Friday, June 23, 2006

Immigrating to

Interesting angle on immigration in the 'Wenatchee World', the subhead of which describes Wenatchee as "the buckle on the Apple Belt". An editorial strongly supported keeping free access to immigrant labor as absolutely necessary to the survival of the apple and cherry industries. A supporting letter to the editor observed that before there was an adequate supply of immigrants the local orchardists had to rely on "hippies and transients" to bring in the crops. The editorial acknowledged that there are indeed machines that will perform much of the work, but thought they were not acceptable because they are more expensive than cheap labor. Would anyone like to speculate whether the slimeballs at the 'Wenatchee World' selling out the national interest in favor of their own parochial interests are Republicans or Republicans?

An interesting sidelight is the fact that the apple-growing Okanogan Valley in Washington is directly continuous with the apple-growing Okanagan (sic - the spelling changes at the border) Valley in British Columbia. Through some economic miracle Canadian apple growers are able to harvest their apples without immigrant labor. Maybe Canada has a larger supply of hippies and transients? Also miraculously, though we are assured daily that it is physically impossible to seal the US- Mexican border against illegal immigrants, Canada has successfully sealed its border against them. Being unwilling to mar their lovely landscape with walls and border patrols, they have used employer sanctions instead. Jobs are not offered to illegals, which keeps them out. Could it be that someone is lying to us about why there are eleven million illegal immigrants in the US and what can and should be done about it? The likely candidates for perpetrators of this big lie are the Republicans and the Republicans.

We don't have to deport anybody. If we have serious employer sanctions that are enforced, there won't be any jobs for illegals and they will go home voluntarily. But this won't happen under the Republicans because their business owner constituents are making money hand over fist off the illegals. It won't happen under the Democrats either because they need the Hispanic vote to carry California, Texas, and by now several other states.


Shouldn't we be spending less effort keeping out guys named Jesus and more keeping out guys named Mohammed?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Chicago Politics

and Cats
My father used to say that in Chicago a dishonest politician was one who wouldn't stay bought. Cats are like that. You can bribe them and pamper them and they still don't give a damn about you.

Stuck Inside Wenatchee

with the Memphis Blues Again
In Wenatchee I saw "Angels in America". Contrary to what I expected from the DVD box, Meryl Streep has only a few (brilliant) cameos, as does Emma Thompson. Al Pacino plays the endlessly loathsome Roy Cohn - or rather he plays the endlessly loathsome Al Pacino.

The rest of the acting is done by a bunch of justifiably unknown actors, with two exceptions. Jeffrey Wright and Mary-Louise Parker justifiably won Golden Globe Awards for best supporting actor and actress in a mini-series.

One thing I liked immediately is that Tony Kushner, who wrote both the screenplay and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play it is based on, calls the people involved "homosexuals". "Gay" is both slang and a euphemism. If, as claimed, there is nothing wrong with it, it doesn't need a euphemism. If there is, a euphemism won't help.

Similarly I have no use for being a "Member of the Tribe",
nor even "Jewish". I am a Jew.

So too, are all too many of Kushner's characters, as it is set in New York. Though the movie opens with an above-the-clouds shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, it pans across the country to a lovely shot of a bronze statue of an angel in Central Park. Which moves slightly.

This is disconcerting. One of the things one hopes for in a movie adapted from a play is reliance on dialogue, acting, and story, and a relative freedom from car chases and special effects. Such hopes are dashed repeatedly in this thing. Floors and ceilings erupt with imaginary visions, ghosts of ancient ancestors wearing whiteface makeup appear in smoke and disappear in flames, and Emma Thompson appears in winged radiance suspended from wires like a summer stock Peter Pan. This movie may not have as much computer graphics as "King Kong" or "Jurassic Park", but it is in the chase.

I suspect what has happened is that as electronics have made special effects cheap enough to produce on legitimate theater stages, playwrighting has come to depend on it, and playwriting has begun to decline correspondingly. One thinks of the special effects in "Amadeus" and "Phantom of the Opera". O tempore, o mores.

Clearly Kushner had such things available and used them when "Angels in America" was a stageplay, and director also Mike Nichols also showed no restraint in using them. And not without reason. I kept wondering when this thing would end, as it began to descend into soap opera. It ran 5 minutes short of 3 hours. When I put the disk back in the box, I discovered that what I had seen was Part One. Of Two. According to IMD, the Internet Movie Database, there is another 3 hours of snooze to go with what I already saw.

Maybe it would have been more engaging if I had seen it in several episodes conveniently punctuated by commercials during which to pee or snack. But now that it is no longer being broadcast, DVD presentation as a movie is all that is available.

IMD's blurb says the play and movie are a political tract about the AIDS epidemic, as seen from the 1980's. I didn't see that it was. Various characters get sick, they go to hospitals and get sensitive, competent medical treatment. Unless there is some objection to the medical care or the amount of pharmaceutical research, and there wasn't, I don't see the political content. That theme may have been developed in the second, iron-pants, Part Two that I mercifully did not see.

I wondered about the characterization of homosexuals as angels. If it was intended as an upgrade from fairies, who are also supernatural winged persons, then it is witty and appropriate. If it is intended as an idealization then it is merely the latest in a long series of reversals of group bigotries. African-Americans went from Stepin Fetchit and Amos 'n' Andy to sexless, pious Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby. Women became nurturing overworked saintly victims. Any even vaguely brown-skinned person who could by any stretch be called a villager became incapable of self-interest, prejudice, or ignorance. All of these are the same bigotries as before, transformed from hostility to condescension.

Homosexuals, like heterosexuals, are people who act on their sexual impulses. So are adulterers and people who open their raincoats to old ladies. There is nothing special about it, and nobody's impulses are any nobler than anyone else's. One is not made an angel by one's choice of orifice.

Wimping Out - Again

Stuck in Wenathcee
I had been stuck in Ellensburg more or less flat on my back for a week with an excruciatingly painful disk or nerve pinch or whatever physically happens when my back "goes out". Then I had recovered enough to travel and left Ellensburg. Ellensburg is Chico, but in a different state.

Alas, the ride to the next town proved much more demanding than it looked like it would be on the map - straight roads through farm country are not necessarily level as I had assumed. Though not as dramatic as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the gorge of the Columbia has a half-mile-wide steep sided picturesque inner canyon, but it also has an all-but-invisible-to-motorists outer canyon which is a fun, quick six miles down followed by six slow strenuous continuous miles back up to the plateau. And then one crosses the endless up and down of the Frenchman Hills. I arrived in George, Washington (much to no one's surprise, a major local crop is corn) at evening, barely hanging on.

There I learned I had been misinformed and there is no motel at George, not even a campground. Though beat, I was obliged to ride 10 miles to the next town, Quincy. When I got there it was after dark, almost 10, and I was exhausted, more so than I have been on this trip. Having been all but motionless the previous seven days was not an advantage.

I began to get painful cramps in my back, feet, and hands, but passed out on the bed before I got to savor them.

The next day was to have been a shorter easier one, but I began cramping even before I got to Wenatchee. In the motel room they spread all over my back and were accompanied by all but unendurable spasms in my legs. Not good.

With alte kocker-hood staring me in the face, I decided that I had over-taxed myself after the near atrophy of Ellensburg and that I would rest a few days and continue. Which is what I am doing.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A Major Change

In Plain Sight
but seemingly invisible to all, has happened in our understanding of Iraq. It has been a staple of the opposition to the war to argue that there was no connection between the secular Ba'athist regime of Saddam Hussein and the religious jihadis of Al Qaeda who perpetrated 9-11. The death of Al-Zarqawi proves otherwise. He is described as "a prince of Al Qaeda" and a lieutenant of bin Laden. No one seems to dispute that he was the leader of those fighting against the US and the Iraqi government.

No responsible person questions the legitimacy of the American campaign to destroy Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda either directly or indirectly have been responsible for 9-11, for the bombings of the Madrid subway, of the London tube, of the Bali nightclub, of the USS Cole, and for many other atrocities, entailing literally thousands of murders. The overthrow of their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan has not been questioned.

The argument that there was no connection or complicity between Al Qaeda and the Ba'ath regimes was not based on intelligence, only on assumptions. It is as though one were to insist that secular republican Italy could not have common purposes with the religious monarchical Vatican. Now we see, among the few facts that can ever reach the light of day in a war of covert organizations, that Al Qaeda leads the coalition of the remnants of the Ba'ath and the Sunni sectarians.

There is a significant silence on this subject coming from the opponents of the war. Perhaps because, without it, their argument that the war is unjustified crumbles.

The question becomes, "What should a president - any president - do whose country has been attacked at home? Should he wait for a second and a third and a fourth blow? Or should he use the armed forces to destroy the attackers before they can strike again?"

The recent arrests in Canada make clear that these are not idle questions.

Here I Am Again

From Ellensburg
When I stopped at Chico on the bicycle ride up here, Harvey wondered aloud whether bicycling long distances was not "a young man's game". I sardonically thought to myself, "So when should I do it, if not now? Later maybe?" Those remarks come back to me now here in Ellensburg, Washington where I am laid up in a motel with a bad back. I have lain here a week now and I hope to leave tomorrow. But the discouragement of being transformed from a sturdy adventurer to an enfeebled little old man is palpable.

Stupidly the harm to my back has again come not from bicycling but from sitting in a straight backed chair obsessing on the keyboard and screen at a hotel lobby internet connection at Yakima. That is precisely how it has happpened three times before. I am a screen junkie. It sounds cute, but compulsive behavior carried to self-destructive extremes is not amusing. I have gotten a little notebook computer shipped to me, which will not cure me of surfing endlessly, but will enable me to do it lying safely on my back.

So now I will be able to attend to this blog again.