According to a breaking report on CNN Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, in a Pentagon press briefing this morning accussed Syria of providing arms shipments to Iraqi forces, characterizing it as, "hostile acts", and thus setting up our next target of opportunity.
And as if this weren't enough, he also went on to warn Iranian partisans crossing the border to support Iraqi irregulars that they would be considered "enemy combatants" and would be dealt with accordingly.
Sheesh! First we're told we'd take Iraq in a matter of days, then they tell us it could be weeks or even months. NOW the tail-waggers are growling at at Syria and Iran (which BTW has a much stronger military capability than Iraq) -- does anyone really have any doubts at this point that Cheney, Rummy & Perlie (who yesterday resigned his chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board -- although not from the Board itself -- despite the growing controversy over his conflict-of-interest lobbying for a Hong Kong-based company trying to buy out Global Crossing, a telecommunications firm that does a lot of contract work for the Department Of Defense) have their sights on extending U.S. military domination to the entire region?
You think it's ugly NOW gang, I have a bad feeling we've only seen the tip of the iceberg...
MSNBC has a gruesome little graphic up on their website showing the number of Coalition Forces casualties suffered since the beginning of "Operation Iraqi Freedom".
I guess the cutesy little stick figures are designed to desensitize viewers to the fact that real bodies are being blown to bits over there
but, what's REALLY depressing is that if you look closely at the numbers, of the 38 listed fatalities to date, 25 have died as a result of mechanical mishaps, pilot error, friendly fire, and what can only be described as "someone going crazy and lobbing grenades at his own men".
In short, OUR SIDE is responsible for killing TWICE AS MANY of our OWN people than the Iraqi army is.
MARCH 25th: In a stunning announcement today, General Tommy Franks informed reporters that Coalition Forces have developed a bold new strategy guaranteed to quickly end the Iraqi conflict. "Yes, the rumors are true. We intend to send the U.S.S. Nimitz back in time through a temporal rift to just before Operation Desert Storm. The Nimitz's complement of F-15 Hornets will then undertake a surprise sortee on Bagdhad, taking out known Republican Guard and Ba'ath Party strongholds. We believe this will allow us to decapitate Saddam Hussein's regime before Iraq's 1991 invasion of Kuwait, thus giving our forces on the ground in 2003 an overwhelming advantage as they race toward the capital."
Last night was the 75th Anniversary of the Academy Awards, the night when the Hollywood gliterati come out in full force (albeit this year with some notable persons in absentia) to bask in the kleig-light glow of a self-congratulatory orgy of angst, triumph, speechifying and designer dress decolletage. Tonight of course was no exception, despite the cloud of war hanging over the proceedings. ABC presented a confusing coverage of the event, on the one hand deliberately avoiding showing pictures of protesters (both pro- and anti-war) rallying a few blocks from Los Angeles' Kodak Center, while at the same time breaking-in with periodic updates from a somber Peter Jennings, telling us how things didn't seem to be going quite according to plan in Iraq.
Still, the mood inside the hall remained festive enough, with the self-celebratory atmosphere broken only on a couple of occasions, most notably by gadfly Michael Moore who, in his acceptance speech for Best Documentary Feature publicly chastized Shrub for engaging in a "fictitious war for fictitious reasons", resulting in an uncharacteristing spate of booing. Interestingly enough, when the cameras panned the A-List crowd on the main floor, everyone was pretty much sitting at polite albeit unresponsive attention, indicating that the chorus of cheers-n-jeers came from the back row industry-suits or the assorted invited family & syncophants in the upper deck. Ironically, surprise winner Adrian Brody got a standing ovation for his impassioned plea for peace during his acceptance speech for Best Actor in the Holocaust-set "The Pianist".
Host Steve Martin kept the proceedings upbeat and on-schedule, getting in the obligatory celebrity and industry jabs, while the telecast producers finally got a clue and abandoned the painful-to-watch interpretive dance number that have always seemed wretched to the point of self-mockery. The several film montages of past-Oscar winners, and the In Memorium segment were interesting, while the roll call of past Academy Award recipients got a bit tedius despite having a number of "are they still alive?" participants. Best Song numbers were for the most part forgetable, with the exception of U-2's rousing number from "The Gangs Of New York". Noticeably absent however, was Eminem, who pulled off another upset in that category. And Peter O'Toole's heartfelt acceptance of an honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement was definitely one of the high points of the evening.
That noise you've been hearing on CNN & the networks is that of the proverbial shit hitting the fan. It's just a coincidence that it happens to sound exactly like the impact of a Tomahawk cruise missile or "bunker buster" bomb.
The next sound you will hear will be that made by Shrub, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Bob Mueller and Tom Ridge (with the approval of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, among others) collectively flushing your civil and Constitutional rights down the toilet
Wow, isn't that list IMPRESSIVE? Oh and by-the-way, only two of the 30 nations listed are actually sending troops into the combat zone (Australia & The U.K.), but Turkey MIGHT allow U.S. warplanes overflight rights. And the rest? Well, heck yeah they're right behind us, watching our six no doubt, uh huh, ya' sure, you betcha.
It should also be noted that when senior diplomats for several of these countries were contacted by reporters regarding their inclusion on the list -- they didn't know anything about it!
After months of negotiation, arm-twisting, and blatant attempts at bribery, this is supposed to prove that our Clueless Leader has a world-wide coalition of support for his version of Apocolypse Lite?
On a lighter note, today of course is St. Patrick's Day celebrated in honor of Ireland's patron saint. Although it seems that for this one day everyone shows an affinity for all things Celtic, for those of us with an actual Irish heritage, it means more than drinking green beer and looking for hapless people to pinch.
I'm proud to claim 1/4 Irish background through my paternal grandmother, Justine McMenamin (yes, of those McMenamins) Comte, a veritable icon of the Portland Irish Catholic community. The oldest of 10 siblings, she has long been the matriarch of a large extended family that has been a fixture in the City Of Roses for seven generations. At the age of 89, she still maintains a vitality of life that puts people half her age (including myself) to shame.
I was fortunate enough a couple of years ago to pay a brief visit to Omagh in County Tyrone, the birthplace of my great-great grandfather. It was a very strange experience being the first person in five generations to retrace the footsteps of someone who, 140 years previously had walked the same streets and roads, knowing that it would be the last time he would look upon the place where he had grown up, and where much of his kin still remained. It was especially poignent when you consider that, somewhere among the time-worn cottages or newer residential housing developments lived distant relations, strangers to an entire branch of our respective family trees.
For me, Grandma Justine has always embodied the spirit of our Irish heritage. Proud, energetic, strong-willed, devout, effusive and sociable, she has all the qualities that one would identify as the epitome of the Irish character. That her and my stoic, atheistic, bookish, gallic grandfather -- so much the exact opposite of her in personality -- could would have built a life together for more than 50 years says an awful lot about the power of love to overcome any obsticle.
My grandparents lived for most of their lives in Northeast Portland, just a few blocks away from St. Rose's, where Grandma was a regular fixture at twice-a-week Mass (and where I had a mercifully brief experience being taught by ruler-wielding nuns at the age of six). If you lived in Northeast Portland, particularly in the Hollywood, Halsey, Rose City or Grant Park neighborhoods from the 1940's on, chances are you or someone you knew was well-acquanted with Grandma Justine. She in turn knew the name of pretty much every shopkeeper, vendor or business owner along Broadway and Sandy Boulevards. For nearly 20 years she was an employee at the Hollywood Fred Meyer, where she worked, not because she and Granpa needed the money (he had retired a number of years earlier from a successful career in banking), but because with no children or grandchildren in the house, she needed the stimulus of activity, and connection to other people that such a situation could offer.
When my grandfather became seriously ill several years ago, they made the rather painful decision to split their living arrangements, since he required increasingly intensive medical supervision, and it had simply become physically impossible for her to meet these needs. So, Grandpa was moved into a long-term medical care facility (slightly better than a typical nursing home), while Grandma went to live in an independent living community run by the Archdiocese. Not surprisingly, she already new most of the people living there, and freed from the burden of caring for Grandpa Bill, has literally been "living the life of Reilly".
Although not as active as she once was, she still manages regular outings, presides of family events and social occasions of all kinds, and cheerfully maintains her matriarchal status at the head of both the McMenamin and Comte families. Her energy and joy de' vivre are infectious, and on this day especially, her ringing, lilting laughter is no doubt filling the cavernous, restaurant-sized dining room at Calaroga Terrace.
So, in honor of Grandma Justine, and all the extended members of the McMenamin family:
Not surprisingly, the U.S.-led coalition (along with Britain and Spain - so I guess that qualifies as a "coalition") withdrew their proposed resolution from the United Nations Security Council this morning, citing France's intended veto as a rationale. What they failed to mention of course was the quite obvious fact that France wouldn't even have had to exercise their veto, since it has been clear for days that there was a solid majority in opposition to the resolution anyway. This simply gives the pro-war faction a not terribly convincing way to save face given the overwhelming world-wide opposition to a unilateral pre-emptive incursion into Iraq.
So, now Shrub has given Saddam the equivalent of a "git out of Dodge City" ultimatum, and Administration officials are hinting that "war could be days away." And of course, Saddam is practically daring us to come and get him, with one source indicating that he intends to widen the scope of the war if attacked -- big surprise there, huh? Of course this begs the question: attack with what? If he has in fact been lying all this time about possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD's), and long-range delivery systems, and ends up using them, that would pretty much justify what the U.S. has been saying all along. If on the other hand, it's just a desperate bluff, well he's in for a very nasty surprise himself, because with over a quarter of a million troops in the region just itching to get in and kick Iraqi butt (if for no other reason than it'll mean most of them will get to come home sooner -- whether alive or in body bags, though is part of the dilemma) frankly, ole' Saddam doesn't have a rat's chance of jumping a sinking ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean of getting out alive himself. But then, that also means thousands, possibly tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians are probably going to go down with him before it's all over.
So, I guess it's time to face fact here kids -- we're going to war, we're going to oust Hussein, but at the cost of who knows how many lives, how much money, how many years of euphemistic "nation building" (just another name for armed occupation), even more political and economic destabilization, increased anti-American sentiment around the world, the probability of increased terrorist threats against the U.S., less safety and security for our own citizens accompanied by a concurrent acceleration in the erosion of domestic civil liberties, some short-term gains for companies owned by or affiliated with Bush/Chaney's cronies in the oil and construction industries, and the possibility of moving another few steps closer to the Biblical prophesy of Armageddon that Shrub and his born-again buddies seem so hell-bent on bringing to fruition.
Here's what we're in for gang, although chances are you WON'T be seeing pictures like this on CNN:
Yes, believe it or not it's only been 10 years since Marc Andreesen, then a student at the University of Illinois' National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) published the Mosaic browser, the first integrated Graphical User Interface (GUI) for simultaneously viewing both pictures and text on web sites. The Web itself had been around for several years, but prior to Andreesen's (along with co-developer Eric Bina) application, Web access was limited mostly to academic & military users, was extremely cumbersome (for example previous browsers did not allow for viewing text & graphics in the same window) and prohibitively expensive (you had to be running a UNIX server or workstation). Mosaic made it possible for anyone with a Windows or Mac OS personal computer to log onto the internet and view integrated web pages, to navigate with easy-to-use "push button" controls, and allowed for simple, efficient hypertex linking, thus giving birth to this monster that now consumes so much of our time.
Andreesen later went on to found Netscape Communications, which until it was bought out by AOL/Time Warner in 1999 was the "little guy's" Internet Explorer (if you don't include even more obscure "open source" applications such as Mozilla or Opera), beloved by Bill Gates-hating geeks the world over. Now sadly, it's just another little pool in the huge multi-national online media conglomerate that netizens hate almost as much as our loathed neighbor on Lake Washington.
So, Thanks Marc and Eric for providing all of us with 10 years of more efficient time wasting during non-productive work hours -- SAH-LUTE!
Brian Eno wrote this extremely cogent commentary on the current state of America -- for the European edition of "Time" Magazine. Too bad the people who REALLY need to read it most likely won't, but just in case, here it is in it's entirety:
"THE U.S. NEEDS TO OPEN UP TO THE WORLD
To this European, America is trapped in a fortress of arrogance and ignorance
By BRIAN ENO
Europeans have always looked at America with a mixture of fascination and puzzlement, and now, increasingly, disbelief. How is it that a country that prides itself on its economic success could have so many very poor people? How is it that a country so insistent on the rule of law should seek to exempt itself from international agreements? And how is it that the world's beacon of democracy can have elections dominated by wealthy special interest groups? For me, the question has become: "How can a country that has produced so much cultural and economic wealth act so dumb?"
I could fill this page with the names of Americans who have influenced, entertained and educated me. They represent what I admire about America: a vigorous originality of thought, and a confidence that things can be changed for the better. That was the America I lived in and enjoyed from 1978 until 1983. That America was an act of faith — the faith that "otherness" was not threatening but nourishing, the faith that there could be a country big enough in spirit to welcome and nurture all the diversity the world could throw at it. But since Sept. 11, that vision has been eclipsed by a suspicious, introverted America, a country-sized version of that peculiarly American form of ghetto: the gated community. A gated community is defensive. Designed to keep the "others" out, it dissolves the rich web of society into a random clustering of disconnected individuals. It turns paranoia and isolation into a lifestyle.
Surely this isn't the America that anyone dreamed of; it's a last resort, nobody's choice. It's especially ironic since so much of the best new thinking about society, economics, politics and philosophy in the last century came from America. Unhampered by the snobbery and exclusivity of much European thought, American thinkers vaulted forward — courageous, innovative and determined to talk in a public language. But, unfortunately, over the same period, the mass media vaulted backward, thriving on increasingly simple stories and trivializing news into something indistinguishable from entertainment. As a result, a wealth of original and subtle thought — America's real wealth — is squandered.
This narrowing of the American mind is exacerbated by the withdrawal of the left from active politics. Virtually ignored by the media, the left has further marginalized itself by a retreat into introspective cultural criticism. It seems content to do yoga and gender studies, leaving the fundamentalist Christian right and the multinationals to do the politics. The separation of church and state seems to be breaking down too. Political discourse is now dominated by moralizing, like George W. Bush's promotion of American "family values" abroad, and dissent is unpatriotic. "You're either with us or against us" is the kind of cant you'd expect from a zealous mullah, not an American President.
When Europeans make such criticisms, Americans assume we're envious. "They want what we've got," the thinking goes, "and if they can't get it, they're going to stop us from having it." But does everyone want what America has? Well, we like some of it but could do without the rest: among the highest rates of violent crime, economic inequality, functional illiteracy, incarceration and drug use in the developed world. President Bush recently declared that the U.S. was "the single surviving model of human progress." Maybe some Americans think this self-evident, but the rest of us see it as a clumsy arrogance born of ignorance.
Europeans tend to regard free national health services, unemployment benefits, social housing and so on as pretty good models of human progress. We think it's important — civilized, in fact — to help people who fall through society's cracks. This isn't just altruism, but an understanding that having too many losers in society hurts everyone. It's better for everybody to have a stake in society than to have a resentful underclass bent on wrecking things. To many Americans, this sounds like socialism, big government, the nanny state. But so what? The result is: Europe has less gun crime and homicide, less poverty and arguably a higher quality of life than the U.S., which makes a lot of us wonder why America doesn't want some of what we've got.
Too often, the U.S. presents the "American way" as the only way, insisting on its kind of free-market Darwinism as the only acceptable "model of human progress." But isn't civilization what happens when people stop behaving as if they're trapped in a ruthless Darwinian struggle and start thinking about communities and shared futures? America as a gated community won't work, because not even the world's sole superpower can build walls high enough to shield itself from the intertwined realities of the 21st century. There's a better form of security: reconnect with the rest of the world, don't shut it out; stop making enemies and start making friends. Perhaps it's asking a lot to expect America to act differently from all the other empires in history, but wasn't that the original idea?"
This is what happens when the people involved in producing Broadway entertainment come from the ranks of the multi-national corporate media conglomerates (Disney, Clear Channel, etc.), who have little interest in preserving the very characteristics that make the Broadway Musical a uniquely American art form. In this age where the axiom of "maximizing shareholder value" (read, "making as much profit as possible"), outweighs all other considerations, it's not surprising that these companies don't understand (or worse, don't care) that it is the interaction between the performer and the audience that makes the experience of going to the theater unique and worthwhile.
In their mind, the product is secondary; it's really about making as much money as possible for the least amount of expenditure. Hey, musicians are expensive; you have to pay them salaries, and health insurance, and worker's comp. Plus, they get sick, they make unreasonable demands, like having a safe place to work, or heat or the ability to see their music. Much better to buy a $2,000 laptop computer and some software to take the place of 20 live musicians, because after all, the audience doesn't REALLY care whether it's "live or Microsoft", so long as they can walk out of the theatre humming the tunes. Oh, and while they're at it, pick up some t-shirts, coffee mugs, souvenier programs, personal hygeine products and CD's in the lobby on their way out the door. So far as they're concerned, audiences are little more than consumerist sheep, who will blindly continue to pay already high ticket prices for the privilege of watching live actors sing along to canned music. And if they could figure out a way to get rid of the actors and still charge $100 a ticket, I don't doubt for a moment they'd jump on that opportunity as well.
That's what they mean when they throw around biz-speak terms like "leveraging the value of the brand" and "synergy", which is jst another way to say, "separate the sucker from the contents of his wallet".
I just found out yesterday that the marquee sign outside Annex Theatre's old digs at 1916 4th Avenue was recently taken down by the new tenants, The Vera Project and the old Annex logo that had been on it since 1988 was removed so they could put something of their own in its place. Although in a sense it's fitting that Vera is recycling the signage (since Annex themselves did the same thing with the "Fred Astaire Dance Studio" panels that were in it originally), still it's a sad moment in the history of a great -- and still very much alive -- organization.
For the handful of you who might read this and don't know the history of Annex Theatre, it was started many, many years ago by a bunch of Bainbridge Island high-school buddies, including the late Dave Skubbina, who I went to school with at Western Washington University in the mid '80's. After graduation, a bunch of us moved down to Seattle, hoping to break into the local theatre scene, which at that time consisted almost exclusively of the major theatres (Seattle Rep, ACT, Intiman) along with a handful of mid-sized theatres like Empty Space, The Group and Pioneer Square Theatre (home of the local legendary long-running "Angry Housewives"). After months of frustration trying to get collective feet in their doors, several of the "Western Alumni" decided to start their own theatre company. Dave and a couple of his friends had produced a production of James McClure's "Lone Star" at The Storefront Theatre on Bainbridge a few years before under the Annex Monicker, and so the name was resurrected for their new venture. For three years they produced a series of shows on the Island, occasionally bringing their work over to various venues in Seattle.
In 1988 the founding members of Annex -- Dave, Micha Rice, John Lawler, Garrett Bennett, Mike Rainey, Mike Shapiro and Brian Cole decided to permanently relocate their company to Seattle, since most of them were already living in town by then. After a search lasting several months, they discovered the long-abandoned "Fred Astaire Dance Studio" on the 2nd floor of a building at 1916 4th Avenue, just up the street from The Bon Marche. Rumor had it that the space had originally been a Prohibition-era speakeasy; it had a large dance floor area just right for a small theatre, along with office space, a box office area, and several ancillary rooms which could serve a variety of functions. It was a perfect venue for doing "big cheap theatre", and everyone who saw it instantly fell in love with the place, including me.
I can still recall the day Dave walked into work at TicketMaster (or as we dubbed it "The Western Alumni Club", since there were so many theatre grads working there at the time) with a rolled up bundle of architectural drawings for the space tucked under his arm. They'd spoken with The Clise Agency, owners of the building, and were in the process of working out a deal that would give them the space on a long-term "handshake lease" of $1 per year. It was all very exciting -- these guys were actually going to start their own theatre company! This was years before the term "fringe theatre" came into common usage in Seattle, when you could count the number of such companies and still have a couple of fingers left over.
Several months, a lot of sweat, paint and plaster later, 1916 4th Ave officially opened with a remounted production of "Straightjacket", a multi-media riff on the "Frankenstein" legend written by Bennett & Lawler. I can still feel the shivers that ran down my spine when the lights went down, a brief film began playing on the back wall of the set showing doctors rushing a gurney down a hospital corridor then (I think it was) Brian Faker bursting through the strip-screen dressed in a lab coat, welder's mask and thick rubber gloves, arms stretched out above his head, his feet widely planted in a gesture of supreme triumph that stated what many of us felt at the time: We were invincible! We could do anything! Nothing could stop us!
That was how it all started. And for 13 years it was a glorious ride, sometimes frightening, but always exhilarating. My involvement in the Company (always run on the concept of a true Socialist Collective) waxed and waned over the years, but even when I became less actively involved in the actual making of theatre there, I was always a patron, a subscriber and a supporter, and always took to heart something John Sylvain, a long-time colleague avouched once when we were all in the throes of yet another in a seemingly endless string of debates on what constituted a "Company Member", "If you think you're a member, then you ARE a member!" he shouted, as was his wont. And so, even when I wasn't doing work there, I always thought of myself as being part of the larger Annex community, and still do.
"So, what does this reminiscence have to do with a lousy piece of plexiglass?" you're probably asking yourself. Well, I'll tell you. Back around 1999 or 2000 Clise announced their intentions to redevelop the site, knock down the building and put up a hotel or office tower or some such, and so we all thought we could see the writing on the wall. Plus, the sweetheart deal brokered by the founders had long since lapsed and the financial costs of maintaining the space were beginning to take their toll. So, we decided to get out on our own terms, which we did, moving a dozen years worth of memories, detritus and equipment either into storage, or more likely into the dumpsters in the alley and out to the landfill. One final major blowout of a party ensued, and then we turned out the lights on 1916.
That's where the sign comes in. It had been up before Annex moved into the space, advertising the "Fred Astaire" location, and someone got the bright idea to take out the panels and redo them with a snazzy updated logo, based on Dave's original "Anarchy symbol" design. For 12 years that was what greeted you as you walked up 4th Ave. It was our public face proclaiming our existence to the world, and faceteously hinting at lascivious doings inside with it's "Live Theatre" motto (based on the "Live Girls" motto of a strip club down by the Pike Place Market). After we left the space, the sign remained, a solitary reminder of what had been a glorious time and place. When I occasionally caught the #17 bus on the corner just down the block, I could always look up and see it there, clutching the side of the building like a climber digging their fingers into the rock to keep from falling. It was the last, solid, tangeable connection to a space that many, many good, great and brilliant people -- some sadly no longer with us -- had the honor and pleasure to work, party, and in a very real sense live in.
And now it's gone. The last trace of the existence of Annex's presence at 1916 4th Avenue has been wiped away, ironically to make room for another small, struggling non-profit organization run for the benefit of a bunch of kids who got tired of waiting for somebody else to provide them with a venue for their creative expression and so decided to just Do It Themselves.
It's sad to think that Clothe has cut the final thread on the life of Annex at 1916, but that's the thing about Fate; it works its own will and all you can do is ride the ride.
The count as of today is over 1,000 readings for The Lysistrata Project in 59 countries and all 50 States. Performances range from on-the-street "guerilla theatre" presentations, to informal readings in private homes (including The People's Republic of China, where the participants are reluctant to even identify themselves for fear of government reprisals), to star-studded galas in New York and Los Angeles.
The brainchild of New York actors Katheryn Blume & Sharron Bower, this "first-ever world wide theatrical event for peace" has literally blossomed into an incredible outpouring of support, talent, energy and dedication from not only the theatrical community, but concerned individuals across the globe. It is truly an amazing thing to behold, and I'm proud to make my small contribution to the effort.
Now, no one involved with this project should have any illusions that all this will suddenly make Ole' Georgie II wake up and smell the coffee as it were, but rather it is simply another example of what should be a fact that even the most cynical, uber-right-wing chickenhawk can no longer afford to ignore; there is no concensus on going to war with Iraq, not within the United States nor in the rest of the world community. In the event that Shrub decides to ignore this collective show of opposition to his policies (and who out there has any real doubts on that score?), what we're doing today is sending a message in clear, unambiguous terms: you will be held accountable for your actions. We will not be silent, and we will continue to perform our patriotic duty as citizens of both this nation and of the world to demand that all peaceful means of resolving this conflict be exhausted before the first bomb falls and the first innocent Iraqi civilian and first U.S. soldier has to die needlessly to satisfy your bloodlust and ambition.