Message in a Cartridge


Holy shit, Dick Cheney has actually shot a guy.

That’s right, the Vice President sprayed a fellow quail hunter yesterday with shotgun pellets at a range of thirty yards. The shot hit Harry Whittington in the face, neck and chest, and he’s in the ICU at a hospital in Texas.

For some reason, the Vice President’s office didn’t announce this when it happened on Saturday morning, and in fact didn’t bring it up publicly for a whole day – after the shooting was reported on the web site of the local paper. They say they wanted to wait until Katharine Armstrong, the owner of the ranch where this took place had a chance to make the announcement herself, but of course I think otherwise.

I think Cheney has finally gone over the Rambo wall and is sending a message to Scooter Libby, Joe Wilson, Mike Brown(ie) and any other chickenshit “whistleblowers” that may be out there: “I might be the Number Two man in D.C., but I’m the baddest Dick in America and if you fuck with me I’m goan take you down.”

Nobody really knows how many heart attacks the guy has actually had. He may not have that long to live, and he may want to take a few scaredy-cat, anti-American, fetus-killing tax-and-spend liberals with him. Of course, the guy he shot is a millionaire Texas Republican lawyer, but I’m just sayin’ “watch your back.”

Can you imagine what poor Karl Rove is going through right now? I sure wish I could have been there when he got this news.

  • The administration’s poll numbers are down in almost every category, and most of them are below 50% approval.
  • Hurricane Katrina won’t go away.
  • Michael Brown has developed political rabies and turned into a vicious, snarling beagle.
  • The lapdog New York Times ratted them out on the court-free domestic spying.
  • Libby’s indicted.
  • Social Security “reform” is dead.
  • Delay’s indicted.
  • Republicans are slipping and sliding up and down K Street on Jack Abramoff’s grease.
  • The “war on terror” and the occupation of Iraq are going badly and getting damned unpopular.
  • Even Rove himself remains under investigation by the bulldog prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

It must be hectic to spin all this stuff every day so that it looks like it was exactly what they had planned and that it really is a good thing for America and Freedom. Now this.

“Cheney did what!? Was it self defense? Please tell me it was self defense. Can we say it was self defense? I want every doctor in Texas at that guy’s bedside, and no photographers. Oh, shit, what’s his face look like? Never mind, I don’t want to know. OK look. Here’s our story. The guy circled around – he might have been drinking – and he came up behind Cheney – no, he snuck up behind. He didn’t follow hunter’s protocol, he didn’t announce himself, it was his own fault. Get him to make a statement to that effect. It was his own fault.

“And God damn it, I don’t want to see pictures in the Times of Cheney laughing and holding up a bloody quail by the feet.”

UPDATE, WEDNESDAY, FEB. 15, 2006: OK, it was funny for a minute, even though we all knew the joke was on poor Harry Whittington. But the party’s over, and I am ashamed of myself for making light of it. Whittington is in much worse condition than I knew. Some of the shot has worked it’s way inside, near his heart, and he’s had a heart attack and been returned to intensive care, where they intend to keep him for another week.

Cheney did not go public with this story for somewhere between 18 and 22 hours. The White House is acting like they didn’t have the full story for that long. Plus, they have been trying to make like Whittington himself is to blame for not “announcing his presence.” This is bullshit, of course.

Why the long delay? Is it because Cheney was drunk? Where is the police report? Or is this just another example of Cheney and the rest of his arrogant gang withholding information from the public, simply because they can?

Every hunter will tell you that the shooter is always the one responsible. When you fire, you have to know where everyone is. If you shoot someone, it’s your fault, end of story. At the very least, the Vice President should grow some balls, stand up, admit he made a stupid mistake and apologize to Whittington and his family publicly.

This is a case of criminal negligence. Fat chance there will be any prosecution, but at least Cheney should be man enough to take the blame. He will finally break his silence on television today at 6 PM Eastern time.

Surprise: He has chosen Fox News as the venue.

Be The Wave

I wrote in my previous post that it may be possible to take back our country,

Be the wave

but that it would be necessary for everyone to help in the effort. Shephard suggested that I produce a list of whom to contact if you want to try and make a difference. So here’s the deal.

Everyone has to participate. You have to learn about the issues, and you have to vote. You can educate yourself on the internet (you’re already on the internet, right?) and also just by reading the paper and listening to news on the radio. Note that you will have to filter what you read and hear, but the only way to get good at that is to do it. It may take some time, but if we don’t get involved in what’s happening to the world we deserve what we get. For example, we have only ourselves to blame for the current administration in Washington. These guys won on the slimmest of electoral margins, while many of us stayed home. What if we had all voted?

In between elections you have to challenge politicians who do bad things. You can do this by taking part in demonstrations and by writing to your elected representatives and to newspapers. It’s important to make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you. How else can our elected officials know how we want them to act?

To summarize:

  • Learn what’s happening to your world.
  • Stand up and be counted in public ways. Don’t be afraid. Get some shit on your Permanent Record.
  • Tell your representatives what you think (write to them).
  • Tell everybody what you think (write letters to the editor).
  • Vote. The Republican strategy has been to make you stay home on election day. They are not the majority, but they can win if we fail to oppose them at the polls.

Here are a few resources:

  • Project Vote Smart. Type in your zip code at this site and get a list of all your elected representatives, including links to their web sites so you can get their addresses and write to them.
  • The Huffington Post. Arianna Huffington used to be conservative, now she’s liberal. This is the direction everybody goes when they learn what’s happening in the real world. No matter – her site provides a forum for writers, artists, observers, politicians and pundits of all stripes, from centrist to leftist. You get to talk back to all of them.
  • Donkey Rising. Also known as EDM, or The Emerging Democratic Majority. Here you’ll find (centrist) strategy and analysis of just how we will take back the nation. Again, you are able to contribute to the conversation.
  • Open Secrets. Who is paying for your government? Follow the money at
  • National Public Radio. Fair and in-depth reporting on news of the day. Read the news or listen online, or find your local affiliate station. There must be a reason the Republicans keep wanting to eliminate their funding.
  • Move On. News, inspiration and involvement opportunities. Also, somewhere in there is a guide to writing effective, likely-to-be-published letters to the editor. (Someone let me know when you find it, OK?)
  • TruthDig. This is where Robert Scheer went when the LA Times fired him for being too liberal. An interactive site featuring news, commentary and videos “…for people actively seeking to understand the world…”

Obviously this list is not exhaustive, nor is the Right represented at all (they do a fine job of that themselves). Not only that, but some of this stuff is hard reading. If we’d been paying attention for the past two decades this wouldn’t be necessary. But if you are concerned about the future, get started!

This is not a time to be timid. We can’t afford to lay low and keep out of sight. But we can improve things if we all take part. We haven’t come this far only to have Big Oil take over the government, strip us of our human and civil rights and send us off to Permanent War. If you’re afraid now, how will you feel when The Patriot Act is made permanent and the Supreme Court declares that anything is legal if the President says it is?

A groundswell is beginning. See the wave. Be the wave.

To The Streets

I’ve been working on a big. long-winded political post for the past few days,

Dump these guys!
photo stolen from

but after a while I realized it was all about me, which is not what I intended. I’ll finish it and put it here soon, but not today. Here’s what I want to say:

You can make a difference in our government. For half of American voters (and who knows how many non-voters?) it feels like the country has been stolen away, and there’s nothing we can do. I won’t take the time now to go through the litany of abuses we have been subjected to by the Rove/Cheney/Bush Administration. If you’re reading this you probably have your own list anyway.

But the government doesn’t respond to us, and many, myself included, have halfway given up. I just want to say that not one of us is going to change things, but all of us together can make a difference.

When the people took to the streets in the 1960’s and 70’s, we didn’t change things. We didn’t depose two presidents and bring an end to the insane and pointless war in Vietnam.

What we did was set the stage for those things to happen. We created a climate in which Senators Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern could say “Damn! There’s a constituency there! Maybe I’ll run for president on an anti-war platform!” We let Congress know that if they investigated the corruption and the crimes of President Nixon, there were millions who would back them. We gave them cover to be brave. It may have been only for a few months, but it was long enough to throw a criminal out of the White House.

Well, there’s another criminal there now, and there is very little political will to do anything about it. The Right has been effective at shutting us up, but they have never had much of a majority among the people of this country. Likely they are not in the majority at all.

There is no reason for us to remain silent any longer while our rights are taken away, our country becomes the most hated in the world and Big Oil runs the government. The Republican electoral “victories,” if you want to call them that, were on razor-thin margins. Decent people everywhere are tired of the smell coming from Washington. The administration’s poll numbers are the worst they have ever been. In an election held today they would be swept from office in a landslide.

There are State of the Union demonstrations tonight in cities around the world. Go to one if you can, and make some noise. The Democrats in Congress need your strength. They need to know that you want them to act. Their performance against the Alito nomination sucked, because they were afraid to be bold. Write to them and let them know you support vigorous action to take back the country, that they will not be punished for taking bold steps. Let them know that there is a constituency for honesty, integrity and action!

As I have said before, we will not be able to throw Bush out of the White House. That doesn’t matter. We have the opportunity to clip his wings and expose him as the useless and venal sack of doodoo that he has always been, rendering him powerless for the remainder of his term. If the Democrats make gains in the November elections this year we can start to reverse the right-wing trend that we have allowed to take place, while we watched silently, in ever-increasing shock. If we loudly let the Democrats know that we are there for them, that we are the majority, that we will not sit still for any more of the same, we can get this country turned right-side up again.

By yourself, you can’t do it. But without you, we can’t do it.

The revolution starts today.

Time to Impeach

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
The Bill of Roghts

against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

__The 4th Amendment to The Constitution of the United States (emphasis mine)

This is the entire text of the 4th Amendment. The guys who wrote it were trying to avoid the kinds of personal invasions they had been experiencing, perpetrated by a system in which a monarch, claiming authority from God, could send police or troops to snoop wherever they wanted, confiscate whatever they saw and use whatever they found against whomever if it suited their purpose. It is admired everywhere in the world, although not always by totalitarian regimes.

Now President Bush seems to have violated this precept. He has publicly admitted that he has used an agency of the federal government (the National Security Agency) to wiretap citizens of the United States. He has said that his administration did not have warrants for their actions, nor did they seek warrants, nor do they intend to, despite the fact that there is a law requiring such warrants and providing a fast and secret way to obtain them through a special court. He has said that he intends to continue this program of surveillance.

Read the amendment again, and keep in mind that it is settled law in this country that “searches” include wiretaps.

Then tell me: How is this not an impeachable offense? Just so you don’t have to read the FISA statutes, let me tell you that violation is a felony carrying a five year prison term.

There is no way in hell that this president will be convicted and thrown out by the current Congress, or even the one that will be seated after the midterm elections this year. Impeachment merely means an investigation and a trial. It would get President Bush’s attention, and probably cause him to pay more attention to the “march of freedom” right here in this country. It would allow Congress to reassert its authority and oversight responsibility, which it has recently abdicated. A chastened George W. Bush could finish out his term, walking the line of good behavior, instead of swaggering over it. Only good things would flow from an impeachment at this time, while failure to stop this power grab would be a setback for individual freedom in our country.

It’s the House of Representatives that initiates impeachment proceedings, so if you’d like to see a restoration of our federal system of checks and balances, write to your congressperson. Later, you’ll want to let your senators know how you feel.

Meet the New Guy

I’m pretty tired of the Samuel Alito confirmation hearing.

I hesitate even to bring this up because so many bloggers have written about it so exhaustively and the truth is I don’t really have anything substantive or unique to add. But I have listened to the whole fucking thing so far (thank you, NPR), and I feel as if I myself have been through a grueling process. Maybe not as grueling as whatever Mrs. Alito thought she was undergoing when she burst into tears and ran sobbing from the hearing room, but bad enough that I think I should get to vent a little here.

I wish I had a television in my office at work, because then I could have watched the hearings as well as listened to them, and you know I would have. It would have been better to watch, because then I would have had an image to go with Alito’s voice, and it might have given me a better, more integrated impression of this guy who wants to be on the Supreme Court for maybe the next 40 years. But I had no image, so I have to go with what I picked up from his voice.

I don’t like him.

He doesn’t sound that smart to me. I don’t care about his humble beginnings and his degrees from Princeton and Yale. I know quite a few dumbasses who went to big-name colleges. President Bush, for example. So I don’t buy the “smart enough to do this job” argument, even if it is being made by other judges (who really shouldn’t be going to Congress and promoting one of their own in testimony before a political committee – WTF – but that’s not the issue here.). Hey, I was drunk for fifteen years during the seventies and eighties, but I still remember every club I joined, and I haven’t been prepped for testimony by a flock of flaks and handlers. Sam says he can’t recall being a member of Concerned Alumni of Princeton, and he is shocked – shocked! to learn that they were (are?) a racist group who thought that there were too many blacks and hispanics being admitted to the old school, and God damn, women wanted in to the eating clubs.

It just doesn’t sound smart to me. I mean, after he’s confirmed, what if he just forgets about the Sixth Amendment? It could happen. I mean, even though everybody else in the United States knows about his membership in the Society of Bigoted Princeton Grads, he doesn’t remember, and in three months of preparation the only answer to the inevitable question he could think of, even with all the help that Rove/Cheney/Bush could give him, is “I don’t remember.” Well, I should say that on the second day of questioning, he added that he didn’t renew when his initial membership ran out, so that’s pretty creative, I guess.

Still, I see only two possible explanations for this situation. One is that he’s a racist who joins racist organizations and wants to keep minorities “in their place.” Since he now claims he doesn’t remember any of this, a corollary might be that he’s a liar, like Clarence Thomas, who claimed he had never thought about or discussed with anyone the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision. The other explanation is that he’s stupid. I’m going to guess that he’s not a racist (humble beginnings, remember), but that leaves lying numbskull, and that doesn’t make me want him on the court.

For the past three days I’ve listened to his earnest, halting responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and I come away with the impression that he’s a guy who’s working way over his head. Maybe he studies real hard and writes down all the facts in two columns on foolscap, one column labeled “For” and one “Against,” and maybe he can manage to use that technique to come to legal conclusions that take the Constitution into account. But he seems to lack the quick wit, humor, intelligence and intuition that that I want in a guy who will be judging the most important questions we as a society can come up with for the next two generations.

And this is not even to mention that he is an extreme right-wing guy, an avid follower if not much of a leader. I mean, eewww.

He’s going to be placed on the court, of course. If the Democrats had anything to stop it, they would have brought it out before the hearings. The Princeton Bigot thing, his record of siding with corporate interests and government over the little guy, his sitting on cases in which he has a clear financial conflict of interest, his long-standing opposition to abortion rights, his whining wife – none of that will stop his confirmation. The Republicans have the votes, and they have the votes to change the rules in the Senate and stop any idea of a filibuster, too. I tried to warn people before the 2000 election – the winner gets to pick a bunch of judges – but the complacent left – the actual majority – stayed home, and look what a mess.

Now I have to hope the Dems can wrestle back a congressional majority in the next three years, and make laws that can’t be interpreted by the new court to mean that the President gets to do anything he wants, because he’s the President, damnit!. That’s a feeble glimmer of light for me, but it’s all I have, and the Republicans seem lately to be trying to sabotage themselves just at the moment when they could almost – dare we say it? – rule the world.

Peace Talk, Part 2

I keep visualizing whirled peas.

Anonymous Coward has taken issue with my “giving up on world peace” post, but his statements are buried in the comments section of another post, hidden from your view, so I thought I’d bring it out in the open with a new post. His articulate remarks are near the end of the comment section of New Year’s Wish, 2006, if you’d like to read them.

Actually I don’t think he really disagrees with my claim that there will never be peace on earth. A.C., who calls himself Smerdyakov Karamazov (the morose and epileptic Karamozov sibling from Dostoevsky’s novel), comments in a tone as if meaning to challenge my assertion that three powerful groups (politicians, arms dealers and soldiers) will make sure that there is never an end to war. But instead of showing how world peace is imminent, or even possible, he goes on to point out the need for troops on various battlefields, and how these troops actually do good things, like saving the families of children. And he notes some positive outcomes of deploying troops:

Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia weren’t exactly lolliops and gingerbread before we got there either – just like Iraq was pre-2003. The UN noted that 5-6000 children were dying every month due to lack on immunizations. That’s 60,000 kids every year for over 10 years. Their health post-invasion is something to be hopeful for. The restoration of the Iraqi marshes is something to be hopeful for. Quasi-democratic elections in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan are something to be hopeful for.

I think if you read his two comments, you will be moved as I was by his words, and I don’t want to belittle what is obviously an emotional and personal conviction. Nor do I want to argue that soldiers never do anything good, because obviously they do. But if we or any nation are going to try to do “good” in the world by sending armed men who are trained to kill, I suggest that it will only lead to killing, which will lead to revenge killing, which will lead to more killing, and so on.

Let’s not be disingenuous about the purpose of armies. Sure, the soldiers can feel “…personal honor and courage…” and I don’t doubt the reality of their feelings. Sure, good works can be done – the weak defended, bridges built, water purification systems provided, and more. But if you had to define the nature of an army, would you say “It’s an organization that experiments with radar”? Would you say it’s a group who likes to sing patriotic songs? Of course not. The nature of an army, and we all know this in our hearts, is violence and the threat of violence. Armies are killing machines. And they’re not going away, which means to me that war is not going away.

Thousands of years of unending and escalating conflict seem to support my view. I’m getting used to the idea. What about you?

New Year’s Wish, 2006

I’m ready to give up on world peace.

It’s a sweet sentiment, it’s been dear to me for most of my life and you hear a lot about it this time of year, folks hoping for it, praying for it, wishing for it in the New Year. I’ve done all of that hoping, praying and wishing myself, and a little bit of working for it. But it’s not ever going to happen, and here’s why.

First, there are a lot of people who profit from war and the threat of war. Leaders of nations benefit because in time of war no one is likely to throw them out of office, so they get to hold on to power, or at least bolster their popularity. If it takes a war to hold on to power, that’s fine with them. They will find an enemy and promote a jingoistic fervor so that they can be President or Prime Minister or Premier or Grand Hoo Ha a bit longer. You may be thinking “No, there are real enemies. They’re not made up, and we must defend ourselves from them.” If I’m right, and I think I am, in every case someone has cooked up a false pretense for going to war, or preparing for one. If we have a real enemy, perhaps it is because we are their imagined enemy. In any case, the regular people, not running the country, have to go along because they don’t know if maybe the President knows something they don’t.

Another group that profits, literally, are arms dealers. When you’re in business you need to sell stuff, and the biggest sales have always been the guns to “defend” the country. These days the term “guns” means sophisticated weaponry like guided missiles, smart bombs and the elaborate technological infrastructure to make it all work. These are big ticket items, and most governments will pay literally any amount to get the best armament, no matter what sacrifices their people may have to make. Needless to say, this powerful and wealthy group can and will do whatever it takes to make wars inevitable. It’s good for business.

Then there are those who actually fight the wars. There are two groups here: the generals, men who have grown up thinking about war, studying war, planning for war. They have been in uniform all their adult lives, and war is their business. They don’t see diplomatic solutions – they see military ones. Some of them may simply be trying to stay “in business,” but most are just doing their jobs, and following what they think is a “proud tradition.”

The other group is the soldiers, the eighteen year old boys bursting with testosterone and eager to prove their manhood. It’s easy for the other groups – the leaders, the arms dealers and the generals – to persuade these kids to become cannon fodder: Most of them are eager to go. They don’t believe they can be hurt, they long for adventure and they are unable at their age to contemplate the brutality and futility of what they are ordered to do. If they waver in their ignorance and resolve, a patriotic speech or a good strong sermon will restore their urge to join the few.

We’ve been slaughtering, torturing and enslaving each other since the beginning of time. We’ve refined our weapons and our techniques until warmaking is nearly a science. In every war both opponents think God is on their side, that it is they who are righteous, that this is the way to solve the world’s problems.

And yet we have not solved all the problems. The same ones keep cropping up: the need for more resources, the hatred of someone else’s religion or skin color, economic crisis, the need to defend one’s past arrogant and cruel behavior. Each time, war seems to be the best option, and our leaders, in cahoots with the gun sellers and the generals are forever sending our boys to fight and kill their boys, to come home dead, or maimed or crazy and believing that they have brought justice to “the enemy.”

I’m sad to say that I don’t think the habit can be broken. It’s been going on too long. There’s an establishment that benefits, and can’t see any other way. There are eager boys who think it’s fun, who will endlessly replace the worn-out veterans. So I really am giving up. I’m going to stop worrying about it so much. I’m going to stop wishing and hoping that, in my lifetime, humanity will come to it’s senses.

And if I say another prayer, I won’t ask for anything so foolish as world peace. I’ll pray for something more realistic. Like cookies.


National Weather Service Warning.

This is the alert issued by the United States National Weather Service before Hurricane Katrina made landfall at the gulf coast:


And yet our President and the vaunted Department of Homeland Security seem to have taken no notice. I am aware that these alerts are written in advance, so some poor meteorologist doesn’t have to grapple with language as a disaster bears down. Still, the fact that they chose to release that particular pre-drafted warning suggests that the Weather Service pretty much thought Katrina was bringing hell on wheels to the coast.

I don’t really think this is an issue of racial bigotry, even though it looks like that now, and I don’t mind painting our radical right-wing government with that brush. But I don’t think President Bush and Karl Rove sat reading that warning on Sunday night before the storm arrived, laughing about the black people who would most certainly be the hardest-hit victims, and deciding to wait several days before even starting to mobilize a relief effort.

No, I think it was a matter of stupidity, arrogance and incompetence. These guys have an agenda, and outside of their narrow ability to fool people into voting for them on fraudulent grounds, they have no vision, no leadership ability, no real compassion, no sense of history and – despite their well-proven animal cunning – no genuine intelligence.

One of the main reasons we have a federal government and give them so damn much of our money every year is that we expect them to think about the unthinkable, and plan for the eventualities that, as a population, we don’t or won’t plan for. I don’t need them to tell me what orifices on which people I am allowed to fuck. I need them to build levees in coastal cities that are below sea level, to provide evacuation assistance for those who are unable to help themselves. But the agenda of our government is to make the world safe for corporatization, and so it seems perfectly OK to them to appoint a guy to head the Emergency Management Agency whose previous experience was as the head of the International Arabian Horse Federation. Oh, and Michael Brown was also a political crony.

When you look at television pictures of the refugees at the Astrodome, the Superdome or the New Orleans Civic Center, be aware that you are seeing the face of the brave new neocon future: If you can pay for services, you are entitled to them. If you can’t, you’re not. It is your failing that you don’t have enough money to flee the storm, to feed your child, to rebuild your home, to dress your emotional wounds. The Market dictates that you be winnowed from the herd, because you are weak, and you upset the charts.

Luckily, we as a nation still have enough outrage left to demand action – however belated – on this matter. God help us after we have all drunk the Kool Aid.

Pollyanna Politics

Getting a little political here at revision99.

This was originally intended to be mainly a political blog, but I got sidetracked somehow. I guess I realized early on that since I didn’t have a real news organization behind me, I couldn’t get inside information. I couldn’t get invited to press conferences by the President or anyone else, and I didn’t have a staff to research anything. In the absence of those capabilities, I have nothing but my opinions, which, it turns out, are a dime a dozen, and of no compelling interest.

Thus freed from having to rant about the government and its insane policies, I was able to turn to more mundane – and fun – topics, like sex, bondage, animals and technology. Some day, however, I intend to make good on my promise to post something that tries to make sense out of the current political climate in the United States in light of the apparent shift to the Right that has manifested itself recently. Some day. In the mean time I need to do a short follow-up on yesterday’s post. This is more politics, folks. Turn it off now if you were looking for sex.

Yesterday I was thinking about the army. The troops, as they are usually called these days, on bumper stickers and in Congress. I don’t support them.

There. I said it. I don’t support The Troops. Oh, I love them like my own brothers and sisters, and my heart goes out to them, and I don’t want any of them to get hurt or killed, and I want them to come home and be with their families, or get back to their jobs or farms or drug habits, whatever it is they want. I wish they weren’t in some far-away desert country where they don’t speak the language, the food is rotten and everybody they see might be sizing them up for a suicide bomb attack. Most of all I weep for the ones who lose their arms and legs, or their minds.

But God damnit, when they do their military jobs, when they drive their armored vehicles, read their radar screens, fire their weapons, conduct their house-to-house searches, when they are soldiering, they are doing the work of the devil. Our troops are in somebody else’s country, somebody who was not a threat to this country, and there are a hundred thousand dead Iraqis because of this. Can we stipulate that this is just wrong?

You might be thinking that our army is merely following orders, and you can’t blame them for that. In light of the monstrous horrors of the 20th century committed by people following orders, do you really want to use that argument again?

Look, I’m not trying to say that any of this mess is the fault of any individual soldier. But when you sign up for an organization that wears armor and carries machine guns as part of its dress code, you have to know that somebody is going to get shot. Maybe you don’t expect that a loco presidente is going to take you adventuring to exciting foreign ports o’ call, but if your training involves the killing of human beings, well, you just gotta figure there might be some killing in store.

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that asks “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” I know life is much more complicated than that, but I still ask myself, what if…? What if people just didn’t participate in these wars we keep having? After all, it’s just Joe Sixpack shooting Mohammed Hookah Bowl. Guys like George Bush and Saddam Hussein don’t take any chances with their asses, so why should we be so eager to enlist?

At this point it would be pretty easy to bury me in arguments about why we need an army, why everyone needs an army, how freedom isn’t free, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, we can be pacifists, but what if the other guy wants to fight? etc. I’m not claiming I have practical answers to these points. I’m just sadly looking at a world that is increasingly armed and dangerous, and wondering if there’s anything at all we can do to make it better.

OK. That’s all the politics for now. Next week I’ll get back to sex.


On the playground we were all warriors.

We played many games, all of them designed to replicate real wars. Move the ball, score on the opponent. Victory and defeat. Triumph or humiliation. Attack and defend.

Sometimes we played Capture the Flag, a game that almost exactly mirrors the activities of war: stealth, death, deceit, guard duty, all the highlights. The entire play area is divided into two territories, and two teams, who each hide a flag or an icon of some sort in the farthest reaches of their territory. The object is to find and steal the flag of the other team, and bring it back to your own territory. Along the way you can be captured and imprisoned, or killed, and if you catch the other team on your ground, you can kill them instead.

Sometimes things would escalate beyond gaming. Someone would get pushed too hard, and get too serious about the offense. The undercurrent was always there. At these times you would try to defuse the situation. The parties involved could not back down, and any intervention could lead to greater tensions, and punches could be thrown, shoves administered. Would-be peacekeepers could get bloody noses.

Eventually someone would draw a line. Step over it, and I’ll break your head. Take it any way you want. There it is. A line. You could go for it, if you were tough enough, or if you thought you had no credible choice. You could ridicule the concept as a way of not ignoring it but not having to brave the possible consequences. Some of your playmates might see it your way, and not think you a hopeless chicken.

But one thing was sure: When it got to that point, when the line was drawn, it was too late for intervention. It was past the point of no return. Someone was going to get hurt, physically or psychologically.

What were we doing, with our lines and our threats, and our posturing? Readying ourselves, instinctively, for the Game of Life that we were headed for, a game where the winners take what they want and to hell with everyone else, where you draw a line around your territory and warn all who pass, step over this at your peril, where you penetrate the territory of others, steal their stuff and race with your spoils back to your homeland. Welcome to the Big Game of deception, betrayal and death.

Like children, power mad and run amok, we have marked the whole world with lines, an elaborate system of borders, and we have warned each other in the harshest possible ways do not step over our line. We no longer remember why the lines are there, but we will kill the trespasser, and the killers shall wear medals, and we will honor them and they shall be known as heroes.