Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Here we go again

Thought it was too good to be true? This long, glorious silence from the mouth of John Ashcroft? You and me both. Guess what, boys and girls? Al Quaeda is "almost ready" to attack the United States!

This summer! They're going to "hit the United States hard!" I'm not quite jaded enough to comment on the convenient timing of this warning, but the Washington Post is:
The sudden warning returns the nation's attention to terrorism, the issue that President Bush has highlighted as a central theme of his re-election campaign, after intense focus on other subjects like Iraq and prisoner abuses in Iraq. Bush has lost ground in the polls, falling in approval ratings to the lowest point of his presidency.

Yes, Washington Post, we can add 2 and 2.

And do you know why they're going to attack the United States? Aside from they hate our freedom? The Spanish, por supuesto!
The withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq due to the political repercussions of the March 11 train bombings in Spain, Ashcroft added, could lead al Qaeda to attempt to influence U.S. politics.

Sorry for the bile, but these cryptic messages just enrage me. Used to be, I'd say to myself, "Self, don't be angry at information! Wouldn't you be more upset if they had this intelligence, however vague, and withheld it? Don't shoot the messenger."

Except for I know better. They have intelligence on impending attacks all the time. They probably have "good intelligence" from "reliable sources" regularly. They just make a judgment call on when it's good to scare us.

Know why I'm so pissy? Because John Ashcroft, no matter how much I try to ignore him, is trying to ruin Beach Weekend 2004 with the Big Scare. I know the Outer Banks are not a terrorist target, I just don't want any negative vibes whatsoever, nor the smallest thoughts of "terror," "threat," and "duct tape" disrupting the delicate balance of my fruity drinks, or the gentle rhythm of the sea spray on my toes.
I am So Over

Years ago, I caved and got the cell phone. That's when it all began. Slowly, creepingly, the accoutrements piled. I own heels now. And I wear them. I drive a Honda Accord. I go to bed at a reasonable hour. I don't drink myself into oblivion every night. I don't sleep until noon on weekends.

And today, to top it all off, I sealed my doom.

I joined a gym.

I am officially a sell-out. Or an official Washingtonian. Tomato, To-mah-to.

Am considering renaming blog Buns of Steel or Hott Abs as motivational technique? Perhaps just rename the sell-out mobile?

Do not mock this man for ducking. Don't laugh at him for turning his head.

This photo is the first evidence I've seen that this administration understands the concept of imminent threat, and the true nature of evil:

Saturday, May 22, 2004

The Word

Saw Troy last night; what a crap film.

These guys are supposed to be the greatest warriors and generals of their civilization - battling for glory and doom and defying gods. It should feel epic, glorious, maybe even primordial, given the subject matter.

Instead, it was utterly slight and boring and petty. Helen of Troy looked like a cheap skank with such memorable lines as "Last night was a mistake." (Beg pardon? We slipped into late 20th century hook-up regret?) Brad Pitt, I'm sorry to say, was totally unbelievable as Achilles and too beefcake-y to be sexy in my book. Worst of all, the special effects for the battle scenes paled in comparison to some recent video game commercials I've seen, causing Kriston to throw his hands up in the air at one point and sputter, "They spent thirty dollars on this movie!"

I do still think that Agamemnon is the coolest name ever, and so let's all feel sorry for any offspring I may one day bear.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Pony Up

Here's how I know it's gotten bad.

With a hankering for a sandwich, I strolled to my neighborhood Au Bon Pain for a wrap. I crossed the street and was flagged down by one of those clipboard-wielding survey-taking petition-proffering volunteers that patrol urban corners.

"Excuse me, do you have a min--"

"No I don't have time," I interrupted. And then I heard "--ute to help get rid of George W. Bush."

This is one of the few things—up there with champagne and gumball machines—that I always have a minute for. But what could I do? I'd already feigned a busy schedule and now, what? I suddenly remembered that I'm doing nothing? How embarassing.

So I proceeded on and bought my tasty wrap, but terrible guilt attended my every step. Jesus H. Christ, this poor guy is standing on the corner, putting in his time, trying to some good, and I'm too busy to take five seconds out of my day?

So I resolutely did an about-face and found the clipboard dude and said, "I changed my mind, I do have a minute to help get rid of George W. Bush."

He laughed. "You know, I've been getting a lot of that today."

And that is the true tale of how the DNC got $50 from me today. Which all by way of saying, if I'm putting my money where my mouth is when it comes to politics, things have gotten pretty seriously fucked.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

I put the die in diet

I'm feeling sort of buzzy and dizzy and tingly, and I start to think: maybe I'm inspired or syphilitic, and then I realize that all I've eaten today is: a bagel, 3 donut holes, 1 donut, and a slice of chocolate cake. Washed down with 4 cups of coffee.

Internal organs, crying for mercy.


I hate to keep harping on this. I really do. I'm as sick of it as you are, but I do believe this little incident is worth mentioning.

I'm in my boss's office, discussing the fine distinctions between translators and interpreters, when he cocks his head over to the window and asks me a question.

I am often hard of hearing despite by nubile young age (I don't know, maybe all the inbreeding in my family finally caught up?). So I often pretend I know what people are saying when they're not. So when my boss tilts his head window-ward and says, "Did you see my -------- collection?" I didn't know he was saying cicada because the way he pronounces it, it rhymes with ricotta.

Naive and curious, I bend over his windowsill to see his ricotta collection, only to be greeted by a ziploc bag crawling with LIVE CICADAS. Which he is MAILING to his father. I cannot think of many things worse than opening a package to find cicadas inside, with the possible exception of the time I opened up a CD I had ordered only to find an erroneously delivered Mandy Moore album instead. Back when she was blonde. And the album was called Candy.

My boss was delighted to have grossed out a girl, which is clearly something that never fades with age. Hair can be gone, butt can be saggy, eyesight can be shot, viagra can be useless, but you boys will still get a raspy cackle out of dropping a beetle down some poor granny's muu-muu. This is a terrible trait that will be weeded out of your genes by natural selection once we girls band together and rise up.

...and with that I conclude, barring any future horrors, my last post about those bugs, because seriously it's getting tired.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Boy, I haven't seen the Onion in a while. Every now and then, they still have a good one.

Last week's Point-Counterpoint: The War On Terrorism:

Point (by serious looking dude in glasses): "Killing Wheelchair-Bound People With Missiles is Justifiable if They're Terrorists"

Counterpoint (by bicycle messenger-looking dude): "Killing Wheelchair-Bound People With Missiles is Awesome"
...and the livin' is easy

The cicadas are jumpin', and the pollen is high. But it wouldn't really be summertime without the first Capitol Hill sex scandal of the season (just go check out Wonkette. She's all over it).

Last summer, if you recall, we all enjoyed the escapedes of Intern Puppy Love gone Psycho. But this year, we don't even have to wait until intern season hits full swing, because this precocious young lady has got the jump on those amateurs, showing that you don't have to be a naive 19 year old to ruin your career with sexual indiscretions broadcast over the internet. What's a poorly written threat letter by a kid with a roman numeral compared to whoring your ass out to Bush appointees? God help me, I love this trash.

The wheels are spinning madly at offices all over the Hill, the pages of senate directories are flapping, Friendster connections anxiously probed, and your tax dollars, dear friends, are all subsidizing the most efficient gossip-research-and-dissemination operation in the modern world as all federal business screeches to a halt. That place can go from Anonymous to Outed in under 3 minutes, within a respectable margin of error, and that's something all Americans can be proud of.

Monday, May 17, 2004

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Used to be, the worst thing that ever happened to me was the flaming bowl of tropical-themed firewater that I imbibed one night at Oceans 11 in Austin. Now we have a new champion, and it goes by the insufficiently descriptive name "Brood X." Brood X. Come on, this is not a nineties pop-punk band. This is a nightmare.

Conversation about the cicada influx has roughly followed the bell curve that supposedly tracks the infestation itself. Just a trickle at first ("Have you heard...?"); and now it has completely supplanted weather, sports, weekend plans, "It's a Monday" groans, and "it's Friday" cheers as topics of small-talk in elevators.

I had been cavalier in my preparations. Rather than steeling my mind and hardening my soul; rather than working to spontaneously generate an outer shell of body armor, I scoffed. "It's another Hurricane Isabel," I pshawed. "All hype." This from the girl who once threatened to burn her flesh off after accidentally brushing a cockroach. The girl who locked herself in her bedroom for two hours after spotting a flying roach in the living room - cornered like a criminal, on the phone with Mom, wailing.

It's been spotty so far, and in the heart of the city, the little bastards are mercifully non-existent. Spotty at best. But although I'm in DC city limits, I more-or-less live in Suburbia-lite. That means lots of trees, and that means those aberrations of nature congregate in my peaceful little neighborhood and turn it into a scene from the apocalypse.

You probably think I'm exaggerating, right?

Let me tell you about the Worst Night of My Life, aka, last night.

It was late, and Kriston and I were driving back to my apartment post-Six Feet Under-Sopranos-Deadwood gluttony. We parked on my poorly lit street, and I stepped out of the car, unprepared for the sight that would greet my unbelieving eyes. The street was almost entirely dark, except for weak spheres of light here and there. In the dim glow,
I could tell that Something was Moving. Peering harder, I saw that the ground was covered in writhing cicada bodies. I let my gaze track back to my feet. Flip flops. Bare, pink, vulnerable flesh.

I don't remember what noises I made, but my survival instincts made sure that these noises conveyed my mortal peril. Because Kriston, earning like infinity points, came running over so I could jump on his back. I held on to his neck whimpering as he bravely trudged through the swamp of gooey nasty unfathomable creatures.

But I had let my guard down too soon, forgetting that there are those more advanced in their life cycles, with wings. And they use them. To fly. In the air. Which is where I was, having been hoisted on my trusty boyfriend's back. Now I may be wrong; I may be dead wrong, but vigilance is key, and I could swear that there was something in my hair. So naturally, what does one do? It's midnight, you're still half the distance to the door, and the enemy is everywhere. I of course decided to shriek like a banshee and thrash around like a fish out of water, slapping at my head the whole time. Kriston, (infinity and one points), managed to hold on to me, although my cell phone went flying out to the middle of the street.

As far as I was concerned, that phone was a goner, and there was nothing to do but carry on. Every man for himself, natural selection, sorry Panasonic, but the Law of the Jungle is a cruel but necessary guide. But Kriston has a totally Saving Private Ryan code of ethics, and you Leave No Man Behind. He had to go back. Plus the phone is like in the middle of the street.

I let him set me down so he could go back for the phone, and I made sure to stand in one of the pools of light so I could keep guard over my feet until his return. In the 2 seconds I was left alone, I began to feel ashamed about my behavior. I'm a big girl. This is ridiculous. "I can make it," I said. "I'll walk to the door."

What I didn't realize, was that I was standing in the Very Last Pool of Light between myself and the doorway. A long, dark walkway stood between the two. Kriston trudged ahead of me. I took two steps into the darkness and my vision clouded with imagined images of millions of little bodies ready to squoosh beneath my flip-flops, and I took one olympic flying leap and latched desperately onto Kriston's back again, spurring him forward with another shriek. He barrelled up the walkway, landing me safely at the doorstep of my apartment.

This can't go on. I have packed my bag with several days worth of clothing. I hope to avoid my apartment until July.

Friday, May 14, 2004

Friday Quiz

Q: Who do I love more than Geoffrey, a 12 year old born-again child of God?

A: Nobody.
I heart character defamation

From Wonkette:
Extremely little of Wonkette interest in this pool report, save for one satorial detail:

Aboard were Joe Hagin and Karl Rove, who came back to show the press cabin that he had absolutely no holes in his dark, impeccable socks.

Guess he finally got those special ones for cloven hooves.


"I love how these republicans are all so law and order/ responsibility-for-one's-actions until they get caught out. Then suddenly there's a whole lot of 'complexity.'

Their problems are complex, not simple, not like homelessness, which is what just happens when you're lazy, or drug addiction, which is what just happens when you're lazy and weak, or AIDS which is what happens when you're Freddy Mercury. My God, he had that shit coming to him, didn't he. I saw him fuck a panda once, he was insatiable. No, they get what they deserve, and how about a little self control/personal responsibility next time, you sad losers.

Oh, but ineptitude on a global level? No, that shit is nuanced . Better have a discussion, and keep that guy on while we do it. He has a reputation."

Thursday, May 13, 2004


I've said it before, I'll say it to my dying day: God Bless The Daily Show:
Jon Stewart: Stephen, what do you think about this idea that we are hearing from Rumsfeld, and now Sen. Inhofe, that the press was somehow irresponsible for releasing these photos of abuse?

Stephen Colbert: Jon, I agree entirely with Secy Rumsfeld that the release of these photos was deplorable, but these actions of a few rogue journalists do not represent the vast majority of the American media.

Stewart: The journalists did something wrong?

Colbert: I'm just saying those journalists don't represent the journalists I know. The journalists I know love America, but now all anybody wants to talk about is the bad journalists--the journalists that hurt America.

But what they don't talk about is all the amazingly damaging things we haven't reported on. Who didn't uncover the flaws in our pre-war intelligence? Who gave a free pass on the Saddam-al Queda connection? Who dropped Aghanistan from the headlines at the first whiff of this Iraqi snipehunt? The United States press corps, that's who. Heck, we didn't even put this story on the front page. We tried to bury it on "60 Minutes II." Who's on that--Charlie Rose and Anglela Lansbury?

Stewart: Stephen, what do you think is at play here?

Colbert: Politics, Jon, that's what. Pure and simple. I think it's pretty suspicious that these tortures took place during a Presidential campaign. This is a clear cut case of partisan sadism. You know, come to think of it, I'm pretty sure those Iraqi prisoners want Bush out of office too. You know I wouldn't be a bit surprised if a pile of hooded, naked Iraqis has a job waiting for them in the Kerry Administration.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004


I really ought not be surprised that this prisoner scandal has slipped into the usual political dynamic of scandal, with one side making accusations and the other shifting the blame. If there was ever a catastrophe that we could all agree is bad business, that we could all work together to address, this would have been it. But the fingers are starting to point, accountability is shifted, myriad excuses are offered to the media in hopes that one might stick. It's sick, and people are getting mad.

Tommy over at Zunta has some words on this new line that the beheading of Nick Berg is the media's fault, since they broadcast the Abu Ghraib images.
What a ludicrously patronizing point of view. Does he really think the Iraqi people tune in to CBS to learn what's going on in their own country? That they would discount their countrymen's anecdotal accounts because of a lack of photographic evidence? Let's be just a little bit realistic: released prisoners will relate what happened to them; families will notice when their loved ones don't come home; soldiers will continue leaking photos of atrocities until they find someone who will show them. People will talk. The truth will emerge. Holes in the evidentiary record will simply be filled in by people's imaginations, which is hardly a preferable alternative.

Covering up the photos would have served no purpose -- aside from protecting our leaders from the shame and scorn they're currently facing. It's too bad we've got to lose even more of the world's esteem, but under the circumstances it's tough to call it anything but justice.

Hell yes. Flipping over to Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall is taking on the reprehensible statements of Senator Inhofe, who you'll recall professed being "more outraged by the outrage" than by the abuse. (You mean the Senator is more troubled that this scandal is biting the Republican Party in the ass than that America has betrayed its own fundamental principles? I have zero trouble believing that this is a true statement, and certainly more revealing about Inhofe than anything else.) He further said, "I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying." Sen. McCain, a former POW himself who probably wouldn't have minded a few "do-gooders" crawling around his cells, walked out of the room at this point.

An angry Josh Marshall writes:
America's greatest moments in the last century came when she tempered power with right and toughened, or sharpened, the edges of right with power -- World War II, then the post-war settlement that framed the Cold War are the clearest, though certainly not the only, examples.

But here you have Jim Inhofe lumbering out of his cave and on to the stage, arguing that we can do whatever we want because we're America. Inhofe's America is one that is glutted on pretension, cut free from all its moral ballast, and hungry to sit atop a world run only by violence. Lady Liberty gets left with fifty bucks, a sneer, a black eye, and the room to herself for the couple hours left before check out.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Dear Jesus, take me now

As if everything wasn't already horrible enough, I read this:
Firmly latched onto the surface of their choice, the nymphs begin their overnight transformation into adults: youthful skin breaks open, milky-white cicada emerges, wings flush out, and the body darkens as its outer shell hardens.

This emergence also marks the beginning of a huge feast. "It's well known that pretty much everything starts chowing down on cicadas," Clay said. Dogs, cats, birds, squirrels, deer, raccoons, mice, ants, wasps, and, yes, humans make a meal of the insects.

According to Kritsky, the best time to eat a cicada is just after they break open their youthful skin. "When you eat them when they're soft and mushy, when they come out of their skin, they taste like cold, canned asparagus," he said.

And who is the Kritsky? Other than a very single, lonely, cicada-eating freakshow?


The joy I initially felt upon hearing that I would have an intern for the summer has been dispelled by the rumor that my "intern" has a Ph.D. Apparently, when your intern seriously outranks you academically and has greater student loans by an order of magnitude, you cannot make them run around town to fetch visas for you. You must provide her with "substantive" work, which is something I usually like to hoard for myself.

Look, if you already have your Ph.D., you don't get to be an intern anymore. You get to be unemployed. Get your own substantive work!

Sunday, May 09, 2004

What I Did on My Spring Vacation

As a true believer in censorship when it comes to my own public humiliation, I have now finished scouring my Georgia photos and have picked a handful suitable for public consumption. I generally try to keep real-live human beings out of the photos I publish on the internet, so the following is mostly a bunch of scenery.


Panoramic of the city - Tbilisi is more or less a valley ringed by a series of hills, crowned with churches and fortresses, and statues.

I'm only including this next shot as it is the only photo I took with some artistic merit. Plus it makes Tbilisi look kind of like Havana - sultry and decaying in a sexy kind of way.

Exhibit A: Why You Should Not Wear Heels in Tbilisi. Completely destroyed the pair I brought. Serves me right. And let's not talk about the lack of shock absorbers on all the cars. Driving around on these roads gives you what someone quaintly termed a "kidney massage."

Here's a typical Tbilisi dwelling, complete with the requisite hanging laundry and vigilant babushka peering out.

In the early 90s, among other conflicts, Georgia went through a civil war with the breakaway republic of Abkhazia. The Abkhaz drove ethnic Georgians out of the region, and ever since then, these people have been living as refugees or Internally Displaced Persons inside Georgia. The Hotel Iveria used to be the major Soviet hotel in the heart of downtown, and when the capital was flooded with Abkhaz refugees, it was the logical place to house them. Now, the hotel is a de facto refugee camp, and as you can see, the refugees finish off the balconies with plywood or whatever material is handy to create extra space. The result is the monstrosity pictured below; a fascinating reminder of ethnic conflict right in the heart of downtown Tbilisi.

The ancient Narikala fortress, on a hill overlooking Old Tbilisi:

Jvari Monastery

I loved this monastery so much, it gets its own subsection. This church was built in the 5th-6th century, and it sits on a high hill overlooking the ancient capital of Mtskheta (about 15 minutes outside Tbilisi). My colleague who took me to view the monastery had been trained as an architect and had worked to restore many of the ancient churches in the area, so I got an earful of fascinating history dating from the time St. Nina brought Christianity to Georgia. Like many of these churches and monasteries, Jvari is still a working place of worship, and you can drive up the hill to go attend church here on a Sunday. There's a near complete serenity to this spot, and I couldn't help but picture what it will be like one day, with the growls of tour buses and loud-mouthed visitors polluting the atmosphere. Go now if you can.

Looking over to the Caucasus mountains from Jvari:

Oh, hell, why not one more:

From Jvari, you can look down to the town of Mtskheta, the "old" capital of Georgia. Tbilisi, the shiny new capital, was annointed as such in like the 4th century or something absurd like that. Here, you can see the confluence of the Aragvi and Mtkvari rivers. The difference in color is stunning, and the place where they join is a holy baptismal site.

Parties and Peaks

I was able to leave Tbilisi for a few days and make it up to Gudauri, a ski resort in the mountains. The drive out is a famous scenic route that includes views such as this, of the fortress and church Ananuri. Kriston says it looks like something out of Lord of the Rings, and I think he's right:

Oh, I'm sorry, are you the view from my balcony in Gudauri? I thought so. Jesus Christ, this place will be a tourist mecca when they get their act together, and I am simultaneously depressed and pleased about that:

Have I mentioned that the Georgians know how to have a good time? After five hours of stuffing ourselves silly, they're still able to jump up and cut loose with that particular Georgian dance - arms spread wide, wrists flicking in the air:

You've heard me mention the mountains of food. This is halfway through a supra, or dinner party. There were still like 7 more meat courses to come, and check out that table! Wine, anybody?

At some point, all sense of moderation is lost amidst the shower of toasts. The wine glass is abandoned, and the bowl is taken up. The tamada, or toastmaster, fills it to the brim with wine and begins his toast to friendship, say. He then chugs the contents, refills the bowl, and passes it on to a guest who adds his/her own toast and continues the passing. As a woman and a guest, I was not expected to down a bowl (though I'm sure I could have summoned the spirit of my college days and represented America well), but my Australian colleague pictured below was not so lucky...

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Notes from the front

From my Georgian friend today:
He has gone! this is the most frequently heard word today in Tbilisi. Probably in other cities as well. Yes Aslan left Batumi, with his relatives. He left for Moscow. Putin yesterday espressed his pleasure to give Aslan political refuge. Of couse these russians have to put their nose everywhere.

In Batumi temporary council is established that will rule the country until new elections are set. As you know the major problem is to disarm the population and yesterday the process has already started. I could not believe my eyes the ministry of interior affairs have taken away so many weapons last night and they say 10 times more are still in the population.

It's a huge day for Adjara and for Georgia. Russians and their noses aside, the U.S. and Russia once again coordinated as excellent partners to bolster the central government in its efforts to resolve this peacefully. If there had been fighting, you can forget bringing Abkhazia and South Ossetia into the fold easily. But with this peaceful liberation of Adjara, who knows? Maybe those dominos can fall after all. Time for reflection later. For now, celebration. Of course, the Georgians are waaaaaay ahead of me:

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Image of War

A stunning article in the Post today on the prisoner photos, and the brutality itself. Among other ruminations, Philip Kennicott notes that America has lost control over the image of this war, and that the aggression of occupation brutalizes the occupier in a different but parallel way to the brutalization of the occupied. Do read it...

A Wretched New Picture Of America :
Among the corrosive lies a nation at war tells itself is that the glory -- the lofty goals announced beforehand, the victories, the liberation of the oppressed -- belongs to the country as a whole; but the failure -- the accidents, the uncounted civilian dead, the crimes and atrocities -- is always exceptional. Noble goals flow naturally from a noble people; the occasional act of barbarity is always the work of individuals, unaccountable, confusing and indigestible to the national conscience.

...Any minute now, "Mr. Clean-up" will touchdown in Batumi, the Adjaran capital. Georgians will well remember the last time they hosted Igor Ivanov, the secretary of Russia's Security Council. He was in Tbilisi, under very similar circumstances, negotiating the terms of Shevardnadze's resignation. He'll soon be meeting with Aslan.

Damn, if this country can oust two despots in the space of 7 months? It had never been done in a post-Soviet country until Georgia booted Shevy in November. And that had the rest of the autocrats in the former Soviet space, as Putin so elegantly put it, "shitting their pants." The bad news for reformers in other countries is that the more Georgia succeeds in kicking out the despots, the more other rulers feel the need to crack down on civil society and its attendant freedoms, to prevent a repeat in their own borders. We're seeing this explicitly in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and more. Still, that's a different battle. I'm rooting for my home team on this one. Someone get me a beer.

Update II

Rustavi 2 is issuing an unofficial report that Abashidze has resigned. Can it be?
oh, and

...Some reports from the protests in Adjara say that the security forces are joining the protest and not moving against the people. Unconfirmed, but excellent if true.

Russia is offering asylum to Abashidze, so now he has an exit strategy. I don't think they'll let him live out his days in the presidential dacha like Shevardnadze is doing...

It's a countdown, now. This guy's got no legs.
You asked for it

Alright, Georgia.
It's really, really exciting right now. I hope I'm not calling this wrong, but I'm forecasting that the region of Adjara, a break-off autonomous region of Georgia that has been a trouble spot since independence, might soon be brought into the fold of Georgia proper, and its autocratic leader will resign.

Aslan Abashidze and his powerful family have ruled this small but vitally important chunk of Georgia as their personal fiefdom. The Adjaran population doesn't support him - when their election results are fair, they vote like the rest of Georgia - for the current president's party. But Abashidze's supporters are well-armed and not afraid to use their weapons against protesters and the opposition, as they have shown time and again.

Georgian President Saakashvili is determined to bring Adjara back into Georgia, and get rid of Abashidze once and for all. Now, these arguments between central authority and Adjara are old news, but this time, things are different.

-This week, Abashidze had his supporters blow up two main supply bridges connecting Georgia proper and Adjara. We've moved beyond words; this is serious action.

-46 soldiers of Adjara's elite (illegal) militia defected to Tbilisi within the past two weeks.

-The United States, in one of the few recent instances of foreign policy I am proud of, issued a statement saying that Abashidze must disarm his illegal militia. This was a powerful statement in support of the Georgian central government, and much more direct than the Council of Europe's mealy statement about failure to reach dialogue. The international pressure is now on Abashidze.

-Protests are gathering force in Adjara. This is also a big deal. Citizens often try to gather protests, but are promptly beaten back and scattered. Abashidze loyalists dispersed smaller protests, beating students, but more and more people have continued to take to the streets. This morning, they are reporting 15,000 people rallying outside the university, demanding Abashidze's resignation. This is too many for the thugs to handle, and so they stay.

-Key members of Abashidze's cabinet and inner circle are defecting to Tbilisi. It's looking a lot like the Rose Revolution of November - protests gaining force, demands for resignation, members of the government stepping down.

The wild card in this one will be the violence. Abashidze, unlike Shevardnadze, does not have a legacy to protect and does not answer to the international community. He is unlikely to be the type to go down without a fight, and he's been heavily arming his supporters. I would be very surprised if this went down without bloodshed, but I'll be delighted to be proven wrong. Maybe he will see the writing on the wall and save face. I e-mailed my Georgian posse about this, and they are worried as well about the prospect of violence, saying that Batumi, the capital of Adjara, is in a panic.

If Saakashvili can bring Adjara back into Georgia peacefully, it will be a major coup for his young administration. And I'll be totally pissed that I'm not there to celebrate...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Lord Help You All

I think the post-Soviet shit is about to hit the fan once again in Georgia, but I am resisting the urge to give you another blow-by-blow of revolution. Because it's important to know your audience, and I know that no matter how long I rattle on about all of it, NONE OF YOU CARE. And that's as it should be, because if all of you cared about every little thing happening in the Caucasus and what-not, you'd probably have my job instead of me, and I'd be unemployed.

So, back to cab drivers.

Usually, when my cab drivers choose to speak to me and regale me with one of their many opinions, I am very agreeable. Often, this is not too hard as the cab drivers are often on my side of the political pasture. But sometimes they'll be a leeeetle too, say, "I-hate-gays" for my taste, but I don't really get into it.

But today, I was in quite the mood. Feeling very put-upon by the world and sorry for myself, I was grumping in silence in the back of the cab, when my driver decided to flip on some day-time hate-monger radio. And, I don't even know what the guy was saying, but his strained voice rising unnaturally high and his suffocating indignation were not the kind of thing to cheer me up. So I passive-aggressively sighed heavily and went through the exaggerated pantomines of headache, but all for naught.

This horrible voice that was still yapping from the radio started saying something about the prisoners in Iraq, and my cab driver noted:

"You know these pictures in the paper, of what the soldiers did. This is not really torture, you know."

I'm just, really, really not in the mood. I don't need moral relativism from my cab driver today. "But didn't you read the article? There was a lot worse stuff going on that there wasn't pictures of. Like, torture. Okay? Torture."

"But can you believe this guy who brings the photos? He could have just saved them for after the war and made a documentary? But no, he has to bring the photos out and make it dangerous for the soldiers that are still there."

"Oh that's bullshit; these guys that were piling up naked Iraqi bodies are the ones making it dangerous for the soldiers still there. Do you think it's a total secret in Iraq that this kind of treatment is going on in the prisons?"

So I'm calling a moratorium on tip-toeing around the cab drivers, as I should have long ago. Seriously, these guys sit and listen to the news all day, they have no excuse for not knowing the writing on the wall. Like my driver that took me out to Dulles last month, rhapsodizing on Richard Clarke and his new book.

You know what? In this city, of all places, there should be ideological cab services. Like when you're just not in the mood to listen to something you find objectionable, you just call the Liberal Cab, Inc., and nod and agree for your whole ride. Or if you feel feisty and argumentative, you call Conservative Cab Co. and have it out.

Eh, enough. I have a softball game on the Mall to go lose.