Saturday, March 31, 2007
As everyone in the blogsphere by now doubtlessly knows, it's apparently more than any xian's faith can possibly stand to be confronted with a chocolate image of Jesus. It's true. William Donohue, professional victim extraordinaire, says so.
Apparently, and, damn am I pissed that I didn't get the memo, Lent is when we evil non-xians apparently really go to town trying to tempt xians not to believe in their faith. And, of course, modern xians like Donohue are so weak and starved and confused from all that fasting and staying up all night on their knees praying that they do at this time of the year, that it makes sense for us to realy focus our efforts on Lent. And, now, some evil genius has come up with the perfect way to convince xians that their entire faith is a lie.
Yep. I don't care if you were baptized at St. Peter's, learned to read from Sister Taursisus at Our Lady of the Holy Blood Parochial School, can recite the Baltimore Catachesim in Latin, made your first Confession to Father Timothy without getting sexually abused, elevated a little bit off the floor when you received your first Holy Communion, took the name Germaine for your Confirmation name, were married a virgin at St. Catherine Laboure chapel, and have spent your entire life in prayer and good works. Apparently, notwithstanding all of those signs of grace, if your eyes ever fall, for even a few minutes, during the season of Lent upon a representation of Jesus as a black man with a penis, you will fling off the faith of your fathers, tear off your scapula, stomp on the crucifix, eat a hamburger on Friday, and convert to Satanism on the spot.
And don't think that Satan doesn't know it.
Meanwhile, for the rest of us, those who don't believe in a faith so flimsy that it can be demolished by the very sight, not to mention taste, of a chocolate deity, there's a chocolate Venus of Willendorf, a chocolate Ixchel (appropriate, n'est pas?), a chocolate Ganesh (if there's a god who loves chocolate, it must be Ganesh), a chocolate Loki, and a chocolate Green Tara to make the world a little bit sweeter.
Friday, March 30, 2007
What watertiger said. If you know DC, you know that Walter Reed is a very short bike ride down 16th Street from the WH. The A-Hole-in-Chief could visit there every morning while getting in his all-important cardio fix.
If he cared to do so.
Another Bush photo op. Sad.
Xan makes several very good points in this post concerning The God Abandoning Antony. As I noted yesterday, if Bush has lost the Saudis, who I think tried to use his daddy and Jim Baker to send him a message that he then ignored, then he's in a heap of trouble. I imagine that if he ignores the king's speech and his refusal to come to dinner, the next step is to turn the flow of oil into a surprisingly sudden trickle here. China and India will be glad to hear that.
All my life,
I have loved
more than one thing,
including the mossy hooves
of dreams, including'
the spongy litter
under the tall trees.
the moccasin flowers
reach for the crackling
lick of the sun
and burn down. Sometimes,
in the shadows,
I see the hazy eyes,
its deep drowse,
and I can imagine a new nothing
in the universe,
the matted leaves splitting
the black planks
of the stairs.
But all my life--so far--
I have loved best
how the flowers rise
and open, how
the pink lungs of their bodies
enter the fore of the world
and stand there shining
and willing--the one
thing they can do before
they shuffle forward
into the floor of darkness, they
become the trees.
If I Should Fall From Grace With God[dess] To Where No Doctor Can Relieve Me, Please Play This At My Wake
And the rivers open for the righteous
And the rivers open for the righteous
And the rivers open for the righteous,someday
I went walking,with my brother
And he wondered,oh,how I am
Said what I believe with my soul
Ain't what I see with my eyes
And there's no turning back this time
I am a patriot,and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
I wanna be with my family
People who understand me
I got no place else to go...
I am a patriot...
I went walking,with my sister
She looked so fine,I said,"Baby,what's on your mind?"
She said,"I wanna run like the lions
Released from their cages
Released from the rages burning in my soul tonight"
I am a patriot...
And I ain't no communist
And I ain't no socialist
And I ain't no capitalist
And I ain't no imperialist
And I ain't no democrat
Sure ain't no republican,
I only know one party,and that is freedom
I am,I am,I am...
I am a patriot,and I love my country
Because my country is all I know
And the rivers open for the righteous
And the rivers open for the righteous
And the rivers open for the righteous, someday
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Green Egg is back, long may it live.
Francesca De Grandis has an interesting discussion in this month's edition concerning a long-standing controversy in the Pagan community. It begins: She shattered the cup, boxed the pieces up to send to her spiritual teacher. The cup, the chalice, the mother, the Goddess. She enclosed a verbal attack, denouncing the teacher for charging for lessons.
I'm going to admit that I've never gotten what this controversy is "really" all "about." Other religions pay their clergy; ministers get paid and often get housing provided. Nuns and monks may take vows of poverty, but their religious community provides them with convents and abbeys and other forms of support. (Yes, the convent may, for example, raise crops and sell them. They got the land as a form of support.) I can't imagine that hundreds of years ago, you would have imagined that you could traipse on down to see the village wise woman for an herbal concoction or a magic-working and expect not to bring her a chicken or a coin or some firewood.
I do understand that many Pagans, by choice or circumstance, don't have a lot of money and I think it's great when teachers, shamans, tarot readers can provide scholarships or allow, for example, a student to do yardwork in exchange for lessons. (Yardwork. Damn! What a good idea. Anyone want to learn my newly-created, extremely arcane tradition? No? Rats.) But it really just seems silly to me to think that Pagans ought to work for other Pagans for free. Strangely, Pagans seem more than willing to pay for books (I've seen your houses. You know I'm right.) We'll buy incense and cheap pewter pentacles and tacky plastic statues of the goddesses. (See above re: I've seen your houses.) But when a Pagan teacher announces a fee for a course, there's generally a significant push-back, an almost unquestioned article of faith that there's just something "wrong" with charging for teaching.
Are there some charlatans who "are only in it for the money"? I guess so. Can a charismatic teacher overdo the demands for cash, services, etc.? Again, I guess so. But that doesn't make it any easier for someone to feed herself long enough to stay alive and finish the course if she can't charge for her services.
Feel free to educate me; maybe I'm missing something.
Meanwhile, subscribe to Green Egg, damn it. They need the cash.
My brilliant friend E and I both have birthdays in March and we try to get together for an annual birthday lunch at the Palm. This week, when we finally managed to get together, we were discussing how Bush simply has no experience, at the federal level, dealing with a co-equal branch of government. (When SCOTUS has told him "NO" (as, Goddess knows, they should have done in 2000) he and his lapdog Congress have simply ignored SCOTUS.)
Today, E calls my attention to Sid Blumenthal's very good article in Salon concerning the Bush administration's too-cute-by-half practice of doing their dirty work on non-governmental servers in an effort to prevent Americans from knowing what their government is doing. (I've trademarked the name for this scandal, E-Mailgate, and I predict that it, rather than torture or warrantless spying, is what will bring Bush down. It's a bit like getting Al Capone for tax evasion, but, at this point, I agree with Victor Anderson: "White magic is poetry; black magic is anything that actually works," and I've quit holding out for white magic. I just want Bush gone.) But it's the closing paragraph of Blumenthal's article that I think is most striking. He says:
For six years, Bush had a Republican Congress whipped into obedience -- and it provided him his only experience in legislative affairs. The rise of the Democratic Congress, reviving the powers of oversight and investigation, is a shock to his system. But he is not without an understanding of his changed circumstances. Bush sees the new Congress as the same beast that ensnared his father in fatal compromise and as a monstrous threat to the imperial presidency he has spent six years carefully building.
As the return of oversight suddenly exposes pervasive corruption throughout the executive branch, Bush struggles against Congress as though it were an alien force. Bush has no sense that the Framers, wary of the concentration of power in the executive, deliberately established the powers of the Congress in Article I of the Constitution and those of the president in Article II.
Today's NYT makes a similar point discussing Bush's reaction to the Democratic demand for a timetable in Iraq: Americans expect to see the disaster in Iraq brought to an early and responsible end.
President Bush’s reaction was instantaneous, familiar in its contempt for views that do not follow his in lockstep, and depressing in its lack of contact with reality. Mr. Bush threatened to veto the spending bill needed for this year’s military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan rather than accept language calling for most American combat troops to be withdrawn from Iraq sometime next year.
Earlier this week, as I blogged, the NYT discussed Bush's refusal to shut down Guantanamo and said: It was distressing to see that the president has retreated so far into his alternative reality. The NYT, as I noted, was a huge cheerleader for Bush's War in Iraq, so when they begin to call him out of touch with reality every couple of days, you know that he's in trouble.
What's funny is that, when he was first running for office, the spin was that Bush had done such a good job of working with Democrats in Texas, that he was a uniter, not a divider, yadda, yadda. Blumenthal seems to think that Bush came to the WH planning to overthrow the three-separate-but-coequal-branches model that our Founders put in place, but I have to wonder if it didn't happen as an emotional reaction to the fact that he's known all along that he wasn't legitimately elected. Either way, it will be quite something if our form of government is saved, in the end, by the fact that Karl Rove thought it was cute to use his RNC Blackberry rather than the WH computers.
And, since the Bush junta hasn't been using them, those computers better all have their "H" keys intact come January 20, 2009.
Why, yes, Monkey Boy, I do have your balls in a vice grip. And, no, I don't intend to let go. In fact, I think that I'm going to keep on squeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzing and sqeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzing and . . .
Hat Tip to Holden at Eschaton.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Finding a synchronicity with the current around us, we access an appropriate energy, which is more potent than if we were struggling against the tide. It's in the struggle that apathy kicks in.
* * *
"in some ways," I said to one woman, "Druidcraft might be described as the spirituality of the uninhibited child expressed through the mentality of the responsible adult. Its about finding the freedom to feel pure joy, which I believe is our essential state."
* * *
Perhaps the great difference between the two, the gods of nature and the gods of humanity, is that those of nature are definitely non-judgemental; not only do they not interact in that way, but they have no understanding of judgement.
~Druid Priestess: An Intimate Journer Through the Pagan Year by Emma Restall Orr.
The Wild Hunt has a good post about the growing (you should pardon the pun) issue of Pagan children. Most Pagans I know figure that their kids will make their own religious decisions. In so many ways, I think of our faith as an "adult" undertaking, but that's only because that's how it's generally been, at least for the last generation or three. How interesting it's going to be to watch second and third generation Pagans come of age. What a lovely new experiement.
Man, if Bush has lost the Saudis, it's all over but the shouting. First, Snarly Dick gets summoned to Saudi Arabia for a "talk" (aka ass-kicking) and now this. Those boys ain't dumb. They've now got lots of at least semi-sane world leaders to whom they can sell their oil.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
I like Patricia Knealley's take on the whole Katie Couric/Elizabeth Edwards dust-up. Her discussion of her friend who's fighting breast cancer and of how dumb it would be for the Edwardses to just go home and wait for Ms. Edwards to die reminded me of one of my favorite Saint Stories from my days in catholic school.
Some of the Sisters used to read us stories about the saints on their feast days and although there was a lot, even then, that I didn't love about catholocism, I loved the daily stories of the saints. (Yes, many of them were completely made up, but that didn't make them any less savory.) Anyway, one of my favorites was a story about St. Anthony who was once sitting around with his brother monks having a conversation and someone posed the question: "What would you do if you knew that you had only an hour left to live?" The questioner expected Saint Anthony to say that he'd go off and pray, go to confession, have communion, something like that. What Saint Anthony answered was that if he only had an hour left to live, he'd be sitting with his brother monks debating what to do if he only had an hour left to live. Since that's what he WAS doing, it must be what god wanted him to do and one should always want to do what god wanted one to do. We're ALL going to die sometime; there's no point sitting home and waiting for it.
Kenalley's discussion about her own ideas for dealing with a cancer diagnosis also reminded me of a point that the counselor that my oncologist required me to see made to me. You don't have to decide once and for all how you're going to deal with your cancer. You can deal with it in the way that makes sense right now and, later, when things change, you can change your mind about how you're going to deal with it. It's ok to say that for right now, you're going to fight like hell and to realize that a time may (or, may not) come when you decide to go gently and gracefully and with as much palliative care as possible into that goodnight.
Which, reminds me of the article I read shortly thereafter about a young man dying of AIDS whose friends kept urging him to fight, fight, fight and who finally told them, "Don't ask me to make an enemy of my own death."
Which reminds me of one of my very favorite Mary Oliver poems of all time.
When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it is over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.
I think that this article in today's WaPo does a good job of showing the problems that people who aren't Elizabeth Edwards run into trying to get basic breast care. As the article explains, when the author needed to find a good doctor for a second opinion, she didn't even know where to start looking: I turned to a high-powered lawyer acquaintance of mine whose breast cancer was diagnosed last year. She pointed me to a breast radiologist who was both clinically skilled and would treat me with dignity. High-powered lawyers don't tend to take unkindness or disrespect lying down. It's fantastic that Ms. Edwards has the money and connections to get what everyone assumes must be the best care available. And it's terrifying that, even with that care, her breast cancer spread to other spots in her body as quickly as it has. And that simply emphasizes the need for all women to get top notch breast care.
As the author in this piece says: This journey has really opened my eyes. Even with all my advantages, I still have had to fight for the health care I have been told is best for me.
The Right Friends
What if I were uneducated? What if I were poor? What if I grew up with more people who became firefighters or police officers or home health aides than doctors, so I had no doctor friend to call and explain things to me -- to tell me that lymph nodes don't migrate? What if I did not have health insurance or the money to pay for my own tests if the insurance did not cover them? What if I did not know that I could fight for the health care I believe is best for me?
It seems clear to me now why poor people are reported to die from treatable illnesses in higher numbers than those in the middle class. To navigate the health-care system, in addition to having health insurance, you need to know the players, you need to know your rights, you need to have good advice available to you from people who are both medically educated and interested in your well-being, you need to have money to pay your way, and you need to be willing and able to advocate for what you need.
I'll just add that the author sooo needs a new gynocologist. Anyone who would say what this doctor said about her patient's dream needs a different job. That dream would have me demanding third and fourth opinions.
Monday, March 26, 2007
Anne Johnson reminds me that Walt Whitman died on this date in 1892.
Of Abraham Lincoln's death, Whitman wrote:
My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.
He was something of a Mary Oliver, preferring to be out in nature rather than to talk about it:
WHEN I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
And, of course, he heard America singing:
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics--each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat--the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench--the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song--the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning,
or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother--or of the young wife at work--or of the girl sewing or washing--Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day--At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.
I believe that you cannot read Walt Whitman's poems and come away unchanged. Walt Whitman paid America the compliment of seeing the truth about her and loving her anyway. And he left us the llove poems to prove it.
I've avoided commenting on Elizabeth Edwards' heartbreaking reoccurrance of breast cancer; having had the disease myself, every story like hers stirs up my worst fears. I really liked Elizabeth Edwards during the entire Kerry/Edwards campaign; she seemed smart, down-to-earth, warm, real. I was pretty disappointed when she recently took a sexist potshot at Hillary Clinton and I called her on it. I haven't read her book, Saving Graces. I'm terribly sorry to hear about her reoccurrance and amazed at the strength and equanimity that she's showing in the face of it. I hate the notion that breast cancer survivors are supposed to be "examples," of anything, but given Ms. Edwards' place in the national spotlight, she's certainly in a position to do a world of good for breast cancer patients, many of whom still suffer from society's perception (and, sometimes, their own) that cancer=instant death.
I'm breaking my silence, though, because I think Digby's post concerning criticism of Ms. Edwards makes an incredibly important point. Digby says:
Now, I'm sure [the author of a hit piece on Ms. Edwards] will immediately tell us all that we should care about her shallow "diagnosis" because it illuminates some aspect of the Edwards' characters. That's always the first refuge of the scandalmonger caught in flagrante and trying to spin her way out of being seen as a voyeur. But nobody can know what really goes on inside somebody else's marriage. . . . Let's face it, analyzing other people's realtionships inevitably reveals more about you than them.
Back when the Clinton marriage was under the microscope for years on end, we were told by every tattler with a microphone that it was terribly important that we know all the dirty details of their lives because it allowed us to assess the president's ability to do his job. That was nonsense. Our current president has what appears to be a very stable, traditional marriage (which everyone treated as if it meant they'd been ordained by god himself) and it said absolutely nothing about his ability to run this country. The awful results of using that political "metric" are clear for all of us to see.
Digby's right. Some people with what almost anyone would call shitty marriages acquit themselves quite well in their careers and some people with what anyone would consider to be an exemplary marriage do a crappy job at work. Some people who aren't married are quite happy that way and find that it lets them focus more of their attention on a career that they love, while others believe that it's their supportive marriage that lets them do the best job that they can at work. Some people have long-term partnerships that aren't marriages and that seem to work for them. The one thing that all of these relationships have in common is that they're really no one else's business. I imagine that, generally, even the people in the relationship might give you different answers on different days if you could get an honest answer as to how they really feel about their relationships.
We've created this ridiculous fetish in America about some perfect nuclear family with a love-matched successful man and smiling supportive wife, their happy, well-adjusted 2.5 kids, and either a cat or a dog. That's not the model of family life portrayed in, for example, the xian's holy book, nor is it the model that's been prevalent over most of the world for most of the world's history. It's not a model that works for even lots of Americans and it's about time that we got over our fetishization of it. And, as Digby points out, it's an incredibly shitty way to decide who will make a good president.
George Washington is rumored to have married his wife, a then-widow, at least in large part for her money. Lincoln, perhaps America's greatest president, had what looks to have been a troubled marriage to a troubled woman. FDR was a pretty effective president and he had what, from the outside, at least, appears to have been a rather complicated marriage. Eisenhower may or may not have had an affair and Mamie may or may not have known about it. John Kennedy is considered to have been effective during his short time in office and we now know that he was a serious philanderer. Nixon was never accused of chasing other women and he was a disaster as a president. Gerry Ford, hardly counted as one of the greatest presidents, had the prototypical happy nuclear family, although his wife was later revealed to be a drug addict. Jimmy Carter, considered by many (not necessarily me) to have been a somewhat ineffective president, is still married to and actively involved in many causes with his wife Rossalyn, his admission to having committed adultery by lusting in his heart for other women notwithstanding. Reagan's family life was also, by all accounts, complicated; some of his children actively diskliked his wife Nancy. Bush I is reputed to have had a long-standing affair that hurt his wife. And then there was Bill Clinton, popular in the U.S. and abroad, father to a seemingly incredibly well-adjusted daughter, and, like Kennedy, a serial philanderer.
The point is that there seems to be little correlation between the overall "success" or "failure" of any given presidential marriage and the job that the president did. Which, when you think about it, really isn't that surprising, or wouldn't be, if Americans (and Americans do seem to be worse about this than, say, Europeans or South Americans) didn't make such a ridiculous big deal out of "family" and "family values."
We'd do well to get over it.
John Edwards isn't my first choice for the Democratic nominee, but that's more because I'd like to see a woman or an African American in office, after two hundred plus years of rich white men, than anything else. I like his message of populism. But his wife's health is a matter between him, Ms. Edwards, and her doctors. It's irrelevant to whether or not he should be the nominee or the president. Or, it would be in any rational world.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I'm going to try, on a frequent, although inconsistent, basis to post about the glories of cottage living. A hundred years ago, the bungalow was the new thing in America. There are glorious examples of the bungalow all over America. My little cottage, built in 1951, was surely at the tail end of the bungalow boom. Yet, at 1200 feet, not countng the basement and the screen porch, my little cottage is perfect for me and Miss Thing. In an age of McMansions, which, in my neighborhood, replace every cottage that goes for sale, we could do well to rethink some of the benefits of a bungalow.
I'm an older, single woman. I don't need a big place and I'm not going to have a family. (I have a family. It's wonderful. They have their own place.) When I got serious about buying a home, everyone I know advised me to buy a condo. But I wanted a bit of yard. Not a huge yard, but a small space where I could plant some seeds, sit outside in the mornings and evenings, have a lasting, regular relationship with a few old trees. Someplace to grow herbs. To stand barefoot. And, in Northern Virginia, at least, they don't make places like that anymore. They make three- or four-story townhouses (for old people to climb up and down staris in), but they have no yards. And, they make condos, with balconies, but no yards. And, they make McMansions (with no yards because they build the goddamn ugly things up to the very property lines). So, in the end, after a lot of angst, I bought my cottage.
There's a small living room, a nook that serves as dining room, a pretty-decent-sized kitchen, a bathroom, a guest room, a ritual room, and my bedroom. And, a larger front yard than I'd like and a back yard that, for all its other present faults, is just about the perfect size. And old, old oak trees. A vertiable oak grove. Squirrel heaven. And a fox. And chipmunks. Cardinals and jays and crows and sparrows and noisy doves. A woodpecker. Rabbits (the motherfuckers).
My heating, electric, and cleaning bills are small. Miss Thing and I have plenty of space and a motivation to keep the clutter (and its aquisition) to a minimum. I regularly have guests and they sleep on real beds in a real guest room. I entertain several times a month. I have a room set aside for ritual, worship, meditation, my esoteric library. And I have what the author of A Secret Garden, perhaps my very favorite childhood book, called "a bit of earth."
GWPDA sent me this link to a LAT story about a cottage in Pasadena that has had me committing the sin of envy alll day long. Check out the slides. A cottage with a separate small building for a library. Where the owner has dinner parties. ~Sigh~ If it weren't for my family and my coven on this coast, and for the danger of earthquakes on the west coast, Pasadena would be my first choice for another place to live. I am not going to murder the cottage owner in her sleep for her Milton tiles or for her fireplace lions. I might want to, but I won't.
How much space do YOU really need? How much space do you pay for that stores useless stuff? What would you do with space if you could start fresh?
Some go in straightforward ways,
Some in a circle roam:
One waits for a girl of his earlier days,
Or waits for returning home.
But I do go -- and woe is there --
By a way not straight, nor broad,
But into never and nowhere,
Like trains -- off the railroad.
Art found here.
Finally, a warm sunny afternoon ON THE WEEKEND! I got out into the woodland garden and planted Viola cornuta, black violas. Alchemy Seedworks, which sold me the seeds, says that that: This fragrant black viola is perinnial in zones 4-9. It enjoys growing around larger plants, in woodlands, or in pots. It is associated with death and resurrection through the myth of Attis, ancient Turkish god of vegetation. and through its connection with the always dying and resurrecting Persephone, who was picking these flowers when Hades kidnapped here & took her to the Underworld."
Also planted two of the three Arisaema griffithii that arrived this week. One bulb looked good, one looked iffy, and the third bulb really does look dead; I'm going to ask them for a better one.
The NYT, after years of cheerleading and enabling the Bush junta, finally stumbles over its conscience, picks it up, dusts it off, holds it up to the light, and goes, "Oh, yeah. I remember now. This used to be America."
George Bush does not want to be rescued.
The president has been told countless times, by a secretary of state, by members of Congress, by heads of friendly governments — and by the American public — that the Guantánamo Bay detention camp has profoundly damaged this nation’s credibility as a champion of justice and human rights. But Mr. Bush ignored those voices — and now it seems he has done the same to his new defense secretary, Robert Gates, the man Mr. Bush brought in to clean up Donald Rumsfeld’s mess.
Thom Shanker and David Sanger reported in Friday’s Times that in his first weeks on the job, Mr. Gates told Mr. Bush that the world would never consider trials at Guantánamo to be legitimate. He said that the camp should be shut, and that inmates who should stand trial should be brought to the United States and taken to real military courts.
Mr. Bush rejected that sound advice, heeding instead the chief enablers of his worst instincts, Vice President Dick Cheney and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Their opposition was no surprise. The Guantánamo operation was central to Mr. Cheney’s drive to expand the powers of the presidency at the expense of Congress and the courts, and Mr. Gonzales was one of the chief architects of the policies underpinning the detainee system. Mr. Bush and his inner circle are clearly afraid that if Guantánamo detainees are tried under the actual rule of law, many of the cases will collapse because they are based on illegal detention, torture and abuse — or that American officials could someday be held criminally liable for their mistreatment of detainees. [That's exactly right. American officials, coughBush,Cheney,Rumsfeldcough ought to be held criminally liable for, inter alia their torture of illegally-held detainees. No one -- NO ONE -- is above the law. And it's far more important for presidents to know that than it is for some petty street criminal or some kid selling pot.]
It was distressing to see that the president has retreated so far into his alternative reality that he would not listen to Mr. Gates — even when he was backed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who, like her predecessor, Colin Powell, had urged Mr. Bush to close Guantánamo. It seems clear that when he brought in Mr. Gates, Mr. Bush didn’t want to fix Mr. Rumsfeld’s disaster; he just wanted everyone to stop talking about it.
If Mr. Bush would not listen to reason from inside his cabinet, he might at least listen to what Americans are telling him about the damage to this country’s credibility, and its cost. When Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — for all appearances a truly evil and dangerous man — confessed to a long list of heinous crimes, including planning the 9/11 attacks, many Americans reacted with skepticism and even derision. The confession became the butt of editorial cartoons, like one that showed the prisoner confessing to betting on the Cincinnati Reds, and fodder for the late-night comedians.
What stood out the most from the transcript of Mr. Mohammed’s hearing at Guantánamo Bay was how the military detention and court system has been debased for terrorist suspects. The hearing was a combatant status review tribunal — a process that is supposed to determine whether a prisoner is an illegal enemy combatant and thus not entitled in Mr. Bush’s world to rudimentary legal rights. But the tribunals are kangaroo courts, admitting evidence that was coerced or obtained through abuse or outright torture. They are intended to confirm a decision that was already made, and to feed detainees into the military commissions created by Congress last year.
The omissions from the record of Mr. Mohammed’s hearing were chilling. The United States government deleted his claims to have been tortured during years of illegal detention at camps run by the Central Intelligence Agency. Government officials who are opposed to the administration’s lawless policy on prisoners have said in numerous news reports that Mr. Mohammed was indeed tortured, including through waterboarding, which simulates drowning and violates every civilized standard of behavior toward a prisoner, even one as awful as this one. And he is hardly the only prisoner who has made claims of abuse and torture. Some were released after it was proved that they never had any connection at all to terrorism.
Still, the Bush administration says no prisoner should be allowed to take torture claims to court, including the innocents who were tortured and released. The administration’s argument is that how prisoners are treated is a state secret and cannot be discussed openly. If that sounds nonsensical, it is. It’s also not the real reason behind the administration’s denying these prisoners the most basic rights of due process.
The Bush administration has so badly subverted American norms of justice in handling these cases that they would not stand up to scrutiny in a real court of law. It is a clear case of justice denied.
Maybe this is too obvious to say, and yet, I think that it needs to be said:
The Bush junta is pure evil. These people torture, they spy on Americans without any cause, much less due cause. They sat back and allowed a lovely, unique American city to be destroyed and left its inhabitants to float, dead and bloated, for weeks. They sent billions of dollars -- money collected from middle-class American taxpayers who can't get health care or afford to send their kids to college -- over to Iraq ON PALLETS and then "lost" the money. Literally. Just don't know what happened to it coughCheney'sSwissaccountcough. They've "outsourced" every government function possible, allowing Haliburton to provide our soldiers with everything from substandard medical care at Walter Reed to contaminated water in Iraq. They've de-regulated every industry that our ancestors realized needed to be regulated, including services as essential as the provision of electricity and food inspection. They've brought in industry lobbyists and jejune true-believers and allowed them to control, undermine, and re-write the works of experienced government scientists. They've told the scientists not to speak to the press and, when those scientists persisted in telling the truth, they've intimidated and persecuted them via their evil Congressional minions. They've pissed all over and tried to erase the separation of church and state that our Founders considered so important, giving the tax dollars of those same middle-class Americans to whackjob fundies so that they could promote their monotheistic, patriarchal hatred of life and sex -- often in America's public schools. They've made the richest one percent of Americans much, much richer and have made many Americans much poorer than when the junta seized power.
This is a small, partial, incomplete list.
And I just need to say this: Everyone who enabled this junta is to blame. The Supreme Court, which ordered Florida to STOP COUNTING AMERICANS' VOTES and installed this evil junta is to blame. Diebold is to blame. Fox News is to blame. The oil industry is to blame. The MSM, which cheered the illegal and immoral Iraq War is to blame. NYT, I'm looking at you. Americans so fucking stupid and gullible and shit-their-pants scared of a few Saudi fanatics that they actually voted for George Bush and Congressional Republicans are to blame. Evangelical xians and the catholic church are to blame. (Culture of Life my sweet, round ass. Culture of death and torture, more like. Well, big surprise. Check out your most prevalent religious symbol.) And, I'm to blame. I didn't riot when SCOTUS declared that Americans would no longer be allowed to select their leaders by voting for them. I didn't riot when the junta initiated "faith-based funding." I still pay taxes. I still drive on the right side of the road and pay the fine when my library books are overdue. I keep trying to go on living as if I weren't in the middle of a nightmare; yet I know that denying reality never works in the long run.
This junta has got to be stopped. Anyone who doesn't think that they can do much, much worse damage than they've already done, who believes that they'll just run out the clock without unleashing even more evil on the world is wrong. Wrong. Wrong and to blame for what follows.