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The Bush Diaries

A daily, somewhat irreverent and highly personal "conversation" with President George W. Bush about national and international news; but also about issues of broad cultural interest.

Updated: 2017-06-21T20:05:08.800-07:00


The Last Chapter


Oh, Bush! What a truly abject performance last night, in your farewell address. It was a little like this (with apologies to Jack Horner):

Little George Bushy sat on his tuschy
Eating his Humble Pie;
He put in both thumbs
And pulled out a few plums
And said, What a good boy am I!

There you were, Bush, a little person on the big screen with your little coy, little self-satisfied, little snarky smile, in a rosy world of your own imagination. Who would have thought, listening to you, that you had brought us a needless war that cost tens, no, hundreds of thousands of lives; an American city still devastated by nature and your subsequent callous neglect; an economy in freefall with millions of your fellow-countrypeople losing their nest-eggs or their jobs; a world that looks askance at the country you were never fit to govern? No, Bush, your words put a new complexion on those hackneyed rose-tinted glasses. They added a whole new level of meaning to the ability to keep looking on the bright side. So much for good intentions!

Here's the question, Bush, to which we really need to know the answer: do you really know the truth? Have you simply decided to disguise it in the best way possible? Or is there something in your mind that prevents you from seeing it? Do you actually believe yourself what you're trying to persuade the rest of us to believe?

I have honestly not been able to answer this question (it's really only one.) Perhaps it doesn't matter. I look at you, Bush, and I see a sad little boy trying hard to stay afloat in waters that are much too deep and dangerous for him. I have always seen you that way. A little boy, never quite fully adjusted to the real world and clinging to a few Big Ideas as though to a life raft. It's a sad reflection on our culture and the state of our education that we allowed you to get this far out of your depth. It's the ultimate manifestation of the syndrome that unfortunately bears my name: the Peter Principle, which holds that "In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence." How true, Bush. How true.

One of the big questions now, for your successor, is whether to investigate your incompetence and your inexcusable exploitation of power for political gain; and, if necessary, to prosecute your crimes, and those committed in your name. I have tended to side reluctantly with those who say that there are more important, desperately pressing issues--issues that will prove all the harder to solve without bipartisan support. However--no doubt you read this piece in this morning's New York Times, Bush? Or maybe not-- Paul Krugman's column, "Forgive and Forget?", was most persuasive. He argues a good case, indeed.

No matter, the time has come to say farewell. You will become, as you say, an "American citizen" again and the worst harm you'll be able to wreak upon the country, we hope, will be in the voting booth. There have been times, as well you know, that I have been angry with you, Bush. And the truth is that I still hold a lot anger for the things you have done, and am unable to come to terms with this anger unless you, in turn, are able to acknowledge and accept responsibility for them. And believe me, Bush, I'm not holding my breath. In the meantime, all I can feel for you at this point is pity--and even pity is a stretch.

So, farewell, Bush. Our daily intercourse concludes with this last entry. I wish you... well, I wish you enlightenment and, with it, in the spirit of the Buddhist teachings I have come to embrace, eventual release from whatever suffering you feel.

A Reminder


The Bush Diaries has recently morphed into The Buddha Diaries. Please check us out there.

The Budget Proposal


(As posted in The Buddha Diairies.)

Trading "The Bush Diaires" for "The Buddha Diaires" did not mean, of course, eschewing all expression of political opinion. I just don't plan to spend so much time in that arena.

Yesterday's release of the Bush budget proposal needs some response in these pages in view of its distinctly un-Buddhist approach to national and international priorities. It seems clear at this point in time that the military-industrial complex about which Eisenhower warned us all those years ago has triumphed, and that the reverse Robin Hood budgetary philosophy of the Bush administration is to be aggressively pursued in flagrant denial of the wishes of the American electorate when they returned a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress. The profligate generosity extended to the military, in the form of budget increases, and to the very wealthy in the form of tax benefit extensions is matched only by the mean-spirited parsimony when it comes to the poor and the oppressed. On the global front, the dismissively short shrift it gives to the most urgent problem facing our planet--the stabilization of our environment--is mind-boggling.

So where is the compassion? Where is the mindfulness of well-established realities? Where is the recognition of urgent problems needing resolution? I am left with the bleak hope that the power to which this sadly ovine country has entrusted a president apparently bereft of a human heart and the requisite listening skills to govern is not, now, such that even the Congress of the United States in unable to thwart it. The Bush budget proposal is an arrogant kiss-off to every basic humanitarian value, and a shameful statement about our country to the world. Its unambiguous message is that we care more for the acquisition of needless weaponry and excessive wealth than we do for the well-being of our own people and the survival of our species. It is, in a word, disgraceful.



... The Bush Diaires has morphed into The Buddha Diaries. Please visit us there! Cheers, PaL



This morning's news of death and disaster in Central Florida due to tornado activity coincides with the larger news that accompanies the concurrent release of the United Nations report on climate change. We have too long chosen to remain deaf to the signals from our planet with the result that the damage caused by our negligence is now, according to the scientists who contributed to this study, basically irreversible. The harm we have inflicted on our little corner of the universe is surely no more than an infinitessimal blip on the cosmic radar screen; but to us, the human species--well, Florida is likely to prove but a minor foretaste. Even Katrina, with all her deadly force, may look like a tempest in a teapot when compared with what the Earth has in store for us, her unruliest inhabitants.

The UN report makes clear that the effects of our industrial and post-industrial consumption and our burning of the fossil fuel resources that enabled it may last for centuries to come. Whether the human species will survive its own mindless improvidence and greed remains an open question. We pride ourselves on the knowledge we have gained about the planet we are given to inhabit, but surely our ignorance is far greater. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose, it matters little to the universe--perhaps even to the planet itself--whether this one troublesome species survives. We have contributed already to the extinction of so many others, and the world keeps turning inexorably, shrugging off the loss and adapting to the change in ways of which we humans seem incapable. Our minds are prisoners of old ways of thinking, old conceptions of what it is we need--and what we need is always more than what we have. We seem fated to strive for the "growth" and "progress" that will assure our downfall.

Until we learn that there must be some limit to our grasping, until we learn tolerance and patience for the needs of other humans and of other species, we will continue down this path toward eventual destruction. We need to be more mindful that it is our actions that contribute to the creation of the world we live in; and our actions, should we all finally agree to make it so, that can begin to reverse the disastrous path that we have chosen.

An Apology... and an Invitation


Visitors to The Bush Diaries--and readers of "The Last Post", below--will discover that this journal has been largely discontinued. My apologies. They are kindly invited, instead, to catch up with PeterAtLarge at The Buddha Diaries, where he continues to hold forth.

The Last Post



… to The Bush Diaries from PeterAtLarge. Well, maybe not a complete goodbye, but rather more of a Let’s not see quite so much of each other any more.

Here’s the thing, Bush. You have just been taking up too much of my time of late. You have been occupying too much of my mind space. I have been getting up early every morning thinking about you and what I have to say to you. I have been too anxious to get to the newspaper and the morning television news. I have been too anxious to get to my computer.

It has been a good run. I have enjoyed our daily chats. But more and more I have been finding myself predictable on virtually every issue that comes up between us. I know exactly what I’m going to say, and I’m guessing that you do, too. Truth to tell, it hasn’t been so much fun as it was when we started out, more than two years ago. And I want more time to read. I want more time to explore the intricacies of my mind, and follow where it takes me.

I know you have another two years in office. I’m all too aware, indeed, of that unpalatable fact—as is most of the rest of the nation at this point. But you, too, have become irritatingly predictable. “Stay the course” seems to have become your whole life’s purpose. And not just in Iraq. Your State of the Union speech was proof enough that you don’t have a single interesting new idea on any subject. You’re just treading water at the moment, in the desperate attempt to remain afloat for another two years.

So you’ll just have to manage without me, Bush. Well, as I say, not completely. My hope is that my colleague Cardozo will accept my offer of The Bush Diaires, which I intend to make today. He’s a bright young man, and he writes well. I trust that he can do a good job for you. If he accepts, I make the gift without strings attached. I know that he’s partial to Obama for the 2008 election: maybe he’ll want to change our daily conversations to reflect that view. Maybe he’ll bring friends in to the conversation, more voices… I don’t know. He’ll be free to do whatever he wants to.

And I hope that he’ll be open to posting a word from PeterAtLarge when the spirit moves me. Once in a while, Bush, I do have something that I need to tell you. But I don’t need the responsibility of having to talk to you every single day. I have begun to get tired to the sound of my own voice. At least in this particular forum.

To those of our faithful readers who have enjoyed this journal, I say thank you. As I say, it has been a good run for me, and I have always enjoyed your comments and responses. And to them, too, this invitation: come join me in my new venture, the new forum for my writing practice—for I would not wish to give that up with The Bush Diaries. You’ll find me meandering through my thoughts and feelings at The Buddha Diaries. It’s a fit sequel, I hope, and one which will allow me the freedom that I’m always looking for. It started yesterday.

To you, Bush, I send all the metta I can muster. That’s goodwill and compassion. As my teacher has taught me to say: May you be happy. May you find true happiness in your life. Because, as he points out, if you and others like you were to find true happiness, the world would be a better place. "

A footnote: Cardozo has, regrettably, declined. He has his own fish to fry, and rightly so. In view of this, I plan to keep these pages open for occasional addition, as when I feel the need to be back in touch. For now... well, Bush, it's fare thee well. Your PaL

A Meditation Weekend


I only hope you had as profitable a weekend as I did, Bush. Three days (almost) of (almost) total silence. Can you imagine anything more beautiful? This, nestled in among the snow-blanketed hills of New Mexico, just a little south od Santa Fe. It was cold at nght, I promise you. And the meditation sits sometimes seemed long: an hour in the morning, and three consecutive hours in the afternoon interspersed with two half-hour periods of meditative walking. Sometimes, too, the hour seemed unbelievably short. It depends, of course, on what the mind is doing. If it's busy fighting the whole thing, as mine sometimes does, then the hour gets interminable: I sit there wondering what I'm doing there and when it's going to end. When the mind's at rest, observant and attentive and the breath flows smoothly, the hour flies by.

It would have been great to have you there with us, Bush. Our teacher--a Thai Forest monk who normally studiously eschews politics in his teaching--relayed the joke that the voice of God had been revealed to be actually your Cheney on the intercom, and that no one had yet figured out a way to tell you. (image) Had you been with us, though, I believe you would have been much moved by his teachings on goodwill, compassion, empathetic joy and equanimity. Such great wisdom in the Buddha's teachings, much of it not at all inconsistent with the teachings of your Jesus but with the added benefit, for me, in not needing to believe in any God--or gods. The notion that happiness is possible for human beings to achieve, if only they manage to let go their cravings, is an attractive one; and the breath meditation is a wonderful way to release those cravings, if only for one moment at a time.

What I brought home with me: a renewed sense of the expansion of my potential as a human being and the goal to look for simpler ways to lead my life, less demanding and invasive of all those other living beings with whom I share this planet; and a rededication to the notion that sitting meditation need not be viewed as some kind of self-imposed disciplinary torture, but that can quite simply be a pleasure, a daily treat, or retreat. "A nice place to be."

More later, Bush. Give me time to catch up with your doings and I'll be back in touch. In the meantime, as the teaching goes, may you be happy; may you find true happiness in your life; may you be free from animosity; may you be free from stress and pain...

Looking out for Number 1


The case can be made that everything you've done so far in your adminstration, Bush, has been in America's best interests. Certainly, one way to respond to a physical threat is to try to annihilate that threat, and to gradually transform - through economics, regime change, and warfare - the region where that threat originated.

The motivations for your dogged pursuit of America's strategic interests are still unclear to me. Patriotism? Divine inspiration? Avarice?

Regardless of the motivation, it's clear to me that you are looking out for #1 - that is, the United States. (Not necessarily it's citizens, mind you, but rather the state as a whole.) This has been our MO ever since independence. Which is not surprising, either. Nearly all countries act toward the same end.

But what if we had a new #1? What if #1 was peace and prosperity for all people? Then, when you looked out for number 1, you'd have to take into account all of the death and misery resulting from military actions that preserve America's "safety" (read: dominance) in the world. The victims of state violence would no longer be expendable.

I think it's time to make that change. At this moment in history, no one is threatening us with full-scale invasion. The physical safety of Americans is jeopardized not by our way of life but by our single-minded economic expansionism. At this time in history, we have some slack to begin assuaging the antogonism between states that leads to violence, economic ruin for the losers, and to the rise of extremism.

Yes, given the current state of things, we will sometimes have to resort to force. But what are we doing to start down the path of eventual peace? What are you doing, Bush? What are any of us doing?

May I be so bold as to suggest a place to start? Admit the failings of our Iraq policy to the international community, and bring forward a proposition to the United Nations through which the world can come together to stabilize that nation. Our vulnerability is on display already. Own up to it, and ask for help. Be the kind of leader the world can respect, and not just at the point of a gun. In a phrase, Bush, help America grow up.

Remember Osama


(image) Good afternoon, Bush. Nauseated from state-of-the-union platitudes (don't worry, Clinton served up equal amounts) I've been scouring the web for some meaningful debate about how to salvage our rotting foreign policy.

I wound up, as I often do, at the Rockridge Institute site, lapping up George Lakoff's words with abandon.

Several months ago,Lakoff penned an article that merits continual rediscovery. For once prioritizing the substance of the issues rather than their "framing," Lakoff lays out convincing reasons why the country is headed in the wrong direction, and why so many Americans see it that way, too.

Lakoff reminds us that the Iraq invasion was detrimental to our response to 9/11, for reasons that by now are clear to most of us: Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and the death and destruction resulting from the invasion increased the effectiveness of Osama bin Laden's anti-Americanism.

Next, Lakoff insists that the concept of a "War on Terror" naturally drives us toward such ineffective invasions, rather than the international police and spy work that leads to the capture of terrorists and the dismantling of their organizations. He also notes that the "war on terror" was actually extremely effective in it's true aims - providing a boost to the seemingly-inexorable process of rich becoming richer.

The country is clearly fed up with the war. The majority of us wish the whole conflict had never started. And yet, Democrats still seem to be talking about Iraq and nothing but Iraq. It's time - as Lakoff would have us do - to return to a national debate about the proper response to terrorism. Yes, we clearly need to find a face-saving and life-saving solution to the growing chaos in Iraq. But that cannot be the only focus of our foreign policy. Instead of non-binding resolutions about troop-levels, I suggest a repeal of the Patriot Act and the advancement of a brand new approach to terror, based upon traditional policework AND (my ever-elusive holy grail) the pursuit of detente between the United States and the Arab world.

George Lakoff, meet Barack Obama. The two of you should talk. Meanwhile, Bush, I suggest you put your ear to the door and wait for that new strategy you've been supposedly looking for these past couple of months.

Just To Let You Know...


....Bush, that I'll be gone for the next few days. I'll be sitting in meditation at a retreat in Santa Fe, away from the television, newspapers, computers, the sound of my own voice... away from everything, in fact, that preoccupies me in these pages. It should prove a refreshing interlude, a good way to get back in touch with the deeper, more important things in life. And maybe forget about your good self. While I'm gone, I'm leaving you in the thoughtful hands of my associate, Cardozo, who will be keeping an eye on you for me. Not much in the way of favorable response to your speech, so far as I can tell. But who knows, you may have won some converts. I'll be back in touch on Monday. Meantime, I trust you'll check in with Cardozo as you would do with me. Have a great weekend. Your PaL(image)

PS Ten degrees at night in Santa Fe. Brrrr....! For us disgustingly pampered Southern Californians, that spells capital C... O... L... D!

Posted by PeterAtLarge

Your Speech


You know me, Bush. I'm no political pundit and no policy wonk. I did listen to your speech last night, as well as to some of the commentary. Your belated attempt to address some serious domestic issues that have been seriously neglected during your tenure in the White House seem to me, at this point, not only too little and too late, but too wrong-headed to lead anywhere. We talked yesterday about health care and insurance. Enough said. Your new spirit of bipartisanship is likely to be sorely tested unless you show a greater ability to soften your anti-government, pro-business positions on the economy, the environment, education, social security, and so on.

Speaking of bipartisanship, though, I'll grant you this: one of the highlights of your speech came right at the start, with your gracious acknowledgement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her achievement. I thought you did that very nicely. Really. And it was a pleasure to see her sitting there behind your shoulder with that scowling Mr. Toad beside her. (Interesting sidelight, by the way, coming out at the beginning of the Libby trial, on your internal White House politics. Libby's lawyer's argument that his client was the scapegoat to save Rove from exposure has the ring of truth to it--especially when electoral success was at stake. If I had to choose which one of those two men to throw in jail, it would be no contest...)

The second highlight, of course, was Mr. Wesley Autrey (any relation to Gene? Just kidding, Bush,) whose "You the man" gestures from the balcony must have warmed your heart, given the cool reception from the Democratic (excuse me, the Democrat) side of the aisle. A man who throws himself under a train to save the life of another man is a sure-fire hero, and his fish-out-of-water presence amongst all those lawmakers and distinguished guests was a refreshing reminder that there really does exist a world out-there, beyond the halls of congress. Best of all, he seemed to be having a whole lot of fun.

The real hero of the evening, though--for me at least--was Jim Webb, who gave the Democratic response to you speech. I thought he was terrific. He offered a powerful, honest, impassioned talk that did not make nice and yet managed to keep the tone to one of tough political and ideological disagreement. I'm sure I wasn't the only one watching who wished that all political discourse could be at this level of authentic intensity.

Let Them Eat Cake


We were worried, yesterday, about George. The dog, that is. He had been squealing a bit, the night before, when I touched his ear and he woke up definitely out of his usual sorts. He did manage his usual hearty breakfast, but otherwise he seemed listless and that ear was still clearly bothering him. Anyway, we called the vet and had an appointment for him that very morning (not as it is for we humans, Bush, as Ellie pointed out. At least those of us with HMOs--who have to wait days or weeks for an appointment with our doctor). Well, a very healthy number of dollars later, George emerged from his doctor's visit with three medications, count 'em, two pills, one vial of ear drops, and spent the day feeling pretty much sorry for himself.

Coincidentally, though, both Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert chose to write about health care insurance yesterday. For humans, of course. Krugamn was deploring your latest let-them-eat-cake approach to solve the growing problem of the unavailability of health insurance for those most in need ot it: the poor, who can't afford it; and those who are already sick, and excluded from coverage by insurance companies who are in it for the profit and are disinclined to cover those who might actually cost them money. Your proposal for providing tax deductions for those probably too poor to be paying taxes anyway is absurd to the point of cruelty. And your "incentives" do nothing for those who are rejected from the system in advance. Herbert highlights the growing problem of those reduced to using credit card debt to cover essential health care costs.

I'm glad that Hillary Clinton put this out at the top of her agenda, and I hope that it will become a central topic in the coming campaign. "Coming"! It's already in high gear. But no matter how much the political hopefuls talk, there will still be people out there for the next couple of years facing life-and-death medical decisions in a system designed to benefit the insurance companies rather than the sick. I've talked about this national disgrace in the past, Bush. I understand you plan to talk about it tonight. If you say what Paul Krugman suggests you're going to say, your proposal is lamentably lacking in the "compassion" you once touted to convince the American people that you were the right man for that job that you hold onto with increasing futility and desperation.

I'll be holding my nose as I listen to the State of the Union speech. So will countless others. Too many of us in desperation, too. It's a depressing thought that George the dog could get the medical attention he needed right away--for no better reason than that his owners were in a position to afford it. Ellie says we're infatuated with this creature. She says he should run for President. Which prompts the thought that he wouldn't be the first dog in the White House, Bush.

Dangerously Delusional


Posted by PeterAtLarge

I woke in a blue funk this morning, Bush. Perhaps it was the result of a conversation I had yesterday afternoon with a couple of smart women at a party, where I found myself propounding the notion that you are not simply the puppet of an evil cabal of corporate oligarchists, but rather a dangerously delusional man who has managed to manipulate all those around him into sharing his delusions. Perhaps my argument was partly the result of having read this analysis of your personality in Truthout last week, forwarded to me by one of our readers of these pages. It's something I have been unwilling to believe because the implications are so terrifying. And yet, and yet... That Conrad cartoon I posted yesterday, the Humpty Dumpty, the cracked egg... I tremble at the thought of the dreadful power you have acquired, the damage you have already done to this nation and the world, and to the planet that we live on. I tremble at the thought of the damage that saner minds may no longer be able to prevent you from doing in the next two years... And, truthfully, I am scared for all of us.

About That Speech...


..this coming Tuesday, Bush. I'm wondering if your speechwriters have noticed that we folks out here in what we like to think is the real world are sick to death of the bullshit and the justifications. To quote a great, late songwriter, "All I want is some truth. Just gimme some truth." I, for one, do not need to hear any further pretenses about your wonderful successes in Iraq and the progress you purport to be making there. I don't want to hear about the victory you're counting on. (I also don't need to see Maliki sitting behind Laura, okay, Bush? Please? Nor the grieving parents of a dead US Marine who have been begging you not to let him have died "in vain.") I don't want any more cover-ups or excuses, and certainly no more lies. This is--or should NOT be--about rallying support once more for policies that have already proved a failure. This is--or should NOT be--yet another sales job for you and your administration. Sad to say, the American electorate has fallen for that sales job many times now, since the 2000 campaign and your subsequent "election." I, for one, am not buying any more lemons from your store.

I watched a special last night on the great cartoonist, Paul Conrad, who skewered Nixon and Reagan for the lies they told and the bill of goods they sold the American public. He's still at it, as I understand, and he has a fine target in the current successor to those worthies--your good self. (image) Conrad was--is--a man who is possessed of a single-minded dedication to the truth, particularly in regard to such matters as war and peace and social justice. I just wish that this fine man, at eighty plus years old, had a bigger bullhorn than he has these days. He needs a fearless editorial page--one that's willing to speak the truth without compromise. We need that kind of incisive critical take on current policies and politics, and it's in regrettably short supply.

Anyway, Bush, good luck with your preparations for that speech. And remember these key words: NO MORE BULLSHIT. Thank you.

Star Wars


Posted by PeterAtLarge

... But first an admiring word for the late Art Buchwald, who died an apparently cheery death a couple of days ago, with a teasing jab at the man with the scythe that was worthy of the best of his irreverent assaults on the pomposity, self righteousness and hypocrisy of those in power. I used to turn to his syndicated column with pleasurable anticipation in the days when the Los Angeles Times still carried it, and missed it when--for whatever specious editorial policy reason--it was gone. I have to say, too, that I feel a kinship with him as a writer, even though I can only aspire to the excellence of his sardonic wit. For him, I believe, as it is for me to this day, all politics was personal.

On another front, Bush, I'm hoping that you're too hamstrung with other weighty matters to respond with your typical bellicosity to the Chinese provocation in destroying one of their own aging satellites in space. It became clear not long ago that you thought the US owned this extra-territory when you nixed negotiations on an international treaty to ban space weaponry and asserted the freedom of this country to do exactly as it pleased beyond this new frontier, as it did--remember?--to its lasting shame, with the native residents of that other new frontier in the 19th century. I find myself wondering what Art Buchwald's imagination would have produced by way of a response to China's action and your arrogant, dismissive America-firstism?

Enough for a lovely Saturday, though. I'm not wasting another minute of it on you, Bush, nor on the state of the world you have created. Have a good weekend.

Barack the Vote, Bush


Posted by CardozoTop 3 reasons George W. Bush should vote for Barak Obama in 20081. You believe in "Compassionate Conservatism"You once said, Bush: “It is compassionate to actively help our fellow citizens in need. It is conservative to insist on responsibility and results.” After the calamities in Katrina and Iraq - and considering that you’ve relied wholly on trickle-down economics to help people out of poverty and reduce the ranks of the uninsured – it’s clear that the contract of compassionate conservatism has been broken. For six years, who monitored your administration’s “responsibility and results?”Compassion is just a word for you, Bush, so how about lending your support to someone like Obama, who spent years (through a church group, no less!) directly assisting the poor and disenfranchised in Chicago, and who is currently on the forefront of the push to demand ethics reform in congress? 2. You want U.S. citizens to be safeIt is well documented, Bush, that you spent a long time (seven minutes, at the very least) deliberating about the best way to respond to the 9/11 attacks. Now, nearly four years into Gulf War #2, more Americans have been killed on the battlefield of Iraq than were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and anti-American sentiment, by virtually all accounts, has risen. I believe that you do want your fellow U.S. citizens to be safe from attack. So why not vote for Obama, who opposed the war from the very beginning, preferring a narrower focus on the actual perpetrators of the crime? 3. You believe in public serviceBut do you serve the public? You were born into wealth and never left it. You became a businessman. You owned a baseball team. I think it’s fair to say that you embody (and can only truly hope to represent) the interests of the wealthy. Your vote for Barack Obama would put someone in the oval office with the capacity to understand where virtually all Americans are coming from. He knows of poverty and discrimination – both personally and professionally. And now, as an established public servant, he has reaped the rewards of the hard work and responsibility that you so admire. Can you acknowledge that such a man might be better equipped to serve the public as its chief executive? If so, no one will have to know. Our ballots are still secret, aren’t they Bush? Technorati tags:2008 election, bush, george w bush, iraq, Obama, president[...]

The Art of Outrage


Posted by PeterAtLarge

I neglected to mention this earlier, Bush, but Monday of this week witnessed the launch of Artscene Visual Radio with a column by yours truly under the title "The Art of Outrage." I believe I mentioned a while ago that I had been working on the first installment, a piece about an artist I identified as "the master" of the genre, Robbie Conal. Now that piece is out, and you can listen to it online by merely clicking on the link. You'll also find some less-than-flattering images of your good self, I fear, one of them in a nice tango with your Rice. I'm working on a second program right now, which will have to sufficently account for the brevity of today's entry. Those of our readers so inclined may choose to check in on the Robbie Conal piece as an interesting alternative.


A quick note, though, to acknowledge some political changes in the air: first, the Democrats seem to be headed finally toward some kind of collective stance in opposition to your escalation of the Iraq war. And now, it seems from today's headlines, you are backing off from your domestic spying program--I suppose also as a result of the new political pressures from those Democrats. Good new on both fronts, in my opinion, though I doubt that you'll agree.

Dinner With Jack... Bauer, That Is


Posted by PeterAtLarge

We went out to dinner with our new neighbors from across the street last night, Bush. They happen to spend some time, like your good self, in Washington, DC, and they acquired this Los Angeles base in order to be able to spend time with their young folk, who ended up out here. We had been planning for a while to make a dinner date so that we could get to know each other better, and Ellie made us a reservation for last night at this unpretentious little Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, located at an unprepossessing mini-mall not ten minutes from where we live.

Well, no sooner had we settled down to order when in walks Jack Bauer. In the flesh! (image) And takes a seat with his lady friend at the very next table to us! No gun, of course. Not that we could see, anyway. This obviously wasn't one hour of his 24, since he had the leisure to interrupt his dinner for long enough to enjoy a cigarette out in the cool night air. (A bit disappointed in that, Bush, I have to say. I hadn't imagined our good Jack Bauer mortgaging his life to the tobacco industry. Ah, well, some illusions do get shattered from time to time...)

We had an excellent dinner, though. This place is really something. A wonderful Italian spread, solicitous waiters anxious that the patrons know every detail of the menu and choose well, a nice glass of Chianti, good company... what could be better? And we arrived back home in time for me (Ellie wisely chooses to abstain from such television fare) to watch that same Jack Bauer, in a recorded episode, defend his country once again against those evil terrorists. (This time, though, despite Jack's very best efforts--including killing his best friend--the terrorists managed to stage that mushroom cloud you've been warning us about. More next week!)

So I thought to myself, well, I hope Bush has a few of these guys around--guys like old Jack, who seems like a good friend, now that we've virtually broken bread with him. We didn't actually speak to each other, but you know what I mean, right? Rubbing shoulders... But I'm sure you need these guys who aren't afraid to show a little muscle when it's needed, who don't let a few quaint moral qualms get between them and a little old-fashioned torture when it's needed to extort that vital information... I mean, Bush, where would a President be without them? Right? Between you and me, and Jack Bauer.

Just thought you'd like to hear about this adventure, Bush. Sometimes it pays to be living in Hollywood, if you want excitement.

A Note on Integration after Martin Luther King Day


Posted by Cardozo

Encourage minority friends to bid for homes in your neighborhood that are for sale, or invite them to join you in your vacation areas. Help figure out how more than one individual or family from a particular underrepresented group might come along, so that your friends are not - yet again - the only minorities in the room, on the street, at the party, on the slopes, in the store, on the beach.

Look, I know it can seem artificial consciously to consider race or ethnic background. But simply not thinking about integration is a failing tactic in much of America.

Rob McCord penned the above in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer, and I cite it, Bush, in order to celebrate naivete.

In an interview on NPR's Talk of the Nation, McCord suggested that naivete might not be such a bad thing. Or rather, that what is commonly thought of as naive (like the above plea for renewed integration driven by individuals acting in good conscience) might actually be far-sightedness.

With this I wholly agree. Despite those annoyingly oft-quoted words of John Maynard Keynes about us all being dead in the long run, the true difference makers always assume that even dramatic social changes can happen in the short run. And sometimes they do, in spite of those who scoff at the naivete of well-intentioned idealism.

Say what you will, Bush, about McCord's idealism. There's nothing very nuanced about it. But maybe nuance is overrated - a product of an overmediated culture, perhaps. After all, how can pundits keep selling books, or editorialists keep writing editorials, if all they do is repeat those simple truths with the power to change everything if only they were put into actual practice?

McCord's words are truth, aren't they, Bush? If everyone who despises the continuing segregation in America were to integrate their own lives in any substantial way, the forces preserving segregation would dissolve proportionately.

I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank McCord for risking the label of naivete and appealing to those who would act, to act. And for leading by example.

About That Interview...


... on 60 Minutes, Bush. I watched. I noted that folksy humor, that attempt at down home, plain-thinking realism. "I'm a flexible, open-minded person," I heard you say. And I'm sure that's how you think about yourself. I also heard you say: "I'm not going to change my princples," for the sake of popularity. "My spirits are strong and I'm blessed to be the President." It's we out here, Bush, who feel less than blessed to have you as the "President." I watched your Rice. I shuddered every time I heard her say, "The President thinks... the President believes..." The mistakes you could acknowledge: Abu Ghraib, and "Bring 'em on!" Oh, and just possibly, too few troops on the ground. The troop levels "could have been a mistake."

And now we've gone beyond the Decider and the Commander in Chief. We're now the "Educator in Chief." Well, that's a laugh, Bush. That's a laugh. Have you ever tried teaching in a classroom where not a single kid is listening to what you say and they're all busy throwing paper pellets at each other? Well, I have. I was a lousy teacher, back when I was young. I know just exactly what it feels like. If it doesn't feel a little like that to you, Bush, at this very moment, all I can say is, well, you're just not listening. Again.

Anyway, I woke with this dream/poem. It's called


I had this dream,
that I was lost
and late, and hurrying
in a city at once
foreign and familiar,
through white tiled
corridors toward
some unknown
destination. And at
some point I knew
I should turn left
toward downtown,
but saw, on the steps
in front of me, to
the right, a woman
in Muslim garb, who
tripped and fell,
rolling and bumping
down a steep flight
to the next level
down. I should,
I knew, just hurry on
to make my meeting
but some instinct
made me pause, and
change my mind, and
take that other flight
of steps to where
she lay, crumpled
and weeping on
the concrete floor.
That Muslim garb, I
dreamed, was somehow
less severe, I noticed
now, than I had thought,
softer, more giving,
warmer to the touch;
and the woman, too,
more womanly, more
sensual, even, her eyes
quite lovely in their
woundedness. I held
her, asking whether
she had broken any
bones, but she said,
No, testing them,
nothing, she thought
but scrapes and grazes.
The dream ended
without my knowing
who she was, of what
became of her; or of
the meeting I had
missed; but rather
with the memory of
the warmth of simple
human contact and this
recurring thought: all
politics is personal.

Waste and Corruption: The Iraq Story


It's Sunday morning. Just got through reading this op-ed piece about the waste and corruption in Iraq, Bush, and it serves only to increase my anger and despair. It's written by a man who's in a position to know, having observed what he writes about at first hand, as one who has served on the ground with the American forces in Iraq. He describes the level of corruption among the Iraqi security forces as "staggering." It seems that commanders there are pocketing wages for thousands of "ghost" personnel, who exist only in their money-grubbing minds; not only is this costing you (us, Bush) countless millions in cold cash, it's also creating a badly distorted notion of the strength of Iraqi military forces and police. Another massive delusion underpinning your new plan for peace and stability in a country that seems determined not to accept these blessings that you offer them. In addition, Bush, this writer gives a real sense of the extent to which the smuggling and illegal sale of oil, weapons, and reconstruction necessities is undermining efforts to put the country back on its economic feet.

I hear that you don't bother to read the op-ed pages, Bush. I guess it might be understandable for you to avoid pieces like Frank Rich's exquisitely pungent essay, also in this morning's Times. But I wish you'd take a good look at this one, and consider the futility of fighting against these kind of odds. It makes me sick to read. Sick and angry, Bush, that you persist in the arrogant folly of your actions in the Middle East. Clearly, it's something quite different than military action that is needed there.

On Israel, the Power of the Individual, and Haloscan


Posted by Cardozo--and welcome back!Practically every story I’ve ever heard or read about the modern state of Israel has involved an explosion of some kind. So when I left Los Angeles for Tel Aviv last month, part of me wondered if there would be anything there left to see. How many explosions can one small piece of land absorb? Quite a few, apparently, because the cities I visited were pretty well intact. Furthermore, I survived two weeks in Israel without encountering a single one. No bus or café bombings, no rockets falling from the sky. As far as I could tell, everything was a-okay. Of course, the recent war with Hizbollah was a frequent topic of conservation, especially in the North. But the Israelis I met talked about the war like Californians talk about earthquakes: as an isolated event that scared them half to death at the time, but that is no longer relevant to daily life. The relative state of calm that I found in Israel caused me to reflect on war, and its persistence. Israelis have been forced to endure a lot: not infrequent invasions, a burgeoning threat of nuclear annihilation from its neighbors, and the possibility that a suicide bomber might at any time be walking among them. And yet, in between such wars and acts of violence, life quickly returns to normal, apparently. Why, I wondered, aren’t Israelis more obsessive about the political conflict that makes their existence so precarious? How could they possibly think about anything else?On reflection, I think the answer is simple. Life finds a way. When and where it is possible, people will pursue fun, love, adventure, art – all the things that make life tolerable. Furthermore, the average Israeli lacks the power to actually impact the direction of the political situation, so why bother obsessing over it? This dynamic (it occurs to me, Bush) is the very thing that makes the development of peace so difficult to achieve. We find the same dynamic, of course, here in the United States, and practically everywhere else. Even in Iraq, where daily life is absolutely co-opted by war, people can do very little but try and protect themselves and eke out whatever satisfaction they can from life. We are pawns in a global chess game that alternately bores (in the case of the U.S.) or overwhelms us (in the case of Iraq or any other location currently experiencing the localized effects of the latest chess move.) My conclusion? Those of us who have the luxury of walking the streets in relative safety, of having reliable access to food and shelter, of pursuing happiness, in short; we, the fortunate, must live our lives to the fullest. This means not only maximizing our personal happiness, but also staying as true as possible to our values, thereby living out our potential. I cannot tell you, Bush, that your paradigm of good versus evil is destructive to peace. I cannot tell you that compassion must lie behind all actions, even warfare. But I can certainly live these truths and trust that, eventually, they will trickle up. My biggest pet-peeve about the progressive blogosphere is that compassion and a belief in the goodness inherent in mankind – the basic tenets of progressivism, in my opinion – are not borne out. Check out the discussions on Haloscan or Blogger or WordPress, Bush, and you will find accusations flying (mostly directed at you, of course), and compassion reserved for the victims of your tyrannical foreign policy. Progressives believe th[...]

Protest the War


Here's a site to protest the escalation of the war that I have received from a couple of different sources this morning, Bush. You might be hearing more of this. I hope so.

The Big Speech, Part Deux


Oh, alas and alack, Bush. And golly gee, as your Rumsfeld might have said, before being booted off into the wings. It took you three months to come up with this rehash of old ideas? I've heard some in the media grasping at straws to find something new in what you had to say. Your mea culpa made one headline--but even that pale admission has been made before. Otherwise, what do we have, except more of the same, plus a little bit more. Boiled down to its basics, was your speech any different from that tired old refrain: stay the course? Send in another handful of American troops, but essentially stay the course. Get those Iraqis working on a political solution, but stay the course. Train some more of their military and police. Set benchmarks for effective action. But stay the course. Same old bullshit, Bush--not to make too fine a point of it.

I have to tell you that I haven't heard a single unqualified, positive reaction to your speech last night. Your Rice was her usual prickly self at the Senate hearings this morning--a loyal supporter, if ever there was one. Her idea of diplomacy--and yours, it seems--is to listen to everyone who agrees with you and cast all the rest as enemies and extremists. Which reminds me that there was one new thing, of course, in your new plan for success in Iraq: in direct contradiction to one of the major recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton report, you made it clear that there would be no talking to Iran or Syria; instead, you actually threatened both these countires with action--presumably military--to thwart their intervention in our own military interests in Iraq.

Where did this idea come from, Bush? That you refuse to talk to those with whom you disagree--even those who hate you--unless they previously capitulate to your demands? It's an idea that springs naturally from the unquestioning belief that everything we do ourselves is good and right. To judge by your actions and your words, that seems to be what you seriously believe. I noticed that, at the end of your speech, you were unable to resist another appeal to that Almighty One who whispers in your ear. Something else that's new! He's no longer the Higher Father but the "Author of Liberty," whom you called upon, in your final words, to guide us. To which I say, in plainer speech, Bush, than yours: if this is your "new way forward" in this disaster, then God help us all.