Date: Sunday, April 15, 2007
Dateline: Valencia, Spain
Sunny and warm but the sand on the beach is to fine for a laptop. Maybe it can be bottled and
sent to Iraq for gas tank liner. News that columnist Molly Ivins had died of cancer on January
31st saddened me, her passing was a great loss for journalism. Molly went to highschool in
Texas with George Bush the younger and she had a reputation for driving the Texas
legislature up the wall. She was also the writer who came up with the hole that George Bush
was digging for himself, the hole he’s still digging. She was one of the few writers who made
me laugh out loud when I read her. In one of her last columns, and a testament to her great
wit, her lead sentence was ‘The president of the United States does not have the sense God
gave a duck.’ Bless her.
Still the beat goes on and if anyone thinks the Bush administration is suffering from the
resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, the conviction of Lewis Libby, and other glaring revelations
of corruption, think again. Bush is still digging the hole. In February he issued an executive
order requiring all federal agencies to have a political overseer. Naturally these overseers will
be right-wing republicans in the mold of a Paul Bremer or a John Bolton and in charge of
mismanagement. Bremer as you may recall, destroyed the infrastructure of Iraq by disbanding
the army and the Baath party. In Russia they called these overseers commissars and I don’t
see any difference now between what President Vladimir Putin is doing there and what Bush
is doing in the U.S. I don’t believe either of them plan to relinquish power in 2008. They both
want to be dictators and they are. Look at what Putin is up to, like Bush, he is creating an
autocracy repressing his parliament, the media, subverting the constitution, and waging a war
on terror. I wouldn’t be surprised if Putin, like Bush, uses ‘signing statements.’ These
statements say that the president can ‘ignore any portion of a new law with which he
disagrees.’ Tell me that this isn’t the dictator’s new clothes.
Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Dateline: Amman, Jordan
Amman is not my favorite city but it is safer than Baghdad. I was here in the 1970s and it was like a Wild West town, shacks going up filled with Japanese and American products, washing machines, refrigerators, television sets, all sorts of appliances. It's less primitive now but native women still make spitting gestures at Western tourists. Other than gathering information and viewing antiquities there's not much to do, afternoons are passed smoking seesha in a hookah, sipping tea, and reading newspapers. Evenings include meals in the hotel, a visit to the bar, and television in the room which is comfortable for a three star with 1960s furniture. Oh well, CNN and Larry King was on the air and Larry was celebrating 50s years in the broadcasting business. Each evening for a week he had been interviewing guests who had previously been on his talk show. Nelson Mandela had been on yesterday, tonight was Richard Nixon and I was astonished. The interview was from 1990 and the old criminal sounded like he was still running for office. Yes, here he was patting himself on the back, blowing his horn, and taking credit for bring peace and prosperity to the world. Any questions about his shady past were brushed aside and you know what, even though he was long dead he was still lying.
Do you know why Baghdad looks like an Hieronymus Bosh painting? Look at one. That's why I won't be flying into Baghdad on this trip. They even blew up an Iraqi Parliament cafeteria in the Green Zone. Five security checks and the suicide bomber still got passed them. Must have been carrying a Bible.
The surge goes on but why not call it an escalation? Is surge a Hebrew word? Oh hell, it's not the first surge in Iraq, there was 'one of 20,000 troops in early 2004, a similar one in the fall of 2005, and one a bit smaller in the summer of 2006.' The quote is from columnist Nicholas D. Kristof. You would think the Bush administration might have learned something but no, they are simply gun ho dumb and blunder on blindly. The carnage continues, the number of Iraqis killed is conservatively put at 150,000, the number of wounded is 16 for each fatality according to a recent report on the economic cost of the Iraq war. More than 1.7 million Iraqis have fled the country. More than 3,000 U.S. troops have been killed. A United Nations report claims that 47,000 U.S. troops have been wounded. It goes on to report more than two million Iraqis are planning to leave the country and that in 2006 34,452 Iraqi citizens were killed. This year an Iraqi aid group, the Committee for the Support of Victims, claimed that three million women have been left without men because of the war. Many of those women are widows and many men have fled the country but that's a disturbing figure if it is true, like genocide. Then there is Dick Cheney comparing Muslims to Hitler and Stalin. Who does he think he is?
Another matter I wonder about, are body bags now called transport tubes or is that phrase a sadistic joke? Given the American government's obsession with secrecy, the phrase was probably dreamed up by Karl Rove.
Date: Thursday, May 17, 2007
Dateline: Brussels, Belgium
According to well known American economist Jeffrey Sachs, 6.5 billion people are pressing on Earth's environment putting 7 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere. And 'When the United States [Government] slashes the aid budget for family planning that takes you more towards a world of 10 billion.' However, at the same time, Sachs wants to fight poverty and disease. That would also increase the population so where's the sense in that? Remember, Nature has a mind of its own.
More pressing to my mind is the direction the U.S. Government has taken towards expanding executive power. Last year Dick Cheney's chief of staff, David Addington, came up with an evil plan called the New Paradigm that would give the president limitless power. In other words, Bush could 'disregard virtually all previously known legal boundaries if national security demanded it.' Think of all that power in the hands of an idiot.
Now Bush is promising to balance the budget, all those billions he has squandered, four years after he is scheduled to leave office. Does this sound like a man planning to relinquish the presidency? I doubt it.
Meanwhile, there are still some 400 detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay who have been there for five years. This is unconstitutional but the administration is stonewalling because it wouldn't win a court battle.
The administration also is trying to forget Hurricane Katrina that blew in 19 months ago, another reminder of its incompetence. When I was in Valencia in March I'd missed the carnival season but a similar festival called Fire was underway and that reminded me of Mardi Gras in the Big Easy. There were fireworks everyday that continued nonstop and in the narrow streets near the beach and in the city center they were building grotesque sculptures that cost thousands of euros and were due to be burned. These brightly painted sculptures were state of the art but some of them were almost pornographic and would be banned in America. For the Spanish they were just part of the show and work went on, piecing them together, day and night.
The best way to escape the noise was to head for the beach where you could see the sails of boats testing the wind for the America's Cup which was scheduled to start in April. At night marching bands would parade through the streets at odd times like two in the morning. The purpose of all this was to make as much noise as possible while letting off 100,000 euros worth of firecrackers. Why that reminded me of Mardi Gras I don't know but when I got back to Brussels I came across an article about New Orleans in the 1990s. Back then it was called the Big Sleazy. Maybe it still is but in the early part of the 90s it was the homicide capital of the United States. In 1993 there were 421 murders and the police department was probably responsible for many of them. Because of that and the city's continuing reputation for corruption there were White House leaks that administration officials thought Katrina was a blessing from God. Today there are reportedly 13,000 residents of New Orleans living in poorly made trailers provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency and up to 200,000 evacuees, mostly poor, black, working class families, are scattered across the country. They want to go home but that's probably not going to happen. Meanwhile there are delays in grants and insurance payouts.
NOTE: To preserve the intergrity of the story, blog entries are in chronological order. First post first, last post last.