Hillary’s Vote Explanation

It is my guess that her opponents on the left will bring up this explanation later. Iraq is the key issue. Fast forward a little bit and she started comparing sending infantry into Iraq to laying bombs in Bosnia and Kosovo. Also, she was totally unwilling to address a Code Pink rep’s concern that there was no terrorism threat posed by Saddam. She obviously thought the war would be very swift herself.

The Most Important Issue For Young People, 2008

The most important issue for young people in the 2008 Presidential Campaign will bolster candidates prepared to bring an immediate end to the war in Iraq. Despite their typical lack of bureaucratic representation, a draft is more likely to ask young adults to be cannon fodder or hamburger.

Day after day, my colleagues are waking up stunned, often after having taken on more of the responsibilities seniority may bestow. As more young Americans filed taxes for the first time, particularly for the first time during a failing war effort, interest in their institution’s returns is springing forth from apathy. For tomorrow’s contributors, the arriving certainty of taxes harkens a greater interest in another certainty: death. The Iraq War’s violence is the first occasion some young people had to bury an ever younger friend or sibling.
While it will have taken this notion tragically long to definitely influence outlook, the conflict that defined our formative years was legislatively built upon contradictory pretenses, exaggerated evidence, and even forgery. Even now, it maintains sufficient domestic support merely on the back of denial. The bumper sticker motto “Support Our Troops,” for example, will finally fail to rouse sympathies for a campaign founded on interests increasingly external to and separate from the troops’.

I am confident that by the time self-respecting young American women fully comprehend the starkness of Iraqi refugees destitute on the foreign prostitution market, diplomatic solution to the cultural crises will crisp. As young men dreaming of fatherhood finally absorb the testimony of one Abu Ghraib detainee’s story about the sterilization drugs he was given, a newfound grasp on a human life’s dignity will illuminate the alternatives to cruelty that cruelty itself obscures. As patriots advise themselves regarding the interrogation black sites of eastern Europe, they shall discover if secrecy has preserved their common defense or, through its sheltering, preserved a helplessness to intervene in the cause of meaningful personal freedom.
The American youth will have built their new electoral consciousness for peace on neither cowardice nor stubborn idealism. The Department of Defense – having accomplished from the war’s outset nothing as modest as defense, having ostensibly enforced United Nations (U. N.) mandate despite actual U. N. preference to the contrary, and having recklessly jeopardized entire masses’ livelihoods – has left an all-consuming void in the Iraq Mission, vis-à-vis, “a just war.” This void is absent of goals less disingenuous than exercising influence on fuel markets. By November 2008, the prospect of garnering the nation glory for the ages for having “spread democracy” or “progress” will appear too radical. That prospect will seem as irrelevant then as demands that the United States bare responsibility for the “indirect” casualties of infrastructural gutting seem today.

For the most part, the popular movement toward immediate troop pullout has escaped the stigma that youth opposition to Vietnam attracted in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Vietnam was a conflict for which the United States military and its opposition paid a substantially higher human toll than in Iraq; however, modernity’s higher ratio of domestic war protestor to invasion casualty elegantly demonstrates how expansionist conflicts are, in the long term, meeting relatively magnified hostility from the electorate and especially the youth.
Not long into Bush’s second term, the president’s fallen opponents Edwards and then Kerry had to express complete regret for casting war authorization votes. However pathetically late their apologies may have arrived to voters, those statements– Edwards’ published as conspicuously as the Times’ letters page – demonstrate just how much political capital is out there for a Presidential candidate responsible enough to set aside warfare only for its necessary place. War should transpire only in a future in which it necessary to preserve the constitution, civil liberties, or American lives categorically jeopardized at home. With each passing election cycle complacent, the low-turnout youth have provided indifference to ticket strategizing sessions and tragic precedents for pollsters of the conscienceless decision-makers of the past. Although Bush’s damningly astute label of “flip-flopper” stuck well, insiders must have had such impoverished expectations for the war that the Democratic Party’s last contenders took a calculated risk in rolling with the punches. Although it was widely described as a “referendum” on the Iraq War, the last Election’s outcome failed to satisfy the divided public. Army sign-up’s personal risks and signing bonuses scaled a new proverbial Everest in January, a young people were beckoned louder and louder into mercenariness. A paradigm is about shift.

Barack Obama’s fundraising dominance among the youth demographic can be attributed to his long-time consistent opposition to the Iraq War from the start. His was a name and cult following established by his grasp on the ever more popular notion that John Kerry had hypocritically tried to cash in on while trying to send more cash to the conflict. Now, even a candidate like Obama, a high-profile favorite of the war-weary, has kneeled to the opposing pressure from the Presidency. He has excused his funding of a war “dumb” by design; he wrote off his passing the bill to the taxpayer as his refusal to “play chicken with our troops.” As the anti-war candidate most adept at filling coffers, his strategically unwise pandering leaves him backpedaling from brave truths: namely, that through its own malfeasance, the Congress has “wasted” thousands of innocent lives. There is no amount of patriotism, save where tainted by perverse nationalism, to compromise the honest description of our nation’s loss.

A new and difficult realism will birth itself out of conversations with those coming home for good just now. Conversations with forgiveness, patience, understanding, and compassion – not histrionic application of the “baby-killer” prejudice – will enable society to heal, and for the war’s veterans to find reward in having stood their ground, followed orders they believed pertinent to protecting Americans within their borders, and having carried out directives successfully. The domestic iron curtain will fall when soldiers do not feel so insulated from the rest of society. A soldier’s understanding of her mission – for reasons of simplicity as well as security – is inherently compartmentalized.

The rising costs and consequent exclusivity of inhabiting the top of the candidate field necessitate young peoples’ pressuring the hawks to outright flip-flop. Once the fog of war descended, the youth had to squint to rediscover even the most rudimentary inklings of what the peace struggle required. To finally defeat the cynical and evil lies that only bred their disillusionment, young voters will stop embracing the delusional nightmare that the government orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center; even more vitally, they will have to reject that brutally imperialistic notion that war for monetary benefit alone is ethical. Those two points are either a) cheap enough to sell a la carte and b) useful only as means to terrible, terrible ends.

The callousness of the new Administration and its Bush Doctrine, which drives the occupation, has destroyed all historical perspective and belittled the missions of patriots past. Whether the older generations were bent on undoing fascism or securing their inalienable rights from an Imperialistic power, contemporary goals have never been so soulless and material driven.
Today, more than a year before the election, as our juggernaut of a president professes to spread freedom at gunpoint, because the war’s proponents can only lament their opposition’s “defeatism” about an terrible project, because common sense dictates the Iraq War forever unethical and unnecessary from its very outset, the power of young voters will rest mostly in the hands of the candidate unwilling to stack the bodies of the innocent and powerless so that the strong might know the vainly-soothing balm of supercilious ends

When The Man Comes Around

RICHMOND, Va. – From the intersections of Mulberry St. and Davis Ave., a full three blocks in front of the Virginia Museum of Science, hundreds of people gathered on October 19 on the southern side of Broad Street. Large “James River” buses sat on the north side to prevent pot shots at the museum that afternoon, and police had shut down the street to cars.
I tried to cross at Davis, but an officer waved me off, yelling, “Go back!” Time was running out for getting inside the museum, so I headed west to look for a good passing point. People young and old, but mostly young, were holding signs with different causes on them, most calling, if just in gist, for impeachment. One 4×4 banner called for stopping support of Israel, another said, “A real patriot would defend the constitution,” and another “Troops are suffering and dying from government contracts.”
I crossed at Terminal Place after identifying myself as press. Secret Service was all over the place – white guys with buzz cuts and lots of enviable gun talent – checking my ID three times, looking for my name on lists, and then submitting me to a gantry metal screening. Even the paperclip that held my “White House Press Pool” pass to my lanyard was under brief, but manual scrutiny. Secret Service was looking out over the crowd from the front steps. John Reid, Senator Allen’s director of communications, beckoned me into the press arena [read: cage]. I recognized immediately that far more people were milling around across the street than paying at least $500 to get inside. Garrie Rouse, who ended up putting up the MySpace bulletins about protesting this event, told me he conducted a count by tens of 380 souls at 4 o’clock. I wanted to check on the crowd outside, but in a way, that Republican rally was like a hip-hop concert: once you left, re-entry was not an option. Secret Service offered to accompany me to the bathroom door. Projectors beamed a massive, spinning series of white stars in a blue field into the museum’s dome, while others shined stars off of the wall marble. Watching the Republicans mill about, I called Ben Cohen, a Facebook organizer, who was telling me over the phone of a massive 12×4 banner held up by the crowd, saying “George Bush: Motherfucker” Apparently, there were a handful of state SWAT lining the street scanning nearby rooftops. Cohen reported chants of “Bush and Allen sitting in a tree, K-I-L-L-I-N-G!”
When the event let out, I walked quickly across the street to talk to the few protestors who were still hanging. Sean O’Hern was picking up 200 pairs of shoes he had set down to represent dead Iraqi children, and had labeled each with names. Francis Scott Warner said, “I am here to protest against George Allen and President Bush, two treasonous warlords who are trying to destroy our nation!” A younger guy next to him said, “The only reason [gas] prices are dropping is to get his butt buddies elected.” Incidentally, regarding potential threats to Virginia families, George Allen fingers homosexuals: those of whom seek marriage rights.
One Alex Taylor said, “I am here pretty much to keep a war that I do not believe in [sic], that I don’t want to have to go to, that I’ve had friends die in, and that it has no real end in sight.” Another guy who did not volunteer his name spoke into my microphone, “I’m out here to protest torture, to protest war, to protest lying, to protest erosion of constitutional rights, and I’m out here to protest the deceit of 9/11 that has taken this nation into war, and is driving us to war, to a prison planet.”
The Mary Washington event on September 26 brought the weepy, now vaguely optimistic John Edwards to the campaign trail to stump for Webb in light of the race just being closer than most expected. Webb’s nobility or stupidity or whatever you want to call it, is costing him this race, according to Bob Mosel of The Nation, who says that Webb “should have stuck the knife in.” A bunch of reporters cornered Webb and Edwards at the side of a balcony and shoved microphones in his face.

TV Man: “Regarding racism back in his earlier years, is George Allen’s question of character not in play?”
Webb: “You know, I have no comment on that. You know, I have 46 days or 42 days to get my issues out in front of the people, particularly the people of Virginia. You know, I said after this New Republic article in the Spring, I said it’s just not something I want to focus on. And, and, I said the same thing after the debate the other day.”

The New Republic may have proven to be the most partisan prognosticator of all, but barely more than major grey presses like The Washington Post or Washington Times. While almost all of the polls show Webb and Allen within statistical margin of error, clearly Jim Webb has trailed in most. My call is that unless the Senator regresses on camera to direct touretic fury at an actual black person or goes into another I’m-OK-with-Jews-but-definitely-NOT-a-Jew thing really close to election day, I think Jim Webb will retch on his own blood when the numbers come in. Four different people have come forward completely outside of Webb’s campaign to say that, yes, Allen said “nigger” at least in reference to black people, but, according to Michael Scherer of Salon, these accounts all say he used the word discretely, in private humor or fury, or in that sad way people tell tasteless jokes behind closed doors. Nonetheless, Ken Shelton said Allen cut off a deer’s head, asked for directions to the nearest black neighborhood, and then dumped its bloody skull into a mailbox. Webb once wrote an article called “Women Can’t Fight,” in which he said that women were not good for the front lines, and that women in the Navy, if nymphomaniacs, would be in paradise. This race has gotten as personal in the open as it will. The rest is up to party prejudice and completely inaccurate attack ads.
Anyway, back to Mary Washington:
Webb said, “I have never issued an ethnic or racial slur at someone,” but added its “hard to grow up in the South without having [nigger] pass your lips once or twice.”
What does Webb claim to share with Edwards? Supposedly, a concern for “the increased economic inequality in this country and what we can do about it.” Keep in mind, upon my questioning on whether he supports Affirmative Action, Edwards said, “I do, strongly.” That’s the sort of issue that the Democratic Party line bends around in this case, Webb expressing in the past reservations about affirmative action programs.

Edwards: “I think there are things we can do that don’t have America acting unilaterally, but where American leadership can make a difference.”
TV Man: “I don’t understand how you can say on one side America’s better than that, that we ought to take the lead, and then say somebody else should do it.”
Edwards: “NATO’s us.”
Webb: “I think we should become involved in issues around the world, but not always militarily and not always unilaterally.”

Webb went on to say that the Chinese should help in genocide-ridden Darfur because of a “natural affinity they have had over the past few years in that part of the world.”
Like most Democrats, Webb was a huge critic of the war, but unlike the party senators, he was against the vote when it might have mattered. Webb said, “I thought were going to get a fresh look at national security, and, after 9/11, I thought [Allen] took totally the wrong issue.” So, in response to what Allen was alluding to about Sunnis being upset at “everyone getting to have their say” in the newer, far more dangerous, Iraq, I thought it was time to ask Jim Webb how the United States could fix the ethnic tensions and create civil order for Iraq.

Webb: “I thought the war would empower Iran because of the Shi’a elements in Iraq. And, uh, you know, I was, actually, Iran and Syria said that as early as 1990. What we have now is a situation where Iran has more power in Iraq than-“
EJS: “No, I mean, in Iraq between Sunnis and Shi’ites.”
Webb: “Yes, but this is a part of it, because with the Shi’a ascendancy, which was predictable, what that has done has assisted in the empowerment in Iran, in a country which had been a buffer to Iraq. So, what I would do would be, and I have proposed this, is to assist enforcing a diplomatic approach that would get all the countries in that region who have historical and cultural ties to Iraq to the table overtly, diplomatically, and move toward a solution. There’s precedent for that, if you look what happened after we went into Afghanistan. We actually brought Iran, Pakistan, India, the other Stans and other countries to the table for assistance. That goes directly to your question about how to reduce tensions. If you get these other countries in the region that have sort cultural oversight and participation with the elements inside Iraq, that’s the way you start taking the stinger out.”

George Allen’s 11th annual Hoedown felt like Busch Gardens, yet with a higher price tag, albeit a merely suggested one. Miller Light and Bud Light trucks pushing out draft, a cartoony statue of 10-foot decorative cowboy boots, barrels of hay and staw – kind of like that Americana section of Disney World. At all of these events, understand, you are supposed to give money, but press status isn’t what got me out of it. An old roommate of mine who deserves street cred in RVA, David LaClerc, drove me out there to mingle with supporters.
Jerry Kilgore just ran in and lost the Virginia gubernatorial race. He said he saw his former opponent’s (Tim Kaine) biggest failure as having raised taxes, despite apparent promises to the contrary. “Is global warming real, and should the government fix it?” I asked him. He laughed. “Global warming is one of Al Gore’s fictions.”
“Really? But what about all of these hundreds of studies he presented that said it was a big deal?”
“Yeah,” said another who was with him. “Did you see that National Geographic from the 1970s that warned of the dangers of the Earth getting colder?”
In a way, I saw what they were getting at. The Republicans loved consistency. Stay the course, don’t pussy out, ride it all the way, or you’ll just create global instability. Maybe – hell, probably – you’ll just end up emboldening the terrorists. I was to find out later that the guy who wrote the 1976 National Geographic article to which he was referring asked in a 1990 if the world was in fact heating up. Flip-flopping fool!
I stammered, “I guess you could say that climate change within the National Geographic editorial board has shifted winds.” Given all of those Kerry ads from back in 2004 with him riding the wind surfing board, I thought he might laugh at the partisan meme.
Kilgore and his friend looked at me like I was crazy for saying that. “I guess they’re putting something funny in the press drinks,” and then he gestures to the Miller Light.
“Complacency?” I suggested as the press mickey. The other two looked uneasy, and all I remember is kind of moving awkwardly. The crowd was congregating near the platform where radio commentator/pundit Laura Ingraham was to stump for Allen. The working theory seems to be that the people planting IEDs in order to kill U.S. troops are also a part of the war on terror, and that by causing civil disorder, the Islamo-fascists are seeking to establish a new, Islamic totalitarian caliphate. (I don’t have running water! Mwahahahahahahaha!)
She talked with disdain for the lefty Washington Post, dissing them as premature “prognosticators,” yet at the same time reassuring the crowd, as the Senator would, of certain victory. A notable difference between Jim Webb and George Allen is Allen’s more consistent campaigning with his wife at his side. On that platform that day, as he sported a string tie and a cowboy hat, Allen stood with his wife Susan, and his daughter Audrey and his son named Forrest. The man had a huge nostalgia for the Confederacy, and his son was named Forrest.
After I headed out to a tent for some Maker’s Mark and Coke, Forrest and I locked eyes, and I shrugged. Allen would boast of his gubernatorial record, his abolition of parole, his welfare reform, just as I was to hear his supporters do again and again. In person alone and off of the official pamphlet, those included Terri Hauser, President of the Commonwealth Republican Women’s Club, who I talked to at the Hoedown, as well as Delegate William J. Howell, who I caught up with in the Museum. Strangely, the Secret Service was brushing Museum attendees away from the press arena. Even mingling in the museum had its price tag. Recording was forbidden to me, so the following is built off of quotes from my notebook.
At the museum, bright lights shining off of his brow seeming ever furrowed, George Bush said it was my “duty as an American” to vote for Allen. Allen, he said, seeks to “diversify our energy,” and “become less dependent on foreign sources of oil” in the name of national security. “He’ll keep your taxes low, and keep this economy rolling. We understand it’s the people’s money, not the government’s money . . . Small businesses are flourishing! Home ownership is up! . . . The [Democrat’s] middle class tax cut in ’92 ended up raising taxes.” Bush flouted Allen’s opposition to the capital gains tax, and – as he announced the junior senator was putting the death tax “on the road to extinction” – the creationists’ applause of joy filled the science museum’s atrium. Nancy’s Pelosi’s stated love of tax cuts, he apparently considered bunk. “Considering her record,” he said, “she must be a secret admirer.” Bush has stayed consistent on lowering taxes, but his 2000 campaign against big government has gone belly up in congress and in his veto record. “Tax and spend liberal” is a misnomer. The legislative and executive branches have effectively raised funding to every department in the government to one degree or another.
When Bush said how important it was that the soldiers be able to “question people on the battlefield you pick up,” the small crowd of about 150 suits hissed “Yeessssssss” in unison. Again about terrorists, Bush said, “You can’t negotiate with these people . . . that’s why you stay on the offense and bring them to justice before they can hurt the American people.” On Iraq, he said, the Democrats “voted for the war before they voted against it.”
That was true to the extent that the Bush was talking about his 2004 opponents. In fact, John Edwards later apologized for the initial authorization vote in a New York Times editorial written soon after the election. Only one senator, Russ Feingold, voted against the war initially. Bush’s rhetoric there remained as a rough critique of a John Kerry vote regarding funding of the war effort. However, there was no vote against the war’s existence after the April 2003 entrance.
“Iraq,” Bush said, “is an essential front on the war on terror.” He said al Qaeda’s (“The Base”) goal there is to “form a totalitarian regime” to establish a safe place “from which to launch attacks.” Bush said, “The Democrats want to pull out even if the terrorists have not been defeated,” emphasizing that the U.S. not . . .
“quit in Iraq until the
job is done,
that’s why they’re the party of
cut and run.”
“We will fight, we will stay, we will win in Iraq.” “If you want to be a Democrat, you can stand for anything, but victory in Iraq is not an option.” “Liberty has the capacity to turn a region of hatred into a region of compassion.” Like Allen at the Hoedown, Bush defended the USA PATRIOT Act, saying how bad it had been when intelligence “formerly” couldn’t speak with law enforcement. These are his claims.

The Real World Of Virginia

RICHMOND, Va. – One evening, I called the White House switchboard drinking and watching the news.

WH: Hello. White House.
TSB: Hello, may I please speak to the President?
WH: . . . [hang up]
Jesus, I thought. Why do they even post that number?


Behind Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb, a mentally challenged woman, waist deep in middle age, seemed so happy to see him. Mr. Webb talked to eager supporters while he stood with his back to the woman and me. “There’s more where this came from,” said one bearing a check. Another with a Webb t-shirt kept tapping the candidate to alert him to the woman, who had begun calling out for him. By that drizzly August 28 at the opening of Webb’s RVA Headquarters on Radford Ave., a Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll was showing Webb in the lead with a 1.3 percent advantage, continuing his momentum upwards from the primary.
“Jim! Jim!” the woman continued to moan as her chin quivered in anticipation. The candidate initially avoided contact with her because of her custom t-shirt: a picture of Sen. George Allen with the screen-printed words “The Real Macaca” below his grinning face. She gestured to her shirt and tried to wave her hero over. Eventually, Webb politely greeted her, and said he could not comment on the shirt because press was nearby.
That shirt referenced a widely analyzed August 11 incident in Breaks, Va. The Webb team posted video footage captured by a campaign volunteer, Shekar Sidharth. The resulting imbroglio caused Sen. Allen’s poll numbers to take the fast nosedive from July. In front of a small crowd of supporters, he said right into Sidharth’s camera:
“This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is, he’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great. We’re going to places all over Virginia, and he’s having it on film, and it’s great to have you here. And you show it to your opponent [read: Webb], because he’s never been there, and will probably never come, so it’s good for you to see what it’s like out here in the real world.” Allen mocked Webb for traveling to the West Coast instead to raise money from a “bunch of Hollywood movie moguls,” right before finishing, “So welcome. Let’s give a welcome to macaca, here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” From there, our junior Senator segued into remarks about the U.S. War on Extreme Fear.
Because Sidharth is of Indian descent (and a lifelong Virginian), the speech fueled accusation that Allen was appealing to base provincialism in Appalachia. After a slew of apologies, Allen claimed he made up the term “macaca”, and – while the word by some academic accounts is one French colonialists use to refer to ethnic Tunisian natives – Allen’s francophone and Tunisian-American mother said she had to look the term up in her dictionary, where she claimed not to find it. Webb maintained that Allen knew what the word meant, and that its use offended him.
Jim Webb himself holds the distinction of having produced and written the story for “Rules of Engagement,” a 2000 film the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee called at the time “the most vicious anti-Arab racist film ever made by a major Hollywood studio.” Apparently forgetful or ignorant of the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre of hundreds of Native Americans (to name just one time and place), Webb said on the Sept. 17 “Meet The Press” debate, “African-Americans are the only ethnic group in this country that have suffered from deliberate discrimination and, and exclusion by the government over generations.” He says that Affirmative Action programs originally had good intentions, but – when they support everyone except white people (especially poor white people, as Webb says) – they constitute “state-sponsored racism” as bad as Jim Crow laws.
Allen opposes affirmative action unequivocally. In his youth, he had a penchant for the Confederacy, and as a Delegate opposed a holiday honoring Martin Luther King.
Standing in the gravel parking lot of Barnes’ Manufacturing in Kenbridge, I stood around making meager acquaintance with Carol Watson, the mayor of nearby Victoria. Soon, Allen’s big campaign bus pulled up, and his Press Secretary Bill Bozin, hair gelled and bleached with shiny black shoes, stepped out followed by Allen himself. The Senator is a tall man with dark hair, and a red face. He slouches slightly. The crowd waited patiently around the Barnes main office (brown with vinyl siding about the size of a double wide trailer) as the man stepped up in his cowboy boots.
I stepped into Mr. Barnes’ office to hear his accounts of business at the lumber-gathering plant. Barnes’ accounts were so so.
Allen asked, “Are you exporting anything?”
“Nope,” said Barnes, and the Senator looked disappointed.
Allen asked him what he was dipping, and the two men pulled out identical tins of Copenhagen. He commented on how that stuff was grown locally. I looked down into my front shirt pocket to see if my Marlboro Lights indicated a local manufacturer, but the Senator had already snatched them away. “Good product,” he said. “That’s made in Richmond.”
Incidentally, UST, Inc., the company that makes the addictive psychoactive Copenhagen, is one of Allen’s biggest contributors. On those blue moons when I have picked half-smoked cigarettes out of ashtrays to stall off the panic attacks, this all kind of smacks me in the forehead. Don’t get me wrong, though. This is my fault.
In my last report, I accounted Allen saying at the Homestead debate, “The people [of Iraq], regardless if they’re Shiite, Sunni or Kurd, are grateful for America liberating their country.” But the answer Allen gave me alleges religious differences as dangerously fracturing Iraq’s national unity. “There will be some Sunnis who will not be grateful because everyone will get to have their say,” said Allen.
When it came to Iraq, Webb only referred me to the substantial amount of paperwork he has sitting around about the issue. As Allen insinuates that some Sunni have been suppressing fellow citizens, Webb has said for a long time that it wasn’t our military’s business to fix the situation with occupation. “We didn’t go into Iraq because of terrorism,” he said on the “Meet The Press.” “We have terrorists in Iraq because we went in there.” During that program, the two candidates differ because Allen seemed to seek long-term U.S. military bases in Iraq, while Webb sees those as irrelevant if Iraq does prove safe. If Webb’s word was true, his son is serving in Iraq right now.
The answers I get out of Jim Webb and George Allen regarding net neutrality outlined the quintessential differences between the two major parties. Allen said he wanted a “permanent prohibition” on “tax commissars” he hought make your online access a hassle through government Internet-regulation fees. “I don’t want people’s internet bills to look like their phone bills,” he said, the analogy hinting at charges you might pay for going over your monthly phone minutes. But “if you legislate too much,” he added, “you will slow the growth.”
Jim Webb told me that he doesn’t want surfers to have to “pay all of those extra fees” that Internet service providers might attempt to charge others for special services. In short, George Allen thinks that government interference will mess up the speed of Internet growth, while Webb thinks it’s worth the time the Federal Communications Commission is putting into it now. The latter man’s confessions align more closely with advocacy groups such as Save The Internet, which supports the FCC’s traditional definitions of net neutrality, but he did not volunteer the sources of the debate if he knew them at all. To name just one example, STI claims that sometime back in April, America Online was briefly blocking all customer emails that mentioned dearaol.com, a campaign opposing the company’s attempts to charge for the most reliable email services.
After the short Allen meet-and-greet, I hit the nearby streets. Stephanie Landry, employee of Kenbridge’s Moe’s Italian Restaurant said that the issues most important to her were abortion (against), gay marriage (against), illegal immigration, and guns.
“Where would you draw the line on guns, though?” I asked. “That is, between your run-of-the-mill shotgun and the nuclear bomb?”
“The nuclear bomb, I would draw that there,” said Landry with a smile.
Landry’s family inspires her views on immigration policy. “My Dad and I were talking the other day; a lot of the [working] Mexicans are sending that money out of Lunenberg County.”
Down the block from Moe’s, I caught up with Lunenburg County resident Roberta Ricker inside a local library. She claimed that half of the workers in the county’s manufacturing plants were illegal immigrants. “Without Hispanics,” she said, “the manufacturers wouldn’t know what to do.” She was also worried about the progress of the No Child Left Behind Act. “Why be supportive [of the Act], and then cut the money in the budget?” she wondered. The Iraq War, she opined, is “unjustified” and “a drain on the economy.” As an educator to Juvenile inmates, she worried aloud that the corrections system “isn’t working right.”
Later that day, I made my way back across the RVA expressway and to that rally. When I found a moment, I walked up to Jim Webb and asked him, “What is a terrorist?”
A long stare, and his pupils were small and chest stuck out and he looked pissed. That long and intense stare felt somewhere between, C’mon, you little treasonous punk. Don’t insult this rally’s patriotism, and Dear God. Moral Decay has progressed so much that no one can tell the difference between good and evil.
Finally, he asked gruffly, “Why?”
“Well, we call a lot of people terrorists,” I said. “Some people call the United States terrorists. I was just wondering if you could give a transcendent definition.”
He replied that a terrorist was a “quasi-military person” “who represents a cause and is not associated with a nation state.” It is my belief that his answer reveals a telling, if tacit, policy difference between his opponent and him. During the Homestead debate, Allen alone characterized Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But because Hezbollah’s political leaders are elected, it does not strictly fit with Webb’s definition. To me, anyway, Hezbollah seems a lot like the Irish Republican Army used to be.
On illegal immigration, Webb told me, “Build a wall. Keep them out.” The Democrats continued to rally that day with free hot dogs, lemonade and goods brought by volunteers. The crowd hissed when they heard that Allen voted against incorporating new lines of stem cells into publicly funded use. One man became so spirited during that speech he yelled that one or more of the Bush Administration’s actions was “bullshit”. Moments later, I caught up with him: Gary Agisin, an RVA native. I asked him about illegal immigration, and he told me, “We need more immigrants – it brings in more jobs.” Sure enough, he made a strange bedfellow with Webb.
In the crowd, I ran into State Senator Creigh Deeds, a man who just made an unsuccessful bid for state attorney general, and started rambling hopelessly about legalizing marijuana. Then, my driver who accompanied me to the Allen event began to joke with Deeds about Allen’s Press Secretary’s high-maintenance fashion stylings. Deeds couldn’t resist teasing Allen: “He surrounds himself with gay men!”
The Human Rights Committee and Alliance For Marriage kindly urge your participation in the upcoming referendum on a state constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriages and unions.


Distance, Decisions and Destruction

As the New York Press’s Matt Taibbi pointed out with some disdain for peers, any story shows its true weakness that could have been written in one room with a television, a Rolodex and a telephone. So, it is with sorrow that I admit I could not make it up to the Homestead resort to catch Sen. Allen’s first debate with the competition. After winning the June 13 primary against Harris Miller, Democratic challenger Jim Webb is to face off against Republican incumbent George Allen this November. According to yesterday’s Rasmussen poll, Allen and Webb are squared away with 500 random likely Virginia voters at 47 percent and 42 percent respectively. By the June 22, the Israeli-Lebanese conflict had already escalated 10 days. Any mainstream cable news network was flooded with coverage.
At the American Bar Association event, George Allen was a firm supporter of Hezbollah’s status as “terrorists.” He boasts, “[Connecticut Senator] Joe Lieberman was my Democrat partner on having the Europeans list Hezbollah as a terrorist organization to interdict any financing of Hezbollah.” Syria and Iran are behind financing the group, he adds.
Amid serious unrest in southern Lebanon, President Bush expressed his confidence that our atypical allies could be brought around to ending violence. “You see, the thing is,” he explained to U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, “what they need to do is to get Syria, to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it’s all over.” Hezbollah, literally translated as “Party of God,” is a civilian and military group formed in the early 1980’s to fight Israel.
Jim Webb says, “Hezbollah is a direct result of the empowerment of Iran, so now we have a larger problem to deal with.” At the same time, Webb says he seeks cooperation from countries in the Iraq region.
C-SPAN ran a fascinating yet extremely awkward interview with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, courtesy of CBS. Mike Wallace keeps trying to get him to address the widespread concern that his military forces were supplying Hezbollah with rockets, and Iraqis with Improvised Explosive Devices that kill American soldiers. Invariably, Ahmadinejad changes the subject, firing back cryptic questions such as “Why are Americans killing . . . Iraqis on a daily basis?” and “Are you the representative of the Zionist regime or a journalist?” Ahmadinejad clearly sees himself as justified because the United States has not secured Iraq, and provides Israel billions of dollars in aid and military equipment every year.
Even having visited Iraq on several occasions, Sen. Allen’s retrospective about the Iraqi infrastructural overthrow stays positive. “It’s a country that is very grateful,” says Allen. “The people, regardless if they’re Shiite, Sunni or Kurd, are grateful for America liberating their country.” Jim Webb, on the other hand, reiterates that the Iraqi War has been a strategic failure.
By all of the most recent accounts of Iraq opinion, that nation’s people are not grateful. An ABC poll last December reported that half of 1,722 “randomly” selected Iraqis say that it was wrong for the United States to have invaded, up 11 percentage points from the previous year. The London Sunday Telegraph reported the results of a British Ministry of Defence poll. Conducted conspicuously by the British, it appeared last August that “65 per cent of Iraqi citizens support attacks [on Allies] and fewer than one per cent think Allied military involvement is helping to improve security in their country.”
Facebook.com provides a good way to track down people in the United States as exasperated with one another as they are with war in general. One American alumnus of New York University, identifying himself only as “Judah the Maccabi” started an online group based on the “top 10 reasons” he supports Israel. Throughout the course of the battle and resulting Aug. 14 cease-fire, 8,931 Facebookers joined in what I can only presume is agreement. In a message to me, he says, “We support [military campaigns] when they have to do with hunting down the terrorists that kill our innocent civilians (including women and children), which involves going to war with the bastards.”
I also got in contact with City University of New York (Baruch) student, Dardan Beselica, an Albanian man. He supports Hezbollah along with others in a significantly smaller Facebook group. In contrast to the current administration, he does not see Hezbollah as terrorists. As he says, “I acknowledge and condemn resistances that sometimes apply terrorism as part of their struggle.” Whether your definition of “terrorism” includes the oblique aiming of Katyusha rockets into populated areas, or accepting massive “collateral damage” for the sake of deterrence, is upon a grave stake.
Beselica’s specific responses to my questions happen to highlight major ideological differences between the two Facebookers. For your consideration, the following dialogue is constructed from my correspondences.
“Judah” expressed his support for Israel first and foremost “because Israel is a liberal democracy, the only one in the Middle East. It provides a model for future democracies in the region.” However, Beselica says to the contrary, “It claims democracy, yet it illegally occupies land and treats the inhabitants therein as 2nd class citizens.”
“Judah” says, “Jews should have sovereignty over their eternal homeland (ever hear of the Bible?), no matter what anyone says. After living in exile for 2000 years, we deserve it.” Beselica alleges views of an Orthodox Jewish acquaintance accounting for 70 different Torahnic interpretations. “[His account] perplexed me and made me realize Zionism truly lacks a sound argument.” Those interpretations also seem to inform Beselica that exiled Jews must not return until the Messiah’s return.
“Judah” notes, “Israel preserves and has made accessible the holiest sites of my religion, regardless of my faith or religious background.” (“Judah” himself professes Judaism.) Beselica says Israel merely claims to uphold secularism if, again, its theological interpretations branch 70 disparate ways.
“Israel has one of the most moral armies in the world,” says “Judah”. “In order to limit the loss of human life, Israel frequently puts its soldiers at risk through house-to-house combat instead of more secure air strikes against hostile threats. Additionally, the Israeli Defence Forces, or IDF, drops leaflets telling civilians to leave an area (which consequentially gives away the element of surprise to belligerents), all in the interest of preserving the sanctity of human life. In both cases, this minimizes the loss of civilian casualties.”
Note the costs of this terrible war. Lebanon grieves 1,300 dead and 3,600 wounded civilians. Israel suffers the loss of 43 dead and 1,350 wounded civilians. Its military honors 117 dead and 400 wounded. Hezbollah itself claims only 85 fighters lost, but the Israeli Defense Force claims more than 500 dead. Five hundred thousand Israelis are displaced, along with 1 million Lebanese.
“Israel has thousands of prisoners in its jails,” says Beselica. “In fact some of them are democratically elected members of Palestine and/or Lebanon’s parliament. Others have been in jail for perhaps dozens of years. Unfortunately, Israel has in the past been known to practice torture as well.”
The two strangers bemoan histories racked with pride and blame for entire ethnic and religious groups. “For over 3,300 years, Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital of the world,” says “Judah”. “I feel that Jews before the creation of Israel and local Arabs had gotten along fine,” says Besilica. “To this day, refugees in neighboring countries hold their original keys to the houses that were demolished within Israel,” he adds.
The Israeli military campaign, contends “Judah,” was conducting exactly the same thing the United States is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan, “except these terrorists have a different name for their group – Hezbollah”.
Last month in a Honoluluan bar I ran into a young Army man, Sam, who seemed barely my senior, if at all. Even during transit through the idyllic Oahu, his thoughts opened up back in Baghdad, undistracted by the nearby stranger lurching back from our concrete stoop to puke into the wet sand.
Sam’s appraisal of the help-to-hurt ratio of U.S. occupation today? “I’d say it’s about half [good] and half [bad].”
Sam reported that some Iraqis would indeed walk up to him in the streets and ask to shake his hand, to thank him for his work. “Still,” he said, his eyes far off on the urban strip-lit Pacific, “I can’t help but scan the sides of these roads for people sitting down, acting funny.” On the way back to the airport, I tried to imagine getting anywhere near under that much scrutiny, having to examine the imminent possibility of an Improvised Explosive Device. I shuddered.
Gearing up for the November 7 ballot from their podiums – even with millions of dollars in business interests in contest – Allen and Webb lightheartedly sought catharsis for the defeat one of the men will find. “We’re going to have a beer November 8th, one way or the other,” says Webb. “All right,” says Allen.

Bottomed Out

RICHMOND, Va. – By the time Congress’s approval rating was bottoming out at 25 percent, according to a Fox News Channel poll, I was seeing a whole pattern of public disillusionment. Monroe Park shined warm and bleak in the early summer sun as I paced about in stark fear of the changing winds. On April 17, Gallup had reported that the Congressional approval rating was at a 12-year low.
For VCU students, the semester had just ended, and the vibe of change and exhaustion loomed over the campus. Myself tired as well, I walked nervously along, contemplating the last time that this sort of mass disapproval weighed on the air. Richmonders were at the center of the Virginia machine. The last time numbers looked like this was right before the Republicans swept congress in 1994 to take the majority.
A black clad youth strummed a nylon string guitar as I passed. He had slapped a Slayer bumper sticker on bottom the guitar, but he was playing it upside down. “Hey, dude,” I asked, familiar yet distant all the same. “Could I listen to you play for a minute?”
As we talked, a man in his thirties was coming down the sidewalk in the park in a tie-dye t-shirt. He placed his feet widely and his steps were buoyant. He was mumbling to himself like a career drunk. As he got close, he remarked for us to hear: “I like big bellies.” Then, he laughed even louder to himself.
Overcome by my semi-fear of the stranger, I began to laugh, too. The odds of meeting someone in the park so obviously intoxicated by psilocybin mushrooms staggering, I watched in amazement as he hobbled away across the grass, ignoring the path’s barriers and all sorts of limits to human sanity and safety.
The guy next to me introduced himself as Kirk. We watched as cars met students on the street outside of Johnson Resident Hall to take their possessions home. Gradually, our topic of conversation moved from the casual to that which all politeness dictates you should never discuss at the inner table. Politics.
“It’s been a while since I had a good political discussion,” said Kirk, stopping his strumming in the middle of Slayer’s “Angel of Death”.
A student rode by on a bicycle. Tie-die t-shirt man inquired from a football field away, “Hey, man, you got a bike?” [more laughter] “You got a bike, maaaan?”
“Yeah, that’s a funny thing,” I replied. “Neither have I.”
The Democratic Primary is coming up on June 13th, and the competition is down to Harris Miller and James Webb. Miller’s press secretary, Brian Cook, reports that Miller is running because he has lived the American dream – hence the importance of student loans to Harris Miller.
According to Cook, Miller has driven almost 20,000 miles around Virginia in his hybrid SUV in an attempt to garner votes. The $9 trillion dollar national deficit seems of the utmost concern to the Miller camp. Cook emphasizes that tax enforcement, as opposed to a change in the tax code per se, is the most important point towards a goal of balancing the federal budget, given what he claims are $350 billion in unpaid taxes.
“The wealthiest Americans,” Cook says, “are the ones who find all of these tax loopholes.”
The Miller camp claims that theirs is the only candidate to call for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, in league with a whole legion of retired generals who have absolutely yearned for it in this past month.
Jeff Pyatt is James Webb’s press secretary, and just as Webb himself did on The Colbert Report, Pratt expressed his concern that there was very little good leadership left in Washington. Both of these candidates, mind you, like to refer to Incumbent Senator Allen and Bush’s agendas as one in the same, both of them characterizing Allen as having “rubber stamped” the President’s motives for the past six years.
As for the war, which both Democratic camps say they have opposed since its very conception, these two candidates look ahead to a relatively short withdrawal; it is one certainly outside the time frame implied by the President this year, one only a future commander-in-chief will see. Miller’s mail-outs support a pull out time frame of 2006 bearing, as Miller’s camp said, a “certain number off Iraqi troops trained” and “specific metrics for withdrawal.” The Webb team, on the other hand, shies away from naming specific indicators.
A recipient of the Navy Cross and Ronald Reagan’s former Secretary of the Navy, Webb sees a confusion in terms regarding our military actions: namely, the difference between a pre-emptive strike which involves much less commitment and an all-out pre-emptive war. Jeff Pyatt is Jim Webb’s Press Secretary.
“While we saw terrorist cells in Afghanistan,” says Pyatt, “[Webb] has always opposed being an occupying country.” While James Webb considers the war a strategic foul-up, the Miller people say that Bush outright misled the American people into war.
As I sat on the curb with Kirk watching the colors on the mowed lawn move in steady syncopation, one thing became quite clear to me. The invasion of Iraq would have been profoundly impossible had the country’s biggest export been carrots.
In turn, the opposing Democratic teams are very concerned about the practices of the oil industry. According to Brian Cook of the Miller campaign, “the policies that have made oil executives rich while hurting ordinary Americans at the gas pump” must be overturned. A New York Times poll showed oil prices as one of the cardinal reasons for disapproval with President Bush. The Webb campaign looks at the unexpected good fortune that oil companies’ profits have come to know, and says it has to end.
I told Kirk that day in the park that given the most famous of anti-war slogans before Iraq, maybe Americans were expecting to get a little more oil for all of that blood. (1.25 gallons of blood in the human body TIMES iraqbodycount.net civilian numbers of at least 35,119 = 43,899 gallons?)
I phoned up Bill Bowson at the Allen team, and he called me back with the Republican statement about the race at this point to the RVA readership: “We respect a spirited democratic primary. We look forward to facing off with whichever wealthy Democrat prevails.” I guess, case in point, if you’re taking in less than the poverty line, running for U. S. Senate is difficult.
Whatever your political leanings, Richmonders should get out and vote; even if you are a hardcore Republican, at least you can help shape the debate Allen will face. If nothing else, in an open primary like this, you could always vote for the least competent Democrat in order to help create division and bolster Allen.
On a nationwide scale and according to poll numbers, the Democrats can never have seen a more opportune chance to retake some seats.
Later that May evening, I walked along through an alley between Floyd and Grove, and encountered another young man I did not know taking wide repetitive circles on a bicycle. He was chanting to himself a constant loop of falsetto chirps much like disorienting series of half-notes one associates with the Twilight Zone. I asked him if were on drugs . . . once . . . twice, only to hear him screech back at me, “I am your mind!” I swear, someone must have driven a dump truck worth of mushrooms down Broad that afternoon.
The nationwide nervous breakdown since tragedy struck has resolved itself to a point that even mid-term Elections, normally the epitome of lower turnout, are of consequence. Setting the tone for the future, even amidst the strange trippers that carouse in our streets, is on everyone’s palms. Richmond looks ahead as Congress’s numbers bottom out.