"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

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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The Fog of War

No War Kid
This is the kind of think that keeps me going. Thanks to NDW for (indrectly) linking me up with this image.

Waching the 24-hour news like a good info-junky, observing the fog of war, I can't help but balk at the resemblance between the war coverage and a football pre-game show, right down to the drawings on screen and the "tale of the tape" run-ups. I'm just waiting for John Madden to pop up with some commentary: "And here comes the MOAB -- you know Jim that's short for 'Mother of all Bombs' -- and boom! That's gotta hurt."

Plenty of Hummer commercials too. Yeah, baby. "Like Nothind Else."

A fragment of conversation coming back up to mind, maybe from St Pats. "This war is more fucked up than incest. It's like watching your dad go over and kick the crap out of your neighbor's dog, and then being told to 'stand up for the family' when you try to raise a voice in protest."

I just re-read a bunch of my own postings here, and it was kind of boring. I'm really getting tired of mouthing the same basic sentiments dressed up with whatever "news" makes it through to us today. I'm starting to feel like everything is pretty predictable, which is not really a very good feeling. Like the great Marvin Gaye, I just want someone in charge to answer me, "what's going on?"

The british are coming
Brits training in Kuwait... a kind of strange visual resemblance to Baywatch, no?

 

ready.gov?
If you've become a radiation mutant with a deformed hand, remember to close the window. No one wants to see that shit.

Lately I've been countering this growing sense of zombification by perusing direct postings from the field, real words from real people in real places as an antidote to the more or less plastic reality that surrounds me. Today this site from Kuwait is reporting that the US has already entered Iraq. I suppose that's referring to the DMZ, so we knew this. They also have live pictures from the area (where I got the running gas-mask guys here) and are reporting rumors that the "official" push will begin at 4:15am tonight, which makes it 8:15pm eastern. Sounds about right, providing that sandstorm dies down. Precisely 24 hours after the prez's little ultimatum, at least that's on-target.

I'm a little demoralized, politically. Even the rage is beginning to dissipate. I'll probably watch the jolly little war on CNN just like everyone else. God, what a tragedy. I don't even belive in God, but it's still a tragedy.

I shared the "give the statue of liberty back" site with Frank today, being as how we'd joked about spreading that idea around in Jest. His response was quite good:

... I had seen it before but now I posit another sarcastic commment/prediction: the use of french words in US military vocabulary. I mean, most of our military organization was done by the French and therefore many of common vocab words are French ones. For instance the word "sortie", (a mission) is the from the french verb "sortir" to go out. Will we have "Freedom" instead of "triage" units? Will combat units "freedom" instead of "rendez-vous" at a given pick-up point? Keep your eyes peeled, young Koenig, the stupidest is yet to come.

Wars aside, the rest of life continues to go well. Went to see comedian Rick Shapiro last night w/Sasha. Holy shit, that man is channeling something. Maniac rants against all things mediocre, scum-bellied sweaty-chested honesty, and a way of snapping back from tangents that makes Spaulding Grey look like an ameteur. Sign him up as the official comedian for the subculture of truth. We can still laugh, so we are still alive. On that note, here's another good ready.gov parody (link from doc).

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Still Alive

St. Patrick's day massicre. It's a long, shallow, dimly-lit blur for me. I remeber drinking Guiness in the back yard in the afternoon. I remember Sam bringing in a red bucket of popcorn to the bar. I remember some kind of conversation. I remember feeling more sober at 1:30am than at 8:30. This morning I staggered weakly back to consciousness, hurting badly, crapping out mushy black stuff and enduring a cold sweat. I watched the president's speech via C-Span's archival service, vomited a couple of times, took a nap and now at last am beginning to feel human again.

There's a certain point in a long day of drinking where booze acts like a disassociative, where one starts seeing things from an almost out-of-body perspective. This is usually where you do something really stupud, but it can also be a time to realize some things about yourself. The slow punishment of a truly awful hangover inspires reflection, like a moral sentence, a form of pennance, a kind of masochistic meditation. Even more than cheap laughs and animal hijinks, this is one of the things I appreciate about alcohol.

Luke and Mark both emailed me today, which was a welcome surge of energy. Luke sent a lot of poll figures, Mark talks of returning soon from Equador. I stumbled upon a great new source of direct information from Iraq: http://www.kevinsites.net/. It's a been a hazy day, and now I'm off to meet Sasha, who's been supervising the development of the big end of year show the students put together at her school. "It gives chaos a whole new meaning," she says. "It's more reckless than an episode of Cops."

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Game Over Man

They pulled the resolution. There will be no vote. Diplomacy over. Stay tuned for the president tonight at 8, and then for war.

Update: The fallout has begun in Britan, with the former Foreign Secretary and Labor party leader of the House of Commons resigning. Things look bad for ol' Tony. I don't agree with his position, but I do respect him for having the guts to face all the opposition he has in the UK. All those video clips of him taking painful questions from average brits on TV and then facing stony silence (or worse, that slow, synchanized clapping) at the end. That takes balls.

By the way, if you're reading this, you have time to complain by phone or email to the white house and your elected officials:

White House Comment Line: (202) 456.1111
White House Email: [email protected], [email protected].

http://www.house.gov/writerep/
http://www.senate.gov

Pass it on.

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Happy Note

Just so you don't think I'm all mopey and depressed. I had a fabulous date making dinner at my place with Sasha on saturday, today me n' Jeremy n' Frank rode our bikes to Coney Island, and tonight I picked up half a loaf of good vibrations from the Union Square Candlelight Vigil. Life is difficult, but full of personal joys.

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Bush: Gonna Give it to Ya

First he's gonna BOMB, then he's gonna ROLL... Bush gonna give it to ya...

My god-dammed irritable and petulant head of state addressed the world today, cutting off Henry Kissenger giving his analysis -- cold, insightful, the kind only a war criminal can proffer -- in the CNN pregame show. The most quoted line is the "moment of truth" soundbyte, but to me the really interesting stuff was the candid responses on the margins, like when he jumped in on top of Jose Maria Aznar (the Spanisn PM), eventually apologizing, or when he uttered the phrases "the wars of the 21st Century are going to require a lot of international cooperaion," and "it's important for the U.N. to be able to function well if we're
going to keep the peace," in consecutive breaths.

"The wars of the 21st Century," and "if we're going to keep the peace." I think I'm going to pop a blood vessel. Notice the plural on wars. Wars. This really is prepetual war for prepetual peace.

If you want a reaction for a Portugese blogger, it's here. God bless the internet. She also give a link to the complete transcript of the affair, if you're interested.

As I said to Frank, there's nothing worse than a fucking spoiled rich kid from fucking Connecticut, flunks his way through Yale on some gentlemen's Cs, then takes his trust fund out to Texas and decides he's a damn cowboy, comes back East and is tryin' to tell y'all what it's all about. He didn't learn shit about being a cowboy out there; he learned how to be a failed oilman, a baseball team owner, and backroom dealmaker. These people have got to go! They're a pack of cheaters who've been taken in by some very delusional academics, are blatantly using fear to achieve their ends, are comfortable making public statements that can't be trusted any further than they can be thrown, and they're got my future in their hands. Let me tell you, I don't like their brand of business. They're people who are valuable because they can "make things happen," not because they have any real bright ideas about the world. It's frightening.

Sometime this week, we will have officially failed to prevent a war. The question now is where are we directing our energy next?

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A Scathing Indictment

If you've never read Dear Raed, today is the day to start. This blog is updated from within Baghdad by an Iraqi citizen, and his writing is precise and insightful. Today's entry is a scathing indictment of the international dumb-show that has more or less destroyed his country lead us to the brink of war.

What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful.

The rest of it is even better. Salam takes on the sanction, the rise of fundimentalism and tribalism, and basically takes the west to task for half-assing his country to death. It's on the money. If there's anything that Afghanistan, Iraq and N. Korea can tell us is that's when you isolate nations, leave them without hope and let them marinate in dispair and lies, bad things happen. That was also the lession of Post-WWI Germany too, now that I think of it, but I've called a truce on any Hitler-related analogies, so I'll let that one lie. What we need now is a strident policy of engagement, a worldwide program to promote peristroyka. Instead we've got the Cowboy in Cheif, alienating the world and embittering people against us with his policy of violence.

Direct engagement can work. It's what about the demise of the USSR... flood the black market with American Culture, drop the punative sanctions, keep up inspections to keep Hussein on his toes, contain, deter, engage, and most of all let the people prosper again. When the people are strong and can support themselves, they will be able to cast off the shackles of dictatorship. This goes for Cuba too, by the way. Punative sanctions keep dictators in power -- they keep populations weak and provide dictators with endless excuses for hardship. Indigenous progress towards democracy is possible. It's happening in Iran right now, though Bush set that movement back about 5 years with that Axis of Evil bullshit, and now they're geting (justifiably) paranoid that they're going to be next. If only we had someone who could see this, who wanted to really be involved in ushering in a new era of progress and prosperity rather than just being the biggest kid on the playground and consolidating his power. It's tough time to be an American.

In other news, I'm in search of our contender for 2004. I've said it before and I'll say it again, these people have had their way long enough. It's time for them to go. If you've got ideas on who I should back and how I should back them for 2004, please chime in.

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Lifenote

Trying a new format here... one lifenote post, one political ramble (see below). The adjustments to new tools continue.

Last night we drank copious amounts of nearly free beer at the Brooklyn Brewery. They debuted their seasonal beer, a dry Irish stout just in time for St. Paddy's. It's quite good. Frank, Andrew, A-Stock and I had a good time sitting on sacks of barley and malt, watching the crowd, letting a tasty cheap buzz wash over us. I really liked the atmosphere at the tasting party: there were a lot of little kids running around, dervish bohemian hellions, children of the beautiful people, a true and honest family vibe. There's something intrinsically earthy about a brewery, something that speaks of salty breeze and woolen caps, long days watching clouds and oceans, of soil and spirit and human-scale connections. It's a kind of home.

Andrew is just now back in the city, getting his feet under him, living with our old friend Sam out in queens, an apparently spacious apartment full of things he procured from Pottery Barn on Long Island. He was very drunk, but full of energy, glad to be back in action I think. It's good to see him again. After the brewery we all (sans A-Stock) went over to Julia's, a bona-fide reunion, the Rubin Hall crew together again. It's good to keep up with people. Andrew passes out almost instantly and we sat about in various states of dazedness just shooting the shit. On the way home Frank and I bought pints of Ice Cream and swapped bikes: me feeling the promise of a finely tuned gear system and a 10-pund frame. The seat was too low and the balance-points made it feel slightly rickety in comparison to my old warhorse, but the thrill of speed was unmistakable tearing up Nassau Ave at 1am.

Today is looking good. The weather is unadulterated beauty. I have a meeting for the next big art show and then a date to cook dinner with Sasha and then into the great wide open.

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