Monthly Archives: June 2004

Resource Papers

Kathy at Random Thoughts has resource section she calls ‘Torture Inc.’ with links to a lot of the basic documents and pivotal reporting on Abu Ghraib, including photos and videos, the chain of command, Seymour Hersh articles, the Gonzales memo, and a bunch more.

She has just added a raft of new documents.

2002 02/02 State Dept Memo to White House: This is a memo from the State Department’s legal advisor, William Taft, to the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzalez. Taft warns that rejecting the applicability of the Geneva Conventions creates several problems, including the elimination of protection for our troops in the event that they are captures….2002 02/07 Directive from Bush on Detainee Treatment: Memo stating that new war on terrorism requires new thinking in the law of war, but thinking that should be consistent with the principles of the Geneva Conventions. The directive states that Bush accepts the DOJ conclusion that the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to al Qaeda, that he has the constitutional authority to suspend the Conventions in reference to the Taliban but declines to do so at this time, and that nevertheless the Conventions don’t apply to the Taliban because per the DOJ and DOD they are illegal combatants….

2002 12/02 DOD Memo on Afghanistan Detainees: In reference to Gitmo Bay detainees. A memo from DOD general counsel William Haynes to Rumsfeld on “counter-resistance techniques”….

What she’s done is provide a major ‘repository’ where critical information on the torture at AG and the investigations that followed can live in the same place so you don’t have to go chasing all over the net to find stuff. As the trials get closer and the trails lead further up the chain of command, this is going to be the place to go to keep it all straight.

Check it out, then bookmark it–you’re going to need it.

BA Clears Scientists for Correct Political Views

The Bush Administration has taken yet another step toward politicizing science. Tommy Thompson, SecHHS, has just ordered that any Admin scientist who has dealings with the World Health Organization, even if it just involves going to a meeting, has to be cleared and approved by ‘a senior political appointee’ before they’ll be allowed to go.

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has ordered that government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they can participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization, the leading international health and science agency.A top official from the Health and Human Services Department in April asked the WHO to begin routing requests for participation in its meetings to the department’s secretary for review, rather than directly invite individual scientists, as has long been the case.

Officials at the WHO, based in Geneva, Switzerland, have refused to implement the request thus far, saying it could compromise the independence of international scientific deliberations. Denis G. Aitken, WHO assistant director-general, said Friday that he had been negotiating with Washington in an effort to reach a compromise.

The request is the latest instance in which the Bush administration has been accused of allowing politics to intrude into once-sacrosanct areas of scientific deliberation. It has been criticized for replacing highly regarded scientists with industry and political allies on advisory panels. A biologist who was at odds with the administration’s position on stem-cell research was dismissed from a presidential advisory commission. This year, 60 prominent scientists accused the administration of “misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes.”

As we all must understand by now, science is largely political in nature. There’s no such thing as ‘scientific fact’, only scientific theory, and scientific theory is a matter of opinion and belief.

If Republicans Had Been Around in 1492

Tom DeLay: “The world isn’t round. It’s flat and all the pictures supposedly taken ‘from space’ that show round astral bodies are clearly fake and the traitorous liberal astronomers who forged them should be sent to the guillotine.”

Denny Hastert: “I’ve checked our records and I’d put them up against the records of partisan liberal space monkeys any day: the world is clearly flat. It’s obvious–all you have to do is look out the window.”

Donald Rumsfeld: “Is the earth flat? Of course it is. Is there is overwhelming evidence that proves the world is flat? You bet there is, but I can’t show it to you because it’s classified.”

Dick Cheney: “What do you mean the world isn’t flat? Fuck you. And my colleagues will agree with me that it’s about time somebody said it.”

Condi Rice: “Darling Georgie-Porgie…um, President Bush says the world is flat. That’s all the proof I need.”

Ann Coulter, Andy Sullivan, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Reynolds, the National Review, the Wall Street Journal, FOXNews, and the rest of the radical GOP’s Mighty Wurlitzer: “In a time of war we have to support our leaders in their fight against pernicious scientific falsehoods that endanger our safety and threaten our freedom. If you say the world is round, then you hate America, you hate the flag, and you support round-earth terrorists like Columbus.”

George W Bush: “Who cares what you think?”

The NYT Editorial Board on the Cheney Decision

They’re disappointed.

In its ruling yesterday, the court — with Justice Scalia in the seven-member majority — sent the case back to a lower court, instructing it to give greater consideration to Mr. Cheney’s separation-of-powers argument. Although the decision does not resolve the dispute, it makes it more likely that the task force records will remain secret. Even if they eventually become public, they are not likely to do so before this year’s election.The court is right that inquiries aimed at the executive branch must meet a higher standard, but its ruling leans too much toward secrecy. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg notes in a dissent, Mr. Cheney could have asked the trial court to narrow the questions it allowed. Instead, he challenged its ability to elicit any information at all.

When Congress passed the Federal Advisory Committee Act, it wanted the public to be able to monitor the influences exerted on government policy makers. The court’s decision is likely to frustrate that important goal.

Relax guys. As soon as a Democratic Pres or Veep tries to use the same arguments, the Scalia majority will be all in favor of openness again, just as they were when Clinton used them over the Health Task Force.

This is the most politicized SCOTUS we’ve had in a hundred years and it’s a mistake to treat any decision they make that involves this Admin as if it were objective or judicial.

NYT Swallows Iraq/bin Laden ‘Document’ Whole

As if determined to prove that their status as the media’s premier wide-eyed gulls has been entirely unaffected by their recent ‘apology’, the NY Times printed a report today on a supposed connection between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda that’s exactly as trustworthy as Judith Miller’s propaganda riffs before the war because it comes from the same source: our old friend, Ahmad Chalabi.

WASHINGTON, June 24 — Contacts between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden when he was in Sudan in the mid-1990’s were part of a broad effort by Baghdad to work with organizations opposing the Saudi ruling family, according to a newly disclosed document obtained by the Americans in Iraq.

That’s the first problem: it wasn’t ‘obtained’ by the US; as the article admits later, it was handed to us on a silver platter.

The Americans confirmed that they had obtained the document from the Iraqi National Congress, as part of a trove that the group gathered after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government last year. The Defense Intelligence Agency paid the Iraqi National Congress for documents and other information until recently, when the group and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, fell out of favor in Washington.

This is the second problem: he didn’t ‘fall’ out of favor; he was pushed. Rudely. Over charges that his ‘closest aides’ were corrupt and had been falsifying information. Gives you a lot of confidence in this ‘document’, doesn’t it? The Times does manage to note in passing, later on, that the INC doesn’t have the most wonderful reputation for credibility in the known universe–

Some of the intelligence provided by the group is now wholly discredited, although officials have called some of the documents it helped to obtain useful.

Well, thanks for the bone, guys. But this statement is, of course, then followed by this:

A translation of the new Iraqi document was reviewed by a Pentagon working group in the spring, officials said. It included senior analysts from the military’s Joint Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency and a joint intelligence task force that specialized in counterterrorism issues, they said.The task force concluded that the document “appeared authentic,” and that it “corroborates and expands on previous reporting” about contacts between Iraqi intelligence and Mr. bin Laden in Sudan, according to the task force’s analysis.

‘Appeared’ to be authentic? A small reminder to our ‘intelligence’ forces: Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted embezzler now know to have fabricated most of the documents he handed off before the war to Doug Feith and his intrepid band of stone-ignorant innocents in order to justify his insistence that the US was in ‘imminent danger’ from Saddam, has had these Iraqi Secret Police files for more than a year–files we gave him–which is more than enough time to make a document ‘appear authentic’.

That these blockheads are giving credence to anything that comes from Chalabi at this point is beyond belief. That the NYT is printing it with a straight face proves only one thing: NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The Times is still sucking the Administration’s tit, and the Administration is still sucking Ahmad’s. He tosses the bait our way and we grab it because–Chalabi’s perrenial MO–it fits the lies the Admninistration has been telling for months. Lo! and a document shall appear from below to smite the unbelievers (of course, we may just have to forge it, but what the hell? When you decide to believe something, you believe it no matter how little sense it makes).

Even if this ‘evidence’ turns out to be genuine, what does it actually say? That Iraqi intelligence was listening to bin Laden’s proposal (Iraqi intelligence, mind, not Saddam himself, who may not even have known about the overtures since they were the work of a single intelligence officer known to have his…differences…with Hussein) and we already know that. We also already know that these tentative explorations went nowhere. We have known it for months. So how does this qualify as ‘news’?

In only one way: it seems to back up the Admin’s position and anything that does that is ‘news’ as far as the NYT is concerned, which then, after token doubt has been cast and rejected, goes into a lengthy description of what the ‘document’ purports to substantiate. Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go, and mind you don’t trip over the wizard’s curtain.

This would be funny if it wasn’t so disgusting.

RNC Puppet Charges Moore 9/11 Ads Illegal–Uh huh

In a blast of hypocritical irony–or ironic hypocrisy–A Republican National Committee surrogate known as ‘Citizens United’, a hypocritical irony of its own, has filed a complaint with the FEC (Federal Elections Commission) claiming that the ads for Moore’s film, Fahrenheit 9/11, violate campaign laws because–and I’ve been laughing so hard I can hardly type this–they use Junior’s voice and show his face. That, they claim, makes the ads ‘political’.

Right.

“My goal is to have Michael Moore’s advertisements, as they are, taken off the air,” said David N. Bossie, president of Citizens United. “If he changes his advertising … if he takes the president’s likeness off the ads, then he can run the ads until he’s blue in the face.”But Bossie faces an uphill battle. For one thing, the FEC normally takes months to process complaints. For another, it appears highly unlikely that the bipartisan six-member panel would rule against Moore, an Oscar-winning producer.

Moore issued a statement Thursday indicating he wasn’t concerned about Bossie’s complaint. “I am deeply concerned about whether or not the FEC will think I paid Citizens United to raise these issues regarding ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ ” he said. “How else can you explain the millions of dollars of free publicity this right-wing group has given the movie? I plan on sending them a nice holiday card this year.”

So what has their dry, brittle panties twisted in knots? Simple: Moore has put on-screen all the evidence of Bush’s incompetence, mismanagement, lies, cowardice, stupidity and cronyism that the mainstream media has been ignoring since Junior announced his candidacy and Texan Molly Ivins started trying to tell us what we were in for if we elected this chump. Turns out it–literally–isn’t a pretty picture.

Although Moore’s narration ranges from outrage to sarcasm, the most devastating passage in the film speaks for itself. That’s when Bush, who was reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of Florida children, is notified of the second attack on the World Trade Center, and yet lingers with the kids for almost seven minutes before finally leaving the room. His inexplicable paralysis wasn’t underlined in news reports at the time, and only Moore thought to contact the teacher in that schoolroom — who, as it turned out, had made her own video of the visit. The expression on Bush’s face as he sits there is odd indeed.Bush, here and elsewhere in the film, is characterized as a man who owes a lot to his friends, including those who helped bail him out of business ventures. Moore places particular emphasis on what he sees as a long-term friendship between the Bush family (including both presidents) and powerful Saudi Arabians. More than $1.4 billion in Saudi money has flowed into the coffers of Bush family enterprises, he says, and after 9/11 the White House helped expedite flights out of the country carrying, among others, members of the bin Laden family (which disowns its most famous member).

Moore examines the military records released by Bush to explain his disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard, and finds that the name of another pilot has been blacked out. This pilot, he learns, was Bush’s close friend James R. Bath, who became Texas money manager for the billionaire bin Ladens. Another indication of the closeness of the Bushes and the Saudis: The law firm of James Baker, the secretary of State for Bush’s father, was hired by the Saudis to defend them against a suit by a group of 9/11 victims and survivors, who charged that the Saudis had financed al-Qaida.

Oops.

Moore–who learned his lesson when he was raked over the coals for inaccuracies in Bowling for Columbine–has warned that he has evidence for every single charge he has made and that if the right-wing’s Mighty Wurlitzer goes into attack mode on his film, he will fight back–with facts.

In a way, I hope they do. Ebert writes in his review, ‘The charges in the film will not come as news to those who pay attention to politics’, but that number is, of course, a fraction of the number of people who will see the film. Most of its eventual audience will be getting exposed to this material for the first time thanks to our boot-licking corporate media; show trials they would be forced to cover because of their high profile would open the material up to millions more who haven’t seen the film. And that could do for Bush’s actual record as President what Moore’s casual ‘deserter’ joke did for his military record: open it to wide scrutiny for the first time.

If this travesty of a ‘president’ is finally humiliated in November, we could have Michael Moore to thank for our release.

‘Who’ll be the first to write a check for a $$MILLION$$$?’

(Via Island Dave)

Thank George!

Phaedrus has a new song up at his Fat Poppa site. It’s called ‘Thank George!’ and it’s a honey. Not only is the song great social commentary in the tradition of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan but his voice and harp-playing are right on the money, sort of like if Tom Waits was channeling Little Walter.

He posted the lyrics here if you want to read them, but I’d suggest using your ears before you use your eyes. This guy’s good and getting better all the time.

US Holds Itself ‘Not Responsible’

Viceroy Bremer will soon be signing an order that says US military, officials, and civilian contractors are ‘immune from prosecution’ for crimes they may have committed in Iraq while ‘acting on behalf of their parent states.’

U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer is expected to extend Order 17 as one of his last acts before shutting down the occupation next week, U.S. officials said. The order is expected to last an additional six or seven months, until the first national elections are held.The United States would draw legal authority from Iraq’s Transitional Administrative Law and the recent U.N. resolution recognizing the new government and approving a multinational force, but some U.S. officials and countries in the multinational force still want greater reassurances on immunity, U.S. officials said.

Bush’s top foreign policy advisers, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, are still debating the scope of immunity to be granted. “The debate is on the extent or parameters of coverage — should it be sweeping, as it is now, or more limited,” said a senior U.S. official familiar with discussions, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue.

‘Sensitivity’, that’s a good one. But of course, Bush didn’t order torture, so presumably that won’t be covered by Order 17, right? For some reason, I doubt the defense attorneys are going to see it that way…

Pelosi’s ‘Bill of Rights’

The Roman Senate had nothing on our House of Representatives when it comes to quashing minority opinion. The Publican majority has, to all intents and purposes, treated the Democrats as if they didn’t exist. They’ve gone as far as locking them out of debates by declaring their concerns ‘irrelevant’, they’ve shut them down in committees, shut them off on the House floor, and held conference committees without notifying them. Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert have been treating the House like their own private kingdom, changing the rules whenever it suited them and passing huge bills without bothering with opposition consultation. They routinely kill Democratic amendments without debate or even a hearing, and it has reached the point where a Democrat has to fight even to be recognized to speak.

Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, has begun to fight back, issuing what she called a ‘Bill of Rights’ for the minority party.

House Democrats’ anger at heavy-handed Republican tactics reached a new level yesterday, with the chamber’s top Democrat asking the House speaker to embrace a “Bill of Rights” for the minority, regardless which party it is.In keeping with the general atmosphere of the House these days, aides to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said he will not respond to the two-page proposal from Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).


Pelosi’s document, which she vows to honor if Democrats regain the majority, says: “Too often, incivility and the heavy hand of the majority” have silenced Democrats and choked off “thoughtful debate.” She called on the majority to let the minority offer meaningful amendments and substitutes to important bills; to limit roll-call votes to the normal 15 minutes rather than keeping them open to round up needed votes; and to let all appointees to House-Senate conference committees participate in meetings and decisions.”When we are shut out, they are shutting out the great diversity of America,” Pelosi said in an interview. “We want a return to civility; we want to set a higher standard.”

Not a lot to ask, you might think, and less than the Democrats allowed the Pubs when the Dems were in the majority–for 50 years. But Hastert denies that. In a breath-taking bit of historical revisionism, he said, ‘I have looked at our record over the years…I will hold up our record any day.’ Then he hasn’t looked at it.

In their decades in the majority, Democrats consulted with Republicans regularly, allowed their amendments to be heard, never even tried to shut them out of debates or shut them up in committees, and often compromised with them–sometimes to the point of allowing Republican stealth amendments to make bills all but meaningless, as they did in the 70’s and 80’s when Republican amendments set the eligibility requirements for food stamps, Section 8 housing, fuel assistance and Medicaid for children so low that tens of thousands of the poor were refused help. It was Republican amendments that made the welfare rules and regulations so complicated and contradictory that nobody even knew how to fill out the application forms. And that’s just one area where the Pubs made their presence felt; they played much the same game in international relations, environmental law, economic policy, you name it. For them to be claiming now that none of that happened and that they’re giving the Dems more than they got isn’t just absurd, it’s obscene.

Pelosi’s gesture is remarkably generous–she’s offering them protection when the Democrats come back into the majority, an event that seems more and more likely with each passing day. For them to throw her offer back in her face and and spit on it is an act of supreme arrogance that is bound to anger a lot of Dems.

Payback is a bitch, Denny.

If TV Got Religion….

by Rob Kutner of The Daily Show, based on a Reuters article that said the success of Gibson’s Passion had broadcasters working on a religious line-up.

CSI: HOLY LAND (CBS) Liked “The Passion” but didn’t think it dwelled on the forensics enough? The trail to Damascus is still warm for these detectives, investigating unsolved martyrdoms as to whether they qualify the victim for sainthood. Not so much a whodunit as a who-gets-beatified-for-it.CHASTITY & SLOTH (ABC) One regards the body as a sacred temple of the divine. The other lies idle, reaping not the fruits of human industry. And now they’re . . . roommates?

GODVILLE (WB) Moses begging Pharaoh to let him use the chariot. Samson being ordered to cut his hair and get a job. Jesus sulking over having to do “another stupid healing.” It’s all your favorite Biblical figures — back when they were still teens.

SHARE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO) Larry David becomes a born-again Christian, then goes around annoying people in an entirely new way.

If you think this is far-fetched, you don’t know the industry…

Offered Without Comment 2

From today’s WaPo:

More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be “reborn as new persons.”At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon’s head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was “sent to Earth . . . to save the world’s six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity’s Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent.”

Details of the ceremony — first reported by Salon.com writer John Gorenfeld — have prompted several lawmakers to say they were misled or duped by organizers. Their complaints prompted a Moon-affiliated Web site to remove a video of the “Crown of Peace” ceremony two days ago, but other Web sites have preserved details and photos.

Moon, 85, has been controversial for years. Renowned for officiating at mass weddings, he received an 18-month prison sentence in 1982 for tax fraud and conspiracy to obstruct justice. In a 1997 sermon, he likened homosexuals to “dirty dung-eating dogs.”

Among the more than 300 people who attended all or part of the March ceremony was Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.), who now says he simply was honoring a constituent receiving a peace award and did not know Moon would be there. “We fell victim to it; we were duped,” Dayton spokeswoman Chris Lisi said yesterday.

Other lawmakers who attended or were listed as hosts felt the same, she said. “Everyone I talked to was furious,” she said. With Minnesotans demanding to know whether Dayton is a follower of Moon, Lisi said, the senator persuaded the St. Paul Pioneer Press to write an article allowing him to reply.

Because We Say So

Mark Morford on the New Bush Doctrine:

And lo, “Because I said so” spreads like an ugly rash through BushCo’s increasingly teetering, imploding administration, as they desperately cling to any tattered shreds of whatever the hell it was that they claimed was the original reason that they shoved this nation into an economic tailspin and launched us into a brutal, violent, unwinnable war that, by most every measure, we’ve already lost.Why continue this hideous, bloody invasion that is failing on every front? Because we said so. Why continue gouging the economy like pigs in a trough? Because we said so. How can raping the Clean Air Act and increasing logging in national parks and rolling back 30 years of environmental progress and dissing the Kyoto treaty and molesting the planet in the name of massaging the testicles of your corporate cronies in Big Oil and Big Industry possibly be healthy for the planet? Because we said so.

How can hacking away at women’s rights and endorsing homophobia in any way progress the evolution of the battered human soul? Because we said so. How can banning stem-cell research possibly be anything but a nasty and ridiculous and harmful decision that only strokes the bloody Bible of your wildly ignorant right-wing Christian voting bloc? You guessed it — because we said so.

America is still on track and headed in the right direction despite all violent, ugly, soulless proofs to the contrary? Because we said so. Why do I, Geedubya, lie my Texas a– off and say I never really met that Ahmed Chalabi guy and barely know who the hell he is, even though I had personal meetings with him and loved him like a drunk frat brother and championed him as the great swarthy hope for Iraq for like, a solid year? Because I said so.

And now please shut the hell up and quit shoving all those innocent dead Iraqi women and babies and all those disgusting pictures of U.S.-approved rapes and sodomizations and murders and tortures from Abu Ghraib in my face, OK? After all, those pictures don’t even really exist. Why? Simple: Because I said they don’t.

It is the new Bush doctrine. Screw proof. Screw validation. Screw the U.N. and screw Europe and screw your damn 9/11 commission and screw every hunk of lingering logic and humanitarian reasoning on the planet and screw, finally, the notion that we need to justify our actions to anyone, least of all the dumba– American public, you who’ve swallowed every lie so far like Jenna swallows her 10th Coors Light.

Because I said so. It is the final comeback line. It is the only line that still holds, given how we have been awash in so many outright lies and fabrications and bogus Orange Alerts and flagrant misprisions it would make Richard Nixon cheer. It is the last twitch of Dick Cheney’s political sneer, the darkening blackness in Rummy’s eyes, the last spasm of Condi Rice’s comatose credibility, the only pathetic shield BushCo has left.

While Morford correctly identifies this line as the bane of many childhoods (how often did your parents say it to you when they didn’t want to argue with you any more?), what he doesn’t say is why we disliked it so:

It is a statement of raw, naked power. It is a statement of ‘I hold all the cards and you have nothing to say about it.’ It is the statement of the man who holds the gun, the woman who has the badge, the people who surround your house in the dead of night with torches and a rope. It is the voice of unchecked authority and while children need that kind of authority to feel safe, it is a profoundly anti-democratic thing to say to the adults of an entire country.

It is the sort of things dictators and emperors say, Papa Joe said it all the time, so did Pinochet, so did Franco. They called their people ‘my children’ and treated them like errant 5-yr-olds who didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain and had to have every decision made for them. It is the statement of arrogant leaders who believe govt should rule the lives of the people, not the other way around. It is the statement of people who think the Constitution was a mistake, that it allows the inmates to run the asylum and it needs to be…modified by those who deserve to rule.

It is autocratic, aristocratic, the voice of the heirs of King George III taking their revenge on our saucy revolt, and nobody who talks like this should be allowed to rule a supposedly free people.

Maine Line

OK OK, so I’m not the most organized guy in the world, so sue me. But at least I saved the best for last.

And I did, too. I stumbled across this blog last week sometime when I was looking for the old Maine Progressive Worker’s Party (don’t ask) and was immediately hooked. Maine Line (I know, bad title) is brand new–only a couple of weeks old–and written by a guy in north-central Maine named Emmett who says it’s a summer project for his creative writing class. It’s a public blog, though, either because he didn’t know how to make it private or because he didn’t give a damn if it was or not. I’m guessing the latter because that’s what kind of guy he is.

Emmett is in his 30’s and just decided to go back to school (an inheritance made it possible).

See, Aunt Flo allowed for 5 years to get my degree (she knew how slow I am, she used to say, “Emmett–” that’s my name– “Emmett, you got a mouth like a rusty gate hinge, always swingin’ back and forth, back and forth, despite all efforts to keep it shut, but for all the yappin’ you do, you ain’t got a helluva lot to say that’s worth stayin’ awake long enough to hear it. You got a underdeveloped mind, boy, like a green tomato, and while green tomatoes is good for cannin’ piccalilli, it’s useless on a growed man.” She talked like that, my Aunt Flo did, and I’m not saying she was wrong. She was a smart old fart, my Aunt Flo)….

In true Maine style, since the inheritance allowed $15K/yr for school tuition, he signed up with an online university (he doesn’t say which one) for $5K/yr and he’s living off the rest as a sort of semi-permanent paid vacation, though it seems he has to buy books for his classes. Here he is on re-reading The Great Gatsby for his English class.

I had to read The Great Gatsby in school and I thought that had to be just about one of the dumbest books I ever read in my life, and what was the big deal with the damn lamp on the dock? Hell, every dock has some kinda light because otherwise you’ll smack your boat right into the damn thing at night because you can’t see what you’re doing. I was kinda literal when I was in high school, I guess, like them people in church who think Jonah actually got swallowed by a whale and lived to tell about it. I’ve seen whales, brother, up close, and if that ain’t the grandaddy of all fish stories, I don’t know what is. You go down a whale’s gullet, you’re gonna last about long enough to think, “Damn, I’m in a whale’s gullet,” and that’ll be it for you, pal. But this time, I don’t know, it made more sense to me. Like the light meant more than it was just a light. Something. I wasn’t sure what but it seemed like that light stood in for everything he ever wanted, everything he ever dreamed about when he was hustling the streets for the mooch to buy his way into “society”. I know about that dream, we all have it when we’re young, and the poorer you are the bigger that dream gets.

The whole blog is like that, a mix of intentional–and unintentional–jokes and the first stirrings of legitimate thought. He explains why he took up his aunt’s offer this way:

[A] few years ago when we had the funeral for Mike Bonin when that oak shivereed right up the middle and fell on him before he knew what hit him, I said to myself then, “Emmett, you’re not going out that way. Better crushed like a bug by a semi on the state highway or drowned in a river like a bagful of cats than to have some damn tree land on top of you and smash your skull like a watermelon or have some damn saw go apeshit and whack both of your legs off at the knee.” I said that to myself and I meant it. You would too if you seen what that damn tree did to Mike. Brains look like a sort of sick gray jelly when they get spread all over a hillside, gray jelly splattered with red sauce. Did you know that? No sir, don’t wanna go that way. I got plans, and living past my 40th birthday (which ain’t that far off, now I come to think of it) is a big part of them.

So he’s struggling, like a lot of us, to escape the life he was born into by taking a chance on something better. In the meantime, under instructions from his writing teacher, he writes discursively about his life and the people around him and the town he lives in.

# On a newcomer’s disastrous encolunter with a bear:

Peter went to dancing around and waving his arms and yelling, “Shoo! Shoo!” in this really high voice like a girl (which for some reason he thought would be more terrifying to the bear than his usual voice which is kind of squeaky and cracks like a thunderbolt every once in a while; I told him, “No, Pete, you should have stuck with your regular voice,” but he didn’t think that was funny), that bear just sort of cocked its head at him and narrowed its eyes and if I’d been there I would have known what it was thinking, it was thinking, “It’s true I just had breakfast but at some point I’m gonna be wanting lunch.”


Sometimes I think they oughta make people like Pete take a test before they let them live someplace like Wilbur. Seems like the least they could do.

# On the time the Postmistress lost the mail:

[I]t was three weeks before them circulars got delivered, by which time the sales they advertised was over and Amy had to listen to a lot of bellyaching from people who were sore that they missed getting their permanent waves at 12% off. Mrs. Pinkerman wanted Amy to pay her the difference right out of her own pocket but Amy says it was a “act of god” that she lost that key and she didn’t consider herself financially responsible for god’s goofing around. Of course the other thing Andy [Amy’s husband–M] says about her is she’s as tight with a dime as she is with a dollar and she’s as tight with a dollar as a virgin clutching her panties on Prom Night. That’s tight.

# On school:

What school was, school was like this jail where you had to go even when you hadn’t done nothing wrong, that’s what I never got about it. “Well”, the grown-ups would say, “it’s for your own good.” Which is exactly the same damn thing they said when they whipped you for forgetting to take the trash down to the road or skipping school. And that’s another thing–skipping school. I used to skip, and what’d they do? They’d suspend me–give me three days off from school. That never made no sense to me at all and still don’t. One time I said that to the Principal, Mr. Leduc (The Duck, we used to call him behind his back), I said, “Mr. Leduc, I don’t get this. I skipped school so as punishment you’re gonna order me to skip more school?” That got him mad….

I have to admit, I love this thing. It has a charming retro quality about it that reminds me of all the people I grew up with in New Hampshire, and there’s something about the way he keeps forgetting what he was saying and goes off on these long, pointless tangents that’s as familiar as the smell of my mother’s home-made bread in the oven. I grew up with these guys, and that’s just what they sound like, and that’s just how they think. It’s like being home again, in all its comfortable isolation from the rest of the world and its in-bred attitudes, not all of which are either funny or positive (his father was a drunk, and from the sound of it, a mean drunk).

There’s no telling how long this thing will last, maybe for the summer, maybe until he gets bored with it, so I’d get over there before it disappears. If you’ve ever lived in rural NE, you’ll recognize it immediately; if you haven’t, you’ll get a real taste of what it used to be like–and still is, I guess, if you go far enough north. But whether you have or haven’t, this is a fun read.

Really Bad News for Bush

The Bush/Rove campaign machine has targeted–and is relying heavily–on the fundamentalist evangelical vote coming out heavy in November and voting for them as a block, but this week the National Association of Evangelicals punched a hole in that assumption by endorsing govt’s responsibility in caring for the poor and in being an environmental steward, and suggested strongly that evangelicals shouldn’t be so knee-jerk about their political commitments.

Steeped in biblical morality and evangelical scholarship, the framework for public engagement could change how the estimated 30 million evangelicals in this country are viewed by liberals and conservatives alike.It affirms a religiously based commitment to government protections for the poor, the sick and disabled, including fair wages, healthcare, nutrition and education. It declares that Christians have a “sacred responsibility” to protect the environment.

But it also hews closely to a traditional evangelical emphasis on the importance of families, opposition to homosexual marriage and “social evils” such as alcohol, drugs, abortion and the use of human embryos for stem-cell research. It reaffirms a commitment to religious freedom at home and abroad.

In the midst of a presidential election year, war and terrorism, the framework says Christians in their devotion to country “must be careful to avoid the excesses of nationalism.” In domestic politics, evangelicals “must guard against over-identifying Christian social goals with a single political party, lest nonbelievers think that Christian faith is essentially political in nature.”

“This is a maturing of the evangelical public mind,” said Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, one of the nation’s principal evangelical schools. “Instead of just assuming an automatic alliance with a specific party — and that’s been traditionally the Republicans — it says evangelicals ought to be more thoughtful.”

This could have enormous consequences between now and November, no doubt, but even more important in my mind is its recognition and rejection of the Christian theocratic movement that has been using many of these evangelical churches as launching pads–a workable power-base–in their efforts to force America to become a Christian nation with a Christian govt run by Christian ministers using Biblical law rather than the Constitution.

Christian Reconstructionists long ago wrote off the mainstream Protestant sects, but they assumed–and acted as if–evangelicals would support them without much thinking about it. Two of the strongest Christian theocrats with the largest followings–Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell–have been insisting for years that evangelicals were in agreement with them and that they represented the entire movement. It must have been a shock to discover that their encroachment on mainstream evangelical territory had been denounced by the very people they claim to represent.

One of the NAE’s most heartening statements is aimed directly at the Robertson/Falwell/Randall Terry end of the spectrum.

[U]nder the new public engagement framework, evangelicals may find themselves sometimes at odds with political allies in the culture wars that have buffeted the country for two decades. Genuflecting to political realism, the new framework calls on evangelicals to seek to work with whom they disagree in common cause. The framework also recognizes that in the give and take of political compromise, they may frequently have to settle for “half a loaf.”

This is an explicit rejection of the growing radical right-wing Christian policy of refusing even to talk to its opposition on the grounds that anyone who disagrees with them is the spawn of Satan promoting his agenda and can therefore have nothing to say that a god-fearing Christian should listen to. While Falwell has at least ‘genuflected’ toward the need to ‘open a dialogue’ with the Enemy, though he avoids doing it himself, Robertson and his ilk have consistently denounced those who would compromise their definition of ‘Christian values’, and their views have been gaining political ground. Tom DeLay, who never loses an opportunity to expound on his born-again evangelical roots, has used the House rules to bar Democrats from House conferences and done everything else he can think of to make them so marginal as to be irrelevant to the governing process. As a practicing evangelical, he would now have to revise that strategy and start consulting them on upcoming bills and otherwise treating them as actual members of the House of Representatives. (Don’t hold your breath ’til he does it, though.)

This is the most encouraging sign I’ve seen in years that, as a core group, the evangelicals are not going to allow themselves to continue to be used as CR cannon-fodder without at least discussing if that’s how they want to end up. It’s even more encouraging that they have reaffirmed the Sermon on the Mount–the basis for traditional Christian attitudes toward society’s weak links–as a ‘core Christian value’ and explicitly identified the environment as a Chrsitian concern, something that’s been missing the last twenty years or so.

It’s equally encouraging that nowhere in this document will you find the power of corporations as surrogates of god affirmed–or even mentioned.

Where Are All The Right-Wing Trolls I’m Supposed To Have?

I mean it. I think after all the blatantly nasty attacks and lefty invective and name-calling and stuff I’ve done, I’m entitled to one. I understand they infect most every left-winger in Blogistan. Phaedrus has had at least one, David Neiwert gets them delivered in rail cars, and I want one of my very own. I deserve it. I’ve worked for it.

So get off the stick, you lazy, good-for-nothing, jobless freepers, and get your heads out of your asses! You missed me.