The River

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Tagged by Frank Paynter

Who asks that I post five semi-secrets.

I have scars from falling in the bathtub (chin), falling into a desk in first grade (eyebrow), and shattering an aquarium with my face (nose). No broken bones, though.

I listen to rock –n- roll music in my car, loud because it sounds best that way. My car is a black 1998 Honda Civic HX coup, my fourth Civic. My first was a 1980 maroon metallic hatchback. Second was a red 1988 hatchback, third was a black 1993 hatchback (I miss the hatchback). The semi-secret is that my eardrums are still recovering from an AC/DC concert at the age of sixteen. Love hurts.

I feel lucky to have grown up during the 70s, a great time period full of both intellectual and cultural ferment and exploration, and paradoxically, the silly excesses we all laugh about now, a product of the desire to repackage the sixties for mass consumption. Semi-secret: I had a Greg Brady permanent in seventh grade.

I worked in a grocery store from ages 16-18. I did a little bit of everything -- bagging, checking, unloading trucks, stocking shelves, price changes, sweeping and mopping, hiding six packs by the dumpster out back to pick up later, surreptitiously drinking beer while changing the prices on cans of pet food, and feasting on Breyers Butter Pecan ice cream and other foodstuffs late at night while the store manager counted down the registers.

I was asked to teach a Sunday School for class for 11-13 year olds at an Episcopal Church. I told them I was a new age pagan Buddhist and wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for my wife. I said I wasn’t sure about organized religion of any kind, mainly because it is too limiting of people’s natural spirituality, and was full of doubts and questions. They said, “So are the kids. You’ll be great.” I thought about it, and a voice said, “Go forth, and subvert the dominant paradigm.” I think it was mine.


If you would like to do this, consider yourself tagged.

Friday, December 15, 2006

A pebble has been tossed

(Selected words from Lam Kwok Wa’s review of the film “What the Bleep Do We Know?”)

If I am serious about learning,
I'm better off being open-minded
and let the knowledge be revealed to me

If I just want to prove myself right,
no matter which direction I look,
there are mountains of evidence
to support my point of view

Isn't it time to ask questions
about the missing link
between the seeming separateness
of physical matter
and the interdependent nature
of quantum particles
that are the very foundation of matter?

Even if intelligence can drop from the sky,
you need to lift your hands to receive it

-- Lam Kwok Wa

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A startling admission

AMY GOODMAN: Afterward President Jimmy Carter spoke on Tuesday about his book, Palestine: Apartheid Not Peace [sic], he took questions from the audience. He was asked to outline what a balanced US-Middle East policy would look like. Again, his book is called Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

JIMMY CARTER: Yeah, the word “balance” is one that's almost unacceptable in our country. If you had a candidate for Congress running either Democratic or Republican and they announced to the general public, “I’m going to take a balanced position between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” they would never be elected. That's an impossibility in our country. But that doesn't preclude an incumbent administration from demonstrating with their own actions and words that they are concerned about Israeli peace, they are also concerned about peace and justice for the Palestinians. And that's what I did. It’s what Richard Nixon did. It’s what Ronald Reagan did after I left office. It’s what George Bush, Sr. did. It’s what Bill Clinton did. But it's not being done now.


On the one hand, Carter admits that the Israeli influence/lobby will prevent politicians from coming to power in the U.S. if they indiciate a concern for the plight of the Palestinians (what is called "balance" here), yet he goes on to say that such a situation does not preclude said politicians from working for peace and justice in the region.

Can somebody explain the logic here? Does an elite position such as Carter's preclude the ability to address root causes?


I'm still marveling at Inspector Lohmann's beautiful two-part essay, "Building Invisible Comic Community Through Interdimensional Travel" (Part I and Part II).

I just want to publicly thank him here. Thanks, Lohmann!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

It's Happening Again!

by Norman Soloman

Global Research, December 5, 2006

The lead-up to the invasion of Iraq has become notorious in the annals of American journalism. Even many reporters, editors and commentators who fueled the drive to war in 2002 and early 2003 now acknowledge that major media routinely tossed real journalism out the window in favor of boosting war.

But it's happening again.

The current media travesty is a drumbeat for the idea that the U.S. war effort must keep going. And again, in its news coverage, the New York Times is a bellwether for the latest media parade to the cadence of the warfare state.


Which is why there has been little discussion of the withdrawal and reparations idea put forward by George McGovern and William Polk in the Harper's article The Way out of War, which was adapted from their book Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now.

Much like universal healthcare, withdrawal and reparations is eminently sensible from not only a moral but a financial standpoint:

The monetary cost of the basic set of programs outlined here is roughly $7.25 billion. The cost of the “second tier” programs cannot be as accurately forecast, but the planning and implementation of these is likely to cost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 billion. Seventeen and a quarter billion dollars is a lot of money, but assuming that these programs cut short the American occupation by only two years, they would save us at least $200 billion. Much more valuable, though, are the savings to be measured in what otherwise are likely to be large numbers of shattered bodies and lost lives. Even if our estimates are unduly optimistic, and the actual costs turn out to be far higher, the course of action we recommend would be perhaps the best investment ever made by our country.

Chasing the money down the rabbit hole

Joe Bageant gets to the heart of the matter again -- follow the money. Not the media show, not the politicians.

In his latest essay, Bageant talks about what keeps coming up at my Tuesday night hangout, Manuel's Tavern: the true power never appears on television (TVs hang in corners of the room and above the bar).

"...the global decision makers, international planners, financial institutions, political parties, media conglomerates, corporations, banks, a hegemonic, accumulative bloc [are] working in concert to coordinate the extraction of wealth from first and third world alike" says Bageant.

He goes on to make it clear that financial global elites are the string pullers. Bageant writes, "A series of privately held international institutions to which and from which money can be moved to leverage nations and populations according to their needs is probably gonna do just that because they can."

It's ironic that Bageant's piece about the anti-human agenda of the power (read: money) behind the puppet politicians appears on the same page that Alexander Cockburn proudly offers his series of "exclusive" 9/11 conspiracy-debunking articles. His work on the subject, which I partially examined here, is nothing more than cheap shots and journalistic hubris. But if he wants to drain the meaning from the largest unsolved crime in U.S. history, that's his own lookout. At least he's publishing Bageant, who does get to the heart of matters we know to be true.

And for excellent, ego-free analysis of the catalyzing event of the "war on terror," I recommend the below video, "Smoke and Mirrors":

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Welcome to Absurdistan, formerly the United States of America


According to the New York Times, the Bush administration has told the Pentagon to revamp and accelerate its plans for putting Iraqi security forces on the streets of Baghdad and other areas where U.S. forces have come under attack, even if their training is significantly shortened. The newspaper quotes military and administration officials saying that as part of a plan the Pentagon is still developing, thousands of Iraqis who are now acting essentially as security guards would be given a few weeks of training in Iraq and Jordan.

-- October 30, 2003,

Months after Labor opposed sending troops to Iraq, the Opposition wants the Government to dispatch a strong team of police and more army instructors to train local personnel to help control the worsening security situation there.

-- November 16, 2003, The Age

At my direction and with the support of Iraqi authorities, we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to defend their country.

-- May 24, 2004, GeeDubya, Army War College speech

U.S. forces are working frantically to train Iraqis for the thankless job of maintaining public order.

--September 14, 2004, Newsweek

And the strategy is to train Iraqis so they can fight off the thugs and the killers and the terrorists who want to destroy the progress of a free society.

-- December 20, 2004, GeeDubya, White House Press Conference

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, we're told there are over 170,000 trained and equipped Iraqi security forces right now, but only a fraction of them are currently doing independent combat operations. The military says this process is moving as quickly as it can.

-- August 12, 2005, CNN

Preparing for the day; U.S. forces train Iraqis to assume responsibility.

-- October 2, 2005, The Washington Times

Part of our strategy is to train Iraqis so they can join our forces and fight off the terrorists and, eventually, have the Iraqis be able to stand on their own.

-- December 15, 2005, GeeDubya

Iraq panel recommends U.S. focus on Iraqi troop training

-- December 6, 2006, Reuters

UPDATE: Mark Ames of the eXile focused on Iraqi troop training well before the panel of experts recommended it. It turns out the amount of BS spewed by the leaders of Absurdistan regarding Iraqi troop training is near bottomless.