Tag Archives: Christmas

Let’s all celebrate Mithra’s birthday!

images-38 I get to feeling kind of Puritanical at this time of year…. so ‘Why didn’t Puritans like Christmas? …They had several reasons, including the fact that it did not originate as a Christian holiday.’
 
‘The upper classes in ancient Rome celebrated Dec. 25 as the birthday of the sun god Mithra. The date fell right in the middle of Saturnalia, a month-long holiday dedicated to food, drink, and revelry, and Pope Julius I is said to have chosen that day to celebrate Christ’s birth as a way of co-opting the pagan rituals.’ See When Americans banned Christmas— The first ‘War on Christmas’ was declared almost 400 years ago, courtesy of our Puritan forefathers. Have a Merry Mithraday!

If you don’t see Merry Christmas in the window, no, you don’t go in that store! The Star of David used to do that trick.

This season’s War-On-Christmas email is pushing a holiday ditty whose refrain goes “If you don’t see Merry Christmas in the window, then you don’t go in that store.” Seems like it might be easier to mark those stores with a Star of David on the window, or would that be too obviously Nazi?
On the other hand, it is refreshing to see even Dumbfox recognize the imperative of targeting commerce to make your point heard. So, boycotts do work?

You can see the Christmas-lovers’ point of course. They’d prefer that merchants exploiting the Christmas purchasing season at least be paying lip service to Christmas and not the ever-looming Godless “Holiday” eclipse, supposed.

This song reminds us “it’s all about the little baby Jesus” and goes on to list all the things Christmas wouldn’t be without him. Of course, half the list traces back to pagan tradition, but what to Christian Holiday-goers know of that?

And the latter half goes back as far as they remember, as their grandmother and her grandmother before might remember, but no more. The commercial Christmas charts its provenance to the industrial revolution, the birth of consumer goods and marketing. Santa Claus as we recognize him stepped right off Coca-cola calendars of the last mid-century.

Christmas was the religious Trojan Horse to pitch the shopping holiday to reluctant hedonists. Now the same parishioners who don’t have an needle’s-eye chance to get to Heaven, feel like the can pay their tithes in Christmas presents.

Yes, I do think it’s funny that people who abhor the prospect of disruptive economic boycotts are willing to consider it at the drop of Santa’s cap. Unless of course they’re satisfied that making this video viral is a shot across the bow enough. I doubt their Christmas Spirit has any room for Lenten restraint.

Oddly enough, one of their potential boycott targets, and mine, has hung banners in its outlets to announce they will be open for Christmas, introducing a delectable dilemma. Starbucks says Merry Christmas in the window, so it’s exempt from this singing email picket, yet it disrespects Christmas by working through it. What do you do?

I answer that one unequivocally. Yes, boycott Starbucks. They fund Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. That may be somewhat directly related to their celebrating Hanukkah not Christmas, but that’s NO KIND OF REASON to boycott a business. If you want to boycott a store because it’s not Christian, take it up with the Anti-Defamation League. Leave bigotry to the Zionists.

John B. Spencer’s lost Christmas lyric for Will Your House Be Blessed?

Gathering songs for a Christmas compilation, I went looking through different versions of “Will This House be Blessed?” by John B. Spencer. While the forgiveness spirit is in keeping with the season, everyone else’s cover lacked whatever it was I remembered tied the song literally to Christmas. I finally found Spencer’s original recording and there it was, an Easter reference actually, but too much irreligious specificity apparently for subsequent renditions.

Everybody since Spencer omits his last verse, instead repeating the first, which they also alter to “Let it go, let it go” and not “Let him go.”

For the record, versions by Harry Manx, Richard Thompson, and Martin Simpson et al. go by the more assuring title, absent the question mark, ONLY THEN WILL YOUR HOUSE BE BLESSED.

But here’s how John B sang it:

Let him go, let him go, let him go, go, go
Let your sword of vengeance rest.
?Do the blind lead the blind??
Don’t be cruel to be kind.?
Only then will your house be blessed.

Turn your cheek, turn your cheek?
Turn your other cheek,?
Make your mercy manifest.?
When the hawk and the dove?
Fly in circles ’round your love,?
Only then will your house be blessed.

Offer prayer, offer prayer,?
Offer one small prayer?
To your uninvited guest.?
Don’t deny him his right,?
Make him welcome through the night.

?Only then will your house be blessed.

Pull the nails from the cross.
Pull the cross from the hill.
Lay the body and soul to rest.
May the blood that’s been spilt
–Drown your guilt.
Only then will your house be blessed.

A 1930 Spirit of Christmas Past

Black Agenda Report revisited this Christmas poem by Langston Hughes:

“Merry Christmas”: Published in New Masses (Dec. 1930), p. 4.

Merry Christmas, China,
From the gun-boats in the river,
Ten-inch shells for Christmas gifts,
And peace on earth forever.

Merry Christmas, India,
To Gandhi in his cell,
From righteous Christian England,
Ring out, bright Christmas bell!

Ring Merry Christmas, Africa,
From Cairo to the Cape!
Ring Hallehuiah! Praise the Lord!
(For murder and for rape.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Haiti!
(And drown the voodoo drums—
We’ll rob you to the Christian hymns
Until the next Christ comes

Ring Merry Christmas, Cuba!
(While Yankee domination
Keeps a nice fat president
In a little half-starved nation.)

And to you down-and-outers,
(“Due to economic laws”)
Oh, eat, drink, and be merry
With a bread-line Santa Claus—

While all the world hails Christmas,
While all the church bells sway!
While, better still, the Christian guns
Proclaim this joyous day!

While holy steel that makes us strong
Spits forth a mighty Yuletide song:
SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!
Let Merry Christmas GAS the air!

Who is that on the back of the poor?

JUSTICIA, Western Goddess of Justice, by Danish sculptor Jen GalschiotHere’s a Christmas gift for your favorite First Worlder. Let them affix their mug behind the face of “Justitia,” the Western Goddess of Justice, carried by the laboring poor as she seeks to right inequity without relinquishing her station of privilege. Who is the bloated First World hypocrite — but you! This statue by Danish artist Jen Galschiot is also known as Survival of the Fattest. Global elitists can celebrate their face on this 8-inch cardboard cutout as it depicts their naked supremacy.
 
For COP15, Galschiot installed this life-sized statue in the water next to Hans Christian Anderson’s Little Mermaid. Climate talk delegates who ventured to see Copenhagen harbor’s famous tourist attraction saw a grotesque figure straddling her carrier, whose head struggled to stay above the water.
 
Picture frames are popular Christmas gifts for those of us who lack nothing, except more frames to decorate pictures of ourselves and our stuff. How’s this for framing an emergent identity?

Oh. my… my my my my my…

ohmygoodnessThis is from Craigslist, on the Free Stuff.
 
The giver says “…would make a great Christmas gift, tell me what you’d like to do with it…”
 
Ummmm…. I think that what it makes me want to do would be censored.
 
Happy Birthday to the Prince of Peace.

It’s from Hallmark Expressions Inc too.

Is there ANY concept, any at all, that would be beyond the Corporate For Sale signs?

Actually the Snow-dome itself was featured in the “A Merry Madascar” Christmas “special” they’re plugging the living Hell out of on NBC since before Thanksgiving. Lots of corporate sponsorship goes into that.

Bad Capitalist! Naughty!

The war on Christmas they worry about

Rise above itWhat it’s going to take to revisit 350ppm, to reverse climate change, is not carbon trading, wind turbines, miraculous scientific leaps, or a COP15 conference. The anti-technology has been known to us since sustainable times, when mankind didn’t have to transcend his wants, because it was challenge enough to seek for his needs. Conservation.

Tis the season once more….

for the Talk Radio Hate Speech about a “war on Christmas.” I don’t actually think they’re stupid, mind you, they know full well that they’re lying… and omitting a HUGE amount of data.

So, to fact check them ONCE MORE…

The Founding Fathers never instituted either Christmas or Thanksgiving as national holidays.

Nor did the Pilgrims.
Nor the Puritans.
Abraham Lincoln did recognize both, but with the emphasis on Thanksgiving.
Some of Lincolns closest friends and advisers were rabid anti-Catholics.

King James First was crowned king because he was, at least in name, a Protestant.

King James invited the Puritans and the Pilgrims, not very courteously, to get out of England.

Because they said he was too Catholic.

Their major sticking point was Christmas.

He was for it.

They were against it.

The Hate Radio people insist that we’re supposed to rule America and just by consequential extension, the entire world, by the several bickering groups of Late Medieval Feudal Warlords who were killing each other and a whole bunch of civilians in Europe at the time, and had just begun to tear up America, over different interpretations of the Christian faith.

As usual in these Battles of (nit)Wits, the primary victims were Other Christians. Because in England at the time there were few openly Non-Christians to be had. Jews maybe. Jews who were burned at the stake, hanged, tortured etc etc right along with people suspected of Witchcraft.

Or Christian Blasphemy.

Which brings it to the central theme of the Hate Speech Radio Talkmongers.

Why, you might ask, did the “founding fathers” NOT establish a natoinal religion?

Well, I might answer, the slaughter of Christians by Christians was fresh in their memories. Washington had participated in an extremely bloody extension of an ongoing European “holy” war between Catholics and Protestants. In America the casualty count was comparatively low, mostly because the White Population was relatively low.

Which brings up that ugly business of the Founding Fathers being Anti-American, as in, anti-Indian.

In the mad rush to cast the Puritans especially but also the Pilgrims as Pure Saints who get to make our daily decisions and run our Government from Beyond The Grave, they have to omit details. Lots of Details.

The scene replayed in countless Thanksgiving pageants of Racial Harmony between English Invaders and Americans has many dark corners that the Haters don’t want to illuminate. It complicates the simplicity of their “war on christmas” ranting. And if they encouraged their listeners to actually think it would be bad for their bottom line.

For instance many Puritans wrestled with the question of Where Did The Indians Originate? Because we’re not mentioned in Genesis.

Some, like the witch-hunter Cotten Mather,often quoted by the Hate-mongers on Fox News and Clear Channel as being a “Founding Father” whose original intent is Holy and Beyond Question, not only hated Christmas but also many of the toys which are now given for Christmas, meaning Dolls, were declared by him an his contemporaries as being Agents of the Devil.

And that Indians have no souls, since we’re not mentioned in Genesis, we must therefore be a construct of Satan. And they heartily endorsed killing us outright. Wiping us from the Earth.

According to Rush and Hannity and Beck that isn’t really a call for Genocide.

So, which is it going to be, do we let these Medieval Murderers decide every policy for America, from Beyond The Grave? Do we hold their every thought to be the guiding principle, using the “Original Intent” argument?

WHICH “original intent”? The intent (almost completed) to Murder every non-European American? The intent to prosecute CHILDREN for playing with Dolls?

You might remember the controversies over the Teddy Ruxpin dolls and the Furby dolls, Tickle-me-Elmo and some of us with long experience remember that Disney characters are considered Demonic as well… Which of you is willing to allow an arbitrarily selected (by people who have been DEAD for 300 years) to kick down your doors, drag your kids out and torture-execute them for playing with Barbies or G.I. Joe dolls? For having Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny products? (Talking Animals are Satanic… just ask any Pilgrim)

Those who support Israel because the Israeli government officials were born Jewish, would you allow the Pilgrim Purity Patrol to come into your homes and Kill You for supporting Jews?

Would you, using the King James As Christian Warrior theme, hunt down Radical Protestants, like for instance the Pilgrims and Puritans (both churches still exist) and Murder Them? Or go to the Other Original Intent and slaughter every Methodist, Baptist or other Episcopalian Church Member for being, as the Puritans said, “too Catholic”?

Those Disciple of Hatred like Hannity who insist on absolutes of Religious Purity say they’re not racist, what then would be done with those of us of Mixed Race? Since the Puritans also condemned Racial Mixing. At the time, according to one source, there were 6 black people in all of London. So which races exactly were the Pilgrims and the Puritans opposed to being intermingled with the Pure English Bloodline?

The Puritans and Pilgrims couldn’t agree on anything even amongst the people in their individual congregations. But we’re supposed to let that Massive Confusion dictate to us exactly how to live in America today.

At least according to Hate Speech Radio.

Oh, and by the way, the Fox and Clear Channel Hate Freaks would have had King James killed because he was gay.

Not for any of the bloody wars he initiated and or joined into, not for the murders and pillages committed in Hannity and Limbaugh and O’Reilly’s Irish ancestral home, none of that.

But because he was gay.

See how conoluted and unreconcilable the “logic” of their arguments bocome, once set side by side and compared?

Those who had difficulties following all those twists and turns into the “logic” that I took you through with this simple posting, maybe should refrain from imposing the “logic” on the rest of us as a course of National Policy and Law.

That would be “Violently” Imposing it upon us.

The entire “War on Christmas” hate-feast indulged in each holiday season is a blatant call for Violent Murder of Americans. And the ones calling for it don’t give a pass to anybody. They’ll have their Stupid Disciples kill Christians too. Simply by declaring them to not be Christian. Or like their Disciple Sarah Palin did, declaring them to not be Americans.

No. 1 domestic terrorist Daniel McGowan

The Huffington Post published a letter by ELF/ALF political prisoner Daniel McGowan, who is allowed to send one letter per week from CMU36, the controversial “Communication Management Unit” whose cover-name is USP Marion. According to McGowan, prison guards call it the “I Unit,” which probably does not stand for illegal.

As of May 2009, I have been at USP Marion’s “Communication Management Unit,” or CMU, for roughly nine months and now is a good time to address the misconceptions (and the silence) regarding this unit. I want to offer a snapshot of my day-to-day life here as well as some analysis of what the existence of CMUs in the federal prison system implies. It is my hope that this article will partially fill the void of information that exists concerning the CMU, will help dispel rumors, and will inspire you to support those of us on the inside fighting the existence of these isolation units — in the courts and in the realm of public opinion.

It is best to start from the beginning — or at least where my story and the CMU meet. My transfer here is no different from that of many of the men here who were living at Federal Correctional Institutions (normal prisons) prior to the genesis of the CMUs. On May 12, 2008, on my way back from a decent lunch, I was told to report to “R&D” (receiving and discharge). I was given two boxes and half an hour to pack up my meager possessions. After complying I was placed in the SHU (secure housing unit or “hole”) and put on a bus the next day. There was no hearing and no information given to me or my attorneys — only after a day was I told I was on my way to Marion, Illinois’ CMU.

Hearing the term “CMU” made my knees buckle as it drummed up some memory I had of the infamous “control units” at Marion (closed in 1995 and replaced by Florence ADX: the lone Federal “Supermax” prison). Then it hit me. The lawyers, in challenging the application of the terrorist enhancement in my case, made the prescient argument that if I receive the enhancement, the Bureau of Prisons (BoP) would use that to place me in the CMU at FCI Terre Haute, Indiana (at the time just 5 months old). In fact, on the way to FCI Sandstone in August 2007, I not only saw the CMU but met one of its residents while in transit. Let me back up and offer a brief history of the Communication Management Units.

The CMU I reside in, at USP Marion, received its first prisoner in May 2008 and when I arrived, held about 17 men, the majority of whom were Muslim. Currently, the unit has 25, with a capacity of 52 cells. In April 2009, we received seven new people, all of whom were from the CMU at FCI Terre Haute. The unit is overwhelmingly Muslim with 18 men identifying as such. Most, but not all of the prison, have so-called terrorism cases. According to a BoP spokesperson, the unit “will not be limited to inmates convicted of terrorism-related cases through all of the prisoners fit that description.” Others have prison disciplinary violation or allegations related to communication and the misuse of telephones etc. Here, almost everyone has a terrorism related case — whether it is like my case (destruction of property characterized as “domestic terrorism”) or conspiracy and “providing material aid” cases.

Before the Marion CMU opened, there was the original CMU, opened in December 2006 at the former death row at FCI Terre Haute. According to early articles, the unit was intended for “second tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims and a less restrictive version of the Supermax in Florence, Colorado.”

Additionally, BoP Director Harley Lappin, in a July 2008 hearing on the 2009 BoP budget request, said of the CMUs, “A lot of the more serious offenders, terrorists, were housed at ADX Florence. So, we are ramping up two communications management units that are less restrictive but will ensure that all mail and phone calls of the offenders are monitored on a daily basis.”

Terre Haute’s CMU has 36 men (27 of whom are Muslim) and is roughly comparable to Marion’s CMU. The rest of this place focuses on the latter, in which I have resided and of which I have seen firsthand.

You may be curious about just what a CMU actually is. From my correspondence, I can tell that many correspondents do not know much about what goes on here. I hope this can clear up any misperceptions. According to the BoP,

The CMU is [sic] established to house inmates who, due to their current offense of conviction, offense conduct or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operations of Bureau facilities and protect the public…The CMU is a self-contained general population housing unit.

There are, of course, alternate views to the above definition including the belief that the CMUs are Muslim units, a political prisoner unit (similar to the HSU operated by the BoP in the 80’s, and a punishment unit.

The CMUs have an extremely high Muslim population; here at Marion, it is 65-75%. An overrepresentation of any one demographic in a prison raises constitutional issues of equal protection as well as safety issues. Nowhere in the BoP will you find any group represented in such extreme disproportion. To counter these claims, the BoP brought in a small number of non-Muslims to be used as proof that the units are not strictly Muslim (an interesting note is that some of the Muslim men here have cases unrelated to terrorism). Does the inclusion of six people that are non-Muslim really negate the claim of segregation though? What are the criteria for determining who comes to the CMU? The BoP claims there are 211 international terrorists (and 1000 domestic terrorists) in their system. Yet, the CMUs have no more than 60 men at the present time. Where are the rest of these people? How does the BOP determine who of those 1200 are sent to a CMU and who to normal prisons? These are questions that need to be asked — in court and in the media.

Many of the men here (both Muslim and non) are considered political prisoners in their respective movements and have been engaged in social justice, religious organizations, charities and humanitarian efforts. Another conception of the CMU is that it is a location designed to isolate us from our movements and to act as a deterrent for others from those movements (as in “step outside the line and you too will end up there”). The intended effect of long-term housing of this kind is a profound sense of dislocation and alienation. With your mail, email, phones, and visits monitored and no human touch allowed at the visits, it is difficult to feel a connection to “the streets.” There is historical evidence of the BoP utilizing political prisons — despite the fact that the Department of Justice refuses to acknowledge the concept of political prisoners in US prisons, choosing to call us “criminal” instead.

The Lexington High Security Unit (HSU) was one such example. Having opened its 16-bed facilities in 1988 and housing a number of female political prisoners, the HSU functioned as an isolation unit — underground, bathed in fluorescence, and limited interaction with staff. In the opinion of Dr. Richard Korn, speaking on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the unit’s goal was “…to reduce prisoners to a state of submission essential for their ideological conversion. That failing, the next objective is to reduce them as efficient, self-directing antagonists. That failing, the only alternative is to destroy them by making them destroy themselves.”

After an arduous campaign by human rights advocates and supporters, the BoP capitulated, stating it would close its facility (when it did not, it was sued). The judge ruled that the plaintiffs were illegally designated based on their past political affiliations, statements and political beliefs. The unit was closed and the women were transferred to other prisons.

The correlations between the HSU and CMU are many and seem to have some of the same goals as well as methods used to designate us here. Knowing they are dealing with people committed to ideals and the movements they are a part of, we were placed here in order to weaken those connections and harm our relationships. An example is the horrendous strain that the CMU puts on our familial relations — especially our marriages. It was certainly considered by the architects of the CMU that preventing visits that allow human touch for long-term prisoners would have a disastrous impact on our relationships and would lead to weaker inmates.

Finally, the CMU can be viewed as “the stick” — a punitive unit for those who don’t play ball or who continue to express political beliefs anathema to the BoP or the US government. Although I am not aware of the BoP’s criteria for sending people here (due to their refusal to release specific CMU information), it is curious who is and who is not here. Out of roughly 18 codefendants in my criminal case, I am the only one at a CMU (the remainder of them are at low and medium security prisons). The same goes for a member of the SHAC7 campaign, Andrew Stepanian, one of 6 defendants in his case who was sent here for the last 6 months of his sentence. Other men here have codefendants at the Terre Haute CMU while others have codefendants at normal federal prisons. Despite numerous Freedom of Information Requests, the BoP refuses to grant the documents that specify the rules governing transfer to the CMU. Remember, hardly any of the men here have received any disciplinary violations and some have been in general population over 15 years! How can someone be okay in general population for that long and then one day be seen as a communication threat?

So, I have hypothesized about the goals of the CMU. Let me discuss the many problems and injustices associated with the existence of the CMUs.

Due process
More appropriately, a lack thereof. A term I never thought much about before my imprisonment, due process is:

…the conduct of legal proceedings according to established rules and principles for the protection and enforcement of private rights, including notice and the right to hearing before a tribunal [my emphasis] with the power to decide the case.

I was moved from FCI Sandstone, against my will and at a moment’s notice, with no hearing and thus no chance to contest the reason for my transfer. A FOIA request recently received states I was redesignated May 6th, my transfer was signed the next day and I was moved on May 13th with the reason given as “program participation”. Since I got here, I have not had a hearing to contest the claims made in the “Notice to Inmate of Transfer to CMU, ” some of which were woefully inaccurate. Instead, I was told I can utilize the administrative remedy process (which I have done to no avail) and request a transfer after 18 months of “clear conduct”.

The irony is that all prisoners who violate prison rules are subject to a series of disciplinary hearings in which they could offer their defense. For legal units such as Florence ADX (Supermax) or the control unit program, there exists a codified set of rules and hearings for transfer to these locations. The BoP has deliberately ignored this process and has instead transferred us to this special, brand-new CMU without due process. My notice of transfer was given to me 12 days after I arrived!

Similar to the callous disregard for due process (and the US Constitution), there is no “step down” process for the CMU. Unlike the ones that exist at Florence ADX, control units or even the gang units, the CMU has no stages, no requisite amount of time we are to spend here before being sent back to a normal prison.

Because these preceding programs are specifically for prison misbehavior, there is a logical and orderly way to finish the program and eventually transfer. For us, the BoP has set up a paradox — if we are here for our offense conduct, which we cannot ever change, how can we reasonably leave the unit? In its “Admissions and Orientation” guide for Marion’s CMU, here is what they say:

Every new commitment to the CMU will be evaluated by his unit team regarding his suitability for incarceration in this institution. If, for some reason, the inmate is deemed not acceptable for confinement in this unit, he will be processed as expeditiously as possible…

[I am still roughly 10 months from my 18-month period in which I must wait before requesting a transfer. Considering the fact that all my remedies have been denied, I am not hopeful about this.]

CMU as Secret
In addition to the due process and transfer issues, there is the secretive and illegal manner that the CMU was created (Note: for historical perspectives, it needs to be stated that the CMU was established roughly halfway through the second term of George W. Bush and his Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.)

In April 2006, the BoP proposed a “Limited Communication for Terrorist Inmates” policy, which suggested new restrictions for “terrorists” and “terrorism related inmates” such as:

1) One 6-page letter per week.

2) One 15-minute phone call a month.

3) One 1-hour visit a month.

A coalition of civil rights organizations signed a letter of protest criticizing the proposed rules and raising numerous constitutional, practical and ethical objectives. The outcry appears to have caused the BoP to reconsider it and just 6 months later, open the CMU at FCI Terre Haute quietly. Since the BoP never sought public comment on the new CMU, it certainly appears to be a violation of the Administrative Procedural Act (APA), an argument a federal judge in Miami raised in response to a prisoner’s legal challenge to transfer to the CMU.

The unit is functionally an open secret. While the BoP circumvented the standard public comment (and feedback process), it has sought to get around this by describing the CMU as a “self-contained general population unit,” implying that the unit is legally and penally no different than a normal unit at an FCI. There is no mention of the CMU on the BoP’s website (ww.bop.gov) or USP Marion’s subpage on the same site. You will not find extensive Congressional hearings on the subject — other than a July 2008 subcommittee hearing in which it appears that the BoP director was not fully forthcoming on the CMU36. Letters here are stamped “USP Marion,” not CMU, and the unit is called “I Unit” by staff. (An interesting anecdote: while on transit in Winter 2009, I met men from the FCI here and asked them what they knew about I Unit. Without hesitation, they said, “That’s where the terrorists are.” They informed me this is what BoP Staff routinely told them.)

Media queries are met with silence or vague information. Requests by the media to interview me by coming to Marion have been denied — due to it “being detrimental to the safety, security and good order of the institution.” There still is no Program Statement on the CMU — a legal requirement, outlining the specific rules of the CMU and its designation criteria.

Because of this, and the general refusal of the BoP to hand over relevant documents through FOIA, it is impossible to determine the specific reasons why one is sent here — and thus, how to contest this process. In effect, the CMU was created on the fly, with no eye toward legality; they are free to operate it in whatever manner they choose.

Communication Management (The Promotion of Isolation and Alienation)
The most painful aspect of this unit, to me, is how the CMU restricts my contact with the world beyond these walls. It is difficult for those who have not known prison to understand what a lifeline contact with our family and friends is to us. It is our link to the world — and our future (for those of us who are fortunate enough to have release dates). Prison authorities and architects are well aware that those with strong family ties and in good communication with their loved ones are well behaved and have significantly lower rates of recidivism. The BoP, in theory, recognizes this by claiming they try to situate us within 500 miles of our homes. Mostly, this is a cruel farce for many prisoners — I have not been within 1000 miles of my family in 2 years.

The most Orwellian aspects of the CMU are in how they manage our communications:

A) Telephones- at my previous prison, I was able to use the phones for 300 minutes a month — days, nights, weekends and holidays — basically at any point I was not in my housing unit (6am-10pm). Here, we receive one 15-minute phone call a week. The call can only take place between 8am and 2:30pm, never on weekends or holidays and must be scheduled one and a half weeks in advance (we can choose a back-up number to call but if neither picks up, we don’t get a call). The call is live-monitored and recorded. Not only do we receive one fifth of the minutes granted to other federal prisoners but the call is also very trying for our families — all of whom have day jobs and many of whom have children in school. The CMU requires calls be made in English only — a difficult demand considering over half of the men here speak English as a second language (this restriction is not present at other federal prisons).

B) Visits- At FCI Sandstone, I received up to eight visiting days a month (56 hours) — contact visits in which I could embrace my wife, play cards with my nieces and share vending machine food with my visitors. These visits were my lifeline. I got about twelve of them in eight months and it aided in my adjustment to prison.

The CMU restricts our visits to one four-hour non-contract visit a month. One short visit through two inches of plate glass with cameras hanging overhead and my visitors stuffed in a four-and-a-half by three-and-a-half-foot stuffy booth — a tight squeeze for two. The visits can only take place on weekdays from 8am-2pm — no more Christmas or Thanksgiving visits — and worse, no physical contact (Consider what it would be like to have no contact with your loved ones. What if you couldn’t hug or kiss your lover, partner, wife, husband? What would that do to you?) I find myself riddled with guilt when I ask friends to spend $500 to fly across the country, drive three hours (and repeat) for a four-hour non-contact visit. I’m lucky though, having people who will do this. Many of the men here can’t afford it or don’t want to subject their children to this reality.

C) Mail- We can only send out mail once a day and we cannot visit the mail room to send out packages. We are one-hundred-percent reliant on the one staff person who deals with our mail to do so and sending a box home is a laborious procedure. We must leave our envelopes unsealed so that staff can read, copy, scan and send to whatever other agency studies our correspondence. A letter to NYC takes roughly seven to nine days (which should take five). Letters sent abroad, especially those not written in English, could take a month or more — a common complaint of some of my fellow prisoners.

Staff here has an interesting reading of the rules governing legal mail leading to the charge that they open our legal mail (this is the subject of an administrative remedy I filed with the BoP Central Office in Washington DC). The rule states that the lawyer’s name must be clearly identified and that the envelope must say “Special Mail- Open only in the presence of inmates” and yet staff has opened my legal mail that said “Law Offices of Jane Doe” stating that it should have said, “Jane Doe, Attorney at Law”! The staff looks for any reason to disqualify our legal mail as protected and gather intelligence this way. In doing so, they violate the sanctity of the attorney-client confidentiality principle.

Most of my violations have been petty — a package has more than twenty pieces of paper or a friend kindly enclosed stamps. A few instances though amount to censorship and a limiting of political expression and dialogue. See Appendix B for a detailed discussion of these instances.

D) Media Contact- Although requests have been made to interview people in the CMU, none have been granted to date. This is a violation of the spirit of the BoP’s own media policy. There is an imperative on the Bureau’s part to control and ultimately suppress information on the CMU from making it to a mass audience.

Daily Life at the CMU
Neither one of the two CMUs were built for long-term habitation. The Marion CMU was the site of the Secure Housing Unit (SHU), the USP that closed here in 2005. Terre Haute’s CMU is in “D-wing” — the site of the former federal death row.

The CMU was seemingly converted to its current use with the addition of televisions, steel tables, and new wiring and yet it is not suitable for long-term use due to its “open cell” design (i.e. with bars). With 25 prisoners, our movements are restricted to two housing ranges (hallways about 100 by 12 feet); a recreation range where we also eat (consisting of seven cells with a computer, typewriter, barber shop, religious library, social library, art room and recreational equipment); and a small rec yard (all concrete, a lap equals one-eighteenth of a mile, four cages with two basketball hoops, one handball court, a weather awning with tables and some sit-up benches). We are lucky to be visited daily by a resident bird population of doves and blackbirds, and overhead, the occasional hawk or falcon (ironically, as I write this, I overhear warnings from staff that if we continue to feed the birds, we will receive violations). The appearance of the yard with its cages, concrete, and excessive barbed wire has earned it nickname “Little Guantanamo” (of course a punitive unit with seventy-five percent Muslims also contributes to the name as well).

The conditions here are not dire — in fact, the horror stories I have heard over the last two years have convinced me it is far worse at many prisons and yet, I believe it is important to be descriptive and accurate — to dispel fears (about violence, for instance) but also to demonstrate just how different life is for us at the CMU.

There are many things we lack here that other prisons in the federal system have to offer:

1- A residential drug/alcohol program- despite at least one person here having completion of it ordered by the court.

2- Enough jobs for the prisoners here- There is not nearly enough jobs for all the men here and most are extremely low paying.

3- UNICOR- This is Federal Prison Industries which has shops at many federal prisons (including this one outside the CMU). These jobs pay much more, allow men to pay their court fees, restitution and child support and, as the BoP brags, teaches people job skills.

4- Adequate educational opportunities- Until recently, we did not have GED or vocational programs. Due to inmate pressure and persistence, we now have both of those as well as a few prisoner-taught classes but no college courses at all.

5- Access to staff on a daily basis- At other federal prisons, you are able to approach staff members at lunch every day, including the Warden. Here, we get (at most) two quick walk-throughs a week, usually taking place early in the morning. You are often left waiting days to resolve a simple question.

6- Law library access- We have a very small law library here with only twenty-five percent of the books required by law. We can only request books twice weekly and those are only delivered if the other nine hundred prisoners at the adjacent Medium are not using them. We lack Federal Court and Supreme Court reports as well as books on Immigration Law (fifty percent or more of the men here face deportation). This lack of access makes for an arduous and ineffective research path.

7- Computers- We have four computers for our email system (two for reading, one for printing and one that we were told would be for legal but it still isn’t working). Unlike my previous prison, where we had forty computers with a robust computer-class program, or like other prisons that teach a vocational computer course, we have no such thing.

8- Access to general population- Being in an isolation unit makes for a situation in which we cannot have organized sports leagues and tournaments due to not having enough people at all. This may not seem crucial but sports are a very useful diversion from the stress of prison life and separation.

After reading the preceding sections, perhaps like me you are wondering what really is the purpose of the CMU. In short, the SMU is Florence ADX-LITE for those men whose security points are low and present no real problems to staff. From my interactions with the men here, I can say with certainty, that people here are remarkably well-behaved and calm — many without any disciplinary violations. If these men, like myself, don’t get in trouble, and have been in the system for some time, why are we here? Consider my case.

My short time in prison prior to coming to the CMU consisted of two months at MDC Brooklyn and eight months at FCI Sandstone. I had never gotten in trouble and spent my days as a clerk in psychology, working toward a Master’s degree, reading, writing and exercising. My goal was to get closer to home and my loved ones. In April 2008, I filed a “hardship transfer” request due to my mother’s illness and her inability to travel to Minnesota to visit me. I had my team meeting, and my security points were lowered. Weeks later, I was moved to the CMU.

The irony is that I was moved to the CMU to have my communication managed, but what changed in that one year to justify this move? If I was a danger, then why did the BoP house me in a low-security prison? The same applies to many of the men here– some have been in general population for twenty years and then suddenly a need to manage their communication is conjured up. During my pre-CMU time, I had used 3500 phone minutes and sent hundreds of letters. If there was a problem with my communication, shouldn’t the BoP have raised this with me? My notice stating their rationale for placing me here attributed it to me “being a member and leader in the ELF and ALF” and “communicating in code.” But if this is true, then shouldn’t I have been sent to the CMU as soon as I self-reported to prison in July 2007?

The CMUs were crafted and opened under the Bush administration as some misguided attempt to be tough on the “war on terror.” This unit contains many prisoners from cases prosecuted during the hyper-paranoid and over-the-top period after 9/11 and the passage of the USA Patriot Act.44 The number of prosecutions categorized as terrorism-related more than doubled to reach 1,200 in 2002. It seemed that every other week, there was some plot uncovered by overzealous FBI agents — in Lackawanna, NY, Miami, FL, Portland, OR, and Virginia and elsewhere (never mind the illegal wiretaps and unscrupulous people used in these cases). These cases may not be headlines anymore but these men did not go away — they were sent to prison and, when it was politically advantageous for Bush, transferred to the CMUs. The non-Muslim populations of these units (although definitely picked judiciously) were sent there to dispel charges that the CMUs were exclusively Muslim units.

The codified rationale for all prisoners being transferred here are “contact with persons in community require heightened control and reviews” and “your transfer to this facility for greater communication management is necessary to the safe, secure, and orderly function of Bureau institutions…” Should an increase in monitoring of communication mean a decrease in privileges? If the goal is to manage our contact with the outside world, shouldn’t the BoP hire enough staff so that we can maintain the same rights and privileges as other prisoners (since the party line is that we are not here for punishment)? The reality is the conditions, segregation, lack of due process and such are punishment regardless of whether the BoP admits it or not.

Forward!
Where to from here, then? Does the new President and his Attorney General take issue with segregation? Will Obama view the CMU, as he did with Guantanamo Bay, as a horrible legacy of his predecessor and close it? Many people are hopeful for an outcome like that. On April 7th, 2009, Mr. Obama, while in Turkey, said, “The United States will not make war on Islam,” and that he wanted to “extend the hand of friendship to the Muslim world.” While that sounds wonderful, what does that look like in concrete terms? Will he actualize that opinion by closing the CMU? Or will he marry the policy of Bush and condone a secret illegal set of political units for Muslims and activists? What of the men here? Will he transfer us back to normal prisons and review the outrageous prosecutions of many of the CMU detainees? If it can be done with (former) Senator Ted Steven’s case, it can be done here.

While lawsuits have been filed in both Illinois and Indiana federal courts, what is needed urgently is for these units to be dragged out into the open. I am asking for your help and advocacy in dealing with this injustice and the mindset that allows a CMU to exist. Please pursue the resource section at the end of this article and consider doing something. I apologize for the length of this piece — it was suggested to me (by people way smarter than myself) that it would be best to start from the beginning and offer as many details as possible. I hope I gave you a clearer idea of what’s going on here. Thank you for all your support and love — your letters are a bright candle in a sea of darkness.

Little Eichmann Country-Western anthem

Of course, that describes most of the Pseudo-patriotic crap infesting the airwaves now…

But there’s one I heard “that’s the way things were and still ought to be”

Like honoring our preachers, leaders, teachers and heroes and believing everything they said

Charlie Manson was a preacher. Preached Armageddon really really strong.
Cotten Mather was a Preacher who gets quoted a lot by the Reich Wing, (Like Chuck Norris and Dawg the Bounty Hunter, just another couple of Wannabe Pigs) whenever they say that America should be a Religious Dictatorship…

Who also said that Native Americans were a construct of Satan because we’re not specifically mentioned in Genesis, that we had no souls and should be exterminated.
And that the people who allowed their kids to play with dolls were practicing witchcraft and should be killed.
And the Kiddoes themselves

Imagine, if you will, somebody offing your rug-rats because you gave them a Teddy Bear or let them watch Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny….
And the Good Pastor Mather also owned Slaves.

Leaders? McCarthy, for instance, with all the Liars, Murderers and Thieves who were and are his Fellow Travelers, like Reagan, Nixon, Bush (all the Bush Klan), Billy Sunday who was one of Their Crowd and also a Nazi Sympathizer (and, leave us not forget, a Preacher), People who could feel at ease at a Country Club or a Klan Rally?

We should believe everything they said or say?

Really?

We’re supposed to (here in Colorado Springs) Revere and Honor “heroes” like Custer and Chivington and Palmer…

Racist SCUM who tried to wipe a whole race of Americans from the face of the world.

When Custer is quoted in the book (and film) Little Big Man as saying

It’s more important to kill the women and children, because if we let them breed there wouldn’t be any point killing the men

It’s an accurate representation of what the punk murdering bastard actually DID say.

And we’ve got an Idol of his disciple William Jackson Palmer parked right in the middle of a busy intersection.

By the way, Custer and Chivington and Palmer also believed in and quoted Cotten Mather…

And the “War on Christmas” loudmouths should remember this, Cotten Mather was a Puritan… whose family had been run out of England for criticizing their Religious Dictatorship and, importantly, pissing off King James by opposing the celebration of CHRISTMAS because it’s a Catholic holiday

I don’t remember the name of the singer, but it’s one of those redneck punks who offers to beat up on anybody who disagrees with him.

Yep, real Role Model for a working Civilization.

The kid who sings the song is (to me) a youngster. Mid twenties, maybe thirties.

No way in HELL could this dude remember anything at all about the 70s even.

Far Less the 40s, 50s and 60s that’s he’s so nostalgic about.

When Apartheid was the Official Law of the Land in 20 states. People of “color” could be arrested or even hanged for not stepping off the sidewalk to let the Master Race walk past.

THAT’S the way things were, and I for one actually remember some of it…

So, is the stupid bastard really sure “that’s the way it still should be”?

Or is he merely hoping that WE are simple-minded enough to believe that?

Santa bought little; Barack to throw paper dollars into air

homeless in carsThe Christmas shopping season was the worst in four decades with sales slumping everywhere. Wal-Mart and other retailers warn after weak December So our new fearless leader, Barack, plans to continue Bush’s program of throwing deficit dollars into the wind towards the rich. Everybody’s on board the road to bankrupting the US government!

What happens if the printing out of new dollars to give to bankrupt companies ‘fails’? What happens if they still go under? Who will have been placed into holding the debt? Why that would be you and your kids, and you might well not even have your over mortgaged house as a roof over your head, nor have a job to hold onto? Due to the loss of value to the national currency, you could find prices going UP, Up, UP! You will find yourself living in a country sunk into holding trillions of dollars of debt it now owes.

However, since your country’s government will still be holding the balance of the world’s nuclear weaponry, there is a silver radioactive cloud to the future here. What country is going to be collecting on what your government owes them? Sound like a scene from the movie, The Godfather? What’s a little collateral damage here or there since you are a Proud American? What’s a little debt among ‘friends’?

A week or so ago I came across a homeless person living in his car, but he had bumper stickers placed all over it with ‘United We Stand’ as the message. That can be your inspiring message in this rather bleak scenario. At least you will be an American and America does best at passing off misery onto others… others like YOU.

LAs Homeless blog asks, Do we set up car parks for Homeless Living? A good question…

Falling onto the sky….

jewelry4
Hairy Christmas and a Hippie New Year.

jewelry

jewelry2

jewelry3

People popping off fireworks and the occasional firearm, making the poor stupid little dog next door bark insanely.

Ok, headphones on, music, relaxing ahhhh…

Anyhow, these are some of the jewelry pictures.

So, how they evolved, when I was recycling some computer parts, I had the magneto from a floppy drive and was trying to visualize how best to take it apart, strip the copper wire from it efficiently.

One of my nieces and her friend were there, the little girl said “Oh, that would make a really pretty necklace.”

And she was right.

So I started making them like that, there’s about a hundred dfferent kinds of these magnetoes in various disk drives. Plenty of creative room using circle patterns.

Me likey muchly.

And then, I moved up here.

People told me about the Medicine Wheel, which I had never seen.

So I looked it up.

There’s one up near Sturgis which has been a prayer site for centuries, best guess is just before the Spanish came up from Mexico, and the Anasazi had just faded into the desert pueblos.

The tradition is, when you go there, you’re in the center of the Heart of the Earth.

Meaning the Black Hills.

The Sioux and the other northern nations say that it’s alive, this heart.

And, when you look down on the Black Hills, from high enough up, and can see the whole thing, it DOES look a whole lot like a human heart.

Some of the prophets, like Black Elk, say and said that this land could be killed. Maybe they’re right.

The name Bad Lands only means that it’s not any good for farming, you can’t grow much there, it’s “bad land”.

The blood-soaking and general rape of this Heart of the World didn’t really start until the early 1800s.

First it was over the Fur Trade.

Indians took what furs they needed to survive, leave the rest.

The French and especially the English had a huge market for it back in Europe, so Money reared it’s ugly head.

Then gold was discovered there.

Standing Bear Butte, where the Great Medicine Wheel is, was suddenly the center of a raging war.

For centuries, 500 years at least, people had gone there to experience the strongest of Medicine.

Medicine is a catch all translation of a huge number of Indian words, spirit and magic and life and it’s all woven together, no part is separate from the rest, it’s the Great Circle.

One of the translated words is manitou.

Another is the garden of the Gods.

See, most of this I only learned once I came here.

The kokapelli, for instance, it’s a bizarre coincidence like the medicine wheels I put together….

But when I was crippled up, recovering from the first surgeries like 16 years ago, sitting in a wheelchair, at my sister’s apartment, feeling sorry for myself… and one of my nieces had gotten a bag of toys from her school… and one of the toys was a Recorder. Ein Zauber-Flut. La Flauta Inglesa.(the English Flute) La Flauta Dulce – sweet flute.

The kids were running around blowing it like a whistle, really annoying in a cute way, but I had a sudden idea, I said “Gimme that, I’ll learn how to play it right” and the next day I checked out a book from the library on How To Play The Recorder and started in.

Flash forward, and I come up here, to Manitou, and started learning the Indian ways.

Finding out that the Flute Player, Kokapelli, is kind of the local hero. And what the medicine wheel means.

A lot of medicine is what you feel, that’s how you “know” and “learn”it.

English doesn’t do it justice.

Meditation comes close. Intuition, which means you learn from within.

A line from one of the hymns based on Ode am die Freude, “Spirit, in our spirit speaking, makes us sons of God, indeed.”

I can get really mystical and misty eyed describing it.

A lot of the stuff you experience up here, how do you put it to where people would believe it? That you could be walking a path and have somebody, a stranger, join you, talking to you and walking along with you, a cloud-shadow passes over and you’re standing alone, no tracks beside yours…

A dream from long ago, perhaps.

In the Indian conscious state, and this varies from person to person how you experience it, live it… but the Dreamtime is just as real as something you can touch.

I saw a picture of the Great Medicine Wheel, taken from the air, and that’s the only way you can see the whole thing.

For centuries when somebody goes there to pray-make medicine-commune-learning spirit…

he puts a stone at the end of each spoke of the wheel.

The wheel is now about a mile across.

It takes hours to walk around the edge of it.

And, it looks just like the medicine wheels shown in the pictures, the ones a little child told me “that would make a pretty necklace”

It’s not something you grab intellectually, you just feel and see and hear and ARE the medicine.

The other side of these, they’re recycled. Something that would, if left in a landfill somewhere, the first thing they would do is run a bulldozer over it, breaking it up just enough to let the toxic parts ooze out…

To kill the mountains, and kill the waters.

We would follow, everything we know as Human would set its feet upon the rainbow, One way of putting it is “falling onto the sky”.

Following the sun every evening into the Dreamtime of the west, only, without the life of Earth or man, the Dreamtime, too, would die away.

One of Black Elk’s sayings is we would live long enough to know what we had done… and pass away in great sadness.

Harold Pinter on drama and US banditry

“What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?”
-Harold Pinter (1930-2008)

I’m reminded of a friend of mine who asked “You know what PTSD is? It’s a bad conscience.”

An outspoken critic of the Iraq War, Harold Pinter died Christmas Eve. Here is the address he prerecorded for his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in 2005, when he had become too infirm to attend in person.

Nobel Lecture: Art, Truth & Politics

In 1958 I wrote the following:

‘There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.’

I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art. So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so. But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other. Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of The Homecoming is ‘What have you done with the scissors?’ The first line of Old Times is ‘Dark.’

In each case I had no further information.

In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn’t give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

‘Dark’ I took to be a description of someone’s hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C.

In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), ‘Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don’t you buy a dog? You’re a dog cook. Honest. You think you’re cooking for a lot of dogs.’ So since B calls A ‘Dad’ it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn’t know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

‘Dark.’ A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. ‘Fat or thin?’ the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

It’s a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence. What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author’s position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can’t dictate to them. To a certain extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man’s buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work. And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function.

In my play The Birthday Party I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

Mountain Language pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

Ashes to Ashes, on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows, reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others.

But as they died, she must die too.

Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true. We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true.

The truth is something entirely different. The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all. I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now. Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom. When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America’s view of its role in the world, both then and now.

I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s.

The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz (then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself). Father Metcalf said: ‘Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors, in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.’

Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. ‘Father,’ he said, ‘let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.’ There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch.

Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

Finally somebody said: ‘But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?’

Seitz was imperturbable. ‘I don’t agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,’ he said.

As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: ‘The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers.’

The United States supported the brutal Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua for over 40 years. The Nicaraguan people, led by the Sandinistas, overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution.

The Sandinistas weren’t perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished. Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion. In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

I spoke earlier about ‘a tapestry of lies’ which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a ‘totalitarian dungeon’. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary. The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning, Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists. They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again. The casinos moved back into the country. Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. ‘Democracy’ had prevailed.

But this ‘policy’ was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened.

The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn’t know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, ‘the American people’, as in the sentence, ‘I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.’

It’s a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it’s very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what’s called the ‘international community’. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be ‘the leader of the free world’. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man’s land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You’re either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East’.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they’re interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. ‘We don’t do body counts,’ said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. ‘A grateful child,’ said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. ‘When do I get my arms back?’ he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn’t holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you’re making a sincere speech on television.

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm’s way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, ‘I’m Explaining a Few Things’:

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children’s blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate.

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives.

Treacherous
generals:
see my dead house,
look at broken Spain:
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull’s eye of your hearts.

And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land.

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
the blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
in the streets!

Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda’s poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as ‘full spectrum dominance’. That is not my term, it is theirs. ‘Full spectrum dominance’ means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government’s actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man’s man.

‘God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.’

A writer’s life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don’t have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed. You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall now quote a poem of my own called ‘Death’.

Where was the dead body found?
Who found the dead body?
Was the dead body dead when found?
How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother
Or uncle or sister or mother or son
Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?
Was the body abandoned?
By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?
Did you declare the dead body dead?
How well did you know the dead body?
How did you know the dead body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body
Did you close both its eyes
Did you bury the body
Did you leave it abandoned
Did you kiss the dead body

When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate. But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections. But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

Alternative Christmas Message of Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to the British people

Baby JesusMaybe it’s of interest to have this Translation of the Alternative Christmas Message, 24 December 2008 on hand, since there is sure to be a lot of hateful propaganda in the US and British press about it. Yes, there already has been. Here you can read the translation of the Alternative Christmas Message, delivered by the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Upon the anniversary of the birth of Jesus, Son of Mary, the Word of God, the Messenger of mercy, I would like to congratulate the followers of Abrahamic faiths, especially the followers of Jesus Christ, and the people of Britain.

The Almighty created the universe for human beings and human beings for Himself. He created every human being with the ability to reach the heights of perfection. He called on man to make every effort to live a good life in this world and to work to achieve his everlasting life.

On this difficult and challenging journey of man from dust to the divine, He did not leave humanity to its own devices. He chose from those He created the most excellent as His Prophets to guide humanity.

All Prophets called for the worship of God, for love and brotherhood, for the establishment of justice and for love in human society. Jesus, the Son of Mary, is the standard-bearer of justice, of love for our fellow human beings, of the fight against tyranny, discrimination and injustice.

All the problems that have bedevilled humanity throughout the ages came about because humanity followed an evil path and disregarded the message of the Prophets. Now as human society faces a myriad of problems and a succession of complex crises, the root causes can be found in humanity’s rejection of that message, in particular the indifference of some governments and powers towards the teachings of the divine Prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.

The crises in society, the family, morality, politics, security and the economy which have made life hard for humanity and continue to put great pressure on all nations have come about because the Prophets have been forgotten, the Almighty has been forgotten and some leaders are estranged from God.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would stand with the people in opposition to bullying, ill-tempered and expansionist powers.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would hoist the banner of justice and love for humanity to oppose warmongers, occupiers, terrorists and bullies the world over.

If Christ were on earth today, undoubtedly He would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as He did in His lifetime. The solution to today’s problems is a return to the call of the divine Prophets. The solution to these crises is to follow the Prophets – they were sent by the Almighty for the good of humanity.

Today, the general will of nations is calling for fundamental change. This is now taking place. Demands for change, demands for transformation, demands for a return to human values are fast becoming the foremost demands of the nations of the world. The response to these demands must be real and true. The prerequisite to this change is a change in goals, intentions and directions. If tyrannical goals are repackaged in an attractive and deceptive package and imposed on nations again, the people, awakened, will stand up against them.

Fortunately, today, as crises and despair multiply, a wave of hope is gathering momentum. Hope for a brighter future and hope for the establishment of justice, hope for real peace, hope for finding virtuous and pious rulers who love the people and want to serve them – and this is what the Almighty has promised.

We believe, Jesus Christ will return, together with one of the children of the revered Messenger of Islam and will lead the world to love, brotherhood and justice. The responsibility of all followers of Christ and Abrahamic faiths is to prepare the way for the fulfilment of this divine promise and the arrival of that joyful, shining and wonderful age. I hope that the collective will of nations will unite in the not too distant future and with the grace of the Almighty Lord, that shining age will come to rule the earth.

Once again, I congratulate one and all on the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. I pray for the New Year to be a year of happiness, prosperity, peace and brotherhood for humanity. I wish you every success and happiness.”

Merry Christmas, Santa has a new ride

Christmas pickup
Season’s Felicitations from Not My Tribe
COLORADO, 2008- A Manitou family in Crystal Hills opted to hang Christmas lights on their old truck in lieu of their home. Was it to economize, to conserve, or to commemorate 2008 as the year of the pickup?

If I’m the only Grinch ascribing that interpretation, I still think it’s unassailable. 2008 was the year the pickup truck hit the crash test barrier.

Gas prices of four dollars per gallon tarnished the appeal of the pickup. Even now as inexplicably low fuel costs are dangled before Americans like a dealer’s freebie, the downward spinning economy has doomed the in-utile utility vehicle and there’s no getting back up on that saddle.

Is that any kind of Christmas message? Sure! It’s Obama’s urbane, metropolitan, social-conscious, victory over the Republican cowboy. Common sense over common simple. Practical over pretend.

Mexico’s headless Drug War soldiers

Mexico’s current Right Wing government has been duped into fighting a US ‘war on drugs’ inside Mexico. Actually it has been paid money big time to do so. Mexico also is fighting D.Cs war on immigrants, too, as its own treatment of Central American immigrants entering Mexican territory is abysmal, and yes it too is mainly being paid for by US dollars. The daily casualties in Mexico just yesterday from this war were 33 nationwide, 14 of them in Ciudad Juarez alone, the city right across from El Paso, Texas. And then there were Mexico’s headless Drug War soldiers.

If the US wants to give Mexico a Christmas gift of a different type, it might ought to call off this nonsense, and change the whole way it deals with drugs? If not, we may soon see headless American soldiers from this war, not from the idiotically US government named ‘Global War on Terrorism’. How many wars against shadows can the Right Wing nuts running the US lose at one time? On to Afghanistan, Obama! You’ll be bigger losers than even Cheney and Dubya were when it’s all said and done.

The press doesn’t cover in the US the real results of the US sponsored and run Drug War on Mexico soil. There’s basically nothing about the headless Mexican soldiers this week in the papers here, but instead we get treated to pictures of the photos of the Sinaloa beauty queen busted for supposedly riding in a vehicle full of gang members and guns. The stop was made by Mexican soldiers who still have their heads attached. MESSAGE- The Drug War is effective. REALITY- The Drug War is a ongoing disaster.

Throwing a shoe at Bush was not enough- Dubya and Cheney need to be tortured for National Security reasons

waterboarding
It seems to me that the wrong guy is being tortured right now, pre-Christmas.
 
I’m talking about the Iraqi reporter who threw the shoe at America’s smirking Clown President, George W. Bush. Why is he being tortured and not the clown named Dubya?

We all know, thanks to Dick Cheney, that torture is a useful ‘tool’ for pricks like Dick Cheney. It simply gives them a sense of worth. But let’s face it, these two, Dick and Dubya, endangered US National Security for eight years, and are hiding away in secret many more of their acts of international terrorism, many of which continue to endanger the American people ourselves. It looks to me that torture is just the right thing to do to obtain this vital information from these two criminals, and possibly stop yet more subversion from taking place even after they leave their criminal posts as head mafiosos.

Let’s face it, it would not take much to break down the clown Dubya’s resistance. He squeal like a pig if even the slightest pressure is applied to his nuts. Think of the amount of much needed information that could be obtained about his still hidden collaborators and their roles in spreading terrorism world wide. They’re still active you know, and America needs this information to stop yet more acts of terrorism from being committed by the US government in the days ahead.

Sure, I know! Squeezing Dubya’s nuts is an objectionable and dirty thing to do. Under normal circumstances it would be morally wrong to do it, but today National Security is at the stake. So let’s light the fire, squeeze the nuts, and get this useful information out of Dick and Dubya. It’s the right thing to do. Our country needs this information!

If they do not squeal after their nuts are squeezed (hard to imagine happening from pigs like them), then crush the nuts and light the fire around the stake! That’ll get them talking. Oh! And buy the way, this is not really torture at all, but just some rough handling, that’s all. But why do these criminals think that they have a right to be coddled?

Free Iraq! Free the Iraqi shoe thrower! Jail Bush, and go to work on him! It’s a National Security issue and we all need to write tot he Department of Homeland Security and demand that this information being obtained from Dubya and Dick… By any means necessary… it’s the pragmatic American way!

America’s Biblical fairy tale- The President’s caring capitalism

It’s that time of year again, where fairy tales abound. Ho-Ho-Ho!
obama santa 
America’s fairy fairytale of Biblical proportions is the one about the President guiding a caring capitalism forward to the little American kids. On, Dancer! On, Torturer! On, Sniper! On, Bomber! We’ve got presents of democracy, liberty, and freedom to deliver to you all!

You gotta believe in the God of American capitalism though, otherwise a great horde of locusts will descend on your tribe! And our Almighty President will OK it that we rape your women, kill your first born sons, and then rain down a flood of horror which will awash your lands, and sink all except the aircraft carrier with the American flag! …if you do not believe? The President cares, but you must believe or? … well else!

Moses first brought the fairy tale of the caring Almighty God! Then Paul spread the message of the Almighty God’s son, who cared for those sinners… as long as they believe in him. Otherwise, this gentle man and his father promised an eternal Hell to you.

Today our Almighty caring president promises his caring capitalism will free your souls through the power of your faith in it all. You Must have faith in America’s Biblical fairy tale! Children, sleep! Inaugeration Day comes soon! The President cares, and caring capitalism will be your Almighty Salvation! Onward, Silly Christian soldiers carrying the Cro… no the caring Capitalism forward to the Turks! Ho-Ho-Ho! Seasons Greetings!

North Pole-tergeists from Christmas Passed

A highlight of the Christmas season every year is gathering my big family together under one roof — my children, my parents, five siblings and their spouses, and twelve (thirteen by year’s end!) nieces and nephews. Everyone is married now, save me and the kids, but I can recall many holidays when new boy- or girlfriends were part of the celebration.

Tales of our past houseguests poke edgewise into at least one family conversation every year. Each of these dear departed-from-us souls has left behind fond memories, and I imagine that we’ve provided them with a few stories as well. Like how my sisters and I share a secret language of syllables and partial thoughts that no one can follow, not even our mother. Or how all three of my brothers-in-law swill too much grog every year and end up running naked through whatever neighborhood we’re in, losing wallets and shoes and sustaining minor injuries in the imponderable annual ritual.

It’s no wonder that the poor dears rarely returned the following year. It isn’t that we didn’t want to bring them into the fold; we did, and we tried. “Once when Joey was in first grade and I was in fifth, she went to a different school than the rest of us because we’d just moved back here from Topeka and there wasn’t room at DR so I walked her to school and one of our friends, whose parents were Irish. . .” But with stories flying and a lifetime of shared experiences providing the framework, the new loves found themselves smack in the middle of what must’ve seemed to be a verbal maelstrom.

Occasionally my younger brother Andy would attempt interaction through the use of punnery. I know this was a friendly overture to our visitors because the entire family, so far as I can tell, despises puns, mostly because of him. When I was in high school, 11-year-old Andy — redheaded, bespectacled, buck-toothed Andy — would hang about ten feet away from my friends and interject punny witticisms whenever he could. My friends laughed (laughed!) at his horrid intrusions which would incense me. “Mom! Andy is bugging us! He’s telling stupid jokes again!” My mom would admonish him, much too kindly to satisfy me, “Andy, sweetie, leave the big girls alone, and stop making puns. People hate puns.”

Punnitry, for those who’ve been spared the exposure, is largely the trick of compacting two or more ideas within a single word or expression. It’s wordplay at its most punitive. To wit: Punnery is a rewording experience, especially around Christmas time. That’s when people exchange hellos and good buys with each other, the time of year when every girl wants her past forgotten and her presents remembered, the time of year when mothers have to separate the men from the toys.

Yes, that kind of punnishment.

Studies have shown a correlation between punderstanding and sound intellect, so the dumb jokes aren’t really so dumb. Puns are found in many of Shakespeare’s plays and in the Bible, more proof that they appeal to the lofty among us. Still, I loathe puns, which must be evidence that I’m not particularly clever, or so the punnits would have me believe.

We won’t have any Christmas visitors this year so there will surely be a shortage of dumb jokes around the table. To take the heat off poor punmeister Andy (who, by the way, outgrew his youthful awkwardness and is not annoying in the slightest), I’m going to surprise my family with a few holiday puns of my own. I won’t trouble you with the three pages I’ve amassed so far but, trust me, much pun will be had this year. Enough to satisfy everyone for years and years to come, I can only hope.

So, Meretricious to all! And don’t forget that There’s No Plate Like Chrome for the Hollandaise!