Friday, November 30

A Diving Bell and Butterfly Anoint US with Holiday Gratitude

During a trip this past spring, I read a short book to a friend as she drove the scenic back roads, thoroughfares author William Least Heat Moon calls America's "Blue Highways."

In an email today informing me the book is now a movie opening today in "select theaters," she characterized my reading of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as "a wonderful memory that I will treasure for the rest of this life."

Indeed, the 144-page memoir is an edifying read, a literary effort that can--if you carry its stark treasures with you throughout the Holiday Season--rev up your year-ending gratitude. With the proper turn of head, you also will discover--or recall--that more innocent United States Least Heat Moon was seeking when he undertook his 4-month, 13,000 Blue Highways driving odyssey across the country: "an America stripped of the commercial fog and tabloid mentality." Though you may have to dig a little, it's still out there, lurking beneath all the muckity muck.

Dictated in Morse code with his left eye by the newly head-to-toe paraplegic and editor of the French magazine Elle, the book that Jean-Dominique Bauby, 43, left us is understandably austere, void of self-pity and celebratory of a refined intellect trapped inside a body no longer serving his simplest wants; Baudy senses, too, the life left him may be slowing ebbing from him.

Below is MTV's 30 November reveiw of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

The Diving Bell And The Butterfly': Buried Alive, By Kurt Loder

Director Julian Schnabel brings a narrow emotional focus to this tale of a man trapped inside his own body.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" tells a true story so dreadful that, as it painfully unfolds, you may find yourself counting your blessings in bushels. In December of 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the 43-year-old editor of French Elle magazine, suffered a massive stroke that left him paralyzed from head to toe — with the exception of his left eye, which he was still able to blink. The movie is a tribute not so much to the human spirit as to Bauby's indomitable journalistic will: Using his one blinking eye, he was able to dictate a 144-page memoir, a book that became a best-seller in France and is now the basis of this picture (which is in French, with English subtitles).

A film about a man who can't move or express feeling in his face (a grotesquely twisted mask with one bulging, bloodshot eye peering out) doesn't sound like something a lot of people would want to sit through. But director Julian Schnabel has organized the story with graceful economy. The pace never lags, and he consistently steers it away from the overplayed pathos that a lesser filmmaker might have embraced. Bauby's horrific situation, and the purposefully muted reactions of the people around him (who feel a reflexive guilt in their own good health), speak for themselves with spare eloquence.

The movie begins in darkness, opening into blurry light as Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) emerges from a coma and slowly realizes that not only is he in a hospital, but that no one can hear the words he thinks he's uttering. (We hear his thoughts in voice-over.) A doctor delicately explains that he has had a "cerebrovascular accident," and is now incapacitated by "locked-in syndrome" — he can no longer move, speak or even swallow. A speech therapist named Henriette (played with welcome, breezy charm by Marie-Josée Croze) arrives to undertake whatever rehabilitation may be possible. Equipped with a card bearing an alphabet of letters arranged according to the frequency of their use in the French vocabulary, she teaches Bauby how to employ eye-blinks — one for yes, two for no — to select a letter as it's spoken aloud in order to construct words, then sentences and ultimately, over the course of a year, his book. The process is exceedingly laborious, but Schnabel turns the steady, murmuring repetitions of the letters into an incantatory device that pulses hypnotically throughout the film.

There are two key women in Bauby's life. When one of them, Céline (Emmanuelle Seigner), arrives in his hospital room to visit, and a doctor announces, "Your wife is here," we're startled by Bauby's cold interior objection: "She's not my wife; she's the mother of my children." He truly longs to see Inés, the woman for whom he left Céline. But Inés doesn't come. In the movie's most wrenching scene, she calls instead, and Céline, sitting devotedly by Bauby's bedside, picks up the phone. Resigned to this other woman's importance in Bauby's life, Céline puts the call on speakerphone, and Bauby listens as Inés self-servingly tells him she simply can't bear to see him in his diminished state. When she asks if Bauby has any response, he blinks out a message: "Each day I wait for you." Breaking down in tears, Céline dutifully communicates the hateful words.

Bauby has been physically reduced to little more than an object — patiently bathed like an infant, propped in a wheelchair to be maneuvered out onto a lonely veranda. In a recurrent image, he sees himself floating deep underwater in a helmeted diving suit, cut adrift into awful isolation. (The movie's title is an inexact translation from the French; there are no diving bells in the movie.) Deep in his mind, though, Bauby is still free ("I can imagine anything"), and we travel with him through a procession of memories: the sun-bathed sands of Martinique, a golden-toned sexual encounter, a skiing vacation with friends in whose lives he'll no longer figure. When he recalls the Parisian celebrity he once enjoyed — a professional world filled with fashion models, photo shoots, loud rock music and endless luxury — we wince at his devastation: "Words can't express the grief that engulfs me."

Schnabel delivers us from the prison of Bauby's flesh with intermittent flashback sequences, some of them illuminating (the scenes with his anguished father, played by Max von Sydow), others more oblique (a strange recollection of a visit to the shrine town of Lourdes with an annoying girlfriend). There are also brief fantasy interludes. Some are inventively amusing (a clowning Marlon Brando pops up in one of them); but when Bauby hears that Nijinsky might once have visited the place where he is now confined, we wonder whether it was necessary to show us the great dancer leaping down a hospital corridor.

The picture is artfully executed, but its rigorous design creates an emotional void. Schnabel's determination not to milk the story for rote sentimentality is admirable, but the movie's blunt conclusion (Bauby died of pneumonia in March of 1997, just days after the publication of his book) is nevertheless unsatisfying. Bauby's sudden absence has the effect of diminishing his narrative stature, especially since the man we've come to know, although a marvel of fortitude, could also be egocentric and cruelly insensitive. The film's conception allows his story no larger spiritual resonance, so when this singular, difficult character goes away, there's not much left to miss.

Check out everything we've got on "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly."

Tuesday, November 27

"Wake Up, Infidel": Arab League's "Death Star"

Director CIA, 1976
Ollie North run the coke, the carrot and the stick
Angola, Noriega, profits getting thick
--Hip-hop group The Arab League's "Death Star," on Bush's Iran-Contra

The music video below by The Arab League certainly is old news at YouTube; it was uploaded there May 2006.

But in case you missed it, it's a funny hip-hop spoof using the Star Wars theme to compared the Bush clan to a Death Star, a comparison replete with reference to its Yale Bonesmen legacy.

Follow along with the lyrics:

1st Verse:

It happenedin a galaxy not so far away

With a dark force mounting, it’s a land in disarray
He who has the will and wants to get their way
Cuts deep to reap, carpe diem (seize the day)
Hack out an empire by hook and by crook
Machiavelli would have gagged at the steps that they took
Improve all instruction, act according to the book
But it came on the sheeple with the ground that they shook
Hands set in motion by the notion of control
Of the souls of those who do exactly what they are told
Stand in line for the ration as the facism unfolds
They twist an iron fist as they tighten their hold
As they come from an acorn of a mighty oak grove
So the tentacles of empire expand and flow
Roots of this dynasty founded long ago
By the thief of the skull and bones of Geronimo!


Wake up, infidel, they’ve taken it too far,
Wake up, infidel, blow up the death star!
Wake up, infidel, you are paying for this war,
Wake up, infidel, destroy the death star!

2nd verse:

They sleep in the tomb, but brother he was down
Married old Yankee money, Prescott don’t f*** around

Invested in the Nazis with a bunch of other clowns
Henry Ford, Tyson, Bush, Harriman and Brown
1952, he flew down to get up in it
Blood money bought a seat in the U.S. Senate
Sure, grandpa had the vision, Herbert Walker sold the dope
Profits from the holocaust, George Bush drenched in coke
George Herbert Walker set off to have some fun
Now number one son going to run some guns
Cuba, 1960, smokescreen: Zapata
They couldn’t take the Bay of Pigs, accountable for nada
Making papa proud, he do all for da-da
His first taste of blood, his own intifada
Congress and ambassador, move up the ladder
Stabbed Nixon in the back, war chest getting fatter!


Wake up, infidel, they’ve taken it too far,
Wake up, infidel, blow up the death star!
Wake up, infidel, you are paying for this war,
Wake up, infidel, destroy the death star!

3rd verse:

Director CIA, 1976
Ollie North run the coke, the carrot and the stick
Angola, Noriega, profits getting thick

Put Saddam in power, that also do the trick
Hostage release delayed for a week
Snap Carter in two, Reagan takes a seat
After Reagan descends, then the real fun begins
Unleash the war machine, stretch the dollar thin
One thousand points of light, a new world order
Orchestrate the conflict, break down the border
Introducing drugs, creating disorder
Then they feast on the madness as the time gets shorter!



Wake up, infidel, they’ve taken it too far,
Wake up, infidel, blow up the death star!
Wake up, infidel, you are paying for this war,
Wake up, infidel, destroy the death star!

Final verse:

The son and dark knight, high as a kite

Light saber fight with a fist full of white
Tries to escape fate but his destiny’s in sight
Tries to take credit, but he’s just not that bright
Dummy is a mouthpiece for government lies
Burned up desert planet wins votes for these guys
Attracted to power and mass genocide
George Herbert Walker fell to the dark side
Reichstag America, 9-1-1
It’s all too easy, you’re giving up your guns
Battle the beast in the hot desert sun
Abdullah sizzles hot dogs, and George Bush is one!


Wake up, infidel, they’ve taken it too far,
Wake up, infidel, blow up the death star!
Wake up, infidel, you are paying for this war,
Wake up, infidel, destroy the death star


Saturday, November 24

November 2006 Redux: Austrailan Power Elite Switches Out "Conseratives" with "Liberals"

[T]he two parties should be almost identical, so that the American [and Australian] people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extensive shifts in policy. --Georgetown University historian and U.S. State Department consultant Carroll Quigley, in his 1966 book Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time, on the U.S.power elite's manipulation of America's pseudo-two party system in forwarding its globalist agenda

In 2003, Australian John Howard was among George W. Bush's first bribed and coerced politicians (13-page report here) to commit his countrymen to the U.S.'s 49-nation "coalition of the willing" (1), a public relations ploy giving the theft of Iraqi oil a scintilla of international respectability--of appearing more than yet another resource theft military campaign coordinated through a business- congenial White House.

But yesterday Australian voters swept from power the pro-Bush Howard and his conservative party in favor of leftward tilting political management, "only the seventh time voters have ousted their government since the beginning of World War II."

But a closer reading of a Bloomberg news service story indicates something else is on the up and up in the land down under. One must think so, if labor-bashing George Bush agreed to meet with Howard's labor-friendly opponent just days before the elections.

Indeed, the evidence suggests Australia's power elite (with U.S. approval?) cast out Howard for Kevin Rudd, a polished Labor Party politico well versed in Asian culture and economics.

Still, the Australian media report Rudd won, in part, for a promise
to pull Australian troops out of Iraq. Some 64 percent of voters opposed the nation's 1,600 soldiers serving in Iraq, according to a Newspoll survey on Oct. 3. Rudd will keep the 900 personnel in Afghanistan.
But Australia's banking community pulled the plug on Howard during "an election campaign dominated by debate on interest rates and promises of big income tax cuts."
Howard's bid for a fifth term faltered when his claim to be a better economic manager than Rudd--one of the central planks of his campaign--was undermined by the first interest rate increase during an election campaign. [emphasis added]

The quarter-point increase lifted the Reserve Bank's benchmark rate to an 11-year high 6.75 percent, and was the sixth since Howard was returned to power in [the] 2004 election on a promise to keep mortgage rates low.
Ladies and gents, did you get that? Australia's bankers sabotaged Howard by raising interest rates, an unprecedented move when the campaign is balanced on mortgage rates.

Fluent in Mandarin, Rudd is closely identified with Asia and China specifically, a country with business links (and here) to the ever-rapacious Bush clan. Why else would Boy George of the Bottomline meet in September with Rudd during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation in Sydney? Team Bush has never permitted their prez to meet with Democrats, unless they are Joe Liberman and willing to serve GOP interests.

But Rudd is reportedly well connected with Asian interests.
"We will have stronger links with Asia,'' said Ian McAllister, a professor from Australian National University in Canberra. ``Howard has not ignored Asia, Rudd just identifies with it much more closely."
Rudd and his Labor Party's victory of "83 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives," 23 more than its 2004 total, is eerily reminiscent of the U.S. Democrat Party's sweep to congressional power in November 2006 after candidates promised voters a change in Iraq from the Republican war agenda.

Ah but, alas, in a classic "bait-and-switch," the Democrats dropped the campaign rhetoric a month after voters handed them majorities in the House and Senate, and then wrote their own lucrative earmarks predicated on the old GOP war model they said they would replace.

Australian money market experts suggest little will actually change with the switch to the Labor Party.
Labor's victory won't have much impact on the share market, according to analysts, including Adnan Kucukalic, director of Australian equities research at Credit Suisse Group in Sydney.

"Both parties are so close on everything that the outcome is not going to be the be all and end all of the market,'' he said.

"History has shown there's usually little impact from elections,'' said Richard Wallace, who helps manage the equivalent of $138 million at Wallace Funds Management.

Any sell-off of stocks or the currency would probably be short- lived, said Shane Oliver, chief economist at AMP Capital Investors in Sydney, which manages the equivalent of $103 billion. "The two parties aren't radically different."

Well, there you have it, my fellow Americans. Apparently, the stalwart Machiavellian Karl Rove has been undertaking some free-lance election consulting for the Aussie power elite.

But the conclusions are reasonable: Like American elections a year ago, not much is going to change after the Australian elections yesterday. Like "liberal" U.S. colleagues, Rudd will become convinced just how smart he is by recanting that campaign promise to bring the troops home.


1. According to ZNet's Steven Shalom, ten of the original coaltion members were so embarrassed by their membership that they were "unwilling to reveal their names."

Also known on Comedy Central's The Jon Stewart Show as the "Coalition of the Piddling," of trifling significance. Watch those segments skewering the gaggle of the bribe and coerced here, among those these two 27 April 2003 zingers below:
Coalition of the Willing member, Morocco, is offering monkeys, riding battle koalas, to help detonate land mines.

The newest addition of the Coalition of the Willing is Palau, which will come in handy if we need to liberate Samoa.
Stewart's most recent CoTW update--9 October 2007--is hilarious, citing "coaltion" developments in Iceland, Poland, the UK by math-challenged George Bush; it warrants a view.

Additional Stewart jokes on the CoTW appear elsewhere on the web, to include:
"With the situation in Iraq growing ever more dangerous, the 34-member Coalition of The Willing are, one by one, dropping out to join the other coalition known as Most of The Rest of The World."

"Spain's new Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero announced he will soon call back Spain's 1300 troops from Iraq — meaning the coalition of the willing is fast turning into a duet of the stubborn."
In response to the UK's announced withdrawal of troops following the departure of former Prime Minister Tony Blair from office, the think tank Foreign Policy in Focus in March 2007 characterized the "coalition of the willing" as "on its last legs."

In February, Robert Dreyfuss reported Slovakia's new prime minister had withdrawn a contingent of military engineers the previous pro-Bush president had deployed to Iraq.
Yet another member of the Coalition of the Willing got unwilling, right on schedule. Slovakia pulled out its 110 army engineers. "The war in Iraq is unbelievably unjust and wrong," said Slovakia's new prime minister, Robert Fico. "To speak about any democracy in Iraq is a fantasy."
Last Friday (November 23), BBC News reported that Donald Tusk, elected in October as Poland's new Prime Minister, announced he would withdraw the 900 remaining Polish troops deployed in Iraq.

So that leaves Morocco and Palau, right?--which, by Bush Math, makes 78 coalition members.

Wednesday, November 21

Thanksgiving Fascism Watch

All along the watchtower, princes kept the view
While all the women came and went, barefoot servants, too.

Outside in the cold distance a wildcat did growl,
Two riders were approaching, the wind began to howl.--Bob Dylan

George Bush's post-9/11 thirdworldization of America--proceeding now under the studiously earnest indifference of the 110th Democrat-controlled Congress-- unfolds quietly, abetted by industrial-strength hypocrisy, taxpayer-supported propaganda and Orwellian double-speak.

Israeli "Nuclear Ambiguity" (or "How to Be Just a Little Gay")

From across the Atlantic, regular London Guardian contributor George Monbiot offers Americans this reminder of our 21-century slop-jar democracy, currently most pronounced in the Middle East:
George Bush and Gordon Brown are right: there should be no nuclear weapons in the Middle East. The risk of a nuclear conflagration could be greater there than anywhere else. Any nation developing them should expect a firm diplomatic response. So when will they impose sanctions on Israel?

Like them, I believe that Iran is trying to acquire the bomb. I also believe it should be discouraged, by a combination of economic pressure and bribery, from doing so (a military response would of course be disastrous). I believe that Bush and Brown - who maintain their nuclear arsenals in defiance of the non-proliferation treaty - are in no position to lecture anyone else. But if, as Mr Bush claims, the proliferation of such weapons “would be a dangerous threat to world peace”(1), why does neither man mention the fact that Israel, according to a secret briefing by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, possesses between 60 and 80 of them?(2)

Officially, the Israeli government maintains a position of “nuclear ambiguity.”

American Mis-Reading

Here's a blurb for a 20 November story serving as an apt metaphor for reading in Amerika that I lifted from the International Reading Association's website, which bills itself as "Your source of news from the world of literacy."
Flawed test booklets invalidate PISA tests in U.S.

In an episode that has embarrassed the U.S. Department of Education, thousands of flawed testing booklets forced the invalidation of reading scores on an international exam administered without major mishap in 56 other countries. The problem came on a test known as the Program for International Student Assessment that allows students’ proficiency to be compared with that of their international peers. It was administered to 5,600 American 15-year-olds last fall, as well as to students in the 30 member nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and in 27 less developed countries. Scores are scheduled for release next month. Read the story in The New York Times.
But the IRA (?) neglected to include a 19 November Washington Post story on new statistical study documenting detailing an alarmingly decline in U.S. reading . Among its findings:

"...the percentage of high school graduates deemed by employers as 'deficient' in writing in English [is] (72 percent).

In 2002, only 52 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24, the college years, read a book voluntarily, down from 59 percent in 1992.

_ Money spent on books, adjusted for inflation, dropped 14 percent from 1985 to 2005 and has fallen dramatically since the mid-1990s.

Perhaps Bush and Cheney should have named their 2002 education bill instead "Most Kids Left Behind." And this:
The number of adults with bachelor's degrees and "proficient in reading prose" dropped from 40 percent in 1992 to 31 percent in 2003.
Dana Gioia, a National Education Association statistician, further noted
"I think there's been an enormous investment in teaching kids to read in elementary school. Kids are doing better at 9, and at 11. At 13, they're doing no worse, but then you see this catastrophic falloff. ... If kids are put into this electronic culture without any counterbalancing efforts, they will stop reading."
According to author and retired middle school English teacher John Taylor Gatto, that's been the plan of our wealthy elite overlords when they set up public education standards over 100 years ago.

Canada Slams Door on U.S. War Deserters

We can never underestimate the influence of a Bush on democracy.

Since Colonial times, Canada has welcomed Americans disturbed by the oscillating boom-bust-war machinations of the U.S. power elite's hyper-U.S. capitalism, to include the most recent crimes committed against humanity in Iraq.

But what a difference Bush-backed fascist primer minister Stephen Harper has had on Canadian Officialdom's war sensibilities. Though Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, told the House of Commons that his fellow country persons would not participate in the U.S.'s illegal war, Aaron Glantz ,writing at, reported on Canada's high court's hard rightward swing toward the war.
Two US Army deserters who fled to Canada and sought refugee status on grounds of their opposition to the war in Iraq have lost their bids to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear their cases.

The court refused to hear the appeals of Jeremy Hinzman and Brandon Hughey Thursday, who were rejected two years ago by Canada's immigration authorities....

Translation: In ongoing covert preparations for the North American Union, U.S. dissenters or deserters not involved with government-backed drug trafficking no longer have sanctuary on the continent.

Probably Just Another 9/11 Coincidence

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema presided over the trial of "20th" hijacker Zacarias Moussaoui now questions government evidence presented during his trial and that of "al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric from Virginia sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for soliciting treason."

Her problem? "...she can no longer trust the CIA and other government agencies on how they represent classified evidence in terror cases." Ah, yes; justice morphs into kangaroo courts when its removed from public security. In layperson's language, Brinkema thinks Department of Justice prosecutors committed perjury and obstructed justice.

Her Honor must have have read the recent promise to "tell us everything" made by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, a 9/11 whistleblower famously silenced by what the American Civil Liberties Union characterized as an egregious misreading of the States Secret Act.

On Tuesday, AP writer Matthew Barakat wrote that al-Timimi's attorney Jonathan Turley, Georgetown University law professor and constitutional defense lawyer, submitted a brief appealing Brinkema's initial 2004 life sentence she gave Turley's client.
Brinkema said she no longer feels confident relying on the government briefs, particularly since prosecutors admitted last week that similar representations made in the Moussaoui case were false.

In a letter made public Nov. 13, prosecutors in the Moussaoui case admitted to Brinkema that the CIA had wrongly assured her that no videotapes or audiotapes existed of interrogations of certain high-profile terrorism detainees. In fact, two such videotapes and one audio tape existed.

Moussaoui, who had pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, was sentenced to life in prison last year. Because Moussaoui admitted his guilt, it is unlikely that the disclosures of new evidence would result in his conviction being overturned.

Turley, al-Timimi's defense lawyer, praised Brinkema for taking a skeptical view of the government's assertions in addressing al-Timimi's case.

"We believe a new trial is warranted," he said in a phone interview. "We are entirely confident that there are communications that were not turned over to the defense. These are very serious allegations."
Enjoy your turkey, my fellow Amerikans.

Tuesday, November 20

Unplundered Hope: Thanksgiving Gratitude for Articulate Anti-Fascism

Contrary to implications in former public school teacher and award-winning author John Taylor Gatto's classic The Underground History of American Education (2003, The Odyssey Group, New York; not all students since the 1880s have succumbed to U.S. public education's "Fourth Purpose," i.e., to become dumbed-lowdown by covert machinations of Amerika's democracy-loathing power elite, to become educationally lobotomized beyond imagining, much less articulating, informed dissident.

Like Garret Keizer, not all of us goes quietly into the Amerikan Night to become "just another brick in the wall"-- or "
keep saying that broad consensual Yes as loudly as we dared."

Last month, Harper's Magazine--the best left-of-center U.S. publication Educated American swill ever hope to read, the mag which The Nation stopped emulating long before 9/11--offered its small by avid readership their accustomed fare of articulate deconstruction of Amerikan post-9/11 fascism--of slop-jar democracy going, going, gone very, very wrong.

No fuzzy dice kind of thinking is tolerated at Harper's; no faux-journalistic, '08 Democrat presidential campaign-ese dicking around with pseudo-analysis is permitted there, no shortchanging the Western philosophical rules for erudite, coherent argument passes muster at Harper's; none of the cheap "rhetoric and rationalization" championed at Fox News Network.

Below is Garret Keizer's essay in Harper's October issue titled "Specific suggestion: General strike." While he strike he advocated failed, read it and know that populist smartness has not been completely ferreted out of the Heartland--yet. Hope does springs eternal.


Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust.
-- Isaiah 26:19


Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope. Iraq will recover sooner. What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy - a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of
American power - has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul.

You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light - that is, to
any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable. Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy's Law and tomorrow's fatal inducement to drink and be merry today.

If someone were to suggest, for example, that we begin a general strike on Election Day, November 6 2007, for the sole purpose of removing this regime from power, how readily and with what well-practiced assurance would you find yourself producing the words "It won't do any good"? Plausible and even courageous in the mouth of a patient who knows he's
going to die, the sentiment fits equally well in the heart of a citizenry that believes it is already dead.


Any strike, whether it happens in a factory, a nation, or a marriage, amounts to a reaffirmation of consent. The strikers remind their overlords - and, equally important, themselves - that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on.
Camus said that the one serious question of philosophy is whether or not to commit suicide; the one serious question of political philosophy is whether or not to get out of bed. Silly as it may have seemed at the time, John and Yoko's famous stunt was based on a profound observation.
Instant karma is not so instant - we ratify it day by day.

The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn's early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what's going on in our collective life. The poet Richard Wilbur writes of the "ripped mouse" that "cries Concordance" in the talons of the owl; we too cry our daily assent in the grip of the prevailing order - except in those notable instances when, like a donkey or a Buddha, we refuse to budge.

The question we need to ask ourselves at this moment is what further provocations we require to justify digging in our heels. To put the question more pointedly: Are we willing to wait until the next presidential election, or for some interim congressional conversion experience, knowing that if we do wait, hundreds of our sons and daughters will be needlessly destroyed? Another poet, Cesar Vallejo, framed the question like this:

A man shivers with cold, coughs, spits up blood.

Will it ever be fitting to allude to my inner soul? ...

A cripple sleeps with one foot on his shoulder.

Shall I later on talk about Picasso, of all people?

A young man goes to Walter Reed without a face. Shall I make an appointment with my barber? A female prisoner is sodomized at Abu Ghraib. Shall I send a check to the Clinton campaign?


You will recall that a major theme of the Bush Administration's response to September 11 was that life should go on as usual. We should keep saying that broad consensual Yes as loudly as we dared. We could best express our patriotism by hitting the malls, by booking a flight to
Disney World. At the time, the advice seemed prudent enough: avoid hysteria; defy the intimidations of murderers and fanatics.

In hindsight it's hard not to see the roots of our predicament in the readiness with which we took that advice to heart. We did exactly as we were told, with a net result that is less an implicit defiance of terrorism than a tacit amen to the "war on terror", including the war in
Iraq. Granted, many of us have come to find both those wars unacceptable. But do we find them intolerable? Can you sleep? Yes, doctor, I can sleep. Can you work? Yes, doctor, I can work. Do you get out to the movies, enjoy a good restaurant? Actually, I have a reservation for tonight. Then I'd say you were doing okay, wouldn't you? I'd say you were tolerating the treatment fairly well.

It is one thing to endure abuses and to carry on in spite of them. It is quite another thing to carry on to the point of abetting the abuse. We need to move the discussion of our nation's health to the emergency room. We need to tell the doctors of the body politic that the treatment
isn't working - and that until it changes radically for the better, neither are we.


No one person, least of all a freelance writer, has the prerogative to call or set the date for a general strike. What do you guys do for a strike, sit on your overdue library books? Still, what day more fitting for a strike than the first Tuesday of November, the Feast of the Hanging Chads? What other day on the national calendar cries so loudly for rededication?

The only date that comes close is September 11. You have to do a bit of soul-searching to see it, but one result of the Bush presidency has been a loss of connection to those who perished that day. Unless they were members of our families, unless we were involved in their rescue, do we
think of them? It's too easy to say that time eases the grief - there's more to it than that, more even than the natural tendency to shy away from brooding on disasters that might happen again. We avoid thinking of the September 11 victims because to think of them we have to think also of what we have allowed to happen in their names. Or, if we object openly to what has happened, we have to parry the insinuation that we're unmoved by their loss.

It is time for us to make a public profession of faith that the people who went to work that morning, who caught the cabs and rode the elevators and later jumped to their deaths, were not on the whole people who would sanction extraordinary rendition, preemptive war, and the
suspension of habeas corpus; that in their heels and suits they were at least as decent as any sneaker-shod person standing vigil outside a post office with a STOP THE WAR sign. That the government workers who died in the Pentagon were not by some strange congenital fluke more obtuse than the high-ranking officers who thought the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea from the get-go. That the passengers who rushed the hijackers on Flight 93 were not repeating the mantra "It won't do any good" while scratching their heads and their asses in a happy-hour funk.

An Election Day general strike would set our remembrance of those people free from the sarcophagi of rhetoric and rationalization. It would be the political equivalent of raising them from the dead. It would be a clear if sadly delayed message of solidarity to those voters in Ohio and Florida who were pretty much told they could drop dead.


But how would it work? A curious question to ask given that not working is most of what it would entail. Not working until the president and the shadow president resigned or were impeached. Never mind what happens next. Rather, let our mandarins ask how this came to happen in the first place. Let them ask in shock and awe.

People who could not, for whatever reason, cease work could at least curtail consumption. In fact, that might prove the more effective action of the two. They could vacate the shopping malls. They could cancel their flights. With the aid of their Higher Power, they could turn off
their cell phones. They could unplug their TVs. The most successful general strike imaginable would require extraordinary measures simply to announce its success. It would require
sound trucks going up and down the streets, Rupert Murdoch reduced to croaking through a bullhorn. Bonfires blazing on the hills. Bells tolling till they cracked. (Don't we have one of those on display somewhere?)

Ironically, the segment of the population most unable to participate would be the troops stationed in the Middle East. Striking in their circumstances would amount to suicide. That distinction alone ought to suffice as a reason to strike, as a reminder of the unconscionable
underside of our "normal" existence. We get on with our lives, they get on with their deaths.

As for how the strike would be publicized and organized, these would depend on the willingness to strike itself. The greater the willingness, the fewer the logistical requirements. How many Americans does it take to change a lightbulb? How many Web postings, how many emblazoned
bedsheets hung from the upper-story windows? Think of it this way: How many hours does it take to learn the results of last night's American Idol, even when you don't want to know?

In 1943 the Danes managed to save 7,200 of their 7,800 Jewish neighbors from the Gestapo. They had no blogs, no television, no text messaging -and very little time to prepare. They passed their apartment keys to the hunted on the streets. They formed convoys to the coast. An ambulance driver set out with a phone book, stopping at any address with a Jewish-sounding name. No GPS for directions. No excuse not to try.

But what if it failed? What if the general strike proved to be anything but general? I thought Bush was supposed to be the one afraid of science. Hypothesis, experiment, analysis, conclusion - are they his hobgoblins or ours? What do we have to fear, except additional evidence that George W Bush is exactly what he appears to be: the president few of us like and most of us deserve. But science dares to test the obvious. So let us dare.


We could hardly be accused of innovation. General strikes have a long and venerable history. They're as retro as the Bill of Rights. There was one in Great Britain in 1926, in France in 1968, in Ukraine in 2004, in Guinea just this year. Finns do it, Nepalis do it, even people without
email do it ...

But we don't have to do it, you will say, because "we have a process". Have or had, the verb remains tentative. In regard to verbs, Dick Cheney showed his superlative talent for le mot juste when in the halls of the US Congress he told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to go fuck himself. He has since told congressional investigators to do the same thing. There's your process. Dick Cheney could lie every day of his life for all the years of Methuselah, and for the sake of that one remark history would still need to remember him as an honest man. In the next world, Diogenes
will kneel down before him. In this world, though, and in spite of the invitation tendered to me through my senator, I choose to remain on my feet.

"United we stand", isn't that how it goes? But we are not united, not by a long shot. At this juncture we may be able to unite only in what we will not stand for. The justification of torture, the violation of our privacy, the betrayal of our intelligence operatives, the bankrupting of
our commonwealth, the besmirching of our country's name, the feckless response to natural disaster, the dictatorial inflation of executive power, the senseless butchery of our youth - if these do not constitute a common ground for intolerance, what does?

People were indignant at the findings of the 9/11 Commission - it seems there were compelling reasons to believe an attack was imminent! - yet for the attack on our Constitution we have evidence even more compelling. How can we criticize an administration for failing to act in
the face of a probable threat given our own refusal to act in the face of a threat already fulfilled? As long as we're willing to go on with our business, Bush and Cheney will feel free to go on with their coup. As long as we're willing to continue fucking ourselves, why should they have any scruples about telling us to smile during the act?


Between undertaking the strike and achieving its objective, the latter requires the greater courage. It requires courage simply to admit that this is so. For too many of us, Bush has become a secret craving, an addiction. We loathe Bush the way that Peter Pan loathed Captain Hook;
he's a villain, to be sure, but he's half the fun of living in Never-Never Land. He has provided us with an inexhaustible supply of editorial copy, partisan rectitude, and every sort of lame excuse for not engaging the system he represents. In that sense, asking "What if the strike were to fail?" is not even honest. On some level we would want it to fail.

Certainly this would be true of those who've declared themselves as presidential candidates and for whom the Bush legacy represents an unprecedented windfall of political capital. One need only speak a coherent sentence - one need only breathe from a differently shaped smirk - to seem like a savior. Ding-dong, the Witch is dead. Already I can see the winged monkeys who signed off on the Patriot Act and the Iraq invasion jumping up and down for joy. Already I can hear the nauseating gush: "Such a welcome relief after Bush!" Relief, yes. But relief is not hope.

How much better if we could say to our next administration: Don't talk about Bush. We dealt with Bush. We dealt with Bush and in so doing we demonstrated our ability to deal with you. You have a mandate more rigorous than looking good beside Bush. You need a program more
ambitious than "uniting the country". We are united - at least we were, if only for a while, if only in our disgust.

If only I believed all this would happen.

I wrote this appeal during the days leading up to the Fourth of July. I wrote it because for the past six and a half years I have heard the people I love best - family members, friends, former students and parishioners - saying, "I'm sick over what's happening to our country, but I just don't know what to do". Might I be pardoned if, fearing civil disorder less than I fear civil despair, I said, "Well, we could do this". It has been done before and we could do this. And I do believe we could. If anyone has a better idea, I'm keen to hear it. Only don't tell me what some presidential hopeful ought to do someday. Tell me what the people who have nearly lost their hope can do right now.


Garret Keizer is a Contributing Editor of Harper's Magazine. His last Notebook, "Climate, Class, and Claptrap", appeared in the June issue.

Friday, November 2

U.S. Middle-Class Diplomats Discover Iraq Deployment a "Potential Death Sentence"

Now that the U.S. State Department is forcing relatively privileged Americans to deploy to the new embassy in Iraq, the foreign service officers are aghast--outraged, even!--on discovering that those assignments are "potential death sentences." The hapless diplomats could have discovered this long ago if their arrogance had permitted them to cross the American class-divide to hear disturbing accounts about a mysterious sickness from U.S. soldiers deployed there since the first Gulf War in 1991.

When 3844 largely poor and ethnic U.S. soldiers die for "democracy" in Iraq, most Americans have no trouble going about their daily routines on the home front.

No, the "war on terror" abroad isn't much a distraction for most of us Americans, even the Democrat- controlled congress; we manage very well, thank you, to carry on, despite overwhelming evidence that the White House ensured our troops' deaths (1) with "fixed" evidence to start the war and (2) profiteering contacts to a Florida body armor manufacturer where union workers alleged supervisors instructed them to skimp* on construction quality.

No problem here, amigos and amigas. Eyes front and just keep moving.

But the U.S. government's covert "poverty draft" has been much less effective in compelling middle class American professionals to serve God, mom and country in Iraq; these relatively privileged citizens needed to be enticed by other means to serve on that dangerous war front.

Oh, and how they are howling over impending tours of duty in the scorching Iraqi sand, an assignment some of them now liken--surprise, surprise--to "potential death sentences."

On All Hallow's Eve, appropriately enough, posted the following news brief about a mini-State Department uprising in which foreign service officials voiced--out loud!-- panicky disquiet over their impending "forced postings to Iraq."

In a “contentious” hour-long “town hall meeting” today, several hundred U.S. diplomats “vented anger and frustration Wednesday about the State Department’s decision to force foreign service officers to take jobs in Iraq, with some likening it to a ‘potential death sentence.’” The AP reports on the exchange:

“Incoming is coming in every day, rockets are hitting the Green Zone,” said Jack Crotty, a senior foreign service officer who once worked as a political adviser with NATO forces. […]

“It’s one thing if someone believes in what’s going on over there and volunteers [via the "poverty draft"], but it’s another thing to send someone over there on a forced assignment,” Crotty said. “I’m sorry, but basically that’s a potential death sentence and you know it. Who will raise our children if we are dead or seriously wounded?” [Dick Cheney will. If not Dick, George Bush will. I know; your marriageless, childless babe abd boss Condi Rice happily will assume responsibility for your progeny.]

“You know that at any other (country) in the world, the embassy would be closed at this point,” Crotty said to loud and sustained applause from the about 300 diplomats who attended the meeting in a large State Department auditorium.

UPDATE: ABC News has the audio. October 31, 2007
Oh mercy, me; you are a rascal, Jack Crotty. What great timing, Jack, to suddenly discover the Bush administration is handing out "potential death sentences" to Americans posted to Iraq.

You are one wild and crazy guy, Jacko.

Hey, Jack, here's a question that could put an arc on that learning curve you're working on regarding the U.S. presence in Iraq: Does the date "19 March 2003" mean anything to you? I didn't think so.

Jack, I have a all-stations News flash for you: You aren't the first American to face death at the hands of angry Sunni insurgents outraged at a veritable devil's catalogue of U.S. war crimes and crimes against humanity, to date claiming 1.1 million Iraqi lives.

Let me repeat, Jacko: You will not be the first American to daily confront outraged Iraqis who will see you as the tie-and-jacketed errand boy representing an invasion and occupation force responsible for tons of discarded radioactive depleted uranium (DU)--a covert "weapon of mass destruction" (WMD), according to the UN, in which the U.S. is world leader--left in spent munitions throughout Iraq since the 1991 Gulf War that has driven Iraqi birth defects and children's cancer rates off the charts.

But the Pentagon officially claims DU is harmless to civilians, so its a-okay, in their expert opinion, to let it lie about, wherever troops assemble, particularly on battlefields and logistical support units in Iraq and Afghanistan, Jack.

But most doctors disagree with the Pentagon's "medical experts." During the brief Gulf War I (1990-1991), U.S. forces deposited 320 tons of depleted uranium munitions on the Iraqi landscape, to harrowing effect to our troops.
....Medical experts report that this phenomenon of multiple malignancies from unrelated causes has been unknown until now and is a new syndrome associated with internal DU exposure.

Just 467 U.S. personnel were wounded in the three-week Persian Gulf War in 1990-1991.

Out of 580,400 soldiers who served in Gulf War I, 11,000 are dead, and by 2000 there were 325,000 [or 55.9%] on permanent medical disability.

This astounding number of disabled vets means that a decade later, 56 percent of those soldiers who served now have medical problems. The number of disabled vets reported up to 2000 has been increasing by 43,000 every year.
As I said earlier, Jack, you, like those Gulf War I troops, must count on the U.S. taxpayer--Uncle Sam--to raise your children in the event your are killed or seriously wounded by during your impending stint at the U.S.'s massively flawed $593 million new embassy compound in Baghdad.
For, indeed, Americans like you facing deployment to Iraq by 2008, if they were sufficiently aware, would have much more to keep them awake at night about incremental radiation poisoning since the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Just how much depleted uranium left by the U.S. military since 2003 would you imagine awaits you on your arrival, ol' Jack-o-lantern-to-glow-in-the dark? Would you believe 2000 tons? That's the estimated tonnage deposited in just the first three weeks of our current "war." Since George W. Bush on 1 May 2003 pretended he flew the Lockheed S-3 Viking and parked it atop the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln to declare "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, untold tons of DU have been added to the existing toxic mix.

Perhaps the dramatic spike in tonnage is why the White House initially hid, then illegally denied Freedom of Information Act requests filed by National Security Archive officials at George Washington University seeking the number of disability claims filed by U.S. troops fighting in the bogus post-9/11 "war on terrorism" centered in Afghanistan and Iraq. In October 2006, that figure was 1 in 4.

Eight months before GWU threatened the Veterans Administration with a lawsuit to coerce release of those numbers, Columbia University's Nobel Prize-winning economic Joseph E. Stiglitz reported (and the media yawned) the Bush White House had dramatically low-balled the costs of the Iraq War, in large part by underfunding medical treatment for veterans returning from the War on Terrorism's dual war fronts. (Original 38-page document here).

In a synopsis of the longer numbers-crunching study, Stiglitz writes:
...[T]he Bush administration has been doing everything it can to hide the huge number of returning veterans who are severely wounded – 16,000 so far, including roughly 20% with serious brain and head injuries. So it is no surprise that its figure of $500 billion [total war estimates] ignores the lifetime disability and healthcare costs that the government will have to pay for years to come.
What the economist goes on to say, Jack, is that the total costs of the war to American taxpayers has been yet another sleight-of-hand voodoo economics trick.** By Stiglitz conservative estimate, our costs will be twice the estimate Bush as told the Congress and the American public. In other words, there indeed may not be sufficient funds in the U.S. Treasury to care of your children, should you succumb to incremental radiation poisoning that continues on the sly in Iraq.

But, Jack, perhaps you caught Michael Moore's documentary SicKo that played well this past summer in American theaters, even garnering kudos from Fox News Network. Like the "war" in Iraq, Moore tells us that our national healthcare system is a global disgrace, little more than a covert corporate strategy for transferring tax dollars from the U.S. Treasury to off-shore accounts protected by bipartisan congressional support.

Countering Bush administration propaganda on why the U.S. system is better than Canada's, Moore half-jokingly concludes the film with a graphic of the url "HookaCanuck," a Canadian singles dating service. Since U.S. healthcare is for Big Pharma, Big Medicine and Corporate America, Moore was telling us to marry a Canadian and substitute our Third World healthcare for world class treatment.

Jack Crooty, rather than willingly deploy to Iraq, I suggest taking your children to Canada and marrying a Canadian; that's the solution sought by a growing contingent of U.S. soldiers who face deployment to a clearly unjust war.

But, Jack, despite the hoopla you raised at the State Department this week, I bet you'll end up convincing yourself to be deployed to the embassy in Baghdad; hey, it's a good gig. And who knows. Maybe you can dodge the radiation and return a healthy man, though your spirit and heart may be damned in the process.

*Also see "Defense Logistics: Army and Marine Corps’s Individual Body Armor System Issues," 26 April 2007, pp.19,; and Roger Charles, "Government Accountability Office (GAO) Investigating Why America's Grunts Continue To Bleed & Die In Second-Rate Body Armor," Soldiers for the Truth, 2 February 2007,

**A 2 November Raw Story post titled "CNN: Price of Iraq war 10 times pre-war predictions" gets closer to the real costs to American taxpayers, though it's half of Stiglizt estimation. (Of course, we know CNN has a more skilled staff economist than Stiglist.) Here's a excerpt from that news item:

When President Bush's emergency supplemental funding request is granted by Congress in the coming weeks, the cost of the Iraq War will reach ten times its original projected cost of $50-60 billion, CNN reports.

At what will soon be a total tab of $576 billion, the Iraq war is second in cost only to World War II. According to CNN's report, every minute troops are deployed in Iraq, the American public pays $200,000 to keep them there. Since the money is not allocated by Congress as part of the regular budget, there is little oversight of how it is spent and Billions of dollars remain unaccounted for in Iraq as the costs continue to more

Revised 5 November--editor

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