Sunday, January 08, 2006

At least they weren't spreading anthrax...

Alito loves the myrrh

From the Wall Street Journal

"Insisting that God "certainly needs to be involved" in the Supreme Court confirmation process, three Christian ministers today blessed the doors of the hearing room where Senate Judiciary Committee members will begin considering the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito on Monday."

"Capitol Hill police barred them from entering the room to continue what they called a consecration service. But in a bit of one-upsmanship, the three announced that they had let themselves in a day earlier, touching holy oil to the seats where Judge Alito, the senators, witnesses, Senate staffers and the press will sit, and praying for each of the 13 committee members by name."

"We did adequately apply oil to all the seats," said the Rev. Rob Schenck, who identified himself as an evangelical Christian and as president of the National Clergy Council in Washington."
Your Capitol Police doing "a heckuva job."

Personal note--

A lifetime ago (1991) when I was managing in the portrait buisness, I was managing two very crazy women -- well, I was managing a dozen crazy women, but these two happenend to be living together. At first, they got along great, both hard-core evengelicals. Then one got a little more evangelical than the other. One returned from a week-long trip on the road to find that the roommate had "annointed" (soaked) all the furniture in the house in annointing oil. She complained only to have the roommate retaliate by putting sugar in her gas tank.

The Jesus in the new NBC show the Book of Daniel is not this crazy.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Warrior Poet: Brian Turner

Many have lamented that the end of the draft, which, democratically brought the poet and novelist into the infantry along with those less inclined to pen prose, would entail that vivid descriptions of the battlefield would be absent from the panorama of modern conflicts.I believe Brian Turner's work readily dispels that concern.

(From the official bio:)
Brian Turner earned an MFA from the University of Oregon and lived abroad in South Korea for a year before serving for seven years in the US Army. He was an infantry team leader for a year in Iraq beginning in November 2003 with the 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division. Prior to that, he was deployed to Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1999 with the 10th Mountain Division.

Here, Bullet

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta's opened valves, that leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you've started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel's cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue's explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.


It happens on a Monday, at 11:20 A.M.,
as tower guards eat sandwiches
and seagulls drift by on the Tigris River.
Prisoners tilt their heads to the west
though burlap sacks and duct tape blind them.
The sound reverberates down concertina coils
the way piano wire thrums when given slack.
And it happens like this, on a blue day of sun,
when Private Miller pulls the trigger
to take brass and fire into his mouth:
the sound lifts the birds up off the water,
a mongoose pauses under the orange trees,
and nothing can stop it now, no matter what
blur of motion surrounds him, no matter what voices
crackle over the radio in static confusion,
because if only for this moment the earth is stilled,
and Private Miller has found what low hush there is
down in the eucalyptus shade, there by the river.

-- PFC B. Miller (1980-March 22, 2004)
(Turner wrote this poem a few days after Private Miller killed himself. He notes in the NPR interview that when their commanding colonel read the names of the recently fallen in his brigade, that to Turner's chagrin, Miller's name was conspicuously absent from among those memorialized.)

AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem)

Thalia Fields is under a grey ceiling of clouds,
just under the turbulance, with anesthetics
dripping from an I.V. into her arm,
and the flight surgeon says The shrapnel
cauterized as it traveled through her
here, breaking this rib as it entered,
burning a hole through the left lung
to finish in her back, and all of this
she doesn’t hear, except perhaps as music—
that faraway music of people’s voices
when they speak gently and with care,
a comfort to her on a stretcher
in a flying hospital en route to Landstuhl,
just under the rain at midnight, and Thalia
drifts in and out of consciousness
as a nurse dabs her lips with a moist towel,
her palm on Thalia’s forehead, her vitals
slipping some, as burned flesh gives way
to the heat of the blood, the tunnels within
opening to fill her, just enough blood
to cough up and drown in, and Thalia,
she sees the shadows of people working
to save her, but she cannot feel their hands,
and she cannot hear them any longer,
and when she closes her eyes
the most beautiful colors rise in darkness,
tangerine washing into Russian blue,
with the droning engine humming on
in a dragonfly’s wings, the island palms
painting the sky an impossible hue
with their thick brushes dripping in green…
But this is all an act of the imagination,
a means of dealing with the obscenity
of war, what loss there is, the inconsolable
grief, the fact that Thalia Fields is gone,
long gone, about as far from Mississippi
as she can get, 10,000 feet above Iraq
with a blanket draped over her body
and an exhausted surgeon in tears,
his bloodied hands on her chest, his head
sunk down, the nurse guiding him
to a nearby seat and holding him as he cries,
though no one hears it, because nothing can be heard
where pilots fly in black-out, the plane
like a shadow guiding the rain, here
in the droning engines of midnight.

Listen to interview with Brian Turner here. (about 7 minutes - includes his reading of the poem Ashbah (transliterates to Ghosts)

Listen to Turner reading What Every Soldier Should Know

Listen to Turner reading Here, Bullet.

A plug on NPR really helps the book sell: Sales Rank:
Today: #48 in Books Yesterday: #36,003 in Books

Review of Turner's work here. (fairly critical)
Another interesting review.

The New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice
"…earnest, nonpartisan attention to the terrors as well as to the beauty of ruins."

The New York Times Book Review
"Turner has sent back a dispatch from…the war in Iraq—and deserves our thanks…"

The Globe and Mail
"…written by a veteran whose eye for the telling detail is as strategic as it is poetic."

Library Journal
"Turner attempts to capture the extreme experience of war by depicting the feelings it generates..."

The Franklin Journal
"…a powerful reading experience…"

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hilarious Blonde Joke

You'll want to pass this gem on to all your blonde friends.

Soldier George

Crawford Terrorist

The Commander-In-Chief and GI Joe wannabee demonstrates his courage and sensitivity after visiting with wounded veterans from the Amputee Care Center of Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas:

"As you can possibly see, I have an injury myself—not here at the hospital, but in combat with a cedar. I eventually won. The cedar gave me a little scratch."

Augie Schroeder

Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II in Iraq.
(Paul Schroeder - via Washington Post)

"...people say, "He died a hero." I know this is meant with great sincerity. We appreciate the many condolences we have received and how helpful they have been. But when heard repeatedly, the phrases "he died a hero" or "he died a patriot" or "he died for his country" rub raw.

"People think that if they say that, somehow it makes it okay that he died," our daughter, Amanda, has said. "He was a hero before he died, not just because he went to Iraq. I was proud of him before, and being a patriot doesn't make his death okay. I'm glad he got so much respect at his funeral, but that didn't make it okay either."

The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference."


"I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha."


"Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?"

"I choose to honor our fallen hero by remembering who he was in life, not how he died. A picture of a smiling Augie in Iraq, sunglasses turned upside down, shows his essence -- a joyous kid who could use any prop to make others feel the same way."

Amanpour Wiretapped?

Get yer tinfoil hat out folks.

Check this out from Americablog:

"New York Times reporter James Risen first broke the story two weeks ago that the National Security Agency began spying on domestic communications soon after 9/11. In a new book out Tuesday, "State of War," he says it was a lot bigger than that.

Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with Risen to talk about the NSA, and the run-up to the war in Iraq....

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that.

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Super-double-mega-kicker -- after the Americablog post ran, MSNBC/NBC purged the transcript of the Amanpour reference.

Americablog goes on to spell out possible implications of an Amanpour wiretap here. (Preview -- she's married to Wesley Clark's and John Kerry's former advisor on foreign affairs -- tap Amanpour and you're theoretically tapping the Clark and Kerry campaign(s)).

Tricky George

The Heretic: A Message of Love and Universal Salvation

Carlton Pearson

I'm a huge fan of Ira Glass's radio program, This American Life, which airs on my local NPR affiliate WCQS on Saturdays and Fridays. Glass's pieces are typically drenched in sarcasm and/or pathos.

One of his last programs in December had no sarcasm but plenty of pathos. And unlike most of his one-hour shows which are typically broken up into 10 - 15 minute segments, this show gave the full hour to one subject, one person, one story -- that of Bishop Carlton Pearson.

Pearson was the "black son" of Oral Roberts and was deeply enmeshed in Roberts' ministry. He broke away but essentially maintained the same Pentecostal message of his spiritual father and mentor. Until a little over a year ago.

Pearson had an epiphany which radically transformed his theology. He embraced a doctrine of universal salvation and discarded the typical Christian view of Hell, which holds that it is a place for non-believers, the unsaved, to gnash their teeth in a fiery eternity. Pearson adopted the view that Hell is indeed here on Earth, on this plane, and is of our making. Hell is a product of man's sadism and/or lack of love.

This theological shift cost him 95% of his followers (20,000 plus in weekly attendance), his pastoral staff, most of his friends, and his physical church. But he has moved on, holding services in a Episcopalian church in downtown Tulsa.

I highly recommend that when you have an hour, to listen to the show. I sat in the car in the driveway to listen to it -- Genna was kind enough to download it for from and burn it to CD. But you can listen to Pearson's journey and message for free here. (Requires RealAudio).

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Whither Our Sam Ervin?

Senator Sam -- lover and protector of the US Constitution

I got baptized into following political scandal at an early age. In the spring of 1973 as the Ervin Committee was convening, the National Observer, a high-brow predecessor to USA Today, published a double-truck spread of all the Watergate players, complete with bios, allegations, and flow-chart arrows indicating the links among the players. Mom posted it on a closet door next to the television. That summer at our grandparents house, we all watched the hearings as Mom explained what was going on. At age 10, I was engrossed in the unfolding drama.

I remember Ervin's drawl. I remember Howard Baker's "What did the President know and when did he know it?" I remember all the pipes. I remember Ervin's fiery exchange with Erlichman.

Conveniently, the folks at ThinkProgress have published the list of the Abramoff players -- you may want to print and tape it up next to your monitor or TV and make notes as the indictments and/or pleas ensue.

And as the Congress slowly stirs to to investigate Bush's wanton disregard for the 1978 FISA Act (I've linked to the section the President violated) and the Constitution, I thought some of Senator Sam's quotes during the Watergate crisis would remind us of our system of CHECKS and BALANCES:

"Divine Right went out with the American Revolution and doesn't belong to White House aides. What meat do they eat that makes them grow so great? .... I don't think we have any such thing as royalty or nobility that exempts them. ... That is not executive privilege. That is executive poppycock."

"I'm not going to let anybody come down at night like Nicodemus and whisper something in my ear that no one else can hear. That is not executive privilege; it is poppycock."

"As long as I have a mind to think, a tongue to speak, and a heart to love my country, I shall deny that the Constitution confers any autocratic power on the President, or authorizes him to convert George Washington's America into Gaius Caesar's Rome."