Thursday, August 31, 2006
...like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that 's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Not that innocent, thankyewverramuch. She's my honey, and she's a gorgeous forty today. If mine were the world enough, and time, I'd shower her with rubies and pearls, all the perfumes of Araby and show her in truth how precious she is to me and to our son - since, as J.O'Barr says, "Mother" is the word for God on the lips of children. But since I don't and I can't, I hope the footrubs and dinner and coupon for a Goodwill shopping spree will make do.
I love you, Mojo - happy birthday. You are more beautiful than ever...
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
I'm still chapped that the process is managed to as to appear so random to those of us on the outside. A simple statment to the effect that "We have had an unusually low number of adoptive children in the system for August and don't anticipate that this will continue" on the horrible but official CCAA website could have made this a lot less painful for a lot of families hoping for news of their child-to-be.
When I remember the terrible week in 2002 when we lost our daughter Bryn Rose, I realize that as bad as this wait can be, it's just that - bad. It's not a tragedy. It's not the End of The World.
Been there. Done that.
So. Back to waiting.
Word on the adoption street is that CCAA has processed only 9 days of referrals for August.
NINE FUCKING DAYS.
So much for "all of August in August".
I am so damn mad I could just spit. The other ugly rumor is that the CCAA has made a statement to the effect that patient waiting is the hallmark of a good parent and that if you don't like it you can lump it. The entire reason Mojo and I wanted to adopt a little girl from China is that we understood that the Chinese didn't play this sort of bullshit game. It appears now that we and the other overseas adoptive parents are being played for fools. And that if we don't like being fools we aren't "worthy" of spending the next 18 years giving our love and care and hard work and heartbreak raising a child someone else abandoned. I know, I know, it's the system, that's how it is, we need to be understanding and just deal with it.
But I look at my wifes' face and see her grief, how she longs to hold the little girl she's dreamed of for so long, and I burn with rage that some faceless bureaucrat more worried about demographics or national pride or profit or who the hell knows can hurt her like that and never know what he or she has done.
Maybe this isn't the hideous harbinger of the next THREE YEARS we will have to wait at this rate. Maybe this is just a blip, an aberration, a hiccup. Maybe we'll get a whole month of referrals in September. But right now, it doesn't feel this way. Right now, this feels like a great big "fuck...you!" from the nice people at CCAA.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
What do we need from the Middle East?
Well, when you get right down to the nitty, it’s pretty simple:
1. We need oil
2. We need passage through the Suez/Red Sea and Strait of Hormuz chokepoints
3. We need political stability and a degree of U.S.-tolerance to get #1 and #2.
Let’s take ‘em in order:
#1: Oil is fungible. Middle Eastern countries need to sell oil as much as we need to buy it. If we pay them what they ask – or bargain them to get what we want to pay – we’ll get oil.
Mind you – this item reminds us that it is never in a nation’s best interest to be held economic hostage for a resource. Japan’s immolation in 1945 should remind us of that:
Emperor Hirohito: Take Indonesian oil, you said! Sleeping giant, you said! It’ll be like taking pocky sticks from a baby, you said!
Prime Minister Tojo: So sorry! Please excuse! Regrettable incident! Ow! Ouch!
Hirohito: Stupid fuckwit! The Yankees should have put those bombs up your ASS!
Tojo: Owww! Yes, so sorry! Aieeee! Excuse, please! Owowowow!!
So, instead of sending gas-guzzling Hummers and Abrams to drive around Ramadi, it seems to me that we’d be better served figuring out how to build a 65-mpg Hummer. Or, better still, a Hummer that runs on something else we have a lot of. Chipmunk droppings? Hydrogen fuel cells? This is still a work in progress. But anyone with a functioning brain has figured this out already. That leaves out the Republican and 89% of the Democratic political leadership of this country. So whether we’ll get there is a true tossup.
#2: A little trickier. We basically need political stability and some neutrality from 13 nations to do this: seven for the Suez/Red Sea (Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritria, Somalia and Yemen…
Ismail Omar GUELLEH: Don’t forget ME! I got 100% of the vote last time I got reelected! The freedom-loving people of Djibouti love me! That’s why they vote for me! Twice! Even the dead vote for Guelleh, here in freedom-loving Djibouti!
…oh, yeah, and Djibouti. Sigh)
and six for Hormuz (Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Saudi, the UAE and Oman). This isn’t really a separate issue because it leads directly to point 3:
#3: Political stability. Back in the good old days we just bought the sons-of-bitches and they either stayed bought or they got what was coming to them.
PM Mossadegh: I’ll say!
Nowadays, though, the old colonial tradition of a paid-for-puppet-and-compliant-masses is wearing thin. The Arab “street” is being increasingly radicalized by groups demanding political power. Because of the forced marginalization of political Islam, these groups are often – mainly – radical and Islamic.
Sheik Nasrallah: My ears are burning. Hey – you talkin’ about ME? Hee hee, you silly American dogs, you…
For the radical Muslims, America has a whole bunch of strikes against it. They can be cooked down to two main categories: cultural and political. Let’s start with the easy one: our “way of life” versus theirs.
Our way of life, both social and political, demands that people with other points of view get a say. Demands that people whose ideas and behaviors you ma not like get ot do them so long as they don’t physically interfere with your life. Demands, basically, they you get on with doin’ your thang and let me get on doin’ mine.
Theocracy (the government-of-choice of Islamic and Christian fundamentalists everywhere) says that there’s only one point of view, and you know what that is:
Reverend Dobson: God says that Hillary Clinton is the Whore of Babylon. And progressive income taxes are Satan’s tool. Oh, yeah, and Playboy magazine is the instrument of your damnation. Praise the Lord!
Mullah Khameni: Yeah, what he said!
Our way of life allows a massive outpouring of all sorts of stuff, particularly stuff that offends the sort of people who feel that every time homos have sex Baby Jesus cries (or Muhammad weeps or something…) and that women’s bodies should be covered up, like, with massive walls, and kept locked away for Daddy to play with. This is an anathema to the fundies of all stripes and will keep us at odds with the Islamic conservatives for decades to come.
We’re not going to win that argument by out-shouting the mullahs, Sistani or Dobson or Khameni, whatever... Just remember that the Soviets officially banned Playboy and monster trucks and blue jeans, and look what happened to them. I’m pretty upbeat on this one. We’ll probably win the “culture war” with Islam because nobody wants to listen to Pakistani rap, see Saudi action movies, read Yemeni romance novels or wear Sudanese sneakers…
The political problem is something else. Right now we’ve got a lot of people in a lot of nations in the Middle East that have a pretty large lump stuck in their craw. And that’s our friend Israel. They see Israel – and with some justification – as an utterly non-Arab, non-Islamic invader forced into “their” part of the world by European colonial promises like the Balfour Declaration and the Sykes-Picot Agreement and now maintained by raw American military muscle. An eternal poke in the eye from the same people who are pissing them off by exporting that bimbo Brittany Spears and her talentless jerk of a husband to the oppressed masses of Islam;
KFed: Word! Mess with my Family (and you’re Through)! Yo!
The thing is, I personally don’t see a way to finesse this one. Diplomacy is the art of giving a little here and taking a little there until both sides think they’re putting one over on the other. Deal is – both sides here want exactly the same thing. They both want a country, each in their own image, in exactly the same place. And, just as importantly, the Arab countries realize that they can keep trying until they win. And they only have to win one. Israel has to win every single fucking time.
So the U.S. doesn’t really have any good options: stand behind Israel and you will be at odds with the Muslim nations until…until…I don’t know until when. But a long, long time. Distance ourselves from Israel and anticipate the horrific spectacle of an Islamic ethnic cleansing if the IDF ever fails to hold against an Arab attack.
We’re screwed, in other words. And I haven’t the faintest idea how to un-screw ourselves. Go back in time and unsay the Balfour Declaration. Un-do Truman’s recognition. Make the whole problem go away before it began. Other than that, we’re stuck on the same old treadmill, grinding away endlessly, making more Islamic enemies every time we box up an F-18 or a cluster bomb or an artillery round to ship to Israel...
There’s an old joke that has Gorbachev, Reagan and Menachem Begin suddenly called before the Lord, who announces that He will tell them any one thing about their nations.
Gorbachev asks “When will the final triumph of the Communist Party bring peace and prosperity to the Soviet Union?” God whispers the answer and Gorbachev begins to weep.
Reagan asks: “When will Big Government and the Welfare State wither away in America?” God whispers the answer and Reagan begins to weep.
Begin asks: “When will your nation Israel enjoy final peace within its borders.
God begins to weep.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Over at “Intel Dump” my comrade JD writes:
"I have been called paranoid for trying to warn of the growing threat of fascism. Am I out of line?
Today’s NYT’s reports that a man has been charged with a federal crime for broadcasting material deemed in support of terrorists. What was he broadcasting? A TV channel controlled by Hezbollah, available freely around the world but not here.
I am not making this up.
Court papers filed by the government to obtain a warrant to search Mr. Iqbal’s business and home suggested that the authorities learned that certain high-definition global transmission systems were providing access to Al Manar broadcasts in the United States.According to the government documents, agents flew a helicopter over Mr. Iqbal’s home, then sent a confidential informant to the shop to buy a satellite package from Mr. Iqbal.
Am I still paranoid? Yes. But is there a chance I am right about the threat to our American Revolution?"
I thought that my reply reflected what I’ve been talking about re: our country and the Middle East – so here it is…
Sadly, the historical parallel that occurs to me here isn't anything in American History, or even fascistic Nazi horrors, but Western Europe in the late 11th Century - the First Crusade.
My understanding is that Pope Urban II had a complex mess of motives for calling for crusade, only a portion of them the rollback of the gains the Muslims had made since the 700s. He wanted to "do something" about the relentless fighting that France's feudal nobility had been carrying on since the end of the Carolingen Empire. He also wanted to "do something" about the Eastern vs. Western Catholic Schism that had so enlivened the 1050s. And he did, in fact, want to "do something" about those pesky Muslims...
What he got was a hellstorm of fighting throughout southeastern Europe, Asia Minor and the Levant that lasted for something like 500 years, off and on, the horrific end in butchery and slavery of hundreds of thousands of human lives, from the hapless kids of the Children's Crusade to the peasantry of the Balkans, whose religious complexity has yielded intracommunal savagery down to today. Along the way it upended entire principalities, slaughtered entire communities of Jews, Cathars and other minorities, and wound up with Suleiman the Magnificent hammering on the very gates of Vienna.
Now we still have a certain, if not fondness at least complacency, about the Crusades because through a combination of social factors and good luck us Western types managed to hold off the Muslims. But it WAS good luck - there was no preordained "right" or "destiny" that meant that we were bound to win. Lose the "Long War" with Islam in 1550? Guess what - no political Enlightenment, no Rosseau, no Hobbes, no Montaigne, no parlimentary democracy, no United States...
My reading of the situation here in America at the dawn of the 21st Century is that there are groups - and individuals - spoiling for a fight with "Islam". This case is just one of the latest in the backblast here of their obsession with fighting "terrorists over there". In the pursuit of their goals (domestic political power, economic hegemony in the oil-producing Middle East, global unipolar dominence for this country) they and their allies are frightened - as well they should be - of ANYthing that would give the least advantage to their enemies. Bill of Rights? Forget it! Three hundred years of political liberality? A luxury! Geneva Conventions? Outdated! Diplomacy, communication, patient police work and social progress? Outmoded, outrageous, out-out-out!!!!
The maddening and infuriating thing about all this is that the "Islamofascist" enemy that these people are wetting the bed about right now to the point where they're throwing people like Iqbal in the graybar hotel consists of a bunch of raggedy ass guerillas and some pissant Third World countries with the economic potential and military strength of Belgium. To me it's like watching one of those old Warner cartoons where the enormous fat lady is dancing on the chair shrieking "Eek! A moooouuuse!" That part of me that's not disgusted is amused.
But not for long, when I remember two military maxims. First, Sun Tzu's reminder that no polity ever profited from a long war. Especially in a democracy, where openness, diversity and liberality are our strengths. The ever-growing authority of our "war president(s)" will eventually grind us down, making us weaker as our enemy grows stronger. Because the second maxim is - I want to say this was Sun Tzu but was it Clausewitz..? - that you need to be careful about fighting the same enemy for too long or too often. Because the best way to learn war is to fight. Stressing an organism may kill it...or it may produce a stronger, faster, more deadly organism. The success of the First Crusade pressured the fractured Muslims states of the Levant to find common cause to expel the infidels that eventually produced the Ayyubids.
If Mr. Iqbal's confinement is a side-effect of Dick Cheney's obsession with becoming the latter-day Godfrey de Bouillon, I would start looking around VERY carefully at the babies born in the near future in Damascus, Ramadi, Cairo and Tehran. Because I'll bet if Mr. Bush and his intellectual siderunners get their way, get their "Long War" against Islam, that in one of those bassinets is someone we Americans may get to know - to our sorrow - as the 21st Century "al-Malik al-Nāsir Salāh al-Dīn Yūsuf ibn Ayyūb":
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Locked in one of those wrestling matches with the Soviets where you can't let go because you're afraid the other guy is gonna pound your head into Wheatina as you break.
Needing ever more petroleum, which we're finding is gushing like a TV tabloid/Jessica Simpson nonsense riff from the Arab countries of the Middle East.
And rushing into former European (read: British and French) colonies in order to keep those damn Commies out, trying to scrounge up locals and form "organizations" to help us like NATO and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).
At this point we need the support (or at least the complacence) of the new post-colonial Arab countries as much as we ever have. So what do we do?
We help plunk down nearly a million European Jews on the coast of the Levant in the middle of an Arab land (part of the former Ottoman Empire).
In the exact location of the former crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.
What the hell would make us do something like that..?
One huge reason was Harry Truman. I'm not sure if Truman felt exceptionally guilty about his former boss FDR's unwillingness to do anything to save Europe's Jews during WW2, whether he just thought that Jewish Israelis would be better allies than Muslim Arabs, or he just thought that Omar Sharif was a smarmy little schwarma-licker and had it in for camel-beaters. In the words of the Truman Library:
"When President Harry S. Truman took office, he made clear that his sympathies were with the Jews and accepted the Balfour Declaration, explaining that it was in keeping with former President Woodrow Wilson's principle of "self determination." Truman initiated several studies of the Palestine situation that supported his belief that, as a result of the Holocaust, Jews were oppressed and also in need of a homeland."
Why Truman felt that this homeland needed to be on the east side of the Mediterranean as opposed to, say, Bayonne, New Jersey is not recorded. Maybe he thought that he might lose Raritan County to the Republicans or something.
It's worth noting that both the U.S. War Department and State Department were somewhere between violently opposed and "Have you been smoking CRACK!??" about this. They felt - who'da thunk! - that backing a Jewish state in the Middle East would set this country against the Arab states until further notice. The U.S. Middle East "hands" also worried that our backing of Israel would drive the Arab states to look to our enemies - the Soviets - as their friends. They worried about the strategic and economic consequences of reestablishing a Western-supported European ministate in the Levant. They worried that they might not be able to get invitations to Damascus and score those cool Lawrence-of-Arabia headscarf things anymore.
May 14, 1948, the new state of Israel was founded. Truman issued an immediate statement recognizing the new government. The Arab states mobilized, and the First Arab-Israeli War was on...
It's interesting to note that not everything was sweetness and light between the U.S. and Israel early on. Eisenhower kicked the Israelis out of Egypt in 1956 for their part in "Operation Musketeer", the Anglo-French attempt to undo Nasser's takeover of the Suez Canal. But then the Arabs attacked in '67, and since then we've been pals forever...
Now I'll be the first to admit that the Israelis seem to be good people and that Israel, as a functioning democracy is a pleasant anomaly in the Middle East. But our position as Israel's Pimp Daddy has put us a difficult position in the Niddle East.
In fact, I'm going to claim that it has put s in a paradox we cannot solve.
But that's for tomorrow.
Monday, August 21, 2006
4 jobs I've had: (ooh, good one)
1. Groom in a hunt club barn. Got stepped on by a scrubby jumper and nearly bit by a nasty pony owned by someone called "Ishni DuPont".
2. Jiffy Lube "downstairs guy" - oily and slick.
3. Drill Sergeant. Just say these words real carefully: "Who else masturbated last night because today is linen turn-in day?"
4. Lifeguard. Every girl's summer dream (cough, cough) and we'd appreciate it if you'd pee in the men's room, not in the pool, Mister Kraukenhuber...
4 movies I could watch over and over:
My mojolicious one could tell you that it's pretty much ANY movie, but...
1. The Horse Soldiers. - John Ford storytelling at his best
2. This is Spinal Tap. We've got armadillos in our pants...
3. The Lady Eve. Stanwyck, Fonda, snakes on a boat. Need I say more?
4. The MST3K version of "Red Rocket Attack" preceded by "Mr. B. Natural". OhmifuckingGod. I think I wet myself.
4 places I've lived:
1. Portland, Oregon. I just realized that I have now lived here longer than anywhere else in my life - 16 years this month...
2. the Headquarters Company barracks, Fort Kobbe, Panama. Now the residence of 223 Panamanians and a troupe of green-fronted macaws...
3. Wilmington, Delaware. Twice. I saw Greg LeMond ride up Monkey Hill during the Tour de Trump in 1989. Live. In person.
4. Honolulu Terrace, Whittier, California. My birthplace. Me and Tricky Dick are homeboyz.
4 TV shows I watch:
1. Stargate SG-1.
2. MXC. Oooh, that's gotta hurt.
3. Futbol de liga Mexicana on Univision. Muy circa!!
4. ...unnh...would you believe I don't watch anything regularly? At least not since Buffy went off the air (and the last season pretty much sucked pipe, so it didn't count)
4 places I've gon on vacation:
1. Hawaii. Apapanes and I'iwis and O'maos, oh my!
2. London - honeymoon...saw the Roman wall and St. Paul's crypt - that was cool.
3. Arizona. 48 life birds in ten days. Red-faced warblers kick ass.
4. Acadia Nat'l Park. mmm...
4 websites I visit daily:
...and it can ONLY be four, hunh? Damn.
1. Juan Cole's "Informed Comment"
2. The Rude Pundit
3. Steve Gilliard's News Blog
4. Clueless in Carolina
4 fave foods:
1. Pad Thai (especially as done by Lemongrass..!)
2. Feojiada - Brazil's special "fuck you" to vegetarians everywhere
3. Yam Yam's barbequed ribs with a side of collards and candied yams.
4. Steamed lobster with drawn butter, corn-on-the-cob and fresh garden greens. Can you believe my in-laws live in Massachusetts but don't eat lobster? Psycho!
4 places you'd like to be right now:
1. Hiking the rainforest in Hakalau National Forest
2. On a beach on Sanibel Island, Florida
3. Sharing breakfast at the John Street Cafe with our friends
4. Snuggling with Mojo in our nice warm bed - so that's where I'm going..!
Saturday, August 19, 2006
And that's to say nothing of his maniac obsession with crapping in the vegetable garden.
He was a GI tract with legs, who would eat anything and everything. Back before my bride and I were my bride and I, he scoffed an entire BOX of valentine's candy while we were out for a walk. It will take a long time for me to forget the vet's display of chocolate-and-red-tinfoil regurgitant (I think he wanted to shame us for leaving Quinn alone with the chocs...)
He would bark at random events (although anyone on the porch was fair game) and would erupt in a panting frenzy whenever a meal or a chase were offered. His high speed figure-eight scramble when excited and happy was an idiotic joy to watch.
He sure was a humper. He even tried to hump Mister Prickles, his adored hedgehog toy, regardless of the fact that M.P. was only 6 inches tall. So he tore his legs off, instead.
He never quite got over losing his cat friends Baby Malcolm and Nicodemus.
And, oh, did he love Deb. He never got to sleep ON her bed, back when she slept on the mattress on the floor but he would lie right NEXT to it so he could put his head on her covers. He never quite took to me - I always had a hard word or a sharp smack for him when he would dig or crap in the garden or "pound air" before sunup...all my pets and caresses never quite made up for the scoldings that would make him cry.
I'm sorry I didn't hug you more, Quinn.
THE BEST PLACE TO BURY A DOG
There is one best place to bury a dog.
If you bury him in this spot, he will come to you when you call - come to you over the dark frontier of death - down the well-remembered path and to your side again.
And though you call a dozen living dogs to heel, they will not growl at him, or resent his coming, for he belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no whimper, people who may never really have had a dog.
Smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden and well worth the knowing.
The one best place to bury a good dog is in the heart of his master.
Three things happened in the 1940's to change our country's Middle East attitude from "Medina? Dude! Like, where's that at!?" to "Mine! Mine! It's mine. All mine! Putitdowndon'tplaywithitgetcherfuckinghandsoffitit'sMINE!":
1. The intense industrialization (read: automobilization) that had been underway since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution went into hyperdrive during our Arsenal of Democracy thing, and multiplied our need for all petroleum products, especially gasoline.
2. The European colonial powers took such a pounding that they emerged from WW2 either unable or unwilling to maintain their former colonies (or both). The United States stepped into this "power vacuum", because...
3. The Soviet Union emerged from WW2 a "great power" - the other nuclear superpower - and provided America with an intellectual coffee table on which to set our Middle East philosophy: the Cold War...
Which was, pretty much fully and completely stated, "stability".
Billmon over at Whiskey Bar is a much better writer than I am, so I'll let him explain this whole stability thing:
"The United States has tried to enforce stability in the Middle East because until Commander Codpiece came along foreign policy elites and American presidents alike viewed it as inherently in our interests to do so -- to protect the flow of oil, keep the Soviets out of the region, open markets to Western capital, and keep the Arab-Israeli conflict from getting out of hand.
However, this most emphatically was not done for the benefit of the people of the Middle East. It was for our benefit, and, secondarily, for the benefit of the colonized elites who transferred their loyalties -- or at least their services -- to America after the old colonial powers exited the region.
You can argue (imperialists almost always do) that the masses benefited from this stability because it created security, promoted economic growth and improved living standards. The British crown tried that same argument on the American colonists in the 1770s with a notable lack of success -- and they were all Englishmen. But there is some validity to it.
However, our stability fetish (and our commercial interests) also required us to do business with brutal dictators and/or prop up corrupt feudal elites -- many of them little more than rent-seeking parasites perched on oil fields disguised as countries. Where authentic or semi-authentic nationalist movements appeared -- in Egypt, for example -- we either tried to crush them or buy them off, and usually managed to do one or the other.
We also encouraged our "friends" in the region to Westernize themselves, to abandon or at least dilute their Islamic identities and become part of the globalized culture of capitalism (not that they needed much encouraging). As the energy importance of the region increased and the penetration of Western capital and culture deepened, so did the level of U.S. intervention -- always in the interests of that precious stability.
It may sound like I'm just reciting the plot from Syriana. But these were real policies, deliberately pursued over many years. And they were, by and large, extremely successful -- both for us and for our clients in the region. They were, however, abhorrent to the fundamentalist, anti-colonial Islamic movements (like the Muslim Brotherhood) that had existed in the region since the days of the British and the French."
This whole stability-and-anticommunism thing started even before WW2 ended. Nazi Germany had won a lot of Arab sympathy with their fight against the colonial powers, and both Iraq and Iran were pro-Axis. The Brits reoccupied Iraq in 1941 and both Britain and the U.S. occupied southern Iran between 1941 and 1946.
In the postwar period, our quest for "stability" brought us back to the Middle East again and again. For the Arab residents we must have seemed insufferable, the strongarm suitor who never gets the hint:
Fairuza: Allah wept! I thought he would never leave! Did he try to put his hand up your dress again?
Maryam: AAAAgh!! Was that only his hand? I felt like he was trying to put me on like a fucking muppet. Wait...what was that?!
Sam: Hellooo? Girls? It's ME again! Let's PARTY!!
The Girls: SHIT!!
For most of the 40's and 50's we treated the Middle East like a pimp treats his best girl. As long as momma keeps doing what daddy tells her, she gets her lovin' man's best attention. Get out of line, though, - and occasionally the Arab countries did - and there was some pimpslappin' goin' down in the 40's and 50's:
As mentioned, we occupied Iran in the 40's. This was actually a good thing for the Iranians, because when Stalin refused to get out of northern Iran we were able (with the help of the U.N.) kick him out - remember, the Soviets didn't have a working Bomb until the late 40s - and roll the Iron Curtain back to the Iranian border.
BUT - when Iranian PM Mossadegh tried to move Iran out of the shah's U.S. alliance, we sent in the CIA and kicked him over. The Pahlevi shah then went on to cut sweetheart deals with our oil majors, setting in train the events that would culminate in the 1979 revolution.
Other than that, there was the usual involvement in coups and such: Iraq in 1958 and 1963, Egypt in the 50's, where we were widely suspected of working against Nasser and the "United Arab Republic", Pakistan (where we tried to use the Pakis to counterweight Indian infatution with Soviet Russia)...
Oh, yeah. We also invaded Lebanon in '58 to knock down a Muslim Revolution...
(we do this every so often, kind of like we did in Mexico during the 19th Century)...
But probably the single biggest change we helped bring about in the Middle East happened in 1948.
But more about that tomorrow...
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Since this is such a huge subject, I’ve broken it into installments. This one, the first, is my rumination on U.S.-Middle East policy from 1776 to 1940. The second will cover the history of Americans in the Middle East from 1941 to 2006. I’ve already discussed the difficult propinquity of Israel and the Arab M.E., but I wanted to dissect U.S./Israeli/Arab policies in a single posting. And, finally, I wanted to take a look at what I feel are rational goals for the U.S. to seek in the Middle East, where we stand towards attaining them, what the likelihood of their attainment might be given our present policies, and what alternatives might be there for consideration.
So from 1776 - Bunker Hill - to 1941 - Pearl Harbor - was the pure-D, stomp-down riding-the-short-bus-simplest part of the whole nut roll to write.
Word up: our country just didn’t HAVE a Middle East policy until the beginning of the Second World War. None. Squat. Nada. As far as the sandy Arab parts of the world, we knew like a Dominican nun knows about Wesson Oil parties. Didn’t know, didn’t care to know. Besides, we had other stuff to worry about for about eighty years. Revolution, angry Canadians, hostile former owners, floods, famine, free silver, angry Mexicans, Fifty-four-Fourty or Fight, freesoilers, slavestaters, the Missouri Compromise, John C. Fremont and then, by God, the Civil War broke out.
Well, okay then.
So we DID have a teeny little run in with some Arabs during Jefferson’s administration:
President Jefferson: “Well, Robert, what have we here?”
Secretary of the Navy Smith: “Dispatches, Mister President. Our expeditionary force to the Dey of Tripoli. General Eaton and Captain Hull appear to have fought a smart action at Derna, you see, sir.
Pres. Jefferson: “I see. Hmm. Very good. Your Marine fellow O’Bannon writes well, there, regarding his actions in raising our flag over the harbor.”
Sect’y. Smith: “Ahem. The Marines appear to think highly of him, yes.”
Pres. Jefferson: “Indeed. One question, Robert.”
Sect’y. Smith: “Sir?”
Pres. Jefferson: “What the deuce is a “haji”?
Sect’y. Smith: “That would be a “dune coon”, sir."
Pres. Jefferson: “A what?”
Sect’y. Smith: “How our troops refer to the natives, sir. Oh, or a “sand nigger”.
Pres. Jefferson: “Oh. Quite.”
Obviously, a young nation with an enormous frontier, a tiny military force and a relatively miniscule overseas trade had no real need to pay attention to the peregrinations of whatever tribe or tribes wandered the then-worthless wastes of the Arabian Peninsula. Any American attention on the Middle East in the period between the Revolution and the First World War would have been on the “Holy Land”, then a wholly-owned subsidiary of the creaky Ottoman Empire and of no real significance other than a romantic tourist destination.
The other consideration was the European colonial powers. Mostly the British, whose control of much of North Africa and India made American interest in anything remotely Arabian, well…problematic.
Lord Palmerston: “Just not yours to play with, Yank. Good luck with those redskins, though…”That was that. The crux of the biscuit. The heart of the matter. America did nothing in the Middle East because we neither wanted to nor could. And that was the whole story, too, through the 19th and right through the first four decades of the 20th Century.
Until, as it changed so much else, the Second World War came along and nothing would ever be the same again.
Mojolicious here (spouse of J, the FDC Chief here at Graphic Firing Table). In response to our friends at Different Dirt, I am posting photos of our First, Second, and Third Pinks, as well as First Brown and First Red. In an effort to cancel out our UR-BOY son, his sister May will be forced to wear pink (until old enough to shuck her own laundry in protest). Damn that Peeper, it's frozen peas, dirt and grub all the time with that one. Where does he get it? Oh yeah, his papa - that explains the breast obsession, too.
Peeper: I just want to pet them , Mom, calm down.
I know, I know...I promised some penetrating political insight in the wake of "Bomber" Halutz' and his friend Dubya's Big Lebanon Adventure. Problem is...Deb and I went out to dinner at Roux last night. Albacore nicoise - blue point soft shell crab - God! I am in gastonome heaven. Plus we went to watch the sunset over the Secret Dog Place. And shopping at the Lombard Goodwill (where we came across the elusive Volume #13 in the White Squaw series ("Track Tramp") - perhaps the best of the "adult western" genre. Went to bed giggling over the railroad adventures of Rebecca and Mikey.
"Have you ever seen the pistons
On the mighty C.P.R.,
With the driving force of a thousand horse?
Well, then you know what pistons are.
Or you think you do, but you've yet to see
The ins and outs of the trick
Of the work that's done on a non-stop run
By a fellow like Dead-Eye Dick."
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Looks like Israel and Hezbollah have decided that they aren't gonna be able to continue their spotlight dance after all. Too much furniture was getting broken and the spectators weren't digging the tango. I'm sure that Chaperone Cheney was willing, but the international crowd was getting restless...
This might be a good time to reflect. What the hell happened? Why? And what does this mean for the spending of further American blood and treasure in the Middle East?
"Cause y'know what? I don't really give a rat's ass about Israel, Lebanon, Iraq or Iran. Oh, sure, I'd like for them to be fat, happy, peaceful countries where all the women are strong, the men handsome and the children above average. No man is an island, all of us are brothers, etcetera, etcetera. But down in the nitty, I don't have a vote in Iraq. I don't pay taxes to Israel (well, at least I don't write the check to Tel Aviv..!) I'm an American, and it's my business what my own country does, or doesn't do.
So, this week, I want to take a look a little history of the United States in the Middle East, our present adventure there, and what the future might bring.
Tomorrow: how did we get here?
Sunday, August 13, 2006
On their way around the Bridge Pedal today our 15,000-or-so visitors will glide past one of the lesser-known treasures of North Portland; the Secret Dog Place.
Back when Quinn the dog could still actually walk further than the end of the living room, we used to take him here to run about and sniff and lay his dog's eggs - all the things, in effect, that make a dog's life worth living. Well, except humping, and that's more of an indoor sport (ahem).
This little hollow bowl is tucked between the warehouse-and-railhead bustle of Swan Island and the quiet streets of Overlook. When we brought Quinn there it was a tiny open space in a tangle of berry bushes - it burned over in the Summer of the Great Bluff Fire and since then has been a tawny savanna in the summer, a sort of Serengeti-on-the-Bluff only with used Alpo nodules instead of wildebeeste turds. Insects buzz, butterflies wheel, the noise of the city fades and you can lay back (carefully!) in the yellow grass and absorb the brief, hot summer sun of Portland in August. For all it's utility as a dog run, it's often a very peaceful spot.
Standing over this quiet bowl is a great mahogany-trunked madrone. I love madrones; their rich red-brown bark, their twistiness, like a bonsai grown out of the bowl. They only grow on the sunniest slopes in Portland.
The little portion of Willamette Drive between Portland Boulevard and Killingsworth is one of the most peaceful and beautiful rides in all of Portland. You sail along the quiet street with the vista of the river and the mountains (and the FedEx warehouse and the cargo cranes and the UP railyard...okay, okay, it's still in the city, dammit! Where was I..?) ...on your right hand and the pretty little houses and gardens in the Overlook neighborhood on your left. It's very...calming.
So next time, stop your bike and walk out to the Lone Madrone. Close your eyes. Feel the hot weight of the sunlight on your face, smell the dusty grass in thebowl below, take in the blue sky and the clouds above and the cool soil below, the day and the night and the turning Earth.
Find the secret heart. Of the Secret Dog Place...
Thursday, August 10, 2006
The St. John's Bridge.
One of the cool things about living in the City of Bridges is...well...bridges. You want drawbridges? We got drawbridges. You want suspension bridges? Got 'em. Dual-purpose road-and-rail bridges. Uh-huh.
One of my favorite ways home is up Interstate 5 to Highway 30 and then out through the funky industrial district. The green hills of Forest Park curl, cool and inviting, on the left, and up ahead is the Industrial Gothic arch of the St. John's Bridge. Up the ramp, over the span, right past the old Town Hall (now our beloved North Portland precinct cop shoppe) and the a spin down Willamette Drive to the Casa del Peeper.
Did I mention that it's a cool bridge...?
One of the coolest things about our bridges is that you can ride your bike - and ONLY ride your bike - across them one day a year. And that's this Sunday. It's always a mob scene, usually hot, and there's always some nimrod walking their bike up the Marquam. BUT...it's a hell of a rush to ride over the I-5 bridges in the middle of 20,000 other people!
It's worth the crush.
Later: a more personal cool thing about Portland.
First Pink? Oh, I thought you knew. "First Pink" is what Debra decided she'd call our first official girly thing we'd buy for little Mei-mei. After tons of little-boy-blue stuff we've aquired for the Peep, this would be our way of saying to the World: "Fuck you! We're having a Girl!!"
I'm a Bad Daddy and I don't remember what out actual First Pink turned out to be, but I think it was an adorable little Hanna Andersen sleeper.
Aaaanyway, turns out that Millicent and Oscar's First Pink is actually...First Tartan!
And a bold, red Royal Stewart at that.
Millicent seems to plan to look scary hot in a little flippy tartan skirt and matching pirate blouse, while little Thor-not-the-Norse-god-but-the-daughter-to-be will be cute as a button in little matching tartan pullover.
This matching parent-and-baby thing is catching, so here they are: daddy and the Peeper in their matching kilts. Where?
At Millicent and Oscar's WEDDING. Howzabout that? DAMN we were cute.
The Peeper knows how to par-tay...
Sorry I've been so late with the next "Best of North Portland" thing, but things have been ku-razy in Corvallis. I'll post this weekend. Promise.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
The ultimate in three-year-old fun: the Oregon Steam-Up at Antique Powerland.
Two toddlers screaming along to Tom Petty singing "American Girl"
The earsplitting noon whistle, when every steam engine on the property screams at the top of its' iron lungs. Five-year-old Devan (our guest for the day) was also screaming along but was inaudable above the shriek. Poor Shea had BOTH his parents' hands over his ears.
Cool steam traction engines of all shapes and sizes, tractors, gigantic steam cranes, and best of all (from the Sheadonious point-of-view):
The Willow Creek railroad! Ohmigod, the sheer exstacy of riding the rails again...and again...and again. Especially the part where Daddy's great big ASS made the train car derail and caused a titanic eruction of assistance from the Wilow Creekers. Even better was the Nice Man who showed Shea and Devan the whole nut-roll, from maintenance sheds to Old Smokey in the roundhouse.
Way too cool.
For a kid, the big machines and the color and the noise is the best. But it was fun for us, too, watching the little guys get their steam on. It always makes me think that we have it waaaay too easy here in our post-industrial age. The idea of spending a blazing August day in a five hundred acre field somewhere outside Canby, riding the footplate of a Case steam tractor (essentially an immense boiler on wheels) that was itself radiating heat like the heart of hell; dust swirling from the plow with another four hours to go until sundown and a third of the field yet to break. Mmmph. Makes me glad as can be that I'm slave only to a Sears 3.5hp power mower...
So anyway, the Steam-Up definitely qualifies as an Outstanding Oregon Thing.
Back tomorrow with yet another entry in Why Oregon is a Great Place to Live.
Friday, August 04, 2006
As I was writing the post below filled with dramatic imagery of the Fall of the Roman Republic, it struck me that my country's current Middle East policy is a lot less like Roman drama and a lot more like Mel Brooks comedy.
Specifically; remember the scene in Blazing Saddles when Sheriff Bart rides into town only to find himself surrounded by angry racists eager to string him up? Just as he's about to be riddled, he puts his gun to his head and takes himself hostage. As the good citizens of Rock Ridge scream and dither, he drags himself away and locks himself in the sheriff's office.
"Whew!" he sighs "Boy, am I smart. And maaaan, are they stupid!"
So while I watch my country help Israel put the muzzle against our own Middle East policy forehead, all I can hear is Cleavon Little growling:
"Don't move! Or the nigga gets it!"
It's not like this was quantum physics. We had to pretty much know beforehand (waaaaay beforehand, if the "Cheney greenlighted the attack" rumors are true) that the sight of Israel bitchslapping Lebanon would go over in the Muslim countries kinda like a Nazi oompah band at a B'nai B'rith convention. And that, given that we need these countries for our little "remake the Middle East" project, this would NOT be a good thing. And yet we did it anyway.
Even the Democrats refuse to call this what it is: arrant stupidity for America masquerading as support for Israel. It seems that this line is parroted by the news organs as well.
My feeling is that this entire episode is a terrific example of what has happened to the Founders' ideal of a small-R republic once you open the halls of government to unlimited largesse. It is no coincidence that AIPAC and the Israeli lobby contribute significantly to any legislator that has a stake in making American foreign policy. This is prudent, and good for Israel. Whether this is good for American remains to be seen.
In addition to the foreign political aspects of this, in case you haven't noticed we are fighting overseas at the same time that our political leaders are competing to shower donatives on their financial benefactors. The "tax cuts" haven't made my fiscal life any easier. Have they yours? Do you have more money left over at the end of the month?
I'll bet Paris Hilton and Sam Walton's kids sure do...!
Ya think that their political contributions may have anything to do with the fact that to get a hike in the minimum wage we're supposed to give Ms. Hilton and the Waltons and the Kennedys an immense donative to pass on to their now-hereditary elite?
ISTM that the kind of crass, ugly, naked greed that has developed in our political system over the last 200 years has been a direct result of the Fonders' inability to perceive a) how expensive running for political offce would become (with the consequent rapacious need of the candidates for cash) and b) the ruinous effect on the public trust that the influence of this filthy lucre has had.
No one I know - and I truly mean no one - believes that there is such a thing as an American pol that can't be bought, or will stay bought, if someone with a deeper purse comes along.
I am enough of a student to suspect a variety of motives for this new War in Lebanon (as well as our ongoing Majuba-Hill-in-the-Fertile-Crescent) including simple geopolitical stupidity; however, many of my friends and correspondants simply assume that the Bushies have some sort of corrupt financial payoff at the end of the Middle East tunnel - oil, bases, contracts...whatever. They refuse to attribute to simple strategic stupidity what they can blame on political greed so bottomless that cares nothing for the welfare of the country or its people.
If you believe in a republic, this is horrifying.
When the People no longer believe that they can trust their elected representatives, the bond that holds the republic together fails. The result is at best autocracy, at worst chaos. If you believe only in power, as the behavior of the Decider-in-Chief and his lackeys suggest that they do, then the failure of the bond is business as usual. The unwashed masses don't matter. It's the Big Boys that pay for the Big Toys; wars, development, "pork"...they're the real "We, the People" that get served.
Do I think that political donations are "free speech" as currently described under the present combination of constitutional protection and case law? Yes.
Do I think that, could we summon the spirits of Madison, Franklin, Hamilton (well, maybe not Hamilton...), Adams and Washington, and show them the naked avarice masquerading as governance in the District of Columbia (and so many other places in our country) today that they would set their ghostly hands to the parchment and attempt to amend their work to prevent this?
In a heartbeat.
Remember that it wasn't only Caesar that crossed the Rubicon. One man doesn't overthrow a republic. Behind him came rank after rank of iron-shod veterans; abandoned to liberal principles, tired of the abased antics of the venal Senate. And waiting in Rome itself, a corrupted, disinterested, cynical citizenry - indifferent to their own liberties provided they got the corn dole and the violent antics of professional sports.
A republic can be killed, but she can also die from internal sickness. And a glut of internal silver can be as fatal as external lead.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
It's just sad.
If sports are about anything, they are about stepping out from the gray uncertainty that characterizes our everyday lives into a land where there is a place, and a moment, of absolute clarity. Where someone, or a team of someones, is faster, stronger, better...than they - and everyone else - thought they could be. Where, for just a moment, the everlasting claque about who does what to whom and for how much and why can be still.
We know that professional sports isn't about this. That it is much like the world outside: just people, struggling, trying to get a little more than they had, taking their goals and their seconds where and how they can. But we like to narrow our eyes and pretend that these men and women are just a little bigger, a little stronger, a little...better...than we are. That a lumpy faced funny-looking guy can jump on a bike and ride up mountains like, well, like a hero.
Until we find that our hero may have been fueled, not by desire, heart and will, but by 100mg of androgel...
And then all we can do is stand there with that helpless, bereft look on our faces, like Smokey the Bear watching all the forests in the world burn down.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
So here I am sitting up looking at pictures of other people's little Chinese orphans looking like tiny dropsical asian plush toys (what IS it with the "stuff-the-baby-inside-14-layers-of-clothes" thing? Don't they have potbellied stoves in China? What..?) and wondering to myself:
"What would it be like to do this several hours a day..?"
I'm not sure if it's some sort of Y-chromosome thing, or it relates to our shorter attention span to anything not related to ballistics, salty snack food or breasts, but I have yet to find a preadoptive Daddy who spends a lot of time thinking, planning, dreaming and generally obsessing about his future progeny. Conversely, I've encountered quite a few preadoptive Mommies who do this...umm...a LOT. And I had to wonder...why is this?
Part of this may have something to do with the difference between Mommies and Daddies, period. Those of us gynoimpaired types just seem to be, well, more casual about certain aspects of child-rearing in general:
Mom: Do you have your lunch? Wait! Where are your other socks!? You can't wear those socks with those shoes! Because look at the color! Here. Okay, that's better... Call me when you get there! Did you get a note for your teacher? About the recital? Don't forget to ask Janie about her Mom's thing this weekend! Did you get your juice box for your lunch? Well, here, take this one. I love you! Bye, honey!
Dad: Nice socks, sweetie. See ya.
In my experience this applies to biological pregnancy, too. Mom rocks with her tummy, sings and talks to the little person inside, marvels at the little sensations and movements (and cringes at the mountainous size), cocoons, decorates and stockpiles. She is completely and utterly prepared, crammed with knowledge and quivering like a whippet inside the starting gate for the slightest uteral twinge that's Nature's version of "Heeeeeeeere comes RUS-ty..!"
Dad buys a couple of "What to Expect" books (skims through one, makes a face at the "This is What Happens When You Child Is Born" section and fails to read anything more...) and pats Mommy's tummy from time to time, saying "How's the weather in there, sport?".
But there does seem to be a real gender difference about adoption, too.
I mean, I want a little daughter to love and cherish. I am hoping that our wait won't be long; at least not TOO long. And I do want to be helpful and supportive of my bride...but...
The depth of commitment just isn't there. She has The Naked Ovary and Do They Have Salsa In China bookmarked: I have "Intel Dump" and ESPN Soccernet. She reads about attachment issues and delayed development - I read trashy Regency romance novels. She looks at picture after picture of other people's adorable little Chinese daughters (and more than a few who look like Deng Zhao Peng in infant drag...) and I peek over her shoulder, remark about the shoulders on THAT one, and wander away.
Perhaps it has something to do with Woman as Little Mother of All Living: the Nurturer, the Font of Lovingkindness and the Gentle Hand that Rocks The Cradle.
Y'know what? I have no idea why Men and Women are so different about this.
Excuse me. I have to go look at more cute Chinese babies.
And a bunch of little girls and boys just got new adoptive mommies and daddies. They don't know that, of course. Right now it's just another day just like all the others at their government orphanage somewhere in Anhui Province. But still..the process is hastening them towards that "gotcha day", that long plane ride, that long, long arc of wubbies and braces and cuddling and drum sets and boring family vacations and parent-teacher conferences so that sixteen years from now they will be able to scream "You don't understand me! You've never understood me!! before slamming the door to their rooms in tears, all the same.
I am still thinking about something that has puzzled me about this wierd adoption process: the whole "adoptive mom" versus "adoptive dad" thing. But I have to get to work. So it will have to wait until tonight.
But for now...to Maya's new mommy and daddy and to all the other new mommies and daddies and little girls and boys waking up today: good morning and good luck.