Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Reeling In Rove

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands … is the definition of tyranny.

---James Madison

I know something which is known to few but is not a secret. Karl Rove is not a believer, and he doesn’t shout it from the rooftops, but when asked, he answers quite honestly. I think the way he puts it is, “I’m not fortunate enough to be a person of faith.”

---Christopher Hitchens

Rove was asked whose idea it was to start a pre-emptive war in Iraq.
"I think it was Osama bin Laden's", Rove replied.

---The Akron Beacon Journal, 4/19/07

You won't get an argument from me about the man's brilliance. I do confess wonder at how someone can enjoy the intense level of hatred expressed toward him. I've never had the control on my own anger levels enough to laugh at a person who responds extremely to my taunting. I'm uncomfortable in such a situation, but I understand there are those who love to create that tension. There must be people who adore him, such as those who come to his speeches. Does he have a family or anything like that?

Maybe we'll find out as announcement comes from the White House of the unleashing of an internal investigation by Special Counsel Scott Bloch of Mr. Rove's political shenanigans. My heart leapt with the first. Then I began to wonder.

Aren't Waxman and Conyers on the verge of issuing subpoenas to get this Rove guy under oath? If he's "under investigation" by Bloch, can't he reply he's not allowed to discuss anything until the investigation concludes? Hmmm. How long did Fitzgerald take? Won't Bush Inc. be packed and ready to vacate the Oval Office by then? You know, this sounds vaguely like a Rove strategy in itself!

But now we have news this Bloch character is under investigation himself: something about punishing workers for not being loyal enough, things like that. The LA Times has the story this morning.,1,1353271.story?coll=la-headlines-technology Just how chummy are Rove and Bloch I wonder?

If Rove thought this up to avoid Congressional scrutiny, what other evidence do we need of this Administration's contempt for congressional process? Why will they not engage in discussion of policies? And don't give me the wartime powers of commander in chief argument! The Bushies were like this before they invaded the Middle East.

Among the matters Congress wishes to ask Rove about are those secret email accounts. Never mind millions of messages mysteriously have been deleted---in the manner of the Nixon tapes?---what was the purpose and function of those accounts? How were the "private" Republican laptops used? Earlier in the week Bob Fitrakis asserted they were used to manipulate presidential elections. On the hard drives of those machines is the record of interactions of election fraud and the programs that were used to do it. Fitrakis names names.

If all this is just screwball conspiracy theory (and isn't it fun to ridicule people who think strategies actually might get planned out?) then why will not the White House answer any questions, except ones they hand themselves to friendly reporters? What is the principle that can't budge Rove? Or does he delight in thinking the opposition is just running around in circles?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

If I Hear "Robust" Once More, I'm Gonna Puke

Religion is a way of walking, not a way of talking.

---Dean William R. Inge

I have realized that the past and the future are real illusions, that they exist only in the present, which is what there is and all there is.

---Alan Watts

A Zen master's life is one continuous mistake.


God, how this White House loves that word! Everything they do is ROBUST. The Surge is robust, the economy is robust, our schools are SO robust, anti-abortionists are getting much more robust, and the Gun Lobby never has been so robust! Rove is just busting with robust. He and Bush are in Ohio all the time because we brim with robust!

I suspect it may have been Rove (or his people) who came up with "robust." It has the first 2 letters of his name so that satisfies egomania, and of course "bust" is in he can think of breasts and milk as well as allegiance to his President. What could be better?

The only thing better would be if all Repubs use it...and they do (even when wearing the pink necktie of apology and surrender). Thursday Justice Department spokeswoman Cynthia Magnuson used it against critics who say the Executive's legal people have been using federal attorneys to wipe out the opposition. She said the department has "a completely robust record when it comes to enforcing federal voting rights laws." The Justice Department not only is robust, it's COMPLETELY robust. It's like Heaven on earth there!

I love this photograph by Doug Mills for The New York Times yesterday. There he is, the Attorney General of the United States of America, land of the free, home of the brave. The man used the "can't remember anything" approach to his testimony. At least it's more down-to-earth than the "best-of-my-recollection" song and dance other attorneys general have used. A busy man has to have people on his staff who remember things for him. I understand that. Do you suppose there is someone at Justice who remembers who is supposed to remember the content of meetings? Maybe they can search around.

In the meantime, you might take a look at Greg Gordon's article for the Baltimore Sun Thursday that contains Cynthia's robust remark...and see if you can detect any "legal" strategies in there about crushing free election. And then I guess I have to like best Lara Jakes Jordan's coverage for AP of Gonzales' pathetic appearance Thursday.,0,23441.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines;_ylt=Aozse9CMyDutN1Gd4tbgjZys0NUE

Monday, April 16, 2007

What Is Self-Sufficient---And Are You?

The drawing illustrates an article in the current issue of In Character, for which Joannah Ralston is credited with design.
Man can learn nothing except by going from the known to the unknown.
---Claude Bernard
The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.
---Henry Miller
I have been reading all day, confined to my room, and feel tired. I raise the screen and face the broad daylight. I move the chair on the veranda and look at the blue mountains. I draw a long breath, fill my lungs with fresh air and feel entirely refreshed. I make tea and drink a cup or two of it. Who would say that I am not living in the light of eternity?
---D.T. Suzuki
When I set about to look for an image to illustrate this entry, I typed the word "solitude" into the search engine. A number of paintings showed up, but surprisingly not many that were created before the Twentieth Century. A few landscapes from the late 1800's seemed to celebrate Wordsworthian romance, but in his poems too we witness the beginnings of modern isolation.
For some time I've been concerned about a gradual loss of community and neighborhood connection that has occured in my lifetime. This may not be the case everywhere or among people who have not lived the kind of life that I have. I've moved around a good deal---especially in the 1960s and 70s---and am not living in the town where I was born. I tend toward liberal ideals and am not a member of a "mega-church." More conservative folks, who can trace lineage in the same geography back several generations, may enjoy a different experience. But how many of those are there, and is their number dwindling? And what good is neighborhood anyway, if you don't want people meddling in your privacy?
Bill McKibben's article in the current issue of the journal referenced above got me wondering whether a reinvigoration of community may be a major ingredient in solving huge problems that face us planetary inhabitants today. Bill McKibben is teaching at Middlebury College currently I guess, but has lived in the Adirondack Mountain region of New York for some time. You may have read his essays in The New Yorker and other publications, usually devoted to spiritual aspects of environmental concern. He's also written a few books.
This article doesn't talk about TV, industrialization, and overpopulation, which are topics that fly to my mind immediately when I think of wanting to get away from it all and just live in the woods with a computer. Here he suggests the very goal of getting off the grid and living the life of the self-sufficient survivalist ultimately may lead nowhere.
Old MacDonald Had A Farmers’ Market – total self-sufficiency is a noble, misguided ideal
By Bill McKibben
Generations of college freshmen, asked to read Walden, have sputtered with indignation when they learned that Henry David went back to Concord for dinner with his family every week or two. He’s cheating; his grand experiment is a fraud. This outrage is a useful tactic; it prevents them from having to grapple with the most important (and perhaps the most difficult) book in the American canon, one that asks impossibly searching questions about the emptiness of a consumer economy, the vacuity of an information-soaked era. But it also points to something else: Thoreau, our apostle of solitary, individual self-reliance, out in his cabin with his hoe and his beans, the most determinedly asocial man of his time — nonetheless was immersed in his community to a degree few people today can comprehend.
Consider the sheer number of people who happened to drop by the cabin of an obscure eccentric. “I had three chairs in my house; one for solitude, two for friendship, three for society,” he writes. Often more visitors came than could sit — sometimes twenty or thirty at a time. “Half-witted men from the almshouse,” busybodies who “pried into my cupboard and bed when I was out,” a French-Canadian woodchopper, a runaway slave “whom I helped to forward toward the north star,” doctors, lawyers, the old and infirm and the timid, the self-styled reformers. It’s not that Thoreau was necessarily a cheerful host — there were visitors “who did not know when their visit had terminated, though I went about my business again, answering them from greater and greater remoteness.” Instead, it was simply a visiting age — as most of human history has been a visiting age, and every human culture a visiting culture.
Until ours. I doubt if many people reading these words have had a spontaneous visit from a neighbor in the past week — less than a fifth of Americans report visiting regularly with friends and neighbors, and the percentage is declining steadily. The number of close friends that an American claims has dropped steadily for the last fifty years too; three-quarters of us don’t know our next-door neighbors. Even the people who share our houses are becoming strangers: The Wall Street Journal reported recently that “major builders and top architects are walling off space. They’re touting one-person ‘internet alcoves,’ locked-door ‘away rooms,’ and his-and-her offices on opposite ends of the house.” The new floor plans, says the director of research for the National Association of Home Builders, are “good for the dysfunctional family.” Or, as another executive put it, these are the perfect homes for “families that don’t want anything to do with one another.” Compared to these guys, Thoreau with his three-chair cabin was practically Martha Stewart.
Every culture has its pathologies, and ours is self-reliance. From some mix of our frontier past, our Little House on the Prairie heritage, our Thoreauvian desire for solitude, and our amazing wealth we’ve derived a level of independence never seen before on this round earth. We’ve built an economy where we need no one else; with a credit card, you can harvest the world’s bounty from the privacy of your room. And we’ve built a culture much the same — the dream houses those architects build, needless to say, come with a plasma screen in every room. As long as we can go on earning good money in our own tiny niche, we don’t need a helping hand from a soul — save, of course, from the invisible hand that cups us all in its benign grip.
There are a couple of problems with this fine scenario, of course. One is: we’re miserable. Reported levels of happiness and life-satisfaction are locked in long-term one-way declines, almost certainly because of this lack of connection. Does this sound subjective and airy? Find one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t belong to anything and convince them to join a church, a softball league, a bird-watching group. In the next year their mortality — the risk that they will die in the next year — falls by half.
The other trouble is that our self-reliance is actually a reliance on cheap fossil fuel and the economy it’s built. Take that away — either because we start to run out of oil, or because global warming forces us to stop using it in current quantities — and our vaunted independence will start to lurch like a Hummer with four flat tires. Just think for a moment about that world and then decide if you want to live on an acre all your own in the outermost ring of suburbs.
The idea of self-reliance is so deep in our psyches, however, that even when we attempt to escape from the unhappy and unsustainable cul-de-sac of our society, we’re likely to turn toward yet more “independence.” The “back-to-the-land” movement, for instance, often added the words “by myself.” Think about how proudly a certain kind of person talks about his “off-the-grid” life — he makes his own energy and grows his own food, he can deal with whatever the world throws at him. One such person may be left-wing in politics (à la Scott and Helen Nearing); another may be conservative. But they are united in their lack of need for the larger world. Not even to school their kids — they’ll take care of that as well.
Such folks are admirable, of course — they have a wide variety of skills now missing in most Americans; they’re able to amuse themselves; they work hard. But as an ideal, especially an economic ideal, that radical self-reliance strikes me as being almost as empty as the consumer society from which it dissents. Consider, for instance, the idea of growing all your own food. It’s clearly better than relying on food from thousands of miles away — from our current industrialized food economy, which figures “it’s always summer somewhere” and so orders take-out from that distant field every night of the year. Compared with that, an enormous garden and a root cellar full of all you’ll need for the winter is virtue incarnate. But if you believe in many of the (entirely plausible) horror stories about what’s to come — peak oil, climate change — then the world ends with you standing shotgun in hand above your vegetable patch, protecting your carrots from the poaching urban horde.
Contrast that with another vision, one taking shape in at least a few places around the country: a matrix of small farmers growing food for their local areas. Farmers’ markets are the fastest-growing part of our food economy, with sales showing double-digit growth annually. Partly that’s because people want good food (all kinds of people: immigrants and ethnic Americans tend to be the most avid farmers’ market shoppers). And partly it’s because they want more company. One team of sociologists reported recently that shoppers at farmers’ markets engaged in ten times more conversations per visit than customers in supermarkets. I spent the past winter eating only from my valley; a little of the food I grew myself, but the idea of my experiment was to see what remained of the agricultural infrastructure that had once supported this place. And the payoff was not only a delicious six months, but also a deep network of new friends, a much stronger sense of the cultural geography of my place.
Or consider energy. Since the 1970s, a particular breed of noble ex-hippie has been building “off-the-grid” homes, often relying on solar panels. This has been important work — they’ve figured out many of the techniques and technologies that we desperately need to get free of our climate change predicament. But the most exciting new gadget is a home-scale inverter, one that allows you to send the power your rooftop generates down the line instead of down into the basement. Where the isolated system has a stack of batteries, the grid-tied solar panel uses the whole region’s electric system as its battery: my electric meter spins merrily backward all afternoon because while the sun shines I’m a utility; then at night I draw from somewhere else. It’s a two-way flow, in the same way that the internet allows ideas to bounce in many directions.
You can do the same kind of calculation with almost any commodity. Music doesn’t need to come from Nashville or Hollywood on a small disc, for instance. But you don’t have to produce it all yourself either. More fun to join with the neighbors, to make music together or to listen to the local stars. A hundred years ago, Iowa had 1,300 opera houses. Radio doesn’t need to come from the ClearChannel headquarters in some Texas office park; new low-power FM lets valleys make their own. Even currency can become a joint local project — all it takes is the trust that underwrites any system of money. In hundreds of communities, people are trying to build that trust locally, with money that only works within the region.
Thinking this way won’t be easy. We’re used to independence as the prime virtue — so used to it that three quarters of American Christians believe the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” comes from the Bible, instead of Ben Franklin. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is harder advice, but sweeter and more sage. We don’t need to live on communes (though more and more old people are finding themselves enrolling in “retirement communities” that are gray-haired, upscale versions). But we will, I think, need to figure out how to stop relying on both oil and ourselves, and instead learn the lesson that the other primates and the other human cultures never forgot: we’re built to rely on each other.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

There Are No Conspiracies

Western laziness consists of cramming our lives with compulsive activity, so that there is no time at all to confront the real issues.

---Sogyal Rinpoche

Tu Fu comes from a saner, older, more secular culture than Homer, and it is not a new discovery with him that the gods, the abstractions, the forces of nature, are frivolous, lewd, vicious, quarrelsome, and cruel, and only men's steadfastness, love, magnanimity, calmness, and compassion redeem the night-bound world.

---Kenneth Rexroth

The search is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair.

---Walker Percy

I first became aware of the chief weapon of the new conservative around 1960. The weapon is mockery and it was used effectively against my friends and me at Bates College. The school had a requirement to attend chapel a few times a week for programs of a non-religious character---but it was a chapel of vaguely Christian architecture. You also had to take a couple religion courses and fees were collected from all students to support the Christian Association. The CA had a locked bulletin board, to which I had a key and where I used to post rather leftist material.

The emerging leaders of culture war attacked all of this. Their models and mentors appeared to be Ayn Rand and William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley particularly was on television all the time debating liberals. His method of discourse always was a sneering dismantling of the bleeding heart of concern for the downtrodden. If you are lazy and stupid you should expect to be trod upon in this life. I remember 2 hours of excruciating embarrassment as Buckley mocked out James Baldwin for his passion on civil rights. I recall Buckley concluded one of his "Firing Lines" by warning the audience America is being watched on all sides by greedy eyes in faces "upon which there are no smiles." Mockery was established firmly upon a foundation of fear.

When questions arose surrounding the assassinations of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, the phrase "conspiracy theorists" showed up. We learn there always will be unanswerable questions about such events carried out by lone nutcases, and if you won't accept that reality you will be mocked. Questions about 9/11 and the Twin Towers? Same deal. We don't have time for this stuff: we must put it behind us and move forward. Weapons of mass destruction. A mushroom cloud could result if we delay our preemptive war. The Christian right delivered Shock And Awe, and there was talk of Judgment Day in the Cradle of Civilization. (At this time of year, one wonders why Jesus didn't move preemptively against Judas.)

Are you concerned about the environment? You are mocked as a "treehugger." Even as evidence mounts and reports are released, the term still is thrown in derision. You can have rugged American individualism but don't rock the boat. Watergate, Enron so quickly forgotten...or rubbed out of our minds. Another conspiracy theory to be ridiculed. MobilExxon spent millions to discount global warming? What's conspiratorial about that? Didn't tobacco companies do the same thing? Federal prosecutors fired for not being "loyal Bushies." They were to "serve at the pleasure of the President" the rest of us.

But just maybe this fabric of 40 years of fear is beginning to unravel. I saw a T-shirt recently that announced "The biggest Government Conspiracy is that there are no conspiracies." I've always found the best way to conquer fear is, if possible, just turn on the light. If we have a Congress currently in the mood to shine brightness upon various princes of darkness, let's take some time and do it. Already much has come to light.

Recently not a week has gone by that I haven't become aware of a struggling investigative journalist somewhere who has labored for years to dig around and come up with what's really going on. Hopefully most people are aware of Lucy Komisar, but I wasn't. Here's her bio at a site called

"Lucy Komisar is a New York–based journalist who travelled in the developing world in the 1980s and 1990s writing about movements to overthrow the despots who were running many of the countries she visited. When she talked to oppositionists in such places as the Philippines, Haiti, and Zaire, they invariably said this about their local dictator: 'He’s looted the country, stolen everything, and it’s all in Swiss banks.' The phrase was, as she discovered, shorthand for a parallel international financial system run by the world’s largest banks using secret accounts and shell companies in offshore havens like the Cayman Islands and Jersey to hide and move the money of dictators, corrupt officials, drug and people traffickers, terrorists, business fraudsters, stock manipulators, and corporate and wealthy tax cheats—and that their political power kept Western governments from acting against the system. Beginning in 1997, she shifted her focus to reportage about offshore banking. Much of what she has published over the last ten years (see has never been published elsewhere. Based on her investigations, she is writing a book to be called Take the Money and Run Offshore."

That site has enough in it to fill your next week! Her articles are all over the Web, chiefly at The Nation, Alternet, and she's got a book or 2. Earlier this week the Inter Press Service News Agency put up her analysis of the Bush family's banking adventures, which---surprise, surprise---involve deals with the bin Ladens, Saddam Hussein and various sheiks of Araby. Liberals have been vaguely connected with this material, but here it's all laid out and names are named~~~

The very next day, at the same moment Dick Cheney was on Rush Limbaugh's show (again!) to restate Saddam's love affair with Al-Qaeda, we learned of a declassified Defense Department report that declares "captured Iraqi documents and intelligence interrogations of Saddam Hussein and two former aides 'all confirmed' that Hussein's regime was not directly cooperating with al-Qaeda before the U.S. invasion of Iraq." Well, undoubtedly Cheney knew the report was coming out so, since more people listen to Rush than read newspapers, he might try lying to us again. When you have this kind of money and power, who cares what you say?

Surveys show people increasingly are beginning to get the urgency of Global Warming. Al Gore has had a lot to do with it, despite the right's continuing campaign to mock the man out of existence. The United Nations report yesterday describes disaster just around the corner, but the LA Times says the all-night session Thursday was prompted "by governments seeking to deflect calls for action. 'The science got hijacked by the political bureaucrats at the late stage of the game,' said John Walsh, a climate expert at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who helped write a chapter on the polar regions.",0,6019103.story?coll=la-home-headlines So maybe things are even worse?

Then there's Monica Goodling. Is there some conspiracy of Monicas? Here's this lady who says she won't testify about the Gonzales prosecutor firings...and then yesterday resigned completely. Hopefully before the weekend is up, somebody will give her whatever or however much she wants and we'll have her story. In the meantime all there is is this page of alumni picnic photos from a school called Regent. Do you suppose the happy campers all are Republicans? Goodness, they certainly do use a lot of charcoal starter! Maybe that's what's wrong with them. I don't know, a loyal Bushie always throws herself onto a live grenade...and she looks like the type.