Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

16 December 2005

I swore you off but you climbed back on.

Those who remember history and are sufficiently ruthless will be delighted to repeat it:

WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn’t know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This is incredible,” [says] group member Rich Hersh. “It’s an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We’re not doing anything illegal.”

The Defense Department document is the first inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence collection inside this country since 9/11, which now includes the monitoring of peaceful anti-war and counter-military recruitment groups.

One DOD briefing document stamped “secret” concludes: “[W]e have noted increased communication and encouragement between protest groups using the [I]nternet,” but no “significant connection” between incidents, such as “reoccurring instigators at protests” or “vehicle descriptions.”

The increased monitoring disturbs some military observers.

“It means that they’re actually collecting information about who’s at those protests, the descriptions of vehicles at those protests,” says Arkin. “On the domestic level, this is unprecedented.”

Full story here.

Uh, I mean, happy holidays.

Goddamned greater reality. Why does it always have to be so fucked up and bleak? It's the usual December here at home, dark weather and spangly lights and cold and heat and tables full of food, red wine, mistletoe in doorways. School let out today and I'm home with a head full of snot, on the mend with low energy and high spirits. So it goes. A fortunate son of the northwestern middle class, raising a glass.

I think that the fact that Clinton was impeached raises the bar as far as impeaching Bush: two traumas in a row is really not good for the country, and even though my reluctance to go through a second impeachment benefits the very Republicans who needlessly inflicted the first on us, I don't care. It's bad for the country, and that matters most.

But I have a high bar, not a nonexistent one. And for a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment.

Four teachers, including myself, went out to breakfast this morning with the eighth grade students, or those who showed up for what was an entirely non-academic half-day. Then we came back and watched part of The Producers (the 1968 version) in my room, or played basketball in the gym, or put last-minute finishing touches on a Photoshop project we've been doing. And I got lots of presents from generous parents. Five bottles of wine, all told. Out of there by noon, home to put on pajamas and bathrobe and slippers.

We must not don the blinders and think America is always, without fail, the land of the perky and the free and the benevolent. Horrific torture is very much a part of who we are, right now. Deny it at your peril. Accept it at your deep discontent.

Ladies and gentlemen, read Mark Morford. This is real, and must not be ignored because it's painful or distant.

I also can't ignore what looks like a relatively peaceful and, by American standards, off-the-charts popular election in Iraq, although let's not break out the fine champanya quite yet:

"Nothing will be easy. It will take a long time just to name a government. We need electricity badly. It makes our life so difficult," said Salaam Ali, 35, a store owner who voted for the Islamist Shi'ite list now dominating power.

The polls put 69-year-old Jassim Saleh in an idealistic mood after he voted for Sunni Arab politicians seeking to regain influence after their minority sect boycotted the January poll.

"All Iraqis will win the election. Iraq will be stable and secure," he said.

Optimism was also the mood among pensioners taking a lazy walk as a U.S. Bradley Fighting Vehicle roared by and policemen clutching AK-47 assault rifles sped by in pickup trucks.

"The elections will bring Sunnis and Shi'ites together. We will have justice," said Talib Mohammed. "I want to thank George Bush for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Now we have elections."

Some in the group said the U.S. troops who ousted Saddam in April 2003 had outstayed their welcome, glossing over fears that a hasty U.S. pullout could lead to civil war and more carnage.

"There will be no tears if the Americans leave," said Mohammed Fadil.

No tears apart from the ones already being shed, the ongoing anguish of the tens -- hundreds? -- of thousands of people whose lives have been changed forever by injuries, psychological damage, and/or the violent loss of loved ones, property, human rights ... all brought about by this war. Just those tears.

Was it all worth it? Was it? Saddam is in a courtroom instead of a palace, and that's a good thing. There has been what appears to be a free and fair election where once there was a dictatorship, and that's a good thing. The cost of these good things has been, is, mind-bogglingly enormous. Was it worth it?

If it was, should we ever stop paying it? Should we keep waging war and sacrificing human lives, without ceasing, until all the dictators and are dethroned and democracy flourishes everywhere? Why be selective, if our cause is just and necessary? Do we not have an obligation?

If it wasn't worth it ... then we need to stop, now, before we dig our hole of karmic debt any deeper.

Okay, here's something funny: pandas are stupid.


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