Thursday, December 29, 2005

Great Sources Of Information Worth Pursuing

The big news story continues to focus on Bush's approving NSA wiretaps on Americans while completely ignoring the judicial process. With the Congress and Senate adjourned for the holidays there is fear that the issue might be spun and buried by Republican leadership before they return.

I hope that this does not happen. I do believe that further investigation is crucial--both to our national confidence and world reputation. I am not alone. The ACLU ran a large ad in the NYT pointing out the parallel of Nixon's attitude towards the law and that of George W. Bush. I couldn't get it to reproduce here without throwing all the margins off. Just click below.
  • Nixon Bush Ad

  • You can visit the ACLU site and send a free e-card with the ad to anyone that you think might support this perspective. The address for the card is:
  • ACLU E-Card

  • On that same topic there is an excellent essay in rdf's blog diary on "Surveillance vs. Civil Liberties" at the TPM Cafe.
  • Civil Liberties

  • It's an articulate, well organized and easy to read piece on the issues and historical background of this type of surveillance. If you are interested in gaining a better understanding of this issue it is worth your time to click on the follow the address. TPM Cafe is located at the Talking Points Memo site.

    The complete text of the FISA law is available here:
  • Law Code: FISA

  • Finally, U. S. Representative John Conyers has a link to his page where you can obtain the newly compiled report by House Democrats. It covers the legal implications of how the country was led into war with Iraq.
  • Iraq Report

  • Sunday, December 25, 2005

    Merry Christmas To Me

    Merry Christmas To Me
    By: Pamela Lach

    I have strong political opinions. I write letters and editorials, post on blogs, distribute materials, and work on elections. I call myself Independent.
    I once had a deep fundamental belief that despite party labels, political differences and personal greed, we were a good country, a decent people. The character that John Wayne played repeatedly matched a deep part of our cultural psyche. We might be rough around the edges, we might be unconventional, but we had a strong sense of right and wrong. We protected the underdog and the damsel in distress.
    I do not think I was totally naïve. I knew that some people in our government were evil and corrupt. Their damage to people and places cycled through the generations. We grew and learned from those mistakes.
    I scoffed at all the “Y2K Disaster” predictions. I was right about those. Nothing happened when the clock changed on January 1st. Instead, the unbelievable happened twelve months later. Somehow, George W. Bush became President of the United States.
    At the time, I was disgusted that the vote was so close. To me, he is clearly an incompetent boob who has hung onto daddy’s coattails throughout his entire life. I had no precognition of what he would become. I never believed until now that one man and his henchman could do so much damage to my country in such a short time.
    I was more distressed at how he was chosen. I have worked at voting sites at many Presidential elections. I have counted hanging chads with the best of them. I watched the whirl of the stories of disenfranchised voters, crazy ballots, and uncounted votes in disbelief. I hoped that it was a political charade that would soon slip away. Of course, they would count all the votes! Of course, they would look into those fraudulent claims! Unlike my predictions about Y2K, this time I was incredibly wrong. Yet, I still do not believe that this could have happened in any state other than the Florida of November 2000. At a time when the President’s brother happened to be its governor.
    When the Supreme Court made the decision that made George W. Bush the winner, I fell into a sort of numb shock. Then add the horror of 9/11/2001; invading Afghanistan yet losing Bin Ladin, invading Iraq without a plan for the ‘after’ part---I was in a political coma. An American Zombie.
    I did not come out of it until Howard Dean’s internet revolution. His demand that we ‘take back our country’ and the online posts of my fellow disenfranchised citizens rekindled the spark of hope. Perhaps, after all, we the people can demonstrate our power. We all know what happened next. He went down in an avalanche of political maneuvers and media manipulation. Now it is our turn.
    Yellow Alert. Red Alert . Someone is going to attack us!
    Beware of the disease of the month! It might kill you, your loved ones, and your whole town. Today it might be Anthrax, SARS, West Nile Virus, or Bird Flu--next year it will be something else.
    Watch out for (fill in the blank________) (Arabs, Gays, Immigrants). They are trying to destroy the American way of life!
    Christmas is under attack! Our world is being destroyed!
    Fear undermines civilized behavior. It makes the unknown more frightening than it really is. Its effect is often aggressive action. As Marilyn Ferguson once said: “Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is a freedom.”

    A people divided are easy to overpower. We have let ourselves become alienated from our neighbors and manipulated by those in power. We need to stop thinking of each other as “Right Wing Nut Jobs” and “Bleeding Heart Liberals.”
    The ironic aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union is that we lost our common enemy. Now we fear our neighbors. The fear perpetuated throughout the cold war has been replaced by an indefinable anxiety. We are being conditioned to feel threatened by anyone who looks or thinks differently. Yet one of the foundations of every belief system is essentially to ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. When nearly everyone is a potential threat, how can that occur? It cannot. That is what keeps us demoralized and exploited.

    Leaders in the government and their counterpart corporate entities are masters at hitting the right buttons of each group. They easily distract us with shell games of fear, threats, and suspicion...

    It is hard to grasp that we live in an America that defies the Geneva Conventions. With an administration that advocates the torture of prisoners who have not been tried in a court of law. With a government that ignores its own hurricane victims. In an America that spies on its own citizens, allows oil companies to set energy policies, and no longer believes in caring for the weakest among us.

    We admire courage. We fought to preserve freedom all over the world during the twentieth century. We like to feel that we stand with other heroic people. The hearty Brits bravely facing the German bombardments. People of all ages crawling, scrambling, sometimes dying --just to get on the other side of a wall in Berlin. A young man who was raised in a compliant yet stood and faced down a tank in Tiananmen Square.
    What happened to our courage? Where is our leadership? Why no national outrage?
    Some people continue to say, “We must not be negative--it will hurt the morale of our troops.”
    Where is the morale boost in watching a buddy die? In being crippled for life? In living in a day-to-day hell with an enemy everywhere? Of being short of needed gear? Of having to use defective equipment? Of being forced to extend your tour of duty in a war zone?
    There will be no pride of mission accomplished in this quagmire. If we really want to boost morale, we should get them out of there.
    Perhaps our greatest enemies are complacency and complicity. It is so much easier to believe the pundit or politician who tells us what we want to hear. Yet, once we acknowledge our problem, we gain the power to put it past us. We cannot beat it until we face it down.
    The President and other members of his administration have acknowledged that there are more terrorists now than before 9/11. Our reactionary and violent behavior has done nothing to stop the growth and spread of people who hate the United States. Our conduct has swelled the number of our enemies, and destroyed belief in our treasured identity. Can we still claim to hold the national characteristics that put us on the side of the ‘good, true, and honorable’? Well, our actions certainly speak louder than our words.
    The only way to stop this madness is turn away from our fear and ignorance. It has made us ugly. How will future generations describe us? If they say that Americans were a people who torture, spy, eavesdrop on citizens, kill with chemicals, falsely imprison, manipulate, lie, cheat, and steal---do we want it to be true?
    You and I can no longer abdicate personal responsibility. We cannot allow the principals of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be destroyed. The men who wrote these documents faced losing everything they had to fight for liberty.
    They took a huge risk in facing down the strongest military power in the world. They were not the obvious victors in the struggle. Yet when they signed the Declaration of Independence, they “pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.” They would have been executed as traitors if they lost. They put everything they had on the line to obtain their autonomy.
    Aren’t we willing to do that today?
    We have better nutrition, medical care, and standards of living than those early revolutionaries. All of us have the benefit of education and the lessons of history. We have the edge, the advantage of knowing that it can be done.

    If we deserve to live in the bastion of freedom and democracy, it is time to open ourselves to risk. To fight to keep all that we have taken for granted. It might be scary and inconvenient. It might be uncomfortable and unpleasant.

    Unlike the early settlers, we will not have to move thousands of miles away. Unlike the soldiers at Valley Forge, we will not have to freeze or eat our shoe leather.
    If we fail to act, perhaps historians will assume that people who wore tights and powdered wigs were tougher and had greater character than those that live in this era.
    If we fail, our legacy to history will be that we became victims instead of victors.
    If we fail, future generations will never understand why we were willing to let Americans die to ‘protect’ freedom all over the world—and let it slip away in our own land.
    I have always taken the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) for granted. In fact, I have barely paid attention to them. They are not always popular. Sometimes I dislike their actions.
    This group has been fighting to protect our Civil Liberties and the fundamentals of our Constitution. Now I realize how desperately we need such advocacy. I am grateful that they still exist.
    As a gift to myself this year, I purchased membership in the ACLU. It’s a small thing, yet a gift that will keep on giving. Of that, I have no doubt. Here’s to Christmas, and may Santa leave a package of courage and outrage underneath your tree.

    Saturday, December 24, 2005

    Christmas Carols for the Concerned

    In the finest tradition of taking a well known tune and using it for satire, I found this at Daily Kos (link above), posted by: dsquared.

    It's sung to the tune of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"


    God damn ye fell Republicans

    Ye ne'er fail to dismay,

    By saying Christ our Saviour

    Thinks what you do's okay.

    You've been seduced by your own power

    And wandered far astray,

    O lying, and violence, and dough,

    Violence and dough,

    O lying, and violence, and dough.

    In old Mesopotamia

    A hateful war took form,

    We trusting voters all were told

    Our welcome would be warm.

    2,000 dead and now we're stuck

    And torture is the norm,

    O lying, and violence, and dough,

    Violence and dough,

    O lying, and violence, and dough.

    From Cheney, spawn of Satan,

    The countless lies doth spew:

    "Al Quaida met with Syria,

    There's proof, I'm telling you.

    "The pundits fawned, the Times lay down,

    The right-wing thinktanks grew,

    O lying, and violence, and dough,

    Violence and dough,

    O lying, and violence, and dough.

    You avaricious criminals

    Will come to dire ends,

    Grand juries are convening now

    For Frist, DeLay, and friends,

    Sweet Justice comes with sword unsheathed

    You cannot make amends

    For lying, and violence, and dough,

    Violence and dough,

    For lying, and violence, and dough.

    A great way to spice up your Christmas caroling!

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Pick Your Nightmare—How Will Bush Distract Us Now

    • Impeachable Offense! We keep hearing it and finally the words are being said publicly on Capitol Hill. And not just by Democrats.

      This time he has hit the Senate and Congress below the belt. He contemptuously ignored the outlets they gave him (FISA courts). His actions spoke loudly that he no longer considered the Legislative Branch an independent entity. Maybe that will wake even the Republicans up the precarious state of our Republic.

      Will impeachment actually happen? Bush and gang have made our previous ‘Teflon’ President (Reagan) look like a man in quicksand in comparison. The lies and diversions and manipulations practiced by this administration have been breathtaking in scope.

      I am afraid right now. I am not alone. I am seeing it pop up in blog comments everywhere. Bush and Co. have realized the milking of 9/11 is over. They have to come up with a new ogre, a new thing to spread fear and terror throughout the land.
      I hope so very much that I am wrong. But maybe if it’s out there and being talked about it might cause them to step back.

      The administration rats are cornered. What will they do to distract the American public from their high crimes and misdemeanors?

      “Allow” a huge terrorist attack to occur on American soil, something that will dwarf 9/11.

    • Catch Osama Bin Laden

    • Claim to have uncovered a huge terrorist attack plan in the U.S., with lots of conspirators all over the country---proving it with documents that are better forgeries.

    • Stop pretending they believe in democracy or our republic and declare martial law, suspend habeas corpus, and publicly wear their dictatorship.

    • Set up Iran or North Korea to do a limited nuclear attack on U.S. citizens or holdings somewhere in the world. Or make it look like they did.

    • Create a phony attempted assassination on Bush or Cheney so
      they can get sympathy and declare martial law.

    • It doesn’t matter; they will just keep getting away with whatever they do.

    • Something I haven’t thought of—add it in comments.

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Celebrating Dead People's Birthdays

    Until now I have been ignoring the “War on Christmas”. It seemed to be based on senseless pandering for listeners or readers of arch-conservative morons like Bill O’Reilly.
    Then I stumbled across Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA) resolution #H.Res.579 to "protect the symbols and traditions of Christmas." Ms. Davis explained her reasoning for the bill:

    "There has been an ongoing effort by retailers and many media
    outlets to slowly eradicate references to Christmas and the symbols and traditions that come along with it from public dialogue.
    Common sense has been hijacked by political correctness, and the Christmas Season has become a vague, generic `holiday season' spanning from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, representing nothing and celebrating anything. December 25th is the federally recognized day known as Christmas, but retail chains across the country have
    banned their employees from wishing people a Merry Christmas. As if it could not
    get more ridiculous, the Christmas tree has now become a holiday tree. This is political correctness run amok. No one should feel like they have done something wrong for wishing someone a Merry Christmas."

    I know that our Representatives like to introduce fluff bills like “A Tribute to Don Ho” or “Supporting the National Motto of the United States” (another Jo Ann Davis specialty). But in the midst of Torture amendments, the Iraq War, the abandonment of Katrina victims, revelations of NSA spying, fighting cloture on the Patriot Act and various other issues this just took a step beyond ludicrous.

    Apparently Ms. Davis and her twenty-six co-sponsors find nothing ridiculous about presenting this on the floor of the House of Representatives of the United States of America. It passed on December 15th. Clearly, our tax dollars are being used well.

    We don’t usually celebrate birthdays after the person is dead. And there is little in the traditional Christmas festivities they are trying so hard to protect that have anything to do with how we in the United States honor the anniversary of someone’s birth.

    O’Reilly and his cohorts have called for bans on buying from businesses that use “Happy Holidays” over “Merry Christmas”. They admit they dislike the idea that “Happy Holidays” might include good wishes to non-Christians (gasp).
    Whereas, their reasoning is that Christmas is all about Yeshua Christ so therefore it is important we protect and preserve the importance of “Merry Christmas”.
    The preference for the word Christmas amazes me. This is based on the very papist Christ Mass. Only Catholics have “Mass”. Protestants have “Services”.
    Holiday comes from the word Holy Day. Ms. Davis wants to make sure that the world understands that the U. S. Congress is against wishing someone a Happy Holy Day.

    It is not really the DATE THAT YESHUA WAS BORN
    It has been fairly well established that Yeshua could NOT have been born on December 25th. These fierce adherents to the veracity of the Bible apparently are unaware almost all biblical scholars concur on this issue. In addition, historians have pointed out:
    • Shepherds didn’t have their sheep out grazing in the blustery weather then prevalent in December.
    • In that era people had one year to register for the census. It would have been foolish and irresponsible for Joseph and his nine month pregnant wife to make a ninety mile trip during December, the worst weather season.
    • Most biblical scholars have determined that Christ was born some time in the fall.

    The dates and celebrations regarding the birth of Yeshua weren’t an organized festivity in the early church. It wasn’t important enough for them to address the issue until more than 300 years after his death.

    When the Catholic Council of Nicea addressed the issue during their 4th century meetings they were quite pragmatic. No one knew the actual day or month. The date in December they assigned to Yeshua’s birth was purposely chosen to coincide with prevalent solstice celebrations.

    Approximately fifty years before the Nicene Council, the Roman Emperor Aurelian combined the festivities of various solstice nativity celebrations. He declared the date as the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.

    The words “Merry Christmas” are nothing to get excited about. Taken literally they are wishing someone “Happy Christ Mass”. Nor do they have anything to do with the day that Yeshua was born.

    It’s good to know that those in pseudo Christianland have their priorities straight. Why spend time trying to resolve real Christian issues like-- feed the hungry---thou shall not kill---thou shall not lie---thou shall not steallove your neighbor as yourself----when they can fill the airwaves and halls of Congress with sham outrage over the likes of
    Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays?

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    It's Just A Goddam Piece of Paper

    How ironic, (or fitting for these times) that the post following Pinter's powerful rhetoric should be this one.

    Bush, Cheney and Co. have shown contempt for U. S. laws so many times and in so many ways I didn't think that they could shock me any more. They did. This from Counterpunch:

    December 14, 2005
    Bush and the Constitution
    "Just a Goddamned Piece of Paper" By GARY LEUPP

    "Doug Thompson, publisher of Capitol Hill Blue, says he's
    talked to three people present last month when Republican Congressional leaders met with President Bush in the Oval Office to talk about renewing the Patriot Act.

    That act, passed by legislators who hadn't read it,

    in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 (when most people were shell-shocked and lawmakers in particular disinclined to use their brains), has of course been criticized as containing unconstitutional elements.
    All three GOP politicians quote their president as saying:

    "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face! It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"

    Thursday, December 08, 2005

    The Power of Words

    Although this blog is primarily meant as an outlet for my words, sometimes someone else states something so well that I want to make sure that my readers don't miss it. Also note: Mr. Pinter is British, Thus what may seem spelling, punctuation or grammatical errors in American English are merely the author's native English.

    Yesterday Harold Pinter (the 2005 Nobel Prize winner for Literature) gave an incredibly eloquent speech. He talks about the process of writing, the use of words, and the elusive elements of truth. He wove the history of American foreign policy since WWII into a comprehensive and frightening tapestry. Already the mainstream media is calling it an 'anti-American' lecture.

    It is really the opposite. It is a compelling indictment of U. S. actions versus U. S. words. I believe that deep down most of us want to live up to the ideals this country was founded upon. His description of our actions versus our words will hopefully help us rip away the wizard's curtain and start to become the country we thought we already were.

    I've copied it here in it's entirety. Copyright notice from the Nobel Prize organization is state at the bottom.

    Harold Pinter – Nobel Lecture --Art, Truth & Politics

    In 1958 I wrote the following:
    'There are no hard distinctions between what is real and what is unreal, nor between what is true and what is false. A thing is not necessarily either true or false; it can be both true and false.' I believe that these assertions still make sense and do still apply to the exploration of reality through art.

    So as a writer I stand by them but as a citizen I cannot. As a citizen I must ask: What is true? What is false?

    Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour. The search is your task. More often than not you stumble upon the truth in the dark, colliding with it or just glimpsing an image or a shape which seems to correspond to the truth, often without realising that you have done so.

    But the real truth is that there never is any such thing as one truth to be found in dramatic art. There are many. These truths challenge each other, recoil from each other, reflect each other, ignore each other, tease each other, are blind to each other.

    Sometimes you feel you have the truth of a moment in your hand, then it slips through your fingers and is lost.

    I have often been asked how my plays come about. I cannot say. Nor can I ever sum up my plays, except to say that this is what happened. That is what they said. That is what they did.

    Most of the plays are engendered by a line, a word or an image. The given word is often shortly followed by the image. I shall give two examples of two lines which came right out of the blue into my head, followed by an image, followed by me.

    The plays are The Homecoming and Old Times. The first line of "The Homecoming is 'What have you done with the scissors?' The first line of "Old Times" is 'Dark.' In each case I had no further information.

    In the first case someone was obviously looking for a pair of scissors and was demanding their whereabouts of someone else he suspected had probably stolen them. But I somehow knew that the person addressed didn't give a damn about the scissors or about the questioner either, for that matter.

    'Dark' I took to be a description of someone's hair, the hair of a woman, and was the answer to a question. In each case I found myself compelled to pursue the matter. This happened visually, a very slow fade, through shadow into light.

    I always start a play by calling the characters A, B and C. In the play that became The Homecoming I saw a man enter a stark room and ask his question of a younger man sitting on an ugly sofa reading a racing paper. I somehow suspected that A was a father and that B was his son, but I had no proof. This was however confirmed a short time later when B (later to become Lenny) says to A (later to become Max), 'Dad, do you mind if I change the subject? I want to ask you something. The dinner we had before, what was the name of it? What do you call it? Why don't you buy a dog? You're a dog cook. Honest. You think you're cooking for a lot of dogs.'

    So since B calls A 'Dad' it seemed to me reasonable to assume that they were father and son. A was also clearly the cook and his cooking did not seem to be held in high regard. Did this mean that there was no mother? I didn't know. But, as I told myself at the time, our beginnings never know our ends.

    'Dark.' A large window. Evening sky. A man, A (later to become Deeley), and a woman, B (later to become Kate), sitting with drinks. 'Fat or thin?' the man asks. Who are they talking about? But I then see, standing at the window, a woman, C (later to become Anna), in another condition of light, her back to them, her hair dark.

    It's a strange moment, the moment of creating characters who up to that moment have had no existence.

    What follows is fitful, uncertain, even hallucinatory, although sometimes it can be an unstoppable avalanche. The author's position is an odd one. In a sense he is not welcomed by the characters. The characters resist him, they are not easy to live with, they are impossible to define. You certainly can't dictate to them. To a certain
    extent you play a never-ending game with them, cat and mouse, blind man's buff, hide and seek. But finally you find that you have people of flesh and blood on your hands, people with will and an individual sensibility of their own, made out of component parts you are unable to change, manipulate or distort.

    So language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time.

    But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.

    Political theatre presents an entirely different set of problems. Sermonising has to be avoided at all cost. Objectivity is essential. The
    characters must be allowed to breathe their own air. The author cannot confine and constrict them to satisfy his own taste or disposition or prejudice. He must be prepared to approach them from a variety of angles, from a full and uninhibited range of perspectives, take them by surprise, perhaps, occasionally, but nevertheless give them the freedom to go which way they will. This does not always work.

    And political satire, of course, adheres to none of these precepts, in fact does precisely the opposite, which is its proper function. In my play 'The Birthday Party' I think I allow a whole range of options to operate in a dense forest of possibility before finally focussing on an act of subjugation.

    'Mountain Language' pretends to no such range of operation. It remains brutal, short and ugly. But the soldiers in the play do get some fun out of it. One sometimes forgets that torturers become easily bored. They need a bit of a laugh to keep their spirits up. This has been confirmed of course by the events at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad. Mountain Language lasts only 20 minutes, but it could go on for hour after hour, on and on and on, the same pattern repeated over and over again, on and on, hour after hour.

    'Ashes to Ashes', on the other hand, seems to me to be taking place under water. A drowning woman, her hand reaching up through the waves, dropping down out of sight, reaching for others, but finding nobody there, either above or under the water, finding only shadows,
    reflections, floating; the woman a lost figure in a drowning landscape, a woman unable to escape the doom that seemed to belong only to others. But as they died, she must die too.

    Political language, as used by politicians, does not venture into any of this territory since the majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power.

    To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.

    As every single person here knows, the justification for the invasion of Iraq was that Saddam Hussein possessed a highly dangerous body of weapons of mass destruction, some of which could be fired in 45 minutes, bringing about appalling devastation. We were assured that was true. It was not true.

    We were told that Iraq had a relationship with Al Quaeda and shared
    responsibility for the atrocity in New York of September 11th 2001. We were assured that this was true. It was not true.

    We were told that Iraq threatened the security of the world. We were assured it was true. It was not true. The truth is something entirely different.

    The truth is to do with how the United States understands its role in the world and how it chooses to embody it.

    But before I come back to the present I would like to look at the recent past, by which I mean United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. I believe it is obligatory upon us to subject this period to at least some kind of even limited scrutiny, which is all that time will allow here.

    Everyone knows what happened in the Soviet Union and throughout Eastern Europe during the post-war period: the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought. All this has been fully documented and verified.

    But my contention here is that the US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognised as crimes at all.

    I believe this must be addressed and that the truth has considerable bearing on where the world stands now.

    Although constrained, to a certain extent, by the existence of the Soviet Union, the United States' actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked. Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America's favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as 'low intensity conflict'. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop.

    It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom.
    When the populace has been subdued – or beaten to death – the same thing – and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed. This was a commonplace in US foreign policy in the years to which I refer.

    The tragedy of Nicaragua was a highly significant case. I choose to offer it here as a potent example of America's view of its role in the world, both then and now.

    I was present at a meeting at the US embassy in London in the late 1980s. The United States Congress was about to decide whether to give more money to the Contras in their campaign against the state of Nicaragua. I was a member of a delegation speaking on behalf of Nicaragua but the most important member of this delegation was a Father John Metcalf. The leader of the US body was Raymond Seitz(then number two to the ambassador, later ambassador himself).

    Father Metcalf said: 'Sir, I am in charge of a parish in the north of Nicaragua. My parishioners built a school, a health centre, a cultural centre. We have lived in peace. A few months ago a Contra force attacked the parish. They destroyed everything: the school, the health centre, the cultural centre. They raped nurses and teachers, slaughtered doctors in the most brutal manner. They behaved like savages. Please demand that the US government withdraw its support from this shocking terrorist activity.'

    Raymond Seitz had a very good reputation as a rational, responsible and highly sophisticated man. He was greatly respected in diplomatic circles. He listened, paused and then spoke with some gravity. 'Father,' he said, 'let me tell you something. In war, innocent people always suffer.' There was a frozen silence. We stared at him. He did not flinch. Innocent people, indeed, always suffer.

    Finally somebody said: 'But in this case “innocent people” were the victims of a gruesome atrocity subsidised by your government, one among many. If Congress allows the Contras more money further atrocities of this kind will take place. Is this not the case? Is your government not therefore guilty of supporting acts of murder and destruction upon the citizens of a sovereign state?'

    Seitz was imperturbable. 'I don't agree that the facts as presented support your assertions,' he said. As we were leaving the Embassy a US aide told me that he enjoyed my plays. I did not reply.

    I should remind you that at the time President Reagan made the following statement: "The Contras are the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. "

    The United States supported the brutal overthrew this regime in 1979, a breathtaking popular revolution. The Sandinistas weren't perfect. They possessed their fair share of arrogance and their political philosophy contained a number of contradictory elements. But they were intelligent, rational and civilised. They set out to establish a stable, decent, pluralistic society. The death penalty was abolished.

    Hundreds of thousands of poverty-stricken peasants were brought back from the dead. Over 100,000 families were given title to land. Two thousand schools were built. A quite remarkable literacy campaign reduced illiteracy in the country to less than one seventh. Free education was established and a free health service. Infant mortality was reduced by a third. Polio was eradicated.

    The United States denounced these achievements as Marxist/Leninist subversion.

    In the view of the US government, a dangerous example was being set. If Nicaragua was allowed to establish basic norms of social and economic justice, if it was allowed to raise the standards of health care and education and achieve social unity and national self respect, neighbouring countries would ask the same questions and do the same things. There was of course at the time fierce resistance to the status quo in El Salvador.

    I spoke earlier about 'a tapestry of lies' which surrounds us. President Reagan commonly described Nicaragua as a 'totalitarian dungeon'. This was taken generally by the media, and certainly by the British government, as accurate and fair comment. But there was in fact no record of death squads under the Sandinista government. There was
    no record of torture. There was no record of systematic or official military brutality. No priests were ever murdered in Nicaragua. There were in fact three priests in the government, two Jesuits and a Maryknoll missionary.

    The totalitarian dungeons were actually next door, in El Salvador and Guatemala. The United States had brought down the democratically elected government of Guatemala in 1954 and it is estimated that over 200,000 people had been victims of successive military dictatorships.

    Six of the most distinguished Jesuits in the world were viciously murdered at the Central American University in San Salvador in 1989 by a battalion of the Alcatl regiment trained at Fort Benning,
    Georgia, USA. That extremely brave man Archbishop Romero was assassinated while saying mass. It is estimated that 75,000 people died. Why were they killed? They were killed because they believed a better life was possible and should be achieved. That belief immediately qualified them as communists.

    They died because they dared to question the status quo, the endless plateau of poverty, disease, degradation and oppression, which had been their birthright.

    The United States finally brought down the Sandinista government. It took some years and considerable resistance but relentless economic persecution and 30,000 dead finally undermined the spirit of the Nicaraguan people. They were exhausted and poverty stricken once again.

    Free health and free education were over. Big business returned with a vengeance. 'Democracy' had prevailed.

    But this 'policy' was by no means restricted to Central America. It was conducted throughout the world. It was never-ending. And it is as if it never happened. The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War.

    I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven. Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy?

    The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them.

    You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

    I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road.

    Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner.

    Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

    It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to
    keep thought at bay.
    The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable.

    This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.

    The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

    What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead?

    Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'.

    This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'.

    Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood.

    This is torture.

    What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.

    The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation.

    A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people. We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

    How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought.

    Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice.

    But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

    Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.

    Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.

    The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.

    Here is an extract from a poem by Pablo Neruda, "I'm Explaining a Few Things":

    And one morning all that was burning,

    one morning the bonfires

    leapt out of the earth

    devouring human beings

    and from then on fire,

    gunpowder from then
    on, and from then on blood.

    Bandits with planes and Moors,

    bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,

    bandits with black friars spattering blessings

    came through the sky to kill children

    and the blood of children ran through the streets

    without fuss, like children's blood.

    Jackals that the jackals would despise

    stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,

    vipers that the vipers would abominate.

    Face to face with you I have seen the blood

    of Spain tower like a tidet

    to drown you in one wave

    of pride and knives.



    see my dead house,

    look at broken Spain:

    from every house burning metal flows

    instead of flowers

    from every socket of Spain

    Spain emerges

    and from every dead child a rifle with eyes

    and from every crime bullets are born

    which will one day find

    the bull's eye of your hearts.

    And you will ask: why doesn't his poetry

    speak of dreams and leaves

    and the great volcanoes of his native land.

    Come and see the blood in the streets.

    Come and see

    the blood in the streets.

    Come and see the blood in the streets!*

    Let me make it quite clear that in quoting from Neruda's poem I am in no way comparing Republican Spain to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. I quote Neruda because nowhere in contemporary poetry have I read such a powerful visceral description of the bombing of civilians.

    I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as 'full spectrum dominance'.

    That is not my term, it is theirs. 'Full spectrum dominance' means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.

    The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honourable exception of Sweden,
    of course. We don't quite know how they got there but they are there all right.

    The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. Two thousand are on hair trigger alert, ready to be launched with 15 minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident.

    Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this
    infantile insanity – the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons – is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

    Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet.

    But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish. I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself.

    I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

    'God is good. God is great. God is good.

    My God is good. Bin Laden's God
    is bad. His is a bad God.

    Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one.

    He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians.

    We don't chop people's heads off.

    We believe in freedom. So does God.

    I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically
    elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy.

    We are a compassionate society.

    We give compassionate electrocution

    and compassionate lethal injection.

    We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is.

    I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are.

    I possess moral authority.

    You see this fist?

    This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

    A writer's life is a highly vulnerable, almost naked activity. We don't have to weep about that. The writer makes his choice and is stuck with it. But it is true to say that you are open to all the winds, some of them icy indeed.

    You are out on your own, out on a limb. You find no shelter, no protection – unless you lie – in which case of course you have constructed your own protection and, it could be argued, become a politician.

    I have referred to death quite a few times this evening. I shall
    now quote a poem of my own called

    Where was the dead body found?

    Who found the dead body?

    Was the dead body dead when found?

    How was the dead body found?
    Who was the dead body?
    Who was the father or daughter or brother

    Or uncle or sister or mother or son

    Of the dead and abandoned body?

    Was the body dead when abandoned?

    Was the body abandoned?

    By whom had it been abandoned?

    Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?
    What made you declare the dead body dead?

    Did you declare the dead body dead?

    How well did you know the dead body?

    How did you know the dead body was dead?

    Did you wash the dead body

    Did you close both its eyes

    Did you bury the body

    Did you leave it abandoned

    Did you kiss the dead body

    When we look into a mirror we think the image that confronts us is accurate.

    But move a millimetre and the image changes. We are actually looking at a never-ending range of reflections.

    But sometimes a writer has to smash the mirror – for it is on the other side of that mirror that the truth stares at us.

    I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

    If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us – the dignity of man.

    © THE NOBEL FOUNDATION 2005General permission is granted for the publication in newspapers in any language after December 7, 2005, 5:30 p.m. (Swedish time). Publication in periodicals or books otherwise than in summary requires the consent of the Foundation. On all publications in full or in major parts the above underlined copyright notice must be applied.

    Wednesday, December 07, 2005

    In Nurses We Trust

    I loathe telemarketers. The interruption of my time is irritating. The idea that I would be interested in whatever they have to say is presumptuous.

    When I read the recent Gallup Poll regarding “Honesty/Ethics in Professions” it hardly surprised me to see telemarketers at the bottom of the list. The poll asked the question:

    “Please tell me how you would rate the honest and ethical standards of people in these different fields.”
    Nurses topped the list as most trustworthy and principled, telemarketers hugged the bottom as the least.

    Nurses 82%
    Pharmacists 67%
    Medical Doctors 65%
    High School Teachers 64%
    Police Officers 61%
    Clergy 54%
    Directors 44%
    Bankers 41%
    Accountants 39%
    Journalists 28%
    Real Estate Agents 20%
    Building Contractors 20%
    Lawyers 18%
    Senators 16%
    Business Executives 16%
    Union Leaders 16%
    Congressperson 14%
    Advertising Practitioners 11%
    Car Salespersons 8%
    Telemarketers 7%

    I found it intriguing that we trust police officers, pharmacists, and high school teachers more than we do clergy. Funeral directors are considered more ethical than bankers and business executives.

    Gallup Polls over the past five years had similar results. It’s not too surprising that helpers and protectors such as nurses, doctors and police officers are considered the most ethical. It is easy to recognize that their careers are dedicated to serving other people. In addition, the nature of such professions requires them to follow specific standards that are strictly scrutinized.

    People who sell for a living are all ranked near the bottom. Those that work on commission seem to be considered less honest than those that charge a flat fee. Otherwise why would 24% more responders think that coffin sellers are more ethical than house sellers?

    We know that a salesperson’s income is in some way based on their selling an item for the highest amount possible. Our society values reliable, resourceful hard workers. We reward initiative, ambition and dedication. If a telemarketer, real estate or car salesperson follows those standards they will be rewarded. Eventually it might make them wealthy. We certainly value wealth. If you don’t negotiate as well as they, or educate yourself enough to know what you are purchasing—is it their fault? Some occupations are deceptive by their nature. Can we really rate these with the other professions on the same scale of ethics?

    Telemarketers and salespersons may be unscrupulous at times.

    But they don’t deserve to be at the bottom of the list. Not when we have so many models for dishonest and unethical behavior leading our government. Both the executive and legislative branches seem to be overflowing with men spouting denials of bribes, leaks and lies. I’m not sure why we don’t see President, Vice President or Secretary of Defense listed below telemarketers. Perhaps their numbers were so low they went into the negative.
    The underside is a natural place for bottom feeders.

    Thursday, December 01, 2005

    Bush Pull Out Like Your Father Should Have

    Congressman Murtha spoke out and said that the Military and its equipment are being worn down. The neocons on the Right are all over the media blathering about how he is wrong. How can anyone doubt what Murtha is saying?

    Unlike previous wars, where there was some sort of downtime between engagements, these men and women have to be ready against attack from any direction all the time. It has to be exhausting to be on constant alert.

    Wanting them to come home alive does not mean a lack of support.

    I have the utmost respect for our troops and am ashamed that we have placed them in this impossible situation. I am embarrassed that they could be horribly injured or killed serving our country in this senseless war.

    Real support would have been to give them the tools they needed to get the job done.

    It is our President and his cohorts that did not properly take care of the military as they should have. From the beginning they were shorted: in number of troops to do the job; in armor for both their bodies and their vehicles; and in being told the truth over why they were there.

    Watching History Repeat Itself

    I came of age during the late sixties. I had classmates and neighbors that died in Viet Nam. We now know that the administration and military already knew that war was a lost cause by the time they died. These young men and women perished because no one could reach a decision on how to bring the situation to a close.

    The Same Arguments Were Used Then:

    "We will weaken morale."
    As if it wasn't undermined already. As if watching your friends die around you is a great confidence booster.

    “We owe it to those who have already died to finish the job.”
    Estimates are that over 50,000 of our troops died, and about 30,000 more were seriously injured in Viet Nam AFTER our leaders knew that the war was a lost cause. I'm sure all those that died before then are grateful for the company.

    "The rest of the world won't respect our leaving the job unfinished."
    They got over it. We never forgave ourselves for what we did.

    R E S P E C T

    Can you name a country that has any respect left for us? I don’t mean fear. I mean respect.
    For the United States of America whose leaders lied about WMD; lied about Al Quaida’s ties to Saddam; lied about the length of the war and the response of the Iraqi people to our being there and lied about Iraqi oil paying for the war.
    Reverence for the United States of America that brought the world Abu Ghraib, secret prisons and a Vice President pushing for sanctioned capability to torture?
    Admiration for the United States of America who couldn’t take care of their own people when a devastating hurricane struck?
    I can see why we should worry about their high esteem.

    We Shouldn’t “Honor” Troops By Slashing Their Pay, Dis-Respecting Their Honor and Giving Them Years Of Suffering When They Remember Their Time In Iraq

    What about the self-esteem of our troops today as they watch independent contractors being paid higher wages to do military jobs? How great was morale after they hit Fallujah with phosphorus? How did the average honorable soldier feel after the photos of Abu Ghraib?

    We now know about Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. When you combine all the factors our troops have been facing undoubtedly most of them will suffer from some range of this once they are out of the danger zone. What a lovely legacy we have given them for serving us so well.

    Most Of Them Just Wanted To Go To School

    Our troops in Iraq are primarily reservists. Yes, I agree that they took a risk signing up, that they rolled the dice and lost when they were called up for active duty. But that doesn’t disguise the fact that they were joining a reserve. Not the active military.

    They have done an outstanding job in unbearable circumstances. It is wrong to keep them there longer than necessary. And it is no longer crucial.

    Bush Pull Out, Like Your Father Should Have

    It has become pretty clear that Iraq is going to implode the minute we leave. Trying to have our troops stay around long enough to prop up some sort of government and train up a military isn’t going to change that inevitable eruption. The only difference between that day and this one is the number of Americans that will die and the billions of dollars that will be spent.

    Today we can say that Viet Nam was wrong and we should have left sooner. But my schoolmates didn't live to hear that mea culpa. Let's not do the same thing to our young men and women today. Even if they don't thank you, I am sure that their grandchildren will.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2005

    America, Meet America

    So many of the issues that seem to polarize this country are from opposite ends of the spectrum, all black or all white. I'm not talking about race. I'm talking about the realm of ongoing debate.

    Our national arguments focus on the bedroom:
    Pro-choice vs. Not
    Gay rights vs. Fix Yourself

    We can't seem to agree how to relate to the rest of the planet:
    American the Exceptional vs. We Are the World
    We Have Dominion Over Nature vs. Environmentalists

    We disagree whether the government should care about our health:
    Healthcare for Everyone vs. For Those Who Can Afford It

    We are schizophrenic about our image:
    America portrayed in John Wayne movies vs. America the Imperialist

    Some of us are even confused about real science vs. religious theory:
    Evolutionary Biology vs. ‘Intelligent Design’

    You get the idea. We don't take easily to change, especially to ideas that 'seemed right' to the generations before us. Start wrapping it up with religious interpretation as so many like to do, and it gets even more complicated.

    We All Come From People Who Didn't Like It At Home

    Let's also bear in mind that if you live here, you are probably descended from people who weren't able to follow the status quo. They left home because they were unhappy, poor and had little hope for the future. They came here determined to carve out something new. Yet somehow in the last twenty years or so we have forgotten our historical origin.

    The early settlers came here to practice beliefs different from the ones forced on them at home. (Pause for irony). To found a community open to freedom of living their lives as they believed.

    A Country Built On An Unproven Idea

    The Declaration of Independence and the Revolutionary War were based on freedom to live in the manner that the individual chose, not politicians and religious leaders. Not every founding father was a Christian. Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson easily come to mind.

    And we have something new, something different than the world had ever seen before. A nation of bold ideals and endless opportunities. Yet a people who spend an enormous amount of time squabbling among themselves. Our nation and its direction are an ongoing and evolving process.

    The Holy Religious Settlers Were Not Always Kind To Others

    There was once a time when most people believed that Native Americans were inferior beings. They were lied to, murdered, robbed and mistreated. Very few voices spoke up in their defense. Now most of us are ashamed at how the early settlers of this country treated them.

    Equal Justice For All Has Been An Ongoing Project

    Our constitution made Negroes into a fraction of a person. A bloody Civil War was followed by years of lynching and Ku Klux Klan tirades. A few generations ago the majority of the country, but especially the south, was pulled kicking and screaming into the world of Civil Rights for blacks. Now such rights are almost accepted by everyone. I imagine that blacks living through that period could barely dream of the way that things are today.

    Even Though We Thought We Made The World Safe For Democracy After World War II, We Must Have Been Insecure About It And Afraid That The Russians Really Won

    Around the 1950's Communism became the great evil, and remained the giant boogeyman for at least a generation. There were the horrible 'witch hunts' of the McCarthy era in which so many lives were destroyed. The constant fear of nuclear annihilation so many of us grew up believing could happen in a heartbeat. And then that whole house of cards went tumbling down.

    Somebody Thought It Would Be Fun To Replace Dominoes With Real Countries And Said A War Would Stop The Dominoes From Falling

    Then there is the huge scar of Viet Nam, the last time we went to war for the wrong reasons with no real plan to win. One of the saddest times in our history, and a lesson most of us thought that we wouldn't repeat.

    When 'W' Has His Conversations With God He Must Have Asked Him To Be Mean To Us Because Everybody Makes Fun Of Him

    In addition to the issues that are tearing us apart, there is plenty of other bad news right now. We have had natural disasters and poor government support. Clean up and repair from Hurricane Rita will cost more than it should have because our aging infrastructures have gone to ruin. Imagine if the levy's design in New Orleans had been the correct one. The amount of money and lives that might have been saved.

    Our economy is on the ropes and our buying power has diminished. The middle class is fading away. The economy is Asia is just starting to stir and it is going to have an enormous impact on all of our lives.

    The Only Thing Real About The War(s) Manufactured By Draft Dodgers Is The Number Of People Injured and Dead

    Today we are fighting a terrible war in two countries, Iraq and Afghanistan. American men and women are dying, those that survive are often horrifically injured. Iraquis and Afghanis are dying to in numbers that we are only allowed to guess. We don't discuss the Afghan war as much, perhaps because many still feel there was a glimmer of justification to destroy the Taliban who had sheltered Osama Bin Laden.

    There is no doubt any more that the forecast for Iraq's future is gloomy. We are to blame. Iraquis today still do not remotely have the goods and services they did prior to the war. And remember that was after they suffered from all the years of sanctions. We definitely went in there without a plan, and were overly optimistic about our reception there. We can’t seem to resolve it and few people disagree any more that we need to get out. It's a matter of how and when.

    Maybe We Will Get There In Baby Steps

    Is there hope for the future? I would like to think that we still have a chance to make some changes and live up to our ideals. All of the historic problems I’ve mentioned were resolved through a combination of time and cultural growth. I’m not belittling their depth, but celebrating our possible progress.

    So much of what really happens is in that in-between place of compromise. Recently Congressman Murtha, long time supporter of the military asked for a plan regarding Iraq and our troops there. Yes, the clamor on the Hill was deafening. But the point to remember is that this war hawk moved in a different direction. The response of support for him across the country has been deafening. May it be the first big stride towards a real and lasting peace.

    Earlier this year Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, made headlines camping out on the road to W's vacation ranch. It couldn't have been fun sleeping on the side of the road. She didn't know ahead of time the overwhelming support she would receive. But she took a step toward Bush, giving him an opportunity to heal some of the wounds this war has caused. Sadly he didn't respond.

    Neither of these is as powerful as the Rosa Parks story, re-told so often this fall in honor of her death. But hers is an example of one person taking a few steps in a direction that had to be scary. But in the end was a catalyst for major change.

    I hope all of us take steps now to move toward each other, instead of staying in our little corners of ‘truth’. Because distractions and disagreements over a myriad of bedroom related actions---gay lifestyle, abortion choice, sex education--are really just one group of people trying to force their beliefs on someone else.

    Arguments over who we are as a people--whose values should be shoved down everyone's throats--are diverting us from growing. As a culture, as a people, as a society, and most of all as an economic force in the world.

    As Abraham Lincoln once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand." Let’s stop focusing on our differences. America, meet America. There is nothing clear in our history, or in our future.
    We will stumble and fumble and make terrible mistakes. But if we try to live up to our ideals future historians may judge us a success.

    Friday, November 18, 2005

    Somewhere Nixon Is Laughing

    Okay, we know that most of us, including our heroes in the sixties and seventies, sold out to the establishment eventually. Look at the 'Chicago Seven'. The defiant defenders on trial for inciting a riot actually started by police at the '68 Democratic Convention. Years later you would find Jerry Rubin on Wall Street, Rennie Davis a venture capitalist and John Froines at OSHA.

    We Thought He Helped Us Change The World

    Still, for those of us coming of age during the Watergate Era, Woodward and Bernstein epitomized the huge change that had occurred. In those days, politicians and other people of stature had their 'protections'. Reporters and newspapers avoided discussing their private lives. There was an assumption in the air that a certain level of corruption in government would probably occur. It was accepted as 'business as usual' the 'boys will be boys' mentality. But it was assumed that despite their little 'deviances' for the most part these people were working for our greater good.

    Originally The Watergate Break-In Sounded Like A Silly Prank

    The War and ensuing protests had changed a lot of this. But still, accusing the Republicans of masterminding a break-in? It seemed both pointless and ridiculous to ponder such a thing. It took a while as revelation after revelation hit the news for the full impact of the dirty tricks and manipulations to hit. Woodward and Bernstein led the world of journalism and government idealists into a new era of demanding truth, justice and the American way.

    I Thought Maybe He Took Too Many Drugs In The Sixties

    So here we are a generation later. An aging Woodward startled me when he began penning sycophantic books about the W administration and their paths to war. Yet, even I, in the cynicism of middle age, couldn't have imagined this big of a sellout. That any man who accomplished so much could become this great of a traitor to his younger self.

    It Was Like Sex, Lies and Videotape But Without The Sex

    Which is worse? His concealing knowledge about the Valerie Plame outing that was under investigation? His appearing on television spinning for the administration--without telling anyone he had a secret AND a private agenda regarding this topic?

    In July '05, on NPR's Fresh Air he dared to say: "When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great."

    I Guess He Never Thought Anyone Would Check What He Said

    When he appeared on Larry King Live in that same month, he offered to serve part of Judith Miller's jail sentence. Here is a quote from the transcript of 7/11:

    “WOODWARD: No. Clearly, we're not above the law. But frequently, people disobey the law. And when you do so, you have to be willing to accept the consequences. And in this case, the consequences, I guess, are a four-month jail sentence, and Judy Miller's willing to do that, to stand on this principle of trust. You know, I...
    I would have done it; came to mind. If the judge would permit it, I would go serve some of her jail time, because I think the principle is that important, and it should be underscored. It's not a casual idea that we have confidential sources. It is absolutely vital. And I'll bet there are all kinds of reporters out there, if we could divvy up this four-month jail sentence -- I suspect the judge would not permit that, but if he would, I'll be first in line. It's that important to our business….”

    He Only Wanted People To THINK That He Would Go To Jail To Make A Point

    Now let me just point out a few of the ironies here. He claims he didn't tell his editor or the special prosecutor of his knowledge because he didn't want to be subpoenaed, didn't want to reveal his sources. But he was already offering to do jail time with Judy, so why not bring his knowledge out in the open and serve at her side? That would have been a dignified and powerful statement.

    The second is that it has been reported that before testifying with Fitzgerald last week he wanted a 'release' from being placed in jail. From July to November he certainly changed his tune. He went from wanting to be first in line to wanting to stay out of the building.

    He also stated that actions have consequences and reporters aren’t above the law although he has yet to apply that to himself.

    It Might Be Partly His Fault That 'W' Is President

    In his news conference Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald (the guy Woodward liked to call a junkyard dog) mentioned that the investigation was delayed because of Judith Miller's refusal to provide the necessary information. Fitzgerald even mentioned that his lack of information and ensuing delays might have affected the outcome of the ‘04 presidential election. Not only is that probable, Woodward's silence was one more way of making a Bush victory possible.

    Was Woodward's behavior a reflection of his real self? Was the Watergate investigation a crass move to skyrocket his career? Or did his idealism die so hard that he became the ultimate part of the problem, betraying both himself and his readers?

    Nixon May Be Dead But That Doesn't Mean That He Lost His Sense of Humor

    Woodward (and Bernstein) became famous by bringing down a man who was known for keeping secrets. He was famous for manipulating people and information for his own agenda. How ironic that Woodward did the same thing. Somewhere, Nixon is laughing.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2005

    Morning to Mourning In America

    You have to be a certain age to remember what it was like. After Viet Nam, after the upheaval of the sixties, after the scandal of Nixon resigning--we as a country had lost faith in ourselves.

    Our Teflon President, Trouble Just Slid Right Away From Him

    When Reagan was elected so many people thought that it was a disaster. That WWIII was almost inevitable. That didn't happen. In the hubris of history, he was President at a time when the world was ripe for peace. He ended up presiding over the collapse of the Soviet Empire. Although I think a lot of it was just timing, he still deserves credit for not messing up the possibility.

    What I give him the most credit for is his "Morning in America" campaign promise fulfilled. Despite the corniness, despite the scandals of his own administration, Reagan did make us believe in ourselves again. Believe in a brighter future. Believe that we could be the America, the people that we loved to see portrayed in movies. A place opens to all possibilities, of high ideals and an example for so much of the rest of the world.

    Battered Country Syndrome, We Had Lost Our National Self-Confidence

    When Bush1 was rumbling towards war with Iraq--and creating his brilliant coalition---did any of us think we would win so easily? I didn't and I know that I wasn't alone. Remember the national elation when our hockey team beat the Soviets in the Olympics? It was like the first thing that had gone right in a long time.

    Well, circumstances gave our confidence a needed shot in the arm. We were the America we portrayed in John Wayne movies. Whether or not the war was necessary, or if Bush1 should have continued to Baghdad--is not for this article. But we did it, and we did it right, and maybe there was hope for us after all.

    Republicans Don't Like Oral Sex, Maybe They Would Be Nicer If They Got Some

    I'll skip through the glorious and bewildering Clinton years. I never understood how he was hounded and hounded by the Repugs here. I do now--they were laying the groundwork for their culture of fear. They were practicing the use of twisted words and half truths to promote their agenda.

    The Bush Boys Pretend Like We Are Having A Third World Country Election and Pull It Off For Pappy

    Before we knew what happened---an election was stolen. Here, in the land of the free and home of the brave. Then 9/11 and the country's emotional roller coaster ride began. The crass manipulations afterwards, the lies and half-truths overcame us so quickly we were blindsided and bewildered. It took quite a while to step back and really comprehend that it never should have happened. If the system we thought we had in place had worked, warnings listened to, fighters scrambled earlier, fewer people might have died. If we had a more vigilant president, a vice president who was less adept at promoting his own agenda and a better system in the FBI things might have been different that day.

    Our President Was So Excited That He Had Found A Book That He Could Read He Forgot That He Was Commander In Chief

    Remember the bizarre clip that quickly zoomed over the internet in the months that followed--showing the "Leader of the Free World" frozen in a chair in a classroom in Florida? It was chilling to hear later that Cheney was immediately taken to a bunker for his safety. Guess they weren't as worried about W's.

    It was agonizing to see how many minutes he sat there after being told a second plane had hit. To listen to his ludicrous excuses of not wanting to leave because it would scare the schoolchildren. Talk about not being able to prioritize!

    A Bunch Of Frat Boys and Draft Defer/Dodgerees Decide They Know More Than Anybody In The Whole Wide World

    Before we had stopped reeling and had any idea what had really happened that day we were at war with Afghanistan. Then Iraq.

    I believe that we hit our point of no return in Iraq right around the time the Administration was declaring 'Mission Accomplished'. To me, it all started with Fallujah. W and Cheney and Rumsfeld reacted so harshly to some minor insurgency they lit a fuse in a room full of combustibles. It has only escalated from there.

    Our Holy President And His Cronies Show That They Are Like The Early Settlers Where They Forget About "Doing Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You" Concept

    Now we are hated around the world. Our administration is drowning in its lies and cover-ups. They are PUSHING to torture prisoners. Imagine John Wayne defending these new ideals.

    Did you ever think that we could change so quickly from being the light, the standard of freedom and fairness--even if flawed---to a country killing and maiming people BEFORE they have been found guilty of anything? Where the Executive branch is full of leaders so contemptuous of the American way they not only lie with impunity---they feel they are justified in doing so?

    We Finally Got Over Viet Nam But We Will Never Get Over This Mess

    Thousands of Americans have died or been permanently handicapped in a senseless war. Our military have been not been given the right equipment. They are living amid a mad world of suicide bombers. The Iraquis themselves, those people we went to help--their way of life and standard of living has been destroyed by our aid.

    We Need A Young Luke Skywalker

    If I remember my Star Wars details correctly, part of the Sith Code is that 'peace is a lie'. Right now it seems like the Dark Sith is in the places of power in the USA.