Sunday, October 29, 2006

Tortured Over The Election?

If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?

---Alan Watts

My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy your ice cream while it's on your plate---that's my philosophy.

---Thornton Wilder

No more words. Hear only the voice within.

---Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

What to say as we enter the final week of preparation for America's 2006 election? Can anyone remember or reference a midterm election so momentous? I think it's safe to say they're usually so uninteresting many people forget to vote at all. But not this one. There's a sense of desperation in the attack ads of one politician against another., run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, said Friday the quality of mud being slung is industrial scale...and gives incredible examples from around the country.

I have a category for a certain kind of voter that I call the Quiet Conservative. These people tend to rise above all controversy and dispute. They often are or have been administrators or managers of some kind. They've trained themselves simply to observe the currents of power and opinion in their surroundings and make their decisions accordingly. Usually I can't tell which political party they tend to favor...and probably they don't favor any at all, making contributions as the flow of the polls and markets indicate. They follow the money, be it funding or profit. But this year the QC's in my acquaintance have gotten tense and irritable in recent days. One guy came up to me last week, shook my hand as usual, and said, also as usual, "Here's my good friend whose stuff I love to read, but don't always agree with"...and then uncharacteristically punched me in the arm. It hurt a bit. Maybe there's an edgy mood now. Beware the Quiet Conservative.

What is it about and what is at stake? Well, there are lots of education and healthcare and the environment. And the Terror War of course. But Republicans tell us profits are high, the economy is robust. (If I hear the word "robust" one more time I may blow a gasket!) Bloomberg is reporting this morning we're in the most vigorous stocks rally in a year. Third quarter earnings of Exxon, Chevron,, and of course Halliburton are through the roof, breaking profit records on all sides. Given all the favorable treatment from the feds, doesn't this mean they'll immediately begin trickling down the benefits to the rest of us...and especially the working stiff who's voted Republican every time since Reagan?

Ah, but what is going on inside Halliburton? Is this company sleeping in White House sheets? Does Cheney's secret "energy" plan still involve him with his old firm or not? Heather Wokusch, in a must-read article, says, "In a stunning conflict of interest, Cheney still holds more than 400,000 stock options in the company." Is there anything wrong with that? Here we have Halliburton posting a 22% increase in profits this quarter due, they say, to fewer disruptions from hurricanes this year. When was the last time you saw your earnings climb 22%? "Halliburton's Iraq-related work contributed nearly $1.2 billion in revenue in the third quarter of 2006 and $45 million of operating income, a performance that pleased analysts. 'Iraq was better than expected,' said Jeff Tillery, analyst with Pickering Energy Partners Inc. 'Overall, there is nothing really to question or be skeptical about. I think the results are very good.' It's that remark by Mr. Tillery that sets the stage for Ms. Wokusch's article about the money the entire Bush family is raking in from the invasion of Iraq.

But back to my question about Halliburton? Is there anything wrong with this? I guess most of the work being done to "reconstruct" Iraq specifically is in the hands of a subsidiary called KBR. (Since I worked for TRW a couple years, I confess to suspicions of companies with only initials for names.) Like Halliburton, KBR is in the business of oil and gas exploration. Perhaps as a civic duty, these companies are volunteering to restore schools, hospitals, electricity, water...stuff like that. But their expertise, and also one of their contracted chores, is to restore Iraq's "oil infrastructure." The New York Times reports yesterday KBR is refusing transparency in their auditing practices to Congressional oversight. Now why would they do that? They say their competitors could learn too many of their trade secrets.

At the same time, Halliburton/KBR reportedly are subcontracting their work out to companies in Kuwait, Lebanon, and other countries not unsympathetic to the US. Those outfits bring in workers from a global labor market representing the Philippines, India, Pakistan, and other south Asian countries. Some work for $10 a day and there are reports of stinking living conditions and regular beatings. Furthermore, conveniently Halliburton is about to "spin off" KBR momentarily, which sale probably means no one can expect Halliburton to know anything about anything that KBR's been up to. For a complete transcript of the Halliburton conference call last week to its investors and friends, in which profits and plans for KBR were announced, it's here for free~~~

Joe Galloway writes for He's the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder and has been writing about war for 40 years. Desert Storm's Schwarzkopf called him "the finest combat correspondent of our generation -- a soldier's reporter and a soldier's friend." Thursday he published a scathing indictment of the Bush administration called "Ruining America.",15202,117849,00.html The lead article in the November 16th issue of The New York Review of Books is by Garry Wills, and it takes a look at the authenticity of Bush's faith-based approach to everything. The problems facing the Republican Party this week are chronicled well by Jonathan Schell in the lead article called "The Torture Election" for the new issue of The Nation. Speaking of torture, Garrison Keillor continued his relentless attack on the Torture Bill this week both with his column in the Chicago Trib and on his broadcast last night, in which he portrayed Cheney as a mechanical Halloween ghoul that chortles at simulated drowning.,1,6491333.column Prosecutor Fitzgerald apparently took apart one of Libby's star witnesses last week, a psychologist expert in matters of memory---you know, since so many of these guys just can't seem to recall certain conversations and stuff. Don't miss this Washington Post account~~~

So with the crumbling away, piece by piece, of this horrendous Bush administration, what is the big issue remaining that we worry about? It's whether there will be a fair election in this United States. The situation was summed up very well in Friday's Guardian: the electronic voting machines are a mess. "Ballot Box Chaos" The Guardian calls it.,,1932655,00.html Worse, the American Statistical Association is predicting dozens of major elections to be coming down to a wire too close to call by any technology available. (Go to if you can't handle the pdf.) Yet another computer programmer, this one specializing in secure currency exchange for banks, published this week a huge article condemning electronic voting entirely. and .

Yes, we all must vote one more time. We must do it, one way or another. And we must report and protest any problems we encounter. And what will it mean if we lose? What will America be like after two more years of this? Will it be the end of the road? Are there Americans who would be relieved to bother no longer with freedom?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

A Little Reflection

The sculpture, made of lead, is called Book With Wings (1992-1994) by Anselm Kiefer. Posted by Picasa

Year after year, year after year.
And yet I like to fly above the clouds
I am only skin and bones, like an old crane.


As far as Buddha Nature is concerned, there is no difference between a sinner and a sage....One enlightened thought and one is a Buddha, one foolish thought and one is again an ordinary person.


The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.

---Tennessee Williams

I've been relatively quiet everywhere the past few weeks. All my formal education was accomplished in New York and New England prior to the mid-1960s. I believe it was a good time and place to learn. It was quiet and there was peace. We looked at films from Italy, France, Sweden, and were amazed. We read books and tracts from all sorts of writers who found themselves categorized Existentialists---which apparently was some sort of philosophy...but Philosophy Departments refused to acknowledge them. There were demonstrations about Civil Rights and nuclear bomb testing---and sometimes things got very rough, but essentially they were peaceful, singing movements. Indochina, now called Viet Nam, only was beginning, but the Cold War had a showdown about Cuban missiles. Mostly I was comfortable remaining in 1-A draft status the whole time. During the part of my military physical in Maine when I got asked about possible unAmerican activities, I confessed to joining the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The sergeant examined his list of groups (that now would be categorized as "terrorist"), found only Black Shirts, Brown Shirts, Silver Shirts and said he'd never heard of my group. I never was called for Service, so got a job and started a family.

What I learned in school about a government seemed solid and I still believe it today. We were taught a ship of state sails most smoothly if there is a system of checks and balances. We may proceed slowly with all that stuff, but our progress will be sound and sure. Any branch of that government can become corrupt and falter. We can elect some palooka as our Executive. Congress can be infiltrated by robber barons and party bosses. The Supreme Court could bring the whole nation to a skidding stop with an interpretation of some obscure clause. But it would be next to impossible for all 3 branches to fail at the same time, leaving us at the mercy of the desperate mob. If that were to happen, the education I received provides no remedy. These past weeks, anticipating our election here in 3 more weeks, I've been thinking about that.

On Saturday mornings, while the rest of the house sleeps late, I like to catch up on email, articles, and the newspapers I missed during the workweek. This morning there turns out to be enough monumental disturbance to interrupt my reverie, pile all the stuff into a list, and ask if you see what I see.

Let's start with a Frank Rich column from a month ago, just after that 2-night ABC "docu-drama." Mr. Rich, who has a new book out, is an ideal commentator for our political times because essentially he's a theatre critic. This guy knows scripts, play- and screenwriting. One thing all Americans agree on is generally there's a hype (a term Webster says came to prominence in 1955) to everything. When he's really on, Frank Rich untangles it all like nobody's business. But now it's harder to find him---and there may be an intriguing story in just that. Several months ago, the administration of The New York Times, where he works, decided to charge money to read online the columns of Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, and various other writers you and I probably have come to depend on. Well, another thing Americans generally agree on is nobody ever is sure just what or who the administration of The New York Times really is up to. Fortunately the Internet Underground and various friends, who are shelling over the money and thereby become the Select, do their best to distribute the best columns to the rest of us. For this piece of Rich brilliance, we can thank TruthOut~~~

Much of my silence was inspired by the legislation passed by Congress just before adjournment. The passage of the Torture Bill created one of the darkest days in the history of the republic. There was an audible moan that came out of the Internet, and my own was among them. My friend, Bryan Zepp, out on the West Coast, wrote one of the best reactions...and I urge it upon you~~~

Zepp begins his essay with mention of William Rivers Pitt, a former teacher who gave up his career a couple years ago, to devote himself fulltime to saving his country from downfall. His essay yesterday considers our history of these past 5 years~~~

Thursday Robert Parry assembled an argument to support a diagnosis of our President as perhaps hopelessly deluded. Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at

OK, what about it? Are these people just paranoid? Do any of us who may have some doubts about "staying the course" really have to be afraid we'll be disappeared? Here's The New York Times yesterday~~~

Documents Reveal Scope of U.S. Database on Antiwar Protests By ERIC LICHTBLAUWASHINGTON, Oct. 12 — Internal military documents released Thursday provided new details about the Defense Department’s collection of information on demonstrations nationwide last year by students, Quakers and others opposed to the Iraq war.The documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, show, for instance, that military officials labeled as “potential terrorist activity” events like a “Stop the War Now” rally in Akron, Ohio, in March 2005.The Defense Department acknowledged last year that its analysts had maintained records on war protests in an internal database past the 90 days its guidelines allowed, and even after it was determined there was no threat.

And then, also yesterday, we read another report of how far Abramoff was able to burrow his influence into the Capitol~~~

Report Says Nonprofits Sold Influence to AbramoffBy James V. Grimaldi and Susan SchmidtWashington Post Staff WritersFriday, October 13, 2006; 1:32 AMFive conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, "appear to have perpetrated a fraud" on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, Senate investigators said in a report issued yesterday.The report includes previously unreleased e-mails between the now-disgraced lobbyist and officers of the nonprofit groups, showing that Abramoff funneled money from his clients to the groups. In exchange, the groups, among other things, produced ostensibly independent newspaper op-ed columns or news releases that favored the clients' positions.Officers of the groups "were generally available to carry out Mr. Abramoff's requests for help with his clients in exchange for cash payments," said the report, issued by the Senate Finance Committee. The report was written by the Democratic staff after a yearlong investigation and authorized by the Republican chairman, Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).

And of course you know that our Ohio guy, Bob Ney, pleaded guilty yesterday, after months of denial of any wrongdoing. Tightly organized letterwriting campaigns saturated all the newspapers in the state with what a wonderful representative he is...and ain't it a shame if that bad Abramoff took advantage of his radiant character! Gee, just like "Denny" Hastert---whom Bush hugs in Chicago as another family man.

Then we have this new book coming out Monday by a man Bush hired to keep the Religious Right on the way to Republican Rapture. I guess David Kuo began to lose his faith in Faith-Based Initiatives after he kept hearing Rove refer to Evangelicals as "nuts." The UK Guardian has a good story on it~~~,,1922408,00.html

as does MSNBC, where Keith Olbermann continues to risk his life, breaking such stories~~~

Finally, we have a cheery report in yesterday's Guardian about how much it's going to cost the global economy to repair all the damage the Warming is going to cost.,,1922408,00.html

Well, undoubtedly this is the kind of thing our fearless free enterprisers have been waiting for. A cost to the global economy is retranslated as profits in their pockets. I guess I ought not complain. If Holy Jobs can be created by the environmental movement, maybe the species will start to move in a sane direction. You want to get really optimistic? Take a look at DuPont!

I'm trying to stay hopeful, folks. Let's see how the election goes and whether we've still got a chance. In the meantime, thank God, there are the Major League Playoffs!