Editorial Notices Books Received
Publisher's Note: The personal views of the publisher, expressed here, do not necessarily mirror those of other contributors to this magazine. This is always strictly my own personal rant.
Mars the Divine Clocktower Books has released the first of a new series of SF novelsMars the Divine by Terry Sunbord (Time Train Series) Fictionwise. Find more information at the developing website.
Bush 36%, and 44% now ready to impeach Readers may askwhy does the publisher and editorialist of a magazine of speculative fiction devote so much pixel time to national politics, rather than to the rich doings and creativity of the sf/f/h community? The answer is that science fiction has always been concerned with more than the nuts and bolts of imaginative science. For example: H.G. Wells' immortal classic The Time Machine is more than a soaring adventure built upon a premise that is still breathtaking in its originality more than a century after its creationthe novel remains a cogent social commentary on the divide between the privileged and working classes. Ayn Rand's Anthem, George Orwell's 1984, and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World are but several classics among the many speculative fiction books and films that address social issues.
There is a second, hidden implication of that same question: aren't sf/f/h people just geeks interested in ridiculous things like bug-eyed monsters and other weirdness? Only in an arch-conservative society driven by extremist hacks from the fields of religion, politics, and the media would such a question even be asked. Only the profound distrust of intellectualism, of imagination, and of sentiment and integrity would propel such a shallow notion. The word 'ridiculous' comes from the Latin ridere, meaning to laugh. I am reminded of Tom Delay and Dennis Hastert, laughing dirtily on public television last year as Delay ridiculed John Kerry's wartime heroism. I am reminded of the preposterous posing of Rep. Ding-a-ling Schmidt of Ohio in calling war hero John Murtha a coward and then cowardly retracting her slander while lying and saying she didn't say it. I am reminded of certifiable loonie Ann Coulter publicly smearing triple amputee Max Cleland, an act for which she was expelled from the widwing media and into the arms of the trumpet sounders of the rightwing fringe. Only the morally and intellectually constipated are laughing, folks.
Before being ousted for his dangerous extremism and corruption, Newt Gingrich wanted to empower what he called 'normal people,' a mean and pejorative norming word that is inherently as divisive as the entire un-Christian Gansemarsch of the Goebbels/Murdoch school of propaganda that whose theme song drives the marching minions of the far right. We can close our windows, but we cannot drive from our ears the sound of marching boots and brass bands and shouted Heils. What Gingrich meant was to empower the selfish, the mean-spirited, the prejudicedin short, every sick, twisted human emotion that Jesus Christ lived and died to help humans rise above. How ironic, to paraphrase the Rev. Al Sharpton, that "Jesus wouldn't be welcome in any of their churches." Had Gingrich been anything more than a shallow, bombastic egotist, he might have risen to higher ground in wanting to empower "decent people who have common sense and care about their fellow citizens." How about that for a radical notion?
I could go on, citing the unending stream of rightwing hypocrisy that floods the media every hour of every day, the way New Orleans recently stood under as much as 60 feet of sewage. Oh yes, that New Orleans, when the bankruptcy of Republican, rightwing extremist, Bushian ideas became so painfully obvious to the entire world. Yes, the impotence of bad ideas and mean ideas and vicious, greedy people who sweep into power on a tide of lies and end up being swept from power on a tide of their own arrogance and total corruption.
Did I mention the corruption of Newt Gingrich? Read a conservative Republican newspaper like our local The San Diego Union-Tribune, folks. Like almost all the media, this paper is owned by an extremely conservative billionaire who has never had a liberal rapid eye movement, much less a progressive thought. Surely there can be no leftwing bias here? I've been reading this paper for much of my life, so my information about Gingrich, Delay, Hastert, and the rest of the slimy crew comes in large part from their own propaganda trumpets. I also have long been an avid fan of CNN and the other mainstream media, and have a background in journalism, having long ago been a reporter. I also spent years acquiring three college degrees, and, more importantly, critical thinking skills that I feel all too many people lackincluding, sadly, many people with college degrees. The corruption of Newt Gingrich is profound, and I'll address it in more detail in a future writing, because he is truly one of the most dangerous politicians in U.S. history, even taking Nixon and Bush2 into account. Of mediocrity and sleaze there is no dearththe likes of Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert, and Ohio's Schmidt would fill a stadium at any political roll call.
I feel less need today to dwell on the endless megalomania, narcissism, and sociopathy of George W. Bush, whose tawdry and testosterone-blurred world is rapidly falling apart. Consider this: in today's The San Diego Union-Tribune, long-time moderate progressive (yes, that's like 'libburrul,' for the 36% who still don't get it about Bush and the GOP) and long-ago Congressman Lionel Van Deerlin cites a recent poll whichbreathtakinglythat the number of Americans "willing to see Bush impeached" as of October 2005 was 42% (versus 53% opposed, a thin margin of 11% with a 3% chance of error. Read the whole article by Rep. Van Deerlin, a long-time and reliable commentator from the moderate middle. Mr. Van Deerlin cites Bush's 36% approval rating, saying that even Nixon didn't fare this badly at this point in his second term.
I feel more inclined today to look at the broader picture and mention that in this conservative newspaper--and in many like it who blindly followed the Bush bandwagon while continuing to report from the middle in their main news sections (maybe they donít actually read their own newspapers, a lot of these dynastic moguls who have never actually had to work for a living)--we were able to follow for years the pork barrel antics of so many from both parties in Congress. In my 1997 novel The Generals of October, which involves the dangers of a Second Constitutional Convention, I posited a hypothetical Middle Class Party that wanted to cleanse the U.S. of its corrupt two-party establishment. "Bridges over nothing, roads to nowhere," I had an assassin of the Second Service say while stalking Vice President Cardoza in my novel. How startled was I recently to hear almost those very words in the recent discussion about how a Republican (Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska) earmarked a quarter of a billion dollars of your taxpayer money (that is $250,000,000) to fund a huge bridge project connecting the mainland to an island with 56 residents. In a display of the utter insanity and drunken unreason that goes with one party wielding absolute power, this moral and intellectual midget wanted to name the bridge after himself to boot. Here's a whole article, again in a typical conservatively owned newspaper that still makes a pretense of reporting from the middle.
Why do I dwell on the issue of pork barrel spending? The Second Service agent in my novel calls pork barrel spending ($50 billion or more each year) "every representative and senator's personal reelection slush fund." This is why third parties have a hard time breaking the two-party monopoly in this country. Consider that George W. Bush kicked off his run for the presidency in the spring of 2000 (which he lost to Al Gore) with a start-up campaign chest of $180 million (unprecedented at the time in U.S. history), and which was soon to grow to over $200 million, and this money very obviously came from the dark, deep mega-corporations whose puppet Bush. (Parenthetically, it was recently reported that the Bush family has profited by gaining at least $57 million and possibly hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. Government contracts related to the questionable Bush misadventure in Iraq). Now consider what it is to be the Senate Majority Leader in 1996, and earmark $1.1 billion per year for Navy ships to be built in Pascagoula, Miss. (Trent Lott's home state)ships the Navy did not want and begged him not to build, but this was just part of Lott's private reelection slush fund. Ironically, after he was outsted for exchanging seditious and racist remarks with neo-Confederate Strom Thurmond, Lott complained that the chief medical ghoul, Bill "Medicine Should Be A Capitalist Enterprise" Frist, along with George Bush, had "stabbed (him) in the back" by nudging him out of his leadership positionand soon after, while in the midst of his plummeting luck his house was swept away by flood waters of Hurricane Katrina, his slush fund golden goose, the scene of his pet embezzlement schemes, Pascagoula Navy Base, was put on the list of bases to be slashed. How that must have stung. Yes, I call the theft of billions of dollars in tax payer money embezzlement. That's what it is, nothing else. Now consider one of the lesser crimes of that prodigious criminal, Newt Gingrich. This is the 'man' who suggested that poor people's children should be taken away from them and put into government-run orphanages. He didn't clarify at the time if those would be Soviet orphanages or U.S. orphanages. Of course they would not be Federally run, but by the states, in keeping with the South's code wording for continuing apardheid while milking the Feds for tax money. Those orphanages, popping up all over Georgia, would have created jobs for mean people and votes for Gingrich. Back to that crime I mentioned. Gingrich was bleeding some $360 million a year of tax payer money to build Lockheed C-130 planes in his district. These were planes the Air Force desperately tried to not have built, because as in the Navy situation relative to Lott, those millions and billions were desperately needed for less glamorous military needs. As conservative 1990s Republican Oklahoma Congressman and pork barrel opponent Steve Largent noted, "when it comes time to draw up the budget, both sides of the aisle lay down their spears and meet in the middle to divide up the spoils." Largent's case shows there is hope for some decency among Republicans, and plenty of blame to spread to the Democrats. However:
Lott and Gingrich, as leaders of Congress, should have set an example. Instead, they were the leaders of a tide of corruption and dishonesty that is now beginning to devour the entire GOP-controlled rulership of this nation. Ultimately, the most shaming point that has to be made is that this administration, this regime, sent our troops to fight an ill-conceived war, whose financial benefits are lining the pockets of Bush and Cheney with billions of dollars' worth of projects, many of them no-bid plums for cronies, done shamelessly in the open. At the same time, the leaders of this regime in Congress had embezzled billions of dollars that should have been used to prepare those troops.
That money should have been used to procure quality kevlar vests, bullet-proof vehicles, and many more of the everyday necessities for feeding our troops and keeping them safe when they are in harm's way. In that sense, these people are outright murderers. To call the bungling and dishonesty regarding Iraq simple "a mistake" does not bring justice to a catastrophic crime, whose dimensions include the preemptive war, the torture (including the Vice President's open call for permissible legal torture), the covert CIA prisons among submissive regimes in Eastern Europe, and all the rest of it. All of that is incomprehensible.
Citing again the case of Rep. Jean Schmidt of Ohio (whose compatriot, Republican Rep. Ney of Ohio may soon become the first domino to fall in the widening Delay/Abramoff scandals whose reach actually involved a Mafia murder in Florida), it is no surprise that small thinkers, who have never been in the military, and have no personal connection with the military, and who, like the vast majority of Republicans, would never send their own kids to die in Iraq...it is no surprise that such people would ignorantly support Bush's illegal war, condemn decorated war veterans, and send our troops in harm's way without armor or sufficient numbers to win.
With the recent disgrace of Rep. Randy Cunningham here in San Diego, it appears that the high tide of GOP corruption is only beginning to be understood. There is much that is incomprehensible about the fall of Mr. Cunningham (himself a decorated and heroic veteran). It is almost incomprehensible to think what must go through the minds of people who have taken to Swiftboating decorated and heroic veterans, whenas a decorated Vietnam combat veteran friend of mine has confided about visiting some of the Swiftboat type blogs and sites he visits while researching ways to help veterans with medical and other benefits issuesmany of the alleged swiftboaters were never in Vietnam nor in uniform nor decorated nor anything but liars and cheats and slimers in the George W. Bush mold. If you take issue with that, consider how Bush had his cronies slime Sen. John McCain, who had just won the Republican primary in New Hampshire, and looked about to give Bush the trashing he soundly deserved. The truth was the McCain and his wife had 'adopted' (financially) an unwanted black orphan baby, promising to provide for this child through college. Bush and Rove and their seedy cronies spread rumors that John McCain had had a black child out of wedlock and then abandoned the child, and this helped undo McCain's hopes for a successful Presidential run in 2000. During the scandal over the treasonous Confederate battle flag in southern state flags (put there in the 1950s during the neo-Confederate backlash against Truman's 1948 desegregation of the Armed Forces, which gave Truman a 22% approval rating among our nation's prejudiced majority and helped cost Truman a second term) McCain was the only Republican who blinked, belatedly, and apologized. Bush never noticed, because Bush is a sociopath incapable of feeling remorse or doubt. Psychiatrists and historians will one day soon join in diagnosing Mr. Bush's mental and moral deficiencies, and I believe a clinical diagnosis of Bush will bear me out.
Predictions? In line with what Van Deerlin and other careful thinkers are starting to say, I have already predicted in this column that George W. Bush will cut and run from his own insane war. It won't help him claim a legacy worth speaking of (except in superlative negatives). It won't help the GOP keep the two houses of Congress once the Delay-centric corruption scandals start unraveling. Anywhere between a dozen to sixty members of the House are said to be tainted and in danger of indictment. It seems reasonable to think that the Democrats can take both houses in 2006. They will then have a ready mandate to impeach Bush. Cheney will have resigned before then, partially under the grinding wheels of the continuing Scooter Libby saga, and mainly to try and make a rolling head of himself and deflect harm from Bush; to no avail. The reason given will be 'health,' but any thinking person will look right through the Halliburton Man's last official deceit. Bush, like Moammar Kadaffi, will have surrounded himself with a palace guard of strong, masculine women who will provide him the mothering he never got from Barbara "Poor People Don't Feel Pain The Way We Do" Bush, his biological mother and emotional emasculator. Bush, in 2007, will resemble bunker-bound Adolf as he fantasizes about bringing in reserve troops from among this creationist, rifle-toting, immigrant-bashing legions. The million or so cynical fundamentalist pastors of this nation, who have known all along that Bush is no good, but who sold their souls to the devil to accomplish their two worthless holy grails (overturning Roe v. Wade and getting creationism into the science class) will have sold their souls again and moved back to the center, and their minions will go back to slumbering until the next Great Awakening. Their legacy last time around was Prohibition and the criminalization and destruction of vast amounts of the nation's moral infrastructure and handing the Mafia the wonderful world of bootleg liquor. Shades of the Roaring Twentiesthree successive Republican administrations (Harding's the most corrupt of the 20th Century) led a decade-long epic of partying, deficits, debauch, and general fiscal irresponsibility that resulted in the stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression. Will history repeat itself? Will Bush and Greenspan's artificial economy, propped up by reckless spending, deficits, and untold household debt, result in a financial collapse that will shake the world? Stay tuned.
One last word. I'm about to publish a small book of fiction entitled Sentimental Journey. In it, several deceased members of a National Guard unit from any little town in the USA return home as ghosts, revenants. Unable to speak, they communicate in trembling gestures and horrid, distorted facial gestures. I'll give the essence of it away: they have come to criticize, to question, those who sent them to die. It turns out, though, that they are not bitter at those who opposed the war, nor those who unwittingly believed the administration's lies. No. They have come back to haunt those peoplepoliticians, reporters, clergy, citizens in all walks of lifewho straddle the fence, who always opposed the war or have come to oppose this unnamed, generic war that could be Vietnam or Iraq or another like it, but who feel we 'cannot cut and run because it would make us look bad.' They have come to haunt those who do not have the courage to speak against an obviously catastrophic venture, and then lack the spine on top of it to oppose making the same mistake over and over again, at the daily cost of more American lives.
President Dwight Eisenhower, whose military credentials are beyond question (except perhaps by Bush and his swiftboaters if the occasion demands it) stated very clearly before leaving office that the United States should never get bogged down in a land war in Asia. His successors were weak people and small thinkers who put us into Vietnam. We have forgotten the lessons of Vienam and are once again kidding ourselves in the middle of a war we have no intention of winning. Retired U.S. Marine Corps First Sergeants like a neighbor of mine are talking like this. Last time I looked, Iraq was on the western edge of Asia. Next door is Iran, a wannabe nuclear power with a history of hating us and fomenting terror against us (including the 1986 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, which cost over 240 young American lives). Our entire military, already crippled by mismanagement, headed by a group of brown-nosing generals (the dissenters like Abizaid are sacked) and a Secretary of Wartime Confusion and Obfuscation, Rumsfeld, who ever increasingly resembles Macnamara (who in recent years recanted and agreed Vietnam was a mistake).
Here is an early piece of evidence that Bush plans to cut and run, despite what his chickenhawk and warhawk doofus and dupe supporters continue to say: http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/meast/11/18/iraq.plan/index.html. Bush won't want to admit he's wrong (just as he'll refuse to resign while under impeachment which is coming in 2007) but his handlers in the Grossly Overrated Party will see no further benefit or coattails in this buffoon who resembles the loser Napoleon III, who ruled France from 1848 to 1871, first as president elected by provincial poltroons over the protest vote of more knowlegeable urban dwellers; later as Emperor when he terminated the Republic and declared the Second Empire in 1852. What was it Bush said in 2000 after seizing power? "Everything would be so much easier if I were dictator." A "president" of the United States said that? How low, into what deep slimy sewer, have we sunk as a nation to allow a an inarticulate clown, an alcohol-damaged freak like this to occupy the Oval Office? Especially when his lifetime record of failure (Arbusto; stock dumping; Texas Air National Guard Territorial Defense unit flying obsolete aircraft and guaranteed never to see combat or even leave Texas; cocaine; alcohol; trying to beat up his father while in a drunken rage, etc etc) is so widely reported in the conservatively owned media...? Is this the Caligula Syndrome of 'how could the Romans have permitted xrulers like that'? The phased withdrawal in Bush's newest plan could turn into a torrent as Bush's misadventure in Iraq starts to crumble; especially if the insurgents can mount a concerted end game offensive like the North Vietnamese did in 1975.
Consider this: the pathetically weak and disorganized Iraqi army is being propped up like a maggot-crawling corpse to create a pretense that we can withdraw honorably. One can "smell that grin" from here already. One can see the strategy. We leavehopefully not under catastrophic conditions of a Dunkirk nature, given perhaps a stealthy nuclear attack in the Beirut barracks mode (nobody takes credit; nobody needs to), leaving the field littered with corpses and munitions and equipment as our troops straggle out on the run for their lives. The Iraqi army collapses. Or better yet given the recent call for ex-Saddam officers and NCOs to rejoin, some colonel from Tikrit seizes power in a coup d'etat. As under Bush I, they use helicopters and small planes to strafe and napalm Shi'ites in the south and Kurds in the north. This time, no no-fly zone. It's the same Ba'ath Sunni, back in power, with a vengeance. That is one of the best case scenarios if the neo-cons are unable to get Fegelein's phantom divisions to save their embunkered hero in the Oval Office.
You know what else? One last prediction. As disastrous as all this looks, it will be forgotten in about 2 or 3 years as this nation, and indeed the world, staggers under the financial collapse that has a very high likelihood of rolling in like a vast winter storm after the drunken GOP party of the past 25 years, beginning with the South seeking its new apardheid arrangement with the Republicans, and eventually sure to end with this last bookmark: the establishment of universal health care in the United States and a renewed sense of human decency, honesty, and boundaries after this age of lunacy boils away to its final tormented death.
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The Sibyl's Urn, or: Destination: Ancient Rome! by John T. Cullen (2005 Clocktower Books). Told in the second person, this novel makes you the hero or heroine as Professor Darwin and his exotically beautiful assistant Amalthea take you on a journey back to ancient Rome. At stake is a lost scroll belonging to a sibyl, or prophetess similar to the ones at Delphi in Greece. The scroll holds secrets the ancient Romans would dearly like to know, and your traveling companions have their own dark reasons for wanting to make this journey. Along the way, you get to sample the sounds, sights, and smells of a world that is as alien to ours as it is intriguing. Some of the early research material here wound up in my book A Walk in Ancient Rome (iBooks/Simon & Schuster, 2005).