Saturday, July 26, 2008


Me, Ted Rally, John McCain, and Wes Clark

Something else on the “war effort” or the campaign or both. John McCain, other than being as charismatic as a wet rag, is being heralded as a “war hero.” I don’t know what that means, in his case. Because he was imprisoned after being captured dropping bombs? That might mean someone like a Luftwaffe pilot in World War Two could be considered a war hero if he had been shot down over London, captured, and interned.

Wes Clark was right: dropping bombs does not make someone presidential. Not any more than using the racist term “gooks” makes someone presidential. Jesus: let’s get real, here, folks, McCain was a jet jock who had to pay some dues, no more no less. And his imprisonment doesn’t trump his current crop of fuckups, like the Pakistan-Iraq border, the famous references to the long-gone “Czechoslovakia,” or his waltzes with various lobbyists... And, I just don’t think there’s anyone completely at home inside his head...

Published on The Smirking Chimp (
War Zero: Nothing Honorable About the Vietnam War
By Ted Rall
Created Jul 18 2008 - 10:21am
NEW YORK--Every presidential candidacy relies on a myth. Reagan was a great communicator; Clinton felt your pain. Both storylines were ridiculous. But rarely are the constructs used to market a party nominee as transparent or as fictional as those we're being asked to swallow in 2008.

Still more laughable than the notion of Obama as the second coming of JFK is the founding myth of the McCain campaign: (a) he is a war hero, and (b) said heroism increases his credibility on national security issues. "A Vietnam hero and national security pro," The New York Times calls him in a typical media blandishment.

John McCain fought in Vietnam. There was nothing noble, much less heroic, about fighting in that war.

Some Americans may be suffering another of the periodic attacks of national amnesia that prevent us from honestly assessing our place in the world and its history, but others recall the truth about Vietnam: it was a disastrous, unjustifiable mess that anyone with an ounce of sense was against at the time.

Between one and two million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans were sent to their deaths by a succession of presidents and Congresses--fed to the flames of greed, hubris, and stupidity. The event used to justify starting the war--the Tonkin Gulf "incident"--never happened. The Vietnam War's ideological foundation, the mantra cited to keep it going, was disproved after we lost. No Southeast Asian "dominos" fell to communism. To the contrary, the effect of the U.S. withdrawal was increased stability. When genocide broke out in neighboring Cambodia in the late 1970s, it was not the U.S., but a unified Vietnamese army--the evil communists--who stopped it.

Not even General Wesley Clark, shot four times in Vietnam, is allowed to question the McCain-as-war-hero narrative. "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president," he argued. The Obama campaign, which sells its surrogates down the river with alarming regularity, promptly hung the former NATO commander out to dry: "Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."

Even in an article criticizing the media for repeatedly framing McCain as a war hero, the liberal website Media Matters concedes: "McCain is, after all, a war hero; everybody agrees about that."

Not everyone.

I was 12 when the last U.S. occupation troops fled Saigon. I remember how I--and most Americans--felt at the time.

We were relieved.

By the end of Nixon's first term most people had turned against the war. Gallup polls taken in 1971 found that about 70 percent of Americans thought sending troops to Vietnam had been a mistake. Some believed it was immoral; others considered it unwinnable.

Since then, the political center has shifted right. We've seen the Reagan Revolution, Clinton's Democratic centrism, and Bush's post-9/11 flirtation with neo-McCarthyite fascism. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Americans--including Republicans--still think we should never have fought the Vietnam War.

"After the war's 1975 conclusion," Michael Tomasky wrote in The American Prospect in 2004, "Gallup has asked the question ("Did the U.S. make a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?") five times, in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000. All five times...respondents were consistent in calling the war a mistake by a margin of more than 2 to 1: by 74 percent to 22 percent in 1990, for example, and by 69 percent to 24 percent in 2000."

Moreover, Tomasky continued, "vast majorities continue to call the war 'unjust.'" Even in 2004, after 9/11, 62 percent considered the war unjust. Only 33 percent still thought it was morally justified.

Vietnam was an illegal, undeclared war of aggression. Can those who fought in that immoral war really be heroes? This question appeared settled after Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, including members of the SS, at Bitburg, West Germany in 1985. "Those young men," claimed Reagan, "are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps."

Americans didn't buy it. Reagan's poll numbers, typically between 60 and 65 percent at the time, plunged to 41 percent after the visit. Those who fight for an evil cause receive no praise.

So why is the McCain-as-war-hero myth so hard to unravel? By most accounts, John McCain demonstrated courage as a P.O.W., most notably by refusing his captors' offer of early release. But that doesn't make him a hero.

Hell, McCain isn't even a victim.

At a time when more than a fourth of all combat troops in Vietnam were forcibly drafted (the actual victims), McCain volunteered to drop napalm on "gooks" (his term, not mine). He could have waited to see if his number came up in the draft lottery. Like Bush, he could have used family connections to weasel out of it. Finally, he could have joined the 100,000 draft-eligible males--true heroes, to a man--who went to Canada rather than kill people in a war that was plainly wrong.

When McCain was shot down during his 23rd bombing sortie, he was happily shooting up a civilian neighborhood in the middle of a major city. Vietnamese locals beat him when they pulled him out of a local lake; yeah, that must have sucked. But I can't help think of what would have happened to Mohammed Atta had he somehow wound up alive on a lower Manhattan street on 9/11. How long would he have lasted?

Maybe he would have made it. I don't know. But I do know this: no one would ever have considered him a war hero.


Gee but it's great to live in a police state...

We need to admit that what makes America special is getting less and less.

We’ve seen the erosion of traditional historic rights since the administration has figured out an end run around habeas corpus. The “preemptive war” against Iraq, as well as the continued occupation, violated America ideals, even if the record does show some wars and invasions with very dubious justifications. Torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial are now at the discretion of the commander-in-chief. Increased restrictions have applied to Americans traveling out of the country. The military is increasingly involved in domestic police activities—in fact the only way to tell the difference between cops and soldiers, often, is by the color of the uniforms.

And, on top of that, come revelations that, yeah, we have an enormous secret police presence. Millions and millions of names are on a database known as "Main Core"—and that’s in addition to the infamous “Do Not Fly” lists. Secret police, yeah: people snooping into the lives of American citizens whether or not those citizens have ever been arrested or charged with crimes. They might be thinking about overthrowing the government appears to be the justification for this snooping. It goes with “preemptive war,” doesn’t it? Preventive detention, preventive spying through the keyholes, preventive wiretaps and intercepts...just in case.

It’s fucking crazy. Fucking paranoid crazy. None of us have any idea nor do we have any way to find out if we’re in any of these databases. If we are, well, too bad. But national security trumps civil and legal rights.

Know how to get into one off these databases? Just like in the old McCarthy times: have a few people tip off the FBI or the NSA or even your local cops that you might be a subversive or a terrorist or something like that. “...that you might be” is the kicker. No evidence is needed, thank you. Classic.

You know, the way the Nazis, the Gestapo, managed to be so effective at spreading terror was because people were encouraged to inform on their neighbors. Have a grudge against the old guy across the street? Report you heard him talking about making pipe bombs, or expressing support for the Taliban. That’ll do it. Hell, tell the cops you saw him making eyes at little kids. The important thing is to turn people in. It’s patriotic.

Here’s a link to an article from Salon:

It’ll send you to the bottle of anti-anxiety meds...

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Slip slidin' away: quality of life in America

I don't know, of course, how many people read The Guardian or read this blog. I presume that of those that do, almost none of them are Republican/Conservative. That's too bad, because the "free market" approach to medical care and life expectancies fails as much as the same approach does to petroleum prices. Big time.

There's no excuse, no ideological justification for the erosion of quality of life in America that this article documents. None.

Development: US fails to measure up on 'human index'

· Nation slumps from 2nd to 12th in global table
· Richest fifth take home $168,000, poorest $11,000

Despite spending $230m (£115m) an hour on healthcare, Americans live shorter lives than citizens of almost every other developed country. And while it has the second-highest income per head in the world, the United States ranks 42nd in terms of life expectancy.

These are some of the startling conclusions from a major new report which attempts to explain why the world's number-one economy has slipped to 12th place - from 2nd in 1990- in terms of human development.

The American Human Development Report, which applies rankings of health, education and income to the US, paints a surprising picture of a country that spends well over $5bn each day on healthcare - more per person than any other country.

The report, Measure of America, was funded by Oxfam America, the Conrad Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. It shows each of the 11 countries that rank higher than the US in human development has a lower per-capita income.

Those countries score better on the health and knowledge indices that make up the overall human development index (HDI), which is calculated each year by the United Nations Development Programme.

And each has achieved better outcomes in areas such as infant mortality and longevity, with less spending per head.

Japanese, for example, can expect to outlive Americans, on average, by more than four years. In fact, citizens of Israel, Greece, Singapore, Costa Rica, South Korea and every western European and Nordic country save one can expect to live longer than Americans.

There are also wider differences, the report shows. The average Asian woman, for example, lives for almost 89 years, while African-American women live until 76. For men of the same groups, the difference is 14 years.

One of the main problems faced by the US, says the report, is that one in six Americans, or about 47 million people, are not covered by health insurance and so have limited access to healthcare.

As a result, the US is ranked 42nd in global life expectancy and 34th in terms of infants surviving to age one. The US infant mortality rate is on a par with that of Croatia, Cuba, Estonia and Poland. If the US could match top-ranked Sweden, about 20,000 more American babies a year would live to their first birthday.

"Human development is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it," said the Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen, who developed the HDI in 1990.

"We get in this report ... an evaluation of what the limitations of human development are in the US but also ... how the relative place of America has been slipping in comparison with other countries over recent years."

The US has a higher percentage of children living in poverty than any of the world's richest countries.

In fact, the report shows that 15% of American children - 10.7 million - live in families with incomes of less than $1,500 per month.

It also reveals 14% of the population - some 40 million Americans - lack the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks such as understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

And while in much of Europe, Canada, Japan and Russia, levels of enrolment of three and four-year-olds in pre-school are running at about 75%, in the US it is little more than 50%.

The report not only highlights the differences between the US and other countries, it also picks up on the huge discrepancies between states, the country's 436 congressional districts and between ethnic groups.

"The Measure of America reveals huge gaps among some groups in our country to access opportunity and reach their potential," said the report's co-author, Sarah Burd-Sharps. "Some Americans are living anywhere from 30 to 50 years behind others when it comes to issues we all care about: health, education and standard of living.

"For example, the state human development index shows that people in last-ranked Mississippi are living 30 years behind those in first-ranked Connecticut."

Inequality remains stark. The richest fifth of Americans earn on average $168,170 a year, almost 15 times the average of the lowest fifth, who make do with $11,352.

The US is far behind many other countries in the support given to working families, particularly in terms of family leave, sick leave and childcare. The country has no federally mandated maternity leave.

The US also ranks first among the 30 rich countries of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of the number of people in prison, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of the total population.

It has 5% of the world's people but 24% of its prisoners.

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday July 17 2008 on p29 of the Financial section. It was last updated at 08:22 on July 17 2008.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


The Closing Net

"Ve need to zee you papers, pleeze..."

The thing is, we're the smoothest dictatorship ever imagined. Congress still wobbles along; the courts make decisions, people complain all over the place... And the perks keep coming. Gas is expensive, yeah—but there's no rationing, other than economic rationing. Food is still available, and, for the most part, we can travel rather freely. However, the courts have allowed that the President can hold anybody he damned well wants to hold on charges of being an enemy combatant—and forget habeas on that one! No warrants necessary. Anytime you call or email anyone outside the country, your communications can be evesdropped. Assume that any call and email anywhere means someone, or some computer, is listening to what you say.
Get your name on a possible terrorist list and you'll have a terrible time getting off it. And you can get your name on it for writing a book that criticizes the president...

And the people go for it. Sure, make us safer! Sure, we have nothing to hide, watch us all the time—well, almost all the time. You know. We only use the missionary position, anyhow: we're good Americans. Just keep the gas coming, make sure we can get our Krap—er, Kraft foods in the super-market, and occasionally drop somebody into the gulag, we don't care.

So, that's exactly what's happening. Here's an editorial from the NY Times (yeah, yeah, it's a commie-symp-eco-islamo-illuminati rag).

The New York Times

July 13, 2008


The Shame of Postville, Iowa

Anyone who has doubts that this country is abusing and terrorizing undocumented immigrant workers should read an essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas, a professor and Spanish-language court interpreter who witnessed the aftermath of a huge immigration workplace raid at a meatpacking plant in Iowa.

The essay chillingly describes what Dr. Camayd-Freixas saw and heard as he translated for some of the nearly 400 undocumented workers who were seized by federal agents at the Agriprocessors kosher plant in Postville in May.

Under the old way of doing things, the workers, nearly all Guatemalans, would have been simply and swiftly deported. But in a twist of Dickensian cruelty, more than 260 were charged as serious criminals for using false Social Security numbers or residency papers, and most were sentenced to five months in prison.

What is worse, Dr. Camayd-Freixas wrote, is that the system was clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt. He said the court-appointed lawyers had little time in the raids’ hectic aftermath to meet with the workers, many of whom ended up waiving their rights and seemed not to understand the complicated charges against them.

Dr. Camayd-Freixas’s essay describes “the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see” — because cameras were forbidden.

“Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only to make room for the next row of 10.”

He wrote that they had waived their rights in hopes of being quickly deported, “since they had families to support back home.” He said that they did not understand the charges they faced, adding, “and, frankly, neither could I.”

No one is denying that the workers were on the wrong side of the law. But there is a profound difference between stealing people’s identities to rob them of money and property, and using false papers to merely get a job. It is a distinction that the Bush administration, goaded by immigration extremists, has willfully ignored. Deporting unauthorized workers is one thing; sending desperate breadwinners to prison, and their families deeper into poverty, is another.

Court interpreters are normally impartial participants and keep their opinions to themselves. But Dr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, said he was so offended by the cruelty of the prosecutions that he felt compelled to break his silence. “A line was crossed at Postville,” he wrote.


Tuesday twaddle

Another week, another dozen or so national and international crises. Yup: that's the way it is. Always has been, probably always will be.

Went camping over the last week-end, up at one of the "Cascade Lakes." That is, one of the lakes along a highway on the east side of the Cascades. There're some pretty lakes back there; unfortunately, they are famous. Boats and more boats. Kayaks and more kayaks. Subarus and Volvos, big Dodge diesel pickups and big motorhomes. Not exactly the place to get away from "civilization." Well, it beat watching TV or going to a mall. Next time we'll go back, I hope, to the Ochoco Mountains, north east of here—no lakes to speak of. No ten thousand dollar boats...oh, hell, who cares. People want to spend a pile to go catch four or five planted trout, that's OK. I bother myself about them more than they bother me.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


War Powers Act: Time to end Bush's dictatorship

Here's some rather good news, for a change.

Plan Offered to Revamp War Powers Act

by: John M. Broder, The New York Times

Washington - Two former secretaries of state have declared the War Powers Resolution of 1973 obsolete and proposed a new system of closer consultation between the White House and Congress before American forces go into battle.

Their proposal would require the president to consult lawmakers before initiating combat lasting longer than a week except in rare cases requiring emergency action. Congress, for its part, would have 30 days to approve or disapprove of the military action.

The plan would create a new committee of Congressional leaders and relevant committee chairmen, with a full-time staff with access to military and intelligence material. The president would be required to consult with the group in advance of any extended strike.

Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and James A. Baker III oversaw a year-long study of the longstanding tension over war powers between the executive and legislative branches. In a report to be released on Tuesday, they concluded that the 1973 law, which was passed in the waning days of the Vietnam War and which aimed to limit the president's ability to commit American forces to war unilaterally, never served its intended function and must be replaced.

In an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Tuesday,, Mr. Christopher, who served under former President Bill Clinton, and Mr. Baker, who served under the first President Bush, wrote that the 1973 act is "ineffective at best and unconstitutional at worst. No president has recognized its constitutionality, and Congress has never pressed the issue. Nor has the Supreme Court ever ruled on its constitutionality."

"As a consequence," they wrote, "the 1973 statute has been regularly ignored - a situation that undermines the rule of law, the centerpiece of American democracy."

Presidents since Jefferson have asserted the right to commit troops to battle when they deem it in the national interest. Congress has the power under the constitution to declare war and control spending on military actions, but it has seldom exercised it. The new legislation is designed to clarify when and for how long presidents can act unilaterally.

The question has arisen repeatedly in the context of the Iraq war. In 2002, President Bush sought and received Congressional authorization for military action to enforce United Nations weapons sanction. Since then, however, many members of Congress have claimed that he has exceeded that authority and have tried repeatedly to limit the scope of the war and impose a timetable for withdrawal of troops. All of those efforts have failed.

In 2007, several senators, including Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, tried to repeal the 2002 war authorization. They also fell short.

In a Republican presidential debate last October, Senator John McCain, the likely Republican presidential candidate, said he would take military action without going to Congress first, "if the situation is that it requires immediate action to ensure the security of the United States of America."

"That's what you take your oath to do when you're inaugurated as president," Mr. McCain said. But he also said that he would seek the approval of Congress if there were time to assess the threat and debate possible courses of action.

Mr. Baker and Mr. Christopher led a commission of former policymakers and constitutional experts to study the war powers question. The group included former Democratic Representative Lee Hamilton, who was a co-chairman with Mr. Baker of the Iraq Study Group in 2006, whose recommendations for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq were largely ignored by President Bush. Other members of the panel were former Republican Senator Slade Gorton of Washington, former Secretary of the Army John O. Marsh Jr., former Attorney General Edwin Meese III and former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott.


A Stitch in Time is likely to go into my finger

Moccasins. Stitching leather. Sewing them up is slow going. It doesn't seem to be real difficult—tedious, but not difficult. Easier than reading policy papers or listening to political speeches (which are two variations on the theme of bullshit).

The political news, from the lefty news and commentary blogs, is repetitious and speculative. Who is in the running for VP for McSame? Who will be Obama's running dog-err mate? What is the meaning of the shift in McCain's/Obama's campaign staff ? What does it all mean, Mister Natural?

It really don't mean sheeit. It doesn't really mean much of anything. McCain is still out-of-it and Obama is another incarnation of Bill Clinton. The Republicans are still Republicans and the Democrats and still the Democrats and both parties are slightly seperated right-wing social democrats, no more no less. The Military Industrial Party has a big tent: both parties are under it's shelter. Well, it's more like a "big stable" than a "big tent." Like a pimp has a stable, yeah. This whole campaign is turning out to be a well-done, slick, expensive Hollywood movie, only without the sex. Although I read—somewhere–that Laura Bush is writing a book with sex in it. That's an interesting, if repulsive, thought. Not as bad As Mrs Cheney's books, though—couldn't be.

So, I have one moccasin nearly done. In less than an hour's work, it'll be finished. The sole for the other one is punched out and the top is ready to be sewn to it. It's minor stuff, but we need to be grateful for small things.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Patriotic bullshit hangover...

Thank god it's over: the Fourth. The best thing about it is that Jesse Helms decided to croak. One of the last big-time suthrun racist assholes has left the building. There's been a nauseating wave of eulogies for the old fart. Like instead of being an incredibly bigoted man he really was a great politician, a great conservative...well, hmm. He was a politician all right: he knew where the bodies were buried and he knew who buried them (along with the ones he'd planted...), and, yeah, he was a conservative. He was an unreconstructed Confederate, was what he was.

At least, a voice in the back of my mind says, he was up front about it. Yeah, he was that. But Hitler was upfront, too.

I've been working on a pair of new moccasins; Sun Dance is in less than three weeks and I want a new pair to wear. I'm not dancing—I just ain't got the stamina for it this year. With luck I can pull it off next year. So, I'll be a supporter. I'm looking forward to it: essentially a week with a focus on spirituality. I'm jonesing for it—a political junkie who needs to detox. Anyhow, the moccasins.

I bought the materials last year. The instructions I found are adequate and vague—sort of like they were written by someone who knows the English language better than how to actually make a pair of moccasins... There are many different styles of mocs, just like there are many different kinds of Indians and many different environments in North America. The kind I'm making are a hard-soled Plains' style: a sole of rawhide, and uppers of soft leather—something for hiking over rough ground, avoiding thorns and rocks. The Indians out here, at least the people up at Warm Springs, made one-piece moccasins, folded over and sewn along one side. They're pretty easy to make: sew them up inside out, and because the soles are soft, it's a simple matter to turn them right side out. The kits you see, and the kind that are commercially manufactured, the moccasins called "moccasins," are in the style of the upper midwest. Anyhow, I'm plodding along on them. I get arthritis in my wrists and hands and it's slow going. Hell, even typing is getting painful. Grumble.

However, life does go on, yup. And there are still those of us who hope for a better tomorrow. Still.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


The painted ponies go up and down...

And on and on on and...

So Christopher Hitchens, noted commentator and potential wet-brain, gave himself up for water-boarding. That may be the most humane thing he’s done in years. He has a piece on it in and up-coming Vogue. Go find it on the web: it’s quite sober and sobering. The man is a fire-breather: about as far to the right as Michelle Malkin, only with talent and a certain sense of irony. Water-boarding he admits, is torture—no way around it. It has to be bad if he’d cop to his feelings about it.

Now, if only Dubya and Cheney and McCain would submit to it, for educational purposes, of course. Maybe Limbaugh and O’Reilly will volunteer, just to show that anyone who thinks it’s torture is a secret pinko closet pansy commie-symp.

So, the world lurches on. Since I spent a couple of days watching trees and chipmonks, butterflies, wild roses, yarrow, firs—you know, nature—the ghastliness of the current American scene is ever clearer. Sure, it’s as bad or worse in a lot of other places, but so what? If you have a painfully broken leg, it doesn’t hurt less because there’s someone with two broken legs. There’s perspective and there’s perspective. Obviously, the government of Sweden or The Netherlands isn’t imprisoning such a high percentage of populations, nor are they engaged in enthusiastic squashing of dissent. Yeah, and fewer babies die there than here, and people live longer, too. Once upon a time, the U.S.A. was the last best hope. It doesn’t seem to be, anymore.

The Demicans are all a-twitter because Obama has made a series of right turns: guns are good, the war funding is good, the war on terror is OK, “faith-based” groups are good, and so on. I’m wondering when he’s going to come out against abortion and anti-gay rights. He will, if his handlers think McLame is starting to make a stronger showing. Sort of like what the Clintons did with “health care” and “welfare reform.” Sure: the Democratic Machine isn’t going to let anybody rock the boat too much. But...what are you going to do? Well, my friend Phil, another friend, Jim, and assorted others (me, too) will hold our noses and vote for Obama, because no matter how much he’s a political adventurer, he’s better than the other guy. This is the way it is. We don’t vote for the best man, we vote for the lesser of two evils....

Bob Luthmers, a guy I used to know in Canada, had a poem/song that went

Gee but it’s great
accepting your fate
in the fascist state.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Talking about shit....

We left last Thursday afternoon and drove about fifty miles n.e. of here, up into the foothills of the Ochoco Mountains. A nice campground on a lovely, noisy, clear little creek.

I spent one day just sitting and staring at the trees, the hillsides, the bushes, and the opportunistic and manic chipmonks. People pay a lot of money to get similar mood lifters. It cost B. and me $4 a night. Talking to chipmonks is very thereputic and so is watching the way crystal water tumbles over rocks. I have to admit, though, that part of that blissfulness came from accidentally doubling up my dosage of Citalopram. It was sort of like being stoned on opiates, but not quite as dreamy.

We read Louise Erdrich's A Plague of Doves over the week-end. She's one of the most optimistic, positive toward the world, novelists I know of—and she's funny, too. She writes about people moving through the cracks between the Euro-American and Indian worlds: there are spirits, no coincidences, and ultimately love keeps everything moving along. She deserves the widest audience she can get. The people who have been on Turtle Island for at least the last 15,000 years have a lot to show us, if we could just stop and stand still until we really see what's there.

That leads me to talking about shit. Specifically, some 14,000+ year old human shit found in some caves here in Oregon. That is really old, yeah. The scientists were able to get DNA out of it. And the DNA shows that the people of south central Oregon, the Klamaths as we call them, are the descendants of those early hunters and gatherers. The tribes talk about having been here since "time immemorial," and if 14,000 years' of oral history don't convince you of that, well, you ain't never going to get it, nope.
So much for Indians being the descendants of the Ten Lost Tribes, or some late-comers who kicked somebody else's ass out of the place. No: the earliest people here were Indians, and they, despite everything that's been done to them, are still here. There is hope in that.


Hollad Pharmacies go to Pot

Ah, well, it's been nice to be away from the onrushing madness. Just for the hell of it, here's a nice piece from Newsweek about The Netherlands' latest experiment in sanity:

Sponsored By
The Dutch Go To Pot
America Takes A Hit In The Drug War As Legalized Grass Takes Root Across The European Continent
Updated: 1:02 PM ET Oct 23, 2007

Paul van Hoorn, 71, suffers from chronic glaucoma. His wife, Jo, 70, has painful arthritis. So every few days, the two septuagenarians shuffle to their local "coffee shop," ever watchful for robbers, to buy a little marijuana. Last week Dutch authorities decided that the van Hoorns, among many others, should change their ways--by going to their local pharmacy. Effective immediately, the government will begin dealing in Nederwiet, or Netherweed--cannabis, by another name, grown in state-sanctioned greenhouses and sold by prescription with official government approval.

That may not be such a stretch in a country famous for its cutting-edge life-style, where cafes legally sell pot along with cappuccino. Still, not so long ago the Netherlands might have faced condemnation, not only from Washington but across Europe. This time, though, while American anti-drug crusaders shake their heads in angry consternation, many Europeans are thinking of following suit. Britain, Belgium and Luxembourg are preparing to emulate the Netherlands in decriminalizing marijuana possession for personal consumption--and they will be watching the prescription experiment closely. Nor is this the most controversial of Europe's new approaches to drugs. In Spain last week, 60 heroin junkies began a pilot program in which for the next nine months, they will receive twice-daily injections of heroin, supervised by a state hospital. Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have already launched similar programs. It's a far cry from the era when President Ronald Reagan found willing partners for his "get tough" policies. When it comes to the problems of drugs and addiction, says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, the United States these days is an "outlier," increasingly far from the European mainstream.

Actually, the Netherlands' new policy isn't as out-there as it might seem at first --glance. Official pot will be sold only for the alleviation of acute pain in the treatment of such diseases as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, as well as a handful of unusual ailments like Tourette's syndrome. No more than 15,000 patients are expected to receive the drug in the first year. Nonetheless, it's significant that nations that used to tailor their drug policies to U.S. concerns are today far less inclined to do so. Europeans are increasingly put off by what they see to be America's extremism--the stridency of the Bush administration's "zero tolerance" crime and anti-drug campaigns, its growing conservatism on social and cultural issues, its unilateralism in Iraq and go-it-alone unwillingness to abide by treaties and international norms held dear by Europeans, from environmental accords to agreements on international criminal justice. "People are saying, you can't hold us to some treaties and choose the ones you do and don't want to adhere to," says Eugene Oscapella, a lawyer in Ottawa who specializes in international drug issues. "There's a lot of skepticism about America," he adds, and it's spilling into other realms, including drug policies.

The zealous U.S. attorney general, John Ashcroft, embodies this ambivalence. Many Europeans see him as nothing short of a right-wing Jesus freak, a caricature of Europe's worst fears of the Ugly American. His Justice Department has overseen vigorous (some would say absurd) prosecutions of cases that mystify people on the other side of the Atlantic. Dozens of vendors of water pipes, sometimes used to smoke marijuana, have been indicted by the Justice Department, for example, even when no actual drugs are involved. The comedian and actor Tommy Chong--of Cheech & Chong fame--faces up to three years in prison for allowing his name to be used to sell "Chong's Bongs" online. Authorities have raided hospices for the sick and the dying in several California cities, even though California is one of 10 states, representing 20 percent of the nation's population, to have passed medical-marijuana initiatives--only to have them overturned by conservative judges. Says Oscapella: "It really is a crusade, pointing at drugs as the devil."

Not long ago, countries such as France could be counted on to follow the conservative U.S. line on drugs. No more. Though widely regarded in Europe as a hard-liner, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy recently helped find a site for a music festival attended by some 40,000 ravers. (He even promised funds for cleanup and damages, if needed.) By contrast, U.S. Justice Department attorneys have been using the newly enacted Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act--popularly known as "the Rave Act"--to crack down on institutions where drugs are consumed. Critics say that nightclubs, dance halls, sports arenas and possibly even hotels can be targeted under the legislation, which Europeans consider to be draconian and a potential threat to individual civil rights.

Nor is it just Europe that's scorning U.S. policies. Even neighboring Canada, traditionally far more in tune with America than Europe, is considering new laws that would decriminalize possession of as much as 15 grams of cannabis. Everyone from the U.S. drug czar, John Walters, to President George W. Bush himself has weighed in, threatening Canada with tighter border restrictions and possible trade penalties if its Parliament approves the measures. Yet that might only be the beginning of Canada's perfidy, at least as Washington sees it. Like the Netherlands, Ottawa has also begun a medical-marijuana program; like Spain and Germany, it's starting up a government-funded project to supervise injections for hard-drug addicts in Vancouver.

Should all this come to pass, whether in Canada or Europe, it will be a clear sign that key elements of America's once globally influential "drug war" are going up in smoke. Growing numbers of Europeans would say it's about time. Regardless of the merits, they will chalk it up as yet another defeat for Arrogant America.

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