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The Daily Journal
Candide’s Latest: December 1-3, 2006


Why Rumsfeld Was Fired
He Told Bush: Iraq Policy Ain't Working

From The Times: "Two days before he resigned as defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld submitted a classified memo to the White House that acknowledged that the Bush administration’s strategy in Iraq was not working and called for a major course correction. “In my view it is time for a major adjustment,” wrote Mr. Rumsfeld, who has been a symbol of a dogged stay-the-course policy. “Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough.” Nor did Mr. Rumsfeld seem confident that the administration would readily develop an effective alternative. To limit the political fallout from shifting course he suggested the administration consider a campaign to lower public expectations. “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis,” he wrote. “This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ” “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist,” he added. Mr. Rumsfeld’s memo suggests frustration with the pace of turning over responsibility to the Iraqi authorities; in fact, the memo calls for examination of ideas that roughly parallel troop withdrawal proposals presented by some of the White House’s sharpest Democratic critics. (Text of the Memo) The memo’s discussion of possible troop reduction options offers a counterpoint to Mr. Rumsfeld’s frequent public suggestions that discussions about force levels are driven by requests from American military commanders. Instead, the memo puts on the table several ideas for troop redeployments or withdrawals that appear to conflict with recent public pronouncements from commanders in Iraq emphasizing the need to maintain troop levels.The memorandum sometimes has a finger-wagging tone as Mr. Rumsfeld says that the Iraqis must “pull up their socks,” and suggests reconstruction aid should be withheld in violent areas to avoid rewarding “bad behavior.” See the full story...

Poem
“The House Murdered”

In one minute, the whole life of a house ends. The house murdered is also mass murder, even if vacant of its residents. It is a mass grave for the basic elements
needed to construct a building for meaning, or for an insignificant poem in a time of war. The house, murdered, is the amputation of things from their relations and from the names of emotions, and it is tragedy’s need to guide eloquence to contemplate the life of a thing. In each thing there’s a being that aches . . . the memory of fingers, of a scent, of an image. And houses get murdered just as their residents get murdered. And as the memory of things get murdered—wood, stone, glass, iron, cement—they all scatter in fragments like beings. And cotton, silk, linen, notepads, books, all are torn like words whose owners were not given time to speak. And the plates, spoons, toys, records, faucets, pipes, door handles, and the fridge, the washer, the vases, jars of olives and pickles, and canned foods, all break as their owners broke. And the two whites, salt and sugar, are pulverized, and also the spices, the matchboxes, the pills and oral contraceptives, elixirs, garlic braids, onions, tomatoes, dried okra, rice and lentils, as happens with the residents. And the lease contract, the marriage and birth certificates, the utility bills, identity cards, passports, love letters, all torn to shreds like the hearts of their owners. And the pictures fly, the toothbrushes, hair combs, make-up accessories, shoes, underwear, sheets, towels, like family secrets hung in public, in ruin. All these things are the memories of people who were emptied of things, and the memories of things that were emptied of people . . . all end in one minute. Our things die like us, but they don’t get buried with us!

Mahmoud Darwish. Translated, from Arabic, by Fady Joudah.

Mahmoud Darwish is a Palestinian poet. His latest collection is “The Butterfly’s Burden.” Fady Joudah is a poet, translator, and field member of Doctors Without Borders. “The House Murdered” appears in the November 2006 issue of The Progressive.

Saturday Morning Mozart

He wrote about seven million of them (serenades, divertimenti, dances, what-have-yous), although only that infernal Ein Kleine Nacht business and a few others are ever and over played anymore. So here's the last movement from one of his early and more obscure serenades, this one in D major (K 104), performed by an even more obscure bunch of musicians from somewhere formerly Prussian. Olga Nodel is the violinist.

What next, quoting from MLK's I-Have-a-Dream speech ?

Talking Sit-Ins
Hezbollah’s Poseurs

At least it was peaceful, The Jerusalem Post reports that 800,000 Hezbollah supporters took to the streets of Beirut on Friday, waving only Lebanese flags (rather than the yellow-and-green-weapon-raised flag of Hezbollah) and demanding the Siniora government’s resignation. Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah had handed out the flag commandment to ensure that this is seen as a Lebanese action, rather than Hezbollah action. He knows how to play his cards. He wants a Hezbollah-led nation, but to get there he’ll do what it takes to make things look more unified than they really are. There’s little question that Hezbollah can mobilize more people than can Christians and Sunnis, which has the latter two nervous, along with the Siniora government. This from Megan Stack in the LATimes:

The Lebanese government has nearly doubled the size of its security forces in recent months by adding about 11,000 mostly Sunni Muslim and Christian troops, and has armed them with weapons and vehicles donated by the United Arab Emirates, a Sunni state. The dramatic increase in Interior Ministry troops, including the creation of a controversial intelligence unit and the expansion of a commando force, is meant to counter the growing influence of Iran and Hezbollah, its Shiite ally in Lebanon, Cabinet minister Ahmed Fatfat said in an interview this week. The quiet, speedy buildup indicates that Lebanon's anti-Syria ruling majority, led by Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, has been bracing for armed sectarian conflict since the withdrawal of Syrian forces in the spring of 2005. It also reflects growing tensions across the region between U.S.-allied Sunni Muslims who hold power in most Arab nations and the increasingly influential Shiite-ruled Iran and Hezbollah.

Guess who the United Arab Emirates’ other weapons beneficiary used to be until 2001? Why, the Taliban! So Lebanon could become yet another open front in Islam’s battle between Sunnis and Shiites, with Christian in the odd position as Sunnis’ Ed McMahon, minus the laughs.

L’Infâme: Dennis Prager
Swearing on the Quran

Dennis Prager is a less interesting version of Pat Buchanan: an evangelical who happens to be Jewish, a nationalist who wears his chauvinism on his sleeve, and a rank atheist when it comes to faith in the separation of church and state. His latest crusade: preventing Keith Ellison, the Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, from taking his oath in January by swearing on a Quran instead of a Bible. “He should not be allowed to do so,” Prager writes, “not because of any American hostility to the Koran, but because the act undermines American civilization.” And he says this: “Insofar as a member of Congress taking an oath to serve America and uphold its values is concerned, America is interested in only one book, the Bible. If you are incapable of taking an oath on that book, don't serve in Congress. In your personal life, we will fight for your right to prefer any other book. We will even fight for your right to publish cartoons mocking our Bible. But, Mr. Ellison, America, not you, decides on what book its public servants take their oath.” Of course, none of this makes any more sense than, say, a baboon having a predilection for masturbating to the image of Mel Gibson defiling the cross with his ketchup or my dead grandmother suddenly singing “Dixie” from her grave up in Bhersaf, in the mountains of Lebanon. Nor does Prager (dennisprager@dennisprager.com ) produce so much as an attempted suggestion at evidence for his nonsensical statements. But that’s not the point of faith-based (or fesse-based, if you get my French) hysterics with political aims (as this is primarily a political, not a cultural, issue). The point is to stay on the attack for that larger goal—the reimposition of those so-called “judeo-christian values” in the polity, and the use of those “values” as mask for the knocking out of those who don’t, or won’t, fit. It’s a kind of tribalism that has more in common with the Taliban than with anything Jeffersonian (or Madisonian or even Hamiltonian for that matter). And Prager is pushing it stupidly enough to make it a national issue. He has a microphone, a radio audience, a few bloggers on his side. It’ll make noise. But let’s hope Ellison gets to swear on whatever he pleases. The ultimate idiocy of this whole thing isn’t Prager. It’s that elected officials still swear, period. To be truly interesting, to be true to the “values” of the United States, the only thing any elected official should swear an oath to is the Constitution, or The Federalist, although a I wouldn’t hold it against anyone to swear on Kerouac or even Whitman.

World AIDS Day
The Independent’s Red Edition

From the Independent: “Today is World Aids Day. It was first marked in 1991, an attempt by the international community to alert humanity to the terrible scale of the threat posed by the disease. Yet despite advances in medical science and a growing political consensus over the need to act, the epidemic shows no signs of abating. In fact, it is getting worse. According to the United Nations, some 25 million people have already died from Aids. A further 40 million men, women and children are living with HIV. Since the turn of the millennium, 24.2 million people have been infected, 15.6 million have died. If the world continues on its present course, Aids is set to surpass the Black Death of the 14th century as the deadliest outbreak of disease in human history. World Aids Day will see millions marking their solidarity with those affected by the virus. Charities, campaigners and politicians from Africa to the Americas will speak of their plight and reveal the work that is going on to help them. But the story of the battle against the epidemic reveals a world divided. A gulf exists between sufferers living in poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world and those in the rich nations of Europe and North America.” See the full story…

The Real War Against Christmas

From the Toronto Globe & Mail: “A beer distributor says Maine is being a Scrooge by barring it from selling a beer with a label depicting Santa Claus enjoying a pint of brew. In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court, Shelton Brothers accuses the Maine Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship for denying applications for labels for Santa's Butt Winter Porter and two other beers it wants to sell in Maine. The episode is reminiscent of last year when Connecticut told Shelton Brothers it had problems with its Seriously Bad Elf ale. The state later approved the sale of the beer. “Last year it was elves. This year it's Santa. Maybe next year it'll be reindeer,” said Daniel Shelton, owner of the company in Belchertown, Mass.”

Lacking that, there's always this... (thanks to L.M.)

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