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26 September 2004

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

At the weblog American Samizdat, under the simple title of How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power, there is a link to this Guardian story about the shady dealings of Sen. Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current (P)resident. Bush was director and shareholder of a company called Brown Brothers Harriman, a private investment bank which financed many of the businesses of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen. While Thyssen was building up Germany's economy and gearing up for war in the 1930s and early 1940s, Bush was building up the Bush family fortune which would fund a future dynasty. BBH only stopped trading with Nazi Germany in 1943 when its assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act.
It's all very much like the current secretive and suspect dealings with the Saudi royal family that the present holders of the Bush fortune engage in. Directly funding terrorism? You can try to prove it, but when the controllers of the funds also control the government and thus have enormous power to control access to relevant information, it's not likely that anyone can prove it until GW Bush is long dead.

25 September 2004

Portland and Berkeley trip pictures

I have migrated the best of the pictures from my trip to the US west coast to a separate folder on my homepage. I am sorry, this is a rush-y job and so not terribly user friendly. For those who are not very computer-savvy, just click here or on the previous link (same thing) and you will get a page with a bunch of file names, which are somewhat descriptive of what the picture is. Click on any name to see the picture and then use the back button on your browser to return to the list. And for anyone for whom even that is too much trouble, here are some thumbnails of the best pics for immediate viewing:


18 September 2004


I have added 2 new links to Deborama's Fund of Knowledge under the Local News category - one is an Orange County CA group blog that includes amongst its members Joel Sax of Pax Nortona and the other is similar - a group blog of progressives in Oregon called BlueOregon.com, which I think I mentioned below. I have also added a new link under the Humour section - the Firesign Theatre.
By the way I am still blogging from Berkeley CA. Tonight I will board the Coast Starlight train back to Portland (18 hours in coach!!) but I will only be there one night and morning and then get on the plane for my 16 hour (!!!) flight back to England. I must be insane. If I suddenly stop blogging, it will be a good guess to say that I dropped dead from DVT (or sheer exhaustion) somewhere en route.

Baghdad Burning on 9/11

I am posting from Berkeley California today. It has been a while and I have missed being online, reading my blogs and posting. So, on logging into Bloglines, the first site I read was Riverbend's and, as usual, I was utterly bowled over. She is discussing here her feelings on watching Fahrenheit 9/11.

I was caught up in the film from the first moment, until the very last. There were moments, while watching, when I could barely breathe. I wasn’t surprised with anything- there was nothing that shocked me- all of the stuff about the Bush family and their Saudi friends was old news. It was the other stuff that had an impact- seeing the reactions of Americans to the war, seeing the troops in Iraq being interviewed, seeing that American mother before and after she lost her son in Iraq.
Ah, that mother. How she made me angry in the beginning. I couldn’t stand to see her on screen- convincing the world that joining the army was the ideal thing to do- perfectly happy that her daughter and son were ‘serving’ America- nay, serving, in fact, the world by joining up. I hated her even more as they showed the Iraqi victims- the burning buildings, the explosions, the corpses- the dead and the dying. I wanted to hate her throughout the whole film because she embodied the arrogance and ignorance of the people who supported the war.
I can’t explain the feelings I had towards her. I pitied her because, apparently, she knew very little about what she was sending her kids into. I was angry with her because she really didn’t want to know what she was sending her children to do. In the end, all of those feelings crumbled away as she read the last letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a sympathy I really didn’t want to feel, and as she was walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans around her would never understand her anguish. The irony of the situation is that the one place in the world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We understand. We know what it’s like to lose family and friends to war- to know that their final moments weren’t peaceful ones… that they probably died thirsty and in pain… that they weren’t surrounded by loved ones while taking their final breath.

08 September 2004

Hairy-backed swamp developers and faith-based economists!

Preach it, Garrison! Garrison Keillor speaks was found at BlueOregon.com which was found via a comment from Kevin of American Street. Thanks, Kevin! Blue Oregon is a great resource. And I have found good food in Portland. Oh, and here's an excerpt from Garrison Keillor speaks:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons...

Well, he goes on, at eloquent length. I always suspected Garrison was good folks.
I am back at the stinky laundromat internet place. There is a very nice coffee shop near here with free internet access and no smelly driers and good coffee and PB cookies and sandwiches. But I have trouble blogging there and absolutely cannot access Gmail because the free-to-use computers are Macs. Portland has lots of free wifi hotspots but my laptop 1) does not have the technology for that and 2) has a cracked and therefore almost illegible lcd screen. The plugs are different here, none of the digital camera thingies can read my Sony memory sticks properly and daughters Mac notebook computer has a dodgy power cord. Technologically, we are not doing very well here. But at least the baby is cute. There will be pictures some day, I promise.

03 September 2004

When the night meets the morning sun

OK, I promised I would do this personal post about my epiphenal insight in a therapy session and I guess I had better quit procrastinating and do it. One of the reasons I want to share this with you all is that I suspect that it is a very widespread complex of neurotic issues; it may even have a name. If I were to be privileged to name it for all eternity I would call it the Marvell complex. You know, Andrew Marvell.
When I am drunk, really drunk, such as I almost never am these days due to the failing health of the body, I tend to recite poetry. The poetry I recite all tells the same story:

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages and the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light . . .
--Dylan Thomas

And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night
--Archibald MacLeish

  Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
--A. E. Housman

And especially . . .

 But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
--Andrew Marvell

Somehow in the therapy session in question, I got on the subject of waiting for my father. When I was a girl, the oldest of six children, my mother didn't drive, and anyway we could not have afforded a car. My father had a company car. He had to drive everyone in our family everywhere they had to go (we lived in a suburb with almost no bus service) and he had to fit this around his busy schedule of work and civic responsibilties (both my parents were great volunteers and very hard workers for the common good, in church and scouting and general good works.) So my father, for all his good intention, was usually late picking me up. I never blamed him, but I spent uncounted hours on suburban street corners and in dull waiting rooms - waiting. And at my back I always heard -- guess what? Yes, even at the age of 10 or 11 or so. I had this heightened sense of my own, and everybody else's mortality. It started even earlier than that. It probably started when the family was very small and very young, just baby brother, toddler me, and lovely young mommy, who with the best of faith and purpose, taught me a little prayer to say at bedtime. You may have learnt it too.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

When I first learnt this prayer it meant nothing to me; it was just a recitation, nonsense syllables almost. I wish it had remained so. Somewhen, probably at about the age of three, I was brought up short by the literal meaning of the third line - if I should die before I wake! What an appalling thought! Could such things happen? How could I prevent it? That was when I first fell into the thrall of private inward superstitions. That was when I embarked on the lonely road of extreme insomnia. That was when I first began to hear the winged chariots at my back.
Somehow, and I haven't unravelled this part yet, the fear of dying in the night became entangled with the dread of Mommy or Daddy not loving me (of God not loving me, yes, I get that part) of not finding love and happiness when I grew up, of never having enough time, of wasting the time I had waiting on street corners for a saviour who would never come. The more I look at this thought form, or whatever it is, the more connections I find. So far, it has only been a breakthrough of insight and not of therapy itself, in the sense of getting better. But I anticipate that next stage to come along soon. It feels, for all my current sadness and disappointment and nervous uncertainty, like a spiritually fertile time. I will keep you posted.

Chillin' at the Laundromat on Chicago

Jennifer Vogel of City Pages has a great little gem, a "human interest" story, about a laundromat that I have spent many an hour in myself. It speaks to the human condition, to poverty, anomie and the loss of control over our time and the circumstances of our lives:

As I fold my laundry, I glance at the pile belonging to a triangle-shaped Mexican woman. I know as well as anybody that you're not supposed to look. But one of the few, guilty pleasures of the laundromat is getting to see people's underthings. Her clothing is all velour, I notice. Velour pants, velour tops, velour lingerie. Even velour socks. I glance at her high-heeled flip-flops and then at a miniskirt that's slit practically up to her waist.
Our eyes meet and she smiles as if to say, My life is a million times more sensual than yours. And I think, Well, hell, she's probably right. The woman shoves her fuzzy duds into a laundry bag and departs. Next goes the camo guy and the woman with the tight jeans.
When, finally, it's my turn, I feel as gleeful as a parolee. It's a tremendous relief that matters not one bit to the revolving cast of characters at the Vend-a-Wash. Nothing has changed or will change. An American Indian woman paces wildly, waving her tattooed arms in the air. "I lost my cigs," she says. "Has anybody seen my cigs?"
The dryers at the Vend-a-Wash on Chicago and Lake go round and round.

Portland Organ

I am here in Portland at a really overpriced and stinky internet cafe. I just had a rather overpriced and stinky massage about 2 hours ago and I feel a little better for it. Then I have been wandering around aimlessly and not finding anything to eat. I guess it's true - I am too picky. Oh, well, won't kill me to miss a meal. I have a lot to report, but the blogging conditions are far from ideal so it may have to wait. Meanwhile, why not explore some of the other wonderful Deborama sites? Links are down near the bottom of the page.

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