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Buildings Goin' Up To The Sky ...06/29/2005 07:55:14 pm

Freedom Tower

 

It's an improvement over the original Freedom Tower design, without a doubt. Not saying a lot, of-course, but at least this one kind of looks like it belongs in New York City. Begs the question as to what all that previous effort and hoopla was about. Daniel Libeskind, indeed.

One thing I noticed: that guy has one heckuva hilarious website. Go there and you see just a page of plain text. Certain words are highlighted in orange, and if you put your mouse over them, you get rewarded by non-sequitors of incredible wisdom. My favorite is "machine for producing gods" - which you get if you put your mouse over "Bibliography."

You're a genius, Danny. Why don't you go build some things in some fey foreign capital, like ... well, I don't want to offend anybody. But in New York our buildings need to look big and strong, and especially they need to look like they've been completed. Which hopefully this one will be, before the next ice age.

 

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What Google Am I? ...06/29/2005 04:50:11 pm

Yes, RWB has broken down and put up some GOOGLE Ads. All this writing I do, and the rising price of ink - you know how it is. So, I can make some infinitesimal but welcome amount of money if you click on them. There's always a risk of politically objectionable content popping up, but, hey, you take a risk every time you walk out the door. Have fun.

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Mail Bag! ...06/28/2005 10:11:22 pm

Received this message from someone signing himself as Ted Walish.

Subject: Just as bad

You're just as bad as Rove these days.  Every Democrat
I know, every liberal I know, wanted to get Bin Laden.
 I supported the Afghanistan conflict and was dismayed
when I saw focus being shifted to Iraq.  I still
remember those days, and the sinking feeling in my
stomach.  I knew were headed to utter disaster.

Why aren't you in Iraq?  Are your kids in Iraq?  You
support the Iraq war, you go fight it.  You wingers
always bitch about taxes, well you're flushing a lot
down a rathole that was losing battle from the start.
As far as I'm concerned you wingers should fight this
war, and you should pay for it.

Cowards, the lot of you.  Cowards and disgusting
fascists who re-write history to suit your own ends.

You're hero Ronnie sold Saddam a lot his weapons when
he was filling up those 'mass graves' you wingers cry
crocodile tears over.  Hypocrites.  You people disgust
me.

I guess he was responding to this post. Every so often this kind of tirade should be answered. Let me attempt to find responses to his crushing criticisms.

First, "You're just as bad as Rove these days." To that, I can only respond, "I do hope so."

Second, "Every Democrat I know, every liberal I know, wanted to get Bin Laden. I supported the Afghanistan conflict ..." Well, congrats on your patriotism - actually supporting action against the regime that sponsored the mass murderers of thousands of Americans. However, apparently the only other liberals you know are the mild-mannered, apple-pie variety, like, um, Joe Lieberman. Which is rather surprising considering your own penchant for throwing out words like "fascist," against people with whom you disagree. Well, I guess you just don't get out much, so let me give you a refresher on some of what liberals have said on this subject:

Noam Chomsky, in November of 2001 (while in India), described the U.S. action against the Taliban as "a bigger terrorist act than what happened on September 11th."

"Like a mafia leader the US chose Afghanistan and struck at that country because it could not strike back," he said.

"It was America's military establishment that controlled the power centre," he contended at a discussion on Where is the World Heading on Saturday evening.

...

Continuing his criticism, Chomsky said, "The five countries who support America's action are all terrorist states themselves."

He has modified his arguments somewhat since then, of-course, but the U.S. safely remains the root of all evil in the world, according to his analyses.

And Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, and candidate for the Presidential nomination in 2004) told the Washington Post in November 2003 "that U.S. military action against Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was not justified and has proved to be a 'disaster' and a 'nightmare.'"

Cleverer than Chomsky, it took him only two hours to call back and say that his "misspoke," that the war against Afghanistan was justified as a "philosophical question," but it's just that the tactics were all wrong.

"We needed to take advantage of the moment and go to the world community and say, 'Work with us collectively to track down these terrorists.' Now, if a state resists, then that's up to the community of nations. . . . When a nation or a government refuses, and the people who are directly responsible for an attack on this nation, then we have an obligation to go through the United Nations to work at providing an effective response," he said.

"The government of Afghanistan itself didn't attack us. That's the thinking. That is a major point here in terms of the community of nations."

Colonel Kucinich, there, explaining his no-holds-barred philosophy of war.

Michael Moore, who rallied liberals across the country with his film "Fahrenheit 9/11," and who sat beside President Jimmy Carter at the Democratic National Convention, wrote this in the days following September 11th:

"Declare war?" War against whom? One guy in the desert whom we can never seem to find? Are our leaders telling us that the most powerful country on earth cannot dispose of one sick evil f---wad of a guy? Because if that is what you are telling us, then we are truly screwed. If you are unable to take out this lone ZZ Top wannabe, what on earth would you do for us if we were attacked by a nation of millions? For chrissakes, call the Israelis and have them do that thing they do when they want to get their man! We pay them enough billions each year, I am SURE they would be happy to accommodate your request.

But I beg you, Mr. Bush, stay with the tears. Go today to comfort the wounded of New York. Tell the mayor, a guy most of us have not liked, that he is doing an incredible job, keeping the spirits of everyone up as high as they can be at this moment. Being there for a city I believe he loves, his own cancer still with him, he goes beyond the call of duty.

But do not declare war and massacre more innocents.

...

Keep crying, Mr. Bush. Keep running to Omaha or wherever it is you go while others die, just as you ran during Vietnam while claiming to be "on duty" in the Air National Guard. Nine boys from my high school died in that miserable war. And now you are asking for "unity" so you can start another one? Do not insult me or my country like this!

And of-course he conveniently changed his opinion when it suited him (for his multi-million dollar film) to say that the war in Iraq was "a distraction" from the all-important military action against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Finally, the Democratic nominee for President, Senator John F. Kerry, in a January, 2004 debate, said this about the war on terror:

But it's primarily an intelligence and law enforcement operation that requires cooperation around the world -- the very thing this administration is worst at. And most importantly, the war on terror is also an engagement in the Middle East economically, socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced, because otherwise we're inviting a clash of civilizations.

Indictments and therapy - that's what Karl Rove said that liberals offered. "Law enforcement" and "engagement ... socially, culturally, in a way that we haven't embraced." That's what Kerry said. You tell me where the air is between those concepts.

Today, John Kerry said this, in an Op-Ed in the New York Times: "The president must also announce immediately that the United States will not have a permanent military presence in Iraq." In who's interest is it, exactly, that the United States should preemptively and unilaterally give up the ability to have a base in a friendly Iraq (from which to deter threats in such potential hot spots as Iran, Yemen and Saudi Arabia)?

That's right, kids: it's in the interest of our Islamic jihadist enemies.

So, while the professional Democratic politicians are more careful about their public statements, it's clear that you can draw a straight philosophical line from Chomsky through Moore and Kucinich and Kerry, and right up to Senator Durbin and his anguish over the treatment of murderous jihadist detainees by American Nazis. The theme is that we should do as little as possible against our enemies - and first and foremost, we should condemn ourselves and our own country. There are endless other examples, but Googling them is so time consuming.

Does anyone think that the war in Afghanistan would have been pursued with the same kind of resolve by people with thought patterns such as these?

I applaud my email friend Ted, for saying that he supported (supports?) that war. Please, Ted, speak to your fellow liberals and convert them if you can.

Third: "Why aren't you in Iraq? Are your kids in Iraq? You support the Iraq war, you go fight it."

This is of-course the argument that you're not allowed to advocate for military action unless you are actually in the military, or have children in the military. It is an infantile argument, but one which rears its head over and over again - no matter how times it is refuted. Well, one more time. If you must be in the military (or have children in the military) in order to have an opinion on the use of military force, then it follows that the same criteria should apply to the right to vote in Federal elections. After all, it is Congress, along with the President, who decide issues of war and peace. So, our friend Ted would take the right to vote in Federal elections away from anyone who doesn't meet those criteria. Be careful what you wish for, Ted: if only the military and military families voted in Federal elections, there would be nary a Democrat in office in Washington, DC in this year of our Lord, 2005.

Ted also makes a reference to taxes - as in, "we're wasting so much tax money by fighting this war, and isn't that such a terrible thing." Well, the preamble to the Constitution of the United States Of America states that the purpose of the whole shebang is, among very few other things, "to provide for the common defense." I'll earmark my taxes for an F-16 long before I'll earmark them for any of the other innumerable items that Ted Kennedy would spend them on - thank you very much. Unfortunately, we're not allowed to earmark our taxes for specific purposes. That's what elections are for. Oh, by the way: we won the last one. Big time.

Finally, "You're (sic) hero Ronnie sold Saddam a lot of his weapons when he was filling up those ' mass graves' you wingers cry crocodile tears over. "

I guess that putting "mass graves" in inverted commas implies that Ted doesn't believe they actually exist - yet he's willing to use them in his argument anyway. Fair enough - a usual tactic of liberals is to argue on facts that they don't even themselves accept. Well, firstly, Saddam's genocidal tendencies generally became clear in the years after the United States gave him some support in his war versus the mullahs of Iran. It was in 1988 that Saddam used poison gas against Kurds; it was in 1991 that he that he killed tens of thousands of Shiites who rose against him in the south (after the United States had deferred to the wishes of the international community by simply ejecting his army from Kuwait, rather than advancing to Baghdad and eliminating his regime).

As for the limited support that the Reagan administration gave to Iraq in the war versus Iran, it has no meaning without context. Iran had in power a militant Islamist regime which had just seized and held 52 American hostages for 444 days. The implications of such a regime taking over Iraq - with its vast oil reserves and strategic importance - were terrifying. Iran certainly seemed to harbor the greater long-term threat to American security, and indeed it is arguable that the entire modern Islamist threat originated there and persists to this day. In addition, there was a Cold War going on with the Soviet Union (for those too young to remember, this meant that we were all minutes away from being incinerated by thermonuclear weapons, every day). So, having influence on major players in the Middle East, for better or for worse, was crucial. All the choices were bad, in other words, but choices had to be made.

For those who are uncomfortable with these kinds of moral compromises, it should be remembered that it is the current administration of George W. Bush which has been the first to concede America's past mistakes and now says this:

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.

And it is people like you, Ted, who oppose this (finally) morally straightforward policy, in favor of some kind of "hands-off, let them kill eachother and us as much as they want" point-of-view.

So, every point is answered, Ted. Nevertheless, I don't expect you to be converted. You will probably just come back at me with an email with 20 more points. That is the style of argument of what passes for the American Left these days. Simply overwhelm your adversary with the sheer volume of illogical assertions that you can spew out. If one point is refuted, just ignore it, and move on to the next one. Tomorrow, you can use the one that was refuted against someone else. These things are endlessly recyclable. Never let the fact that one of your "facts" was wrong cause you to rethink the source of all of your thinking. Never concede the moral high ground in your own mind. Always remember that you are better than everyone else - everyone else is just somehow too stupid to realize how smart and good you really are.

One more thing, Ted - if you must use such an epithet, please come up with something more descriptive than "wingers." That doesn't tell anyone if you're referring to left-wingers or right-wingers. Same with "wing-nuts." Believe me, there are not only right-wing-nuts in this world, though they certainly exist. There are also left-wing-nuts. Far be it from me to suggest a glance in the mirror, but ...

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One More Cup Of Coffee ...06/28/2005 08:27:36 am

So this from Reuters:

Counterculture legend Bob Dylan on Monday became the latest musician to sign up with Starbucks Corp. in an exclusive CD deal that follows the runaway success of a Ray Charles album sold by the coffee maker.

That really raises the question of what someone has to do to stop being labeled as part of the counterculture. Let me see ... avoid anti-war protests, raise your family quietly, sing songs about Jesus ... that didn't do it ... maybe it's time to make a deal with Starbucks ...

"Dylan: Live at the Gaslight 1962," co-released with Sony BMG Custom Marketing Group, will hit Starbucks coffee shops Aug. 30. It features 10 previously unreleased tracks from performances at New York's Gaslight Cafe over four decades ago, including "A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall" and "Don't Think Twice It's Alright."

Many people, including and especially some fans, will criticize this. Those who don't have access to a local Starbucks might have the best case to make - and for the moment, this deal is limited to the U.S. based stores.

Nevertheless, in a world where technology has effectively pulled the rug out from under the traditional music biz model, I don't think you can knock any artist or record company for trying to do things differently. Aside from the fact that this "Gaslight" gig has already been widely bootlegged, we all know that once it hits the counter with the cappuccino's, it will be out there in the most copy-friendly format ever devised, i.e. digital media.

So, I'll take a "tall," with room for milk, and one of them there folk/protest CDs.

 

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If The Bible Is Right ...06/27/2005 10:45:15 am

While it's still legal, RWB is hereby posting the Ten Commandments on his web site/blog contraption. From Deuteronomy, Chapter 5 (New International Version, courtesy of the Bible Gateway):

1 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
      Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

    6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
  7 "You shall have no other gods before me.

    8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    11 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

    12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

    16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

    17 "You shall not murder.

    18 "You shall not commit adultery.

    19 "You shall not steal.

    20 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

    21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

    22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

Things have changed, indeed.

Some things are too hot to touch
The human mind can only stand so much
You can't win with a losing hand

 

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Coming From The Heart ...06/26/2005 08:29:21 pm

RWB was fortunate enough to see Dylan's (and Willie Nelson's) show at Yogi Berra Stadium, in Montclair, NJ, on Friday night, June 24th . I'm not going to review it in any normal way, but here, if you like, is an appreciation of sorts.

Sitting back in the stands, rather than crowding up near the stage, gave me an angle on the audience that changed my perception of the event. I'm sure if you were up front that the crowd seemed fairly close in spirit to a usual Dylan concert audience. That's probably where most of the people who trekked in from NYC were - this venue being about 30 miles from the city. Back in the seats and the bleachers, however, it felt a lot more than 30 miles from the metropolis. Mrs. RWB, who is considerably less taciturn than yours truly, traded remarks with someone who said,"The whole town of Montclair is here tonight." Someone else said that they'd come just because it was the first time anyone had ever played in the town, and that they'd walked to the gig. Just looking around told the story - here were a bunch of normal people, adults of all ages, kids in tow, out on a beautiful American evening at the local baseball park. Absent was the kind of intensity you see with serious Dylan fans. Expectations? I couldn't tell, but they must have been all over the place, or nowhere at all. Warm weather, cold beer, some hot dogs, Willie Nelson and Family lilting away in the breeze, and who knows what from this Bob Dylan fella after the sun went down.

The portentous and hilarious introduction swiped years ago from that Buffalo News writer was intact, loud, and clear, "The poet laureate of rock 'n' roll ... the guy who forced folk into bed with rock ... disappeared into a haze of substance abuse ... emerged to find Jesus ... releasing some of the strongest work of his career beginning in the late nineties ... ." What do people make of that, who haven't heard it before? They probably forget it pretty fast. The pounding opening number cleared the air:

To be alone with you
Just you and me
Now won't you tell me true
Ain't that the way it oughta be?
To hold each other tight
The whole night through
Ev'rything is always right
When I'm alone with you.

The next tune was Tonight I'll Be Staying Here With You. So that's two songs in a row from Nashville Skyline, an album released in 1969, plumb in the middle of the Vietnam War, burnt American flags, down with the establishment, the whole world seeming to say "Yankees go home." Yasser Arafat assumed command of the PLO that year, and James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King. John and Yoko recorded "Give Peace A Chance." I could go on, but I'm starting to sound like Greil Marcus. I'm not saying that Nashville Skyline had anything to do with any of that. Of-course it didn't. It's an album that you could describe in a lot of ways - sweet country music, simple-seeming songs about a simple-seeming life - Dylan even crooning them in a voice he'd never revealed before. They are in some sense poems to the American heartland; songs about a land of love and loss and honest work and longing for the right girl and just the time and space to woo her, along with the regrets of a sin-stained conscience and the pain of promises broken. It never gets too complicated or too clever. People accused Dylan of not standing up and dealing with the real issues. I think he was dealing with them just fine.

It struck me, then, at Yogi Berra Stadium, how those songs seemed to fit the air and the faces out here. They didn't seem like songs about some strange Brigadoon-type place; they seemed right on-topic and up-to-the-minute. Later, he sang New Morning too, a song I'd never heard him do in concert before, sweetly sounding the chords on his piano in the intro and outro. (mp3 here for a little while, may be unreliable)

Can't you hear that motor turnin'?
Automobile comin' into style
Comin' down the road for a country mile or two
So happy just to see you smile
Underneath the sky of blue
On this new morning, new morning
On this new morning with you.

Having last seen Dylan a couple of months ago in New York City, the contrast in just my own perceptions was fairly stark. There, it had been Desolation Row that seemed most relevant to the venue:

Across the street they've nailed the curtains
They're getting ready for the feast
The Phantom of the Opera
A perfect image of a priest
They're spoonfeeding Casanova
To get him to feel more assured
Then they'll kill him with self-confidence
After poisoning him with words

Death by self-confidence - poisonous words - you can get all that and more in twenty different languages, any day of the week in the Big Apple. Free delivery on orders of $10 or more.

Here in the environs of Montclair, NJ ( a place that seemed to this jaded city slicker to be the heartland), Dylan also sang Desolation Row. But now, it seemed like something else - not a song about what waited right outside the exits, but intead a dose of exotic fantasy to take you away from the mundane surroundings. Or maybe a glimpse of the weirdness that exists in the country and the suburbs too, but that people are better at keeping locked up behind closed doors.

And so it went. The set list was not in its essence different to the one Dylan had played a couple of months earlier in the Beacon Theater on Broadway and 74th street - a similar mix of his heartfelt and seemingly simple songs, along with the strange, funny and nightmarish.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Now the bricks lay on Grand Street
Where the neon madmen climb.
They all fall there so perfectly,
It all seems so well timed.

And, as at that show in the city, it worked, but in a different way. The alchemy of the songs, the performance, the venue and the air itself created a different but still precious kind of result. And the palpable presence of so many people who little knew what to expect of this Bob Dylan - this singer that they'd heard characterized so many times but perhaps rarely listened to themselves - provided a special and fertile soil for the songs to settle in on. Or so it seemed to this attendee. And what a Dylan they got; hunched over the keyboard in stage left, singing indescribably, or out in center stage, blowing a harmonica while stabbing the air with his hand and going down on one knee. Bandleader, soul singer, lunatic and country gentleman. "Thank you, friends," he said, like a Stanley Brother that time forgot. (Those were his first words of the show, with one song left to sing.)

This tour of minor league baseball stadiums across the country - so many of which have never even seen concerts before - is a unique and remarkable odyssey that is leaving impressions likely to linger in unfathomable ways. Dylan is skipping the middle-man and taking it straight to the people.

And it's a very nice thing indeed.

I should have left this town this morning
But it was more than I could do.
Oh, your love comes on so strong
And I've waited all day long
For tonight when I'll be staying here with you.

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Better Talk This Over ...06/23/2005 03:54:48 pm

Scanning the mainstream media today can't help but provoke an observation or two. There is outrage amongst Democrats over Karl Rove's remarks about September 11th, and the difference between the conservative and liberal responses to that attack. Specifically, he said that while conservatives understood what had happened and "prepared for war," liberals wanted to "prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Compare, if you will, the reaction of Democrats to this (and by the way, since they're so angry, does this mean that they are admitting to being "liberals?" They usually run screaming from that designation ... ) versus the reaction of those outraged by Senator Durbin's remarks on Nazis and Stalinists at Guantanamo.

In the case of Durbin's insults to the military, those condemning him were quick to point out how he was wrong on the facts. Mostly, he was off by many millions of dead bodies. Nazi death camps, Gulags, Cambodia = tens of millions murdered. Guantanamo Bay = none actually dead at this point, but hundreds of Islamic Jihadists gaining weight from regular meals. (Perhaps they are in danger from that other Yankee scourge - obesity.)

In the case of Karl Rove's remarks, I fail to see any of his critics - who are calling for their immediate retraction or his own resignation - actually pointing out in what way he is mistaken. And indeed, how could they? The Democratic Party is, right now, making common cause with our enemies, on the time-honored principle of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend." And since George W. Bush is the real enemy, then naturally bloody-minded jihadists everywhere - who also hate Bush- must be the true friends of the Democratic Party. Hence, Durbin's perception that it made sense to label Americans as Nazis and portray fanatical and murderous captives as their hapless victims. He was doing nothing more than articulating on the floor of the Senate what has come to be the common opinion of the most motivated, vocal and powerful elements of the Democratic Party. A small and current example being the patriotic band of civil libertarians who are dedicating themselves to reviewing thousands of pages of information about Guantanamo, already released by the U.S., in order to "root out even the smallest signs of government misconduct."

This, at a time when their nation is at war, seems to these people to be a productive use of their own time; they will comb through tons of minutiae for any indication that the friends and allies of those who killed 3,000 people on September 11th, 2001 might have some cause for complaint, no matter how trivial. And then, like Senator Durbin, they will no doubt trumpet whatever they can find in the most exaggerated light, in order to deride their own country's military, and give a public relations bonanza to the enemy. "U.S. Senator Compares American Guards to Nazis." "American Civil Libertarians Declare Rights Being Denied To Muslim Detainees." Meanwhile, Democrats daily seize on every bit of bad news from Iraq as a reason to pull out the troops - and in so doing effectively magnify the power of every car bomb, and provide further motivation for every already crazed car bomber.

It can give no joy to anyone that this is the state of politics in America today. The term, "loyal opposition," is supposed to mean just that: A party in opposition to the incumbent party, while remaining within the bounds of loyalty to the nation's interests. Perhaps if Joe Lieberman took a few like-minded Dems and started a splinter party, we might have a loyal opposition in this country again, instead of a party that is effectively in opposition, first and foremost, to America.

This is what Karl Rove was getting at, in a manner far more gentle than I. Democrats should take his words as well-timed advice. Instead, they are choosing to take on an argument that they cannot win - because his words were accurate, and are only becoming more so as the weeks and months pass.

 

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Cry A While ...06/22/2005 08:11:25 pm

By now most people would know that Senator Richard Durbin has capitulated in the face of RWB's previous post, and has issued one of those rather typical unapologetic apologies. Anyone who's followed these issues knows that he meant exactly what he originally said, and it is a disturbing thing indeed to contemplate that the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate is as disrespectful of the motivations and sacrifices of the U.S. military as he undoubtedly is - and as proudly oblivious as he clearly is to the fact that we are a nation at war. It's a reality check that some may need - and some others may not.

In any case, for a detailed take on this whole story, I recommend Hugh Hewitt's piece in the Weekly Standard. Amongst other things, he reprints this letter sent to all 100 U.S. Senators from a soldier currently deployed to Kosovo:

Senators,

I am currently deployed to Kosovo as a member of Task Force Falcon, Multi-National Brigade-East, NATO KFOR. At home I am a teacher in the Kerman Unified School District, providing quality instruction in U.S. History and English/Language Arts to wonderful eighth graders whom I love dearly. I have served in the U.S. Army, Army Reserve, and California Army National Guard for 24 years.

I am currently on orders for 545 days on this contingency operation (Operation Enduring Freedom/Joint Guardian), which means that I will miss everything that my family does for the next nine months (at least), possibly longer if I am redeployed to another contingency operation, or extended here.

I share the preceding information as a preamble to the subject of this email, so there will be no mistake as to my position, or credibility.

The recent comments of Senator Durbin in reference to the conditions for inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility are as detestable as anything I have ever heard or read concerning members of the of the United States military. By now these comments have been quoted or aired enough that I need not repeat them here.

The senator's remarks, while apparently intended to apply to only a small number of us, actually hit ALL of us squarely in the heart. To compare any member of the U.S. armed forces with the murderous thugs who ran Hitler's camp system, the Soviet Gulag, or who gleefully slaughtered entire populations in Cambodia, is an affront to all men and women of our military.

Does Senator Durbin really mean to imply that WE are thugs and murderers? Does he really mean to imply that WE treat our prisoners in the same manner, as say, the totenkopfverbande treated prisoners at Sobibor, Belzec, Treblinka, or Auschwitz? Does he really mean that?

If the good senator really does intend to convey this message, then I suggest that he read Eugen Kogon's excellent and heartbreaking study of the Nazi camp system, titled "The Theory and Practice of Hell." I think he should read it, and then decide whether or not his comparisons are entirely accurate. I would also like to suggest that Senator Durbin read Alexander Solzhenitsyn's "The Gulag Archipelago," or "Children of Cambodia's Killing Fields" by Kim DePaul and the late Dith Pran.

We men and women who serve in the armed forces are NOT the jackbooted tyrants that some people seem hell-bent to depict us as. We are many things, but we are not evil. Implications to the opposite effect serve only to undermine and demoralize us as we try with all our hearts to carry out our missions to make the world a better place. If Senator Durbin or any other lawmaker would like to see evidence of, or hear testimony about what we really do, then I suggest a trip to Kosovo. Ask the people here what they think of America and our soldiers. You might be surprised.

In conclusion I would like to remind you that many of the men and women currently running the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay come from the California Army National Guard. They are upstanding and honorable citizens of the state of California, and the United States of America. They are members of the greatest force for peace, or war, that the world has ever seen. I personally know many of them, and they are absolutely not as Senator Durbin portrays them. Senators, I beg of you, stand up for them. Do not allow these reprehensible statements by one of your colleagues to go by the board without censure. He must be called to task on this.

SSG Stephen Pointer
S-6/IMO
432nd Civil Affairs Battalion (-)
Camp Bondsteel
APO AE 09340

"War is evil, but it is often the lesser evil."
George Orwell

A more restrained and yet devastating response to Senator Durbin is hard to imagine. It's no surprise that the Senator was choking back sobs as he issued his apology, and yet, we all know for whom he was crying those tears.

Well, you bet on a horse and it ran on the wrong way
I always said you'd be sorry and today could be the day
I might need a good lawyer, could be your funeral, my trial
Well, I cried for you, now it's your turn, you can cry awhile

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Oh, Sister ...06/21/2005 10:28:14 pm

Condoleeza Rice

Condoleeza Rice is not your father's Secretary of State. When I saw the FOX headline today, "Rice To Syria: Knock It Off," I figured it was a little tabloid-style flourish by the fair and balanced network. But it wasn't. That's exactly what she said - reacting to the assassination of the anti-Syrian Lebanese politician George Hawi.

"I do not know who was responsible for this and I don't want to say that I know who was responsible, because I don't," Rice said. "But there is a context and an atmosphere of instability. Syria's activities are a part of that context and that atmosphere and they need to knock it off."

More dramatic, however, and certainly more important in the long run, was her speech in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday. It's not a speech that I could imagine Colin Powell giving, somehow - let alone Madeline Albright or Warren Christopher. This is a Secretary of State who is clearly comfortable going full-bore and risking (egads!) the discomfit of her hosts and America's erstwhile Arab "allies." Some excerpts:

For 60 years, my country, the United States, pursued stability at the expense of democracy in this region here in the Middle East -- and we achieved neither. Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people.
...
We know these advances will not come easily, or all at once. We know that different societies will find forms of democracy that work for them. When we talk about democracy, though, we are referring to governments that protect certain basic rights for all their citizens -- among these, the right to speak freely. The right to associate. The right to worship as you wish. The freedom to educate your children -- boys and girls. And freedom from the midnight knock of the secret police.
...
In Saudi Arabia, brave citizens are demanding accountable government. And some good first steps toward openness have been taken with recent municipal elections. Yet many people pay an unfair price for exercising their basic rights. Three individuals in particular are currently imprisoned for peacefully petitioning their government. That should not be a crime in any country.

Now, here in Cairo, President Mubarak’s decision to amend the country’s constitution and hold multiparty elections is encouraging. President Mubarak has unlocked the door for change. Now, the Egyptian Government must put its faith in its own people. We are all concerned for the future of Egypt’s reforms when peaceful supporters of democracy -- men and women -- are not free from violence. The day must come when the rule of law replaces emergency decrees -- and when the independent judiciary replaces arbitrary justice.

The Egyptian Government must fulfill the promise it has made to its people -- and to the entire world -- by giving its citizens the freedom to choose. Egypt’s elections, including the Parliamentary elections, must meet objective standards that define every free election.

Opposition groups must be free to assemble, and to participate, and to speak to the media. Voting should occur without violence or intimidation. And international election monitors and observers must have unrestricted access to do their jobs.

Those who would participate in elections, both supporters and opponents of the government, also have responsibilities. They must accept the rule of law, they must reject violence, they must respect the standards of free elections, and they must peacefully accept the results.

Throughout the Middle East, the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty. It is time to abandon the excuses that are made to avoid the hard work of democracy. There are those who say that democracy is being imposed. In fact, the opposite is true: Democracy is never imposed. It is tyranny that must be imposed.
...
There are those who say that democracy is for men alone. In fact, the opposite is true: Half a democracy is not a democracy. As one Muslim woman leader has said, "Society is like a bird. It has two wings. And a bird cannot fly if one wing is broken." Across the Middle East, women are inspiring us all.

In Kuwait, women protested to win their right to vote, carrying signs that declared: "Women are Kuwaitis, too." Last month, Kuwait’s legislature voiced its agreement. In Saudi Arabia, the promise of dignity is awakening in some young women. During the recent municipal elections, I saw the image of a father who went to vote with his daughter.

Rather than cast his vote himself, he gave the ballot to his daughter, and she placed it in the ballot box. This small act of hope reveals one man’s dream for his daughter. And he is not alone.

And so it is that the evil imperialist American hegemonists continue wreaking their havoc and ruining the world, with this insistence that everyone should be able to "vote" and "choose" their leaders - even in countries where the current dictators do their bidding anyway. What wily scheme are they hiding behind this message of "freedom" and "basic rights?" I smell a secret pipeline, or at a minimum another ginned-up war to distract the American people from the problems of rising ATM fees and runaway brides.

It certainly couldn't be that this Condi Rice is really saying that the United States has broken with six decades of purely pragmatic self-interest and is now gambling on supporting the ideals of its own founding across the world, even at the risk of unfriendly governments being elected?

Why, if that were the case, surely those old liberals in the U.S. Senate, like Ted Kennedy, would be heartily supporting it, instead of attempting to throw a wrench into the Bush Administration's foreign policy by blocking his nominee for the ambassadorship to the United Nations (John Bolton).

 

The truth is that Condoleeza Rice is advocating and expressing a foreign policy based on a combination of high principle ("certain inalienable rights") and genuine far-sighted self-interest (a Middle East without repressive governments that foster sick resentments amongst their most idle citizens), and it is a potent mixture that, with the grace of God and the hard work and sacrifice of some unbelievably brave people, gives us all the best chance of avoiding a true clash of civilizations - one that would make the current war look like a skirmish.

And she's doing it with style.

 

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You're No Good ...06/19/2005 08:10:21 pm

The behavior of American military guards at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for Islamofascist terrorists is somehow equivalent, in Senator Richard Durbin's view, to the behavior of murderers in Soviet Gulags, Nazi death camps, and Cambodian killing fields. This despite the lack of any actual deaths at the aforementioned facility, versus the various multiples of millions of deaths at the other locations. Mark Steyn has a fittingly serious response to Durbin's despicable provision of grist for the enemy here - and Iowahawk has a fittingly hilarious response right over here.

Right Wing Bob's response is, oh well, let's try this one - going out as if sung in a full-throated roar by everyone who's ever worn the uniform of the United States, or ever had a loved one in uniform, and every young and not-so-young American who's been killed on a foreign shore winning freedom for someone else.

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that's winning

You say you lost your faith
But that's not where it's at
You had no faith to lose
And you know it

And now I know you're dissatisfied
With your position and your place
Don't you understand
It's not my problem

Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You'd know what a drag it is
To see you

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When The Ship Comes In ...06/18/2005 11:20:12 pm

So Amazon.com is having a 10th anniversary bash on July 16th. They are treating their employees to a gala featuring Bob Dylan (the best selling living male artist on Amazon) and Norah Jones (the best selling living female artist) as well as Bill Maher (the best selling albino-ish comedian on Amazon?).

I'm frankly stunned, if pleasantly so, that Dylan has sold more than any other living male on Amazon.com. That Norah Jones is the best selling female artist just seems drearily predictable: She's made all of two albums, photographs well, and crosses all the barriers by being musically so nondescript. (That's not intended meanly - it's not her fault she's sold so many discs.) I just can't understand how Dylan has gotten ahead of all the male equivalents. I'm too out-of-the-loop on the current music scene to even name them, but they must be out there.

It appears that Dylan's master plan, which he hatched in the late 80s, of constant touring, visiting the same places over and over again, garbling his songs beyond recognition, gaining a reputation for being a complete wacko, recording a couple of acoustic albums that would never get played on the radio, not releasing anything for 4 years, recording an album that everyone thinks is about dying, and then recording an album where everything seems to be stolen from somewhere - has paid off in spades! He's the biggest thing since Michael Jackson and Billy Joel all rolled into one. The guy makes Jack Welch look like somebody who just got knocked off "The Apprentice." He sure knows how to sell records. Excuse me, "discs."

And I guess it shouldn't be any surprise, given his amazing ability to influence otherwise sane individuals into creating endless numbers of websites dedicated to the study of his work. It was only a matter of time before that whole thing would reap dividends.

I'm so amazed by the mighty Dylan's sales statistics, that other parts of the Seattle Times story on this thing, which might ordinarily annoy me, just kind of make me yawn:

It's not uncommon for high-profile artists, even one as closely associated with the counter-culture as Dylan, to appear at corporate events, according to Gary Bongiovanni of the concert trade magazine Pollstar.

"The stigma that used to be associated with these corporate gigs seems to be just about gone now," he said.

"The artist's motivation for doing this is usually money. They pay extremely well. ... (Dylan's) doing casinos and all kinds of things now. Bob hasn't been as selective in his choices as he would have been even 10 years ago, or as any artist would have been 10 years ago."

Oh, alright. Back here I lambasted a Seattle Times critic for spouting various inanities about Dylan, and chances are the same one had a hand in this story (it's just credited to "Seattle Times staff"). Fine, if they want to continue to label Dylan as being part of the "counter-culture," then let them have their illusions. Dylan's role as ultimately subversive to the counter-culture would hardly be as successful if everyone realized what was going on.

 

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