Friday, April 29, 2005

Freedom is on the...ah, screw it.

From the Washington Post

BAGHDAD, April 29 -- Anti-government insurgents responded to the establishment of Iraq's first democratic government with a series of attacks early Friday, including nine bombings and additional mortar rounds, killing at least 24 people and wounding at least 90, many of them Iraqi police and soldiers.

Three suicide bombers, targeting police and Iraqi National Guardsmen, struck in Baghdad's predominantly Sunni district of Adhamiyah, long recognized as a hiding place for many insurgents. Shortly after, two roadside bombs exploded when an Iraqi army convoy passed by in the eastern neighborhood of Ghadir. Three to four mortar rounds also fell in Adhamiyah, police and residents said.

In addition, three bombs exploded near or in the city of Madain, about 18 miles southeast of Baghdad, killing nine and wounding 11, police told wire services. Those bombs also targeted police and soldiers, they added.

I don’t know just how much of this freedom Iraqis can take.

Or how much we can take, either.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Theme from "Mullah Rouge"

Whenever we kiss
I worry and wonder
Your lips may be near
But where is your heart?

It's always like this
I worry and wonder
You're close to me here
But where is your heart?

It's a sad thing to realize
That you've a heart that never melts
When we kiss, do you close your eyes
Pretending that I'm someone else?

You must break the spell
This cloud that I'm under
So please won't you tell
Darling, where is your heart?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Ah, to be in Michigan... that April's there.


Saturday, April 16, 2005

Brood of Vipers

Frank Rich (whose move to the Op-Ed pages of the Times doesn’t quite make up for Judith Miller, but it’s a start) has blistering column today on DeLay and religion.
A scandal is like any other melodrama: It can't be a crowd pleaser unless the audience can follow the plot. That's why Monica Lewinsky trumped Whitewater, and that's why of all the story lines ensnaring Tom DeLay, the one with legs is the one with the craps tables. It's not just easy to follow, but it also has a combustive cultural element that makes it as representative of its political era as Monicagate was of the Clinton years. As the lies and subterfuge of the go-go 1990's coalesced around sex, so the scandal of our new "moral values" decade comes cloaked in religion. The hair shirt is the new thong.

Yeah, made me itch, too.
Beltway cronyism, dubious junkets, loophole-laden denials are all, of course, time-honored Washington fare. The few on the right backing away from Mr. DeLay, from The Wall Street Journal's editorial page to Newt Gingrich, make a point of reminding us of that. As they see it, more in sorrow than in anger, the Gingrich revolutionaries who vowed to end the corruption practiced by Congressional Democrats have now been infected by the same Washington virus as their opponents. That's true, but this critique of Mr. DeLay and company by their own camp all too conveniently sidesteps the distinguishing feature of this scandal. Democratic malefactors like Jim Wright and L.B.J.'s old fixer Bobby Baker didn't wear the Bible on their sleeves.

Bingo! (to use another religious phrase). The hypocrisy of these pseudo-Christians is so transparent it’s a wonder they can see themselves in the mirror. DeLay’s junkets were paid for by lobbying money extracted from Indian tribes trying to get in on the casino gambling business. DeLay, good Christian that he is, is on record as opposing gambling and he was shocked – shocked! – to find that tainted lucre had financed his trips.

The architect of this scheme was Jack Abramoff, thus proving that the goyim haven’t cornered the sleaze market.
Mr. Abramoff, who is now being investigated by nearly as many federal agencies as there are nights of Passover, is an Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews. In Washington, he opened not one but two kosher restaurants (I hear the deli was passable by D.C. standards) and started a yeshiva. His uncompromising piety drove him to condemn the one Orthodox Jew in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, for securing "the tortuous death of millions" by supporting abortion rights. Mr. Abramoff's own moral constellation can be found in e-mail messages in which he referred to his Indian clients as "idiots" and "monkeys" even as he squeezed them for every last million. A previous client was Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who, unlike Senator Lieberman, actually was a practitioner of torture and mass murder.

The “oy”factor increases exponentially:
Another Abramoff crony is the political operative Ralph Reed, whom Mr. Abramoff hired for his College Republicans operation in the early 1980's. Mr. Reed, who has called gambling "a cancer on the body politic" and is running for lieutenant governor in Georgia, is now busily explaining that he, like Mr. DeLay, had no idea that some of his consulting firm's Abramoff-Scanlon paydays ($4.2 million worth) were indirect transfers of casino dough

In DeLay’s defense, it is true that nowhere on that plaque of the Ten Commandments displayed in his office is “Thou shalt not profit from relationships with sleazy lobbyists.”

Rich continues:
The values alleged so far in this scandal - greed, hypocrisy, favor-selling, dissembling - belong to no creed except the ruthless pursuit of power. They are not exclusive to either political party. But the religious trappings add a note that distinguishes these Beltway creeps from those who have come before: a supreme righteousness that often spirals into anger and fire-and-brimstone zealotry that can do far more damage to America than ill-begotten golf junkets.

When you organize conferences on the “Remedies to Judicial Tyranny,” featuring speakers that imply violence against judges is a legitimate expression of dissent, when you sponsor ”Justice Sunday” to rally the Religious Right in your attempt to defeat the filibuster rule in Congress, then we are no longer starting down the slippery slope of theocracy; we are sliding down on our asses and there’s a gaping crevasse below.

Our only hope is the millions who disagreed with Congress interfering in the Schiavo case will see this for what it is: an attempt to cloak ruthless political maneuvering in the trappings of “traditional moral values” If DeLay, Reed, Frist et al sincerely believe in God, they may be in for a post-mortem surprise:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. So you also on the outside look righteous to others, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

And we serve beer at our potlucks, too.

Thank you to my friend Roy for directing me to this Jon Carroll column, which has taken on a life of its own on the internet.

It's also spawned a cottage industry

Mine is Sister Cattle Prod of Desirable Mindfulness. What's yours?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Alas, the Awards Committee didn't appreciate the falafel bribe.

The Peabody Awards have been announced, and if you're keeping score it's
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 2
Bill O'Reilly (despite his protestations to the contrary) 0
Although I understand he has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in Dithering.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Vere Papa mortuus est

Maybe it’s because he was Polish. Maybe it’s because in his last days he reminded me of my mother –his Slavic face, his Parkinson’s disease. But I think it was because he was a poet.

That’s why I mourn this Pope. I didn’t agree just about anything he professed, but I admired him. I didn’t come to that easily. I finally came to understand the complexity of this man, and to understand his appreciation of nuance, of metaphor and of symbolism. In my heart, I believe he was one of the most spiritual men to hold the office, and he embraced suffering as part of life with Zenlike discipline.

I know there are many who have been deeply hurt by the policies of the Catholic Church, many who have felt marginalized by the faith of their childhoods. I’m one of them. I always felt that if I could just have sat down with the Pope and spoken with him from my heart, I may not have changed anything, but I would have been treated with respect and dignity.

And we probably would have had a couple of good laughs, too.

Wieczne odpoczywanie racz mu dac Panie
a swiatlosc wiekuista niech mu swieci

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Culture of Life

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer's story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet XCVIII

Oh, to be in England
Now that April's there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England -now!
Robert Browning, Home Thoughts, From Abroad

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land

But at this remove what I think of as
strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan
on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom,
a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above--
is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift
of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood.
Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we're
made of, is motion.
Amy Clampitt, Nothing Stays Put

It’s National Poetry Month. Read, and be transformed.