Tuesday, December 26, 2006

How's Your Computer?

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The image accompanying is from a 2004 calendar entitled A Year Of Agony, which was put out by Sourcefire, a network security company. http://www.sourcefire.com/ The caption reads "I've locked down my host to the point where it's unusable."

Jump into salvation while you are alive. What you call "salvation" belongs to the time before death.


To be enlightened is to be intimate with all things.


God whose love and joy are everywhere can't come to visit unless you aren't there.

---Angelus Silesius

Our computer is the same one we had in 2004 (we're window-shopping eagerly for a new one) but in the meantime has developed so many knots in its processing that I feel we're losing this war almost as badly as the invasion of Iraq. For indeed what other appliance do you buy for your household that comes under actual attack from parties known and unknown the moment you connect it up to use? Say what you will about the malicious geeks out there, they're brought planned obsolescence to an art form. Of course neocons preach the consumer needs no help battling this army all by yourself in your tilty deskchair.

I spend at least a half hour a day doing routine maintenance on this thing. We have dialup but I can't blame all the weirdness in the machine on that. I've been struggling for 2 months to get my Norton scan to work properly again. I suspect a Microsoft Priority Update as the culprit...but maybe it's an undetectable worm picked up at MySpace. I seem to be spending more time worrying about what's infecting our computer than my own bodily health! But like that organism, it seems the more I try to do about it, the worse everything gets. Thus the illustration here.

Time Magazine has designated "YOU" as Man or Person of the Year...and the reason for that is how much time "you" spend on your computer and how blogging is affecting the world scene. Frank Rich has his opinion on that choice---and does a little review of other media we've been watching, including YouTube---in his Christmas Eve column. As usual blogger Rozius Unbound has posted the article for us. Heh heh. http://roziusunbound.blogspot.com/2006/12/frank-rich-yes-you-are-person-of-year.html But for the real scary scoop on that "personal" computer and what monsters may be inside, you have to go to PCWorld's review of Security Issues in 2006, just posted a few hours ago. Hot off your hard drive (and don't forget to clean that fan in the back occasionally) is the news you've been afraid is hitting you from all sides~~~


Happy New Year.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmastime's A-Comin'

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If you want to know who I am, don't ask me where I live and what I do, but rather ask me what I am living for and ask me in very small particulars why I am doing so little about it.

---Thomas Merton

The gift given to us comes struggling to escape from the tinsel and wrapping that disguises its coming and is the gift of Hope. It comes simply, in the form of a child, born into stark poverty, without a glimmer of material excess. Here is the very heart of the Christian faith: not a threat, but an invitation. God coming to us as a baby to do for us that which we could not do for ourselves. Offering us his very life of love and justice.

---John Sentamu, Archbishop of York

The sign of Christmas is a star, a light in darkness. See it not outside of yourself, but shining in the Heaven within, and accept it as the sign the time of Christ has come.

---A Course In Miracles

The 12-wheeler roaring over that rise bears down on a scattering herd of reindeer. Do you think it's pretty certain the heavy piece of equipment on it hardly is intended for improvement of life in the Sami culture that depends on those animals? Or are these Santa's reindeer stampeding away from commercialization? But wait, those reindeer and the truck are headed straight for me, standing in the way with a camera in hand! The whole image struck me as particularly appropriate to how I feel about the approach of Christmas this year. "Christ is born" replaced by borne down upon: not good. Let me see what I can do to lift the heavy load.

Dana wanted me to write one of those newsy inserts you get these days in Christmas cards. I wish I could say I seize eagerly upon each one that tumbles from a card. I realize they're a good way to catch up with distant friends and relatives, and the years do speed by. Who has time to handwrite the same news in the cards we send out? We should write a personal greeting...but we don't. We used to...but not anymore.

Garrison Keillor gave us a sample in a column last week of the kind of Christmas newsletter that somehow does not spread the cheer around. "Tara was top scorer on the Lady Cougars soccer team and won the lead role in the college production of 'Antigone,' which by the way they are performing in the original Greek. Her essay on chaos theory as an investment strategy will be in the next issue of Fortune magazine, the same week she'll appear as a model in Vogue. How she does what she does and still makes Phi Beta Kappa is a wonderment to us all. And, yes, she is still volunteering at the homeless shelter." http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/features/deskofgk/2005/old_scout/ How wonderful for Tara and her parents, those cousins who always were more fortunate than we were...and still are. I read Garrison and knew a Christmas newsletter wasn't in my future this year. Not that our Ilona hasn't had an overwhelmingly stupendous year! And son Jeroch too, but it's just not that kind of Christmas this year...not yet.

Both Dana and I have been late in getting preparations started this year. I think our concern and involvement with midterm elections here are factors. In the final weeks Dana was out almost every evening, organizing and helping campaigns. As December rolled around we had a house full of chores to do. They're not finished yet, but we've got to get cards and presents ready. The pressure is on and in years past that kind of excitement has inspired a certain kind of Christmas joy. But I seem to yearn for quiet contemplation this time.

Dana's Spirit must have kicked in because she's preparing her fruitcake. Yes, I actually married a woman who makes fruitcake every year. It's another of those little secrets you discover well into a marriage, when it's too late to do anything about it. This year she will celebrate the Danish side of her heritage with Lys Frugtkage. Mmmm, there's the recipe on the kitchen counter. I look for the prunes. There must be prunes. The Danes put prunes in everything. Meat, potatoes, salad, bread...always the prunes. No wonder Hamlet was melancholy. But there are no prunes listed in the ingredients. What's with these people? Fruitcake seems the perfect chance for prunes!

We'll have a Scandanavian feast on Christmas Day. Dana has invited relatives from all around, so there'll be plenty of Danes, but Norwegians and us Swedes too. Dana's Hungarian mother will just have to put up with us. Oh, we all were born in the States but over the years, we've tried to learn the traditions of the old countries to add to our combination families. My birth family was Swedish on both sides, but mostly we celebrated the Christmas of middle America. That means, as for so many of us, Jean Shepherd's Christmas Story spoke for me too. No one was a greater fan of Red Ryder and Little Beaver on the radio, but I was so far from ever hoping for a BB gun that I never even asked.

It's our contemporary Christmas that's giving problems this year. I know better than to look to the media for help in stirring my Spirit. The news on all sides is positively grim, and the TV specials are blandly confused in political correctness. At 4 AM it's about 50 degrees outside. I'd say global warming is only the tip of the iceberg, but it appears the tips are all we have left. I barely could drive home last Solstice night through fog and steam, and the London airport has been socked in all week over there. If any papers and commentary more gloomy than here exist, it's in the UK this year. Everywhere I look there is depressing soul-searching. One reviewer in the Telegraph took his assignment of the new movie The Nativity Story and ran with it for 4 online pages. "'Tis The Season To Be Tacky" he titled it last week and just bottomed out on every aspect of the English Christmas he saw unfolding. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2006/12/10/svtacky110.xml

But there, I've said it all and poured it out. I hope you don't feel worse but I do feel better. The day is about to dawn and I think the cards actually will get sent out and presents wrapped. There's no newsletter this year, but I couldn't improve anyway on the one with which Garrison concludes the column referred to up above. I'll water the tree and begin to get busy. A flickering ember of the star within is beginning to glow. Those reindeer in the photo are just about to surprise that truck driver when they lift off and fly away!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Distracted On Sunday

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I have just three things to teach:
Simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the source of your being.
Patient with both friends and enemies, you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself, you reconcile all beings in the world.

---Tao Te Ching

In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

---Mother Teresa

And as to me, I know nothing else but miracles.

---Walt Whitman

Here I am, in a condition not that unusual for me: I came to the computer with a pile of catch-up to do...and have ended up sleuthing down a couple of stories I couldn't resist. In this case I've been out of circulation since Wednesday, when a flu-bug that'd been after me for at least a week finally found the way in and laid me out. If there's a pandemic, which some media are hinting at again, I now can rest easy with the certainty either my immunity is strengthened to resist it or shattered so I'll be the first to go.

Dana decided I'd face this one with Vitamin C, a witches brew she makes with vodka and roots, hot pepper tea, and coma. For some reason I decided I had it coming to me, did not call Dr. Conjeevaram for the help 50 years of medical progress has achieved, and prepared instead to suffer. The various 'cillin drugs usually send me to Cloud 9, while the physical battle wages, where at least I can mope around somewhat in human fashion. But they also prolong the sickness (it is said) and strengthen (they say further) the little beasties trying so hard to kill us off. So I went through a bout with the flu I haven't experienced since I was a kid: flat on my back in bed for over 2 days, alternating chills and sweats, merciless headache, pains in lower regions, dozing sleep whenever. One time long ago I faced scarlet fever with only shades drawn, icepacks, and Aspergum. I didn't even get Aspergum with this thing.

This morning I feel sorta normal again and so I came downstairs to the computer room with arms loaded of stuff to get done, most of it for gifts I want to mail out immediately. But Dana had emailed a story last night about continued attempts even to identify the dead from Hurricane Katrina that hooked me hard. Now, another thing Dana does, besides torture me with ancient remedies, is send out stories without identifying links...and in this case not even an author's name. This piece was written with such brilliance I just had hit the search engines. I proved to myself why Microsoft is slipping away and Google reigns supreme. The author's name is Rukmini Callimachi---and I finally gave up on MSN when from 5 pages of links I couldn't find out if the writer is a man or a woman. Google solved that mystery in its first offering and gave the only online picture of her, which looks to be her college yearbook photo.

Born in Romania, Ms. Callimachi graduated from Dartmouth in 1995 and received her masters in linguistics from the University of Oxford in 1999, where she also studied Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. In 2000, she co-led the Royal Geographical Society's expedition to Tibet. She then covered India as a freelance reporter for Time magazine and National Public Radio. Based on such experience, she was hired by the Chicago Daily Herald as a staff reporter in 2001. Part of the reason for that is Chicago's immense population of Indian-Americans, a population that grew 95% in the 1990s to become the largest Asian ethnic group in Illinois. They gave her a series to do called Passage From India, a ball she ran with all over the place, including a trip to India to interview the last survivor of the successful conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi. (She found the guy unrepentant, since Gandhi had supported the founding of Pakistan, and still praying for the annihilation of Islam.) http://www.dailyherald.com/special/passagefromindia/front.asp

After this The Associated Press apparently beckoned and sent her to Oregon and the Northwest, where she freelanced some and wrote about everything. One of my favorites starts out
"One of nation's oldest rodeos bans free chewing tobacco
September 19, 2005
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI. The Associated Press.
PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) — Bryan Richardson hadn't learned algebra when he straddled his first bull at age 13. By then, he'd already been chewing tobacco for four years, starting when he was 9."

Early this year AP redeployed her to New Orleans. Her job was to report on the Katrina cleanup, but she also got into insurance coverage and how people with coastal properties on Long Island and Cape Cod are watching their policies get cancelled now. Do insurance people know something about climate catastrophe the White House doesn't know? The stories she generated out of there began to shake the nation. In October she won the Charles Rowe award for distinguished reporting from the Associated Press Managing Editors, an association of 1500 newspapers in US and Canada. The story Dana sent out was posted last week and may be Rukmini's last from the Big Easy, but as of this morning 185 papers have picked it up, many running it in today's edition. Here, titled The Quest To Identify Two Who Died In The Tempest, it is~~~


At the moment, she's in Ipswich covering the sudden and numerous murders of women, and positing the possibility the deaths in Atlantic City may be the work of the same killer~~~


I mentioned a couple of stories at the top of this note. The other one I found myself and didn't require the interesting journey of Googling. When Maureen Dowd hits a fast ball out of the park, it just needs to be stood up and shouted about. Yesterday she noticed all the hoohah that was stretching Rummy's departure on and on, cheering and celebration after celebration, around the world he goes, days and days of headlines about this glorious civic figure. Whew. But her column nailed it~~~

Farewell, Dense Prince
*/Maureen Dowd/*

James Baker ran after W. with a butterfly net for a while, but it is now clear that the inmates are still running the asylum.

The Defiant Ones came striding from the Pentagon yesterday, the troika of wayward warriors marching abreast in their dark suits and power ties. W., Rummy and Dick Cheney were so full of quick-draw confidence that they might have been sauntering down the main drag of Deadwood.

Far from being run out of town, the defense czar who rivals Robert McNamara for deadly incompetence has been on a victory lap in Baghdad, Mosul and Washington. Yesterday’s tribute had full military honors, a color guard, a 19-gun salute, an Old Guard performance with marching musicians — including piccolo players — in Revolutionary War costumes, John Philip Sousa music and the chuckleheaded neocons and ex-Rummy deputies who helped screw up the occupation, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, cheering in the audience.

It was surreal: the septuagenarian who arrogantly dismissed initial advice to send more troops to secure Iraq, being praised as “the finest secretary of defense this nation has ever had” by his pal, the vice president, even as a desperate White House drafted ways to reinvade Iraq by sending more troops in a grasping-at-straws effort to reverse the chaos caused by Rummy’s mistakes.

Just imagine the send-off a defense secretary would have gotten who hadn’t sabotaged the Army, Iraq, global security, our chance to get Osama, our moral credibility, the deficit and American military confidence.

Even Joyce Rumsfeld got a Distinguished Public Service Award ribbon placed around her neck. The grandiose ceremony featured everything but the gold-plated matching set of pistols Tommy Franks, another failed warrior, and his wife, Cathy, recently received from a weapons manufacturer. (His had four stars and diamonds; hers, rubies and their marriage date.)

W. never seems as alarmed about the devastation in Iraq as he should be. He told People magazine “I must tell you, I’m sleeping a lot better than people would assume,” and he told Brit Hume that his presidency was “a joyful experience.”

He slacked off on his slacker effort to form a new Iraq plan. (Can’t these guys ever order pizzas and pull some all-nighters?) Mr. Bush was busy this week hosting Christmas parties for a press corps he disdains; convening a malaria conference at the National Geographic with Dr. Burke of “Grey’s Anatomy” Isaiah Washington; and presiding over a hero’s departure for the defense secretary he actually dumped, not because of incompetence but for political expediency.

The Rummy hoopla was a way for W. to signal his decision to shred the Baker-Hamilton study, after reportedly denouncing it as a flaming cowpie. Condi Rice signaled the same, telling The Washington Post that she did not want to negotiate with Syria and Iran, as the Iraq Study Group had proposed, because “the compensation” might be too high.

The Democrats thought that when they won the election, they won the debate on the war and they had W. cornered. But the president is leaning toward surging over the Democrats, voters, Baker and the Bush 41 crowd, and some of his own commanders.

W. seems gratified by the idea that rather than having his ears boxed by his father’s best friend, he’s going to go down swinging, or double down, in the metaphor du jour, on his macho bet in Iraq. He’s reading about Harry Truman and casting himself as a feisty Truman, but he’s heading toward late L.B.J. The White House budget office is studying how much it will cost to finance The Surge, an infusion of 20,000 to 50,000 troops into Baghdad to make one last try at “victory.” The policy would devolve from “We stand down as they stand up” to “We stand up more and maybe someday they will, too.”

Some serving commanders are not in favor of The Surge because they fret that it will infantilize Iraqis even more about assuming responsibility for their own security. They also fear that the insurgents, who have nowhere to go, will outwait our troops.

But W. would rather take a risk in Iraq than risk being a wimp. So he continued to wrap himself in muscular delusions, asserting that on Rummy’s watch, “the United States military helped the Iraqi people establish a constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, a watershed event in the story of freedom.”

Dick Cheney offered this praise to his friend: “On the professional side, I would not be where I am today but for the confidence that Don first placed in me those many years ago.”

Alas, we wouldn’t be where we are today, either.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Our Beautiful Planet And The Little States Upon It

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I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble. We have to learn to live happily in the present moment, to touch the peace and joy that are available now.

---Thich Nhat Hanh

To fill the hour---that is happiness; to fill the hour and leave no crevice for a repentance or an approval.

---Ralph Waldo Emerson

The only wisdom we can hope to acquire is the wisdom of humility: Humility is endless.

---T.S. Eliot

It's an unusually full and urgent Thursday for news. I don't know why but so many things are bursting forth on this Pearl Harbor Day. Yes, of course the necessary stories about Iraq, that Russian spy case, recent water on Mars (will some alien be looking for traces of water on Earth someday?), the tragic dad in snowy Oregon, Jennifer Aniston's happiness and all the new movies, poor Tony Blair deserve our attention. But there are a few beneath the surface that don't get headlines this morning and that we might miss---like the startling images that illustrate this message. What are they? The top is surface ocean temperature and the bottom is phytoplankton productivity. So what? Please read on~~~

Every day, more than 100 million tons of carbon dioxide are drawn from the atmosphere into the ocean by billions of microscopic ocean plants called phytoplankton during photosynthesis. In addition to playing a big role in removing greenhouses gases from the atmosphere, phytoplankton are the foundation of the ocean food chain.

For nearly a decade, the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) has been making global observations of phytoplankton productivity. On December 6, 2006, NASA-funded scientists announced that warming sea surface temperatures over the past decade have caused a global decline in phytoplankton productivity. This pair of images shows changes in sea surface temperature (top) and phytoplankton productivity (bottom) between 2000 and 2004, after the last strong El Niño event, which occurred between 1997-1998. Places where temperatures rose between 2000 and 2004 (red areas, top image) are the same places where productivity dropped (red areas, bottom image). In general, the reverse situation was also true: where temperatures cooled, productivity rose. The sea surface temperature image is based on data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Why do warmer temperatures have a negative influence on phytoplankton growth? The most likely explanation is that the warmer the surface waters become, the less mixing there is between those waters and deeper, more nutrient-rich water. As nutrients become scarce at the surface, where phytoplankton grow, productivity declines. The effect is most obvious in the part of the world’s oceans that scientists describe as the permanently stratified ocean, bounded by black lines in the images. “Permanently stratified” means that rather than being well-mixed, there is already a distinct difference in the density of warmer, fresher water at the surface and colder, saltier water deeper down.

In this situation, with “lighter” (i.e., less dense) water on top, and “heavier” (denser) water below, there is little vertical mixing, and nutrients can’t move to the surface. As surface water warms, the stratification, or layering, becomes even more pronounced, suppressing mixing even further. As a result, nutrient transfer from deeper water to surface waters declines, and so does phytoplankton productivity.

“Rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere play a big part in global warming,” said lead author Michael Behrenfeld of Oregon State University, Corvallis. “This study shows that as the climate warms, phytoplankton growth rates go down and along with them the amount of carbon dioxide these ocean plants consume. That allows carbon dioxide to accumulate more rapidly in the atmosphere, which would produce more warming.”

“The evidence is pretty clear that the Earth’s climate is changing dramatically, and in this NASA research we see a specific consequence of that change,” said oceanographer Gene Carl Feldman of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “It is only by understanding how climate and life on Earth are linked that we can realistically hope to predict how the Earth will be able to support life in the future.”

References: Behrenfeld., M., O’Malley, R., Siegel, D., McClain, C., Sarmiento, J., Feldman, G., Milligan, A., Falkowski, P., Letelier, R., and Boss, E. (2006). Climate-driven trends in contemporary ocean productivity. Nature, 444, 752-755. Images by Jesse Allen, based on data provided by Robert O'Malley, Oregon State University.

If such planetary developments urge you to action, consider joining MoveOn's campaign to organize house parties on Saturday, December 16th, to view An Inconvenient Truth and to talk by hookup with Al Gore and ask him questions. I guess the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters are joining other groups in this campaign as well. As this point MoveOn just is trying to get people to volunteer the homes for the project. The link to do that is here...I think, although it may be members only (there are 3.2 million of those right now)~~~

Then we have Robert Scheer's disturbing article and photo of Jose Padilla's confinement and torture, as further revealed by The New York Times this week. Mr. Padilla is a US citizen caught in the distorted web of "Terror War" confined in our network of detention centers and brigs for the last 3 1/2 years, and now declared so mentally ill he couldn't stand trial even if he were allowed one. Take a look at the comments as well that follow this TruthDig column...and maybe add one yourself. This is a very moving piece about freedom and liberty.

So moving in fact, that if you read next Jesse Jackson's reminder Tuesday about impeaching Bush, you may be ready to march. I know we've all read articles before about impeachment, but somehow Reverend Jackson's puts the case so precisely and concisely that it's among the best and briefest I've seen yet. The chronicle of this President's alleged crimes is becoming easier all the time to memorize and recite around the workplace. It's here~~~


And on the bright side of the news---yes, we want to end with a kicker---sincere congratulations to the happy couple expecting their first child after 15 years together. You know, it really helps to get to know each other well before you decide to have a baby. Best wishes Mary and Heather! and perhaps the LA Times' A Pregnant Pause In Right Wing tells it best~~~


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Alone And Angry: If Bush Were In AA

Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die. ---Malachy McCourt

I appreciate people's opinions, but I'm more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what's happening in the world.

---George W. Bush

Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried...to practice these principles in all our affairs.

---Twelfth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous

First a word about these quotations. The statement about resentment has become quite popular and a number of people seem to be credited for it, but chief among them is Mr. McCourt, a colorful figure one might have to sum up as a storyteller of some sort. The actual source for the comment apparently is not known. President Bush was talking about the media to FoxNews's Britt Hume at the end of a 2003 interview found here http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98006,00.html . The official Internet site of AA is www.alcoholics-anonymous.org/ . And while I'm giving credit, the lithograph by George Bellows was published as an illustration for an article in Good Housekeeping explaining Prohibition in 1924. The original currently is housed in the Library of Congress.

Second, let me say I don't know if the President is alcoholic. We have a history of ambivalence about alcohol in this country. We find drunks comical, as we do not so often people experiencing the effects of other substances that may cause dependence or addiction. We tried to prohibit its manufacture and consumption once, but apparently found enforcement too difficult. Most families include or know of someone with a "drinking problem," but addressing the issue with the person is somehow extremely sensitive. There doesn't seem to be a medical test that proves someone actually has what many describe as a "disease." People are sent to Alcoholics Anonymous by courts and various recovery units, but many folks show up having diagnosed themselves just as they previously "medicated" themselves. You don't have to confess to alcoholism to go to any meeting of AA anywhere, as long as you profess an honest desire to stop drinking.

Third, whether George Bush is alcoholic or not should be none of my business. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of AA, and the main reason for that is not so much secrecy anymore as it is for the purpose of learning humility. It means the member is trying to drop the behaviors of the big shot egomaniac that alcohol obviously encourages and creates. I don't know that the President is NOT in the fellowship of AA, but his biographies say he gave up drinking after a transforming interaction with Billy Graham. Others say Bush's handlers encouraged that story to attract his Evangelical base for his Presidential run. Stories about Bush's drinking in Houston and "disappearance" to Alabama in 1972 http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2004/09/02/allison/index.html and his DWI at the family compound in Maine in 1976 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/bush/ remained secret or of no interest the whole time he was Governor of Texas. (You may notice at the CBC site a quotation from his autobiography in which Bush says he just woke up one morning with a hangover and stopped drinking; there's no mention of any born again conversion.) It may be a run for the Presidency made Bush come up with something about his substance abuse and try to beat the media to the punch (no boozy pun intended).

I say Bush's decision to give up drinking, how he did it and how he continues to do it SHOULD be none of my business, but he is President---and what our Presidents do in the dark of a closet or the inner recesses of their brains must be available to scrutiny and opinion if we still are a republic. Ambivalent or not, we need to take a look at Bush's behavior from the perspective of an alcoholic, now more than ever. He has maintained isolation and secrecy more than any President in history, the experts say. But now the isolation is not so much of his own choosing, and many of his protective handlers have fallen by the wayside. He is under increasing pressure...and when Congress convenes next month, it will intensify no matter how many ramparts and fortresses he continues to build around himself. He doesn't like it, and there are stories about anger and rage. For the alcoholic there is no more dangerous time than something like this...at least within the consensus of AA.

Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings in practically every town in America, and in many cities around the world. There are open meetings and there are closed meetings. A closed meeting is for people who are saying one day at a time that they are members. They want to talk among themselves and they prefer to insist on that. An open meeting welcomes visitors and students, but often requests notes and recordings not be taken without the specific OK of the people there. So you can go in there and hear what they say. Look in your phone book if you want to find out which meetings are open. When the topics come up about isolation, anger, and resentment, you will hear universal agreement these situations are a red flag. You need to seek help from the fellowship at such a critical time. If one does not go to AA, where do you turn?

For one who has an Evangelical base and faith, where perhaps the foundation of sobriety is rather than AA, you go to your pastor. Through the years we've had a number of Presidents and First Families who went to church frequently. Many of us grew up seeing photos of our Presidents attending church on Sabbath, or coming out into the sunshine after service. I can't say I've ever seen a picture of George, Laura and their children coming out of whatever church it is they go to. I don't know if they go to church. Maybe somebody will send me such a photo, and identify the President's spiritual counselor. Some people go to other kinds of counselors and psychologists and things in times of crisis. And of course George has his father and mother and their contacts. Does he reach out to anyone besides Laura?

Over the past 6 months and particularly this last week, an onslaught of attack has come from historians, journalists and commentators. Perhaps it started with a Rolling Stone cover story last May in which Princeton American studies professor Sean Wilentz posited George Bush as the worst President in United States history. His indictment remains the most completely devastating I've ever read. http://www.rollingstone.com/news/profile/story/9961300/the_worst_president_in_history On Sunday The Washington Post published 5 editorials by other historians to consider the same question---and if it isn't Bush, who was it? I'll give you the link to the Raw Story coverage of the editorials, and the individual Post links are in that article. http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Washington_Post_editorials_debate_if_Bush_1203.html Has any sitting President ever had such a thing done to him? But wait, there's more~~~

Yesterday Paul Krugman described what he considers the increasingly bizarre nature of Bush's failings. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120406B.shtml Also in The New York Times, Frank Rich on Sunday described Bush as quite frankly going, if not gone, insane, mad, bonkers. http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120306A.shtml (As you know, The Times charges extra to read Krugman and Rich now, so I've provided the TruthOut links.) On Friday the esteemed nemesis within the White House press corps, Helen Thomas, chronicled the growing isolation of George Bush. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/294288_helen01.html

I will not mind if there are congressional or judicial investigations of this Administration's activities, the sooner the better. There may be tribunals called for in other countries. There surely will be lawsuits when these people are replaced in 2008. But for now if Bush suspects he is cornered, and his cowboy macho mojo abandons him or his personal guidance from God stumbles a bit, there's going to be trouble. If he is alcoholic, his health and stability are in grave danger. I want justice done, but I pray for the man's well-being.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bill Moyers Addresses West Point

A View of the Hudson from West Point
(Robert Walter Weir - 1863) Posted by Picasa

The world is not to be put in order, the world is order incarnate. It is for us to put ourselves in unison with this order.

---Henry Miller

Lord, the air smells good today,
straight from the mysteries within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown across the garden,
Free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise.

---Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

On the tips of ten thousand grasses each and every dewdrop contains the light of the moon.
Since the beginning of time,
not a single droplet has been forgotten.
Although this is so,
some may realize it, and some may not.


One month after the start of the Revolution in 1776, the Continental Congress declared a fortress somewhere on the Hudson River to be essential. By 1778 it was clear a sharp turn in the river at a place called West Point was the best position from which to prevent British Redcoats from advancing. General George Washington declared the plateau there to be "the key to the continent" in terms of its strategic location for the War. He sent his trusted officer, a Polish emigre named Thaddeus Kosciuszko, to secure the place and build a fort. The British never attempted an attack on these defenses, and when the plot involving Benedict Arnold to betray West Point was foiled, the internal waterway that united the Northeast remained in American hands.

Remembering the importance of this fort, in 1783 Washington proposed establishment of a military academy there for the training of citizen soldiers. Debate ensued about that idea because of a danger of creating a military elite. Nevertheless in 1790, nearly 2000 acres were purchased there by the government from a private citizen for about $11,000, and on March 16th, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed into law an act of Congress establishing West Point Military Academy.

In 2002, Bill Moyers was making a documentary about the importance of the Hudson to the country's history and environment. I don't know if he made the 4 hour PBS program to help celebrate West Point's Bicentennial or if it was a coincidence, but he certainly included a large section about the Academy. http://www.pbs.org/now/science/hudson.html Maybe somebody at West Point remembered that recently, and as a result invited him to deliver the 34th annual Sol Feinstone Lecture Series oration. Dr. Feinstone had endowed the Academy with the lecture series, providing the topic always be about the meaning of freedom. I don't think I was alone in surprise when my wife let me know Moyers had been selected, had agreed, and actually gone before all those cadets (and the public) with a speech on November 15th. Nor has my surprise lessened as I've seen this morning copies and excerpts sprouting up all over the Internet! On the Left and on the Right, the address is being hailed as one of the most important for the current time and possibly among the greatest in our history. So far as I know, TomPaine.com was first to post it http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/11/29/message_to_west_point.php but on Friday Army Times put it up too http://www.armytimes.com/story.php?f=1-292925-2396042.php .

Moyers speech: ‘I wish I could speak of sweeter things’
By Bill Moyers

Thank you for this opportunity. You are a very special audience, one of the most important I have ever addressed, and also one of the hardest. Many of you will be heading for Iraq. I have never been a soldier myself, never been tested under fire, never faced hard choices between duty and feeling, or duty and conscience, under deadly circumstances. I will never know if I have the courage to be shot at, or to shoot back, or the discipline to do my duty knowing the people who dispatched me to kill – or be killed – had no idea of the moral abyss into which they were plunging me.

I have tried to learn about war from those who know it best: veterans, the real experts. But they have been such reluctant reporters of the experience. My father-in-law, Joe Davidson, was 37 years old with two young daughters when war came in 1941; he enlisted and served in the Pacific but I never succeeded in getting him to describe what it was like to be in harm’s way. My uncle came home from the Pacific after his ship had been sunk, taking many friends down with it, and he would look away and change the subject when I asked him about it. One of my dearest friends, who died this year at 90, returned from combat in Europe as if he had taken a vow of silence about the dark and terrifying things that came home with him, uninvited.

Curious about this, some years ago I produced for PBS a documentary called “D-Day to the Rhine.” With a camera crew I accompanied several veterans of World War II who for the first time were returning together to the path of combat that carried them from the landing at Normandy in 1944 into the heart of Germany. Members of their families were along this time – wives, grown sons and daughters – and they told me that until now, on this trip – 45 years after D-Day – their husbands and fathers rarely talked about their combat experiences. They had come home, locked their memories in their mind’s attic, and hung a “no trespassing” sign on it. Even as they retraced their steps almost half a century later, I would find these aging GIs, standing alone and silent on the very spot where a buddy had been killed, or they themselves had killed, or where they had been taken prisoner, a German soldier standing over them with a Mauser pointed right between their eyes, saying: “For you, the war is over.” As they tried to tell the story, the words choked in their throats. The stench, the vomit, the blood, the fear: what outsider – journalist or kin – could imagine the demons still at war in their heads?

What I remember most vividly from that trip is the opening scene of the film: Jose Lopez – the father of two, who had lied about his age to get into the Army (he was too old), went ashore at Normandy, fought his way across France and Belgium with a water-cooled machine gun, rose to the rank of Sergeant, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor after single-handedly killing 100 German troops in the Battle of the Bulge – Jose Lopez, back on Omaha Beach at age 79, quietly saying to me: “I was really very, very afraid. That I want to scream. I want to cry and we see other people was laying wounded and screaming and everything and it’s nothing you could do. We could see them groaning in the water and we keep walking” – and then, moving away from the camera, dropping to his knees, his hands clasped, his eyes wet, as it all came back, memories so excruciating there were no words for them.

Over the year I turned to the poets for help in understanding the realities of war; it is from the poets we outsiders most often learn what you soldiers experience. I admired your former superintendent, General William Lennox, who held a doctorate in literature and taught poetry classes here because, he said, “poetry is a great vehicle to teach cadets as much as anyone can what combat is like.” So it is. From the opening lines of the Iliad:

Rage, Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ Son Achilles…hurling down to the House of Death so many souls, great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion for the dogs and birds….

to Wilfred Owen’s pained cry from the trenches of France:

I am the enemy you killed, my friend…

to W. D. Ehrhart’s staccato recitation of the

Barely tolerable conglomeration of mud, heat, sweat,dirt, rain, pain, fear…we march grinding under the weight of heavy packs, feet dialed to the ground…we wonder…

Poets with their empathy and evocation open to bystanders what lies buried in the soldier’s soul. Those of you soon to be leading others in combat may wish to take a metaphorical detour to the Hindenburg Line of World War I, where the officer and poet Wilfred Owen, a man of extraordinary courage who was killed a week before the Armistice, wrote: “I came out in order to help these boys – directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can.”

People in power should be required to take classes in the poetry of war. As a presidential assistant during the early escalation of the war in Vietnam, I remember how the President blanched when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it would take one million fighting men and ten years really to win in Vietnam, but even then the talk of war was about policy, strategy, numbers and budgets, not severed limbs and eviscerated bodies.

That experience, and the experience 40 years later of watching another White House go to war, also relying on inadequate intelligence, exaggerated claims and premature judgments, keeping Congress in the dark while wooing a gullible press, cheered on by partisans, pundits, and editorial writers safely divorced from realities on the ground, ended any tolerance I might have had for those who advocate war from the loftiness of the pulpit, the safety of a laptop, the comfort of a think tank, or the glamour of a television studio. Watching one day on C-Span as one member of Congress after another took to the floor to praise our troops in Iraq, I was reminded that I could only name three members of Congress who have a son or daughter in the military. How often we hear the most vigorous argument for war from those who count on others of valor to fight it. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said after the Civil War: “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

Rupert Murdoch comes to mind – only because he was in the news last week talking about Iraq. In the months leading up to the invasion Murdoch turned the dogs of war loose in the corridors of his media empire, and they howled for blood, although not their own. Murdoch himself said, just weeks before the invasion, that: “The greatest thing to come of this to the world economy, if you could put it that way [as you can, if you are a media mogul], would be $20 a barrel for oil.” Once the war is behind us, Rupert Murdoch said: “The whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else.”

Today Murdoch says he has no regrets, that he still believes it was right “to go in there,” and that “from a historical perspective” the U.S. death toll in Iraq was “minute.”


The word richoted in my head when I heard it. I had just been reading about Emily Perez. Your Emily Perez: Second Lieutenant Perez, the first woman of color to become a command sergeant major in the history of the Academy, and the first woman graduate to die in Iraq. I had been in Washington when word of her death made the news, and because she had lived there before coming to West Point, the Washington press told us a lot about her. People remembered her as “a little superwoman” – straight A’s, choir member, charismatic, optimistic, a friend to so many; she had joined the medical service because she wanted to help people. The obituary in the Washington Post said she had been a ball of fire at the Peace Baptist Church, where she helped start an HIV-AIDS ministry after some of her own family members contracted the virus. Now accounts of her funeral here at West Point were reporting that some of you wept as you contemplated the loss of so vibrant an officer.

“Minute?” I don’t think so. Historical perspective or no. So when I arrived today I asked the Academy’s historian, Steve Grove, to take me where Emily Perez is buried, in Section 36 of your cemetery, below Storm King Mountain, overlooking the Hudson River. Standing there, on sacred American soil hallowed all the more by the likes of Lieutenant Perez so recently returned, I thought that to describe their loss as “minute” – even from a historical perspective – is to underscore the great divide that has opened in America between those who advocate war while avoiding it and those who have the courage to fight it without ever knowing what it’s all about.

We were warned of this by our founders. They had put themselves in jeopardy by signing the Declaration of Independence; if they had lost, that parchment could have been their death warrant, for they were traitors to the Crown and likely to be hanged. In the fight for freedom they had put themselves on the line – not just their fortunes and sacred honor but their very persons, their lives. After the war, forming a government and understanding both the nature of war and human nature, they determined to make it hard to go to war except to defend freedom; war for reasons save preserving the lives and liberty of your citizens should be made difficult to achieve, they argued. Here is John Jay’s passage in Federalist No. 4:

"It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."

And here, a few years later, is James Madison, perhaps the most deliberative mind of that generation in assaying the dangers of an unfettered executive prone to war:

"In war, a physical force is to be created, and it is the executive will which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked, and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace."

I want to be clear on this: Vietnam did not make me a dove. Nor has Iraq; I am no pacifist. But they have made me study the Constitution more rigorously, both as journalist and citizen. Again, James Madison:

"In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man."

Twice in 40 years we have now gone to war paying only lip service to those warnings; the first war we lost, the second is a bloody debacle, and both rank among the great blunders in our history. It is impossible for soldiers to sustain in the field what cannot be justified in the Constitution; asking them to do so puts America at war with itself. So when the Vice President of the United States says it doesn’t matter what the people think, he and the President intend to prosecute the war anyway, he is committing heresy against the fundamental tenets of the American political order.

This is a tough subject to address when so many of you may be heading for Iraq. I would prefer to speak of sweeter things. But I also know that 20 or 30 years from now any one of you may be the Chief of Staff or the National Security Adviser or even the President – after all, two of your boys, Grant and Eisenhower, did make it from West Point to the White House. And that being the case, it’s more important than ever that citizens and soldiers – and citizen-soldiers – honestly discuss and frankly consider the kind of country you are serving and the kind of organization to which you are dedicating your lives. You are, after all, the heirs of an army born in the American Revolution, whose radicalism we consistently underestimate.

No one understood this radicalism – no one in uniform did more to help us define freedom in a profoundly American way – than the man whose monument here at West Point I also asked to visit today – Thaddeus Kosciuszko. I first became intrigued by him over 40 years ago when I arrived in Washington. Layfayette Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House, hosts several statues of military heroes who came to fight for our independence in the American Revolution. For seven years, either looking down on these figures from my office at the Peace Corps, or walking across Layfayette Park to my office in the White House, I was reminded of these men who came voluntarily to fight for American independence from the monarchy. The most compelling, for me, was the depiction of Kosciuszko. On one side of the statue he is directing a soldier back to the battlefield, and on the other side, wearing an American uniform, he is freeing a bound soldier, representing America’s revolutionaries.

Kosciuszko had been born in Lithuania-Poland, where he was trained as an engineer and artillery officer. Arriving in the 13 colonies in 1776, he broke down in tears when he read the Declaration of Independence. The next year, he helped engineer the Battle of Saratoga, organizing the river and land fortifications that put Americans in the stronger position. George Washington then commissioned him to build the original fortifications for West Point. Since his monument dominates the point here at the Academy, this part of the story you must know well.

But what many don’t realize about Kosciuszko is the depth of his commitment to republican ideals and human equality. One historian called him “a mystical visionary of human rights.” Thomas Jefferson wrote that Kosciuszko was “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” That phrase of Jefferson’s is often quoted, but if you read the actual letter, Jefferson goes on to say: “And of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few and the rich alone.”

There is the clue to the meaning of freedom as Thaddeus Kosciuszko saw it.

After the American Revolution, he returned to his homeland, what was then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1791 the Poles adopted their celebrated May Constitution – Europe’s first codified national constitution (and the second oldest in the world, after our own.) The May Constitution established political equality between the middle class and the nobility and also partially abolished serfdom by giving civil rights to the peasants, including the right to state protection from landlord abuses. The autocrats and nobles of Russia feared such reforms, and in 1794, when the Russians sought to prevent their spread by partitioning the Commonwealth, Kosciuszko led an insurrection. His untrained peasant forces were armed mostly with single-blade sickles, but they won several early battles in fierce hand-to-hand fighting, until they were finally overwhelmed. Badly injured, Kosciuszko was taken prisoner and held for two years in St. Petersburg, and that was the end of the Polish Commonwealth, which had stood, by the way, as one of Europe’s leading centers of religious liberty.

Upon his release from prison, Kosciuszko came back to the United States and began a lasting friendship with Jefferson, who called him his “most intimate and beloved friend.” In 1798, he wrote a will leaving his American estate to Jefferson, urging him to use it to purchase the freedom and education of his [Jefferson’s] own slaves, or, as Jefferson interpreted it, of “as many of the children as bondage in this country as it should be adequate to.” For this émigré, as for so many who would come later, the meaning of freedom included a passion for universal justice. In his Act of Insurrection at the outset of the 1794 uprising, Kosciuszko wrote of the people’s “sacred rights to liberty, personal security, and property.” Note the term property here. For Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” Kosciuszko substituted Locke’s notion of property rights. But it’s not what you think: the goal was not simply to protect “private property” from public interference (as it is taught today), but rather to secure productive property for all as a right to citizenship. It’s easy to forget the difference when huge agglomerations of personal wealth are defended as a sacred right of liberty, as they are today with the gap between the rich and poor in America greater than it’s been in almost one hundred years. Kosciuszko – General Kosciuszko, from tip to toe a military man – was talking about investing the people with productive resources. Yes, freedom had to be won on the battlefield, but if freedom did not lead to political, social and economic opportunity for all citizens, freedom’s meaning could not be truly realized.

Think about it: A Polish general from the old world, infusing the new nation with what would become the marrow of the American Dream. Small wonder that Kosciuszko was often called a “hero of two worlds” or that just 25 years ago, in l98l, when Polish farmers, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, won the right to form an independent union, sending shockwaves across the Communist empire, Kosciuszko’s name was heard in the victory speeches – his egalitarian soul present at yet another revolution for human freedom and equal rights.

After Jefferson won the presidency in l800, Kosciuszko wrote him a touching letter advising him to be true to his principles: “do not forget in your post be always a virtuous Republican with justice and probity, without pomp and ambition – in a word be Jefferson and my friend.” Two years later, Jefferson signed into being this professional officers school, on the site first laid out as a fortress by his friend, the general from Poland.

Every turn in American history confronts us with paradox, and this one is no exception. Here was Jefferson, known for his vigorous and eloquent opposition to professional armies, presiding over the establishment of West Point. It’s a paradox that suits you cadets to a T, because you yourselves represent a paradox of liberty. You are free men and women who of your own free choice have joined an institution dedicated to protecting a free nation, but in the process you have voluntarily agreed to give up, for a specific time, a part of your own liberty. An army is not a debating society and neither in the field or in headquarters does it ask for a show of hands on whether orders should be obeyed. That is undoubtedly a necessary idea, but for you it complicates the already tricky question of “the meaning of freedom.”

I said earlier that our founders did not want the power of war to reside in a single man. Many were also dubious about having any kind of regular, or as they called it, “standing” army at all. Standing armies were hired supporters of absolute monarchs and imperial tyrants. The men drafting the Constitution were steeped in classical and historical learning. They recalled how Caesar in ancient times and Oliver Cromwell in more recent times had used the conquering armies they had led to make themselves dictators. They knew how the Roman legions had made and unmade emperors, and how Ottoman rulers of the Turkish Empire had supported their tyrannies on the shoulders of formidable elite warriors. Wherever they looked in history, they saw an alliance between enemies of freedom in palaces and in officer corps drawn from the ranks of nobility, bound by a warrior code that stressed honor and bravery – but also dedication to the sovereign and the sovereign’s god, and distrust amounting to contempt for the ordinary run of the sovereign’s subjects.

The colonial experience with British regulars, first as allies in the French and Indian Wars, and then as enemies, did not increase American respect for the old system of military leadership. Officers were chosen and promoted on the basis of aristocratic connections, commissions were bought, and ineptitude was too often tolerated. The lower ranks were often rootless alumni of jails and workhouses, lured or coerced into service by the paltry pay and chance of adventure – brutally hard types, kept in line by brutally harsh discipline.

Not exactly your model for the army of a republic of free citizens.

What the framers came up with was another novelty. The first battles of the Revolution were fought mainly by volunteer militia from the states, such as Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys, the most famous militia then. They were gung-ho for revolution and flushed with a fighting spirit. But in the end they were no substitute for the better-trained regiments of the Continental line and the French regulars sent over by France’s king after the alliance of 1778. The view nonetheless persisted that in times of peace, only a small permanent army would be needed to repel invasions – unlikely except from Canada – and deal with the frontier Indians. When and if a real crisis came, it was believed, volunteers would flock to the colors like the armed men of Greek mythology who sprang from dragon’s teeth planted in the ground by a divinely approved hero. The real safety of the nation in any hour of crisis would rest with men who spent most of their working lives behind the plow or in the workshop. And this was long before the huge conscript armies of the 19th and 20th centuries made that a commonplace fact.

And who would be in the top command of both that regular force and of volunteer forces when actually called into federal service? None other than the top elected civil official of the government, the President. Think about that for a moment. The professional army fought hard and long to create a system of selecting and keeping officers on the basis of proven competence, not popularity. But the highest commander of all served strictly at the pleasure of the people and had to submit his contract for renewal every four years.

And what of the need for trained and expert leadership at all the levels of command which quickly became apparent as the tools and tactics of warfare grew more sophisticated in a modernizing world? That’s where West Point came in, filling a need that could no longer be ignored. But what a special military academy it was! We tend to forget that the West Point curriculum was heavily tilted toward engineering; in fact, it was one of the nation’s first engineering colleges and it was publicly supported and free. That’s what made it attractive to young men like Hiram Ulysses Grant, familiarly known as “Sam,” who wasn’t anxious to be a soldier but wanted to get somewhere more promising than his father’s Ohio farm. Hundreds like Grant came to West Point and left to use their civil engineering skills in a country badly needing them, some in civil life after serving out an enlistment, but many right there in uniform. It was the army that explored, mapped and surveyed the wagon and railroad routes to the west, starting with the Corps of Exploration under Lewis and Clark sent out by the protean Mr. Jefferson. It was the army that had a hand in clearing rivers of snags and brush and building dams that allowed steamboats to avoid rapids. It was the army that put up lighthouses in the harbors and whose exhaustive geologic and topographic surveys were important contributions to publicly supported scientific research – AND to economic development -in the young republic.

All of this would surely have pleased General Kosciuszko, who believed in a society that leaves no one out. Indeed, add all these facts together and what you come up with is a portrait of something new under the sun – a peacetime army working directly with and for the civil society in improving the nation so as to guarantee the greater opportunities for individual success inherent in the promise of democracy. And a wartime army in which temporary citizen-solders were and still are led by long-term professional citizen-soldiers who were moulded out of the same clay as those they command. And all of them led from the top by the one political figure chosen by the entire national electorate. This arrangement – this bargain between the men with the guns and the citizens who provide the guns – is the heritage passed on to you by the revolutionaries who fought and won America’s independence and then swore fidelity to a civil compact that survives today, despite tumultuous moments and perilous passages.

Once again we encounter a paradox: Not all our wars were on the side of freedom. The first that seriously engaged the alumni of West Point was the Mexican War, which was not a war to protect our freedoms but to grab land – facts are facts – and was not only bitterly criticized by part of the civilian population, but even looked on with skepticism by some graduates like Grant himself. Still, he not only fought well in it, but it was for him, as well as for most of the generals on both sides in the impending Civil War, an unequalled training school and rehearsal stage.

When the Civil War itself came, it offered an illustration of how the meaning of freedom isn’t always easy to pin down. From the point of view of the North, the hundreds of Southern West Pointers who resigned to fight for the Confederacy – Robert E. Lee included – were turning against the people’s government that had educated and supported them. They were traitors. But from the Southern point of view, they were fighting for the freedom of their local governments to leave the Union when, as they saw it, it threatened their way of life. Their way of life tragically included the right to hold other men in slavery.

The Civil War, nonetheless, confirmed the importance of West Point training. European military observers were amazed at the skill with which the better generals on both sides, meaning for the most part West Pointers and not political appointees, maneuvered huge armies of men over vast areas of difficult terrain, used modern technologies like the railroad and the telegraph to coordinate movements and accumulate supplies, and made the best use of newly developed weapons. The North had more of these advantages, and when the final victory came, adulation and admiration were showered on Grant and Sherman, who had come to a realistic and unromantic understanding of modern war, precisely because they had not been steeped in the mythologies of a warrior caste. Their triumph was seen as vindication of how well the army of a democracy could work. Just as Lincoln, the self-educated rail-splitter, had provided a civilian leadership that also proved him the equal of any potentate on the globe.

After 1865 the army shrank as its chief engagement was now in wiping out the last vestiges of Indian resistance to their dispossession and subjugation: one people’s advance became another’s annihilation and one of the most shameful episodes of our history. In 1898 the army was briefly used for the first effort in exporting democracy – an idea that does not travel well in military transports – when it warred with Spain to help the Cubans complete a war for independence that had been in progress for three years. The Cubans found their liberation somewhat illusory, however, when the United States made the island a virtual protectorate and allowed it to be ruled by a corrupt dictator.

Americans also lifted the yoke of Spain from the Filipinos, only to learn that they did not want to exchange it for one stamped ‘Made in the USA.’ It took a three-year war, during which the army killed several thousand so-called “insurgents” before their leader was captured and the Filipinos were cured of the illusion that independence meant…well, independence. I bring up these reminders not to defame the troops. Their actions were supported by a majority of the American people even in a progressive phase of our political history (though there was some principled and stiff opposition.) Nonetheless, we have to remind ourselves that the armed forces can’t be expected to be morally much better than the people who send them into action, and that when honorable behavior comes into conflict with racism, honor is usually the loser unless people such as yourself fight to maintain it.

Our brief participation in the First World War temporarily expanded the army, helped by a draft that had also proven necessary in the Civil War. But rapid demobilization was followed by a long period of ever-shrinking military budgets, especially for the land forces.

Not until World War II did the Army again take part in such a long, bloody, and fateful conflict as the Civil War had been, and like the Civil War it opened an entirely new period in American history. The incredibly gigantic mobilization of the entire nation, the victory it produced, and the ensuing 60 years of wars, quasi-wars, mini-wars, secret wars, and a virtually permanent crisis created a superpower and forever changed the nation’s relationship to its armed forces, confronting us with problems we have to address, no matter how unsettling it may be to do so in the midst of yet another war.

The Armed Services are no longer stepchildren in budgetary terms. Appropriations for defense and defense-related activities (like veterans’ care, pensions, and debt service) remind us that the costs of war continue long after the fighting ends. Objections to ever-swelling defensive expenditures are, except in rare cases, a greased slide to political suicide. It should be troublesome to you as professional soldiers that elevation to the pantheon of untouchable icons – right there alongside motherhood, apple pie and the flag – permits a great deal of political lip service to replace genuine efforts to improve the lives and working conditions – in combat and out – of those who serve.

Let me cut closer to the bone. The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed “insults” or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.

You may or may not agree on the justice and necessity of the war itself, but I hope that you will agree that flattery and adulation are no substitute for genuine support. Much of the money that could be directed to that support has gone into high-tech weapons systems that were supposed to produce a new, mobile, compact “professional” army that could easily defeat the armies of any other two nations combined, but is useless in a war against nationalist or religious guerrilla uprisings that, like it or not, have some support, coerced or otherwise, among the local population. We learned this lesson in Vietnam, only to see it forgotten or ignored by the time this administration invaded Iraq, creating the conditions for a savage sectarian and civil war with our soldiers trapped in the middle, unable to discern civilian from combatant, where it is impossible to kill your enemy faster than rage makes new ones.

And who has been the real beneficiary of creating this high-tech army called to fight a war conceived and commissioned and cheered on by politicians and pundits not one of whom ever entered a combat zone? One of your boys answered that: Dwight Eisenhower, class of 1915, who told us that the real winners of the anything at any price philosophy would be “the military-industrial complex.”

I want to contend that the American military systems that evolved in the early days of this republic rested on a bargain between the civilian authorities and the armed services, and that the army has, for the most part, kept its part of the bargain and that, at this moment, the civilian authorities whom you loyally obey, are shirking theirs. And before you assume that I am calling for an insurrection against the civilian deciders of your destinies, hear me out, for that is the last thing on my mind.

You have kept your end of the bargain by fighting well when called upon, by refusing to become a praetorian guard for a reigning administration at any time, and for respecting civil control at all times. For the most part, our military leaders have made no serious efforts to meddle in politics. The two most notable cases were General George McClellan, who endorsed a pro-Southern and pro-slavery policy in the first year of the war and was openly contemptuous of Lincoln. But Lincoln fired him in 1862, and when McClellan ran for President two years later, the voting public handed him his hat. Douglas MacArthur’s attempt to dictate his own China policy in 1951 ran head-on into the resolve of Harry Truman, who, surviving a firestorm of hostility, happily watched a MacArthur boomlet for the Republican nomination for the Presidency fizzle out in 1952.

On the other side of the ledger, however, I believe that the bargain has not been kept. The last time Congress declared war was in l941. Since then presidents of the United States, including the one I served, have gotten Congress, occasionally under demonstrably false pretenses, to suspend Constitutional provisions that required them to get the consent of the people’s representatives in order to conduct a war. They have been handed a blank check to send the armed forces into action at their personal discretion and on dubious Constitutional grounds.

Furthermore, the current President has made extra-Constitutional claims of authority by repeatedly acting as if he were Commander-in-Chief of the entire nation and not merely of the armed forces. Most dangerously to our moral honor and to your own welfare in the event of capture, he has likewise ordered the armed forces to violate clear mandates of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions by claiming a right to interpret them at his pleasure, so as to allow indefinite and secret detentions and torture. These claims contravene a basic principle usually made clear to recruits from their first day in service—that they may not obey an unlawful order. The President is attempting to have them violate that longstanding rule by personal definitions of what the law says and means.

There is yet another way the chickenhawks are failing you. In the October issue of the magazine of the California Nurses Association, you can read a long report on “The Battle at Home.” In veterans’ hospitals across the country – and in a growing number of ill-prepared, under-funded psych and primary care clinics as well – the report says that nurses “have witnessed the guilt, rage, emotional numbness, and tormented flashbacks of GIs just back from Iraq.” Yet “a returning vet must wait an average of 165 days for a VA decision on initial disability benefits,” and an appeal can take up to three years. Just in the first quarter of this year, the VA treated 20,638 Iraq veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder, and faces a backlog of 400,000 cases. This is reprehensible.

I repeat: These are not palatable topics for soldiers about to go to war; I would like to speak of sweeter things. But freedom means we must face reality: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Free enough, surely, to think for yourselves about these breaches of contract that crudely undercut the traditions of an army of free men and women who have bound themselves voluntarily to serve the nation even unto death.

What, then, can you do about it if disobedience to the chain of command is ruled out?

For one, you didn’t give up your freedom to vote, nor did you totally quit your membership in civil society, when you put on the uniform, even though, as Eisenhower said, you did accept “certain inhibitions” at the time. He said that when questioned about MacArthur’s dismissal, and he made sure his own uniform was back in the trunk before his campaign in 1952. It has been most encouraging, by the way, to see veterans of Iraq on the campaign trail in our recent elections.

Second, remember that there are limitations to what military power can do. Despite the valor and skills of our fighting forces, some objectives are not obtainable at a human, diplomatic, and financial cost that is acceptable. Our casualties in Iraq are not “minute” and the cost of the war has been projected by some sources to reach $2 trillion dollars. Sometimes, in the real world, a truce is the most honorable solution to conflict. Dwight Eisenhower – who is a candidate for my favorite West Point graduate of the 20th century – knew that when, in 1953, he went to Korea and accepted a stalemate rather than carrying out his bluff of using nuclear weapons. That was the best that could be done and it saved more years of stalemate and casualties. Douglas MacArthur announced in 1951 that “there was no substitute for victory.” But in the wars of the 21st century there are alternative meanings to victory and alternative ways to achieve them. Especially in tracking down and eliminating terrorists, we need to change our metaphor from a “war on terror” – what, pray tell, exactly is that? – to the mindset of Interpol tracking down master criminals through intense global cooperation among nations, or the FBI stalking the mafia, or local police determined to quell street gangs without leveling the entire neighborhood in the process. Help us to think beyond a “war on terror” – which politicians could wage without end, with no measurable way to judge its effectiveness, against stateless enemies who hope we will destroy the neighborhood, creating recruits for their side – to counter-terrorism modeled on extraordinary police work.

Third, don’t let your natural and commendable loyalty to comrades-in-arms lead you into thinking that criticism of the mission you are on spells lack of patriotism. Not every politician who flatters you is your ally. Not every one who believes that war is the wrong choice to some problems is your enemy. Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism. In the words of G.K. Chesterton: “To say my country right or wrong is something no patriot would utter except in dire circumstance; it is like saying my mother drunk or sober.” Patriotism means insisting on our political leaders being sober, strong, and certain about what they are doing when they put you in harm’s way.

Fourth, be more prepared to accept the credibility and integrity of those who disagree about the war even if you do not agree with their positions. I say this as a journalist, knowing it is tempting in the field to denounce or despise reporters who ask nosy questions or file critical reports. But their first duty as reporters is to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth and report it to the American people – for your sake. If there is mismanagement and incompetence, exposing it is more helpful to you than paeans to candy given to the locals. I trust you are familiar with the study done for the army in 1989 by the historian, William Hammond. He examined press coverage in Korea and Vietnam and found that it was not the cause of disaffection at home; what disturbed people at home was the death toll; when casualties jumped, public support dropped. Over time, he said, the reporting was vindicated. In fact, “the press reports were often more accurate than the public statements of the administration in portraying the situation in Vietnam.” Take note: The American people want the truth about how their sons and daughters are doing in Iraq and what they’re up against, and that is a good thing.

Finally, and this above all – a lesson I wish I had learned earlier. If you rise in the ranks to important positions – or even if you don’t – speak the truth as you see it, even if the questioner is a higher authority with a clear preference for one and only one answer. It may not be the way to promote your career; it can in fact harm it. Among my military heroes of this war are the generals who frankly told the President and his advisers that their information and their plans were both incomplete and misleading – and who paid the price of being ignored and bypassed and possibly frozen forever in their existing ranks: men like General Eric K. Shinseki, another son of West Point. It is not easy to be honest—and fair—in a bureaucratic system. But it is what free men and women have to do. Be true to your principles, General Kosciuszko reminded Thomas Jefferson. If doing so exposes the ignorance and arrogance of power, you may be doing more to save the nation than exploits in combat can achieve.

I know the final rule of the military Code of Conduct is already written in your hearts: “I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free...” The meaning of freedom begins with the still, small voice of conscience, when each of us decides what we will live, or die, for.

I salute your dedication to America and I wish all of you good luck.

Bill Moyers is a veteran television journalist for PBS and the president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. He is deeply grateful to his colleagues Bernard A Weisberger, former professor of history at The University of Chicago, and Lew Daly, Senior Fellow of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, for their contributions to this speech.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

HaHa Thisaway HaHa Thataway!

The striking photo of Bush's war cabinet in 2002 is the work of Annie Leibovitz.

All worldly pursuits have but the one unavoidable and inevitable end, which is sorrow: acquisitions end in dispersion; buildings, in destruction; meetings, in separation; births, in death. Knowing this, one should from the very first renounce acquisition and heaping-up, and building and meeting, and...set about realizing the Truth. Life is short, and the time of death is uncertain. So apply yourselves to meditation.


All of us are apprenticed to the same teacher---reality. It is as hard to get the children herded into the car pool and down the road to the bus as it is to chant sutras in the Buddha-hall on a cold morning. One is not better than the other; each can be quite boring; and they both have the virtuous quality of repetition. Repetition and its good results make the very activities of our life into the path.

---Gary Snyder

The rain has stopped, the clouds drifted away,
the weather is clear again.
If your heart is pure, then all things in your world are pure....
Then the moon and flowers will guide you along the way.


To the wisdom of these Buddhist poets let me add another piece of downhome advice: He who hesitates is lost. Addison said it I guess, and Oliver Wendell Holmes repeated it for American practicality...but I first heard it from a radio station engineer when I was a little boy. We were riding with my dad in the station van full of equipment up to Chautauqua, New York, for a network broadcast of the symphony. We were speeding toward the Erie railroad crossing just south of Ashville, and our driver could see a train was coming---but it was far enough away still that we could make it across. But our driver lifted his foot off the gas while he decided...and now it was too late. We sat there as the freight rolled by...and 'twas then the proverb got uttered. With all the drama of that moment, I've never forgotten the saying...and I'm thinking it today too.

It's the title of a Leadbelly song that graces this entry...and all this has to do with discussions stirring through the States on what we're going to see out of this new Congress. I'm dizzy with the possibilities...and really only want to point you thisaway and thataway as to what's up. But beware of hesitation!

I was surprised on Monday by a reply from Bob Sheak, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Sociology at OU, in which he laid out a laundry list of must-do items. I still was wondering What Now! but Bob urged we must begin pressure immediately. Certainly the anticipation is high, as newspapers give us articles on orientation the newly elected members are receiving in Washington right now. When have we ever learned or cared anything about that stuff? Here, with his permission, is what Bob had to say~~~

Hey Richard,

As always you've posted useful articles. However, the policy issues that are being discussed are rather timid in light of the major crises before us. Although I voted a straight-Democratic ticket, and I think the Democratic victories will have some positive effects over the next couple of years, I fear they may not be bold enough or they will lack the discipline to deal with many major problems. What they accomplish or try to accomplish may not be good enough. And, unlike in previous generations, some of the problems may not wait for minor reforms to enable us to avoid serious crises or catastrophes.

Over the next two years, they will stop the Bolton nomination and try to keep Bush from appointing ultra-conservative judges to the federal judiciary. They will advance legislation dealing with a minimum wage, stem cells, start some sort of discussion of the need for a new energy policy, try to fix some of the problems linked to the Medicare prescription law, somehow address the issues of the budget and trade deficits, and reign in the movement toward an imperial presidency. They will hold hearings on many of these issues and on Iraq-related questions. They will probably keep Bush from bombing or invading Iran. These are all worthy goals.

But some of the problems out there may not wait until 2008 or may not be addressed - or adequately addressed - and, even if a Democratic president is elected in 2008, may not even then be fully dealt with. Here are ten examples of big problems, interrelated in various ways, that concern me. One, they don't have a plan to reduce the budget deficit, and it represents a huge and immediate problem that may not wait until 2008. Two, they are currently steering clear of any commitment to raising taxes. Three, I don't see any clear Democratic plan to deal with Iraq. (And don't forget that the Democrats cannot count on Lieberman on this issue.) Four, the Democrats have not had much to say about reducing the military budget (there will be continuing pressures to increase it from the likes of McCain). Five, it's not at clear that they will adopt a nuclear weapons policy that reflects the spirit of the NPT and sets an example to the rest of the world. Six, they do not put forward a robust job creation policy, although something along these lines might come out of a discussion of the need for an energy policy based in part on renewables. Sherrod Brown's job creation policy is largely based on fixing our trade policy. Seven, it's not clear to me whether we can count on the Democrats to fix the election system, along the lines proposed, say, by The Nation's Vanden Heuvel ( http://www.thenation.com/doc/20061120/kvh ). Eight, we need some sort of one-payer based health care system that provides health care for everybody. The Democrats offer only incremental reforms. Nine, if Hillary Clinton is an example, the Democrats will do nothing meaningful to address the Israeli-Palestine conflict. Ten, It remains to be seen whether the Democrats can offer an energy policy that at once reduces carbon emissions, reduces our growing dependence on foreign oil, and provides a major boost to alternative energy and conservation.

Have a good week, Bob

As I wrote back to him, I would be content with just some rousing investigations about what this secretive administration has been up to all this time---and especially how much of our cash has been stuffed into greedy pockets. I realize how every second counts with some of these issues, but shouldn't we expose and discredit the opposition so thoroughly that 2008 will bring victory in the White House as well? Or would investigations just be hesitation? Yesterday TruthOut published the case for investigation~~~

Ten Reasons Congress Must Investigate Bush Administration Crimes
By Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith
t r u t h o u t Guest Contributor
Tuesday 14 November 2006

Few elections in history have provided so clear a mandate. As the New York Times put it, Democrats were "largely elected on the promise to act as a strong check on [Bush's] administration." (1) But the first response of the new Congressional leadership has been to proclaim a new era of civility and seek accommodation with the very people who need to be held accountable for war crimes and subversion of the Constitution.

Democratic strategists who argue for this kind of bipartisanship maintain that the American people want their political leaders to address the problems of the future, not pursue recriminations about the past. They therefore oppose the kind of penetrating investigation that a White House strategist told Time would lead to a "cataclysmic fight to the death" (2) if Democrats start issuing subpoenas. If such "peace at any price" Democrats prevail, the result will be a catastrophe, not only for the Democratic party but for American democracy.

Establishing accountability will require a thorough investigation of the actions of the Bush administration and, if they have included crimes or abuses, ensuring that these are properly addressed by Congress and the courts. The purpose of such action is not to play "gotcha" based on hearsay and newspaper clippings. Investigation, exposure, and even prosecution or select committee proceedings, should they become necessary, are primarily means for re-establishing the rule of law. But such investigations may be blocked by the Democratic leadership unless American citizens and progressive Democrats in particular demand them. Here are ten reasons why they should:

1. The US faces a Constitutional crisis that goes far beyond either partisan politics or isolated acts of wrongdoing. The Bush administration has tried to replace the Constitutional rule of law with the power of the executive branch to disregard both the laws established by the legislative branch and the judgments of the judicial branch. It has cloaked this power grab with a mantle of secrecy. Only by demonstrating the power of Congress to know what the executive branch does can even the possibility of Constitutional checks and balances be restored. The prerequisite for oversight is the right to know. Unless Congress successfully asserts that right, the Executive's usurpation of power will be permanent and unlimited.

2. The Democrats are in danger of walking into a death trap the Bush administration and the Republican leadership are setting for them. The Democrats won the election on ending the Iraq war and holding the president accountable. In the current courtship, they are being invited to come up onto the bridge of the Titanic and share responsibility for the catastrophe. If they do that, they will end up at the 2008 election with a disillusioned public (especially their own base) who give them equal blame for the war and its catastrophic consequences. As The Nation recently editorialized, "Democrats must not forget the voters' message. If they collaborate in allowing continued bloodletting in Iraq, they will pay the price themselves in future elections." (3)

3. Defending the Constitution by investigating breaches in the rule of law will allow Democrats to appeal to new bases of support among independents and others concerned about the rule of law. It provides a way of reaching out without selling out.

The potential for such a broad and powerful coalition is exemplified by a recent statement by the Constitution Project - which includes both liberals and conservatives like David Keene, Chair of the American Conservative Union - that hails the election result as "an opportunity to restore checks and balances." It says, "The president has asserted that he has virtually unrestrained authority and that Congress and the courts have none. Congress must exercise, and the president must respect, its constitutional obligation to legislate and conduct oversight on issues like NSA wiretapping, military commissions, the detention and treatment of 'enemy combatants,' habeas corpus, and the power to declare war." If the Republicans were able to win by running on the Bible, Democrats can do far better by running on the Constitution and restoring the rule of law.

4. Bush still holds most of the institutional cards on foreign policy, especially given his claims that the president can exercise authority without Congressional constraint. Short of an unlikely cutoff of funds, he can continue to conduct foreign policy and command the military as he chooses. Congress has few direct levers to impose Democratic proposals for new diplomatic initiatives or troop redeployments. It does not even have effective institutional means to stop further Bush administration adventures, such as an attack on Iran.

The key to establishing power over foreign and military policy is to so discredit the administration in the eyes of the public that neither Republican politicians nor the military, the intelligence agencies, the foreign policy establishment, or the corporate elite will allow it to continue on its catastrophic course. And that requires, not friendly negotiations with the White House to find a formula for bipartisan packaging of policy decisions Bush has already made, but a devastating exposure of the criminality, corruption, stupidity, and false premises of those who are making the decisions.

5. A Democratic Congress that fails to assert its prerogatives against the president will soon find itself losing the initiative in the face of the president's capacity to frame issues. While investigations are sometime portrayed as purely negative acts, by putting the administration on the defensive they may actually lay the groundwork for constructive Democratic proposals.

6. A majority of the American people and an overwhelming proportion of grass-roots Democrats want the president impeached. A mobilization for impeachment was kicked off last weekend with speeches by Elizabeth Holtzman, Cindy Sheehan, and others. Serious investigation of Bush administration malfeasance is probably the only way that Democratic leaders reluctant to pursue impeachment can avoid themselves becoming the target of this constituency. Indeed, impeachment advocates can be encouraged to direct some of their energy to supporting such investigations on the grounds that exposure of high crimes and misdemeanors might be the only way to put impeachment "on the table."

7. Exposing the truth about America's actions in the world over the past years, and holding those responsible for it accountable, is the prerequisite to setting relations with the world on a new, more constructive basis. As Philippe Sands, professor at University College London and a leading international human rights lawyer, puts it, "If the United States is to re-engage effectively with the rest of the world they have to resurrect accountability for their high officials."

8. The US government under the Bush administration has systematically and flagrantly violated national and international law. If the perpetrators of these crimes are given permanent impunity with the collusion of Congress, future law-breakers will assume that they can commit similar crimes with impunity. Whether or not Bush administration officials can be subject to criminal prosecution or impeachment, the exposure of their acts can subject them to the kind of public repudiation they deserve. That can begin setting us back on a track toward international law that restrains crimes by the leaders of all nations, however great or small. For as Antoine Bernard, executive director of the International Federation of Human Rights, has said, "The key to peace and democracy building world-wide is accountability for international crimes."

9. Hearings and investigations are crucial means to establishing institutional and cultural barriers to future crimes. At the close of the Vietnam war, the Church Committee established significant limits on executive authority, such as a strengthened Freedom of Information Act and a ban on assassination of foreign leaders. These were originally passed over the objection of then-presidential aide Dick Cheney, and he devoted his vice-presidency to dismantling them. Investigation of such executive abuses is the prerequisite for restoring public access to government information and developing new oversight mechanisms to enforce bans on torture, wiretapping, aggression, executive secrecy, and other illegal and unconstitutional executive activity.

10. Setting the public record straight about what has happened over the past six years is essential for re-establishing discourse based on reality that can be tested by evidence and argument, rather than on fantasy propagated by national leaders and amplified by their media sycophants. A respect for truth pursued through honest dialogue based on evidence and argument will be essential not only for beginning to heal the wounds created by Bush's illegal war of aggression, but for addressing problems like global warming that a fantasy-based public discourse has evaded.

52% of Americans believe that investigating the origins of the Iraq War is a high priority, and 58% want Congress to pursue contracting fraud in Iraq. (4) But that will not automatically translate into action by Congress. Convincing the Democratic leadership to support investigations will require sustained pressure from outside groups. This pressure needs to build early - before the new legislative session begins - so the leadership perceives efforts to squash committee action as politically hazardous.

Fortunately, progressive activists are elegantly positioned to mobilize such pressure. They were the troops on the ground for virtually every victorious Democrat. They can set up district meetings with members, organize phone banks for support calls, submit op-eds and letters to the editors, and organize town meetings on accountability. The time to start is now.


(1) Robin Toner, "A Loud Message for Bush," New York Times, November 8, 2006.

(2) Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen, "It's Lonely at the Top," Time Magazine, October 29, 2006. Available at: {link:http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,1552033,00.html}.

(3) Posted 11/9/06.

(4) Marcus Marby, "Are the Faithful Losing Their Faith?" Newsweek, October 21, 2006. Available at: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15357623/site/newsweek/page/2/.

Jeremy Brecher is a historian whose books include Strike!, Globalization From Below, and, co-edited with Brendan Smith and Jill Cutler, In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (Metropolitan/Holt). He has received five regional Emmy Awards for his documentary film work. He is a co-founder of WarCrimesWatch.org. more...

Brendan Smith is a legal analyst whose books include Globalization From Below and, with Brendan Smith and Jill Cutler, In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond (Metropolitan). He is current co-director of Global Labor Strategies and UCLA Law School's Globalization and Labor Standards Project, and has worked previously for Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and a broad range of unions and grass roots groups. His commentary has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, CBS News.com, YahooNews and the Baltimore Sun. Contact him at smithb28@gmail.com.

And William Rivers Pitt published his review of the new Company-In-Charge, the Carlyle Group---which of course is the old company~~~

The Carlyle White House
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t Columnist
Tuesday 14 November 2006

It was bad enough when the Carlyle Group bought Dunkin' Donuts last year, forcing millions of conscientious caffeine addicts to look elsewhere for their daily fix. Now, it appears Carlyle has added 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to its formidable portfolio of acquisitions.

The Carlyle Group achieved national attention in the early days of the Iraq occupation, especially after Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" exposed the firm's umbilical ties to the Bush family and the House of Saud. For the uninitiated, Carlyle is a privately-owned equity firm organized and run by former members of the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations.

Currently, Carlyle manages more than $44 billion in 42 different investment funds, which is an interesting fact in and of itself: Carlyle could lay claim to only a meager $12 billion in funds in December of 2001. Thanks to their ownership of United Defense Industries, a major military contractor that sells a whole galaxy of weapons systems to the Pentagon, Carlyle's profits skyrocketed after the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Some notable present and former employees of Carlyle include former president George H.W. Bush, who resigned in 2003; James Baker III, Bush Sr.'s secretary of state and king fixer; and George W. Bush, who served on Carlyle's board of directors until his run for the Texas governorship. One notable former client of Carlyle was the Saudi BinLaden Group, which sold its investment back to the firm a month after the September 11 attacks. Until the October 2001 sellout, Osama bin Laden himself had a financial interest in the same firm that employed the two presidents Bush.

How has Carlyle managed to acquire the White House? The newest edition of Newsweek begins to tell the tale in a story titled "The Rescue Squad": "Bush Senior has been relegated to watching all those political talk shows his son refuses to watch, wincing each time he hears his son's name being mocked or criticized. George H.W. Bush has been, in effect, sidelined by nepotism. He has repeatedly told close friends that he does not believe it is appropriate or wise to second-guess his son, or even offer advice beyond loving support. This time, however, was different. A source who declined to be identified discussing presidential confidences told NEWSWEEK that Bush 41 left 'fingerprints' on the Rumsfeld-Gates decision, though the father's exact role remains shrouded in speculation."

There is much more to this than Big George simply trying to shove Little George in a different direction, because Big George never travels alone. All of a sudden, two of the elder's main men - James Baker III and Robert Gates - are back in the saddle. Baker has spent the last weeks riding herd over the Iraq Study Group, a collection of old foreign policy hands tasked to come up with a solution to the Iraq debacle. Gates was a member of this group until he was tapped to replace Don Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. The Iraq Study Group is slated to produce some tablets of wisdom come December.

A third member of the Iraq Study Group, former congressman Lee Hamilton, is the rope that ties this curious historical package together. During the Reagan days, Hamilton was chairman of the committee investigating the Iran/Contra scandal that nearly submarined Reagan's presidency and haunted Bush Sr. until his defeat in 1992. In essence, Hamilton took Reagan's people at their word when they assured the chairman that neither Reagan nor Bush were "in the loop" regarding the arms-for-hostages deal.

History and investigation have proven this to be quite separate from the truth, and Hamilton later admitted he should not have bought what Reagan's people were selling. The fact remains, however, that Hamilton let these guys slip the noose during what was, at the time, an investigation into one of the most serious abrogations of Constitutional law in our history. It is worthwhile to note that the man who brought the most pressure upon Hamilton within Congress to be "bipartisan" and avoid a protracted investigation was then-Wyoming representative Dick Cheney.

One of the men spared prosecution in the Iran/Contra scandal, thanks in no small part to the gentility of Mr. Hamilton, was Robert Gates. Gates, then a senior official within the CIA, was widely believed to have been neck-deep in the plot. During the investigation into the scandal, Gates parroted Reagan and claimed not to remember when he knew what he knew about everything that was happening down in Ollie North's office. In 1991, he was nominated and eventually appointed to be the head of CIA by Bush Sr. During his confirmation hearings, according to the New York Times, it was revealed that "Mr. Gates [had] distorted intelligence reports so they would conform to the political beliefs of his superiors."

That sounds familiar.

Gates's nomination to the post of secretary of defense was field-generaled behind the scenes by James Baker III, who has suddenly taken on a muscular role within the Bush White House since the spectacular Republican wipeout during the midterm elections last Tuesday. Baker's return, along with the new prominence of Bush Sr., has been hailed in the mainstream press as a healthy step toward stability and sanity.

One is forced to wonder, however, which masters Mr. Baker is actually serving. Baker's Carlyle Group has profited wildly from the conflict in Iraq, which begs the question: will the bottom line, augmented by Carlyle's defense contracts, trump any attempts to establish a just and lasting peace? It must also be noted that Baker's law firm, Baker Botts, is currently serving as defense counsel for Saudi Arabia against a suit brought by the families of 9/11 victims. The connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royals has been discussed ad nauseam, and Mr. Baker is so closely entwined with the Bush clan that he might as well be a blood relative.

The weakening of George W. Bush, in short, has opened the door for an alumnus of the Iran/Contra scandal, Robert Gates, to gain control of the Pentagon - his nomination, as yet, has met with little Congressional resistance. This process was managed by James Baker, whose Carlyle Group made billions off the Iraq occupation and whose fealty to the American people has all too often taken a back seat to the needs and desires of the royal family of Saudi Arabia. These two, along with Hamilton, have been instrumental in crafting, by way of the Iraq Study Group, what by all accounts will soon be America's foreign policy lynchpin in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

Behind it all is George H.W. Bush, former employee of Carlyle, who has somehow managed to refashion his reputation into that of a grandfatherly, level-headed, steady hand, a foreign policy "realist" whose mere presence will soothe and calm the troubled waters we sail in. Unfortunately, his "realism" is a significant reason the United States finds itself in its current mess - until the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was a boon confederate of both the Reagan and Bush administrations in their fight against Iran - and the team of experts he has brought with him have done more to undermine the national security of the country than any other three people one could name.

The winner in all this, of course, is the Carlyle Group. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


At the same time my friend here in Athens, Michelle Ajamian, sent out an update that featured an issue in danger of being overlooked by Democrats, third parties and Independents alike: our crappy election system. It's another article from yesterday~~~

Fixing The 2008 Election
Tova Andrea Wang, Jonah H. Goldman, The Century Foundation, 11/14/2006

The mainstream media in its instant analysis has proclaimed the election system worked surprisingly well in 2006. While it is true that no single catastrophe of election administration grabbed headlines this year, it is quite dangerous to suggest that the problems voters encountered on Election Day were not serious. As over 25,000 callers from across the country to the 866-OUR-VOTE voter information and protection hotline confirm, these problems led to thousands of eligible Americans being denied the opportunity to cast a ballot.

There’s a sense that the book is already closed on the 2006 election. But despite the nation’s attention now turning to the seismic political shift in Washington, several House races remain undecided. In Ohio, two of the races hinge on thousands of provisional ballots that likely were cast by legitimate voters but because of misguided and confusing election rules, will be thrown out, clearly affecting who wins the race. In Florida, it is likely that a problems with electronic voting machines caused far more votes to be lost than the current margin of victory.

While the case should not be overstated, it is critical that as we immediately enter the 2008 presidential election cycle, we undertake a more honest assessment of what happened in this election so we can concentrate on ensuring real, meaningful reform before the next federal election cycle. Only if we understand the problems that voters reported in 2006 can we enact real solutions that will move us toward a more fair and accurate system of elections.

Identification Problems

Over the past two years, the country has engaged in a national debate about how voters should identify themselves at the polls. Advocates for election reform and voting rights have shown that current protections, such as signature matches and severe penalties, strike an effective balance between protecting the rights of eligible voters to participate in the process and preventing ineligible people from manipulating the system. Unfortunately, partisanship has trumped reason as the states and the Congress are now grappling with unconstitutional legislation which hypes the false specter of voter fraud as an excuse for disenfranchising countless eligible voters.

On November 7, 2006, the result of this exaggerated concern over voter fraud was two-fold. First, in states like Arizona where restrictive voter identification requirements were operable, eligible citizens were prevented from casting a ballot because they did not have the requisite documentation. Second, a combination of confusion and lack of training forced voters to provide identification that was not required by law, resulting in many voters being turned away at the polls. In over a dozen states across the country, the Election Protection Hotline received complaints of poll workers asking voters for identification that was not required by law, wrongly forcing voters to cast provisional ballots, and otherwise misinterpreting the voting rules to prevent eligible voters from casting a ballot.

In Ohio particularly, poll workers improperly implementing identification requirements could have significant ramifications as two House seats remain undecided. The winner of those seats may well be elected by a margin smaller than those eligible voters who were either turned away, or who wrongly were forced to vote a provisional ballot that will not count. The most public example of this misapplication of Ohio identification requirements is Rep. Steve Chabot, who was wrongly turned away at the polls because his Ohio driver’s license did not have a current address. Although he was able to come back to the polling place and eventually cast a ballot, many ordinary Ohioans do not have the time to make multiple trips to the polls. Missouri’s Secretary of State Robin Carnahan was also improperly asked for photo ID and reported that her office got numerous complaints of similar incidents throughout the day.

Congress and state legislatures must pay more attention to the problems created by our election system and less to partisan proposals designed to remove eligible voters from the process. In addition, confusion about identification problems will be solved through better poll worker training.

Voting Machines

Problems with the administration of the election that could have been avoided instead created obstacles to efficient voting that have become increasingly familiar to voters across the country. In multiple states there were reports of people waiting in line for hours on end because of machine failures, poll workers who didn’t know how to operate the machines, insufficient numbers of voting machines and general poor administration of election systems. In Tennessee for example, too few machines in one jurisdiction led to waiting times of five and a half hours. In Prince George’s County, Maryland, voters stood in line for hours as poll workers struggled with voting technology and new voter registration procedures.

In all of these places, many voters left without casting a ballot. This denial of voting rights disproportionately impacts working people, especially those who have work or family duties that prevent them from having enough time on Election Day to stand on long lines or make multiple trips to the polls. There must be statewide standards for sufficient and equal distribution of voting machines, improved and standardized training and testing of poll workers, and increased resources to ensure sufficient numbers of machines and professionals operating them in every jurisdiction.

Across the country voters noticed that electronic machines “flipped” their votes when the vote summary screen indicated that the machine registered a vote for the opponent of their desired candidate. Elsewhere, voters complained that, despite going through the steps required by the machine, their vote for certain races never registered. Problems caused by inadequate procedures for making the best decisions about voting machines will be solved by demanding accountable, accessible and transparent voting technology.

Deceptive Practices

Voters also encountered problems before they even arrived at their polling place. Voters complained of cynical and fraudulent activities of both campaigns and individuals. In Orange County, California, a congressional campaign sent 14,000 voters with Hispanic surnames a letter advising recipients that “if you’re an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that can result in incarceration,” or deportation. While illegal immigrants are barred from voting, legal immigrants who have become citizens are of course permitted to do so. In Virginia there were numerous reports of voters receiving calls telling them, falsely, that their polling place had changed, and telling them to go to the wrong precinct. Similar reports came in from New Mexico. In Colorado it was reported that Hispanics were getting phone calls telling them they were not registered and that they might be arrested if they voted. In heavily Democratic Maryland, materials were distributed statewide that suggested Republican candidates actually represented the Democratic Party, causing widespread confusion.

States and the federal government must do more to prevent and punish those who would commit this type of fraud. This means taking measures to directly criminalize such activity and requiring election administrators and elected officials to take proactive steps to ensure that voters are made aware of the deception and provided with the correct information immediately.

Voter Registration Problems

Voting rights advocates widely predicted that many voters would appear at the polling place to find their names not on the registration list. It was an easy prediction given the fact that many states were imposing unnecessarily high hurdles to registration. This included states requiring exact matches between voter registration information and information in existing state databases—despite the overwhelming evidence that much of that information is inaccurate because administration of both the registration rolls and other state databases is often inexact, frequently causing the names and other information in the databases to be incorrect. In other states, new registration requirements for proof of citizenship and rules virtually shutting down voter registration drives by civic organizations both reduced registration rates and made it more likely that voters would be left off the rolls.

On Election Day, voters from Georgia to California who were eligible to vote and submitted a timely voter registration form were turned away at the polls because their names did not show up on the registration lists. In some situations, these voters complained that they were not provided a provisional ballot.

These problems underscore the importance of fair and effective protocols for matching voter registration information and the elimination of rules requiring an “exact match”; the abolition of rules requiring proof of citizenship in order to register, when voters already must swear an oath under penalty of a felony that they are a citizen; and only reasonable rules governing third party voter registration drives, not rules that are meant to shut such worthy and essential services down.

Of course, Americans deserve better than what many thousands of them experienced on Election Day 2006. The infrastructure that supports our voting system should be strong and responsive to the will of the voters. Our democratic values demand that issues around election reform be considered outside of politics and the campaign cycle. In short, Congress and the states must move forward on meaningful reforms that strengthen citizen confidence in the system and expand access to all eligible Americans, as well as the resources necessary to make our democracy the model for the world.

Tova Andrea Wang is a Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation. Jonah Goldman is the director of the National Campaign for Fair Elections. This article first appeared on TomPaine.com.

Much to think about in these next days...and much to do. Undoubtedly the advice of the Buddhist poets should be heeded too, at least a few minutes a day. And if it is your preferred tradition, a prayer wouldn't hurt either.