Ryszard Kapuscinksi, the Polish foreign correspondent, astute observer of the Third World and fixture of most college courses on literary nonfiction for the last 25 years, passed away today. He was best known in the United States for the translations of his books on wars and revolutions, told through the eye of a nation that had itself been victim to conquest and subjugation. He was criticized in his later years for being somewhat essentialist on the matter of race and culture, and for being more literary than literal in his use of facts, but he remains one of the great chroniclers of post-colonial tumult in Africa and the Middle East, a journalist of exemplary courage and a writer of great empathy.
While riding the bus this week, it just so happens I've been rereading Kapuscinski. His Shah of Shahs, published in 1982, chronicles the events leading up to the 1979 Islamic Revolution in which Ayatollah Khomeini deposed Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, the corrupt, US-backed autocrat. As I'd hoped, Kapuscinski shed some light on what we'd be getting into if the Bush Administration made good on its brinksmanship. Bush might want to consider this before invading:
[Iranians] have a particular talent for preserving their independence under conditions of subjugation. For hundreds of years the Iranians have been the victims of conquest, aggression, and partition. They have been ruled for centuries on end by foreigners or local regimes dependent of foreign powers, and yet they have preserved their culture and language, their impressive personality and so much spiritual fortitude that in propitious circumstances they can arise reborn from the ashes. During the twenty-five centuries of their recorded history the Iranians have always, sooner or later, managed to outwit anyone with the impudence to try ruling them. Sometimes they have to resort to the weapons of uprising and revolution to obtain their goal, and then they pay the tragic levy of blood. Sometimes they use the tactic of passive resistance, which they apply in a particularly consistent and radical way. When they get fed up with an authority that has become unbearable, the whole country freezes, the whole nation does a disappearing act. Authority gives orders but no one is listening, it frowns but no one is looking, it raises its voice but that voice is as one crying in the wilderness. Then authority falls apart like a house of cards. The most common Iranian technique, however, is absorption, active assimilation, in a way that turns the foreign sword into the Iranians' own weapon."
I'm not really sure whether this is really cool or really, well, dirty. Police in Mobile, Alabama are pulling over suspected drug dealers in their pimped-out rides, and, if they find the trunks loaded with cocaine and C-notes and the like, they seize the drug money and use it to buy the car off the impoundment lot. Officers then take the slab to the hoodscraping tail, flashing rims, thumping Mike Jones, or whateveras if to say, "This is what happens when you cross the law, suckers!" Their current ride is a canary yellow 2006 Dodge Charger with a 5.7 liter 8-cylinder HEMI. The cops are known as the Ridin' Dirty team, a slangism popularized by the rapper Chamillionaire meaning driving with contraband. Here's the best quote from today's Moblie Press-Register story:
"We wanted to send a message that police have nice things, too," Battiste said, "Sometimes courtesy of the drug dealers."
Fair enough, I guess. But the money they seize is actually the property of taxpayers, so the question is really whether it's worth it to the public to be setting them up to be pimpin'.
Back in December, the Washington Postreported that GSA Chief Lurita Alexis Doan had compared her agency's Investigator General, Brian Miller, to a "terrorist." His audting work had "gone too far," she'd said in August at a staff meeting, and was "eroding the health of the organization."
Today we learn that "going too far" might have meant investigating Doan.
Citing internal documents, WaPo reveals Doan attempted to give a no-bid contract that summer to a company founded and operated by a friend, which would have violated federal law. A former government contractor appointed by Bush, Doan "personally signed the deal to pay a division of her friend's public relations firm $20,000 for a 24-page report promoting the GSA's use of minority- and woman-owned businesses, the documents show."
Not surprisingly, continues the Post:
The GSA's Office of Inspector General has launched an investigation into the episode and briefed Justice Department lawyers, according to sources who said they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing investigation. Officials at the inspector general's office and the Justice Department declined to comment.
If Miller is a terrorist, then I wonder what Doan would call the FBI.
The habitually timid clergy of the United Methodist Church is on a rampage. Well, at least as far as Methodists go. Horrified by the prospect of Bush's presidential library marrying itself to Dallas' Southern Methodist University, ten Methodist Bishops have signed a petition opposing the move. Rev. Andrew Weaver of Brooklyn, an SMU theology school grad, told the Houston Chronicle:
What this (petition) will show is there are a lot of Methodists out there who don't wish to give him the gift of our good name because he doesn't deserve it. . .Bush has not been willing to speak with Methodist bishops about the war, but he will meet with Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Why now is he choosing a Methodist school for his library and think tank?
Is Texas Governor Rick Perry crazy, or is he just a big fan of Cat Scratch Fever? The final act at Perry's inaugural ball in Austin Tuesday night featured redneck rocker Ted Nugent, who, according to the San Antonio Express News, "appeared onstage wearing a cut-off T-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag and shouting unflattering remarks about undocumented immigrants, including kicking them out of the country, according to people who were in attendance. Machine guns, including an AK-47, were his props."
The funny thing for those who know Nugent is that he was actually being pretty tame. Two years ago, when I saw him speak at a National Rifle Association conference in Houston, he had this to say:
Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em! To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molestors dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun, and when they attack you, shoot 'em.
That one was widely reported. But the AP didn't relate several other Nugent gems from that day. Among them was something he said while recounting a USO tour of Iraq: "I was just hoping somebody would take me hostage," he said. "Just aim for the laundry." (Which was even more odd when you consider that Iraqis generally don't wear turbans). Much of this was said while Nugent was holding an assault rifle. He wound up the tirade by concluding that Democrats, guilty of tax-raising and gun muzzling, should be "eliminated."
There has been a lot of talk in Texas that Gov. Perry could be tapped to run for Vice President. Maybe McCain should just nominate Nugent instead. The bigot vote would be in the bag.