Friday, February 29, 2008

National Security Nonsense

I have written many times about the duplicity and manipulative nature of the Bush administration. Lately the head butting in Congress has been about the Protect America Act. (Following the basic tenet that the name of any bill before Congress for years has to be defined as being the exact opposite of what the name implies, this bill obviously seeks to break down protections for American citizens!)

I had been planning to address this issue in a blog, but yesterday’s post by the Center for American Progress Action Fund not only beat me to the punch, but did it with a much higher degree of research and references than I could have done. For that reason, I have copied their entire message below. I have not entered in all of the references they supplied, however, so if you want to trace it all down, please go to: and check out their Progress Report for February 28, 2008.

Playing Games With National Security
At midnight on Feb. 16, the hastily-passed Protect America Act (PAA) expired after the Bush administration and its supporters refused to support a 21-day extension of the PAA. House Democrats sought the extension in order to reconcile a Senate intelligence bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who participated in the administration's warrantless wiretapping program after 9/11 with the House-approved RESTORE Act, which contains more civil liberties protections and no retroactive immunity. Angered that House Democrats didn't "blink" in the face of administration claims that "failure to pass" the Senate bill "would jeopardize the security of our citizens," President Bush and his allies in Congress have launched a daily fear-mongering campaign to pressure the House into passing the law. At the same time, congressional Republicans have refused to participate in negotiations between the House and Senate, and Bush has said that he will not compromise on the most contentious issue holding up the bill -- retroactive immunity for telecoms. Instead of negotiating, Bush plans to hammer away at Congress with misleading claims that America has "lost intelligence information" because of the law's lapse and the lack of immunity for telecoms.

'LOST INTELLIGENCE': Last Friday, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey sent a letter to House Intelligence Committee chair Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), claiming that "we have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress' failure to act." Mukasey and McConnell claimed that private companies had "delayed or refused compliance" with administration "requests to initiate new surveillances of terrorist and other foreign intelligence targets." Hours after the letter was released, however, "administration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program." Even so, in his radio address the next morning, Bush claimed that "the House's refusal to act is undermining our ability to get cooperation from private companies." In a Senate hearing yesterday, McConnell reluctantly admitted that White House officials were informed on "Friday night" about the developments, but Bush went ahead and aired his false attack in the radio address the next day anyway. In reality, "one lawyer in the telecommunications industry" who spoke to the New York Times said that "he had seen little practical effect on the industry's surveillance operations since the law expired."

FEAR-MONGERING ATTACK ADS: Since the expiration of the PAA, conservatives have launched a full-scale public relations battle to paint opponents of the Senate bill as a threat to national security. Last week, House Republicans launched a web ad modeled on the show 24, bellowing that "America is at risk," implying that a terrorist attack is imminent without the PAA. Last Friday, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and an affiliated 501(c)(4) group called Defense of Democracies ran ads in 15 congressional districts and 17 media markets that erroneously claim "the law that lets intelligence agencies intercept Al Qaeda communications expire[d]" while showing a picture of Osama Bin Laden. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies is nominally a nonpartisan think tank, but after the disingenuous ads aired, most of the liberals on the groups board of advisers quit. In a statement explaining her resignation from the group, political consultant Donna Brazile said she joined the organization because it was "committed to defending democratic values," but "due to the influence of their funders, in the last few years, FDD has morphed into a radical right wing organization that is doing the dirty work for the Bush Administration."

IT'S THE IMMUNITY, STUPID: In a fear-mongering op-ed for Investor's Business Daily this week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claims that House Democrats don't want necessary "updates" and "improvements" to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that take "take technological advances" since 1978 into account. This claim is false. In November, the House passed the RESTORE Act, which fixes the gaps in FISA, but doesn't include retroactive immunity for telecoms. As DNI McConnell admitted to NPR recently, "the real issue" is "liability protection for the private sector." But the administration is having difficulty making a compelling argument for immunity. Both the original PAA and the RESTORE Act include prospective immunity for telecommunications companies, which means companies that lawfully cooperate with the surveillance program in the future would be protected from lawsuits. In fact, even in the original FISA law, cooperation by telecoms is not optional, but required, and they have always had immunity if they obey the law. Asked last Friday to explain "the administration's argument that without this retroactive immunity, the telecoms would be reluctant in the future to cooperate" even though they have prospective immunity, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel was unable to give a straight answer. Unable to explain how retroactive immunity is necessary for ensuring future cooperation, President Bush has been reduced to arguing "it's not fair" to allow "class action lawsuits against private phone carriers and other companies that are believed to have helped us protect America."

This process of playing fast and loose with the rights of American citizens as well as with facts and fears has been stale for a long time, but the Repulsicans continue to go with it. I wish I could say that it was just Bush and his cronies, but the fact is that it is the continuation of the Gingrich policy of refusal to negotiate, compromise, or consider the well-being of the nation over the image of the party.

Deliver us from “leaders” who would kill the patient and say that cured the disease.

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, February 28, 2008

Twisted Economics

The news today is filled with reports of Ben Bernanke’s concurrent fears about inflation and recession. Many economists say that “stagflation” is a better description of our current situation.

The banter back and forth about the effects of the mortgage crisis, the high price of oil, the fall of the dollar and the stalled incomes of the people as opposed to the continuously escalating cost of living.

But through it all, they largely ignore the elephant in the bank vault – the war.

Of course the price of oil keeps climbing. We shut off a good source when we blew into Baghdad and have completely aggravated Iran, not to mention Russia and Venezuela.

Of course the mortgage crisis is crippling us. We opened that marketplace up to abuse when the Congress threw out the restraining regulations that had kept the robber barons in check since the Great Depression.

Of course the dollar is falling. We have angered every nation on the planet in the face of the growing power of the European Union. We drove Saddam Hussein out of power partially because he called for the replacement of the dollar with the Euro as the currency in which oil is valued, but international sentiment, fed up with our arrogance, has continued to move in that direction and the dollar has weakened at least partially as a consequence. The other primary cause is the growth of our debt. As our apparent inability to repay that debt grows, the value of investment in our system wanes.

And at the base of it all lies the fact that we are mired in a war that is costing us astronomical numbers of dollars ($10 billion a month) we don’t have the Gross National Product to support.

A recent AP Poll shows that the American public recognizes the problem. In that poll 68% of Americans think that pulling out of Iraq would improve our economy. It’s interesting that only 18% of Republicans think that. What is it about their government throwing away $10 billion a month that they don’t understand?
Their idea is that a tax cut is the answer.

A tax cut!!! That’s like saying that if you are in a drought, the best thing to do is to throw away whatever water you have on hand! Where do they think the government gets its operating money? Besides arms deals – which are a major form of income – and interest from investment -- which these days is going out not coming in -- tax revenue is IT.

Another argument is that the war is a major contributor to the economy. “Do you realize,” they ask, “how many people would be out of jobs if we stopped the manufacturing and retrofitting that is necessary to support this war?”

Can’t they hear themselves? We have to keep killing Iraqis and putting our own children’s lives at risk. It contributes to our coffers.

Surely there is a better way. Surely our nation could find some constructive ways to fire up its manufacturing base. Surely we would be better off if we stopped the $10 billion monthly hemorrhage on a completely false war.

What would happen to our economy if we applied $5 billion a month to domestic development? How many people could we employ in the development of energy efficient technologies? How many people could we employ in the delivery of services to our own citizens?

What if we went hog wild and cut our military weapons development budget in half? We could do so much for ourselves and the world that we might just surprise everyone by once again becoming the world’s leader instead of being its most feared paraiah.

The first step is the election of a president whose idea of a hero is closer to Ghandi than the Duke.

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, February 26, 2008

No Blog Today

Sorry. No blog today. Illness. Back when I can - Bob

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Cost in Blood

For many years I thought of myself as a Jeffersonian. I have always admired the words he left for us to read, ponder, and follow. It is hard to come up with any other name that so engenders the values on which America is founded. The Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and the Constitution itself are written in such a way as to not only put forth, but enshrine the concepts that give this nation its great potential as a fount of humane generosity and opportunity.

But in recent years I have become less enamored of Mr. Jefferson. Yes, his words are great and beautiful, and he still inspires thoughts of national grandeur, but remembering that actions speak louder that words and looking at the way he lived leads ultimately to the conclusion that he was, more than anything, the ultimate politician. He was a man of his times who knew exactly what to say to describe the highest ideals of those times, but when it came to daily life, those ideals took a back seat to his desires. In short, he was a great man but perhaps a little too human to be a hero.

As the years have passed for me, I have become more and more an admirer of another notable early American, Ben Franklin. Less flamboyantly verbose, more pragmatic, and much more plebian than Jefferson, Franklin was no less influential in those revolutionary times and definitely more politically effective. In reading a biography of Franklin, I recently came across a statement of his that cemented my hero worship for him in stone.

“All wars are follies,” he wrote, “very expensive, and very mischievous ones. When will mankind be convinced of this, and agree to settle their differences by arbitration? Were they to do it, even by the cast of a die, it would be better than by fighting and destroying each other.”

At another time, he brought it all down to one line, “There was never a good war, or a bad peace.” Not entirely true, of course, ala Neville Chamberlain, but 99.9% true is good enough for me.

Combine the words and actions of Jefferson and Franklin, and you have a pretty good synopsis of the core of American philosophy. Franklin was a pragmatic diplomat who, in spite of his distaste for war, spent the entirety of the American Revolution, negotiating for the recognition of the colonies as an independent entity and ultimately negotiated the peace with Britain that ended the war. At the same time he played a strong role in shaping the treaty that ended the war between France and Britain.

Franklin’s deal with Britain failed to bring Canada into the U.S., but established the western boundary of the United States at the Mississippi River. It was Jefferson who more than doubled those lands through the Louisiana Purchase which ultimately led to the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny and formed the basis of what is still today our national character – the idea that we have some god-given right to whatever we want.

The great flaw lies in our mutation into a nation of individuals each of whom seeks the maximum amount of material wealth. We one-up each other and the rest of the world to death.

We see it today in the wild promises of our presidential candidates. As the excellent lead article in today’s New-Leader Nation/World section points out, no candidate running for president today is putting forward a plan that can be achieved under our present budgetary structure.

We are all excited about having a new president with a new way of looking at things who will lead us to new heights of material wealth and personal comfort.

Perhaps we should consider becoming a nation of people who seek not to have a better house than their neighbor but to ensure that their neighbor does not have to live in a lesser house. Perhaps we should consider becoming a nation of people more concerned with relieving the poverty most of the world’s nations face than with being able to buy cheap shirts. Perhaps we should consider becoming a nation of people willing to put more money into domestic social programs than into weapons and impossible defense systems. Perhaps we should consider becoming a nation who believes that the blood of other people is as valuable as our own.

Perhaps we should consider becoming a people who remember that there is no such thing as a bad peace so long as that peace is not purchased at the cost of other people’s blood.

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, February 22, 2008

Energy Conservation Efforts

The City of Springfield is holding an “Ozarks New Energy Conference” today and tomorrow at the Gillioz. The registration fee is $75, and you can learn more about it at
Besides being politically oriented I have been environmentally aware all my life, but I’m not going to shell out $75 to attend this one. One of the highlights of my recent years has been my membership in the Missouri Master Naturalist program, and one of the connections that membership has led me to is the League of Conservation Voters.

LCV does a sensible job of tracking legislation related to the environment so it’s easy to keep up on what’s happening in that area just by virtue of that membership. One of the other benefits is that they track voting records of our representatives.
Below is their scorecard of the ecologically sound voting records of the representatives for my districts in Southwest Missouri. If you are fortunate enough to be represented by someone else, you can check on them by going to: (
Vote Scorecard:
110th, 1st session Search Results Scores for Missouri Sorted by Last Name
Senator State 110th, 1st session Score
Christopher Bond (REP) MO 0%
Claire McCaskill (DEM) MO 73%

Representative District 110th, 1st session Score
Roy Blunt (REP) MO-7 0%

Doesn’t it just make you proud to live in Southwest Missouri? We ought to thank Claire and throw the other two out on their ears.

The notice in the paper declares that, “This weekend’s conference will focus more on the end of energy production with a twist of economic opportunities for the region.”

It burns my &^%** to know that my representatives care more about the income of their corporate boosters than the health of our state, nation and planet. The specter of global warming forces us to recognize that ideas like trading carbon credits threaten our very ability to survive, but “leaders” like Bond and Blunt continue to argue that we can’t afford to risk curbing economic growth in order to do anything about it.

You don’t have to go far to find evidence of our cultural willingness to pollute rather than spending anything to curb the problem, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Roy Blunt and Kit Bond wouldn’t take one dollar out of their cohorts’ coffers to do anything green unless it returns at least $10 to $100 to those same coffers.

There is a price attached to pollution, friends, whether our politicians recognize it or not, and resistance to sensible green measures only delays having to pay that price while it increases exponentially.

Ethanol – which I’ll bet Roy & Kit will tout today – is a huge boondoggle that ultimately adds to the problem instead of helping solve it. Our new coal fired electric plant is another great. It’s “scrubbers” amount to chimneys tall enough to push the pollution high enough into the airstream to remove it from our area – never mind that someone else will have to deal with it.

Another system being touted these days is injecting carbon dioxide deep into the earth. Sounds to me like just as valid a solution as hauling our garbage far enough out to sea that we don’t have to look at it any more. All such measures will rebound and have to be dealt with some day at much greater cost than if we were to deal with them appropriately today.

Each of us, though, can do some little things that can help. Here are some ideas:

Quit using store supplied non-degradable plastic bags. Get some tote bags and use them when you shop. Home Depot sells a wonderful nylon bag that holds about ½ bushel but folds up to nearly nothing. Has great interlocking handles, too. The price -- $1.99!! What a value, and what a boon to the environment.

Quit burning gasoline in long lines waiting for your burger. If everyone in the country turned off the engine whenever it would otherwise idle for 30 seconds, we would save a few hundred thousand gallons of fuel a day. (Automatic shutoff is one way that hybrids save on fuel.)

Don’t idle your car more than 30 seconds to warm it up and certainly don’t leave it running in the parking lot while you shop so that you won’t have to touch a cold steering wheel when you leave. I can’t believe how often I see that.

Recycle. If your trashman doesn’t facilitate that, dump him! The Moore family here in Springfield probably provides the cheapest service in town, but they enable recycling. Mrs. Moore spends her days sorting so her customers won’t have to. We do, though, and it isn’t a hassle. The only problem with the Moores is that they don’t bill often enough for their services, so I suppose some folks take advantage of them. You wouldn’t, though, so why don’t you give them a call and find out what great folks they are. Their number is 831-6119.

Going to reseed your yard? Use buffalo grass. It’s really expensive seed, but it doesn’t need much water and doesn’t have to be mowed. It won’t look like your neighbor’s fescue sod, but it will be a native grass yard. Speaking of native, use native plants in your landscaping. The Missouri Department of Conservation (895-6880) has some free info on how and what. Check with the MO Dep’t. of Agriculture, too (

Consider putting in a rain garden that will utilize the run-off from your roof. Examples are at Library Center on S. Campbell and along Meadowmere Street south of Grand in mid-town. The James River Basin Partnership can help you there.

James River has a great program for testing your yard and giving you all the info you need to keep it healthy, too. You can reach them at 836-4847 or visit

Get a rainbarrel and use the roof run-off to water your plantings. Great for washing hair, too!

And while you’re at it, send a copy of the table above to Roy and Kit and tell them how disgusting their behavior is.

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, February 21, 2008

At Last Some Congressional Backbone

I was amazed and pleased to learn that the Congress had refused to sign off on amnesty for the telecommunications companies and the extension of the “Protect America Act of 2007”. Here’s a little blurb on it from the OMB Watcher Vol. 9 No. 4:

House Forces Expiration of Protect America Act
During the week of Feb. 11, the White House and Democrats in Congress exchanged blows over whether and how to extend the surveillance powers of the Protect America Act of 2007 (PAA). The Senate's approach, the FISA Amendments Act (S. 2248), included a provision granting immunity for telecommunications companies that helped the government monitor citizens through its warrantless wiretapping program. The House leadership, opposed to immunity for telecommunications companies, refused to consider the bill. Instead, House leaders wanted to pass a three-week extension of PAA powers to give themselves time to resolve differences with the Senate, but House Republicans blocked the move. As a result, the PAA expired at midnight Eastern time on Feb. 16. Despite the expiration, the government still has numerous surveillance tools available as debate continues.

Concurrently, I received the article below from If you agree that the House and Senate are on the right track here, please take a minute to place the calls their bulletin requests. I am not a registered Democrat at the moment, but for this election I certainly can’t see any other way to go. I voted Democrat last year hoping to give them a majority in the Congress and have been disappointed in their inability to take advantage of that position since, but at this point it looks like they might be starting to hold their ground. Pelosi has always been a big part of the problem from my viewpoint (check my archives for “Impeach the Democrats”), so calling her to tell her to get some backbone seems like a good idea to me.

The right is screaming that this weakens our national security, but FISA remains in force. While it was initially passed about 30 years ago, it is not true (as BushCo argues) that it is outdated. It has been updated about 50 times and even allows wiretapping prior to court approval. Approval just has to be sought within a couple of days and does not have to go through a regular court. Approvals are very nearly automatic and the decision is always swift. BushCo just wants the right to tap anybody anytime without the possibility of court interference. The stakes are too high to allow that.

THURSDAY Feb. 21: "You are Not a Lap Dog!" Call-In Day
Call Speaker Pelosi at 202-225-0100 and Majority Leader Hoyer at 202-225-4131. Tell them to stay strong against warrantless wiretapping and $102 billion more for Iraq.

In a surprising and long-overdue display of courage, the House Democratic leadership last week stood up to Bush and refused to bring to the floor a bill that would allow Bush to continue to spy on the people of this country without a warrant. Also every Democrat but one voted to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton in contempt of Congress. Can this newfound Democratic courage last?

We need Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to continue to stand strong against domestic spying and telecom immunity. And we need them to learn that they do have power if they choose to use it, and apply this lesson to ending the occupation of Iraq. Pelosi and Hoyer can start by simply refusing to allow Bush's $102 billion Iraq war funding request to come up for a vote.

Thursday Feb. 21: Join United for Peace and Justice,,, Progressive Democrats of America, and other groups in a Massive National "You are NOT a Lap Dog*" Call-In Day!

Call Speaker Pelosi at 202-225-0100 and Majority Leader Hoyer at 202-225-4131. If you don't get through to a person, leave a voicemail.

Talking points:
1. Thank you for standing up against Bush's warrantless wiretapping, and keep standing up.
2. Stand up against Bush's new $102 billion Iraq war funding request by refusing to bring it to the floor for a vote.

In addition to your call, please sign our petition to your own Representative and Senators: No More Funds for Iraq

This Democratic Congress was elected to end the war, but they have given Bush one blank check after another, most recently for $70 billion on January 16. But 42 Democrats and 4 Republicans finally said no in January, so our calls and emails are making a difference, and we need to keep up the pressure.

And we must do more than call and email - we must take to the streets and put pressure directly on our Representatives. Here's a flyer you can hand out in front of your Representative's office today:

Connect with other members in your Congressional District (login required):

Look down to your Congressional District, read past posts and add your comments, or create a new post with your ideas and plans.

In mid-March, UFPJ member groups and allies around the country will mobilize for a wide range of powerful actions marking the 5th anniversary of the war and occupation in Iraq. Join us in March to say, 5 YEARS TOO MANY!


* "We're not the lap dog of the president or the United States Senate."
-Rep Hoyer on Feb. 13, when the House leadership refused to bow to political pressure on warrantless wiretapping.

Early last week, the Senate passed an extension of the Orwellian "Protect America Act" that allows Bush to wiretap all of us without a warrant and offered immunity to telecoms that facilitated illegal wiretaps in the past. Bush and the Senate wanted the House to quickly pass the Senate bill, because the act expires on Feb. 15. The House stood up to Bush and the Senate and allowed the "Protect America Act" to expire. The fear-mongering has not stopped, with Bush claiming that terrorists are planning an attack that will far surpass 9/11, and he will be helpless to stop them without the ability to spy on us without a warrant.

Unfortunately, the battle over domestic spying and telecom immunity is not over. The House will return to the subject next week. The leadership must be assured that they did the right thing by refusing to bow to pressure and fear mongering, and that they must continue to defend the Constitution.

The battle over FISA teaches an important lesson about Congressional power - the Democrats have it, if they care to use it. Pelosi and Hoyer have demonstrated that they are willing to go to the mat over domestic spying and telecom immunity - now we want to see them go to the mat to end the occupation of Iraq.

Bush has requested another $102 billion for Iraq - which would push total spending on the war so far above $624 billion. Rep. John Murtha, Chair of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, is preparing a bill to fund that request. He says the bill will be ready by the end of February. The peace movement will have to wage a strong campaign to defeat the war supplemental, or to turn it into a bill that only funds the withdrawal of all troops and contractors. It won't be easy - the presidential elections are capturing the attention of activists and the general public. We must keep the pressure on!

To subscribe, create a free account here:

A SPECIAL NOTE TO THOSE WHO ARE LOSING HEART: If there is any way to thwart the efforts of the neo-cons to exert inappropriate control over the citizenry, it is active resistance on the part of the people. Throughout history that force has unseated kings and freed entire populations from tyranny. Each step seems ineffective, the cost is high, and the process takes too much time and effort, but the results can be worth 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 -

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

On The Supreme Court and Cuba

A couple of headlines caught my eye this morning. The one that rang my bell the loudest was that the Supreme court had decided not to hear a lawsuit against the BushCo domestic surveillance program. In spite recent history, I’m still ready to accept the court as a valid weight in the balance of powers although there is no question that it is not a politically balanced body at this point and so cannot be expected to be cutting edge in moving the country forward as some on both sides of the aisle wish it to be.

But, in my view, leadership is not its reason for existence anyway. The courts purpose is to review legislative and administrative actions to determine whether or not they comply with the requirements of the Constitution. That’s exactly why this ruling rubbed me the wrong way. It wasn’t the headline that grabbed me. It was the explanation for the rejection that was buried in the story that earned my attention.

The issue came to the attention of the Supreme Court because the ACLU appealed when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court dismissed a Detroit federal judge’s ruling in favor of the ACLU on the grounds that, “. . .the plaintiffs could not prove their communications had been monitored and thus could not prove they had been harmed by the program.”

The next line in the story was, “The government has refused to turn over information about the closely guarded program that could reveal who has been under surveillance.”

It seems to me that the country is in trouble when the Supreme Court won’t hear a case because the injured parties can’t prove the damage because the government won’t release records that could prove the injury. What a circular argument! Shouldn’t the first step be to force the government to release such records? Instead, the refusal to pursue the case offers tacit shelter to the government with the silent message that they can do anything as long as they aren’t caught.

I don’t know any more than you do whether or not the government has inappropriately wiretapped American citizens as this case purports, but I do believe in openness in government and the right to privacy guaranteed by our Constitution.

Probably the main difference between me and my friends on the right who will say the government is only acting to keep us safe in the face of terroristic threat is that I believe that the biggest threat to our freedom comes from within the country not from some bearded cave dwelling terrorists halfway around the globe. That threat is real, too, but when our own government refuses to explain its processes and motivations to its own citizens through its own court system, then I become very suspicious of that government.

The second story that caught my eye was about the resignation of Fidel Castro. I vaguely remember Castro’s triumph in driving Batista out of Cuba. It was celebrated in Cuba at the time by a citizenry that had grown tired of being beaten down by an elitist government that enriched itself and its friends by catering to the hedonistic desires of the rich who came there to party and the corporations who came to take advantage of cheap labor in the production of exportable agricultural products.

Castro’s promise was to destroy the elites and lift up the impoverished. It was a promise he fulfilled, but it was a promise that did not fit well with the economic desires of the United States. In shopping for the support the limited resources of his country needed in order to survive, he chose alignment with the Soviet Union over alignment with the United States. Why? I think it was because the spoken ideology (as opposed to the actual reality) of the Communist Party was to share the wealth of the nation among the people of the nation. On the other hand, the western world had already established a very negative history in South America and the Caribbean region as plunderers who had never hesitated to topple governments that did not comply with their strategy of production, which always included cheap labor and ownership by corporations based outside the host country.

To a large degree, Fidel lived the philosophy he espoused. Certainly he lived at a higher standard than the average Cuban, but he did not become a grossly wealthy man and he did not install the corporate and governmental means by which to keep his people downtrodden. He did improve schools and emplace a health care system that enhanced the quality of life for his citizenry.

His brother, Raul, now president, may or may not be capable of running the country. Hopefully, he will reduce the restrictions on the personal freedoms of his people, but if so he will have to deal with a potentially large number of émigrés. Certainly he will be faced with the same problems his brother faced in terms of the lack of resources capable of making his a rich, competitive nation. For that reason, he will be forced to forge alliances with other nations in order to achieve any level of economic well-being for his people.

Will the United States offer itself as an ally and thus perhaps move away from the adversarial position that has kept our two nations at more than arms length for the past 50 years, or will we continue our stance of isolation and so force Cuba to continue and perhaps expand its ties to the old guard Soviets who seem to be gaining ascendancy in Russia and other eastern nations today?

What do you think?

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, February 19, 2008

They Still Don't Get It

I got quite a phone call this morning in response to my letter published in the News-Leader yesterday. It was a blocked call, so the caller was unwilling to let me know who he was, but he wasn’t reticent about sharing his opinion, opening and closing his call with, “Before you write another letter, you’d better get your facts straight.”

In the course of the call, he contended that Jimmy Carter was responsible for the 18% interest rates that cropped up during his administration, that the war in Iraq was justified because Saddam Hussein refused to let WMD inspectors into his country, and that “This country is not ready for a black Muslim or a woman to be president”.
He did ultimately agree with me that no president was capable of single-handedly affecting interest rates. His position there ultimately became that this was true because Congress and the Courts tied a president’s hands. He had no response, though, when I replied that it was this president’s attempts to remove the balance of powers that most strongly led me to fault him.

When I said that it was Bill Clinton who pulled the inspectors out of Iraq, he denied that saying I still had my facts wrong and went off onto a tangent about how Clinton bombed the wrong targets then anyway. I didn’t get a chance to follow up with the FACT that, in the face of many requests by the inspection teams to do so, W refused to consider sending inspectors back in.

As to his assertion that the country just isn’t ready for a black man or white woman to be president, my response was that the same thing was said about civil rights in 1964 and that the country had better get ready because one or the other was about to be president.

My new friend’s final assertion was that Clinton has said that she believed the Saddam had WMD’s too, proving that Bush had only acted on the best intelligence available at the time. To this, I said that Bush had picked through and twisted the intelligence available at the time in order to mislead the Congress into supporting his push for war.

This continues to be a bone of contention though it doesn’t take much fact sifting to find the truth. For any far-rights who might be reading this blog, I include the following which comes from an article written by one of America’s leading historians. (See:

“All the while, Bush and the most powerful figures in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, were planting the seeds for the crises to come by diverting the struggle against Al Qaeda toward an all-out effort to topple their pre-existing target, Saddam Hussein. In a deliberate political decision, the administration stampeded the Congress and a traumatized citizenry into the Iraq invasion on the basis of what has now been demonstrated to be tendentious and perhaps fabricated evidence of an imminent Iraqi threat to American security, one that the White House suggested included nuclear weapons. Instead of emphasizing any political, diplomatic or humanitarian aspects of a war on Iraq -- an appeal that would have sounded too "sensitive," as Cheney once sneered -- the administration built a "Bush Doctrine" of unprovoked, preventive warfare, based on speculative threats and embracing principles previously abjured by every previous generation of U.S. foreign policy-makers, even at the height of the Cold War. The president did so with premises founded, in the case of Iraq, on wishful thinking. He did so while proclaiming an expansive Wilsonian rhetoric of making the world safe for democracy -- yet discarding the multilateralism and systems of international law (including the Geneva Conventions) that emanated from Wilson's idealism. He did so while dismissing intelligence that an American invasion could spark a long and bloody civil war among Iraq's fierce religious and ethnic rivals, reports that have since proved true. And he did so after repeated warnings by military officials such as Gen. Eric Shinseki that pacifying postwar Iraq would require hundreds of thousands of American troops -- accurate estimates that Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush policy gurus ridiculed as "wildly off the mark."
When William F. Buckley, the man whom many credit as the founder of the modern conservative movement, writes categorically, as he did in February, that "one can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed," then something terrible has happened.”

A majority of historians, by the way, are on record as considering George W. Bush the worst president in the history of this nation. Here, taken from the same article, is a one paragraph explanation of why they feel that way:

“Calamitous presidents, faced with enormous difficulties -- Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Hoover and now Bush -- have divided the nation, governed erratically and left the nation worse off. In each case, different factors contributed to the failure: disastrous domestic policies, foreign-policy blunders and military setbacks, executive misconduct, crises of credibility and public trust. Bush, however, is one of the rarities in presidential history: He has not only stumbled badly in every one of these key areas, he has also displayed a weakness common among the greatest presidential failures -- an unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy, thus preventing any pragmatic adjustment to changing realities. Repeatedly, Bush has undone himself, a failing revealed in each major area of presidential performance.”

Sadly, I have long thought noticed that “unswerving adherence to a simplistic ideology that abjures deviation from dogma as heresy” is far too common a valid description of people like my caller. At the bottom line, their biggest objection to those of us who take positions in opposition to this administration is that we refuse to honor the office and follow the president in everywhere he wants to take us.

That’s just a little too much like goose-stepping for me.

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, February 18, 2008

Our Tangled Webs

On January 17 I wrote a blog about having to eat crow because my opposition to the surge may have turned out to be wrong. I thought the surge would accomplish nothing, but it turned out to have quelled some of the violence between insurgent factions by channeling their energies toward fighting Al Qaida instead of each other.

On further reflection, though, I think my crow lunch may have been a bit premature. At this point, the violence remains reduced, but a picture is emerging of a nation that remains terribly divided and a relative peace that was purchased rather than gained. It is quite possible that we purchased a temporary truce and noone’s loyalty to the cause of a stable Iraq. (See:

I still prefer the tactics General Patraeus employed in the surge to those Paul Bremmer initially used, but the overall impact of the surge will take some time to emerge.

One hugely unexplored and underreported aspect is the effect all of this is having on our own troops. They are stretched dangerously thin. They have been giving their all and then some for too long now and there is no sign that the surge is going to generate any change that will offer them relief. In fact, the opposite is more likely the case since the Pentagon is now talking about having to retain the surge troops in position beyond the time initially scheduled. That means there is no relief in sight for those troops that were already in-country before the surge.

The horror stories being faced by our military personnel continue to surface, too. A good friend reports a family member transferred from the Air Force to the Marines and told to accept an assignment in Iraq that is twice the length required by the agreement between the two branches or face immediate transfer upon his return to the states. As that would translate into a forced move for his entire family involving the sale of their home in a down market and a high school senior who would be faced with the loss of the college scholarships she has been working toward, this amounts to blackmail. Add that kind of thing to reports that the PTSD level for any troops that have served in Iraq is running at about 1/3, plus tales of families whose children have been taken from them because a parent has been out of the country in Iraq too long, and you have a picture of a military whose moral must be nearly ripped to shreds by a government forced into an inescapable corner by this country’s horrendously bad decision to go to Iraq in the first place.

“Oh, what tangled webs we weave . . .”

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, February 15, 2008


Here’s a great quote for you: “Those who murder the innocent for political reasons are evil.”

Now who do you suppose said that? None other than our own ill-lustrious commander-in-thief. That’s right – George W. Bush.

Just yesterday he said that. Said it with a straight face, too. Heckuva job, Shrub.

Does this guy ever look inside himself? Could he really be so wrapped up in his “virtuous American” persona that he can’t see that he is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people? Does he really not understand that he misled us into this war for purely political reasons?

You know -- hard as it is to believe -- I think it really could be that he doesn’t understand what he’s done. He is, after all, undoubtedly the stupidest president we have ever had the misfortune of bringing into that office. He is also a man capable of convincing himself of the wildest mistruths; things like believing that he is a spiritual person and convincing himself that he stands on high moral ground. I’m sure he even believes that someday history will recognize him for the correctness of his positions and will place him on a pedestal among the great world leaders.

We never fool anyone as well as we fool ourselves.

Most of us, though, never wield enough power to hurt many folks beyond ourselves. A president can severely damage the entire world. Is there any way to ensure that the country will be much more careful about trustingly handing power to people, or that those entrusted with that power will more carefully safeguard the balance of powers in order to protect the citizenry that has given them their power?

(Hint: One thing we might consider is somehow limiting presidential signing statements designed to absolve the president of the responsibility to comply with federal law.)

We are very fortunate, given the general direction of this administration, that it has not taken the remaining few steps necessary to turn this society from a republican democracy to a totalitarian state. Hopefully, the next administration will take steps to remove the excessive powers that BushCo has taken s its right and so return us to the original balance created by the Constitution.

Any politician who says s/he wants to do that has a good shot at my vote, and so far, only Obama has said 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, February 14, 2008


The following is a piece that I stuck into my emailed blog subjects file a couple of weeks ago for just such a writer's block emergency as today has been!! It gave me great joy to see this in the mainstream press. I hope it brightens your day, too. Not that we can expect much to come of it except the rising sentiment that the kind of "leadership" BushCo has provided is something to be avoided like the plague in the future.

The manufacturing of the "need" for this war combined with the accompanying slip into the immoral mire of approving and supporting the use of torture on prisoners, many of whom are not guilty of anything, has led to the United States version of the dark ages. I'd like to see Torquemada Bush and Richelieu Cheney brought to justice for it, but at least their vile ways are being brought to light, however minimally, by articles like this.

It doesn't make my day to see an American president outed like this, but it does my heart good to see that the nation is catching on -- however belatedly.

[USAToday, 23 Jan.'08; Study: Bush made false statements on Iraq]

WASHINGTON (AP) — A study by two non-profit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The study was posted Tuesday on the website of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said he could not comment on the study because he had not seen it.
The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaeda or both.
"It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaeda," according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. "In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003."
Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.
Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq's links to al-Qaeda, the study found. That was second to Powell's 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaeda.
The center said the study was based on a database created with public statements over the two years beginning on Sept. 11, 2001, and information from more than 25 government reports, books, articles, speeches and interviews.
"The cumulative effect of these false statements — amplified by thousands of news stories and broadcasts — was massive, with the media coverage creating an almost impenetrable din for several critical months in the run-up to war," the study concluded.
"Some journalists — indeed, even some entire news organizations — have since acknowledged that their coverage during those prewar months was far too deferential and uncritical. These mea culpas notwithstanding, much of the wall-to-wall media coverage provided additional, 'independent' validation of the Bush administration's false statements about Iraq," it said.
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Barack Obama swept the “Chesapeake Primaries” yesterday in a most impressive fashion. Any time a candidate collects votes at the 60 to 75% level, he is on a significant roll.

Tennis players are well aware of the vagaries of momentum that can cause a match to swing wildly from one player’s great advantage to the opponent’s jotting up one in the win column. I’m sure politicians learn the same lesson from their races and so avoid early celebration, but from here it looks as if Obama has definitely gained the upper hand.

One sign the savvy tennis player watches for is negative body language from his opponent. Just like a poker player knows to watch for his opponent to flinch, the tennis player watches for signs of disgust, anger, or discouragement on the part of the opponent.

Yesterday, Hillary flinched when she announced that she is now the underdog candidate. Not long ago she was riding the exultant wave of leadership in the race for the Democratic nomination. She had the most money. She had the most experience. She was the toughest. Now, suddenly, she declares herself the underdog. If nothing else has given Obama heart, that should.

John McCain, too, has shifted his rhetoric to recognize that his real opponent now is not the other Republican candidate, Mike Huckabee. Nor is it Hillary Clinton. McCain spoke yesterday to the Obama campaign of hope. He tried to belittle it by saying that a campaign of hope without solidly laid out policies is only a platitude, but if the idea of hope didn’t resonate, he wouldn’t have had to address it at all.

So here’s a little advice for Obama straight from the hinterlands. Maybe a bit more from the hip than the heart, but a straight shot nonetheless.

Keep hammering home your campaign of hope. Hope is what we need. Your platform is solid enough in the face of the McCain promise to keep us at war for another hundred years and to keep the common man impoverished by following the tax cut policies of the failed administration he seeks to emulate.

The hope you speak of is a hopeful America willing to put its shoulder to the wheel to make this country and this world a better place. That’s the hope JFK brought us, and it is most welcome as a returning beacon. But there is a greater hope embodied in our votes for you. That is the hope that you will bring our nation back to respectability; that you will stand move us from the false moral ground of blind, unfeeling patriotism to the true moral high ground of putting more of our energies into developing peace than into generating war; investing more of our future in the healing of our planet than in pillaging its resources during its final death throes; putting more of our taxes into caring for the people of America than into sheltering the economic position of its biggest corporations, and more of our patriotism into making a better niche for ourselves in the world community than that of the greediest consumer of its resources.

On the wings of that kind of hope, Obama, you just might lead this country back toward its finest hours as a morally upstanding super-power while still leading it forward into the potential the whole world shares as conservators of the planet.

That is our hope, and that is why you are garnering so many of our votes along with the fondest wishes in our hearts – that the country we love; the country we have served and fought for; the country that the whole world once imaginatively idealized as the shining beacon of freedom and the innate goodness of man might return again to the glow of international goodwill.

The war against terror will never be won with guns and bombs. If it is won, it will be won because the people of the world will not tolerate their neighbors’ attacks on a country they perceive to be a friend; a country that gives of itself rather than taking unto itself; a country that comes to the rescue instead of causing the destruction; and a country that demonstrates its strength not through bombing raids, but through diplomacy and through caring for its own citizens so that they might all thrive in the wealth their collective industry can provide.

So please keep us hoping. Please keep us believing that the future can be better. Don’t falter in the face of facetious criticism, but continue to lead us toward a better future. At this point, the nation believes in you. All you have to do is continue to believe in yourself. If you do that we will begin, once again, to believe in ourselves.

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, February 11, 2008

American Lessons

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced that he has come to agree with General Patraeus that reducing troop levels in Iraq to below surge numbers would not be appropriate at the moment.

As usual, my response to the situation is 180 degrees from the official position. It seems to me that our government has pushed our soldiers to the limit. It is common knowledge that military families are strained by the over long deployments boosted last year from the traditional 12 months to 15 months without relief. Long deployments including the additional troops we sent in for the surge mean that there are fewer troops available to provide relief for those already in-country. What’s next, another extension of deployment length?

The rate of our military personnel who are returning from Iraq with PTSD is phenomenal and we have already had reports of soldiers so diagnosed being returned to their units after rest without treatment for the disorder other than some ill-advised calmative prescriptions. What will happen to them or their platoon mates upon their return to combat situations is a matter of very unpleasant speculation, but there is no doubt that the situations to which they are subjected are traumatic and exteremely dangerous.

Top that off with the kind of orders they operate under, and it’s a wonder more of them don’t crack under the strain. We fill our children’s heads with tales of the uncommon valor and moral righteousness of the American soldier then we send them off to war where they are commanded to set bait like weapons in Iraqi streets and then shoot anyone who picks them up (Springfield News-Leader 2/11/08: Sniper Gets 10 Years for Killing Civilian); or station them in Abu Ghraib with orders to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation with inhumane and torturous methods. Then we expect them to someday come back home and rejoin “normal” society.

We teach our children to honor our soldiers, but then commit the troops to illegal and unjust wars topped off inhumane orders and abusive treatment of the disorders this duplicity necessarily generates.

The hypocritical enormity of the training of our children in this way struck me Sunday morning, and I began the day by writing a song about it. Here, it will have to suffice as a poem, but I hope in that form as well as in music, it will state its case with some impact.


Sing to me of freedom. Sing to me of love.
Sing to me of higher powers. Tell me of the dove.

Then give to me a rifle. Give us all a gun.
And we will teach the others the power of our love.

Sing to me of free speech. And sing to me of love.
Sing to me of democracy. And tell me of the dove.

Then pass the ammunition. And send me off to war,
And I will show the other side just what freedom’s for.

And I will show the other side just what freedom’s for.

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 -

Sunday, February 10, 2008


The world is in an uproar over the Sudan. And well they should be. The president of Chad accuses the Sudanese of sheltering his enemies, and tribal warfare wreaks havoc in both countries. Over 200,000 people have been killed and 2 million have fled the region where Kikuyu’s who back the Chadean president are slaughtering Luo’s from which tribe the opposing candidate for that office arose and Luo’s are striking back at their past friends and old neighbors the Kikuyu. It is a scene of chaos and mayhem created by political nuances that must go back centuries. There can be no humane explanation for it; no reasonable argument for its continuation, but it still goes on. Eventually, I expect, both leaders will be called to account for fomenting and supporting this horror. Perhaps they will even be tried for war crimes.

Even President Bush has recognized the terrible nature of the mess and has labeled it genocide.

And yet – the world stands aside relatively quietly while the United States continues its invasion of Iraq. Compare Sudan’s losses to Iraq where over a million Iraqi’s have died since the first Gulf War – over 600,000 since 2003 and most of the others due not to fighting but to the destruction of infrastructure in the first war and the banning of trade and relief for Iraq between the two wars. Over two million Iraq’s have also fled their country and now live in squalor in host countries that won’t recognize their validity as human beings. There is no reasonable argument for continuation of this horror, either, but our politicians regularly try to make a case for it.

Yes, we now owe Iraq the courtesy of our help in putting their country back together, but we also owe them the courtesy of relinquishing claims to their resources that we have been trying to establish since the day we ran Saddam to ground, and concentrated effort to try and stanch the flow of blood and loss of security our destruction of their infrastructure has caused.

The same president who cries genocide about the Sudan has led the charge to cause even more deaths and displacement in Iraq. The same president who charges the leaders in Chad and Sudan with the crime of inhumanity to man daily stands proud in his self-proclaimed role as America’s “war president” and argues that continued death and destruction in Iraq is in America’s best interests.

Will criminal charges ever be laid in that direction? I believe they could and should be, but I also believe it will never happen.

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, February 8, 2008

Waterboarding Might Be OK

Attorney General Michael Mukasey this week made it clear that he is going to support or at least not question the BushCo torture policies. Both Bush and Cheney have spoken up this week, too, saying that the use of waterboarding, now revealed as having occurred at least three times during 2002 & 2003, is legal.

The fact is that it has been illegal since identified as torture under the Geneva Conventions, not to mention that it has been recognized around the world as torture since it was used during the Spanish Inquisition.

I oppose the use of waterboarding, but would make an exception for both W and little dick. In fact, I think that, as they are advocates of the technique, they have given their tacit approval to its being used on them. Besides, it is only fair that the two biggest proponents of the process should prove its viability for us.

Here is a simple proposal that should settle the question once and for all: Congress should set up a test under which our leaders would volunteer to undergo waterboarding to see if an investigating body headed by Mukasey can get them to admit that they were in any way involved in the 911 attacks on America. If they do admit to it, then we could declare waterboarding to be torture because they would never confess to such a thing unless tortured.

Additionally, if they do admit to it, we can allow their confessions to stand and can prosecute them on the grounds that they themselves have argued that waterboarding is a legitimate interrogation technique.

If they don’t confess and also emerge from the experience still convinced that the procedure is not torture, we could allow them to use it in the future, but only on one another.

That would be the democratic way to solve the issue, don’t you think?

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, February 7, 2008


The past couple of days have brought plenty of stories about the final budget proposal of the Bush administration. As I predicted the day he first gained the office (I almost said the day he was elected!!), the BushCo plan has always been and continues to be to cut domestic programs and spend the of money on “defense”.

Of the money the average tax payer sends to the IRS this year, $8,000 will be spent on defense. Don’t get me wrong, here. I don’t begrudge pay for our soldiers. I don’t begrudge expenditures in the VA, either – it’s not only our best health care system overall, but it is providing care to those who have been willing to put their lives on the line for us.

I do believe, however, that the bulk of our military budget is a waste. That’s right. Not just overdone, not just too high, but just flat thrown good after bad. If it was thrown to the wind I wouldn’t feel as angry about it as I do watching it being thrown into the coffers of the likes of Halliburton. Fact is we’d undoubtedly save a lot of money if we just gave it straight to them instead of using the Pentagon as a middle man. I also begrudge every penny that is being spent on the ever popular and ever impossible Star Wars program, and I just flat hate every penny that we put into nuclear weapons development and just about any other technological “advance” we keep spending on.

The idea of robotic weaponry is reprehensible to me, too. On the surface it sounds great to send machines into war instead of people, but you don’t have to think very deeply to recognize that such a capability would make it much easier for people like W to wage war. As I have said before, the lack of body bags, pictures of casualties and names of the dead returning from Iraq has been part of the reason the American people aren’t as upset about this war as they should be. The other side of the coin, too, is those folks who might one day look up to see a horde of American drones bearing down on them with guns blazing. How would you, as a farmer in Iran, cope with that?

Beyond the horror of being a nation of people who unquestioningly allow their tax dollars to fund the unhindered stockpiles of WMDs and radioactive ammunition, there is the disgrace of concurrently refusing to care for those among us who are unable to care for themselves.

Just yesterday the Republicans in the Senate defeated a budget bill designed to counter the Bush destruction of domestic programs by funding subsidies for poor people unable to heat their homes, disabled veterans, the unemployed and small businesses. They did this in support of the most dismally failed presidency in the history of the United States and in support of the increased military expenditures proposed by that presidency and in the face of rapidly growing deficits.

Then, just to top things off, that president endorsed the practice of waterboarding yesterday, saying that it was legal, wasn’t torture and had saved American lives. It may actually have saved a few American lives, but if so it was at the cost of the American soul. W himself often points out the savagery of Al Qaida’s behavior, but fails to recognize that sinking to the level of savagery ourselves automatically drives us off the high moral ground. Not to mention that his reckless endangerment of our military personnel in a politically motivated war has cost us more American lives than Al Qaida has taken in its entire history. And certainly we would never mention that estimates now put the Iraqi civilian death toll since 1990 as high as a million.

What grieves me most is that my country is so borderline paranoid that we cannot even consider taking any action other than the continued funding of an overly powerful military as a means of dealing with the hostility that exists in the world.

Violence begets violence and can never lead to peace. Why is that so hard to understand and act upon? Why is it so ingrained in our culture that I know without doubt that I can stir nearly anyone I encounter to great anger just by saying that we should pursue peace? What is so frightening about the concept of peace that people must ridicule those who put the idea forward even while they loudly proclaim to be followers of the Prince of Peace?

Jimi Hendrix said it best: “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

Until that time, the unquestioning man on the street will always be easily led to fight in support of those whose love of power drives them to high public office. I understand that, but it doesn’t ease my anger at being forced by our tax system to pay more for the pursuit of war than for the benefit of my fellow citizens.

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, February 6, 2008

The Primaries -- Has the Tide Turned?

Today’s big news is the results of yesterday’s primaries. “Super Tuesday” turned out to be aptly named. It was super in terms of the turnout, at least, and perhaps in come other significant ways. I worked the polls as a poll judge at a site with 1,470 registered voters of whom 703 turned out to vote in spite of some pretty vicious weather. I was told that his precinct had turned out as few as 32 voters in previous elections, so this 48% turnout was really exceptional.

The national results were not terribly surprising what with Hillary and Obama registering an even split across the country while John McCain and Mitt Romney did the same. You’ve got wonder what the results would have looked like vis-à-vis the last two, though, if Huckabee wasn’t still in the race. Would Romney really pick up the vast majority of Huck’s voters as he claims he would? The very thought makes me shudder, but then so does the thought that it is even remotely possible that a man like McCain, who still thinks we should have won in Vietnam and could still win in Iraq and who has stated his willingness to remain in Iraq for 100 or even 1000 more years could be elected our next president. Which would be worse, a man who wants to stay in Iraq like McCain or a man who wants to stay in Iraq AND return the country to the glories(!?!?) of the Reagan years like Romney?

The main question in my mind about the Republican side is how so many people can remain loyal to that party in light of the way they have turned America inside out over the last eight years. A great many Republicans say they do not like the way BushCo has operated, but continue to support the GOP as though they weren’t involved.

My disgust with politics has been greatly enhanced over the past eight years because the Republicans failed to withdraw their support for BushCo while the Democrats failed to stand up and declare opposition to those policies. In my view that makes both parties enemies of the state. (The state being the people.) Of course I am an anachronism in that I still believe the state exists at the will of the people and should, as Lincoln declared, be operated by the people, of the people and for the people.

The only reason I can stomach voting for the Demorats is that they still operate with more of an eye toward the needs of the common man than the Repulsicans ever have. (That and the fact that there is no other choice except to throw your vote away!)

Beyond all that, though, my experience at the polls yesterday disturbed me in more personal ways. I was heartened by the numbers that turned out to vote. I think the combined electronic and paper ballot system in place in Greene County is the best and least manipulable option going, so I believe in the accuracy of the vote. I was also heartened by the faith the voters put into the system and the many expressions of gratitude we received from them for our work.

As a liberal, I was disheartened, though, by the great number – among them a lot of first time voters(!)-- who requested Republican ballots. It is so hard for me to understand why they don’t feel the same revulsion I do for the way that party has undercut their freedoms and risked – through its continued support for BushCo policies – the Constitutional governance that has made this country as great as it has been even given its shortcomings. At the same time I was heartened by my feeling that a lot more people than I expected were asking for Democratic Party ballots.

I couldn’t confirm that statistically yesterday, but today’s News-Leader did so by reporting that in Greene County 36,411 people voted Republican while 32,566 voted Democrat. In this heavily Republican territory, I think that speaks volumes for what the turnout will look like nationally in November.

Statewide in Missouri, 797,456 voted Democrat. (49% Obama to 48% Clinton) and 575,078 voted Republican (33% McCain, 32% Huckabee, 29% Romney). I read the other day that Missouri has picked the winner in 38 of the last 39 presidential elections. If that ability holds and voter sentiments don’t change between now and then, there is no doubt that a Democrat will win the Whitehouse in November.

Missouri used to be considered a Democratic state. Could it be that those days are back? Are the people more perceptive than I have given them credit for? Have they quietly decided that the trend the Republican Party has set for the nation over the past forty years has been negative and that it is time to seek a more populist approach to governance?

I’m not a superstitious man, but my fingers and toes are crossed!!

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, February 4, 2008

The Bush Legacy

The headline on today’s “Nation/World” page in the Springfield News-Leader proclaims. “Last Bush Budget Aims to Seal Legacy”, but the first line reveals that reporting still refuses to recognize the true legacy of this administration. That line proclaims that the legacy is “. . .a strong defense to fight terrorism and tax cuts to spur the economy.”

Handing a nearly unlimited expense account to the Pentagon and waging war for reasons of political and economic gain are not the same as fighting terrorism any more than thumping a Bible proves that you have ever read it or understood its meaning. Cutting taxes for the wealthiest among us while depriving the poorest among us of the means for self-sustenance is not a spur for the economy even if Wall Street temporarily dances and the Dow Jones soars.

The Bush Legacy is not one of a meaningful fight against terrorism. The BushCo war in Iraq is, in cold hard fact, a legacy of the growth of power of terroristic factions. Iraq is torn by civil war between insurgent factions whose only means of fighting is through terroristic methods. Iraq has also served as a recruiting and training ground for Al Qaida foot soldiers. Afghanistan, the only legitimate active battleground in the war against terror, is largely being ignored – though we are still putting American soldiers at risk there, and the Taliban, whom we went there to eradicate, have just announced that they now have an active army of 40,000 soldiers poised to fight for control of Pakistan and Afghanistan. So much for any legacy of success in the so called “War on Terror”. All in all, it has not been a war on terror at all, but an attempt to control some key territory in the war for control of the world’s oil supply with a little protectionism for Israel thrown in for good measure.

The legacy of BushCo with regard to the economy is not one of positive growth for the country but one of profitable endeavor for our war machine. (Read “Military/Industrial Complex”) Positive growth for America would entail the advancement of the well-being of its people, but the fact is that only the upper 10% or so of the people have gained anything in the last eight years. The rest of us suffer from the decreasing power of the few American dollars we can get our hands on. Many of our poorest working families are finding that even two of the jobs they can find are not enough to feed, cloth, house and educate their children.

The lowest earners among us are finding that their incomes are not up to maintaining their “American dream”. Those of us who are retired or on the edge of retirement are faced with a shakily uncertain future while our children and their children are likely to have to deal with much less pleasant lives than we have been blessed to lead – thanks to the mountains of debt and the heaps of enmity that the BushCo neo-cons have built for us.

The primary responsibility of a government is to take care of its people. This administration has put us at risk instead -- both economically and militarily.

That’s the Bush legacy, and if we don’t get out and vote these fools out of office, we have only ourselves to blame. The world that waited and watched and then screamed in protest while we re-elected G. W. Bush in 2004 will solidly turn its back to us next year in complete disgust if we don’t show some responsibility by voting in a candidate who shows some understanding of the horrifically tangled web that BushCo has gotten us into.

That, too, is part of the Bush Legacy, but the American people have to take some responsibility for their role in it. We, as voters, enabled the fools/criminals that now lead our country, and it is our job to rectify the mess we have made.

I have thought a couple of times in the past that upcoming elections were critical, but there has never been one in my lifetime that carried more import. I believe that the future of our nation lies in the balance. Please get out and vote this Tuesday and in the November election, but for God's sake do so responsibly.

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, February 1, 2008

Can Atrocity Still Shock Us?

Today marks the fortieth anniversary of the creation of a photograph from Vietnam that helped stop the war. The photo was taken by a fellow named Eddie Adams who was chronicling the war in Vietnam.

Like all event-changing photos, it was the product of both skill and luck. It takes skill to be in the right place at the right time, but it takes luck to capture the right image when all the time the photographer has is the tick it takes for a bullet to travel two feet. That’s what Adams did when he froze forever in time the moment when a South Vietnamese officer fired a bullet into the brain of a young man standing next to him with his hands tied behind his back. He was supposedly a Viet Cong, but that was beside the point. Our citizens reacted to the barbarity of the act.

The other world shaking photo was of a young girl running naked down a village street screaming in pain from the napalm burns inflicted upon her by our Air Force.

The U.S. was already in turmoil over the war in Vietnam when the photos were published, but there is no doubt that so many Americans were appalled by those images that their support for the war disappeared. The people wanted no more part in the barbaric slaughter that they saw daily on the evening body count and so graphically in those horrific photographs.

I wonder, though, what the reaction would be to similar images today. Would we see the same moral indignation in this nation as we did in 1968?

I think not. After all, we’ve already let the disgrace of Abu Ghraib slip into oblivion. Every day we ignore what’s going on in Guantanamo Bay. They don’t give us body counts any more. We aren’t even allowed to see the coffins of our own soldiers coming home for burial, let alone the rows of body bags we saw in Vietnam. We accept the idea of torturing prisoners as though it was business as usual. Just this week we have been subjected to Attorney General Mukasey’s slimy Congressional testimony when he repeatedly side-stepped making a definitive statement about waterboarding. Our children spend their free time in front of TVs and computers pushing buttons to fire AK-47s at the human beings pictured on the screen while imagining that they are pulling the trigger to kill whoever the programmer has put in front of them.

We go to church on Sunday and pray to the Prince of Peace then go home and send checks of support to candidates who pledge to keep us in Iraq for another 100 years if “necessary”. We cry crocodile tears over the “heroic sacrifice” of nearly 4,000 our own children in an entirely unnecessary war and completely ignore the thousands and thousands of Iraqi lives that have been taken as a result of our reckless abandonment of the principles we used to hold dear.

So would a photo of the cold-blooded assassination of a supposed Al Qaida soldier cause us to say enough is enough and get ourselves out of Iraq?

Not a chance. Not while there is still an SUV to drive. Not while there is still oil to be sucked out of the desert sands. Not while there is a neo-con anywhere near the Whitehouse. And not while the American people remain blind to the possibility that their biggest enemy is not in a cave somewhere in Pakistan, but in a mansion somewhere on the coast of this country; in a ranch house somewhere in Texas; in Washington lobbying for an arms manufacturer; on a stage debating for the right to be a president; or maybe in their own minds.

Cynical? Me??

An Invitation to Readers

If you are in the Springfield area, please come downtown tonight for First Friday and while you’re there, stop by The Front Porch (next to the Piano Bar and Nonna’s on South Street). I’ll be playing a set there at about 8 pm and would sure like to see you in the audience. If you do come, please introduce yourself as a reader. I’d love to meet you.

Minx & Miller will play at about 9.

It’s not a political setting, but who knows what may happen?!!

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 -