The US has built the biggest embassy in the world in Baghdad. Problem is, no one wants to serve in it. The State Department, under Condi Rice, is considering forcing diplomats to move to Iraq. In a town hall meeting, one diplomat criticized the policy calling it a "death sentence." They were told that their names wouldn't be placed on a list if they were critical of the policy. And if you believe that I have some Iraqi WMDs I want to show you.
I just read two horrible stories about torture done in the name of the US government. In one, an illegal immigrant was detained for almost one year and was not given urgent medical care. He had a cancerous growth on his penis, and he is dying. In the other, an Egyptian who was believed to be a terrorist (later found not to be) was told by the FBI to confess to his crimes or his family would be tortured by Egyptian authorities.
Is this the US? Will a candidate for the highest legal position in the country, Michael Mukasey, be confirmed for his position when he can't even say for certain whether waterboarding represents torture? This torture technique was introduced in the Spanish inquisition, and was a war crime in WW II. If he doesn't know that its torture and that the US is in serious trouble, we need someone who can do the job.
There is a crazy Halloween house near my house and when I drove by, I saw a guillotine and the head being chopped off looked like a familiar politician. Will add it when it's not so dark out.
Meanwhile, these come from what I snapped out of my car window when doing home visits up north this morning. People go all out for this holiday. Check out the pirate ship, the people who have jumped the gun for Christmas, and the all-occasion giant yellow ribbon.
Reading news stories about Halloween -
Learned that thousands and thousands of Chinese-made "Ugly Teeth", intended to go into people's mouth, contained unsafe levels of lead.
That San Francisco brought all sorts of portable toilets , 90 of them, into the Castro district, then called off the party.
That Salem, Massachusetts is now the Halloween party capital, with masses converging, though maybe it's actually Greenwich Village, NYC!
That Capital Hill is the gold mine neighborhood for getting the most candy, in Seattle.
That some South Carolina sex offenders are being "coralled" tonight, to keep them from heading out into the night.
That we have Daylight Savings so as to have one more hour of daylight, due to the candy lobby.
That Just Born Candy Company, maker of Peeps, is having their ghost Peeps made in China this year.
That Halloween is banned in Moscow schools (Russia, not Idaho).
That the pumpkin tax has been ended in Iowa.
That hackers have flooded email boxes with a "storm" worm that steals credit card info.
That Mexico's Catholic Church is slamming Halloween as "damaging."
That the Federal Reserve gave Wall Street the Halloween treat of an interest rate cut.
That Selfridge's department store in London opened a psychic store for Halloween.
Cool! A dad just brought a bunch of kids by to Trick or Treat. "Wow - a Cheney Jack-o-Lantern," he said - "Did you get it from the New Yorker?" "Yes," I said.
The Most Terrifying Halloween Story Ever Told (+)
Wed Oct 31, 2007 at 18:43:44 PDT
Imagine there was a beautiful planet.
Imagine it was inhabited by billions of sentient beings.
Imagine the most technologically advanced of those beings was in the process of poisoning that planet for everyone.
Imagine that all life was at risk.
Imagine that those most technologically advanced beings were, as T.S. Eliot once put it, too
distracted from distraction by distraction
to do anything about it.
Imagine those most technologically advanced beings were even putting the survival of their own species at risk.
Imagine time was running out.
Imagine those most technologically advanced beings were actually making things worse, not better.
Home from work, and we were off to University Bookstore for Will Self's appearance and to get an autographed copy of "PsychoGeography: Disentangling the Modern Conundrum of Psyche & Space" - for Will is a "long distance walker," and had walked form SeaTac Airport to University Bookstore.
A collaboration with Ralph Steadman, famous for the drawings in Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas," the book had to be purchased in hard copy but that didn't stop avid readers from bringing in armloads of books for autographs.
"The Old Communist" sat in the front row. I sat behind him, making a little YouTube movie of Ken asking Will about David Ickes. I asked about my favorite writer, Lawrence Osborne and was gratified that he knew the reference.
We were used to Will's fiction but this book isn't fiction. It's a collection of fifty illustrated pieces involving place, ie. whether we are oriented moreso to the freeway or the free way.
Writing about going through immigration:
"I wouldn't try to get into Legoland dressed like that, let alone post 9/11 America," he says of a Frenchman. It turns out Will has dual citizenship, since his mother was American, and Immigration resented his use of a British passport. "Mr Self, are there little things you are not telling us about yourself?" To Will, his size 12 shoes distinguish him more than his passport.
"an unholy miscegenation between London & Los Angeles" "the minibar was called the Self Bar so I took it personally and downed alot"
R&R in Rio:
He had nothing to read .. finally found a bookstore with three shelves of those books they sell at airport and one copy of "The Rise & Fall of the Third Reich" .. "I snapped it up." He broached the language barrier to find that local women had nicknamed him "Hitler"
"sitting opposite an Australian hippie wearing a Victorian nightgown" (who read Shakespeare endlessly)
"met an excitable Ukrainian" who "believed every conspiracy theory going" & "the wandering AntiSemitic" had inscribed in ballpoint pen on his rucksack all of the countries he'd visited.
He bought a ticket accidentally for eight days later than expected, was forced to stay in the Holy City & "linked up with a Canadian Buddhist .. the worst kind" - "grit in my retinal afterimages" (from burning bodies), and in the Ganges, "collided with the corpse of a cow" - "ingurgitating spriochetes to last me a lifetime"
"Now I'm an older, less adventurous & less stoned man."
He referred to us as "erudite" and seemed sincere. People asked him about travel writers and his highest recommendation was for Norman Lewis' Naples '44, though he also spoke highly of Guy Debord, the French intellectual who was the driving force behind "psychogeography," and anticipated the effects of the internet, mass communication and mass travel on our sense of place.
To Will, we live in a human geography defined by commerce and the antidote is to move about more or less randomly, as "flaneurs," and he is obsessed by the idea that we don't really know where we are any more. We live in "zones of ignorance" whereby we may know intimately the few blocks we live in and the few blocks we experience when we vacation, but nothing in between. He suggests taking the journeys we are not intended to take.
In fact, Will lives less than a mile from where he was born, and where at least five generations of his family have lived. On this book tour, he is travelling without baggage and walking from each airport to where he does book readings. The Old Communist tells us "Rick Steves said to pack light." The Old Communist asks if there is any place Will has not been that he would like to go and he answers, "The Arctic, because it's disappearing." "Is it?" asks the Old Communist, skeptically.
A woman with an accent I can't place asks is in the process of the long walks, Will will just go away (from writing). He says that Rimbaud was a long walker and did just that, before he was 27, but he won't. Someone asks him about Buddhism, and he tells us that two days ago he went to a Buddhist meeting in San Francisco. He imitated the Master guy, acting all egoless, then said he felt like telling him, "You're a fucking fraud, man."
Will is modest but really charismatic and was named one of the best dressed men in England, even though he has no baggage. Tonight he was wearing a black silk shirt, very nice.
Christy Cole is from Louisiana and is known to me from the blogosphere over a period of probably almost five years. She brought some much-needed southern flavor to the John Kerry blog when I was a national moderator, and is a fixture at Democracy Cell Project. She is a poet and artist with some Cherokee blood (as I have some Sioux, a common bond). She is an American patriot with a passion for truth and for saving our Constitution. She advocates for a complete blockade of Fox News and Rupert Murdoch's enterprise, if only people would get up and mobilize! She speaks often of her man, who is pictured below, and of her children, one of whom recently came on "the blog" to inquire about pacifism.
I remembered this that Christy wrote around the time of the last election, and wanted to post it once again, especially in light of what has happened since Hurricane Katrina (with so many already disenfranchised voters permanently chased out of the area), and the promises of a "50 state campaign" that has yet to catch fire. It's good to read it again & I'm also waiting for my own original painting by Christy & chose my colors - orange, bright green & black.
I was born in Oklahoma, the 4th of 5 children. I was raised thoughout Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, but have settled in Louisiana where I also now have 5 children. And 3 cats.
I attended 20 public schools that I can remember and never made it past the ninth grade. My family was very poor and moved often, so I never had many friends nor was there any formal training as an artist. My father was a wood carver as a hobby, and as a child I would watch him carve for hours and days. My grandmother also dabbled at painting, which was not her best work, but she was a fantastic sketch artist and both her and my father are probably what encouraged me at first. I constantly doodled as a kid. When I was 9, I was sitting in class and drew a portrait of Brooke Shields, who was the 'It Girl' at the time. It looked just like her, and to this day I believe that was a turning point for my artistic path.
I never thought about 'becoming an artist'. To be honest I never thought it was an option, because it is well known 'artists' starve. But it became more than a hobby or even study for me, it became a passion. I went much further than my father or grandmother, and learned, researched, and studied the Masters every chance I got to see their works displayed in photos. I studied art and found myself in a lifelong study of history and culture as well. But, ultimately it has been a pursuit of beauty. When I see a beautiful woman, I just want to paint her. When I see a man, caught in a beautiful moment in time, I see him in fleshtones and shadows. Even to this day I am amazed at how beautiful our species is. I have so many beautiful images saved in my head, I will never have time to paint them all in this lifetime.
I get paid to paint, but I also give away a lot of art as well, as gifts. I love to hand people something beautiful, to hold in their own hands. Everyone deserves something beautiful to hold onto.
At the beginning of this next year, I am anticipating being very busy as I amass my first public collection for sale, hopefully by next summer.
Preaching to the Choir.
Excuse me, Blue State people. May I have your attention please..? Thank you.
I make it an obsessive habit to watch everything in our country lately. From down here in Louisiana, because of the 'Information Revolution' I keep surprisingly up to date on the current clusterfuck our nation has become.
Now, normally, I don't see things in red state/blue state terms. I was taught to believe we are ALL Americans first. Period. However, there is a red/blue problem that I simply can not remain silent on anymore. It touches on EVERYTHING we hope to do.
I see all our democratic and activist leaders, all on the move. It is truely a beautiful thing. The people are waking up, and the message is trickling out, slowly but surely. Our opposition to the tyranny of the Bush family bonds us in ways that transcend blue state red state and hold us firm against the fear. I see our leaders holding rallies in N.Y., L.A., Phoenix, and D.C.
What I do not see is rallies in Jackson, Shreveport, or Birmingham.
There may be a speech now and then, that gets heartily protested by the very loud minority, and then they are gone. Back to the blue states to preach to the chior. There is no democratic hope in the south because there are no democratic generals here fighting the republicans on thier own turf. Don't get me wrong there are dems here, hard at work, trying desperately to spoon out the ocean. But these dems are underfunded and COMPLETELY INVISIBLE in our daily lives.
Now perhaps, you have been told that we are all morons down here that spit at outsiders, and dream of the days when slaves were ours to own. Perhaps thats the image you have. But nothing could be further from the truth. By tradition the southerners are DEMOCRATS. We are only red state because the damn republicans have been rigging elections down here for more than a century. You think Ohio was ugly...? Try Louisiana EVERY election day. But, who do we tell? We are left with the corrupted leaders or telling those who will pass it on to the yankees, who then turn around and forget they once violently overthrew and occupied the very soil I am sitting above as I write this. And there were consequences.
MANY MANY consequences. All of them political. None of them easy. I wonder at times, if Martin Luther King had been from Cali would he have found it worth dying for? I doubt it.
Coming down here to make a speech and then outrun the fruit throwers on your way back to bluer borders WILL NOT WORK. You are simply overlooking the TRUE problem of the south because it is what..? Distasteful?..Tedious?.. Dangerous?
And you are missing the opportunity of the ages.
The current shuck and jive campaign coming out of D.C. these days is being delivered with a southern accent. But, not eveyone who SPEAKS with an accent, THINKS with an accent. And it is WAY past time to come and engage those people in a VERY lengthy discussion. One that we can sleep on, and engage again in the morning. I have never once believed the republicans outnumber democrats down here. ONLY at the polls is this a republican stronghold, and if you believe the numbers from Florida can be skewwed it's not a hard leap to see the truth about the south.
The truth is, you have abandoned us, and we need you now more than ever. We have the numbers, and the courage, and the will. But, we can not go anywhere without leaders who are willing to risk just as much as we are.
When a hero does come forth I do not know if he will be northern, or southern, black, white, red nor blue. I do NOT know if that hero that leads us to rally down here will even survive the experience. What I do know is this, WHOMEVER that hero is, when they rise from the ashes of the old south, their names will live forever in the halls of heros among men.
When that hero does come, many, including me, will give all we have to protect them. But we can not protect what we can not reach.
When the rallies that electrify the blue states are over, and the chior goes home, there will STILL be a quiet sense of desperation in the deep south. As a region we are the poorest and most illiterate, even now. You could get it all back, and win the very heart and mind of the country.
But you can not take what you refuse to touch.
ADDENDUM: More, & I received my own Cleopatra, which I have added at the very top!
Aidan Delgado is the son of a diplomat. He grew up in various countries, and learned about Buddhism in Thailand and learned Arabic in Egypt. After a year of college as a religion major, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve on the morning of 9/11/01. At the time, he had not heard anyting about the World Trade Center Attacks. He was deployed in 2003 as a specialist in Nasiriyah and at Abu Graib. As he stayed there, his skepticism and then opposition to the war grew. He sought consientious objector status and finished his tour of duty, with an honorable discharge.
Now he has written a book called The Sutras of Abu Graib. It is his story and he recounts his struggles and the dehumanizing effects of war. He examines his Buddhist beliefs against a context of prisoner abuse and brutality. He describes his effort to hold on to his identity while life is falling apart around him. Even before he left the United States, he heard an officer joke about heading off to Iraq to kill ragheads and burn turbans, to much laughter. Knowing quite a lot about the cultures of the middle east, he was skeptical and what he witnessed in Iraq only fueled this, as when soldiers carried bottles that they would then smash over the heads of detainees.
Aidan believes lack of understanding of Arab or Muslim culture, combined with war zone tension and fear, contribute to rage and violence. For his part, he handed his weapon to his commander and told him that he was not going to fight or kill, that the way was wrong and he'd finish his job as a mechanic but would not hurt anyone. He was called a traitor or coward and ostracised for the duration.
Here is an excerpt from his book:
Within a week of arriving at Abu Ghraib, I see the veneer peel away from something ugly. Here and now, in this dismal place, I understand that what was set in motion in Nasiriyah is about to gain a terrible momentum. All the violence and hate that's been building will be unleashed, now that the guards have the Iraqis under their thumbs. The November "riot" is not the start of violence but the fulfillment of it, a culmination of the dark promise of Nasiriyah. In a way, it's the blossoming of the seeds of 9/11, of all the partisan speeches and sideways glances at Muslims in the airport. I begin to see the dark and shameful flipside of the occupation: brutality, racism, killing… I feel a vast and terrible karma set itself in motion: a hateful and destructive wheel at last coming full circle. The four killing in November aren't the end… they're only a portent of what is to come.
Mind blowing synchronistic coincidence! As I finished this post, I happened to go to Docudharma site (friends from ArtKos) and found this! wonderful book review with photos by "On the Bus."Aidan also was on-line at the same site last night! I hope that this worthy book finds the large audience out there that needs to find out about it! transcript of on-line appearance (photo above, D. Grieser; photo below, self-portrait by Aidan Delgado in front of one of Saddam Hussein's many palaces)
This sculptor created an image on his roof that can be easily seen from those making landings at nearby Boeing. He built his own house, out of corrugated steel and concrete and calls it his largest sculpture ever. Rather than frame it, he used insulated panels. He lives there with his wife, a French teacher, and a 13 year old iguana. I found the image in Pacific Magazine, which comes with the Sunday paper, as I was throwing it out, and searched for it on-line, so the image is smaller than I wanted, but the idea itself is large.