American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Attention Span

Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, now retired, wrote the following paragraph not too long ago. I got it yesterday and his words struck me.

Religion is born out of the very nature of what it means to be human, our gift of self-consciousness. The human psyche is suspended, as it were, between a constantly changing natural world out of which we have emerged, and the appeal of an unchanging reality that we have the ability to imagine and to which we believe we belong. Without this sense of being related to a transcendence, that we normally call God, human life faces the trauma of meaninglessness. We become no different from the animals going through the cycles of birth, maturation, mating, reproducing and dying. Animals tolerate that meaningless cycle because they are not self-conscious and do not live in the medium of time and thus do not know mortality. That is however, not a possibility for self-conscious human lives whose minds remember the past and plan for a future that includes their deaths. Self-consciousness is thus the source of the human drive to connect with something eternal, something not bound by time and space. That is what makes us religious beings. Our images of God are, however, never static. When human life changes, our religious understandings must also change or they become either irrelevant or unbelievable. That is the moment when our god images die and the anxiety present in the human soul becomes palpable. A brief look at religious history makes this obvious. (from "Understanding the Divided Electorate")

It is nicely said, I think, and it represents a sort of bedrock of understanding among huge numbers of people. There are several things I disagree with in this single paragraph, though. Probably the most important is that self-consciousness may extend to other forms of life on this planet to one degree or another, perhaps dolphins, parrots, whales, Border collies, but probably not ancient mesquite trees or sequoias or earthworms or even tyrannosaurus rex. And, it may not be a "gift" but merely(!) one of those steps in evolution.

Another thing with which I disagree is that we have emerged from the "natural world" and somehow are able to imagine our way clear of its demands, not just the cycles of birth, maturation, procreation, and death, but larger scale realities like plate tectonics, ecological systematics, the dynamics of the objects assembled around our sun, to name but three.

To be sure, we have imaginations and, clearly, our imaginations lead us toward a quest for meaning for our lives and quickly into provisional explanations of it all, some less provisional and more, shall we say, "institutionalized." A brief look at human history makes this obvious.

It may be, and I have argued the point endlessly, that the idea of emerging from nature, rather than continuing to be a part of it both ecologically and, if you will, spiritually, seems to be required by our first faltering institutionalized explanations of life and the universe. It may be that in order to set out a "theory of everything" that one must eventually ignore most of the evidence and replace it with assertions.

This is an important point for it is clear enough at the beginning of the twenty-first century that humanity is evolved to make quick judgments, carry them provisionally for days and weeks even years out of harm's way, and to generalize from them. We are capable, to use the language of Aristotelean logic (or that of John Stuart Mill or Quine or Ayer or virtually any philosopher of logic), of arriving at reasonably firm judgments about things quickly, inducing from very few particulars to helpful generalizations or deducing from evidence for which we have established a reliable context the probability of an event. In this way we took shelter from sabre-toothed tigers and violent storms, in this way we undertook agriculture and industry. In this way we saw the benefit of communal life and avoided, as do most animals, death struggles for opportunities of procreation. In this way we observed the natural world of which we are a part and decided that we understood it well enough to survive its worst elements and to harness its shorter term phenomena for our own short-term benefit.

And, as an epiphenomenon of these practical questions, we invented institutionalized answers to larger questions, ones for which we had no real notion of cause and effect. We invented Thor and Hephaestus. We invented Cupid and Eros. We invented myths to fill in the gaps of our inductive and deductive powers of reason. We reified these myths and soon we had institutionalized the manner in which we addressed certain questions. We established cultural habits of mind.

This essay is not really about religion, though, it is about our habits and hubris, our centuries and millennia-old habits of mind that tell us we will survive the worst elements that nature throws our way—including global warming—and that the coincidence of running out of energy just as global warming is looming over us is that—a coincidence. We do not see the cause and effect inter-relationships because they are long term phenomena and we are generally short term thinkers.

A species that lived to an old age of forty does not improve its ability to deal with long-term phenomena by doubling its life-expectancy. It does not work that way. We learn to understand plate tectonics by organizing human knowledge in such a way that one generation can pick up where the last left off and pursue the same quest of understanding. We understand climatological change only by appreciating a wealth of what in the short-term seems like circumstantial evidence.

We survive long-term phenomena in the same way we understand them, by organizing humanity into units of response that make sense over long periods. But we have not survived all long-term phenomena. We have walked away (migrated) away from or starved to death because of climatological changes, and we have been destroyed by volcanism, earthquakes, tsunamis, and even meteors plunging to earth.

Building nuclear reactors and more petroleum refineries is a short-term response to one of several serious long term problems we have created for ourselves by being short-term thinkers. Ultimately, we are part and parcel of nature; our destiny is irretrievably linked to near-earth orbiting debris in space, to the chemical composition of our seas and atmosphere, to the character of the land forms and the flora and fauna upon it and in the seas. We know now that removing the major predators from a region results in overpopulation of their prey and then, inevitably, a population crash as sustenance is reduced below the amount necessary to support the population. And, we know that reducing sustenance can change the landscape, reducing soil-holding plants, giving rise to dust bowls, chaotic meanders of rivers, and long term damage through which life must struggle at primitive levels of existence. At least some of us know these things.

But, we have long-term thinkers and we have the ability to organize the enterprises of humanity toward long-term answers to long-term problems. It takes a remarkable leap of courage to do this, but it is now time. Look around you. Slowly look around and tell yourself one more time that myths will snatch us from the jaws of destruction or that by the skin of our teeth we will survive. Don't you get an uneasy feeling? Don't you get it? You must break loose from false premises and bad habits of mind! George doesn't, but we must!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Taking Responsibility

I took a rather interesting little poll this morning and was rather amazed to see that my opinion was the majority one.

I was reading about remarks made by the actress Maggie Gyllenhaal. Ms. Gyllenhaal is appearing in a new movie entitled "The Great New Wonderful" which is a collage, if you will, of five stories focusing on living with the aftermath of 9/11 and the Twin Towers attack. Ms. Gyllenhaal made an appearance, Friday, on NY1, the all news cable channel, to discuss the movie's theme which depicts the complexities of dealing with life after 9/11.

During this appearance she said, as a way of describing the film and how it dealt with the subject matter, "Because I think America has done some reprehensible things and is responsible in some way and so I think the delicacy wth which it's dealt allows that to sort of creep in."

I know there are those who will have the knee jerk reaction of...'Yeah right! Another blame America first commie, liberal idiot!' However, it is amazing since that date in 2002, how many people I have heard bandy about this same feeling.

I am sure that everyone's initial reaction was...we need to get these suckers, no matter what it cost and no matter how long it takes. An when we listened to President Bush speaking through that bullhorn atop the rubble that had been the WTC in Manhattan, our hearts swelled with pride that he really was, after all, a rather take charge kinda guy and we all rallied 'round. But, as things have a way of doing, some truths started to emerge about what actually had taken place. Who knew what and when and how long had they known it?

It all started out in the right place. We all had a quick lesson in geography and Arabic words. We learned about a man named Bin Laden (the miscreant son of a wealthy Saudi), more than we wanted to know about Afghanistan (where Bin Laden held the populace captive under his own brand of fundamentalist Islam) about burkhas (some called them beekeeper outfits) and the Q'ran (Islam's Holy Book).

So, we deployed troops, set about to capture this Bin Laden person "dead or alive" and went gung ho, is as our wont, after the "terrorists". We managed to kick some Taliban butt, free the residents of Afghanistan and we tried to get a fix on Bin Laden. Some say he was in our sites, but, along came bigger fish to fry! Suddenly, this person who had slaughtered thousands of our countrymen, and was, according to our President, going to pay the ultimate price for that adventure, with his life, rather faded into the woodwork. We would let the tribal chieftains in the mountains of Afghanistan handle Bin Laden, after all they were more familiar with the territory, and besides, we had BIG things brewing across the way in...IRAQ!

To listen to our government we should consider ourselves lucky that Bin Laden had attacked us with our own planes when we could just as easily have been annihilated with all sorts of chemical and biological weapons...even nuked into oblivion! this man Saddam Hussein. Never had such an evil and maniacal leader existed and we were going to get him before he had a chance to get us! After all, we could not let another 9/11 happen! The one thing that was assiduously avoided in all the rhetoric was what, if any, part we had played in bringing this down on our own heads. And, I would hazard a guess, that most Americans would not have known the following.

* We had armed and taught Bin Ladin and his group called the Taliban when Russia was still our enemy and the Afghanistans were fighting against the take over of their country by Russia. We sent in CIA operatives to teach them how to fight a guerilla war and we gave them all sorts of wonderful weapons.

* We had supported Saddam Hussein in his fight against Iran. After all, Iran was now a Theocracy and had deposed our favorite dictator The Shah.

* We had intelligence which clearly stated that we would be attacked by this gang of terrorists, their method and the idea that it could happen in the not too distant future...if anyone cared to track the information down. Which would not have been hard as we had one of the conspirators in custody and apparently he was louder than a canary in a mine shaft.

*No one paid attention

* We were being lied to.

Apparently Ms. Gyllenhaal has taken quite a bit of heat from all quarters about her remark. She has refused to apologize. And why should she? Do we not still recognize freedom of speech in this country? It may not be my feeling, or yours, but it is hers and she has a fundamental right, under the Constitution, to voice her feelings. And apparently here are quite a few who do agree with her. Which brings me to that amazing little poll in which I took part.

The poll appeared as a sidebar on the page in the paper with the article explaining Ms. Gyllenhaal's remarks. The questions listed were:
1. I disagree and she should apologize
2. I agree with her position
3. I disagree but it is her right to express her opinion
4. I do not have an opinion one way or another
5. This has been blown way out of proportion.

Out of 11,412 responses we see:
1. 22.8%; 2. 41.8%; 3. 12.6%; 4. 3.1%; 5. 19.8%

It is that 41.8% which has restored my faith in the numbers of thinking individuals left in our country. Oh! And if I could have voted twice I would have gone with #5 as well.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Of Foxes and Chicken Coops

Predictably, the recent investigation by the United States Army of the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has cleared almost all of the top officers who were responsible for overseeing prison policies and operations there. Left out twisting in the wind was, reserve Brig, Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the military police unit at Abu Ghraib. She was relieved of her command and given a written reprimand. She maintains that she was the scapegoat for the failures of her superiors.

An earlier independent panel charged with investigating the Abu Ghraib scandal, and headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger, concluded that General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, had failed to insure that his staff was dealing with Abu Ghraib’s problems. A separate Army investigation found that General Sanchez approved the use of severe interrogation practices which led to some of the abuses. The Schlesinger panel also found that Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdalowski failed to make urgent requests to higher levels for more troops at Abu Ghraib. Unfortunately, none of these panels had the authority to impose punishments; that was left up to the Army.

To date, only a few low-level soldiers have been courts marshaled for there involvement in abuses at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. A number of others have had administrative discipline imposed for abusing prisoners at others sites across Iraq.

The new review by the Army inspector general, LT Gen. Stanley E. Green, cleared General Sanchez and General Wojdakowski of any misconduct. It also cleared Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast, the former chief intelligence officer in Iraq who oversaw the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib and Mark Warren, the commands chief legal officer. But, the Schlesinger panel concluded that Colonel Warren had failed to report to his boss prisoner abuses witnessed by the Red Cross, and that General Fast had failed to advise General Sanchez about the interrogations at the prison.

Unfortunately, this seems to be a theme with not just of the military, but the Bush administration as a whole: no one at the top level is responsible for any of the actions taken no matter how wrong they were or how seriously they undermine the integrity of the United States. Serious misuses of intelligence, lying to the public, misrepresenting issues have no consequences to any of the top officials of this administration. Quite the contrary, they are rewarded for their misdeeds. Any investigation of misdeeds, if undertaken at all, is typically done by those who are at the very least sympathetic to the administration and all too often the investigators are investigating themselves.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Hababem Papem

Since the death of Pope John Paul II we have all been inundated with news and opinion about him, his Church, his vocation, his victories, and his putative failures. For non-Catholic Christians there is always a slight twinge of "objectivity" in the reading, and for non-Christians a sense of both alienation and awe, for the Pope is the spiritual leader of a religion that encompasses just a bit less than one sixth of all humanity.

For Roman Catholics there is a reverence and intimacy in the proceedings, the death, the funeral, the convening of the College of Cardinals, the vote, and the announcement of the new Pope. It is said that God has made the selection and the Cardinals merely "discover" what that selection was. But, for many this seems to be a cop out of sorts, for it is well-known that more than one Pope has taken office under highly political circumstances.

So, one wonders this week as we contemplate Pope Benedict XVI what role politics played, whether there is really divine intervention, and what the future may bring with Joseph Ratzinger of Germany as the Pontiff, the Bridge between God and his people.

We are mutely and tacitly involved in this event. For those of us who have experienced more than one Pope (and that would only be about half the world population ... counting children), there seems to be a generalization or two forming out of the clouds and smoke. Among the most obvious of these generalizations is that the religion of people with whom we come in contact in our own lives really is important. We want to know whether the other person is a cannibal or not, whether they carry out human sacrifice or not, whether they hold life dear or whether they see it as cheap and essentially less than what we make of it. We want to know whether the other person has a set of "commandments" by which to guide his life, if so, what are these rules. We want to know whether his religion or philosophy is built on respect for other religions or not. We want to know things in exact detail because we may predicate our behavior and our willingness to interact upon our knowledge of the other person's beliefs.

So, we are interested in Pope Benedict XVI and his philosophy, his credo, and his belief in his own worth and mission, for from this we are given information about everyone we know to be Catholic and many others as well, for many Christian faiths are affected by what happens in Rome. The glittering generalities we find in the press this week are elements of this subtle reorientation, this getting to know Catholicism and individual Catholics all over again.

But, the Roman Catholic Church is not just one thing, homogeneous and monolithic. Nothing containing a billion souls could be. And, if you were to be frugal and demand the fewest possible subdivisions, you would probably arrive at two Catholic Churches under this one Pope. The two are the Church of the "have nots" in South America, Central America, Africa, and Asia, and the Church of the "haves," the economically and culturally advantaged in Europe and North America. The larger group the "have nots" have one set of issues and the "haves" have as many issues as they can understand. That is, the "haves" have the ability and the leisure to empathize with the "have nots," although they may not choose to. They may understand the reasons for the plight of the "have nots," but they may be unable to affect those reasons, or, they may choose not to try. Meanwhile the Church, the clergy and the hierarchy and the leadership and ultimately the Pope must keep faith with both groups and provide the same spiritual guidance to both groups, despite the fact that one is vastly different from the other in most of the things we measure in the secular world.

The choice of the Pope is the choice of possibilities of leadership. In electing a 78 year old to the office, the Church has decided that, given the Biblical "three score and ten," this Pope will not be Pope for a long time. In electing a German the Church has said, metropolitan Europe is Christian and it cannot be lost to agnosticism and apathy. It has said the financial foundations of the Church must be preserved. In electing a conservative, the Defender of the Faith under the previous Pope, the Church has said that doctrine is, nevertheless, not national or regional or subject to broad interpretation. Perhaps the College of Cardinals fear that the chaos in the world today is but a harbinger of severe trials to be endured by the Church and that, therefore, it must gird its loins for the impending struggle.

Or, perhaps the Church has said to Europe, we stand with you against the Infidel, the Turkish Gastarbeiteren in Germany, the Algerians in France, the Arabs and Egyptians and heathens of all stripes and colors scattered across the western world's Christian landscapes. Or maybe this a a subtext of a subtext.

Most observers have taken this position: Benedict XVI is a transitional Pope. His job is to take the Church forward, of course, but not to lose either the Liberationists in Latin America or the Modernists in Europe and North America. At the same time the Church cannot afford to be seen as the cause of suffering and poverty or the cause of a diminished reverence for human life.

Benedict XVI has his work cut out for him. He must be cautious, but he can also be astute. Twice now, the Cardinals have said it is not an Italian church. This time they must also say (or let the generalization slowly mature) that it is not possible to keep a billion souls under one tenth century roof.

First and foremost the Church must deal with sex, sexuality, and gender. If this means (even tacitly) acknowledging the truth in the message of The Da Vinci Code, then so be it. Over half a billion Catholics are women and they must no longer be treated as second class souls! No other position will stand up to the outrageous repression of women in Islam. The world is holding its breath!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Trouble With Kids is Adults

What on earth are we, in this country, doing to our children?
We feed them genetically engineered food. Have them drink milk with artificial growth hormones and prescribe them antipsychotic drugs.

Children have always been the most vulnerable in any society, but we, as a nation, have always been most vociferous about how we protect our children. So what has been happening lately?

We have one of the highest infant mortality rates of any of the developed nations (...the increase in infant mortality from 6.9 to 7.0 births per 1,000, a statistic that puts the U.S. 28th internationally in infant mortality, as well as the finding that 14 states have preterm birth rates that exceed 13%. That alarming statistic is likely associated with the fact that 12.6 million American women of child-bearing age are uninsured).

We have children here who are starving for lack of sufficient or proper dietary foods (, and on the other hand, we have the highest rate of obesity in children.(
We have one of the highest rates of youth incarceration (
We have children classified as mentally ill

Of those incarcerated or otherwise in the care of the state, the field is ripe for experimentation( by the pharmaceutical companies often times under the guise of agencies such as TeenScreen (//

Call me naive, call me stupid whatever you like, however, as a plain old observer of life, after lo these many years, I feel I have earned some stripes and can have my say on the situation. I know, I know, you are probably saying, here we go again, a fossil telling us what it was like "back in the day". Well maybe so but things were not as bad as they are today, there is no denying that.

Maybe I was more insulated as a child than kids are today. Granted, television opened up a whole new world to my generation, but we were not the first to grow up with the medium. Our values were pretty much set by the time TV became really popular, and certainly what was exposed on TV was not even on a par with what we could see in National Geographic.

Most of us came from two parent households, mom stayed home, dad worked. Rarely was there a single parent home, and the only one that comes to my mind, was a classmate whose father had been killed in the war. (WWII) Despite the fact that his home situation was out of the norm, for the day, he was a well adjusted kid. We did NOT get everything we wanted...even if our parents could afford it. We were taught responsibility for our actions...these were called consequences. Mental issues had names...SPOILED BRAT and TEENAGER.

Fast forward to today and my children and grandchildren's generation. Of all my teenage son's friends, his father and I are the only couple who are still married to the same partner. And of all those same friends, he is about the only one who is not on some form of medication, whether it be for mood swings, anxiety, learning problems, anger management, the list seems to be endless. Enter the Government in the guise of the Pharmaceutical companies.

Take children who have been left to their own devices (any sociologist will tell you...we have a generation of kids who have been left to raise themselves) mix in parents who cannot cope with themselves, much less their offspring, add the Dr. Feelgood's of this world and you have a recipe for disaster.

Many of these situations occur in the inner cities, and drug and alcohol addiction form the core of the problem. Even in the suburbs these factors play a role. Then you have the divorced parents who are so busy fighting each other the children are left by the wayside. Suddenly, many parents wake up, and realize they have a child who is out of control. The child is acting out trying to get someone's, anyone's attention! Aha! We have a solution! Medication! And the pharmaceutical companies have all the answers. You can continue on with your own agenda and have someone else manage the problem for you. After all, all those little pills you take work, don't they?

Anyone who would try and tell me that when, of grammar school age, they would be able to diagnose my child with eventual mental issues, they are the ones with the mental issues. But then these people are just schills for the pharmaceutical companies. If they can convince you, the suddenly concerned parent, or prey on the fear you as a new parent might feel as regards this new responsibility, then the bottom line is more money for big pharma. And they are helped along by a government who underwrites them.

Most of the psychotropic drugs that are prescribed for children are not meant for children. Anyone under the age of twenty one has a brain that is growing and changing, homogenizing. Once they make it through the teen years, most kids come out as relatively stable adults, no matter what their circumstances might be. And through those years they do need help. But the help they need is parents who communicate with them, who show that they care about them, spend the time with them that they need, know when to back off and when to give out the tough love.

Please, I urge you from the bottom of my heart, if you know of any legislation pending in your state that will give any agency the power to screen for mental illness in children, do whatever it takes to halt it.

Borrowing a phrase from a former First Lady...JUST SAY NO!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Remembering FDR

April 12 was the 60th anniversary of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was the greatest President of the twentieth century and the anniversary went almost unnoticed. It is not just time that has dimmed our appreciation of this great man, but the distance the US has traveled from the ideals that Roosevelt held and the programs that resulted from these ideals. His concept of government’s role was to make the US a country where no one was left out. Now we have small men with even smaller minds whose idea of government is like a reverse Robin Hood: give to the rich and take from the poor.

Imagine a President today saying the following and you will get an idea of just how far we have sunk. In his 1944 State of the Union speech, Roosevelt laid out his vision for this country after World War II: calling it, “a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed.”

Included in these rights were:

  • The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

  • The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation

  • The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

  • The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

  • The right of every family to a decent home.

  • The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

  • The right to a good education.

Today, our nation is now being led, if you can call it leadership, by a group of vicious mean-spirited men who want to tear down those government programs, most of which Roosevelt instituted, which help the poor, and disadvantaged. These so called leaders play on the fears of the American public not their hopes and dreams; a far cry from the famous words of Roosevelt, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

We desperately need another Roosevelt today. We need a leader whose philosophy of governing can be summed up in Roosevelt’s words, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Life As We Knew It

Recently we at the American Liberalism Project have been running quite a few articles in eMedia about the end of life as we know it in America. Sometimes we laughingly refer to these as "Chicken Little" or "the sky is falling" stories, but make no mistake, we are deadly serious and earnest about the importance of these news and opinion pieces. For one thing, we see environmentalism as a major component of traditional Liberalism and of traditional Progressivism. We are going to keep up the pace on these stories, partly because we are headed pell mell into a new climate epoch—global warming—and partly because there are still some things we can do as persons and as political groups to ameliorate the consequences to our earth, our country, and ourselves. We cannot stop it now; it is way too late, but we can do things to make it survivable.

Also recently we have been running eMedia articles about the impending collapse—slow or sudden, it matters not which—of the American and then the world economies. We are going to keep up the pace on these articles, too, because we must be solvent to act as environmentalists, as citizens, consumers, and voters. At some point, though, the so-called "tipping point" is reached and thereafter the systems spill out of control for an undefined while—decades, centuries, perhaps millenia for the climate—bitter years and generations for the economy.

The most distressing thing about the economic news is that the damage is being cooked up purposefully by an administration committed to neocon "kill the beast" voodoo economics. They mean to set up the conditions wherein the federal government cannot spend, except for defense and for corporate welfare.

And, for frosting on this cake there is a very vocal minority from the lunatic fringe—with access to the very highest seats of power—who believe that these are the "end times" prophecied by novelists and religious cranks and that God will soon relieve us of our Biblical responsibility to care for the world's resources, its vegetation, animals, and the fish of the sea.

The candles on this insane cake are the moguls, the captains of industry who have been given special privileges, tax breaks, so that they can insulate themselves from hardship when the economic decline does come ... oh, and come it will like the return of the tide, the swallows to Capistrano, and the boom-and-bust business cycle, which this time around will include with the U.S. and the E.U. new players in Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Indonesia, and some of oil-rich Muslim countries. The CEOs and their families will survive on the Riviera, but working men and women and their children will not. We will have bread lines until the breadbasket is baked to a desert crisp by global warming and soup lines will last as long as there's fresh, clean water to make it—not very long!

The Bush Administration does not believe in global warming, of course, because it has little faith in science. Why? Because the lunatics from the religious fringes are so psychologically weak and culturally bereft they cannot trust in the permanent provisionality of science (yet they have plasma televisions and computers and take so-called wonder drugs)! To stabilize their defective personalities they need rock-certain "truth" and, as we know, only dogma can provide that. As a result of this Republican intransigence on global warming the most powerful, the most consuming economy on the planet is not even party to the single pitiful remedy that humanity has ventured—the Kyoto Treaty. It is a tragedy and a farce!

But wait! The Bush Administration does believe it can control the economy through the action of corporations, the motives of which are plainly understandable, of course, but the power of which to act for a common good is non-existent. The result will be that corporation after corporation will be swallowed into the gaping maw of the world-wide recession that is being fueled by Bush's insane fiscal and monetary policies, by our ponderous imbalance of trade and our unprecedented national debt. These mental midgets and savages from the radical right have set us up for disaster, believing all the while they are saving us from ourselves.

The American Liberalism Project team is not trying to frighten you into conservative posturing or into neocon plutocratic denial. We are trying to get past the pall of obedience in the press, the oppression of wills in the media. We are trying to keep the faith with you as reasonable people and to encourage you to act before it really is too late.

How to act, you may reasonably ask? The first thing to do is this: Get your U.S. Representative's and Senator's phone numbers into your cell "phone book." It's a ten minute project you can do today. Then you can call them whenever you have the chance (like during mid-morning or mid-afternoon breaks). The person who answers the phone will usually be a staffer fully qualified to tally your opinion. Just tell this person you want to register an opinion. They expect to hear your name and city, but basically all they will record is your postal code (ZIP) and your position: for or against whatever it is. Do it once and it will be a little disconcerting; do it twice and it becomes familiar; do it often and you will be quite pleased with yourself and your personal connection to government, to participatory democracy. It is the new way! You may help save the world!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Left Behind

I am really rather looking forward to being "left behind". The thoughts of spending any kind of eternity with these Rapture People is enough to make you sweat out the Hereafter.

Apparently Mr. Tim Lahaye (not to be confused with Mr. Tom DeLay) has made a career of writing third rate novels about the Rapture and what all of us mortals have to look forward to if we do not get on board the Jesus Train. Personally I think it is all gobbledygook. The thought of being carried naked into the heavens just does not thrill me, nor do I believe, for one minute, that it will happen.

However, the religious right has taken these Lahaye books to be almost gospel...well at least a loose translation of the Book of Revelation, and those who buy into the theme of them, people like Tommy Thompson, John Ashcroft, Oliver North and last but not least George W. Bush, make it scarier. They fully buy into the premises that Mr. Lahaye has put forth: global war, Israel under attack, Baghdad being the seat of Satans' power (although previously it was Moscow), and they use the content to validate their views. They even have a web site devoted to what they call the Project For A New American Century.

It seems incredible to me that a small group (no more than 20%) form this apocalyptic Christian segment of the population that has had such a major impact on this country and the direction in which it is heading. They may be looking towards the heavens but the rest of us are looking into the jaws of insanity. People who could have stepped out of one of Lahaye's novels are being appointed or positioned to be leaders, judges, players on the world stage which Bush has envisioned as a precursor to the End Times.

  • There is no need to be good stewards of the Earth, as we will not need it when God destroys it.
  • There is no need to help Israel and Palestine secure a good and lasting peace when it is an Israel under siege which will foretell the Apocalypse.
  • We can flout international law as it means nothing when set beside "God's Law" (the Ten Commandments?).
  • We can isolate a whole segment of society based on their life partner choices.
  • We can watch a disease like AIDS devastate a culture because it is "God's Will".
  • We can turn away from those less fortunate and our children, two segments of the population which Jesus favored.

The Bible is an amazing piece of literature. The problem with it is that it can be interpreted in thousands of ways. Even those who have made it a life long study cannot agree on what the right interpretation should be. There are things written down in the Bible which did not actually, historically occur. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all put a different spin on their "first person" accounts of Jesus' life.

Having read what was written about Jesus, I think I can say this, however, that the only ones I can see Him leaving behind are those who think the rest of us will be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bolton: Bush's Bully Boy

Why would George Bush nominate someone to be ambassador to an organization that the individual despises? The answer: Because Bush has no regard for the United Nations either, since the UN refused to back his stupid foray into Iraq. By nominating John Bolton as US Ambassador to the UN, Bush is in effect thumbing his nose at the UN saying, in effect, “take that”!

John Bolton has never hidden his disdain for the UN. For example, he once said,” that if the UN building lost ten stories it wouldn’t make a bit of difference”, and he even went so far as to say that “ There is no such thing as the United Nations.” He also said that the United States should only support the UN when it in the interest of the United States to do so.

But, Bolton is also incompetent and arrogant. As Under Secretary of State for Arms Control, Bolton effectively killed a ban on production of fissile materials and he was a vocal opponent of the global ban on nuclear testing. A Harvard University study revealed that under Bolton’s watch less fissile material was secured in the two years after 9-11 than in the two years before 9-11. Bolton has no plan to deal with Iran’s nuclear weapons. President Bush has claimed the impasse can be solved by diplomacy, but in 2002 when Iran was interested in discussing its nuclear program, Bolton ignored Iran’s gesture and late last year he mocked the very idea of talking with Iran, telling a European conference on Iran’s nuclear program, “I don’t do carrots.”

John Bolton has also pressured intelligence analysts to produce intelligence that would support his agenda, and ignored good intelligence when it did not support his preconceived notions of the truth. In 2002 Bolton had planned to announce the existence of a secret bio-weapons plan in Cuba. When the chief intelligence analyst on bio-weapons in the State Department blocked Bolton because the speech did not reflect the facts, Bolton pressured him; and when that did not work, tried to have him fired. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Bolton dismissed U. N. reports that that had found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and said the report was “impossible to believe.”

John Bolton should not be confirmed as ambassador to the United Nations. Given his abysmal record, he should not even be in government. In any sane administration he would have been given his walking papers a long time ago. But, we have a President who likes to reward incompetence so long as the incompetence supports the Administration’s distorted view of the world and American’s role in it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


What is it about Texans in Washington? Since Lyndon was a Senator and Sam Rayburn was Speaker, Texans have been larger than life in Washington. Both of these men, Johnson and Rayburn epitomized the problem with Texas politicians. If they had been Republicans, it would have been at least twice as bad.

The problem with Texans is that culturally Texas is a backward state compared with California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Pennysylvania, Maryland, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, northern Virginia, the research triangle section of North Carolina, and occasionally Missouri. That's about fifteen states or roughly a third, since Alaska, Hawai'i, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Wyoming don't have the populations or the diversity to compete.

Texas is culturally backward despite its thriving metropolitan areas like Houston (4th in the nation), Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Austin, (although Austin is an weird anomaly in the state). It is culturally backward partly because of its size and its neighbors. Texans have only themselves to look to for models. You would not want Texans to be like Okies or Cajuns or Arkansas travelers, would you? In the west New Mexico, one of the poorest states in the Union, cannot possibly provide context or example. No, Texans are isolated and, to add insult to isolation, Texas is a cotton state, a part of the old Confederacy, and all that implies.

Still, it is not the brash Protestant religiosity of the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Waco, nor is it the Roman Catholic areas of the German settlements in south-central Texas or the Texas barrios that produce the backwardness. It's not the steamy, humid, racist misery of east Texas. It is something left over from the 'fifties: Old Testament Paternalism. Paternalism is the base creed of Texas politicians, and combined with Republican self-righteous, fear-based narrow-mindedness it is a terrible thing to behold.

Former Senator John Tower epitomized the paternalistic, self-righteous Texas paternalism and brought it to Washington for twenty-three years in the Senate. His politics was ultra-conservative and wrapped up in that sort of Texas religiosity that looks down on sinners, understands (and fears) wild prairie weather and, nevertheless, makes a shambles of his own personal life. Tower was an obstinate and obnoxious rightwing scourge.

Following Tower, though, we have an escalation in Texas backwardness and paternalism. In Representative Tom DeLay of the Houston suburbs, we have a John Tower with the smell of DDT and the goodwill of a blackwidow spider. Tom DeLay is a vicious hypocrite, a man of public prayer and private avarice. He understands the incredible power of money in a corrupt society and he plays that game as if it were the only game in town. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Tom is so sure of himself that he broke the law recently denouncing the judges, who rightfully refused to be party to the gruesome and immoral gardening of Terri Schiavo.

Tom DeLay threatened all the judiciary and brought upon himself, with his own mouth, the reason he must be expelled from the Congress. He has proven himself unfit for office, ignorant of the law of the land and the doctrine of separation of governmental powers. He is revealed to the whole world as the slimey, hypocritical, demagogue and liar that he is. As the press told us yesterday, he is also an avaricious cheat.

With DeLay sinking to the nadir of American politics, one wonders how a dude like Senator John Cornyn could happen along. John Cornyn fancies himself the replacement for former Senator Phil Gramm, a tower of immodest conservative doctrine, if ever there was one. John Cornyn like John Tower is ultra-conservative and even sat on the Texas supreme court for seven years. John Cornyn is not, however, what you would call a genius.

How does a man of his culturally confined intellect manage to put both feet in his mouth in the same sentence and commit a felony on the floor of the Senate all in one breath? Well, self-righteousness does it. Hubris and paternalism are the key. John Cornyn opened the door for every person who does not like their verdict to go after their judge and commit mayhem. Cornyn is not fit for office either.

Cornyn is stupider than Tom DeLay because he is nothing but a piler on, a repeater, not an inciter, just the kind of guy who gangs up on issues, rather than defining them and providing light to his generation. John Cornyn is a sad epigone of the John Tower type in Texas. But he is dangerous because of his mouth and its tenuous connection to his intellect.

Yesterday I called Cornyn's office and told his staff member that Mr. Cornyn should resign. You can do that too, if you like, by calling his Washington office at: 202-224-2934 or his Austin, TX office at 512-469-6034. John Cornyn is an embarrassment to our federal government. He is worthless now that he has revealed himself so stupidly and publicly.

Oh, and you can call Tom DeLay's Washington office at: 202-225-5951 and wish him the same. It's time for some spring cleaning in Texas!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Resistant to Change

My children like to tell me that I am resistant to change. I think they are dead wrong. I am all for change, as long as it does not include something that has to be programmed and requires two or three different remote controls. They mistake my loathing of things technical as being eternally stuck in the rut of a past century. Change, I think, is a very good thing, with a few exceptions.

Several years ago someone got their hands on the educational system in this country and ran amok. I am not quite sure when or how it started but it took over and it seems to have started with "whole language." Some bright spark decided that children learned to read the same way that they learned to speak, and in due course they would just pick up War and Peace and read it in a day and a half. Wouldn't that be lovely! The truth of the matter is that only four out of every ten children pick up reading on their own, so six children will probably be classed as dyslexic, because they were not given the tools with which to learn to read.

Some enterprising soul, armed with facts and figures on how America was falling behind the rest of the world in education decided that we must throw out everything that had educated our parents and grandparents and mess about with it a bit. Out went Dick & Jane and Spot & Puff... (they were deemed boring) to be replaced with...well nothing in particular.

No longer was "old" math good enough. This was replaced with "new math," which presented a whole host of problems, even with teachers who themselves struggled to get a grasp on it. Math fared better than language, however, as it was deemed a disaster early on. Not until 20 years after instituting whole language, into the state's curriculum, did California finally declare it a total disaster and revert to the old tried and true. Most states have since followed suit.

Now a teacher must not make corrections to papers, essays, and the like, as it might injure the child's psyche. A red mark on a paper, or anything less than a B+, just may traumatize them enough to make them never want to write again! How ridiculous is this? My psyche was blasted, right and left, by THE RED PEN. I am not a quivering mass of jelly today because of it, nor am I unable to put together a comprehensible sentence.

There is great disarray which faces the public educational system in this country today. We have failing schools, millions of dollars being poured into a system for curricula which teach specifically to a test, underpaid teachers, and children who do not have a good solid background in the basics of reading and writing. With all of that looming large, it concerns me that the major concern seems to be whether or not the words "Under God" are in the Pledge of Allegiance, or, heaven forfend!, there is NOT prayer in school!

Listen people, we all have choices. If the religiosity that you feel should shadow your child 24-7 is of that great a concern to you, then enroll your child in a religious school, but, make sure it has a good solid reading program so that your kids are able to read the Bible. Ditto for teaching "creationism" or "intelligent design." The key word here is public schools, schools which operate on tax dollars, both state and federal. The other key word is education. I want my child to understand Darwin and his theory, I send him to Sunday school for religious instruction. I do not want the public education that my child receives to be muddied up with anyone's religious beliefs, nor do I expect my tax dollars to pay for vouchers so that your child can attend a religious school. Might this come under the heading of separation of church and state?

So, I guess I am resistant to change, if, as it seems to me, the greatest issue of the school crisis, being addressed these days, is of a religious nature. But, hey, if you are worried about the lack of prayer in school remember, there will always be prayer in school...any day there is a test.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

And Now for the Rest of the Story

The recent report by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction delineating the failures of the Intelligence Community (IC) in assessing the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq and the IC’s apparent inability to gage the size and scope of the WMD programs in Iran and North Korea only tells half the story. Missing in the report was how the intelligence on Iraq was used or abused by this administration. Deliberately missing from the Commission’s charter was the ability to investigate how the intelligence was massaged by the various departments as it moved up the chain of command to the White House.

In the Pentagon, a little known office was created whose function was to consolidate and “review” the intelligence reporting from the IC. Known as the Office of Special Plans (OSP), it provided cover for the Bush administration in the event no WMD were found in Iraq. What the OSP did, with the full knowledge of the White House, was to remove all the caveats from the intelligence reporting and thus make the intelligence reporting appear to be much stronger than the authors intended it to be.

The Iraq National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) did not have the unanimous support of the IC. At least one intelligence agency wanted to footnote the NIE, indicating it did not agree with the findings of the NIE, but was told to “butt out.” This NIE was used by the administration to prove that Iraq had WMD and intended to give these weapons to terrorists. Since the NIE was going to provide the intellectual underpinnings for the decision to invade Iraq, it was crucial that the IC appeared to be in unanimous agreement as to its veracity.

The sole purpose of these Machiavellian schemes was to provide the White House with what is known in the intelligence world as plausible deniability. If no WMD were found the administration could blame the IC and claim that had it received correct information the invasion might not have happened. If WMD were found it could say see we were right all along. For the White House it was a win- win situation, for the rest of the world including the American public it was just he opposite.

Lest, dear reader, you think I have fabricated this from whole cloth let me give you my qualifications for making these assertions. I retired from the IC as a senior chemical warfare intelligence analyst. I participated in a UN inspection of Iraq’s WMD programs and worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and in the IC’s Non-Proliferation Center. I know where the bodies are buried!