Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Prevent Needless War with Iran

It's essential to contact your senators about opposing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. The vote could be any day now, and it can't get too much attention. Contact information is at the end of this post.

As Josh Marshall explains:

Did you hear about the War on Iran Authorization bill the Senate is going to vote on perhaps as early as today? No, that's not how it's getting billed. But that's what the 'Kyl-Lieberman' amendment is. In fact, the supporters of going to war against Iran are using exactly the same strategy with this amendment that they did to lay the groundwork for the Iraq War.

You can watch Josh Marshall break it down on TPMtv here.

As Jonathan Schwarz wrote last week:

Amazingly, no one anywhere in the US media seems to have noticed that yesterday Jon Kyl (Arizona) and Joe Lieberman filed an extremely threatening amendment on Iran to the FY 2008 Defense Authorization bill. I guess all their time was taken up with the earth-shakingly important issue of newspaper ads.

It's a "Sense of the Senate" resolution, which means it has no legal force, but as the Congressional Research Service will tell you, "foreign governments pay close attention to [such resolutions] as evidence of shifts in U.S. foreign policy priorities." If you want you can read it yourself (.doc), but here are the most important paragraphs:

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies.

If something like this passes both the House and Senate, I think Bush could legitimately argue that between it, the War Powers Act and the 2001 and 2002 Authorizations to Use Military Force, he has all the authority he needs to attack Iran.

Exactly, and as we've covered before, Cheney and the neocons have been pushing for it, and some generals have been opposing it. Neocon granddaddy Norman Podhoretz, who claims we're currently in World War IV, has written op-eds calling for the bombing of Iran, and claims he prays for it daily. Yet did you also know he secretly met with Bush for forty-five minutes on the subject?

Meanwhile, Crooks and Liars and Think Progress both have the video of Virginia Senator Jim Webb spelling out what should be obvious:

Those who regret their vote five years ago to authorize military action in Iraq should think hard before supporting this approach...

This proposal is Dick Cheney’s fondest pipe dream.
It’s not a prescription for success. At best, it’s a deliberate attempt to divert attention from a failed diplomatic policy. At worst, it could be read as a back door method of gaining congressional validation for action with one hearing or without serious debate.

Jonathan Schwarz has some good updates, including a link to a piece by Carah Ong at Iran Nuclear Watch quoting Peter Galbraith, who debunks the claims of Lieberman-Kyl. (Shocking, I know.)

Let me add the words of James Fallows that I quoted back in February:

War with Iran would be a catastrophe that would make us look back fondly on the minor inconvenience of being bogged down in Iraq. While the Congress flounders about what, exactly, it can do about Iraq, it can do something useful, while it still matters, in making clear that it will authorize no money and provide no endorsement for military action against Iran.

Here's that contact info if you don't have it, courtesy again of Schwarz:

The horrible Kyl-Lieberman Amendment on Iran may be voted on in the Senate as soon as today. Call your senator right now (Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121) to tell them to oppose it.

I don't have any hope this will fail, but it would be nice for it not to be a shut out. Call now.

AND: You should write them, too. Get their contact forms at senate.gov or via Just Foreign Policy. A useful guide on writing to congress is here, although of course there's no time to send something by mail..

I'll be writing tonight.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #24 (9/4/07 — 9/17/07)

In this installment, covering two weeks, conservatives hailed their new hero, excoriated one of their favorite old foes, manufactured some fresh slanders, recycled many lame ones, and commemorated a dreadful event.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Talk Like a Pirate Day

September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day! You can read more here.

You can also watch the short instructional video, "Talk Like a Pirate Day: The Five A's," or the longer (but more wry) "How to Talk Like a Pirate."

There's also the very useful English-to-Pirate translator.

For instance, here's a few highlights from Bush's latest execrable speech, translated into pirate:

Good evenin'. In t' life o' all free nations, thar come moments that decide t' direction o' a country and reveal t' character o' its people. We be now at such a moment...

One year ago, much o' Diyala province was a sanctuary for al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and its capital o' Baqubah was emergin' as an al Qaeda stronghold. Today, Baqubah be cleared. Diyala province be t' site o' a growin' popular uprisin' against t' extremists. And some local tribes be workin' alongside coalition and Iraqi forces t' clear out t' eneme and reclaim their communities...

Our troops in Iraq be performin' brilliantly. Along with Iraqi forces, they have captured or sent t' Davy Jones' locker involuntarily an average o' more than 1,500 eneme fighters per month since January. Yet ultimately, t' way fore depends on t' ability o' Iraqis t' maintain security gains...

Some say t' gains we be makin' in Iraq come too late. They be mistaken. It be never too late t' deal a blow t' al Qaeda. It be never too late t' advance freedom. And it be never too late to Ahoy! port! our troops in a fight they can win.

A vast improvement.

Now if only Congress would make this scurvy dog walk the plank!

(Arr, that would be the scurvy dog wi' th' hook o'erhead, not th' dog wi' scurvy at th' head of this here post.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Geek Love

On a lighter note...

A friend sent me this video of Aussie trio Tripod, which I linked in the comments over at Shakesville, where it wound up as a post. These guys have musical and comedy chops! Gotta spread the geek love — and if you're a fan of Flight of the Conchords, or a gamer, you'll love this. Although as Melissa McEwan notes, to apply to bloggers, "they need a verse that includes "just let me finish this post…""

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Your Political Comedy Recap for the Week

Fox News' Half-Hour Comedy Hour proved once again that comedy and conservatism aren't the most natural fit. Nonetheless, Republican politicians unwisely chose to challenge Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert this past week.

But I've Played the Game Risk a Buncha Times

On Wednesday, Mitt Romney challenged the foreign policy experience of his Democratic opponents.

Yes, you heard that right. Romney is asserting that being the governor of Massachusetts for one term — and a world-class panderer — makes him more qualified than them. The man who one week said catching bin Laden wasn't worth the time and money, and the next week told a conservative audience he'd catch and kill him, will lead us to glory.

Romney is probably the biggest snake oil salesman of all the candidates (since Newt Gingrich hasn't declared, but Romney would still probably have the edge). Perhaps he can argue that his constant flip-flopping has required him to become very knowledgeable about different foreign policy positions.

I Used to Be So Poor I Drank My Wine Out of a Box

Rick Perlstein notes that prominent conservative Grover Norquist has argued that the rich are discriminated against. Furthermore, Norquist argues that fighting for a flat tax to help out the poor beleaguered super-wealthy is the moral equivalent of the civil rights movement of 1960s.

That's rather unconscionable and fantastical, even from a man infamous for saying, "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub." Norquist is, after all, a key player in a political party that fought, and still fights, against civil rights.

To be fair to Norquist, he isn't necessarily as reactionary on racial and gay issues as some of his fellows, nor necessarily as intent on voter suppression as his good buddy Karl Rove. But as I wrote over at Perlstein's blog, one of the defining characteristics of conservatism is that, despite its PR, it opposes meritocracy in favor of entrenched, unearned privilege. Many conservatives also believe (or pretend to believer) that the poor are poor from lack of character rather than an accident of birth. Norquist's laughable lament is just another example of class warfare waged by the rich and powerful on average citizens. It's shameless, tasteless, and he deserves to be mocked for it.

Our Monumental Failure Is a Sure Sign of Our Success

Still, Romney and Norquist just can't compete with the frat-boy comedic stylings of their leader, President George W. Bush, who delivered a primetime speech on Thursday. As Fred Kaplan wrote at Slate:

President Bush's TV address tonight was the worst speech he's ever given on the war in Iraq, and that's saying a lot. Every premise, every proposal, nearly every substantive point was sheer fiction. The only question is whether he was being deceptive or delusional.

Silly Kaplan! A man of Bush's immense gifts can be both deceptive and delusional. After reading Kaplan, just check out Glenn Kessler fact-checking Bush. Or Dan Froomkin's splendid round-up of dissections. Or analysis from Hilzoy and Publius (and Hilzoy's examination of all those Anbar claims).

Really, Bush's speech was really just channeling Chris Crocker to Leave General Petraeus Alone!

A Symbolic Coalition of the Dozens

Perhaps Bush's most comical assertions in his speech were those about his imaginary friends. As Fred Kaplan noted:

Oddly, [Bush] thanked "the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq." At the peak of the "coalition," back in the fall of 2004, only 31 countries besides the United States had any troops in Iraq. They amounted to 24,000—fewer than one-fifth of America's numbers—and one-third of those were contributed by Britain. Now, according to the most recent official report (dated Aug. 30, 2007), just 25 countries have troops there; they number fewer than 12,000 (an average of fewer than 500 per nation), and more and more, including Britain, are leaving every month.

Yes, even by Bush's own standards, his math doesn't hold up (but then, the Bush administration has never been good at math).

Oh, but it gets better. David Kurtz reports for Talking Points Memo:

It just about epitomizes the President's speech last night. One of the purported 36 coalition nations is Iceland, whose "contingent" to Iraq consists of a single soldier in Baghdad whose primary responsibility is as a media representative. To NATO's disappointment, Iceland is pulling that one soldier as of October 1. You can't make this stuff up.

We still haven't managed to figure out how the President's math gets him to 36 nations in the coalition. But whatever the number, it will be minus one when a single Icelander heads home in a couple of weeks.

Late Update: TPM Reader EF points out that Iceland doesn't even have a formally constituted military, which the CIA World Fact Book confirms. The lone Icelander is a member of the Icelandic Crisis Response Unit. Calling him a soldier may be overstating matters.

Ah, but that Icelandic non-warrior is a plucky fellow!

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Friday, September 14, 2007

More on 9/11

(Photo by Joel Meyerowitz.)

I already wrote my piece on 9/11 for this year, but wanted to highlight a few other pieces. Gary Kamiya's exceptional Salon article, "The Real Lessons of 9/11," has justifiably received a great deal of attention. Some highlights:

Sept. 11 is a totemic date for the Bush administration. It justifies everything, explains everything, ends all argument. It is the crime that must be eternally punished, the wound that can never heal, the moral high ground that can never be taken...

Democrats have effectively challenged the reign of nature and instinct in the domestic realm. But they cower when it comes to war. They are afraid to criticize the irrational, instinctive nature of Bush's "war on terror" because they believe their political Achilles' heel is the perception that they are "weak on national security." They are afraid they'll be seen as wimps. Beaten down by Republican propaganda that asserts that America's only choice is between the GOP's macho John Wayne and the Democrats' dithering Hamlet, they pathetically don their cowboy hats and tank helmets, a tactic that actually reinforces the very image of weakness it is intended to dispel. Unchallenged by the Democrats, the right wing's master narrative about American power and the need to carry a big stick has carried the day...

The angry bigotry that drove the war rings out loud and clear in the right-wing battle cry: "They attacked us, so we had to attack them." The recent TV ads run by war supporters repeat this theme: "They attacked us," a narrator says as an image of the burning World Trade Center appears. "They won't stop in Iraq." The key word here, of course, is "they." Just who is "they"? For Bush's die-hard supporters, "they" simply means "Arabs and Muslims." Cretinous rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage play to this crowd, demanding that we nuke the evil ragheads. For the establishment, "they" is not quite so explicitly racist. "They" refers not to all Arabs and Muslims, but only to the "bad" ones. The "bad" guys include al-Qaida, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the militant Palestinians. And, of course, it used to include Iraq (and may again). Anyone who makes this list is eligible for attack by the U.S.

What makes these wildly disparate entities so evil and so threatening that we're prepared to attack them without cause? Simply that they reject the U.S.-Israeli writ in the Middle East -- and that they're Arabs or Muslims...

Sept. 11 was a hinge in history, a fork in the road. It presented us with a choice. We could find out who attacked us, surgically defeat them, address the underlying problems in the Middle East, and make use of the outpouring of global sympathy to pull the rest of the world closer to us. Or we could lash out blindly and self-righteously, insist that the only problems in the Middle East were created by "extremists," demonize an entire culture and make millions of new enemies.

Like a vibration that causes a bridge to collapse, the 9/11 attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character. Many more Americans have now died in a needless war in Iraq than were killed in the terror attacks, and tens of thousands more grievously wounded. Billions of dollars have been wasted. America's moral authority, more precious than gold, has been tarnished by torture and lies and the erosion of our liberties. The world despises us to an unprecedented degree. An entire country has been wrecked. The Middle East is ready to explode. And the threat of terrorism, which the war was intended to remove, is much greater than it was.

All of this flowed from our response to 9/11. And so, six years later, we need to do more than mourn the dead. We need to acknowledge the blindness and bigotry that drove our response. Until we do, not only will the stalemate over Iraq persist, but our entire Middle Eastern policy will continue down the road to ruin.

Hell, just read the whole thing. Kamiya sums virtually everything up, marvelously. (Also check out Hilzoy's characteristically thoughtful reaction.)

On the bigotry angle, as I wrote in a RWCW installment last December:

I’ve long thought that Cheney’s statement: “If we’re successful in Iraq . . . then we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” is one of the most disingenuous, deliberately misleading and racist statements I’ve ever heard (use “bigoted” if you prefer). Not only does Cheney indirectly claim that Iraq was responsible for 9/11, he uses “geographic base” to conflate all Middle Eastern countries, or at least our “enemies,” which would include the country that produced most of the 9/11 terrorists - our erstwhile ally, Saudi Arabia. Because, y’know, who can really tell them apart? (Certainly not Trent Lott!)

Over at A Tiny Revolution, Jonathan Schwarz re-linked his 9/11/05 post, "Today Is The Fourth Anniversary Of An Enormous Opportunity." It's a scathing piece. After a tragedy, most people mourn. Some try to connect, re-connect, or try to nurture some reawakened spark of hope and goodness (really the only genuine, human "opportunity" possible in the face of a horrible event). Others see that tragedy and try to exploit it.

On that note, I find myself very tired of the intellectual shallowness, emotional poverty, spiritual emptiness and aggressive, unrelenting, vile hackdom of the right-wing and all hawks on 9/11 and world affairs. Hilzoy sums it up with more grace, class and eloquence, saying that she's:

...Tired of people who act as though any attempt to understand people in the Middle East and how we might best respond to them is a sign not of plain common sense but of weakness. (Here is a sentence from Kamiya's article: "It was vital that we think clearly about our response, who attacked us, why they did, and what our most effective response would be." And here's how Flopping Aces glosses it: "In the Left’s twisted world, they would rather fall to a knee and bow a head to their Islamic master, although they either don’t know it yet or won’t admit it.") And tired of the insinuation that minding, or even noticing, the fact that we have thrown aside our ideals for nothing is a sign of hating my country.

But I bet I'm not nearly as tired of this as the average Iraqi. And I bet I don't mind the uses to which 9/11 has been put -- the deployment of it for partisan ends, which I find obscene -- nearly as much as someone whose husband or wife or child or father or mother was murdered that day.

It's time for this to stop. It's time for us to recover our honor, try to help put our country back together again, and mourn 9/11 the way it deserves to be mourned: soberly, thoughtfully, seriously, for itself, and not in the service of any extraneous end.


(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

9/11: For the Record

Bill Moyers' Journal is re-running an acclaimed hour-long program from 2004 on 9/11 and the official report. In my area, it's playing tonight (Friday, 9/14/07). You can check your local listings here.

Please note that this is an hour-long program versus the usual half hour Journal installment. Also, for some reason this program will not be streamed on the web later. So, set your VCRs or DVRs. (I missed this program when it first aired and a friend raved about it.)

You can read more about this program at Moyers' site and blog here. Now more than ever, it's important to support PBS and good, independent reporting.

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This is a moment to seize. The Kaleidoscope has been shaken. The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us.

—Tony Blair, October 2nd, 2001.

9/11 remains a day of reflection and remembrance. Here's overwritten-but-sincere pieces on 9/11 from 2001 and 2002, as well as blog posts from 2005 and 2006.

As I've written before, I always knew that eventually 9/11 would be politicized and misappropriated, but I hoped it would take a while and the damage might be minimized. However, this year, even with less blatant demagoguery about 9/11 (so far; Bush will speak later this week), the manipulation feels more present and grating to me. "Rising above it" may be the right response for some people, and they are certainly entitled to it. But this year, for me, that feels irresponsible. It's impossible for me to not to think of Petraeus and Crocker and their misleading (at the very least, mistaken) testimony to Congress. It's impossible for me not to think about the shell game going on yet again, the amazing missed opportunities, and the deep moral crime of sacrificing something sacred and profound for personal gain and group greed. In the process of what the Bush administration has wrought, so many have been punished for absolutely no good purpose. I can still feel sad and disappointed, but so far, anger and disgust are frankly winning out.

The 2002 piece linked above centers on a moment of openness and connection that philosopher Jacob Needleman calls eros. In his scattered but extremely thought-provoking book The Heart of Philosophy, Needleman explores how eros is the necessary component for a person to truly change his or her mind or life.

Putting aside any of the more imperialist tendencies of Tony Blair, in his "Kaleidoscope" speech he talks of overcoming intolerance, of greater understanding, of helping Africa and all the peoples of the world. He is not agitating for war. He is appealing to the better angels of our nature. He is capturing the brief spirit of connection, kindness, goodwill and generosity that many of us felt on September 11th, 2001, and for days, weeks and months afterward.

There's a saying that a crisis does not build character; it reveals it. Moments of great crisis, for all their painful upheaval, can also spur individual heroism, collective magnificence and lasting, positive change.

Consider, as terrible as 9/11 was, what an astounding gift the mood that followed was. Think of what could have been done with that. Think of the calling that was sounded.

Think of what George W. Bush did with that. Think of how those given more power than anyone and charged with the greatest responsibility responded to that call. Dick Cheney. Karl Rove. David Addington. Condoleezza Rice. And all the rest. It's the equivalent of a supposed good Samaritan finding someone suffering, and rather than helping him, assaulting and robbing him.

I can't help but agonize when I think what, flawed though they may have been, FDR, JFK, MLK or Lincoln would have done with 9/11. Imagine what even Bill Clinton or Al Gore would have done. How would they have responded?

Just imagine if George W. Bush were a wise or even just a good person. Where might we be now? Think if he had even average decency, intelligence, compassion and common sense.

I suspect 9/11 did indeed shake Bush to the core, and at some level he feels guilty. Fine — but the quality of his response still matters. Motive and intent at some point becomes irrelevant for a world leader who just refuses to change, and would stubbornly persist, even if the god he claims to revere were to part the heavens and command him to stop.

After working with dozens if not hundreds of families, many of them dysfunctional, I know (as many people do) that the almost every quality of a parent, good or bad, is passed down to their child. ("You're just like your father," etc.) Sons and daughters can rebel or change (and parents can change as well if they work at it), but in almost all cases, when a child/teenager is "acting out" they are merely playing out the dysfunction in the family as a whole. That's not to say that anyone is absolved from personal responsibility; far from it. But effectively solving the problem requires an accurate diagnosis, and a "problem kid" who cleans up his or her act but returns to the same dysfunctional home environment will almost inevitably revert. If the parents aren't willing to look at themselves and change as well, and change the game, the old, dysfunctional roles reassert themselves. This is probably most pronounced in families with an alcoholic parent. Typically, every other family member adjusts to the alcoholic, playing some supporting role: enabler, peace-maker, clown, etc. Dry drunks use the same basic social approach as before, just without drinking, never addressing their core behavior or its causes.

This is all to say that many of my own faults (or sins, for those that prefer the word) do not merely affect me. They affect those around me, and depending on the power I wield, possibly people I've never met. Foibles are harmless, but severe character flaws can be deadly. A crisis will often accentuate all my faults — but also potentially spur my best qualities as well. In a crisis, most people move to what feels most natural, and for some, that will be a retreat to fear and the familiar, even if it's dysfunctional. Fight or flight, or even fight and flight. Regardless, for someone in power, all their inadequacies and virtues will be magnified. It's a theme you'll find throughout history (the figures mentioned before, Stalin, Socrates) and in many a story (King Lear, Citizen Kane, Der Ring des Nibelungen, The Lord of the Rings).

For the Bush administration, still working in a Cold War view of the world, already intent on pursuing unchecked executive power, violent regime change in Iraq, corporate welfare, a raiding of the national treasury, and 50-plus-1 politics and a permanent Republican majority, they responded to an amazing, once-in-a-generation opportunity according to their stunted nature. They lacked the moral imagination, the spiritual maturity, the intellectual and emotional capacity to respond with wisdom, thoughtfulness, generosity and grace. Faced with 9/11, all of them could have said, "I must become a better person." Instead of growing to meet the crisis, and facing the world with new eyes, they decided to try to crush and manipulate the world to fit the simplistic terms they craved. They had the power and they abused it. Yes, Bush is incurious, stubborn, a bully, and has always been in completely over his head. As others have noted, he behaves like a dry drunk. And yes, conservative policies, even when competently enacted, normally harm average citizens. But this goes beyond all of that. Many of the Bushies, most of all Cheney, Rove, Addington, Gonzales and Libby, knew exactly what they were doing. You don't hide torture memos from your own Secretary of State and National Security Advisor unless you know what you're doing is illegal. You don't crush discussion, not only preemptively, but also during the process and afterwards, unless you fear and despise other people, both their thoughts and the dignity as human beings. Cheney and Addington in particular have put getting their own way far above getting it right. and both are far too selfish and consistently wrong to be wielding power (one or both fits virtually everyone who's served in this administration). I think it's fair to say that the Bushies, neocons and their cheerleaders did not think Iraq would turn out as disastrously as it did (although some don't seem to care much). However, it's important to always remember theirs are not the mistakes of people trying to do their best and things just didn't work out. They lied and bullied their way forward, not only brushing off every prescient, knowledgeable warning but attacking everyone who offered them. They have always been acting in bad faith. If we continue with the dysfunctional family model, the Bush administration is the selfish, misbehaving child, or adult alcoholic, who simply will not act out of conscience. They only way to stop him is to make the consequences of his misdeeds so dire they're painfully unattractive.

Obviously, we're far from hitting that point, when the press and politicians can clutch their pearls over mean ol' MoveOn.org while lauding Petraeus and Crocker and letting Bush off relatively lightly. It's not even that hard to say you respect Petraeus as a person, but he's just wrong. True, many news outlets have fact-checked Petraeus and called bullshit, however politely, and they deserve credit for that. But even though most of the punditocracy rightly condemned Bush's outrageous recent Vietnam revisionism, it seems far too many of them are embracing the Petraeus farce and helping Bush sell his new Dolchstosslegende. Petraeus says some of the troops can draw down next year, but even then not to pre-"surge" (escalation) levels, and independent evaluations clearly indicate things have gotten far worse in Iraq (except a few select areas). So nothing significant has changed, at least not for the better. The "surge" buys Bush more time to run out the clock, he can claim everything was going great, and if the Democrats push to withdraw, or win the White House and push to withdraw, the Bushies will claim the Dems stabbed us in the back. It's utter bullshit, and extremely vile, unconscionable bullshit at that, but I don't have much faith the press as a whole will call them on that. Nor do I have faith that the press or our politicians will do much to prevent Bush from going to war with Iran, as Cheney and the neocons are itching to do, insane though that is.

Everyone is entitled to remember 9/11 in his or her own way. However, no one is entitled to make up any foreign or domestic policy he or she chooses. Six years later, there's no excuse for such atrocious policies as the Bush administration is practicing. The immediate fear has long subsided, and the cold machinations started long ago. Almost four thousand American servicepeople are now dead, and hundreds of thousands are dead or displaced in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are not costless blunders, and they haven't stopped.

I respect folks like Gavin M. who lost a friend on 9/11 and is also taking the high road. I've tried to do that in the past, and if people just need to grieve, they should be able to. I still think there's a great deal about America to both mourn and celebrate. But I'm also sick of lost opportunities, and I'm aghast that the Bush administration not only can pull this surge BS so easily but also might attack Iran. I'm appalled that anyone could let either of those things happen. Peace and forgiveness are great, but there can be no peace with warmongers. There can be no forgiveness for any of the Bushies, because they're still in power wrecking havoc, and they've never acknowledged their errors. I also figure anger and disgust are better than paralyzing cynicism or apathy. So yes, I remember and honor 9/11, but part of that for me this year is keeping my eye on the bastards who have such deep contempt for us and all that still could be done.

(The song doesn't exactly fit the subject at hand, but did sorta fit my mood.)

(Cross-posted at The Blue Herald)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Right-Wing Cartoon Watch #23 (8/20/07 — 9/3/07)

The latest installment is here! This installment covers two weeks, and thus offers less of a chance of toxic overload than the previous, super-sized installment. But never fear, it’s just as wonky at a quarter the size. And conservative cartoonists were in fine form. Slandering Dems! Lauding a scalliwag! Shunning homosexuals! Lancing straw men and agitating for war! Apart from a few more lame attacks on Ted Kennedy or John Kerry, what more could you ask for?

Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007)

Pavarotti has died of cancer. I never heard him live, but who hasn't heard his singing dozens of times? While some people scoffed at his stadium gigs and pop adventures, he, Placido Domingo and Beverly Sills probably did more to promote opera to the public than any other figures of the past fifty years. Most people first get drawn to opera not through a specific work, but through a singer. Pavarotti's voice, and his gift, were unmistakable, and he drew many, many people to classical music.

The piece below, "Nessun Dorma," is from Puccini's last opera, Turandot. While Pavarotti always had a magnificent voice, here, in one of his signature arias, he seems quite emotionally invested as well.

This aria is one of my favorites. Here is the translation. If you hear a good tenor singing it live, it will send chills down your spine. (I would have loved to have heard Pavarotti sing this one live.) I find it a striking piece because even though the Prince, the character singing, faces daunting odds, he is astoundingly optimistic, singing "I will win!" His faith is so strong he has put his life in the hands of a cold, cruel woman - but he believes he can reawaken her humanity. The music is stirring. And the Prince's passion is inspiring.

It's pieces like this that put the lie to the notion that art is a garnish to life, something extraneous, or meant merely to entertain or distract. It can be those things, but it can also be something vital and important. It can stop one cold, stir the soul, reawaken emotion, provoke thought, invite reflection, spur a re-connection to one's own life force, or merely stun one with its beauty or passion. This aria is more powerful in the context of a full performance, arriving late in the opera with the weight of all that proceeded it. It's impossible, even irrational hope in the middle of a dark, dangerous night. And no one hit it like Luciano Pavarotti. Goddam, listen to how he hits that last line. We call it "soul." The Italians call it il fuoco sacro, the sacred fire.

Rest in peace, Luciano. Grazie e Bravo!

(I've used this clip before for a Club Blue pick at Blue Herald, and am reprising it tonight.)