One Senator who speaks for all of us

Read Senator Robert Byrd's powerful Senate Remarks:� Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences. Back in November, Byrd was also eloquent in denouncing the "Homeland Security Act" as "An irresponsible exercise in political chicanery."

Hope to see you at the demo tomorrow. I'll be there, with the labor contingent, at 1st Avenue and 60th Street. If you want to join us, we're starting at 59th St. and 5th Avenue (Grand Army Plaza) at 11 a.m. Other groups (many) will be streaming in from other assembly points. Dress warmly!


Muslims vs. Christians
My other main current project is the selling of A Gift for the Sultan, the novel I finished just before Xmas (or was it Ramadan?). Here's the new summary going out in queries to agents:
In the summer of 1402, Constantinople, the greatest city in the Christian world, is betrayed to the Islamic horde at its gates, but a young princess vows to save it while other nobles, merchants, clergy, aristocrats, juvenile street fighters and foreign mercenaries prepare to profit, yield for a price, fight, or die in its defense. The fate of the city and its civilization depends on all of them and on the Turkish frontier raider who has sworn to deliver the city and the princess to his sultan, in time to prevent a fateful clash with an even more terrible Muslim challenger from the East.

On their journey to the East, the world�s most sophisticated Greco-Roman urban culture confronts the traditions of honor, magic and power of the Central Asian steppes. Based on actual events of July 1402, the novel is a re-imagining of a clash that reverberates through our world today.


Text, myth and hypertext
One of my two current projects is what we here in the word factory call "LAU" (rhymes with "how"), "Latin American Architecture and Urbanism." It is intended to be, alas, no more than an ordinary, old-fashioned book, the kind where the pictures don't move and to follow the links you have to turn pages or go off to the library. Here is an example of another way of doing it, a hypertext titled "BURIED MIRROR. THE EAGLE AND THE CACTUS. TRANSCRIPT". You can get lost in these pages.

Perhaps -- no, almost certainly -- when our book appears, it will be accompanied by a web site that exploits such electronic digressions. A map like this one of Tenochtitl�n is truly useful. Maybe that will be the best of two technologies. I still think there is merit in the old one, the printed book, that constrains a reader to follow the author's logic -- instead of letting said reader jump around from reference to reference, willy nilly. The print book tells a story; the other facilitates an experience.

To be good or great

For a long time now I have had only two ambitions: to be a good man and a great writer. (I wouldn't have it the other way around; that would be second best.) Pursuing both has been a terrible strain, and I think that to make progress on the second I should give up the first.

Being a good man means to me assuming responsibility, which means using one's forces to make things better. I'd like to drop that: no more time spent on petitions, demos, organizing against injustice. Too much of my life's energy has gone into those things, and too little into writing. Maybe, I think, one day I can retire from great writerhood and take up good personhood again as a hobby, the way other men take up golf.

And yet...

The cabal that seized power in the November 2000 coup, when the Black Robes awarded the presidency to the unelected You-Know-Who, is set on provoking worldwide disaster and dismanteling of civil liberties at home. And now their allies here in Manhattan are prohibiting the march on February 15. I'd really rather not get involved, but the Agents of Darkness keep pushing us into ever more constricted spaces, and if we don't push back, there won't be room enough to write.


Words Against War
So many words from so many intelligent, impassioned people, in so many essays -- most of them flitting through the Internet-- on why the Rumsfeld rush to war will be disastrous, for us and everybody else. Our unelected president remains unmoved, probably even unaware of these arguments -- any argument that goes against his inclinations he finds too complicated.

One of the most cogent statements of how the whole premise of Bush's foreign policy denies the fundamental values we have defended in this republic appeared today as a full-page ad in the NYT, an essay by Wendell Barry taken from Orion magazine; an abridged version is online, A Citizen's Response to the National Security Stategy of the United States of America.

One aspect I hadn't thought of before but that Berry seems to suggest, is that the anti-globalization protesters now have a frightening ally. The America First fundamentalists who have stolen our government are torpedoing all those institutions that would make an integrated world tolerable and civilized: the World Court, the United Nations, and a decent respect for the opinions of mankind. They -- the fundamentalists giggling their way to war (just look at Rumsfeld's photo on the front page of today's NYT!) -- imagine the rest of the world as coming to be subjugated by them, but that -- thank the gods -- is not going to happen. Instead, it will be the USA against the rest of the world. Power-blinded rulers have behaved like this from earliest times. Given the destructive power available to all sides now, we're facing disasters of unprecedented magnitude.