Tuesday, December 04, 2007
I live, but not in myself,
and I have such hope
that I die because I do not die.
I no longer live within myself
and I cannot live without God,
for having neither him nor myself
what will life be?
It will be a thousand deaths,
longing for my true life
and dying because I do not die.
This life that I live
is no life at all,
and so I die continually
until I live with you;
hear me, my God:
I do not desire this life,
I am dying because I do not die.
When I am away from you
what life can I have
except to endure
the bitterest death known?
I pity myself,
for I go on and on living,
dying because I do not die.
A fish that leaves the water
has this relief:
the dying it endures
ends at last in death.
What death can equal my pitiable life?
For the longer I live, the more drawn out is my dying.
When I try to find relief
seeing you in the Sacrament,
I find this greater sorrow:
I cannot enjoy you wholly.
All things are affliction
since I do not see you as I desire,
and I die because I do not die.
And if I rejoice, Lord,
in the hope of seeing you,
yet seeing I can lose you
doubles my sorrow.
Living in such fear
and hoping as I hope,
I die because I do not die.
Lift me from this death,
my God, and give me life;
do not hold me bound
with these bonds so strong;
see how I long to see you;
my wretchedness is so complete
that I die because I do not die.
I will cry out for death
and mourn my living
while I am held here
for my sins.
O my God, when will it be
that I can truly say:
now I live because I do not die?
-- juan de la cruz
Friday, November 09, 2007
The black oil spreading for miles from the Golden Gate is staining one of the richest wildlife regions on the Pacific Coast and threatening hundreds of thousands of birds as well as marine mammals and fish that feed around San Francisco Bay.
Fuel oil, lighter than crude but heavier than gasoline, can kill birds, fish and other creatures. The 58,000-gallon spill into the delicate mouth of the bay comes at an unfortunate time for migratory birds, such as the 150,000 ducks that have just flown 2,000 miles from Canada's boreal forest to feed over the winter in the bay ecosystem, bird biologists said Thursday.
Dozens of dead and injured birds already have been found around the region, and hundreds more are likely to be spotted before the oil slick is mopped up, officials said.
By late afternoon Thursday, the oil had hit the Farallon Islands, and researchers spotted 20 oiled common murres. At nesting time, in late winter, the Farallones are home to 200,000 common murres, the largest colony south of Alaska, and the seabirds already are starting to arrive.
"This is going to be a mess. We'll see how big a mess," said Cheryl Strong, a biologist at the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The islands are part of the refuge.
Oil washing up on the beaches in San Francisco, Berkeley, Albany, Novato and along the Pacific coast is covering prime feeding grounds for the dozens of species of shorebirds that forage on the edges of the bay. The disaster will remain a deadly threat for months and perhaps years to come, biologists said.
Fish will die if they eat the oil in the water or it gets in their gills, said biologists with state Fish and Game Department.
Harbor seals that come ashore at Point Bonita near the lighthouse under the bridge also are vulnerable to oil, as are Dahl's porpoises and harbor porpoises swimming off Rodeo Beach on the Marin Headlands. Also in danger are California sea lions that could swim through the oil to get to Pier 39, according to the Marine Mammal Center. Furry mammals are particularly vulnerable to spills because the oil interferes with their ability to keep warm. Ingesting the oil and breathing the fumes also can sicken them, particularly the pups.
"It's horrible," said Dr. Frances Gulland, a veterinarian at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito who could see the oil washing up Thursday morning on Rodeo Beach. She worries about the immediate and long-term injury to the animals.
"It is shocking that it can happen in the bay under our very eyes," Gulland said.
Off the bay lies an area of almost 6,000 square miles protected as three federal marine sanctuaries - Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay. The sanctuaries are home to 36 species of marine mammals, 163 species of birds and five species of sea turtles.
By evening, at least three dozen oiled and dead birds had been picked up at Rodeo, Ocean and Stinson beaches, the Berkeley Marina and other beaches.
Injured birds can die quickly. The oil coats feathers that keep birds warm, causing them to get cold in the chilly bay water. When the birds get out of the water, they stop feeding even though they need a constant supply of food to keep up with their high metabolism. If they preen their feathers, the oil can poison them, said Dr. Mike Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. The program, at UC Davis, organizes the wildlife aid response for the state Department of Fish and Game.
At the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, the birds will be warmed and rehydrated, and workers will try to remove the oil using Dawn dishwashing soap.
Most of the birds found Thursday were surf scoters, a species of diving duck. Around 80,000 of the ducks arrive in the Bay Area every year by November, a majority of those wintering on the Pacific Flyway, an ocean feeding stop. About 80,000 greater and lesser scaups, two other species of diving ducks, also fly here to feed from Canada, arriving at the lowest weight of their life cycle.
"They come here from the pristine boreal forests down to the San Francisco Bay, an incredibly rich marine ecosystem that supports globally important populations of ducks and shorebirds," said Jeff Wells, a biologist with the Boreal Songbird Initiative, a Seattle nonprofit.
"They arrive after a journey of thousands of miles after making it through the Canada frost, passing through British Columbia mountains and then down the entire Pacific Coast from Washington expecting a safe place full of food and spend the winter," he said.
"Then they're fouled by oil and may die on the shores because they can't stay warm and get the oil off their feathers," Wells said.
Hundreds of reports of oiled birds from beaches ringing the bay and coast came into the hot line operated by the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. So many residents used the line to offer volunteer assistance that the network was temporarily shut down in midafternoon.
On Thursday morning, Josiah Clark, a consulting ecologist conducting a preliminary shorebird survey, saw two oiled ducks, a greater scaup and a northern shoveler as far north as Novato.
"We will be living with it for a long while," said Clark, a longtime birder with the Golden Gate Audubon Society.
Jay Holcomb, who leads the bird rehabilitation center in Fairfield, said his group went out Wednesday afternoon after it got the first report of a spill.
"When we got between the Golden Gate and the lighthouse at Point Bonita under the north end of the bridge, we saw a lot of oil in the water. We didn't expect that much oil from what had been reported. And then we knew we were going to see a lot of oiled birds," Holcomb said.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Engelmann told me that when he rummages round at home in a drawer full of his own manuscripts, they strike him as so glorious that he thinks they would be worth presenting to other people. (He said it is the same when he is reading through letters from his dead relations.) However, when he imagines a selection of them published he said the whole business loses its charm & value & becomes impossible I said this case was like the following one: Nothing could be more remarkable than seeing someone who thinks himself unobserved engaged in some quite simple everyday activity. Let’s imagine a theatre, the curtain goes up & we see someone alone in his room walking up and down, lighting a cigarette, seating himself etc. so that suddenly we are observing a human being from outside in a way that ordinarily we can never observe ourselves; as if we were watching a chapter from a biography with our own eyes, -- surely this would be at once uncanny and wonderful. More wonderful than anything that a playwright could cause to be acted or spoken on the stage. We should be seeing life itself. – But then we do see this every day & it makes not the slightest impression on us! True enough, but we do not see it from that point of view. -- Similarly when E. looks at his writings and finds them splendid (even though he would not care to publish any of the pieces individually) he is seeing his life as God’s work of art, & as such it is certainly worth contemplating, as is every life & everything whatever. Only the artist can represent the individual thing so that it appears to us as a work of art; those manuscripts rightly lose their value if we contemplate them singly & in any case without prejudice, i.e. without being enthusiastic about them in advance. The work of art compels us – as one might say – to see it in the right perspective, but without art the object is a piece of nature like any other & the fact that we may exalt it through our enthusiasm does not give anyone the right to display it to us. (I am always reminded of one of those insipid photographs of a piece of scenery which is interesting to the person who took it because he was there himself, experienced something, but which a third party looks at with justifiable coldness; insofar as it is ever justifiable to look at something with coldness.
But now it seems to me too that besides the work of the artist there is another through which the world may be captured sub specie aeterni. It is – as I believe – the way of thought, which as it were flies above the world and leaves it the way it is, contemplating it from above in its flight.
--L. Wittgenstein MS109 28: 22.8.1930
Friday, September 14, 2007
Two of the active-duty U.S. soldiers who wrote a controversial Op-Ed in the New York Times questioning the direction of the Iraq war died Monday in Baghdad. Here are their words.
Sep. 12, 2007 | By Buddhika Jayamaha, Wesley D. Smith, Jeremy Roebuck, Omar Mora, Edward Sandmeier, Yance T. Gray and Jeremy A. Murphy.
BAGHDAD -- Viewed from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the "battle space" remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers' expense.
A few nights ago, for example, we witnessed the death of one American soldier and the critical wounding of two others when a lethal armor-piercing explosive was detonated between an Iraqi Army checkpoint and a police one. Local Iraqis readily testified to American investigators that Iraqi police and Army officers escorted the triggermen and helped plant the bomb. These civilians highlighted their own predicament: had they informed the Americans of the bomb before the incident, the Iraqi Army, the police or the local Shiite militia would have killed their families.
As many grunts will tell you, this is a near-routine event. Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias.
Similarly, Sunnis, who have been underrepresented in the new Iraqi armed forces, now find themselves forming militias, sometimes with our tacit support. Sunnis recognize that the best guarantee they may have against Shiite militias and the Shiite-dominated government is to form their own armed bands. We arm them to aid in our fight against Al Qaeda.
However, while creating proxies is essential in winning a counterinsurgency, it requires that the proxies are loyal to the center that we claim to support. Armed Sunni tribes have indeed become effective surrogates, but the enduring question is where their loyalties would lie in our absence. The Iraqi government finds itself working at cross purposes with us on this issue because it is justifiably fearful that Sunni militias will turn on it should the Americans leave.
In short, we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear. (In the course of writing this article, this fact became all too clear: one of us, Staff Sergeant Murphy, an Army Ranger and reconnaissance team leader, was shot in the head during a "time-sensitive target acquisition mission" on Aug. 12; he is expected to survive and is being flown to a military hospital in the United States.) While we have the will and the resources to fight in this context, we are effectively hamstrung because realities on the ground require measures we will always refuse -- namely, the widespread use of lethal and brutal force.
Given the situation, it is important not to assess security from an American-centered perspective. The ability of, say, American observers to safely walk down the streets of formerly violent towns is not a resounding indicator of security. What matters is the experience of the local citizenry and the future of our counterinsurgency. When we take this view, we see that a vast majority of Iraqis feel increasingly insecure and view us as an occupation force that has failed to produce normalcy after four years and is increasingly unlikely to do so as we continue to arm each warring side.
Coupling our military strategy to an insistence that the Iraqis meet political benchmarks for reconciliation is also unhelpful. The morass in the government has fueled impatience and confusion while providing no semblance of security to average Iraqis. Leaders are far from arriving at a lasting political settlement. This should not be surprising, since a lasting political solution will not be possible while the military situation remains in constant flux.
The Iraqi government is run by the main coalition partners of the Shiite-dominated United Iraqi Alliance, with Kurds as minority members. The Shiite clerical establishment formed the alliance to make sure its people did not succumb to the same mistake as in 1920: rebelling against the occupying Western force (then the British) and losing what they believed was their inherent right to rule Iraq as the majority. The qualified and reluctant welcome we received from the Shiites since the invasion has to be seen in that historical context. They saw in us something useful for the moment.
Now that moment is passing, as the Shiites have achieved what they believe is rightfully theirs. Their next task is to figure out how best to consolidate the gains, because reconciliation without consolidation risks losing it all. Washington's insistence that the Iraqis correct the three gravest mistakes we made -- de-Baathification, the dismantling of the Iraqi Army and the creation of a loose federalist system of government -- places us at cross purposes with the government we have committed to support.
Political reconciliation in Iraq will occur, but not at our insistence or in ways that meet our benchmarks. It will happen on Iraqi terms when the reality on the battlefield is congruent with that in the political sphere. There will be no magnanimous solutions that please every party the way we expect, and there will be winners and losers. The choice we have left is to decide which side we will take. Trying to please every party in the conflict -- as we do now -- will only ensure we are hated by all in the long run.
At the same time, the most important front in the counterinsurgency, improving basic social and economic conditions, is the one on which we have failed most miserably. Two million Iraqis are in refugee camps in bordering countries. Close to two million more are internally displaced and now fill many urban slums. Cities lack regular electricity, telephone services and sanitation. "Lucky" Iraqis live in gated communities barricaded with concrete blast walls that provide them with a sense of communal claustrophobia rather than any sense of security we would consider normal.
In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, "We need security, not free food."
In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are -- an army of occupation -- and force our withdrawal.
Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.
We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.
Buddhika Jayamaha is an Army specialist. Wesley D. Smith is a sergeant. Jeremy Roebuck is a sergeant. Omar Mora is a sergeant. Edward Sandmeier is a sergeant. Yance T. Gray is a staff sergeant. Jeremy A. Murphy is a staff sergeant.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Searching for things sublime I walked up into the muddy windy big hills
behind the town where trees riot according to their own laws and
observe so many methods of moving green—under, over, around, across,
up the back, higher, fanning, condensing, rifled, flat in the eyes, as if
cell, like a litter of grand objects, minutely, absorbed, one leaf at a time,
ocean-furious, nettle-streaked, roping along, unmowed, fresh out of pools,
clear as Babel,
such a tower, scattered through the heart, green in the strong sense, dart-
shook, crownly, carrying the secrets of its own heightening on
up, juster than a shot, gloomier than Milton or even his king of terrors,
idol in its dark parts, as a word coined to mean “storm” (of love) or
(architectural), scorned, clean, with blazing nostrils, not a servant, not
-- Anne Carson
Friday, August 17, 2007
Minister of our coming doom, preaching
On the car radio, how right
Your Hell and damnation sound to me
As I travel these small, bleak roads
Thinking of the mailman’s son
The Army sent back in a sealed coffin.
His house is around the next turn.
A forlorn mutt sits in the yard
Waiting for someone to come home.
I can see the TV is on in the living room,
Canned laughter in the empty house
Like the sound of beer cans tied to a hearse.
-- Charles Simic
Monday, August 13, 2007
Each is truly a unique piece,
you said, or, perhaps, each
is a truly unique piece.
I sniff the difference.
It’s like dust in an old house,
or the water thereof. Then you come
to an exciting part.
The bandit affianced
to the blind man’s daughter. The mangel-wurzels
that come out of every door, salute the traveller
and are gone. Or the more melting pace of strolling players,
each with a collapsed sweetie on his arm, each
tidy as one’s idea of everything under the sun is tidy.
And the wolverines
return, with their coach, and night,
the black bat night, is blacker than any bat.
Just so you know, this is the falling-off place,
for the water, where damsels stroll and uncles
know a good thing when they see one.
The park is all over.
It isn’t a knee injury, or a postage stamp on Mars.
It is all of the above, and some other things too:
a nameless morning in May fielded by taut observers.
An inner tube on a couch.
Then we floated down the Great Array river, each
on our inner tube, each one a different color.
Mine was lime green, yours was pistachio.
And the current murmured to us mind your back
for another day. Are
you so sure we haven’t passed the goal-posts yet? Won’t
you reconsider? Remount me to my source? Egad,
Trixie, the water can speak! Like a boy
it speaks, and I’m not so sure how little all this is,
how much fuss shouldn’t be made about it. When another boy comes
to the edge of the falls, and calls, for it is late,
won’t we be sorry for not having invented this one,
letting him fall by the wayside? Then, sure enough, waves
of heather recuse the bearers of false witness, they fly like ribbons
on the stiff breeze, telling of us: We once made
some mistake, it seems, and now we are to be judged, except
it isn’t so bad, someone tells me you’ll be let off the hook,
we will all be able to go home, sojourn and smile again, be racked
with insidious giggles like guilt. Meantime, jugglers swarm over
stiff sides. We believe it to be Land’s End, that it’s
six o’clock, and the razor fish have gone home.
Once, on Mannahatta’s bleak shore,
I trolled for spunkfish, but caught naught, nothing save
a rubber plunger or two. It was awful,
at that time. Now everything is cheerful.
I wonder, does it make a difference?
Are the sailors waving
from the deck of their distraught ship? We aren’t
envious, though, life being so full of
so many little commotions, it’s up to
whoever to grab his (or hers). The violin slices life up
into manageable hunks, and the fiddler knows not
who he is moving, or cares why people should be so moved;
his mind is on the end, the extraordinary onus of finishing
what’s set out for him. Do you imagine him better off than you?
My feet were numb, I ask him only, how do you carry this
from here to over there?
Is there a flat barge? How many feet does a centipede have?
(Answer in tomorrow’s edition.) I heard the weeping cranes,
telling how time was running out. It was Belgian,
they thought. Nobody burns the midnight oil for this,
yet I think I shall be a scholar some day, all the same.
The hours suit me. And the rubber corsages the girls wear
in and out of class. Sure, I’ll turn out to be a nerd, and have to sit
in the corner, but that’s part of the exciting adventure. I know things
are different and the same. Now if only I could tell you ...
The period of my rest is ended.
I shall negotiate the fall, and then go crying
back to you all. In those years peace came and went, our father’s car changed
with the seasons, all around us was fighting and the excitement of spring.
Now, funnily enough, it’s over. I shan’t mind the vacant premise
that vexed me once. I know it’s all too true. And the hooligan
ogles a calla lily: Maybe only the fingertips are exciting,
it thinks, disposing of another bushelful of ripe nostalgia.
Maybe it’s too late,
maybe they came today.
-- John Ashbery
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Friday, August 03, 2007
This one constantly shifts his eyes
Hangs them on his head
And whether he wants it or not starts walking
He puts them on the soles of his feet
And whether he wants it or not returns walking
on his head
This one turns into an ear
He hears all that won't let itself be heard
But he grows bored
Yearns to turn again into himself
But without eyes he can't see how
That one bares all his faces
One after the other he throws them over the roof
The last one he throws under his feet
And sinks his head into his hands
This one stretches his sight
Stretches it from thumb to thumb
Walks over it walks
First slow then fast
Then faster and faster
That one plays with his head
Juggles it in the air
Meets it with his index finger
Or doesn't meet it at all
-- Vasko Popa
Thursday, August 02, 2007
II. BUT A DEDICATION IS ONLY FELICITOUS IF PERFORMED BEFORE WITNESSES--IT IS AN ESSENTIALLY PUBLIC SURRENDER LIKE THAT OF STANDARDS OF BATTLE
You know I was married years ago and when he left my husband took my notebooks.
You know that cool sly verb write. He liked writing, disliked having to start
each thought himself.
Used my starts to various ends, for example in a pocket I found a letter he'd begun
(to his mistress at that time)
containing a phrase I had copied from Homer: ... is how Homer says
after she parted from Hektor--"often turning to look back"
down from Troy's tower and through stone streets to her loyal husband's
house and there
with her women raised a lament for a living man in his own halls.
Loyal to nothing
my husband. So why did I love him from early girlhood to late middle age
and the divorce decree came in the mail?
Beauty. No great secret. Not ashamed to say I loved him for his beauty.
As I would again
if he came near. Beauty convinces. You know beauty makes sex possible.
Beauty makes sex sex.
You if anyone grasp this--hush, let's pass
to natural situations.
Other species, which are not poisonous, often have colorations and patterns
similar to poisonous species.
This imitation of a poisonous by a nonpoisonous species is called mimicry.
My husband was no mimic.
You will mention of course the war games. I complained to you often enough
when they were here all night
with the boards spread out and rugs and little lamps and cigarettes like Napoleon's
tent I suppose,
who could sleep? All in all my husband was a man who knew more
about the Battle of Borodino
than he did about his own wife's body, much more! Tensions poured up the walls
and along the ceiling,
sometimes they played Friday night till Monday morning straight through, he
and his pale wrathful friends.
They sweated badly. They ate meats of the countries in play.
Jealousy formed no small part of my relationship to the Battle of Borodino.
I hate it.
Why play all night.
The time is real.
It's a game.
It's a real game.
Is that a quote.
I need to touch you.
That night we made love "the real way" which we had not yet attempted
although married six months.
Big mystery. No one knew where to put their leg and to this day I'm not sure
we got it right.
He seemed happy. You're like Venice he said beautifully.
Early next day
I wrote a short talk ("On Defloration") which he stole and had published
in a small quarterly magazine.
Overall this was a characteristic interaction between us.
Or should I say ideal.
Neither of us had ever seen Venice.
-- Anne Carson
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Folks, now here's the story 'bout Minnie the Moocher,
She was a red-hot hootchie-cootcher,
She was the roughest, toughest frail,
But Minnie had a heart as big as a whale.
Now, she messed around with a bloke named Smoky,
She loved him though he was cokie,
He took her down to Chinatown,
He showed her how to kick the gong around.
Now, she had a dream about the king of Sweden,
He gave her things that she was needin',
He gave her a home built of gold and steel,
A diamond car with a platinum wheel.
Now, he gave her his townhouse and his racing horses,
Each meal she ate was a dozen courses;
She had a million dollars worth of nickels and dimes,
And she sat around and counted them all a billion times.
Poor Min, poor Min, poor Min.
-- Cab Calloway
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. (“Sacred Emily,” Geography and Plays)
Do we suppose that all she knows is that a rose is arose is a rose is a rose. (Operas and Plays)
. . . she would carve on the tree Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose is a Rose until it went all the way around. (The World is Round)
A rose tree may be a rose tree may be a rosy rose tree if watered. (Alphabets and Birthdays)
Indeed a rose is a rose makes a pretty plate . . . .(Stanzas in Meditation)
When I said.
A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
And then later made that into a ring I made poetry and what did I do I caressed completely caressed and addressed a noun. (Lectures in America)
Civilization begins with a rose. A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. It continues with blooming and it fastens clearly upon excellent examples. (As Fine as Melanctha)
Lifting belly can please me because it is an occupation I enjoy.
Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose.
In print on top. (Bee Time Vine)
Now listen! I’m no fool. I know that in daily life we don’t go around saying “is a … is a … is a …” Yes, I’m no fool; but I think that in that line the rose is red for the first time in English poetry for a hundred years. (Four in America)
-- Gertrude Stein
Friday, July 20, 2007
Trees. Snow. Trees further away.
In the grey light, they are as pasted on a board,
the snow merely empty white, the further away
just smaller trees. This is theory.
I go out to the white fields pretending
not to be human. Then stop, wonder what it is
I attempt, or mimic. I founder in the snow,
falling through the crust.
The spirit beyond human doesn't carry enough interest.
There is choice here: a god whose skin shines,
or a hollow in a bank.
It is not a matter of cruelty; just that,
swinging his arms, he knocks the man down.
He does not see the man or notice him until after.
Then he grieves.
In the darkroom he burns snow into the photograph.
Too much light will make it drab; too little
and it remains empty. He works until late,
changing papers, exposures, chemicals,
going over it again and again.
-- Bill Mayer
Thursday, July 19, 2007
ONE BEGINS AS A STUDENT BUT BECOMES A FRIEND OF CLOUDS
Back and backward, why, wide and wider. Such that art is inseparable from the search for reality. The continent is greater than the content. A river nets the peninsula. The garden rooster goes through the goldenrod. I watched a robin worming its way on the ridge, time on the uneven light ledge. There as in that's their truck there. Where it rested in the weather there it rusted. As one would say, my friends, meaning no possession, and don't harm my trees. Marigolds, nasturtiums, snapdragons, sweet William, forget-me-nots, replaced by chard, tomatoes, lettuce, garlic, peas, beans, carrots, radishes--but marigolds. The hum hurts. Still, I felt intuitively that this which was incomprehensible was expectant, increasing, was good. The greatest thrill was to be the one to "tell." All rivers' left banks remind me of Paris, not to see or sit upon but to hear spoken of. Cheese makes one thirsty but onions make a worse thirst. The Spanish make a little question frame. In the case, propped on a stand so as to beckon, was the hairy finger of St. Cecilia, covered with rings. The old dress is worn out, torn up, dumped. Erasures could not serve better authenticity. The years pass, years in which, I take it, events were not lacking. There are more colors in the great rose window of Chartres than in the rose. Beside a body, not a piece, of water. Serpentine is fool's jade. It is on a dressed stone. The previousness of plants in prior color--no dream can come up to the original, which in the common daylight is voluminous. Yet he insisted that his life had been full of happy chance, that he was luck's child. As a matter-of fact, quite the obverse. After a 9-to-5 job he got to just go home. Do you have a compulsion to work and then did you have a good time. Now it is one o'clock on the dot, but that is only a coincidence and it has a bad name. Patriots drive larger cars. At the time the perpetual Latin of love kept things hidden. We might be late to the movies but always early for the kids. The women at the parents' meeting must wear rings, for continuity. More sheep than sleep. Paul was telling me a plot which involved time travel, I asked, "How do they go into the future?" and he answered, "What do you mean?--they wait and the future comes to them--of course!" so the problem was going into the past. I think my interests are much broader than those of people who have been saying the same thing for eight years, or so he said. Has the baby enough teeth for an apple. Juggle, jungle, chuckle. The hummingbird, for all we know, may be singing all day long. We had been in France where every word really was a bird, a thing singing. I laugh as if my pots were clean. The apple in the pie is the pie. An extremely pleasant and often comic satisfaction comes from conjunction, the fit, say, of comprehension in a reader's mind to content in a writer's work. But not bitter.
-- Lyn Hejinian
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
she stands in a cup of water and insists on
washing her atheistic trends with soapy
she is wearing a blue sarong
his green leaf
legging has yet
to be tied
bruise jungle flowers
with muscularity worn over their
stealthy yet fruitful incompetence
slick. he's big
on robust fantasy
as a gaggle of ex-possible
lovers and hanger-ons
cavort greenly: thickly
too much too soon
he sits on the floor
holding his head
moaning about it
together they drink from
the cup of human kindness
but prefer feeding
walnuts to pigeons
she's very big
prone backs to the ground
sure enough and more
a ginkgo sprouting
much to be happy about
in warm weather
with a slight
-- Jeff Wietor
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
"Those who are creating the modern composition authentically are naturally only of importance when they are dead because by that time the modern composition having become past is classified and the description of it is classical. That is the reason why the creator of the new composition in the arts is an outlaw until he is a classic, there is hardly a moment in between and it is really too bad very much too bad naturally for the creator but also very much too bad for the enjoyer, they all really would enjoy the created so much better just after it has been made than when it is already a classic, but it is perfectly simple that there is no reason why the contemporaries should see, because it would not make any difference as they lead their lives in the new composition anyway, and as every one is naturally indolent why naturally they don't see. For this reason as in quoting Lord Grey it is quite certain that nations not actively threatened are at least several generations behind themselves militarily so aesthetically they are more than several generations behind themselves and it is very much too bad, it is so very much more exciting and satisfactory for everbody if one can have contemporaries, if all one's contemporaries could be one's contemporaries."
-- Gertrude Stein (1874-1946)
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
KEY WEST, Florida (AP) -- City officials have sided with Ernest Hemingway's former home and its celebrated six-toed felines in its cat fight with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Patches, a descendant of Ernest Hemingway's six-toed cats, is on the prowl in Key West, Florida.
The Key West City Commission exempted the home from a city law prohibiting more than four domestic animals per household.
About 50 cats live there.
The house has been locked in a dispute with the USDA, which claims the museum is an "exhibitor" of cats and needs a special license, a claim the home disputes.
The new ordinance reads in part, "The cats reside on the property just as the cats did in the time of Hemingway himself. They are not on exhibition in the manner of circus animals. ... The City Commission finds that family of polydactyl Hemingway cats are indeed animals of historic, social and tourism significance."
It also states that the cats are "an integral part of the history and ambiance of the Hemingway House."
A USDA spokesman did not return messages left late Sunday.
The cats are descendants of a six-toed cat given as a gift to the writer in 1935. All carry the gene for six toes, though not all display the trait.
Trip to Spain
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
The flood engulfing homes to the rooftops carried an extra curse Tuesday as a slick of 42,000 gallons of thick crude oil floated downstream with the mud and debris, coating everything it touched with a slimy, smelly layer of goo.
"My question is how are they going to get all that oil out of the environment," said Mary Burge, a heart surgery patient who had to breathe from a portable oxygen tank because the petroleum odor Monday was so strong it could be detected by the crews of helicopters passing overhead.
By Tuesday, the oil was nearing a large Oklahoma reservoir that supplies water to several cities.
The Verdigris River had crested and was beginning to recede Tuesday at Coffeyville, but it was kept high by water being released from the Elk City and Fall River Toronto Lake reservoirs upstream, said Jim Miller, Montgomery County emergency manager.
"It's going to come down the Verdigris until they shut that water supply off," he said. "So it's just a matter of time."
A malfunction allowed the oil to spill from the Coffeyville Resources refinery on Sunday, while the plant was shutting down in advance of the flood heading toward it on the Verdigris River.
Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the Kansas adjutant general, said the EPA and state officials would work with officials at the refinery to measure the amount of contamination and help the refinery clean up. In the meantime, however, Watson said, "We're asking everyone to avoid the floodwaters."
That wasn't an option for Fire Department Capt. Mike Mansfield, who rescued eight dogs from water-logged homes Monday. He said all the dogs found outside were covered in oil.
The oil slick had been expected to float into Oklahoma's Oologah Lake, about 30 miles northeast of Tulsa, early Tuesday, said Dave Bary, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency in Dallas.
However, officials who flew over the river said that by late morning the slick was still about 5 or 6 miles from the lake entrance.
Tulsa is among the nine Oklahoma cities that get public water supplies from the Verdigris and Oologah.
The floating oil, which would enter the north end of the lake, wasn't expected to have an effect on water supply intakes located well below the surface at the south end, said Skylar McElhaney, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.
The oil joins other causes of misery for thousands of flood evacuees in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
"We do have health concerns," said Bret Glendening, city manager in Osawatomie, Kan. "You've got stagnant water. The water's been into the wood. You have mold issues. There's a whole host of concerns flooding causes."
"All our utilities are under water," Fredonia Mayor Max Payne said.
However, the water had receded significantly at Osawatomie by Tuesday morning, said Mayor Philip Dudley. Pumps provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were "making significant progress."
"I saw drops (in water level) on the sides of houses of about a foot and half," Dudley said. "It's looking a lot better than it did Saturday and Sunday."
On Monday night, President Bush declared a major disaster in Kansas and ordered federal aid for recovery efforts.
Flooding on the Marais des Cygnes river stretched from Kansas into western Missouri, where residents of two small farm communities were urged to evacuate because high water was cutting off their access by road. Most residents of Rockville and Papinville - total population about 140 - were believed to have left, said Bates County Emergency Management Director Tim Young.
Eleven deaths have been blamed on weeks of heavy rain and flooding in Texas, where two men are missing.
More thunderstorms hit parts of Texas on Monday, flooding some roads. The National Weather Service said about 10 inches of rain fell by noon at Corpus Christi.
Two youngsters were rescued from an Arlington, Texas, drainage channel, one after floating half a mile downstream through at least three viaducts, said Fire Department Battalion Chief David Stapp. A handful of people had to be rescued from flooded homes in Laredo.
In North Little Rock, Ark., about 30 homes were evacuated Monday when heavy rain and a faulty drainage system caused flooding up to 6 feet deep in some spots.
-- ROXANA HEGEMAN (Associated Press Writer)
Thursday, June 28, 2007
BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed 22 people Thursday in a bus station in western Baghdad, and police said 20 beheaded bodies had been discovered on the banks of the Tigris River southeast the capital. Government security officials raised doubts about the decapitation report.
The car bomb ripped through a crowded transport hub in southwest Baghdad's Baiyaa neighborhood at morning rush hour, killing at least 22 people and wounding more than 50, police said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the release the information.
Many of the victims had been lining up for bus rides to work. Some 40 minibuses were incinerated, police said.
Baiyaa is a mixed area with a Shiite majority. It is one of a string of neighborhoods just south of the main road to Baghdad International Airport where sectarian tensions have been running high.
APTN video showed a square strewn with smoldering car parts and charred bodies with clothes in tatters. Bystanders, some weeping, gingerly loaded human remains into ambulances.
A pickup truck rumbled slowly away from the scene, with two pairs of legs - the dead bodies of victims - dangling out of the back.
To the south, two policemen from separate commands said the 20 decapitated remains were found near the Sunni Muslim village of Um al-Abeed, near the city of Salman Pak, which lies 14 miles southeast of Baghdad.
The bodies - all men aged 20 to 40 - had their hands and legs bound, and some of the heads were found next to the bodies, the two officers said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.
One of the police officers who gave information is based at Interior Ministry headquarters in the capital, and the other is based in Kut, 100 miles southeast of Baghdad.
However, an official in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said no such report had been received. He also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not supposed to talk to media.
Al-Maliki's office normally would be informed of incidents of serious violence and some reports of attacks in the past have proven false.
Another police officer in eastern Baghdad said officials had heard the report and tried to send a force to the area to confirm it. But visit was called off because the area was too dangerous.
Sporadic clashes had been under way in the Salman Pak area for several days, between Interior Ministry commandos and suspected insurgents, the Kut officer said. It was unclear whether the discovery of the bodies was related to the recent fighting.
Salman Pak and its surrounding area has been the focus of new U.S. military operations to oust suspected al-Qaida fighters from the Baghdad's outskirts. American forces launched a drive into Salman Pak and neighboring Arab Jabour two weeks ago.
At the time, ground forces commander Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno said U.S. troops were heading into those areas in force for the first time in three years.
One U.S. soldier was killed and another was wounded by a roadside bomb Thursday during a combat patrol in eastern Baghdad, the military said.
At least 3,569 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 2,930 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.
In other violence Thursday, three mortar rounds slammed into a popular shopping district in central Baghdad, killing three pedestrians, police said. The attack damaged shops in the Shorja market area and wounded 14 people, an officer said on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to media.
Mortars also fell early Thursday in eastern Baghdad's al-Amin neighborhood, killing two civilians and wounding four others, police said.
It was unclear whether the mortars were aimed at the Shorja shopping area, or whether they fell short of an intended target. In recent months, tall security barriers have been built around popular marketplaces in Baghdad, preventing car bombers from entering. However, mortars can be lobbed over such blast walls.
Later Thursday, at least one mortar or rocket targeted the U.S.-guarded Green Zone, sending a huge blast echoing across central Baghdad. There was no immediate word on any casualties.
A car bomb exploded at a fuel station Thursday afternoon in western Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood, killing one person and wounding three others, police said. The victims had been lining up to buy fuel, they said.
In Nasiriyah, about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad, local police said two suspected militants were killed early Thursday when the bomb they were planting near a house of a U.S. translator detonated prematurely.
Also Thursday, the British military said three British soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb in southern Iraq.
The bomb exploded near the soldiers' vehicle late Wednesday southeast of Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, the military said in a statement. Another soldier was wounded in the blast and remains in stable condition at a military hospital, it said.
The death raised to at least 154 the number of British troops killed in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.
Britain has withdrawn hundreds of troops from Iraq, leaving a force of around 5,500 based mainly on the fringes of Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad. The U.S. currently has about 155,000 troops in Iraq.
On Wednesday, outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair said his country would withdraw even more troops within weeks, but he refused to set a more specific timetable.
--SINAN SALAHEDDIN (Associated Press Writer)
Friday, June 22, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Unlike the film, The Bridges of Madison County, the bombed bridges of Baghdad are not a quaint romantic tale, but a warning sign of potential disaster for U.S. forces in Iraq. The ongoing attacks on bridges in and around Baghdad creates significant risks and logistical obstacles for U.S. forces in Iraq. In my opinion these attacks are part of deliberate strategy to create ambush chokepoints, degrade the capability of U.S. Quick Reaction Forces, and enhance the ability of insurgent forces to cut the U.S. lines of communication.
Juan Cole summarizes the latest activity:
Guerrillas blew up another bridge in Iraq on Monday, this time over the Euphrates in Diyala province. Its destruction will make drivers from northeastern Diyala who want to go to Baghdad take a route through Baquba, among the more violent cities in Iraq. Guerrillas are attempting to cause Iraqi society and government to collapse by hitting the infrastructure, and the bridge demolitions are part of that strategy. Late on Sunday, an overpass leading to a bridge south of Baghdad was destroyed, and 3 American soldiers were killed and 6 wounded.
These attacks continue a trend that started in April, with the attack on the Sarafiya Bridge in central Baghdad (see U.S. Policy in the Drink). The loss of these bridges represent more than increased inconvenience for commuters and travelers.
Traffic will be re-routed, which means there will be more traffic in a concentrated area. This is a boon for insurgents who can in turn concentrate their limited resources and simplify their planning for successful attacks. It also creates logistical nightmares for the United States forces. Most of the basic necessities required to sustain U.S. forces in Iraq are carried in truck convoys. The destruction of these bridges will further increase the transportation time for drivers and the maintenance requirements just to keep the vehicles on the road.
Beyond the inconvenience factor, we must recognize that the destruction of bridges can produce the defacto isolation of U.S. outposts and bases. If a U.S. unit is attacked and requires reinforcements, the loss of these bridges increase the difficulty of the U.S. Quick Reaction Force reaching the scene in a timely manner. Moreover, with fewer alternate routes available, insurgents can anticipate where to hit a responding American force. In fact, an attack on an outpost could be a feint intended to provoke a U.S. reaction and give the insurgents the opportunity to ambush the inbound soldiers.
It is incumbent on U.S. commanders to boost security around the bridges. But that is a manpower issue. If you do not have enough troops in country then you must divert troops from patrolling streets to sitting on a bridge and guarding its perimeter. The tactical job of protecting a bridge is fairly simple and straightforward--you need people with guns. But we do not have enough troops in Iraq to carry out the various missions required to make the surge work. The systematic destruction of bridges in and around Baghdad are the early warning signs that the mission for our soldiers in Iraq is going to get tougher and more deadly.
-- Larry C. Johnson
Friday, June 08, 2007
I used to dream of Chuang Tzu;
I read every word in his book.
Day and night I thought of meeting him,
"flitting and fluttering" before my eyes!
But Chuang Tzu cannot come back,
the butterfly cannot appear again:
so who put them into this painting?
I see them and feel we're old friends!
If Chuang Tzu could become a butterfly,
why shouldn't a butterfly be able to become me?
The dream of a thousand years, here on this paper --
how do I know it is not my own?
-- Chu Yun-Ming - Ming Dynasty (1460-1526)
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
When you wish upon a star
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you
If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of
Their secret longing
Like a bolt out of the blue
Fate steps in and sees you through
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams come true
Saturday, June 02, 2007
"First I saw the mountains in the painting; then I saw the painting in the mountains."
-- Chinese Proverb.
"A man paints with his brains and not with his hands."
-- Michelangelo (1475-1564)
"Only when he no longer knows what he is doing does the painter do good things."
-- Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
"Painting is very easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do."
-- Edgar Degas
"Drawing and color are not separate at all; in so far as you paint, you draw. The more color harmonizes, the more exact the drawing becomes. When the color achieves richness, the form attains its fullness also."
-- Paul Cézanne (1839-1906), French Post-Impressionist painter. Quoted by Émile Bernard, L'Occident, July, 1904.
"PAINTING, n: The art of protecting flat surfaces from the weather and exposing them to the critic."
-- Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914), American writer. The Cynic's Word Book, also known as The Devil's Dictionary, 1906.
"Whenever I see a Frans Hals I feel like painting, but when I see a Rembrandt I feel like giving up!"
-- Max Liebermann (1847-1935).
"There is nothing harder to learn than painting and nothing which most people take less trouble about learning. An art school is a place where about three people work with feverish energy and everybody else idles to a degree that I should have conceived unattainable by human nature."
-- G.K.Chesterton (1874-1936), British writer. Autobiography.
"Painting is stronger than I am. It can make me do whatever it wants."
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), modern Spanish artist. A note written on the back of one of his sketchbooks.
"Painting is just another way of keeping a diary."
-- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), modern Spanish artist.
"Painting is a blind man's profession. He paints not what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen."
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Spanish artist. Quoted in: Jean Cocteau, Journals, part 1, "War and Peace" (1956)
"To me, a painter, if not the most useful, is the least harmful member of our society."
-- Man Ray (1890-1976), modern American photographer, artist. Self Portrait, chapter 6 (1963)
"The painting has a life of its own."
-- Jackson Pollock (1912-1956)
"Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life. There are as many solutions as there are human beings."
-- George Tooker (1920-)
Friday, June 01, 2007
BEIJING - Fast-spreading, foul-smelling blue-green algae smothered a lake in eastern China, contaminating the drinking water for millions of people and sparking panic-buying of bottled water, state media said Thursday.
The algae bloom in Lake Tai, a famous but long-polluted tourist attraction in Jiangsu province, formed because water levels are at their lowest in 50 years, leading to excess nutrients in the water, Xinhua said.
Officials in Wuxi, a city along the banks of the lake, called an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss measures to deal with the situation and allay public fears, said a posting on the local government's Web site.
"The government calls for the residents facing the natural disaster to help each other to deal with the difficulties," the notice said, advising people to boil the water before drinking it.
"The situation has lasted three days already. It's so inconvenient," said Qin Yingxian, 53, a video store owner in Wuxi. "The smell of our tap water is just so awful. If you use the water to shower, the smell will stay on your body."
Residents swarmed stores in Wuxi, a city of 5 million, to buy bottled water Wednesday and prices skyrocketed from $1 to $6.50 for a two-gallon bottle, Xinhua said.
The city has placed a ban on price hikes and threatened hefty fines to violators, the report said. A Wal-Mart store imposed rations of 24 bottles per person, Xinhua said.
"Now we depend on bottled water for all our daily uses," Qin said. "People form long queues in the supermarkets for bottled water. Nobody expected something like this to happen. We aren't prepared."
State TV showed a yellowish trickle coming from taps and a restaurant worker said customers refused to eat there until they were assured that the water used was safe.
The Wuxi government said it was not authorized to give out information and referred all questions to provincial officials. A man who answered the telephone at the Jiangsu government office said authorities were "looking into the matter" and could not give any details.
Xinhua said the Wuxi government is planning to artificially induce rain in the next two days to dilute the lake water, and the provincial government has agreed to divert more water from the Yangtze River to the lake.
The local government is also using active carbon to filter the lake water and is importing bottled water from surrounding cities, China Central Television reported.
Lake Tai, famed for centuries for its beauty, is notoriously polluted from industries in the fast-developing region 80 miles west of Shanghai.
Blue-green algae often looks like green paint spilled on top of the water's surface. It is caused by factors such as run-off and excess nutrients in the water.
The algae, which scientists say are actually plantlike bacteria, are common in fresh water the world over. Some types can produce dangerous toxins.
Drinking toxin-tainted water can cause vomiting, diarrhea, headache, muscle pain, paralysis, respiratory failure and, on rare occasions, even death. Pets and livestock are especially vulnerable.
The incident is the latest to hit China's troubled waterways, which are dangerously polluted after decades of rapid economic growth and the widespread flouting of environmental regulations. Millions of people lacking access to clean drinking water.
In 2005, an accident caused a Chinese chemical plant to spew tons of toxic nitrobenzene and other chemicals into the north China's Songhua River, forcing authorities to cut water to millions of residents.
Thursday, May 31, 2007
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked to the Moon it turned to gold
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
And then there suddenly appeared before me
The only one my arms will ever hold
I heard somebody whisper please adore me
And when I looked the Moon had turned to gold
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own
-- Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The monstrous vanity of wishes is revealed for instance in my wish to fill a nice notebook with writing as soon as possible. I get nothing from this; it's not that I wish it because, say, it will be evidence of my productivity; it is simply a longing to rid myself of something familiar as soon as I can; although of course, as soon as I am rid of it, I must start a fresh one & the whole business will have to be repeated.
-- L. Wittgenstein
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Socrates who always reduces the Sophist to silence -- does he reduce him to silence rightfully? -- It's true, the Sophist does not know what he thinks he knows; but that is no triumph for Socrates. It can neither be a case of "You see! You don't know it!" -- nor, triumphantly, "So none of us knows anything!"
Because I don't want to think just to convict myself, or even someone else, of unclarity I am not trying to understand something, simply in order to see that I still do not understand it.
-- L. Wittgenstein
Monday, May 21, 2007
Friday, May 11, 2007
"Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together"
"I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America
"Kathy," I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
"Michigan seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America
Laughing on the bus
Playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said "Be careful his bowtie is really a camera"
"Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat"
"We smoked the last one an hour ago"
So I looked at the scenery, she read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field
"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was sleeping
I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
All gone to look for America
-- Simon & Garfunkel
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Washington empties out every August as members of Congress and administration officials leave for their annual summer vacations. So why isn't this American political tradition good enough for Iraqi officials in Baghdad?
President Bush and Vice President Cheney have both now urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to discourage Iraqi lawmakers from taking a two-month summer break. The issue has become symbolic of the sad truth of the surge in particular and the war in general: We cannot make Iraq the country we would like it to be, and we cannot force Iraqis to act when we want them to.
Cheney met with Maliki in Baghdad yesterday to communicate the administration's sense of the gravity of the situation: The Iraqi government needs to make progress on security and move forward on reconciliation and governance far more quickly.
The vice president also pressed the prime minister to discourage the Iraqi parliament from taking its two-month summer recess. Bush appealed to Maliki on Monday not to let the lawmakers go on vacation.
"We believe it's very important to move on the issues before us in a timely fashion and that any undue delay would be difficult to explain," Cheney told reporters in Baghdad yesterday. He is not alone in his view.
"For the Iraqi parliament to take a two-month vacation in the middle of summer is impossible to understand," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates also said that he pressed for the recess to be canceled. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) said a two-month recess is "not acceptable."
It's not just the prospect of U.S. troops dying while Iraqi parliamentarians vacation that bothers American officials. They also argue that the Iraqis should continue to work to resolve issues associated with oil revenue sharing and the status of former Baathists from Saddam's government, two outstanding questions that might held to strengthen Shia and Sunni unity.
Maliki signaled to Cheney that he was sympathetic to the American complaint. But some Iraqi legislators reacted angrily, including Speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, who said members of Parliament were "busy with our own calamities."
One of those calamities is attendance: the security situation is so bad that many parliamentarians can't even make it to the sessions. Sometimes lawmakers show up, only to be turned away by bomb scares, lack of electricity or other impediments. Boycotts are also common.
Another problem is that when the parliament meets, it is often chaotic. With tens of "parties" representing not just Shia, Sunni and Kurd but also factions within each community, there is an absence of any party discipline or legislative coherence. Thus there is no reason to believe that even if the Iraqi parliament toils all summer, it will make any difference.
In fact, if it stays in session, capitulating to American pressure, it may well demonstrate to Iraqis that their elected representatives cannot even make their own schedule. And from an American political standpoint, canceling the Iraqi summer recess will also be unhelpful, allowing more pretending here in Washington that "progress" is being made and forestalling tough decisions.
So I say, let them go.
-- William M. Arkin on National and Homeland Security
Friday, April 27, 2007
How long can one man's lifetime last?
In the end we return to formlessness.
I think of you waiting to die.
A thousand things cause me distress -
Your kind old mother's still alive.
Your only daughter's only ten.
In the vast chilly wilderness
I hear the sounds of weeping men.
Clouds float into a great expanse.
Birds fly but do not sing in flight.
How lonely are the travellers.
Even the sun shines cold and white.
Alas, when you still lived, and asked
To study non-rebirth with me,
My exhortations were delayed-
And so the end came, fruitlessly.
All your old friends have brought you gifts
But for your life these too are late.
I've failed you in more ways than one.
Weeping, I walk back to my gate.
-- Wang Wei
tr.by Vikram Seth
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Earlier this year I had a major operation for cancer. The operation and its after-effects were something of a nightmare. I felt I was a man unable to swim bobbing about under water in a deep dark endless ocean. But I did not drown and I am very glad to be alive.
However, I found that to emerge from a personal nightmare was to enter an infinitely more pervasive public nightmare - the nightmare of American hysteria, ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and belligerence; the most powerful nation the world has ever known effectively waging war against the rest of the world. "If you are not with us you are against us" President Bush has said. He has also said "We will not allow the world's worst weapons to remain in the hands of the world's worst leaders". Quite right. Look in the mirror chum. That's you.
The US is at this moment developing advanced systems of "weapons of mass destruction" and it prepared to use them where it sees fit. It has more of them than the rest of the world put together. It has walked away from international agreements on biological and chemical weapons, refusing to allow inspection of its own factories. The hypocrisy behind its public declarations and its own actions is almost a joke.
The United States believes that the three thousand deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.
The three thousand deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to.
The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through US and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to.
The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf War, is never referred to. Radiation levels in Iraq are appallingly high. Babies are born with no brain, no eyes, no genitals. Where they do have ears, mouths or rectums, all that issues from these orifices is blood.
The two hundred thousand deaths in East Timor in 1975 brought about by the Indonesian government but inspired and supported by the United States are never referred to.
The half a million deaths in Guatemala, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Uruguay, Argentina and Haiti, in actions supported and subsidised by the United States are never referred to.
The millions of deaths in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are no longer referred to.
The desperate plight of the Palestinian people, the central factor in world unrest, is hardly referred to.
But what a misjudgement of the present and what a misreading of history this is.
People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don't forget. They strike back.
The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world.
In Britain the public is now being warned to be "vigilant" in preparation for potential terrorist acts. The language is in itself preposterous.
How will - or can - public vigilance be embodied? Wearing a scarf over your mouth to keep out poison gas? However, terrorist attacks are quite likely, the inevitable result of our Prime Minister's contemptible and shameful subservience to the United States. Apparently, a terrorist poison gas attack on the London Underground system was recently prevented. But such an act may indeed take place. Thousands of school children travel on the London Underground every day. If there is a poison gas attack from which they die, the responsibility will rest entirely on the shoulders of our Prime Minister. Needless to say, the Prime Minister does not travel on the underground himself.
The planned war against Iraq is in fact a plan for premeditated murder of thousands of civilians in order, apparently, to rescue them from their dictator.
The United States and Britain are pursuing a course which can lead only to an escalation of violence throughout the world and finally to catastrophe.
It is obvious, however, that the United States is bursting at the seams to attack Iraq. I believe that it will do this - not just to take control of Iraqi oil - but because the US administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary. Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government but seem to be helpless.
Unless Europe finds the solidarity, intelligence, courage and will to challenge and resist US power Europe itself will deserve Alexander Herzen's definition (as quoted in the Guardian newspaper in London recently) "We are not the doctors. We are the disease".
-- Harold Pinter
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
MEANWHILE, back in Baghdad, we're building a wall. Actually, quite a few walls.
While we were absorbed with the terrible tragedy at Virginia Tech -- and before that the Don Imus affair and the Alberto Gonzales tragicomedy -- the war in Iraq was pushed below the newspaper's page-one fold. While we weren't looking, the U.S. military started building high walls in parts of the Iraqi capital to separate Sunnis from Shiites.
Basically, we're turning Baghdad into Belfast.
This is supposed to be a temporary expedient, a way to tamp down Iraq's sectarian civil war -- in the capital, at least, which is the ostensible goal of President Bush's fraudulent "surge" policy -- by making it harder for the antagonists to get at each other's throats. The so-called "peace lines" in Belfast, separating Protestants from Catholics, were supposed to be temporary, too. That network of walls was begun in the 1970s.
The construction of barriers and checkpoints that turn Baghdad neighborhoods into what U.S. officers sardonically call "gated communities" is another sign -- as if more evidence were needed -- that Bush's "surge" is nothing more than a maneuver intended to buy time. His open-ended commitment for U.S. forces to patrol those barriers and guard those checkpoints will become the next president's problem.
The walls that have been built so far didn't prevent the car bombings in Baghdad last week, including at the Sadriya market, that killed nearly 200 people. Even the heavy fortifications surrounding the Green Zone, where the American presence and the Iraqi "unity" government are headquartered, couldn't keep a suicide bomber from detonating his explosives in the cafeteria of the Iraqi parliament.
But let's assume that if U.S. forces build enough walls and make it hard enough for Iraqis to move around their own capital, the violence in Baghdad may decline somewhat. In that event, the Shiite death squads and Sunni suicide bombers will simply do their killing elsewhere in Iraq. There's considerable evidence that this already is happening.
Both the president and his many critics say that the real problem in Iraq is political -- that there will be no genuine prospects for peace until Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite-dominated government reach a negotiated accommodation with the Sunni insurgency. The barriers going up right now -- the Washington Post reported that at least 10 Baghdad neighborhoods will be isolated behind walls -- likely will make Sunni-Shiite reconciliation a more distant goal. If anything, walls will accelerate the sectarian cleansing that has been purifying formerly mixed neighborhoods.
Walls divide; they do not unite. Walls give concrete expression to hatreds and prejudices, establishing them as artifacts not of the mind but of the landscape. When I was the Post's London correspondent in the early 1990s, I covered the Northern Ireland conflict. The first thing I went to see in Belfast was the notorious "peace line" between the Falls Road, a Catholic stronghold, and Shankill Road, a Protestant redoubt. Everything looked the same on both sides -- the houses, the shops, the people -- yet it was as if they were two different countries. Animosities had been passed down through generations. Even now, 15 years later, a civil exchange between two of the leading antagonists -- Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams -- is big news.
How many years will it take to get to that point in Baghdad?
Bush has enmeshed the United States in a civil conflict that will take years, probably decades, to resolve. The building of walls mocks the administration's happy-talk rhetoric about how much political progress the Iraqis are making. If the Iraqi government really is the exercise in inclusive democracy that Bush claims, walls would be coming down. Putting up new walls only makes sense if the White House foresees a substantial U.S. military presence in Iraq for many years to come.
Clearly, the Iraqi government is not ready to do the job of policing the enclaves that are being created. The government doesn't even want to do the job. Maliki complained Sunday about a new wall in Adhamiyah, a Sunni neighborhood, saying it "reminds us of other walls that we reject." Maybe he was thinking of Belfast, or maybe of Berlin, or maybe of the wall that the Israelis have built between themselves and the Palestinians.
Or maybe he is beginning to realize how easy it is to build walls and how hard to tear them down.
-- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post Writers Group
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