Friday, September 29, 2006

Relight the Torch

I’ve gone beyond anger, I am just terribly sad.

I have loved my country for as long as I can remember. I love it still, deeply and with all my heart. And my country yesterday was dealt such a blow.

This blow wounded America far worse than September 11, 2001. That terrible event brought death to no few of our people, grief and loss to many more, but this blow damaged the very soul of our nation.

September 28, 2006. On this date the President of the United States of America gained for himself the power to detain and imprison without recourse, a power heretofore held only by kings and dictators. He has been usurping this power for some years and has been seeking to have Congress make his illegal activity legitimate, and on this date a supine Congress gave him the dictatorial power he sought.

For more than 200 years the Constitution of this nation has stood as a bastion of the principle that freedom and liberty stand taller than the power of government. Forty-two presidents have lived within that principle, not all of them entirely by their own choice. The forty-third has fought hard enough to secure personal power in abrogation of that principle that he has finally succeeded.

For 120 years Liberty has held aloft in New York harbor a torch, a light that has been a symbol of liberty to the world.

On September 28, 2006 that torch became dark.

On November 7th America has an opportunity to relight the torch, to restore a government of checks and balances as our founders intended, to end the obscenity that is this Imperial Presidency.

Two more years of this power grab is unconscionable.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Elephant in the Living Room

Right-winger bloggers are greeting the NIE with great glee, with its content that the war in Iraq has increased the spread of terrorism. Some are a bit baffled why Bush would declassify that report, and in particular why he would declassify that particular portion of that report.

Talk about not seeing the elephant in the living room.
It says that there are more terrorists.

That is precisely the message that the Republicans want to get across to the American people. “There are more terrorists, the danger is higher, you need us to protect you.” They believe that people will overlook the fact that it is Bush policies and actions that have increased the number of terrorists, and will focus simply on the fact that there are more of them.

More terrorists (danger) + cheaper gasoline = Republican win in 2006.

It’s all they have. Will it work this time?

Killing Habeas Corpus

During the ratification of our Constitution it was noted and discussed that the document did not contain sufficient protection of individual rights for the people of the new nation. And so in 1789 the First Congress sent to the states for ratification a set of twelve amendments which were loosely based on a British Bill of Rights dating back to 1688.

Ten of those amendments passed and became known as our Bill of Rights.

Loosely speaking, the Constitution deals with the formulation and power of the Federal Government and the Bill of Rights deals with the protection of the rights of citizens. But, missing from our Bill of Rights and present in the British one, is the right of habeas corpus. Why?

Because our founders considered that right so basic and so essential that they put it in the Constitution itself.

Habeas corpus, literally “you shall have the body,” is the right of anyone detained by authority to appear before a judge to question his detention. The appearance does not determine guilt or innocence of any specified charge, merely whether or not the imprisonment itself is legal. It prevents the King, in the original British bill, or the any government agency in our case, from simply making someone disappear into a “dungeon” forever without recourse.

It has been a cornerstone of our laws, a part of our Constitution, for more than 200 years and now George Bush wants to remove it, permanently and retroactively. He not only wants the power to imprison without recourse, he wants justification for those whom he is currently imprisoning in violation of current law.

He is violating constitutional law and, rather than agreeing to cease the practice, he wants Congress to pass laws permitting his egregious imprisonment policy.

It is unconscionable that Congress would even consider passing such a law and yet, on both sides of the aisle, they are doing precisely that. Other than Sen. Arlen Specter's anemic stance and Sen. Patrick Leahy's somewhat more vigorous one, not one Democratic or Republican voice is raised in outrage at the concept of passing laws to overrule habeas corpus, to corrupt our Constitution.

When John McCain and company raised objection to an administration bill permitting torture, it was only the torture to which they took issue. The right of habeas corpus was never mentioned and, in the final agreement, the elimination of that essential right in that bill was agreed upon by all parties without discussion.

Are we really going to become a banana republic that lacks one of the most basic rights of man?

Falling gas prices

At a recent news gaggle Tony Snow said that Bush was not personally responsible for the falling gas prices; that he was not, himself, making the oil companies reduce prices. Words to that effect. The funny thing is, his remark was not in response to the question he was asked. He had been asked if Republicans were happy about the falling prices.

I always love it when people defend things they haven’t been accused of. Makes me sort of think, “Aha, there’s a skunk in the woodpile.”

He went on to say, "It also raises the question, if we're dropping gas prices now, why on earth did we raise them to $3.50 before?"

Well, duh. There wasn’t an election pending then.

Actually, I don’t suspect Bush or the Republicans of raising or lowering gas prices. I think they would to pretty much anything to win an election, but I don’t think they are the ones pulling the plug on prices. I have no doubt that it is the oil companies who are reducing the price of gas themselves, and I have no doubt it is related to the November elections.

Of course the oil companies deny that.

Joanne Shore, an Energy Department analyst was asked if it was possible that oil companies would reduce prices to help Republicans. She responded, "What company in their right mind would step forward to kill their profit?"

Obviously Shore has not taken Economics 101. Neither have I, for that matter, but even I can figure out that if I drop my prices to look good for a couple of months, and by so doing assure the continuance for another two years of the conditions that have been making me huge profits, then I’m going to recover way more profit in the future than what it cost me to temporarily lower my prices to assure that continuance.

Lowering prices for a couple of months will not “kill their profit.” Letting their friends the Republicans lose control of Congress will “kill their profit.”

It bothers me that the public would disregard death and destruction in Iraq, illegal detention and torture, corruption and waste in government, and loss of essential liberties, and would vote Republican because they are happy about the price of gasoline. But it seems they are doing so, because the Republicans are gaining in the polls and they only thing that has changed is the price of gasoline.

Little wonder that the rest of the world doesn’t take us seriously.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Policy of Torture

In addition to the moral argument that torture is simply wrong, there are the logical arguments that it does not provide real or useful information, that it exposes our own forces to the same treatment, and that it causes the world to “doubt the moral basis” of our war on terrorism.

There is another, chilling argument provided by Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent nearly 12 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps. He writes in the Washington Post on Dec 18, 2005

“Investigation is a subtle process, requiring patience and fine analytical ability, as well as a skill in cultivating one's sources. When torture is condoned, these rare talented people leave the service, having been outstripped by less gifted colleagues with their quick-fix methods, and the service itself degenerates into a playground for sadists.”

He describes seeing that happen in the Soviet Union, it was called the NKVD which the current generation came to know as the KGB. And he goes on,

“So, why would democratically elected leaders of the United States ever want to legalize what a succession of Russian monarchs strove to abolish? Why run the risk of unleashing a fury that even Stalin had problems controlling? (…) I have no answer to these questions, but I do know that if Vice President Cheney is right and that some "cruel, inhumane or degrading" (CID) treatment of captives is a necessary tool for winning the war on terrorism, then the war is lost already.”

Vladimir Bukovsky has the courage to stand opposed to a nation’s adoption of torture as a policy, a policy to which he was subjected; to stand without flinching no matter how popular or otherwise his position may be.

John McCain was subjected to a similar policy, suffered greatly without surrender, and yet today his overwhelming lust for high office leads him to put aside his past experience and his moral compass, and causes him to bow to the imperatives of partisan politics by engaging in the rhetoric of deception rather than standing on his principles.

McCain claims that the so-called compromise between the “dissident” senators and the administration preserves and protects our adherence to the Geneva Convention, but anyone with half a brain can see that it does nothing of the sort.

Where is our leadership? Where is anyone in public life in America with the courage and conviction of a Vladimir Bukovsky?

Colin Powell emerged from obscurity in support of McCain’s initial objection to the Bush administration bill contravening the Geneva Convention, penning his oft-quoted letter with it’s line about the world “beginning to doubt the moral basis of our war on terror.” But when McCain and Company abandoned their position and Powell saw that he had no support he retreated back to the safety of obscurity. Powell has high standards, but it appears that he lacks the moral courage to stand up for them under fire.

Powell’s argument, though unpursued, for me is still the right one because it goes to the moral value of the practice. Torture is wrong, and it diminishes the moral basis of the person or nation that engages in it.

Vladimir Bukovsky has lived where the freedom of man did not exist, and so values it in a way that we, who have grown up taking it for granted, cannot. Perhaps that is the source of his courage. Perhaps he is the better man for having lived without that for which our leaders seem so unwilling to stand up and speak to defend.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Nation Divided

We have become a nation divided against itself in so many ways, and we have forgotten the adage the goes back, I believe, to the Revolution,
“United we stand, divided we fall.”

Divided on torture

Why are we even having this debate? Why are we even making the arguments about whether or not it provides useful information, whether or not it puts our military at risk?

It doesn’t freaking matter!

It’s against everything moral and ethical upon which this nation was founded more than 200 years ago. That’s what matters, and that should end the arguments before they even start.

Republican vs. Democrat

The two-party system used to be a valuable instrument of debate, and now it has become a weapon of ideology leading to stalemate and paralysis. Party ideologues are so rigidly married to their thinking that they can find no common ground that leads to action, and Congress has degenerated to a process of maneuvering to prevent the success of the opposition rather than the advancement of anything that can be useful for the nation.

Division of self-interest

The national electorate is united in the opinion that Congress has become utterly useless but is disastrously divided on what to do about it, divided by self-interest.

Overall opinion of Congress is massive disapproval, with 25% approval and 61% disapproval. However when it comes to “my guy” 53% think he/she is “doing a good job.”

The people responding to the poll overall said by a margin of 77% to 12% that new people should be elected to Congress, but 39% said they intended to re-elect their own.

The “other guys” are bad because they are getting federal money for other states and “my guy” is good because he’s getting federal money for my state. I’m not really that proud of my guy, but I want the money he brings home. The electorate is divided by self-interest.

When every state re-elects "my guy" out of self-interest, then the common interest of changing Congress is defeated. "Divided we fall."


Enhanced interrogation is another way of saying torture.
Rigid ideology is another way of saying intolerance.
Self-interest is another way of saying greed.

Torture, intolerance, greed. Is that America?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I love NFL football, but...

I love NFL football and am a diehard San Diego Chargers fan. I have suffered through the lean years with our team, and rejoiced in good years. Leading our division with a 2-0 record and a 67-7 point differential, this should be nothing short of a gleeful year, but it is flawed for me by the actions of some of the players.

To fill in for those readers who may not be from San Diego, one Charger who is not on the field is a former starting linebacker named Steve Foley. Foley was shot by an off-duty policeman in a drunk driving incident on Sept 3rd and is out for the season.

There is no small controversy about the incident. The policeman was off duty, in his own, unmarked car, and not in uniform. Foley did not stop when the policeman attempted to detain him and, it turns out, that is quite proper under California law. One does not have to stop unless the car has a light and siren and the officer is in uniform. The officer, it seems, may have been overzealous; turns out a family member was killed by a drunk driver a few years ago. There are questions about why the Sheriff’s Department did not respond sooner.

Foley has a history. He has a DUI conviction in 1998. He has been through the NFL substance abuse program. He was involved in a public drunk and disorderly incident that involved altercation with law enforcement a few months ago, but charges were recently dropped. His blood alcohol when admitted to the hospital immediately after the shooting was .23, almost three times the California limit.

More background, although everybody already knows this, or certainly should. Drunk driving is a serious problem in this country. In two months it kills more people than the war in Iraq has killed since it began. That is not to belittle the tragedy that is that misbegotten war, but to emphasize the horror that we face here at home. We, society as whole, must unite to stop that horror.

I do not bring “clean hands” to this discussion, as the law would say; I am a recovering alcoholic. I never killed anyone while driving drunk; other than myself I injured two. I was never arrested for DUI, much less convicted for it, but for 21 years I put my fellow citizens at risk by driving while intoxicated more times than I can count. For 24 years I have been making amends for that, in part, by speaking out against the social acceptance of that lethal practice.

It is not enough for society to “not accept” drunk driving, the solution comes when society makes it socially unacceptable to do so. Drunk driving will not become obsolete until it is common practice to say to someone we hold dear, “So long as you insist on doing this, you are not my friend.”

Until this becomes America's mantra, drunk drivers will continue to kill our parents, our husbands and wives, and our children.

To return to the Chargers players, they were understandably concerned for their friend when they heard of the episode. Their reaction was to express anger at the police officer and unreserved support for their friend Foley. They made “tributes” to him on the playing field during the next two games.

But by expressing support for Foley without accommodating of the known fact that he was repeatedly driving drunk, the Chargers players are making themselves part of the problem of drunk driving in San Diego, rather than part of the solution.

The Chargers players are willing to overlook that the citizens of San Diego provide Steve Foley with the sybaritic wealth in which he wallows, and his way of thanking them is to put their lives at risk by climbing behind the wheel of a car while uncontrollably drunk: Not just once, but repeatedly.

“So long as you insist on doing this, you are not my friend.”

I love NFL football, and I love the Chargers. But now when I see LaDainian Tomlinson carry the ball I hope he will not score. I would love to see a Chargers touchdown, but I do not want to see a “tribute” to a drunk driver.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

On Liberty and Governing

I’m not usually into merely posting links to other blogs or articles, I prefer to use this platform to express my own thoughts (for whatever they are worth) and let others explore the blogosphere and web for themselves. At times I discuss views expressed by others, and when I do that I usually include a link to the referenced blog or article.

But I have come across some words recently that are so powerful that they have sort of rendered my speechless, left me feeling that I would not dare to try to stand in the company of such giants.

Such as this by Brent Budowsky. I am not prone to displays of sentiment... Well, hell, my wife is going to see this. She has to hand me a hanky when the guy gets the girl in some stupid movie. Anyway, this is a bit of a long read, but every word of it stirs the soul and I needed the hanky before I was halfway through. And it’s only Part One. I can’t wait for Part Two.

Keith Olberman seems to be turning into a modern-day Edward R. Murrow in both style and content. There is a distinct “Murrowesque” flavor to his restrained outrage in his commentary regarding Bush’s response to Colin Powell. I couldn’t find the direct YouTube link so you can see the clip on the blog. Bob's comment is great, but I urge you to take the time to view the clip.

This one is my own comment, we all know that our government has been lying to us for years. It has gotten so bad that this administration no longer even makes any real effort to conceal its lies. Unlike America, the people of Hungary take the governing process very seriously. Check out here what happens when the leadership of Hungary gets caught lying. In case the link doesn’t work, I’ll sum it up for you: the people riot, violently.

The Philadelphia Enquirer has an opinion piece about the lack of oversight by Congress. They seem to think that allowing the Executive Branch of our government to run amok is not a good thing and that Congress is failing its responsibility. Need I say that I agree with that opinion?

And finally from Arianna Huffington (who I have to admit is sometimes a little further to the left than even I am) a rather neat piece on The Fear-Mongering Hall of Shame.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Politics of Control

John McCain spoke in New Hampshire Sunday and his finished his remarks in response to a question about running in 2008 with the following, "But there's no point in going through the decision-making process until after this election. I'm spending all my time trying to get our candidates (elected to) keep control of the House and Senate."

If you stop and think about it, the last part of that comment is pretty sickening. He wants his party to “keep control” of Congress. He doesn’t want his party to be in a predominant position, he doesn’t want it to guide policy, he doesn’t want it to be in the majority, he wants for his political party to be “in control.”

That phrase should not be in the lexicon of any legislator, for it implies not just the advocacy of one’s own ideas, but the ruthless suppression of the ideas of others. It is the antithesis of democracy in action.

Yet that is indeed the way that Congress is functioning under the control of the Republican Party. Bills are presented to the floor and rushed to vote without sufficient time being allowed for them to be read and debated, often only a few hours between the introduction of a bill amounting to thousands of pages and its final vote. Bills are presented by the Republican-controlled committee and vote is called with no amendments permitted from the floor. Other bills that are failing have the vote held open for many hours so that Republican “leaders” can browbeat junior legislators into favorable votes. Bills are presented which have as their sole purpose casting favorable impressions on the electorate, or causing the electorate to perceive the Democrats unfavorably.

The rhetoric isn’t about getting elected in order to serve your country, it’s about keeping your party in control.

Having been elected, the process isn’t about maintaining the well-being of the United States of America and its citizens, it’s about keeping your party in control, tightening that control, and ruthlessly suppressing the opposition.

We no longer have a two-party system. We have a one-party system – which ever party is in power.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Reconnect to Reality

The policies of this administration, political and military, have gone completely into “Looking Glass” territory. I no longer can make any sense of them whatever.

Bush has been blustering for years about not distinguishing between terrorists and “nations which harbor them”, but when Pakistan announces that they have declared a safe haven for the Taliban, al Queda and Bin Laden within their borders he says that he cannot violate that safe haven unless Pakistan “invites us” to do so.

It’s not that I disagree with Bush on this, it’s that it defies rational explanation. Most people learn in grade school that it is a bad idea to strut around the schoolyard mouthing idle threats but, after years of making threats against nations that harbor terrorists, when Pakistan does precisely that Bush falls completely silent.

Additionally, this administration continues to provide foreign aid money to Pakistan and refers to them as an ally. This regarding a nation that is harboring the Taliban, who are actively engaged in killing our soldiers as I write this.

Bush at one time swore to capture Bin Laden, then said that he was of no importance. This year he has become the main “talking point” again, and is supposed to be the prime target of our “war on terror”, but this administration admits that capturing or killing him actually won’t make much difference and it’s acceptable for our ally Pakistan to provide him with a safe haven. Meanwhile he continues to be touted as our main enemy.

This goes beyond empty rhetoric, it has descended to senseless babble.

Thousands of our soldiers have died, and tens of thousands have been maimed, to establish a “free Iraq.” Now the leader of that new government is forming a pact of friendship with Iran, one which includes military assistance from Iran, which Bush has labeled part of an “axis of evil” and the greatest threat to world peace, and Bush has nothing critical to say about it.

Our young men and women have done all this dying and bleeding in Iraq’s behalf, only to have it become allied with the “axis of evil,” and that’s okay?

The violence continues to grow worse and worse in Iraq, with the denials of civil war becoming more and more strident and less and less believable.

"The enemy is changing tactics, and we're adapting," Bush said this past Friday in reference to the ongoing violence in that unhappy country.

That is the worst possible way to conduct military operations. In military parlance it’s called “being constantly behind the curve.” It’s a defensive posture, and it means you are losing. You defeat an enemy by taking the initiative, by making the enemy adapt to you. You are usually behind the curve when fighting an enemy that’s smarter than you, or one that badly outnumbers you.

Our military used to be both smarter and bigger than any other in the world, and now the Commander-in-Chief is touting our losing strategy.

Bush defined the success of terrorism as a, “radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations.”

That is a detailed, perfect description of Saudi Arabia coming from the mouth of our President, a country which we support and with whose ruling family the Bush family is closely tied. Remember that most of the 9/11 perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia. None, not one of them came from Iraq, which we blamed for 9/11, invaded and destroyed.

Does he think at all before he disgorges this blather?

We’re building a fence on our border to protect ourselves from Mexico, but we are angered that Saudi Arabia wants to build a fence on its border to protect itself from the violence in Iraq. Violence, it should be noted, that we created.

A creation that this administration is still trying to justify with outright, transparent lies. Long after publication of documented evidence that Iraq had no WMD’s, was not a threat to obtain WMD’s, and had no connection to terrorists, Bush had the gall to say, standing on the hallowed ground where so many lost their lives,

“I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the Nine-Eleven attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat.” A clear threat to what?

I am not surprised when politicians lie, it’s part of the sick game that Washington has become. But to spout over and over lies that have already been publicly revealed as totally false? Is he so disconnected from reality that he expects anyone to believe him?

Albert Einstein said that, "We cannot solve a problem with the same level of mentality that created it."

We cannot shed ourselves of this cancer in the nation’s highest office for a bit more than two years, but hopefully we will begin improving the level of mentality in the nation’s leadership, begin reconnecting to reality, by changing the makeup of Congress in the upcoming elections.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Moral Basis

‘‘The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,’’

Colin Powell finally became so outraged by the intentions of this Administration that he came out of hibernation and wrote those words in a letter to John McCain, a letter supporting McCain’s efforts to prevent this Administration from trying to reinterpret the Geneva Convention to permit the torture of detainees.

McCain was asked in an interview, “Does this go to the basic values of this country?” He replied, “Yes, I think it does, but more importantly…” and he went on to describe how it put our soldiers in wars abroad at risk.

I am an admirer of both Powell and McCain, especially at this moment. I would disagree with McCain, perhaps, just slightly in terms of priority. I’m not sure that I would say that the issue of placing soldiers at risk is more important than the basic values of our country. But then I have not been held prisoner and tortured for five years, either, so I’ll just say I agree that both issues matter greatly.

This is an important moment in the course of our country. It does speak to the basic values of this nation, whatever arguments are used. McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham in the Senate, with Colin Powell in support, are carrying the flag for decency and morality. They speak for me.

‘‘The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,’’

This nation talks about being a nation that is based upon the values of freedom, liberty, dignity and justice. The road that this Administration has been leading us on is the wrong road. It is a road that is not consistent with the values upon which this country is based.

McCain, Warner, Graham and Powell are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in that road as a barrier saying, “Enough. No farther.” Stand firm.

Tony Snow says that Powell is “confused” and suggests that he should have consulted with Bush before speaking out. What arrogance. Since when, in this country, does anyone need to consult with authority before speaking out?

Well, serving military officers do. Bush cites several serving generals as supporting his position, but military officers are required to support their Commander-in-Chief while they are still in the service. No former military officer has come out in support of torture.

Bush says that if Congress does not bow to his will that Americans will be in danger. That is the same demagoguery that has been used in every power grab in history. “I am keeping you safe.”

There is an old saying that I try, don’t always succeed but try, to live by. “Your actions speak so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” Freedom, liberty, dignity and justice. It’s not enough to talk about being that nation, or write about it. It’s not enough to put those words in our Constitution and then ignore them.

To be that nation we have to live those words. Even when it’s not safe.

Update 12:50pm:

‘‘The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism,’’

In a press conference this morning George Bush responded to Mr. Powell,

“It’s unacceptable to think there’s any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective.”

No, Mr. Bush, he did not suggest such a comparison, and it is repulsive to make any insinuation that he did. Only a person of limited intelligence could misinterpret his words, or a person of moral inturpitude twist his words in such a disgusting manner to suit such low purpose.

It is you, Mr. Bush, that is causing the world to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. You with your wars against countries that are not involved in terrorism until we invade them, you with your abandonment of the pursuit of the terrorists who actually did attack us, you with your statement that capturing Bin Laden “does not concern” you, you with your illegal wiretaps, you with your secret illegal prisons and insistence on torture.

You are a blot upon the escutcheon of America. You shame your office and this country. With every word that comes out of your mouth you pile outrage upon outrage.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Trickle Down Economics

Ronald Reagan introduced the theory of "Trickle Down Economics" in which government creates a climate favorable to big business and everybody wins because big business supports employees and subcontractors and little business and all that good stuff.

More simply put, pour all the money in at the top and it will trickle down the pipe to everyone, which is simpler and easier than trying to distribute it evenly. You don't tax the top level, you see, because that leaves more money to trickle down and the people it trickles down to will pay taxes. Republicans, all of whom are at the top and appear to need really simple theories to lean on, have espoused this theory ever since.

There's only one problem; what if, instead of trickling it down, the people at the top just keep the money?

Update 6:25pm:
Oh, duh. My wife just pointed out to me, that was the plan all along. I'm a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A Sleeping Giant

America is a great nation, a great people. We are not doing great things internationally right now, and the world may very well believe we have lost our greatness, but we have not. This nation is its people, not its elected officials, and we are still here. We may have gone to sleep, or lost our way, but we are still here. We will be back.

In 1941 Japan thought we had lost our greatness, but Yamamoto warned against “waking the sleeping giant.” Japan saw us as unwilling to go to war and today we have a world that sees us wrongly in the opposite way, as a nation that thrives on war. We do not.

We have elected officials who through fearmongering and demagoguery have led us into a war that a large majority of us do not want today, but those officials continue to glorify that war and pledge to continue it because they believe that they are in control. They are not. This is America. The people will prevail.

The people of America are the “sleeping giant.”

Al Gore spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations on Feb 12, 2002 and said in part,

"Draining the swamp" of terrorism must of course in the first instance mean destroying the ability of terrorist networks to function. But drying it up at its source must also mean draining the aquifer of anger that underlies terrorism: anger that enflames the hearts of so many young men, and makes them willing, dedicated recruits for terror. Anger at perceived historical injustices involving a mass-memory throughout the Islamic world of past glory and more recent centuries of decline and oppression at the hands of the West.

Notice that he spoke of “perceived oppression.” He did not accuse this or any other country of perpetrating injustice or oppression. But his words speak to the importance of perception as an element of world leadership. To presumptuously summarize his words, he pointed out that while we must us military force as needed to destroy existing terrorists, the longer goal is to exercise world leadership by example to reduce future terrorism.

America has so much to offer the world in the way of freedom and hope, and our elected officials, I will not call them “leaders,” are doing so poorly in conveying the message of America’s hope.

America is not a corrupt nation. This nation is filled to overflowing with honest and hard working men and women; with businesses that treat their customers and employees with fairness and respect. I see them every day. I am surrounded by them. They are not seen on the evening news because there are too many of them; they are not unusual, they are not “news.” They are the fabric of America, the cloth from which this nation is sewn.

But when we allow a few corrupt corporations to represent us overseas in rebuilding a country that we destroyed, the Middle East sees us as a corrupt nation. Iraq remains in ruins, we increase the “perception of oppression” and we breed more terrorism.

When the elected officials of our nation attempt to stifle dissent by branding those who disagree with them as treasonous the world sees our Constitution under attack. It is not some two-bit congressman doing this, but our President, our Vice-President and members of the Cabinet. When the world sees a dissenter arrested and carried off merely for wearing a tee shirt with an anti-administration slogan on it, the world sees the bulwark of our First Amendment lying crumbled in ruins.

Don’t you believe it. In time these egomaniacs will be dumped on the slag-heap of history and our great Constitution will be standing untarnished. It has withstood attacks before, and it will withstand this one.

When this country’s elected officials support corrupt governments in the Middle East, the very ones in fact that have incited the terrorist’s anger, our avocation of democracy is meaningless. When we support corrupt and undemocratic governments throughout the Middle East while attempting to install democracy in Iraq at the point of a gun, young men see us as advocating not democracy but power. In so doing we increase the “perception of oppression” and we breed more terrorism.

But what America supports at home is not corruption but fair dealing and honesty. The reason there are so many honest businesses is that they are the ones that succeed, they are the ones that we will support. Politicians who are corrupt and thirst for power succeed for a while but eventually we, the American people, bring them down.

Awake America, take your country back. Tell the world who we really are.

We do not support corruption and greed. We do not support the imposition of ideology, ours or any other, at the point of a gun. We do not approve of change by means of violence. We have been lazy and complacent, we admit that, and we have been deceived into electing men who do believe these things, but that is not us.

It is time for the “sleeping giant” to awake.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Vietnam Redux

For those who don’t think that Iraq is another Vietnam…

Once again the military is manipulating body counts. The count of enemy killed was inflated then to make the American people think we were winning, and the civilian death toll is being understated now for the same purpose.

Apparently nowadays Iraqis who are killed by car bombs or mortars aren’t really dead, so the military command in Iraq can claim that deaths are down 52% in August. If you include all of the actual deaths, however, the truth comes out and it no longer looks like we are winning.

Do not think for one minute, America, that the military is doing that without the approval of their Commander-in-Chief.

We may actually be winning, but when an assertion is made and the data given to back up that assertion is shown to be false, one pretty much has to assume that the assertion itself will not hold up. Why else falsify the data?

It's called lying to the American people, and it's unacceptable.

Update: When confronted with the facts of having "left out some of the numbers" the military equivocates as usual. "We do not give out those numbers," it says, for fear of "helping our enemies."

Oh, please. You gave them out last month. Last month you wouldn't be helping them and this month you would?

Justice Defined

Bush wants another blank check. The last blank check that Congress gave him led to an apparently endless, bloody, illegal war in Iraq to eliminate WMD’s that weren’t there. This blank check is to “bring to justice” those arrested as terrorists who have been held in illegal prisons and interrogated using illegal methods.

His definition of justice is not mine.

My definition of justice does not include convicting someone using evidence that the person being tried is not permitted to see, with accusers that the person is not permitted to confront. It does not permit using hearsay evidence, evidence obtained by coercion, or evidence unwillingly provided by the person on trial.

I have read the argument that allowing the detainee to view the evidence would compromise national security and I reject that argument. We are committing too many crimes in the name of “keeping America safe.” If that evidence is so critical to national security, don’t use it. Find evidence that you can use or reduce the charge to fit the useable evidence.

I have read the argument that these are bad people and do not deserve the full protection that citizens of the US receive. I do not doubt they are bad people, but isn’t that supposed to be the end result of a trial rather than the precursor of it?

Justice is not a matter of who is on trial, it is a matter of the society which is putting that person on trial. If we are to righteously claim to be a civilized nation we simply cannot say that good people deserve one kind of trial and bad people another. That makes a mockery of our claim to be administering justice, our claim to be a civilized nation.

A society must define how it will administer justice and we have done that. It is spelled out in our Constitution and in our Uniform Code of Military Justice. Now we must adhere to that by saying that anyone seeking justice at our hands will receive it as defined.

Not because of who they are, but because of who we are.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Arguments Against Torture

After President Bush’s recent speech about the need to, how did he put it, “provide the CIA with the tools they need” I have read quite a few arguments against the use of torture by this country on persons captured in battle or otherwise suspected of terrorism.

Calling it “enhanced interrogation” or referring to it as “needed tools” does not disguise what is merely torture by a different name.

In most part the discussion has revolved around whether or not torture is effective; whether or not it provides reliable information. The consensus is that it does not, and that therefor we should not engage in torture. I cannot argue with that conclusion, but for me it misses the point.

For me the point is that torture is morally and ethically wrong. I don’t care what kind of information it provides, how valid that information is or how valuable. If torture is required to extract it then we must, in the name of all that is good and right about this nation, do without the information.

Our leaders claim that this is a Christian nation. Christians do not torture. Personal safety is not a factor; throughout history Christians have suffered horrible deaths rather than renounce their faith.

Christian nation or not, moral nations, civilized nations do not torture. Moral persons, civilized persons do not torture.

For a moral person, personal safety is not a factor. The moral imperatives of civilization do not permit descent into savagery for the sake of safety.

It has long astounded me that our President, claiming to be a “born again Christian,” can not only condone the use of torture but seems to have an unholy eagerness to promote it. How can he reconcile that?

I certainly cannot do so.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

CBS Does It Again

While the left-wing bloggers are fulminating about ABC’s series “The Path to 9/11" subtitled “It’s All Clinton’s Fault,” CBS is doing much the same thing as ABC only using the “one day at a time” approach. Why are you surprised? Remember that the networks are owned by major corporations that need a political climate favorable to large profits, and don’t forget that the Republicans control the Federal Communications Commission (which “regulates” the networks).

I watched CBS Evening News again last night. As an aside, I’m not going to be able to keep doing that or it will lead to me destroying living room furniture or, at a minimum, terrorizing the cat. She already knows not to come near the living room during NFL games; she remembers that from last year. Poor thing, she doesn’t know the season starts tonight. But it doesn’t get rowdy until Monday night when the Chargers open against the Raiders. Pant, pant, pant. But I digress.

First Couric had an “exclusive, unprecedented” interview with George Bush. Everything with Couric is now “exclusive” and “unprecedented” but, sorry lady, Bush has been interviewed before. Admittedly this one had a rather unique style. First they are sitting, then they’re pacing in the hall, then they’re sitting again, then pacing; I’m surprised she didn’t make the poor guy neurotic. Oh, wait…

Anyway, she gave him a platform for his propaganda, which was the plan, of course. She gave him a chance to say, “This is the great ideological struggle of the 21st century” which has replaced “stay the course.” Actually, he doesn't need much of an opening to say that. You could ask him what's for dinner and he would work “This is the great ideological struggle of the 21st century” into his reply.

He told us he’s emptied out the secret overseas prisons that we don’t have, has placed the captured 9/11 operatives that were in those nonexistent prisons into Cuba, and that is urgent that we now “bring them to justice." Why now? Why hasn’t it been urgent for the past how many months we’ve had them? Duh. Because the elections weren’t close enough then.

She gave him a chance to tell us that we’re not interrogating prisoners any more because the operatives (that's our operatives, CIA, not the captured ones) are afraid that the laws regarding it are too vague. Oh, barf. The law which he wants to change essentially makes it illegal to violate the Geneva Conventions, and it is those Conventions that he regards as vague. Those Conventions were ratified by Congress after WW2 and became the law of the land. They have not been considered vague for more than 50 years.
Try to keep all of the "operatives" (CIA, captured, etc) straight, by the way. Yet more operatives are going to join the cast shortly.

Then he told us what the interrogation, not torture, no no never torture, of these prisoners – whoops, wrong word, captured operatives – has revealed: (not his exact words, but…)

"There were these guys that were going to fly into the West Coast… I think it was the West Coast, it was buildings and they were Southeast Asian guys and it was somewhere in America, I don’t remember where. And they were going to fly airplanes into America. And now it’s been declassified so that I can tell you about it.”

Well, that scared the crap out of me. Last I checked, flying airplanes into America was not problematic. It’s done hundreds of times every day.

If you meant flying airplanes into buildings on the West Coast, yes it was the West Coast and the Department of Homeland Stupidity told us all about that plot a long time ago. Do we have any of the “Southeast Asian guys” (operatives) in custody? No, I thought not.

The best part was when he says, “I’m afraid that someone will sneak into America and kill Americans. And I won’t know about it.”

What, like a major hurricane while you’re in San Diego selling a Social Security plan to enrich your “corporate base”?

Next we are treated to an “exclusive, unprecedented” tour of the terrorism control center that is “ secret that we agreed not to tell you where it is.” The only thing CBS touts as much as the current Administration is itself with all of the “exclusive” and “unprecedented.” Give it a rest.

We're shown “the most secret binder in America, the ‘Threat Matrix’.” (Why do I feel like vomiting?) This is a ring binder that contains all of the daily terrorist threats against the United States. You might think they would be maintained in a computer database, but apparently they print them out every day and put them in a neat binder from Office Depot with an official-looking emblem on the front. Maybe they are handwritten in this binder as the secret agents phone them in on their shoe phones.

The interviewee, a retired admiral whose name now escapes me because I was so dazzled by the “Threat Matrix” that I didn’t make a note of his name, said that there are sixty to ninety threats per day in that binder and admitted that many of them “come to nothing.”

“But every day,” he adds, “there are real terrorist threats against America.”

Fade to Katie Couric with creepy, dread-inducing music. (Actually, I added that; they didn’t really do it.)

Couric asked the audience for an appropriate way for her to sign off, and I have it. Here it is. You can use it for free Katie.

“This is Katie Couric, good night America. Stay Republican and protect corporate profits.”

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


I watched the debut of Katie Couric on CBS News last night. Yecccch. I like Katie, but yeccch. Too much "unprecedented coverage" and "exclusive interview" types of self promotion. Somebody needs to tell her to at least draw a breath between unrelated news headlines. The Tom Cruise baby, another "exclusive," received equal gravity with coverage of resurgance of the Taliban. Then she winds up with a discussion about how she should sign off. Please. To repeat, I like Katie, but I think they have set her up to remain firmly mired in third place.

I have been trying to give George Bush the benefit of doubt, but he has removed all doubt by attempting to revise the US War Crimes Act of 1996, and to make that revision apply retroactively. You can read about it in more detail here. So the excuse that he thought he was "doing the right thing" and merely violated federal law because he was too dimwitted to understand the law doesn't stand up. Only the guilty seek to escape punishment. Contact your legislators and make sure that his attempt to change a long-standing and necessary set of laws does not succeed.

Glenn Greenwald has two pieces on his blog Unclaimed Territory which I regard as particularly important, although pretty much everything on there is well worth reading. One is this about journalistic integrity. It reads in part,

Journalistic neutrality does not justify -- nor does it permit -- journalists to repeat the factually false statements of government officials without clearly stating that they are false.

The other is this about the complexities of terrorism. Everybody except George Bush (well, also Cheney and Rumsfeld) seems to understand that the terror issue is about as much like Hitler as the Mississippi River is like Lake Superior. (They are both water, but…) That may have something to do with why we are losing, and it certainly points out the need for new leadership.

Actually we don’t need new leadership so much as we need leadership to fill the vacuum at the top of our government where leadership should be but isn’t.

My father, in addition to being a career USAF officer, was an Episcopal priest. He studied for the priesthood after WW2 on his own time, and much of the time that he was serving in the Air Force he practiced as a civilian priest on a volunteer basis. The military uniform and the round collar were compatible, for him, because he knew without question that his country would never, ever, start a war. (We would damn well finish one started by someone else.) That was embodied in Strategic Air Command, whose motto was proudly emblazoned on all of their bombers, “Peace Is Our Profession.” I admired my father and loved him, and I’m glad that he didn’t live to see George W. Bush.

Some weeks ago a news item reported that our armed forces had begun flying supplies to Baghdad since the truck convoys had become too hazardous. Since news from Iraq has slowed to a trickle (somewhat suspicious in itself), I am unable to find out if this is still the case. If anyone knows, please post a comment letting me know.

Good news/bad news department: Katherine Harris won the GOP primary victory in Florida. Bad news is she won. I guess the GOP would elect Bobo the Clown if he claimed to be "born again." Good news she's enough of a flake that the Democrat will probably beat her even in Florida.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Why Missile Defense?

Donald Rumsfeld is happy with the success of the most recent test of the missile defense system as, I must admit, am I. If we are going to build such a system, I am delighted that the thing seems to work. But against what?

I cannot say that I am actually opposed to the system. I am uncertain, actually. But I am mistrustful of the reasons why it is being built.

Mr. Rumsfeld has not exactly dazzled me with his strategic planning since his centerpiece (the war in Iraq) has not worked out very well, so I am not sold on the necessity of a missile defense merely because he says so. His arguments have not been all that convincing.

Mr. Rumsfeld says that North Korea is testing intercontinental missiles and there is no denying that. But as I recall their long range ones blew up on the launch pad and the short range ones made it all the way to the Sea of Japan which is, what, 100 miles or so away.

I believe we should consider the North Korea as a very serious threat in terms of selling nuclear technology and material to rogue states, and perhaps as a threat to South Korea and even Japan. But how serious, really, is the threat of them actually reaching us with a missile?

Mr. Rumsfeld cited Hezbollah (to use one of its dozens of spellings) launching thousands of rockets at Israel.

He is really reaching on this one. Those rockets have a range of a few hundred miles and are unguided. They are also something less that “citybuster” in size. They are certainly a threat to Israel, and I’m not belittling the Israelis who were injured and killed by them. But these rockets are absolutely no threat to us and to cite them as a reason for a multi-billion-dollar missile defense system is sheer hyperbole.

He then went on to cite Iran and its engagement in nuclear research and its desire to obtain nuclear weapons.

The whole Iran issue has been clouded by so much bombast that I really don’t know what to believe. What I do know is that the rhetoric being used now is so similar to that used to justify invading Iraq, to the extent of identical phrases and even whole sentences being reiterated, that it makes me shudder. But none of it points to them being able to have the technology to launch a missile that could reach the United States, and even Mr. Rumsfeld doesn’t come right out and claim that.

So it seems to me that Iran as a reason for this multi-billion-dollar missile defense system is shaky at best.

That leaves Al Queda, Pakistani rebels, or the Iraqi insurgents buying intercontinental ballistic missile technology from someone who has it, and that argument is so spurious that I won’t dignify it with rebuttal.

The final argument is, of course, the profits that accrue to the corporations who are building the system. Those corporations provide campaign contributions to Mr. Rumsfeld’s friends in high office and there we have, I suspect, the biggest reason why this system is being built.

Perhaps I have just unreasonably lost the ability to trust my government.

Friday, September 01, 2006

More Politics of Fear

Bush and company are becoming more strident as election time nears, pushing the “fear button” harder and more frequently, and trying harder to disguise just how badly their “War on Terror’ is failing. That war is failing every bit as badly as the entirely separate war in Iraq.

I predicted this one, “…we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.” He only left out the part about gunning down women and children.

“The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror.”

Dramatic words but short on real meaning, like defining what such a victory would consist of.

Bush and company had been using the word “they” a lot, trying to distract us from the fact that the main terrorist is Osama Bin Laden who is still at large because we quit chasing him to invade Iraq.

The problem is that “they” is not a very scary term. “They will follow us home.” Well that is not really very horrifying, because we don’t know who “they” is that’s going to be following us. Could be a bunch of house cats following us home, which is a somewhat less than heart-stopping picture.

So Bush and company have started using “fascist,” “Islamic fascist” and “Islamo-fascist” instead. “Islamic fascists will follow us home.” See how much more frightening that is?

Like most demagoguery, however, this usage lacks accuracy.

Merriam Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition".

So, are the terrorists that attacked the WTC political? No.
Do they exalt nation? No.
Do they exalt race? No
Centralized autocratic government with dictatorial leader? Yes.
Severe economic regimentation? No.
Severe social regimentation? Yes.
Forcible suppression of opposition? Yes.

According to Bush and Company, if you meet three out of seven parts (and the central government part is questionable) of a definition we can use the term in reference to you unless you are our ally. Look at that list of criteria again and ask the same questions of Saudi Arabia. That nation, which we support, clearly meets at least four of the criteria.

The problem with slinging mud at your enemies is that you risk getting some of it on your friends, and if you get enough of the mud on your friends they may become your enemies.

The more we use the term “Islamic” in connection with the enemy in this so-called “War on Terror” the more we convince the entire world that we are the enemy of all Islam. When we add daily pictures of American military occupying an Islamic nation to the inflammatory rhetoric about “Islamic fascism” coming from our leadership we don’t win against terrorism, we spread it.

We need less demagogic rhetoric and more leadership.