Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Walking the Dog: A Text Poem

This started out as more conventional verse, but this is how it turned out. I never question the Muse.

Walking the Dog

No sweeter words caress the ridiculously tall ears of my resident Boston terrier than, “Wanna go for little walk?” Instantly her buggy eyes brighten; she dashes to the leash-draped chair. Her tongue begins flitting out and in over and over, licking her chops, one supposes, in anticipation of numerous fecal and urinary deposits she’ll soon render, but also those of other dogs she will subject to intense visual and olfactory inspection. From all indications a ritual of the tribe Canine beyond the grasp of mere human understanding. At least that’s the theory I entertain, though perhaps what’s beckoning outside is simply fresh air or the myriad smells in the grass, on mail box posts, and the unrecognizable bits of assorted matter on the sidewalk. Walks never bore if you’re a dog.

But I’m bored a-plenty: the same suburban facades, SUVs in the drives, the same silly yard ornamentation, the same grass and garden expanses betokening our collective Babbitry. The same sense of impending decay. Only an I-pod in the ear stills such contemplations. That, and an occasional foray off our habitual walking routes. Like the time we ventured onto the dusty churned-up path construction vehicles cut through grasses and weeds behind the houses. Preoccupied, if not rapt, by the sounds in my ears, I failed to notice the dog lagging, limping on three legs, till the tug on the leash: a vicious looking thistle between the pads of a front foot. Gushing with guilt—“How long has she been hurting like this?”—I plucked out the torment, picked her up, and carried her home.

This is not something normally done with humans whose lives often bristle with thistles. Them we just let limp or lay in the dust of the road.

"Why So Serious?"

Went to the movie yesterday with my grandson--the latest Batman flick, The Dark Knight. It was fun, disturbing, thrilling, and Heath Ledger should get another Oscar for his portrayal of a really evil Joker. I wouldn't mind seeing this one again, it's that good. The top critics are almost unanimous in their praise. Dark. The darkest of the Batman movies. With a magnificent bad guy: The Joker. The Joker is a murderous psychotic, who enjoys killing and sows chaos wherever he goes, all the while behind a hideous clown face. And he's clever: he does have plans (despite his line to Batman at one point, "Do I look like a man with a plan?")--fiendish ones that always result in people dying. He brings out the worst in people. And he relishes it. Whereas Jack Nicholson's Joker of almost 20 years ago was actually amusing at times, it's only accidental when the present manifestation is. He's a killer.

But when the Joker is on the screen, he's mesmerizing. Here's what he says to one of his hapless victims, a Gotham City mobster who's had the temerity to oppose the Joker's takeover. He's got a knife inside the guy's mouth and he's saying . . .
Wanna know how I got these scars? My father was....a drinker. And a fiend. And one night he goes off crazier than usual. Mommy gets the kitchen knife to defend herself. He doesn't like that. Not. One. Bit. So, me watching, he takes the knife to her, laughing while he does it. Turns to me and he says "Why so serious?" Comes at me with the knife,"Why so serious?" He sticks the blade in my mouth. "Lets put a smile on that face!" And..... Why so serious?
You can guess what happens next.

Why so serious indeed. Because at bottom the movie is serious and far from a mindless escape flick. In a strange and unsettling way the mayhem and wholesale destruction and killing at the hands of a guy who has no rules reminded me of the reason I protest the same thing our country is doing. Not only overtly in our merciless disregard for the rights of others in foreign policy and our murderous invasion of Iraq, but covertly in our voracious, destructive consumption, which is as without compunction as any of the Joker's evil antics. No, ultimately The Dark Knight is about us.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Oh NO!

Why am I not surprised? Although as yet to be confirmed, the evidence is beginning to accumulate that former senator, former Democratic aspirant for the nomination, clearest voice for the gap between rich and poor and the need to address it . . . you know who I mean. John Edwards. The evidence is beginning to accumulate that he was having, is having, an affair with one Ms. Rielle Hunter, apparently a campaign aide of some sort, who has now given birth to his child. Not sure of every single detail because once I got the gist of the story, I read real fast, just so it would be over. Can you imagine the shit storm that's coming if this is true? I don't want to think about it. Just what the Democratic party needs right now.

The best possible spin on this is the video here.

I'm reserving judgment--this is, after all, something uncovered by The National Enquirer--but if this is true, John Edwards is a scumbag, and I don't care what his politics are.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Skipping through the Blogosphere

It's amazing what you can find out there in the blogosphere. Truth is I could get lost out there and, like going to the ballgame, never come back. There's just so much good stuff. Virtually any subject you're interested in, somebody's blogging. Baseball? Try Baseball Blogs for guidance. There's a lot of 'em. Chess? Bunch of those, too. Poetry? Scads.

Within the past couple of weeks, I've discovered that my first cousin down in Lafayette, L A has be blogging for years. He turned me on to yet another guy writing intelligently about Louisiana politics. And then just a couple of days ago I ran across another blog that caught my interest. It's called "A Father Talks to His Daughter about God: The Holy and Morality in a World of Idolatry slipping over the edge into End-Time." What a marvelous title!

It's the product of an obviously cultured man who likes (and writes) poetry and can't stand George Bush and the Republicans. He's also a fellow writer who likes all kinds of music. What's not to like about this guy? He turns out a professional looking blog, and he's been doing it for a long time. Check it out sometime.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Isn't This Interesting?

Interesting, indeed. And now we know why the GOP is always for drilling, extracting, mining, or gathering whatever it is that's helping kill the planet. It's for their own energy-bloated selves. (Of course, I'm not excusing the rest of us addicted consumers, just trying to add perspective.)

Sorry about the quality of this chart, but I think you'll be able to make it out. If not the graph lines top to bottom, blue to violet, are labeled: Republican states, US average, Democratic states, and California. The x axis is a timeline from 1960 to 2003; the y-axis is number of KWh per person in thousands. What it all means, the bottom line--well, in the graph, the top line--is that the people in the red states are energy hogs.

Let me post the source of this data before I forget:

Sources: [10426] Electricity Consumption per Person- Republican states; [10427] Electricity Consumption per Person- US average; [10428] Electricity Consumption per Person- Democratic states; [10429] Electricity Consumption per Person- California
All: California Energy Commission; The Economist, 1/27/07 -

I found this chart on a fascinating web site called "Data 360." You can go there and find out all kinds of interesting stuff like, for example, that U.S. voters would be much more likely to vote for a homosexual (55%) than an atheist (44%) for president. Odds have gotten considerably better for everybody including Catholics, Jews, blacks, and women over the years. But I would imagine that if you're a black lesbian who doesn't believe in God, you wouldn't have much of chance of becoming president for a few decades yet.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

One Split Anti-War Dude

This piece in Common Dreams has got me to thinking. "Anti-war Activists Split over Obama's Troop Plans" say the headlines. Well, count me as one of those split anti-war dudes. It should be apparent to anyone who actually checks in here on occasion that I'm a dangerous radical on lots of matters, but probably no more so than on the matter of peace and war. My position is easy to understand. I'm against war in any form. There's no rational justification for any war. Period. I'm especially against war being waged by my own country. And when the war is something that's been perpetrated by that vile little nitwit pretender in the White House, my opposition knows no bounds.

My plan for ending the war is also simple: start landing big ole airliners in Baghdad right now, fill them up with troops, and fly off. Continue night and day until there's not a single American solider, airman, or marine in Iraq. Do the same thing in Afganistan. (I told you I was a radical nut.)

Why are all those troops there? Well, it's the war on terror, right, class? Everybody, and I cannot think of any exceptions--let me know if you can--talks about the "war on terror" as if such a thing were a) actually possible and b) extant. But Wikipedia also has a fine piece on why such a thing as a war on terror cannot exist because terror is an abstract noun. "Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end." But this war without end is why we've got thousands of troops in Afganistan and Iraq. Got that?

Like the "war on drugs" and the "war on poverty," "war on terror" has that testosterone ring about it that disquises the fact that these phrases have no practical meaning. They're Madison Avenue slogans. They sound useful in the mouths of politicians with agendas. That's all. But they fool a lot of people into thinking they actually mean something that you can wrap a meaning around. Take a look at the tortured graphics on the Wikipedia site cited above with its lists of belligerents, casualties, commanders, and campaigns--just like this was World War II or the Civil War with all those set battles you can lay down on maps.

So to answer my original question: the troops are in Iraq because it suited George Bush to start this accursed war. We can speculate what his little pea-brain conjured up as reasons, but it's safe to assume he agreed with Mr. Cheney and his cronies in the oil business that Iraq's oil would be a good thing for them to have. That's why those troops are there.

And so now I'm reading that Obama is talking about leaving a "residual force" of 50,000 troops in Iraq. That's 50,000 of our young men and women in Iraq and beefing up our people in Afganistan by another 10,000 or so.

HELL, NO! I say. A thousand hell noes. The more that our favorite African-American running for president settles into the role of "being presidential," the further he drifts from the ideals that seemed so conspicuous when he didn't yet have the nomination locked up. This guy cannot be all things to all people despite what his high-priced handlers are coaching him to say and do. Hell, a three-legged goat with blue eyes could beat McCain in this political season. So why in the name of hell don't the Democrats run on an all-out progressive platform? Why this damn trimming of ideas that actually promised to bring about some change? How does the Obama slogan go? "Change You Can Believe In"? Well, count me out on anything that prolongs this war, even if Obama's paws are all over the plan. . . this is change I can't believe in.

Bush's All America Tour

The best laugh of this still young day. (Too bad it's mostly true.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Making the Corner Safe for Weed-Eating

It was as hot as hell, hot as only Oklahoma can be hot, at the corner of Main and Flood last evening about 6:30 p.m. Gathered there in the stifling environs were about 10-12 people, almost all of whom could be described as middle-aged, although those much younger might consider some of us geezers. Gathered there we were to protest publicly our country's involvement in Iraq with signs and flags. It's a weekly Monday afternoon thing. Our usual number of local protesters, about 4 or 5, was swollen by a contingent from Oklahoma City, who brought a bunch of great big signs--we need to get some of those for ourselves!--that said "Honk for Peace" or "Peace is Possible" and other subversive sentiments.

Also present was one each lawn-mowing, weed-eating guy. I spoke to the gentleman right after arriving and he allowed as to how "I don't care" but that we should wait until he was finished with his work before we deployed our flags, signs, and selves on the corner. Let me set the scene for you: we're talking the sidewalk and grassy area in front of an abandoned Grandy's, one of those monuments to late 20th century futility that you can find anywhere in the dying American empire.

Well, to make a long story short. Said weed-eater got pissed off because we didn't wait. (I have to tell you that the area where we were had already been mowed, and we were not preventing weed-eating anywhere as far as I could tell. I also should add that I have no doubt that Mr. Weed Eater was probably having a crappy day. Who knows how long he'd been toiling in that ridiculous heat at minimum wage? And maybe this wasn't even his last job. He's got my sympathy.) And he called the cops on us. Two of Norman's finest soon appeared and shooed us off the corner because our cars were parked in the abandoned Grandy's parking lot. It's private property, you see, by definition an object of worship. Which means, of course, that this parking lot can summon armed guardians of the temple in a matter of minutes to prevent its defilement by a ragtag bunch of radicals with families, jobs, and mortgages who believe in peace.

One of the cops was apologetic, and both were nice. But we had to leave nonetheless. Kinda makes you wonder, doesn't it, how easily the exercise of First Amendment rights can be blunted.

P.S. We'll be back on the corner next week. Lots of people are honking.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Layers

A lovely poem about aging by Stanley Kunitz, a poet who was 100 years old, just a few weeks short of 101 years old when he died in 2006. I wish I had half his talent.

The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Traitor Joe

When is somebody going to kick that damn Joe Lieberman's ass out of Democratic party? And just kick his ass in general while they're at it? (I realize of course that this cannot be done, that his traitorous hide is perfectly safe, as long as the Democrats have just a one-seat majority in the Senate. But still if somebody were to throttle that silly grin off his face, it would be a good thing.) He's all over the tube today saying that Obama could not even be in Iraq if the country had followed his advice about getting out of there. That he, Obama, is prepared to accept defeat there. Yadda yadda yadda. Oh really, Joe? The fact that Obama even has to go there, this obligatory stop on the campaign trail, apparently, is because of people like you that think the continued bloodshed there, the floundering of American foreign policy in this wretched hell hole in the Middle East, this hemorrhaging of hundreds of billions of dollars to make the world safe for oil companies, is sound policy. Indeed. You have said as much. Further that we should just stay there till the proverbial cows come home. Because otherwise the 4,100+ lives we've already squandered there--correction, American lives--not counting the countless Iraqi lives, will have been lost "in vain." As if all those lives had not been given in vain already. What is the best case scenario for the U.S. out of this everlasting Iraq mess? The best we can expect? You tell me. A thriving democracy? A beacon of freedom in the mid-East? A fast U.S. ally there? Get serious. We have created an absolute hell hole that will continue to fester and infect the whole region . . . but never mind. Four giant western oil companies have already got their mitts on Iraq's oil, and that's what it was all about all along.

I read elsewhere that the Democrats cannot figure Lieberman out. What's to figure out about this guy? He's a turncoat SOB, pure and simple. He's not a Democrat; he's a Republican in all but name. This guy has endorsed McCain for the presidency, for Pete's sake! Every time you see a picture of McCain, you can bet that Lieberman's jowly grinning countenance is lurking somewhere in the background. And if he's not in the background, he's visible, like above, right before he lays a sloppy smooch on our favorite Republican candidate. I understand Lieberman is planning a speech before the Republican national convention. What's the matter with this guy that a good ass-kicking wouldn't fix?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Aw Right Rangers!

I cannot let baseball's All-Star Game slip too far into the past before noting that all four Texas Ranger all-stars contributed to the American League's 15-inning 4-3 win two nights ago in Yankee Stadium. I gave up watching the game years ago. It's an exhibition game in the middle of summer, that's all. Nonetheless, I'm proud of the Rangers who made and delighted they contributed substantially. Ranger Michael Young, whom I would argue is the best shortstop in the game right now, won it with a sac fly as the game approached the 5-hour mark. Here's the full box score. And here's how the Rangers looked.

M Young SS4011021.250
J Hamilton CF-LF3010011.333
M Bradley DH2000101.000
I Kinsler PR-2B5010013.200

Individual Batting:
Doubles: J Morneau (1), E Longoria (1), C Guillen (1)
Home runs: J Drew (1, 7th inning off E Volquez with 1 on, 2 outs)
RBI: E Longoria (1), M Young (1), J Drew 2 (2)
Sacrifice flies: M Young (1)
Grounded into double play: D Jeter (1)
Left in scoring position: J Morneau (3), A Rodriguez (1), K Youkilis (1), E Longoria (2), I Kinsler (2), D Pedroia (1), D Navarro (1), J Hamilton (1), I Suzuki (1), G Sizemore (2), D Jeter (1), C Quentin (3), M Bradley (1)

Base Running:
Stolen bases: I Kinsler (1), J Hamilton (1), J Drew (1), G Sizemore (1), D Jeter (1), M Bradley (1)
Caught stealing: I Kinsler (1 for season)

Errors: D Navarro (1)
Double plays: 2: (#1: D Navarro, I Kinsler), (#2: I Kinsler, M Young, J Morneau)

I should also mention that Ranger Josh Hamilton, one of the purest natural ballplayers to ever play for my team, was an absolute monster in the home run derby on Monday night.

It's a F**king Cartoon!

Just found out that a first cousin of mine, in the same generation as my kids--I'm the old first cousin in this bunch--is blogging out of Lafayette, LA on Louisiana politics and that he's been at it for years. If you're the slightest bit interested in a (rare) solid leftist viewpoint from those environs, check him out. It's encouraging to know that there's a young person down there in the heart of the red, red bayous bleating out a small voice for sanity amongst the natives. Even if you're not interested, check it out because Louisiana politics are more fun than a circus with twice the number of freaks.

One of the things that people who are reading him are worried about is something I intended to ignore here because it's yet another triviality that's been pumped up by the airheads of the media into something that's supposed to be news. It fits right in there with flag lapel pins, terrorist fist-bumps, and bitter, gun-toting, religion-hugging blue color voters.

I'm talking about the now famous New Yorker cover depicting Barrack and Michelle Obama in outlandish outfits: Muslim and terrorist, respectively. After reading several comments along these lines, I had to respond. Herewith that response:

Don't necessarily agree with the hand wringing over the Obama cover on The New Yorker. I'm with Jon Stewart on this one, a guy who's correct far more often than he's not. "It's a fucking cartoon!" is what he says. Check out: cartoon

Yeah, there are bigots and pea-brains all over the country, and yeah, you've got a lot of 'em in Lafayette. But believe me when I tell you, there are more of them per acre here in Oklahoma, the so-called "heartland," than you want to think about.

Alas and alack, a lot of people are simply not going to vote for Obama because of the color of his skin. My mother, for example, and my wife's mother. Both from Louisiana. Half my siblings, all in Louisiana. All of my wife's siblings. All from Louisiana. Same will be so for bigots and bumpkins nationwide no matter what the hell was on the cover of the magazine. Hell, they could have had a photograph of Obama garroting a terrorist while wrapped in a huge American flag with an Uzi in his belt wearing a monstrous McCain lapel pin . . . wouldn't matter.

Do you think for one second if The New Yorker had never run that cartoon, it would have made the slightest difference to these people? I don't.
I'm afraid this manufactured flap about nothing is the kind of thing we're going to be seeing from now till November on the tube, that monster of distortion and that haven for the overpaid lame brains who call themselves journalists. Don't get me started.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not Much Choice When You Think About It

I know this is a little behind the times, but I'm still pissed about Obama's fold on the FISA bill. And I'm not the only one. One anguished voice said the vote is "unforgivable." I agree. But we don't have any choice but to forgive, do we?

What are our other options?

  • Don't vote at all. Well, I always defend those who don't vote. I contend that no vote is a vote. I used to think that the vast, vast majority of people who don't vote are those who either consciously or unconsciously have decided the system is not about to do anything for them, so why bother? I'd like to think this is so, but research tends to show that there's little to distinguish voters from non-voters, except perhaps degree of apathy. But another reason I always defend those who opt out of voting is the vocal bunch who act like the right to vote is like the right to breathe. And then they go on to argue that if you don't vote, you don't have any right to complain. Two points about this: you always have a right to complain in this country--at least until the fascists take over completely; and two, all those flamers who act like the right to vote is a direct gift from God really don't know much about how the choices we're presented in this country are so constrained. We all operate under the capitalist presumption, the engrained and entrenched two-party system, and its narrow consensus. And that's the "choice" we have. Nothing else.
  • Option two: vote for a third party candidate? That's a viable option also. I've done it several times. Several times, as a way of registering my protest against the whole damned thing. So sure, if you're so mad at Obama you cannot vote for him, go ahead and vote for the Socialist Workers or the Greens or someone equally as worthy. Got no problem with it. (Presuming of course they're even on the ballot in your state. The system is skewed completely in favor of the two major parties. They agree and collude on ways to make it as difficult as possible for any other party to compete.)
  • Option three: vote for McCain . . . get serious.
But here's something else you can do in the meantime. Let Obama know how you feel about his gutless reverse on a matter of our civil liberties. Maybe this will keep him from waffling on all the other things he's said during the primaries. Here's where you can do it. And here's what I told him when I wrote:
I'm just writing to tell you how disappointed and angry I am at you for your support of the execrable FISA legislation that you just helped George Bush get passed. The spineless dodge you have articulated instead of a straight-forward opposition to this bill is not worthy of you. All you have done is enable yet another assault on our fast-disappearing civil liberties and, on top of it, let corporate malfeasance and law-breaking go unpunished. What, sir, could possibly be in your mind?

I have supported you from the beginning of your campaign for the White House, but lately you're causing me to wonder if I've backed nothing but another trimming politician who says one thing and does another. I've watched you recede from progressive positions on several other things over the past few weeks. How many other surprises do you have for us, Senator?
Feel free to paraphrase on your own letter.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Words Fail Me . . . (Example #7481)

You know when I first started doing this blog, I thought every once in a while I would get to exhibit my jocular and humor-loving side. It's actually a pretty big side of me. I've long since concluded that it's impossible to make it at all on this planet without the ability to laugh a whole bunch at a whole bunch of things. I do . . . all the time. It's what has kept me sane. (along with chess and baseball and books and poetry and my dearest wife). But the state of things here and elsewhere just keep intruding on this good intention. I never run out of things in the news of the day to be frustrated about. There's always a plethora of things.

Take today, for example. I intended to reproduce my letter to Senator Obama about his execrable vote on the FISA bill last week, but this story intruded even on that. (I'll get around to the FISA piece eventually, I assume.) Are you ready for this? As an incentive to get kids to attend a youth conference, Windsor Hills Baptist Church in Oklahoma City offered the enticement of an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle giveaway. Have you got that? A frigging free military weapon to some kid to come hear all about Jesus! A FREE ASSAULT RIFLE TO A TEENAGER. What can possibly be in the minds of these people? Do these people have minds? The offer was withdrawn once it became public on television, otherwise, one presumes, some lucky teenager would have a free assault rifle to go along with the joy of salvation. The pastor, one Bob Ross, says his intention was not to give the weapon to someone who would not "respect it," and then "go out and kill."

Well, really, Pastor Bob? I'm glad you told us. What you really meant was to give a free military assault weapon to some normal hormone-crazed half-wit ravaged by unresolved emotional issues--anybody got a better description for teenagers? Plus, what in the name of all that's holy (literally) do military weapons of any kind have to do with Christianity? I have to quit now . . . before I launch myself much further. Peace be with you.

Friday, July 11, 2008


My son emailed me yesterday about this story he had just seen about the latest verbal gaffe--no, that's too mild; how about--public display of idiocy by the leader of the free world, our Moron/Embarrassment-in-Chief, our president "The Decider" had just uttered before the world. At the closing session of the G-8 meeting in Japan, Bush signed off to his fellow leaders with a jovial "Goodbye from the world's biggest polluter." Apparently he also rendered a hearty fist pump in the air to accompany it. Our president was making a little joke, you see.

I can only imagine what must have gone through the minds of the other sophisticated leaders of the world's top economies. I imagine it would have been a variation on "What a blithering idiot!" How could anyone with a grain of sense react otherwise? The bloggers have had a field day with this, of course. But as one of them, an Australian, commented: "I get the feeling that we haven't yet heard one zillionth of the stories about all the stupid crap he's done. They'll dribble out slowly over the next decade." No doubt . . . we're going to have George W. Bush to kick around for years.

Well, words absolutely fail me. I remember quoting in my book one southerner in 1857 who was beside himself with rage at President Buchanan. "What more," he wrote to
Alexander Stephens, "can I say to hold this man up to your execration?" Indeed. I say the same about Bush. I cannot imagine what more this miserable little pretender in the White House can do or say to embarrass himself and this country. You can't make this kind of stuff up. Unfortunately, we haven't heard the last from him. You can be sure he'll utter a few more such imbecilic statements before he's through. What a blithering idiot he is.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Patriotism, Nationalism, & Other Fatal Diseases

Just finished reading a wonderful piece by Chris Hedges called "Surviving the Fourth of July." It feels so good to read somebody whose thoughts are so much in consonance with my own. He's convinced that the voices of sanity and peace are ultimately going to be fruitless, and that all those of us who oppose the madness have is each other. I cannot yet embrace the idea that peace will never arrive, but if I'm honest with myself, I have to admit that in my heart of hearts I seriously doubt if the kingdom of God we followers of Jesus are supposed to be building will arrive until humankind finally succeeds in purging hate and war out of its soul by utterly destroying itself. I used to think when I was younger and even more foolish than I am now that this somehow would never happen. At this point, I don't see how it can be avoided. Our follies have become fantastic, as the Beach Boys observed all those years ago. (I think it was on the "Holland" album.)

Almost as good as Hedges were the comments from over 60 people who were as moved by the piece as I was. One was kind enough to gather a whole bunch of quotes about the folly of patriotism.

It seems like the less a statesman amounts to, the more he loves the flag. - unknown

Nothing is more annoying in the ordinary intercourse of life than this irritable patriotism of the Americans. A foreigner will gladly agree to praise much in their country, but he would like to be allowed to criticize something, and that he is absolutely refused. — Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (1831)

Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race. — Albert Einstein

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder. — Albert Einstein

or: Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism; how passionately I hate them! - Albert Einstein

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other dumb bastard die for his. - Gen. George S. Patton (1885-1945)

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. - Samuel Johnson

In Dr. Johnson’s famous dictionary, patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first. - Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism, n. Combustible rubbish ready to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. - Ambrose Bierce

Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. - Oscar Wilde

Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it. - George Bernard Shaw

‘My country, right or wrong,’ is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, ‘My mother, drunk or sober’. — G. K. Chesterton

“Patriotism” is a word; and one that generally comes to mean either my country, right or wrong, which is infamous, or my country is always right, which is imbecile. - Dr Stephen Maturin in Master and Commander, p 173. Patrick O’Brian. 1970

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor with the cry of grave national emergency… Always there has been some terrible evil to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it by furnishing the exorbitant sums demanded. Yet, in retrospect, these disasters seem never to have happened, seem never to have been quite real. - General Douglas MacArthur

Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time, and to its government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

Flag; n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships. - Ambrose Bierce

Old soldiers never die; that’s what the young ones are for. - unknown

Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarrelled with him? - Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

A nation is a society united by a delusion about its ancestry and by common hatred of its neighbours. - William R. Inge (1860-1954)

Every government has as much of a duty to avoid war as a ship’s captain has to avoid a shipwreck. - Guy de Maupassant

Nationalism is a silly cock crowing on his own dunghill. - Richard Aldington (1892-1962)

The Way It Was

Don't know exactly what inspired this. I wrote it yesterday. Seems like my mind is never far from thinking about injustice.

The Way It Was

It took five hours in those days
when Ike was president.
New Orleans to Mama Dear’s house
in Vicksburg, Mississippi,
all of us
five, six, or seven,
depending on what year
measured Mom’s fertility,
stuffed in a station wagon.
No air conditioning,
smoke from Dad’s Camels
(still in my nostrils).
Before Interstates
before pollution of the oyster beds
and the designated hitter.
No Wendy along the way.
US 190 over Chef Menteur and the Rigolets
to old US 51
past the Pearl River
where a lynching victim
had been tossed
a few months back,
Dad said, flatly,
like a weather report on WWL.

Through Poplarville, McComb, Hazlehurst, Brookhaven
all the way up to Jackson:
then east to Vicksburg
over wondrous hills
where you couldn’t see what was coming
till you reached the top.

Lula, Mama Dear’s black cook,
had late lunch ready.
Seemed like she was always there,
and everything was cooked,
and cleaned, and straight, and correct.
And from the back yard
high on that hill on Drummond street,
or anywhere really,
you could look down
into the hollows
where the little black cities were
under their perpetual pall of smoke.

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's a National Disgrace . . .

. . . the so-called health care system in the U.S. Forget about the almost 50 million Americans who don't have any health care at all. Let's talk about those who are paying for insurance and what they've got to deal with.

Stories like this one always make me shake my head and wonder how I'd handle the same situation. I'd want to kill somebody. Here's the basic outline: couple has young son with autism. To cope with medical costs, drugs, and insurance premiums--oh, yeah, they have insurance--the couple has cashed in all of their assets: 401k's, savings, car, house. They're now bankrupt; they live in a modest rental home and have no idea what they're going to do. There's a video of the mom talking about all this here. She seems so matter-of-fact despite her anger at the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. What she's talking about is a national disgrace.

This story about care of autistic children in California bears out the not-too-difficult-to-figure-out fact that insurance companies are doing everything they possibly can to avoid paying for the expensive behavioral therapy required for autism, which, by the way, is most effective if treated early. Though only one in in five autistic kids is severely disabled, in almost all cases therapies are necessary to teach the kids basic skills such as how to dress themselves. Well, guess what? The insurance companies don't want to pay for this. These therapies are "experimental" say some; it's provided by state-funded institutions say some; several carriers refuse to pay contending the treatment is "unproven." And then there's Kaiser who won't pay because the treatment is "educational," not medical. These refusals to pay are especially interesting in view of the law in California that requires them to.

And while these blood-sucking corporations continue to stall and stonewall, good tax-paying, insurance-premium paying parents are being slowly strangled and flushed down the drain.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Stars and Gripes

OK. It's the 4th and an appropriate time for me to observe that my favorite African-American candidate for president is now sporting a flag lapel pin on his shiny suits. Now what's up with that? Every time I turn around, he's weaseling on what he said and did in the primaries. (Yesterday he allowed as to how he might "refine" his plans to pull out of Iraq in sixteen months . . . and then he "clarified" in a later speech that he had not changed his position: US troops out in 16 months.)

Here was a guy who during the primaries actually had to deal with the inane question by the inane media of why he didn't walk around flagged all the time. Was he not a patriot? I could look up what he said, but I don't have to. Basically it was: wearing a flag pin doesn't have anything to do with being a patriot. Hear, hear! Why should any of us have to accept the flag wavers' definition of patriotism? The word itself according to Mr. Webster means: "love for or devotion to one's country." Anybody with half a functioning brain knows that this includes a lot more than flag worship. Love of country for me means calling it to account for how far it's come from the ideals all these flag-waving patriots say this country stands for. And the fact is, the vast flag-waving majority could not even enumerate two or three the Bill of Rights amendments to the Constitution.

For the record, in case you might have missed my previous comments on this subject: I don't pledge allegiance to the flag, I don't sing the national anthem and I don't take off my hat or put my hand on my chest when others are singing it. I don't have a flag lapel pin, an American flag, or any artifact in my house with the flag on it. There are certainly enough flag-waving "patriots" around for all that. I'm with George Carlin, who also didn't worship the flag. It was just a symbol, he said, and he left it to the symbol-minded.