Friday, September 30, 2005

Why Journalists Refuse to Ask the Hard Questions or Pursue News Stories That Matter

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer in August, left an estate valued at more than $50 million, most of which was willed to his fourth wife and to two children from a previous marriage.
Say no more.

Abort Gambling Addict Bill Bennett

From CNN.com:
Former Education Secretary William Bennett told a caller to his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday: "If you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose -- you could abort every black baby in this country and your crime rate would go down.

"That would be an impossibly ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down."
And through Bennett's bloody, hypothetical prenatal dragnet would slip future Enron executives, 99.9% of serial killers, spoiled rich fratboys who will highjack elected offices and launch wrongheaded, pre-emptive wars based on lies, P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act creators, World Bank and IMF vampires... I mean, executives, and industrial polluters (name a single person of color who headed/heads a company that left a tract of land so vilely unhabitable that the U.S. federal government had to create the "Super Fund").

William Bennett is a racist.

Anyone who has ever publicly taken Bennett's side and does not, now, censure him is a racist.

From CNN.com: "[Bennett] is a Fox News contributor..."

Of course he is.

Update

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- A white South African has been sentenced to life in prison for killing a black farm worker and feeding his body to lions.
Granted this person is not a white American, but as criminality is not restricted to race, insanity is not restricted to geography.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hurricane Dylan & Levee-Busting Soul

We are seeing a lot of Bob Dylan these days, and I say great. There is the Martin Scorsese documentary, Bob Dylan: No Direction Home and the accompanying soundtrack. There is also the latest release in the Bootleg Series -- The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6: Bob Dylan Live 1964 - Concert at Philharmonic Hall. As well as Dylan's long-awaited autobiography, Chronicles Vol. 1, and the 2003 film Masked and Anonymous.

I have been a fan of Dylan's music, myth and many vagaries since I was a kid. I'm still no closer to understanding the lyrics to my favorite Dylan songs, and I still cringe when I listen to most of his live performances -- his butchering his own masterpieces are like cosmic jokes; like Jesus Christ returning to earth and reading from the Bible at Madison Square Garden in the voice of Elmer Fudd. But my musical tastes have never required singers to sound like Jim Neighbors.

Have you ever heard Dylan -- from 1961, I believe -- reciting his poem Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie as almost an afterthought before an audience at Town Hall, or some such mythic, intimate setting? Hear it here (the best 10MB you'll ever download). This poem set my entire artistic life on its ear, at once shocking it into silence, articulating its unexplored depths, and slapping it back into me like a broken radio that had just been repaired by Thomas Edison himself.

Even during his most fallow periods -- through the born-again Christianity; the lapse into pop with Empire Burlesque -- Dylan has written and recorded great songs. His 1983 album Infidels was the first Dylan album I ever bought; purchased on cassette. I bought it after seeing a 4-star review of it in Rolling Stone. And yes, I was a 12 year old reader of rock reviews in Rolling Stone. For years, Infidels did nothing for me. I had bought it hoping for Dylan's acoustic brilliance, and what I got struck me as overproduced and dull. These days, I have the CD playing all the time. Songs like "Jokerman," "License to Kill," and "Neighborhood Bully" are among my favorite tracks.

When Love & Theft was released in 2001, it was a revelation; again. It was fascinating when some rock critics dug up the fact that Dylan seemed to have taken imagery and actual passages from an obscure Japanese book Confessions of a Yakuza by Junichi Saga, as though they had finally found the answer to Dylan's decades of genius. It didn't diminish the album or Dylan's achievement a single bit in my mind. Just indicated to me that Dylan doesn't sit around on his off-hours reading Tom Clancy novels. Good for him.

And now there is the Martin Scorsese documentary on Dylan No Direction Home playing on PBS. Slate has published an article about it that has the feel of a National Enquirer scoop story, in which it's revealed that Dylan's manager approved of all the material shown in the doc. Who cares? Dylan has suffered through his share of unauthorized biographies, one-off supermarket paperbacks about his life, and more bootleg and unauthorized releases of his never-to-see-the-light-of-day recordings and writings. I'm not bothered that the documentary was viewed and approved by his people.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Fire Sale: The Economy Has Won - My Bodily Organs Are Now on the Auction Block

There is no reason to be demure or embarrassed about my financial life any longer (my Catholic upbringing has finely calibrated my being to experiencing and carrying -- camel-like -- shame) -- I am fucking broke.

Whenever I read of my literary heroes' financial troubles -- Thomas Wolfe, John Berryman, Jack Kerouac, Frederick Exley -- there is something almost noble about it. When it comes to my own flatlining financial situation there is nothing but graceless, unartful panic and preoccupation.

For the past eight years I've earned a fluctuating living as an IT technical writing, taking jobs with leviathan corporations so large they were often unaware of my presence until I had quit or been fired.

In the autumn of 2001, I was laid off from a job two days before my wedding. Nine months and more than a thousand later, I found a job in Dexter, Michigan -- 53 miles from my home. For a calendar year I drove to Dexter -- 106 miles round trip -- battling the U.S./Canadian border each morning and afternoon. Around the time I bought my home -- summer of 2003 -- I was hired as an "information architect" with a multimedia company in my city. My daily commute went from a cumulative two hours a day down to about half an hour. The job was miserable, the company for which I worked even more miserable -- a train-wreck-of-a-place that sought be an innovative, easygoing workplace and a buttoned-down-IBM-type of company at the same time. The management was equally schizophrenic, and within six months I was fired. Soon after I was hired by Hewlett-Packard in Dearborn, Michigan earning the highest salary of my life. This situation was so bizarre and surreal that it merited its own posting in this blog.

For the past year I've somehow scraped together a living with freelance writing work, and borrowing money from anyone who'll lend it. In January of this year I scored a very important job ghostwriting the memoirs of a successful local businessman. Those cheques have been absolute oxygen for me. I am due three more cheques, and then my wife and I will once again sink into that airless, anxious realm filled with a pointless procession of faxed and emailed resumes to job openings listed in the newspaper.

I have applied to work at branches of my city and county library. Applied to work at my alma mater, the University of Windsor, in a Writing Development lab environment; the job posting so down my alley all it lacked was mentioning me by name. I've also applied ad nauseum to media companies, offices, and any other place of business requiring anyone who even needs someone to answer their goddamned phones. So far, I haven't even received a call for an interview. My masters degree is not even any use to me as a bookmark, being as oversized a document as it is useless.

So, I'm making this blog posting to advertise the fact that I am willing to sell my organs to the highest bidder. I'm in pretty decent physical condition, I haven't eaten fast food since 1998, and I no longer drink alcohol. I have one kidney, a portion of my liver, bone marrow, blood, flesh, and perhaps even one of my corneas (depending on how much money I can get for it) that are now formally up for sale.

What I'm hoping to do is two-fold: sell enough organs to earn money on which to live, and donating enough of my physical being as to decrease my number of years on this earth, so the money I earn in this manner might last until the end of my life.

If there was debtors' prison, I would voluntarily commit myself.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Harrowing First-Person Stories From the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina - the best & worst of humanity

This American Life: After The Flood Ira Glass captures the heart and soul of the story

Introduction: Don't Forget This Thing

Act I: The Convention Center

Act II: Forgotten But Not Lost: The Bridge

Act III: Social Studies Lesson: Fox's Bill O'Reilly on Being Poor

Act IV: Diaspora: You're not in New Orleans anymore

Thursday, September 15, 2005

All in the Outtakes - Music for Criminals

The call came at 2:47 a.m. I caught the phone before it woke my wife. The voice on the other end was flat, without inflection: "If you're interested, now's the time. Or else, forget it."

"No, no, I'm interested."

"Then be ready in five minutes." Click. Dial tone.

I rolled out of bed, pulled on my jeans, found some socks and a shirt, and crept out of the house after grabbing a jacket and stepping into my shoes. Three minutes later an old, blue, full-sized van stopped in front of my house. The side door opened. I got in, cringing from the stink of body odor, pot, and some other meaty, fetid reek. There were three guys in the van -- the driver, and two in the back. They all wore Bono-esque fly shades and sweatshirts with the hoods pulled up. I wondered for a moment how they could see with the sunglasses on. Then one of them produced a blindfold.

"If you're gonna do this," he said -- I noted his had not been the voice on the telephone, "You gotta put this on."

Wary, I complied.

I don't know how long we drove. There were no distinguishable road sounds to tell me in which direction we were going. We drove for approximately half an hour. Soon the van came to a stop. My hand was slapped as I reached to remove my blindfold.

"Not yet," a voice said.

I was led into some sort of structure. When the blindfold was finally removed I found myself in a dark, dank room illuminated by red and green and blue lava lamps sitting on empty industrial spools. There was a large aquarium across the cluttered room, glowing with yellow light. The fish within it appeared to be dead. The furniture in the room was mismatched -- likely picked up from roadsides where the original owners had set them out for garbage pick up. By the faint light I was able to make out old waterstained posters of U2, the corners curled, some of them torn. Many I had never seen before.

The three people who brought me to this room kept on their sunglasses and hoods. One of them handed me a warm can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Next to the aquarium was an old, battered CD player. One of the hooded figures went to it, inserted a disc and hit the PLAY button. A moment later the room was filled with a U2 song I had never heard befoer.

I have been a U2 fan since their first album, Boy, came out in 1980. At times, it had been a rough road -- their last three albums haven’t done much for me. Their album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind left me as flat as it’s awkwardly worded title. Sure, there were some good songs on the album, “Wild Honey,” “When I Look at the World,” and “Grace.” But overall, the band sounded like it was trying way too hard; the spontaneity and grit from their earlier albums seemed gone -- tidied by studio over production. Even the live DVDs U2 released left me flat -- live from Boston and Slane Castle. And U2 is a live band! Back in the days of Live Aid and the Conspiracy of Hope Tour, it was that live energy, the willingness to step out of the well-worn paths of their studio versions that has always won me over as a fan; mingling Bob Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm” with John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey.” Seeing U2 live twice during the ZooTV Tour, I loved how Bono interlaced songs, going into a few bars of “All I Want is You” at the end of a rousing version of “Bad.” That’s what U2’s all about, for me.

The music playing in that dank room began with a techno-psychedelic instrumental I was told was called “Beautiful Ghost.” It had an Eno-esque dreaminess to it that was soon broken by Bono reading William Blake's "Introduction to Songs of Experience":
Hear the voice of the bard:
The present, past, and future sees.
His ears have heard the holy word,
And walked among the ancient trees
Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew,
And might control the starry pole
And fallen, fallen, light renew.
Oh earth, oh earth return,
Arise from out the dewy grass.
The night is worn, and the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.
Turn away no more.
Why will thou turn away the starry floor?
The watch, be sure,
Is given thee ‘til the break of day.
‘Til the break of day,
‘Til the break of day,
‘Til the break of day,
‘Til the break of day.
The drugged atmosophere of “Beautiful Ghost” segues perfectly into a track called “Levitate.” The song was a refugee from the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album. Something in the background mix reminded me of the spacey parts of Jimi Hendrix’s “1983 ... (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)” from his Electric Ladyland album. Only Bono could sing a lyric like “Spirit come on down / No, I’m not coming down” to a dance beat that harkens back to “Zoo Station” from the Achtung Baby album. This wasn’t U2 copying itself, but reinventing the best aspects of its recent recordings.


The next song playing on the clandestine CD player was good, real good. It was a bouncy acoustic number that reminded me of the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park".

"I like this one," I said.

"It's called 'Flower Child,'" said one of my hooded hosts.

"Where did you get these songs?"

"Where do you think?" another said.

"Download?"

A nod.

Of course. What was it with record companies? They made so little available to the listening public -- for instance, almost every "Greatest Hits" or live album by Bob Dylan that was officially released was trumped, bettered, and bested by the bootleg scene. The record companies put out The Bootleg Series, but the underground scene put out the massive ten-album bootleg set of rare live Dylan performances called Ten of Swords. And it was just so far superior in content to anything the labels were willing to release. The record companies' logic is untenable. They say they don't release much of this unreleased material because it's not up to their usual high sound quality. Yet fans go to great lengths to get hold of it. Record companies say bootlegs cause them to lose millions of dollars in revenue. But if this material is "unreleased", that means the record companies' haven't released it to draw revenue from it. Songs locked in vaults aren't making anyone money.

The songs that follow "Flower Child" are raw, upbeat. You can tell U2 is performing purely for themselves. One song, "Are You Gonna Wait Forever?" has an incredibly catchy hook, and great driving beat that's reminiscent of its wonderful B-side song from the Achtung Baby years, "Lady With the Spinning Head."

Another song, "Mercy," mounts with intensity with every new lyric Bono sings, beginning with:
I was drinking some wine
And it turned into blood.
What's the use of religion
If you're any good?
It had the same solid backbeat as "Beatiful Day," but didn't have the same stuck-in-the-mud feel to its chorus. The lyrics are Bono at his best:
You're gravity
Searching for the ground.
You're silence
Searching for a sound.
The song "Xanax and Wine" was a harder-edged version of the bonus track "Fast Cars." The difference in tempo and the Edge's tougher guitar on "Xanax" outdid "Fast Cars" on every count.

No one in the room reacted to the songs. I sensed they'd heard these many, many times.

A song that quickly became one of my favorite U2 songs was called "Smile," with its chorus, "I don't want to see your smile." An unusual love song.

Yeah, these songs were not the over-glossed, over produced material found on official releases. Who made the decision to leave these songs off the CD How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb?

"Are these B-sides?" I asked.

"Might be at some point," one of the hooded responded. "Right now their just songs."

"Throwaways," another said.

"Incredible," I muttered to myself.

Then came a song called "Love You Like Mad," which put me sort of in mind of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me." As with the other tracks I heard in that listening-den, "Love You Like Made" had a rawer sensibility. It was a garage band song. If that song ever ended up as part of a film's soundtrack, it would doubtless be on a low budget, independent movie. It was not that the wasn't mainstream, but the performance was not U2 at their coiffed, well-mannered best. They sounded like a band thrashing out a song.

The last thing played for me was an alternate version of the song "Yahweh," from the latest album; my favorite track on the album. And the alternate version certainly did it justice. I had heard Bono say at the San Diego kick-off of their recent tour, "It's not a hit." Man, it sure could be -- if they only released it as a single.

When the song ended, I asked, "Can I have a copy of this?"

"No."

"What happens now?"

"You've heard the songs. Now you tell people about them."

"But--"

Before I knew what was happening, one of the hooded swept up behind me and cinched the blindfold around my head. I was manhandled to the van, which was driven faster and more reckless than on our journey to that darkened listening room. No one spoke as we drove. With no seat belt on me, I braced myself with a hand on the van's ceiling and the other on the cracked vinyl seat.

Soon the van slowed. Without stopping, the door was thrown open and I was shoved out into the night air. I landed hard on pavement feeling my shoulder come out of joint, and a great, lightning strike of pain flashing through my back and hips. My arms and hands were scraped, my left elbow snapped. I lost consciousness.

When I awoke, my entire body ached like a rotting tooth. My throat was dry. I coughed and an avalanche of pain shifted within me. As my vision came into focus, I saw that I lay in a hospital bed.

"I think he's awake," said a voice somewhere out of my field of vision.

A nurse approached. I flinched, blinked several times. She wore Bono-esque fly shades. A short, balding doctor came round the other side of the bed. He, too, wore fly shades.

"What's going on?" I meant to ask, but all that came out of my parched throat was "Wha--?"

"Can you hear me?" the doctor said loudly, leaning toward me. "Nod if you can hear me."

I tried to nod, but the pain through my head and neck was paralyzing.

The nurse stepped away, and my wife came to my bedside. She wore fly shades, as well.

"Wha--?" I croaked.

"It's OK," she said.

"Wha--?"

She looked at the doctor. "What's he trying to say?"

"I don't know." Something in my mind cleared, surfaced, shifted, emerged: I recognized the doctor's voice.

"He appears to be delirious."

The voice from that early morning telephone call.

"Is he awake," came my father's voice. A moment later my parents came to my bedside. They both wore fly shades.

I wanted to shout, "The doctor! Don't trust him!" But nothing came out of me except an inarticulate rasping sound.

The doctor went around to my family, speaking in a low voice. "I think we should begin making arrangements to place him in the psychiatric ward."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

In Anthony Shadid's extraordinary new book about the Iraq war, the Iraqis themselves finally speak

By Gary Kamiya - Sept. 13, 2005 | The U.S. government, its military, its press and its people have operated in ignorance of Iraq from the beginning. The United States invaded Iraq blindly, occupied it blindly and is now blindly trying to find a way to escape. In this darkness, the publication of Anthony Shadid's Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War is an important event, a ray of light. This is the first book about the Iraq war to tell the Iraqi side of the story. It is painful and necessary reading.


Must-read article on Salon.com.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yang, Yahoo!, & Hot Lead Enemas - Do I as I've Done & Scrap Your Yahoo! Email Account

Jerry Yang, you smiling bastard. You captain one of the shittiest sites on the Internet. Your homepage is a nightmare of convoluted, consumeristic chaos. Your "search engine" isn't really a search engine, but a lazy-ass index. Now I read in the news that you, poor little billionaire, enjoying the fruits and benefits of democracy, have directly aided China in jailing a journalist for the next decade of that poor miscreant's life. Light up a cigar with another hundred-dollar bill.

Yahoo! Inc. recently handed over information to the Chinese government that resulted in a Chinese journalist receiving a 10-year prison sentence. You know, I recall about a year ago hearing a news story about a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq whose family petitioned Yahoo! to allow them access to their son's email account. When dealing with a grief stricken family, it appeared that Yahoo! had no trouble sticking to its principles of maintaining privacy for its members/clients, or whatever they call people using their email service. I realize that dealing with the Chinese government is slightly different than dealing with a single family, however, when is someone or some company in this world going to show some guts and stand up to these blood-thirsty, backassward communists of China?

China hosts the next Olympic Games. If what I've read is correct, athletes from around the world will be competing in a sports stadium that is more frequently used for executions than for athletic events. The field is literally soaked with blood.

Obviously, it's those billion-+ consumers in China that has everyone acting as though China is simply an ill-mannered relation eating with his mouth open at a family barbecue. So many hands down there itching for cell phones; so, so, so many potential consumers.

I, for one, am finished with Yahoo! I've had a Yahoo! email account for 8 years and I'm scrapping it for a Google Gmail account. Maybe I'll hear tomorrow that Google is helping China jail writers, but for now that's what I'm using. There are few "stands" I take in life, but when I hear of writers being persecuted for any reason, I boycott the nearest piece-of-shit corporation whose made it possible. And wherever there is tyranny, there is always some piece-of-shit corporation standing nearby with a growing, stinking stain in the back of its trousers. This time it's Yahoo! Inc.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

File This Under "Beyond the Pale"

From This is London:
... The US authorities were also castigated by British bus driver Ged Scott, from Wallasey, Merseyside, who was on holiday in the New Orleans area.

He stayed in the Ramada Hotel during and after the devastation with his wife, Sandra, and seven-year-old son Ronan. At one stage, Mr Scott, 36, had to wade through filthy water to barricade the hotel doors against looters.

He told the Liverpool Daily Post: "I couldn't describe how bad the authorities were. Just little things like taking photographs of us, as we are standing on the roof waving for help, for their own little snapshot albums.

"At one point, there were a load of girls on the roof of the hotel saying 'Can you help us?' and the policemen said 'Show us what you've got' and made signs for them to lift their T-shirts. When the girls refused, they said 'Fine' and motored off down the road in their boat."

Monday, September 05, 2005

New Orleans Superdome as "citadel of hope and order and restraint and compassion"

From a blog called TJIC.com (and he seemed to have gotten this essay from something called Eject! Eject! Eject! I don't know, that sounds homo-erotic to me):
... Only a few minutes ago, I had the delightful opportunity to read the comment of a fellow who said he wished that white, middle-class, racist, conservative cocksuckers like myself could have been herded into the Superdome Concentration Camp to see how much we like it. Absent, of course, was the fundamental truth of what he plainly does not have the eyes or the imagination to see, namely, that if the Superdome had been filled with white, middle-class, racist, conservative cocksuckers like myself, it would not have been a refinery of horror, but rather a citadel of hope and order and restraint and compassion.
Well, I have witnessed white middle class men in their natural habitats -- golf courses, luxury cars, in restaurants, shopping malls, sporting events, etc. -- and "hope and order and restraint and compassion" is not what I have observed. Were the Superdome filled with white middle class men, there would have been more cell phones ringing, I concede that. And there may have been less stress on the bathroom facilities, given the fact that white middle class men have sphincters so tight they could turn cue balls into diamonds before the fist half of a college football game was over.

Anyone who will tell you that a white middle class man wouldn't elbow your grandmother in the face to get his hands on the last bottle of Aquafina is someone who still believes that the Tooth Fairy is the love-child of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Are white middle class men so evil? No. Worse. They're pampered. They're beyond impatient; struggling moment by moment with the fact that time moves forward, that they cannot teleport back five minutes to address the ungodly number of tasks they or their godless employers set before them. You've seen these guys with their hairplugs, khakis and Polo shirts in their pristine prisons of frenetic stress, always gogogo, thinking they're delivering the world to the gates of heaven -- meanwhile they're delivering themselves into the hands of hemmorhoids and ulcers and those embarrassing bitchy, girlish tantrums they throw when they don't get their way on something. White middle class men are all on invisible treadmills with phallic carrots dangling before them, just out of reach.

Ever have one of these guys behind you at a traffic light? Barking into his cell phone, leaning on the horn of his Hummer before the bulb beneath the green glass in the traffic signal has even fully illuminated? After seeing a few in action over the years, I thought the motto on the back of U.S. currency, "In God We Trust," hopelessly out of date. It should be immediately replaced with the white man's credo: "Me First!"

Not to mention the fact that every serial killer who ever existed was a white male. Every political tyrant was either a white male, or propped up by the influence of white men. Hitler and Napolean were white men. All of the bloodthirsty Catholic popes were caucasian. The inventor of the nuclear bomb was a caucasian male. The man who ordered the only military stirkes using nuclear bombs was caucasian. The men who flew it there were also white.

Am I saying that this makes all white middle class men criminals or terrible people? No. But history and genetics are surely not in favor of a Superdome filled with middle class white conservative men making it into the Garden of Eden Redux.

In the same way white middle class conservative men don't have a lock on all evil, they certainly don't have a monopoly on "hope and order and restraint and compassion."

And I say this being a white middle class male.

The "Silver Douche Bag" Speaks - Where George W. Bush Learned His Soaring Compassion

On The Drudge Report (also on CNN.com) -- Barbara Bush: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality... And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them"...
Wonder not from where George W. Bush learned to be the dispassionate son of a bitch that he is.

Update

Don't forget what The Silver Douche Bag said of the war in Iraq in 2003: "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? It's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

Freebie for Dept. of Homeland Security: The 3rd "Failure of Imagination" Under Emperor George W. Bush

Under the smirking, suspiciously-too- close-together gaze of Emperor George W. Bush, a colossal "failure of imagination" has occurred every 24 months.

First, there were the 9/11 attacks that hit with enough forewarning to have been prevented without interrupting George W.'s vacation.

Second, the non-response to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. A plan for just such an emergency was drafted and published by the Department of Homeland Security on December 4, 2005. It's titled National Response Plan. Unfortunately, it's a fairly large document, spanning more than 100 pages. It's filled with "big words" and no pictures, other than some really boring flowcharts. How's a lexdysic like George W. supposed to tackle that?

And 2008, the year W. leaves office is more than 24 months away. There's time for one more "Supersized Fuck-up."

There will be groans from the balcony when I unveil my thoughts on the "Third Failure of Imagination Under Emperor George W. Bush" because it's obvious: The next major calamity that will befall North America, and perhaps large portions of the world will involve ENERGY.

Bor-ing, I hear the pencil pushers at CIA grumbling under their breath. No way! I hear oil executives -- George W. and Dick Cheney among them -- hollering through mouthfuls of prime rib. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hear the bloated, professional thinktankers drone in their nasally, phony Ivy League accents.

Remember the Black Out in the summer of 2003? We're going to experience this sort of thing again. This time around, however, it's going to be compounded by dire shortages of gasoline. Look at the price of gas now. How long before ordinary people can't afford to drive?

Solution: Kick research into alternative fuel sources into high gear. I've always been mystified by the slowness, the lethargy, the neglect this sector suffers. As though there's no money, no profit to be made in it. Let me break it down for the slow people in the audience... CIA, NSA, thinktank guys, corporate swine... this means you:

See all the cars on the road? People not only like to drive, they must drive. You see, our cities -- for the most part -- are very poorly laid out. Public transit in most cities is terrible, or at least, unreliable. In order for people to live -- at the level most North Americans enjoy at this moment -- we must have our own vehicles. So, there's a built-in market for vehicles that run on alternative -- and please God, this time, renewable -- fuels.

I cannot wait for the day a market researcher asks me, "If you could purchase a car that would require only 25% the fuel costs your current vehicle requires, would you buy it?"

My response? "Would it come in chartreuse?"

Of course I'd buy the fucking car! It cost $60 to fill up my wife's car yesterday. That's a year's worth of haircuts for me.

The problem is, I, for one, do not believe BushCo is serious about averting disasters. Catastrophes are too lucrative for the Carlysle Group, Halliburton, Bechtel, Kellogg, Brown & Root, and all of those other companies you never read about in the news who consistently square up to the trough. To ordinary people like you and I, tragedies like 9/11 and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are horrendous, heartrending events. To people like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the cacophony of the World Trade Center buildings collapsing was like the sound of two huge cash registers going Ka-Ching. The sound of Hurricane Katrina approaching to BushCheney ears was like a slot machine paying out. These men are rich and powerful -- that's like being brain damaged and crazy.

Sure, George W. rhapsodizes about how heavy 9/11 made his heart. He's full of shit! Just as companies in TV commercials tell you how much they care about you and your families. It not only costs them nothing to lie like this, it actually paves the way toward making tons of money. Have you seen the latest advertising abortions from the U.S. Army yet? They're these "poignant" slice-of-life vignettes in which some young, proud, stupid kid tells his mother or father (there are never two parents in these ads for some reason) that he's going to join the army. In one of these -- I almost fucking vomitted -- a solemn young black man looks at his mother and says, "It's time for me to be a man."

A man in a bodybag.

These U.S. Army advertisements are utterly reprehensible, irresponsible, and flat-out untrue. They speak about the Army paying for college and giving these young cheer-leader-fuckers "training." I've heard from actual recruits who fell for this line of bullshit, who said the only training they received was in cutting lawns and picking up garbage. If the U.S. Army is really serious about preparing these young men for the workworld, they would train them to use Wal-Mart price scanners.

Sorry to be the guy who farts at the party, but people in the world use subterfuge and deceit and manipulation to get their way. Since they cannot persuade anyone with their logic or by the weight of their argument, they simply lie their asses off.

9/11 and Hurricane Katrina struck North America like slaughterhouse hammer blows to the head. Adding insult to injury, they were both hammer blows many, many people saw coming. The "Third Failure of Imagination Under Emperor George W. Bush" is going to be the hammer blow we've seen coming for decades.

Don't take my word for it. Mike Ruppert is an expert on the subject. Read what he has to say about the coming energy crisis.

Disaster Relief Crept to Victims; White House Relief Instantaneous - Karl Rove's on Damage Control

Japanese Proverb: "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

In The New York Times "White House Enacts a Plan to Ease Political Damage"

On GNN.com State and local officials blamed for the delays in bringing relief to New Orleans

On ThingProgress.org "Rove Returns: CIA Leaker Now Leading Campaign to Blame Local Officials for Katrina Aftermath"

In The Washington Post "The Gulf Between Rhetoric and Reality"

Karl Rove, the Jolly Jackal of Pennsylvania Avenue, is going to take this crisis into his pudgy, sweaty, chronic-masturbator's hands, shake it like a Magic Eight Ball and blame the victims of Hurricane Katrina for the institutional racism, neglect, and incompetence they have suffered. I'm sure he'll even blame the hurricane on them.

Should we start a pool here in the Hotdog Factory?


How Will Karl Rove Blame the Victims of Hurricane Katrina for Their Plight?


Blame the hurricane on practitioners of voodoo?

That New Orleans was above sea level when the city was given to the residents?

That residents used the levees for Howitzer target practice?

It's the responsibility of every American to have a platinum credit card in reserve, thus everyone should have evacuated when ordered?

Because black people tend to vote Democratic?




View Results


Sunday, September 04, 2005

My Note to the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown

Michael Brown, Director of F.E.M.A., September 1, 2005 on CNN:
Michael Brown also agreed with other public officials that the death toll in the city could reach into the thousands.

"Unfortunately, that's going to be attributable a lot to people who did not heed the advance warnings," Brown told CNN.

"I don't make judgments about why people chose not to leave but, you know, there was a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans," he said.
My email to Michael Brown at FEMAOPA@dhs.gov:
Dear Mr. Brown:

F.E.M.A.'s lethargic, incompetent response to the disaster in New Orleans and Mississippi following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina is a crime against humanity. Thousands upon thousands of lives were lost due to your foot-dragging and inability to comprehend the magnitude of the tragedy there. I don't know you personally, but from one human being to another, the ferocity and viciousness of your non-response to the disaster in the Gulf Coast is one of the most reprehensible sins of omission I've ever witnessed.

Clearly, the war in Iraq has drained America of its resources.

Clearly the demographics of the people affected by Hurricane Katrina are not important to the power brokers in Washington, D.C.

Clearly, compassion and human emotion are beyond the reach of you, your agency, and the Bush administration.

It is my hope that you are forced into a pair of hip-waders and sent into the heart of New Orleans to help collect and count the dead.

Read, here, about just one of your many, many victims. Yes, you did not cause the hurricane to strike the Gulf Coast, but your negligent non-response cost untolled lives. Here is the story of one:
As told by president of Jefferson Parish in New Orleans, Aaron Broussard: I want to give you one last story and I’ll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I’m in, Emergency Management, he’s responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, “Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?” and he said, “Yeah, Mama, somebody’s coming to get you.” Somebody’s coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody’s coming to get you on Friday… and she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night!
The smug, useless cocksucker, Michael Brown ought to be fired -- but only after he has walked the breadth and length of New Orleans and spent a night at the conventional center and a night in the Superdome. That'll never happen. This bastard is harnessing himself in a golden parachute as I write this. The swine!

Here's some background on the illustrious/infamous Michael Brown from The Boston Globe: "The federal official in charge of the bungled New Orleans rescue was fired from his last private-sector job overseeing horse shows [Brown was forced out of the position after a spate of lawsuits over alleged supervision failures]. And before joining the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a deputy director in 2001, GOP activist Mike Brown had no significant experience that would have qualified him for the position. The Oklahoman got the job through an old college friend who at the time was heading up FEMA." More outrage to be read.

The Picture That Says it All

Justified Condemnation Falling on the Heads of U.S. Bureaucraps



Email Michael D. Brown,
Director of F.E.M.A.
at FEMAOPA@dhs.gov



The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina "will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history," said Aaron Broussard, president of Jefferson Parish.

National Response Plan by The Department of Homeland Security, December 4, 2004

The ugly truth: Why we couldn’t save the people of New Orleans by Errol Louis

CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE AND KATRINA? by Larry C. Johnson

Atrios: Open Letter to the President

Louisiana official haunted by drowned woman

A Can't-Do Government by Paul Krugman

A Gargantuan "Failure of Imagination" Occurs Every 24 Months Under Emperor George W. Bush

In past 48 months the United States has suffered two colossal "failures of imagination": (1) The 9/11 attacks; (2) The devastation of Hurricane Katrina. These have not only cost tens of thousands of lives (including the death and destruction in Afghanistan and Iraq), but hundreds of billions of dollars, and the peace of mind of tens of millions of citizens. These have been "Supersized Fuckups," if you will.

Having stated this, I say that not only should the United States have the Army Corps of Engineers, but it's own Intelligence Corps of Writers. Yes, writers. I'm a writer -- give me a set of variables and I'll give you a set of scenarios. Better yet, I'll give you scenarios with a few added variables -- "likelihoods." It's like a form of remote viewing. Writers, science fiction writers especially, have always been ahead of the social curve when it comes to imagining the future. Particularly calamities.

After the last four years, I'd say we need to have an entire wing at the Department of Homeland Security filled with writers coming up with scenarios -- and better yet, solutions.

Here's what I'm talking about. From Slate:
It's clear from the comments of the president, the governor, the FEMA director, and the secretary of homeland security that they never planned for this. I don't mean that they failed to anticipate the magnitude of the flooding; we knew that already. I mean that they have no idea how easily a natural disaster can turn human beings into a second-wave destructive force. They don't understand that disasters often bring out the worst in us, that the human dynamics are collective, and that "responsibility" is quickly swamped. If you don't understand these dynamics, you can't plan for them. You end up pleading for "personal responsibility" when what you needed was air drops and the National Guard.

It's not like this hasn't happened before. The 1977 New York City blackout led to an epidemic of stealing. The mayor of Charleston, S.C., during Hurricane Hugo says FEMA was clueless about law and order during that 1989 crisis. He thinks we need a military unit to take charge of these situations. That may be going a bit far, but we certainly need to think more systematically about the human dynamics of natural disasters. We run computer models of hurricanes, levee breaches, and flooding. What about isolation, desperation, looting, fighting, and shooting? It took the mayor of New Orleans three days to tell his cops to switch from rescue operations to controlling post-hurricane crime. Why? Because crime wasn't in the model.
Wasn't it just after 9/11 that a department in the U.S. government was created to bolster and improve the image of America overseas? Wasn't some crackerjack advertising executive put at the helm, and the net result a few commercial-like short films with smiling foreigners in America giving the "thumbs up"? And wasn't this all just an enormous waste of time, effort and money? Yes, it was. I could have helped with this, too: Living outside the United States, yet very close, I am in a unique position to report on how America is viewed outside the country and I have ideas for improving that image.

In 2002, I applied to work at the CIA-funded Rand Corporation. After they finished laughing at my application I was told that they only had offices in Washington, D.C. and California, and that my services, such as they were, were not needed.

The problem is, my idea -- which is a real solution -- hinges on one thing: America being serious about preventing the catastrophes it can prevent, and mitigating the losses and suffering from those it cannot prevent? Unfortunately, there is ample evidence that the 9/11 attacks were allowed to occur in order to provide the pretext needed to launch the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. And since actions speak louder than words, the lethargy of the federal government in responding to the emergency in New Orleans speaks more of institutional racism than it does backasswards bureaucracy.

Would writers on the payroll have prevented 9/11 or sped up the response to the hurricane tragedy in New Orleans? Maybe. The problem with America is the problem with any nation -- it is like steering an ocean liner: it can't turn on a dime. And there are far too many hands groping for the wheel.

But as sailors of centuries past could read signs of coming storms in the sky and prepare for them, having writers onboard might provide some invaluable foresight to help guide Ocean Liner America.

My idea would only work if there was a genuine desire to have averted these catastrophes. While there is little question to general public would have wanted to avoid these tragedies, there's not much evidence the politicians would. There are too many votes and dollars to be made in a climate of fear and uncertainty.

The Bacon Grease Fleet: Energy Crisis Solved?

As the discovery of penicillin occurred by accident, and Alexander Graham Bell got beyond the final hump on his telephone invention by spilling acid or some other substance on the components on his workbench, so, too, have I inadvertently made a landmark discovery. One that may forever end our dependence on fossil fuels, and bring this looming energy crisis to heel.

It occurred on a Sunday in May. Mother's Day. My wife had organized a brunch at our house and invited the entire family over. As she worked the kitchen like a virtuoso one-man-band, I manned the BBQ grill, doing up sausages -- and bacon. While preparing to take over my duties, my wife said that I should put the bacon on a sheet of tinfoil, at least; to not just flop the strips onto the grill. As an experienced grill man, I have become expert on ignoring such good advice, and did so on that day.

However, when the very first strip of bacon I slapped onto the grill turned into a miniature inferno, I went into the house for some tinfoil. Then put the rest of the bacon on that, and set it on the grill.

All went well -- for a while. Trouble and discovery occurred when I attempted to flip the strips of bacon. In doing this, I unsettled the tinfoil, creating a small dent on the side over which the bacon grease poured onto the flaming coals of my BBQ. To say that the bacon fat ignited or merely caught fire would be an understatement. While it did not explode, I soon had a five foot column of flame rising from my BBQ. Since I do not yet have a back deck on which to BBQ, I do my grill work in my garage. Seeing the flames licking up the drywall separating the garage from our bedroom, I realized that this was probably not a good idea. My father and father-in-law, two men who have "been around the block," have stories of their own follies to tell, and who do not rattle easily, looked at me as though to say, "Do something!" Problem was, I was looking at them with the same expression. Somehow, I quelled the bacon debacle, and even managed to salvage most of the bacon.

But it got me thinking, "If bacon grease is so infernally combustible, why in hell are we not pouring that into our vehicle gas tanks?"

Why in hell not, indeed.

So, I propose to bring together a crack team of fast food preparation experts with a team of automobile engineers to create The Bacon Grease Fleet. It's a match made in heaven. Personally, I love bacon and I love driving. Surely I am not alone in this.

My innovation would increase demand for pork, buoying our livestock farmers. This would revive the meaning of "living high on the hog." Give a new spin to "pork barrell projects." Possibly inspire hiphop artists to name themselves "Bak'N" or "PorKadillaK." Best of all, The Bacon Grease Fleet could have as its mascot a pig wearing sunglasses. I love animals wearing sunglasses!

Rather than toxic hazes of pollution assailing our cities, the air everywhere would smell like bacon. Imagine it! The air smelling like bacon! This surely won't please vegetarians, of course, but in my experience nothing does (maybe this cause a knock-on effect with the incense industry; a win-win-win situation) And sure, the number of dogs chasing cars would increase, but what the hell, dogs need their exercise too.

Rather than old fashioned "fish tails" on cars, we could reinvent the look with "bacon strip tails" on cars. Shit, I'd buy two of those bad boys! No more pussified half-circle Volkswagens or crackerbox Hummers filling our highways and byways with mediocrity. Let's get some style back on the road. And then we could launch wars against swine producing nations. In reruns of old movies when some fat mogul shouts into his telephone about "buying pork bellies," it would have a whole new, contemporary meaning. I'm sick of old movies going out of style.

There would be no need to re-outfit gas stations to serve bacon grease fuel (its hip moniker to be "BGF"). Every fast food store in the world could rig up a pump on the side of their buildings opposite their drive-thrus.

Best of all, eating bacon would become a patriotic duty. On the Fourth of July, American TV could be filled with aged Veterans of Foreign Wars stoically munching down bacon strips while saluting during the national anthem. And Canada, so full to the brim with swine, particularly in Queen's Park and Ottawa, would become a Superpower: Candyman to the World.

It's time for new thinking.

It's time for the Pork Paradigm.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Is the Great Divide So Great?

The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina has done more than ravage the landscape, make millions of people homeless, and taken and ruined the lives of so many, it's also serving as a catalyst for "the right" and "the left" to once again go for one another's throats. I once heard someone say that one of the many differences between the North American and European mindsets is that when things go wrong, North Americans ask "Who fucked up?" whereas Europeans ask "What went wrong?" While North Americans chase their tails looking for someone to blame, Europeans focus on how to solve the problem. Now that I think of it, it must have been a European who told me this -- the saying sure makes them look good. Regardless if this is even true, I think it's a good point to raise -- what will solve the myriad problems created by Hurricane Katrina? Finding someone to blame or examining the system to see where it felt short.

A recent conservative visitor to this blog read one of my satirical pokes at George W. Bush and felt compelled to inform me that I'm "an idiot," a "red leaf," and that I live in a country that needs the United States to defend it. So, when looking at the great divide between "right" and "left", I think it would surprise many conservatives to hear just how much I have in common with them.

First, what I don't have in common with conservatives. It's my considered opinion that people of a conservative bent are motivated chiefly by fear -- fear of people who come from different countries or have different skin color, fear of people who practice different religions, fear of people whose lifestyles differ from their own. Conservatives fear change, as well.

Having lived on the Canadian border to the United States for most of my life, and having worked in the U.S. and paid U.S. taxes, I have formed some opinions about Americans in general. I like them. Many of my very good friends were born and live in the United States. The cuisine and much of the pop culture interests me, as well. One thing, too, I've always liked about Americans -- the American Dream: building oneself up from nothing, making sacrifices, believing in one's own abilities, and enjoying the success of one's hard work. Even Richard Nixon, bogeyman of the late 1960s and early 1970s worked himself up from nothing, putting himself through law school, and basically creating a life for himself with his own two hands.

For this reason, I find it utterly amazing and perplexing that any Americans like or admire George W. Bush. He is the antithesis of what I've always thought Americans valued. Born into wealth and privilege, his family and family connections paved the way for him. He got into the best schools based on his family name, not his academic or athletic achievement. During the Vietnam war he was very much in favor of the war, but unwilling to put his principles into action. He used his family connections to jump to the head of the line of "The Champagne Corp", the Texas Air National Guard. Even then, in that plum position, he couldn't bring himself to fulfill his obligations. From there he became a failed businessman, whose family's money and family connections bailed him out every time he ran aground. He's never known a hard day's work in his life, and has lived a pampered, cushy existence, never having to be bothered to take responsibility for his actions.

When I worked in Michigan last year, the lunch room television set was perpetually tuned to Fox News. One day while eating lunch with a colleague, we saw something about John Kerry on TV and she muttered, "Kerry is scary," and spoke about the sterling leadership of George W. Bush. When the program broke away to commercial there was an advertisement for an upcoming NASCAR race. As one driver's name was mentioned (I don't know who), my colleague sneered and said how much she hated the guy, that he was some rich jerk, born with silver spoon in his mouth, who didn't know the meaning of hard work. Another driver's name was mentioned, and my colleague said how much she admired him, that he had worked his way up from nothing and was turning out to be a real success. The irony and coincidence of my colleagues words were completely lost on her. They were so blatantly obvious that I let it drop.

Another person posted on my blog, here, (sarcastically, I believe) that it's great to see someone who is not American "take such an active role in participating in our democracy." Well, blogging is not an "American" phenomenon, and it's not a means of taking part in American "democracy." Voting in American elections is. Why am I so concerned about what goes on in a country other than my own? If America busied itself with the business of running America, you wouldn't hear anything out of me. But as long as America goes stomping across this planet weaving pretexts for pre-emptive wars right out of the air, creating a climate of hatred against North America, I will voice my opinions. Because America is taking all North Americans down with the ship. When I travel abroad, the most common thing said to me is "Will you please stop bothering my wife?!" The second most common thing said to me (based on my accent) is: "Are you a Yank?" My answer? "No." So, as someone who is continually mistaken for an American when abroad, its my concern the level of hatred America arouses against itself.

Also, conservative American commentators such as Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly, along with the former American ambassador to Canada, Paul Celluci, have threatened Canada, at one time or another. "Fall in step with us, or suffer the consequences!" is the gist of their threats. Ann Coulter suggested that Canada is very close to being the next country America invades. Not that anyone of any importance listens to or heeds her words. But they're out there. The loudest voices in America are saying to the rest of the world, "You are free... to agree with us. You are free... to worship the same religion as we do. You are free... to do as we say." During the build-up to the Iraq war, the Bush administration addressed the leaders of other countries like CEOs addressing troublesome, disobedient managers.

This is why I take an interest.

Why don't you see complaints about the Canadian government on this blog? Because I mail those letters directly to my government.

As for the fear-motivated conservatives in the U.S., if Jesus Christ followed their model he would have become a Pharisee and fallen in silent step with the rules of the day. I'm not a follower of Jesus Christ, but many conservatives claim to be, so I make that comparison. Being guided by abject, formless, free-floating fear is an indefensible way to go through life. It's not a credo, it's a symptom of mental illness, giving root to paranoia, for one.

My own personal credo is beyond the political, beyond the sectarian. It is: Be responsible.

And while George W. Bush certainly didn't create Hurricane Katrina, his lack of responsibility has cost uncountable lives. I've read how the Army Corps of Engineers requested $100 million to shore up New Orleans' levees so they would have a chance of withstanding a hurricane everyone knew would one day come. They got $40 million. That's better than nothing, but it wasn't enough to do the job that needed to be done. A conservative blogger I read today pointed out that appropriations take years to find their way to their final destinations, so that even if $100 million had been allocated to the levees of New Orleans as requested, it wouldn't have gotten there. Well, I recall a time in the last year or two when $80 billion was requested to shore up the war in Iraq. That money came through immediately.

Where do the conservative and I meet? I love my family. I want my family and friends to be happy and secure. I think our tax system needs to be made fairer and simpler. I think that companies who are based in this country (Nike, GM, Intel, etc.) should not be allowed to avail of slave/cheap labor anywhere else in the world, taking jobs away from our communities. I think CEOs, who are already filthy rich, who torpedo their companies or otherwise break the law while trying to line their pockets ought to be brought to justice. I enjoy modern life, my car, home, air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, my TV, etc. However, I would like this modern life to be powered in a way that doesn't poison the air my family and I breathe, and the water we drink.

I don't think people should have to go broke in order to receive the medical care they need. However, I don't think any government plans should be paying for someone's nose job, breast enhancement, penile implant, or sex change operations.

I'm continually heartened and amazed and impressed by the goodness and willingness to give average citizens show in the midst of disasters. I think a political process driven by enormous sums of money can only breed corruption, self-interest and greed. I think citizens should be getting more from their leaders -- better examples, better decisions, better handling of tax dollars.

In the same way I believe it would be wrong and irresponsible for a public health official to raise an alarm about malaria, meningitis, hepatitis, for example, with absolutely no proof, I don't think politicians should raise false alarms about foreign leaders being imminent threats without real evidence. And there should be severe consequences for raising such false alarms.

If someone broke into my house and menaced my family, I would reshape the landscape of the perp's head with a baseball bat.

I hate spam email.

If I could purchase a car that ran the same as my current vehicle, but whose fuel costs were half of what I'm paying right now, I would buy that car.

If someone murdered a family member of mine, I wouldn't be content if the authorities arrested and convicted a person for the crime. I wouldn't rest until the actual killer had been caught.

I think people should pull their own weight. I hate hearing about people "milking the system," whether it be welfare, unemployment benefits, workers' compensation, or some other system. I hate it that my bank is always raising its fees while it's earning record billion dollar profits each year -- however, I'm glad to live in a country where I'm free to check out the competition. Education is the most important investment in the future society can make. Every job should pay a living wage.

Society is only as good as it treats its weakest members.

Mayor of New Orleans has had it, tells it like it is

Listen to it
or
Read it


From The Inside Dope:
NOTE: This is absolutely disgusting. CNN is now re-running the interview, but they've edited the hell out of it and are replaying the one spot where the Mayor gives Bush credit for sending a miltary guy who really kicked ass and got things started. They COMPLETELY left off the most damning and emotional part of the interview!! Out of perhaps the full 5 minutes, they only played the edited portion where he said he gave Bush credit (though it was only because one military guy showed up who seized the situation and started getting action)
As a matter of fact, they ran this portion, and when it got to the part where Nagin really started laying it on the line, they actually cut it and RE-PLAYED the part favorable to Bush again... they simply played it twice in a row to fill the time spot, rather than allowing the tape to run!!!

Talk about being afraid of angering Bush! It's blatant and sickening!

George W. to the Rescue: What Katrina Has Laid Asunder, Dubya Shall Inspect

George W. Bush, Lord of the Double Negative, decreed today: "Don't buy gas if you don't need it." Figuring I would do my part, I have postponed my annual Petrol Pinata Festival. I have also resolved to washing my car with gasoline every other day, rather than every day. I'm willing to bite the bullet along with everyone else. No frivolous use of gasoline will be permitted in my household -- our Halliburton gasoline-powered television set will not be on more than five hours per day, rather than the usual twenty. The gasoline I normally use when making batches of Singapore Slings will now be cut with pineapple juice. Those gosh darn fossil fuels -- they're such party pleasers! Now, I don't really need all of this gas, per se, but if I want it badbadbad enough doesn't that add up to need? I think so.

The president urged a crackdown on the lawlessness:

"I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency such as this -- whether it be looting, or price gouging at the gasoline pump, or taking advantage of charitable giving or insurance fraud," Bush said. "And I've made that clear to our attorney general. The citizens ought to be working together."

Personally, I am hoping that George W. Bush will once again don his flight suit, man his F-15 and do some strafing runs over New Orleans, ensuring the safety of Wal-Mart, et al.

F.E.M.A., now a part of the Department of Homeland Security, is moving with all the nimble dexterity of any other leviathan bureaucracy -- they are still looking for New Orleans on Mapquest. Whenever someone from the peanut gallery suggests adding "LA" in the "State" field, he is shouted down by those informing him that "New Orleans is not located in Los Angeles, you idiot!"


We shouldn't be too hard on BushCo regarding how egregiously flat-footed this tragedy has caught them. Previous experience dictates that planning for anything other than "best case scenarios" is not BushCo's forte. Maybe if we tell the administration they will be greeted by citizens throwing flowers...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Power of Nightmares: Must-See BBC Documentary

The Power of Nightmares a must-see 3-part documentary from the BBC.

The scarred month of September is upon us again, and though I haven't gone a day since September 11, 2001 without hearing the term "9/11", the media is doubtless ramping up with replays and retrospectives of that day.

The morning of September 11, 2001 found me rising earlier than usual. I was employed as a technical writer by an IT company in Southfield, Michigan. Commuting across the border each day, I tried to beat the rush (6,000 of my fellow Windsor, Ontario citizens did the same thing each day), I usually got to work around 7 a.m. Not so much out of dedication, but due to my phobic fear and loathing of traffic jams and long waits at the border. However, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on the road at around 5 a.m. I shot into the town of LaSalle, just outside of Windsor, to pick up my inlaws who were journeying to Alaska that day for an Alaskan cruise--I was taking them to Detroit Metro Airport before heading to work.

I left my charges at Detroit Metro around 6 a.m., in plenty of time for their 8 a.m. flight, then I headed through the dark morning to Southfield. In those days I was in the habit of arriving to work very early and filling in some of that time by doing my fiction writing. Yes, I know, bad! bad! but it was one of the few ways I had of retaining my sanity in the corporate world. As the office came to life around 8:30 - 9 a.m., I finished up my writing and went online to some of my usual morning Web surfing -- checking out news sites. That morning, none of the news sites I frequented were available. I figured our network had probably been nuzzled by yet another global virus, and all hatches had been battened down by the Help Desk staff. So, I checked my email.

A few minutes after nine o'clock, my wife called me. She said that as she watched one of her morning programs while getting ready for work, she heard that one of the World Trade Center buildings in New York had been struck by a plane. For a moment, I thought she had witnessed some weird hoax on par with Orson Welles' War of the Worlds broadcast in the 1930s. While we spoke, she gasped in horror as she watched live footage of another plane striking the other Trade Center tower.

On the second floor of the building in which I worked -- that floor was empty for some reason, used for storage -- a couple of TV sets had been set up so employees could watch the news in New York unfold. As I stood there, watching, coverage in New York was interrupted by word that the Pentagon had been struck by a plane, as well. It was then that the horror of 9/11 was slowly revealed -- planes had been high-jacked, surely more high-jacked planes were still in the air; all air traffic was in the process of being forced to land in all nearest and available airports.

I returned to my desk, queasy, frightened beyond anything I had ever felt in my life. The images on the news of people congregated and trapped on the roof of the World Trade Center buildings seared into my mind; all that black smoke billowing around them. How the hell would rescuers get to them? This was a full year after the Kursk Russian submarine accident stranded (and ultimately killed) two dozen submariners; a news story I had followed with the same greasy, shitty feeling in my stomach. I imagined this story would be worse with maybe two or three times that number killed.

I called my wife at work. She had also heard on the news speculation that still more high-jacked planes were in the air, and was terrified for her parents. I reassured her as best I could -- not very well, especially with images of the smoldering Trade Center buildings on every TV channel. I said that her folks' plane would probably be diverted to some place like Kanasas City, and they'd be inconvenienced as hell, but safe.

Soon after, I returned to the second floor. While watching the live broadcast on ABC, Peter Jennings doing a stunningly rotten job of commenting on the scenes of destruction, and passing along every manner of disinformation -- speculating at one point that possibly the high-jackers of the two planes that hit the Trade Center buildings acted independently: that two sets of psychos had conceived of the same plan, and carried it out at the very same time, on the very same day. That was the level of insanity of that God damned day.

Then the Trade Center buildings collapsed. Something in all of us plummetted irrevocably with them, I think. Amid the cacophony of news, I heard that the Canadian border had been closed. Numerous colleagues -- some whose last names I didn't even know -- offered their spare bedrooms to me, knowing I was stranded for the night; asked me to their homes for dinner, and to be with their families until I could get back to my own. The salve of that human empathy and goodness made it so I could get through the day. Such good, good people.

After a soul-crushing morning, during more than three hours of bottomed-out fear for my inlaws -- though no further crashes were reported after that plane was shot down over Pennsylvania -- my wife finally called to say her mother called, said they were safe, that their plane had been diverted to Kansas City. They ultimately made their Alaska cruise after a couple of days of hell in the airport.

By mid-afternoon, I was so rattled and in need of a familiar face that I telephoned a professor who resided in Detroit whom I had known at the University of Windsor. His wife was so unnerved by the events of the day she actually told me not to come over. Fair enough. It was a bad day for us all.

I spent that night at the home of a colleague, and headed for the Canadian border around four o'clock the following morning. The border was open and empty. The Customs official said nothing to me, and I floored my car to get home. I worked from home for the next week. When I finally returned to the office a week later, the lines at the border were so long, I would leave my home at 3 a.m. in an attempt to miss the worst of it. Less than a month later, as my company was swallowed up by EDS, I was laid-off. Just as well -- each morning I crossed the Ambassador Bridge to get to work. This is a main artery on which transport trucks supplying the auto industry, and countless other industries, pass over 24/7 in an unending flow. For anyone seeking to harm the U.S./Canadian economies they need only strike that bridge. Sitting in my car, amid the gridlock that backed up beyond the middle of the bridge was like sitting on a giant bulls-eye. I spent the entire time, creeping along with traffic, wondering if one or several cars around me might explode. A hell of way to begin the day.

The constant, growing refrain that sounded through my mind in the weeks following 9/11 was "Get the motherfuckers who did this! Get them!" I believe in law and order, and all that, but also felt that the people behind the 9/11 attacks ought to be skinned alive, rolled in salt, and fed to a herd of swine. That not only should their lives be extinguished, but the memories of their names, the memory that they ever existed should somehow be expunged from the earth.

From my reading and documentary-watching over the years, I figured America had numerous "General Jack Ripper"-types of insane commanders and planners they didn't dare retire into civilian life, ready to be wheeled out of the darkest compartments of the military apparatus to create plans of retribution. This heartened me, that there was finally a legitimate use for the psychotic military fringe -- unleash America's craziest and most dangerous upon the enemy's craziest and most dangerous. No part of me doubted the American crazies would win; and I would happily have contributed a keg of Wild Turkey bourbon to their victory party.

While Mayor Giuliani and George W. Bush encouraged the world to continue shopping, the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT)" was pulled off the shelf by Attorney General John Ashcroft -- legislation that complex and overarching isn't created overnight. Where the hell had that come from? The diversion of it caused me something close to physical pain. How in the world would surveilling American citizens down to the marrow of their bones deter people like those behind the 9/11 attacks?

Then came the attack/invasion of Afghanistan. This struck me as entirely wrong-headed. Not that I was so concerned about its sovereignty -- the year before I had followed in the news the Taliban's destruction (much to the rest of the world's consternation) of millennias-old artifacts and statues. The invasion struck me as a lumbering, clumsy response to the 9/11 attacks. First, if the U.S. was interested in attacking the country most of the high-jackers had in common, they should have attacked Saudi Arabia. Which illustrates the problem at hand -- the attackers may have originated from Saudi Arabia, but that didn't mean they attacked on behalf of Saudi Arabia. And just because they trained in Afghanistan didn't mean they attacked on behalf of Afghanistan, either. Afghanistan is about as barren and remote a country as our earth possesses -- with the exception of the North and South poles. It was basically a vast vacant lot where crazies could shoot guns, swing on monkey bars, and shout "Jihad!" without being bothered.

To battle such people, you don't send in a huge, lumbering military that can be seen and heard coming from miles away. You infiltrate these groups. Christ, why don't we have our own suicide bombers? You've seen footage of how close journalists and cameras have gotten to Osama Bin Laden. If the rotters of the world can find suicide bombers to carry out their plans, why can't we?

Also, that American-Taliban fighter who was captured in Afghanistan, John Walker Lindh, apparently had a couple of face-to-face meetings with Osama Bin Laden. His being an American was the chief reason why Bin Laden requested to meet with him; John Walker Lindh hadn't been supplicating those around him for a meeting with Bin Laden. If that misguided sleepwalker could get close to Bin Laden, why couldn't the all-powerful, over-funded Central Intelligence Agency get someone in that close? Were they even trying? Or, were they too busy going through some dictator's underwear drawer in South America or Eastern Europe?

And, you know what? Poring over the news, on TV and the Web, during those weeks after 9/11, I saw no actual proof that Osama Bin Laden was behind the attacks. His name surfaced in the immediate aftermath, but never did I hear or see even a sketchy chain of facts that led from Bin Laden to the 9/11 attacks. I was willing to take BushCo's word for it for a while, but given BushCo's already-evident trouble with the truth, I wasn't going to trust their word, alone, for long.

Then I heard that some of the 19 men identified as the 9/11 high-jackers were actually alive, in other countries. The details about how the high-jackers took control of the planes bothered me, too. You see, a month before the 9/11 attacks I did some travelling on business, flying from Detroit to Des Moines, Iowa (with a change of planes in Chicago). Now, I hate flying. Not only am I afraid of crashing, but during the summer of 2001, there were an increasing number of stories in the media about "air rage" -- drunken, crazed idiots attacking airline crews and even attempting to invade airplane cockpits. These bothered me to the point where I emailed a family friend who flies tens of thousands of miles a month to ask if he had ever witnessed an instance of "air rage." He said he had not. Though this consoled me to some degree, I made my flights to Chicago and then to Des Moines with white knuckles.

My point? Had anyone interfered with one of my flights -- and been armed with anything short of a flame thrower or M-16 machine gun -- I would have personally torn out their larynx with my teeth. So, the idea of some guys with "box cutter" blades commandeering the doomed flights on 9/11 just didn't strike me as plausible. Surely I'm not alone in my attitude toward people who might interfere with a flight I was on. We are a civil, passive society, but there still are bar-room brawlers and road-rage addicts among us, are there not?

Other aspects of 9/11 that bother me:

  • The collapse of the WTC buildings sure looked like a "controlled demolition". No steel building has ever collapsed due to fire. Even FEMA, in its report, states that it has no idea what caused the collapse of the WTC. Since the debris was removed as quickly as humanly possible, no expert has had an opportunity to examine any portion of it

  • The damage to the Pentagon is not consistent with it being hit by a passenger jet

  • Had the supposed high-jacked plane that hit the Pentagon struck it on its approach, it would have slammed into the side of the building where Donald Rumsfeld's office, among many others, was located. Instead, the plane made an incredible 270-degree turn, and miraculously struck the virtually unoccupied, newly strengthened side of the building

  • Nothing about the Air Force "stand down" or bumblingly slow response to the high-jackings sounds right to me. The incompetence was all too convenient for the high-jackers

  • Kenneth Star spent more than $60 million investigating the sex life of President Clinto. The 9/11 Commission was given less than $6 million. Many of its experts quit in disgust because of political interference

  • George W. Bush's comments about his reactions to the 9/11 attacks are inconsistent and border on the bizarre


Then came America's fixation on Iraq, although we later learned this fixation existed while George W. Bush was campaigning to be president in 2000. The more I heard about the "link" between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, the less I believed it. Call me crazy, but I believe accusations should always be accompanied by evidence. So, when Colin Powell went before the U.N. and made his presentation of America's "proof" that Iraq was an imminent threat, I listened with great anticipation. And was not the least bit persuaded. But it wasn't long before it was learned much of Powell's presentation came from a plagiarized student essay -- reproduced with spelling errors, and all -- that had been written before the first Gulf war in 1991. And by now we all know the entire presentation was bullshit.

George W. Bush always intended to go into Iraq, and sure enough, America is now embroiled in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

The part of the BBC documentary The Power of Nightmares that troubled me most dealt with the American Neo-Conservatives. These men -- Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, among others -- dramatically overstated the intentions and capabilities of the Soviets in the 1970s, and have done the same with Al Quaeda two decades later. I was stunned to hear one researcher state that Al Quaeda, in fact, does not exist. Osama Bin Laden only began using the term after the 9/11 attacks because that's what he heard western media call his "group." Also, no vast organized terrorist Web exists. Sure, there are uncountable crazies in the world, of all stripes, but according to experts there is no proof that a mafia-like organizational structure exists among them.

And the mounting refrain that steadily grew in my mind following the 9/11 attacks -- "Get the motherfuckers who did this!" -- continues. It's now apparent that the 9/11 attacks were allowed to occur by the Bush administration in order to create a pretext by which to embark on its adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan (see the German Reichstag fire of 1933; see the attacks on Pearl Harbor; see "Operation Northwoods" proposed by American generals in the 1960s). Whether or not Osama Bin Laden was actually behind the 9/11 attacks doesn't seem to matter any more. The Bush administration has pretty much given up on finding or killing him. Somebody should tell the poor soldiers still in Afghanistan, if anyone even remembers that they're still there.

* * *

When I was a kid I remember watching the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite with my father. Other than the 1979 taking of Americans hostages in Iran, the news story I remember most vividly from that time was The Atlanta Child Murders. Evening after evening, another child was murdered by some psychopath stalking the city. Atlanta police seemed a complete loss on how to stop or find him. For the most part, the kids were in my age range, I recall the same refrain filling my mind then as it did following 9/11 -- "Get the guy who's doing this." At some point, a man named Wayne Williams was arrested and convicted for only two of the 21 murders. In fact, the murders for which Williams was convicted were of men, not children. In fact, it didn't look like Wayne Williams was the Atlanta Child Killer at all. But the authorities were content to have a guy for the murders, if not the actual guy.

That's where I guess I differ from the world. In cases like 9/11 or the Altanta Child Murders, I think it's important to get the guy(s) responsible -- not someone who looks the actual guy, not someone of the same religion as the actual guy, not someone who drives the same kind of car as the actual guy. I want the actual guy caught, and for authorities not to rest until they capture him. So few people in charge seem to share this idea.

The world is less safe today because George W. Bush lied and doctored intelligence, and bullied allies in order to begin a war with Iraq. Once a liar is revealed, who the hell will believe him? Particularly one so methodical and so thoroughly unmasked as George W. Bush, who has America stomping around the world in precisely the arrogant, destructive manner its detractors have always accused it of doing. The officials at Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-ray have not yet held up a single detainee as being guilty of anything.

As the documentary The Power of Nightmares so expertly illustrates, while BushCo is off pursuing its own hidden agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks remain free to act again. How can anyone call this success or even progress?

This period in history, if it's remembered at all, will be known as a time when people of conscience, people who "knew better", sat on their hands and let the hysterics run wild, creating an environment of War Without End, Fear Without Resolution, and ever decreasing freedoms for the law abiding. When the tyrant leading the charge against good sense and honest protection of the innocent can be convincingly compared to a chimpanzee, persons of conscience ought to be utterly ashamed of themselves.