Sunday, December 31, 2006

Crappy New Year, Dubya and Darth Veep

So, son of a Bush, you got your Iraqi. What decency dear leader, that you refrain from taking to the airwaves to bray about your success...uh it is decency at work here, no? Congratulations, Georgie boy! We knew you were man enough to tough it out, to bear any burden of discontented voters and unpopularity to see your mission through. You are so brave and good that you could bear to sacrifce thousands of lives, cast your predecessor's budget surpluses to the dogs, immolate the tattered vestiges of hope and good will the world held for the US and squander the mandate of fear you and your corrupt party had amassed...all that and more only you had the character to do for the sacred mission to stomp out weapons of mass destruction root out Al Qaida bring Democracy to Iraq kill one rotten oil-rich human being who's rottenness was amplified by American support when he first came to power. Whats that? You say there really is democracy in Iraq now? Glad to hear it. That must mean our job there is done and we can pull out. Its a very special kind of democracy we have given the kills more innocent people per day than their old dictatorship was killing on its slow days. The record number of execution orders you signed while you governed in Texas seems to be your one genuine character trait, the one act you can actually keep up: getting people killed, letting people kill other people. You are a piker, of course: there have been leaders far more efficient at your little skill. But none of them were ever leaders of Americans.

The Iraqis got their man today. Losing a bit fewer than two American soldiers per day since we began bombing in March 2003 must seem a small price to pay for the great triumph you have led us to this week, Mr. President. Far more die rolling their SUV into a ditch every day. Whats all the fuss, huh? On average, in our country, there are more women beaten to death by their male partners each day than there are soldiers killed in Iraq...only a liberal would see anything to complain about here, wouldn't you say, Dubya?

But I doubt the president will be reading this, I might as well put a cork in it. Still, I am at my wits end trying to see how we Americans can clean up the mess we have made. Nor can I see any way in which any one except Halliburton and other defense contractors have come out ahead in this fiasco. I have not blogged much lately, thinking there was more good gotten by working to strenghten the resolve of our green congress to overturn the laws and mispent monies that have underwritten the damned fool neocon dreams of empire. The doing is more important than the denouncing but I won't let it silence me. Stupid arrogance that orders up sloppy death, look for no comfort in these posts nor even the lull of silence. None. Ever. Ford bestowed his silence on you until he died and that was no favor to anyone.


Happy New Year to everyone else!
I turn to popping corks now. My new years resolution is to blog more. Done right, forcing yourself to think a bit every day is good for you. I was challenged to put my thoughts about the peculiar aspects of our times in verse and happened to have left the task until the hour before it was to be delivered. The practice of blogging can leave you a lot of material ready-to-use:

For a time capsule addressed to whomever is living in the year 3006:

Please do not curse me, you who find these words.
What fares well when left in the care of herds?

Who we are I'll try to say to you a millenium on, but there is a contradiction here.
For nothing so much marks the present race as fixation on goods and times quite near.
To write this draws the mind far out of stifling horizons on which our lives are focused
But we'll forget you, future and purpose of our being, and resume munching like locust.
In the first species that could have them, regret and responsibility enjoyed a long divorce
The planet had been ample to tolerate that course.

Snow fell today, this shortest darkest day, for the first time this year.

Exhausted and diseased, the last forests shade the last few brooks where you'd dare drink
Our sky still blue, the poles and peaks still wear a little ice, not for long, we think,

Until now, progress measured and celebrated, meant less hindered commerce.
We were so proud when first we talked via lightning.
Now, 2006, we are past vanity and complacently dominate time and space,
For advantages confered, we are fond of all that quickens the pace
Beat the market, beat the clock. he who knows most may get an accolade
but he who knows certain things first has got it made.
There was good and bad to living in a world that walked and was humbled by vastness
Tell me 3006, do you have deliberation?
Our seconds divided in millionth parts but to centuries we are averse.

Until now, progress measured and celebrated, meant less diseased.
We don't know what to do with our old, condemning many to socially disconnected "ease".
Most of us don't even want our own old age, a genteel plague, a prospect of fears.
Some patch and stitch and color themselves younger than their years
We let the last few years, unquestioned until unfunded, beggar us to prolong what always has ended
Far past child bearing years we prop up a kind of living nature may never have intended.
But our own will, not natures, is now supreme. There are no fates.
There was good and bad to living with natural frailties
Tell me 3006, are you at peace with mortality?
We scope the second when death occurs, then say it never happened
And all the years it punctuates collapse to a query residue: "was god pleased?"

Until now, progress measured and celebrated, meant ability to know more and yet more.
We wired ourselves together and the promise hangs from that wire
If we won't pay for the news, then news must conspire
To grip us, to concern us, yet to assure us we are good and not to challenge or disoncert.
We now watch three hours a day or more of just what we choose.
The promise was a planet where reporters swarmed
Yet ever less are we bound together by our news,
growing more fearful rather than more informed.
Tell me 3006, do you really want to know more?

The word emerging in our leading minds is modest, its root: "sustain"
The word that leads the great mass of us as if it were a simple goodness is "gain".
This year Darwin's thought was upheld in court but still not learned.
"Competative" is our favored fitness, a reputation obvious and earned .
Tell me 3006, how do you value "cooperative"?

Of all the problems we cannot collectively face,
The worst yet least addressable: the mere numbers of our race.

You see there, all thoughts I have tooled and fooled with here before.

BTW, I admit my champaigne flows a bit some time zones. This is why it is so important to have friends in Australia: you simply can't let your mates drink alone.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

2006: A fond farewell to the year of "we CAN DO this"

It really has been a good year in some ways. We introduced a morally dead and mentally challenged tyrant to his walking papers. Our little progress and ray of hope comes too late for all the people who died in Iraq, for the species that exist no more, for the thousands of islanders and shore dwellers whose homes and livelihoods have gone under the waves. So, for many more of us, it was also a year in hell. But I have had good guides and companions who help us rail at our sewage tides. To fellow bloggers who have enlivened my tenure on this sinking ship of humanity, my gratitude for your company. As the violinist said to his quartet when the Titanic began to tilt and slip toward the deep: "It has been an honor and a privilege to play with you." Above all, personally, it has been a year where I turned somewhat from the complaining that is the staple of my blogging toward the doing, in which I joined many though with what effect we can't yet say.

And, though the weather was far from conducive for photography or much of anything else, my son and I did make it all the way to the summit of Mt Washington. A more satisfying if less educational result than last year's attempt.

Note that rime encrusted structures are typical of Mt. Washington summit this time of year and those are NOT my eyebrows! Underneath that ice, the sign says "Mt. Washington Summit". Trust me, or check out the anemometers, just visible in the background through the ice fog, appearing just above my left glove which rests on the sign.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Darwin's Revenge

A species that becomes resistant to most of the selection pressures that the environment can apply will itself become the most drastic pressure on every other species in that environment...and enjoy a freedom to degenerate unknown to any other creature nature ever fashioned.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Theory and Practice

Ignorance is the theory that you already know enough to get by. Bigotry is the social and political practice of this theory.

Monday, December 04, 2006

What could keep me away from my blog?

Yes, I have been busy. I had spare time before I took up blogging. Lately all that time has gone elsewhere:

If you are within a short ride of Newton Massachusetts, consider joining us tomorrow evening.

You might think the recent election would get the attention of our congress. But now we want to keep their attention on our issues. Come meet the kind of people who turned the election: people like you! The Operation Democracy council serving the western suburbs of Boston is holding an open House [and open Senate is planned] meeting to kick off our "Mandate for Change" campaign to make the congress work as we voted for them to work. Come to a one hour meeting at the John M Barry Boys & Girls Club of Newton at 675 Watertown St. on Tuesday December 5th. Sign-in is at 7:pm. Come see how much fun grass roots politics is. Operation Democracy is affiliated with but council members are strictly volunteers and make decisions locally. If interested and likely to attend, please let us know by registering for the event via this MoveOn page.

Novemeber 7th should not be the last time your wishes counted so come on down and help us shake things up. We have an in-your-face kind of petition drive that will let you get a lot more impact than just puting your John Henry on a plea to fix healthcare or the environement or get out of Iraq...though we will tackle all those things over the coming months.

Monday, November 20, 2006

[light posting notice]

Posting will be light followed by gusts of hot air and occasional turkey scented belches. I took on a little task with Operation Democracy organizers and am seriously overcommitted for a while.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] Sunday schoolin'

What is a conservative's favorite Bible passage?

Am I my brother's keeper?

But it is also much used in the writings of more altruistic people. The sermon can never change the sacred text, only the context. Out of its context more than not, the passage gets kindly but thoroughly misused even by the most humane people. The closer the reading stays to the context, the more we get of the original intent of the passage. I like this example of the better usage. The usage I understand is that the question is a sneering disavowal by a murderer and its not meant to be answered. Anyone who thinks it is a deep question about the lines to be drawn around individualism is tragically mistaken and needs to reread Genesis.

How does the devil quote scripture to his own advantage? One line at a time.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/19/2006 10:01:00 AM

Tell me what you think

I am going to an organizing meeting tomorrow to figure out what volunteers who made phone calls and helped buy ads can do now that those efforts have paid off.

Its not that it hasn't occured to me that if you, gentle reader, were a politics junky, you would be reading Daily Kos, TPM, myDD, Atrios and the like rather than my rarely interesting, often shrill and redundant rehashings and reactions. You might even wish the politics would stop disturbing the peace here. Well, I probably will be cutting the feed from A Bomb A Nation in a week or so and it will get a bit more quiet and contemplative here at TET.

I'm giving you a rest. But I do not think I have, or the left hemisphere of the blogosphere or even the voters of America have done enough to rest from fixing the ills, the ill will and the ill considered plans that afflict the nation. That rest may be in order when the biggest of the problems that forced us to the polls have fair and affordable solutions in place. How soon is that? I understand some sacrifices will be needed to pay down our literal and some of our figurative debts to the world that the Bush administration has racked up. But what can we do beside complain and vote?

Through my blogging, through reading everyone elses blogs and through my experiences with GOTV efforts, I have perceived that there is a substantial and genuinely new constituency in the so-called net roots. Always-on and interactive do make a difference in how and more importantly when some of us will attempt to engage and influence our formerly remote and forgetful representatives. Seriously, I feel like there is a new political force, not quite like the political parties and I mean to find out if the feeling is well founded.

This brings me to my request. I would be interested in knowing if anyone has ideas of what activities would make good follow-through on the success that volunteers may have lent to the election. If you are in fact one of those relieved to hear that posting will shortly revert to musings with less of the political and strident posting, just note: you don't have to get in to politcs but sooner or later politics will come to you. This may be the easiest time to give advice. I am nobody special, but I am listening.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My theory of the worthlessness of theories.

Common sense is unlikely to grow in any soil other than common experience. You gotta get a little dirty and you gotta get over what a genius you are.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] The end of an era, [Please bury it. It has begun to stink!]

Milton Friedman died today. George Bush lands in Viet Nam to participate in APEC tomorrow. The APEC summit being held in Hanoi marks a great milestone and a kind of "coming out party" for Viet Nam's emergence from a miserable victim of war and its own centrally planned economy into a bustling economy with enough of the trappings of a free market to enable its membership in the WTO. Not that Viet Nam is quite the equal of, say, the Netherlands in matters of human rights just yet. But then neither is President Bush's country or President Hu's country for that matter. Human rights and the purely economic freedoms Milton espoused don't show up in the same place at the same time on history's stage...just and observation. Professor Friedman was big on observation.

Prof. Friedman was a thorough champion of economic [and probably most other ] freedoms from government, beloved of Grover Norquist and the libertarians at the Cato Institute. And, as pointed out in the NPR coverage of Mr. Friedman's passing, he had many critics who thought he took a good idea way too far: the claim is that Mr. Friedman thought an unfettered market, operated by businesses or individuals free of burdens of regulation, could do no wrong. I will have to read one of his books to see if I think that is what he meant. But for now, knowing the folks at the Cato Institute are selfish but not stupid, I'll presume he favored nearly unregulated everything and was a grand daddy of the current blind faith neocons have in market solutions for everything.

Similar to the neocons [except they are still breathing] Mr Friedman is no longer in this world and as he leaves us, he was still thinking his ideas have triumphed. In a 1999 NPR interview he was asked what 20th century event would leave the most lasting effects and he said it was the collapse of communism:
"...Because it marked the philosophical supremacy of the idea of free markets and private enterprise over the idea of collective central planning. ...
Its a good interview and short, read it to see what the man thought. He was not a bad guy. He was privately saying "who cares" about drug use in the years when Reagan's catch phrase was "just say no" [I'd aver that Reagan introduced republican rudeness in that should have been "just say no, thank you"]. Friedman helped dismantle the draft and urged economic incentives for recruiting: a mercenary army. The lack of a draft does have a long reach: it was Bush/Cheney's one inkling of "reality based" thought that they could never sell a war on Iraq with Shinseki's and Colin Powell's notion of troop numbers because reinstituting a draft would never fly. So they lied about the cost of the war in money and troops and that problem is very much with us today. But Milton's ideas are easily misused too. He provided strong excuses to people making favor-the-rich economic policy in spite of his own earnest vision that freedom favors even the small players with opportunity. Although I admire empiricism, which Friedman genuinely appears to have stuck too, it lacks the heart and intuition that good government must have.
"Human life requires the balancing of freedom with other goals, including security and equality," said Richard Parker, a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. "Friedman's repeated neglect of these other values has been the repeated source of error in his policy advice."
If you are going to form world-shaping policies and ideas from evidence, you must take in much more evidence than even the vast studies of Mr. Friedman. He only studied people in their immediate economic settings: money. His empirical bent enables him to sound so wise when the replies to this interviewer:
STAMBERG: Professor Friedman, let's talk some, though, about the human cost of the free market, because we all know that everything free comes with a price, and very often the price has been tremendous hardships and insecurities. I wonder what it would take to make the free-market system work and not take too heavy a toll on the extremely poor, the people at the very bottom rungs?

FRIEDMAN: Well, I can't agree with the assertions you're making. You have to compare one system with another. There's no point in comparing an actual, operating system with an ideal system that doesn't exist. I would say that, in contrary to your generalization, the free market has involved less hardship, has imposed far less of a cost than almost any alternative system. Can you compare any of the costs of the free market with the costs that were imposed by, let's say, either the Soviet Union or China?

STAMBERG: You know, lots of people are lucky to get their wisdom by sitting in your classroom over the years and reading your books. Others of us get our wisdom by talking to taxi drivers. Now this goes back to the Russian model again, and I'm sure you'll incorporate that in your answer. But I don't know how many Russian cabbies in New York have told me -- in the course of a really bumpy, pothole-filled ride -- how dreadfully tough their lives are here, having made that transition from a government which took care -- yes, in very brutal, cruel ways -- but took care of most of their human needs, and try to fight it out on the streets of the major city of capitalism.

FRIEDMAN: And why did they come there?

STAMBERG: Gold in the streets, was it?

FRIEDMAN: Yeah. Why didn't they stay in the Soviet Union?

STAMBERG: Of course, they saw more opportunities. That's true, Professor, but in terms of...

FRIEDMAN: Do they regret having come?

STAMBERG: Well, I think they did. I'm not saying...

FRIEDMAN: Don't you think that the most meaningful vote is a vote with your feet?

STAMBERG: So you're saying pack up and go back if it's so tough for you here?

FRIEDMAN: Well, how many have done so?... Don't misunderstand me. I'm saying if you really want to know what they really believe about the relative merits of the two systems, see what they do, not what they say. And what they do is to stay here. They don't go back. I think of my own family. My parents came here from Europe at the age of 14 and 16. And they had a hard time, a very difficult time, but it opened up a world of opportunity for them. And the same thing with these cab drivers whom you're talking about who are bitching about it. Look at what they do, not what they say.
And in the NPR coverage this evening, for which the transcript is not yet on line, Friedman is quoted to the effect that it was the untrammeled freedoms of our free enterprise system that allowed the US to provide so much opportunity to immigrants like his parents and produced that rapid growth of the American economy. I wish I could ask the man if he thought this freedom was meant to include freedom from responsibility for the future. The hidden factor, unvarying until the late 20th century, that invisibly shored up all economic prediction was that nature appeared inexhaustible and human activity had no impact on earth's capacity to warm and feed us. Those days are gone and classical liberalism must be buried with them.

Like I said before: A market is a crowd that has forgiven itself in advance for its avarice, saying greed is the norm. Mr. Friedman came up with his theories based as much as possible on the evidence he found. But he collected all his data in a field where human nature, that sad and sorry oxymoron, was the only "natural" force. The fuller context, the thoughtlessly exploited substrate of all life, our earth, was not a factor in Mr Friedman's calculations. Since a free market presumes all economic actors are indeed free to act it is presumed fair...but the future, our heirs, are not free to act. They are altogether absent unless our consciences or regulations of the market that would be to the advantage of no present player are enforced. [It occurs to me nature actually does get one rather sick sort of consideration: "depletion allowance" tax breaks for mineral resource exploiters]

No parliament however inclusive of the day's political stake holders, no number of bomb laden planes, not even profit itself will sustain a "freedom" that in the long run is just another word for the selfishness of an economics that believes the interests of those present are all that count.

Note: The Chicago Tribune has one of the most detailed of the glowing retrospectives of this economist's extremely influential life, fitting in light of Milton's 30 year tenure at U of Chicago. Richard Adams at Guardian Unlimited points out that for all the effusive eulogies, it was a successor, Paul Samuelson, who gave advice to government that stayed in effect longer than most of Professor Friedman's directions.
Of Prof. Friedman's very many quotes, one that I think captures the essence of his errors is this:
“Freedom is the major objective in relations among individuals,” Dr. Friedman wrote in a 1968 essay collection, “Dollars and Deficits,” and “the preservation of freedom requires limiting narrowly the role of government and placing primary reliance on private property, free markets, and voluntary arrangements.”

Because the word "freedom" has become a mantra rinsed clean of the awareness that fairness is a co-equal objective in human interactions without which most freedoms are soon ground away.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/16/2006 08:25:00 PM

the gifts

Not ours to judge which gift is good.
God did not give you the wounds and losses you see,
God gave you the tears to clean your eyes.
God did not give you the lover or the feast but
She endowed you with a laugh to conjure them out
Of ordinary friends and food.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] We have only just begun to salvage American democracy

This is exactly what many of us expect and hate: corporate money gets the last word with representatives who allegedly represent us voters. The corporocRATs jump one ship just to get on the other and they had better not make democRATs out of our new legislators. I am watching this congress as I did not know how to watch its predecessor. The same people who were enthusiasticly bumping Republicans out of power will entusiastically attack any legislator who gives much attention to the wishes of lobbiests. A lobbiest is NOT a constitutional post, a branch of government or, in any way, a representative of my wishes. I give money to AAAS, which vainly tried to lobby for science when both industry and the executive were against it. If "we have to lobby because the other guys are buying legislation" is an excuse to tolerate soft money sloshing around our capitol, there is a simple if drastic solution: outlaw lobbying. The very presence of influence buyers ought to be criminalized. A letter, a phonecall or an e-mail from a voter like me and the reports from their own investigative staff, for which they have budgets, are the only inputs to a legislator that I would trust. What kind of laws could you expect if the advice to the lawmaker comes from parties who speak only for a narrow financial self interest?

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/15/2006 07:17:00 AM

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How to become a liar

Odd, thing lying. Most of us, when asked, will claim the truth is always the right thing put forth. And we certainly despise other people's lies. So how on earth do so many wind up being liars?

The easy way to become a liar is to know the truth before you even ask for the facts.

Poor life choices

If I had lived according only to the dictates of love, I wouldn't have nearly so much to spend or to regret.

Monday, November 13, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] The real reason we need to impeach Bush

Strictly speaking, there are several activities that the son of a Bush has participated in with full knowledge which clearly meet the criteria of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that violate the constitution and laws of the US. There are books and newspapers filled with enough evidence and argument written by legal scholars and journalists to make a far more compelling case than any brought against former president Clinton. What punishment would be enough for lying to us in order to get us into a nightmarish war? What punishment would be fitting for condoning warrantless spying on US citizens when the same surveillance could have been as effectively carried out under court supervision via the mechanisms in FISA?

No, we can never "get even" with this man and his cohorts, we can never restore the thousands of lives snuffed out by his unnecessary war. The best reason for dragging the spoiled conniving son of a Bush before a public court is this: We need to officially air his breaches of law and spell out their consequences in the public record. We need to do this so that his supporters are on notice that he really did bad things and denial becomes that much more foolish an escape. This will give the people he fooled into voting for him the scapegoat they need as he is not worthy of even the foolish admiration of a kneejerk conservative. This will remove all doubt and surprise about the monumental and probably unpopular costs of redressing the harms he has done.

The cost of cleaning up, at least in the political sense, needs to remain on the shoulders of the son of a Bush and not be accounted to those who come in his wake and actually spend the money to repair the damage. For the record, we must lay the blame where it belongs and expose the depths of the damage.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/14/2006 10:34:00 AM

Saturday, November 11, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] Lets make a deal

It is not an easy thing to be human these days. Few choices don't involve compromises to our integrity or other's well being. And the multiplication of factors that could be included in most important decisions means we leave a lot of pertinent data out of mind or at the edges of consciousness.

Throughout history, but previously in merely local contexts, when men ran out of nature's gifts, they ran up against each other. The conflicted political powers and the constrained natural conditions of our times make it difficult to be a fair citizen of this planet or even to just get by with a completely clear conscience. We all have to make deals to get things done and tomorrow does not bring itself to the negotiations except through our consciences.

Would you be willing to have a finger chopped off if you knew it would suspend the killing in Iraq long enough for diplomats to work out the grievances, disparities and misrepresented intentions that brought the world to today's precarious situation? Would you give up a hand, an arm? To bring even a tense silence to Iraq in place of the likelihood of yet more thousands killed and the constant threat of retaliation by irate Muslims, would you offer your own life?

Any soldier who enlisted to fight or accepted an assignment to fight in Iraq has more regard for the welfare of his country in his little finger than the whole gang of Bush appointees and grafty hangers-on. Anyone who ever was in a combat situation and in uniform knows that from experience. That is the value of valor.

What do you think such a hypothetical trade-off means to the thousands of GI's who have come back from Iraq with shattered and truncated bodies? Leave aside the need for wages, help with tuition and job skills that prompted many to sign up and presume the soldier had some better and less fleeting reason than the missing WMD, Al-Qaida's alleged Baghdad brigade or even democracy at gunpoint. And they do find reasons. One Captain who served there mailed us a ballot. I put it up on the wall. We Americans will pass up an election if it is raining but people in Baghdad went to fill in this ballot when it was raining bullets. It touched that Captain, and it touched me but in the end that hope of democracy was premature or superficial like the rocky crust on a lava flow. But whatever their reason to go there, no one under arms in that country wants more war or expects to serve without risk of grave harm: This is the deal.

When I hear "support our troops" from conservative media personalities, its usage and context makes it clear that the words mean something like "Don't you dare say this is not a legitimate war! Get in line and don't doubt the president and his chain of command." That's funny, I would have taken the phrase to mean "support" as in equip, arm, armor and don't expose to danger unnecessarily "our troops" as in the men and women taking hits in Iraq rather than the corps of gung-ho desk soldiers in Washington who never shot anything except maybe a fellow bird hunter. My understanding of "support our troops" also includes full VA benefits when they come back, especially those who come back because the deal didn't work out so well for them. That is a cost of war Republicans have been skimping on and it takes someone like Senator Byrd to keep them honest. Our soldiers are in Iraq today but when they come home, many of them will have just begun to fight and we owe them support tomorrow as much as now. "Support our troops" is just the other side of the coin by which the soldier bought into the deal: the country must have high regard for the welfare of the soldier.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/11/2006 11:11:00 AM

Friday, November 10, 2006

Security begins in the Homeland and ends when sought abroad

Every war is offered to us as a "just war" when in fact most of them are "just another war".

Security has always been about feelings clothed in barely relevant facts, talked of extensively only when we are actually feeling insecurity and forgotten otherwise.

I would rather live in an unwalled village and have to deal with the occasional stranger than live in a fortress from which all comers must be viewed over the parapet as enemies until they prove otherwise. Few mistakes will sooner make enemies of strangers than simply seeing them as enemies.

Aristotle, so smart and theoretical, clearly never commanded troops for he offers only justification. The vilest of men know justification is merely manipulation. Decent men who have had a hand in war's bloodshed, even though they prevailed, would advise any course but war. America's first war was led by great men who knew that the progress of humanity should be from war to peace, not the reverse. There is nothing progressive about war, it is always a setback for humanity. Spilt blood being adequate reason in most minds to spill more blood, once a war is started conflict never lacks for reasons to spread and go forward while hope and liberty recede. It is exactly Bin Laden's grasp of this ancient elementary aspect of violence that has led Bush and his advisors into the disgrace of giving the terrorists a far bigger and more historically memorable fight than their sick methods and paltry cause ever deserved.

The not-so-fine line between being able to take care of yourself and help your neighbor when an adversary insists on a fight and being too militarily strong and morally weak to keep from helping yourself to someone else's country is much blurred and overstepped lately. There are things, one's ways and one's own land, which one might have to fight to keep and protect. But only on active proof, attack or immanent and uncaused invasion, is there anyone from whom hostilities could possibly protect property, persons or sovereignty. In the category of wars between nations, the last such attack against the US was by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. I plead historical ignorance of whether the Korean war was truly in the category of killing to prevent killing but we all know the Iraq war has killed far too many to hold up that kind of excuse. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and the fabricated causes of the invasion of Iraq stamped by the congress we just booted and other such initiations of military action are unjust and according to treaties like the Kellogg-Briand Pact, a treaty co-authored by an American secretary of state, illegal. We are not in a good position to label other countries as rogue states while we trample the frail paper of the world's hope for peace that we ourselves helped write. In the category of conflicts between nations and nationless factions, now generically branded "terrorism" to the great benefit of repressive governments everywhere, there simply is no nation to strike back at. The acts of terrorists are despicable and deserve active suppression by their victim countries but only by commensurate means. Individuals and groups are not brought to justice by invading nations or maligning entire religions or regions. Is this too complex an idea for some people?

Getting away with something just because you have the might to pull it off only delays the regret. Live justly America, and have no regret.

I trot out my views on war, much in agreement with history's views of war if my quoting here is fair, because we Americans have just spoken our minds to say that we are not so fond of war as our leaders wanted to think. It is now time for us, as citizens and for our representatives, to not ignore what we claim are our ideals of peace. Peace again has an opportunity though not an easy one. I blog the views here because this is my "values and wisdom" blog, [such as it is] and all the political shouting of my other blog can come along in the due course of politics: Politics is what you must resort to when not all people are decent to each other in the same way as they are to themselves. Lets hope a truly common decency toward other people prevails this time around. Otherwise we are back to square one: hastily justifying conflict so that we may rue it for generations yet to come.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] I feel vindicated

Some of you might not have caught the hints.

Rummy and dummy part company. He finally got the hints...or maybe just enough notice to give him time to shred anything that would embarrass his boss even more if that is possible.

To me, this long overdue departure seemed like the most achingly immanent requiting when I sat to write yesterday morning and there was so much good change to contemplate. But I can't fairly claim "I told you so". I didn't know it was coming, I just knew it should come. We have not had a SecDef so reviled by his own generals, not in the history of the repbulic. It was an unprecedented infection of a fool trusting an arrogant fast talker more than he trusted his own citizens. Its over. But the clean-up will take years. Some of Rumsfeld's pet technology projects might be in jeopardy. The annoying need to get men killed in order to win wars has already cut in to the budget for new weapons development. It is so clear to so many outside Cheney's charmed circle that it was an unnecessary war but why would a man of Rumsfeld's intelligence go along with it? Character. Rumsfeld has been the champion of a "transformation" program to put the world's most dangerous superpower on a course to ever greater fighting readiness by fighting smarter with technology. That in itself is not an evil thing but signing on to an evil war just to prove your restyled military could do the job is egotistical. It is tragically and abundantly clear this war was not Rummy's kind of war and what it needs, as was known by the generals from the outset, was massive troop strength, as much as four times the numbers deployed if it is to wind up with anything resembling conventional "victory". The real enemy was never in Iraq until we drew them there. The threats we faced before Iraq we entirely unconventional and would have been better countered by renewed peace initiatives in the Israel-Palestine conflict and by better intelligence with Arab-speaking agents on the ground and commando operations. We know now that Saddam was ready to cave but his concessions were hushed up to keep the war plan on track. I have made a very comfortable living as a technologist on one of Rumsfeld's favorite projects. I think the project has intrinsic strategic value outside the context of this stupid war and for the long term. But if Rummy's going takes a few plush jobs with it, so be it. I will gladly find more honest work if that hardship is the cost of restoring the integrity of military leadership and reasserting the military's role as a defense capability rather than a tool of baseless aggression. The cost that has been born by our fighting men and women, on the other hand, unacceptable and unfair. How soon with they stop paying for arrogant mistakes?

I have been on this case for a while now:

  1. Go see "Why we fight"

  2. Why is this seder different from last years?

  3. The General Problem With Rumsfeld

  4. one more time, WHY are we in Iraq?

  5. Timing the news, good noose and bad news

It will be good to take a rest. Of course the problem is not solved. The retention of Rumsfeld so far past the time when he and his vision of the military were discredited is just one of the many examples of gross managerial incompetence that no president should be allowed. Its just one of the Bush mistakes with the worst consequences.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/09/2006 08:32:00 AM

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] Meanwhile in other voting....

All in all, not a bad night at the polls. Its way too early and way too many instances of voting irregularities to sift through before challenges can be raised over the results in the close races that changed winners in the late counting i.e. VA-Sen, MT-Sen and CT-02. After two national elections in which Republicans made vital gains long after the polls close, I had begun to wonder if perhaps fetuses only come out to vote after midnight. The late reversal against Farrell in CT-04 is unfortunate...I made a lot of calls there and was getting such a good vibe. That flip of two or three percent after midnight is a pattern I was hoping not to see but I have heard of no irregularities in CT, certainly nothing on the scale of the [depressingly perennial ] Ohio election SNAFU or the obvious and definitely criminal vote disruption in CO and voter intimidation at some AZ polling places.

I still maintain that the biggest unreported issue being decided yesterday was whether or not the nation possesses a conscience any more. But you will hear plenty about the "meaning" of it all from better informed commentors than me. For instance, it is being said that as issues, gay marriage lost and stem cell research won. Indeed, gay rights, which shouldn't even have to be a distinct category of civil rights, took a hit from a resurgence of backwardness in several states:
" Residents in South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Wisconsin and Virginia voted to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman."
What about South Dakotans clearly denouncing their proposed abortion ban? Had you already written places like South Dakota off as backward swamps of right wing ignorance? The vote tells us for sure that everybody is stirred up and paying more attention than before. Would have been nice if the environment were better represented in yesterday's voting. I happen to live in that environment and deeply wish to see it healed. Perhaps others live elsewhere. Perhaps the new crop of Democrats will not be so narrowly focused as the Repbulicans they replace. Perhaps.

News sources, other polling.
Although their network is still in my dog house for airing a wingnut hatchet job "documentary" designed to confuse their TV audience, that left-behind child of the body politic, about Bush administration laxity leaving us open to the 9/11 attacks, I still read ABC News' The Note. I take what I read on any ABC website with a grainery of salt [they count 47 Dem senate seats at this hour, TPM counts 49...we will see who is right as these numbers are live and in flux]. But you need to know what sources like that are saying so that when you talk to the politically "normal" who don't feed their political news addictions from liberal blogs, you know where they are coming from. On their main politics page, ABC generally features oportunites for feedback as video uploads, coments and survey questions. The questions typically leave out options I would want so I don't bother with the surveys most of the time. But the reader opinion shown below was a simple thumbs up or thumbs down for a guy who has had his thumb in the eye of one too many generals. The national vote is often spoken of as a "referendum on Iraq". Then the national vote is not clear enough for me in light of the outrageous flow of lies that got us into this futile bloodbath and continue flowing to keep us there. Given some of the slim margins that are being called victories this morning, these lopsided little survey numbers are beyond a "mandate" and more in the realm of an indictment for manslaugther. The body is in the morgue. The blood is on his hands. My only fear is that he alone would suffice as a scapegoat when Cheny, Bush and their whole coterie of lying chicken hawks should all take the fall.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/08/2006 07:44:00 AM

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] Politics fair and foul

Did any of you read this article in the NYTimes?

New Telemarketing Ploy Steers Voters on Republican Path

An automated voice at the other end of the telephone line asks whether you believe that judges who “push homosexual marriage and create new rights like abortion and sodomy” should be controlled. If your reply is “yes,” the voice lets you know that the Democratic candidate in the Senate race in Montana, Jon Tester, is not your man.

In Maryland, a similar question-and-answer sequence suggests that only the Republican Senate candidate would keep the words “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. In Tennessee, another paints the Democrat as wanting to give foreign terrorists “the same legal rights and privileges” as Americans.

Our November surprise turned out to be how little the Republican party knows or cares about legal or ethical campaign practices. Well, surely someone must be surprised. Plenty of fouls against FCC and other regulations but not enough MSM coverage and a downright peculiar failure on the part of many major media news organizations to point out that Dems are NOT doing dirty tricks. But this technique of probing for a voter's biases and pinning a vote suggestion to either religious intolerance or homophobia does not strike me as an intrinsically unfair campaign tool. Disgusting, pandering, encouraging the very worst in the psyche of the american electorate? Yes. Unfair? Not really. Giving voters the things they need is rare but promising them what they want is politics as usual.

Today the news will be of balky voting machines, mysteriously erased or misplaced voter registration rolls, hostile voter credential challenges in contested districts and just generally a huge sideshow of broken election infrastructure mostly to the advantage of Republicans that distracts from the real story that unfolds today: Can America regain is conscience today? The whole world dreads our elections now.

It is harmful to the prospects of any nation for its leaders to pander to the narrow mindedness, selfishness and fear of voters. These negative traits are simply human and universal pitfalls, not specifically American or Republican. They are a shortsighted toe hold for political ambitions, a dead end. It is the downward path by which fascists lead their nation's to disgrace and destruction. But it is politics as usual. Our vote this year, perhaps a little more so than in other years, is a referendum on whether America is just another "politics as usual" country and therefore destined for the same fates as other "empire as usual" nations that have gone before us.

Beside that long term rot of the moral reasoning among the voters, is there a short term harm in this vile appeal? Can blatant appeals to fear and bigotry rescue the Republicans? I wonder. The harm seems small because the bigots on whom such a phone call would work are the anxious little minds that already know who serves their special interests and insecurities. That phone call is not going to change the minds of anyone whose mind isn't already in a private fog of ignorant homophobia or having Fox News-induced nightmares about islamofascists hiding among the mosques in America. The hope [it certainly isn't facts I can cite from polling] that I am voicing is that the mysterious body of voters we label "undecided" are in fact mostly decent people who feel numbed or badgered or disgusted by the coarse, crass tone and divisive trickery that has become common procedure for getting elected. Or at least, its what got many of our current crop of defective congressmen elected. We may call these potential voters undecided only because of what a few of them told a pollster, but any sample of people who "don't know" who they are voting for seems like a useless basis to infer either indecision, indifference or reticence in service of their privacy. So it is just a hope then that among the mystery crowd there are those who need a nudge to feel that one candidate represents the best hope for all the people and for the long term and need a nudge to care enough to go to the polls. And there is a hope that such undecideds out number the bigots who balance between disgust and fear and could be tipped by an egregious phone trick. That is why I keep making the phone calls.

UPDATE: I just finished an hour of MoveOn calls-for-change into Connecticut congressional districts and maybe I was just having a good day but of the live people I talked to, one hung up and all the rest said they had or would vote for the Democratic candidate. Joe the republicrat will be all by himself among his state's delegation if that was a valid sample.


Note:As you can see from the links, I owe particular thanks to the gratifying speed and authority of Josh Marshall's resources and his contributors at TPM where a handy scoreboard will go live when the first polls close.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/07/2006 08:36:00 AM

Monday, November 06, 2006

I think of democracy as a great adaptation

In politics and religion and other cultural frameworks, as in nature, if you do not tolerate and provide for evolution, you succumb to the revolution of something or someone that did make the necessary changes.

[A Bomb a nation] Timing the news, good noose and bad news

I have a hard time getting in all the reading these days in spite of my frequent exhortations to anyone in earshot that they should budget more time for staying informed. In particular, I have neglected Alternet but thanks to Thivai at Dialogic, I came across a good write up by Joshua Holland on the curious timing of the announcement of the verdict against Saddam Hussein. Its not that the timing didn't immediately strike me as the wan November Surprise Rove has been smirking about...its that I was unaware of several of the details of the trial and its failure to follow competent and defensible judicial processes: this is a rushed verdict and thereby a wasted opportunity to hold up in full detail before the world exactly how rotten that SOB was.

The TV news is full of coverage of preparations for the expected surge of violence at the announcement of the verdict. Odd that there would be so much anticipation since we all know damn well he is to be found guilty. I wanted to read the text of the verdict because the news coverage I heard only mentioned Saddam's crimes against Shia populations. Where's the rest of the verdict? I searched for "text of verdict" Saddam and the top of the search hits was the Bush Crimes Commission verdict against Bush. I also found a liberal bashing website making an interesting attempt to spin the verdict, using Chris Matthew's claim that the verdict works against the pro-war Republican party. That was a proof that "Dem outrage" at its obvious timing is over done. Matthew's claim is that any attention drawn to the war hurts Republicans. Yeah, right. That must be why the President got on the news last night talking up his trophy trial's unsurprising outcome. Despite the administration's claims that this trial shows Iraqis are now taking charge of their own country, the fact is that Bush "diplomacy" is exerting as much force as any Iraqi and the real action in Iraqi politics at this point is sectarian militias unfriendly to any Iraqi government that smells of Bush. If this trial were the objective or the proof of any substantial "iraqification" of the war, we'd like to hear the president say "mission accomplished" again and this time mean it and get us the hell out of there before any more people get killed. We aren't going to hear that because trial or not, the place is a bloody mess and the US owns much of the blame for botching the peace and fomenting the insurgency through sheer arrogant incompetence.

The various news reports of the verdict on the web only mention Saddam's guilt in killing Shiites. Nobody on the planet, liberal or conservative, doubts he was a cruel murdering despot. But a show trial that only nets a few of his henchmen and omits vast amounts of evidence is yet another wasted opportunity. Is there justice for the Kurds in a verdict that does not mention the genocide they suffered? Is there even safety or security to be reaped if the trial stops at a handful of culprits and does not ferret out the Baathist party operatives and lieutenants that made Saddam's choke hold on the country possible? No. We have left much undone in our haste here.

Even if you give Bush credit for bagging his Baghdad nemesis, it is by now an overstated and overshadowed triumph. Was this triumph, which may only be a personal vendetta of Bush and a few close advisors, worth the cost? The cost is more than the hundreds of thousands of lives lost. The cost is more than the 200 billion per year that is sapping our economy and starving our urgent domestic health, infrastructure and retirement programs. The cost is not just the bitter division of Americans into camps claiming and disclaiming that trumped up wars make us "more secure". The cost is Iraq itself. The country and its 26 million suffering souls, which Mr. Bush convinced too many Americans he could save from despotism by making war, was in fact a rather fragile arrangement of factions. Iraq was always much easier to break than it was to fix and its obvious now to all. It was obvious to many before March of 2003 but they were purged from Bush's counsels or ignored. That country is now badly broken and in a scary echo of Iraq's fatal factional strife, America too is torn over its involvement in the debacle. Bush the "uniter", indeed. If this concocted "Surprise" hanging lets the Republicans hang on to power, maybe they deserve it: fixing the mess they made will be a much greater effort than the already costly effort of the backfired "war on terror". No popular options I can envision are going just quickly and cheaply set things right. It would be fair, if foolish, to let that thankless job be the work for the Republicans who made it necessary.

This verdict is one of the most actively spun pieces of news I have ever tried to get a grip on. Fisk's more deeply moral analysis of the verdict is rare and refreshing. For now I just wanted facts. I had to resort to a Canadian newspaper to get an article that stuck to quotes and narrative without telling me what to think. Of all the politicians talking, Reid of NV may have best got it down to the simple without loosing the dismaying truth:
Senate minority leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said: "Iraqis have traded a dictator for chaos" and that White House policy had left U.S. troops "caught in the middle."
In the most damning fusillade from frustrated military professionals yet, those who can best speak for the "troops caught in the middle" blasted the bungling of the Secretary of Defense who none the less continues to enjoy Bush's unquestioning support. I repeat an old thought: this persisting at false and immoral agendas that characterizes the Bush administration has worked the saddest and scariest detriment to our defense: fracturing the cohesiveness of the military.

Four leading U.S. military publications - the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times - said in an editorial to be published today Rumsfeld had "lost credibility" with senior U.S. commanders and shoulders the blame for strategic blunders in Iraq.

"His strategy has failed, and his ability to lead is compromised," the editorial says.

"And although the blame for our failures in Iraq rests with the secretary, it will be the troops who bear its brunt."

While I do not have any personal knowledge of whether or not the administration colluded with Iraqi authorities to get a favorably timed release of the verdict, the facts may no longer be the interesting news in this regard but rather the story becomes how deeply cynical this administration's frequent and clumsy lying have led us to become. Pity poor Tony Snow having to fend off all the doubters:
White House press secretary Tony Snow said it was "absolutely crazy" to suggest U.S. influence in the timing of the verdict.
I have had enough of this. This country has fought wars in the past that put all Americans on same side. It is stupid wars and unjust wars that divide countries. In my calls to voters yesterday, I only had time to hear views of a few people. They don't always like the Democratic candidate so much but they all fear keeping one of Bush's yes-men in office. Please understand, if you think you don't need to vote because poll numbers are looking good, you are setting us up for a terrible outcome. Your vote may be the one that exceeds the margins that corrupt vote counting can conceal. VOTE. If you are not sure where to vote or what the polling hours are in your precinct, call 1-866-MY VOTE -1 [1-866-698-6831] . If you know someone who is unsure or uninterested about voting, ask them why. The war is not the only issue but it is draining so much good will and money from the nation that almost every other domestic issue you can name [except jobs in munitions factories] is suffering some neglect and shortage of money. If you hear an admission that vague fear seems to have translated itself into specific wishes for leaders of military action, point out that while the world is not filled with friends of the US:
  1. War has not made us safer, Spain and the UK have already felt the backlash of war.
  2. We are being manipulated into a state of fear by the administration's constant use of terrorism's specter and by media that prosper when viewers are anxious and find themselves in a position to fan anxiety.
If only for that phone number, pass this post around please!

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/06/2006 08:50:00 AM

Sunday, November 05, 2006

one more time, WHY are we in Iraq? [xpost from a bomb a nation]

Because Saddam had the bomb. That is a lie the Bush league wrung out of the CIA

Because Saddam had Al Qaida contacts and supported them. That was news to Al Qaida.

Because we were going to bring democracy to those poor Arabs. Then why do a higher percentage of Iraqis vote than show up at the polls in America?

Certainly not because we want the oil under our control. We can't say that on the air can we, Karl? Lindsay at Majikthise translates WaPo out loud for the hard-of-thinking conservatives.

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 5, 2006; Page A06

GREELEY, Colo., Nov. 4 -- During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, President Bush and his aides sternly dismissed suggestions that the war was all about oil. "Nonsense," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declared. "This is not about that," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.


You can imagine a world in which these extremists and radicals got control of energy resources," he said at a rally here Saturday for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.). "And then you can imagine them saying, 'We're going to pull a bunch of oil off the market to run your price of oil up unless you do the following. And the following would be along the lines of, well, 'Retreat and let us continue to expand our dark vision.' "
Bush said extremists controlling Iraq "would use energy as economic blackmail" and try to pressure the United States to abandon its alliance with Israel. At a stop in Missouri on Friday, he suggested that such radicals would be "able to pull millions of barrels of oil off the market, driving the price up to $300 or $400 a barrel.

The man who put the most pressure and planted the most toadies among the defense intelligence analysts to get his war decision also has close ties to the defense contractor that went on to overcharge millions to provision the warriors under a no-bid contract. [that is over a million google matches, few involving refutations...well? ]

Why are we still in Iraq?

[A Bomb a nation] My InBox

A warning: when google adsense, via your Gmail contents, figures out that you are interested in US politics, it makes its nickel by putting up sponsored ads on the right sidebar. I once clicked on one of them that was asking "what do you think of Ann Coulter?", expecting to get a pop-up poll with radio buttons like:
  1. [] She is a vacuous hate monger,
  2. [] She is a lying right wing provocateur,
  3. [] She is a vicious hussy

But what I got was a guilefully worded invitation to provide my e-mail address in order to receive I-forget-what useful information. Fortunately, I provided the addy of my email dumpster account, a box to which a torrent of commercial and dubious crap flows with scant attention from me. I have ever since then been bombarded by "news" from the publisher of Limbaugh's lambastings and Coulter's calumnies, Newsmax. The inbox looks like this now and you can tell by the subjects that you don't want to open the mail:

As you can see, I also take my MoveOn mail here. It makes a juxtaposition of jarringly different versions of reality. I will be making phone calls and stuff from now until Tuesday so there won't be much posting...I am sorry I never go around to my intention of a series of posts on what I thought were the important issues. But who reads me anyway? More than enough to read out there already. I would urge you to read less in fact and do more, like calling voters to go and do their jobs.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/05/2006 09:21:00 AM

Saturday, November 04, 2006

A change of perspective, a change of heart.

I am not a particularly generous or sympathetic person. I am inclined toward cynicism when observing the behavior of others. Of this sour observation, I have changed my interpretation. A more positive view is just as reasonable when the kindness of others besets you. It is possible that a person who has said something complimentary, done a small favor or otherwise stroked you does so becasue they inclined to or limited to doing the business of relating in the currency they accept. They are telling you what they would like from you. In relationships, that is privileged information. Now it may seem that I am saying much the same thing in both my newer and former formulations of the observation but the person to whom the I imagine giving the advice is on the other end of the transaction this time. Of the two parties to the exchange of kindness, the consciousness of the recipient is far more crucial. You would, in fact, be the perfect giver of kindness if you had no expectation, no thought at all beyond whether your attentions were being received as kindness.

Though I am in fine health, I won't live long enough to repair all my opinions so I better enjoy the process.

Friday, November 03, 2006

High standards should come at a high price

Dear Leaders:

If, by your own loudly touted standards, you have betrayed the trust of your followers and are in disgrace according to those standards, then you should resign. A leader who cannot live according to rules he enforces on others, but still refuses to resign, is a person who has no standards at all, an empty corpse of ethical browbeating leaving itself to rot in the public arena. Whether the standards are those of sexual conduct, business ethics or honesty in government, a standard I don't agree with but which others conscienciously live by deserves my consideration.

I don't need to list the many failures of public figures to live up to standards to which they harshly hold others: you haven't got all day to read blogs. And to those few who have done the right thing after having done the things they say are wrong, my condolences and appreciation.

A standard that exists primarily as a lie on the lips of officials makes, by association, liars of us all.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Limbaugh-Coulter-Savage formula

Brutality in public speaking will often be mistaken for honesty.

--and it will very quickly segment your audience.

[A Bomb a nation] What would a real democracy look like?

The thought of a crowd being able to control itself without some central disciplinary structure has apparently never lodged in a conservative brain. The libertarians yes, but not the people who took over the Republican party. Their talk of individual responsibility is almost endless but they have message police. There also appears to be some confusion of the idea of a strong leader with the idea of a strong government: they call for a weak government but give unprecedented powers to the leader. In my view, a truly strong government would be all processes and rules with adaptive feedbacks rather than revolutions. It would have wide civil buy-in of all important stake-holders. It would hardly need leaders but it would need hardy, and well informed constituents. We aren't there. We aren't even going that way.

The very names, when you look into their Greek roots, speak of an important difference between the two parties that dominate the US at this time. One name posits representatives to speak on behalf of the people...leave government to the pros. The other name puts the power, and therefore the responsibility to govern, directly on the people governed. They are just names of course but which kind of government do we have these days? We can't get the power of the vote liberated from "winner take all" electoral mechanics and we are not even talking about direct democracy though we have more than enough technology to pull it off. We are still a nation of people who expect to be governed, and none of us more so than those who speak of shrinking or drowning government. It is only the part of government that costs money [their money!] which they magically think can be abolished. Which part doesn't cost money? Under Bush, Departments have appeared, services to individuals have been reduced yet the federal payout to cronies in business and to a lesser extent, payroll, has grown...and that is not counting the growth of military expenditures. Debt has exploded. Is that a "smaller" government?

A crowd with principles. That is not the vision some of us have. A market is a more favored view or model of society on the part of the neocons who do most of the theorizing for the Republicans these days. I wonder what they mean in characterizing market forces as benign and fair. A market is a crowd that has forgiven itself in advance for its avarice, saying greed is the norm.

Its not the best fitting example but I wanted to make my little point here by an anecdote concerning the operation of a group who pioneers what may be the near future of democracy. is going to get a few more evenings of my time for making phone calls, and unfortunately leave me less time for blogging. For all I know, it may look like the bottom tiers of Rove's GOP GOTV machine, but Rove's machine has a top tier of indu$try and religiou$ reactionaries and set-piece messaging you would find missing if you strayed into a MoveOn office. Obviously, I cannot claim complete impartiality. The operation of MoveOn, how it decides what issues to tackle, is based as far as I can tell, on constantly canvassing its members via email and online polls. But that is more of a view from the outside. I have spent one evening a week at a call center, working with organizers and making calls and so I think I can say a little, a very little, about the inside.

It looks chaotic. Visually, the office is not Martha-Stuart-neat and looks a lot more like nerd-messy. The phones work. The computers work. The sign-up sheets and call tally sheets do get filled in, collected and processed. But what do the people say and think as they handle the gazillion little issues that come up?

My illustration of this concerns a troll who commented the last time I mentioned MoveOn. The commenting went thus:

Bill Levinson said...
Before you make any more phone calls on behalf of, I suggest that you Google on "" and "anti-Semitism," "racism," and/or "hate speech." I don't think you will like what you see.

Bush may not be the brightest bulb in the chandelier but, as soon as an organization welcomes hate speech directed at Jews and Catholics (as well as put-downs of African Americans), it pretty much closes the door to intelligent and rational discourse.
GreenSmile said...
I googled as you suggested. That was a surprise.

The Anti-Defamation League was satisfied with MoveOn's official response but of course we want to know if leaders of MoveOn, loose cannons within MoveOn, or really who posts odious crap like that.

If you read the correspondence between ADL and MoveOn officials you would be led to believe that persons intent on harming the reputation of MoveOn took advantage of the openness of the forum on which the offensive remarks were posted.

Numerically, the lion's share of the google hits that derive from what appear to be no more than two spates of foul material from as yet unidentified submitters, were hits on all the posts and pages of persons and organizations that are only too happy to repeat that MoveOn is a hatemongering organization. MoveON has a lot of us refugees from politics-as-usual who retreat from the vile and corrosive process that was introduced largely by Republicans [swiftboating takes $$] to replace what used to be campaigning and debating. I see that the spiteful rabidity will hound us wherever we go. So I am standing my ground here and facing you.

Your facts please? Here's all we've got: There is the fact that hateful words and "ads" were put up on the MoveOn web site or forum. Is there more than that? Were the offensive things removed and repudiated? Would you like an apology? The ADL could certainly be identified as an aggrieved party in this and they were satisfied with the apology they got. Do you know who put the posts up? I agree you really did point to a question that needs answering.

I am not a lawyer but I always ask: "who benefits?"...

Leadership of the Democratic party,another organization that fears MoveOn, also tries to make a conflagration out of a spark that has yet to be associated with anyone on staff at MoveOn. Kinda unsurprising to find MoveOn is on Lieberman's enemies list.

Some of the links I find from google are to articles in Israpundit playing up the idea that Moveon is a hatemongering organization, articles written by someone named Bill Levinson. I congratulate you on rising to the top page rank for "hate speech" searches. Its a kind of honesty, I suppose. Since you basically told me where to look, I am wondering if you thought the mere sight of your page would make me toss out experience in favor of assertion. Where is it considered true that MoveOn is, as you put it, "best known for vicious anti-Semitic hate speech? What kind of honesty is that? If I remove the term "hate speech" from the search terms the page match count goes from 50 thousand to 2 and half million. Where ever this place is that knows your special truth about MoveOn, they don't have no internets.

I judge by results, not reputations, especially when the adversaries are desperate and the disrepute is so easily manufactured and so eagerly picked up. Not one communication to me from MoveOn, not one word to me from the organizers I have worked with...not one word that reflects any such bigotry can I recall. I'd be out of there like a shot on as little as one such word. I write about an organization I have experience with, not just some outfit whose write-up on the internets agrees with me. MoveOn has no guards at the portals, no message control has to be the most loosely put together project I have worked with. They actually look like a democracy to me. They are still trying to find out who their real friends are. They are trivial to penetrate but that does not change their values. You will find them much harder to embarrass. And yes, some of the MoveOn members are angry people, angry about stupid priorities of an administration that runs wars and relief efforts corruptly, angry about the removal of the wall between church and state...plenty of things to resent and that was before you signed on to help with their public relations. They will from time to time be the victims of their own openness and lack of control, something that will never happen in the disciplined media of the right.

The google chase you sent me on turned up a lot of things I didn't know about,for instance, funding. The GoP like rumors of foreign financing as well as disclosing MoveOn takes money from the nefarious Mr. Soros. I caught an interview he did with Charlie Rose the other day. I was very surprised to see that he does not have horns. I kinda like the guy actually. I also give money to MoveOn but the GoP did not report this.

Has Rush played this hit on his show yet?

So, you warned me I might not like what I see. I am not terribly different from anyone else out here on this foggy little playground: I tend to see what I expected to see. The class and quality and count of my enemy reassure me. I am dismayed at human nature today Bill, but not by any facts I found.

Since I just winged that, I thought I ought to mention it to one of the MoveOn staffers next time I was at their office. The response was more or less that what I said was fine and they don't have a hand-out of talking points to give me. They all wing it. The scared sockpuppetry and the attempts to break the reputation of an organization by smearing it with ridiculous claims will probably melt away when its clear that the vigor and effectiveness of the organization have much less to do with leaders and agendas and more to do with the volunteers and their wish to speak up for change.

Was this Levinson person spreading the lie because he didn't know better? Even that would be a poor reflection on his enterprise. If his research stops at counting pages and does not proceed to reading them then maybe he didn't know. If he did know, well then I don't think he would be too interested in democracy: he has an issue that trumps honesty. Either way, he was dealing in rumors. Since the writing of the Talmud, the traditional moral teachings forbid gossip [loshon harah] and consider character assasination, even casually or through negligence, on a par with physical and financial damages [ona'ah] but worse in that the damage from verbal ona'ah is harder to repair. Of the many who claim to support Israel, those ignorant of Jewish teachings are often the least helpful.

A real democracy can't look like anything but its citizens. The only way you can hurt a real democracy is by not getting involved.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 11/01/2006 11:35:00 PM

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Not thinking vs thinking naught

Without using soporifics, almost no one can succeed in completely stilling their mind. But the better one is at using only the mind to quiet the mind, the more rewarding one's failures will be.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

[A Bomb a nation] You NEED an independent news source

Mike Stark is my kind of Marine: a guy who understands the freedoms he fought to protect and won't back away from using and defending them as a citizen. By the video and accounts in Truthout or at Taling Point Memo, Stark did nothing different than he's been doing: puting sharp questions to Senate candidate Allen. The video was shown on my local, Tribune-owned, station's ten oclock news. This tv coverage was not a Fox hatchet job, but just the usual MSM slop. According to them, a nameless "heckler caused a scare for the Allen campaign and had to be wrestled to the ground. They said this over the same video we all have seen...Stark was not the instigator and did not put up much of a fight either. He is the one who has a better case if it comes to charges but my TV station ended the piece with "charges have not yet been filed against the heckler".

The truth? You want the truth? Your TV network news can't handle the truth!

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/31/2006 10:09:00 PM

[A Bomb a nation] November 7th Surprise

Maybe this is what has Rove so cocky.

Posted by GreenSmile to A Bomb a nation at 10/31/2006 12:39:00 PM

A different kind of laziness

There are people who do not shrink from hard work who none the less would rather bail out a cesspool with a teaspoon than question their own attitudes or examine how limited their influences and information are.

That sort of person is the easiest to lead, but only in the sorry direction he is already headed.

The hope I cling to is that any kind of laziness is less the inertia against difficult or unpleasant effort and more an acculturation to expect little of oneself.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Please don't make up stories about me when I am gone.

I have made up more than enough of them to go around.

I was at another memorial service this past Saturday. It was lovely. It was for a man I barely knew, the patriarch of a wonderful family in our town. That family has, among other things, provided musical instruction and opportunities to perform to nearly two generations of kids, mine included. It was moving for me because I could take the Reverend's remarks about death being more of an horizon than an end or limit to life as something with more substance than mere comforting metaphor. The deceased, whom I was only getting to know from the eulogies, clearly imparted his character, particularly the vital collaboration of enthusiasm and loving discipline, to his son who in turn was a both amusing and inspiring as the conductor for the orchestra through which all of my children grew and learned both the art and the poise of playing their instruments before a crowd. It is in perfectly real although not exactly concrete ways that we each have the threads of our life bound into the fabric of our family and community well beyond our own span of days. We are hoped for by our parents and grandparents, we teach, exemplify and are remembered by our heirs and friends. This is not literal immortality. Transported somewhat in the grip and spirit of such occasions, it is easy for us, unavoidable for some of us, to go from thinking "(s)he would have wanted it this way" to feeling that the departed person is vaguely present in making their wants felt. The tug is there like weak gravity, inviting belief but without providing any specific clue that could not have come up from the unconscious. I have felt it.

Another interesting thing was the venue and what I will refer to as the culture of the service. It was held in a church. The title of the cleric presiding was "Reverend" and I don't know what denomination. The remarks he made, as noted, were touching and appropriate. The service began and concluded with hymns from hmynals found on the backs of the pews. But the only other mention of deity, and I consider it one of the greatest, was a recitation of the Kaddish, the one prayer Jews must say for their dead yet a prayer with no word about the departed and only exaltation and blessing for the holy one. I have attended other memorials in this church that were not so diverse of creed. I knew a few of the people in attendance, mostly via musical connections but the rest were an older generation of townsfolk whom I know of rather than know. What I know about most of them was echoed in the remembrances of the deceased: they give themselves to the good causes of education and conservation that had made our town a particularly rural and restful place to live. Some of them went to fight in Europe or Asia in WWII. Some of them were responsible for the little "peace park" in the center of our town where vigils against war are held once in a great while. We do not have conspicuous memorials to the fallen of 20th century wars and you will look hard to find commemoration of civil war dead. There is a stone commemorating the hardy few farmers, squires and shopkeepers who mustered and fought on April 19 1775. We still send sons off to war but it is nothing we celebrate here.

Those people in that church, like the people in my synagogue, are people of whom I know only good things and people who I will stand with at town meetings, at anti-torture vigils and, come election day [and judging from the prevalence of "vote for Daval Patrick" signs], at the polling booth too.

The great question that troubles me after these observations is the discord of influences in my own life that such events bring to the surface:

On the one hand, I see wonderful an constructive citizens facing their mortality within a religious setting. I see them using criteria from their creeds as grounds for acting for social justice. They can't all be atheists who just go through the motions of convention at these junctures where the life just ended must bring to each a very sharp focus on the purpose of their own lives. Though I do not get to hear their doubts or other inner thoughts, I see their works and there find encouragement about my species.

On the other hand, nothing whatsoever in my own experience persuades me that there is any supernatural consciousness, either embodied or somehow diffused in the universe. It all seems so much more likely to me that we project when we think we are having religious experiences. It would be a simple enough explanation for both the diversity of so-called beliefs and for the animal ferocity that overtakes many in defense of these imaginings. The outer certainties that some religion's profess and make into political agenda's for rather narrow benefits to imaginary beneficiaries have to be set beside the kind thoughts and good works.

That drives me nuts. I suspect that if I will see any resolution of this good-religion/bad-religion dilemma, it will be personal and come from some special vantage point or accommodation that could be difficult to find or sustain in anyone else's reality. I would like to find accommodation. I would like to start with the logic that many atheists accept: "The hope in an afterlife and the imagining of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot control is ubiquitous and yet in its particulars it is full of disagreeing beliefs, usually breaking along tribal and cultural boundaries therefore these hopes and imaginings have no source but human nature, For if there were a god, we'd all know the same things about god". But I would like to pare it back to the mere observation: "hope in an afterlife and the imagining of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot is ubiquitous" and add to it the simple observation that there are also atheists: "hope in an afterlife and the imaging of spirits and powers unseen which control those aspects of this world that we cannot is ubiquitous but not universal". Those are observations. That is a statement of what is. I will try not to descend into the codas each camp adds to the observation: The atheists may point out the self serving and identity enforcing nature of the beliefs and the believers may point out the blindness or claim the egotism of the non-believers in attacking or repudiating a great source of comfort to mortals. Do I need to go there? We do not disagree that we are in this physical world, all of us together. We do agree on at least some common notions of good such as freedom to think and speak, safety from war, subjugation and persecution and a life providing the animal basics of food, health, protection from the elements and perhaps good company of family and friends. Then if we only agree to have a neutral means to negotiate our differences when our particular definitions of the common good do not agree in details that affect how our common wealth and resources will be disposed, call this neutral means government, why would we not live well enough? I hear everywhere in the news only discord and mounting strife of factions that cannot share the commons of this planet and that strife is both between beliefs and between belief an non-belief. I saw in the rows of pews a quite diverse group of people who have, in their own town, done a very effective job of both sharing the commons and otherwise staying out of each other's affairs.

I have said "you can't ignore religion if it won't ignore you" which I admit, is a defensive posture and implies the believers won't leave the non-believers alone to act according to their own consciences. I won't take it back. As a decent human being, it is simply not an option to preemptorily say one party has a conscience that can dictate to others in matters that are strictly personal. And yet I am uneasy with the broad language, the unqualified term "religion".

I am aware of outreach and ecumenical efforts among faith groups who do not stand for the repressive and ugly narrowness presented as "faith" by the righteous-wing allies of the Bush administration. I invite them to reach out a little farther to the faithless like myself. I go on record here as regretting some of the rocks I have thrown at religion's way of interfacing one's mind to the world. Where it begets helpful attitudes and positive results, who am I to criticize?

The political climate brought me to blogging as a activity and an outlet. The sick use of religion on the part of Republicans that has given national emphasis to the least healthy and least helpful forms of religion in this country has brought religious criticism into my blogging. The blurry connection between terms like "family values" and the ideals of Christian values have come about because the habit of the fundamentalists is to code the less salable "Christian" with the more marketable "family" in their well oiled hunt for influence. Personally, I find the Dodsons and Fallwells have traded in their love-the-good-in-each-person in for a fear-the-evil-in-everyone, a superficial and weak but more easily carried faith. These are NOT the Christians I would care to make peace with but they bear the label "Christian" as fairly as Jude or Rev. Timothy Simpson. I want better categories so at least I can toss my rocks through the right windows.

There are of course many sects of Christianity. And for that matter Judaism too has flavors that I might not like. How are Jack Abramoff's prayer's received on high? How would I daven next to such a person? The distinction I am hoping to enable is between helpful religious observance and faith and selfish and uncivil religious observance and faith. Won't be easy, of course. But there certainly are strings that tie together a collection of religious groups that I would put in the uncivil category. The most amazing collection of little known connections about "conservative" Christian politics can be found in the biographies of the "council for national Policy"...a huge number of embarrassing connections such as having Tom DeLay and all his relationships to various churches spelled out and how rich [DuPont] their supporters are... These are too many connections for people of positive and humane faith to have to explicitly repudiate. The progressive religious person shouldn't need to distance themselves from that kind of "Christianity" . The voice and the conscience of the civil and constructive Christians are plainly heard if one is listening. But..I'd like a tag that lets me speak of such folks without readers thinking I also meant the leadership of the Southern Baptists. I'd like a tag that would let me speak of Jerry Fallwell that would not let my readers assume I also meant progressives in faith.

To this HuffPo post about the betrayal of a zealous believer at the hands of the Whitehouse, I commented with a similar question:
It is a shame we can't reframe this religion+republicanism topic a little. What might do it is to get two or three words recognized as distinct connotations of the sloppily used label "Christian". Iddybud is a Christian too. Why hurt friends or shame innocent bystanders? The "Christians" being seduced are certain fundies, brains fueled by unadmittable fears and shallow understanding, who, for all their proclamations of the ultimate power of the kingdom of heaven, are desperate to wield some of the power of our new king George. The lusting of evangelicals after political power should be seen as an admission that they don't expect god to act for them, not physically nor in the hearts of men, and that they must have laws to say what their reading of the bible has not made audible to the wider world. What can I call that lusting?
I admit to having tossed a few rocks myself so I am a fine one to be asking. But we progressives all need each other just as much as the neocons needed the fundamentalists and I think we, if anyone, should be able to talk with each other in more harmonious ways that will outlast the expediencies of getting Bush and buddies out of office. A lot of us with common political goals might not have the same spiritual goals but we can still do better than to bruise one another over those differences.


The hardest part of this essay has not been written yet. The most important part has though, so there it is. I will return to this topic when better words come to me.

I open the floor to any suggestions about good tags for the two faces of religion.