Tuesday, March 28, 2006

As I write, the news from Iraq is that tensions between the Americans and the Shiite leadership are at an all-time high, stemming from, among other things, a raid under American leadership that killed a few dozen people. (The Americans, so far, insist that the killing was not done by American soldiers directly, but rather, by their Iraqi minions. Perhaps they think that having been killed by fellow Iraqis will be a comfort to the relatives of the Iraqi dead).

Among the many things that are disputed is the nature of the facility that was attacked. The Shiite leadership says it was a mosque. Reporters on the scene report that it was a mosque, with a minaret --- an architectural feature at least as distinctive as, say, a church steeple. But the American leadership disagrees:

In a conference call with reporters in Baghdad late Monday, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of the day-to-day operations of the multinational forces in Iraq, said the building was "an office complex," and not a mosque. ...

The general said he believed that the scene was disrupted after the raid to make the building look like something other than a terrorist headquarters, although he did not give details on how it was done. "After the fact someone went in and made the scene look different than it was, for whatever purposes," he said.

So, after our raiders had killed twenty people at the headquarters of a terrorist organization in an office complex, they abandoned the scene (and any intelligence therein) for long enough that the dastardly Iraqi insurgents were able to call in a construction crew to erect a minaret on site, in order to make it look as if we'd raided a mosque. Such is the implacable nature of our enemies.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

While I was away, George W. Bush proclaimed himself dictator. That's not a joke, and it's not an exaggeration. In his "signing statement" for the Patriot Act extension, Dubya claimed the right to unilaterally set aside any portions of the bill that he finds inconvenient, no matter what Congress or the courts have to say about it --- thus himself making explicit what was already explicit in his functionaries' talk of wiretaps, that he won't recognize any limits on his power at all. As Glenn Greenwald puts it (via Atrios),

...the Administration has seized the power of Congress to make the laws, they have seized the power of the judiciary to interpret the laws, and they execute them as well. They have consolidated within themselves all of the powers of the government, particularly with regard to national security. This situation is, of course, exactly what Madison warned about in Federalist 47; it really is the very opposite of everything our Government is intended to be.

If Dubya hasn't yet pulled all the same crap as the scenery-chewing dictator in the movie, "V for Vendetta", it's not because he thinks he can't, but rather because he hasn't found it to be necessary, in his own sole judgment.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been getting bombarded by phone calls from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which I was fobbing off with my usual, "too busy, not now." I finally told one of them what I really think: that if the Democratic Senators don't have the guts to get behind Feingold's censure resolution --- particularly the ones who did vote to censure Clinton over the Monica "scandal" --- then I don't have any money for them. Bad as it may have been that Clinton was the first President in our entire history to have consensual sex with a woman who was not his wife, this is even worse than that.

I'm pleased to say that my protest has accomplished something. The phone calls have entirely stopped.

On another topic, now that I've seen "V for Vendetta", it becomes kind of obvious why Alan Moore hates the script. Truth to tell, it should have been obvious from the trailer. Moore's original V would never say, "governments ought to be afraid of their people". Moore's V is a committed anarchist who believes that governments ought to be abolished. When the filmmakers congratulate themselves, quite rightly, for having produced "the best translation of any of [Moore's] work to film", they appear not to realize how thoroughly they have damned their own work with faint praise.

It's a fun flick. It could have been a lot worse. This movie is not the travesty of, say, the original film "adaptation" of "The Quiet American", which literally made an Audie Murphy hero of Graham Greene's dangerous fool. (See the 2002 Michael Caine version if you can; that one gets it right). The film V is still a crazed homicidal maniac bent on the overthrow of a government that is even worse, with all the attendant moral ambiguity, and the film is perhaps worth seeing for that. But it is fitting that the artist of the original comic --- David Lloyd --- is in the closing credits, and the writer, Alan Moore, is not. The movie captures the feeling of Lloyd's drawings, and many of the plot points they convey, astonishingly well. But Moore's writing is mostly absent.

Since Julia asked for it:

A different Christmas in Fallujah, by a local Boston band called Sidewalk Driver:

It's christmas in Fallujah,
and our palm tree's all aglow.
Suarez is singing "Deck the Halls"
in fucking Español.

I've been sweating for six months straight,
even though sometimes it's cold.
I'm twenty-seven or twenty-eight,
but I'm feeling pretty old.

I don't got no advice --
just do as you see fit.
People ask me what I think,
but I ain't thinking shit.

Me and Jesus used to be tight,
but now I've gone astray.
My best friend died two nights ago,
but his presents got here today.

It's Christmas in Fallujah,
and I'm standing all alone.
I hope Santa got the memo
about the no-fly zone.

Staring into the midnight
I stop to think of home.
I hope my father's proud of me,
and all the strength I've shown.

I don't got no advice,
just do as you see fit.
My friends ask me how I feel,
but I ain't feeling shit.

You know, I used to trust Jesus,
but now I've gone astray.
I got a card with my name misspelled
from the President of the U.S.A.

It said, "Merry Christmas in Fallujah,
We hope it's a joyous day.
We've all been praying for you,
Oh,and by the way,
You're there to stay.
You're there to stay."
I'm here to stay.

Most of their stuff is not political, but it's all good. They're in New York April 28th...