Monday, August 28, 2006

Let them be cast into the outer darkness . . .

Some changes. Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and Atrios have been deleted as links. Too much blah blah blah on politics and not enough jaw jaw jaw on people. Too much silence on the poor. They stood as relative deaf mutes on the destruction (scarcely a war) of Lebanon. Too much orthodox politics as usual, too much talking, not enough seeing, not enough listening.

We want to know their names no longer.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Why do I post to the Nuremburg Principles?

Here's why (via the yahoo news wire) . . . .

"A chief prosecutor of Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg has said George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes along with Saddam Hussein. Benjamin Ferenccz, who secured convictions for 22 Nazi officers for their work in orchestrating the death squads that killed more than 1 million people, told OneWorld both Bush and Saddam should be tried for starting "aggressive" wars--Saddam for his 1990 attack on Kuwait and Bush for his 2003 invasion of Iraq."

Sorry VDH and all nutty ships at sea, Mssr. Ferenccz prosecuted at Nuremburg and knows whereof he speaks. Your opinions, set against the consensus of international law, carry little weight in comparison.


Mick Jagger and the Bomb . . . .

HE has heard a lot of talk out of the corner of his ears lately about how satisfying it would be just to flatten Iraq as a cure to our problems there, and, while we're at it, to nuke Iran as well (no, this is NOT a straw man, this is something that one can read in the WSJ, WaPo, the NYT, on the rightist bloggosphere, and even in the MSM).

Ah, how satisfying it would be to have another go with the visitation of high doses of radioactivity in the biosphere. It worked so well in 1945 goes the official narrative to which so many still subscribe (nevermind the Truman administration's rejection of overtures from the Japanese to negotiate in the spring of that year, and never mind the enormous death toll due to cancer in the following decades [including American military service personel who visited the areas immediately following the attacks], and never mind that Truman was cynically motivated to flex his muscle against the Reds [and just what was the human and social cost of this machismo move?]) Indeed, so virtuous was the American use of the atomic bomb that someone recently noted to me that they wondered that no one had ever set off a nuclear device when such weaponry had been around for the past 60 years. Say what?

Such thinking is so lazy, one wonders to what extent those who think in these "nuke 'em" terms have willfully NOT worked out the consequences.

First, biology: what will the environment look like if we detonate this kind of stuff in our own house (i.e. planet earth)? Consider the simple shelling of a petroleum depot in Lebanon by Israel and how it has now created THE WORST environmental catastrophe in the history of the Mediterranean (though don't look for that to be covered in the pages of the WaPo or NYT). What will agriculture look like - forget in Iran - but in its neighbors to the east, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India when the prevailing winds carry enormous amounts of radiation into those countires? What will cancer rates look like? They are high enough in the areas around Chernobyl; in southern Iraq they are inflated due to our use of depleted uranium weapons. If we visit this on predominately muslim lands one can only imagine the consequences and the possibility of further attacks in revenge. And we will still wonder why they hate us.

Second, China and Russia: Allies of Iran - are we sure, are we very very sure, that this will not esculate into an end game for humanity, are we sure that we will not, as a result of our actions, be looking at confrontation with Russia and China of the genus nuclear? Over the years our allies have put up with a great deal from us, in part because they are as greedy, craven, and corrupt as our own country - France, Germany, Italy, such countries are also driven by self interest over humanitarian considerations, hence there has been no real power to reign us in since the collapse of the USSR. However the consequences of first use of a nuclear weapon on another country would be something that would likely prove the last straw - we would become a pariah, and other countries would very likely decide that it was time to arm themselves against a renegade Uncle Sam. Economic retaliation would be a near certainty, as would political isolation of the sort that North Korea has experienced for years. Military retaliation by nuclear powers could not be ruled out, nor could subsequent escalation. Sound alarmist? It may be - and hope that the scenario is dead wrong, that cool heads would prevail. But I have posted until I am blue in the face that the central reason you do not go to war is that, as Thucydides says, it is a dark door, and once it is opened you become the plaything of events and of history - you don't know what the end will be. Israel just learned that lesson in Lebanon, and sensible heads have learned that from our own expereience in Iraq, but sensible heads do not control our political, military, or media elites at this point.

Third, democracy: The peoples of this world do not want to undertake the destruction of a country that has as yet done no harm to the U.S., especially compared to what the U.S. has done to it. (Can you spell Mosadeq and Shah?) Shouldn't we obey the will of the people? Or does democracy mean only that we get to vote in elections that are run by the corporate media elite in which facts and images are grossly distorted to manipulate a people befuddled by misinformation, half-truths, and willful omissions? And does democarcy only mean we obey the will of our people in our own country? What about the common opinions of mankind that must be, according to Jefferson, consulted in the governance of nations? Does that mean nothing? Apparently so, since millions marched against the Iraq war prior to the attack on that country; Bush turned it on the protestors by musing about the marvels of democracy, not realizing that democracy also means consideration of opnions and discussion, not ruling like King George the Third by fiat. Anyway, the whole question of democracy has become very moot for this administration: When the democratically elected governments of Lebanon and Gaza included Hamas and Hizbollah, we ceased to believe in it and looked the other way when a proxy tried to remove them by force. I guess some just think that you should wield the scepter like Agamemnon and lord it over everyone (to paraphrase a recent sputtering email that suggested such governance was virtuous) - but such creatures do NOT believe either in democracy or in the principles upon which this country was founded. In addition they forget that Agamemnon was not only cursed and hated, but perished for the sin of hybris.

Fourth (a REAL clintcher) MONEY: Iran controls a vast amount of oil resources, not to mention the straits of Hormuz. If innocent dead civilians don't get through to you then maybe oil at $130 a barrel can. Visualize this: Iran survives the attack, but holds back its oil from the market. Yes, the rational thing to say is, "But countries want to sell oil - Iran won't do that". The rational, however, does not always prevail, in fact, rarely does, in history. If it did cool heads would have remained lucid and in command (a key ingredient of true leadership) post 9/11 and we would not find outselves in this horrible Near East conundrum.

"Pinkos" such as myself (you can recognize pinkos - they believe in human rights) often get smeared as being idealistic utopianists. But one should note that we've got nothing over the so-called idealists who would spread democracy via nuclear weaponry. If it didn't work in Afghanistan, if it didn't work in Iraq, I have no idea why some think it will work in Iran - except that this time we'll use the ultimate stick.

Such policy will prove satisfying only in the realm of fantasy, and it is to that region to which such thinking ought to be consigned.

In the end, you won't get no satisfaction.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Oregon Wine Country . . . .


HE and his significant other spent four glorious days in the heart of Oregon wine country where his sister and brother-in-law are semi-retired. Last time HE was out that way 20 years ago, there was nothing - just forest and cow pasture. Now it's vineyards by the dozen, wineries, and micro-breweries. Rolling hills, beautiful scenery, and a climate as close to Paradise as you can get - it's a not-so-little piece of Umbria that extends from the Columbia River and continues all the way down to California (and continues from there down to Napa). The flowers were in full bloom, even in August. We ate sweet plums and made apple pie right off the trees.

Advice to young people: read Classics in your spare time and open a B&B somewhere in the coastal foothills of Oregon.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Gods Do Exist . . .

The ancient Greeks were a truly remarkable people for the simple reason that they looked life in the face, and never, never blinked.

Consider for a moment their universe. The gods descended from heaven and visited on earth little but mayhem and suffering. The only comfort they give to abject humanity is death and with it, oblivion and non-existence. Such grim release was humanity’s only final hope. For the Greeks, the first divine principle was Eris, strife. The second was Eros, desire. From both came thanatos. After these entities came the divine family: Gaia and Ouranos; Chronos and Rhea; Zeus and Hera, Apollo and Artemis, Mars and Aphrodite – and all the other gods, even those that went unnamed.

For the most part, they are socio-paths, behaving as serial rapists, sexual predators, vindictive criminals, and adulterers surrounded by children wrought of suffering - Bacchus, Asculapius, Perseus, Herakles, and others.

Semele, Danae, Koronis, and various other mortals - all suffer as a result of this need for gratification and the stroking of frail egos. Compassion for Apollo was tearing the child out of Koronis’ womb when she was on the pyre after he slew her. Bacchus is not recognized by Pentheus and his flesh rendered in a exquisite sparagmos by his mother. It’s a macrocosm of humanity’s microcosm - of Paris and Helen, Phaedra and Hippolytus, Medea and Jason whereby desire means death.

And this is the world – a world of pure lamentation - which the Greeks faced each morning when they emerged from their hard beds of wood, straw, and lice. A kosmos of toil between the anvil of barren rock and the hammer of fiery sun.

Proof that these gods exist is ubiquitous. Consider for a moment Ares. Does he not run rampant today in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Congo, and particularly in America, where he visits fever upon our land? Consider mighty Aphrodite, how she can bedazzle us with her spell. Consider Eros, how sharp his dart is. Consider Bacchus, how powerful the grip of his vine and their succulent tendrils.

These powers have no ethics, no morality – in a perverse type of Zen, they simply “are” and behave as they will. But they are mightier, more tangible, more ubiquitous, and lay by the heel other religious systems. And here I think in particular of the three great religions, with their vital, important, and sadly futile emphasis on ethics and justice. Noble intentions - but no match for the sword of Ares, the kiss of Arphrodite, the intoxication of Bacchus.

How real they are, Eris and Eros, origin of the gods.

Not to accept them is to blink.


Sertorius and America’s Ultimate Defeat.

HE is not given to predictions – maybe because most that HE makes are based on a gut instinct and common sense, so rarely has HE been wrong when making one. HE’s best was on German reunification back in 1989, months before it happened.

Ahem . . . My prediction today is this:

Sertorius is noted by military historians as one of the so-called “founders” of guerilla warfare. Pompey, to finally deal with him, had to resort to the dubious (and for the Romans dishonorable) C.I.A. method of suborning disaffected lowlifes to procure Sertiorius’ assassination.

(NB – if you are NOT following me it’s because you’ve not read Plutarch’s Life of Sertorius . . . FOR SHAME!!!!)

Now Sertorius’ guerilla movement – as most successful guerilla movements – was based on an indigenous discontent with Roman rule in Spain; for some reason which I cannot possibly understand, native populations do NOT appreciate being invaded by force and then told how to live. Sometimes they resort to violence. Since they are on their home turf and know the culture and terrain, often they are successful.

So a prediction; the U.S. will leave Iraq with nothing to show but the shifting alliance of a Shiite Super state and enormous rage against us that will result in terrorism on our shores. You can’t stop it. And a second prediction: Israel will be forced to leave Lebanon. They cannot deal with a native insurrection. Moreover if they continue to behave foolishly (and we continue to act as chief enabler), well . . . need we spell out the potential consequences? One must learn to tread very carefully in a burning building, and neither the Americans nor the Israelis have learned this apparent lesson.

Part of being tough is also being wise. One should choose one’s battles selectively; not every situation has a Perpenna to resolve it (look it up!).


Eggplant Parmeasan . . .

1. In late April or early May, go to your garden center and get 4-6 eggplants. I prefer the traditional large dark and the small neon varieties.

2. Plant them in good quality soil with plenty of organic matter and fish fertilizer. Do not use commercial fertilizers - this is not an anti-corporate screed, but just a matter of experience. Manure and dead fish simply work best!

3. Water and feed regularly (use an organic feed every two weeks, and maybe throw a handful of lime under the plant every now and then).

4. Harvest when ripe and wash.

5. Rinse about 3 lbs of eggplant, (enough to make two layers in a large pan), cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, place the slices on paper towels and lightly salt them. Let them stand 10 minutes.

6. Pat dry with paper towels and then fry the eggplant in copious amounts of oil - I prefer olive oil but cannola will work fine too.

7. Cook the eggplant until golden brown and set it aside on a plate.

8. Meanwhile, saute one or two onions in olive oil, add two large cans of tomatoes and one can of sauce, and simmer til slightly reduced.

9. Make one layer of the eggplant. Spoon half the sauce over it. Sprinkle with about 1 c. of bread crumbs, 1 c. grated parmeasan cheese (the real stuff, not out of a box), and then cover with 1/4 thick slices of mozarella (REAL mozarella, not Kraft mozarella). Repeat with another layer.

10. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, covered for half the baking time.


*Remember this is not a precise recipe - you will want to get the feel for it and adjust ingredients according to your own tastes.


If You Want To Be Happy . . .

for a week, get married. If you want to be happy for a month, kill your pig. If you want to be happy for life, plant a garden.


Monday, August 07, 2006

Amidst Snares, Fire, and Brimstone . . .

life goes on. And August means that it's time for the heirloom Brandywines to come in. The big red cherry variety and the Rutgers have long since been dressing our table. And the Supersteaks and Big Boys are all heavy with juice. But nothing competes with the Brandywine.

How sad for those who have no experience with the red juices of these deceptively ugly fruit with an absolutely divine fragrance dribbling down their chins, perfuming their beard with a crust of fragrance thick as January ice.

If you've never had one off the vine eaten warm, or thick sliced with a slather of mayo on a piece of bread, you have not tasted of earth air or sun - you have not tasted of life in its most pure and distilled essence.

I have written a well received book, I have written articles that have made it into good journals. But the greatest thing I have created in life is the Brandywine. It requires a lot of sweat and dedication, but the reward is much greater, for the reward is eating from the earth - the reward is life.

A tomato is something you can touch and caress. Treat it with love and it will intoxicate you with its aromatic embraces, seducing you with its red, plump, passionate enticements. Feel it. Smell it. Squeeze it. Surrender yourself to it.

Scholarly reputation in comparison? Est fugans umbra.

No miracle grow, no chemicals, just manure, dead organic matter, and pure dead fish for fertilizer. Such perfume from such decay.

Perhaps that is what Jesus meant when he said, "I am the ressurection and the life".

Perhaps he was talking about Brandywines.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

And a Wag of the Finger . . .

to - surprise, surprise - STEPHEN COLBERT!!!!

Yes, Stephen Colbert for his historically inept repartee last night with Paul Hacket. Paul Hacket said that you can't introduce democracy through the barrel of a gun, to which Colbert quipped, "except of course for the American Revolution."

I usually like Colbert, but this was just plain dumb. Democracy was not introduced through a violent movement in the American Revolution; no one sought to impose democracy on anyone.

Rather, the revolution sought to SEIZE democracy from a tyranny. Washington, Adams, Jefferson - they were not imposing democracy on ANYONE, they were TAKING it for themselves.

This is the myth of democracy, that it is or can be "imposed". Nothing could be further from the truth - from Germany to France to India, it is TAKEN from within, not imposed from without.

And don't bet that everyone wants democracy. Many people are TERRIFIED of empowerment, of deciding their own destinies. I grew up in a household where the women absolutely derided feminists. You know why? Because they were intimidated with the idea that a woman could be anything other than a wife and mother. The idea of taking control of thier own lives mortified them. Similarly, there are PLENTY of people who would be quite happy in this country to relinquish free government and have a Bush dynasty. You know how I know that? Because I've TALKED TO THEM!!!!

Do NOT assume everyone has a desire for democracy - would that they did !

O homines ad servitutem paratos!


Do ya think Thucydides . . . .

was maybe, just maybe, on to something when he said that the greatest show of force was restraint? And when he said that the primary hazard of war is that its outcome is unpredicatable?


Thursday, August 03, 2006






Summer Reading . . . .

La Naour's The Living Unknown Soldier - a fabulous exploration of grief and loss in post WWI France.

John Hall's Michaelangelo and the Reinvention of the Human Body (WOW!!!)

Ingrid Rowland's compiled essays on Renaissance art from the New York Review of Books (The Sacred and Profane in Renaissance Art) - fun - good for getting ideas for further reading!

Robert Graves' Good-Bye to All That.

Khalil Ghibran, The Vision. (A beautiful and transcendent reflection on life by a great Lebanese writer).


Whiskey Bar . . .

has been a great read during this crisis in Lebanon as has Juan Cole.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006


6-8%: Those in the U.S. with a sufficiently developed moral sense who know that universal health care, living wages, education, equal rights, day care for all and a solid social safety net for those left behind to help them on their feet are things that are basic human rights and need to be gauranteed by the community as a whole and the Constitution.

40-50%: The Frightened: They have some sense of collective social responsibility but are easily manipulated through their fear and self-interest.

35-40%: The Lost: supporters of torture; people who put party and the cult of personality above the national interest; the intellectually lazy; those who dismiss the law; those who get their news from talk radio; the ones who have an opinion about Islam without ever having a., cracked the Quran or, b. have never actually visited a Muslim country; those who think the highest pursuit in life is the love of a lousy buck, who think that they can govern the country and the world in the same way that Lee J. Cobb in On the Waterfront ran the docks, shaking some poor schlepp down for his union dues all the while smacking him screaming "GIMME! GIMME! GIMME!".

Coming next: The Realm of the Gods.