Month: April 2010

Seven Democrats, Four Republicans

all quiet on the western front
"I believe it will be a quick war, that there will be few losses."

I know. 2002 was a really long time ago. But you’d think more than eleven members of Congress would remember that sanctions against Iraq, based on now- (and then-) laughably false accusations, only made it easier for the war instigators to take the next step, to attack the country that was the object of the sanctions.

But no.

Unless you live in the districts represented by seven Democrats–Reps. Baird (WA), Moore (WI), Baldwin (WI), Blumenauer (OR), Kucinich (OH), Waters (CA), McDermott (WA)–or four Republicans–Flake (AZ), Jones (NC), Paul (TX), Duncan (TN)– your congressperson voted for a bill that will pave the way for more severe sanctions on Iran, a country that has not attacked another country in oh, say, two or three centuries, but which  has been accused, repeatedly, and in dozens of different ways, of possessing imaginary nuclear weapons.

It has been accused of this by the U.S.A., a country that possesses, ah, ballpark figure here, 9,960 intact warheads, and has tested them in just slightly irresponsible ways, on hapless Pacific islanders and its own citizens alike. Also, we, uh, used them against a civilian population, not once but twice, without warning, and detonating them at an altitude that insured maximum death and destruction.

So we know how awful nuclear weapons are! Trust us.

But no matter. Iran (“a festering sore,” according to noted trash-talker Harry Reid) is doing something sneaky, and we will do anything to stop them from doing … sneaky things, even if we can’t really say exactly what they are. In the past decade or so, we’ve spent a trillion dollars on a war that started in a manner suspiciously similar to the one we’re ready to get underway. And, as Ron Paul pointed out yesterday, a sanctions regime was an integral part of the buildup to that war.

I don’t agree with everything Paul says, but I don’t see a word of this that I can disagree with. Can you?

I rise in opposition to this motion to instruct House conferees on HR 2194, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act, and I rise in strong opposition again to the underlying bill and to its Senate version as well. I object to this entire push for war on Iran, however it is disguised. Listening to the debate on the Floor on this motion and the underlying bill it feels as if we are back in 2002 all over again: the same falsehoods and distortions used to push the United States into a disastrous and unnecessary one-trillion-dollar war on Iraq are being trotted out again to lead us to what will likely be an even more disastrous and costly war on Iran. The parallels are astonishing.

We hear war advocates today on the Floor scare-mongering about reports that in one year Iran will have missiles that can hit the United States. Where have we heard this bombast before? Anyone remember the claims that Iraqi drones were going to fly over the United States and attack us? These “drones” ended up being pure propaganda – the UN chief weapons inspector concluded in 2004 that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had ever developed unpiloted drones for use on enemy targets. Of course by then the propagandists had gotten their war so the truth did not matter much.

We hear war advocates on the floor today arguing that we cannot afford to sit around and wait for Iran to detonate a nuclear weapon. Where have we heard this before? Anyone remember then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s oft-repeated quip about Iraq, that we cannot wait for the smoking gun to appear as a mushroom cloud?

We need to see all this for what it is: Propaganda to speed us to war against Iran for the benefit of special interests.

Where have we seen this before?

Let us remember a few important things. Iran, a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has never been found in violation of that treaty. Iran is not capable of enriching uranium to the necessary level to manufacture nuclear weapons. According to the entire US Intelligence Community, Iran is not currently working on a nuclear weapons program. These are facts, and to point them out does not make one a supporter or fan of the Iranian regime. Those pushing war on Iran will ignore or distort these facts to serve their agenda, though, so it is important and necessary to point them out.

Some of my well-intentioned colleagues may be tempted to vote for sanctions on Iran because they view this as a way to avoid war on Iran. I will ask them whether the sanctions on Iraq satisfied those pushing for war at that time. Or whether the application of ever-stronger sanctions in fact helped war advocates make their case for war on Iraq: as each round of new sanctions failed to “work” – to change the regime – war became the only remaining regime-change option.

This legislation, whether the House or Senate version, will lead us to war on Iran. The sanctions in this bill, and the blockade of Iran necessary to fully enforce them, are in themselves acts of war according to international law. A vote for sanctions on Iran is a vote for war against Iran. I urge my colleagues in the strongest terms to turn back from this unnecessary and counterproductive march to war.

Here I should say, “Contact your Congressman.” But geez. 403-11. Kind of an uphill struggle.

Of course, this war has been on the way since Shock and Awe days (remember: “Anyone can go to Baghdad; Real men go to Tehran”?)

What’s holding up actually attacking? Is there some sanity hiding behind the bellicose talk? Do  the gung-ho Congressfolk and military wizards of our broke-ass country realize the lunacy of opening another front in their crazy Long War (my hope)? Or (my fear) are they just waiting for a better provocation? “All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.”


Nature is weird and wonderful, and to my city-boy eyes nothing is quite as weird/wonderful as a broody hen.

Two years ago, I took advantage of two broody hens and stuck a bunch of eggs under each of them, and we got about 10 new chicks that year.

Last year, I tried the same with one hen, but she turned out to be stark raving mad. From my limited observation, broodiness has an at least tangential relationship to full-on insanity. The hen kept pecking her eggs, for reasons still unclear to me, and at the same time insisted on staying on the nest, which in short order became a sticky rotting mess. Only one baby chick survived, and that one was blind in one eye. I think because of that messy nest situation.

This subject of this year’s experiment seems tidy and calm, though frighteningly and obsessively focused, as are all broody hens. She seems capable of starving herself in her dedication to her compulsion. I have to remind myself to yank her off the nest once a day.

I hope in three weeks time we get a bunch of baby chicks out of her.

Now, really I am no expert on broody hens, having only had a few years to observe what is an ever rarer phenomenon in nature, as it has been deemed wise to breed broodiness out of nearly every variety of chicken you’ll see, because a broody hen is not a laying hen. That strikes me as a little shortsighted, and it also strikes Harvey Ussery the same way. Mr. Ussery, a contrary farmer in the best sense of the term, , has written an interesting article on the benefits of using, not fighting, broodiness.

RIP Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm McLaren. Dead. The punk era with which McLaren will always be associated was probably the most over-analyzed period in music history. Everyone on the scene wrote a book about it, it seems. I certainly have nothing to add.

Beyond his controversial role as the Svengali behind the Sex Pistols (or, equally plausible, the guy who totally ripped them off), McLaren had a long and spotty subsequent career. Some of his efforts were more successful that others. Personally, I have a soft spot for Fans, his opera/pop thing, which I have listened to regularly for a quarter of century now.  For whatever reason, I posted the lovely Madame Butterfly video to my Facebook just the other night.

I also remember he wrote a funny, surreal piece for the NY Times magazine some time back, about his early adventures as an apprentice wine taster:

Every day, the trainees were blindfolded and led to a spittoon. Here we were given test tubes of wine and asked to taste but not swallow. Blueface (as the general came to be known by us for the blue veins that ran across his face, like a gorgonzola) would then lecture us about the qualities each wine possessed, followed by the inevitable question: What did we think of it?

The first time this happened, we were tasting reds from Burgundy: “McLaren, tell us! What do you think of this wine?”

Blind, unable to assemble a coherent thought, I blurted out: “Yessir! Very nice. Deep . . . uh, rich, rich, very rich! Sweet, sweet.”

“What are you talking about?” he boomed. “That’s Pommard! A premier cru —1950!”

Fair enough. But then things began to get strange. “Goddamn, tastes like an army has been through there . . . that sodden earth! All mud and slush. All right for those frogs, but what we like is something a little fresh, don’t we?” he said, elbowing me in the ribs. “Something young and untouched!”

Old Blueface made us taste another.

“Now, that’s a little girl from Morey-St.-Denis!” he said. “A virgin. She needs to air a bit. Then we can all prod it, taste it and love it as we truly deserve, as God appointed us.” While we young virgins stood frozen, embarrassed and blushing from learning about the facts of life this way, he talked about wines for men and wines for women. Wine that tastes like a man, and wine that tastes like a woman. Wine that was friendly, frilly, silly or simply handsome; heroic or cowardly and foolish. And wines that defied discussion — these were apparently homosexual.


During our lunch breaks, the general would march us past St. Martin’s school of art. One day I broke ranks and followed a pack of girls wearing mohair sweaters and fishnet stockings into the school, where I came across a buxom woman — an actual woman! — perched naked on a stool, surrounded by students sketching this sexual apparition. How can I do that? I wondered.

Mohair sweaters and fishnet stockings! McLaren endeavored successfully to get himself fired, and was off to a series of art schools (he was kicked out of most of them). The rest is history. RIP.

Crusade for better foods … and get stomped

That episode of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution where he showed kids all the nastiness that goes into chicken nuggets—and they wanted to eat them anyway? As upsetting as it was,  it did save me the bother of showing it to my nugget-inhaling son, as it will probably achieve the same (opposite of intended) result.

I don’t for a moment doubt Jamie Oliver’s good intentions in this food crusade of his. But he is a wealthy celebrity chef, and he  will get over it. He is probably already home in Britain, regaling his like-minded friends with tales of the benighted colonials over some delightful meal he’s just whipped up, along with a number of impeccably complementary bottles of tasty plonk.

Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that speaking out about the garbage served to kids in schools can have career-threatening consequences. From La Vida Locavore, here is an excerpt from the  woeful saga of what happened to a school teacher who became concerned about what her students were eating. (Writing in haste today, so apologies for the extensive cut-and-pastiness).

Mendy Heaps, a stellar English teacher for years, had never given much thought to the food her seventh-graders were eating. Then her husband, after years of eating junk food, was diagnosed with cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure and suddenly the french fries, pizza and ice cream being served in the cafeteria at rural Elizabeth Middle School outside Denver, Col., took on a whole new meaning.

Heaps was roused to action. She started teaching nutrition in her language arts classes. She bombarded colleagues, administrators and the local school board with e-mails and news clippings urging them to overhaul the school menu. She even took up selling fresh fruits and healthy snacks to the students on her own, wheeling alternative foods from classroom to classroom on a makeshift “fruit cart,” doling out apples for a quarter.

Finally, the school’s principal, Robert McMullen, could abide Heaps’ food crusade no longer. Under threat of being fired, Heaps says she was forced to sign a personnel memorandum agreeing to cease and desist. She was ordered to undergo a kind of cafeteria re-education program, wherein she was told to meet with the school’s food services director, spend part of each day on lunch duty recording what foods the students ate, and compile data showing the potential economic impact of removing from the menu the “grab and go” foods Heaps found so objectionable. … The case of Mendy Heaps is a stark reminder that at least one voice is largely missing from the debate over school food that’s getting so much attention lately: the voice of teachers. Teachers see what kids eat every day. They have opinions about the the food and how it impacts children’s health and school performance. Yet they are almost universally silent.

… “When I got the memo, everyone became afraid,” said Heaps. “If I tried to talk about the memo, no one wanted to listen. I got a little support from a couple of teachers, but not very much. Everyone wanted to forget about it and they wanted me to forget about it too…The only thing I still do is write letters and try to get someone interested! I’m working on one for Michelle Obama right now.”

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