American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

Nuclear Iran


Richard Perle is one of the guiding lights of NeoCon foreign policy. He is currently out of office, but he maintains a presence in the capital and speaks his mind on the Bush policy in the middle east. This does not mean that his mind is right, of course, or that Bush is right. Perle merely speaks from a set of postulates that he believes are coherent and interconsistent. He is wrong, of course, ... as usual.

Perle had an article in last Sunday's Washington Post which you should not have missed. The Post is welcome to run this stuff. It is a classic study in the threadbare and tattered ideology of the latter day American Empire. Perle wrote ...


So, after declaring that a nuclear Iran was "unacceptable," Bush blinked and authorized the E.U.-3 to approach Tehran with proposals to reward the mullahs if they promised to end their nuclear weapons program.

Perle blames the "blink" all on Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, about whom he explains

Condoleezza Rice has moved from the White House to Foggy Bottom, a mere mile or so away. What matters is not that she is further removed from the Oval Office; Rice's influence on the president is undiminished. It is, rather, that she is now in the midst of -- and increasingly represents -- a diplomatic establishment that is driven to accommodate its allies even when (or, it seems, especially when) such allies counsel the appeasement of our adversaries.


Perle, like many in the conservative bullpen, believe that diplomacy is hogwash and diplomats fools. He, like Cheney and Rumsfeld, believe that history is made by select advisors and other non-Constitutional officers taking up the reins and riding a horse hard into the fray. They have little patience with established lines and communications. Ultimately, Perle and his ilk believe in the Great Man Theory of history ... as long as they are the handlers of the great one.

You see, Richard Perle wants us to believe that President Reagan sank the USSR single-handedly, that it was his bluff and bluster that forced Gorbachev to liberalize and to reform, and that ultimately Reagan pushed Gorbachev over the edge of the cliff. This, of course, overlooks the fact that 55 years of rule by thugs of the CPSU had transformed Russia from a country on the brink (1910) of evolutionary industrialization into a state planned economy, which was more like a shell game of resource allocation than a real economy. The USSR collapsed of its own ponderous bureaucratic weight and ironically of the destitution of its infrastructure. It never did work as a whole, and the Soviets and their people knew it. It was a house of cards, industrialized over the dead bodies of millions, eleven time zones wide and a minute deep.

Now Perle overlooks the weaknesses and strengths of Iran and sees a new kind of "Great Man" politics for George W. Bush in the middle east, a person who can posture and shake his big stick at the mullahs and ayatollahs of Iran until they, too, collapse in a heap of unraveled turbans. Well, Iran is nothing like the USSR. And the Europeans are correct in their belief that nuking Iran to keep them from the brotherhood of nuclear weapon-bearing nations would be counterproductive to say the least, the beginning of a protracted war drawn partly along religious lines and partly along natural resources lines, the final outcome of which cannot be foreseen, but the stoking of terrorism from it completely assured.

By sheer luck and circumstance the American policy on Iran is slowly building from some stark realizations about the jack boot nonsense of Perle and the rest of the Empire makers. The fact is that the American Army cannot now or in the near- or mid-term future invade Iran, hold even the smallest territory within Iran, or carry out "surgical" operations. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld have exhausted the Army in Iraq. It is basically off the chess board, whether Perle understands this or not. The U.S. Air Force, when it is not busy worshipping Jesus as an early Jimmy Doolittle, is fully capable of reducing Iran to radio-active rubble, of course. And, the U.S. Navy could do the job as well from carriers and submarines. The result would be $25/gallon gasoline on Day One of the aftermath, swiftly escalating to prices that will bring the western world economies to their knees and elbows! Iran is not completely helpless; the Straits of Hormuz will be closed for months, if not years. Oil from the Persian Gulf will dry up and so will the EU and US economies ... and civilizations.

Perle somehow thinks that bluster and bluff will do it again. It will not. It did not do the deed the first time. He is wrong; he has read history through PNAC lenses and his distorted version has become a mantra of perverse puerile dreams. Perle's article will be referred to, however, so be ready to hear this baloney again and again.

JB

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Border People

There is a border which runs through our society that largely remains unnoticed but it is a critical one.

It is the border of people who are employed as civil servants, members of the military and police forces and media people. The border they work in defines the interface between the citizens of this nation and our government and big business interests. These border workers are the first line of loyalty and defense the people have. It is within their ability to choose to serve the greater good of the society or to serve those governmental and corporate interests who may be causing harm to the society and it's people. We need them to be alert that this choice may have to be made in the coming times.

It may not be an easy choice, requiring them to put their job at risk and perhaps suffering financial hardship. For some, legal punishment may resulting in jail time. For others, it may be that they can follow their conscious through activities that don't reveal their identity but serve to alert the citizenry of questionable activities. Why take the risk? Why should they endanger themselves to tell us anything if it threatens their personal well being or that of their family? It is not easy to ask this of them but the future of all of us is at stake here and either one is working for the people and a society that survives and thrives or giving one's efforts to those who threaten that. If a tiny minority that has an agenda to take control of our government for the benefit of money making interests, we can look forward to a further diminishing quality of life, degrading environment and the threat of nuclear warfare. They can only achieve their objective if the border workers continue to support their efforts with their work.

Those who stand on our front line are :

The Civil Servants.
For lifetimes many of them do the paperwork and carry forth the policies of government across our nation. While parties come and go, they remain to run the engines of government. In their daily tasks many of them become aware of information withheld or misrepresented to the people. Information that the people need to know. Some hold a tiny piece to a larger picture. What should they do? The official channels are fraught with danger, since often the information indicates it is the officials themselves who are violating the law. The leadership of Congress has shown itself to be non-reactive and non-protective of those who come forth. The press is often censured by corporate entities who also have vested interests in keeping information away from the people. Who they confide in that will be trustworthy and make sure the information is revealed as well as protecting their identity? Sadly, we lack a place for the truth tellers to go, but we must change that. If we are asking them to risk coming forward with information we need, we must insure they are protected. We must identify those groups who can be trusted to receive information and to get it out to the rest of us and make sure legal defense exists for those who may need it.

The Military/ Police
These are the people who have they physical means to protect us. They stand as our defending vanguard. Our taxes pay them and they are sworn by oath to uphold the laws that protect us. What happens then when our own protectors are turned on us in service of protecting the ill gotten gains or illegal activities of elected officials and corporate entities? They tread a fine line and their position is one that requires a great dedication to what is right, even if that means disobeying orders. Too often in the past, officials have used them to protect the powerful and wealthy against the people with just and grievous complaints. Workers striking or protesting for better wages or work conditions have been met with armed military or police sent to suppress them. Protesters who oppose government policies of war or environmental destruction have been likewise oppressed. Now, more than ever, they must question who's interests they are serving? Is it the interests of the people or is it those of the powerful who may be up to no good. Those ordered to do harm to citizens like themselves, who are massing together to voice the need for change, must decide who's interests they choose to protect. Will they choose to be one of the oppressors or to support the citizens expressing their concerns? Each one must search their consciousness and decide what side of the line they stand on and follow that with their actions. Those who support us are courageous and deserve our appreciation and support. We must not fail them when they strand up for us.

The Media
As the bearers of information, they are so important to us! Through their courage and diligence, we are given the information necessary to a healthy democracy. Without information, we do not know what is going on, we cannot make decisions that insure that this country still functions based on the Constitution and the laws threat protect our freedoms. many media people become aware with events and activities that are of questionable nature. As fellow citizens, they have a vested interest in making sure that the members of their society are informed. Please! Tell us what is going on! Investigate, question, report. I know that many are fearful of their jobs and go along with the suppression and half truths that owners of media demand. Where does that get one in the end if democracy disintegrates and we live under the yoke of suppression? For the thousands of you who still labor for the corporate god, I hope you will keep trying to do what your heart tells you and find ways of revealing the truth. To the brave editors who print the work of truth telling journalists and TV managers who broadcast all the truth, we hold you in esteem and honor your courage. To those who do not, you must accept that you are complicit in the denigration of our freedoms.

As a nation, we must come together to honor and protect our border people who work for us. It is primarily in their hands to advance the causes of justice and democracy in our society because of their strategic positions. If you are a border person, please think about these issues and decide your loyalty. If you are a citizen, think and act in ways that support their efforts on the behalf of our society. We need them.

Sue Dyer, Guest Essayist

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Asking The Tough Questions

For the last 6 years the MSP and the MSM have given George W. Bush pretty much of a free ride, heaven only knows why, as he treated them like a red-headed step child, and has had nothing but disdain for the so called Watchdogs of Democracy. We have had plants in the White House Press Corps, a Press Secretary who rivaled Baghdad Bob for spin, and a crew of Orwellian characters whose leader proudly proclaims that he does not read. Makes one want to send him a gift certificate to the Sylvan Learning Centers, doesn't it?



The worst offense, however, in my estimation, has been the disrespect of one of the Press Corps mainstays, a woman who in her eighth decade, has seen, and asked questions of, every President since John F. Kennedy. One would think it must rankle to be treated thusly by such a group as the Bushrangers.

Helen Thomas is a news service reporter, a Hearst newspaper columnist and senior member of the White House Press Corps. Not too shabby for a lady who started her career as a copy girl for the old Washington Daily News. After joining UPI in 1943 she wrote radio news and covered the Federal Government news, her beat being the FBI and Capitol Hill. As White House Bureau chief, first woman member and President of the White House Correspondents Association and first woman member of the Gridiron Club. she has paid her dues.

In 1960 she started covering then President Elect John F. Kennedy and it was during that man;s administration that she started using her trademark phrase, "Thank you, Mr. President", at the end of each press conference. Since the coronation of the Bush regime, her pride of place in the front row of Presidential press conferences has been taken from her and she has been relegated to the rear seats. She says, "...they don't like me...I ask too many mean questions." And surely that was the case when, for the first time in three years, George W. Bush deigned to call on her. She told him he would be sorry and then asked him why we had gone into Iraq when all the reasons for it had since been proven untrue. Of course his response was just so much Bushshit, saying that Saddam Hussein had denied weapons inspectors. Needless to say, White House Press Conferences are no longer ended with Helen's trademark phrase.

Hopefully, Helen will still be asking the tough questions, once again from the front row, long after Bush & Co. have faded, leaving only a bad memory and a nasty taste in our mouths. Would that all of journalism had Helen Thomas' feisty temperament and journalistic integrity, then perhaps, there would have been no need of her latest book, and the country would not have been steamrollered by the "Gang of Five" which now inhabit Washington, DC and have made a mockery of our great country.

The MSP, needs to take Helen's example to heart, and bring back some of the moral integrity it used to have. Rather than continue to chew on the bones with no flesh, that they have been thrown by the Bush administration for the last 6 years, they need to go back to truly being the Watchdogs of Democracy.

Susan B. Goodwin

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Another Bush/Cheney War

So the War on Terrorism is not going so very well despite what the right's propoganda machine would have you believe. I am sure in his heart of heart's Bush knows this, but then again, perhap's not. He is probably one of the 33% that think all is well and his battle cry of "stay the course" is right on track.

Now comes the press; the Grey Lady finally rousing from it's torpor of the last 5 years to try and make up for it's dereliction of duty. They have, heaven forfend!, decided to get to the truth. This, as you can well imagine, does not sit well with Big Brother Bush and, once again, we have been subjected to his calling any who do not agree with him, unpatriotic.

I would suggest that you read what The News Dissector has to say about this new "hot" war of Bush/Cheney's.

http://www.newsdissector.org/blog/2006/06/27/#2001


Susan B. Goodwin

The Minimum Wage

The seventeenth century Dutch of Amsterdam broke with all tradition in their Protestant disregard for Catholic teachings about commerce and, equally, in their emulation of the activities of the Jewish merchants among them.  The Dutch went where the Spanish were not, while Spain mined the New World of its gold and silver and thereby destroyed its home economy with inflation and corruption.  The Dutch led both the English and French in establishing a commercial "empire."  Of course the machinations of Louis XIV in France impinged on the freedoms the Dutch enjoyed and the Dutch East India company took, but the bourgoisie of both France and England became quite jealous of the prosperous Dutch.


It was the dawning of a global economy, nascent at least, but touching all the inhabited continents (but Australia) and most of their civilizations.  Human slavery was part of the whole, the three-cornered Atlantic trade being the most well-known to Americans and Europeans, and it was widely practiced.  Civilizations outside of metropolitan Europe practiced slavery widely, as well.  Seen as a economic question of raw materials, labor, and finished products ready for market, continuation of slavery was integral to the continuation of profits, for the competition among merchants kept prices low enough to hover over and dip down into the most flexible of the costs--labor.  Virtually free labor insured profits and continuation of the enterprise.


Almost needless to say slavery was eventually abolished and declarations of human rights proclaimed to establish a public, even economic, morality about it.  The occasional emergence of outright slavery today is thought to be almost entirely related to prostitution, and our imaginations roll away from the implications of it as if prostitution were a reasonable excuse for enslaving "those who allow their bodies to be used." 


Child labor is a form of slavery, and using one's own children to achieve economic gain is.  People will argue this point endlessly, but the fact is that the child has no alternative and no viable means of escape.  They are in servitude and their work is more or less free to their parents and relatives.  In fact, it is this sort of "economics" that perpetuates the overpopulation of the the planet, for subsistence farmers and city-dwellers alike see children as costing less that the economic benefit of their work to the economic unit of which they are a part.


Then there is so-called "wage slavery," a tricky concept, but nevertheless amenable to discussion and analysis.  Management would say that if a wage is tendered for the work obtained, then there can be no literal use of the term "slavery."  The labor side has to rely on a gestalt definition of a job that pays too little, yet consumes the available work hours to the point where the worker is reduced to a routine of work for the employer, recuperation time, work for the employer with virtually no chance of self-investment to improve one's lot.


The original idea of the Minimum Wage was less complicated.  It simply said that there is a point on the curve of incomes in THIS society below which a worker working 40-60 hours per week still cannot make ends meet and is caught in an out-of-control spiral downward toward economic unusefulness from ill-health, malnutrition, or a combination of meager economic circumstances.  The exploitation of labor at less than survival standards relative to the society is virtual slavery, not because of chains and fetters keeping the person in these circumstances, but because of the absolute lack of an alternative for such persons.


There was a day when picking up the family and carting them west was an alternative.  That frontier society and all the escape valves it could offer is long gone.  We are now a civilization of place holders (mobile only to the extent that we can hold different places by moving, but moving is an economic decision that is anything but free).  We are not unfree because moving is expensive and highly regulated.  We are unfree when the circumstances of our place holding conspire to keep us where we are because we cannot afford to move or we cannot afford to quit the dead-end underpaid job.


The recent refusal of the Republicans in Congress to consider raising the standard of living of millions of Americans by raising the Minimul Wage was an act of wage slavery.  It was as evil and hard-hearted a decision as the capture and selling into plantation slavery of Africans two and three hundred years earlier.  It is a deplorable act of selfish greedy and corrupt morals.  It is an act of class warfare against which all civilized men and women must struggle.

jb

Monday, June 26, 2006

We Are GO, Houston!

The cut-over from Time-Warner webhosting to SoapBlox bloghosting is complete. It took several hours Monday to accomplish, but it worked, and the new website is there for the reading. Go to: http://americanliberalism.org/frontPage.do
or simply
http://americanliberalism.org!

The front page is for essays from "American Liberalism Project regulars" and "guest bloggers." When you get to the front page open up a new account so that you can read the "Diary Section" blogs/essays of others and write diaries/essays there of your own when you feel the urge. Guest Bloggers will be selected by ALP from among those who post essays in the Diary section. Of course, comments are welcome from all! (Keep it civilized and clean, please.)

And, of course, comments about the site are always welcome. We will begin having an "Open Thread" blogs for comments of any kind in a couple of days. "Open Threads" will always be on the front page, accessible to all.

Jim

One Step Closer to Bush's Demise

Jim Webb and wife Hong
We recently had a Democratic primary in Virginia to elect someone to oppose George Allen, the current junior senator from Virginia. Jim Webb was the winner over Harris Miller. Both were good candidates but Webb was a better speaker and especially in Virginia the more likely of the two to be elected.

Webb had been a Republican and was the Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. He supported "W" in 2000 and Allen when he ran for the senate, but his disgust over the Iraq war and the Bush Administration policies in general convinced him that he had made a huge mistake. Webb switched parties and decided to run for the Democratic nomination to help the Democrats regain control of the Senate and to rid the senate of the likes of Allen.

As governor Allen had a stormy relationship with African-American voters in Virginia, many of whom criticized his policies and his embrace of the Confederate flag, which the NAACP condemned as a symbol of racism and hate. As a lawyer, Allen also had a noose hanging from a ficus tree in his office, a decoration critics have charged was racially insensitive, but which Allen has explained as a symbol of his tough stance on law-and-order issues.

In 1995, 1996, and 1997, Allen proclaimed April as Confederate History and Heritage Month and called the Civil War "a four-year struggle for independence and sovereign rights." The proclamation did not mention slavery and was subsequently repudiated by the next Republican governor.

Allen has done almost nothing for Virginia and supported Bush 97% of the time. He was given an "F" by the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy for his votes on concerns of the middle class. As indicated by his senate votes he opposes abortion, public health, immigration, the environment, civil rights, and public education. Allen has spent most of time recently trying to promote his national image in an anticipated run for the Republican nomination for President.

Webb has an excellent chance to unseat Allen and if he can it would bring the Senate one step closer to a Democratic majority where it can begin to investigate the illegal acts of King "W" and the ultimate impeachment of the worst president the United States has ever endured.

David M. Goldberg

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Class Struggle

Les Miserables
Gore Vidal, returning to the United States after years in Europe was asked how he liked America after all that time. Did it feel different? Did he still care? "How is it, then," the reporter asked, "to live full-time in the United States?"

If you care about America it's dreadful," he said. "If you are making money you don't care.


This is the root of it, I think, the real basis for division and divisiveness. America is two places, one is for people to live and express their uniqueness and individuality, and it is being dismantled clumsily by the Republicans whose narrower view is that America is primarily a place to make a living. If you happen by luck or wits or family connections to be doing a successful job of making a living, you tend to see America as a marketplace. If, on the other hand, you happen by luck or wit or temperament to be reasonably well adjusted, if your kids are growing up reasonably strong and healthy, if your home is a place of peace and imagination, if your inner self is reflective and, within your natural limits, wise, then you tend to think of America as a kind of dream—the American Dream. You probably find yourself somewhere in between these two, leaning one way or the other, but probably toward the Dream and not the Marketplace of Avarice.

John Edwards is headed out again into the hustings with his philosophy of two Americas. I wish him well, but I have to tell you that a couple of Republicans with whom I sat on a recent airplane trip thought his philosophy to be "divisive." Sometimes the truth is too ugly to acknowledge. These two birds thought that America was one, a place where how you make a living defines all the rest. They could not see the misery and discord created by the financially successful, for the majority whose luck, wits, temperaments and, indeed, lives were drawn into various kinds of chaos by the greed of the wealthy.

Vidal has it right. The wealthy literally do not care. They care not a bit for the harm they do; they care only for their position in the hierarchy of wealth. They deliberately insulate themselves from knowledge of life among the masses; they silently create caste and class boundaries without a thought for the damage to human psyche and consciousness.

What is to be done with these people? Shall we assume there is a glimmer of humanity locked within them, bound by the tendrils of avarice, but ready to escape to prove their better nature? Should we confine them to civilized ranges of income through taxation, hoping that they will begin to understand? Should our commonwealth take all but the necessary wherewithall from them as punishment for all the trouble they have caused and leave them to the devices of the injured and downtrodden? Or, should we simply erase all vestiges of them from our planet, these pigs, these arrogant genetic mistakes, these mutants and cancers in our midst?

The thing about class warfare is that, once begun, it affects the very soul we have chosen to honor. Avarice is like the hunger for power that our Founding Fathers understood so well at the crest of the Enlightenment. Its appearance among us is a sober truth against which we must be eternally vigilant. It is, like narcissism, one of the many possibilities of human development, which, left to its own development, can run rampant and destroy, or it can serve mankind usefully as a carefully managed organizing principle.

Progressive Democrats must come to an unspoken agreement about greed and class. We have to agree to tolerate small distinctions, but to unfailingly extirpate any excess

JB

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Update

Quite a week! The Republican Congress has voted against raising the minimum wage, against extension of the Voting Rights Act, against setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq. Meanwhile the administration is snooping banking records without warrants, and Cheney is scolding the press for telling us about it.

If anyone in the media ever tells you again that there is no difference between the two parties, tell them to go to hell!

Meanwhile, we are waiting for SoapBlox to get things prepared for the great migration from our current ISP to theirs. The website is ready for the debut, but until the migration is complete and well-propagated we are going to keep Blogger up.

I have decided to keep Blogger indefinitely, actually. When the new site is thoroughly propagated throughout the internet, I am going to take down the opening remarks and links, etc. and leave only the Archives. This way we will not lose our history.

Our regular contributors and regular guest contributors will be frontpage features on the new website. Like Daily Kos, My Left Wing, and FireDogLake, each on different software platforms, The American Liberalism Project will be open to anyone to comment on essays. In addition, our "Diary" section will have "occasional" essayists, and all of you are urged to sign up to do that. Commenting and writing essays is important, because that is how we test our ideas in the marketplace. Lurking (reading only) is okay, but we hope you venture out once in a while an write a comment.

When the transition occurs it should be reasonably transparent to everyone. One day your American Liberalism "bookmark" will point to a different IP address and you will see the new website. But, computers and the internet are complicated and there are always problems. So, be sure to make a bookmark of this website, because we will be keeping you posted on the progress here.

Thanks for your support. Please be thinking of one or two people you will tell about the new site when it appears. Think of people who are in local politics. We will run diaries that are campaign endorsements for PROGRESSIVE Democratic candidates this year provided they say what the candidate actually stands for.

Jim Brett

Friday, June 23, 2006

Feel a Draft?

Uncle Sam Wants You Poster
The sad course of the war and now the occupation of Iraq has pointed out the limitations of a small, high tech, volunteer Army. War and occupation are nothing like life in the Pentagon or across the Potomac River in the fever swamps of the federal government. War and occupation are brutal and nerve-wracking tests of individual human beings in the deliberate act of conquest, of asserting power over and control of other human beings.

The casualties of war and occupation are not only soldiers, their minds and personalities, their limbs, sight, and sustainable health. Of course the casualties on the other side are usually much, much higher: the children, wives, mothers, civilians of all walks of life pay a tremendous toll at the hands of our soldiers. Enemy combatants in a lop-sided war and occupation like that in Iraq are unlikely to survive for very long. In Iraq the death count of combatants is ten to fifty times that of Americans (and the piddling contributions from other nations).

But, another casualty of war and occupation with a small volunteer Army is policy. Practically no one believes we can put up a credible fight for any purpose beyond our current activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, we reported the demise of PNAC the other day, doubtless a casualty of the realities of war and occupation, the realization that our legions are not endless and are not prepared to fight simultaneously everywhere.

Joan Vennochi in the Boston Globe wrote yesterday an OpEd piece that seemed to be calling for a reinstatement of the Draft, universal conscription. I have to agree with her. At every level meaningful to our democracy an immediate institution of the draft would so democratize this war as to make it completely unacceptable. In fact, I call on all people who believe that we should make a careful and responsible withdrawal from Iraq (and wherever else our troops are failing to achieve their mission and our national goals) to institute universal conscription to commence not later than January 1, 2007.

Yes, this should be an issue in the up-coming mid-term elections! Yes, to paraphrase Ms. Vennochi, if this war is worth spending another billion dollars a month on it is worth the efforts of the whole country!

Yes, I know, the draft will create its own problems. Men will be required to register for the draft, but for women it will be a choice. Yes, there is inequality in that, and we could sit here and argue it endlessly. I think huge numbers of women would register, frankly.

Yes, the sons and daughters of the rich and powerful would, as always, get special considerations or take the easy way out like George Bush did. As long as it is a complicated and difficult procedure to avoid the draft, then those who shirk their duty should pay for it with the righteous opprobrium that the society will (normally) give them. Or, they can move to Canada or Mexico and become immigrants.

Yes, the draft will fill our colleges and universities with kids who are borderline or less, and yes, grade inflation will rear its ugly head again and take decades to fix, but the overall effect will be to democratize the armed forces and to democratize the war.

Will the draft improve the armed forces? Yes and no. It will provide many more bodies to rotate in and out of combat, thus achieving the respite that has been eroded away in the all vol army. It will put pressure on military leaders to train those bodies so they do not get killed the first day on the line. It will give the U.S. Army more credibility, for now the view is that the volunteer army composed of kids with few opportunities and even less hope. A draft army will be more representative of American society.

That is the key. If America wants to bully the rest of the world, then everyone who votes that way should understand that their own sons and, perhaps their daughters, too, are in harm's way. That should cut down the bullshit by a factor of 100 immediately.

JB

Thursday, June 22, 2006

God and Life

If you pray to God to let your team win, you are praying to a local god. If you are praying to God to bless your tanks, bombs, the soldiers sent to kill and your success in the destruction of another people, then you are praying to a national god.

Logically one could infer that the great creative force of the universe, if it has the ability to think, would be very unlikely to give us a permission slip or support in any destructive actions of this creation so amazingly wrought.

What loving parent would side with one child who wishes to harm a sibling? Why would the creator of life support our wanton destruction of any part of this creation? When we choose to destroy life through war, environmental degradation and oppression of other people, we are working against the creative forces as well as undermining the very life systems we depend on to survive. If there is an evil, it is our own decision to destroy life and bring death.

Early man went to war against invaders to fight for territory that enabled him to survive. We should have evolved beyond these tactics by now but in our ignorance and arrogance we dare to use force on others when they do not threaten our lives but have something we want. That is what war has become. The bully tactics of those who have been able to amass the biggest, strongest and deadliest killing force on earth, to oppress other lives, cultures and the environments of people around the world and to take from them the control over their resources, environment and people to feed the profit motivated globalization effort. Those who hunger for war get us to support it by telling us we are threatened by some enemy. Look past their claims and see how often their true motives were to full fill one of the above objectives. Ask 'Who Benefits? War is a great profit generating system. Who loses? Life loses.

The very idea that one person is superior to any other on the basis of race, sex, culture or ideology, is to fly in the face of the creation as it exists. How do we dare to claim that the creator's work was not perfect when the diversity of humanity emerged? How do we claim that a different culture, people, language, belief system, way of life or any of the thousand differences that have developed among us, are inferior to our own when they have developed in their unique environment and met its challenges to survive using the abilities the creative force endowed them with. We should stand in awe of the amazing talent of mankind to not only survive, but to create unique cultures in response to their environment.

Every plant, living thing, and environmental system is part of the net of life we inhabit. Any event anywhere in this global life will have an effect on all of us in some way. If we tear vast holes in the net through use of warfare, irresponsible environmental abuse, neglect of vast numbers of others who are suffering, the net becomes weaker for all of us. Do we wish to pass on to our children a tattered shroud of life, a dying shadow of the vibrant healthy net of life that provided the means to survive to all? How much longer will we continue to act as spoiled children breaking and destroying this amazing creation we have been born into?

Mankind has failed to grow beyond the use of brute force. We all consider bully tactics in the schoolyard as offensive, yet we accept these same tactics in our leaders. Why? Billions of dollars are invested in the weapons and means to kill and destroy life. We invest in death, not life. What does this say about us, our society?

If we continue to accept the brutality of war which is driven by ignorance and self serving motives, we will have a hand in our own destruction. If there is a thinking creator observing all of this, my guess is that human life on earth would be considered a failure.

Sue Dyer, Guest Essayist

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Foreign Policy Institute

In an eighty page report, the Foreign Policy Institute published the results of a survey of more than one hundred foreign policy experts whose ranks include Richard Clarke, Hary Hart, Steve Coll, William Odom, Larry Johnson and Walter Pincus. This group has a varied political view and their backgrounds are certainly the same, but they seemed to be a fairly cohesive group given their responses.

As far as the US winning the war on terror, eighty-four percent of them said we are not and eight one percent think that Guantanamo reflects negatively on us. Eighty-six percent think that we as Americans are at much more risk in the world. They also favor multilateralism and support the UN three to one.

Sixty-two percent felt that Saudi Arabia was the greatest producer of global terrorists with thirteen percent favoring Eygpt, and eleven percent say Pakistan. And those are our allies! Where are the bad guys we hear so much about...North Korea, Iran and Syria?

Eighty-four percent think that it is a strong possibility, within the next five years, that there will be another attack, on the same scale as 9/11, and almost the same number feel that it will be a suicide bomb.

All around, when asked to prioritize what they would do in the war on terror, some said catch the leaders, some wanted to spread democracy but a whopping 82% said we need to outgrow our dependence on foreign oil, and two thirds felt that the current U.S. energy policies actually made matters worse.

Former CIA director James Woolsey said:
"We borrow a billion dollars every working day to import oil, an increasing share of it coming from the Middle East. For example, in Saudi Arabia, billion are transferred to the Wahhabi's and like minded groups, who then indoctrinate young people to hate Shiites, Sufis, Jews, Christians and democracy, and to oppress women horribly."

If you happen to ask anyone not from America, why they yhink we are in Iraq they will almost to a person say, Oil. We have allowed a group of greedy, mundane people to take control of our government, besmirch our country's good name and honor. And for what? If you still believe it was to oust a dictator, or in pursuit of WMD's, or to spread the democracy and freedom we all enjoy, sort of, then you live in an alternate universe. We are there for one reason and one reason only. Greed.

Susan B. Goodwin

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Mess That is Foster Care

With all the controversy swirling around about abortion, education, homelessness and drug abuse, not much mention is made of the Foster Care system in this country, a system which works marginally for it's clientele. The state of Florida, notorious for the worst Foster Care system in the country, manages to lose approximately 5,000 children within the system every year.

Today I would urge you to take a look at this series of articles from Justice Talking.

http://www.justicetalking.org/viewprogram.asp?progID=555

Monday, June 19, 2006

Stay the Course

bloodied Iraqi child
Tom Englehardt in TomDispatch often produces blogs featuring "spot-on" commentary by notable analysts. Yesterday Tom presented some views on Iraq by Robert Dreyfuss entitled "Permanent War."

Dreyfuss's comments are chilling in one important respect—the statement is made that there can be a successful outcome to the "stay the course" policy of Rove, Rumsfeld, Cheney, & Bush LLP.

You need to read this analysis because it factors directly into the 2006 mid-term elections and the stance being taken by the Democrats.

"Cut and Run" is the mantra that Rove uses to describe the quisling attitudes of the Democrats. Currently most of the Democrats are saying just that ... there can be no victory, so we must leave.

The question (and the answer) is that the victory predicted by the cabal in the White House will come at unacceptable costs to the moral fabric of the people of the United States, the respect other nations and peoples have for the United States, and most of all the welfare of the Iraqis themselves.

Bush intends to occupy Iraqi as we have occupied Germany and Japan, i.e., until it is exactly a compliant, supine, client of the U.S. corporate petroleum interests. The Iraqi culture will be completely obliterated and hundreds of thousands will be maimed and killed before they catch on that they have been serially raped by corporate America.

The antidote to Rove's mantra "stay the course" is to describe the "course" for what it is. This needs to be reduced to sound-bites and counter-mantras. "Pillage," "cultural genocide," "Rape the Iraqi," "Occupation without End," are a few that come to mind quickly.

America has not done this sort of warmongering since the Spanish-American War. American history is pretty well settled that it was an explosion of jingoistic violence and hubris. Those were dark days of Johnny-come-lately imperialism.

The Bush policy in Iraq has every element of that almost forgotten war, but is embedded in two slow-motion global crises: global warming and the depletion of petroleum world-wide. These two factors provide a slightly new context, one in which the actions of the United States are laid bare and exposed for what they are—the first stages of a global struggle for survival, conducted not as a civilized, cooperative, and rational society, but as a wounded beast, red in tooth and claw.

JB

Photo by Robert Fisk

Sunday, June 18, 2006

PNAC

One of the more startling announcements this past week was Tuesday's rather passive comment that PNAC is not answering its telephones. Jim Lobe's article in Inter Press Service was picked up by CommonDreams and had all the effect of the last party whistle blast of New Years Morning.

PNAC is dead? What will we do now, I asked myself incredulously? Have these latter day imperialists succumbed to the notion that we are but one nation among many with no moral charter granting us hegemony over the rest? Have they so well succeeded in Iraq that there is no point in swaggering across the globe bargaining with a big stick for petroleum and McDonald's concessions? Or, has there been a falling out among them, a rift grown to a chasm, an argument over using nukes in Iran, a decision on North Korea that was hard to swallow?

Perhaps they noticed that their favorite toys are spent, exhausted, weakened by time and fate. The retired generals have spoken their piece. Perhaps PNAC is not used to being spoken to in this way. The Pax Americana was not to be a Pax, afterall, some of them discovered. Prolonged war is not all it was plumped up to be.

Frankly, I don't believe it. PNAC was always way too public with their declarations and manifestos. It was always something of a façade for the smokey rooms wherein are hatched the real geopolitical monsters of the imagination and hegemonic schemes. There is nothing to prevent these tin pot globe trotters from continuing their designs, the next war or imperialist incursion, the raping of the planet.

Yet possibly, the corporations may have come into play. Corporations are linked by interlocking directors and directorates, and above all they understand one another, like wolves in a pack understand a herd of starving bison or elk. Perhaps PNAC was given orders from Wall Street that it could not ignore, but could not carry out. The mission is secure, they said, closing the door, the Project is finished—mission accomplished, but all that has happened is the elimination of the illusion of publicity.

The domestic agenda is now in full swing, of course. Habeus corpus has been successfully suspended, warrantless wiretapping is old hat, no-knock invasion of privacy has been vindicated, and elections are manipulated like pin-ball machines without a "tilt" mechanism. The country is tired of seemingly futile occupations and the mad chase of Bin Laden and his retinue. PNAC has, in fact, served its narrow purpose: the excuse for our bad behavior has been tendered. In "balance journalism" this is enough.

James Richard Brett

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Our Pragmatic Reality

There was a piece in The Washington Post on Tuesday by E. J. Dionne, Jr. that described the anguished speech of Cardinal Ratzinger just before he was elected by his peers to be the next Pope. This is an important article and important subject, because what it is really about is the inadequacy of soul that leads people into ideational absolutism, sometimes known as blind faith.

Ratzinger is a fairly notorious person in his own right, a martinet, an absolutist, intolerant of others, a bully, a doctrinaire dogmatist. But, Ratzinger is not unlike thousands and probably millions in America whose souls' need is for an absolute certainty about something, almost anything it seems, but surely about spiritual matters, those parts of mental/emotional life that quickly end up in the cul-de-sac of impossible ignorance when we are left to our own devices.

Interestingly, James Fallows in The Atlantic this month (July/August) also wrote about the tension in our country (and others, of course) between Idealism and Practicality. It is a tension that could be said to have been first enunciated well by Gov. John Winthrop in the Massachusetts Bay Colony when he described the City on the Hill, the New Jerusalem, the notion that America is special in the eyes and in the hands of God. But, there was a strong, vigorous native pragmatism even then, though, and it was not weaker than the idealist faith of Winthrop. This pragmatic streak in American thought was expressed in academic terms a couple centuries later by Dewey and James, as we all know. So the question has ever been which tether is the stronger. Are we founded on immutable ideals, Christian or otherwise, or are we really quite a bit more secular and pragmatic than any of the Puritans would like to admit, and are we really just one nation (albeit powerful) among many.

The resolution of philosophy, as I understand it, is that since Hume and Kant and the emergence of Analytic Philosophy the tacit agreement is that all systems of thought have their axioms and postulates that cannot be proven within their systems. In the 20th century this has led some thinkers to very elaborate and to simple forms of relativism and contextualism, the very evil that Ratzinger so abhors. What is so appalling about Ratzinger is that he presumes that all human beings are led by their gonads or other beastly glands to spiritual relativism--the so-called shopping cart view of Roman Catholicism. He does not, (and we presume the whole College of Cardinals does not) believe in the rationality of homo sapiens sapiens, which to my mind is as complete a negation of our best view of ourselves as you can find. But DUH! When did they ever care about rationality.

The matter is settled for most of us. We recognize in our daily lives that we have different views of things at work than we do at home, and we act differently. We are different at 21 from what we were at 18 and more different still at 65. We know that this is true not only in 2006, but in every year of human experience back to Caesar crossing the Rubicon and farther back still. We know that we are relativists and contextualists. Why should we allow ourselves to be made to feel guilty about this? To shore up the political power of the Vatican? Surely you jest! To give credence to the notion of aristocracy, whether genetic or economic? To support the inept in their headlong flights of military imagination in the deserts of the middle east? By no means!

This short essay is about understanding the roots of Liberalism, for it is completely the case that Liberalism is contextualistic and relativistic. It depends on an allegiance to principles, but with the caution that one must be vigilant against dogmatism and dogmatists, the power hungry and the foolish.

James Richard Brett

Friday, June 16, 2006

Impending Changes Here

The American Liberalism Project is about to undergo some major changes. To make sure that we do not lose contact with our readership, though, we have migrated a good part of the website over to the blogger URL where we have been posting our essays for almost two years. Maybe you have already noticed this change. The blog URL is http://americanliberalism.blogspot.com/ (this appears in the "address box" of your browser as you are reading this, of course) and you should bookmark it now, just in case we run into trouble migrating the basic website to its new format and location. The Blogger location will be kept running until we are completely satisfied that the transition has been successful.

The new website (with the same name) will contain our essays and running dialogues as well as our static features like links to press, liberal and progressive organizations, blogs, newsletters, historical and contemporary documents, etc., the Leaders of Liberalism gallery, and some other features now on the old website. The big change will be the ability to generate good discussions. This capability will make our site more like the famous Daily Kos, My Left Wing, FireDogLake, and others where a distinct community of people from all around the nation (and world) feel free to make comments on essays, statements, "blogs," and "open thread" opportunities posted by ALP regulars. There will be a way to accept new essayists, and there will be a way to regulate "trolls" and "flamers." It should take about a week to get everything in order and ready for the transition, then we will cut from our Time-Warner ISP to the new system at SoapBlox. Blogger will continue until we are well out of the woods.

The one thing that will not change is this: we are dedicated to providing news, opinion, and discussions about American Liberalism, Progressivism, and critiques of American politics and politicians. We hope your and our emphasis stays on clear, rigorous critical thinking and that it provides the readership with a sense of belonging to a community of like- or similar-minded people. I was, btw, in a large group of such people in Las Vegas at Yearly Kos a little over a week ago. It felt wonderful!

The (first) Yearly Kos convention was a unexpected success. About twelve hundred bloggers (writers, commenters, and lurkers) showed up and were entertained by Markos Moulitsas himself (looks like 18, but actually 33, and very mature and humble), former Virginia Governor Mark Warner, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean now Chairman of the DNC, Senator Barbara Boxer of California and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Minority Leader, as well as throngs of press, columnists, and photographers. Yours truly met Arianna Huffington and spoke with her for a while. Earlier I was on CSPAN during a Q&A session.

One of the things discussed at YK1 was that websites like Daily Kos and The American Liberalism Project provide multi-directional opportunities for free expression, something very important to this democracy. We provide a place of (hopefully) thoughtful discussion that makes it possible for people out in their homes and workplaces to feel like "they are not alone." Blogs are one of the best cures for the "divide and conquer" strategies of the opposition.

Another thing we provide is a forum for elucidating and prioritizing facts and interpretations of them. The forum exists at the website, but its importance goes beyond the website because anyone reading it can forward and point out interesting discussions and new facts to other people, including politicians running for office or officials sitting in their offices in Washington or state capitals. We will be able to have polls taken on virtually any subject and the results can be emailed to anyone in politics as "pressure" for fixing their stance on the issue.

A third function of websites like ours is to act as a "surrogate" for spreading information and political opinion outward from candidates and elected officials by going around the main-stream media, which has failed us so badly in the past few years. The American Liberalism Project is capable in this way of helping any and all true liberals or progressives carry their message to the rest of the nation. And, of course, while doing this, it is always ... always ... up for examination and criticism.

The American Liberalism Project will continue to be advertisement free. If you all can spend your valuable time with us, we can certainly afford to spend less than a fifty cents a day to keep the website going. We appreciate your loyalty and interest.

Liberalism is a deceptively complex subject. It has a long history that was foreshadowed in the writings of philosophers like Plato and others. It has its solid roots in the Enlightenment in Britain and Europe, and it has its own early American history with the framers of the Constitution. Modern "Liberalism" is not a dirty word, and invective-whores like Ann Coulter who throw endless insults our way are not worth our attention. What is worthy of our energies is the idea that human beings can organize their lives so that individual freedoms can be maximized. We meanwhile strive for progressive change that recognizes the goodness and humanity in the vast majority of us, in our ethics, and in our understanding that power corrupts. We liberals understand that we depend on a rule of law for the security of our liberties and freedoms.

We hope you will like the new format and new energy. If you do, tell a friend.

James Richard Brett

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