Return of the New Package

As some of you may have deduced from the widget on the right, the New Package blog is gearing back up again. Yeah, The Wire is over, but David Simon’s new HBO miniseries, Generation Kill, begins July 13. The seven-week series is based on embedded reporter Evan Wright’s book about the first 40 days of the Iraq invasion. Wright was embedded with The First Recon Battalion, one of the very first units spearheading the invasion, often isolated on their own behind enemy lines as they moved further into the country.

The NuPac blogging line-up this time around will be me, Ray, Racy, and Nancy, along with newcomer Alli.

So, give the show – and all of us – a shot. If you’ve read the NuPac before, you know we can bring it.

Happy Codpiece Day

Yesterday’s gaggle, via the obsessed one:

(this is Helen Thomas asking the questions, bless her)

Q Me? How does the President intend to commemorate “Mission Accomplished” after five years of death and destruction?

MS. PERINO: What you’re referring to is the banner that ran — that was aboard the ship five years ago. President Bush —

Q I’m talking about the anniversary tomorrow.

MS. PERINO: Yes, I get — no, I understand. That’s the anniversary of when that banner flew on that ship. President Bush is well aware that the banner should have been much more specific and said “mission accomplished for these sailors who are on this ship on their mission.” And we have certainly paid a price for not being more specific on that banner. And I recognize that the media is going to play this up again tomorrow, as they do every single year

This is Dana last year.  You gotta hand it to her, she’s a scrappy little shill.

Five years and thousands of coiled springs later

As I’ve posted before, I live with a parrot, have done so for almost four years now. Like most animals, parrots pick up on the emotions and energy of the people with whom they live. At least in my experience, they do so to a much greater extent and in a very different way than dogs or cats. Dogs especially will often try to comfort their humans when they sense that they are upset or angry. One of my cats even does this. The bird however, is different. If I’m upset, it upsets and unnerves him. If I’m stressed, he’s screeching; if I’m depressed, he’s anxious and needy; if I’m angry, he’s aggressive.

This morning I got up early so I could do a post about the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. As anyone who reads this blog can tell, I’m not much on in-depth political analysis. I’m fascinated by government and politics, I’m deeply invested in the state of the country, I read voraciously, I very much need to converse about such things, hanging out in lefty blogtopia with like-minded acquaintances and fomenting discontent, but I’m not much good at writing from the long view about all this. So, this morning, I sat. First I procrastinated, drinking coffee, dithering, answering email. Then I tried to put some words down, but instead just watched the long grass in my back yard ripple in the breeze, the sun lighting up the new green buds on all the trees.

My mind was a blank. The clock was ticking, my morning was getting away from me. I got frustrated, and then I read the news and I got angry. That’s my problem writing about this stuff, I can’t divorce my emotions from it enough to achieve coherence.

So much for that extra half hour I planned. I was full of coffee, I was angry and sad, and completely blocked. I had no thoughts, I had nothing to write. Now I had animals to feed, a shower to take, a meeting at work to think about. Heading for the bathroom to shower, I reached for the bird as usual, so he could sit on the shower curtain rod like always, chattering with me while I did my thing and got ready. I held out my hand, said the usual “step up,” he hopped on, then after about three seconds on my arm, he went for me. By the time I’d wrenched his grinding beak off my hand, he’d dealt quite a bit of damage. Looking at my shredded knuckles and pinky, I was reminded of an old friend back in the day who’d drunkenly tried to fistfight a brick wall.

And that’s when it all poured out. Now that I was late for work and had a first aid crisis, I had more than enough words for a post but mostly I just cried. For the 4,000 dead soldiers, the dead journalists and contractors and aid workers, and the many thousands more Iraqis that have been killed, injured, driven from their homes and country. Driving into work, squinting into the sun and trying not to get neosporin all over the steering wheel, I wondered how many other Americans were angry and frustrated this morning, on this anniversary. I wondered how their mornings were going. Had they snapped at their kids, did they maybe slam their front doors a little too hard, peel out of their driveways, take out their frustration in traffic?

I’ve always loved the scene below, from Rainbow of Her Reasons, episode 506 of Six Feet Under. There’s a larger context to the scene of course, but that doesn’t matter. Watch the way Patricia Clarkson’s body just convulses with the hatred for “George… Fucking Bush.” She’s a great actress, one of our best, but I know lots of people who could have done justice to that one bit of physical business. There’s thousands of us carrying that rage in our bodies, that impotence, that need to lash out and put our fist through a wall, to kick something till it splinters.

Deja vu, or “I’ve been drunk in that petstore before…”

I agree with John at C&L: “pretty disturbing all around.”

The war drumbeat against Iran has been going on for sooo long now. You can understand why this report shatters the Bush/Cheney doctrine of immorally—attacking–a–country—that hasn’t attacked us. It’s a virtual replay of their Iraq intelligence scam.

re post title

Go read Naomi Wolf’s post

Won’t Back Down, at Firedoglake.  Just go.  Now, please.

It is clear from this inundation of personal stories of abuse and retribution against ordinary Americans that a network of criminal behavior and intention is catching up more and more mainstream citizens in its grasp. It is clear that this is not democracy as usual — or even the corruption of democracy as usual. It is clear that we will need more drastic action than emails to Congress.

The people I am hearing from are conservatives and independents as well as progressives. The cardinal rule of a closing or closed society is that your alignment with the regime offers no protection; in a true police state no one is safe.

Grain alcohol and rainwater all ’round, barkeep

“There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

We are all reading the same thing, aren’t we?

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

As always, see also FDL, and I know it’s still early on Sunday but what the fuck, chase both with a bracing shot of Athenae. Words of warning for the whole DFH mishpoche:

So if it’s going to happen again, and come on, if you don’t think it is, just in time for 2008 because they’ve literally got nothing else, it might be useful to remember that it’s not about what’s true and what’s not true. It’s about what people need to see, in order to feel good about themselves and get done what they need to get done to go to sleep fat and happy at night. If anybody’s going to stop it, they need to remember that.

UPDATED: Digby weighs in.

“But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you.”

Two years ago today the annual National Book Festival was held in Washington, DC and Sharon Olds, National Book Critics Circle Award-winning poet, was invited with a number of other writers by First Lady Laura Bush to read from their works.

Olds did not attend.

Her Open Letter to Laura Bush was posted at TheNation.com on September 19, 2005.

It is perhaps a fantasy to think the piece was ever read by Laura Bush. Nonetheless, I like to imagine it was. I like to think it got under her skin and fucked with her head. I like to think she still remembers it in those moments when she can’t get the lid off the Xanax or when she can’t light the next cigarette fast enough. Those moments when this former teacher and librarian remembers that she does, in fact, believe in history and knows it will not be kind to her.

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House. In one way, it’s a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents–all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women’s prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students–long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit–and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person’s unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country–with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain–did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made “at the top” and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism–the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness–as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing–against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting “extraordinary rendition”: flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

Sincerely,
SHARON OLDS