Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Ideé d’jour

Knowledge comes but wisdom lingers.
— Alfred, Lord Tennyson (Zen Calendar, ©2007 Workman Press)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Idée d’jour

It gets late early out there.
— Yogi Berra (Zen Calendar, Workman Press ©2007)
Post #1780

Monday, January 29, 2007

Idée d’jour

Lose your mind and come to your senses.
— Fritz Perls (quoted in Zen Calendar, Workman Press,
© 2007)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Netflix Que

By request, here is my Netflix Que.

Quote d’jour

The question now before the country is the one confronted by the man afraid of finding out he's been robbed. How much longer do we wish to pretend that nothing really happened, or that nothing really valuable is lost; that the crime is the losing of the Iraq war, not the making of it?
— Lewis H. Lapham, arguing for investigation of the first six years of the B*sh administration (Harper's Magazine, January 2007)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Brother Wolf

Cross-post from Jonah 365

Text reads:
Brother wolf, look!
Sister rabbit
studies shadows
in freshly fallen snow.

See full-size version of this card
I recently received a pack of blank note cards from Defenders of Wildlife which had various wolf pictures on the front. I sent this card, with the original version of the poem written inside, to Brother Dave.

Jack Kerouac would have called something like this poetic form an "American Haiku". I call it "automatic poetry" (as in, "automatic writing", cf. Wm B. Yeats) or a "postcard poem". I see this as an application of William Stafford's "poem a day" discipline.

According to Reverend Mother, "It is reported that when William Stafford was asked how he was able to write a poem every day, he said, 'I lowered my standards.'"

So, I write a postcard poem as if the words cannot be changed. No previous draft, no edits. Scribble away, then send it off to your wondering (or wonderful) correspondent.

I have "cheated", in that the version of the poem above is slightly altered from the original. OTOH, how can I cheat when I'm the one making the rules?

Idée d'jour

A mystical experience is not any more unique than a modern experiment in physics. On the other hand, it is not less sophisticated, either .... The complexity and efficiency of the physicist's technical apparatus is matched, if not surpassed, by that of the mystic's consciousness .... A page from a journal of modern experimental physics will be as mysterious to the uninitiated as a Tibetan mandala. Both are records of inquiries into the nature of the universe.
— Fritjof Capra (quoted in this year’s Zen Calendar, ©2007 Workman Publishing)

Post #1775

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Five: Renewal / "Be Still"

Today's Friday Five (assigned by Rev. Songbird) are especially appropriate for me this week. Between my tinnitus, and the steroids I'm currently taking to resolve it (as detailed in this entry on Jonah 365), I haven't had a full night's rest in a little over two weeks.

In brief, the assignment is to "List four ways you like to relax or give yourself a break. Then name a fifth, something you've never been able to do, a self-care dream."
  1. The main way I relax is with the infamous boob tube. That being said, there are degrees:

    1. Full zombie mode. It barely matters what's on; I'll stare at the screen, mouth agape, for hours on end. Even pabulum like "Navy CIS" or "Criminal Minds". I don't even mute the commercials.

    2. Moderate zombie mode. I'm more discerning about what I watch - "quality shows" on network TV (e.g., "My Name Is Earl"), PBS programming, one of my many pre-owned movies, or the latest DVD in my Netflix queue.

    3. Engaged zombie mode. Still watching broadcast TV, sometimes a mix of "quality" and pabulum, but I mute the sound during commercials and read a magazine (e.g., Shambhala Sun or Oxford American).

  2. Read a book, sometimes with music playing in the background, sometimes not. I mostly read during my lunch hour at work; I'm currently reading James Elroy's The Black Dahlia.

  3. Listen to music. Considering the size of my music collection (LP, tape, minidisk,CD, and now iPod), not as often as you might think.

  4. Lay on the couch with my favorite feline companion asleep on my lap.

  5. I have had different levels of massage – both chair and full – with very positive results. However, my last massage was almost a year ago. My dream form of relaxation, then, would be to get a massage more often.

W-I-P: Prayer Flags

Continuation of the poem-in-progress described here, and begun here.

Southeast wind sails from the Gulf of Mexico
brings fresh rain
to the ancient hills.
From this sacred mountain
I see the white buffalo dance
I see the enemy run in confusion
I see our people gathered in peace
I offer thanks to the sky
to the clouds and the sun.
The yellow morning sun.

I drive a stake
in the side of the mountain
I cut a lock of my hair
and tie it to the stake
with a golden streamer
The stake is on the southeast side of the hill
to greet the morning
but the wind
delivers my prayer to the northwest
where the ancestors dwell.

Holograph of 'Prayer Flags'
As a special treat, here's a picture of the holograph of the first two pages (actual size ˜3.25" - 5.5" per page); click on the image to see a PDF of the first four pages, plus "Grocery List" (published on the Jonah 365 site).
In this current image, you see the beginning of the poem on the verso (left) and some notes on the recto (right).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Catch Up on Project 365

Cross-post from Jonah 365
Invoking a poet/author/creator's right to change his/her mind, I've decided to play catch up for the first 17 days of this year, and to up-date existing entry titles accordingly.

Because I've post-dated the catch up entries, they have already scrolled to the archive page (see the "Older Posts") link at the bottom of the Jonah 365 page. The new entries are titled "1/365 - 10/365" and "11/365 - 17/365".

Prayer Flags - work in progress

Continuation of poem in progress as described below
Enter the cave of the east wind
where shadows consume remorse.
Solstice flames flicker
and pictographs hunt.
Honor the stout heart,
the limbs and sinews,
that provided a good hunt:
"Your heart is my heart;
your blood is my blood;
your flesh will feed a proud people;
your spirit provides strength
for our clan."
My prayer is red,
the blood red of
the setting sun.

Other shadows flicker,
of my own birth
under a gold suburban sun.
Some shadows are vague,
diffuse at the edges,
almost forgotten.
Others still are haunted
and seem to dog my steps.

Idée d'jour

Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imagine a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything — anything — be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous than the world we are living in.
– Sam Harris, author (1967- )

Mr. Harris is such a virulent atheist, he makes Richard Dawkins look like a piker. Nevertheless, I'm amused by the thought of religious wars based on rival interpretations of Windows 98 (don't get me started on Windows vs. Apple or UNIX vs. DOS).

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Military judge applied double standard

The following is an editorial written by my brother, Dave, which appeared in the Austin American-Statesman (Austin, TX) on Tuesday, January 23. His comment follows an editorial published in the Monday edition of the paper which basically refers to Lt. Watada as a traitor.

On January 17th, Lt. Col. John Head ruled on a motion in the court martial of Lt. Ehren Watada. Watada refused deployment to Iraq on the grounds that the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) requires military personnel to refuse illegal orders. Watada’s attorneys intended to argue that since the invasion of Iraq is a crime under international law and the UN Charter, Watada was carrying out his duty to refuse an illegal order. Judge Head ruled that "whether the war is lawful" is a political question that cannot be decided by a military court.

In 1945, when the US-led Nuremberg Tribunal began, the jurists turned first to the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939. The Tribunal found an invasion based on allegations of a threat posed at some future time to be a war crime. This ruling provided the legal foundation for subsequent prosecution and conviction of German officers and officials whose defense was "I was only following orders". Rejection of the defense by the Tribunal led to the requirement that US military personnel follow only lawful orders.

The Nuremberg ruling established the concept of preventive war, as contrasted with preemptive war. The UN Charter makes clear that preemptive war, one in which the threat by another country is clear and immediate, is within the rights of a nation. Preventive war is not.

Lt. Col. Head’s ruling, denying Lt. Watada the ability to lodge his defense on grounds that it is not a matter for a military court, flies in the face of the critical precedents established by the Nuremberg Tribunal; itself a military court.

Another Army Lieutenant stood trial before a military court 36 years ago. Charged with 6 counts of murdering civilians at the massacre in the village of My Lai, Lt. William Calley offered the defense that he had "just been following orders". That court martial rejected his defense, ruling in accordance with UCMJ provisions.

It is clear the Army applied a double standard in the case of Lt. Watada. The invasion of Iraq has not come before an international court. However legal experts from around the world and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have condemned it as illegal. Clearly, Lt. Watada had a sound basis for his sincere belief that to follow his deployment orders would be an act in furtherance of a war crime. That the court has denied him the right to argue his innocence at his February 5th court martial on that basis is a travesty of justice, makes a mockery of the rule of law and places all US service personnel at great legal risk.

Lt. Watada did what he has sworn to do and now faces the wrath of the US Army for so doing.

Dave C—
USMC 1967-71

Idée d’jour

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

From this time forward I make you hear new things, hidden things you have not known.
– Isaiah 48:1-11

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Poem Idea

You lose it if you talk about it. – Ernest Hemingway

This idea began with Tibetan Prayer Flags. One of the hidden benefits to subscribing to a magazine is your information is typically sold to what I call "the sucker list". One may write the magazine and request that your name and address not be sold to any lists, but many people don't know that. I suspect I got on the sucker list for people who are interested in Buddhism because I subscribe to Shambhala Sun. Or, I got on the sucker list because I ordered a Tibetan singing bowl.

Sure, it makes sense, in a way. If I'm interested enough in Buddhism to subscribe to this magazine, I might be interested in other magazines, products, or issues associated with Buddhism. In a perverse way, it's comforting to be aware that there are as many tchotchkes being offered to Buddhists as there are to Christians. Some of those trinkets are of questionable taste, or (at least) are the definition of "conspicuous consumption". A $500 Buddha head - almost as big as one of the statues destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan - for your garden?

But I digress.

The Prayer Flags were included with an appeal to support the International Campaign for Tibet. A blurb in
the letter mentioned that, in Tibetan Buddhist tradition, practitioners believe that prayers invoked with these flags would be carried on the wind.

I liked the idea of prayers being carried on the wind. Where some
Rev Gals might say "That'll Preach", I thought: "There's a poem in that."

Prayer Flags shown stretched between a bulletin board and my window, behind my desk. The flags are above a vent, and are flapping as I type.

These flags are about an inch square. There are five flags, one color each - blue, ivory, red, green and gold. I suspect those colors have some significance, but I don't know what it is.

But - just to demonstrate how my mind leaps around - those colors reminded me of Cheyenne cosmology. As I related last year, in the Cheyenne system, they observe what we might call "cross-quarter" directions. And each direction is associated with a different color and time of life, thus:
  1. NE = Red = Birth

  2. SE = Yellow = Youth

  3. SW = Black = Adult

  4. SE = White = Old Age / Sage

So, the idea is to combine the image of prayer being carried on the wind with these colors and seasons of life (the directions also relate to Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter, in that order).

Hopefully, I haven't built this scheme up to much in my imagination. The bigger an idea for a poem gets in my "vision", the more likely the
thing won't get written (or, at least, completed).

Here's what I have so far:
Enter the cave of the east wind
where shadows consume remorse.
Solstice flames flicker
and pictographs hunt.

My Peculiar Aristocratic Name

His Eminence the Very Lord Jonah the Weary of Chalmondley St Peasoup
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title
Also featured at: Songbird

Amazing how well the form knows me, considering it only asks two questions (name and gender).

Idée d'jour

Seeking the mind with the mind — is this not the greatest of all mistakes?
– Seng-Tsan

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Idée d’jour

Let [God] be only that [God] is, and make [God] no otherwise. Seek no further in [God] but subtlety of wit.
— from The Cloud of Unknowing

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Padre Played Guitar

The prophetic fingers of his right hand
catch the edge of each string
the precise tip of each finger
pulls the string true.
His wrist is a metronome
slowly gliding
back and forth
across the six strings.

His geometric left hand finds
the traditional forms:
right angle, triangle, straight line.
Line segment. Parallelogram.
These fingers step through the scale
to reveal the tune hidden
in the square grid.

His smoke-cured voice weaves the wire
where each note and word hangs.
The room is warm as whiskey
and I draw close to the tune.
I lean my head into the circle of notes.
Our voices wind together.
As padre plays guitar.

Padre's birthday was January 5; he would have been 78.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Friday Five: Basic W's

Suggested by Reverend Mother

who brought the asparagus
who stole the cheese
who wavered in ecstasy
who dreamed snow worship
who spoke for Venus, and knelt for mercy

what was the harbinger
what was the ether
what dreamed the spaceship
what breathed ice and heartbeats
what was I thinking

where did I sleep in my dreams
where did I lay my glasses
where does the hart transgress
where is Pluto and his lover
where did I dream you

when was it possible
when she was seeing Alturas
when our foibles were naked before G-d
when the bed unfolds to great us
when it's five til midnight

why was I dreaming of you
why were you preaching Amos
why were you dancing
why do words spring into fireworks
why is why is why

how can I speak of this
how can I reveal hidden knowledge
how are the turnips and asparagus
how do you sleep how do I sleep without you
how do you do

Post 1762

Blogroll Updated

I've made some minor changes to the blogroll in the sidebar.

I've reluctantly deleted the link to Ms. Candide's space ("F*r*l", aka "One For the Books"). I hope her choice to end her on-line presence is temporary, and will restore the link when her sabbatical is complete.

I've added La Pajaro, the space Birdie Jaworski recently started to record personal stories (in contrast to her Avon-related blog, Beauty Dish). I also recommend Birdie's poetry page, Bird Poems; I especially like "A Treatise on My Cowardice", posted January 6.

Finally, I've started my own subsidiary site (using the new, improved version of Blogger), titled "Jonah 365". This is part of a meme called "Project 365", where people commit to post an image every day. It seems an outgrowth of an idea originated at Photojojo, where the idea is to post a digital image; but a number of people have expanded the meme to include verbal descriptions. My first two entries, 1/347 and 2/347 are both verbal.

I've started this as a separate blog primarily to test the new version of Blogger. Additionally, my entries are likely to be even more radically quotidian than what I normally post here at "Love During Wartime," and therefore may not be of interest to as broad an audience.

So there's a link for Jonah 365 there in the sidebar. Click at will.

Idée d'jour

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realized that the Lord doesn't work that way, so I stole one and asked for forgiveness.
— Emo Philips, comedian (1956- )

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Brother Dave

My brother, Dave, is six years older than me. It amuses me to call him "Brother Dave" because we both remember LPs Padre owned by a comedian of the same same.

Brother Dave Gardner came to national attention in 1959 through the Tonight Show with Jack Parr (reportedly appearing on that program over 70 times). I imagine Padre bought the LPs because of those appearances. I believe Padre owned only two Brother Dave albums.

Brother Dave was an ordained Baptist minister, a drummer, and a singer. He's best remembered as a Southern comedian, similar to Andy Griffith. A modern comparison might be Dave Barry.

My brother remembers a racist element to Brother Dave's routines; the Wikipedia article I link above mentions this, as do a number of reviews at Amazon. I do not remember this aspect of his humor. I have not heard any of his routines since I left home for college, almost thirty years ago.

I do remember some one liners. For example: "Fear not, because 'not' ain't something to fear anyhow. Just remember, 'not' spelled backwards is 'ton.' Now, that's a heavy thought, ain't it?"

Then there's this musical snippet: "From this valley they say you are going / Do not hasten to bid me adieu / Just remember the Red River Valley / And the cowboy who tore half in two."

He did a routine about Daniel's time in the lion's den which I found quite amusing when I was a pre-teen. I still remember the section where Nebacaneezer is testing his soothsayers — not only does he want them to interpret his dream, he wants them to tell him what he dreamed.

None of the soothsayers can meet this challenge, so Nebacaneezer calls Daniel from the lion's den. Daniel claims he knows the dream, and starts spinning a fantastic tale (with some mild sexual content, I think). "Neb" says, "Oh, it was nothing like that," and proceeds to tell Daniel the whole dream. Daniel correctly interprets the dream, and "Neb" releases him from prison.

I also remember Brother Dave Gardner's singing; his voice was a pleasant baritone. The songs I remember in particular (aside from parodic snippet above) are "Is It True What They Say About Dixie?" and "Smoke That Cigarette". I recently learned the latter song was written by Merle Travis.

Happily, my brother doesn't mind being associated with this comedian. Or, at least, he doesn't object to my cock-eyed sense of humor.

An Open Letter to Senators Coburn & Inhoffe

I write in support of Senator Edward Kennedy's bill to withhold funding for additional troop deployments to Iraq prior to Congressional approval.

Two bills on this issue have received attention in the media, Sen. Kennedy's, and a non-binding "no confidence" resolution put forward by Sen. Henry Reid. Of these two, I believe Senator Kennedy's comes closest to taking the necessary action.

Senator Kennedy's bill enforces Congressional power of the purse. It is a bill with practical effect, unlike a non-binding resolution. I believe Senate time is best used debating bills such as Sen. Kennedy's, rather than debating non-binding resolutions.

I urge you to support Senator Kennedy's bill, and to vote "yes" when it comes to the floor.

Note: A seperate copy of this letter will be sent to each senator

Send a message to Senator Reid

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

More Recommended Reading

  • Active Military Personnel Appeal for Redress
    This event took place yesterday afternoon (Jan. 16) in Washington, DC. Although the article claims the action is unprecedented, a similar appeal for redress was filed by active military personnel during the early 1970s. A few months following the presentation of that appeal, Congress cut funding for the Viet Nam War, effectively ending U.S. involvement in that conflict.

    Last week, around the same time as Pres. B*sh's speech, Democratic leaders promised to present a bill that would be a de facto "no confidence" vote for the proposed "surge". While there may be just enough Republicans available to help pass such a bill, it would be barely worth the paper it would be written on, or the hours Senators will make grand standing speeches for and against.

    Much better to cut the purse strings. That's the power the Constitution gives the Congress, and it's well past time that Congress exercise that power. I am not “soft on defense”; I accept that military force may (on rare occasions) be a necessary evil. I am opposed to the current conflict. I find little purpose in sending over 2,000 additional troops to Iraq as potential cannon fodder.

    The proper cannon fodder, unfortunately, are men in the current administration who did their best to avoid that role in the 60s and 70s.

  • Real Live Preacher linked to an article in the Christian Century which addresses the spiritual issue of the U.S. response to 9/11.

    The "what if" scenario of the essay's first half is admittedly naïve. While I argued yesterday for non-violence on an individual level, I recognize it is unrealistic to expect non-violence at the national level. If B*sh had really called for a non-violent response to 9/11, it's safe to say the nation would have been up in arms. I suspect more than a extreme fringe would have called for impeachment.

    The second half of the essay makes the point that 9/11 was, in the view of victims of U.S. oppression and occupation, "... were nothing other than the continuation of the everyday war of which they had been the victims for so long." It also makes the point that European nations have endured this sort of terrorism for decades. This second point was also well made by the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in his book Writings in the Dust.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Is There Hope? (Pt. 2)

In the comments on my posting regarding the "surge", one person (the mother of three boys) asks: "What can we do to foster some optimism in our children?" I have rephrased this question as "Is there hope?", and answered in terms of the current situation and realities as I understand them in part one.

Here, I intend to address the question of hope in a larger sense.

One question parents hope their children never ask - or have to ask - is "Why do nations go to war?" This is supposedly a very difficult question to answer. In the case of our assault on Iraq and Afganistan, however, I think a child could understand the answer. It's at least as old as Hebrew scripture: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Human beings are animals, and part of our animal nature is to strike back when someone hits us. The desire for revenge is ancient. In fact, the Torah instruction of equivalent retribution (no more than an eye for an eye) supplants an older model of disproportionate retribution — both eyes for one eye; the death of a family in retribution for a single death.

I believe one thing that distinguishes humans from other animals is the ability to dream of something better, and to strive toward that something better. I know, for example that my blog friend's 12 year-old son is a fan of Star Trek, which imagines a fairly utopian future on earth.

While that utopian future may be unlikely, there is a hope of making it more likely. And it begins with your son.

It begins with everyone's child, and every adult, in the world.

It begins with the roots of war. The roots of war begin in each human heart. The majority of American people initially supported the invasion of Iraq, fundamentally, because they were fearful or sought vengence in retribution for 9/11/01.

So long as we allow those emotions power in our hearts, politicians (and others) will use them to sway us. They will use these ancient animal impulses as excuses for their lies, which lead the general populace to cry for war.

I recognize this is no simple thing I am asking of my friend's son. I am painfully aware of how often I seek revenge, at least on a verbal level. This is profoundly hard work, harder than even Mr. B*sh can imagine.

The January issue of Shambhala Sun has a pair of articles that I recommend to my friend, and others who seek a ray of hope. The first concerns the founding of the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education in Vancouver, and includes an interview with the Dalai Lama.

The current Dalai Lama believes the best hope for the future is to teach young people compassion. The example he uses is the compassion of a mother for her child. This compassion is similar to compassion you might have for others in your family. At minimum, you would hope no harm would come to that person; at most, you would hope that person would achieve health, contentment, and security.

The Dalai Lama suggests that it is humanly possible to enlarge this circle of compassion beyond one's family or a small circle of friends. He suggests the best hope for humanity and the world is for each human to view all of creation as deserving of this compassion.

If one has this compassion, even at the minimal level of hoping no harm would come to another creature, non-violence would be the logical result. If you are sincere in your desire that no harm come to another, then you will seek to avoid being the agent of any type of harm.

The second article, by Barry Boyce, concerns an experimental program in the New York City schools using contemplative practice. This program teaches breathing and self-awareness techniques without promoting Buddhist doctrines. The results, to date, have been positive: improved test scores, and non-violent conflict resolution.

I sincerly believe that, if there is hope, it resides in your son's ability to dream of a better future. It resides in the strength he finds by turning the other cheek when someone else strikes him or insults him. It resides in your compassionate heart, in the training you give your sons for compassion. It resides in my ability to seek compassion within myself and to perceive that all creation deserves that same compassion.

There may be little hope for the current situation in Iraq. What hope there is for the future resides in our ability to train ourselves for compassion and to practice it in every aspect of our lives.

Is There Hope? (Pt. One)

My recent entry on the "surge" has generated at least four comments, which is a high point in the recent history of this blog.

First, allow me to pull some links from the comments to the front page, so people may have easier access to them. These links come courtesy of Brother Dave (who is my blood brother):
For those willing to put their time, money, or more at stake to support those service personnel who ARE resisting this illegal war, here are a few pointers.
  • Mark Wilkerson is a man I know who applied for CO status, was denied and is now serving time for his refusal to go to Iraq. You can learn about Mark at

  • Then there is Ron Cantu, serving in Iraq and speaking out with bravery, honesty and resolve: If you want to help Lt. Watada in his battle to speak truth about this war crime being committed in your and my name, go here:

  • Finally, for more information about the resistance by current and former service personnel, look to Iraq Veterans Against the War, the beloved but never planned or even imagined child of my old organization, Viet Nam Veterans Against the War:
As Brother Dave has noted, there are serious consequences to refusing to serve, or desertion, which one commenter suggested. In addition to supporting those who have made this choice, I would suggest more fundamental actions.

First, discourage people from joining the military. Second, write your representative and ask them to over-turn the portion of the No Child Left Behind Act which requires schools to turn over names of graduating seniors to military recruiters. Additionally, make parents aware that they must file a form to avoid having their child contacted by a military recruiter.

Third, let your representative know (a mailed or faxed letter is best) that you oppose funding for this troop increase. The Constitution gives the Congress the power of the purse in military matters exactly for this reason: to prevent Commanders in Chief from continuing on an ill-advised, ill-conceived course.

A number of congressional leaders have expressed a reluctance to take this step, because it makes it appear that they are weak on defense or don't support the troops currently on the ground. I'll admit these are potential political consequences to a move to cut military funding. But a person who takes his/her representative responsibilities seriously must recognize those times when it is better to be right than re-elected (to paraphrase Barry Goldwater).

Another commentator asks, first, whether it's likely her 12 year-old son will be drafted in six years; and, second, how she can offer her son some hope.

I will address the question of hope in the part two. In today's political climate, the draft is likely to be as much of a "third rail" as Social Security, but if America's current direction remains unchanged, it seems unrealistic to think a draft is not at least possible. Again, I urge people to make their representatives aware of their opinions concerning a draft - or some form of required national service (as Sen. Kerry suggested in the '04 campaign).

As for the commentator's particular son, I urge that he build solid creditionals as a Conscientious Objector now. Given the spiritual path this commenter seems to be on, I suspect she and her sons will find the Quakers the most felicitous of the groups who have a history of opposing all armed conflicts (even so-called "Just Wars").

When I consider the Iraq situation in particular, I feel hopeless. The miscalculations and mistakes made up to this point seem to have broken the country beyond repair. If success is to be measured by a sound goverment with a reasonable level of security, and the United States truly intends to be resposible for that goal, it seems to me to be a very long way off.

A military solution seems to me impractical, at best. The most realistic assessment of the situation on the ground seems to be that the U.S. provided the flint for a simmering civil war that has been moderately suppressed since the time of the Ottoman Empire. Whether the U.S. stays another year or withdraws immediately seems academic as far that civil war is concerned.

A diplomatic solution might be possible, if someone other than B*sh and the New American Century cronies were not still in power. Sadly, it's unlikely that the Iraqis can afford to wait two years for new American leadership.

I suspect there is no "best-case scenario", as things currently stand. I suspect all Americans will bear the responsibility and (possibly) guilt for allowing this ill-advised, ill-conceived, poorly executed war to begin in the first place.

Idée d’jour

I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I have persuaded him he will stick. If I scare him, he will stay just as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th president (1890-1969)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Idée d’jour

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly understood; an inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.
— G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Surge

When Prez B*sh addressed the nation last night, I chose not to listen. As I've mentioned before, the mere sound of his voice raises my blood pressure. However, I've learned I can tolerate reading his speech after the fact.

In brief, the president's primary tactic is increased troop strength. Based on estimates leaked prior to the speech, this increase qualifies as "too little, too late". The president correctly notes that previous efforts to secure sectors of Iraq have failed because of unsuccessful attempts to hold those sectors. As one commander put it last year, our military has been playing "whack a mole" with the "insurgents".

There's a particular element of this tactic that seems especially odd to me: the fact that the targets are being announced. Baghdad has been mentioned as a probable target for at least the past two weeks. Last night, the president confirmed Baghdad as a target, and also mentioned Anbar Province.

Now, the president seems to think these two targets are obvious. But is it wise to announce them so broadly so far in advance? The president has been reluctant to set a firm withdrawal date or even a timeline for withdrawal, based on the logic that the enemy would use this knowledge to their advantage. I would think the same logic applies to the question of military targets.

The president claims to have listened to opinions from a broad range of people, including generals on the ground in Iraq, and the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The plan he has put forward suggests he may have listened, but chose to ignore most of their recommendations. The one item he restated from the Iraq Study Group is the obvious conclusion that this is no magic bullet that will resolve the situation.

The magic bullet would be a time machine. With a time machine, we could choose not to invade Iraq in the first place. The invasion was clearly a flat-footed miscalculation from the get-go.

If invasion were inevitable for whatever reason, then perhaps the time machine would allow us to conduct the invasion better. More troops, for example. Securing basic necessities in major cities for example.

Unfortunately, those opportunities are past us. And the person who made the faulty decisions which have lead us to this point is still the Decider. Past experience suggests these new decisions will be as successful as the Decider's past decisions.

This "surge" – or whatever term is preferred by the president and his minions – seems to me to be analogous to transfusing blood into a dying patient. Or rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Idée d’jour

Man is the religious animal. He is the only religious animal that has the true religion — several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.
– Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910)

Friday, January 05, 2007

Friday Five: Birthday, Redux

Recycled theme, with new questions, courtesy Reverend Mother.
  1. Favorite way to celebrate your birthday
    Favorite to date was the concert/party my friends and I had for my 50th, in 2005.

  2. Do you share your birthday with someone famous?
    Scarlett Johansson, Hoagy Carmichael, Mariel Hemingway, and others. I'm most honored to share the date with Carmichael, who wrote "Stardust" (among many other fine popular songs) and appeared in the movie To Have and Have Not

  3. Milestone birthdays:
    1. just like any other birthday – they're just numbers, people.
    2. a good opportunity to look back/take stock
    3. enjoy the black balloons – I'll be hiding under a pile of coats until the day is over
    4. some combination of the above, or something else entirely.

    5. A bit of each, actually. Though I wore black on my 50th b'day, the office did not decorate my work area in the traditional teasing fashion.

  4. "Happy birthday, dear... Customer..."
    Have you ever been sung to in a restaurant? Fun or cringe-worthy?
    I can't recall that I have been sung to. If so, it was a long, long time ago. I really don't like the silly variants of the birthday song some restaurants have. I object to hearing it even as a fellow customer.
       A Mexican restaurant in Norman would comp your meal on your birthday. That was a tradition I did appreciate!

  5. Tell me one advantage and one disadvantage about your particular birthday, or
    something you like/dislike about your birthday.
    Regular readers of this space know I've been haunted by the unfortunate coincidence that Pres. Kennedy was assinated on my birthday (11/22), so that's a disadvantage.
       I was born on the "cusp" of the astrological signs Sagitarius and Scorpio (though some astrology purists have told me there's no such thing as "cusp"). I like to think I combine the best qualities of the Archer and the Scorpion — that my sting has a sure aim.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Hanging

Early last Friday evening, local time, a former head of state was hanged in Iraq. Although the hanging was initially a relatively private affair – with only a few attending – a video soon became available via the Internet.

The former head of state, Saddam Hussein, was unquestionably a despotic dictator. If one accepts the ancient concept of an eye for an eye, the man should have been killed several times over.

I personally oppose the death penalty, but that is a side issue.

So many elements of the execution seem profoundly wrong, or at least unusual, that it's hard to know where to begin. The first element that occurs to me is the fact that the execution occurred during a trial for a second offense. This seems highly irregular, at best.

The method of execution is also disturbing. Most American states view hanging as "cruel and unusual punishment", and opt for lethal injection or the electric chair. It may seem inappropriate to impose American sensibilities on Iraq, but I think it safe to assume many in our country assumed American values and sensibilities would be exported to Iraq along with American-style democracy.

The fact the trial took place in Iraq in the first place is also a curiousity. Past leaders who committed "crimes against humanity" have been tried on the world stage, in a court recognized by a majority of the world; for example, the Hague.

Performing this execution against the advice of the U.S. may make the Iraqi leaders appear independent, but it's difficult for me to recognize the Iraq government as anything but a puppet regime. An election held under the auspices of an occupying force is suspect, at best.

And how has the so-called government served its people? Has it built roads? Restored power? Provided reliable security? Without providing these and other basic needs, it's hard to recognize the current regime as legitimate.

The timing of the execution around a disputed Muslim holy day is also curious. Saturday, Iraqi time, was the day Sunni observed Eid al-Adha; Shia observe the day on Sunday. The Shia form the current majority in the current Iraq regime; therefore, performing the execution the morning before the holy day was not contrary to their understanding Islamic law. But performing the execution on the day Sunni consider holy might well be considered insulting by that "demonination".

While the B*sh White House may be only indirectly responsible for the execution, it seems one more mis-step in a policy that began which the epiq mis-step of invasion and has never recovered.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What Can I Say?

What can I say?
I'm still here. I've been here all this time, checking in daily to see if anyone missed me.

Two people noted and commented on my week-long silence - Candide and Augustine. And Candide has closed shop; if you go to visit her former space (called "One For the Books" at your right), you'll be taken to a search page for hooded sweat shirts.

Dr. Omed has practically closed up shop.

What can I say?

I let the darkness pull me down. No excuse for it. Pretty much a conscious decision. As if plunging to the bottom of the pit was the best way to find light on the other side.

See, when it's dark, my words just echo in the ether. When it's dark, I'm just muttering to myself. When it's dark, every word I want to speak has been expressed better by someone else. When it's dark, I hardly matter.

What can I say?

This sense of uselessness and meaninglessness is its own form of ego. A period can be just as large as an exclamation point, in the imagination of its own heart.

The goal of speaking, yes, is conversation. To hear the echoes and responses and arguments from across the chasm. But here it's pixels on a screen, and the glaring lamp rarely speaks back. And the cave I sit in is a pale hermitage.

What can I say?

Just when I thought my words touched no one, one Little Bird mentioned how my words provided a sort of map for her. Just when I thought I'd lost any hint of light, her words of thanks provided a thin white rope.

What can I say?

I'm still here. I may be quiet again, now & again. But not forever. I have faith that if my words are honest and true, they are sure to touch - possibly help - someone.

One can never know for sure. I will keep walking. Keep singing. Keep lighting the fire. Keep praying.

Because I'm still here.