Iraq: The Return on Investment

The United States is pouring billions of dollars into Iraq. It has decided that of all the things in the world it could spend billions of dollars on, it will spend these billions on making life better for the average Iraqi, by removing an evil dictator and turning their country into a thriving capitalist democracy.

The result of all this, as reporters have long noticed: the average Iraqi hates America. When U.S. soldiers drive down the streets on patrol, they are greeted with fearful faces. When the Americans react to a bomb attack by shooting everyone on the street, including a just married 16-year-old, an infant, and an old man, and then declares that they behaved exactly as they were trained and would do it again…. The average Iraqi, if he was in a generous mood, could be excused for thinking to himself, “well, they’re not very good at this are they?”

Never was less achieved with more money. Really– I can’t think of anything that cost more but achieved less. The closest second I can think of is the former Shah of Iran’s coronation party, which helped lay the foundation for the overthrow of the Shah, the taking of American hostages, the revolutionary government in Tehran, war between Iran and Iraq, U.S. assistance to Iraq (yes, to Saddam Hussein), the invasion of Kuwait, and so on and so on. Now: here we are.

The average 10-year-old could do better with this money than George Bush did. The average 10-year-old, given billions of dollars, would buy everyone in Iraq a flat-panel TV screen and a Play-station. And everyone in Iraq would love America. They’d all be watching American Idol. They would, like American Christians, pay outward respect to their religion, bow and pray and mumble the sacred verses, and then get back to the Mario Brothers as quickly as possible.

We took away their government and police forces and started a civil war between two different religious groups which, under Saddam Hussein, had been getting along fairly well.  (Even Christians were tolerated under Saddam.)  We smacked the hornet’s nest and can’t control anything. We’ve installed a government that is quietly complicit with Shiite death squads and can’t wait for us to leave so they can finish the job properly.

Yet Richard Perle stumbles along in a bizarre documentary shown on PBS the other night insisting that all is well. Didn’t you know it would take ten, twenty years to stabilize Iraq? Oh– sorry, we forgot to tell you. Actually, there was no need to tell you– it is necessary for the survival of America that certain leaders who understand the true nature of the world occasionally need to exercise leadership in undemocratic fashion, in order to preserve our incredibly precious freedoms and liberties.

John McCain, George Bush, Condoleeza Rice– all still on board. Rudolph Giuliani? Invading Iraq was a great idea! It was so great, I’d do it again.

In an sane world, I would add here: I am not making this up.

The Americans are building the biggest embassy in the history of the entire world in Baghdad. Yes it is. This is something the government of Iraq badly wants: a great big hulking U.S. embassy in the middle of Baghdad, full of all kinds of rooms and offices and who knows what, just waiting to offer friendly assistance to any weary American traveler who might have lost his visa or immunization records.

This investment is a little bizarre. Iraq is free, in theory, to elect any government it wants. One would think that a rational person might conclude– especially given the poor performance of the American military in pacifying Iraq– that the chances of the population of Iraq electing a pro-American government are at best 50-50. What if the next democratically, freely elected government of Iraq decides it doesn’t want a big role for the U.S. in it’s affairs, and doesn’t want this hulking embassy sitting there…

What the heck is going on with PBS? Who is in control there? Why are they showing these absolutely bizarre fake documentaries on Richard Perle? Why, in heaven’s name, are they censoring words like “shit” out of movies like “All the President’s Men”? God help us– the inquisitors seem to be in charge!

[2022-05: probably explanation:  PBS, constantly under criticism by Republicans and conservatives, wished to make a gesture of non-partisanship by running a flattering documentary of a right wing Republican bureaucrat.]

They really should have put Karl Rove in charge of Iraq. He would have found a way to get the Shiites to overthrow Saddam, put the Sunni’s back in charge, then slaughter them all and blame it on the Kurds. Someone some where would have profited from this.

Blue Like Putin

For all of the lovely, lovely speeches about liberty and democracy and freedom and all those great American values those unreasonable Iraqi’s simply refuse to thank us for, George Bush stands by, completely oblivious or ignorant or just plain complicit as Russia slides back into dictatorship.

Under Putin, the Kremlin has steadily been increasing its ownership or control of television, radio, and internet news outlets. It just took over the Russian News Service (through proxy), and called a meeting with the journalists employed there. From now on, they were told, no coverage of the opposition. No bad news about the economy or politics within Russia. The United States is our enemy. And at least 50% of the newscast will be devoted to “happy news”.

And George Bush stands by and smiles and appears completely uninterested.

How on earth can Bush continue to declare that the goal of the war on Iraq is to bring freedom and democracy to that nation, while clearly conveying utter indifference to the state of democracy within Russia, or Egypt, or Libya, or Saudi Arabia?

Well, that’s not difficult at all to understand, unless you ever really believed the statements about democracy.

Donald Miller: Blue Like Disappointed

“Blue Like Jazz” is another one of those books by an evangelical Christian that describes a long, exotic path through an allegedly real and intellectually credible world encountering various challenges to Christian culture that ends up– eureka!–  exactly where it began, in a traditional, evangelical Christian faith. The message is– I am like you. I have the same standards for intellectual and scientific credibility that you thinking people do. I have just as low a threshold of tolerance for bullshit, deceit, distortion, and glibness as you do. And I know that many high-profile evangelists appear to be smarmy corrupt charlatans. And by golly, that don’t mean that what they’re preaching is wrong….

Donald Miller may not be conservative politically, but his discussion of Christianity itself, what belief means, who Jesus was, and how God operates in the world, is alarmingly like Billy Graham’s. In fact, I doubt the two would really find much to disagree about, even if Miller once protested against Bush. I can see “Uncle Billy” smiling indulgently and saying, “shucks, you young folk! Why, I’m glad you’re concerned about global warming. It’s better than having promiscuous sex.”

In fact, it’s quite striking how conventional his faith life is. He goes on and on about how he re-examines some major political or psychological idea and turns it upside down and learns that he is so humble that he was very mistaken when he had previously thought he was not humble enough.

If the issue is that most evangelicals don’t really have the passion to really live out the requirements of their beliefs… he’s scaring me. That is precisely what makes some evangelicals most like Jihadists: the absolute conviction that we are right, because God told us we were right, and nobody else can prove otherwise, and therefore we must take control, for God.

But Miller doesn’t really discuss the content of his faith very much. He talks a lot about going to church or not going to church and tithing or not tithing and how he hangs around with people who cuss and watch “South Park”, leaving one to wonder why he even accepts the idea that he should tithe. It might be a perfectly good idea. It might be an irrelevant relic of a completely different time and place. But he doesn’t explain why, other than to say that God wants him to. How does he know this? Because his friend Rick tells him? How does Rick know? What authority decreed this? Well, of course, probably scripture. But here we get a blank: how does he know what scripture means? Any searching intellect would ask these questions.

Why does Donald Miller’s brain seem to suddenly lose it’s curiosity when it comes to actually discussing the content of faith?

Miller seems to regard an evangelical faith as something hermetic and isolated. You either accept it or you don’t. That appears to me to based on the assumption that the Christian faith is a mysterious but insular little thing that is not affected by your actual behavior. Or is it that your faith is not necessarily indicated by your actual behavior?

10 Real Issues Donald Miller doesn’t deal with
in “Blue Like Jazz”:

1. Is the bible “infallible”? If it is, what does that mean? Should we stone adulteresses?

2. How do you know that a “good” humanist is going to hell, while you’re going to heaven?

3. Is there a hell? How do you know? Where on earth did you find out about it? Who told you? How do you know it’s true? Do you accept everything you are told without question?  (There is no hell: go back to your bible and research the issue.  Even most serious Christian apologists acknowledge that the concept of “hell” came from the Greeks, not from the Old Testament or the gospels.)

4. I’m curious about why you find Bush’s foreign policy something you can question, but not the virgin birth? What is the difference? Both involve tantalizing, ecstatic conceptions and then the pain of passing something impossibly large through a tiny factual reality. We will all require stitches.

5. Does God work miracles today, here and now? Should you pray for specific things you want?

6. At one point, Miller describes how, after his friend Rick persuaded him to start tithing, no matter how much money he was making, he suddenly started making more money.  Oh no– seriously?  Was this God answering prayer? Earthly reward for piety? Coincidence?


Donald Miller sees “Romeo and Juliet” with a girl and spoils the effect of the evening by observing that Romeo and Juliet were actually dead at the end of the play.

I think he meant to suggest that he himself was above the kind of sophomoric wisdom of Shakespeare’s play– that true love is magnificent and fulfilling and wonderful. Unfortunately for Miller, that isn’t the real message of the play in the first place, though that is the way most people tend to understand it nowadays. Shakespeare meant to show us that excess, of passion, of will, of impulse, leads to tragedy.

Donald Miller makes it clear that he is disgusted by the sense that Christians are “selling” the gospel, advertising it as a cure-all, fix-all, miracle cure for what ails yah.

But on his website, here is how he describes his newest book:

Every person is constantly seeking redemption (or at least the feeling of it) in his or her life, believing countless gospels that promise to fix the brokenness. Typically their pursuits include the desire for fulfilling relationships, successful careers, satisfying religious systems, status, and escape. Miller reveals how the inability to find redemption leads to chaotic relationships, self-hatred, the accumulation of meaningless material possessions, and a lack of inner peace. Readers will learn to identify in themselves and within others the universal desire for redemption. They will discover that the gospel of Jesus is the only way to find meaning in life and true redemption. Mature believers as well as seekers and new Christians will find themselves identifying with the narrative journey unfolded in the book, which is simply the pursuit of redemption.

Credit card orders accepted.

Period Period

Things I didn’t know until now:

“We don’t want to confront our bodily functions anymore,” Ms. Andrist said. “We’re too busy.” Doctors say they know of no medical reason women taking birth control pills need to have a period. The monthly bleeding that women on pills experience is not a real period, in fact.”.

NY Times, April 20, 2007

The Preposterous “Reign Over Me”

There really is not a single honest moment in this movie, or a single emotion that isn’t the product of manipulation and contrivance..

Did anybody sitting in the theatre for the first five or ten minutes believe, even for a split second, that Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is going to cheat on his wife? There is no way it’s going to happen in this movie, because this movie is not about what a real person in Alan Johnson’s predicament would have done–it is about what the audience thinks it would have done if it had been Alan Johnson.

In the same way, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) is not based on what a crazy man looks like or how he acts. It’s based on what the audience thinks Adam Sandler would act like if he was playing the role of a crazy man. We have Robin Williams syndrome (“The Fisher King”): make your disturbed characters lovably whacky so we can fool ourselves into thinking that we would be understanding and patient and kind if we knew someone like that. For God’s sake, open the door, it’s Adam Sandler– not some genuinely disturbed man who might actually do something disturbing!

Okay. So not everyone is annoyed with the idea that Alan Johnson hangs out with Charlie for hours and hours and, apparently, cannot imagine that it might be wise to phone his wife and let her know where he is. But then you couldn’t have the phony scene of the conflict with this wife.

Or that Dr. Oakhurst is an amazing psychiatrist who not only looks like a 19-year-old Playboy bunny, but must be the only psychiatrist in New York who doesn’t require patients to make an appointment, and who accepts referrals from dentists. Not only that, she is willing to drop everything on a moment’s notice so she can hang around with her patients during her off hours, and accompany them to court, but this remarkable PHD doesn’t seem capable of describing to a judge her qualifications.

Nor do I think the writers had the slightest clue about how the actual process of committing a patient to a psychiatric ward works.

The secondary characters in this movie are almost all mild stereo-types or one-dimensional cut-outs whose sole purpose is to validate your own saintly feelings about how understanding you are about Charlie’s mental illness. Alan Johnson’s wife– come on!– is the physically perfect wife of the actor, Will Smith: Jada Pinkett. Seriously. And Johnson’s crisis is that– get this– she doesn’t understand him. He feels constricted in his marriage. What’s so unbelievable about that?

Liv Tyler as a psychiatrist? This is one of the most astute casting choices since they made Meg Ryan a brain surgeon in “City of Angels”. You just look at Liv Tyler and think– yeah, she reminds me a lot of some psychiatrists I know.

Then you have the tiresome problem of creating dramatic tension by having Charlie resist being treated by the aforementioned saintly psychiatrist when, in real life, nobody seriously believes anyone could or should be treated if they don’t want to. In real life, Dr. Oakhurst says, ” You don’t want to talk to me? Fine. Good bye. Call me back when you do.” The movie makes a clumsy, awkward concession to reality by having Charlie say, “are we done yet” and Oakhurst replies, “if you want the session to be over, it is”, but after showing this three times, you realize that the movie is cheating. Either there is productive time in each session before Charlie wants to go, or the sessions are ridiculous. If there is productive time, then the dramatic tension is gone.

These scenes really consist of Charlie running away in the school yard yelling and giggling, “don’t chase me, don’t chase me”.  It is a lot of peoples’ dearest fantasy: to be able to behave like an asshole while beautiful people chase after us begging to let us be rude to them some more.

The only teasingly bright moment in the film is when Alan Johnson realizes that the reason Charlie likes hanging around with him is because he is the only one who doesn’t remind Charlie about his loss. Then Johnson immediately sets out to make Charlie acknowledge his loss, thus draining the potential for dramatic interest in that thread.

Bottom line: yes, this film is exploitive. By choosing to contrive a story rather than explore the reality of grief and loss, it attempts to cash in without paying it’s dues.

Sandler can act– check out “Punch Drunk Love”.  But not in “Reign Over Me” .

I’ve heard some people rave about Sandler’s acting in this film. With all due respect, I have no idea of what those people think good acting consists of. Sandler speaks louder and softer and louder again and softer again… and weeps. He doesn’t invent anything out of this character, doesn’t develop a rhythm or texture to him… every time he flew into a rage he conveyed, convincingly, what it would be like to see Adam Sandler imitate someone imitating a rage. There isn’t a moment in his performance that feels like it came from any particular insight into Charlie Fineman’s condition– it all feels external to me.

There are movies that do do a better job of dramatizing emotional disturbances than this one: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, for example. Mike Leigh’s “Naked”.

There are even more films that are equally bad or worse: “Prince of Tides”.

Films (good and bad) designed to make you feel good about your encounter with emotional (or mental) disturbance:

“What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”,
“I am Sam”,
“Beautiful Mind” (supposedly a true story: they left out all of the disagreeable characteristics of John Nash, including his first marriage, and his divorce).
“Prince of Tides”,
“The Departed” (the same bullshit trope about a psychiatrist begging the adorable patient to accept treatment while the patient resists).


Get off my case.

Some people seem upset when I point out to them that it is a kind of phoniness that Alan Johnson doesn’t cheat on his wife in this movie.  The fact that a lot of fans of the film resent my view on this tells me that I’m right.

Why, really, are they upset? Because they think I mean he should cheat on his wife in the movie.  No, I don’t care what he does in the movie as long as it’s believable.  As long as, given the reality constructed by the film, it is something that tells us something about the character in the film, not the audience.

Let me illustrate what I mean:  you could make a movie (like “Forrest Gump”) about a soldier who engages in numerous battles and sees numerous atrocities and rescues his friends and saves a baby from a wild dingo and never actually fires his weapon at anybody, to allow your audience the illusion that someone could serve “honorably” in Viet Nam by pretending that they didn’t go there to actually kill anybody, drop bombs, or even fire their weapons.  It caters to human vanity, to allow the viewer to enjoy two contradictory ideas simultaneously:  that serving in the military is  patriotic and honorable; that soldiers don’t kill anybody or blow anything up.

The film-makers want to titillate the viewer with the possibility that Johnson would cheat, while providing the cheap moral comfort of the idea that he didn’t, so you don’t have to feel bad about liking him.

The Alan Johnsons of real life, given the circumstances offered in the movie, do cheat. But we prefer our fairy tales. [added April 2008]

It should tell you a lot about this movie that Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were both considered for the role of Charlie Fineman. Come on— do you really think anyone serious about dramatizing an emotional breakdown would consider Cruise or Pitt for the role?  Okay– maybe Pitt.

Nobody here is interested in someone who can really act or can be convincing as an emotionally disturbed man, like, say, Christian Bale or Heath Ledger. What the producers wanted is someone the audience would love, because otherwise they would understand immediately how preposterous the storyline is. If you are not rooting for Adam Sandler (or Pitt or Cruise) because he is a charismatic star, you would never believe the behaviour of the psychiatrist, or the judge, or the cops, or even Alan Johnson, or Johnson’s kids, or his wife. That’s because what you are really watching is a projection of your own self-image: you feel like you are a good person who feels compassion for disturbed individuals, because you feel affection for Sandler.

Although… maybe you don’t..

It also tells you something that the music that Charlie listens to obsessively is Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, and The Who, rather than, say Tom Waits, or Dylan, or Leonard Cohen, or someone genuinely edgy. It tells you that someone is playing it safe– Springsteen, for example, is critically respectable, but not as original or interesting as Tom Waits. So the movie is not cheap, tacky Hollywood, but Binder doesn’t quite really want to do anything quite really daring.

One of Binder’s previous films, “The Upside of Anger”, featured an ending that was so ridiculously preposterous, it completely destroyed all of the dramatic tension built up by what was, until then, a fairly satisfactory narrative. Here, he doesn’t even get that far, the ending is almost equally preposterous and unsatisfying.

Spoiler: in “The Upside of Anger”, a woman’s husband disappears one day. She assumes he left her for his secretary and becomes bitter and disillusioned. She takes up a relationship with washed-up baseball star Kevin Costner; they have a crisis or two, save the family and…then they find her husband’s body in a pit behind the house. You realize that one day the man disappeared, and she never took the slightest steps to find out what happened to him. She just assumed he ran out on her. Without any possessions, of course. Without any evident planning or foresight. And she never called the police, and they never conducted even the most rudimentary investigation which would have revealed that his disappearance almost certainly was not planned or premeditated, and so on and so on…

And you are asked to believe that when he didn’t return to the house one day, it never occurred to his wife to take any action whatsoever to find out what happened to him. Binder didn’t think audiences would have too much trouble with this…


A Sweetheart Like You – Guy Davis Covers Dylan

If you have never heard Guy Davis’ version of Bob Dylan’s “Sweetheart Like You” you’re really missing something.

Unfortunately, I can’t make you sit down in a seedy bar with a glass of watery American beer and a plate of stale pretzels and a cloud of smoke and a worn-out sagging beauty eyeing you from the bar and the smell of urine and bacon drifting over the tables like yesterday’s politics so the song can start out at you just right, from the unbalanced jukebox in the corner, accordion and lead guitar poking through the din, and Guy Davis’ gravelly voice:

by the way, that’s a cute hat you’re wearin’
And that smile’s so hard to resist
What’s a sweetheart like you doing in dump like this?

All right– so that part is not so new. How about:

You know, I once knew a woman who looked like you,
She wanted a whole man, not just a half,
She used to call me sweet daddy when I was only a child,
You kind of remind me of her when you laugh.
In order to deal in this game, got to make the queen disappear,
It’s done with a flick of the wrist.
What’s a sweetheart like you doin’ in a dump like this?

That’s better. I like that line about “whole man”, not just “half”. What is the missing half? Sexuality? Manliness? Why is he “only a child”? Because he doesn’t understand that this woman, this “queen”, is ready to immolate herself for something that baffles even his royal Bobness, but which Guy Davis sounds like he understands better than anyone.

A “whole” man?  “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul”.   (“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”).

Bob being Bob then announces:

You know, a woman like you should be at home,
That’s where you belong…

It boggles the mine that the same expansive mind that wrote “Only a Pawn in the Game” and “Masters of War” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Visions of Johanna” and “Tangled up in Blue” could drop a dud like this on the listener. A woman belongs at home with her husband!

Well, it’s not really a “dud”. It’s an alive line. It’s a dumb idea, but a live one. So it’s a bad line, but not a dud. It’s poetry.

But she is out to make the Queen disappear, which means, she wants to get rid of all the dignity and prestige and meaningfulness that comes with being “at home” with her husband (who is himself probably out sitting in a bar with an assassin on his lap– wondering why she’s not at home where she belongs) and to that end, she makes herself subject to a man’s trivial whim, the flick of a wrist. That’s all it takes to persuade this woman to immolate herself.

Regrettably, Dylan doesn’t see women as whole persons. They only exist in halves, and always half of whatever the man in the lyric is doing. In “Things Have Changed”, he isn’t even fully evil because, after all, she is sitting in his lap, drinking champagne, so she is merely an accessory to the narrator’s despair. Her only hope for salvation is to rush home, grow some flowers and do some sewing, and wait for her man to arrive for dinner to validate her existence.

That does not mean it’s a bad song. No, it doesn’t.

You know you can make a name for yourself,
You can hear them tires squeal,
You can be known as the most beautiful woman
Who ever crawled across cut glass to make a deal.

Wow. You really owe it to yourself to hear Guy Davis scrunch those lines into that lovely bridge, without missing a half-breath or letting the tension slack, so that the “cut glass” really is a shock and the “make a deal” is inevitable.


The liberated Bob Dylan:

Can you cook and sew, make flowers grow
Do you understand my pain?
Are you ready to risk it all,
Or is your love in vain?

“Is Your Love Is Vain”, from Street Legal.

Independent Women of Song: “Someday Soon” and “One of These Days”.

Surprise– to me. These songs were recorded only seven years apart and both are by strong, independent female artists, and both are unusually polished and crisp recordings with outstanding session musicians. They even have similar intros, one with steel guitar, one with electric. And they are both about women on the cusp of breaking out. But Judy Collins is waiting for her man to make her life happen; Emmy Lou Harris is about to make it happen for herself. Both feel constricted by their families, and can’t wait to leave and stretch out their minds, if not their bodies. First, from “One of These Days”.

I won’t have to chop no wood
I can be bad or I can be good
I can be any way that I feel
One of these days

And from “Someday Soon”.

My father says that he will leave me crying
But I would follow him right down
The toughest road I know
Someday soon, going with him, some day soon….

Judy Collins was a soulful interpreter of great songs by the outstanding singer- songwriters of the 60’s, Dylan, Cohen, Tom Rush, Ian Tyson. She was a romantic, and I personally found her a bit suffocating at times– too many whale songs and saturated memories of dreamy trips to Paris or smudgy interior emotional landscapes. Emmy Lou Harris leaned a bit to country and folk, and added some memorable background vocals to Gram Parsons, Neil Young, and Dylan. Her songs are always tasteful and restrained– she resisted the temptations that made very good singers like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn go very bad.

Might be a woman that’s dressed in black
Be a hobo by the railroad track
I’ll be gone like the wayward wind one of these days

Unlike Collins, the narrator of Harris’ “One of These Days” isn’t counting on being rescued by some man. She’s going to break out on her own, and be her own person. Collins’ narrator is waiting for her cowboy to come so she can follow him wherever he goes. Okay– the song was written by a man, Ian Tyson, after all, whose woman, Sylvia Fricker, eventually chose not to follow anymore. In fact, Sylvia Tyson basically decided she could be “any way that I feel” and went to work for the CBC in Toronto while Ian cooled his cowboy heels at his ranch in Alberta, writing soulful ballads about how wonderful it was to ride your horse, look at the mountains, and live alone.

So should I add Sylvia Fricker’s “River Road”, another fine song about escape, into the mix?

Here I go, once again
With my suitcase in my hand
And I’m running away down River Road…

Once again, like Harris, she isn’t waiting around for the cowboy.

There’s an odd verse in “River Road”:

Well I married a pretty good man
And he tries to understand
But he knows I’ve got leaving on my mind these days…

When I heard that line, I immediately thought, “the man is real”. She’s talking about someone real, whom she knows will hear the song– he’s “a pretty good man”, and she pulls her punches: she doesn’t want to hurt him too much. But she has leaving “on her mind” these days… This isn’t The Dixie Chicks’ “Earl” getting a vicarious thrill out of name-calling. This is a mature woman who is tired of having to account for where she is, what she’s doing, where’s she going, where is she going to be, what’s she going to do, when are you here, when are you coming, what’s for dinner:

When I get that urge to run
I’m just like a kid again
A 12-year-old jail-breaker running away…

And we can add one more: Lucinda Williams’ “Side of the Road”. The narrator tells her man to pull over, she needs to get out of the car and stand in the tall wet grass and be alone–.

I wanna know you’re there, but I wanna stand alone
If only for a minute or two
I wanna know what it feels like to be without you
I wanna know the touch of my own skin
Against the sun, against the wind…

Okay — two more: isn’t the marvelous “Anchorage” by Michelle Shocked really about the same thing, contrasting two women who made different choices? Her friend:

Hey, ‘Chell, I think I’m a housewife…

…New York City, imagine that!
What’s it like to be a skateboarding punk-rocker?

…Leroy says hello

Leroy says, send a picture…

[added 2009-12] And always, always, always, the Leroys of the world say “send a picture”. We want to see this; we want to see what it’s like to escape, because we don’t generally have the courage or determination to do it ourselves.

[added 2012-07] Oh, what the heck: let’s not leave out one of the best songs of independence: Joan Armatrading’s  “Me Myself I”:

I set here by myself
And you know I love it
I don’t need someone
To come pay a visit
I wanna be by myself
I came in this world alone
Me myself I.

Best Looking Earnest Female Folk Singer Primarily Known as an  Interpreter of Other People’s Great Songs:

1. Emmy Lou Harris
2. Sylvia Fricker/Tyson
3. Jennifer Warnes

Least Best Looking Folk Singer Song-writer:

Tracey Chapman

Sorry.  But it’s okay– she really wouldn’t care what a man might think of her looks anyway.

The Man’s Perspective:

Runaway, by Del Shannon.

If he doesn’t know why why why she left, he should listen carefully to the songs discussed here.

John McCain Takes a Leisurely Walk Through Peaceful Downtown Baghdad on a Bright Sunny Day in Iraq

According to the New York Times, John McCain and other members of a congressional delegation recently took a walk through a Baghdad Market, browsing, drinking tea, haggling with the merchants, and getting their shopping done. Afterwards, all smiles, they reported that great progress was being made in Iraq. It was now safe to shop.

Mike Pence, a Republican from that centre of cosmopolitan diversity, Indiana, reported that it was just like taking a walk through a market down home. Of course, in Republican America, eventually he will be right.

What they did not report to the media was that they were accompanied by 100 American soldiers in Humvees, sharpshooters, attack helicopters, and bullet-proof vests. They didn’t report that traffic had been diverted away from the area for their visit, and access to the delegation by Iraqi citizens restricted.

The merchants themselves, after hearing McCain’s comments, were incredulous. They thought he was out of his mind. They reported that they were being driven out of business by the failure of the Americans to provide security.

This is more than just an interesting anecdote. Bush accuses congress of sabotaging the Iraq project by linking funding to a time-line for American withdrawal. Congress says, we don’t see that there is any progress. Rather than stay for another five or ten years and another 3,000 American lives, let’s get out now.

McCain supports Bush on this issue. It is rather striking that, in his search for some symbolic act of confidence, to show that there is real progress in Iraq, the only thing he could hit upon was this– a exercise in fakery and deception. This is a supporter of the war, remember. He wants us to believe things are getting better– there is progress.

McCain has also announced that he will copy George Bush’s campaign fund-raising strategy of lavishing side-splittingly hilarious adolescent nicknames upon donors of especially large amounts of cash. They will be called-…. wait for it… the McCain 100’s or McCain 200’s.

Doesn’t quite have the pizzazz of “ranger” or “most honored and lavishly-sucked-up-to-crony now, does it?” No wonder he is beginning to trail… wait for it… Mitt Romney! Yes, the only Republican candidate who has never cheated on his wife! The Mormon! Could it be that the fundamentalist wing of the party, that cohort that still thinks, given enough time, Iraqi’s will be lining up for macjobs at local fast-food outlets, has finally spoken?

It is very, very sad to see a man like McCain, who once seemed like such a promising alternative to all of the sold-out, compromised politicians of both parties, go down in flames.

Like Colin Powell, he has learned that it almost impossible to be honorable and a Republican.

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to get down on your knees behind someone like Dick Cheney and in front of someone like Jerry Falwell or James Dobson– those apostles of intolerance.