Thursday, September 21, 2006

Excerpt from an interview of Sidney Blumenthal

I really enjoyed the interview with Sidney Blumenthal over at Welcome to WorkingForChange. I am posting a short bit of it here. For the full interview here is the raw link:

Sidney Blumenthal is "both a trenchant, learned journalist and a tested political counsel who served as a former special advisor to both Bill and Hillary Clinton in the White House, Sidney Blumenthal has been writing commentary on politics regularly for and The Guardian since 2003. Blumenthal is a wordsmith with lacerating insight."

Okay here is just a small part of the "Buzzflash" interview:

"BuzzFlash: Much of what you've written so accurately and trenchantly points to the failure of the Bush administration to achieve its own stated goals. Really, Iraq is only the most tragic and at the same time, the most ludicrous example of how they have constantly shifted their goals and even failed every time they've shifted them. It might have been something extremely different if this were a radical government, and actually had succeeded at something beyond making the wealthy wealthier and leading us to the point of bankruptcy. I guess those are their two successes in some weird sort of way.

But you write frequently about their failures -- that, by their own standards, they've failed. Of all the many reasons they've given for going to Iraq, none seems to hold up. What we're left with is that they're stopping terrorism there, when we're really just mediating a civil war at this point between Sunnis and Shiites. Given all this failure, how are they able to continue to rule with the trump card of "you need us to fight against terrorism"? I know you can kind of manufacture "truthiness," as Stephen Colbert says on television, with big bad scary commercials with wolves in them. But the reality is failure, as you've pointed out. How can they get away with this?

Sidney Blumenthal: For every failure, Bush develops a new front where he insists that he is required to save us from a new threat. The Bush universe of threats is a constantly expanding universe as he moves to politically higher ground, escaping from failure after failure. He's not only radical, but the consequences of his radicalism have been catastrophic. These people have been deeply incompetent.
Now, some of the things that they're incompetent about go to the heart of what they believe. Their incompetence is not some inadvertent byproduct. It actually derives from their principles.
For example, consider what happened to New Orleans and the aftermath from Hurricane Katrina -- the destruction of a major American city, an absolute inability of the federal government through FEMA to cope as it should have with this terrible catastrophe. Why was it unable to cope? Well, the Bush Administration doesn't really believe in government. That's one of its dirty little secrets. So they turned FEMA into a dumping ground for political hacks. They demoted it. They cut it apart. They drove out professionals. They turned it into a plaything for lobbyists and no-bid contractors. What's going on throughout the government is a kind of FEMA-ization.

What has happened in Iraq in the occupation is not much different from what happened in New Orleans. Look at the privatization of warfare in the occupation, and how Halliburton and other contractors have profited. They've practically looted the federal treasury. And the result's catastrophic. The privatization of the occupation should not be seen as too different from Bush's proposal to begin privatizing Social Security. Imagine what that would have looked like, had it not been stopped. But their incompetence reflects their philosophy.

BuzzFlash: Do they think they've succeeded?

Sidney Blumenthal: They always think they need to be given another chance, and that, in time, things will work out. I think Bush's strategy is like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind -- "Tomorrow's another day!" He has no strategy. Listening to his press conferences and speeches is like being stuck on a camp bus when you were a kid, singing, "We're Here Because We're Here." That's his policy on Iraq. It's like endlessly singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall."

Monday, September 11, 2006

Three Angels

Three angels up above the street,
Each one playing a horn,
Dressed in green robes with wings that stick out,
They've been there since Christmas morn.
The wildest cat from Montana passes by in a flash,
Then a lady in a bright orange dress,
One U-Haul trailer, a truck with no wheels,
The Tenth Avenue bus going west.
The dogs and pigeons fly up and they flutter around,
A man with a badge skips by,
Three fellas crawlin' on their way back to work,
Nobody stops to ask why.
The bakery truck stops outside of that fence
Where the angels stand high on their poles,
The driver peeks out, trying to find one face
In this concrete world full of souls.
The angels play on their horns all day,
The whole earth in progression seems to pass by.
But does anyone hear the music they play,
Does anyone even try?

-- - - B. Dylan, New Morning

I was returning to poetry recently, after not reading much for a long time. And Robert Bly's A Little Book on the Human Shadow led me to The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart, also by Robert Bly with James Hillman and Michael Meade.

Before I go further I notice my blog has been getting a few comments. I thank my readers, and moreover thanks for leaving comments. Let me say I don't blog every day, so sometimes some new update to my blog might not happen for a few days. I note my posts have been political for awhile, but I did not start out to do a 'political' blog. The rubric of the 'Time Coast' has always suggested to me that I would comment on what washes up on the shores of 'Time' as I experience it. So if anything it is a subjective blog, and can be upon whatever I am experiencing at that crucial momentary instant that will call the 'Present', the thing itself occuring in the time that in a way we are all going through. But, we all likely experience the Zeitgest of our time differently with different shadings.

Okay that being said, the following passage I found helpful to me recently. I will try to limit it to 4 paragraphs. It is written by the James Hillman, noted for his extensive work in Jungian pyschology. And the reason for me posting Bob Dylan's lyrics to Three Angels at the beginning of the post, is that he refers to it among other poetry also.

This is from a chapter entitled, The Spindrift Gaze Towards Paradise:

"Moments come when we feel outside time, seized by longing, moved by an image, in touch with invisible voices. We realize we do not live in one world alone. As Rilke says "We are grasped by what we cannot grasp". And James Wright says, "The air fills with delicate creatures/From the other world"........Something beyond life lives within life and calls the soul. .......

The ecstatic traditions of Rumi and Kabir insist that transcendent joy and love, are immediately close." Byzantium" is right at hand, if you say yes quickly. (Rumi)" Those who hope to be reasonable about it fail" says Kabir. These schools teach the loss of work and surrender, a sinking that is also a lifting. Emily Dickinson, too, speaks of surrender. Surrender to what? First of all surrender to the yearning itself (which the Greeks call pothos and the German Romantics call Selmsucht) --- and this disciplines desire by not fulfilling it. We learn that this longing cannot be satisfied, is not meant to be satisfied, because the soul gazes beyond towards Paradise. So yearning keeps the soul "in growing orbits",/ which move over the things of this world" (Rilke), searching, asking, risking "even if we do not reach" (Rilke).

At some point, however, we furl the sails and let the questing come to rest. It becomes less a matter of seeking Paradise than of receiving gifts. Perhaps, this too is surrender. Instead of knocking on the door, it swings open on its own hinges. Or maybe you and the door both unhinged. No longer on a journey, you are simply at home waiting for guests. So the great mystical philosopher Plotinus, speaking of his relation with the figures of 'paradise', "said: " It is for them to come to me, not for me to go to them." I think he is saying," You don't will yourself upward and out of this world with ascetic struggle.Rather, keep alert for visitations. Even "this concrete world" is full of souls," sings Bob Dylan.

We would like otherworldly visitations to come as distinct voices with clear instructions, but they may only give small signs in dreams or as sudden hunches and insights that cannot be denied. They feel more as they emerge from inside and steer you from within like an inner guardian angel, who, as Rolf Jacobson says, puts its " mouth against your heart/ though your not aware of it". And most amazing, it has never forgotton you, although you may have spent most of your life ignoring it. Sometimes when you sink into yourself and listen or when you talk with a particularly moving or beautiful figure of your dream an utterly surprising window opens."

Okay, I have probably quoted enough. I hope whoever encounters this blog and this particular post, is helped in some way.

Peace, J.P.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Zawahiri's wish and the March of Ignorance

Looney Tunes indeed.

Just recently Ayman al Zawahiri came out with a video calling for Americans to convert to Islam.

My initial take: What a profound misunderstanding of what America is all about, and then, what an arrogant disregard of anyone elses religious beliefs. And then I thought, Mr. no. 2 of Al- Queda really needs to watch some of the Bugs Bunny cartoons of the 1940s. They exemplify something about the American character, that these characters just don't get.Seriously.

There appears to be a lot of ignorance going around these days. And I mean in the sense of choosing to ignore information which is readily available, but not paying any attention to it, because it does not fit into your preconceived and hardened world view.

Zawahiri likely developed his ideas about America, from his study of the works of Sayyid Qutb, his mentor. Qutb was a hard core Egyptian fundamentalist who spent some time in American in the late 1940's. He was at what is now the Univ. of Northern Colo., in Greeley.
He apparantly saw some couples dancing and kissing back then, and from then on pronounced American society as decadent. If one reads about the origins of Al-Queda, a lot of roads lead back to Qutb. All these guys are as humorless as hell, have a fear of women's sexuality, and are totally devoted to their own obstruse versions of Islam.

Well, this leads into a very complex area. For those wanting to know more about Qutb, I suggest the Wikipedia article as a starting point.

Meanwhile GWB in a recent speech tossed out this bon mot:
"The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq.

In other words the Bush/Rumsfeld clash of the Titans of all time rhetoric machine is escalating big time.

In this regard I found Fred Kaplan's article over at the Slate helpful:

Bush Goes a Bridge Too Far:

The president's latest dumb speech.

"But one passage in particular reveals that the campaign is getting desperate:

The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq.

Here's the question: Does anybody believe this? If you do, then you must ask the president why he hasn't reactivated the draft, printed war bonds, doubled the military budget, and strenuously rallied allies to the cause.

If, as he said in this speech, the war in Iraq really is the front line in "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century"; if our foes there are the "successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists"; if victory is "as important" as it was in Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal—then those are just some of the steps that a committed president would feel justified in demanding.

Yet the president hasn't done any of those things, nor has anyone in his entourage encouraged him to do so. And that's because, while the war on terror is important and keeping Iraq from disintegrating is important, they're not that important. Osama Bin Laden is not Hitler or Stalin. Baghdad is not Berlin. Al-Qaida and its imitators don't have the economic resources, the military power, or the vast nationalist base that Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union had.

So, the speech sends the head buzzing with cognitive dissonances. There's the massively exaggerated historical analogy (which should have been obvious, if not insulting, to the World War II veterans in the audience). And there's the glaring mismatch between the president's gargantuan depiction of the threat and the relatively paltry resources he's mustered to fight it."

I would just add that Hitler, at one time had over 130 divisions on the Eastern Front alone. Neither Bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri command that many divisions or anything like that manpower in all their operations throughout the world.

And it would seem Al-Zawahiri has been living in a cave so long, he seems to think getting an American Muslim to make a video , will somehow get 290 million Americans to suddenly convert to Islam.

Inflated bombastic rhetoric, and vast misunderstandings over different cultures.

Makes it hard to lighten up. Even with Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1940s. But, I think Bugs would know how to handle an Al- Zawahiri.