"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Salam Pax Alive

Salam Pax has an update from within Baghdad. Good to know he's safe. As I thought, the internet was out for a bit during Shock and Awe.

Also, on the propaganda watch, here's what's coming out of the American Enterprise Institute. Key quote is the second paragraph, "The American campaign in Iraq is barely 60 hours old, but already it is inflicting terrible casualties upon the deceptions and delusions of the pre-war period." Sounds good, except that it's not about how the PNAC-sponsored visions of rapid surrenders and a war that's over inside a week are being gruesomely ripped asunder. It's about how predictions of doom and gloom were out of whack, and protesters are supporting tyrants, and all that other nonsense. Fuggin' disgustin'.

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More Bad News

Sorry to follow up the Oscars with more bum-out material, but this meme bears propogation:

Marines seem to be genuinely surprised that the Iraqis aren't surrendering. This bespeaks of a horrible misleading load of bull coming from their intel people at the near end, and the administration/CIA at the other... There was a point, early on, where Rumsfeld and cronies were telling General Franks (several months ago) that his request for a TOTAL force size of 250K was 'way out of line.' Ari Fleischer actually said that Franks wasn't invited to the next strategy meeting because "the president doesn't have time to listen to what the president doesn't want to hear." We hear Rumsfeld and crew have been turning down requests for additional combat power in theater, and perhaps even advancing schedules with the 'decap strike' to the point that the 4ID couldn't even make it onto dirt. Given the trouble we seem to be having with even the forces we have now, how can Mr. Rumsfeld and company explain their earlier intransigence, and more importantly, the apparent massive lag in introducing what appear to be needed reinforcements?

This cometh from the comments over at dailykos, quick becoming one of my favorite spots to read and post. Rumsfield. He ain't pretty no more. Also, I no longer trust the US media. BBC all the way for me. They let reporters blog, after a fashion (unlike the goons at CNN). They don't have press blackouts and they aren't trying to protect their home population from negative coverage -- few in the UK support this war, so there's no reason to try and project a rosy picture.

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Oscar Notes

Steve Martin is a good man. A sardonic "nice to see they cancled all the glitz," the line that leads off the show. After all the talk of restraint and no red carpet, it was tits and tans and shiny stuff everywhere. But that's Hollywood. (Sincerely) "I just want you to know, the proceeds from tonight's events will be split up and shared amongst several enormous corperations." Genius. This man has wit to spare.

All the chesty women with healthy looking arms and backs were a welcome sight, making the willowy wisps that traditionally dominate the scene look positively twiggy. Perhaps bulimia is finally going out of fashion. Fertility is in, a victory for life. Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.

In spite of a more or less unspoken moratorium on politicizing the event, there were inevitable references to global events. Two ABC news updates on the war didn't help the suspension of disbelief. Hardly a segment went by where one wasn't reminded as to the context in which this very American ritual was unfolding.

In all the statements made, I was reminded again of the difference between artistic and bare-knuckle politics. Michal Moore -- who I was happy to see win for Bowling for Columbine, though I'm not sure it was a "documentary" in the traditional sense -- made some heavy-handed statements that seemed hokey and rehearsed. Got booed for it too, even if he was more or less telling the truth. The atmosphere in the room reminded me of yesterday at the protest when I saw a man pick up some sticks and prepare to fling them at the cops. A chorus of, "no!"s arose from the crowd, and he was physically restrained from completing his act.

Moore's comments seemed similarly pointless and confrontational given the context, and while there's a wide gulf between tossing sticks at police officers and calling Bush's election fictional, at this juncture they serve about as much purpose. Had he bothered to work his way around to it artfully it might have gone over, but his language was that of a protest rally, not an acceptance speech. It was a disingenuous use of the platform, and as such it suffered.

On the other hand, Adrien Brody, Best Actor of The Piano, pulled off some kind of king hell trifecta; winning the Oscar, kissing Hallie Berry full on the mouth, and then running long in his acceptance and shuting up the orchestra to deliver a spontanious and deeply honest statement wishing for peace and safety to all in Iraq. Standing ovations all around, a clear expression of what needed saying in the way it aught to be said under the circumstances. It was for me the high point of the proceedings. There's video popping up here (currently you can review Moore, but not Brody).

Sarandon scored points in my book as well for flashing a peace sign and then seductively and poetically invoking the necessity of art as a transformative force. Many others made nudge-nudge wink-wink statements against war, or at least in support of peace.

Finally, Peter O'Toole reminded me that spoken language is fast becoming a lost art in this country. Not only are we a nation which cannot listen, we are fast becoming a nation that fails too at articulation. We have little enough of worth to say it seems, and are forgetting even how to say it, how to form the syllables, in the words of the Bard to "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue." Sad bit, that.

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Protest Notes

Broadway was full
Broadway at about 10th stree. It was like this all the way back to Times Square.
Plenty of folks lining up for falaffel after we got to the park.
Plaincothes bust
Plainclothes cops bust some random kid for no apparent reason.

Photos are here!

Protest march was fantastico. People were filling B'way from 42nd to Washington Square Park, no idea how to estimate the numbers. While most cheered, a few people lining the road were not enthusiatic. One young man held an American flag and looked tense. I pointed to the flag patch I was wearing, looked him in the eye and gave a thumbs up. One old woman said, "you're all traitors." I responded, "I'm here because I love my country." That's the truth, kids.

The crowd was pretty diverse. I saw young people and old people, white people and brown people. There was a contingent of monks there doing some cool deep chanting that I felt like joining in with but didn't for fear of getting it wrong. There were hipsters and Jim Jarmush and Amiri Baraka and a contingent from el Puente (the primarily latino neighborhood in south w-burg). It was a good group, with lots of witty signs and positive vibes.

I also met a few people who liked to talk politics. Some kid who's studying to be a tour guide and who was all for hearing about real alternatives to war. I talked to people about how this has to all lead up to the 2004 election. Many were skeptical about who among the Democrats would stand up to Team Bush. I told them about Howard Dean and his spot on anti-war/pro-america message. Hopefully that movement will continue gathering steam.

Dean on the War:

"The threshold for what America does militarily has got to be higher than anyone else's. America has always set the moral tone in foreign policy. And if we attack a nation unilaterally that's not a threat to us, it means that someone will try the same thing, somewhere down the line, and justify it by our actions."

All and all it was a pleasent and eventful afternoon. Once we hit the park we were told to disperse, but of course that didn't happen. Washington Square had a festival atmosphere, full of people and music and the energy of spring. I got a falaffel and stooped it on W4th for a while with joe Felice and a few others. Met up with Henning and her crew eventually. It was a beautiful afternoon.

Later on I swung back through and the inevitable clashes with the Law were underway. It's like high school: some protesters want to fight, and so do some cops. They antagonize each other, offering little provocations back and fort until finally someone snaps and there's a flurry of activity. The air was pretty tense for a while as the NYPD moved to clear Washington Square West. I was a bit disturbed watching a couple of plainclothes cops bust some kid at the back of the crowd for no reason I could detect. He was simply taken out seemingly at random, thrown to the ground and arrested. A few things were thrown at the cops -- plastic water bottles, signs, a slice of pizza and one glass bottle -- but the crowd did a pretty quick job of self-policing, so that didn't really escalate too much. Some people near the front got the old mace in the face.

Afterwards I went to Julia's and we watched the sunset from her roof, a stunning and inspiring view of our fair city. Strange days are coming, it seems.

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In the war-journalism department, Christopher Albritton of Back to Iraq plans to leave for Kurdistan as early as Wednesday. On the flip side, Kevin Sites has been asked by CNN to discontinue his independent reporting from the field. The contest for honest war coverage is on.

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Friday Night

Anxiety of all kinds is still running strong. I've been falling behind on everything this week, enervated by war and desperation. Jeremy hooked me up with free tickets to the current Richard Foreman show, which is miles better than the last. Foreman is strange, such an un-checked barrage of stuff coming from deep in the root of his twisted mind and onto the stage, you kind of have to let it wash over you and take what you can get. Sometimes it hangs together, sometimes it don't, really all depends on the signal to noise ratio. This one got me for a few good stretches, but left me idling for others. Still, good show vibe at the end.

In one of the down moments where my brain returned to personal stuff, I flashed on some unpleasant perspective about what's going on in the world now. I thought about victors writing history, about how a lot of young people are for this war, about how Team Bush was able to frame the debate, about how anti-war people are often called pro-Saddam. I thought that if it goes well how the history books would record the resistance as a footnote, if that. It was melancholy, but also somehow peaceful to imagine the moment as seen through the rose glasses of history.

Afterwards we repaired to good old Sahara East for great chow and hookah. It felt upliftingly cosmopolitan to munch on humus and drink some Turkish coffee and bob my head to Egyptian music. A little alice in wonderland nicotine buzz to float it all and I was in heaven until a little static with Sasha iced my mood. It was nothing really, but a kind of sobering moment to realize where I am if one 30-second phone call can give me an additudinal 180 like that.

And now I rest for tomorrow's protest. I will take pictures and tell you all how it goes.

Semi-Random links: Pro War civvies can loose their cool and, to be fair and balanced, so can I (scroll down about 5 comments, look for the all-caps screaming).

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Shitstorm Begins

Apparently, "Shock and Awe" is in progress. I keep perversely flashing back to Star Wars, and Obi-Wan's line "I feel a great desturbance in the force."

In other news, CNN has been forced to pull their reporters out of Baghdad. That leaves those ministry of information steadycams, Al-Jezera and Dubai broadcasting video from inside the Iraqi capitcal. BBC still has a corrispondent on the scene. I'm finding their brand of commercial-free coverage stomachable.

And in other other news, as I've been watching the BBC I want to reiterate that Mishal Husain is a fox! And not like fox news, quite the opposite actually. However, according to this she's engaged.

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War Notes

Hmmm... wondering about how we're not hearing anything about Northern Iraq, the famed proto-democracy of Kurdistan? Maybe it's because the Turks are about to bring in the noise and funk those Kurds up good. That's what The Kurdistan Observer is reporting, though you'll note no mention of the 332 - 202 vote in favor of deploying Turkish troops "aboroad" on CNN. I'm sure they meant Cypruss or something, that's why it's not being mentioned.

Living at War

The city is a nervous organism these days. I'm not the type of New Yorker who actively dreads awful terrorist retaliation, but things are tense here. No one is smiling out on the streets. I have some peace stickers affixed to my backpack and I endure moments of paranoia when I meet the steely eyes of National Guardsmen, Police, or the State Troopers who were all over Grand Central. Does openly displaying anti-war sentiment make me more of a target for police harassment? I've been largely exempt from that up to now thanks to my white skin, but with hostilities underway I feel a chill creeping up my dissenting spine. I alternately fear and desire confrontation.

I catch myself listening to snatches of news, radio from a news-stand, tv at a deli. I really hope it's quick and painless -- no real heavy bombing yet, thank goodness -- but I also have a great fear that it will go too well, that the nation will swell with war fever and the leadership grow heady with hubris. I have a fear that war will become easy for America, and that we'll grow simple and violent in the 21st century. Some part of me elates when I hear of complecations. We're a very market-oriented culture, and right now violence seems cheap to most people. It's a troubling idea.

But back to the here and now. From what I can tell, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to Operation Atlas, NYC's beefed-up security regime. Pudgy Guardsmen rub elbows with country-faced State Police. The NYPD is ubiquitous, some plain clothes, plenty of rank and file, and even a few who stand rooted with flack jackets, helmets and M1 rifles. I suppose the idea is just overwhelming presence to discourage anyone from trying anything. Superior force. Shock and awe.

Many people seem to be in an avoidance/acceptance mode. My favorite coffee guys near Grand Central -- who like most coffee guys are of Middle Eastern Origin -- were tense and quick, none of the usual internationalist banter. I tried to get a sense of how they were faring, but they restricted their remarks to the weather and kept the line moving as quickly as possible. Less eye contact than usual, and again the dearth of smiles.

Still others remain blissfully ignorant. On the train ride back from Chappaqua, I was seated behind a pack of priviladged teens, who went about the teenage business of flirting, sneaking beers and singing annoying pop music with a frankly refreshing abandon. I vascilated between being glad that teenagers were still teenagers, and aghast at the cheap, mean and greedy side of the American heart they exposed to me.

Finally, on my way home in the damp, I swung through Times Square to see if there was still any protest action. Broadway was largely shut down, with crowds of NYPD (again many with the new helmet/flack jacket ensemble) and more vans and paddy waggons than I've seen in a while strewn all about for blocks and blocks. Somewhere in all the flashing lights and rain a number of protesters were making their way south on the sidewalks, chanting under umbrellas. It was pretty chaotic, knots of cop at some points vastly outnumbering the protesters, barracades and debris strewn about the streets. I synched up for a bit, but since I had no gear for the weather and was feeling pretty beat I headed home after a few good cheers. Broadway in the 20s and 30s is very canyon-like, twisting and narrow, old dirty buildings with lavish decorative moldings line either side of the street. Looking back and seeing no traffic but a mass of cop-lights, the chants of protest echoing down through the rain, it was somthing to see.

Though the short-term verfremdungseffekt will likely subside, I have a feeling life is only going to get weirder as time goes on.

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Yeah, It's On

Like you didn't already know. I'm headed up on the MTA today. Wonder what that will be like. Maybe I'll take pictures.

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This Has To Stop

Ok. That's it. I'm turning off the TV. I'm going to take a nice long bike ride and then I'm going to eat some Sorbet in a very hot bath and then I'm going to write and read and maybe play some videogames. Tomorrow I'm headed up to hang with Peter, so should be pretty isolated from the media, though he does have cable. This 24-hour-news lifestyle is unhealthy and non-productive unless you've got someone to rant at who pays you to spew.

Ok, one more link: a great script of what an extended war/anti-war debate might look like.

I've been thinking more about how what what I do here has been changing. On the world wide web, many blogs occupy a kind of "middleman" status, giving readers links to other sites and a little context. This adds a lot of value to the whole thing, and I'm all for fulfilling this role, especially for those people who check this site who don't regularly go to a lot of the other sites I frequent. On the other hand, I always wanted this site to be an endpoint of sorts, a source of content, a place to find interesting things. I feel like lately I've been doing this a little less. As the war thing becomes more and more psychologically inescapable, I feel that often I fall into the pattern of being just another antiwarblogger.

Some of this has to do with the blog tool I've been employing, which I like for its convenience and for comments, but which I realize tends to drive me to writing shorter pieces because I'm not sitting down in my favorite text editor and ruminating. Some of this has to do with where I'm at in life. I'm very taken with a young woman and still not sure how to talk about that here. I'm also kind of living in a period of unceartanty, not just with war and so forth, but with work and art and everything. I'm starting to feel like I'm falling behind where I want to be, that I'm becoming pent-up. I need focus, an outlet, some purpose or goal. I feel as though I'm beginning to loose the forward forward momentum I brought back from my most recent journey to the Wast. I'm calm, but uncertain, and likely still a little hung-over from St Patrick's day. And I'm talking about myself too much. Time to turn off, jump on the bike, cue up some tunes and head out into the still American night.

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