Friday, June 13, 2003

Trouble with Latin America
Financial Times, print edition, June 11th:

Simply put, as one Caribbean ambassador explained during Monday's annual general assembly of the Organisation of American States in Santiago, the region felt abandoned by the US after the September 11 2001 terror attacks and has had to pay the price of neglect... (snip)...Briefing reporters, an OAS official gave vent to his frustration of how the US and the International Monetary Fund had "mishandled" the economic and political crises of the past two years. He was not optimistic about democratic trends. He accused Paul O-Neill, the former Treasury secretary, of making "offensive" and "stupid" remarks in Brazil and Argentina that caused "significant damage" as did delays on the part of the IMF...The dispatch by the US of a relatively low-ranking official to the inauguration of Nestor Kirchner, Argentina's president, added to the sende of a region ignored and out of favour."

I wish I could say this was a Bush problem, or even a Republican problem, but the United States' attitude towards Latin America has always been a combination of neglect and opportunism. The US has always been busy taking care of its interests in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, with Latin America as a third-rate afterthought, unless somebody's economic ox is being gored, in which case...send in the marines or the World Bank. It has turned its eye on Latin America only when a socialist or communist government is elected, in which case it pitches a fit.

This is, to me, the most incomprehensible part of American foreign policy. Here it is, in our own backyard, a whole continent with billions of people, many of whom admire the US, most of whose leadership was educated in the United States; natural allies, if you will. And we ignore them unless it is to dictate to them.


Tuesday, June 10, 2003

I've added and updated this article. Everything in italics is new since yesterday.

I haven't been doing very well in the blogging business lately. Too tired, too angry, too...too much. I am sick and tired, and I am sick and tired of being....well, you know.

The anger has outgrown the misdeeds of the administration, and the greed of big corporations, and the vacuousness of the media, and even the intransigence of people who would rather die than compromise. I'm angry in bigger yet more personal ways. I have a subterranean river of rage that bursts out in great galaxy-sized eruptions that cannot be aimed at anything concrete, so they burrow inwards and cry havoc in my sleep and destroy my peace of mind.

There are many contributing tributaries to this stream of rage:

--I'm pissed off at people who call themselves pro-life but who cut social services programs for pregnant teenagers and working parents. You don't give a damn about life. If you did you would lobby for programs to provide prenatal care and daycare and health care. You would browbeat corporations into paying a living wage and providing decent benefits. You would make it easier for women to keep their babies, and for those babies to grow up into healthy, productive adults.

--I'm pissed off at people who equate disagreeing with the president with disrespect for "our troops". They are beginning to sound like those Latin American politicians that must always keep the army happy so they stay put in their barracks. Get this through your head, dipshit: disagreeing with the President is my Constitutionally-given right and I'm not giving it up. My support for the troops is based on my concern for other human beings, especially those who are essentially my employees--not to mention my foster brothers, cousins and friends, and children of friends--and who are being sent to die in my name against my wishes. It has never and it shall never have anything to do with anybody's political agenda.

--I'm pissed off at the double standard women like Hillary Clinton and Martha Stewart are subjected to. Smart. ambitious. Focused. Since when are these words male-gendered? I'm doubly pissed at woman who apologize all over the place for being successful and who preface every statement with "I may be wrong, but..." or "of course, the most important thing in my life is to be a wife and mother", as if they had to protect their feminine "image". I'm triply pissed at women like Phyllis Schaffly, who has made a million-dollar career out of telling women that women should stay at home and mind the house. So Phyllis, when was the last time you were at home and minded a damn thing?

--I'm pissed off at those people who take Jesus Christ as a banner and turn Him into some sort of ranting control freak. In fact, I am generically pissed off at the way religion seems to suck people's brains out their left ears. Places like Serbia, where people of different religions lived side by side for centuries in fairly decent harmony, turned into killing fields in less than twenty years. All of a sudden, a battle that happened 400 years before was more important than the good family who lived and worked and celebrated next to you for all your born days? What the hell were you thinking? Were you thinking at all? And how come you can always find a way of twisting God's teachings to support whatever hairbrained scheme you're hatching? How come the Mohammed went out of his way to raise the status of women and within fifty years of his death you had reverted to tribal custom and used the same Book to pass it into law? How can you read "let he who is without guilt cast the first stone" and translate it into "I can pass judgement on you at any time because Jesus loves me and he doesn't love you?"

--I'm pissed off at having to pay serious attention to idiot theories like "intelligent design" (a.k.a. creationism). Boys and girls, evolution happened. It's still happening. If God is your thing, adopt the Catholic viewpoint: God is the ultimate source, and why the hell He set it up this way is between Himself and Himself. The rest of us don't have time to deal with your silliness. Continuing to tolerate this anti-scientific agenda can do more harm to this country than about a thousand dirty bombs.

--I'm pissed off at people who equate "capitalism" with "the only way things should be". I'm rather fond of capitalism myself--I hope to leave behind sizable legacies to family, friends, and favorite charities--but I don't delude myself that there are no areas where "the public good" is more important than "profit". Especially when the public good involves giving people a chance at a decent life.

--I'm pissed off at the amount of corporate charity we provide in this country. Tax breaks for taking jobs to India, for God's sake! We tighten bankruptcy rules in order to keep people in debt unto their total destruction, but let corporations write off millions of dollars. And all because they "create jobs". Yes--in Mexico and the Phillipines. I can count in one hand the number of corporations that have stayed as loyal to their workers as the workers to them--and still have three fingers left over. To all legislators out there: corporations are fictional beings; your business is to protect the real living breathing ones. And, on the principle that the punishment should fit the crime, if a con man can get ten years for bilking people out of their savings, a corporation should pay out considerably more than pocket change by its own standard as punishment for bilking investors out of their savings. One hundred million dollars to a company that makes that much before lunch is chump change and tacit encouragement to do it again.

--I'm pissed off at people who "don't understand" why some of us are so pissed off at Ken Starr and his crew. Let me make another effort: we are pissed off because you used up over $50 million dollars (I'm told by a correspondent that it's actually more than $70 million. WHEEE) in chasing a president whose only sin was to have a loose zipper. Lying under oath, my ass. You should never have asked the question; a man's marriage is a highly personal business and none of yours. And yes, I would have felt exactly the same way if the Democrats had done it to a Republican. And those $50 million dollars could have funded Head Start for all American children for several years.

And that's for starters.

The Word for Today is...

Not the stuff going on in the Middle East. The stuff going on right here at home. In the morning news.

I've been watching the morning news for a couple of weeks now. I tell myself that it's just because I'm too lazy to turn off the tv after I've finished my exercise program. The truth is that the first time I watched I made a mad dive for the remote but was stopped in my tracks by a see-the-awful-train-wreck sort of fascination. Jesus Christ. Diane Sawyer used to be an honest-to-God journalist! For that matter, so was Charlie Gibson, once upon a tv network.

Let's not mention the others. What the heck, let's. Poor Harry Smith, surrounded by a bevy of pretty incompetents, looks about as out of place as Pat Robertson in a Satanist convention. You know, he used to be a journalist, too. And then there are Katie and the crew: Perky Katie, Handsome Matt, Everyday Guy Al, and Pretty Ethnic Ann. These people are an American version of Opera Buffa characters.

The thing is, these people are pros, and they know--surely they know--that what they are doing is crap.

Monday, June 09, 2003

This is personal, so you can leave anytime you want, ok?

I am notorious for having nightmares, so much so that I will not share a room (standard practice for impecunious librarians who must attend several conferences a year) unless the person is a friend of long-standing who understands that if I start thrashing about, the solution is to simply tap me between the shoulder blades and ask me to turn over in a nice kind voice.

Mostly I don't remember the dreams, but I do keep a dream journal by my bed as I am one of those people who gets answers in her sleep--no voices or angels, just my subconscious telling me in no undertain terms when it's time to get out of Dodge. I'm also told if I'm seriously screwing up or if I'm on the right track. I've learned to pay attention and follow the advice.

But last night...well, last night was ...different. I dreamed and remembered, and when I woke up this is what I wrote:

The call came on the eve of the feast of Saint Barbara, who is indentified in Cuban santeria with Chango, god of lightning. It may or may not have been an omen, but I decided to play it safe. On my way to the Cape I brought a bottle of white rum and some red apples and left them under a tree at the last intersection before the US1 access ramp.

I drove straight through and crossed the causeway as the sun was coming up. Liam's place is tucked away on the ground floor of what is left of the old NASA administration building. The outside is mostly chipped paint and broken glass. The three 'dobes, Faith, Hope, and Charity, lounge about the front stoop, kept under minimal control by rusty steel chains scavenged from the launching pads. I stopped a few minutes to pat heads and let them slobber over me; they were nice girls and had helped me out of trouble more than once.

Inside there were only two customers. One of them was Johnny Wyler, the retired Jupiter policeman NASA pays to keep an eye on the warehouses. The other was a tall, lantern-jawed poster child for the Aryan Bundt. His conservative suit and crew cut screamed FBI but his blood-shot eyes and the nasty bruise covering most of the left side of his face countered the impression.

Liam was waiting, leaning on the counter top, his left hand curled loosely around a coffee mug. The hook attached to where his right hand would have been gleamed as evilly as his smile; he had the same look I'd seen on the face of my cat the night he grabbed the neighbor's roast.

"Hello, princess. How's the big, bad world treating you?"

Any time Liam gets playful, I get nervous. "You have someone for me?"

His hook swung discreetly towards the federal. "Stumbled in last night, drunk as a skunk and twice as mean. Went straight to the shrine, dropped flat on his face, and started babbling."

"Jesus, How did they miss him?"

"Beats me. The guy feels like a furnace. He was speaking in tongues..."

"Any you could identify?" I interrupted.

"Old Castilian and Dine. He was also spouting something that sounded like someone drowning in a vat of honey."

Afterwards it deteriorates into nonsense, but here's a couple of more things I know: this guy had a computer implant of some sort and he was the son of a former president of the United States.

What the fuck?