Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Rambling Thoughts on Politics

It's been several months since I've addressed the nation -- indeed, the world -- on politics.

Barack Obama

I don't know what to think about President Obama. That's not exactly a bold thing to say, is it? Trust me, I'm not afraid of using this web log to take a strong stand. I really, truly, honestly don't know what to think about him.


What bothers me so much about this is that the subject of torture has somehow migrated from right vs. wrong to left vs. right. When the Abu Ghraib photos came out, I don't recall anyone on the right saying, "Yes, we Americans are torturing our enemies, but it's yielding valuable information." No. Everyone was shocked and angry. Republicans were mad at the likes of Lyndie England, along with any partisan leftist who dared inquire whether these sordid actions were systemic mandates.

Now, the logic from an alarming number of the right is that torture is necessary to protect the country. This is further evidence that contemporary Republicans have a cowardly streak in them. Abandoning a moral code in the face of danger is cowardly.

The State of the Republican Party

Speaking of Republicans, there's a debate right now in Republican circles about the best way to return to power. The Cut Taxes/Bring It On/Remember 9/11 approach hasn't quite gotten it done recently, so what next? Should the Republicans move towards the conservative center or the extreme right?

In a two-party system, we can't afford for one of the parties to be so messed up. We need a somewhat respectable party to balance whatever ways in which the Democrats push the sliders too far to the left.

Update: Apparently, a Republican official named Lawrence Wilkerson discusses this issue of torture and the decline of the Republican party.

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

Less important but still busting my chops as a Republican, is the damage that the Sith Lord Cheney is doing to my political party.

He and Rush Limbaugh seem to be its leaders now. Lindsay Graham, John McCain, John Boehner, and all other Republicans of note seem to be either so enamored of Cheney-Limbaugh (or fearful of them?) or, on the other hand, so appalled by them, that the cat has their tongues. And meanwhile fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.

When will we hear from those in my party who give a damn about their country and about the party of Lincoln?

When will someone of stature tell Dick Cheney that enough is enough? Go home. Spend your 70 million. Luxuriate in your Eastern Shore mansion. Shoot quail with your friends--and your friends.

Stay out of our way as we try to repair the extensive damage you've done--to the country and to its Republican Party.

-- Lawrence Wilkerson

If it's true that Americans were torturing people to uncover a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq to justify going to war, does it get uglier than that? And going back to Obama, should he help expose the torturers, or is he playing it smart by distancing himself from it? I dunno.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

On Writing Well

Even I'll admit that I haven't been writing much lately. Fortunately, I'm not the only writer in the family. Max and Luke have been composing fiction. Let's start with Max's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Max

Once upon a time, there was a big pokey ball. And the big pokey ball one day hit the ground. And then it exploded. And then they made a new one. But it was different. It was different because the inside of the other one didn't have anything in it. And the other one, it had some stuff in it, and the stuff was metal. And this time, when it hit the ground, it didn't explode. It bounced up, but it made a big hole in the ground. And it made a BIG explosion. And it made a new cloud. And the man in it, in the crane that has the ball, he wished for a wishing diamond. And one day the whole crane got broken. But they made a new one, and it was blacker. And the other one, the ball went bouncing away. So they made a new one. And this time, the metal was darker. And this time, they made a face on the crane. And then they made an even better crane. And this time the crane had two balls. One was little and one was big. And then they made a new ball, and this time the ball was orange. And it was medium sized.

The End

Fine art both invites and resists interpretation. With Max's story, it's easy to get so caught up in the rising action and falling action of the plot that you miss the underlying symbolism. The crane as a Christ figure. The pokey ball as the symbol of post-industrialism. The man in the crane as a communist sympathizer. Indeed, the conflict between capitalism and communism is no less evocative than the battle between Good and Evil. Notice the biblical style. Replace "And" with "And it came to pass," break it up into new paragraphs, and add paragraph numbering, and you have scripture.

He even uses the King James trick of pulling an adjective out of one sentence and forming a second sentence. Instead of writing, "It had some metal stuff in it," he wrote, "It had some stuff in it. And the stuff was metal." No, concerned prigs and marms, that sentence does not need to "be tightened." It's majestic. It's emphatic. The metal is significant. Think about the metal. Ponder it. Revel in it, you sinning fascist. While doing so, notice the sexual imagery, and notice that the sexual imagery is underlying.

Like all art, Max's story is open to multiple interpretations. However, it's important not to get so caught up in critical conjecture that you dismiss the story. It is a story that is not real, but is reality itself. It does not mean, but is.

Now, on to Luke's story:

Date: April 28, 2009
Name: Luke

Once upon a time there was a horse. And it couldn't talk.

The End

I feel the same way about post-modernism that I feel about hip-hop music. When will this derivative self-parody be recognized as the fad it is and go away like disco? I don't want to be too hard on Luke, because he's a young writer with plenty of promise, but anyone can do that kind of thing. "Once upon a time there was a red wheelbarrow, and it wasn't glazed in rain water. The end." Please. I prefer his neo-post-Colonial fiction.