In London I could show you a lumberyard built over a plague pit. They threw bodies in all through the summer of ’65 until they lost count of the dead.

The ghosts of America are limited to the lifespan of whatever local can remember that this apartment complex was once an orchard full of pheasants, or that this bank was once a funeral home was once a hamburger restaurant, was once an Indian burial mound. No one remembers and no one listens anyway if it interferes with a real estate deal and making a buck.

There’s a section of wall that Charles Dickens’ father stared at when the alley was part of Southwark debtor’s prison, and there’s a corner in the Old Cheddar Cheese pub off Fleet Street where Dickens the son sat staring at the fire, just around the corner from the house where Dr. Johnson wrote the famous dictionary, and a stuffed parrot in that pub once held renown as the greatest master of profanity in all the British Empire, including Poona and Rangoon.

John D. MacDonald said once that a Florida conservationist is someone who bought their waterfront property LAST week. A few years ago, Disney had to be talked out of building a theme park next to the Fredericksburg battleground where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain covered himself with the dead to guard against snipers and had to listen all night to the hogs tearing at the dead and the wounded. That was before Gettysburg and the Battle of Little Round Top, when he and the 20th Maine saved the whole sorry country for the makers of theme parks and the real estate mavens.

A volunteer for ACORN (they lobby for housing for the poor) told me that their greatest enemies lurked in the United Way, which is often controlled by local real estate interests. I wonder what part memory will play in the rebuilding, I mean systematic looting, of drowned New Orleans? It's not just the poor that are being dispossessed. A good many people in the middle class are learning the hard way about the Invisible Hand of the marketplace: who it favors and who it bitch slaps, despite the pretty words of the civic boosters.

See Also: Eminent Domain and the Supreme Court, et al

Lessons Pancho Villa Taught Me: A Small Footprint Instead of "Shock and Awe"

“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep doing it. ... You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focused on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.” (John Arquilla, defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, quoted by Seymour Hersch in The New Yorker August 21, 2006)

The death this summer of al-Zarqawi taught practical lessons about how to win this fight, if we have wit enough to see it. The terrorist’s end was not accomplished by massive invasion, but by combining law enforcement skills, good intelligence and a Gideon’s band of commandoes, saving technology-- the F-16s, the lasers and two 500-pound bombs— for the last judicious blow.
The men stepping to the microphone to take credit for the kill had almost nothing to do with it. They show no signs of learning from this small success. The administration still insists we are in a “War on Terror”? that must be engaged with apocalyptic force: but Justice has always carried a sword, a symbol of precision, not a blunderbuss.
American commandoes led the hunt, a careful and precise force that would leave a small footprint in a foreign land. This echoes Stephen Decatur and the first contingent of US Marines, who stole into Tripoli, killed with as much precision as possible, and took away the sanctuary of the Barbary pirates.
Results were less gratifying when Woodrow Wilson sent 10,000 soldiers, Black Jack Pershing, and a shavetail George Patton into Mexico to catch Pancho Villa. They gave up and declared victory after a year of chasing back and forth across the desert; Wilson succeeded only in making Villa a folk hero. Villa laughed for another seven years later, until a more modest,
seven-man Mexican team poured 150 bullets in his car.
Our president does not believe in the judicious use of the sword against murderers who hide themselves in
crowds. He likes his “Shock and Awe”, with the result that 80,000 pounds of bombs fell on Iraq. This was not a small footprint or a precision strike. We held the tearful smile of the world, on the day after September 11, and in a video flash became the best recruiters al-Qaeda ever had.
Our stalwarts then dropped 130,000 green Americans into the Middle East without a shred of Arabic or common sense. A small fierce band can discipline itself, but a sprawling invasion force cannot. Regardless of intentions or nobility, every large army since time began has given employment along its edges to what Wellington called “the scum of the earth”, profiteers and sadists and half-wits. For the next ten years, every diplomatic effort, every proclamation of American virtue will be hag-ridden by the smirk of Lindsey Englund.
The Thrones and Powers of this administration met in conclave last week to discuss their Great War. Secretary Rumsfeld persists in his imitation of a French aristocrat: you can’t tell him anything, he already knows, and damn your impertinence, Sir!
By all reports our affable president is, in private life, every bit as mean as his courtiers. Proud enemies of George Bush must be humiliated, the insubordinate punished, flatterers elevated: thus we see the remarkable elevation of Karen Hughes from Texas publicist to the highest-ranking Arabist in the world.
Two days after the al-Zarqawi hit, Hughes told the BBC, “Europe still, I think, does not see quote ‘a war against terror’ [sic]. I think the perception here [in Europe] tends to be a little more that it’s a law enforcement or perhaps criminal matter.” She claimed “the majority view of people of both parties in America” is that a law enforcement approach to terrorism “hadn’t proved effective.” Hence the model of American efficacy that we see in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The American military can only follow whatever bad strategy they’ve been given. The president’s attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East by bombing the hell out of it resembles nothing so much as John Steinbeck’s Lenny crushing a rabbit that he means to embrace. Here in Michigan, at least, we will be paying with dead children and lost treasure long after
President Bush has skipped on the 300 billion dollar check. Let us not squander the operational lessons we ought
to have learned in finding and killing al-Zarqawi, and spare a grudging prayer for the repose of Ahmed Fadeel al-Khalayleh. He was an indiscriminate killer of both Muslims and infidels. Until George Bush learns the
difference between the sword of justice and a cluster bomb, so are we.

The War We're Going to Inherit

Here at Water Street Coffee Joint in Kalamazoo, the rally posters all call for the complete withdrawal of Americans from Iraq. I hate this war. I was against it before it started. I call for the discarded limbs from this war to clutch at the bedclothes and crawl over George W. Bush in his sleep.
And yet, and yet-- it horrifies me to say this-- the call for immmediate withdrawl strikes me as naive, self-righteous and every bit as monstrous as the initial attack. Having trashed the place, ruined their infrastructure and shot their grandma, we now say to the Iraquis, "aw man, we're sorry we wrecked your house..." and then leave? This is the morality of drunken frat boys, and wasn't that who got us into Iraq in the first place?
Damn him to a hell of nightmares for leaving us in this position. There have to be a few Democrats who are wondering, damn, are we SURE we want to win this next election? We may never get the pee smell out of the cushions in the White House.


Pat Relf (author of "The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten" and "A Dinosaur Named Sue: The World's Most Complete T. Rex", available here) gave me a birthday gift I didn't know I needed: a tiny fez, the kind gorillas and organ grinder monkeys wear in old Warner Brothers cartoons.

As a contribution to world peace, it seemed essential to pose our household wearing the tiny fez. Sophie the house rabbit, mindful of her family resemblance to the famous Oolong, struck a Byronic pose with thoughts of Greek independence, and It's the Pig resembles no one so much as the late great Major Hoople. Black cat Doc looked rakish and at ease as if relaxing with his "shooshah" or hookah on the veranda in Istanbul, and it was no surprise that Phoebe proved contrary and resentful over Lebanon and Cyprus.


“My favorite conspiracy theory is the one that says the world is being run by a handful of ultra-rich capitalists, and that our elected governments are mere puppets. I sure hope it’s true. Otherwise my survival depends on hordes of clueless goobers electing competent leaders. That’s about as likely as a dog pissing the Mona Lisa into a snow bank.” (Scott Adams, Author of Dilbert)
“Buddha had an analogy. Milk is milk. Then it gets churned into butter. Butter is butter. Then it gets processed into ghee. We reach points at where the way we have been for a while no longer fits, it becomes unstable and unable to continue. Then we reach out into the unknown and discover the next way we are to be.” (Thomas Ragland)

“[Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid] is offering Senator Hillary Clinton is his total, robust support to succeed him as Senate Majority Leader if she elects not to pursue the Democratic nomination for President.
Many are realizing that the electoral map is not something one can wave a magic wand over and reverse the views of 42% of Americans who believe that they know Hillary Clinton well and have strongly formed views of her and will not vote for her under any conditions -- according to recent polls. Reports are that Senator Clinton herself knows this and that her own enthusiasm for running actually trails that of her husband, her advisors, and her staff -- whose enthusiasm for the race is ranked in that order with Hillary the least enthusiastic.” (Steve Clemons at the Washington Note)


“Bill Nevins, a poet, journalist and teacher at Rio Rancho High School in Albuquerque, founded a student writing club for at-risk students and eventually formed them into a poetry team, encouraging students to perform at local open mike nights and over the high school's closed-circuit TV system. In February 2003, a Slam Poetry Team member read her poem "Revolution X" over the school's pubic address system, and shortly thereafter a formal complaint was registered by the school's "military liaison" (no idea), saying the poem was disrespectful to governmental authorities and that it was full of "profanity and incitement to violence" (although the text had neither element). A month later Nevins was suspended from teaching, prohibited from coaching his writing club or the poetry team, and all public readings of student poetry were banned by the school administration. A "multicultural poetry assembly" was cancelled. In May 2003, Nevins was informed that his contract would not be renewed for the coming school year, and on the same day the "military liaison" and the principal of the school, Gary Tripp, raised a flag on school grounds and read out their own poem, telling critics of Iraqi war policy to "shut your faces." Tripp later told the media that this was "a high point" in his career. This is what happens when you let the guy down at the gun shop run the high school.” (reported by Joe Bob Briggs/John Bloom)

“In countries like the U.S. and Great Britain, we exist in a wholly sexualized culture, where everything from cars to snack food are sold with a healthy slathering of sex to make them more commercially appealing. But if you're using sex to sell sneakers, then you're not just selling sneakers, you're selling sex as well, and you're contributing to the sexual temperature of society. You're going to get people who, unsurprisingly, become overheated in that kind of sexual environment, and if they attempt to assuage their desires by resorting to the widely available medium of pornography, they're going to have their moment of gratification, and then they're going to have a much longer period of self-loathing, disgust, shame and embarrassment. It's almost like a kind of a reverse Skinner-box experiment, where once the rat has pushed the lever and successfully received the food, then he gets the electric shock.” (Alan Moore)


“All I am is what I am. I lived seven lives at once. I was power and the ecstasy of death. I was god to a god. Now... I—I'm trapped... on a roof. Just one roof... in this time and this place. With an unstable human who drinks too much whiskey, and called me a Smurf.” (Illyria, in the television series “Angel”)

“The rebellion against Mr. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates. They are the voters who have been unnerved over the last few years as the country has seemed to be galloping in a deeply unmoderate direction. A war that began at the president’s choosing has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration’s contempt for international agreements, Congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

"Yet while all this has been happening, the political discussion in Washington has become a captive of the Bush agenda. Traditional beliefs like every person’s right to a day in court, or the conviction that America should not start wars it does not know how to win, wind up being portrayed as extreme. The middle becomes a place where senators struggle to get the president to volunteer to obey the law when the mood strikes him. Attempting to regain the real center becomes a radical alternative.

When Mr. Lieberman told The Washington Post, “I haven’t changed. Events around me have changed,” he actually put his finger on his political problem.” (New York Times editorial, morning after the primary)

“... to Guccione's credit, "Caligula" does make you reevaluate your umbrage yardstick. The sex is explicit, yes -- but it is just sex. "Caligula's" gratuitous decapitations and disembowelments -- presumably far less common in everyday life -- are now accepted in everyday cinema, and even then went largely unremarked upon.” (Daniel Kraus in Salon, on the 20th anniversary of ‘Caligula’)

“Sweetheart, trust me, this is way more ‘bad boy’ than you’re ever going to be able to handle. So do yourself a favor: go blow a drummer.”
(Dennis Leary’s character Tommy on “Rescue Me”)

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age." (H.P. Lovecraft)

EDITORIAL NOTE: Never mind the snakes on a plane. Just how motherf*@#$%ing scary is it when H.P, motherf#%^%#ing LOVECRAFT is politically relevant and astute?

Dead Children of a Lesser God: Why the Terrorists are Winning, #247 in a Series

"What future other than one of fear, frustration, financial ruin and fanaticism can stem from the rubble? Is the value of human life less in Lebanon than that of citizens elsewhere? Are we children of a lesser God? Is an Israeli teardrop worth more than a drop of Lebanese blood? Can the international community continue to stand by while such callous retribution by the state of Israel is inflicted upon us? Is this what is called legitimate self-defence?"
-- Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora seen here next to Condoleeza Rice, who-- I hope for the sake of her soul-- is covering her face in shame.

She just got out of a meeting in which she tried to explain to the gentleman Why He Can't Have a Cease Fire Right Now, in the name of Another Grand Strategy of the Bush Administration. I wonder how many more of those this country can survive?

The news is awful, with more children, blameless old people and animals being killed and suffering in Lebanon for the simple crime of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, while men (and some women) who have never suffered such horrors pontificate about other people's suffering and do nothing to stop it.

It should be stated here for the record that the politics of Ormondroyd's Encyclopedia Esoterica have long been encapsulated in this credo by Brendan Behan: "I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer." Everything else is contingent on that goal for better government.

In both Iraq and Lebanon, we see the United States and Israel falling like passenger pigeons into a basket. This continues to baffle me, as I've always assumed this was a truism of terrorist planning:
Step one: attack civilians or soft military targets.
Step two: this provokes a response by the targeted state that's out of proportion to the original offense.
Step three: the logic of violence and the state's inability to surgically control a mass of soldiers and policemen guarantees that there will be atrocities, oppression, "collateral damage" against innocent bystanders.
Step four: this repression will provoke an uprising against the state, cycling into greater and greater violence until--
Step five, the original terrorists appear more sympathetic to the people than the now out-of-control state.

This apparently is too subtle for the saps in power in the US and Israel to understand. Thus Israel and the United States continue to lose the war on terror by doing exactly what Hezbollah and Al-Qaeda want. I don't see anyone explaining this dynamic to a broad audience; perhaps it's so "obvious" that it's invisible.

See Also:
Blue Eyed Body Count
Why We're Losing the War on Terror #3701 in a series
Why They Voted for Hamas

The Clintons and Leiberman

Friends are puzzled that Bill Clinton would stump for Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary in Connecticut. The Clintons-- althought I prefer them to the current regime-- have always been DNRs, or Damn Near Republicans. Bill's charm and the repulsiveness of the competition blinds a lot of people to that fact.
I personally like the guy, but politically both Clintons ought to have their asses kicked from here to Harry Truman for their compromises-- excerpt that the American fascists on the right are so much worse. i just hate to see Clinton enabling the Republican enbablers like Leiberman, who was a mistake as a VP nomination and is a mistake today.
Clinton, i imagine, would answer that high principles don't do you much good if you can't get elected, but there's a line where the price you pay in compromise is not equal to the return, and both Bill and Hillary have crossed that line more than once. That happens when you confuse your own re-election with your political goals.
What "achievement" of the Clinton years was so great that it was worth the compromises with Wall Street, with the military industrial complex? None. They produced a heath care plan that was unreadable and impossible to pass. They diddled with Bin Laden and never quite "went all the way" in the hunt out of political concerns.
The blinders of nostalgia and the horrors of the current administration have obscured what a compromiser and placater Bill Clinton actually was-- perhaps acting out his "child of an alcoholic" role just as much as Bush acts out his "dry, mean drunk" on the world stage. I fear the Clintons will be remembered for selfishness and ambition more than principle.