Thursday, May 22, 2003

... and some more equal than others

When I was a struggling actor in New York City, I was in a tremendously bad production of Brendan Behan’s “The Quare Fellow”. The Quare Fellow is a play that takes place in an Irish prison during the 1920’s. The fellow in question is not queer – as in homosexual – he’s condemned to be hanged. This mind pummeling horrendous production is a story in itself that I may write about at a later date.

Oh, screw that… I have at least one story I have to tell.

An Irish guy, whose name escapes me at the moment, directed the production. I guess the producers figured that he could direct a Brendan Behan play based on the fact that he was Irish. You see, he had never directed a play before. This lack of experience was only evident in his inept casting, his utter inability as an acting coach, his complete cluelessness to the thematic concept of the play and his abominable stage direction.

One performance, Irish Director Guy has a brilliant idea. He decided to re-stage a fight scene without telling one of the two actors involved. What a great idea! It will add freshness and spontaneity to the production. It’ll keep the actors on their toes.

Yeah… you guessed it… the uninformed, highly surprised and royally pissed other actor in the fight scene was… your humble blogger.

I played a prison guard and the other actor in the fight scene was an actor named Larry O’Malley. O’Malley was not in fact Larry’s real name. Larry was an Actor’s Equity (the stage actor’s trade union) member and this was a decidedly non-Equity production. Larry was also not Irish. Larry was Jewish, from Long Island and a body builder. Larry was also a drunk.

Now, the fight scene as originally choreographed was quite simple. Words are exchanged. My character, the hard-nosed, no nonsense, not takin’ any goddamned lip from no stinkin’ convicts prison guard I would naturally be, shoves Larry’s shoulder with his baton held in both hands. Larry takes his own fall, landing gently backwards on his ass. He snarls, starts to get up and re-engage with me, but thinks better of having a fight with a tough hunk o’hombre like me and falls into line with the other prisoners.

But on this night of nights, after the first fall Larry gets up and rushes me. I put my baton, again in both hands, in a defensive position. I hold Larry off and utter, in an all of a sudden high-pitched “always after me Lucky Charms” Irish dialect the brilliant ad-lib: “Oh, a tough guy, eh.” Larry holds his ground and looks like he’s going to come at me again. I raise the baton in one hand as if I’m going to club a baby seal and say to Larry in a low-pitched, threatening yet equally cheesy Irish dialect: “If ya take one mure stip boyo, I’ll baahsh yer feckin head in. “

Larry seemed very aware that those words were straight from Royce to Larry. Royce was one surprised, scared and livid actor boy at that point. Larry prudently decided that with Royce all riled up (not to mention brandishing a police baton in his hand) it would be best to follow the rest of the scene… as rehearsed.

When I got offstage, I confronted Larry (without the baton). He assured me that it was okay because Irish directory guy had told him to improvise the fight… to bring a new fresh quality to the scene. I decided two things immediately. First, Larry was a drunk AND an idiot. Second, I was going to have words with Irish Director Guy.

During the interval, Irish Director Guy and I had a frank, workmanlike discussion (you see, I CAN be diplomatic in my prose) about stage combat. The discussion centered on the idea that one should never change a stage fight routine WITHOUT INFORMING ALL OF THE ACTORS INVOLVED AND REHERSING THE FUCKING THING!!!

I actually felt kind of bad after the fact. Irish Director Guy was really a big, addled Celtic teddy bear… very nice man but one pint of Guinness short of a night out at the pub. He almost cried after our little fight scene debriefing. But, “truth be told”, as they say in the old sod, the man had no business directing a play.

Now, what in the hell was I writing about. Oh okay…

In the cast was a young man by name of Alec Harrington. Alec was 18 years old and played a young convict that was new to the prison and was by all appearances about to become the 1920’s Irish equivalent of a prison bitch.

Alec was actually a very talented actor and a very bright and witty guy. Although only a senior in high school, he looked and comported himself like a 30 year old. In addition, and in an effort to grow to a point in this piece, Alec was the son or none other than Michael Harrington. Mr. Harrington, for those of you who do not recognize the name, was for forty years, until his death in 1989 arguably the leading Socialist writer and thinker in the United States.

At the time, I was a Liberal, and in the heyday of my “I’m an artist, so give me my fair share of your wealth you fat bourgeois pigs” period. I was the kind of guy who was incensed when Regan cut the funding for National Public Television. The government MUST subsidize the arts and artists… especially me.

Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool to hang with Alec. He was fun and interesting to talk with and the fact that his father was a nationally known Socialist icon was a definite plus.

One evening, as Alec and I were having a beer-soaked discussion about life, the universe and everything, the discussion turned to politics and the fine points of Socialism. I confessed with some chagrin that I was and would probably always be an elitist and would never make a good, pure Socialist. Alex did not miss a beat when he said. “Oh, we don’t want to give power to the masses, we want to lead and take care of them.”

Hold the phone!!!
Say what???
Warning, Will Robinson, Doctor Smith!!!

How naïve I was. What an amazing turning point in my social, political and historical point of view that conversation proved to be. This was my political “road to Damascus”… my Socialist “dark night of the soul”… my statist “rock bottom, it’s time to enter a Libertarian 12 step program”, my inner-city black woman “no more, sister-friend… I’m walkin’. I ain’t takin’ no more of his Socialist bullshit, nuh-huh”. … Sorry, you get the idea.

You see, I always believed all of the “power to the people” stuff the Left bandied about. I thought they trusted “the people”. You know… like in “We the people…” and “government by the consent of the governed”. I really believed in that "We can all do it together" World War II poster shit.

And, just like that, I got it.

No friends… it’s not “power TO the people”, it’s “use the people for political power”. The masses are always going to be helpless, clueless and easily led so… it’s imperative that kind, honest, altruistic, caring (not to mention really smart) people like us Socialists (or fill in your favorite authoritarian political system)… who really have their best interests at heart be in the lead.

Now, will the congregation please rise and say: “IT’S FOR THEIR OWN GOOD.”

Amen. You may be seated.

The fact that we few, we lucky few (thank you Will) get to be GOVERNING ELITES in the game is just a bonus. Okay, it’s a sweet bonus, I’ll grant you that… but we’re really servants for the greater public good. And if you believe that I’ve got a beautiful, compliant, intelligent Russian bride for you at

Call me old fashioned, but I want my human avarice and greed out where I can see it. And capitalism works for this quite nicely. The cards are on the table. People are working for themselves and their loved ones. They join together voluntarily in groups, naturally sized and populated to do the job. The make stuff. They create wealth. That’s why it’s called “making money”.

And here’s the magical part…

They help others in the process even if they’re assholes, in spite of their assholiness. Because my friends, it’s not a zero-sum game. Wealth begets wealth… for everyone who’s willing to work. Now, it’s not some neat and tidy system. It can be messy. You have to trust people to succeed or fail. You’ve heard it before; Capitalism is a system that thrives on and naturally promotes equality of opportunity, not outcome. Some people based on their talent, drive, determination and (let's be honest) dumb luck, are going to do better than others. Some people are just not going to do well and be successful no matter what. And God knows, some people should NEVER direct a play

Socialists hate that whole messy part. No one should suffer and fail in life. Heaven forbid, it would make these elitist social engineers feel bad. And nobody wants people that are that benevolent and caring about the masses to feel bad. It just isn’t right.

And the high irony soars when socialists call free-market capitalists “arrogant”. Let me tell you, people who believe that they can control the ebb and flow of markets with planned economies because they are so bright and well, just so super… Now, that’s some true, high dower arrogance.

When you boil off all of the dogma, the trappings and the common wisdom (all too common and not very wise), all of this “share the wealth” shit is about power, pure and simple. And that power ain’t gonna be shared with the great unwashed.

For some people, like Michael Harrington, it may be truly intended to be beneficent. But remember what they say about good intentions and ultimate destination of highway construction. It is centralized power and control over people’s lives and livelihoods just the same. And it’s all in the name of “the people”.

Uh... If That’s What’s Going On…

Stop the presses! Rekha has a scoop. It seems that the Jessica Lynch rescue story may have been fabricated by the evil Bush (he didn’t win the popular vote, you know…) regime.

Well Rekha, I’m sorry to let you in on it, but this is old news. The Toronto Star and the BBC (Baghdad Broadcasting Company) have already been taken to task for this “story” and have backed down considerably from their initial claims of a hoax. Check out this, this, and this.

All wars need their tales of heroism, and Americans got the perfect one in the daring military rescue of 19-year-old Private First Class Jessica Lynch from a hospital bed in Iraq.

It had everything a made-for-television story needs (and NBC has one in the works): Young, vulnerable female stranded in enemy territory. Bold self-sacrificing U.S. troops in bid to save her life. Even a civilian of the enemy country - the Iraqi lawyer who put himself at risk to tip them off to her whereabouts - rewarded with asylum and a book deal.

Oooooh, Rrrrrekha… the sarcasm drips from your pen like the blood of innocent Iraqi children from the bayonet on an American M16. God, you hate the United States, don’t you. In your worldview our virtues are all vices, our success and prosperity are stolen goods ripped from the hands of poor and the dispossessed.

There's only one problem: What actually happened may be a far cry from what you've been told. According to reports first in the Toronto Star and later on the BBC and ABC Nightly News, whatever the military believed, there never was a need for the April 1 raid on the Nasiriyah hospital.

Rekha, again… you are behind the curve here. You depend on your readers being ignorant of world events and dependent upon you to spoon-feed it to them. The Internet and the Blogosphere are wonderful things. They are changing the very dynamic of journalism. Do you find this scary Rekha?

You should.

I read about 20 rightist and leftist blogs regularly. Some of these bloggers are (or were) professional journalists. Some are simply eloquent, intelligent, well-informed and thoughtful people. Most of them are (except for tip jars on their sites) unpaid.

Be afraid Rekha.

Iraqi forces had fled it nearly two days earlier while U.S. forces planned their action. Iraqi doctors say Lynch was not being held against her will when troops swarmed in with four helicopter gunships, blasting through 12 locked doors, trashing equipment, handcuffing patients and medical staff. Not only was there no enemy fire against them, but hospital staff had tried to deliver Lynch in an ambulance to American troops nearly two days earlier and were forced to retreat after being fired on.

Now, wait a minute. Pvt. Lynch was “not being held against her will…”! The Army was acting on THE BEST INTELLIGENCE THEY HAD regarding Pvt. Lynch, her condition and whereabouts. Yeah, those Delta Force troops were just having a field day smashing stuff, shootin’ off guns. Yahoo!!!… that’s what it’s all about, baby, smashin’ shit up…shooting at ambulances…

So “whatever they believed, there was never a need…” Let’s see Rekha… what would your reaction have been if they had known about Private Lynch being alive in that hospital and the Army did NOTHING. Hmmmm how would your column read… “female soldiers second class status and the tragic, short life of Jessica Lynch”… or… “first the Air Force Academy rapes and now this. Women face sexual assault and death in the US Armed Services”.

I'm going to guess that NOTHING the Bush Administration, the Defense Department, the Republican Party, Libertarians like myself think, propose or do will EVER satisfy your postmodern, cultural relativist, Transnational progressivist, socialist sensibilities. The war in Iraq was an incredible success. We are adjusting to and making changes to handle the aftermath. And what do you find…? The Jessica Lynch "hoax" story via the Toronto Star... via COX News... Via the BBC...

Other pieces of the Lynch story already have morphed several times since the initial report that she was wounded by gunfire and stabbing when her unit, the 507th Maintenance Company, was ambushed after getting lost near Nasiriyah on March 23. Other U.S. troops were killed in that incident.

All very, very suspicious isn’t it Rekha? Or… just the fog of war… the media releasing the story before they had hard information to report? No, that couldn’t possibly be it.

Early intelligence reports said Lynch took part in a gunfight and had been stabbed to death. She was admitted to the hospital suffering from a head wound, several fractures and a spinal injury, but her injuries are now said to have not been life-threatening, and may have resulted from falling out of her vehicle. Lynch's family has said they were not combat-related. The commander at a German military hospital where Lynch was taken after the raid said there were no wounds consistent with gunshots. Yet the hospital spokesman later contradicted that and said gunshots may have fractured her arm and leg.

Yes… she just “fell out of her vehicle”. That is of course, after it came under attack. Those poor Iraqi victims wouldn’t shoot at our people… oh no.

You don’t have to “take a bullet” to receive the Purple Heart Rekha. If the enemy shoots at your vehicle and you are wounded, you are wounded in battle. And the last reports from the Ramstein Air Base Hospital in Germany (not a German hospital Rekha… time to whip your researchers), indicated that the gunshots were small caliber pistol bullet wounds that were initially misdiagnosed.

I’m sure what you are implying is true, Rekha. The US Government is lying to us about Pvt. Lynch’s wounds. Yep, it’s all a big conspiracy… black ops… just like JFK’s assassination and Roswell. Desperate times for Liberals require desperate conspiricy theories...

The government has kept Lynch from the press, saying she can't remember what happened.

Rekha, the way that you phrased this is very important. Do you have any evidence that the government has kept Lynch from the press. Is she trying to get your version of the truth out? Is she being held against her will? Or… is she choosing to avoid the press…?

"The medical team that cared for Lynch at the [Iraqi] hospital . . . is only now beginning to appreciate how grand a myth was built around the four hours the U.S. raiding party spent with them early on April Fools" Day," the Star reported on May 5.

The Star interviewed a businessman near the hospital who said he had told troops before the raid that the Iraqi military had fled. What especially bothered the hospital staff, it said, is that while most accounts depicted her treatment as brutal, they provided Lynch attentive care. They gave her the special bed (which was destroyed in the U.S. raid) and assigned her a nurse who treated Lynch like her child, and feed her special food. Doctors there operated on her leg, installing three platinum plates that were in demand by Iraqi patients. After the raid, an Iraqi doctor said they were visited and thanked by a U.S. military doctor.

The Toronto Star has had a decidedly anti-American editorial stance in this Iraqi war thing Rekha. They are not exactly unbiased. I READ the Toronto Star piece and it’s a regurgitation of the BBC “investigation” via the Cox News Service.

It's easy to see how, in the confusion of war, bad information gets around. The important thing is to correct it as soon as possible. But the Pentagon is refusing to say what really happened, and one official even suggested that reporters pursuing the true story should have better things to do.

The response to my questions from Maj. Brad Lowell of the Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. was a terse, "We're aware of the articles but we're not commenting." White House Press spokesman Ari Fleischer told Cox Newspapers he hadn't seen the reports and wouldn't comment.

Not even a denial.

Well… if they’re not responding, then the assertion has got to be true… right? Could it be that they were unprepared for the question and did not want to answer off the cuff? Could it possibly be that they did not want to dignify such a far fetched story?

In a follow-up story on the BBC Web site, a Pentagon official denied the Pentagon was responsible for putting out misinformation, and says it never released a report about Lynch. Most news stories about Lynch and her "rescue" have cited unnamed military officials.

From the White House and Pentagon's point of view, maybe the truth doesn't matter. Lynch is safe, the war is over and remains popular at home.

Yes, YOU are the guardian of the TRUTH, Rekha.

But if this story is wrong and left uncorrected, then you have to wonder how many other stories coming out of the war, big and small, are false.

If, if, if… Yeah, I’ve got to wonder. You’ve cast some way serious doubt here Rekha. Maybe we didn’t really win. Maybe the entire operation was a failure and all of the coalition forces are dead or captured. Maybe Saddam Hussein is still in power and it’s all a plot to keep the American public from finding out the horrible truth.

Rekha, you are one desperate Liberal. Everything went wrong for you and right for the US (and the Iraqi people, by the way) and you just can’t handle it.

Setting the record straight should take nothing away from Lynch, who has been used to argue everything from the readiness/unreadiness of women for combat, to the brutality of Saddam's army.

Oh no… Pvt. Lynch has been USED!!! Let’s take nothing away from that PAWN… that poor little girl. Just like your heroine St. Rachel (the flat) Corrie.

Her story is poignant enough on its own. As a young woman of modest means, she followed the route to a college education taken by thousands in her situation by enlisting, and could easily have paid with her life.

Boo-friggin-hoo. Here it is again… class warfare… injustice. Private Lynch is not a soldier… she’s a victim. (By the way, other than white, male, well-to-do Republicans, who’s not a victim on your planet, Rekha?) This poor girl-child just wanted to get an education and somebody shoved an M16A3 in her hand. Rekha, that’s the deal. If you join the National Guard, the Reserves or ROTC, you AGREE TO SERVE YOUR COUNTRY IF NEEDED. Jessica Lynch, an adult female made this decision.

Readers of the New York Times were jolted by revelations that stories filed by 27-year-old reporter Jayson Blair were false. But the falsifications of one young reporter pale in severity compared to the Pentagon and White House participating in spreading a false story, then letting it go uncorrected - if that's what's going on.

You offer NO evidence that the Pentagon and the White House intentionally spread a false story. You just say it and let it hang there in the air like a greasy flatus. And I love the last bit of cover Rekha… “… if that’s what’s going on.” Just an afterthought… an escape hatch for your journalistic languor. Hey, I’m just writing for Iowans. I don’t have to be current… or accurate. Just open the door… toss in a grenade … walk away and get my pay check.

Hey…now I know why you’re here in Iowa.