Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Saving the President’s Face

There is never a time when the nation is in greater danger than when a president feels the need to save face. In my lifetime it has happened when Eisenhower felt at risk over the spying he was doing on North Korea, when Johnson invented the Gulf of Tonkin Incident, when Reagan raided Grenada, when Clinton went to war in Bosnia, and now that George Bush’s back is to the wall in Iraq, it may be time for him to give it a try, too.

What do presidents do when their egos are threatened? They go to war. Sometimes it’s not too big a deal. Reagan probably did the best job of going to war without putting anybody at risk. Too bad he’s gone. Maybe he would have given W some mildly less insane advice than he gets from Cheney and Rove. After all, Reagan only sent troops to a tiny little island that didn’t even have a military beyond a few good ol’ boys with a popgun or two. His was a simple ruse – just send a few seals to plant a case or two of AKs in a garage for the troops to find and then send ‘em in. Have them “rescue” a half-dozen or so medical students –even if they don’t know they need rescuing – plant a headline or two in some major papers then sit back behind your smoke screen and enjoy the diversion.

Could Rove and Cheney come up with anything that cool? Not a chance! Oh no, they come up with advice like, “Nuke Iran. That’ll take the public’s mind off the deaths in Iraq, not to mention creating another helpful chaotic mess.” If W had a brain, he’d have thrown those guys to the wolves long ago. But then, if wishes were fishes, we’d all have full nets.

At least – according to the London Times and Seymour Hersh’s interview with Terri Gross yesterday – the nuclear option is now off the table in Washington. Of course, W won’t say so publicly because it would make him look weak, but word is that several of the top Pentagon brass told him that if he ordered the use of nukes in Iran they would all resign immediately. (The Navy and Air Force are all for attacking Iran, but the Army knows it’s nuts.)

Needless to say, the option of attacking Iran by other means is still high on W’s list of dandy things to do within the next year. Probably the next few months according to Hersh, who went on to say that we will soon have four – count ‘em – four aircraft carriers in the Middle East, two of which are at great danger of catastrophe if we do attack. It seems they will sail in narrow, shallow waters like The Arabian Sea and The Straits of Hormuz that don’t permit maneuverability, and the Iranians have a secret weapon that can take advantage of them and against which the Navy has no effective defense. What is it? Six hundred Boston Whalers. That’s right. Little, open, outboard powered fishing boats. Load ‘em up with explosives, tie the tiller and turn ‘em loose. Once again, guerilla style tactics will bring down our super high tech monstrosities. But not until after we have bombed Iran for no real reason except that the president needs a diversion and the neo-cons want to “advance” our empire.

How I wish the American people would recognize that BushCo has no regard for the troops or the citizens of this or any other country on earth. BushCo is working like crazy behind the scenes to set Iran up for an attack with no thought given to the number of Iranians who will be killed, the number of American sailors and flyers who will be killed, the likely loss of a couple of aircraft carriers and maybe a few cruisers and the fact that we will be left with American troops stranded in Iraq, another destroyed nation, and oil prices twice as high as they are now in this country. Never mind the number of anti-American fighters the ill-will from such an act with recruit around the world and the absolute certainty in the world’s minds that the United States of America has gone from being a guardian of freedom to an aggressor nation intent only on advancing its own interests.

Do your best to STOP THIS ADMINISTRATION. First step – back Congress in their attempt to rescind their authorization for BushCo to attack any country they wish by any means they wish. That’s the carte blanche they gave W after 911. If W wants to bomb Iran, he can do so now without first having to go to Congress. If they rescind that authorization, we will have an opportunity to influence their votes when he asks for permission to go. If they don’t, he’ll tell us about it after the attack starts. Call your representatives and back the House and the Senate in their attempt to take back the responsibility they abdicated in 2001.

Have a meaningful day.

Monday, February 26, 2007


This morning I heard a report about the genetic relationship between the Reverend Al Sharpton and Senator Strom Thurmond. Turns out that this civil rights champion and this racist share some genes. What tangled webs we weave!

As a rather pointed aside in the story, the reporter inserted a taped clip from a speech Thurmond made when he ran for president against Harry Truman in which he argued against legislation Truman supported. His reason for opposing the new law was that it sought to ban poll taxes and lynching. I believe this would have taken place around 1941, about 75 years after the President of the United States abolished slavery.

Here we are now over 65 years later, in 2007, with a president who argues for the rights to imprison and torture anyone he deems to be an enemy of the state without recourse to legal representation and to declare war on any nation he identifies as hostile to American interests. My belief is that we have no more right to imprison and torture people than we had to lynch them for the color of their skin. We have no more right to invade a sovereign nation that has not attacked us than we had to enslave and rape people like Al Sharpton’s great-grandmother.

We call ourselves civilized; we call ourselves Christian; we call ourselves peacekeepers and freedom lovers; we call ourselves the greatest nation on earth, but we act in ways that would have been considered barbaric in Plato’s Greece.

In one of their best songs, The Great Mandella, Peter, Paul & Mary sang, “He can’t do it. He can’t change it. It’s been going on for ten thousand years.” Our hope back in the sixties was that we COULD change it; that by clearly demonstrating that we had been led into an unnecessary war by a government that would stoop to spinning the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin incident into a call for troops, we could educate the American people so that they would never again support such manipulation.

And now, 40 years later, here we are again; blindly following a warmongering president whose true motives are barely hidden behind a thinly woven curtain of patriotic platitudes, distorted intelligence and false allegations into a morass of death and dishonor for those young people gullible enough to march to the front lines.

Are we at all removed from the barbarity that motivated Strom Thurmond and his ancestors? Our society is so imbued with the John Wayne myth that pistols solve problems that we are willing to send our armies into war at the drop of a hat. (Don’t tell me 911 wasn’t the drop of a hat. Iraq had nothing to do with it.) We can’t elect a president who seeks office in the name of peace because he/she is seen as weak. We can’t stand on a street corner begging people not to support going to war without being accused of cowardice and treachery. We have had a cabinet level Department of War in this country since the early 1800s, but we meet heavy resistance in the halls of Congress two hundred years later when we argue for the establishment of a Department of Peace.

We hear our president speak of the barbarians who take prisoners and execute them by decapitation while we ignore his attitude as expressed in speeches asserting his right to imprison and torture people with impunity. What barbarians we are when we hold up our religion of peace and love as an example to the world while we slaughter innocent civilians in a far away nation in order to protect our political and economic interests.

“It’s been going on for ten thousand years.” And isn’t it about time it stopped? Can’t we at least entertain the possibility that there might be a better way to deal with the political differences of the world than by bombing into oblivion those who we think oppose us?

When we use our weaponry in negative ways, we aren’t using our strength, we are using our power. What is more barbaric than to have the most power and to use that power to force our will upon anyone who disagrees with us instead of using that power to protect the weak and enable them to achieve what we have achieved? The strength that lies within power is the moral fortitude to use the power wisely and for betterment – not just personal betterment – for everyone’s betterment.

When we use our power to take away from anyone that which belongs to them just because we want it and it will make us more comfortable, we ultimately steal not only from them, but from ourselves. When we take away the littler kid’s marbles on the playground, we may gain some marbles, but we lose the opportunity to make a friend. When we exercise our power to protect our political and economic interests, we create enemies instead of solving the problems that generated enmity in the first place. Ask yourself this question, “Who is going to be the next terrorist, the son whose father we kill or the father whose son we feed?” The answer to that very simple question can tell you that, under the policies of our present government, we are creating new enemies everyday and making no friends. Unless we drop our barbaric habits and find some new ways of interacting with our global neighbors, we face an inevitable comeuppance, and those who bring us down will be no more kind to us than we have been to them.

If we used our strength instead of our power, we could be the world’s greatest friend and create more friends for ourselves than all the bombs and money in the world will ever get us. Let’s find a new way.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


A year or so ago in trying to come up with a term to use in a speech that would clearly describe the form of government into which I think the United States’ republic has evolved, I coined the word aristomocracy. When I used it in a blog, one reader pointed out that I could have used the term plutocracy.

Wikipedia will tell you that a plutocracy is a form of government where the state's power is centralized in an affluent social class. The degree of economic inequality is high while the level of social mobility is low.

Is that an accurate description of our present system of government or what?! Who was the last president who didn’t have to spend like Rockefeller to get the office? Who was the last president who didn’t either have tons of money from his family’s coffers or sell his soul to the corporate lobbyists in order to get into the office? How long since anyone not closely aligned with the Skull and Bones crowd sat in the oval office? How many presidents in the history of this country did not come from the upper class? How long has it been since the nation’s wealth wasn’t being disproportionately amassed by the upper ten percent and especially the upper one percent of the people? How many congressional representatives came out of your neighborhood?

If you’d like to hear an artist’s interpretation of our current societal situation, check out James McMurty’s website at and listen to his wonderfully written rant/song “We Can’t Make it Here”.

My reader was right on the money. Plutocracy is the classic term for this, but if I used it in a speech, who would understand me? I think that aristomocracy says it better for the average reader/listener. After all, everybody knows what an aristocrat is and everybody knows that U.S. politicians tend to rant on about what a wonderful democracy we have here. Why it’s so great – just like a fine fundamental religion – that it must be exported. And if it takes blowing a nation to smithereens first, well, the end justifies the means. So combining the two words works – at least for me.

Just think. In, oh maybe 15 to 25 years, a country we’ve blown back to pre-war conditions – pre WWI that is – might be basking in the glories of an American style aristomocracy. No more horrible dictator willing to murder his own people in order to hang onto power. Oh no. Instead they will benefit from the rise to power of their richest citizens and maybe even, just like the U.S., have an abundant underclass that’s willing to work for less money than it takes to live on, and if they are really lucky maybe they’ll have a neighboring country so poor that they can get them to come in and do the really tough scut work for them. And maybe they’ll have a loyal citizenry willing to let their government kill them by using the military to further their ambitions.

Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t we bomb Iran back to the stone age. Then when the Iraqi upper crust gets its feet on the ground and its stock market rolling and needs some drybacks (you don’t get wet crossing the Iran-Iraq border) to work its oil fields, they’ll have a ready made source of starving folks willing to work for nothing.

Don’t get me wrong. I love this country and have been able to scratch out an acceptable level of comfort, but in a very minor way I, too, am one of the privileged. I was born into a professional family during the height of America’s glory. I’m fairly bright. I was able to get a university degree. I’ve never made much money, but a couple of good investments enabled by our freewheeling economic system have allowed me to feel reasonably comfortable about my future. I’m not saying that the United States is all bad or even irreparably broken. But, I AM saying that it is seriously twisted and that all the #*!(#)@&** we hear from Washington about the Horatio Alger American dream and the benefits of democracy for the common man is no more than vote seeking tongue in cheek blather.

Unless we return to the more equitable distribution of wealth we experienced in the 50s and 60s, our nation has no future of value to the common man, and the gap between rich and poor will continue to grow until our society becomes democratically unrecognizable and the common man is reduced to slavish struggle just to keep a roof over his head.

But we can’t even think about addressing that until we pull away from the idea of constant war designed to maintain our global power position. That approach will keep us so deeply in debt that only the wealthiest can expect any kind of comfortable existence. We need to get out of Iraq. We need to drop the policies of war as diplomacy. We need to drop the insane idea that waging war somehow ensures peace. We need to make sure that every citizen has the true potential to live a productive and secure life. In short, we need to rationally assess what the policies of the past have brought us to, where we want to go, and how we can get there.

But first and foremost, we need to get out of the war in Iraq. Then maybe we can go to work on crawling out from under our aristomocracy.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It Ain't Left, It's Just Plain Right

Occasionally a strong right winger responds to one of my anti-war blogs with a comment about how stupid the left wing is - obviously based on the assumption that I am a raging left winger.

Just in case any of those folks are looking in today, I'm going to say again what I've been saying for the last four years. Opposition to this war has nothing to do with right or left, Republican or Democrat. What it has to do with is patriotism.

If your definition of patriotism is waving your flag and thumping your Bible in time with whoever happens to be president now, I'm sure you're ready to jump up and down on my head for that statement, but if that is your definition of patriotism I suggest you find a dictionary and see what it says. Or - better yet - read some Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson and think a bit about what they have to say.

To clear the air as to my standing, let me begin by saying I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. My firmest belief is that both have sold out to the Hamiltonian ideal of corporation as god to the ultimate effect that the common man is grist for their mills. My second most solid political conclusion is that the corporate god has usurped the American military to be used as a tool for expansion and world dominance.

That's why I oppose this war. The neo-cons said it loudly and clearly in their paper "Rebuilding America's Defenses". Go to and notice the publication date - September, 2000 - then recall the date of the fall of the twin towers - September, 2001 - and turn to page 14 for an explanation of the rationale for attacking Iraq, to wit: Saddam Hussein's presence provides justification for the invasion of Iraq, but the real reason is the establishment of permanent military bases in the region.

What does this have to do with BushCo? This paper was presented to the foreign affairs committee of the Bush campaign prior to his first "election" and then became the basis for the official National Security Plan of 2002. If you read both documents, you can easily see the point by point likeness. Additionally, most of the crew - Kristol, Feith, Wolfowitz, etc. - that put that paper together wound up in powerful positions within the Bush Administration, thus the appellation BushCo.

The idea of pre-emptive warfare - as in our invasion of Iraq - grew out of the neo-cons' desire to establish a presence in the Middle East designed to expand America's power to that region.

To me pre-emptive warfare is a totally anti-American concept. I was born during WWII and raised in a close-knit tiny community headed by men who had all served. Their ethic said that it was appropriate to fight a war if it would truly further the cause of freedom and protect any people(s) from tyrannical domination , but that there could be no other cause worth the destruction and pain of war.

I bought into that philosophy and have lived by it all my life including my willingness to wear the uniform during the Vietnam war. However, the fact that we were in that war on false premises and that we were in fact not protecting our own interests nor protecting anyone from tyranny, led me to understand that our government does not always act in our best interests.

Pre-emptive war is war waged against a country that has not invaded or attacked us. Pre-emptive war is the kind of war that Hitler waged against Poland to kick off his campaign against Eastern Europe. Pre-emptive war is war that is waged ostensibly to prevent the attacked country from attacking us first, but the concept is too vulnerable to exactly what is happening with Iraq - a power play by the first country to pull the trigger to dominate the target nation for its own political purposes. The government to which I owe my allegiance is not a government that would do such a thing.

The lead-up to this war was a brilliantly conducted propaganda campaign (Karl Rove may be vile, but he's not stupid.) that misled the American people and particularly the American Congress into supporting the invasion of Iraq out of feelings of vulnerability and the desire for revenge. (It didn't take much research to know what a hoax it was, but most people and certainly most Congresspeople didn't make the effort.)

At last the people have seen the light to the extent that, though for the wrong reasons, the majority no longer believe we are right to be in Iraq. My prayer is that they will pressure their Congressional representatives enough that we can rescind the doctrine of pre-emptive war. Then maybe over time we can extend that kind of thinking to the point where we can recognize the need to evolve beyond the notion of nation-state interests and move on to taking a more appropriate role as an international leader interested in more than just its own well-being.

Friday, February 16, 2007

On Political Frustration

I tend to be an optimist in daily life, but a pessimist when considering man's future on this planet. That's probably because I feel some sense of control over my own affairs, but a sense of futility in trying to influence a larger sphere. To a degree, I know, my futility comes from having always viewed the world from a different angle than most folks and particularly those in authority - sometimes just because they were in authority, though I hope to have matured beyond that by now.

Yesterday I urged readers to contact their Congressional representatives even though when I do so I am repeatedly met with a sense of total frustration. My chief Congressional rep is Roy Blunt, a man whose sense of duty ends at the hand of the nearest lobbyist and whose sense of service to his constituents consists of bringing home the pork and toeing the right wing party line to the max. That strategy has brought him to the top of his party, but then what value is there to becoming the biggest turd on the manure pile?

My second target is Claire McCaskill, who just beat Bush lapdog Jim Talent out of his Senate seat in the last election and is now blazing her own trail in the footsteps of G W Bush by refusing to understand that she didn't win (Talent lost) or to listen to her new constituency when they tell her to quit kowtowing to a failed presidency.

But I digress. In an effort to sort out a question my wife and I often debate - whether humankind is inherently good or inherently evil or just inherently blinded by personal/familial/cultural prejudices - I have been reading "Politics and Innocence: A Humanistic Debate". (It's a heck of a good read in case you're interested. It's a compendium of letters and essays by some of America's great thinkers that moves right along and keeps its focus.)

My reading combined with watching Mr. Bush on the news last night led me to these thoughts:

The real question is not whether the "enemy" is bad or our side is good, but whether or not we can find a way to recognize our common ground.

Combined with this famous quote from Edmund Burke - "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." - I decided to repeat my call for action today.

As frustrating as it is to beg our representatives to do the right thing time and time again only to see them go their own hoggish little party-line ways instead of seeing to the betterment of our nation and mankind in general, it really is necessary now to hammer on these paragons of whatever the hell it is they are paragons of in a last ditch effort to get them to act responsibly and back America away from its bullying ways.

If we do not act to curb the world's violence instead of fomenting it; if we do not seek to change our misguided belief in the Horatio Alger story and start considering the needs of others - both nations and individual; if we do not give up our notion that "The American Way" is the only way; if we do not become interested in becoming a part of a cooperative worldwide effort to curb our greed in order to curb our rapacious ways, then we will continue to be guilty of setting the stage for the final act.

Our government under the neo-cons is so sure of our "righteousness" that we are not only embroiled in a totally political war, we are not only using radioactive weapons in Iraq right now, but, believe it or not we are on the brink of using nuclear weapons in Iran.

There are better ways. Iran is a bit of a mess internally, they are considering impeaching their president (just as we should), and they really don't pose the threat Bush says they do. So let's see if we can't find some kind of ground somewhere between refusing to talk to them and nuking them.

So, for right now, I think we can set aside the fact that this planet is already so polluted that we are on the edge of extinction, or that we have an educational program that was put together by the dumbest president in history, or that Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland are destroying farming along with our health (for which we don't have an adequate system for care), and concentrate on trying to stop the ridiculously dangerous policies our government keeps pushing on the world.

Just pick up the phone and call somebody right now. Urge them to pull the props out from under this administration and back away from these wars before it's too late.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's (past)Time to Stop Bush

Finally we have a Congress that should be able to put a stop to the American push to control the world's energy resources and maintain its "superior" position as the biggest bully on the block. The people of America elected them to put a stop to this war, and whack Bush for his continuing illegal actions and what are they doing? Arguing about a non-binding resolution that won't change a thing.

Why? It's simple. Because they, just like Cheney's neo-cons, believe that the best course for America's future is to control the world's energy supplies. (Not to mention that so many of their favorite corporations always profit from war.)

In the middle of all this, though, Senator Russ Feingold, one of the few who understands the madness of our present course, has proposed two bills. S. 121 and S. 448 that call for withdrawal of fighting troops from Iraq and defunding the war. They are very short and clear and deserve the backing of everyone who can see through our national love affair with war to the realization that the rest of the world has rights too. Please Google S. 121 and S. 448, read them (they are short and very sweet) and then raise hell with your Senators and Congresspeople until they vote for them.

Here's why - It isn't just about getting our government to quit using our young people as cannon fodder any more because UNLESS WE FORCE THE ADMINISTRATION TO WITHDRAW FROM IRAQ, WE WILL SOON BE GUILTY OF ATTACKING IRAN.

You don't think that's what Bush is building up to? Think again. He's carrying on the same kind of nonsensical build-up for Iran as he did for Iraq using innuendo, planted "evidence", and bravado to persuade the American people that Iran is our great enemy.

Why? Again it's simple. An organized Iran controls its own resources and opposes Israel. Will we whip them into submission by attacking them? Not any more than we did with Iraq. So what's to gain? The same as what we gained in Iraq.

Iraq may be in deadly chaos, but we are building military bases all along the pipelines and proposed pipeline routes. (Those bases and the new American embassy in Baghdad - capable of housing 3000 Americans - are where we spent a good share of our "reconstruction" money. That's where your tax dollars go.)

Choas in Iran would allow us to do the same there. Sure it costs a lot of tax dollars, and sure it costs some American lives but, what the hell, the neo-cons are convinced the gains are worth it. After all, we get control of most of the world's oil, Israel loses an enemy, Shiites and Sunnis go at each others' throats throughout the Middle East, and the American war machine keeps prices high on Wall Street, the big oil corporations (not to mention Halliburton) continue to get filthy (what an appropriate word that is) rich and that's exactly why they wanted to go over there in the first place.