Thursday, January 31, 2008

Brace Yourself for the Afghan Tsunami

Wearing our usual blinders, most Americans are missing a coming tsunami. It’s going to be a bit more subtle than the Iraq wave, but it is definitely going to impact all of us and especially our new president.

What am I talking about? – The silent powder keg that’s been growing in Afghanistan and Pakistan while we have had our backs turned and our attention focused on the false threat of Iraq. This won’t be the final blot on our future that BushCo has created for us, but it won’t be any minor blip on the radar either.

The fuse is lit. It may take several months, but when the flame reaches that keg, that country will once again become the focus because our failure there will be silhouetted by the explosion. At that point, we will have not only Iraq’s mess, but also a huge threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan to deal with.

I was not the darling of my progressive friends when, right after 9-11, I sided with George W. Bush in his identification of the problem in Afghanistan and the invasion to rid it of its Al Qaida supporting Taliban government. I had long detested the Taliban and believed that when we accomplished routing them out we would continue to pursue bin Laden and bring him and his band of terrorists to justice.

You see, I hadn’t yet learned about Bush’s towering incompetence or about the dark forces (read Karl Rove and the neo-cons) that so ably maneuvered him into office and so completely dominated the policies he brought to Washington with him.

He began to lose my support when he faltered in Afghanistan and failed to even come close to nabbing bin Laden. When he turned toward Iraq, I did some research, discovered his real motives and hit the streets to protest any and everything he and his henchmen tried to do.

Like everyone else, though, I took my eye off of Afghanistan. Now it only takes a cursory peek to reveal what a mess we have made there. We destroyed their government without helping them to create a meaningful replacement. We completely lost the goodwill of a great many people who initially cheered our removal of the Taliban by ignoring them while we made sure that the corporations we contracted to “rebuild” the country took home over 40% of the money we dedicated to the redevelopment effort. We lost the support of the rest of the people by putting all our eggs in the military basket rather than demonstrating that our way of life and governance has merit they might wish to emulate. They now are firm in their insistence that the war on terror is an American war and an intrusion on their lives.

When the Taliban was in control, the people of Afghanistan felt their freedom threatened. With America in control, they feel their lives and livelihoods threatened. Sentiment is rapidly rising to get us out of their land and to go back to some form of religiously restrictive governance.

On top of that powder keg is the upheaval in Pakistan where Mussharaf has alienated his own people, many of whom believe he had a hand in the assassination of his biggest political rival, Benizir Bhutto, and all of whom believe he has sold out to the U.S.

Thanks largely to the arrogance of America’s refusal to deal realistically with the terrorist situation, the people of both Afghanistan and Pakistan have little reason to consider us of any value to them at all.

They know that we would rather throw bombs at a problem than get our boots dirty solving it. They know that we are much more concerned with who we can get to ally themselves with us in our superficial “war on terror” than to apply ourselves to solving the real day to day problems they must deal with by instituting long range programs to elevate their lifestyles. They know that if a conflict arises between actions that could save a nation and actions that could save a pipeline, we will choose the pipeline every time.

They do not identify with our “war on terror” in any way except by pointing to us as the villain in the piece. As in Iraq, we have disrupted their lives, but, unlike Iraq, we have not put any serious effort into alleviating the problems this has created for them. They have found one way to make a living in the chaos and that is by growing opium poppies, and we are trying to stop them from doing that without providing an alternative.

Some of our politicians now running for office have spoken of reducing our troop strength in Iraq and diverting some of it to Afghanistan, but the reality that will hit the new president will include the BushCo negotiated pact with Iraq to provide military support there in perpetuity. General Patraeus spoke last week of the need to maintain troop strength in Iraq and so is already laying the groundwork that will make it very difficult for us to devote any significant level of military effort to calming the coming storm in Afghanistan.

As predicted at the outset of the Iraq war, the final upshot of all of our efforts since 9-11 is going to be the growth of the ability of Al Qaida and others to attack us. Our flanks – as in Afghanistan – and even our home ground are more vulnerable now than before we stupidly and illegally invaded Iraq.

We will need the help of friends whom our arrogance has alienated to maintain our balance under those circumstances. That’s why I think the explosion that comes when the Afghanistan powder keg explodes could tip the balance of power out of our hands.

Our next president had better be one persuasive son-of-a-gun.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bring Back My America

Surprise, surprise! BushCo announced yesterday that they might not be able to reduce the troops back to pre-surge levels after all. It seems they fear that violence might resurge if we only have our usual 135,000 or so troops in Iraq.

So does this mean that the surge wasn’t successful in reducing the enemy threat after all? Are they just lurking in the wings in wait for the moment when we pull out enough troops to give them free reign to go back on the offensive? Was General Patraeus’ program of buying their loyalty only successful as long as we also had sufficient troop strength to scare them?

In other words – doesn’t this announcement just confirm the long held contention that what we are really facing in Iraq is a civil war that will never go away until the contenders are given the chance to fight it out?

Iraq has fallen out of the presidential campaign rhetoric, but it is no less an issue than it has been all along. It’s high time it came back into the picture so that candidates have to be forthright in expressing their ideas of how to handle it.

The truth is that the economy is as it is and it will not be affected in the short term by presidential policy, but only in the long term as it has been by BushCo's completely misguided policies of war and waste. Presidents can only affect it in the long term through the consequences (both intended and unintended) of the general policy line they follow.

Short term policy application is the presidential forte, and war is a problem that can be addressed through short term policy application.

The Democrats have been more successful than the Republicans at creating stable economies over the past 50 years because their basic philosophy has been to steer income to the middle and lower classes while the Republicans have concentrated on steering it to the top 5%. To me that translates into a better long term fiscal expectation for the country no matter which Democrat is elected, so the issue of what short term economic policies a given candidate intends to apply is relatively moot.

I want to hear how each candidate plans to get us out of the muck BushCo has stuck us into in the Middle East. I want to hear some candidate – any candidate – say that a policy of asking every country in the Middle East to come to the peace table cannot work as long as we insist that part of the outcome is to allow Israel to do whatever they want with regard to Palestine. I want to vote for any candidate who says that there is a problem with our two-faced alliance with Saudi Arabia and that he/she will attempt to obtain an agreement with that government that stipulates their facilitation of rights for their own citizens and realistically combats terrorism within their own borders as well as in other parts of the world. I want a president who will renounce the policy of pre-emptive war, apologize to the world for the mess we have made of Iraq, offer détente to Iran and Syria, curb Israeli suppression of the Palestinian people, negotiate with Hamas for the extinction of its program of missile attacks on Israel and show the world – in many ways - that we have a higher set of interests than just our own ability to guzzle oil.

I really don’t want much – just the America I believed in back in 1960.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Sorry State of the Union

One sign held by an audience member at the John Edwards rally in Springfield yesterday summed it up beautifully – “We know the State of the Union. That’s why we’re here.”

W didn’t get far with anyone last night in his attempt to paint roses on the pile of manure he’s created in America over the past seven years. The line that got to me the most was his admonition about how this year’s work of the Congress would affect the future of America.

If the baby born last night while W was stating his idea of the state of things lives to be 100, he will still be paying for the mess Bush created the day he dies. That’s the state of the union Mr. Bush, and it’s the sorriest state it has ever been in thanks not to the Congress -- although they share the blame for not jerking a knot in your tail long ago -- but to you, little dick, and all the neo-cons who backed the cheating, lying, vote defying effort that got you into office.

As a result of your shenanigans we will once again have a Democratic president next year, and, once again, thanks to those “fiscally conservative” actions the Republicans have taken every time they’ve been in power since Eisenhower left office, the Democrats will have to turn around an economy that is far to deep in debt and mired in the muck that’s always left behind when the nation’s wealth is diverted from the workers who create it to the Harvard MBAs who rake it in.

Next week Missouri will hold its primary elections. I will tell you now that my vote will go to John Edwards. I don’t suppose he can win because the press never tells you what the candidates plan to do once elected, but if that was all they could tell you (which is the way it ought to be), I have no doubt that he would win. The Hillary/Obama shouting match will continue to get the ink, and one of them will be our next president, but next week I will vote as close to my conscience as American candidacy will allow. I hope all my readers will do the same. The big day is February 5. Plan to be there. Plan to vote. It’s the closest thing to an exercise of power that we are allowed to do!

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Resume for Mr. Bush

Tonight George W. Bush will give his final State of the Union address. Aside from the pleasure it gives me to say the word final when attached to anything Mr. Bush does, I look forward to seeing his party squirm under the limelight of his “accomplishments”.

The Repulsicans will, of course, do their best to give him a rousing standing O when he enters tonight, but from the rest of the country that hissing sound he’ll hear will be a combination of booing and sighs of anticipated relief.

The paper today said his speech won’t be a “rest on your laurels” type, but rather a statement of the goals he has in mind for his final year. I think that’s wise given that a rest on his laurels would put him on the same bed of nails the rest of us are going to have to endure as a result of his tenure.

I think it’s wise of the Demorats to have already stated that most of W’s goals for his final year are unacceptable. All in all, though, the greatest pleasures throughout this year are going to come from the sure knowledge that at its end, this president and his henchmen will be forced – finally and not at all as brutally driven out as I would have hoped – to leave our nation’s capital and looking for work. If we’re lucky none of them will find it, but of course that’s fantasy as they will all jump right into positions as lobbyists and captains of industry.

By serendipity, a friend sent the following piece today, and I include it as a parting gift to Mr. Bush. I’m sure that there are plenty of folks out there who, even after reading this, would still hire him on. Shoot, I’d give him a job myself if he was willing to be a training dummy for phlebotomy students eight hours a day, or maybe even lobotomy students just once or perhaps as a dartboard holder in an after hours Irish pub or he could be a bunker buster test target – after all he really likes those things -- or maybe he’d be willing to stand hold a target in a New Orleans shooting range. That job shouldn’t take long – heckuva a job, Shrub. Well at any rate, no matter what kind of work he might be looking for, this curriculum vitae ought to get him one he deserves:


1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D. C. 20520

Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.

I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.


I ran for U.S. Congress and lost.

I began my career in the oil business in Midland,Texas in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.

With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.


I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.

I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.

I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.

With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida , and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President of the United States, after losing by over 500,000 votes.


I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleezza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President.

I am the all- time U.S . and world record -holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.

My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. history, Enron.

My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.

I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history. I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.

I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.

I changed the U.S. policy to allow convict ed criminals to be awarded government contracts.

I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States Government.

I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.

I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspector's access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.

I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 US election).

I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.

I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.

I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. Citizens and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.

In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.

I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.

I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.


All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view.

All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view.

All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. I specified that my sealed documents will not be available for 50 years.


"Of course the people don't want war. But after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering at the Nuremberg trials

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Friday, January 25, 2008

More BushCo Madness

The Bush Administration has shown some consistent traits over the years: their lack of interest in careful exploration of fact before making tactical decisions; their disregard for the opinions of any who oppose them; their willingness to lie to get their way, and; their habit of making huge policy decisions without considering the ramifications.

The most glaring example of these traits was the Iraq war, in course of which they manipulated the intelligence, created fear through innuendo, violated long standing treaties and pacts and ultimately took the country into a negative situation that from which it may never recover. -- Especially in light of the agreement for permanent presence that they are now underhandedly negotiating. (See yesterday’s blog.)

What most people don’t know, though, is that this M.O. pervades everything they do and that there are several areas in which their under-the-table mismanagement have the potential for doom. Two of these are global warming and nuclear proliferation. In the first case, they have simply (and blatantly) refused to accept the testimony of the world’s leading scientists to resist any measures that might hurt the short term gains of the corporate status quo. In the second, while mouthing platitudes about the reduction of nuclear weapons, they have sought – through dangerously loose methods – to expand their production and even considered and perhaps tried to use them.

Mother Jones magazine recently reported on this in a most interesting article titled, “Off Target” (Mother Jones, January/February, 2008 p.64) that discussed the many ways in which typical BushCo behavior has put us at risk. In a sidebar, for instance, they list the five ways BushCo has “thwarted nuclear nonproliferation”:

1. “Treaty busting” – while talking like they’re in favor of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, they have been “backing away from it”.
2. “The India Deal” – again while flapping their lips about nonproliferation, they have ended sanctions against India for not joining the treaty group and are selling them nuclear technology – the same offense for which they condemn North Korea.
3.”Soviet Nukes” – because Donald Rumsfeld thought it was “wimpy to be involved in” BushCo has been trying to cut the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program under which the Pentagon was leading efforts to secure the massive Soviet nuclear arsenal.
4. “Back to Square One” – In 2002 BushCo scrapped the Agreed Framework – negotiated by the Clinton Administration with North Korea – under which we supplied oil and civilian nuclear technology and they froze their nuclear weaponry development program. To replace it, BushCo took a hard line against North Korea until finally negotiating another fuel deal that closely resembles the Clinton arrangement. In the interim, North Korea has become a nuclear armed country.
5. “Lost in Transit” – BushCo adopted John Bolton’s idea for the Proliferation Security Initiative that uses quasi-legal high seas police to try and intercept nuclear shipments. None have been intercepted and nothing has been done to monitor cargo before it can be loaded onto ships in the first place.

I would add the Department of Homeland Security in general. I have yet to see any proof that this huge new cabinet level department has done anything to truly add to our security. From telling us all to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to forcing fisherman to have a passport in order to get back home from Canadian fishing trips and making little old ladies take off their shoes before getting on an airplane, they have only added hassle to our lives while restricting our freedom with no benefit.

The Mother Jones article did offer what may be the BushCo solution to global warming though in the following table:

Scenario Drop in Avg Drop in Avg.
Global Temp. Global Rainfall Chilling
For Years For Years Effects

India & Pakistan
Fire 100 Warheads 2º 10% Winter up to 5º colder

US & Russia fire
7,000 warhead 6º 25% Up to 80 more days
below freezing in US*
US & Russia fire
20,000 warheads 15º 45% Below freezing in Iowa
for up to three years*

*Not to mention that 95% of us would be dead before the freeze hit!

So what the hell, George, you’ve got all those weapons and less than a year to use them. After all, it’s about the only thing you haven’t tried yet. Why not go for it? Then maybe someone would turn to you and say, “Heckuva job, buddy.”

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mission Accomplished: The Neo-Con Legacy

The moment I began fighting against in October, 2000 has come. I have often said over the past six years that I never thought I would see my country sink to this level, but it has, and the major proof of the pudding is in progress as I write these words. That proof is that BushCo has already begun negotiations with PART of the Iraqi government to make a pact for the long term (read permanent) placement of American troops in Iraq.

In several blogs, letters to the editor and Voices columns in the local paper over the years, I have written about the Neo-Con paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” that was presented to the G. W. Bush campaign’s foreign affairs committee in – take note of this date - September, 2000 – a full year before 9-11 by The Project for A New American Century. Those who may not have heard about this paper need to know that it was underwritten by such luminaries as William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and a bunch of other Neo-Cons. (NOTE: I tried to publish these letters and columns in several national publications over the years, too, but none accepted them. The News-Leader should be praised for their willingness to do so.)

“Rebuilding America’s Defenses” was a grand scale layout of the military agenda that has since become, nearly word for word, our written national security policy. What stood out for me was this line from page 14: “While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein.”

Question: If the desire to base American troops in Iraq transcended the regime of Saddam Hussein, why, during the rush-up to the war, didn’t we hear about that instead of what bad guy Hussein was?
Answer: The American people wouldn’t have found it a compelling enough reason to attack a sovereign nation.

Now, having already notified the Congress that they would not pass this new document (They won’t call it a treaty because treaties must by Constitutional law be ratified by the Senate.) through them for ratification, BushCo has begun speechifying about an “enduring” relationship with Iraq while – without saying anything to the American people about it – negotiating the non-treaty with members of the Iraqi cabinet dependent upon U.S. forces for their personal safety; notably not with Iraq’s Parliament which has already stated that they want us out of there within two years. It is notable, though, that one of those cabinet members has already made a public statement calling the document a “treaty”, but he’ll probably never make that mistake again!

So what does this treaty call for? It calls for the U.S. to respond militarily to threats to the Iraqi government whether internal or external in perpetuity. What’s so bad about that? 1.) The U.S. has never entered into an agreement that bound us to fight in a civil war before, and this document does that; 2.) refusing to allow the Senate to ratify is another un-Constitutional end run indicative of this administration’s willingness – no eagerness – to ignore the laws of our land and do it their way in any case; 3.) this agreement goes against the will of both the Iraqi people and the American people who have both said at the 70% level that they want the U.S. out of Iraq; 4.) it also goes against the will of the Iraqi Parliament; 5.) it is the bald-faced revelation of the real reasons why this administration twisted intelligence reports and misled the nation into a pre-emptive war by spreading disinformation and hiding their true motives from the people, and; 6.) it is an underhanded attempt by BushCo to tie the hands of the next administration – most likely Democratic -- by signing an agreement that binds them to staying in Iraq when they are coming into office with the intent of extricating us from that morass, Thus forcing a Democratic administration to further the goals of the Neo-Cons who created the entire mess we are in.

I have said since Bush came into office that he was the puppet of Neo-Cons who have as their aim the economic and militaristic domination of the world, not because I knew those individuals but because of that paper “Rebuilding America’s Defenses”. I had hoped and prayed for the past seven years that they wouldn’t get away with their plan for Iraq, but today my heart is heavy with the high probability that they will.

If the rest of their plans are also realized, you can kiss your freedoms goodbye.

The only glimmer of hope I can see at this point is that Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts has announced that he is going to launch a series of Congressional investigations to determine whether or not the document being negotiated fits the definition of a treaty. If it can be found to do so, the Senate can (and probably would) refuse to ratify it and thus kill it.

Please let Mr. Delahunt know that you support his efforts and why. Let’s also notify all of our Senators and Congressmen about our opposition to this TREATY. In doing so, please mention “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” and insist that they block this effort to illegally bind us to a permanent presence in Iraq.

Neither our nation nor the world at large can afford to have this Neo-Con goal met.


Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Israeli Wall

This morning’s news was particularly lush what with the boy Governor Blunt’s announcement that he would not run for a second term (I didn’t think he was smart enough to recognize that he ought to be out of the public eye when what the stink that’s in the air now hits the fan.); Charles Lewis releasing his compilation of the Bush deception process leading up to the war in Iraq – more on that tomorrow; and the breach of Israel’s wall between Gaza and Egypt.

What struck me most about the reports I heard this morning on the Israeli wall breach was the angle each reporter took. The first report I heard came from the BBC. They interviewed a Palestinian blogger who reported that people were crossing the border to get food, gasoline, and other necessities they couldn’t get at home.

The second was from NPR on Morning Edition. Their reporter said he was watching a man carry a carpet back across the border and another with auto tires. Then they reported Mubarak’s statement that he was not going to try to stem the tide because the Palestinians were starving people in need of the food and medicine they could not get at home.

The third report was from CNN. They reported that people were going home with Coca-Cola and cigarettes.

So why the differences? Who are we supposed to believe? From my perspective, a news hound has to be willing to look at what the reporting agency might have to gain from the angle they take. The BBC takes no money from the British government and so has no ax to grind. NPR has a history of reporting from the left, but that was jerked more into line by the Reagan administration and so has a more recent history of carefully reporting in such a way as not to anger anyone too much and CNN is a mainstream media reporter that relies on the good will of whoever is holding the most power at the moment.

For that reason, I think CNN typically reports in such a way that they will not add fuel to any arguments contrary to current national policy. Our national policy has long been unquestioning support for Israeli policy, so don’t expect any reporting from CNN that might give anyone a reason to cast a negative light in Israel’s direction.

It’s no great surprise that the breach happened. Hearing the first report was a kind of “whack your forehead” moment. Why hadn’t this happened long ago? It’s so obvious a thing to do. Why didn’t Hamas long ago quit lobbing random missiles over the wall into Israel and instead just blow up the damn wall? Now done, it seems like a stroke of genius that any fool should have thought of long ago.

The Palestinians have a great deal to gain from this. For one thing, the people of Gaza get access in Egypt to goods they can’t get at home – thanks to the Israeli policy of subjugation. For another, the world is watching while needy people swarm through the breach and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has signed an agreement with Israel to guard the wall, refuses to stop them on the grounds that they are getting necessities for life that the Israelis are denying them. For another, attention is diverted from “Hamas as terrorists” due to their lobbing missiles that threaten innocent lives to “Hamas as liberators” who are attacking a wall that is the most obvious emblem of the Israeli suppression of Palestinian freedoms.

If we keep building the wall between us and Mexico, we should expect the same thing and worse to happen to us some day. I’m not saying that we are as guilty of oppression in this case as I believe Israel to be, but I do believe that a barrier wall is an affront that few people will accept without rancor. We ought to be able to come up with smarter ways of dealing with our immigration problem than an offensive and probably ineffective barrier that silently but constantly says, “We don’t want you.” (Israel’s goes further and says, “I don’t want you, but I do want your land, so I’m taking it. At least we haven’t done that to Mexico since we drove them out of Texas.)

Both the U.S. and Israel should be seeking ways to help their neighbors become capable of self-sustenance instead of ways to exploit their need in the form of cheap, subservient labor. By belittling our neighbors we create enemies. By elevating our neighbors, we elevate ourselves through the only means by which the old saw “A rising tide floats all ships” is actually true.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Joke"s on Us

Thought for the day:

This year, Ground Hog Day and the State of the Union message are on the same day. An email I received this morning points out that, “It is an ironic juxtaposition of events: one involves a meaningless ritual in which we look to a creature of little intelligence for prognostication, while the other involves a groundhog.”

Presidential ribbing has a long history in this country. I remember one of my friends telling me this one on the way to school one morning during the Truman years:

Harry was flying in a plane when he turned to a reporter and said, “Should I throw a $100 bill out the window and make one person happy, or should I throw 100 $1 bills out the window and make 100 people happy?” The reporter said, “Harry, why don’t you throw yourself out the window and make everybody happy?”

Most presidents are their own joke. Who needed to make jokes about Gerry Ford when he was giving us slapstick by falling down the stairs when exiting a plane and hitting spectators 20 yards off the tee?

Or Richard Nixon with his “I am not a crook.” declaration with his hands raisedin peace signs.

Who needed to make jokes about LBJ’s oafishness when he supplied moments like showing us his appendectomy scar or holding his beagle up by the ears and claiming the dog liked it?

The last three presidencies have all been a joke in some sense or other, and it’s a pretty sad joke when the presidency goes from a Bush to a seed (think blue dress) to a shrub like W.

Is there any chance that the next one we elect will be any less of a joke? The really sad part is that the joke’s always on us.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, January 21, 2008

Credible 911 Conspiracy Theorists

Apologies for the late post today, but I have been laying low trying to shake this awful cold. No luck, but at least finally got enough energy to post the following link:

I’m not much for conspiracy theories, but must admit that the government’s 911 story(s) never have sat well with me. I dismissed all the theories because I don’t have the expertise to verify their claims and I would rather trust my government – even BushCo – than live with the thought that everything I think about their criminality is really true!!

I Googled the several names listed in the article and they are legitimate. Can we allow ourselves to hope that people like this will create the wave for investigations that could be the tsunami that sweeps the neo-cons from the political landscape?

I still hate to think that anyone could be evil enough to hatch the kind of scheme these people suspect, but I also think that these are credible people who should be heard. In that spirit, I decided to post this link so that you could check it out for yourself if you wish.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Friday, January 18, 2008

Impeachment Proposal

Yesterday Congressman Robert Wexler, member of the House Judicial Committee, spoke of the House floor advocating the impeachment of dick Cheney.

There can be no doubt in any objective person’s mind regarding this vice president’s role in twisting intelligence reports and misleading the country into war with Iraq. There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that a deeper investigation into the Valerie Plame affair will most likely implicate little dick.

Today, Mr. Wexler will take his proposal to seek impeachment to the Judicial Committee. Although all Repulsicans and a great many Demorats oppose this action, each and every patriot should solidly endorse it.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Crow for Breakfast - Yummy

I had to start my day today by eating crow – maybe on two fronts, both related to the surge in Iraq.

When Mr. Bush announced his plan to send more troops to Iraq I was loudly sure that it wouldn’t work. When General Patraeus brought his agreement with the plan to Congress, I agreed with MoveOn’s assertion that he was a toady who’s goal in life was to slither up the chain of command on skids greased by the stuff on his little brown nose.

If I have any crow to eat on the first count, it’s just a tiny bite because the surge as I think W envisioned it did not work. I’ll swallow it, though, because it thrust General Patreaus into a command position from which he could improve on his boss’s vision.

Now I’ll fill my plate with the old black bird by saying that I believe that Patraeus’ version of the surge has worked quite well. I’m still not convinced that he needed the infusion of extra troops to pull it off, but he has begun a process of winning over insurgents that he couldn’t have done if he hadn’t been put in charge of the surge.

What this military genius did with his surge of extra troops was not to deploy them in smart strategic positions and carry the day with brilliant tactics. What he did was use them in ways that those of us who advocate a Department of Peace would have done. He made them not only visible to the Iraqis, but visibly friendly to the Iraqis. He went to the insurgents with an offer they couldn’t refuse. He paid them to work alongside his new troops and he made sure those new troops came on board without a John Wayne attitude. Together new U.S. troops and old insurgents fought against and drove out Al Qaida zealots.

The result is that former insurgents – now granted immunity by virtue of having taken an oath of loyalty to the Iraqi government and demonstrated friendly intentions by working with U.S. troops – are now allies who have come to understand that U.S. soldiers are not the raping and pillaging devils that Al Qaida portrayed them as, but are, instead, those fine, dedicated young men and women we all want them to be.

It still appears to me that the surge as such had little to no chance of success, but it was done at a very opportune time in that the Iraqi insurgents were at the time in a position of evaluating the value of their alliance with Al Qaida, far enough into the history of the devolution/evolution of an Iraqi central government that they were open to the possibility of change, and aware that if they continued their resistance and the new government actually wound up winning the day they would be in deep trouble. Still, like anyone else and perhaps - due to their bellicose nature - even more then the average duck, these fellows would certainly have continued to react negatively to continued U.S. efforts to ram “democracy” down their throats with a new barrage of hostility.

Instead of taking that tack, though, Patraeus chose to combine his military strength with diplomatic tact, and it worked.

If he had told us initially that this was his plan, he would more than likely have had my support. As it was, though, I suspect that he wasn’t even upfront with Mr. Bush about his plans because he knew the kind of reaction this administration would have had. Cheney would have come unglued!!

Now it looks like not only Mr. Bush but all of us owe General Patraeus a huge debt of gratitude. He may have singlehandedly shown this nation the way to get somewhere with the “war on terrorism” by showing the hand of friendship rather than the fist of hatred. He and his approach now look to a great many Muslim Iraqis like a much more safe and sane route to power than the barbarous death-dealing method touted by far-right Islam.

In doing this Patraeus hasn’t looked weak. He has used his troops in decisive military actions that clearly demonstrate that he is dealing from a position of strength. Still, he has gotten the message across that Americans are not devils but friends and it out of his incorporation of similarly strong Iraqis into the status quo, he may ultimately have set the stage for American withdrawal – another outcome not truly hoped for by BushCo whose real goal continues to be a permanent American presence in the region.

Talk of the same approach being used in Afghanistan is also being circulated. At the same time, Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, made a statement yesterday to the effect that we need to spend more money on diplomatic approaches. He wouldn’t say we should spend less on military approaches, but we all know that the pie can only be cut so many ways.

All in all, I must admit that I don’t mind eating crow this well prepared one bit. Please, General, pass me another plateful.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Military's Answer to Gitmo

The Supreme Court consistently dodges the reality of our prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Bush Administration steadfastly maintains it has the right to detain them as long as they want without due process simply because they are being held outside the boundaries of the United States. But the military, faced with the same problem in Iraq has, in its usual pragmatic way, solved the problem for itself.

The American surge resulted in at least one unforeseen consequence and that is the capture of large numbers of insurgent prisoners of war. To deal with them, the military operates camps which, under the capable hands of military officers, are serving not only as detention centers, but also as schools capable of educating the prisoners to the point where they often come to see the error of their ways or, at least, that there is a better way to go about things than terrorism.

The initial premise that spurred their creative response to the problem was the military’s realization that by imprisoning these 24,000 men, they created a situation that could have more than one outcome. The outcome they wanted to guard against was that the camps could easily become recruiting posts for the insurgency. How, they wondered, could they deal with these men in a way that would forestall that likely result?

Apparently one of the first thoughts that came to mind was that the BushCo approach of repeated torturous questioning would not help their quest. But what alternative is there to beating information out of people? Simple. Do the opposite and educate them.

Brigadier General Michael Nevins recognized that a large number of his prisoners were illiterate. Putting two and two together – a feat obviously beyond Mr. Bush’s capabilities – Gen. Nevins also knew that people unexposed to education are easily led in negative directions, so he worked to educate them and has now put together the bricks and mortar for a school called Da’ar al Hikma or House of Wisdom.

The wise general knows that there are a goodly number of men in his custody who will never be turned away from their Jihadist thinking. For them, he has created a prison that will hold them until the day comes when the country’s ills will be settled to the point that insurgency will not be an option. For the others, he seeks to provide enough education to help them see through the nonsense of suicidal missions to achieve the company of 72 virgins.

As a result, some of his prisoners have already been released to take an active part in the positive development of their country. After all, these men might have been fighting for the other side, but they were definitely motivated by their view of what is good for their country. Helping them to see that there is a better way to achieve the same goal is of value for everyone.

School is only part of the solution, though. Before anyone gets that far into the system, each prisoner goes before a military court which gives each prisoner complete information about why he is being held and a chance to plead his side of the story. The first message they get, then, is that there is some justice being meted out.

The general is also wise enough to know that this first step is a powerful tool in the process of demonstrating that the folks this prisoner has always perceived as the “enemy” might be more judicious than the “friends” that led him into this mess. The health care they receive and the fact that their families are allowed to visit add fuel to this thought process. Compare that to what has happened to the detainees at Gitmo and it’s easy to see why the rest of the world keeps telling us to shut the place down.

This isn’t a bleeding heart call to be kind to the nice boys at Gitmo. It is a common sense plea for our government to act in a humane fashion and thus demonstrate to the rest of the world that we are at least a little better than the Gestapo after all.

If the government can demonstrate that a Gitmo detainee has acted in ways that unreasonably endanger his fellow man (as opposed to fighting to protect his country as American soldiers are purported to do), then it would be legal to detain him, and we could do so on American soil after due process. But without formally filing some charge against a person, it goes against the very grain of the American soul to hold and abuse that person.

No human being deserves to be imprisoned far away from everyone and everything, held in isolation and barred from the light of the justice system without due cause, but those things and much more have been inflicted upon every Gitmo detainee by the nation that calls itself the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Our own military has clearly shown in Iraq that there is a better way. Shouldn’t our own government recognize that, too, and do something to heal the horrible wound to our psyche and international reputation that Guantanamo Bay represents?

The answer should be a resounding YES and, as a part of the outrage that should generate that YES, the people of this country should be demanding the prosecution of the “leaders” that caused this disgrace to occur and consistently acted to perpetuate it.

January 16, 2008 has been designated as a day on which to call our Congressmen and demand that they join in the effort to impeach and prosecute dick Cheney for the damages administration policies have inflicted upon this country and the world. Please call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121, and ask to speak to your Congress member. Tell them it is high time to hold Cheney accountable for his high crimes and misdemeanors.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Christian Government Revisited

For expressing my views against the infusion of politics with Christianity, I have been called, among other things, anti-Christian. I hope that some of those critics will take the time to read the article below. Maybe they, too, can come to see that writing their idea of Christianity into law might not be such a great idea.
What being evangelical means to me. By tacking on a political agenda, some have sullied and secularized what once was a revered term.
January 8, 2008
Am I an "Evangelical Christian"? No, emphatically no. Am I an evangelical Christian? Yes, emphatically yes.
I became an evangelical Christian on Nov. 29, 1931, six weeks after I was born. My parents were farmers on the prairie of south central Minnesota.
Like Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Orthodox, Methodist and many other believers, my Lutheran parents made certain I was baptized. They believed "evangelical" meant that God takes the initiative when we become a Christian, even as an infant. First, foremost, and primarily, God makes the first move.
My parents and sponsors, as an act of faith, affirmed the beliefs of my church and promised to bring me up in a Christian environment. Along the way it became important for me to confirm what had happened on that Sunday in 1931. As a youth and on through the rest of my life I have continued to confess my faith in the presence of a Christian congregation. As an evangelical Christian I try to let that faith be seen in all I say and do. Yes, I fail all too often. But being an evangelical Christian means that I believe God forgives and helps me move on again. It's that simple.
So why am I so emphatic in saying that I am not an "Evangelical Christian"? It's because I now find myself living in a culture where some folks who call themselves "Evangelical Christians" are putting a very different twist on that old and revered term. They have sullied and secularized it by tacking on a political agenda. They tend to identify themselves not simply by what they believe, but by the stance they take on controversial issues. The majority of them are anti-abortion, pro-death penalty, anti-gay rights, pro-preemptive war, anti-immigration, pro-home schooling, anti-Palestinian rights, pro-Republican party, anti-Democratic party, pro-literal reading of the Bible, anti-higher taxes, and so on.
As I look over the list of things these "Evangelical Christians" espouse, I find that in some areas I agree with them. In most, I strongly disagree.
So when one applies all of this to our common life in the public square, what is the difference between being an evangelical Christian and an "Evangelical Christian"? In my opinion, it lies in the emphasis evangelical Christians put on the use of reason in relationship to their faith. A few examples:
• The best auto mechanic I have ever had is a devout Roman Catholic. He never fails to do the right thing. It makes common sense to go to him.
• The best diagnostic physicians I have ever had are a non-practicing Jew and an active Lutheran. Their keen minds have spared me many maladies. It seems reasonable to go to physicians like them.
• The best surgeons I have ever known are a probable agnostic and a practicing Jew. Each knows exactly what to do. It seems reasonable to trust them.
• The best mayor I have ever known was a Lutheran socialist. His city was one of the best-governed in the country. He was reasonable in everything he did.
• The best presidents of the United States, in my opinion, were a non-church member, an occasional Episcopalian, a cranky member of the Christian Church -- Disciples of Christ, and a Mennonite/Presbyterian. They served effectively in times of crisis. They did what was most reasonable. Two were Republicans; two were Democrats.
• In my judgment, the best former president we've ever had is a devout Southern Baptist.
In this election year I will be evaluating candidates, whether they are seeking local office or the presidency of the United States, on the basis of their qualifications as wise and reasonable women and men.
• Do they have compassion for the poor and vulnerable?
• Do they understand that politics at its best is practicing the art of the possible?
• Do they have the capacity to work for compromise on difficult issues?
• Do they have the intelligence to see all sides of a complex question?
• Do they have the physical stamina to endure the rigors of office?
• Do they know how to surround themselves with a capable staff, including people who will tell them the truth?
• In the presidential contest, does the candidate have the potential to become a respected statesperson in the community of nations? And will this person be likely to seek to resolve international conflict by dialogue and political negotiation, using military force only as a last resort?
If I sense that candidates for any office are dancing to the lock-step tune of the "Evangelical Christian" segment in our society, they will not get my vote. If they happen to be evangelical Christians, well and good. But that will not be a primary requirement.
An evangelical Christian? Yes. An "Evangelical Christian"? No. It's that simple.
Herbert W. Chilstrom, St. Peter, Minn., is the former presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Isn’t it nice to know that there are those who understand that their evangelism doesn’t have to be intrusive, abrasive or abusive?!

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, January 14, 2008

An Embarrassment of Politicians

The entire world, and especially right now, America, suffers from the blather of its politicians.

Mr. Bush continues his tour of the Middle East, though I suspect folks over there are think of it as his Meddle East tour. His rosy outlook – “I believe we can achieve peaceful and normal neighborly relations between Israel and Palestine by the end of this year.” – is received there about like his “Heckuva job, Brownie” went over in this country.

He actually spoke a few truths about Iran along with his usually over-the-top hyperbole, but then he laid the solid lead egg by saying that Iranians must beware of the exercise of power without the consent of the governed. He should have prefaced his 2002 State of the Union address with that line. At least then the people of the United States would have had fair warning of what he was about to do.

Lying the country into an unnecessary war wasn’t just an inappropriate exercise of power without the consent of the governed, it was an act of hoodwinking the governed into supporting that exercise. It was an act that not only divided the country, but led us to the brink of the moral and economic abyss into which we have since fallen.

If Iran wants to observe the effects of inappropriate exercise of power, they have no further to look than the United States which, under Mr. Bush’s excuse for leadership has gone from a strong budget surplus to the deepest debt in its history in the shortest possible period of time; gone from being regarded as the free world’s savior to becoming its most feared member in that same record time; slipped from being the world’s sole economic leader to being an also-ran in the race for dominance; gone from being a reluctant but fearsome warrior to seeking war and failing to follow through; and sunk from being the world’s moral compass to becoming an evil purveyor of torture, abuse and lawlessness in its relations with other nations – all with an aura of truthlessness, ruthlessness and disregard for the its citizenry unequaled in history except for the likes of the Spanish Inquisition and the Soviet Union.

Of all the American politicians I have observed in my sixty five years on the planet, George W. Bush takes the prize for most arrogant, most ignorant, and most dangerous, but the other side of this year’s ledger hasn’t been doing much to elevate itself in my eyes lately either.

The spat over the week-end between Hillary and Obama with John Edwards hanging on the fringes has been nearly as disgusting though thankfully not nearly as cataclysmic as Bush’s nonsense.

Hillary started it all with what I thought was a pretty well reasoned statement that it takes cooperation to get things done which she illustrated by saying that while M. L. King’s leadership made the issue of racial discrimination clear, it was the action of President Lyndon Johnson that accomplished the passage of laws that directly addressed the problem. Obama responded by characterizing her remarks as defamatory of Dr. King and Edwards jumped in (speaking in a black church) by saying that she had said that it was a white politician and not Dr. King who led the civil rights fight.

It is sickening to me that we cannot openly discuss such issues openly and objectively (as I thought Hillary did) and that a political campaign must always turn to the kind of baseless sniping engaged in by both Obama and Edwards when another politician tries to simply speak the truth.

Hillary is right. Dr. King pointed out the horrors of American apartheid. In the early days of the protests, both Bobby and Jack Kennedy and also Johnson himself stood rather quietly on the sidelines in fear of losing their political status if they joined the courageous Reverend King in his fight for equality. It was only after the protests became battle grounds and Dr. King had demonstrated the justice of his position to the world that vigorous support began to come from Washington, D. C., but when it did finally come, it was strong and it was vital to the cause.

Dr. King himself knew that unless their efforts resulted in changed laws of the land, they were futile. It was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that put teeth into the effort to bring this country to its racial senses. The job has not been finished, but it will never be finished unless we work together to achieve it.

That’s what I think Hillary was trying to say, and that’s why the in-fighting among the Demorats as a result of her statement is so disgusting. How will we ever solve problems while politicians are unfairly attacked by other politicians for trying to speak the truth?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wetland Preservation

Today’s blog takes a little different tack than usual. Instead of analyzing political issues, I want to share an opportunity for you to have some input into ecological decisions in Missouri.

I have always been a nature buff and am now a member of the Springfield Plateau Master Naturalists. As a result of that I received an email this morning asking for participation in an opinion survey related to wetland development in Missouri. Here is the link it provided:

If you are aware of the value of wetlands, you probably already understand their function as filter systems for ground water, erosion prevention, wildlife shelter, storm protection and recreation. If you are not aware of these things, the dnr website will provide you with a great deal of fascinating information. If you are aware, then you already know that our wetlands are disappearing even though they are essential links in the ecological health of this little blue planet.

Missouri is currently debating how much of its resources to put into wetland preservation and restoration. While their value to us is not as readily apparent to most folks as it would be if we were in New Orleans where rebuilding wetlands could prevent another disaster like Katrina, they do have a great deal more value than most folks give them credit for.

Please take a moment to follow the link above, check out the DNR website and complete the survey. It is another of those small ways in which we can impact governmental decisions which, in turn, impact us on a daily basis.

Thanks for caring.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Politics of Ethnic Cleansing

Have you been noticing the events in Kenya lately? They had a national election last week that is being contested and as a result of the enmity involved in the election several incidents of violence.

The most notable and horrendous of these was the burning of a church in which dozens of people had taken refuge from the violence in the streets. Not only were women and children burned to death in this fire, but one report told of a child who escaped the flames but was thrown back into the fire to die.

How, any reasonable person would ask, could such a thing happen? The answer was phrased by a reporter from the BBC as an incident of “ethnic cleansing”. If ever there was a whitewash phrase in the English language that is it. The kind of political mind that dreams up a phrase like that is only a degree or two from the kind of mind that could allow its owner to pick up a small child and hurl him back into the fire from which he had just escaped.

“Cleansing” is a result of removing dirt. It is not the result of killing human beings. “Ethnic cleansing” is a term which allows a politician to point out that there is a problem without having to do anything about it as he would if he called it what it is – GENOCIDE. It doesn’t matter if the victims are Serbs, Sudanese, Kenyans, Tootsies or Jews. The crime is still the same.

Although made to appear like a spur of the moment thing – as this church burning was handled by the Kenyan government – it never is. It is premeditated. A survivor whom the BBC reporter interviewed named one of her attackers who had been her neighbor. She said repeatedly, “How could he do this? It was Peter, my neighbor. We have been friendly for years. How could he do this?”

The answer, of course, is that if acting alone her neighbor would never have done such a thing, but when whipped into a frenzy by the wild rioting going on around him and by the racist/tribal language of “ethnic cleansing” he found himself treating everyone from the neighboring tribe as something less than human.

I rarely have anything good to say about George W. Bush, but I will say that he was right when he pointed out that what was happening in Sudan last year was genocide. On the other side of the ledger, he turned out to be capable of pointing it out, but then doing nothing about it. That kind of callousness in his character ought to raise doubts about the honesty of his “Christian faith”.

As a society, though, we cannot claim to be much better. We agreed with his characterization of the Sudanese situation but did not insist that something be done about it. We have also signed off on his program of slaughtering Iraqis for no good reason. As a nation, we have sat silently by while he has attacked that nation without just cause and has turned away from the Geneva Convention which was a dividing line between savage behavior and controlled warfare.

We pound our pulpits and proclaim our status as the defenders of freedom and the rights of man while we violate the basic agreement that separates civilized behavior from barbarism.

Our Supreme Court argues over whether it is more humane to kill a prisoner with one injection or three without seriously asking whether it is humane to kill anyone at all by any means.

Our courts system routinely deprives people of their freedom and rights as citizens for crimes like marijuana use keeping our prisons full and a disenfranchised underclass equally full of discontent and hopelessness and makes us a nation known to the world for having a the highest percentage of its population behind bars. Is this anything but a more subtle form of ethnic cleansing?

Our political system continuously brings only the rich to high office and more deeply ingrains into itself the means by which those rich continue to become richer and richer while the middle class shrinks and the poorest class finds itself being dragged even further out of the picture.

It would be easy to go on and on about the ways in which we think one way and act another, but the point is that we need to do some serious soul searching in this society. Sadly what we see instead is arrogant breast beating; not only by the administration, but by the congress and, sad to say, a great many citizens who seem so convinced of this nation’s righteousness that they are unwilling to admit to any blemishes on the national reputation.

We are engaged in a political campaign season that will almost certainly result in a change of party control. Do we dare hope that among those candidates calling for meaningful change, there is one who will really seek it?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

More Calls for Impeachment

W is off to the Middle East. He wants to “close the deal” on peace between Israel and Palestine and then plans to run around herding all his Arab ducks in a row and lined up against Iran.

Though he may not catch on when it happens, the shrub is in for a big disappointment. The Arab world, being no less astute than the rest of the world – with the exception of far too many Americans – recognizes W for the dangerously effective imbecile that he is. They also know that he is near the end of his reign and has no possibility of extending his power through a new administration elected as a follow-up to his.

So, rant or cajole though he might, W is going to find the Middle East unreceptive to his wishes to continue his old-school, divisive, hostile approach to maintaining America’s power base in that region.

Meanwhile, on the home front, another familiar voice has finally spoken out for impeachment. George Mc Govern’s article in the Sunday Washington Post was a clear and well written indictment of this administration.

Lee Iacocca, past Chrysler CEO and bail-out recipient, in his book Where Have All the Leaders Gone blasts BushCo from all angles but it boiled down to this single line . . . “our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity”. Iacocca is also outraged by the inaction of the Congress the people elected to put a stop to all this.

People like these can say all they want, though, to no effect unless enough ordinary citizens get mad enough to demand Congressional action.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Monday, January 7, 2008

Is Any Vote Valid?

The campaigning goes on . . . and on and on. Most of it is such stump schtick that it’s hard not to switch to something intellectually stimulating like Scooby Doo instead, but now and again it gets interesting – like when all the Republican candidates played monkey pile on Ron Paul –rudely cutting him off when he tried to talk about how senseless the war in Iraq is and has always been. I have seldom witnessed such rude behavior. It looked like Ron Paul and four Ws. The Republicans just can’t afford to have anyone talk about this war because it makes them all look bad.

Ron Paul is not the voice I would choose to represent me in Washington – unless, of course, I had to choose between him and anyone else on the stage with him that night – but he is a breath of fresh air from that side of the aisle. On the other hand, the Democrats wouldn’t even let their main dissenter, Dennis Kucinich, on the stage that night. Which is the worse case?

The debates themselves weren’t much to write home about what with all the Republicans except Paul sounding like they love war above all; the Democrats sniping at each other about whose experience counts the most; and nobody on either side putting forth any meaningful plans for recovery from the horrendous economic and international problems BushCo’s hostile policies have gotten us into. The only positive side is Obama’s and Edwards’ promise to reverse the loss of rights and freedoms installed by the Bushies, but neither of them is willing to be as clear and open about it as Kucinich is.

We hear a lot these days about election fraud and with good reason, but that fraud starts long before people enter the voting booth. The last two elections have been horrendous. Judging by the outcomes, it seems like the vote of the people doesn’t matter much. The big issue now is voting machines. No one should trust those produced by Diebolt as they are made by a strong Republican supporter whose motives are dubios, but those are the primary machines available. Missouri is fortunate to have the best electronic voting system available because it includes a verifiable paper ballot for recount purposes. Thank you Robin Carnahan.

To me, though, the most blatant fraud in American politics is the slight of hand that takes place during the campaign season. A primary case in point is the exclusion of Kucinich and Gravel from the Democratic debates and Paul from the Republican side (CNN). The same thing always happens to independent candidates – look back at the Anderson and Perot campaigns for example. They just aren’t given a legitimate place in the debate. (Not to mention that the debates aren’t debates at all, but showcase personality contests.)

The greatest illusion, though, is in the money. Supposedly you don’t have to be rich to launch a campaign, but no one is capable of raising start-up money unless he has some wealth to draw from, and certainly no one can remain in a race without raising huge sums of money to pay for it. So who has the best shot at doing that? It ain’t the poor, buddy, and it isn’t those unwilling to sell their votes and loyalties to the highest bidder, either.

As a result we live in an Aristomocracy – a society that purports to be a democracy but is actually a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy). If people felt that their votes really counted for something more than 10 or 15 percent of those eligible would vote. Will you?

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Race is On

So the big news is Obama’s win in Iowa. Hillary came in third in a race that probably eliminated John Edwards even though he won the bronze.

Is it really such a big win for Obama, or just a bump in Hillary’s road? Being an Iowan émigré myself, I see the win as amazing. A lot of water has gone over the dam since I was a boy in the northern part of that northern state, but I doubt that all of what I saw there is gone, and I can vouch for the depth and strength of the racial prejudice that existed while I grew up.

I recall one spring day when the first black people ever to visit that little town came to visit. As it was, the daughter of a man up the street had an inter-racial marriage and I found myself appalled and ashamed of my classmates who ran into the street screaming “Get out of here, nigger.” when one of her sons about our age came riding by on a bicycle. I’m sure he never encountered any worse abuse in Memphis. I had at least two scoutmasters who used that word like salt and pepper in the course of conversation, and both sympathy and empathy were scarce as hen’s teeth while Dr. King led his marches through the south.

Last night’s vote made me proud of my Iowan roots, though I’m not sure whether racism has died or just runs second to chauvinism, but at any rate, Iowa spoke loudly and clearly, and – given that the Republican side benefited from that state’s evangelism – I will have to say that the evidence of this vote for me is that race is no longer an issue there. Congratulations, Iowa.

So where do we go from here? One of the most encouraging signs for me was that Obama brought out a large number of young voters. If he can continue to do that and score high marks in his race against Hillary, he will win the nomination. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see America once again energized through the belief of its youth in a young, forward looking leader!

Surely, at the least, his presidency could help to heal the divisiveness under which this country now suffers. As John Edwards said, “Status quo lost and change won.” HALLELUJAH!!

It saddens me to see Edwards sinking, though, because I am a populist and he at least held himself up as one. He is certainly the little guy in a race with some very wealthy giants.

I understand that people seem to see themselves as incapable of doing “it” on their own and so keep looking to powerful people who say they will lead them to the promised land. Sadly, they are always just leading them on, and since Ike’s days have consistently done so with the goal of enriching the richest at the center of their ambitions.

I never believed in Ronald Reagan’s trickle down theory because:

The only things that trickle down,
Come in yellow . . . or in brown.

As my wonderfully wise wife says, “Give a rich man a dollar and a poor man might end up with a nickel. Give a poor man a dollar and before long the rich man will have ninety cents.” Like her, I prefer the fly up theory to the trickle down theory and I have a hard time understanding why the man on the street – even the Republican on the street – can’t see the wisdom in that.

All in all, I don’t think you could make me any happier this year than if you told me that we would have an Obama/Edwards ticket to vote for in November, so I will be pushing in that direction. Whatever direction you believe in, go to work for it, and I hope you learn and grow from the experience but if it’s a different direction from mine, I won’t be rooting for you!! As my favorite announcer used to say, “It’s a beautiful day in Chicago, and I don’t care who wins – as long as it’s the Cubs!”

So, as you can see, I have always tended to back somebody besides the winner. This time I sure hope that changes.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Iraq vs the American Revolution

The not at all unexpected reaction to yesterday’s blog from a reader who thinks of me as representing the far left was, “What are you schizophrenic? How can you talk about the debt we owe the revolutionary warriors and not support the troops out there protecting our freedom in Iraq today?”

It’s a good enough question that I thought it might be worth using today’s time to answer it.

#1. The tacit sentiment in your question, and an assertion that has been put to me repeatedly over the last four years, is that we owe our allegiance to our government when it decides to send our troops to war, so I’ll start by addressing that issue. I maintain that the stance those of us who have opposed this war from the beginning have taken is much more akin to the stance taken by George Washington and his followers in 1776 than is the idea that we owe our allegiance to our government.

General Washington was willing to risk his very life on a daily basis and to give it most certainly if his army lost the war because he believed that the government of his country – which was Great Britain under King George (Isn’t that ironic?!) – was behaving in ways that were not in the best interests of Americans. That is exactly how I feel about the war in Iraq and the horrendous leadership of today’s little king George W.

When the way of life of the little man in America is threatened, leaders like George Washington are needed to risk their all for the well-being of their fellow man. How I wish that such a leader would emerge again. On the cusp of presidential election, that wish is even more fervently meant and the lack more deeply felt.

We do not owe our allegiance to our government or our president. We owe our allegiance to our country, and when our government acts in ways that are detrimental to our country, we owe our fellow citizens the expression of that distrust in the hope that they, too, will come to understand the grave risk they face. That is the reason for this blog’s existence.

#2. I don’t believe that anything our troops do in Iraq today in any way protects our freedom, our democracy or any other higher value. I do fully understand that most of our troops think that is what they are doing, but I assert that as a young man I felt the same way when I was drafted during the Vietnam War. I was no more right then than they are now.

I support them in their expression of love for their country. I salute their willingness to serve for the betterment of their fellow man. But I deplore the kind of government that would take advantage of their nobility by putting their lives in danger while using them for political and economic reasons while hiding the real reasons from the American people.

If you believe that this war has anything to do with desire to spread democracy for any reason other than to advance the gains of capitalism, I think you have allowed your wish to be part of something fine to overwhelm your interest in fully understanding the situation.

Here’s a thought for you – if you are opposed to global government and to globalization in general – you should be opposed to this war because it has nothing to do with anything other than those ideas.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

1776 Revisited

My trip to my nephew’s wedding took me across Missouri into Kentucky nearly the full length of Tennessee and across the mountains into Asheville, North Carolina. Fully 12 hours of steady driving each way, it gave me plenty of time to think.

I spent a lot of that time listening to books on tape including the history of the American revolution from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the battles of Trenton and Princeton at the end of that year, battles that defeated the Hessian mercenaries and Cornwallis’ battalions and which most Americans think of as having decided the outcome of the war. Few of us though, remember that the war continued until the summer of 1783 before we finally emerged victorious.

We think of the revolution as a declaration, some editorials and a few battles then on to glorious manifest destiny. We don’t even remember the seven years of slogging warfare and brutal living conditions our forefathers endured in liberating our country from the clutches of an unjust and arrogant government.

We forget, too, that it wasn’t the high and mighty in their warm mansions that delivered this nation to its freedom. It was armies of young men who sacrificed even the comforts of a log cabin in the woods for a life of brutal cold, little food we would consider edible and the daily presence of death and illness who steadfastly carried the banner of liberty forward. It was Alexander Hamilton commanding the artillery. It was Thomas Paine fighting with the infantry. It was farmhands and boys, there were a few women in those fights, too, and African-American men who gave up their family lives as free men in the northern colonies who gave their all for the vision they thought of as their country while King George was still thinking of it as his.

Without the perseverance of George Washington and those loyal troops who stayed to carry on the fight for several years after their one year obligations had expired, this nation would not exist today. To them and all who in subsequent years have risked or given their lives to keep this country free, we each and all owe a debt of enormous gratitude. It is also in memory of them that we must keep at the top of our minds and our hearts, the will to maintain the promise of rights for all people that this nation represents.

The America we know today bears little resemblance to the America George Washington was thinking about when he led his troops across the swollen and ice-filled dangers of the Delaware River in Christmas day in 1776, but it is still a symbol to all the world of the highest and most noble ideas that ever gave birth to a nation.

Many of us look at this country today and see its corruption, its arrogance, its lack of esteem for its own common people and weep for the difference between this picture and the hopes and dreams of General Washington, but we would do well to remember his determination. We would do well to recall how he persevered in the face of odds so overpowering that no one in his right mind would have given him the ghost of a chance for success. And we would do well to try and emulate that strength; to continue to stand up and be counted among those who know that America represents too shining an example to be allowed to slip under the dark waters of tyranny, ignorance and arrogance that threaten her today.

Keep the faith, my friends, and – emulating Washington – continue to stand your ground until we know for sure that we have succeeded in reversing some of the infringements on liberty that have been put in place over the past twenty and most notably the past eight years.

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- M. K. Gandhi

Individually we have little voice. Collectively we cannot be ignored.
But in silence we surrender our power. Yours in Peace -- BR

The reason for going was to keep the crude flowing and raise a false flag abroad. – from a poem by Jack Evans titled 3500 Souls -