vrijdag, februari 28, 2003

I'm Sorry Ari But We Need A Little More

"But think about the implications of what you're saying. You're saying that the leaders of other nations are buyable. And that is not an acceptable proposition." Ari Fleischer, February 25, 2003 White House press briefing.

It would be quite possible for Desultory Turgescence to devote itself solely to the insidious sophistry of its favorite White House houseboy, the philistine contagion of deceit and circumvention of Ari Fleischer. A daily comb through the text of his press briefings alone could produce a virtual encyclopedia of malicious revilement of the principles of democratic openness too voluminous to register by mere humans.

His lack of candor, whether by Presidential dictate or sheer obstinance, is, as Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman point out, too much to take any more. If you read the daily text of the White House press briefings, you see an expanding hostility in the questioning, a perpetuating pugnacity in the reporters themselves, many of whom appear to have grown weary of this thimblerigging of the truth.

But perhaps it is all a haute comédie the average peasant is to unsophisticated to understand. By example, from yesterday's press conference:

QUESTION: "Ari, how much is this war going to cost?"

MR. FLEISCHER: "That will depend on a number of factors, many of them up to Saddam Hussein and to Saddam Hussein's henchmen. If Saddam Hussein and his henchmen do not follow orders, if they don't follow their orders from Saddam Hussein, that can lead to one scenario. And so it is too soon to say with precision how much this war will cost."

What? Listening to Ari Fleischer's responses is like pulling the cord of a Mrs. Beasley doll. I think she had a gamut of about 10 different prerecorded phrases that were repeated over and over no matter how many times you pulled her cord. Ari Fleischer is very similar. No matter how many times and how many different ways a specific question is asked, he delivers the same, patented reply:

Ari, what's the weather going to be like today?
That depends on Saddam Hussein and his henchmen.

Ari, what color are your eyes?
It all depends on whether or not Saddam Hussein fully complies with UN resolutions.

Ari, do you love your mother?
I think this question is best addressed to Saddam Hussein because he has failed to disarm and I cannot be responsible for what happens should he continue to violate the terms of the UN resolutions and fails to disarm.

Ari, do you believe in God?
That all depends on whether Saddam Hussein follows exactly what the Security Council has mandated in the 17 different resolutions.

Actually, it's quite possible that Mrs. Beasley has more response options at her disposal than Ari Fleischer.

The question I would really like to see addressed these days is where is my payoff?

I see that countries like Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Kuwait are demanding payoffs to support this war against Iraq. The cost of buying a coalition is getting exorbitant. Even countries like Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan are getting in on the act, not to mention what that timely show of support from the "New Europe" is going to cost in the end. The United States is sending billions of taxpayer dollars to countries like Spain and Turkey, where more than 90 percent of the people oppose the war. We bribe their governments to turn against the will of their own people.

Doesn't the Bush Administration want Desultory Turgescence's support for the war? If so, they'd better prepare themselves because it's going to cost them. If a country of slackers like Turkey can get a multi-billion dollar aid package just to consider helping the United States, imagine the kind of aid package Desultory Turgescence has coming to it for its unwavering editorial support for such a haphazard and jumbled war effort as the one currently being birthed out of the Bush Administration.

And while we're calculating all of that, I'm going to work on some new phrases for Ari Fleischer to repeat, attempt to expand his vocabulary beyond the simple parroting he has already clearly mastered. In addition, I'm going to teach him how to take his concentration a step further than simply repeating a mantra by showing him how to concentrate on his breathing. With time and practice I'm sure we can increase the amount of time Ari can exist in this peaceful state of meditation and get his mind off of his unhealthy obsession with Saddam Hussein.

donderdag, februari 27, 2003

It's A Wonderful Life (for everyone but Saddam)

Well, you can't say ole Dubya isn't full of surprises. Last night, settling in for his hastily announced speech, I expected the same bromidic screed as always. You know: the whole WMD thing, the Saddam tortures and gasses his own people thing, the Saddam is ignoring our bellicose warnings and has to be punished thing, how Georgie is normally a peaceful sort of frat boy who doesn't like killing but in this case, there just isn't a choice because he is on a mission from God thing, etc.

Instead, I found myself listening to some sort of wide-eyed hippy idealist. Could this be the same Bushmaster we've grown to fear and admire? I almost expected him to have a flower tucked behind his ear and psychodelic strobe lights playing behind him as he spoke about how knocking off Saddam was going to liberate the Iraqi people into this new Magic Kingdom of Democracy and peace and love and happiness, and how knocking off Saddam would bring a spellbinding potion of political reform in the Middle East and how knocking off Saddam could even bring peace to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict!.

By George, after listening to that delicious parable of Pollyannaism, I was almost convinced there isn't anything within the imagination that couldn't be rectified by the elimination of Saddam Hussein.

Of course, before we start spreading this oleo of peace and democracy, it should be remembered there's always the possibility that despite their billions of dollars of bombs, Saddam might escape, run out on his check without paying like bin-Laden did. In fact, ABC reports on the possibility that if an attack appears likely, Saddam Hussein might actually head for the desert using camels for transport and surrounded only by a handful of his most-trusted confidants.

And no one should find it surprising that the powder keg of the Middle East the Bush Administration is so eager to light, could just as easily lead to disaster, heightened regional pressure could trigger escalating violence on both sides, a new wave of terrorism, and increased instability throughout the region. Groovy George reminded us instead that the United States had a moral responsibility to liberate people ensnared by Hussein's "nightmare world" of tyranny, and said it was in the nation's self-interest to depose him.

I for one, am thoroughly convinced. I can't wait to get to Baghdad and have my first freedom-loving Starbucks Frapuccino and deliciously democratic McDonalds Big Mac on old Rashid Street. And gee whiz Uncle George, if we kill Saddam, can we really have peace, love and happiness in the Middle East? Hoo boy! I can hardly wait!

And I know those liberal types have been venting their splenetic sagas about how only the big shot oil barons are going to make money like water gushing out of a bidet, but frankly, I see no reason why the rest of us shouldn't try to get in on the profits of democracy.

For those smart enough not to bet on Saddam's survival, it was noted in the Sydney Morning Herald today that alarm clocks, fountain pens, cigarette lighters, watches, plates and golden medallions, all bearing Saddam's unmistakable features, are up for grabs - while stocks last and of course, the buyers and sellers of Baghdad are collectively betting on the memorabilia becoming collectors' items soon.

The SMH reported that "Mohammed Mardan, 34, sold his last two Saddam watches on Wednesday. One bore the President's beaming features beside a red heart, another beside a blue one. Last year he sold these watches for $16. Now his asking price is £47. He has sold an average of three Saddam watches every day this year, about twice the rate of last year."

Sadly, few on eBay seem to have taken adventage of this potential boon in Saddam memorabilia. There are a few "Butcher of Baghdad" watches and some dinar notes for sale but nothing in the way of Saddam cigarette lighters.

And listen, as most of us already know, a piece of memorabilia has alot more value when it is personally autographed. So if any of you out there know how to get ahold of Saddam before he is removed, let me know. I've got a few Saddam alarm clocks and cigarette lighters I'd like him to sign.

woensdag, februari 26, 2003

Another Page In The Novel Of CNN's Irrelevance

No, it wasn't enough for the suits at CNN to encourage their news anchors to pepper their news reports with hip-hop slang in order to gain a wider mass appeal. Now, of their own volition, they will also cater to the lap dogs of censorship.

CNN has come out with a new document entitled "Reminder of Script Approval Policy".

What this new policy outlines is that CNN's system of "script approval" – the iniquitous instruction to reporters that they have to send all their copy to anonymous officials in Atlanta to ensure it is suitably sanitized– does the Pentagon's job of censorship for them and to reassure the Pentagon that there is no cause for concern about the news coming from the battlefield.

What it means is that no scripts or reports for CNN will be done without explicit approval from the Dogs of Censorship at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. All reporters preparing package scripts must submit the scripts and any editing they've performed for approval by the "script editors" in Atlanta who can insist on changes or "balances" in the reporter's dispatch. Note also that CNN revealed after the 1991 Gulf War that it had allowed Pentagon "trainees" into the CNN newsroom in Atlanta.

So before you get all hopped up on the potential of honest coverage of the war while reading these sentimental accolades of how journalists are being trained and imbedded with troops in order to give us first hand coverage, remember that, if you are getting your news on CNN anyway, the yes men in Atlanta have final script approval, not the poor bastards actually "in" the war with a first-hand account.


Yesterday, the NRC Handelsblad newspaper out of Rotterdam published a "War Sonnet" by Gerrit Komrij, the Dutch Poet Laureate. Below is the text in Dutch and, for the purpose of clarity, a Desultory Turgescence exclusive English translation, uncensored by CNN.


Loert daar geen terrorist achter het raam?
Ik hoorde het in de keuken ook al tikken.
Ik droom van mullah, mohammed, imam
En van de minste windstoot moet ik schrikken -

Een losse dakpan of een arabier?
Ik slorp het nieuws op. De tv staat warm.
Ik ben nerveus. Ik heb niet echt plezier -
Ik ben de gijzelaar van vals alarm.

De heren worden stichtelijk bedankt.
Ze stampvoeten en zijn alleen nog zoet
Als er ten minste één sirene jankt.

Wie speelt het in zo'n kleuterklasje klaar
Een oorlog af te wenden die al woedt?
Doe nu je oorlog maar, papkind, doe maar.

War Sonnet

Is a terrorist peering from behind the window?
I also heard him tapping in the kitchen.
I dream of mullahs, mohammed, imam
And am frightened by the slightest gust of wind.

A loose roof tile or an Arab?
I absorb the news. The tv is warm.
I am nervous. I have no true pleasure.
I am a hostage to false alarms.

The men shall be devoutly thanked.
They stamp their feet but are as gentle
as at least one siren howling.

Who does the job, in such a little child's class,
to evade a war that already rages?
Have your war now daddy's boy, have your war.

dinsdag, februari 25, 2003

Let's Debate the Debate Idea

So, Saddam Hussein says he is “ready to conduct a direct dialogue — a debate" — with our president. “I will say what I want and he will say what he wants.” Hussein told CBS News during a three-hour interview Monday in Baghdad. Hussein, in issuing the challenge for an international television and radio debate via satellite, said: "As leaders, why don't we use this opportunity?"

Indeed, why not? It would certainly be more entertaining than the last several presidential debates, the rope-a-dope tactics of two candidates bucking for public approval without sticking their proverbial feet in their mouths.

I don't know why not, but for some reason, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, the hornswoggler who interviewed Saddam, never advised him that for all intents and purposes, he's already heard everything George Bush wants to say. The 296 or so word vocabulary of the President of the United States has been exhausted and in the midst of preparing for war, there just isn't time at the moment for vocabulary building flashcards. It is possible however, that if he is allowed to string lexigrams together, he might be able to muster a more imaginative debate.

For Saddam's part, I have to wonder does he even speak English? Yes, we know he likes to watch TV, monitoring the Iraqi stations he controls and also CNN, Sky, al Jazeera, and the BBC. We also know that in recent years he appears to have written and published two romantic fables, Zabibah and the King and The Fortified Castle as well as a book of Saddamisms. But I think for Bush's sake, there should be a linguistic handicap for Saddam. No translators allowed for Hussein.

And so, if it were to come to pass, I don't think it should be done by satellite hook-up. I want to see both of these guys, Saddam and Dubya standing side by side. I want to see whether or not they shake hands as they meet at center stage, whether Bush lets one of his little smirks loose and whether or not Hussein insists that Bush, for the purposes of personal hygiene, greet him by smelling his armpits, as we learned in Uncle Saddam.

In order for neither man to have an advantage due to jet lag and for the purposes of finding a non-partisan venue, the debate should be held in Reykjavik.

Of course, a debate is not half as appealing as the duel Bush was challenged to before. But just as in the case of the suggested duel, the White House's pestiferous and presumptuous little dachshund of a press secretary, Ari Fleischer, rejected the notion of a debate, saying it was “not a serious statement.”

Personally, I think they're just "misunderestimating" Saddam's sincerity.

Nevertheless, I couldn't help but imagine the opening scene in the 300 seat conference hall of the Grand Hotel in Reykjavik:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN: In this corner, standing 6'2 and weighing in at 225 pounds, dressed in a fedora and a dark custom-tailored suit behind a desk spread with white lilies, the rifle-toting and blood-thirsty Butcher of Baghdad, Saddam Hussein!

And in this corner, standing 6 feet even and weighing in at 192 pounds, dressed in the robes of compassionate conservatism; a dark suit, white shirt, and red tie, the peace-seeking, bible-thumping President of the U-nited States of America, George Walker Bush.

Imagine, if you can, that scene in Beneath the Planet of the Apes when General Ursus gives his big speech to his fellow gorilla soldiers calling for an invasion of the Forbidden Zone, on the theory that since humans sometimes come from there, there must be a green, fertile region beyond the desert. Recall the wildly enthusiastic applause of his fellow gorilla soldiers and you can imagine the scene inside the conference room housing Mssrs. Bush and Hussein following their introductions. For lack of a bias or "homefield" advantage, the debate audience should be made up of Jerry Springer show participants, none of whom, because of their remarkably low IQs and their blinding ignorance, will recognize either debater and will keep still the entire time unless fisticuffs break out between Saddam and Dubya.

Rather than having a moderator who displays his/her own personal bias in the line of questioning, the questions should be selected in advance by a mixed panel of Baath Party and Republican Party members in order to ensure that the questions will not be too difficult or too blasphemous for either debator to respond to.

To ensure clarity, each debator will have the choice of a select number of their own quotations to choose from in answering each question. For example, if Bush is asked why America should invade Iraq, he could reply from a multiple choice series of possible responses like" "Time is Running Out" or "Freedom Will Be Defended" or "Our Quarrel Is Not With the Iraqi People", etc. Hussein, when asked about his hidden Weapons of Mass Destruction could choose from favorite phrases like, "Allah Is On Our Side", or "Keep your eyes on your enemy and be faster than him", etc. Each debator's ability to match the correct political buzzphrase for each question will have won that round of the debate.

If, at the end of the round of questioning, the debate points are deemed equal, there will be a "lightening round" of questions based upon the verses of the Koran and the Bible. The person who knows his preferred religious text the best, will be deemed the winner. Hopefully, this ensures an advantage for Bush, considering Saddam is an infidel in his own religion, but just to be on the safe side, perhaps all American networks should begin broadcasting a 24 hour a day Bible study class in part, so Dubya doesn't forget his lines and also so we can finally find all those juicy quotes where God says we should bomb Iraq into pre-history and "liberate" the Iraqi people from the current despot so they can suffer under somebody different for a change.

The only question then is, what does the winner receive?

We'll let the debators decide that one. They can choose between:

Door Number One: The rights to Iraqi oil
Door Number Two: The rights to Iraqi oil OR
Door Number Three: The rights to Iraqi oil

As leaders, why don't they use the opportunity?

maandag, februari 24, 2003

On A Mission From God

Der Spiegel, a German weekly news magazine, had a captivating cover for last week's issue: George Bush lecturing, microphone in hand, with the image of a cross behind him and surrounded by images of war and patriotism. The title on the cover read: "On a Divine Mission, The Crusade of George Bush".

The opening paragraph of the article opines:

By attacking Baghdad, US president George W. Bush wants to fulfill a divine order. In the highly religious United States, there has rarely been such a deep connection between national power interests and fundamentalist false piety. Christian fanatics are calling for a crusade against Islam.

The article doesn't bash Bush so much as it does examine the strange phenomenon of the Christian Right and its influence in the current administration.

It traces, for example, Bush's historical "growth" from pathetic alcoholic who "one day, at the end of a week-long drinking binge, woke up and looked at his vomit-covered face in the mirror" to a man who "fell to his knees and prayed for God's help.". It is an absurd little story when you think about it though Bush himself, the story alleges, admits that if hadn't "found" the missing God, he'd still be sitting at home guzzling bottles of Lone Star instead of running the country into ruination.

"You know, of course, that I had a problem with alcohol. If things had stayed the way they were, right now I'd be sitting in a bar in Texas instead of in the Oval Office. There is only one reason why I'm in the Oval Office now and not in that bar: I found faith. I found God."

Yeah, thanks alot "God".

The article further delves into the motivations of the Christian Right as it pertains to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, underscoring the fact that the simple-minded exegetes of the last book of the New Testament do not shy away from even the most uninspired attempts to connect the puzzling pieces of scripture to present-day events.

"Simply laughing off such garbage underestimates the influence of the militant Christian Right. Many are firmly convinced that the attacks on New York and Washington have started the process that will lead to the end of the world, the return of Jesus Christ, and the dawning of the promised thousand-year reign of God. When these faithful hear their president talk about the "Axis of Evil," they are convinced that he is speaking their own language, that he, like they, is a holy warrior."

A holy warrior indeed. What a great religion wherein some magician can turns the "vomit-covered face" of a failed man of the elite into the President of the United States and a holy warrior to boot. Image all the holy warriors and devout G.I. Joes they can churn out if they start hitting the A.A. meeting halls.

Frankly, I've been a little dissatisfied with my own production of late. I had such dreams, such high hopes, such Fitzgeraldesque aspirations. By all rights, I too should be a millionaire by now. I too should be in charge of my own army of holy warriors, my own brigade of bible-toting thugs wreaking havoc on the unredeemed and the faithless!

I'm going to fix that right away. Tonight, I'm going to go out and get drunk. Really drunk. So drunk that I too wake up with a "vomit-covered face", run over to the nearest Born Again Christian Meeting House and start praying long and hard so that I too can become President of the United States and a holy warrior.

Those of you with kids out there, let this be a lesson. You needn't bother worrying about what sort of schools you send them to, or what kind of friends they hang out with, or if they smoke a little pot or partake in a little underage drinking now and then. So long as you get them praying and braying and asking the good and generous almighty God to accept their gratitude, you're going to be the parents of someone famous. Someone like the President. A true holy warrior.

zaterdag, februari 22, 2003

Today's steady downpour, the mini floods in the streets of Manhattan, put me in mind of this:

Willow, Weep for Me

Same idea as "Cry Me a River,"
really: because nobody gives a fig
for your parochial pain, you enlist
nature to lament for you. All outdoors
commands attention. Of course, the other half
of the planet lies swaddled in sleep
and darkness, but all the outdoors you can

see from where you stand means to most people
all the outdoors worth mention. A window
box bristling with herbs isn't nature. God
made nature and humans ruined it. Thus
nature might lament its own demise
in its time free from hymning human grief.
The rushes would sway and stones dance in place

and the willow trail its mournful tresses.
There was always a twinkle in nature's
eye when it sang of Cindy's perfidy --
who'd lean an ounce of trust on Cindy? --
but to sing not as a subcontractor
but in one's own sad stead would set the whole
broken heart of nature to music.

William Matthews from: _After All_

vrijdag, februari 21, 2003

Jaap's Poem on Today's Propaganda


Not being yours,
being theirs deserves consideration.
In the end,
they say they'll think about it.

When eyes hunt around a room
for familiars, coordinates
dialate, sounding like the valid words
only fingertips can discern.

Later, when no one is listening,
station by station, even in the dense vocabulary
of somnambulists, there will be that quick
so quick no one will see it:

If truth wasn't scary,
it would be a lie.


When I'm sitting lovely, no. Bathing,
I can call on their faucets of love:
Be Me! Be Me!
Over and over until time is running out.

Disconnected, the standards
stand on their own two feet:
I won't have to say anything.

Careful planning is vital.
No one dies without an era to cling to.
And when the grip slips you hope
to land in a room full of holes.


An advertisement that for dying becomes
dying regardless of its heroes
and packs it up neat
in simple cardboard boxes and bones,
is still dying.

I was almost fooled.

Then came the hips of sunset's hula dances
just to become the hips
of sunset's hula dancers for another day.

donderdag, februari 20, 2003

Turkish Land For Rent

''I am not responsible for geography."
- Josef Stalin to Finland in 1938, when World War II was looming and Russia wanted territorial concessions.

Man, the price of real estate is skyrocketing. Not long after Liechtenstein offered itself up for rent like a harlot in a redlight district window, Turkey has announced that it too is for rent.

Whereas the Ruritanian statelet of Liechtenstein offered herself up at an estimated £1.2 million for a four-day conference of 900 delegates, Turkey's demands are a little bit higher; a reported $92 billion in economic assistance - aid and loan guarantees - as its price for co-operation in letting the U.S. base tens of thousands of soldiers in Turkey to open a possible northern front against Iraq.

Granted, when compared to allowing U.S. soldiers to deploy and possibly launch an invasion against a chemical and biological weapons despot posing as your neighbor, renting out your country for a four-day conference of 900 business delegates is roughly equivilent to renting it out to a Girl Scout Troop and should be much cheaper, but even to a spendthrift like Uncle Sam, $92 billion seemed a little too extortionary.

The original offer of the U.S. was around $30 billion but hey, even Turkey has some bills to pay. Turkish columnist Ferai Tinc reports that the last time Uncle Sam came was tossing around dollar bills like used kleenex back in 1990 for Gulf War One support, urgent aid to Turkey amounted to $82 billion. That seems like alot but according to Tinc, the "damage that Turkey suffered in the decade since ’91 amounted to $100 billion."

Naturally, at that rate, supporting the U.S. seems like a money losing proposition to say the least. Tinc goes on to cite a Turkish economy hit so hard following the last Gulf War that they were never able to recover. In 1990, Turkey’s growth rate was 9.5%, but just one year later it had plummeted to 0.5%. In addition, according to Tinc, contrary to Turkish expectations, the US didn’t overthrow Saddam Hussein, so Turkey had to continue its relations with Saddam’s administration, which remained its neighbor.

In this light, $92 billion seems like a bargain. So why is America so reticent about anteing up? Well, for one, they claim Ankara is seeking to exploit the Iraq crisis to address its financial needs. Those unconscionable bastards! Clearly they don't understand the altruistic and humanitarian nature of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Clearly they don't see how much the Bush Administration is willing to continue to hold its own economy hostage to its war efforts. Otherwise, the Turkish would act like good citizens of the world and put their economic self-interests behind the interests of the Bush Administration like every other nation of the world that isn't evil.

Rest assured though, America is not going to stand for this kind of self-centered cheekiness from Turkey much longer. The contemptuous little demagogue who continues to pose as White House Press Secretary, Ari Fleischer, said as much when he postulated, in typically clear and concise Fleischerian English that "I think either an agreement will be reached, or no agreement will be reached," he said. "There comes a moment when plans must be made, decisions must be made, and cannot stretch on indefinitely." To emphasize those decisions needing to be made, in the typically diplomatic fashion of the Bush Administration, they then warned Turkey it would cancel a multi-billion-dollar aid package if Ankara did not immediately allow the US army to deploy troops intended for a military strike against northern Iraq.

And then, the Administration trotted out it's favorite little phrase, it's Administrative motto, so to speak, when it noted that "time is running out" for Ankara to make a decision, suggesting Washington was pressing for an agreement by the weekend.

In Turkey, Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis brushed aside U.S. warnings that time was running out. He said a vote in parliament to base tens of thousands of U.S. troops was unlikely before early next week.

By this afternoon, Secretary of State Colin Powell jumped into the act, saying "there may be some creative things we can do" to gain acceptance of a proposed U.S. aid package meant to pave the way for Turkey to help in a war against Iraq. Of course Powell did not elaborate on those refinements but said he expected to hear from Turkey by day's end. As for the United States, "Our position is firm," Powell said.

In the end, it seems highly unlikely that Turkey will buck a substantial financial package just because it isn't sufficient to meet their economic needs. Nevertheless, as Justice and Development Party (AK Party) leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan emphasized, "If Turkey makes a sacrifice, then its demands should not be considered as a simple bargain. We are not a country and nation who can make the issue of war an issue of bargain." 90% of Turkey's predominantly Muslim population, for example, is naturally against the war on Iraq. It isn't easy convincing 10% of the population that they can buy off 90% of the population with a bunch of empty economic aid promises.

Then again, if the Bush Administration would like to make a leeetle trade, perhaps the oil fields of Northern Iraq might be a more persuasive bargaining chip.

woensdag, februari 19, 2003

Andy Flower and Protests

Admittedly, when I first saw Andy Flower's name in the news this morning, I had no idea who he was. I didn't know if it was the name of yet another hip new band of espresso-sipping, Sartre-obsessed nihilistists whose pyrotechnics set off a fire in the club they were playing, or an evil spinoff of the Andy Dick Show.

Turns out, Andy Flower plays cricket. I don't know much about cricket other than that England, a bunch of her old colonies and a few other stray commonwealth nations get together to play it in tournaments. I confess that even when in far-away lands where the fare of sport television is minimal to non-existent, even in this sports vacuum, I don't watch cricket matches and never will.

But Andy Flower isn't in the news simply because he plays cricket. He is in the news because he is from Zimbabwe, one of the priliminary round venues of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003 and a country notorious for its President, Robert Mugabe, whose regime has endorsed human rights abuses and rigging of elections. Andy Flower is also in the news because he expressed displeasure over the state of affairs in his strife-torn country and said he would wear a black armband throughout the World Cup tournament to "mourn the death of democracy in the country.".

In fact, both he and teammate Henry Olonga said "we cannot in good conscience take to the field and ignore the fact that millions of our compatriots are starving, unemployed and oppressed.".

Many years ago, in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, US sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos gave a black power salute from the 200 metres medal podium to protest at the treatment of blacks in their country. The incident caused outrage and they were suspended and ordered to leave the Olympic village. Both found it difficult to get jobs for years to come.

Thus far, there has been no official reaction from the Mugabe administration other than to say it was "considering" its response. Although it seems clear that both players have jeopardized their international careers, given Mugabe's record as a ruler with a chilling history of torturing and murdering opponents, the personal safety of the two players might be more of a concern at this point than their future as cricket players.

You wouldn't think cricket could generate such a sensation. England recently decided to boycott what would have been their cup opener in Zimbabwe. Not, as one might hope, because of Mugabe's human rights record but because they didn't think it would be "safe" to play there.

Mugabe himself casts a rather large shadow over events as he will be allowed to visit Paris next week for an African leaders’ summit despite an EU travel ban on him, his wife and more than 70 members of his political circle and their families in protest at human rights abuses by his regime. There are even rumors that Mugabe will be arrested upon his arrival in Paris. It was demanded by human rights advocates that the French authorities detain Mr Mugabe under the country's anti-torture legislation as soon as he arrives to attend a Franco-Africa summit.

Once again, a tale is woven between factions of all sorts; diverse self-interests, politics, sports and of course, athletes. This time, instead of an athlete's name soiled in the news for drug violations, assaults, and the usual narratives of woe and self-indulgence, it is for a change, associated with dignity and bravery.

So while cricket still sparks no flicker of passion for me, at least I've come to respect Andy Flower and Henry Olonga. Even if before this morning, I'd never heard of them.

dinsdag, februari 18, 2003

Finalement, La Neige Est Arrivée!
The Cowardice Revealed Behind Nature's Terrorist Attack

Well, we can't say Homeland Security didn't warn us. A little more than a week after they raised the national terror alert from yellow to orange, the entire Eastern Seaboard was buried by a blizzard which caused the closing of airports, paralyzed highways and dumping nearly two feet of snow or more on cities from Washington to Boston.

The Bush Administration is right. Saddam Hussein just can't be trusted.

I know we've been told about how Hussein and Al Qaeda were plotting imminent, "spectacular" attacks that could include the use of radiological, chemical or biological weapons in the United States but never once did I consider those crafty little terrorists could gain control of Nature and use it to dump paralyzing amounts of snow upon us.

No wonder the Bush administration abandoned its Allies and denounced the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. If the terrorists already have control of the weather patterns on Earth, why worry about reducing actual greenhouse gas emissions? If this keeps up, they'll have to defend the homeland on skis and dressed in white camouflage like the Finnish.

Even as we continue to dig out from this cowardly attack of snow and high winds, we can hoist our shovels with the secure knowledge that for now, the worst is over. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said Sunday that the government soon may reduce its threat level from orange, a high probability of terrorist attack, to yellow, an elevated risk.

Responding to critics who belittled some of the suggestions of how to safeguard against terrorist attacks, Ridge said his department had worked for the last eight months, even using focus groups, to find the best ways to prepare the public in the event of terrorist attacks.

I have to admit, at first, I too was skeptical about the effectiveness of duct tape and plastic sheeting. Of course, operating under the belief that the attacks were to be chemical or biological in nature, I never considered the effectiveness of sealing my windows against a massive attack of snow and blowing cold. Those boys in Homeland Security sure are are clever. They didn't want us to know the "true" nature of the attack we would be experiencing, hoping to allay or at least reduce our fears. Well, it worked for me. If I'd have known the attack would be a crippling blizzard, I don't know what I would have done in response. I probably would have just fled the country and given up.

In an appearance this weekend at FBI headquarters to announce details of a new terrorist threat analysis center, President Bush said, "We're working overtime to protect you. We're doing everything in our power to make sure the homeland is secure."

If you don't think it's enough, or you would like to do your part as a patriot, it might be good to know that The Sanitation Department is looking for a few good shovelers, hiring temporary workers to help clear the mounds of snow from the city. The pay is $8.24 an hour for removing snow and ice from crosswalks, bus shelters, street corners and catch basins.

So you see? Even after sustaining a cowardly attack of snow, our superiors are looking for ways to stimulate economic growth.

donderdag, februari 13, 2003

The Inside Dope on Valentines

I was going to wait until tomorrow but, in order to beat the holiday rush and especially because I want to get off the war/terrorism/saddam exercise wheel for a day or two, here is Desultory Turgescence's list of Valentine's Day resources:

First of all, just so you have a little historical context, here is where you can find that Valentine's Day started in the time of the Roman Empire.

Under the rule of Emperor Claudius II Rome was involved in many bloody and unpopular campaigns. Claudius the Cruel was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. He believed that the reason was that roman men did not want to leave their loves or families. As a result, Claudius cancelled all marriages and engagements in Rome. The good Saint Valentine was a priest at Rome in the days of Claudius II. He and Saint Marius aided the Christian martyrs and secretly married couples, and for this kind deed Saint Valentine was apprehended and dragged before the Prefect of Rome, who condemned him to be beaten to death with clubs and to have his head cut off. He suffered martyrdom on the 14th day of February, about the year 270. At that time it was the custom in Rome, a very ancient custom, indeed, to celebrate in the month of February the Lupercalia, feasts in honor of a heathen god. On these occasions, amidst a variety of pagan ceremonies, the names of young women were placed in a box, from which they were drawn by the men as chance directed.

If you'd like to know a little bit about the person responsible for the advent of Valentine's Day turning into a disgusting, capitalist exercise in insincerity here in America, look no further than Esther Allen Howland who began the first American Valentine's out of paper lace and floral decorations.

For the more practical-minded among you, perhaps you could try a constructing a Valentine out of duct tape and plastic sheeting.

For those of you sick and tired, cynical and resentful, or just plain lazy and looking for a cheap way out, try the anti-Valentine to send via email to an insignificant other.

More in tune with heartbreak and loss? Try to read through your sorrows in this anthology.

In some countries, like Iran, for example, where police ordered shops to remove heart-and-flower decorations and have confiscated other symbols of what religious authorities consider a decadent, Western event, you needn't bother worrying about what to get your loved one for Valentine's Day.

If you really hate the idea of Valentine's Day, you could always join up with the Shiv Sainiks, who today made a bonfire of Valentine cards and threaten to disrupt the celebrations on the Valentine's Day which they claimed was being used by multi-nationals to corrupt Indian youth.

If all else fails, try Uncle Ozzy's advice, found in today's NY Post:

"I hate fucking holidays like Valentine's Day. It's all bullshit. Don't send cards or any of that fucking nonsense. Treat your mate special every day of the year and get her gifts for no special occasion. That's the fucking best."

In the days before Ozzy's sort of eloquence and passion, people often had to rely upon things like poems to express such thoughts of meaningful emotions. You may not find it on a Valentine's card, but for those of you who want to cheat a little, you can probably write it in on the margins...

by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire.

"Pull Up Your Pant Legs For Jihad"

Having just read the entire transcipt of bin-Laden's taped broadcast, I thought I'd leave you with a few of the more salacious quotes along with some additional comments:

"We need to reassure while we are close to the unjust war, the war of the bawds, America is leading with its allies and agents on a number of important lessons"

I couldn't tell if this "war of the bawds" was some sort of hip-hop translating neologism or an accurate bending of words. As it turns out, a bawd is either a prostitute or a brothel owner, from the Old French baude-strote, or "procurer of prostitutes". I wonder if he had in mind Miss Mona Stangley from The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas or if he was speaking more generally. Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing a war of bawds. Bawds in bikinis, wrestling in mud, like in those Miller Light commercials.

"Second, remember that victory comes only from God. We have to exert all efforts with preparations, stimulation, and jihad. God said, 'O believers, if you fight for the sake of God, God will grant you victory and make your standing firm."

When I read this, I realized that in many ways, Osama is little more than a cheap plagiarist. He must have seen President Bush's State of the Union speech which closed with:

"We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life and all of history. May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America."

With everyone resting their fate in gods and higher powers and Providence, why are we even bothering with a military campaign against each other? God could just be sitting up there, rolling the dice in a cosmic game of Risk with St. Peter. Which reminds me of a great St. Peter joke I read the other day courtesy of Just Joking:

A guy arrives at the pearly gates, waiting to be admitted. St. Peter is leafing through the Big Book to see if the guy is worthy of entering. After several minutes, St. Peter closes the book, furrows his brow, and says, "I don''t really see that you ever really did anything great in your life, but I don''t see anything really bad either. Tell you what," St. Peter says. "If you can tell me of one REALLY good deed that you did in your life, I''ll let you in."

The guy thinks for a moment and says, "OK, well there was this one time when I was driving down the highway and I saw a gang assaulting this poor girl. I slowed down, and sure enough, there they were, about 50 of 'em torturing this woman. Infuriated, I got out my car, grabbed a tire iron out of my trunk, as the gang members formed a circle around me. One of the first guys in the gang was a huge guy with a studded leather jacket and a chain running from his nose to his ear. So, I ripped his chain out of his face and smashed him and then walked straight up to the leader of the gang. As I walked up to the leader, I hit him over the head with the tire iron. Then I turned around and yelled to the rest of them, ''Leave this poor, innocent girl alone! You're all a bunch of sick, deranged animals! Go home before I really teach you all a lesson in pain!"

St. Peter, duly impressed, says "Wow! When did this happen?"

"About ten minutes ago."

(We now return to the Osama speech, already in progress...)

"The Prophet said, 'Avoid falling in the seven great sins, which are: believing in any but God, magic, murder, usury, stealing orphans' money, fleeing from battle, slandering believing women ... besides, drinking alcohol, adultery, not obeying the parents, and false testimony.' You should be obedient in general."

I've got a few questions about these seven great sins. First of all, what is this business about stealing orphans' money? Orphans don't have money. If they did, they wouldn't be orphans, would they? And while these seven great sins he lists do indeed add up to seven sins, what's this business about tossing in the "drinking alchohol, adultery, not obeying parents and false testimony?" Are these sins too? If so, then wouldn't that be 11 sins, not 7? Or perhaps they are sub-clauses or appendices to the original sins. It just isn't clear. And I'm also not clear about "not obeying the parents". Does this mean EVER or just between certain impressionable ages? What if you are an orphan? Are you exempt, since you don't have any parents to disobey?

"They (American soldiers) are fighting only to serve the interest of those who have the capital, arms dealers, oil owners, including the criminal gang in the White House. Adding to that, those who keep their personal envoys, Bush the father."

More plagiarism from Osama. This sounds distinctly like the sort of No Blood For Oil arguments everyone else excluding the Bush Administration and its drooling pack of rabid sycophants is making. Can't Osama come up with some sort of original depictions of the motivations of the Bush Administration, something of his own authorship? Whatever happened to that simple war against the Great Satan? Speaking of which, to veer slightly off track for a moment, in case you hadn't heard, the Hajj pilgrims have just said no to Satan AND America. How did they find time to pray? Where does this leave The Great Satan Quarterly for Hajj pilgrim subscribers?

Osama also settles into the grandpa-by-the-fire story-telling mode when he goes into his tale of surviving the bombing in Afghanistan and asks that great rhetorical question:

"If all the evil global powers were not capable of defeating one simple mile occupied by mujahedeen using very poor equipment, how can such evil powers triumph over the Islamic world?"

I'll defer that question to Captain Fantastic, Donald Rumsfeld, who held a press conference of his own today:

"There have been people on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" for decades. There have been people all over the globe that -- a manhunt is a manhunt. It's a big world. People can hide. And the question isn't, do you find him immediately? The question is, are you putting sufficient pressure that it makes it difficult for the terrorist acts to occur?"

Hmmm. Sounds like he doesn't know either.

And in what should be a blow to the al Qaeda-Saddam connection theorists for any rational thinking people left in the Administration, Osama says clearly:

"You know that such a crusade war concerns the Muslim nation mainly, regardless of whether the socialist party and Saddam remain or go."

Sounds like Osama cares about Saddam about as much as old Rummy does about the French and Germans.

Lastly, I'll leave you with my favorite line from Osama's broadcast, the one that finally shows some originality:

"So Muslims in general and Iraq in particular must pull up your pant legs for jihad against this unjust campaign."

I just can't help but wonder if this isn't just a plug for his brother Yeslam Binladin's Bin Ladin fashion line, which was to be moderately priced and designed to compete with the likes of Italian retailer Benetton SpA. It's getting so you can't tell the shills from the real jihadists anymore.

dinsdag, februari 11, 2003

In the Land of Terror and Code Orange

Ever since last Friday afternoon, when the flunkies in Homeland Security announced the decision to increase the threat condition designation from elevated to high (yellow to orange for those of you interested in color perception theories), I've been slinking around my apartment, ferreting out odd smells, odd people, unusual weather patterns and of course, odd "chatter".

Chatter, you see, is a euphemism for terrorists talking among themselves about blowing us up or poisoning us, etc. Well, they don't actually say they're going to blow us up or pour poison in our water supplies or rip out the eyes of our kitty cats with rusty pliers. They're too clever for that. That's why we have the Department of Homeland Security: to interpret their chatter and give us a rough idea when we're going to be blown to bits or at the very least, to give us plenty of time to be able to worry about being blown to bits.

In fact, not only do they interpret chatter and give us a rough idea of when we're going to be blown into little teeny, tiny pieces, but they also are nice enough to give us advice about how to prepare for these kinds of terrorist events. For example, they advise us to buy duct tape and plastic sheeting to seal up windows and doors. Thank you Homeland Security. Without this advice, I might have been trying to seal up my windows and doors with papier-mache or silk scarves. I might have used glue or masking tape instead of duct tape to seal it and then where would I have been? Dead, that's where. This sort of advise is invaluable. Life-saving.

Yes, I know that the total US military spending next year will head well over $400 billion, not including the billions it will cost for a war with Iraq. And I know that it seems a little insane that the best advise and protection we get for that $400 billion is duct tape and plastic sheeting but let's be real folks. How many of YOU would have thought up that duct tape and plastic sheeting all by yourselves? Can't you see how indispensible Homeland Security is?

As if we weren't already rich with information and advice, they even advise us to stockpile "disaster supply kits" with enough food, water and medicine to last for three days. Sounds more like we're preparing for the Super Bowl Weekend than a terrorist attack. If we're being attacked by terrorists and its a disaster, wouldn't I want some sort of firearms or other weapons to protect myself with? I doubt they're sending troops off to combat with just enough food and water and medicine to keep them going while they slaughter the infidels. No, I'll bet they get all sorts of neat, million dollar weapons to protect themselves with.

By the way, one question I have for Homeland Security is whether or not my "disaster supply kit" left over from the last hysterical, Chicken Little warnings of our impending doom are still good. Remember Y2K? Six months of canned beans and bottled water all for naught.

As part of its Orange Alert, the feds have also sent an advisory to utility operators to warn them how to sniff out terrorists making weapons of mass destruction. Part of a government information bulletin sent nationwide Friday cited unexplained and unusual odors on a list of potential indicators of weapons of mass destruction threats or incidents.

"Smells may range from fruity/flowery to sharp/pungent, garlic/horseradishlike, bitter almonds, peach kernels and new mown grass/hay," the joint FBI-Homeland Security Department bulletin advised.

This doesn't really narrow it down as far as the scope of smells goes. NYC is filled with millions of immigrants who have brought all sorts of funny smelling ethnic cooking over with them. The hallways of everyone's apartment buildings are filled with them. And what about the everyday sort of body odor people carry with them in crowded, closed places like the subway, for example? How do I tell the difference between some bastard who hasn't had a shower in three days and a real, live terrorist attack? And what the hell do peach kernels smell like? How the hell am I supposed to know peach kernals when I smell them? Run around to fruit markets ripping open peaches and sticking my nose in them, inhaling deeply? What about egg salad smells and gastro-intestinal emissions from people who stayed up late eating goulash and sauerkraut all night? What do they count for?

The memo, billed as a homeland security update with a section on potential indicators of weapons of mass destruction, did not say what the odors could indicate. Just that they're indicative of something. And there's probably alot of chattering going on. These terrorists are full of chatter. You'd think they were all off somewhere playing pepper, giving each other that kind of unintelligible encouragement you hear from shortstops and third basemen as the pitcher is winding up to throw a strike. Maybe terrorists are all closet baseball fans. Chatterboxes. Terrorist baseball chatterboxes: Is this the kind of chatter they're overhearing? If so, we'd all better don our protective chemical suits because that sure SOUNDS like people plotting to blow us up and gas us into the 22nd century. "Swingbattahbattahswing!"

And believe me, most of all, I'm learning quickly from the Bush Administration and Homeland Security that if I don't know someone and they're chattering, or if a smell is out of place, or if the weather is not to my liking or if even people I know just SEEM to act suspicious then by God, chances are, they are terrorists or they are plotting secretly to be terrorists and I'd better kill them now before they have a chance to kill me.

maandag, februari 10, 2003

NATO's Irrelevence Affirmed

After France, Belgium and Germany refused once again to give NATO the go-ahead to start military planning to boost Turkey's defences in case of war with Iraq, Turkey invoked article IV of NATO's founding treaty, which the North Atlantic Council - NATO's highest decision-making body will debate this afternoon in Brussels. Article IV states "The Parties will consult together whenever, in the opinion of any of them, the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties is threatened".

Is this an example of more political gamesmanship? Turkey, it seems clear, has been pushed by the US to invoke this article even though neither their "territorial integrity, political independence or security" is being threatened.

Or is this just another indication that the levels of paranoics supporting the war on Iraq have increased as the Bush Administration gets increasingly desperate to counter the war-busting efforts of Germany, France and now Belgium?

This latest move by Belgium followed the original US request on January 15 that the Alliance play a peace-keeping role in a post-conflict Iraq. This request was narrowed down to the protection of Turkey after France, Germany and Belgium last week showed strong reluctance towards the idea.

The original article of NATO puts forth that those members are united "to settle any international dispute in which they may be involved by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security and justice are not endangered, and to refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations."

As the UN has not yet authorized any use of force toward a war with Iraq, it would seem that sending weapons to Turkey through NATO members for a threat that wouldn't arise until AFTER a war against Iraq began, would be "inconsistent with the purposes of the UN". In fact, the infamous Article V, which calls for an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America to be considered an attack against them all, doesn't even apply. An "armed attack" is defined as:

1) on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France
(2), on the territory of or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer; on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.

Not even the most vivid, irrational minds of the Bush War Collective can construe evidence of the violation of Iraq's noncompliance with Resolution 1441 as an actual "attack". Not unless the Bush War Collective, a lá Minority Report are being aided by PreCogs, those perceptive individuals with psychic powers, who can "see" a killing in advance. In Minority Report, those PreCogs, having deciphered the exact location from clues within their "dream", allow the cops to rush to the scene and arrest the perpetrator in the act of thinking about doing the deed.

According to Stanley R. Sloan, director of the Atlantic Community Initiative For NATO, not doing enough risks losing US interest in the Alliance. US attempts to push the Alliance beyond the political consensus concerning NATO's mission could create splits among the Allies and even domestic unrest in some Allied countries.

In the interests of continuing to try and resolve the Iraq issue without war, France and Germany, according to the German weekly Der Spiegel, offered proposals which would include sending United Nations peacekeepers into Iraq, tripling the number of UN weapons inspectors there and turning the whole of the Gulf state into a no-fly zone.

In what has become the typically dismissive reaction to anything which does not support the Bush Administration insistence of war with Iraq, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Sunday that such a plan dealt with the "wrong issues" and would serve only as a "diversion."

NATO, along with UN, in the face of an increasingly unilateral Bush Administration, are indeed becoming irrelevent. They are not necessarily irrelevent because the times or the political landscape or the threats have changed but because the United States itself, under the Bush Administration, has changed.

America, who once represented democratic debate, democratic ideals and above all, freedom, continues to spin deeper and deeper into a form of distasteful imperialism bred by the sort of colossal power and colossal arrogance the Bush Administration thrives on.

The Bush Administration now claims the right to intervene militarily anywhere it chooses, to interfere in the internal affairs of any state and to overthrow any government that is not to its liking. In such a world, there isn't a use for the UN or NATO other than for use as a propaganda tool and when such a propaganda tool can no longer be used because of internal dissent or because one large, distasteful idea cannot be forced down the collective throats of its members, such an organization or alliance becomes irrelevent.

So is the path of the UN and NATO, who are useful to the US only so long as they clap and nod and cheer every idea of the Bush Administration like Fox News Channel sycophants, regardless of how illogical the argument or irrational the sentiment.

Solon of Athens, once said: "The law is like a spider's web: the small are caught and the great tear it up." That web is beginning to tear and ironically, it is the Bush Administration's aversion to the freedom of other nations to disagree with it that is tearing it fastest.

vrijdag, februari 07, 2003

Friday's Mailbag

Since Desultory Turgescence hasn't bothered to answer any of the mail, death threats, slanders and hosannas of praise piling up in the mailroom these last few weeks, it's time to begin a semi-annual tradition of The Reading of the Mailbag:

The first letter comes from a 6 year old named Montgomery in Topeka, Kansas:

Dear DT: Is it just me or is there a frightening absence of McDonalds franchises in the Axis of Evil nations? And if so, what relation does this have with America's current foreign policy objectives?

Well Montgomery, come to think of it, you're right. None of the three countries which make up the Axis of Evil, (Iran, Iraq and North Korea) have any McDonalds franchises. In the Arab nations, all McDonald's restaurants are locally owned and operated by Arab entrepreneurs. The first restaurant in the region opened in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on December 8th, 1993; then Jeddah, KSA on January 19th, 1994; Oman in March 1994; Kuwait in June 1994; Bahrain on December 15th, 1994; the UAE on December 22nd, 1994; and Qatar in December 1995. Nothing in Iran or Iraq.

And of course, as everyone knows, South Korea has more than 270 McDonalds restaurants. It is interesting to note that McDonalds cleverly attempts to obfuscate the fact that ALL 270 restaurants are in South Korea and ZERO are in North Korea by simply lumping them both together under the heading of simply, "Korea", as if a big war had never been fought there at all and there was no division between the two countries.

In answer to the second part of your question Montgomery, I had to do a little more research. It seems that one of the best measurements of a society and its culture's adherence to the principles of our democratic system is the proliferation of McDonalds restaurants through their countrysides and urban areas. As Dwight Eisenhower noted in his 1961 Military-Industrial complex speech:

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

What you should understand, Montgomery, is that Iraq, Iran and North Korea are all evil because they, unlike the rest of the democracy-loving free world, do not allow any McDonalds restaurants in their country. You see Monty, if I may call you that, this war against Iraq for example, is NOT about Iraq sitting on the world's second largest oil reserves, it is about the fact that Saddam Hussein does not allow any McDonalds restaurants in his country. That is why he is evil by the way, and why we should do everything in our power to force a regime change in Iraq because without regime change Monty, you can forget about having any Big Macs in Baghdad.

The second letter comes from Pyong Pat who asks:

I've been hearing alot lately about an increasingly belligerent North Korea warning of "total war" with the United States and predicting it would develop into the horror scenario of a nuclear conflict. What I'd like to know is, will this have any affect on the 2003 Major League Baseball season or should I go ahead and start researching my rotisserie league roster?

Pyong, rest assured that unlike 1918 when the season was shortened by a month due to World War I and and the World War II years between 1942-1945 when the Major Leagues lost almost 95 percent of their rosters due to the draft, the 2003 season should go on without a hitch and without a significant reduction in quality players available.

For those of you who have already suffered the premature cancellation of the Venezuelan baseball season due to their own anarchistic situation down there, I would however, recommend staying away from the Nippon Professional Baseball season if for no other reason that Tokyo is just a short rocket launch away from Pyongyang.

The third letter, which is the last one I have time to open, comes from Sinbad who wants to know:

Isn't being the funniest man alive enough? What does Russell Simmons have that I don't have?

This is a difficult question Sinbad. For one thing, Simmons has the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network to back him and support his righteous agenda. Those guys are suing people left and right, up and down, and back and forth to get their message out. And they have the balls to take on a giant corporation like Pepsi-Cola. They don't mess around Sinbad. They have declared that if Pepsi-Cola does not meet their demands within the next six days, next Thursday (February 13) the organization will initiate the Campaign For Respect. The campaign will call for a boycott of all Pepsi products and those of its subsidiaries by hip-hop artists and supporters of the hip-hop community.

Let me tell you something Sinbad, if you had any idea how much freakin Pepsi products these Hip Hop people consume, your head would spin. Believe me, Pepsi-Cola is going to crack. The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network is going to bring Pepsi-Cola to their knees. They can't just buy off a guy like Russell Simmons. As Mr. Simmons even says himself: "I'm not for sale. This organization represents young people in hip-hop and it's about their respect."

Frankly, when you examine your impact on culture and society Sinbad, Necessary Roughness and A Different World isn't going to cut it. You need to get a little angrier and a little more self-righteous so you can start suing big corporations and bringing the beverage industry CEOs to their knees. Otherwise, you're going to wallow in the same pitiful puddle of obscurity that you've inhabited for the last two decades.

As for the rest of you readers who sent letters in, please be advised that due to severe time constraints, weather conditions and the fact that the game of cat and mouse with Saddam is over according to Resident Bush, I will not be able to answer you in a timely fashion. Please be advised that should additional time be made available, your letters, postcards, emails, passport photos and DNA strands will be answered in the order they were received.

Until then, in light of the serene snowfall last night and today:

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep.
And miles to go before I sleep.
And miles to go before I sleep.

donderdag, februari 06, 2003

Bring Out Your Dead

In a rather ominous note to the war build-up, the Pentagon is considering cremating the remains of troops who may die in a chemical or biological attack in a possible war with Iraq. No sense wasting all that money on flying back dead soldiers, eh?


Taking Unilateral Action

In an effort to demonstrate the power of taking the peace effort "into your own hands", someone has come up with a new way for the Bush Administration to gratify itself.

Mr. Powell Goes To The UN

"The U.S. has a new credibility. What we say goes." Bush the Elder, NBC Nightly News, Feb. 2, 1991

Reminiscent of the "incriminating" evidence in the OJ Simpson trial: contaminated DNA samples, the LAPD's "substantially contaminated" crime lab and the infamous glove that didn't fit, yesterday Secretary of State Colin Powell laid out his case before the UN Security Council by providing audio tapes that could have just as well have been recorded conversations between a New York cabbie and his dispatcher and satellite photographs which could have been doctored, as Verbal Jam points out, by anyone with the faintest knowledge of PhotoShop.

And lest there are doubts the United States government would fake documentation to support their cynical aims of war, it wasn't so long ago, in the same Gulf, that another Bush president lied about "evidence" provided when they faked 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks standing on the Saudi border in a satellite photo to convince the world Saddam was an immediate threat to world peace. In fact, the United States government has quite a staggering history of lying to its own people and the world in general to satisfy their own aims.

So why would any rational thinking person look at these satellite images of suspected mobile bioweapons labs, information on hidden chemical or biological weapons, and intercepted conversations of Iraqi officials planning to thwart U.N. inspectors, and not be skeptical?

But let's be crazy for a moment and assume that Colin Powell wasn't using doctored material to prove his case. Powell, after all, by an incredible margin of 63 percent to 24 percent, was found in polls to be more credible than George Bush to the American people. So if the Americans wanted to toss someone up on the UN Security Council stage that people wouldn't immediately begin snickering at when he started speaking, Powell was the man. Powell laid out a long presentation yesterday trying convince the United Nations Security Council and the American people that Iraq poses an imminent threat, harbors Al Qaeda terrorists and conceals banned deadly weapons in defiance of a UN order to disarm. If we assume ALL of this to be true, the question that still remains unanswered is WHY a massive bombing campaign is the only solution.

Poor Powell had to go into that UN building unarmed. There wasn't any actual proof of an imminent threat requiring the use of unilateral, preemptive force. None of those satellite photos, none of those prerecorded conversations, none of his speculations amounted to a case that if America doesn't start bombing toute suite, well, by God, the world is in BIG trouble.

In fact, the ONE bit of evidence Powell that might have used to convince at least the American people that Saddam equals Al Qaeda, and thus getting rid of Saddam is equivilent to disarming Al Qaeda, had already been discounted by their own ally's intelligence agency when the British Defense Intelligence assessed that "any fledgling relationship foundered due to mistrust and incompatible ideology".

Think of a sweaty, mendacious used-car salesman trying to close a deal who will tell you anything to get you to buy a car before you leave the lot. That was Powell's job yesterday. To get us all to buy the lemon of war with Iraq.

French Foreign Minister, Dominique de Villepin, said, "Given the choice between military intervention and an inspections regime that is inadequate because of the failure to cooperate on Iraq’s part, we must choose the decisive reinforcement of the means of inspections." However, France’s suggestion to triple the number of inspectors was later dismissed by a senior State Department official as missing the point.

Small surprise. First of all, because of France's insubordination to America's war lust, the French are now considered by most Americans to be lower than almost everyone but Saddam and Bin-Laden themselves. Second of all because according to Bush himself, the Americans, much like The Blues Brothers, are on a mission from God. Remember the "We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life and all of history. May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America." closure of his State of the Union speech?

Considering past history of Americans presenting the world with "evidence" justifying their war aims, Powell could have done much better. The boys in the Pentagon should have just gotten busy with PhotoShop and produced a nice photograph that made it all perfectly clear: Saddam and Osama bin-Laden sitting at a cafe somewhere, dining on the limbs of infant children, laughing and spilling blood everywhere while right behind them is a giant blackboard with a checklist of American targets to bomb.

Now that might have been some evidence worth looking at.

woensdag, februari 05, 2003

Due to a challenge issued to me by a Danish malerhjerne, the day's news takes a backseat to an overdue project:

(Jaap's Poem for Kierkegaard's Three Spheres of Existence, the Aesthetic, the Ethical and the Religious):

Reports of Suspicious Activity In The Spheres of Existence

I. Calling Up Souls In Parietal Art

“La qualité esthétique dans le rendu des œuvres individuelles comme dans leur mise en scène sous forme de compositions pleines de force et de vie concourt également au sentiment d'originalité” – Brochure from La Grotte Chavet Pont D’Arc

Plucked from loin to be plunged
Inconversant into cognition,
the anachronistic pleasures manifested
their burlesque of labyrinthine entanglements
lit by a wick of moss,
in last moves toward efflorescence
by combing out a muse’s ceremonial significance,
Gourging on the intimate rituals and symbolism
Of moments, lost
In a foreplay of aesthetics
Toward a trance to mediate the will of the spirits,
hallucinating beasts
until fitfully exhausted.

Connections to the outside world
developed an ichthyosic thickening against
the subtle disorders populating the nervous system:
a prolonged exposure to abstractions
and the suddenly axiomatic awareness of his
nothingness, the solitude of the red
and yellow ochre, the sharp flint points
engraving a leniency in the elbow grease
busying with circumventions,
each subsequent stage of labor
induced in honor of escaping
the dull, regretful lassitude
of pursuing the daily compendium.

II. Resignation's Antidotes and Therapeutic Aims

In this harsh salmagundi, in the
distinct rags of the universal,
a pattern emerges:
the splendor retraces its steps pathologically
looking for the original stitch,
the needle through the artery,
the dominion over the creation.

Constancy and purpose:
the parallactic observations
in need of grounding ennui
and its infinate coordinates
into a teleology reflecting
the effete order.
The mimetic patchwork
is no saviour from decay.
The peril of meaninglessness
remains a hypoglossal jive,
inundating ululations
penetrating the quiddities
with faithful paradoxes.

III. A Commercial Break From All-Consuming Dread

Dichotomies, visible even in the poker face,
contort with uncertainties,
tearing at trussed pathos
until so estranged and familiar,
the triangular veil,
insult after insult,
is removed:
the hairs of clarity stand on edge,
the charge builds up
and fixes its positions
on the obtuse.

Faithful repetition eases the digestion,
converting a degraded temerity
into a fine texture of anamnesis.
The doting enzymes break down
futile resistance into a bile of histrionics
giving it a semblance of solution,
the fissure through which the infinite was peeping.

maandag, februari 03, 2003

The Devaluation of Heroes

"Ah, does not every true man feel that he is himself made higher by doing reverence to what is really above him?" -- Thomas Carlyle, Heroes and Hero Worship.

It would have been hard to miss Saturday morning's Space Shuttle disaster. Even harder still to miss would have been the subsequent, unremitting coverage of the disaster on every network, from every possible angle, human or mechanical, and of course, the perfidious fraud of this cacophony of nescient news anchors and witless commentators knocking each other over in the effort to outdo one anothers' talents for hyperbolic embroidery on the meaning of the death of these seven unfortunate astronauts.

Leading the list of pet titles bestowed upon these unfortunate seven by this saturation of eulogizers has been to call them "heroes" or "courageous heroes". It reminded me immediately of the maudlin grandiloquence employed following 9/11 when everyone from hapless caterers to illegal immigrant busboys to innocent bystanders were named as "heroes" simply for dying in an astounding act of terrorism. The context of true heroic acts performed on 9/11 are thereby greatly obscured, as is the true value of what it means to be heroic in today's decidedly unheroic society.

Traditionally, a hero is recognized as someone endowed with great courage and strength, celebrated for his bold exploits, and favored by the gods. Later, this was modernized to mean a person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose, especially one who has risked or sacrificed his or her life.

My problem with calling these particular astronauts "heroes" is not that they were not brave, or courageous or noble. They were likely all of these and more. But if they were heroes, then so are small children growing up in inner city neighborhoods plagued by drugs, crimes and stray bullets. So are students and teachers who get up every morning and try to learn or teach in what the No Child Left Behind program calls: "persistently dangerous schools". So are millions of people who risk their lives each day in the line of their work; anyone from police officers to firemen to coal mine workers to airplane pilots to the drivers of trucks carrying deadly or toxic materials, construction workers to explosives workers, ordnance handling experts & blasters.

The problem is not that any of these people, in any of these professions are potential heroes. The problem is that the term is used so liberally now that it is barely meaningful any more. Why then are the astronauts considered heroes? Because they died unexpectedly with millions of people watching on television? In 113 shuttle launches, 14 people have died thus far bringing the current ratio to one death per eight missions. Given such odds, it's difficult to imagine that space shuttle astronauts consider such tragedies "unexpected". It is an assumed risk. The kind of assumed risk that people in a wide array of different professions take every day under far less publicity. Were their goals "noble"? About half of the 80 tests conducted on the space shuttle were commercial in nature, sponsored by businesses looking for discoveries to aid commerce. While this isn't in and of itself the fault of the astronauts, promoting experiments that help commercial entities make bigger profits is hardly a noble endeavor. Was this the "service to all humanity" that Bush told the world about following the disaster?

The problem with all of it, the cynical use by politicians of the word "hero" to help make themselves better than they are in the eyes of their voters by paying homage to those newly coined heroes, its pimpish usage by hysterical media windbags to promote their broadcasts, to sell their news and the automatous way the rest of the viewers at home lap up these self-serving definitions to register the degree of the tragedy in question and quantify their shock in simplistic, easily-digestible jingoisms, is that we can no longer separate the chaffe from the wheat when it comes to defining our heroes.

In fact, the devaluation of the term "hero", its altruistic image fading in a hailstorm of amplification and overplay, is the true tragedy we are witnessing. The hero is a dying breed unfortunately. We hear the term in tragedies, the heroes who died, not for a greater good, but for the purposes of lionizing our own increasingly pawnish inutility. To give us a sense of our own meaning in a progressively anesthetized and pointless society of moral outrages.

And always in those icy, stuffy
Prewar years, so sinful, fateful,
Lurked a mysterious roar.
But then the noise was only muffled.
The it hardly touched the hearing
And drowned in Neva's snow.
As if in the fearful night's mirror
Man rages madly and refuses
To recognize his face.
But still along the famed embankment
Real, not as the calendar reckons,
The twentieth century came.

Anna Akhmatova, from A Poem Without A Hero