The continuation of Skiing Uphill and Boregasm, Zug is 'the little blog that could.'

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Name: Ed Waldo
Location: of The West

I am a fictional construct originally conceived as a pen name for articles in the Los Angeles FREE PRESS at the 2000 Democratic Convention. The plume relating to the nom in question rests in the left hand of Hart Williams, about whom, the less said, the better. Officially "SMEARED" by the Howie Rich Gang. And now, smeared by Fox News and Sean Hannity, as well! Plus, FEARED by Ted Nugent! AND Hated by the Freepers!

Friday, May 4, 2007

Walking By The Wounded

What the hell is wrong with us?

Why do we keep acting as though only the dead in Iraq matter? (And, sadly, I must pass over the literally countless Iraqi and Afghan dead and wounded, who are only known to their loved ones, and will never be listed in any document or abstract, as if their lives did not matter).

Oh, the dead matter quite a lot, but they don't matter nearly as much as the living, the wounded, the maimed. But you wouldn't know it to listen to the rhetoric. The obsession has been with the number of dead -- as if this were a sporting event.

As I write this, the grisly "official" scoreboard lights up this number: 3,398.

(And you can check http://icasualties.org/oif/ for a more credible breakdown of the various statistics.)

We have grown so used to the satanic majesty of our own government's propaganda that we are continually sucked into this phony figure. Phony, why? Because, as we have known from the beginning, the numbers are cooked.

Only soldiers actually killed at the SCENE are considered war dead, while suicides, soldiers who die of their wounds, or ANY OTHER DODGE to minimalize the casualty figures are -- admittedly -- kept off the books, so that we can pretend that this sanitized war isn't a real war, but is, in fact, a Saturday Morning Kiddie Cartoon: bloodless, safe, comforting and bland.


As William Tecumseh Sherman noted: War is hell. And, as we ought to know by now, Hell is ruled by the Prince of Lies (in this case George W. Bush).

It is not the dead that matter, kiddies. It is the LIVING. The dead are beyond our poor ability to add or detract. They are beyond human ken. In a very real sense they ARE just numbers. Only the grief of the living is real: the sorrow, the pain and the loss that their friends and relatives will feel, like a phantom limb, will go on, but, as a matter of cold, hard calculation, the dead are dead, and they are buried.

Our connection with them is severed.

But the wounded will be with us for the rest of our lives. We will see them in their wheelchairs, with their artificial limbs, their scarred and ravaged faces in the shopping malls, the fast food joints, in the crowd at baseball games and football games, on the freeways, from sea to shining sea.

And we will be paying for their disabilities for the rest of our lives.

Why do we not speak of them? Why do we pretend that dying is the great problem?

As the Australian anti-war masterpiece, "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" goes (by Eric Bogle in 1972: the finest anti-war song I've ever heard)

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head,
And when I woke up in me hospital bed
And saw what it had done, well, I wished I was dead --
Never knew there was worse things than dying.

It is not the dead who must live with the horror: it is the living, and we do the wounded a profound disservice every time that we ignore their ongoing, living suffering in favor of quoting the FALSE death statistic, as though that were all that mattered.

Certainly it matters, but not nearly as much as the ongoing hell, the "worse than dying" hell that the wounded of this hellspawn's war will live with every day for the rest of their lives.

My great-great grandfather returned from three years' service in the Civil War and was never able to do a full day's work, although he was a farmer, and managed to continue in that profession with the help of his family. Even though he was never listed as a casualty, and never wounded in battle, he was never quite "right." He was sickly for the next 25 years. He died in his fifties, a mere four years after his own father, who had lived to 81, and his widow had to carry on without him for another thirty years.

Were they not casualties of that war as well?


So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed,
And they shipped us back home to Australia.
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane,
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla.
And as our ship sailed into Circular Quay, (key)
I looked at the place where me legs used to be,

So, too, the officially wounded, and the wounded, like my grandfather, who will never be listed in any statistical abstract, and whose application for veterans' benefits will get the classic bureaucratic runaround, perhaps admitted, but likely denied, years and decades hence. (Think of Agent Orange or Gulf War Syndrome.)

And their pain and grief, if history is any indication, will be consciously forgotten and denied, as the nation seeks to pretend that the horrors of war are behind it.

Again, as Bogle's masterwork notes:

And the old men march slowly, all bones stiff and sore,
They're tired old heroes from a forgotten war
And the young people ask "What are they marching for?"
And I ask meself the same question.

(You can hear the whole song sung by Eric Bogle at this official Australian government website.)

War is less about the dead than the living, and we perform an obscene rite in ignoring them.

As of this day, that hidden "official" number stands at: 24,645 (even though it is over 25,000 without jiggering the books).


Thursday, May 3, 2007

Soldiers Face Punishment Over Blogs

That's the headline this morning.

Funny timing, obviously, but then, this war has been about abusing the troops from the git-go.

You might remember that Bush, Cheney et al swore up and down how much they loved the troops, and got a big vote out of them, and have, ever since, screwed them in every possible way.

Here's what REUTERS says:
... Soldiers in war zones are already subject to restrictions on blogging and public posts. But the Army's new regulation could affect service members who have returned from war zones and started blogs about their combat experiences.

Under a new directive issued in April, soldiers must consult with their immediate supervisor and an officer responsible for what's known within the military as operational security, or OPSEC, for a review of planned publications.

Reviews will be needed for Web site postings, blog postings, discussions on Internet information forums and discussions on Internet message boards, according to the Army directive.

E-mail that will be published in a public forum is also subject to review under the regulation....
But here is what the Associated Press says, in the Washington Post, the Houston Chronicle, etc. etc. etc.

The tag reads:

By LOLITA C. BALDOR Associated Press Writer
(Is it just me, or is there something WEIRD about AP writers' names? They all sound fake, and way too often, they sound like porn pseudonyms. "Lolita"? Who the heck names their daughter Lolita? These phony-sounding names seem to be showing up with disquieting frequency.)

Army Stresses Consequences of Soldiers' Loose Lips on the Internet
(NOTE: not the best headline the WAPO ever ran, but onward. HW)

... Some Web logs, also called blogs, raised alarms this week, suggesting the Army was cracking down anew on soldiers who have blogs. But the bulk of the regulations released April 19 mirror rules published in 2005 that required soldiers to consult with commanders before "publishing or posting information" in a public forum.

The regulation is not as explicit as the one issued by commanders in Iraq two years ago that requires soldiers in war zones to register their blogs with the military.
See? Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along.

After reading the AP story, you'd wonder why they even bothered writing it, if, in fact, there was no actual news in the story, as REPORTED BY the news story.

As we all know, the top secret operational battle plans of our troops in Iraq are a matter of extreme national security, and, loose lips sink ships of the desert. (Huh? Really?)

On second thought, you don't suppose that this censorious reminder (the first to be explicitly extended to troops back home) might just be about keeping the troops from talking about their serial abuse at the hands of this administration, about the futility of this quagmire in the sand, and about the fact that the troops (in direct contradiction to John McCain's outrageously B.S. statement to Jon Stewart on the Daily Show last week) DON'T believe in "the mission" anymore.

With apologies to Neil Young:

Hey there, quagmire in the sand
is this conflict at your command?
I mean, if THAT got out, the last shreds of rationalization about this lunatic war and its grisly odometer of death and maiming might be swept away by the truth told by military bloggers.

And we certainly can't be having THAT, can we?


Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Caesar’s Wife

The principle, as elucidated by British writer, Philip Hensher, is this:

There is, in fact, a much more appropriate political principle to be applied, and one which seems to have been forgotten ... The principle, an ancient one, is this:

"Caesar's wife must be above suspicion."

In the normal course of affairs, a man is entitled to a presumption of innocence; if a politician commits a criminal act, he does not lose that right. But what ought to be plain is that if extensive evidence of wrongdoing surfaces, the politician should resign immediately. To hang on, insisting on the presumption of innocence, can only damage the government. I can't be alone in finding the sight of politicians saying that their right to keep their job until found guilty is a human right distinctly nauseating.
To which Hensher adds:

Any administration neglects questions of propriety at its peril. (The Independent (London), Mar 23, 2001)
The writer was referring to a scandal of Roman government that he was applying to a scandal of “Pre-911” British government; I’m applying it to “Post-911” American government—which ought to convince you that the principle has been, if not a wise one, certainly a practical one—if there’s a difference.

The actual story isn’t so clear-cut* (they never are), but the principle has survived because it explains a truth of politics: the IMPRESSION of scandal is enough to paralyze a government.

[* It’s an interesting story of Roman manners and mores, which begins:

“Each year the Vestal Virgins, together with a select group of patrician ladies, conducted a secret rite to the Bona Dea ...”]
It’s certainly what is happening now. Scandal is a daily event. This week it’s an escort service/hooker scandal. (I know something about these things, and trust me, it’s about prostitution, no matter what the “legal” niceties and loopholes.)

Also on the opposite end of the spectrum from Vestal Virgins, Paul Wolfowitz, who moved from being an architect of the Iraq war at the Pentagon to president of the World Bank, where he wangled improper promotions and pay raises for his girlfriend.

He says he’s going to “fight” to keep his job.

Is this not Caesar’s Wife?

The Attorney General of the United States of America, Alberto Gonzales— our “Chief Law Enforcement Officer"—is going to hang on until he can no longer “be effective.”

When U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before Congress this week, a man in the audience held up a legal pad keeping count of every time the nation's top lawyer said he did not recall something. By day's end, Gonzales' memory had failed more than 70 times. (MARY FLOOD, Houston Chronicle, April 20, 2007)

Is this not Caesar’s Wife?

Er ... actually, it is. The 2006 election proved the wisdom of that ancient prescription: the public, sick of scandal, overturned the government in convincing fashion. “Throw the bums out!” quoth the public.

Without any pundit, seemingly, ever referring to Caesar’s Wife, many innocent Republican legislators (if that’s not actually an oxymoron) were tried and convicted in the court of the ballot box, and their terms executed.

The presumption, of guilt with PUBLIC officials is the opposite of the private presumption, which is: innocent until proven guilty.

Of course, given that Bush has publicly admitted massive felonious wiretapping, etc. etc. etc. actual impropriety doesn't seem to be an impediment here. So we have the clash of two different Western traditions: the tradition of public accountability and the honor of public service, and the tradition of grabbing everything that can be seen (so popular among nearly all three-year-old humans).

What Caesar's wife had to say on the matter is not recorded.


Monday, April 30, 2007

Facts Is Facts Or Is They?

One of the most intriguing observations I've made over the course of my misspent career (to me) is the manner in which "facts" alter with the passage of time and the new contexts that history tosses in.

Example: When I wrote these words in the local newspaper in August 2003, they meant one thing, without irony, but today, they mean quite another:

War was just a necktie party
August 8, 2003

... Lynchings are illegal, no matter how bad a guy the lynchee is. This diabolical spin that being against the war equals being in favor of Saddam Hussein would be laughable, were it not so forcibly advanced by the same hypocrites who wailed, squawked and pounded their chests for the "rule of law" when their case was, at best, a technicality, and their motives were demonstrably the opposite of the Simon-pure righteousness they so endlessly and loudly espoused - and still espouse.

We began by attempting to murder Saddam in cold blood in an undeclared war, and we conclude by playing "wanted: dead-or-alive" sweeps. But, really, it was a necktie party and remains a vigilante's approach to law ...

So, too, last night, as I watched the History Channel's "end of the world" double feature, with the first show/hour devoted to "The Antichrist."

I was gratified that they explained how the whole "rapture" schtick was the 19th century invention of an English clergyman, even though it's become wildly popular in the U.S.A. Naturally, they needed a contemporary American evangelical to explain it.

And, without a hint of irony (I guess they don't watch these things at the History Channel) they presented it exactly as filmed a couple of years ago. The evangelical was from a "megachurch" in Colorado Springs.

And history has altered that context. One cannot but think of the strange continuing scandal with the attempted theocratization of the Air Force Academy. But that was merely a minor issue. The big bomb was (if you were paying attention) that the "spokesman" for the rapture/apocalypse crowd was the Rev. Ted Haggard— complete with footage of him addressing the faithful, and an explanation of how he was president of a national coalition of evangelical churches.

But we might recall from last fall that Ted Haggard sort of fell from grace with his methamphetamines-and sex-with-a-gay-hooker-in-Denver scandal.

And the entire nature of the "historical" program was altered into a near-state of absurdity. The History Channel was now running a documentary on surrealism that had been more or less "straightforward" a year earlier (no pun intended).

But that wasn't the pièce de résistance.

Good old 60 Minutes—which USED to be pretty good, before the Kreeps in the Front Office got 'hold of it—had kreepy Katie Couric in the opening credits, and her sole duty was to introduce Andy Rooney. I have zero doubts that she was shoehorned in at 60 Minutes to give her quick "journalistic" credibility. I even recall some extremely revolting segments she's done in the past couple months.

But Katie's no journalist, as she proves every weeknight.

Don't doubt for a moment that sticking her into 60 Minutes was a decision made by the Entertainment Brass, and was NOT an idea from the venerable old CBS News warhorse. Sure, it's corrupt, but it is a minor corruption in a long series of missteps of a news division fallen on hard times—whose salad days are, increasingly, long gone.

The proof was the extremely OFFENSIVE little last piece (the George Tenet interview took up the first two segments of the show, with highly suspect sound edits that clearly cut him off in mid-sentence time and time again).

Steve Kroft did the whole "why are we letting crazy people buy guns?" obligatory "think" piece as a response to the shootings at Virginia Tech a couple of weeks ago. Well and good. Lord knows every other idiot news organization has run a variation of the standard he said/she said "gun control" story, and there was nothing particularly ennobled or new about this.

He could have just about phoned it in: the congresswoman from Long Island whose bill COULD have PREVENTED THE TRAGEDY. The spokespersons for the one side. Even the NRA kind of backing (at least not opposing) the idea.

And then, in an extraordinarily creepy and journalistically corrupt moment, they RERAN an interview they'd done a couple years ago with a mental health organization spokesman for the "she said," portion of the "debate."

I don't know about you, but to me, having made the remarks in ONE context, it was utterly corrupt, bordering on libelous, to present them in real time, almost AS IF the spokesman were making them IN THE CONTEXT of the Virginia Tech shootings. Because of the NEW context, he comes off as a thoughtless, insensitive, potentially monstrous boob. Or worse.

Kroft makes a couple of disclaimers (for instance, the organization has changed its name in the intervening span of months or years), but it is merely putting lipstick on a pig. It's no more "journalism" than mashing up Bush or Cheney's speeches to make them say stupid and/or crazy stuff for a comedy bit is—which I've been known to do, but AS comedy, NOT journalism.

The "Tiffany" network's legendary news division looks more and more and more like a cheap, rhinestone-encrusted tiara in the coiffure of a third-place beauty contestant with head lice.

And, finally, as if to add the necessary counterpoint, I will remind you of last week's essay "All Wind, No Wood, Part II" in which we discussed the mythological meaning of "Coyote" in the context of Native American tribes, and his preeminant place as the oft-times bumbling, sometimes evil trickster god, corresponding vaguely to Loki or Hermes in European mythology.

Got that? Now, in that context, consider this official news release of a couple weeks ago from the US Geological Service, overlooked by the fine "journalists" at CBS, perhaps, but noted herein:

Media Advisory : Coyotes in the Washington, D.C. Area: Free Public Workshop
Released: 4/16/2007 10:43:58 AM

Typically thought of as a symbol of the West, coyotes have expanded their range to include the Washington, D.C. area, the last major urban area in the continental U.S. to become their territory. Based on Dr. Gehrt and Dr. Riley's work in Chicago and Los Angeles, where coyotes have lived among people for years, the workshop will discuss how people can get along with coyotes, how to keep them from becoming a nuisance, and how we can keep them wild.
Not a symbol of MY West (see "Smokey and the Bandits" for more), perhaps, but it might be the symbol of Washington D.C.s IDEA of the West. Now, in that context:

Happy Walpurgisnacht (see Faustus by Goethe, or "Dracula's Guest" by Bram Stoker—actually the deleted first chapter of Dracula). Or, in the more common parlance, Happy May Day Eve.

It sure feels witchy, anyway.