emotion as he watched the double sunset of Tatooine, heartbroken yet feeling a pull to play his part in a vast, incomprehensible, interconnected universe? Didn’t Alec Guinness already carefully and quietly demonstrate the principles of a spiritual approach to life?

Do we really need a “debate” over whether Lucas is warning America of its desire for empire when we all know America is The Empire, and many of us like it? There is something exceedingly hollow in being cautioned about the evils of empire with a movie that drips with consumerism and greed.

The Star Wars franchise and the American Empire are all about “more.” More product for you and me, and exported to others whether they like it or not. Free-Dumb for all. Consumerism, baby. Have you consumed Star Wars yet? Bought the video game, the toys, the fast food meal?

After viewing "Revenge of the Sith", you may, like me, feel like holding up your gloves and chanting “nada mas, nada mas.”

Like the Matrix series, these trilogies are nothing more than exercises in wretched excess. Every subsequent Star Wars film has been a parasite, sucking its life from the original, with the possible exception of "The Empire Strikes Back," which had Jedi training with Yoda, Lando Calrissian, and the memorable “I….am your father.” It was, at least, the dark counterpart to the first’s message of hope. is your destiny

But it also established one of the ills of the franchise, defining itself by how it’s different (this usually involves “more”): “hey! I know! We had a hot desert planet last time, how ‘bout an ICE planet?!”

If you do want to see big idea scifi, I suggest you rent “Nausicca of The Valley of the Wind,” the 1984 Japanese animated feature from Hayao Miyazaki. It doesn’t feature ham-fisted dialogue, in-your-face battles and graceless, frantic action. And it’s not about installing another nozzle on an already bloated money-sucking machine.

Poster for the Star Wars-influenced Japanese mind-bender

It is about humankind struggling with what it has wrought – environmental devastation. It’s techno-militarism versus enlightened humanism. It’s told with imagination, style, pace, thrilling action, and it’s centered on a young, uncorrupted heroine. In short, it’s everything the original Star Wars was and the Star Wars franchise is not.

I viewed "Nausicca" recently, and appreciated it, but you never forget your first time. Rock-n-roll concerts, beer, girls, dirty brown Mexican weed, and the original Star Wars.

When you were young there were only two things you wanted. To be a Jedi Master and to have the power to stop time and wreak havoc on your sixth-grade classmates, frozen and impotent, as you wild through the halls hurling Apple II Pluses at cafeteria aides.

Harrison Ford made it out alive. Carrie Fisher does OK. But what happened to Luke? Did he go back to the Dagoba system for more training?

Petty jabs aside, this may be the only film in the last twenty-five years whose first viewing approximates the first time you got stoned. Not the first time you smoked pot, but the first time you didn’t have to fake being high. The moment that changed your life forever and landed you in this book.

No film has ever come close to the sense of sheer wonder that George Lucas’s work of genius provides. You can’t take it with you, but every now and then the feeling can almost be reclaimed. Almost.

-- “Baked Potatoes: A Pot Smoker’s Guide to Film and Video,” John Hulme, Michael Wexler

Friday, June 03, 2005

Sore Throat

By Billmon

There was a time when the exposure of Deep Throat's identity would have grabbed my attention in a big way: At last! The answer to all those boozy guessing games at all those journalistic watering holes of my younger days. Al Haig? John Dean? Martha Mitchell . . . no wait, wasn't she dead by then?

But it doesn't really matter any more. Anonymous whistleblowers have become little more than curious anachronisms, as likely to turn out to be bumbling fools or cynical disinformation artists (paging Michael Isikoff) as dedicated civil servants wiling to risk their careers to save the Republic.

The Republic is rather obviously beyond saving now -- even George Lucas understands that. Which is why the self-outing of Mark Felt had about as much relevance to our current slow motion coup d'état as a late-night cable rerun of All the President's Men.

It was, however, a very contemporary story in that it was clearly less about filling in the historical record and more about about cashing in on it.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

And that’s the news

Amnesty International Report: U.S. leads war OF terror

Scrappy human rights org fights back, calls Bush on “War on Terror” bluff

Amnesty lands punch with “Gulag of our times” phrase

Media rushes microphone in front of discredited, universally loathed leaders

Administration huffs in unison: Absurd! I’m offended! Silly little org was hoodwinked!

Hive-minded Murkans nod heads, curse liberal org with an agenda (human rights)

Distraction over, media returns to Michael Jackson trial, runaway bride update

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Steady Fecklessness in Times of Change

Alan Eisner at Reuters reports:

"The FBI on Tuesday asked the U.S. Congress for sweeping new powers to seize business or private records, ranging from medical information to book purchases, to investigate terrorism without first securing approval from a judge.

Valerie Caproni, FBI general counsel, told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee her agency needed the power to issue what are known as administrative subpoenas to get information quickly about terrorist plots and the activities of foreign agents.


...the really fascinating parts of the testimony came later. The first example was when the FBI counsel claimed that these powers were needed to prevent terrorist attacks such as car bombs. When challenged on that point, she responded:

Caproni said she could not cite a case where a bomb had exploded because the FBI lacked this power, but that did not mean one could not explode tomorrow.

Whether she appreciated it or not, this is the pure, undiluted logic of a Sith Lord. In essence, she contends that we should discard our constitutional protections here and now in the theoretical hope that we can avoid a terrorist attack at some undefined point in the future.

We are, in short, to abandon our freedom for the mirage of security.

While the advocates for the empire are obnoxious and tragically predictable, their odiousness is petty compared to the nature of the bill’s opponents. If anyone dares look down upon the defenders of Lucas’ Republic as being ineffectual and spineless, I give you the junior Senator from West Virginia:

"I am not aware of any time in which Congress has given directly to the FBI subpoena authority. That doesn't make it right or wrong. It just needs to be thought about," said West Virginia Democrat Jay Rockefeller.

An agent of the executive branch paraded into the Senate Chamber with a proposal that directly trashes one of the most important protections in our Bill of Rights, and the esteemed legislator’s only reply was that he cannot say if it is "right or wrong".