American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Petroleum: Upon This RockOil

Recently I have been running into the term "Peak Oil" a lot. It is usually spelled with capital letters, and so I thought for a brief moment maybe it was some oil company owned by the Peak family or named "peak" instead of "acme," or something like that. I looked it up with Google® and quickly found this interesting explanation in Wikipedia, which you should read and bookmark.

Of course, the most recent American interest in world petroleum assets is due to the recent sharp rise in gasoline prices at the pump. Americans are spoiled rotten with low gasoline prices and still have the lowest average price in the world. The point is, though, that we have experienced a couple of "gas crises" back about a generation ago and threats of crises since. So we are skittish about oil, and partly because we know that our 5% of the world's human population consumes 25% of the world's energy, all of which is very heavily resting on the non-limitless natural resource of petroleum. So, maybe it is actually outright paranoia we are experiencing.

Call it paranoia. Skittish is going to sound like a major understatement according to the latest estimates of the "peak oil" year. It has been predicted before and did not happen, but how many times can we tempt fate, we are all asking ourselves? And, more important, what will be the consequences of being in a post-peak economic environment?

Since we do not know what Dick Cheney and his merry band discussed in their energy summit in early 2001, and since our President is currently hell-bent and monomaniacally encumbered with privatizing Social Security to please his friends and contributors on Wall Street, we do not have a national energy policy to deal with—and here it comes—the "peak oil" year that is due NEXT YEAR already!

Next year!!!

I imagine that the Bush Administration folks believe that the American national energy companies will do their level best to make sure that we have enough gasoline to survive, to fill the remaining SUVs, manufacture fertilizer for our major crops, and to make plastics for our remaining manufacturing industries, not to mention pharmaceuticals and national mobility infrastructures like AmTrak, airlines, subways, etc.

I imagine they think the energy companies will have to take really big risks wildcatting in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge and off-shore in the Gulf of Mexico and along the scenic California coastline.

I imagine they believe the energy companies should be able to recoup these enormous risk costs quickly enough to keep stockholders (including Social Security personal accountholders) happy and secure.

I imagine that Cheney and his task force foresaw a global dog-eat-dog competition for oil, especially with China, and foresaw that Russia would be a major provider. This is why, no doubt, we have recently decided to put our bets on India and have annoyed Russia's President Putin no end by messing with politics in The Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, and doubtless elsewhere in the former Soviet Union as well. Perhaps Cheney has a secret plan to capture the lion's share of Russian petroleum ... somehow.

What does actually happen in the next few years will be something between a cataclysmic catastrophe, that is ...

  • a global depression, the failure of governments right, left, and center,
  • a ruinous inflation, destroying savings and financial institutions everywhere,
  • famine,
  • pestilence, and
  • (what the hell)—the Apocalypse
versus something very evolutionary that we will notice between television shows and talk about with the kids at supper or over their homework.

Given these boundaries for the post-peak period, what would your estimates be of the preparedness of your government? Is there anything going on now that would give you a sense of ... um ... peace and security about any of this?

I think not. The Bush foreign policy is radical unilateralism, which, if predicated on peak oil year 2006, means that they expect the worst from everyone and intend to let it be known that "it's every country for itself," and, b.t.w., "the devil takes the hindmost." A Liberal government, on the other hand, would be fully vested in various collective security and collective responsibility associations and would be seeking every possible way to make sure that every country gets what it needs, if not exactly every drop of oil it "wants."

I also think not because domestically Bush and his band of plutocrats have studiously engaged themselves in a rapid and radical scheme of corporate welfare. They clearly see corporations and corporate leaders as the only safe way through the coming chaos. It has not occurred to them that the corporate profit motive is a weak hand, indeed, guiding the affairs of humankind and will be inadequate to the wrenching distortions that will overtake one society after another. I also doubt they see corporate behavior as contributing to the chaos rather than calming it.

Finally, I have no sense of peace or security about my government and its ability to deal with peak oil because my government has chosen the methods of internal propaganda and deceit, of inciting fear, of squelching essential freedoms of expression. What can they be up to? It is, given peak oil next year, their way of girding up for the riots and chaos that will surely ensue. Do they not know that their own policies give rise to emotional responses rather than cool reason? Do they not understand that once unleashed, the forces they hope to harness for their own personal profit and for the "good of America" will utterly destroy them, our national economy, ... and probably most of us?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Back Where You Came From

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else." -- Teddy Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

One of the silliest statements that I have heard in the last few years has got to be...If You do not like things here then go back where you came from. Well gee...I COME from here!

What do people hope to accomplish with such a blind comment? We are, all of us, a nation of immigrants. But our ancestors came here hoping for a better life, a more equitable system of government. And, it seems to me that those who would have us return from whence we came are not talking to recent immigrants. Most who dare to question what this administration is doing, and are therefore told they need to leave, are those whose roots are here are several generations deep.

As I recall my studies of US History, it was almost my civic duty to protest what I felt my government might be doing that was diametrically opposed to those values that had shaped us as a nation. It is, as I recall, the very first Amendment to the Constitution, the first 10 amendments being known as The Bill of Rights. This Bill of Rights was adopted by the first Congress, called to meet in New York City, March 4, 1789. Later ratified by the various states, on December 15, 1791, they were made a part of the Constitution. MY Constitution.

So we see in this first Amendment that, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof"; (What this says to me is that my government has no business telling me how or when I should or should not worship, and in keeping with that premise THEY will not establish a state religion of any kind. But now, if I do not care for the sort of in your face religiosity that is permeating my government and country, I need to leave?) "or abridging the freedom of speech"; ( One would think that I should be able to voice my opinion, right? Nope...told to leave!) "or the press", (so, if I own a small newspaper, or even a large one, then I can print what I choose, even if it is at odds with what others might think or feel? Wrong again, you should pack your bags and leave! Here, I will even help you pack and buy your plane/bus/boat ticket, or go on line and take up a collection in order to hasten your departure!), "or the right of the people to peaceably assemble", (screaming through bullhorns outside a hospice is peaceably assembling? BUT, if I dare to say I feel this is not right then I am aiding and abetting murder and I need to leave!), " to petition the government for a redress of grievances." (If I dare ask a question of My President, the man chosen to represent me and my country, I have no choice BUT to leave! The men in suits and dark glasses will escort me out.)

Well, I am not happy, and there are many things that I do not like about my country these days...(see above). I do not like what my government is doing. I think it needs to mend it's ways. I think it is driving us into a deep dark hole which may well take another generation or two for us to crawl out of. I think the President is a jerk. I think those around him do not have the best interests of my country at heart. I think he is all about what profits him and his cronies and to heck with the rest of us. I have a right to say these things. You do not agree then YOU have the right to say so as well. But the difference is, I will not tell you to leave! I will RESPECT your opinion.

I will continue to say all of the above and more, and, I am NOT leaving! I am entrenched. 300+ years of my ancestors blood sweat and tears have gone into the making of this nation. I think I will stick around.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Here We Go Again

A recent article in the Washington Post may have gone unnoticed by most of the so called journalists, but it is very important for at least two reasons: war and hypocrisy. The Administration is beginning to try to make the case for going to war with Iran, and it is doing so by using an argument that the very people involved used thirty years ago to justify giving Iran nuclear power reactors.

The argument now goes that since Iran has vast reserves of oil it makes no sense for Iran to develop nuclear power. Dick Cheney recently said,”They’re already sitting on an awful lot of oil and gas. Nobody can figure why they need nuclear as well to generate energy.” Therefore, Iran must have some nefarious reason for wanting nuclear power reactors, such as obtaining fissionable material for a nuclear device.

Thirty years ago, during the Ford Administration, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz held key national security posts. All were in a position to play important roles in Iran policy and certainly were aware of Iran’s request and its reasons for wanting nuclear power.

At that time, Iran used the argument that it had to develop alternative energy sources because the Iran’s oil reserves were finite and would eventually run out. Iran requested US help to develop a nuclear power capability. The US offered Iran the chance to buy and operate a US-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from a nuclear reactor. These fuel – reactors are powered by regenerating fissile materials on a self-sustaining basis. This is the very ability the Bush administration is now trying to prevent Iran from obtaining.

So now we have Dick Cheney using the same arguments, which he once accepted as valid, to imply that Iran is seeking nuclear reactors not for civil uses but to develop a nuclear weapon. Cheney is now trying to beat the drums of war for an Iran invasion. This is the same man who claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and would give these to terrorist groups. Hopefully, the American public is not going to buy it this time. As the old adage goes, Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Issues for the Democratic Party

For me there are two main questions facing the Democratic Party that must be resolved sooner rather than later. Sooner, because it is essential that we get past our internal differences so that the campaign against Bush and his radical extremists is won.

The first question is about War and Peace. Since Tolstoy the question has been whether or not war is avoidable, whether it is a matter of human free will or, as he eventually decides, it is a matter of historical determinism. In the Tsar's 19th century Russia Tolstoy observed at first hand the lugubrious and ponderous stupidity of government, so it is no wonder he arrived at his deterministic conclusion. Tolstoy was torn by the great tragedy of war, yet he saw little hope for avoiding it.

Tolstoy's answer is hardly satisfying. Historican determinism means that at any given time there are historical forces that create the necessity for either war or peace, and these forces will produce the human leaders to bring about one or the other, depending on which force is strongest.

Before him, Clausewitz had said that war is merely the carrying out of political relations by other means.

Neocons, the builders of the New American Century take a Clausewitzian view, hence the "preemptive war" against Iraq ... which as we know was really a war for the precious oil fields of the region. Bribing Sadam did not achieve what was intended, so kill him.

Liberals take a much more human centric view of things and believe that war or peace are essentially decisions based on (a) one's armaments (b) the threat to national security (c ) and the willingness of a citizens' army (and other armed services) to risk life to accomplish defined goals ... including anihilation of the enemy or simply repelling a ill-conceived attack on a national interest.

I put armaments first, because the lesson of the 1930's is that when you are disarmed, you tend to be more willing to appease than when you are armed to the teeth. When you are armed only with nuclear weapons, as from time to time the U.S. has been, then the narrower range of military responses conditions the overall decision. Armaments, what they are and how they are used are very important, but they are the result of prior decisions, not the decision of whether to wage war or seek peace.

Liberals sometimes get behind the eightball in Congress for prioritizing social programs ahead of armaments. This is a natural "mistake" when your country is the lone super power and when the armament in question happens to be a disinterred version of StarWars anti-missile missile defense system. But, the cases are not always so clear, so Liberals have to make up their minds that military strength is a high priority and deserving of their careful consideration. A peacenik attitude toward the Pentagon will simply antagonize the hawks and provide them with additional evidence that Liberals are pantywaist idiots.

Liberals can get behind armaments and bring to bear their acute sense of proportion, skill at logic, and good common sense. That's all that's needed. The military-industrial complex is a tough customer, but with good clear thinking we can control it. We just have to decide that it is not going away soon, especially if we ignore it.

Liberals are good at making decisions (b) about threats to the national security. Liberals are not good, however, about seeing threats to the national interest, since many of these interests are corporate interests abroad. A good Liberal leader should be able to enunciate a set of principles that simultaneously give corporations a clue about what they can expect in high-risk situations and give folks out there in the world, who might take pot shots at our "national interests," a clue about what we are ready to do to them in exchange for their hostile acts.

In a phrase, Liberals have also to explain how the principle of Collective Security works to to foster democracy elsewhere and how it relates to our own national postures on various fronts. Certainly, the point has been made that we will not give up our sovereignty to any other nation with whom we are "bound" in a treaty. But, we have done much inside of treaty organizations and done it well, ask anyone who understands NATO. Collective security is the Rule of Law in international affairs, pure and simple.

The question (c) of the will of the people to fight (or to experience hardship to avoid calamitous fighting) follows more easily from well-enunciated positions on (a) armaments and (b) threats to both national security and national interests. Still, Liberals have work to do here, as well. For one, Liberals should never forget that "eternal vigilance" is the price of freedom. Sometimes one gets the feeling that Liberals are effete, intellectual pantywaists. This is Republican propaganda, of course, but the idea must be dispelled, and not by hopping onto Republican bandwagons and into Republican wars!

I propose that the best way is honesty, that is, not to hang around in a war that was sold on false premises, and instead to break loose from the idea that we are stuck with the past and must do what it orders us to do. That is historical determinism! No, we should let our nation know that we will not wage war for natural resources, for corporate profits, for friends of the President, for any other reason but to defend our national security. No, we will not normally wage war to protect national corporate interests UNLESS that clearly and unequivocally is the same as our national security.

The other thing that the Democratic Party must do is this: every Democrat must pledge if elected to support major, radical, campaign finance reform. The token of this pledge will be that no donations to campaigns (or any other form of organization that works on the behalf of campaign issues and against opponents) will be accepted from corporations or the CEOs, CFOs, or any other officer of a corporation! PERIOD! We believe that Howard Dean can pull this off, and we challenge him to put his whole energy and organization into this fight to regain our democracy.

More toadying to the military-industrial complex for second best contributions, more whoring after funding for useless campaign promises and double-talk, and more hiding out from the tough issues will surely bring out third party candidates and will surely lose elections.

With military policy rationalized and properly directed and with campaign finance tilted in favor of democracy rather than against it, Liberals in the Democratic Party can hold up their heads and believe once again.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Right to Life and Death

I suppose, because she has managed to chase even the war in Iraq off the front pages, Therese Marie Schiavo gets to have one more blog dedicated to her plight.

One thing that we liberals pride ourselves on is a great belief in the rule of law. The application of the laws, in our system of jurisprudence, have come through brilliantly in this latest test in the case of Terri Schiavo.

There are a great number of people who are not happy with the court's ruling. Not the least of which are most of the Republican bloc in Congress who, to the tune of 5 million dollars, raced back to Washington, over the week-end, in order to pass unconstitutional legislation, to try and prevent the demise of one person. I may be in a minority here but I cannot help but see this as the latest cog in their great wheel of hypocrisy, and an attempt to pander to those self styled moralists who surround them and seem to be calling all too many shots these days.

I have been following the Schiavo case off and on since it first came into the headlines. There has been much back and forth with this for several years now. Actually it has been litigated for about seven years.

So, just what of Therese Marie Schindler Schiavo? It is not for nothing that we find her in this position to begin with. Apparently Terri was either Bulemic or Anorexic, and if any of you recall, it was exactly the same sort of "accident" which took the life of Karen Carpenter many years ago. The diffrence; Terri Schiavo was resuscitated. But, resuscitated to what? Irreversible brain damage. Her brain had been denied oxygen for about 14 minutes. For the brain to be denied oxygen, for even 5 minutes, leaves one in an iffy recovery position. It is a guarantee that there will be some sort of brain malfunction following an incident such as that.

Immediately following this tragedy, her husband, devastated at his wife's situation, did everything possible to seek an alternative diagnosis regarding her condition. He brought suit against the medical professionals who had failed to recognize her eating disorder physical problems. He moved in with her parents in order to save money for her medical care and to be closer to the facility she was placed in. He won his malpractice suit, used the money in order to take her to California to a clinic that had, he had heard, some success with recovery in cases such as Terri's. He was greeted with the same diagnosis there; irreversible brain damage. She would remain, he was told, in a permanent vegatative state.

Fast forward to today. Fifteen years later. Not one year, not 15 months, but 15 years! Her husband has moved on with his life, as well he should have, but in the process has come to loggerheads with parents who refuse to accept what countless Dr.'s and other health professionals have told them. Terri will never recover.

Being a parent, I cannot imagine their pain. Having a child die before you is not the normal order of things. However, I cannot imagine, what after all this time, keeps them from accepting that the daughter they nurtured, loved and raised to adulthood, left them 15 years ago. As difficult as it would undoubtedly be, I have to hope that I love my children enough to unselfishly let them go and be at peace.

I pray every day that someone will let Therese Marie Schindler Schiavo know that it is okay to just go.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Draft Redux

A recent article in the Washington Monthly argues the case to reinstate the draft. The authors argue that even if you don’t agree with Bush’s preemptive war (and they don’t) America is going to have to own up to the fact that we are, whether we like it or not, the only superpower in the world. As a superpower we have the responsibility to assist other countries to prevent genocide, stabilize existing democracies, and to fight terrorism.

They list and discuss what they call five bad options: convincing other countries to share the burden, use more military contractors, radically transform today’s army, increase the size of the active-duty force, and finally increase surge capacity by enticing more people to join the reserves. They argue, for various reasons, that none of these options would provide the type of force required to not only defeat an opposing army but also to then occupy a defeated country for long periods of time in order to establish a stable democratic government

Their solution is to impose a requirement that no four-year college or university be allowed to accept a student of either gender until that student had completed a 12 month to two-year term of service. Students could fulfill their obligations in three ways: in national service programs like AmeriCorps, in homeland security assignments, or in the military. Those who choose the latter would serve in supporting roles such as police officers, truck drivers, or other non-combat specialists and would deployed as needed for peacekeeping or nation- building missions. All would receive modest stipends and college grants with more money going to those who sign up for the longer and riskier duty.

As a liberal I admit to having mixed feelings about this plan. I wish we lived in a world where no military force was necessary, but such a utopian society will not exist in my lifetime, if ever. We have enemies who, for various reasons, wish us harm and so long as they exist we must maintain a strong force to protect the United States.
That being said, I am convinced that we do need to fix the problems inherent with an all volunteer military. We cannot continue to allow what I consider to be a mercenary force to fight our country’s battles while most of us are hardly affected. The all-volunteer force is composed primarily of citizens who are either poor, minorities or both. I think this is unfair and un democratic and will ultimately lead to the moral and social decay of our country. Moreover, I believe that if we had some type of universal service such that all citizens were affected by the Iraq war, it would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, for Bush to proceed with this ill-conceived preemptive war.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Plutocrats and Fascists

Ideology is a refuge for some people. It provides them with answers when their intellects will not. Liberalism is an ideology, as we have said all along, but we have defined it not as a cornucopia of answers to life's daily vexing questions, nor have we provided within Liberalism a model of the economy or of social organization. Liberalism is a set of principles and strategic goals. These principles are enunciated right there on our banner: Individual Liberty, Humanity, Progress, Ethics, and the Rule of Law. These are interactive principles that in their various combinations provide guidance to Liberals as they confront daily situations.

The conservatives say that Liberals are state-ists, that we believe in big government solutions to societal problems. Indeed we do believe in government programs, because we believe in Humanity and in the Rule of Law. That is, when we combine these two principles, we realize that our greatest service is to other human beings ... not just to ourselves ... and we believe that this is more easily accomplished by establishing structures in the Law ... independent of the whims and vagaries of individuals ... to accomplish humane goals.

The Bushites do not believe in the efficacy of government because they fundamentally do not believe in the judgment and motivation of people who are not motivated by self-interest. They believe that self-interest is the natural leavening in society, that the most capable people will quickly realize that self-interest is the way to be, and that only these people will "make something of themselves" as measured by (of course) the universal standard of success—money. Put more succinctly, the Bushite ideology is built on the notion of a Darwinian survival of the fittest built not on natural selection, but on the accumulation of wealth. At the end of the 19th century this idea was called Social Darwinism or the Gospel of Wealth. It is bunk!

Liberals are not against corporations or government agencies or companies or individuals, but Liberals understand from bitter experience with the kings and ministers of England (and elsewhere ... including America) that individuals, if not constrained by laws and ethics, will take their own individual perspective to be the truth ... rather than just their individual perspective. This is why Liberals demand a Rule of Law to constrain the inevitable excesses of strong individuals. Yet, Liberals believe that when motivated not just for profit and power individuals should be given the opportunity to express themselves freely, hence the Liberal placement of "Individual Liberty" first among our guiding principles.

Bush and the Bushites, on the other hand, believing as they do that the captains of industry (and they themselves) have "already proven themselves to be superior to the rest of us," put their trust for society for jobs, health, happiness, culture, etc. under the aegis of industry, corporations, if you will. It is their sincere belief that the rich are better human beings than the poor, because the rich make it possible for the poor to survive. It never occurs to them that maybe the rich are rich because they made the poor poor. They miss this point because they believe that riches are the reward for superiority. Some of them think that this is God's way of identifying superior persons, although, we think you will have to agree, there is nothing in the Bible or Torah or Q'ran or the Confucian Analects or the teachings of Buddha that says anything like this and much that is utterly opposed to such an idea!

So, for Bush and the Bushites with corporations representing the best efforts of a superior group of people, the proper duty of a government is not to provide programs helping people, but programs and laws and structures helping corporations ... which then will in their own natural way help people. This is the very definition of plutocracy—government by and for business and industry, rather than government by and for the people. If nothing else Bush and the Bushites are plutocrats pure and simple.

You see, Bush and the Bushites have our personal well-being at one remove from reality. They depend not on direct effect programs of assistance and nurture, but rather on the hypothetical side effects of the normal activities of corporate business and industry. They forget that these side-effects are more like epiphenomena than rational, intentional goals.

Liberals know very well what the motivations of corporation are. It does not take much time in a corporate board room to understand this. The single purpose of a corporation is profit for the stockholders. It matters not what the product or service is; profit is all important. When the managers are able to realize a profit, the stockholders reward them with high salaries. When they fail to provide profits, dividends, and generally let the value of the stock depreciate, they are fired. The pressure is enormous and many men and women crack and then fail under it.

So, if for instance you were to put everyone's Social Security fund into the hands of corporate leaders, what would you expect to happen? You would expect the managers of corporations to try to make a profit as usual and for everything to work to the benefit of everyone! And, you would be talking about an ideal case that has never occurred in a sustained way. You have heard of the business cycle!

Instead, what we have seen is where managers feel themselves to be independent of or above the Rule of Law, but under the exacting pressures of the corporate goal of profit they cheat, steal, bribe, whine, and generally throw their corporations into chaos, leaving the stockholders ... like the stockholders of thousands of savings and loan institutions fifteen years ago ... or the energy companies more recently ... holding the multi-billion, perhaps trillion dollar bag. Imagine Social Security in that bag!

Liberals do not trust people who believe themselves above the Rule of Law, Law democratically arrived at and evenly applied. Liberals believe in the goodness of people, but remain vigilant against the appearance of rogues. Bush and the Bushites believe ... against all of history and distress ... that the rogues are few and far between and that the system is self-correcting. There simply is no evidence for this claim and volumes of history to prove the opposite.

In their most naïve moments Bush and the Bushites are plutocrats, but when they lie to and propagandize their own citizens, when they trade in fear, when they divert attention from their own mistakes, when they discriminate against nationalities and categories of individuals, when they attempt to overthrow the Rule of Law they are fascists, not less frightening and horrible than the fascists of the 1930's and 1940's in Europe!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave...

With all the controversy these days over the Ten Commandments, I find it hard to reconcile the arguments of the various pro "10" groups with the rampant lying which seems to be endemic to this administration, and which these self styled moralists take as gospel.

When I was a child, one of the first lessons I learned was not to lie. I soon discovered that trying to cover up my "sin", with a lie, was the fastest route to punishment. Something which might have been negligible, had I 'fessed up in the beginning. This was a lesson I tried to pass on to my own children, and explained to them that lying was not the best way of handling any situation. (Of course there are always exceptions...hubby BETTER tell me that the dress is flattering!)

Now, we are led by an administration, which, for all its hallelujahing about it's faith, still manages, on a daily basis, to tell the most outrageous whoppers! I guess we have come to expect our politicians to lie to us. It is part of the political game, but, generally what they "lie" about are not so much lies as they are promises that they learn early on they are unable to keep.

The other day I began to think about the lies, which my government has managed to get away with telling for the last 1, 460 days, and, they have started off the next 1,460 with it.

If you still believe, in the light of all the evidence to the contrary, that Saddam Hussein had WMD's, that he and Bin Laden were in this plot together than read no further. You are obviously convinced that George W. Bush is, indeed, the Second Coming and nothing I can say will change your mind.

Another whopper, managed to convince otherwise clear headed Americans that we were in eminent danger of being slaughtered by those non existent WMD's. (Reminiscent of Ronald Reagan telling us we were in danger of being slaughtered by Granadans who could sweep up from Central America and be in TX in less time than it took for the SST to fly from London to NY.)

Abu Ghraib was the work of a handful of malcontents.
The Swift Boat Veterans were actually telling the truth.
There is nothing wrong with the quality of our air or water.
Drilling in Alaska will not upset the balance of anything.
Giving tax cuts to there wealthiest among us will help spur the economy.
Social Security is bankrupt!

That part of the economy that tax cuts spur is not in most Americans monetary, furs, diamonds or a 60 ft. boat or 2nd home.
If you are a malcontent in the military, torture is not the way to get yourself cashiered.
Tuna fish is not in my children's diet anymore (nor swordfish in mine) due to the high mercury content.
I have a water filtration system in my house even though the town I live in has well water.
I cannot picture the pristine wilderness of Alaska being sullied by oil rigs...have you seen Galveston Beach lately?

For the last 70 years the Republicans have had a hair across their anatomy over Social Security. (Personally I believe they have had the hair over FDR, period...just my opinion.) Social Security is the only surviving part of FDR's grand plan that helped our nation to recover from the Great Depression, and has managed to save many seniors from abject poverty after their retirement.

And now along comes George with his lie about Social Security being bankrupt. Be afraid, be VERY afraid, not because it is true, but because he is convincing a lot of Americans that it is. This is the greatest whopper of them all. It is NOT bankrupt it will not BE bankrupt. Admittedly, it will be in a state of flux in about 37 years. This is a situation which well could be managed now, with some fine tuning and some reasonable alternatives, for those who would like it, but not as THE alternative to Social Security.

For the millions of workers in America that depend on Social Security for retirement, being a part of the "investor class", is not, at this moment, a viable alternative for that retirement. Most can ill afford to take what little they do pay into Social Security to invest in anything except the necessities of their current, shelter and clothing.

The bottom line of Bush's plan though is that the government would STILL control your money, except now, rather than invest in your guaranteed retirement fund, Social Security, they will invest it for you, in, oh say, something like ENRON. Of course they believe that you are not smart enough to handle your own money anyway. If you were, wouldn't you be able to get along quite well with minimum wage?

This administration has a stranglehold on the vast majority of this nation's populace. They control it with an element of fear, and they have become masters of this mode of operation. How? By telling lies which, by design, create an atmosphere of fear.

I guess no one ever told them, it's a sin to tell a lie!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Iraq Ignominy

Iraq Ignominy

A recent article in the New York Times described the systematic looting of sensitive weapons sites immediately after the defeat of Iraq by the United States. These sites were primarily sites for the production of nuclear materials, chemical and biological weapons and missiles. These lootings were systematic and highly organized and removed equipment that could be used to produce weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery systems.

The sites were known to the US Intelligence Community and had been used by the Administration as justification for preemptively attacking Iraq. The Administration had claimed that Iraq had WMD and would use them against the US or give them to terrorists for attacks on the US. Subsequent inspections by United States experts revealed that Iraq had no WMD stockpiles and that no connection to terrorists has been found.

Since the primary excuse for going to war with Iraq was Iraq’s possession of WMD it boggles the mind that no attempt was made to secure these sites after Iraq’s defeat. The administration and the Pentagon have been given high marks by the press for its execution of the Iraq War, but this failure to secure the production sites of the very weapons we were concerned about reveals gross incompetence in planning of this phase of the war.

Weapons experts and Iraq analysts conclude that the looted equipment probably is now in the hands of another mid east country, possible Syria and Iran, the two countries which the US claims do support terrorists. The looting was probably done for financial gain and if these countries now have this equipment it is possible that we are now facing the very threat we went to war to prevent: WMD in the hands of terrorists.

When asked why the sites were not guarded, American officials said there were not enough troops to guard these important sites even though the US was aware of their existence and locations. This completely undermines the claims by the Pentagon that we had adequate troop strength in Iraq and is further evidence of poor planning and execution of the Iraq invasion.

So, not only was the Iraq war the wrong war at the wrong time in the wrong place, but it just may have done for the terrorists what we set out to prevent: nice job George!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

International Women's Month

March 8th

International Women's Day (International Women's Month)

Louise Bernikow explains the origins of this celebration.


    "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

    It was wonderful of the poet, William Rose Wallace, to have written such glowing words regarding women and motherhood. It is surely a wonderful fantasy, isn't it? For in truth, the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world only as long as within lies a babe of the male gender.

    Now, now, some of you will say, what of all the strides women have made in the last centuries! We have women in positions of power, why we are even speaking of perhaps nominating a woman for President! And I would say, in reply, why has it taken so long for a woman to BE in a position of being nominated?

    So, as I can look with pride at what my sisters have accomplished in the arts, law, medicine, politics, I can then look just half way around the world and despair. I think back to the Holocaust and all my sisters who lost their lives in the ovens of the Third Reich. Those women whose only "crime" was being Jewish. Women in Iraq who see, on a daily basis, the slaughter of their loved ones. Women in Afghanistan who are subjugated by a male dominated theocratic society in which they are hidden within the folds of the burka, and whose very footfalls must not be heard. Whose existence, if they are widows, is somehow sinful.
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    Women in Saudi Arabia who, even in the 21st century, perhaps see, as punishment, being stoned to death for a peccadillo.

    I look at Darfur where women are being slaughtered in a genocidal craze.

    Female babies In China who are killed at birth simply because of their gender.

    Female genital mutilation is still practiced in many Arab and African countries, a definite way to control a woman's innate sexualtiy.

    India, where if not murdered at birth, females are subject to much violence and coercion.
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    We have come a long, long way in many societies but it is glaringly evident that we have much further to go. Violence against women in our own country is still runs rampant, with the victim, oftimes as not, made out to be the cause of it all. As much as we pride ourselves on being an enlightened society, one in which many women are on a par with their male counterparts, even in this country many women still do not speak with an entirely unfettered voice. If they do they are apt to be greeted with a stereotypical reaction from many, (men as well as other women) as if we have forgotten "our place".

    And as much as we might grimace at the religious totalitarianism of other countries, where a religion will use the word of God to keep women in control, we must look at our own house. Not too many years ago one religious denomination, in this country, sought to reinforce that wives must "obey" their husbands; take a back seat. Men still have the dominate role in the control over our bodies and selves.

    One day, hopefully in the not too distant future, we may be able to celebrate an International Women's Day, one which truly means that women all over this planet are the women THEY choose to be and not what others expect them to be.

  • Wednesday, March 09, 2005


    My colleagues and I are hostage—as you are also—to the news media for our information. Nevertheless, we have been complaining about the media since we opened up shop. We believe that the corporate media are corrupt and have gone well beyond the understandable and modest conflict of interest of the "press as a medium-sized business" ethos. Making a living from advertisements of local furniture sales and grocery items meant that egregious behavior on the part of such advertisers would get modest, if any, coverage. Corporatism raises the stakes on that game beyond mere interstate commerce or national concerns.

    Today's corporate press has a different constituency with which to deal. It has to be careful with all other corporations, ours and those abroad and those in both places, especially those with which their directors interlock. They have to be careful lest the secret get out that corporations are not actually primarily interested in creating jobs, building bridges, making aspirins, or canning soups, but rather building greater and greater profits AND—something almost new in the bargain— building a power base from which its activities will be (in effect) unassailable.

    The press has great power to lull the citizenry to sleep or to stimulate them to fear and loathing. The new corporate press, like its predecessors, has the power to ignore and to exaggerate. The worst elements of the press do not hesitate to lie. We all know about the Battleship Maine and the trumped up war against Spain. We all know about the run-up to Vietnam and, more recently, the frenzy to engage an enemy in Iraq, each of these adventures promoted by the press, with the complicity of the governments then in power.

    The cure for a corrupt press is a clean press, but like Gresham's law for bad currency, poorly made and corrupt news tends to drive out well done news. This is because it is easy to play to baser instincts of the masses, and difficult indeed to play the game straight up, especially when that takes more time, more research, more people, more of everything that makes delivering the truthful news unprofitable.

    To answer the occasional criticism: no, we are not hypocrites for using the contemporary media, for presenting articles from them to you in the American Liberalism Project's eMedia feature. We look hard at these articles for signs of integrity or, if necessary, for obvious signs of corruption that you cannot miss. Our aim is to help you understand Liberalism through the lens of the passing days' events. No, we are not hypocrites for our use of the press, but, as I say, we are hostages!

    And, speaking of hostages, we are monitoring the Giuliana Sgrena Affair as closely as we can. This means that we are watching every source for signs of "party line," for signs of insight and logic, for signs of honesty and integrity.

    The bad press is paying a great deal of attention to the fact that Giuliana's employer is a newspaper run by the Communist Party of Italy. Yes, that is not an oxymoron; the Italians have had a Communist Party for over a century and it occasionally polls well among the working populace, but it is not a monolithic party like the ones sponsored by the Kremlin in years gone by. The Italian Communists are an anarchic group of free-thinkers and socialists. They would deny both, but history demands the truth.

    The point is, of course, it would not have made any difference if Giuliana Sgrena and her liberators were from Mars (or Venus)! The U.S. Army had to have a really good reason for shooting 300 high caliber rounds into her escape car, particularly when, as it is reported consistently, the road was too bumpy for speed and the car had been through three previous check-points prior to the fusilade.

    The Sgrena Affair, if it was a deliberate ambush designed to throttle the voice of this Italian reporter, is, for me, reason enough to impeach Rumsfeld. There could be no excuse for such a thing, which (if you think about it) could not have originated on the ground in Iraq. But, we do not know, and neither do the Italians at this writing. Soon though we will have enough evidence to either drop it or gird our loins and pursue it to the necessary conclusion!

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Taking Back the Country

    Two recent articles on how progressives can win give what I think is sage advice on what progressives should avoid and what they should emphasize in the coming elections.

    Surveys show that the country is center right on social issues and center left on economic issues. Progressives have let the right introduce social issue after social issue such as gay marriage or abortion and make it the center piece of the campaign to hide the fact that conservative policies are designed to eliminate government programs that help the poor and middle class and create a tax code that favors the rich. Progressives must not let this happen again.

    A good starting point for framing the argument in progressive terms is Bush’s Budget. His budget proposal makes substantial cuts in education, the environment, programs which help the poor move up the economic ladder, safety, and even the "war on terror" by cutting funds for police and firemen. It gives away tax cuts to big business, and the wealthy, while median household incomes and wages are falling.

    In a memo entitled Progressive Message on the President’s Budget, The Center for American Progress proposes four key messages which frame the issues in our terms.

    • Wrong Choices, Wrong Priorities
    • Cutting investment in what keeps America strong
    • We now see Who and What conservatives really value
    • The consequences for America are dire

    The authors go on to flesh out each of these messages and to framing them to show how the country will suffer if this budget is implemented and they do it in such a way as to avoided using the language of the right.

    I believe this make a good starting point for liberals to take our message to the country and I commend these articles to the reader.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005


    We seem to pride ourselves on diversity in our country. We call ourselves the Great Melting Pot. Our motto, E Pluribus Unum, says, for all to see, out of many we are one. We are such an accepting people, aren't we?

    Did we learn this lesson of acceptance from the native Americans who shared their lands in an uneasy alliance with us? Or, as the Mayflower Compact states, that we were all in this as a commonwealth, a joint venture to share with all, what we had, for a common good, wether we were Saint or Stranger?

    After all, the native peoples had accepted us. Literally saved our collective hides after that first terrible winter when over half the band of Pilgrims died. But things would soon change.

    From that first band of English settlers in New England, we have grown to encompass just about every other race and culture. But, not without great cost to those who were determined enough to go through the hardship of even getting here, to the discrimination after their arrival. And, not just those of a different culture but those of different religious backgrounds. Yes, we were settled by a hardy band of Pilgrims who were of the Christian faith, but even they did not tolerate those who chose not to worship God in the way which they did (Quakers) or those who chose not to worship at all. One had to be a member in good standing of the church in order to be pronounced freeman or to hold any office...even dog catcher.

    As the great migration to America continued, we had different cultures settling in different areas, hoping to recreate in some small way, the lifestyle of their homelands. Scotch Irish to the hills and mountains of the Carolinas, Germans into Pennsylvania and Ohio, Swedes and Norwegians into the heartland. The Chinese upon whose backs our great railroads were built. Even those for whom migration to America meant being chained in the hold of a ship, have helped to create our great country.

    When we look around we see acceptance and tolerance right? Right?

    Well, let us look back a bit at how tolerant we really were in the past and how tolerant we are today.

    Gone are the signs in Boston's shop windows that stated... "No Dirty Irish Need Apply". Today you will find that sign behind the desk of the Irish American girl who works in the local teamster's labor union hall, and on St. Patrick's day, everybody is Irish! The Italians, Germans, Chinese all suffered their own brand of discrimination as Wops, Krauts and Chinks. The list is endless. Everyone has had a chance at the turnstile of bigotry.

    Today we do not think twice about someone's ethnic background, unless, of course, you happen to be of Middle Eastern descent. I thought, wished, hoped that we had gotten beyond such childishness. Especially when the comments about someone's ethnic background comes from an adult who should know better.

    "Press passes cannot be that hard to come by if the White House allows that old Arab, Helen Thomas to sit within yards of the President." Thus wrote young, brash, opinionated Ann Coulter, a "journalist" for Universal Press Syndicate, about a woman who has been covering the White House for over 60 years. This is journalism? No, this is mean spirited bigotry launched against a woman who has years of White House press conferences under her belt, who was the first female President of the White House Correspondents Association, and one who would not stoop to write such unjustifiable hogwash about Ms. Coulter's background, whatever that may be.

    We need to move beyond the name calling. Move beyond the labeling of those whom we see as "different". Move past those who would deliberately try and stir our great melting pot into a froth of hatred and vitriol. There should be no room, no quarter given to those who persist in maintaining an atmosphere of hate and mistrust in our country.

    Keep that in mind at the next national election.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    First Amendmentitis

    During the past week there have been several news articles, blogs, and general alarms about youth and the First Amendment. These emanate from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation study that gives high school students very low grades on their appreciation of the rights given in the First Amendment. It is stated in the Knight report that

  • Nearly three-fourths of high school students either do not know how they feel about the First Amendment or admit they take it for granted.
  • Seventy-five percent erroneously think flag burning is illegal.
  • Half believe the government can censor the Internet.
  • More than a third think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

  • According to some sources about 100,000 high school teenagers were interviewed about the First Amendment and asked to express themselves about related issues. The results you see reported above are not hopeful. But are they accurate?! Do 100,000 students represent the millions of current students? How were they selected? Who asked the questions?

    One observer, Alexander Zaitchik, writing in New York Press, sees the Knight Report as evidence of a deepening crisis which is leading to an American fascism. He has a First Amendment right to say so, I am sure, but, well, maybe he is totally wrong, too!

    I am not so willing to take anything Zaitchik says at face value, nor I am willing to give the Knight people the podium until I see their polling script, their exact questions, the protocol under which this "research" was conducted, and the credentials of the review board(s) authorizing the study. Moreover, I am not willing to accept the notion that teenagers in the 1950's were little proto-fascists and that the nation was saved in the 1960's by the first cohort of Boomer teenagers. Generalizations like these are foolish and

    The First Amendment is not in the forefront of the American imagination, however. None of them is. The Bill of Rights is taught hurriedly after a slog through the main body of the Constitution. The teachers barely understand it.

    Public education in high schools is a farce, a tragedy, and the darkest sort of betrayal. When civics courses are taught by the JV football coach and by graduates of state universities where academic majors and education (pedagogy curricula) are never integrated on campus and only under the hand of inept "master teachers" in the high school student teaching environment what on earth can we expect!

    Your good sense will tell you that presenting an ACLU type of question to a bare-naveled 15 year old high school femme is bound to elicit some bizarre responses. Surround a question with fear, distrust, notoriety and you get your window dressing back in the answer. The ACLU defends principles that are often difficult to equate to the general run of the mill exercise of First Amendment freedoms. ACLU often defends the notorious and the unpopular, for they have the same rights as the people who happen—this time—to hold the majority view. Young people have very little experience with this and could be expected to have very little to offer in response to "tough questions" like ACLU takes on.

    If each of the Knight questions were prefaced by the statement "I disagree with what you are about to say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" would not the answer be conditioned to a higher level of discourse than surrounding the question with adrenalin-ridden allusions to the fallen World Trade Towers? Yes, of course! A responsible research protocol would do both, measure the effect, and ask the majority of its questions with as neutral a surround as humanly possible.

    This is not an apology for those high school students that do not know or do not care or deliberately respond in a way designed to provoke. Maybe they are a large group. I cannot say. Nor is this an apology for the failing school system. Clearly it did not function well in the 1950's and currently is on average a disaster throughout the country ... with some notable exceptions, of course.

    What this piece is about is responsibility for proper research. Until Knight publishes its research protocols, polling scripts, and questionnaires, until we discover what human subjects of research boards approved this research, it will have to be treated as unscientific hearsay. Yes, we should be ready to hear the truth, no matter how ugly it is, but equally we must demand to see how the truth is established.

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Liberals Are Too Nice

    I have been thinking about recent attacks on the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) by the revengeful right because the AARP doesn’t support the Administration’s Social Insecurity Plan. The group of bottom feeders sponsoring these attacks supposedly has no ties to the Administration and if you believe that I have a bridge I will sell you. It’s run by the same scumbags who funded the Swift Boat crew who spread lies about Kerry’s Viet Nam war record.

    The AARP was a wonderful organization when it supported the Administration’s Drug Manufactures Get Rich Program funded by you and me, the tax paying public; AKA the Medicare Drug Program. Lavish praise was heaped upon the AARP by the Administration’s propaganda machine when it sided with Bush and his bullies. But, now the AARP is, can you believe it, an organization that supports gays and is anti-military. I have come to the conclusion that there are no depths to which this miserable bunch of cretins will sink.

    I take this attack personally since I am an AARP member and am an advocate in Virginia for their programs. Let me tell you what legislation the AARP supported in Virginia this year. More funding for in home care for the elderly poor, a comprehensive study of the State’s entire health care program, legislation to regulate payday lending, and a bill to allow low- income retired persons who are laid off from work to receive their full share of social security benefits and workers compensation. I have personally come to know the staff in the AARP Virginia Office and they are dedicated caring people who only want to improve the quality of life for the elderly, and especially the older less fortunate citizens of Virginia.

    Well, no more mister nice guy, it’s time for liberals to take off the gloves and call these groups for what they are: uncaring, unfeeling, shills for the rich and powerful who hate government, and want to destroy all government programs which help the poor and middle class including Social Security. Bush’s scheme is nothing more than the opening salvo to eliminate these programs. Want proof? At a recent town hall meeting on Social Security run by Republican Senator Rick Santorum, a group of Republicans were heard chanting, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Social Security has got to go." In the meeting, Santorum, the leading supporter of privatization in the Senate, declared that "it is time for a Republican solution to Social Security." But, the Republicans gathered outside were clear about where that “solution” ultimately leads. For Bush's conservative base, privatization of Social Security is just the first step toward eliminating the program entirely. These groups do the bidding of the radical right who want to sink the middle class, ruin the poor and create a nation run by the very rich all the while claiming to be patriots who love this country.