Monday, January 15, 2007

Raphie Frank: Self Portrait of a Poet of the Possible

The Kiss :: (aka

The Kiss (Theatrical Publicity for the World Premiere of Adam Rapp'sBlackbird at London's Bush Theatre) by Raphie Frank

Let me tell ya'll a bit about what I am doing here because I get a little all over the place over on my blog Snipes, Logomancy and So So Psychosis [blog no longer online], sister blog to Raphie Frank: Business Artivist. SLSSP is largely an art and social and political issues oriented blog, with a little Bukowski and jaded optimist badass boojum cynical humour thrown in along with a little hippy, dippy, peace, love and happiness inanity to boot or embrace, because, well, you see, that's who am I am, ALL OF IT, and unfortunately I GIVE A DAMN, and, truth be told, it kind of sucks because I'm one of 'em mixed breeds.

Half Zen, Half-Christian and half-Jew  by birth -- meaning Jew enough for Hitler even though I am baptized and confirmed  as an Episcopalean of the Jefferson, not Jesus, toting kind --  and, yes, .5 + .5 + .5 adds up to one in my quantum notebook, I'm a little bit Midwestern family-revering Piitsburgh Pennsylvania, a little bit ornery Texan, a little bit foofy France and a whole lot Washington D.C, New York and Czech Republic Havel-loving YAP; respectively where I grew up, have lived for about 17 years, and where I spent 3 years back in the  '90's as a Young American in Prague, with the extraordinarily loving spirit that goes by the name Erica Soehngen, my ex-girlfriend-not-quite-wife now happily married to the talented photographer, producer and filmmaker, Robert Palumbo,  watching and literally taking part in history.

Work-wise I'm a union film lighting technician who has had dirt beneath his fingernails and been flat broke, busking bridges for spare change to buy cabbage and eggs, but I've also been a lighting designer and lit the National Theater stages in Prague and Warsaw, not to mention the self-same stage Havel walked and Petr Lebl -- famed theater director -- hung himself over in, I believe, disappointment at where he saw the world going. And  for four years plus I had the privilege of working with  Mr. Brian Reisinger, my mentor, as Senior Producer and Junior Partner at swandivedigital, where I had the honor of working with the likes of The Markle & Shubert Foundations, non-profits that have made a serious difference in the world in art, foreign policy and matters of health and national security; along with such talented artists as Robert Margolis an indie filmmaker you will hear from in the future, mark my words, and Elan McAlliser, producer of the Metamorposes on Broadway.

Artistically, in addition to lighting design, I am an interviewer, writer, singer and songwriter, photographer, graphic designer and sometimes videographer, but I believe my real art is thinking thoughts nobody else has thought and using that knowledge to try to bring people together because I learned long ago, thanks to all my various experiences, that, when you get right down to it, we're all far more alike than we are different. Barack Obama was right. There's red in the blue and blue in the red, but there's also a whole lot of black and white and yellow and turban too and I've got a bit of an obligation, near as I can figure it, to let other people know. because, you see, when everybody gets to thinking they're right, that's when you know they've all just gotta be wrong. It's just common sense, or else it's all crazy, meaning not just the other guy, but all of us too.

Now, any way, you may ask yourself, in my 39 years, how did I get to do all that? The fact of the matter, and you all need to know this, because transparency is a big part of  what I'm after, is that I am a child of privilege. My mother was a hell of a lawyer, Phi Beta Kappa at the University of Michigan and pioneering groundbreaker as part of the freshman class of women Graduates at Princeton (Sociology) in 1962, and my Dad... well my Dad has been an Ivy League professor at Yale and Princeton, a foreign policy planner, a banker and now he's a semi-retired gadfly about Europe, helping Eastern Europeans fend for themselves in a capitalistic vein forty years after he went down to Africa to teach in pre-Idi Amin Uganda with my Mom who dubiously has the distinction of first woman ever to drop out of Princeton (to marry my father), which kind of makes sense because about 25 years later she flew the coop to Texas from D.C., leaving a law practice where she was a partner to follow her heart and find herself a fairytale Prince, which she found about ten years after my father found himself a Princess.

And me? Me? Divorce and all, a real 21st century family we are, I still got sent to good schools all along the way, the best schools in fact, and I learned how to learn, maybe a bit too much, at free-thinking, mind delimiting Vassar College under the tutelage of the likes of Professors James Steerman, Mark Burrell and Andy Bush, the Spanish teacher who taught me that teachers have feelings too, but that's another story for another time... Suffice it to say, though, that even then my genetic, historical and social background, and personal experiences had me thinking a bit different, because you don't get to be captain of the Ultimate Frisbee team AND the Ski team if you're not prepared to reconcile a few contradictions related to class structure, life outlook and political, not to mention sexual, orientation.

Any way, point is, I know as John Edwards knows, that a lot of other people don't have the same back-up I have had or the same opportunities, and I feel a responsibility to try to do my darndest to give other folks the same chances I was lucky enough to have, because we're ALL a  family, and in a globalized world family ALL really means ALL. It includes the other guy no matter what shape his hat or what cloth his clothes.

Truth be told, I've got to tell you, my folks haven't much agreed with the way I've gone about things -- they are from a different day and age after all, a day before the quantum Internet Age and they haven't quite keyed in -- in fact I don't think just about anybody has, to this little notion I've got that the culture wars of the Sixties have returned, but silently this time, and they are being played out in bars like Hank's and The Levee in Brooklyn and on social software sites like My Space and Flickr. Just call it Generation XY, a two in one proposition coupling all those Gen-exers trapped between idealism and despair, and all those socially conscious Gen Y types who came just a bit after us.

But my parents are good people and I love them to death and until death and I know they love me and see me working my ass off and are just worried about me sometimes, thinking I'm reaching for something a bit too big, worldwide Velvet Revolution of a collective nature. And that's why I'll be doggoned if anyone but me gets to say a cross word against them because I kind of think they did something right, teaching me to make my own way, but for all of us, and I'll hand it to them, they are both trying to understand this whole business artivist / boojummy notion and that means a lot to me, a heck of a lot, because, you see, we're a family, folks, even if a divided one, and that's what matters; and families work it out in the end, because the truth is, we're all much better together than apart and I figure that if that applies to our nuclear family, then maybe we can just expand the notion a bit to include familes of nations and families of heart.

Call me an impractical idealist, a real poet of the possible with an annoying persistent dedication to a better world , a streak that has coursed through these Raphael IV veins perhaps all the way back through Hermes, Mercury and Bacchus to my name-forebearer, Thoth, the Egyptian Trickster of Thought/Time, so I'm just going to have to blame my parents and their parents and their parents before them for that because they taught me to try my hardest and to do my darndest to make a difference in the world.

At 39, I am often late to the party, but I always get there no less so than Americans, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, always do the right thing... after they've exhausted all the alternatives.

Think about that and maybe you will understand why I'm here blogging on Friendster -- which really ought to open the comment section to outsiders so that our FRIENDS can come here and have their say. Just a thought and if you agree, let them know -- and not My Space, and why I'm not writing for Interview Magazine or The Nation or the New York Times, which, if one might forgive my hubris -- I believe I could do. And why is that? Well it's easy folks. Friendster is about TOGETHERNESS and COMMUNITY and FRIENDS and that's what Zightlight, Boojummy, Worldzight, FotoLocket, Applesnipe and many other pilot projects I am working on are all about... even if I've had to get all self-absorbed writer-like to do it.

Bottom line? Just call me a freedom frog, trying to take the Boojummy scary jump of courage, hope, care, thimbles and forks to the heights our forebearers envisioned when they saw that shining beacon upon a hill so very long ago.  I have been emulating our forebearers in a forceful attempt to protect the Great American tradition of life, liberty and equality I love so very much, a notion our Revolutionary War allies over way south London Way call liberte, fraternite and egalite. After all, last I checked, Lady Liberty was looking a little green.

Portfolios ::::: producing ::::: writings :::::  photography ::::: design

Monday, May 22, 2006

Fear Survey

Former Vassar schoolmate, talented artist, and the man who took over the reins from this author as Vassar College Ultimate Frisbee captain, Curtiss Calleo, sent along the below Survey on Fear:


When you were a child, what do you remember being most afraid of? How did you overcome your fear? Did you ever overcome it?
Stage fright. I overcame it, first by asserting my voice in college as an outspoken member of a couple club-level sports teams (Ultimate Frisbee and Ski) I became captain of, and then later on by forcing myself to act while living in Prague during the early 90's. Not a very good actor, but I did manage to overcome that fear to a degree. Still, I am one of those odd types who craves to have one's voice heard, but prefers to operate behind the scenes. Recently, forced by the fact that no one else is doing it, I am making my voice heard within the blogoshpere in a more overt front and center manner.

What are your biggest fears now? Tell us how they manifest themselves...
My own country's blindness to it's own flaws that threaten to destroy us and the world. Manifestation? Fight! I am writing my ass off and trying to create a bottom up sideways, grass roots internet-enabled capitalistic alternative that values "Democracy of Touch" on a par with "Democracy of Pocket". Individual agency is where it all begins. Nothing changes because we don't believe it can and do nothing. Self fulfilling prophecy.

Are you afraid of terrorism? Tell us when and where you are afraid, how, etc...
Yes. I live in NYC, ground zero for dirty bombs, biological attacks or worse. The current Administration has made me feel less safe and I want them the heck on outta here. I would also think two or three or four times before taking a trip to the Middle East these days.


"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself"
No, WE have many things to fear. Illegal detention, wiretapping, global warming, Jungian shadow projection of our worst flaws upon the other that allows us to always blame the other guy...

I, on the other hand? I only have fear to fear. And that's the problem. A whole lot of I's relying on WE to do the something's they never do themselves and then wonder why nothing changes.

"There would be no one to frighten you if you refused to be afraid."
There'd be many things to frighten you, you just wouldn't be afraid, which might be kinda dumb. You might end up dead.

We NEED to be afraid sometimes if only to protect ourselves or the ones we love. When was the last time, for instance, that you, as a white guy, Curtiss, walked through East New York late at night by yourself? Hung out cattishly upon a hot stove? Walked past that guy with the gun pointed at you?

But to be afraid of bogeyman's of our own making? Ones that we actually create by giving encouragement to those who would have us fear them? That's a different story altogether.

"Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security"
Yes and No. That's a broad statement. Suffice it to say that, as per the question above, sometimes it's okay to trade the liberty to hang out in a burning building for the security of getting yo a$$ outta there. But again, as per the above question, to trade liberty and security for hegemonistically "framed" threats to our well-being cynically propagated by our own leaders to suppress dissent, yet ungrounded by any reasonable measure of emotional, spiritual or bodily rational risk/reward analysis? You tell me? It's as silly as all those folks who won't fly only to hop into a car to pick up a loaf of bread 2 blocks away.

You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible."
Hmmm. I see a lot of alive people out there without either trust or belief. Seems to me that statement needs to be addressed on a case by case basis. That said, I believe that belief in people and life is the only route to a better world than we currently occupy and is the difference between man, animal and inanimate.

The ancients anthorpomorphized the universe and ascribed intention and will to it in order to empower themselves. Why? Because that is the route to the possibility of a better world in a universe of "good" and "bad" alike indifferent on a collective level to the indvidual spirit. Speaking only for myself, I prefer death to lack of trust and belief and believe myself not alone. Choose trust and belief over cynicim and despair and you have already changed the world if only because you have changed yourself. As far as that goes, it's not that "life becomes impossible" without trust and belief but that a better life becomes impossible.

Silencing Those Who Speak of Those Who Are Not Silent

"Don't Pay Attention and It'll Go Away" Quoth the Tongue of the Mouth

A while back I did a Gothamist interview with  Artist and Electronic Civil Disobedience (ECD) Pioneer, Ricardo Dominguez. Electronic Civil Disobedience (aka Digital Zapatismo), is front and center at the heart of the 21st Century's invisible arms race for control of Cyberspace and beyond.

Think of ECD as a 1960's mass sit-in updated for the Information Age. In addition to brick and mortar spaces, protestors also occupy virtual spaces, and instead of 100 participants there might be a million participants variously converging towards a single online "target" or diasporically seeding trans-global flash-mobs. That's good news for "the people" out there yearning to have their voices heard in a world tending ever more towards corporate oligarchy, but it's bad news too because "the evil ones" have access to the exact same technological power as the "good guys." What's more, the barbarians aren't just at the gate; they are already inside it because everyone is everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Imagine North Korea hanging out by Times Square, The Eiffel Tower, The Coliseum and London Bridge all of a piece times a thousand and you can begin to get a sense of why Digital Zapatismo makes governments around the world quite nervous.

Now, in all honesty, while it seems to me that many of the ECD movement's tactics are harmless, amusing and even creatively and artistically poignant -- imagine for instance, flooding the White House Website with bogus URLs in order to obtain error log results that proclaim "Justice.html does not reside on" -- I can't say as I'm a huge fan of the movement, if only because it runs the risk of creating a world-wide web of Citizen Naders without 1/100th his integrity or intelligence. You only need a very small number of obstinate anarchists to really screw things up for the rest of us.

Say, for instance, (this is made up!) some animal activists attack "The Apprentice" website because Donald wore a leather jacket on the show? The thing is I need my Trumptosterone fix, I need to see that extra footage from the Board Room firing scene and those damn activists are getting in my way!

Point is, Electronic Civil Disobedience, just like bombs or guns or persuasive rhetoric, is a powerful weapon, and in the wrong hands can be used in quite destructive manner. Given that, you'd think, of course, that it would be something we might want to talk about. No?

So why this nagging dread that the mere mention of ECD will invite surveillance of my online activities by my own government?

How absurdly dissociated from reality we are when we can no longer even talk openly about the threats we face as a nation. If for no other reason, this exponential-noded silence laden with collective fear, suspicion and mistrust, is reason enough to think twice before discounting ECD all together.

How odd now how wrong Orwell seemed just twenty years ago.

A Warmonger Explains The Iraq War to A Peacenik

From the Email Archives...

By Anonymous

PeaceNik: Why did you say we are we invading Iraq?

WarMonger: We are invading Iraq because it is in violation of security council resolution 1441. A country cannot be allowed to violate security council resolutions.

PN: But I thought many of our allies, including Israel, were in violation of more security council resolutions than Iraq.

WM: It's not just about UN resolutions. The main point is that Iraq could have weapons of mass destruction, and the first sign of a smoking gun could well be a mushroom cloud over NY.

PN: Mushroom cloud? But I thought the weapons inspectors said Iraq had no nuclear weapons.

WM: Yes, but biological and chemical weapons are the issue.

PN: But I thought Iraq did not have any long range missiles for attacking us or our allies with such weapons.

WM: The risk is not Iraq directly attacking us, but rather terrorists networks that Iraq could sell the weapons to.

PN: But could virtually any country sell chemical or biological materials? We sold quite a bit to Iraq in the eighties ourselves, didn't we?

WM: That's ancient history. Look, Saddam Hussein is an evil man that has an undeniable track record of repressing his own people since the early eighties. He gasses his enemies. Everyone agrees that he is a power-hungry lunatic murderer.

PN: We sold chemical and biological materials to a power-hungry lunatic murderer?

WM: The issue is not what we sold, but rather what Saddam did. He is the one that launched a pre-emptive first strike on Kuwait.

PN: A pre-emptive first strike does sound bad. But didn't our ambassador to Iraq, April Gillespie, know about and green-light the invasion of Kuwait?

WM: Let's deal with the present, shall we? As of today, Iraq could sell its biological and chemical weapons to Al Quaida. Osama BinLaden himself released an audio tape calling on Iraqis to suicide-attack us, proving a partnership between the two.

PN: Osama Bin Laden? Wasn't the point of invading Afghanistan to kill him?

WM: Actually, it's not 100% certain that it's really Osama Bin Laden on the tapes. But the lesson from the tape is the same: there could easily be a partnership between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein unless we act.

PN: Is this the same audio tape where Osama Bin Laden labels Saddam a secular infidel?

WM: You're missing the point by just focusing on the tape. Powell presented a strong case against Iraq.

PN: He did?

WM: Yes, he showed satellite pictures of an Al Quaeda poison factory in Iraq.

PN: But didn't that turn out to be a harmless shack in the part of Iraq controlled by the Kurdish opposition?

WM: And a British intelligence report...

PN: Didn't that turn out to be copied from an out-of-date graduate student paper?

WM: And reports of mobile weapons labs...

PN: Weren't those just artistic renderings?

WM: And reports of Iraqis scuttling and hiding evidence from inspectors...

PN: Wasn't that evidence contradicted by the chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix?

WM: Yes, but there is plenty of other hard evidence that cannot be revealed because it would compromise our security.

PN: So there is no publicly available evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

WM: The inspectors are not detectives, it's not their JOB to find evidence. You're missing the point.

PN: So what is the point?

WM: The main point is that we are invading Iraq because resolution 1441 threatened "severe consequences." If we do not act, the security council will become an irrelevant debating society.

PN: So the main point is to uphold the rulings of the security council?

WM: Absolutely. ...unless it rules against us.

PN: And what if it does rule against us?

WM: In that case, we must lead a coalition of the willing to invade Iraq.

PN: Coalition of the willing? Who's that?

WM: Britain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Spain, and Italy, for starters.

PN: I thought Turkey refused to help us unless we gave them tens of billions of dollars.

WM: Nevertheless, they may now be willing.

PN: I thought public opinion in all those countries was against war.

WM: Current public opinion is irrelevant. The majority expresses its will by electing leaders to make decisions.

PN: So it's the decisions of leaders elected by the majority that is important?

WM: Yes.

PN: But George Bush wasn't elected by voters. He was selected by the U.S. Supreme C...-

WM I mean, we must support the decisions of our leaders, however they were elected, because they are acting in our best interest. This is about being a patriot. That's the bottom line.

PN: So if we do not support the decisions of the president, we are not patriotic?

WM: I never said that.

PN: So what are you saying? Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: As I said, because there is a chance that they have weapons of mass destruction that threaten us and our allies.

PN: But the inspectors have not been able to find any such weapons.

WM: Iraq is obviously hiding them.

PN: You know this? How?

WM: Because we know they had the weapons ten years ago, and they are still unaccounted for.

PN: The weapons we sold them, you mean?

WM: Precisely.

PN: But I thought those biological and chemical weapons would degrade to an unusable state over ten years.

WM: But there is a chance that some have not degraded.

PN: So as long as there is even a small chance that such weapons exist, we must invade?

WM: Exactly.

PN: But North Korea actually has large amounts of usable chemical, biological, AND nuclear weapons, AND long range missiles that
can reach the west coast AND it has expelled nuclear weapons inspectors, AND threatened to turn America into a sea of fire.

WM: That's a diplomatic issue.

PN: So why are we invading Iraq instead of using diplomacy?

WM: Aren't you listening? We are invading Iraq because we cannot allow the inspections to drag on indefinitely. Iraq has been delaying, deceiving, and denying for over ten years, and inspections cost us tens of millions.

PN: But I thought war would cost us tens of billions.

WM: Yes, but this is not about money. This is about security.

PN: But wouldn't a pre-emptive war against Iraq ignite radical Muslim sentiments against us, and decrease our security?

WM: Possibly, but we must not allow the terrorists to change the way we live. Once we do that, the terrorists have already won.

PN: So what is the purpose of the Department of Homeland Security, color-coded terror alerts, and the Patriot Act? Don't these change
the way we live?

WM: I thought you had questions about Iraq.

PN: I do. Why are we invading Iraq?

WM: For the last time, we are invading Iraq because the world has called on Saddam Hussein to disarm, and he has failed to do so.He must now face the consequences.

PN: So, likewise, if the world called on us to do something, such as find a peaceful solution, we would have an obligation to listen?

WM: By "world", I meant the United Nations.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the United Nations?

WM: By "United Nations" I meant the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the Security Council?

WM: I meant the majority of the Security Council.

PN: So, we have an obligation to listen to the majority of the Security Council?

WM: Well... there could be an unreasonable veto.

PN: In which case?

WM: In which case, we have an obligation to ignore the veto.

PN: And if the majority of the Security Council does not support us at all?

WM: Then we have an obligation to ignore the Security Council.

PN: That makes no sense.

WM: If you love Iraq so much, you should move there. Or maybe France, with all the other cheese-eating surrender monkeys. It's time to boycott their wine and cheese, no doubt about that.

PN: I give up!

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A note to readers...

Politinotions is just one side of a multi-sided crystalline attempt by the author to have underactualized voices come to the fore.

My belief is that we, the people, feel so powerless because we always see something "out there" as taking it away from us. In fact, we, especially in the United States of America, have power but choose not to use it precisely because we are always looking outwards rather than inwards.

I call myself a Centrist, although my politics tend quite progressive, because I recognize the other guys aren't so bad and we're not so good; whoever "we" and "they" may be. We need to find ways to bridge the gap between "us" and "them" because we are one.

Currently, my voice is being heard to greatest benefit on Friendster. Please visit me there, but feel free to leave comments upon this blog since Friendster does not allow comments by non-registered users:

Snipes, Logomancy & So So Psychosis.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

No, really, it's funny...

The Darwin Awards "salute the improvement of the human genome by honoring those who remove themselves from it. Of necessity, this honor is generally bestowed posthumously."

Ah... schadenfreude. You gotta love it. We laugh, I guess, in proportion, to the level of misery bestowed upon others. The dumber the funnier. It's true "Death by Lava Lamp" is pretty hilarious. And then I think about Iraq, and for the life of me I can't figure out why I'm not rolling on the floor busting a gut. I mean, that should be funny as hell, right?

And the punchline? We elected these guys with, what, how many deferrments between them? We branded the other guy a coward because, even assuming all the Swiftboat charges were true, he wanted a medal or two so he could serve his country back home? Because he actually experienced the fog of war and might have -- I can't even imagine the pain he must live with every day -- killed a child? Like he wanted to do that!?!

We voted in the guy who knew nothing about war because he was certain. And the guy who knew enough to know he didn't know? We branded him a coward. That's funny as hell, huh? I'm laughing so hard I could cry.

The uber punchline? One of my closest friends, a law student, told me he thought it offputting that I got emotional about the war way back in 2003. The scary part is that he was right and I was wrong in practical terms. Howard Dean was branded a lunatic for expressing outrage during the last campaign. Now THAT is funny.

Are you laughing too?

Can You Hear Me Now?

Covered-Up and Politinotions have unearthed startling new information regarding the heretofore unexplained disappearance of the American Silent Majority. Obtained via court order under the Freedom of Information Act, the new tapes, recorded by the Bush Administration as part of the wire-tapping surveillance initiative, cast revealing light on on the Silent Majority's last known whereabouts. Sometime between September 11th 2001 and early March 2003, GPS triangulation pinpointed a conversation taking place somewhere over the Atantic Ocean:

Hello? Hellooo-oh? **Kathump** No, I'm over here! Not... **Kathump** not out there. This way! Inside. Hello? **Kathump** Can you hear me? Can you... **Kathump**... hear me now? Right by the... **Kathump** ... friggin aorta! **Kathump** No, not the bodega! **Kathump**Hello? Hello... **Kathump** .................
- Last Known Words of the Silent Majority.

Pundits hold out hope that the Silent Majority may be alive and well somewhere in an undisclosed location under care of a friendly foreign State.

While Administration officials refused comment on National Security grounds, an un-named former Hill staffer stated that the Silent Majority had been treated for an unspecified heart ailment well within accepted standards put in place under the Geneva Convention. "That heart was turning in clusters," the official stated. "We just got to it in time because the roots that were connecting it was under incredible incredible stress"

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Iraq From The Vault #1

Cheney "Fail Quail" Shmeney. How about something that actually matters?

March 9, 2003

Dear Charlie,

"What profiteth it a man if he gain the world yet lose his soul?" Indeed. I would add that the loss of soul extends to the home front as well as the international.

Even as (in the argument du jour) Bush is championing the rights of the terrorized Iraqi populace, his administration is chipping away at the Bill of Rights piece by piece (ala the Patriot Act, failed legislation for the Total Awareness Project, a member of a congressional committee on terrorism stating that the internment of the Japanese during WWII was not such a bad thing). It is a scary national tone that is being set when a man in a shopping mall can be arrested for wearing a shirt that says "Give Peace a Chance."

Best Regards,

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Reality as once upon a what-if

Is it me, or do these news story leads currently linking from the Yahoo front page seem a bit like one of those "What if" historical movies you saw as a kid? You know, like what if we'd lost WWII? Or, what if the Russians had invaded?

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United States on Thursday came under mounting international pressure to close its Guantanamo prison... United Nations special envoys said the United States was violating a host of human rights, including a ban on torture, arbitrary detention and the right to a fair trial.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US government lawyers say inmates held at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay cannot challenge their detention by invoking the US Constitution.

OSLO (Reuters) - Backers of the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol renewed their pleas to the United States on Thursday to do more to fight global warming...

Since when did the other guys become the good guys fighting for justice and liberty? Since when did we lose so much of our fabled American gumption that we'd preemptively cede save-the-world bragging rights? What's this world coming to? Or, rather, where'd it go? Superman, where are you? Batman? Webslinger?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Ten Ways Iraq is like Harry Whittington

Politinotions previously noted that's it's "hard not to note this unfortunate [Cheney hunting] incident in an allegorical sense as eerily representative of the repeated undue diligence practiced by the current Presidential administration." In a similar vein Professor Juan Cole has put together a list of ten figurative comparisons, supplemented in the comments section. Here are three humorous Politnotions favorites...

Cheney attacked secular Iraq, mistaking it for an ally of Usamah Bin Laden. Cheney attacked Harry Whittington, mistaking him for a small bird.

Cheney tried to blame Iraq for getting itself invaded by not signalling hard enough that it really did not have weapons of mass destruction. Cheney tried to blame Whittington for getting himself shot by not signalling hard enough that he was not a small bird.

Cheney thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Cheney thought Whittington was a small bird.

# 10, however, is one Politinotions would slightly amend from "Cheney shot Whittington while hunting in the dark. Cheney invaded Iraq while being in the dark" to "Cheney shot Whittington while hunting in the dark. Cheney invaded Iraq while keeping us in the dark"

Politinotions would also add it's own parallel.

Cheney is currently taking grief for (allegedly) hunting while fueled by alcohol, and his defenders note that 'everybody does it.' Cheney is currently taking grief for 2nd-in-helming an administration (allegedly) fueled by corruption, and his defenders (i.e. my much-loved step-father) note that 'everybody does it.'

Guess that makes it okay then?

Professor Cole's full list is available on Informed Comment.

Have one to add? Comment away!

On Clinton, Hypocrisy & Me

On my personal blog Snipes, Logomancy & So So Psychosis I recently posted the following regarding my own political leanings...
As for myself, in case anyone is wondering, my politics tend to the progressive end of the spectrum, but only because I remained more or less the same as our country swung wildly to the right. Until 2000 or so, I was a declared Independent and voted for Clinton who was as Republican a President in my book as Bloomberg is a Democratic Mayor. Happy to answer more if asked..
Sara responded: "'...the United States as a moral example for the rest of the world to follow...'...if you can explain to me how you voted for Clinton and still believe in the above statement without sounding like a hypocrite..."

Those were thinking words. So I thought. And I responded...

Well, first of all Sara, I believe uncouth use of cigars in the Oval Office and cover-ups resulting therefrom do not necessarily present the same degree of threat to the nation as, oh, I don't know, leading an administration that allegedly leaks our own intelligence assets to the press during a time of war? But we're not sure about that of course, because, as the special prosecutor put it, he had sand being thrown in his eyes by the object of his investigation.

That said, you have a fair point, as the President serves as national point man for morality in some sense and Clinton, seemingly, failed on that count. Again, however, to my way of thinking, you've got to look at this all as a question of degree.

Would you rather have a President who cheats on his wife or one who seeks to cheat on the Geneva Convention by changing the very definition of torture and, in any case, codifying torture into law? One who disparages and insults the Oval Office or one who disparages and insults half a continent specifically ("Old Europe") and almost the entire world generally by saying, essentially, "do it our way or you're irrelevant"? One who misleads his family and the country about a matter of the heart or an entire family of nations about one of life and death for thousands of Coalition troops and innocent Iraqi civilians?

More to the point regarding your challenge, however, Sara, as opposed to simply saying "Oh, well, at least he was better than the other guy!" I think you've got to look at it in a "render unto Caesar..." kind of way. Or at least I do. Clinton failed his family morally perhaps, but I do not believe in my heart of hearts that he failed the country or the world in a similar manner. The distinction between man and mantle is not at all minor.

Which is not to say Clinton made no mistakes. He himself chided his failure to intervene in Rwanda. He rued his inability to make peace in the Middle East. I suspect mistakes were made in Kosovo, but any mistakes were made during a mad rush to save a population, a Muslim one at that, from an ethnic cleansing at that point in time then in full swing.

I don't know, Sara, whether you come from the left or right side of the equation. But this much I do know. At a certain point in time one need look inside one's own heart and ask these questions: Does a pragmatic approach to idealistic objectives constitute a moral breach if an unreconstituted idealistic approach is destined to fail politically? Does immoral personal conduct that breaks a personal trust rank on a same scale with state conduct that breaks a global trust?

Clinton, as far as I'm concerned, knew none of us were perfect and wanted us all to be better; and to to be better together. And Bush? Well, with Bush there's no room for us to get better because he's already the best. He doesn't believe he's made any mistakes. He is already perfect. And we, as a country, are trapped by that perfection whereas Clinton's imperfection and his own striving to be better helped make us all better.

And maybe that's why I would choose Clinton over Bush in a heartbeat. Because if this is the best we can be, I want none of it. That would be about the saddest thing I could imagine.

At the end of the day, I guess, I doubt I can prove to you that I'm not a hypocrite. To some extent I believe we all are. As with "threats to the nation," as with "morality," hypocrisy is and always will be measured in degrees, not by its presence or absence. And, that, perhaps, is exactly the voice of the Lost Center I so desperately miss: the voice that embraces the myriad shades of gray that reside within us all. Every time we deny that truth in ourselves and in those who lead us, we step one step closer, not to failure, but to a failure to be better.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney Hunting Accident: A Failure to Take Care"?

In the aftermath of Dick Cheney's unfortunate quail hunting accident this past Saturday, AP writer Nedra Pickler reports that not only did Cheney violate Texas game law by failing to buy a hunting stamp, but he also "apparently broke the No. 1 rule of hunting: Be sure of what you're shooting at."

Pickler quotes Mark Birkhauser, president-elect of the International Hunter Education Association and a hunter education coordinator in New Mexico as stating "It's incumbent upon the shooter to assess the situation and make sure it's a safe shot... Once you squeeze that trigger, you can't bring that shot back."

Politinotions has no desire to jump on the Cheney schadenfreude bandwagon -- bad things happen to the best people not at all infrequently -- still, it's hard not to note this unfortunate incident in an allegorical sense as eerily representative of the repeated undue diligence practiced by the current Presidential administration.

In the January 30th issue of the Nation Elizabeth Holtzman, attorney and former Congresswoman, lays out the case for impeachment against George Bush. Amongst the rationales she cites are 1) subverting democracy, 2) warrantless wiretaps, 3) torture & other abuses of power and 4) failure to take care. She writes:
Upon assuming the presidency, Bush took an oath of office in which he swore to take care that the laws would be faithfully executed... Why wasn't the commencement of hostilities postponed until the troops were properly outfitted? There are numerous suggestions that the timing was prompted by political, not military, concerns. The United States was under no imminent threat of attack by Saddam Hussein, and the Administration knew it. They delayed the marketing of the war until Americans finished their summer vacations because "you don't introduce new products in August." As the Downing Street memo revealed, the timeline for the war was set to start thirty days before the 2002 Congressional elections...

And there was no serious plan for the aftermath of the war, a fact also noted in the Downing Street memo. The President's failure as Commander in Chief to protect the troops by arming them properly, and his failure to plan for the occupation, cost dearly in lives and taxpayer dollars. This was not mere negligence or oversight--in other words, maladministration--but reflected a reckless and grotesque disregard for the welfare of the troops and an utter indifference to the need for proper governance of a country after occupation. As such, these failures violated the requirements of the President's oath of office. If they are proven to be the product of political objectives, they could constitute impeachable offenses on those grounds alone.
"Once you squeeze that trigger, you can't bring that shot back," said Birkhauser. Indeed. That's exactly why there are processes in place to revoke the licenses of irresponsible hunters...

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Voodoo Security?

Call it Voodoo: The Sequel? From the same folks who brought you the smash hit of the '80's Voodoo Economics comes the latest greatest rage, Voodoo Security! Stay tuned. Coming soon to a theater of war near you.

Why of such a santeria frame of mind here? Well, curious with respect to this whole idea that Republicans keep us safer then Democrats, I ran some numbers this weekend...

International Terrorism Related Deaths according to the National Counter Terrorism Center (via Wikipedia):

1995 (165), 1996 (311), 1997 (221), 1998 (741), 1999 (233), 2000 (405), 2001 (3547), 2002 (725), 2003 (625), 2004 (1,907 )


Total number of terrorist deaths on Bush's watch due to international terrorism during the four years for which statistics are available? 6,804. And on Clinton's watch from 1995-2000 (last 6 years of his Presidency)? 2,076.


On average over the course of four years 1,701 people a year have died at the hands of international terrorists under Bush. Under Clinton there were 346 deaths per year. That's a 391% increase on Bush's watch.

But, you say, 2001 was a statistical anomaly? Not fair to factor that in because of 9/11? Okay, take out 2001 and Bush's 3 year avg., minus 2001 comes down to 1086 deaths/year, in which case there is only a 213% increase in terrorist deaths on Bush's watch. But fair is fair. Shall we assume anyone can have an off year and toss out Clinton's worst year as well, 1998 when there were 741 terrorist related deaths?

Clinton 5 year avg. (minus 1998) = 267 deaths /year.

In other words, toss out Bush's worst year out of four for which statistics are available (2001), and toss out Clinton's worst year of his final six (1998) and Bush's comparative record on fighting deaths related to international terrorism is worse by a factor of more than 4x . On average, the Johnny-come-world citizen has a 306% greater chance of dying as a consequence of international terrorism under Bush than under Clinton. And those numbers don't even include attacks against soldiers in Iraq.

To be fair, these numbers also don't include the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history. Bush has done a commendable job on that front. If not overseas, he's certainly keeping Americans safe in America, safe from far right loonies such as Tim McVeigh, that is.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Plamegate Made Simple

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, offers an extraordinarily brief and cogent timeline of the events leading up to Plamegate on his blog "Informed Comment."

Plame, Cole notes, "had spent her life fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction" and Wilson had served his country well as acting Ambassador to Iraq in 1999, going so far as to attend a press conference wearing a hanging noose in place of a necktie subsequent to receiving a threat from Saddam Hussein. This, however, was not enough to protect them from Rove style partisan dirty tricks to maintain the flawed case for war.

"Once upon a time," Cole begins, "a former agent of Italian military intelligence named Rocco Martino , who had had some experience in the African country of Niger, came into possession of some forged, fraudulent documents..."

Cole then brings his readers, in storybook fashion, amusing pictures and all, on a quick little political journey through Karl Rove's connection to Italian Intelligence, alleged (now discredited) Iraqi attempts to purchase yellowcake uranium from Niger in 1999, Cheney's request that George Tenet, former Director of the CIA, look into those allegations, Joseph Wilson's visit to Niger at the behest of his wife, Valerie Plame, Secretary of State Colin Powell's balking at being asked to present "bullshit" to the U.N., and Cheney's authorization to leak Plame's CIA connection to the press in order to discredit Wilson after Wilson wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times; a series of events that culminated in journalist Robert Novak's printing Plame's in a column, thus destroying her career.

So, what's the big deal you say? Nobody died! Does that "nobody" include the tens of thousands of military and civilian casualties in Iraq who have thus far met their makers? Okay, perhaps that is to grant the Plamegate aspect of the run up to war a bit too much weight, especially if one argues, as do I, that the Bush Administration was set on going to war come hell or high water.

Still, Plamegate is not a victimless conspiracy. As Cole succinctly states... "All [Plame's] contacts in the global South were burned, and their lives put in danger. The CIA's careful project combating weapons of mass destruction collapsed." Insofar as that statement is true, suffice it to say that the world is less safe for Plamegate. And insofar as the world is less safe, we are all victims.

Read Cole's piece "Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents" here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?

As America revisits the rationales for war in the aftermath of Plamegate, the topic of revisionist history has been repeatedly highlighted in the mainstream media . A barrage of charges has been hurled into the public forum these past several months, emanating from Left and Right alike, that Bush Administration and Democratic leaders are engaging in “Cover Your Ass” revisionist historical accounting.

It got me thinking. Just what is it that we were actually thinking and saying back then? And what is it that we have simply come to believe we were thinking and saying? That curiosity, along with a personal desire to be intellectually honest in myself as I continue to oppose the Bush Administration’s militaristic impulses, provoked me to poke my head back in to old email bins and review correspondences from those days just before “Shock and Awe” streamed American might across a billion television screens worldwide.

After reviewing that correspondence, what most strikes me with respect to current day rhetoric, even more so than the continuing lack of transparency and seemingly deliberate obfuscation of the Bush “cabal,” is the constant Democratic refrain these days that “we didn’t know then the things we know now.” By and large I see more clearly than ever, after reviewing my own thinking, and knowing that I was not alone, that we did know then much of what we now know, or at least we knew enough then to know that we weren’t sure. The truth was out there, or at least plausible alternative views were, for anyone willing to look for it beyond the Bush Administration spoon-fed front pages of the New York Times.

We knew that we believed Iraq had WMDs, not that they had them. We knew, or felt strongly, that we would only find out “yay” or “nay” if Saddam Hussein were to be confronted with credible use of force. We knew then, based on the available, now discredited, intelligence, that Congress did not vote for “war,” but had authorized war only as a last resort if weapons inspections failed. That’s what we knew even if that sinking feeling in our guts told us the Dems had just given away the store and turned the prospect of violence into the inevitability of it.

After all, anyone paying attention then could also see plainly that the rationale for war was shifting on an almost daily basis, that U.S. engagement with the U.N. was not sincere, or was not coming across as such, and that, short of Saddam relinquishing the reins of power, we were setting up Herculean milestone measures for the Iraqis that a reasonable person knew they could not possibly meet especially if they were telling the truth that they had no WMDs.

Simply put, it was clear to me then, as it was to many others, that the Bush Administration was rushing our nation to war. It was as clear to me then as has only become clear to me since that, while we were busy tossing out ideas of how best to deal with Saddam, our nation’s leadership was busy tossing out, quite literally, State Department plans to deal with the post-war Iraq they knew was on the way.

In early March of 2003 I sent out an appeal encouraging friends and family to sign an online petition in support of continued U.N. diplomacy backed by force. I received back a scathing reply from a male relative two days later, a missive in which I was charged with offensiveness for advocating continued diplomacy, a preconceived dislike for Bush, and, perhaps most hurtfully at the time for someone who prided himself on going out of his way to be well-informed, naivete.

Would that this matter were so trivial that I could tell him “I told you so” a little more than two and a half years later. I know I can’t and wish I couldn’t. For that matter, I imagine he thinks he was not wrong based on what he knew at the time. He may even still believe we did the right thing. In any case, there is no glee in being right about an issue wherein being right has meant unnecessarily lost lives, an expansion of the very terrorism the military action was intended to curb, and an unprecedented loss of American prestige. Or to put it another way, I would gladly grant my relative a smug smile and an “I told you so” in return for just one single American soldier’s lost leg or one Iraqi child’s lost mother.

As for the charges my relative leveled my way? I stand by my views on diplomacy over force as easily as I will grant him his point on Bush. As for naivete, I thought him wrong then, but now recognize the truth in what he said.

Back in 2003, the last thing in the world I was thinking was “insurgency” and a Vietnam-like quagmire. I was not thinking outright lies, misdeception and cover-up by high-ranking government officials. I was most certainly not thinking Internet televised beheadings of Americans, the “outing” of our own post 9/11 intelligence assets in the interests of partisan gain, or, absurdly, even the glimmer of the idea of torture by Americans and attempts by our own Vice-President to codify that torture into law.

Back in 2003 we as a nation were divided on means, bitterly so; but, by and large, we were still unified in purpose, the knowledge that 9/11 had changed everything, and in our beliefs in the indominitability of American force and our determination to do good in the world, even if we get it wrong sometimes. Doves and hawks alike back in 2003 believed we would “win” the war if fought and, while I was not certain, and didn’t think we could assume, that we would be greeted with cheers and bouquets and flowers as my relative had suggested, I was still on some level surprised and saddened when we weren’t.

So, yes, he was right on that count. I was more naïve then. I think we all were. I’m less so now, but think of that lost part of me as just the most minimal of the most minimal casualties bestowed upon us by the “Law of Unintended Consequences.” I can’t say I mind that loss, particularly when placed against, just to name one example, the 600 lives lost on an Iraqi bridge when inaccurate reports of a suicide bomber created a stampede, the effects of which were worsened dramatically by concrete barriers at an American checkpoint. As for me, I still sit here from the same safe perch I sat on then and toss out words to the world. I consider myself fortunate. I mind very much, however, the reasons behind that loss, all the thousands upon thousands who have lost so much more because we chose not to know all those things we could have and assumed we knew all those things we didn’t.

Related Post: The Things We Really Thought And Said Before The Iraq War