Friday, June 30, 2006

Report from Kabul: America is being Bush-whacked in Afghanistan — and at home too

About five of us visiting Americans were sitting around our guesthouse dining room table in Kabul last night, talking about what we had seen and done that day.

“I went to a school started by residents in the poorest part of Kabul,” someone said. “It was very inspiring.”

“I went to the headquarters of a NGO that is having a major effect on opium eradication by helping the farmers grow and market other crops,” said someone else.

“I visited an imam who taught a co-ed school under the Taliban,” I said. “The Taliban hated him for educating girls but they couldn’t exactly claim that the imam was anti-Muslim because he was one of the top Islamic scholars in the Middle East.” This was an incredibly brave stand to take back then. “He said that all people and all religions need to learn how to live in peace.”

“I went to an American ex-pat bar and had two beers,” said someone else. That bar was the only place in Kabul where I had ever felt scared. It was a lovely place – with a garden straight out of the Arabian Nights. Plus it had satellite TV, a swimming pool and CLEAN TOILETS. It was the ideal place to be on a hot Kabul summer night – except that the whole street in front of the bar was patrolled by armed guards with sub-machineguns just in case some Afghans might want to focus their anger on American targets.

Someone else in our group, an American health worker, was debating whether or not to visit a clinic in a province about one hour outside of Kabul. “The people there really want me to come,” she said, “but getting there would be very dangerous. There’s a one-in-ten chance I’d be killed.”

We spent the next hour debating whether or not the health worker should go. “Do you have any children who would be effected if you die?” She did.

“Will the project suffer if you don’t go?” It would.

“Can you buy a burka and hide in the back seat until you get there?” She could. But it would be very undignified.

“Do you want to go?” She did.

“Would you MIND being killed?” She would.

Why would “they” want to kill her? Because she is an American. Why do “they” hate Americans so much? Because George Bush is a sadistic bastard who has killed over 700 Afghans in the last month and has a foreign policy GUARENTEED to un-do all the good work of Afghanistan’s reconstruction efforts and turn Afghanistan into a mini-Iraq within a year if we in America don’t arrest Bush for high crimes – forget the misdemeanors! – against our country NOW! Like the Good Germans should have done with Adolph Hitler. But didn’t.

Seeing what Bush has done to this poor country is horrifying me.

“If that man had sat down and DELIBERATELY concocted a plan to throw the entire world into chaos,” said one of our dining-room-table scholars, “Bush couldn’t have been more successful.” This man is a danger to the helpful, hard-working Afghans on our side. He is a danger to all Americans working in Afghanistan to stem the influence of the foreign-trained terrorists who prey on this country. And he is a danger to American troops.

But somehow Afghanistan will survive all this. It always has. However, the country most threatened to be destroyed by the madness of George Bush is AMERICA.

George Washington said, “Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation.” George Bush is not a good man. Let’s stop associating America with his name. The alternative? Kabul – and Washington – won’t be safe for Americans any time soon.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Nightmare in Kabul: The Soviets, dysentery and dial-up instead of DSL!

I arrived in Kabul three days ago. Last night I came down with dysentery. Not a pretty picture. Very undignified. Not since I was a hippie in Mexico in 1965 have I had such a memorable relationship with a bathroom.

But the worst part of all was that I couldn't just pop down to the internet café.

On April 28, 1978, the Soviet Union ruthlessly invaded Afghanistan. It was just like Pearl Harbor here in Kabul -- lots of shock and awe. Then after the dust subsided over the rubble, approximately 12,000 of Afghanistan's teachers, doctors, engineers, judges, writers, lawyers, etc. were marched off to Abu Ghraib, er, I mean Pul-e-Charkhi prison where they were tortured and buried alive in long, narrow pits because the Soviets didn't want to waste bullets on them.

At first I took Po Chai pills – Hong Kong's equivalent of Alka Seltzer – for my "dilemma". It usually works at home but would it work here? Nope. No luck.Pepto-Bismo? Imodium? Nope.The Soviets ruthlessly hurt people here in 1978. It was like they had an unstoppable thirst to inflict pain. Not just your run-of-the-mill mass slaughter. They wanted to hear their victims scream first. These people were the evil Hell-spawn from Hell. What's with that? No wonder the Afghans resisted. You would have too.

"Drink plenty of water, Jane." Yeah right. It was the freaking WATER that did this to me in the first place. 3 am. 4 am. 5 am. Yikes!

For ten long, brutal years, the Soviets slammed Afghanistan with an iron fist, finally leaving the country in shambles, with its excellent base of educated professionals and its high-quality infrastructure totally destroyed. Then there was civil war. Then there was the Taliban. Then that idiot George Bush thought it would be a good thing to hit what was left of the rubble with Shock and Awe. Good one, George. Ignore the fact that the Taliban who hid Osama bin Ladin came from Pakistan and just join the line of blood-thirsty bullies waiting to kick Afghans while they are down.

Finally, around 5 am, I broke down and broke out the Ciprofloxicin that I'd brought from Berkeley just in case. Dr. Lovett? God bless you! Now I'm finally well enough to stumble off to the internet café!

Afghanistan today is a sad place. How the people here have survived 25 years of absolute horror and can still walk and chew gum at the same time is a mystery to me. 80% of the country can't read or write – and yet there is hope. The people here have a tremendous work ethic, an contagious enthusiasm and a drive to make their lives better and to find a future for their children if not for themselves.

You cannot BELIEVE how slow the internet connections here are. I can play half a game of Free Cell solitaire between each screen change. Like Afghanistan itself, the internet connections are slow. However, the connection IS being made!

PS: You don't have dysentery," said an American staying at our guesthouse. "You merely have 'The Taliban's Revenge'. But dysentery is a major problem here, especially for babies. The mortality rate for infants in Afghanistan is 16%. And the maternal mortality rate is 16.7%.

"One in ten Afghan mothers die in childbirth? "With over a one-in-ten chance of dying in childbirth, why would anyone even WANT to get pregnant?"

"Jane, sometimes they don't have any choice." Oh. Right.
Surprise, surprise: In Afghanistan, Pres. Karzai is a GOOD GUY!

Things are sometimes not what they seem. Sometimes if you take a closer look you discover that what you thought was a frog is actually a prince.

Has Afghanistan’s President Karzai been kissed by a beautiful princess lately? Or is he still just a frog?

Yesterday I had the extreme good fortune to have tea with a member of the Afghan national parliament. This MP is one of the most quotable lawmakers I’ve ever heard. “Frankly,” she said, “I LIKE America. I don’t want America to leave us alone.” However, there are many things she doesn’t like about America such as their propensity to tamper with other countries’ cultures. For instance, when she was asked to visit America and the U.S. State Department was filling out her visa application, they asked her if she had ever committed a felony. For her, this was a big insult. And then they asked her to take off her headscarf for the visa photo and she refused. “If they want to invade my privacy that much, I will stay home. Wouldn’t you?” Actually, no. I’d sold out and filled out the form.

“America gives us millions of dollars,” said the MP, “but they also want to interfere with our personalities – who we basically are. America’s big mistake in this country is that they don’t have contact with the people here.” For instance, there are misunderstandings regarding Islam. “Afghanistan is a deeply Muslim country and many Afghans think that Americans endanger Islam.”

“Afghans hate Bush when he messes with their religion. They hate their religion messed with.” I guess Americans would feel that way too if someone came in and forced us to practice Christianity wrong. Oops. My bad. George Bush already does that.

Another problem facing Muslims in Afghanistan is that the Qur’an is written in Arabic and, according to the MP, “the Qur’an is misused because no one translates it.” That’s like what happened back in the European Middle Ages when the Bible was in Latin, only the priests knew what it said and they wouldn’t tell the people the truth – that Jesus was actually a liberal! “The people need to know what the Qur’an actually says,” so that it can’t be twisted and used to the advantage of false religionists.

At this point in our conversation, the electricity failed.

Almost every home in Kabul has little fluorescent light bulbs hooked up to their very own solar panels – but I digress.

“Many people don’t realize that we have a very strong parliament here,” said the MP. And the people have very strong Constitutional rights. “I have one cousin who likes Americans, one cousin who likes the Talib and one cousin who likes Karzai. This is good. Let’s get all these factions together and hold discussions. And stop the fighting.” Sounds good to me.

Then I asked the MP what she thought about President Karzai. “In America,” I told her, “many progressives don’t trust him. They think he’s just a Yes-man for the oil companies and George Bush. I trust your opinion. What do you think of him?” Her answer really surprised me.

“President Karzai is actually very popular in Afghanistan. I meet with him at least once a week. He is a good person. He’s kind and a good Muslim. He respects the elders. He’s accessible, hard-working and is actually doing a good job!” I didn’t know that.

“When Parliament recessed last week, Karzai asked all the MPs to go back to our towns and villages and ask the people why they are not happy with the government and the U.S.” Apparently, he really wants to know what his constituents are thinking.

“But,” I replied, “what about Stewart Nusbaumer’s recant article at that stated if America pulled out, Karzai would be deposed within 24 hours – and that he has no power outside of Kabul?”

The MP laughed. “24 hours? That long? He’d be gone in a minute! The fact that he is even still ALIVE is a major achievement, let alone still in power.” She said that the warlords here hate Karzai and because they are so powerful, he has to accommodate them. For instance, they hold posts in his cabinet. “Afghanistan has to increase the Parliament’s power in order to decrease the power of the warlords.”

[I guess the MP hadn’t yet heard that we’re not supposed to call them “warlords” any more. They have hired a PR firm and are working on their image. Repeat after me: “The warlords are NOT warlords.” Yeah right.]

Bottom line on Karzai? He’s really a good guy! I trust this MP’s opinion. If she says Karzai is a prince, I believe her. Okay. Karzai’s not a frog.

However, if Karzai is going to remain in power in Afghanistan, he needs to follow the warlords’ example in one respect. He needs to dump the frog suit and get better PR.

PS: Yesterday we went shopping on Chicken Street and I bought my very own burka. “Afghanistan’s Next Top Model” here I come!

PPS: Tang orange breakfast drink is very popular here.

PPS: One American ex-pat I talked with has an interesting theory about the whereabouts of Osama bin Ladin. “He’s not in Afghanistan any more. He’s gone off to the Sudan.” Why? “Because in order to train Al Qaeda recruits, they gotta have a chance to practice killing people.”

“But that would mean that Al Qaeda would be allied with the Janjaweed,” I protested, “and the Janjaweed are allied with George Bush.”

The ex-pat just smiled and nodded his head.

Friday, June 23, 2006

India, Pakistan, Afghanistan & Iran: Sibling rivalry rears its ugly head

While in Afghanistan, I’m trying to get a handle on what’s going on here. “Give it up, Jane. I don’t think even the Afghans themselves have any idea.” BTW, the residents of Afghanistan are called “Afghans”. “Afghanis” is what you call their dollars.

There are a whole bunch of players in this part of the world and they are all competing with each other. It’s like sibling rivalry in a very large (and dysfunctional) family. Iran, India and Pakistan are like the big brothers and sisters, trying to be the bosses and the know-it-alls.

Then we got Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics, who are like the little sisters and brothers. And like little brothers and sisters everywhere, they are tired of being ordered around -- but are not quite big enough to prevent it from happening.

What is happening in this area reminds me of my childhood back in the 1950s, in a very conservative Republican town where divorce was a big no-no. “If you get divorced,” my mother’s lawyer told her, “you will never be invited to parties again!” So my mother and father lived in the same two-bedroom house for ten years and didn’t speak to each other.

My sister was always trying to beat me up. I was always trying to hide, escape or fight back. This area reminds me of that.

But as much as me and my sister fought, the bottom-line cause of our conflicts was always my parents – we were always vying with each other for the love (and power) they had taken away from us.

In this area, the “parents” are definitely represented by the Bush bureaucracy in America, the ultimate parental (read “colonial”) power.

“So now that we’ve made all those analogies and we are all clear on who is the big sister, parent and child,” I asked my Afghan friend, “then can you please explain to me what everyone is getting OUT of all this sibling rivalry? When India, Pakistan and Iran meddle in this area, what exactly is it that THEY want? Power? Influence? Prestige? Money? What?”

“I don’t think even THEY know what they want,” replied my friend. “Plus there are factions within each of these larger countries that are working at cross-purposes too.”

“Do these larger countries WANT Afghanistan to fail?” Did my sister WANT me to fail? Duh, yeah.

“No. I don’t think they want that. They just want to be able to boss Afghanistan around.” Yep, that definitely sounds like MY big sister. “And Afghanistan doesn’t like being bossed around.” And that definitely sounds like me.

“So. What does the Bush bureaucracy want?”

“I don’t think they even know what they want either.” And that sounds like my parents.

We’re screwed.

PS: We talked with the head of the Afghanistan Ministry of Women’s Affairs today. “We need a special budget just for women,” she said. If the Bush bureaucracy is REALLY looking for a way to strengthen Afghanistan – and not just make a profit selling guns – then this is it! Guns and armies have proven again and again to weaken Afghanistan. But when money is donated to strengthen women, civilization and community have been strengthened too.

With a minuscule budget and people often working for free, the Ministry for Women’s Affairs has opened over ONE THOUSAND local women’s councils. If you compare this with the billions of dollars that have been spent on weapons yet have failed to bring stability to the region, you definitely get more bang for your buck.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Kabul, Afghanistan: The best place for people-watching in the entire world!

There is so much going on in Kabul that I don't even know where to start. "How come all the burkas here are light blue?" I asked my Afghan friend. (Burkas are decorative bedsheets with filigree eye-holes worn by many Afghan women when out in public.)

"Because the color repels the heat?" Nope. Gotta come up with something better than that. These are WOMEN we are talking about. If they were the boss of things, burkas would come in every color in the world -- or, better yet, they wouldn't have to be worn at all.

The teenager sitting next to me at the internet cafe looked like your typical Afghan kid -- until his cell phone rang and he answered, "What up, fool?"

"Are you by any chance from the States?

"I live in Falls Church, Virginia. I'm here for the summer, visiting relatives." He keeps in touch with his friends in America via MySpace.

On the news last night, they said that the "Taliban" burned down yet another primary school. The news guy said that several Qur'ans were also burned. The news guy was all indignant. My Afghan friend was indignant too. "Muslims all over the world," said my friend, "were infuriated when Mohammed [PBUH] was made fun of in Danish cartoons but here are these self-proclaimed religious nuts financed by Pakistan burning Qur'ans and nobody cares."

At the Ministry of Health we learned that 70% of the people in Afghanistan suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of over 25 years of poverty and war. 70% of the country has "issues"? This place is a people-watching paradise!

Then you got the tribal costumes and outfits and hats. And the donkeys. And the bicyclist boys with their burka-wearing mothers perched on the back wheel. And the seamstresses with treadle machines sewing clothes and the hillsides covered with adobe box houses that leave you wondering, "How do people get UP there?" because there are no roads -- or water pipes either.

Then we drove through "Old Kabul". It was a gigantic flea market from Hell! Scrap metal like you wouldn't believe, over a mile of shops that used to be container-ship containers and interesting-looking men selling used tires, used bicycles, used tools and lots of used STUFF scrounged from bombed-out buildings. "Stop the car!" I yelled. "I GOT to take a picture!" This was my kind of place. My friend Joe Thompson woulda gone crazy here, sorting through all those tons and tons and tons of junk.

Look at that! A whole herd of goats just cut through downtown traffic. They drive in Kabul like they were inside a video game so those goatherds were GOOD.

Last night we heard loud explosions and screams. I ran to the window. This is it! We are actually under attack! Nah. It was a party.

The streets are rocky. The people are dirt poor. The embassies are hidden behind anti-rocket barriers. There are men everywhere and very few women. All the buildings are either bombed out, bullet-riddled or are being rebuilt from the bombs. And the faces of the men on the street are endlessly fascinating. Endlessly fascinating. As a devoted people-watcher, I thoroughly approve of Kabul!

PS: What is truly sad about Kabul is that, as my friend Matt said, "You go to Guatemala and it's dirt poor from the wars -- but it's always been dirt poor." But thirty years ago, Kabul was a modern, booming metropolis and now it looks like a cross between bombed-out Dresden and a hillside slum outside of Rio de Janero.

Bright spot: "Future Generations," a NGO, has recently helped a section of Kabul to organize, get sewage, get street signs and even get out the vote. People in Kabul are energetic and willing to roll up their sleeves whenever there is NGO money available to fund projects instead of weapons.

And anyone wanting to donate to a school in Kabul for girls who didn't get an education under the Taliban, please go to Thanks.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Taliban did it: If ANYTHING goes wrong in Afghanistan, we know who to blame!

We left Dubai this morning and finally arrived in Kabul after flying over a desert as big as New Mexico and a mountain range as big as New Mexico too. And for two whole hours, EVERYTHING we flew over was either khaki-colored or tan.

Kabul itself is like that Sesame Street "What's wrong with this picture" game. Kabul is just like the other cities except...except for the ocassional bombed-out building, the tall thick razor-wire-topped walls that surround every home and the absense of women on the streets. Little things are missing or seem out of place. Good roads are missing. People are missing a leg....

Otherwise the city looks pretty much like Tijuana -- one-storey buildings made out of concrete or adobe bricks. And the whole place, like the mountains around it, is tan.

"Five million people live here. And the place has constantly been invaded for the last 5,000 years." What for? If you had a choice, wouldn't you want to invade a place that was more accessible? And more green?

"I heard that the Taliban killed 30 people last week," I told my Afghani friend.

"The Taliban?" he replied. "They blame everything here on the Taliban. There are warlords, corrupt officials, tribal fueds, drug lords, bandits and private armies all over Afghanistan but whenever anyone gets shot at or blown up, Bush and the American media blame it on the Taliban.

So far, the "Taliban" doesn't seem to be a problem in Kabul. I've been here eight whole hours and haven't seen anyone gunned down or blown up yet. "But there are a lot of tensions running just below the surface here," said one Afghani.

Another Afghani stated, "But there is a lot of hope here too." Which road will the future Afghanistan go down? The road of hope? Or the one we will have to blame on the Taliban....

PS: Just at this moment, a member of Parliment who lives about an hour away from Kabul rushed in the door. "The police station near my house was attacked last night. Guns and rockets hit it for about forty minutes. At first I was trying to figure out what to do and then I realized there was nothing I could do to stop it so I went back to sleep."

"Was it the Taliban?" I asked.

"There are very few Taliban left in Afghanistan," said the MP. "You want a message to America? Tell them this! DON'T HELP PAKISTAN. Pakistan trains the people who attack us. Pakistan arms the attackers. Pakistan finances the attackers with money it gets from America. The people who attacked the police station last night were NOT Taliban. There are very few Taliban. These people also burned down an orphanage. Who are 'They'? 'They' are the Americans. The Americans did it -- by giving money and support to Pakistan. Please tell people in America this -- and ask them to stop!"

I'll try.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lost luggage: Was I in Iraq this morning or not?

As you may know, I am on my way to Afghanistan, with a 24-hour stop-over in the ultra-modern city of Dubai. So far, it looks a lot like Los Angeles.

I am writing this from an internet cafe/bowling alley in a shopping center while eating sushi and Movenpick ice cream. The last 48 hours have been rough -- most of it spent on airplanes watching inflight movies. Emirates Air had a choice of 150 movies. I was in hog heaven.

But as we flew over the former USSR, a handful of Central Asian Republics and the Caspian Sea, my thoughts turned to oil. Then, on our way to Dubai, there came a point in time when I realized that we could be over the airspace of Iraq. Then I KNOW we spent a long time in Iran's airspace.

How bizarre. To think that commercial airliners are THAT above-it-all. At 30,000 feet, it doesn't really matter to anyone on our plane whether or not there's a war going on down below and people are getting blown up even as I watch Big Mama's House 2 and Memoirs of a Geisha and Failure to Launch....

PS: Somewhere between Delta and Emirates Air, my lugggage got lost. But E.A. gave me a free toothbrush.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

AT&T: Your world delivered -- to the neo-cons & the NSA

My internet connection just crashed for the sixth time today. And every third message I write gets deleted by accident. And my address book keeps disappearing. It's totally annoying. This didn't happen (as often) when Pacific Bell/SBC owned my DSL provider. Maybe AT&T doesn't like me, ya think?

AT&T's new slogan is, "Your world...delivered!"

Maybe AT&T is too busy delivering OUR WORLD to the neo-cons, the Bush bureaucracy and the NSA to get my internet connection right.

Hey, AT&T! That's a great slogan! Honesty in advertising!
Painting my kitchen yellow, orange & red while contemplating the 40% drop in Christianity in America

I do some of my best thinking while performing mindless activity. Solitaire is good. But painting the kitchen is better. Since I do most of my blogging from my "home office" -- the kitchen table -- I decided to go way out there and paint the kitchen yellow, orange and red. Me and my neighbor, young Ta'mar, set to work. I wanna live life on the edge!

As I was painting the area over the kitchen sink, it hit me. "In the last six years, over 40% (FORTY PERCENT) of Americans have stopped being Christians!

How can that be?

Anyone who supports the bloody massacre in Iraq, the casual way the Bush bureaucracy sends our wonderful troops into harm's way and the greed and corruption streaming out of the White House cannot POSSIBLY follow the teachings of Our Lord -- or dare to call themselves Christians. What is going on in Iraq and in Washington DC in Christ's name is BLASPHEMY.

PS: All the White House can do is scream, "Gay marrage! Abortion! Islam!" It may fool some of the people some of the time, but God knows what is what. God knows. God judges. And may God have mercy.

PPS: The new kitchen looks really good.

The Bush bureaucracy: Definitely NOT "Government at the Speed of Thought"!

I've just been reading Bill Gates' book, "Business at the Speed of Thought." Gates talks about using computer programs to increase business and industrial efficiency by making knowledge of what is happening both within a business and with its customer and supplier base available to decision-makers so that businesses can make informed choices based on solid input. It's an amazing concept. It's an amazing book.

"Business is going to change more in the next ten years than it has in the last 50," stated Gates.

The new changes are all about "how can tech help you run your business better?" and "how information access will alter the lifestyle of consumers and their expectations of business... " Consumers will come to expect the speed of response they need from a well-run business.

A flow of "quick, tangible knowledge" will allow modern businesses to make positive and effective changes quickly and efficiently, allowing for corrections in failed concepts and practices to happen within hours instead of days, weeks or years.

Innovative changes can be made overnight when everyone in a company has access to knowledge, works as a team and reports errors up and down the line as soon as they happen.

Reading this book almost made me cry.

I thought of the speed and efficiency of Microsoft -- where every employee in the company has access to Bill Gates if they need to tell him when something is going wrong so that it can be fixed IMMEDIATELY.

Then I thought about George Bush, who listens to no one -- except voices in his head purporting to be God -- and who fires anyone who dares to disagree with him. And we mere peon voters are allowed no input at all. Diebold sees to that.

The failures in Iraq go on and on and on. If Gates's "digital nervous system" had been running that fiasco, it would never have gotten off the ground -- let alone trudged from disaster to disaster for over three years.

The prototype would have been scrapped.

And Bush's other failed projects such as the gutting of FEMA, the Katrina disaster response, down-sizing America's economy, the 9-11 incompetencies, the illegal NSA wiretapping, the global warning cover-up and "No Child Left Unexploited" would have been scrapped too.

Gates pays attention to statistics and consumer input. The Bush bureaucracy pays attention to nothing.

Gates is open to new ideas, innovation and change. Bush is stuck back in the Dark Ages, when the lord of the castle ruled the peons by whip and by whim.

Gates hires competent employees. Bush hires brown-nosers.

Gates would never even have considered hiring someone as inefficient and ineffective as Bush. So why are we stuck with him?

I challenge Americans to read Bill Gates's book (if you haven't already), compare the kinds of efficiencies he talks about to what is happening in American government today -- and then make the obvious jump. The Bush bureaucracy is a functional dinosaur that is failing America on a colossal scale. We need to fire everyone in it IMMEDIATELY. There is too much at stake to do otherwise.

We need to start looking at America as a business, not George Bush's personal toy. We need to start considering the very real possibility that America could be run into the ground and fail -- go bankrupt -- if not run right. America needs to be run smoothly and efficiently. We cannot survive Bush's monumental incompetence and secrecy much longer. In these fast-paced modern times, we can't afford a dufus for a CEO. We need to be at the top of our game. We need to encourage insights and input from every citizen. And we need something that we do NOT have now: A well-informed, inovative and flexible "Government at the Speed of Thought".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Madame Jane Predicts: I WILL return from Afghanistan alive

Three months ago, it seemed like going on a fact-finding tour of Afghanistan was a GOOD idea. I wanted to see what an American colony looked like up close so I could point with pride and/or view with alarm. Nobody would let me into the jewel in America's colonial crown -- Iraq -- so I figured I would have to settle for Afghanistan, the Iraq wannabe.

I wanted to see, up close and personal, the money pit where our children's future is being eaten alive. And I also wanted to get a sneak preview of what America under the Bush neo-cons will look like in 20 years. Make that ten years.

Madame Jane can't predict the future without a cheat sheet!

So. I happily applied to go off to Afghanistan with Global Exchange -- including a stop-over in Dubai, the Las Vegas of the Middle East.

Then, a few weeks ago, all hell broke loose in Kabul. "Hundreds of people have been killed in Afghanistan in anti-American riots and conflicts with the Taliban," internet blog headlines screamed (the mainstream press, of course, quoted Bush reassuring us that everything in Afghanistan is JUST FINE -- and it is, as far as he is concerned. Bush loves violence and he is successfully bringing it on).

In the face of all this new danger, should I still go? Sure. SOMEONE has to come back to tell America what is going on in Iraq, er, Afghanistan and how the Bush policy of killing everyone in sight in his colonies isn't working for the rest of us Americans because injustice ALWAYS leads to resistance and true Americans are supposed to be opposed to injustice. It's a flag, Mom and apple pie thing. Bush would not understand.

But, despite all the violence in Afghanistan, I will be perfectly safe on this trip. Why? Because I'm a female and I'm older and no one ever notices me. (If they did, I woulda become a famous writer and been invited to the Yearly Kos -- and to George Bush's trial for treason.) So. I'll be okay.

I'm going to Afghanistan for the last two weeks in June. And I'll bring back a story. And I'll send it to you.

But just in case my prediction is wrong (I'm never wrong!), I did re-write my will. "I want to be buried in the back yard." With my DSL connection by my side....

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cheering for Iran: In the basement of an Oakland mosque this morning, everyone wanted our World Cup team to win!

Iranian-Americans came from all over the San Francisco Bay Area this morning to watch the Iranian soccer team play Mexico in the World Cup tournament. Good grief, what a game! "Mexico is rated the fourth-best team in the world," said the announcer as we all got settled in our folding chairs in the basement of an Iranian-American mosque.

The women's guild sold pancake breakfasts to raise money for the building fund. The kids played games out in the hallway. The teenagers clustered together with their i-pods, text-messaging back and forth among themselves. Everyone was there to seriously cheer for Iran. Except for one lady who was a Mexico fan.

We were all so HOPEFUL as the Iranian defense stopped Mexico cold again and again. There was so much riding on this game. "If only Iran can win at soccer," I said to the person sitting next to me, "then maybe Bush will back off and not try to blow up Tehran like he did with Baghdad." Magical thinking. Yeah right.

Then Mexico scored a point. Then IRAN SCORED A POINT. The basement went wild! Except for the Mexico fan.

For the next 45 edge-of-our-seats minutes, Iran was able to hold Mexico down. But it was slowly becoming obvious that Iran's defensive game was really good but they didn't have a good offense. Sort of like the deal between Iran and Bush. Iran has no intentions of starting anything. But Bush does. And will.

Two-thirds of the way through the game, a child tripped over an extension cord and the screen went black. Nooooo! Turn it back on!

We were all wildly praying for our team to win. 20 minutes left! Mexico scored! What a let-down. I had imagined poor sweet little underdog Iran actually winning this game. But there was still time!

Then Mexico scored again. The Mexican fan went wild! The rest of us slumped in our chairs. But there was still ten minutes left in the game! We could do this! But while Iran's defense still held and they got the ball six or seven times more, they were unable to score and Mexico won.

I was really disappointed but everyone else in the basement was philosophical. Except for the Mexico fan.
No place like home: How to end America's housing shortage

I just got a letter from a friend touring Israel and Palestine. "I LOVED Bethlehem," she wrote. "Every Christian in the world should be required to go there -- just like every Muslim is required to go to Mecca. It has the most holy feeling about it. I sat at the place where Jesus was born and my whole soul was filled with light." Okay. I'll put that on my to-do list. As soon as I win the lottery, I'm there!

"Another thing that amazed me," my friend wrote, "was all the housing that Israel is constructing on the West Bank. It's like nothing I've ever seen! Massive blocs of new housing. Massive. The population of Los Angeles could be housed in these whole mountainsides of housing blocs." And apparently a lot of the population of Los Angeles does live there. "Many of these places are owned by Americans who use them as second homes, flying over once or twice a year to spend time in Jerusalem."

My friend was really impressed with all the new housing starts in the West Bank. And apparently they weren't just trailers and shacks. These were upscale condos like you might see in Beverly Hills. Wow!

"I am serious," wrote my friend. "This is amazing. I've never seen so much new housing. Thousands and thousands and thousands of housing units on hillside after hillside. You have to see it to believe it. I am doing a major jaw-drop here."

But what is even more amazing is the subsidies residents get to live here. "People move here, not because they are Zionists but because the rents are so low. Actually, I think they live there for free. And with subsidized utilities too. And parks and fountains and tot lots. I wanna live here!"

Who pays for all this wonderful housing? The United States. So. I got an idea. Since America's housing program is so successful in Israel, let's ask our government to do the same thing here too.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The "New Strategic Triad": Bush gets ready for the 4th of July!

My friend Carol just e-mailed me regarding a project that Bush and Rummy have been diligently working on for the last six years -- ever since they finally got their hands on America's war toys. Bush and Rummy now OWN the key to the Pentagon's Toys R Us and, believe me, they use it. A lot.

Under the guidance of a man who spent his childhood blowing up frogs with firecrackers, military planners have invented something called the "New Strategic Triad". It's like Shock and Awe on steroids. First you bomb someplace to smithereens. Then you hit them with nuclear bombs. Or, even better, do both at the same time.

I e-mailed Carol back immediately. "You're joking, right?" She was NOT joking. Our President [sic] is getting ready for the Fourth of July bigtime. And bombing Iran is just the warm-up act. Apparently, the "New Strategic Triad" was designed with China and Russia in mind.

According to a member of the U.S. Army War College, "Although the new triad could improve deterrence, the addition of non-nuclear global strike weapons has the potential to blur the line between conventional and nuclear war and to degrade crisis stability."

Degrade crisis stability? Yikes!

As a patriotic American, now I'm all confused. Should I be happy for GWB -- that he is finally in a position to live out his childhood fantasies? Or should I be concerned that allowing our George to play with cherry bombs is a BAD idea because he is too young to be allowed near matches and will probably end up blowing up our back yard?

In either case, happy Fourth of July.
Bolton the hypocrite: With one hand he globalizes & with the other slams the UN

My friend Bill said, "Why does Bush need to bankrupt the U.S.? That's easy. To promote globalization. The World Bank will take control of our economy just like it did in Argentina, Ecuador and half a dozen other countries where the IMF and the World Bank dictated cuts in social programs and spending."

You know, Bill is right. Bush DOES follow a pattern of choosing the interests of globalization over the interests of the United States. Do you know what that means? It means that America is no longer a sovereign nation. It means that Bush is pushing a power agenda that sidesteps -- hell, it LEAPS OVER -- American government.

Isn't that just what John Bolton accuses the UN of doing? Trying to take away America's power -- while all the time he and Bush and Cheney and Condi and Rummy and Rove are secretly trying to drain our country's self-governing capabilities down to the last freaking drop. Does Congress make our decisions any more? We all know that it doesn't. The decisions that govern America today are made by international corporations who then tell our Congress what to do -- and they do it.

So. Here's Mr. Bolton, screaming at the top of his lungs, "I won't allow the United Nations to take over American sovereignty!" Of course he won't. He can't. He's already sold our sovereignty off to globalization -- for 30 pieces of silver.

Moral: Whenever you hear John Bolton (or any other neo-con for that matter) cursing the United Nations for striping America of her rights and freedoms, just substitute "Globalization" or "corporate welfare" or "New World Order" for "the U.N." and you will understand completely how to deal with Mr. Bolton. Try him for treason!

PS: If the NSA is so intent on wiretapping bad guys, they need to GET A WARRANT and wiretap the White House.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

BUSH KNEW: An important link between stolen elections and 9-11

According to respected attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., there are massive amounts of evidence pointing to the fact that John Kerry won the 2004 presidential election.

I'm not up on the factual details but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that Al Gore won the 2000 election as well. Want solid facts? Go to and

The 2000 election was stolen very crudely because election-stealing techniques were not as highly developed as they were in 2004 -- but it was STOLEN all the same. Yet despite all the facts staring Americans in the face that both elections WERE stolen, the perpetrators of this outrage against everything America stands for have been able to get away with one of the biggest, most heinous, most treasonous crimes in American history. How? By telling us again and again that, despite the presence of whole warehouses full of testimony, evidence and databases to the contrary, anybody who believes that the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were stolen is a conspiracy theorist and a crackpot as well.

It's as if you were to catch a criminal standing in your bedroom and going through your purse but you do nothing because the bad guy tells you that you are crazy to think that he is robbing you -- and you believe him!

We Americans are encouraged to not believe our own eyes.

To hell with being called a crackpot. Those elections WERE stolen.

Now that we got that off our chests, let's go on to the next logical step. "Did Bush KNOW that the elections were stolen?"

Get out those donuts again. I'm about to bet you a whole dozen of glazed donuts topped with chocolate sprinkles that BUSH KNEW. Or else he is blind, deaf and stupid -- which he is not.

Next, let's look at human nature. If someone commits a crime, do we thereafter suspect them of being guilty of other similar crimes? Well, yeah. For instance, if a teacher discovers that the lunch money is missing, who gets suspected? The good kid? Or the kid that has stolen before?

And if Bush did indeed plan the theft of America's presidential elections -- one of the most massive and heinous crimes in U.S. history -- then we must face the very real possibility that anyone who is corrupt, power-hungry and evil enough to steal not one but two U.S. elections is also corrupt, power-hungry and evil enough to plan 9-11.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Ashes & diamonds: Ideas on how to protect our savings from Bush's fire sale on the dollar

Back in the 1960s when I was a student at UC Berkeley, I used to sit around the Caffe Mediterraneum on Telegraph Avenue and plot revolution and gossip about what SuperJoel and the Red Rockets were up to. In the last ten years, however, I've been too busy blogging to have time for all that. I NEVER sit around cafes and drink lattes. But today I made an exception and was really glad that I did.

As I was biking past an outdoor cafe on College Avenue, my friend Stephen flagged me down. "Come join us," he called. Hey, they sell organic shade-grown fair trade de-caf. Why not.

Stephen is a jeweler so I grilled him about possible commodities one could buy to protect one's savings in case of inflation. "I'm hearing a lot of rumbling about how a potential economic shipwreck is in the works due to the Bush bureaucracy's horrendous debt and the Federal Reserve's instant-money-by-fiat policies," I said. "What if there is another Great Depression or one of those super-inflations where it takes a wheelbarrow full of dollar bills to buy a loaf of bread? If that happens, what can average Americans like us do now to protect our savings? Would you recommend buying gold?"

"Nope," said Stephen. "Definitely not. While the price of gold may go up and down, its value will always remain the same -- based on what it costs to mine it. This means that even though the speculative price of gold on the market might even reach over $2,000 an ounce, it's never going to be actually WORTH $2,000 an ounce."

Okay. So we missed the gold boat by about three years. "But what about silver?"

"Silver is too uncontrolled. Plus there's too much of it. Nope."

"So. What would you recommend?"

"I myself invest in diamonds." Diamonds are Stephen's best friend? Apparently. "Right now, a top quality graded and certificated diamond sells for $1,150 per carat. You could buy a certified 0.21 to 0.29 carat diamond for around $300." And keep them in a safety deposit box? Or under the mattress....

"But why are diamonds better than gold?"

"Diamonds are highly controlled, Jane. DeBeers rides herd on the price of diamonds like you wouldn't believe. This company is rich beyond your wildest dreams. They OWN the diamond industry. And they only release enough diamonds per year to keep the price steady. There's NO fluctuation in the supply."

"But what if the diamond market crashed too?" I asked.

"Jane, for the diamond market to crash, the world would have to come to an end." Oh. "DeBeers is way above and beyond politics and economics. They live in a whole different sphere."

Moving on to the next question. "Exactly how fluid are diamonds? Suppose I buy diamonds and then the dollar inflates and I want to cash my diamonds in. Are they easy to liquefy?"

"Sure," answered Stephen. "Just put them on Craig's List."

Stephen also told me that if I didn't trust dollars, there was an internet bank called where I could keep my bank deposits in whatever currency I want. Euros are good.

Just then we were joined by my friend Marty who is also interested in the subject of money. But he was very hopeful about the economy's future. "There's not going to be a major depression," he said, "but there WILL be a war on Iran."


"For the same reason there was a war on Iraq." Oil? "Not just to GET their oil," said Martie, "but to keep it from reaching America. Although you and I think that the war on Iraq was disaster and a fiasco, it was a huge success for the oil companies because Iraq's oil production has gone way down." So?

"With Iraq not producing oil and the New Orleans region not able to refine it, oil prices have gone way up. THIS IS A GOOD THING FOR THE OIL COMPANIES. The less oil available, the more they are in control of its price." Wow. Forget about diamonds and gold. We should all buy stock in oil!

I guess Exxon and them have learned well from the DeBeers company. You need to have total control over a commodity if you want to keep the price under YOUR control.

So. What commodity do I have total control over? Nothing -- unless you count oatmeal cookies.

PS: Stephen says that if you wanna buy diamonds, let him know and he will give you a discount! But if you want to buy my special homemade oatmeal cookies, you are shoot-out-of-luck. Their price has just gone up!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Federal witness protection program: The future home of George W. Bush?

My friend Leona told me that she thought she saw Jimmy Hoffa in Michigan recently. "Maybe he's still alive." It could happen. Maybe the feds put him in a witness protection program.

I bet that's what's going to finally happen to George W. Bush. We will get a tastefully sorrowful announcement on CNN that America's 42nd President [sic] has quietly passed away in his sleep. Then this sad event will be followed by a fancy state funeral. And then they will quietly whisk our George off to play gin rummy with Osama bin Ladin in Dubai.

You think I'm joking? I'm not.

I bet you anything that when the special prosecutors start fitting GWB for an orange jump suit, he's gonna wimp out, pull out some wax dummy look-alike to get buried in Arlington and then join a witness protection program overseen by Alberto Gonzales.

George, I understand. When Americans finally wake up and discover the millions of ways that you have screwed them, playing drop-the-soap with Jeff Skilling and Kenny-Boy Lay is going to be one of the milder options available to you. What are some others? Death row comes to mind. Or being run out of town on a rail. Tar and feathering? Hey, I'm non-violent. And I would HATE to see you get lynched.

I just have one favor to ask, Mr. Gonzales. PLEASE don't put Bush in a witness protection program in California! Send him to Texas.

PS: I support Phil Angelides in the California Democratic primary race for governor. His name is easy to remember when you go to the polls on June 6. The first syllable of his name is "Angel". And he is.
Teenage angst: Jordan gets busted, Nathan researches juvenile hall....

The phone rang. It was my teenage friend Nathan. "I am going to write you a letter," he said. "I want you to put it on your blog." Okay.

"Remember my brother Jordan?" How could I forget? He ran away from abusive parents, ran away from brat camps, stayed with my family for five months and than ran away from here too. But Jordan did have a budding career as an artist until he got busted for graffiti last week and is now back with his abusive parents, on house arrest.

"Well, he's coming to visit me next week." That doesn't sound good.

"Visit you where?"

"Here. At the group home." Oh dear. But hey, at least Nathan was out of juvenile hall.

Jordan is a runner. Nathan is a fighter. When things get too heavy, Jordan runs away. When the spit hits the fan, Nathan takes on the world. Nathan spent FIVE YEARS at brat camps. Jordan only spent two. And when they got out, neither one of them could function in society. Not a clue. Now Jordan is a recluse and Nathan is a JD.

"What was juvie like?" I asked Nathan. He wouldn't tell me. So I did some research. In California, the really tough cases go to the California Youth Authority. Nasty place. Avoid it like the plague unless you like gang signs and homemade tattoos.

But our county's juvenile hall is a different story completely. For many of the kids that go there, they are getting a good education, some rational parenting, three square meals a day and a real bed all their own for the first time in their life.

"So. Nathan. E-mail me."

"I can't. We aren't allowed. But I'll write you. And promise me you'll put my letter on your blog?"

"I promise."

Nathan's raw story? Breaking exclusively on my blog? Stay tuned! Wanna know all about teenage group homes in northern California? Nathan will give us the inside scoop.


Here are some previous episodes of the Jordan soap opera, in case you missed them:

"Calling the Cops on your Own Child"
"America’s Most Wanted: After Jordan disappeared, they called the police on ME!"

"Desperately seeking Jordan"

"Tracking Young Jordan through the Snows of Montana"

"Un-Crossing Jordan" and "Finding Jordan -- with a little help from the New York Times"

"At the Glock Mall: Shopping for Guns with Jordan's Brother Nathan"

"Brainwashing Teenagers is easy"

"Young Jordan is now homeless: Trying to survive Neverland"

"What Jordan and GWB have in common: Power and ulterior motives?"

"Joey, Rachel, Phoebe & Jordan: How to hide from the future & still be 'Friends'"

Friday, June 02, 2006

Haditha & Gaza: When Goliath takes on David and wins

American armed forces are committing documented war crimes against innocent civilians in Baghdad, Haditha and Abu Ghraib. Israeli armed forces are committing documented war crimes against innocent civilians in Bethlehem and Gaza. A nightmare of outlandish proportion and moral repugnance is being played out daily in both places -- and has been for years.

Under the American occupation in Iraq, young girls are not safe to go outside their homes for fear of being kidnapped and sold to brothels in Dubai. Under the Israeli occupation in Gaza, pregnant women, ambulances and school children are being routinely blown up by Israeli soldiers. In the West Bank, farmers are callously rounded up and herded into urban ghettos while their land is stolen and they have no recourse.

Using home-made rockets and improvised explosive devices instead of slingshots, powerless Iraqi and Palestinian "Davids" continue to try to stand up to American and Israeli Goliaths who are armed to the teeth with 88 different kinds of Humvees and 75 different kinds of tanks -- not to mention fighter jets, helicopters and SPACE STATIONS.

It's just like in the old Biblical story. Only this time the "Goliaths" -- not the poorly-armed and vulnerable Palestinians and Iraqis -- have won.

Only this time, the American and Israeli Goliaths have managed to convince the entire world that two of the most powerful imperial military killing machines ever created in the history of the planet are only victims, underdogs, "Davids".

I think that is what hurts most of all.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Blaming Clinton wasn't enough: Now they are blaming everything on JIMMY CARTER!

I just got an e-mail asking me for my support in censuring "The President". Hey, I'm all for that! So I clicked on the link. But this group wasn't referring to President [sic] Bush. They were talking about President CARTER!

"Since leaving office, President Jimmy Carter has repeatedly undermined U.S. foreign policy, criticized the missions of men and women of the United States Armed Forces, as well as embracing known terrorists and terrorist organizations," stated

They gotta be kidding, right?

We all know that the abysmal failure of America's current foreign policies are not BUSH'S fault. How can they be? We have been told over and over and over again that they are all the fault of President Clinton. But NOW we being told to believe that they are actually the fault of Jimmy Carter! That's Carter. C-A-R-T-E-R. Not Reagan. Not Bush.

How could I have been so wrong as to think that "The Decider" was deciding our foreign policies?

Now that "The Decider" has clearly botched our foreign policy just as surely as he botched Katrina disaster relief by gutting Clinton's outstanding FEMA program, people are getting tired of blaming EVERYTHING on Clinton -- and the Bush bureaucracy has gotta find someone new to blame.

It's all Jimmy Carter's fault!

Now why didn't the rest of us think of that?

I got an idea. How about that we blame George and Condi and Powell and Rumsfeld and Cheney, the people who actually MADE all these rotten decisions. Sorry, Jimmy. No blame for you. Maybe next time. Or maybe next time the neo-cons will blame George Washington for all their failures. After all, President Washington was the one who started that really really subversive idea that people need to be ELECTED to live in the White House.

Or maybe next time the neo-cons will start blaming their REAL targets -- patriotic Americans who care about democracy.