Friday, March 28, 2008

The Rashomon Effect

Have you ever wondered why it is that many people looking at the same thing will all see something different? Tracking the divergent responses and patchwork reactions to Hillary and Barack, for instance, as they swirl around in cyberspace, is like diving into the pit; it is enough to make anyone quite crazed. How can precision or consensus ever emerge out of such titanic disagreement and confusion? These days nothing is ever crystal clear in the mirror of public recognition.

Cleaning out some old files, I found an essay I'd saved from Time magazine, written by Charles Krauthammer, a neo-conservative columnist, sometime just prior to the 2004 Republican convention. The text is a major defense of George Bush, declaring him to be a leader of great political courage who absolutely merits reelection. "Bush acted. He declared war," writes Krauthammer. He declared war not just on terrorists but on states that aid and abet them and which seek weapons of mass destruction.

Where many of us see a politics characterized by propaganda, false information, lies, and militant posturing, Krauthammer praises Bush for choices that were "radical, dangerous, and absolutely necessary." He declares the conquest of Afghanistan and the installation of a pro-American government and the decimation of al-Qaeda to be "the single most important victory ever" in the war on terror. He positively crows about how until America's victory there, Afghanistan had been the graveyard of empires and was considered unconquerable. You really have to wonder how these neo-cons float and maneuver their fictional dreadnoughts!

Bush accomplished the destruction of the Taliban, according to Krauthammer, by delivering a tough ultimatum to Pervez Musharraf: "Join us or else." And here's the kicker: But Bush didn't just settle for his "success" in Afghanistan by resting on his laurels. Instead he started another war in Iraq, in yet another difficult and dangerous undertaking from which he did not shrink. Bush has risked his entire political future to remove this "ominous and absolutely inevitable" threat, when he could have played it safe, but once again, he chose to ACT. And that, says Krauthammer, is real leadership. I don't know whether to cry, or spy, or reach for the sky when I read these words. Maybe, I think, I'll just rent Rashomon from Netflix. Maybe it will explain everything to me.

Meanwhile, yesterday, as we all watched the disasters unfold on the news--oil-rich Basra now fallen into the hands of Islamists, Baghdad under complete lock down with its streets empty, rockets raining on the heavily fortified Green Zone--Bush stood like Forrest Gump (only with machismo) on TV, chained as usual to his unshakable myth of liberation. It was truly dazzling. Bravely and with painstaking diligence, he reeled off one by one the many positive results of the "surge"--among them improved security and "a rebirth of civil society."

I was in the gym at the time, working out on the treadmill as I listened to him. Surely, I thought to myself, this speech has to count as no small part of his remarkable accomplishments: not being able to distinguish success from cottage cheese. Yesterday was definitely a gold-letter day, with John McCain also insisting as well: "We're succeeding. I don't care what anybody says."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

America's Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Recently released video clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's longtime pastor, have generated a political firestorm with the revelation of his unabashed denunciations of America, starting with: "The government...wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, no. God damn America...for treating our citizens as less than human."

Then there are the Reverend's inflammatory comments after 9/11: "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."

The voice shaping these turbo-charged tirades is zealous at best, caught up in the urgency of its own saying, but the views being expressed are hardly unique. When in doubt, however, strike up the band: it turns out the Reverend has some high-minded fellow travelers.

When he was 93, world-famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell attended an ill-fated attempt by Europe to put America on trial for war crimes in Vietnam in 1967 in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

"In every part of the world the source of war and suffering lies at the door of US imperialism," Russell declared. "Wherever there is hunger, wherever there is exploitative tyranny, wherever people are tortured and masses left to rot under the weight of disease and starvation, the force which holds down the people stems from Washington."

Now check out these observations by the well-known British playwright, Harold Pinter: "The United States has, in fact, since the end of the Second World War...exercised a sustained, systematic, remorseless and quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good. But at least now...the US has come out of its closet. The smile is still there of course...[but] the 'rogue state' has--without thought, without pause for reflection, without a moment of doubt, let alone shame--confirmed that it is a fully-fledged, award-winning, gold-plated monster. It has effectively declared war on the world. It knows only one language--bombs and death. And still they smiled and still the horror grew."

No amount of incense or air freshener can clear the air of Pinter's outrage. These days it is hard not to conclude that the US is viewed, even by certain members of the foreign policy elite or prominent political analysts like Samuel Huntington, as "a rogue superpower" that not only does not honor its international obligations but has also become the biggest threat to world peace. Obama himself has argued in an article in "Foreign Affairs" magazine last summer that many around the world associate Bush's freedom talk with "war, torture and forcibly imposed regime change."

The media have done their best to give Obama a huge negative spin based on his association with Reverend Wright, but the fact is if we plumb deep enough, it's turtles all the way down. Opinions like Wright's are as ubiquitous and commonplace as refrigerator magnets wherever you look. So I'll end my current list with some thoughts by a lowly anonymous blogger this week, who was responding to an essay on the Huffington Post:

"And I will hazard a terrible guess: that we have lost Afghanistan as surely as we have lost Iraq and as surely as we are going to "lose" Pakistan. It is our presence, our power, our arrogance, our refusal to learn from history and our terror " yes, our terror " of Islam that is leading us into the abyss. And until we learn to leave these Muslim peoples alone, our catastrophe in the Middle East will only become graver. There is no connection between Islam and "terror". But there is a connection between our occupation of Muslim lands and "terror". It's not too complicated an equation. And we don't need a public inquiry to get it right."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Neocon Pharaoh

It's not exactly breaking news that more than any other politician, John McCain is identified with the Iraq War. He has never disguised his support for "regime change"--and he was among those who early on assured the rest of us that we would be welcomed there as liberators. In fact, McCain has been in Iraq this week, no doubt on the political offensive with Dick Cheney, both of them looking for ways to keep the upbeat narrative in high gear and scoping out ways to deflect all possible arguments to disentangle. For McCain (as for Cheney), the occupation of Iraq is not just about "winning"; it is also about turning Iraq into a regional base for extending U.S. influence throughout the region. Iraq is only the first step in redrawing the whole map of the Middle East.

What this actually means (which I, for one, did not know) is that John McCain, (reported on by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation), is a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the neoconservative group whose "rollback rogue state" agenda is what got us into this unholy mess in the first place.

Maybe you thought McCain was just a hard-headed, tough old war hero with a penchant for singing "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran" in forced jest, someone who enjoys ranting on and on about "the transcendent challenge of our time" being "radical lslamic extremism." My friends, the real truth is much worse: John McCain believes (according to Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution), in a way that George Bush never did, in the use of military power above all, to change the world in America's image.

Dreyfuss writes that to combat radical Islamic extremism, McCain is drawing up plans for a new set of global institutions--from a potent covert operations unit to a "League of Democracies" that can bypass the United Nations. It's a new apparatus designed to carry the "war on terror" deep into the twenty-first century. The undisguised intention of these new institutions is to facilitate and legitimize an unencumbered interventionist foreign policy for the U.S. when the U.N. Security Council won't authorize force. Consider, in this regard, the words of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was visiting Iraq a few weeks ago: "Is it not funny that those with 160,000 forces in Iraq accuse us of interference?"

You do the math. McCain really isn't kidding when he says, "I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender, but there will be other wars." The prolonged occupation of multiple Muslim countries with a view to making them democratic will be a big part of his agenda if he is elected President.

Meanwhile as the U.S. economy lurches toward collapse, let's remember the words of that other great master of the art of war, Clauswitz: "A war that destroys the world economy is not a war worth fighting."

I intended to end my blog here, but then Barack Obama gave his big-deal, set-the-record-straight speech today. I didn't hear it, but just from reading some of the intense responses, I'd say it must have been a MASTERPIECE. Just reading ABOUT IT made me cry. Here, for example, is one response, by Chris Durang, lifted from the HuffPost a little while ago:

"The Reverend Wright homilies were very disturbing, no question.

I thought Barack Obama's speech, which finished just minutes ago, was brilliant, nuanced, healing and shows him to be incredibly worthy as a candidate. I hope America is interested enough in progress to embrace this man. We would be lucky, very lucky, to have him as a president. If you didn't see the speech, please seek it out.

His speech was brave, and touched on the minister and race in general with real wisdom, and hope for healing. He condemned the minister's words again; but he explained what he valued in him, and you have to be rigid and unbending not to understand what he said (and which he compared to his white grandmother, whom he loves greatly, but who sometimes has made racially divisive comments). He spoke of whites with racial resentments with empathy, and kept moving on to the need to find progress for all. (And his anti-corporation thoughts are pretty relevant, I'd say, right now? Are you sick of having your money disappear in value due to banks and financial houses using the money they invest as insane, addictive gambling adventures; and when the games then blow up in all our faces, the people who did the unwise gambling for short term profits then get 100 million dollar "parachutes"? Are we sick of that yet?)

"I'm sorry -- I don't often get moved and inspired listening to a speaker. I think Barack Obama is brilliant, and he is a genuine healer. If we don't take our chances with him, we are doomed to more of this endless, idiot, non-constructive bickering deadlock that passes for governance in our stuck, stalled political landscape."

Ditto Io, as they say in the old country (what I think, too). America has run out of gas, in more ways than one. We are headed for an evolutionary crash. Only a skyblue juggler with five red balls can shake our gravity up and (maybe) help us forward now. Go, Barack! We would be lucky, very lucky, to have you as a president.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Political Chicken Wire

Last week I was taking a bag of clothes to the thrift store and inadvertently drove over some chicken wire lying in an alley at the side of the store. There was a terrible sound and the car wouldn't drive properly. Not knowing what had happened, my inner panic button went off and I jumped out to see what the hell was going on. The problem was resolved a few minutes later with the help of a nice lad from the store, who came to the rescue and untangled the wire from underneath the belly of the car, but not before my blood pressure had shot way up! The image of being tangled up in chicken wire has stuck in my brain all week long, as I've watched the unfolding of political events this week, and I find myself experiencing similar feelings of generalized panic all over again.

Those of us who see Obama as our one chance for getting rid of the strangling chicken wire of "old politics" have worried plenty that if he were to be elected, he could get shot, but I think we were not quite prepared for the opportunistic and disgusting spectacle of seeing him symbolically shot down by his own camp--that is, by another Democrat, Hillary Rodham Clinton, over this past week. Then there is the matter of "the surge is working," John McCain's insidious mantra to election success. It's another real reason to panic because, just in case you don't already know this, John McCain, as Pat Buchanan has said, "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."

In what follows, I offer up some snippets of chicken wire from the blogosphere this week: it's no fun feeling panicky all alone.

from Arianna Huffington:

The idea that the surge is working and that the U.S. is making progress -- the self-declared make or break issue of John McCain's candidacy -- is taking hold with the public. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found that nearly half of Americans -- 48 percent -- believe that the military effort in Iraq is "going well." This is an 18 percent jump from a year ago. Along with the White House and McCain, who pounds the "surge is working" drum at almost every campaign stop, we can thank the media for much of this shift. Over the last seven months, there has been a massive 80 percent reduction in the amount of coverage devoted to the war. And this lack of attention has taken a profound toll: a new study found that public awareness of U.S. deaths in Iraq has plummeted since August 2007, when 54 percent of the public was able to say how many American soldiers had been killed in the war. Now, just 28 percent are aware that the death count is about to reach 4,000. Chilling. So McCain and the White House PR machine are able to promote the myth of success in Iraq without much pushback from the media. Or from Democrats....

There is one area, however, where the surge has been a resounding success: it has succeeded in seriously damaging the capabilities of the U.S. military. Extended tours, abbreviated stints back home between deployments, stop-loss orders, lowered recruitment standards, declining sign-ups, 158,000 troops in Iraq, another 28,000 in Afghanistan, depleted equipment, vets' families coming apart at the seams, and even 121 returning soldiers being arrested for murder. It's a recipe for a military meltdown.

from Lynda Obst:

What I saw that ugly week with Tex/Ohio, was a woman [HRC] yelling, shrieking, mocking, changing her strategy every day. I can understand the desperation, but I can't understand smart women mistaking that for strength. When she said shame on you, I was ashamed. Does that make me a sexist? Since I am her peer and a woman? No, I wanted her to be strong but consistent, not lose her cool at 3 a.m. The way Senator Obama had behaved all week.

And now she is the killer of Hope. (It was just too delusional to manage). We are not that multi-racial post-oppression society that shocked the world and for a moment was its wonder. We are, thanks to Hillary's kitchen sink and staff, the same old America they thought we were. The racially charged, fractured America Bush & Rush left us with that Obama has the prescription to heal. The one that attracted us original believers during his miraculous 2004 convention speech then swept 11 primaries in a row and apparently had to be stopped (thanks, SNL). We are the broken polarized America she wants to rule, will to anything to rule.

from Keith Olbermann:

Senator, ... your own advisers are slowly killing your chances to become president. Senator, their words and your own are now slowly killing the chances for any Democrat to become president... in fact, senator, you are now campaigning as if Barack Obama were the Democrat and you were the Republican. As Shakespeare wrote, senator, "that way madness lies."

from Jon Robin Baitz:

There is something stomach-turning about the Clintonian strategy for winning the nomination. Underneath that which is so disgusting, however, there are little passion plays playing out -- about the state of the nation, and the state of its soul-sick psyche. While there is no overt reason to conclude that they are racists, (if that sentence seems luke-warm, take a look at Hillary's own concession that Obama is not a Muslim), there is every possible reason to label the Clintons opportunists of the very first order. ... That is their true, true heartfelt religion. "Campaign" in Florida and then deny it? Fine: It's all fair game. Or the cynical suggestion by Senator Clinton that Obama would be a fine VP while at the same time declaring how unready he is seems to me precisely the sort of cynical paranoid post-modern solipsism of people who will say anything whatsoever to get what they want and then act stung when called on it. It borders on sociopathy. And like all opportunists, those in Camp Clinton have reached the conclusion that even a scorched earth campaign which devastates the party, vulgarizes the discourse even more than it already is vulgarized, and alienates millions of people who actually have come to hope for real change in this country, is worth the cost of a possible win. Personally, I find it far more likely that the only beneficiary of the Clintonian ugliness will of course be none other than that half-mad proponent of hundred-year wars, John McCain of Arizona, swooping in to the circular firing squad after the smoke and blood have cleared, so as to snatch a victory because the Dems cleverly snatched defeat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clubbing the Baby Seal

I was probably about ten years old when it happened, but I, who retain few memories from my childhood, remember this one event indelibly. Growing up on West End Avenue in an old Manhattan highrise meant there were no playgrounds or back yards around, so kids in the neighborhood played outside on the sidewalk. I roller skated all by myself with great verve, and jumped rope with the others to the tune of "Down the Mississippi where the Boats Go Push." On the word "push" you leaped in under the rope at the same time that you shoved the previous kid out. All was in the timing. (Does this maybe remind you of Hillary? The image is instructive.)

One Easter morning, I proudly went downstairs to the street, bearing the little Easter basket my mother had just given me, filled with bright green plastic grass, small multicolored eggs, and a fuzzy, yellow baby chick. Nobody was around when suddenly I was approached by the local teen bully who lived somewhere around the block, in what was dubbed the "Puerto Rican section." He grabbed my precious basket and slammed it down into the gutter where it all fell apart. I gasped with disbelief and horror as he ran off--a witness, perhaps for the first time in my life, to gratuitous cruelty. He hadn't tried to steal my basket, he just trashed it, for no apparent reason.

Sobbing desperately, I escaped into the lobby and took the elevator back up to our apartment on the fifth floor. I was crying so hard I couldn't even speak when my frightened mother tried to find out what was wrong with me. Finally I was able to blurt out my terrible story. When she finally realized I wasn't physically hurt, my mother did not bother to comfort me. What she failed to understand in that crucial moment was that what I had lost was not just a cheap little Easter basket, but my primal trust in the world as an okay and safe place to be. This is sort of the point of an otherwise pointless story, at least as it lives in my psyche now.

Something about this memory resonates as Hillary Clinton tries to leap in under the rope and push the other kid out--as I watch her being the nasty neighborhood bully, first trashing Obama himself, then smashing his emblematic Easter basket, spilling its contents of hope all over the street. I find my sense of the world as a decent place being jeopardized all over again.

The other night a regular commentator on the PBS program, the McLaughlin Group, referred to Hillary's behavior as "clubbing the baby seal to death." Now, having duly bloodied him, she jauntily offers him up as bait to get herself the presidency. "There may be a way you can have us both," she declares, "that is, by voting for me." This is when, in my eyes, Hillary Clinton's Chippendale claw crossed over the line.

Now take a look at what Jane Smiley wrote about her in the HuffPost:

"It's become clear over the last week that the more Hillary Clinton is pressed, the more she reveals her true self. The fact that this self is unscrupulous is bad enough, but the fact that her whole campaign for the last year has been predicated on positioning, spin, and other varieties of public relations is worse. In fact, it is not only worse, it is Bushian, and that is the worst....Hillary Clinton seems to have learned the wrong lesson from her Senatorial success. The lesson she has learned is that Republicans such as McCain are more her friends than Senators with progressive principles. As a result, it now appears that Clinton and McCain stand together on one side of a divide, and Barack Obama stands on the other side of that divide. The divide is between the inside-the-beltway ruling class, who can see no reason of any kind that they should give up the power they have accumulated and the avenue to wealth that it represents, and the citizenry of the country, who in every poll insist that the country is headed in the wrong direction. In the last week, Clinton has put herself on McCain's ticket, attacking the change that Obama promises and seems poised to deliver (whether or not he can remains an open question), and promising more more more of the same of what we have had for the last thirty years. More of the same is exactly what almost everyone does not want, but Clinton tells us everyday in every way that that is what we will get -- what we have had is what she touts as her "experience"....Obama is not a known quantity. I have seen him one time and listened to one speech, and I was reasonably impressed by that speech. But Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. If you like the world that the Bushes and Clintons have made in the last twenty years, then you should by all means vote for her. But as of this week, I don't see her as the person I want answering the red phone."

Virgil informs me that he has decided to cancel his membership in the Alligator League of Women Voters. We are both hiding out in the bushes, it seems, wanting to keep as far away as possible from Hillary's decapitating axe. Whatever happens, we don't want a Cro-Magnon for president, even if she does happen to be female.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Regular Dingbat of Color

One of my favorite pastimes is rifling through old notebooks. I never know what treasures will come to light, as from old trunks in the attic. Recently indulging, I discovered this: a note about a supermarket chain in Great Britain that now provides chaplains in its stores, available to meet with customers when they are shopping. I'm assuming that when they meet, it is not to talk about shopping. Rather the chaplains are there to help a growing cadre of people being overwhelmed by the sad and frightening situations around the globe and affecting their own personal lives.

I'm not really a chaplain person myself. (Besides, nothing approximating this is going on in WalMart, Sears, or Target that I know of.) But there is something else that, for me, never fails to make the pain of loss, grief, sadness, or disappointment more bearable--and that is COLOR. Chagrin and dismay siphon energy out of the mind. Color, however, strikes at the heart of bleakness, when everything we hold dear seems threatened.

Color is energy. When you see it you feel like you are walking on a trampoline. In dark times of traumatic intensity, the psychological exuberance of color is a great antidote, an animating diffuser, trenchant and refreshing, like ocean air. It is decidedly unnerving when it disappears.

Consider this marvelous description by Rick Bass, which captures the intensity of psychic shock when color suddenly returns to the world in fractured bits that sparkle, like cut glass, after the incredible abstinence of winter:

“ A single glowing bluebird, hurtling across the snow, would be too much; we would fall over backwards besmote. We have to start small, and slow; our bodies must ease back into a world of color--emerald, topaz, cobalt, oxblood, sapphire. Too much too soon and our brains would be bruised by the sudden expansion of color into a place where for so long there has been an absence."

Color touches on everything—food, interior design, clothing, painting, gardens, flowers. In murky, dolorous times when everyone is adrift and anxious about the future, the lushness and dazzle of color may just be that special thing that can save us. One could even argue that color is a fractal for letting the angel out. Yet in our culture, we have largely stripped ourselves of meaningful rituals that needlepoint colors into the very air. I am still nudged toward intoxication merely thinking about a picture I once saw of a festival in Hyderabad, in which teenagers showered each other with brilliant powdered cerise dye to color their skin and clothing bright pink. Decades after the fact, I can still remember the thrill of walking through a crowded street bazaar in Old Delhi and reveling in the baskets of pomegranates and limes, the flower garlands and children’s hats, bananas, pineapples, and cabbages. Compared with this collage of colors colliding, mingling, and multiplying indefinitely, the monotony of supermarket shopping doesn’t cut the mustard. No wonder chaplains are being called in to the rescue.

I am a regular dingbat when it comes to color—the more flamboyant the better. Color is total immersion and emotional involvement. Ornaments, tassels, textures, pompons, sequins, florescent hues, galvanize my creativity. Just the blue upsurge of indigo dye on a moving ruffle can turn me into a baby bacchante.

So where did my culture lose me exactly? Perhaps it was years ago, somewhere on Wall Street, as I stood among gray buildings and gray suits, in a place where there is hardly even a flicker of color in anyone’s thoughts.

The truth is I had never really thought about how meanings gather around color the way lint might collect on a coat. Red, for instance, can be dangerously Dionysian when it relates to the color of blood, or love. But then, it is oddly perfunctory when it designates a traffic stop sign, or the knotty bureaucratic procedures associated with red tape. Are these interpretations “arbitrary”? How do we begin to adjudicate among the “play of interpretations” and conflicting claims? What gives any interpretation its legitimacy? Perhaps it is what Umberto Eco calls a kind of cultural Darwinism: certain readings prove themselves over time to the satisfaction of the relevant community. Can several interpretations be true at the same time, even if they contradict each other?

Exactly what it is that shapes our notion of color? There are so many interesting questions to think about here. Should we consider color as a moving creative force or as a static thing? Are colors adjectival—merely signifiers or qualifiers—or are they rather, as Annie Dillard puts it in one of her poems, “the real foundation of everything”? As far as I am concerned, a life without color is only half a life. The world is color. So the question I would really want to ask here is: Why is the modern world so indifferent to the spiritual power of color? And why are so many people willing to live without its inspiring presence?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Roads Not Taken

The current issue of Resurgence magazine (published in Great Britain) contains an essay called "The Forgotten Map" by Manfred Max-Neef, who claims that the decisions humanity has taken in the past have led us to this place of global crisis. Since we got here by having taken the wrong path, the author suggests we should consider navigating the routes we previously discarded--if we want to arrive at a different place. The path we find ourselves on now , he says, is part of all the routes we did not choose. This holds true as much for individuals as it does for societies.

That has set me to thinking. What does it mean to take the road you had already chosen not to take? Is this even possible? Can we really take and not take the same road? Can we go back and revise the choices we made in the past? My conclusion is that sometimes it is possible to do this--to correct mistakes by a change of direction (a woman discovers she is married the wrong man, gets a divorce, and starts over)--but sometimes, it is not possible to reverse the consequences of a previous set of choices. As I've said at other points, some genies can't be put back in the bottle. Toothpaste can't be put back in the tube. Considering my own life situation, for instance, I understand that a combination of circumstances and conscious choices have conspired to my being alone as I grow older, something which at this point, no amount of rerouting can really alter.

The image that popped into my mind when thinking about all this was a chess board. Each time a player makes a move, it narrows the field for remaining choices, at least until that particular game is over, and somebody either wins or loses. There is no possibility for backtracking or changing a move once it has been made. To offer an analogy with the world situation, once the bus is headed over the cliff, can we still choose an alternative route? How many runic rethinks--of, say, consumer greed, cultural narcissism, the subprime mortgage debacle, or occupying Iraq, just for starters--are open to us at this point?

Virgil, that transrealmic surfer-dude alligator who loves to ride the cryptocurrents, tells me that since alligators have never aspired to wearing a diamond stud in each ear, they do not feel the same sense of menace humans do.

"Once man rose from the slime and began sauntering into cafes, he deepened his funk," Virgil explains. "Things might have turned out differently for the human race if molasses and bitumen had not been replaced by the mindset of money and world domination. Choices have dangers of their own; they tend to contract and get fewer."

Virgil thinks Barack Obama is in the best position to zap the remote--to change the station--because he never voted for the Iraq war and was opposed to it from the start. Whatever qualifications for "good judgement" might accrue from that decision, the real point is that OBAMA NEVER WENT DOWN THAT ROAD--and so his options to go in a different, more creative direction now are much more versatile than, say, John McCain's. McCain has staked his whole political identity on support for the war and on his alleged military acumen, so the option of more open-ended thinking is no longer open to him. He is too busy admiring his own accomplishments--stuck in a chess game configured by previous choices that have him solidly locked in. Inevitably, McCain will keep the heavy bells of war tolling no matter what, because the war is an adumbration of the values by which he lives. War is, after all, and as he likes to remind us at every turn, his SPECIALTY.

Anyone less locked in to that particular chess game, however, knows that the occupation of Iraq has created resistance--Iraqis have had enough of Western occupations and will continue to resist. There is no way to end this resistance without ending the occupation itself. Our presence there is the problem, not the solution. As long as we are there, the insurgency will continue to grow. So, if you wish to continue sitting among mattresses of the dead and beating an old tin can, cast your vote for McCain in the next election.