American Liberalism Project Archives September 2004 to June 2006

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Corporatism is a state of affairs in which the influence of large corporations supplants the relationship between the citizen and his government. Under corporatism a charade of democratically elected government is maintained, but unhidden in the background is the vast wealth of corporations manipulating candidates, campaigns, elections, and government itself. George W. Bush smilingly calls this "his base." And, he is not kidding!

In the United States the notion has been, since 1789 and the ratification of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, that the government is "of," "by," and "for" the people. There is no mention of corporations or joint stock companies or even large sole proprietorships. In other words, the country was founded on a set of ideas that completely ignored corporations. Business organization was, in fact, left largely to the several states to define and govern. The failure to predict political parties and nation-sized business organizations along corporate lines is the crack in our Liberty Bell, a crucial problem, perhaps a fatal one.

Don't get me wrong. I am not against limited liability corporations for the purposes of investment. Nor am I against the people who run corporations or who work in and for them. Corporations are not people, though. Deliberately they are not people, they are legal fictions designed to spread the risk of doing business outward from the management/owners team to all the owner/investors, each investor and manager taking only as much responsibility (if things go south) as their share of the stock would require. And, on the other hand, when profits are made each shareholder gets a proportionate share of the divisible profits. In fact, management teams are hired and fired on the basis of how they keep the corporation profitable, since many of the investors have no other source of income but their dividends from stocks they own—you know, the fabled little gray-haired grandmothers living out their years, and people like you who own stock indirectly through 401k and other forms of annuities, and, yes, even high-flying, jet-setting, stock speculators who often worry about and depend upon stock dividends.

Corporatism is also a state of mind, a zeitgeist, a philosophy of life and society, sort of, a background set of assumptions about life that includes corporations as if they were living entities. We all know the expression from the cartoonist Al Capp that "what's good for General Bullmoose is good for America." The General stands for the corporation (GMC), and through the magic of metaphor processing in the same ratio the corporation stands for America. Psychological corporatism associates progress and health in the economy with the prospects for corporations, which is sometimes called their "health." We constantly speak of corporations being good or bad citizens; we think of corporate decision-making like we think about personal decision-making—as if it were independent from the morality and rationality of the people within corporations who actually make the decisions.

Corporations, of course, have "interests." Among these are the goals of the management team and stockholders, and these typically are to secure the best possible situation for carrying out whatever the corporation does. So, in the case of the pharmaceutical industry, for a classic example, the ideal situation is one in which the often large costs of development are off-set by tax breaks and a system of ethics-neutral drug approvals that allows the corporation to bring more drugs to the market rather than fewer. Also on the retail end, pharmaceutical companies are interested in tying down consumer markets so that they can better predict their production needs, and, of course, be more efficient, thus producing larger and larger profits. Any act of government that creates a market is good news to them, even if, like the recent call to test everybody for mental health, the pharmaceutical companies don't have a clue how to cure mental health.

To achieve their interests employees and consultants to corporations talk to people who work for the regulatory agencies and try to persuade them that the corporation's work is faultless and its products of major benefit to the largest number of people. These same corporate representatives also talk to the people who make laws. In fact corporations help get these people elected by making contributions to election campaigns, providing transportation and amenities for events (and vacations) distant from Washington, and by showing how their management teams and other employees individually also contribute.

Because large corporations deal in large amounts of money, and because the needs for nailing down government agencies and lawmakers is so critical, huge amounts of money are made available from thousands of corporations. The total amount of money involved is unimaginable. It is, in fact, so large that the principles upon which our government was founded have been drowned in corporate money and, actually, no longer apply. It's like having a solar system with Jupiter sized planets in every orbit but Earth's. The gravitational attraction of all that money actually moves Earth out of its accustomed (Constitutional) orbit into a wildly eccentric path which leads eventually to unpleasant results.

One of the things that thriving psychological corporatism does is to persuade people that corporations are not only indispensable for the country to exist, but that corporations also know best how to govern themselves and their workers. Inherent within corporations is a "social-Darwinist" view of individuals such that the pyramid shape of the corporation provides a gauntlet through which only the "fittest" may pass. This creates over time an ideology of corporatism among the elite who run corporations and a sense of awe (if not respect) in the populace. It is, of course, a sham, for once established only the sons and (a few) daughters of the elite ever make it to the top of management.

When corporations are committed to a line of business, say, making paper and plastic products for the home and office, they establish relationships with other corporations that deal with energy, transportation, raw materials, marketing, etc. So, Kimberly Clark, for instance, becomes accustomed to using petroleum products for their plastics manufacturing and for the various processes going into making toilet paper and so forth. When presented with the idea that using petroleum may be hazardous to the planet's health, Kimberly assures Clark that the modern world cannot run without petroleum and to not worry so much about it. Over time the idea becomes a statement of principle, that is, the use of petroleum for industrial purposes (including the burning of gasoline to get employees to their jobs) is fundamental and not up for discussion. Later, when some folks continue to discuss it anyway ... as the glaciers melt around us ... the principle of petroleum-based economies being basically harmless develops out of the denial. It is easier to just ignore the bad news and play for long-term processes that will not impugn one's own decision-making!

This situation led a member of the Congress, Rep. Joe Barton, (T-Tex), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, to threaten scientists whose examination of global warming he neither understood nor wanted to believe. Yes, Republican politics played a major role in Barton's McCarthyistic demagoguery, but also the psychology of corporatism and the reality of corporatism was at the bottom of it. Well Barton was roundly cursed by Democrats and Republicans alike for his affront to science and little people in academe, but his work was done.

When corporatism becomes global, that is, as more and more nations accept the "inevitability" of the corporate organization model for controlling the means of production, the power of the corporate view ... the profit-centered view, with its appended ideas of social control and government interrelationships ... becomes pervasive. Corporatism seems to be not only inevitable, but because of its ubiquity it seems to be correct. It important to stop here for a moment and consider that the profit motive has never, ever proven to be a reliable tool, measure, or raw material for fashioning a humane society. It is just too narrow and simple to encompass the full range of human activity. People who believe that life is a game and money is the way you keep score are bereft of humanity and deserve the hollowness of their existence!

How on Earth could so many people be wrong about something? It's easy. It is standard practice for our species as evidenced by centuries of stupidity resulting in the rapid or slow-motion collapse of one civilization after another. The American civilization is not immune. In fact, far from immune, it has been infected with deadly corporatism virus.

You have not forgotten that government is supposed to be by "of, by, and for" the people? Obviously corporatism is wrong for America because it utterly destroys this basic concept.

Since corporations are legal fictions and since we have at our disposal in Congress the means to "perfect" the definition and laws governing corporations, we should forthrightly stand up and fix the situation before it is too late. What is needed is this: we need new set of rules governing the activities of corporate employees, management in particular. Investors would retain their reduced responsibility so long as they do not manage. Management must be treated like we treat airline pilots and bus drivers. That is they must be given a set of categorical imperatives that makes them act for the common good, not just the so-called life of the corporation. A corporation that respects the natural environment should be rewarded; a strip-mining or arsenic flooding goldmines should never be allowed to exist.

Corporations, being legal fictions, are not citizens, and therefore have no First Amendment rights. None! Absolutely none! Accordingly, corporations do not have the right to spend corporate funds in support of or against any political candidate or issue. Corporations should not be allowed to spend any money on lobbying (or other forms of bribery and corruption). It may be necessary, because of the vast amounts of money involved, to prohibit individuals within the management structure of corporations from making large political contributions also. To be fair and to give them equal protection of the law, a total of $1,000 per year from any individual in America—for all candidates and issues combined—should do it! This would apply to you and to me and to Donald Trump and Bill Gates—everyone!

This, obviously, would lead to greater reliance upon the media for information about candidates, issues, and the conduct of government. As we all know, today the media are corporate and do not report the news that is inimical to their corporate interests. This is an unacceptable situation which we would change by divesting from all communications corporations any other kind of industrial holding, entertainment, soap products, etc. Then to assure ourselves of equal opportunity to hear divergent views and to avoid what we now see as a conspiracy in restraint of trade in information (!) we would limit mass media corporations to three press, broadcast, or cable outlets and to an overall market of no more than 10 million people.

Over the next few days, my colleagues and I will be discussing these recommendations. Your input before they are addressed to Dr. Howard Dean and others would be greatly appreciated. If you want to rant, go elsewhere. We want constructive and intelligent contributions.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Abstinence & Knowledge

A good word is abstinence. It can keep us from overindulging, or take us away from something harmful altogether. But when it comes to teaching teenagers about sex, abstinence is hardly the word that will make them sit up and take notice. A vow of abstinence from a hormonal teen is more easily broken then a condom.

Knowledge. Another good word and one that holds more opportunity for kids than abstinence.

Sex, outside of marriage, and dare I say even within the bounds of marriage these days is a risky behavior. I remember telling my children that sex could kill them, as they were embarking on their teen odyssey about the time HIV/AIDS was making headlines daily. I did, however, give them the information which they needed in order to make informed decisions. The key word here is knowledge.

Not so today. It seems we have a part of our culture which is all but denying sex even exists and we are headed back to the day of the stork and the cabbage patch. There is more controversy about Sex Ed in the country's school systems than there is about what sorts of subjects kids will truly need in order to make their way in life. The two hottest curriculum topics in this day and age are Sex Ed. and Creationism. This is a truly very sad state of affairs.

I live in what has been termed the bluest of the blue states, a state about which a US Senator is going so far as to claim we were responsible for the cancer known as pedophilia to matastisize throughout the institution of the Catholic Church. This is lunacy at it's height and reminds me of the old saying, be sure brain is engaged before putting mouth in gear. Living in my state and being a liberal is not a disease. As far as the Family Values crowd goes, let us take a look at what our blue state family values show us.

We do have sex education in our schools, we do acknowledge gay marriage , we have the highest rate of education in the country, and we have the lowest divorce rate in the nation (whereas the Bible Belt has the highest divorce rate...2.4 per thousand in MA. and 4.1 in TX.), and we truly live our family values.

My state, for overall births by teenagers was 7.4 for MA. and 16.1 for TX. As for our feckless leader's home state of TX. we see a 101 to national average of 84 This is a state where abstinence only is highly promoted and misinformation abounds.

To be sure, to inform your children yourself should be top on the list for knowledge of such things as sex, pregnancy, etc., but there are those parents who feel that given this information their teens would be more apt to engage in sexual behavior. This is simply not so. Children who have no information or mis-information get themselves in trouble. And we are seeing this more and more now with the sorts of non-intercourse sexual activities teens engage in. Because they are not doing "it," after all, they feel safe. If they had received information about STDS and HIV/AIDS they would understand, but most feel a vow of abstinence, apparently, only means not doing "it".

As far as Gay marriage goes, unlike the Senator from Pennslyvania, I do not feel in the least bit threatened by it. It is not a threat to any marriage or the institution thereof. Has a gay couple threatened to undo all heterosexual marriages? If you are heterosexual and you wish to marry, no gay marriage will be an impediment to your choice. I cannot for the life of me see how anyone could feel that it is. What I do see as their perceived threat is that one more opportunity to discriminate against a group of individuals may be falling by the wayside. Every ethnic group has gone through their trial by fire to achieve their piece of the American Dream, none more so than the African American community. But civil rights are civil rights and no segment of this society should be without the protections and benefits enjoyed by every other person. Gay marriage does not lead to beastiality, another ludicrous statement generally made by those who should know better. Fear must be a very uncomfortable bedfellow.

It seems we may once again be faced with the possible striking down of Roe v. Wade if Sandra Day O'Connor's replacement is imbued with the spirit of the right wing neocon agenda. I remember when it was declared that abortion should be legalized. Out of the back alleys, and sure death for so many women, and into the legitimacy of the health community. It might not be my choice as it would not be for so many others, but at least I know I have that choice. As for those who cry about the sanctity of life, I have yet to see them holding signs up outside abortion clinics indicating that they would be willing to adopt the child they feel is in danger. And as much as they may spout their Bible verses, they still fail to comprehend Jesus message of acceptance, tolerance, love and respect.

Some things are a given. The more education you receive the better you are able to make informed choices. You will probably marry at a later age, have children at 30 rather than 18 and have an established career making money commensurate with your knowledge and skills as opposed to minimum wage. Liberals are the true compassionate conservatives. An investment of time and knowledge with children pays off tenfold in the end.

So I urge you to take a look at some of the issues which are paramount in the minds of many today and see just how knowledgeable you truly are about them.

The 10 Commandments "sculptures" which adorn various town greens in different parts of the country. Worth fighting to preserve? These were actually placed around the country by Cecil B. DeMille to garner interest in his movie The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston. So for those who think Hollywood is a den of liberal socialists, maybe you want to rethink the 10 Commandments thing...hmmm?

"10 Commandments - Go Forth and Multiply. What's up with all the monuments to the Ten Commandments around America? How come there are so many of them? "In the 1950s, Cecil B. DeMille teamed with the Fraternal Order of Eagles to kick off donations of 4,000 6-foot granite tablets depicting the Ten Commandments to municipalities nationwide. For DeMille, this was great advertising for his epic movie 'The Ten Commandments.' The Eagles, which kept the program going at least into the 1960s, declared it a way to fight juvenile delinquency." (Los Angeles Times 08/26/03)

The words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Worth fighting to preserve? These words were not an original part of the Pledge, which was not even written until the 1890's, by a minister for a boy's group. Eisenhower added the words in the 1950's after heavy lobbying by the Knights of Columbus.

In God We Trust on our currency? Worth fighting to preserve? That phrase did not appear on the currency of this country until the Civil War years. The initial suggestion was "God, Liberty, Law" that I might fight for!

So I hope you all will abstain from fighting for causes of which you have little knowledge, because a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Doonesbury is Right

This Sunday Gary Trudeau drew a Doonesbury comic script that was right on target. It was Mikes Summer Daydream about a George Bush who leveled with the country, admitted he made mistakes and actually told the truth about the Iraq invasion. In this dream Bush apologized to the Country for the war, the loss of life on both sides and admitted he was wrong about WMD in Iraq Of course this was entirely fiction since we know Bush never admits making mistakes and has a long history of denying the truth and twisting the facts to fit his current vision of the truth.

When he was a graduate student at the Harvard Business School, (wonder how he was admitted with his gentleman C undergraduate average? don’t’ suppose daddy had anything to do with it?) one of his professors reported in a blog last year that Bush was one of his worst students. He said that Bush had the very annoying habit of saying very outrageous things in class and when these statements would later prove to be false, he would deny ever having said them. If you will recall Bush did the same thing during one of the debates with Kerry. Kerry accused Bush of saying he didn’t worry about Bin Laden and that he didn’t know where he was nor did he care that much about finding him.. Bush denied ever having said it, but later one of the news networks ran a tape of an interview with Bush where he said precisely that.

Unfortunately, Mike’s dream is our nightmare. Because of what Bush has done, we live in world that is less safe, where we are breeding more and more terrorists who hate America for what it has done. One only has to look at the terror attacks in Britain, Spain and Egypt to realize that we are less safe than we were before the Iraq invasion. We see our civil liberties eroding because of the fear of terror and we see a United States that is feared and hated by most of the world.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The War on Terrorism Increases Terrorism

It's time for intelligent leaders to face facts--

"Suicide terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland."

"Since suicide terrorism is mainly a response to foreign occupation and not Islamic fundamentalism, the use of heavy military force to transform Muslim societies is only likely to increase the number of suicide terrorists coming at us."

"Since 1990, the United States has stationed tens of thousands of ground troops on the Arabian Peninsula, and that is the main mobilization appeal of Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. People who make the argument that it is a good thing to have them attacking us over there are missing that suicide terrorism is not a supply-limited phenomenon where there are just a few hundred around the world willing to do it because they are religious fanatics. It is a demand driven phenomena. It is driven by the presence of foreign forces on the territory that terrorists view as their homeland. The operation in Iraq has stimulated suicide terrorism and given suicide terrorism a new lease on life."

"The evidence shows that the presence of American troops is clearly the pivotal factor driving suicide terrorism. The presence of combat troops in the Arabian Peninsula increases the threat of suicide terrorists ten times. There is no evidence there were any suicide-terrorist organizations laying in wait in Iraq before our invasion. What is happening is that the suicide terrorists have been produced by the invasion."

"Once invaders leave a country, the terror attacks tend to cease."

These are the findings of Professor Robert Pape of the University of Chicago who has the world's largest database on suicide terrorism. He discussed his findings on C-Span's Washington Journal (3rd hour) July 17, 2005 and in an interview with Scott McConnell in the July 18 issue of The American Conservative. His full report is presented in his new book Dying to Win.

Americans have been misled about the truth about terrorism since 9/11 when President Bush said, "They attacked us because they hate our freedoms." before he told us to 'go shopping'. The truth is that Osama bin Laden had clearly stated in 1998 the reasons America would be targeted in the coming years.

"For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples." (Osama bin Laden in 1998 declaration of war to the United States.)

This information should have been headline news but it was hidden from the American people to protect the ongoing military incursion into the Middle East. As a student of the history of US military and covert actions into other countries, I can tell you that our government has a rap sheet that shows they have overturned democratically elected governments and suppressed popular citizen movements when the control of corporate interests were threatened.

Taking and keeping control of the resources of other nations has been the primary mover of military action by our government, not the 'spread of democracy'. We increase our danger when we fail to look at this. We must understand the feelings of the people in those countries who face the military might of the US which will drop bombs on them and destroy their way of life to gain control of their resources. Lacking a military, terrorism becomes their weapon of necessity. Knowing the truth, I believe most people in our nation would object to the use of our soldiers for corporate interests and understand how occupying forces are rejected by other nations.

Professor Pape is not alone in his findings. This from a U.S. Department of Defense study 1997 - "Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase of terror attacks against the United States."

The President gave as a reason to invade Iraq : "Imagine a terrorist network with Iraq as a training ground..." Iraq had never experienced suicide terrorism until the US invasion. Now the President says, "Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror."

He is right according to a January 2005 CIA National Intelligence Council report which says- "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training grounds for the next generation of 'professional' terrorists.

What do the numbers show? Are we safer since the onset of the War on Terrorism? Have terrorist attacks decreased?

Well, no. Prof. Pape's studies have shown that in Iraq suicide terrorism has doubled every year since the invasion with 20 attacks in 2003, 48 in 2004, and over 60 in the first six months of 2005. World wide suicide terrorism has increased since the 1980's with 3 per year in the 80's, 10 per year in the '90's, 25 in 2000, 50+ in 2003-05 and over 100 likely in Iraq in 2005 plus the likely blowback of suicide terror attacks in the US, UK and allied nations. The numbers of suicide terrorists parallel the occupation of their lands.

Prof. Pape reports that he met with fifteen senators, including Senators Waxman and Luger, to discuss his findings. He recommended to them that the US identify it's interests in the Persian Gulf, oil, and stop fueling the reasons for suicide Terrorism by removing the presence of military forces from the Persian Gulf and making alliances with the nations who have the oil. He suggests off-shore presence of the Navy to insure US interests. Thus US aims to obtain oil would be achieved and the main root cause for suicide terrorism would be eliminated.

If we really care about the safety of our people, we will insist our government stop acting to provoke the problem and do the intelligent thing by getting our military out of the homelands of other people. If our government does not do this, then we must realize that they do not have our safety at heart and are following another agenda that puts us in greater jeopardy.

Susan Dyer, Guest Bloggist

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mea Culpa, My Foot!

Last week the Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Kenneth Mehlman, told the meeting of the NAACP in Milwaukee that the "southern strategy" of the GOP was "wrong." He said that the Republicans should have but did not "reach out" to southern Blacks for their votes, and instead, he said, "some Republicans" used "racial polarization" as a wedge issue to bring southern Whites into the Republican fold.

There have been a few articles about this, but most of the press energy that would have gone into this remarkable revelation has been expended instead on confusing stories and analyses of the Rove treason. (I say treason because if a Democrat had violated his oath of office and the regulations governing classified information like Rove has admitted to, he or she would have been brought to formal justice months ago. Rove, on the other hand is still out there in his pudgy pinkness, sweat glistening from his jowls, and accusing everyone but himself for divulging the name of Valerie Plame. If he or Bush or the press had a shred of integrity they would understand that just repeating classified information, thus authenticating it, is a crime, and in this case treasonous. But that is another kettle of fish.)

The "southern strategy" of the Republicans began back in the Nixon days, in the aftermath of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, in the days of horror experienced by ten generations of slave-holding, Negro-abusing and lynching, vilifying southern white men and women as their world came tumbling down around their ears. It looked to the Orville Faubuses and George Wallaces of the day that another Reconstruction was headed their way, that the north was not satisfied with having emancipated the slaves, but now was going to stimulate intermarriage and inter-racial love. These frightened, ugly people were against the proverbial wall. Their President, Johnson, had betrayed them. Their world was crumbling around them. They were outnumbered, of course, so they were rightfully afraid for their lives. So, like the Dixiecrats walking away from Truman, these frightened racist southerners went over the the Republicans who promised them guess what? Yes, states' rights and a restoration of the principles of federalism, that is, states determining school issues, states determining hotel and eating place rules, states run by White folks, not those hateful liberals up in the North.

When Reagan opened his presidential campaign in Philadelpia, Mississippi where racism was immeasurably more important than football and NASCAR combined, he was sending a message to the whole south, to all the frightened racists in the south, that his Presidency would do all it could to save their bacon.

When Bush Sr. ran, he did not discontinue the "southern strategy" he profited from it. When he lost to Clinton, it was because Clinton momentarily poked back through that cloud of seething fear and hatred to let the folks know that Bubba weren't gonna do nothin' stupid up in Washington, or at least it would not be a jostling like they had from Johnson. Southerners got Bubba elected but strangled him with a Republican Congress in short order.

When Bush Jr. ran he played this southern strategy to the hilt. He was the cowboy candidate with "southern values." He made first Gore then Kerry look like carpetbaggers. He and Rove twisted the language around onto itself so that poor southern whites voted themselves out of jobs as the corporations that form George's base hightailed it out of the country to anywhere where labor was cheaper.

The point of all this being, of course, that the "southern strategy" worked. Republicans picked up the southern fragments of the old Roosevelt coalition that were no longer joined at the hip by hatred of Republican business interests, and capitalized on them. The modern Republican Party is, in the South, the Dixiecrat party, pure and simple.

So, does it make any sense for the Republicans to REALLY disavow their winning strategy? Well, hell no! If they were going to really disavow it, them would have made the announcement in the south at Daytona Beach or Darlington or any of the NASCAR venues, not Wisconsin which borders on Canada! They would have picked a slow news day to make sure that all the Whites and Blacks in the south got the same word.

No, this is classic southern strategy in the make up and dress of Karl Rove. Truth is not a factor, only the record. From this moment on the Republicans will be able to tell Black church leaders that they have turned over a new leaf. "Come on, y'all, Republicans are for you, brother. (High five, pounded fist, knuckle couplers.)" Whites will never hear another word of it. It is gone ... as the mainstream press have seen to it that it got only moderate play against two other huge stories ... Rovegate and London.

I expect the southern strategy to actually turn further toward the racist wedge. Republicans are organized in a highly granular way, so that precincts are political entities on the maps in Washington, not just in state capitals and party offices. They will punish and reward as befits the situation in any part of Dixie's states. Blacks whose precincts stay Democratic on the voter rolls will get Rove's very best empty hand. Parish ministers who deliver registrations to the Republicans will get Faith-based Washington largess. It's a guarantee.

Meanwhile the three or four racists whites who read the paper will think that the Republican "admission" was something to do with the anti-lynching resolution and that was probably something their senators had to vote on to help northern Republicans fight off those damned, stinking, liberal, communist, America-hating, Jesus-reviling, carpetbagging Democratic pigs.

The good news is that Republicans have now admitted that unless they keep the south, unless they weld the door shut against the Democrats, there will be trouble. They need the Black vote to do this. They can see that if a northerner or midwesterner or far westerner is nominated on the Republican ticket in 2008 there could be big trouble. With handwriting on the wall this large, the Democrats should know what to do!

James Richard Brett

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Psychological Child Abuse

As many of you, who have followed my writing know, I am a mom and a grandmother. I have suffered through the teen years, have started watching a new generation head into those learning and experiencing years, and laughed, cried, worried and beamed with pride at my progeny and theirs.

I have always been appalled by those who treat their children as chattel, as less than human beings, and have never spared the rod. The old "do as I say not as I do" crowd. That is not to say that my children never experienced my hand on their plump little behinds. Let's face it, there is just so much talking you can do at times. Hopefully they never experienced a more devastating form of abuse...the psychological kind.

This morning though, I am sitting here shaking my head in disbelief over abuse that some would be hard pressed to label as such. It even has a name, which I suppose elevates it to "non abuse" status, at least in some minds. It is called Reparative Therapy, and it is designed to haul your son or daughter back from the brink of damnation should they decide that they are homosexual. It is up front and center psychological abuse.

Fueled by the religious right, these zealots have decided, despite knowledge to the contrary, that homosexuality is a "choice" of a detrimental lifestyle and therefore can be turned around or cured. To quote Dr. Douglas Haldeman, President of The Association of Practicing Psychologists, " I can give you a short answer to where reparative therapy fits in with the modern mental health profession: It does not. These theories have been discredited for years."

He is right. For many years homosexuality was listed by the Psychiatric Assoc. as a mental disorder. But in light of much modern research, genetic studies and the like, a more enlightened understanding has emerged and it is now recognized not as a lifestyle choice but more as a pre-determined result of genetic coding.

Why is there such homophobia? Why do some see homosexuality as the Hydra or Satan at work in the world? It seems to be a specifically Judeo-Christian fear. Homosexuals have been forever amongst us, and rarely looked upon as they are today in our modern, enlightened world.

Religious views of homosexuality have always varied. Both Greek and Roman religions and societies looked upon it as a positive influence. Men in those groups were expected to take male lovers as it was heterosexual relationships that drained a warrior's strength. The downfall of those two empires had nothing to do with homosexuality. Our own native American cultures felt that those who were gender-variant held a certain status as they possessed spiritual powers. Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) have taken various stances on it at various periods in history).

Today, however, it is a thing to be greatly feared. The hypocrisy surrounding this is mind boggling to me. Let me explain.

Most of those who have a deep seated fear of homosexuals call themselves Christians. They are a group with strong "Family Values". They love God, Jesus and their families. They are solid members of their communities and are patriotic. Most of them work hard and believe in the American Dream. They want to see their children succeed. Not much wrong with that picture is there? Sounds like most of us. However, all those beliefs are very specific. It has to be THEIR way and there is just no wiggle room for homosexuality. It seems as if THEIR God, could not possibly have made "queers", therefore it is the work of Satan. And it is therefore their Christian duty to wipe it out.

From the earliest years of their lives you tell your child...You can tell me anything. You can come to me and talk about anything. I am here for you. I will listen to you. I will dialogue with you. What could be more reassuring to a child? They do not always choose to do this. At some point their peer group seems to have the answers they seek so you may miss out on a few things, but by and large, if you have developed a good strong, loving relationship with your child or children all is well. But NOT if you choose to "come out" to your parents and they are of the Christian mindset that this makes you warped.

So now we come to Zack a bright 16 year old who decided that he needed to let his parents know he was gay. Most of Zack's friends knew that he was. He was not "bashed" at school. No, no, the bashing started at home with mom and dad. Zack posted to his web site that he had come out to his parents and of course the information had landed like a lead balloon. They told him that there was "something psychologically wrong with me" and that "they raised me wrong."

So now they must see to it that Zack is cured and what better way to do this than to haul his behind down to the local Fundamentalist church where they run a program called Refuge, a "camp" where all will be set right. The only thing about this is that Zack, savvy as he and most teenagers today are, forsees problems ahead. To quote again from his blog, "If I do come out straight, I will be so mentally unstable and depressed it won't matter." I cannot even imagine the hell which this child is about to experience.

Do his parents love him? I am sure that they do.But their fear of the unknown, of something that their faith has TAUGHT them to fear seems greater than the love they should have for their child.

To learn more about what Zack is facing you can go here.

Hang tough Zack, and give 'em hell!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The All Volunteer Recruiting Mess

Military recruiting has fallen on tough times due to the total failure on the part of the Administration to plan for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. As a reminder of just how totally wrong the administration was about Iraq recall the remark that Donald Rumsfeld made, “We will be greeted as liberators in Iraq just as the Allied forces were greeted as liberators by the French in World War 2. Not quite! Day after day we hear of increasing violence by terrorists who, despite assurances of US military commanders that the back of the insurgency has been broken, seem to be capable of remarkable rejuvenation.

Although the youth of America have often been characterized as uninvolved and intellectually lazy, they are smart enough to know that to volunteer for military service now means they could be killed or wounded. This has caused the Pentagon no end of grief and to combat this problem a number of inducements for volunteering for military service have been employed such as $20,000 signing bonus to coerce the poor to enlist.

In addition, the maximum enlistment age has been raised; new recruits are no longer dismissed for drug use, alcohol abuse, poor fitness and pregnancy. Even potential recruits with criminal records are allowed in. Even so, recruiting efforts have been less than successful so now the next ploy is to target teens.

What the military values most is green teens and the Pentagon is smart enough to know that this group is not watching the news or reading newspapers but surfing the web. The Pentagon is paying companies like Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) which claim “to offer its clients virtually unlimited methods for researching teens,” to get inside kid’s heads The Pentagon, with the aid of a marketing firm, BeNow, has created a database of twelve million youth, some as young as 16, to identify potential recruits. This database contains e-mail addresses, ethnicity, phone numbers, grade point averages, fields of academic study, and other data.

BeNow and TRU are only two of a number of private companies working through JAMRS- the Pentagon’s “program for joint marketing communications and market research and studies”-to fill the ranks of our all volunteer military. As an example of just how insidious these programs are one only need look at the Mothers’ Attitude Study which gauges the attitudes of 270 mothers of 10th and 11th-grade youth toward the Military and enlistment. Should the Pentagon be studying how to influence mothers of teens to send their children off to war? Another study aims to discover what drives college students to drop out and determine how the Services can capitalize on this 18 to 24 age group. The seemingly benign “Moral Waiver Study” actually looks at how those recruits with criminal records who are allowed to enlist in the US military fare in the military.

Not surprisingly, all of the advertising for the military emphasizes the opportunities for travel, training, financial incentives, and the glamour of military life. Basic training is a “nine week-long journey of self-discovery.” The prospect of being wounded or dying or even engaging in combat are largely ignored.

Despite spending 16,000 dollars for each military recruit the all-volunteer force is having severe problems recruiting. It seems clear that America’s youth knows that the slick ads don’t tell the truth and are missing a few critical elements- such as American troops acting as foreign occupiers, killing civilians, torturing, detainees, and failing to deliver security for Iraqis and their own troops.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Polarization, Compromise, and Choice

As the population of the United States slowly grows more and more polarized around positions on the key issues of the day—the war and occupation of Iraq, the composition and philosophic direction of the federal judiciary, the relationship of religion to public and official government activities, the deplorable state of public education, terrorists and terrorism, poverty and welfare, immigration and public services, free trade and American jobs, women's rights and abortion, and campaign finance and election reforms, to name what I think are the top ten—the prospect emerges that the political choices for voters in the Congressional elections in 2006 and the national election in 2008 will not adequately address these problems. Polarization is frightening because it evacuates the middle ground where compromise is usually found and established. In a world of competing interests compromise is always necessary—not fecklessness, not flakiness, not mendacity—but real share-the-floor compromise.

Currently, both the Republicans and Democrats are hurling epithets at one another under what each calls "hate speech." The usual definition of "hate speech" is that it contains "fighting words," which no resolute partisan can "take" sitting down. Democrats call Republicans moronic, racist, jingoistic, militaristic, corporate dupes and fools, while these fine people call Democrats "elitists," America-Haters, leftwing losers, anti-Christian sinners, and so forth. Much of the hate-speech vocabulary is concocted by politicians' staffs to serve as icons for larger issues. These icons make it easy to hit every point in a speech without actually saying anything detailed. They are what George Lakoff calls "framing" vocabulary. See our essay on this. Framing is important, but it does not lead, generally, to amity and compromise.

It is essential (despite the polarization and partly because of it) that we Liberals find common ground among ourselves—and soon. But, this is not going to be easy. Our normal political allegiance is usually to the Democratic Party, and as we already know political parties are always looser or tighter-knit coalitions of various interests wherein one person's top issue is sometimes eventually ranked fifth or eighth overall, while someone else's top issue gets the primary attention. In a situation where there are at least ten top issues, and most of them compound issues with nuances and reverberations across the politics and economy and ethics of the population, the creation of a coalition is a formidable task ... and recently Liberal politicians have not been much good at it.

One of the questions partisans—you and me—have to ask ourselves is how many ideas can Americans keep sorted out and understood well enough to vote for a candidate on these issues. If they don't vote on the issues, then they are voting for "the man/woman," which means they are voting for those nebulous "character issues" that have sunk more than one candidacy or Presidency in recent memory. So, if the number of issues that the average voter can deal with is, say, five, then the rest of their brains have to be working on "character" issues and "intangibles" like distorted reporting and personal biases.

Of the ten listed issues above, which are the top five? ... and which of the known probable candidates in the Democratic Party (Alpha-order: Joe Biden, Wes Clark, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Al Gore, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Mark Warner) would lead best? and why? What are the natural constituencies for the issues and the candidates, that is, what profiles of American citizens would tend to gravitate to an issue or a candidate? Would, for instance, women in general favor a femme candidate for President, or would they organize themselves by issues or by party?

As background to this discussion let's remember that Liberals typically are interested in humane issues and in positions on issues where an ethical rule of law can be established or supported. So, Liberals easily gravitate to issues of poverty, jobs, education, but also the safety and security of citizens from terror, war, unethical business and industrial practices, and disease. Liberals typically identify themselves with the middle classes (or the middle class as the standard of acceptable economic and social position). Liberals willingly use the power of the central government to assist the social and economic mobility of distressed classes of individuals, so the tradition has been to treat the less fortunate (economically and educationally) as a special constituency for whom extraordinary if not herculean efforts must be made to provide opportunities for mobility into the middle classes. At the bottom of it all is a Liberal idea about the worth of individuals ... which is not shared by the other side.

Liberals don't hate America or even Republican Americans. We love America and our energy and generosity created the best parts of it. Liberals will always fight plutocracy and theocracy and mendacity and irresponsibility and jingoism. When Liberals fight they take prisoners; they don't trash Americans, they liberate them. But, Liberals need to know how to deal with basic human emotions like fear and envy and greed. It is not enough to be against the Republican exploitation of fear and envy and greed; Liberals must act and speak from an understanding of these and the antidote: the power of people united by ethical sensibilities and compassion.

So the last component of our analysis is us. Who are we? Well, Americans are divided up into all manner of types and kinds, so creating a list does not create a set of "profile Americans." But a list can be valuable, so let's try. I have put some of the types together by their natural categories.

  • Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans, independents, infrequent voters

  • Very wealthy, wealthy, high moderate income, middle middle, low middle, low income, poverty, dependents

  • Graduate education, college, high school, 6-11th grade, K-5

  • Male, female, gay, lesbian

  • Age: 18-25, 25-35, 35-50, 50-65, 65-80, 80 and older

  • Christians:
    Strong Catholic, Revisionist Catholic, Fundamentalist or Evangelical Protestant, Moderate Protestant, Mormon, Other

  • Jews:
    Orthodox, Other

  • Other Religions:
    Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, other

  • Vocation: Owner/entrepreneur, Manager/Exec, professional, educator/scientist, government, military/police, homemaker, highly skilled trade, skilled trade, unskilled worker, unemployed

  • Urban, suburban, exurban, rural, overseas

That's enough for now. There are eight categories, ten counting the three large religious categories, and among them about sixty labels. Obviously some of the labels could be applied to other categories, like 25-35 year old unskilled workers, or female executives, or urban professionals, etc., etc.

Now lets create maps, or matrices, to help visualize the situation. List the candidates along the top of a page; make a column for each candidate. Then list the constituents along the left margin (or right, if you must) by categories and by types. This produces a matrix into which you can jot down your best judgement as to whether the candidate does well with a particular type of people. Since you will have no idea on some and strong intuitions on others, assign a ten for strong and put nothing down when you have no idea. For a more vivid final product you could do this with colors, as well.

Now set up a matrix with the candidates along the top and the issues along the margin and take your best shot at which candidate is strongest on which issues.

Finally, set up a third matrix with the issues along the top and the constituencies along the side. Which issues resonate most strongly with which constituencies?

Samples are available here for downloading, printing, and practice.

This is the sort of thing that "Josh Lyman" on West Wing does. He knows by heart how certain groups respond to certain key political individuals and to certain key issues. Josh is then in a position to see where compromise is going to be necessary and when to pull out the stops and go for the ideal case. Yes, this is profiling. It is an inexact art, but it beats the heck out of wandering around in the wilderness not knowing what to believe or do.

James Richard Brett

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Homegrown Terrorism

Main Entry: ter·ror·ismPronunciation: 'ter-&r-"i-z&mFunction: nounDate: 1795: the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion

The word terrorism first came into use during the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. Although acts of terrorism had been around since the dawn of history, in 1795 a name was put to it. It has most definitely become a part of our 21st Century vocabulary. Not a day goes by when we do not hear the words terrorist or terrorism.

Terrorism was brought home to us again this week when, this time, London became the target of this insane brutality. Apparently the terrorists have taken Mr. Bush at his word when he dared them to "bring it on". And bring it on they surely have. From the Bali nightclub bombing, to Madrid's trains now to London's "tube" and buses, the marginalized, the religious fanatics and simply those who feel that, perhaps in death, they will have the attention they never received in life, have visited upon us a seemingly never ending campaign of seek and destroy.

As I said above, this is not new behavior, and as long as men inhabit this planet it will never stop. No matter how many "wars" we fight against it, it will never go away. This is not a fatalistic outlook, just a plain truth. At the expense of so many American and Iraqi lives, I think we can safely say the war is a losing proposition. If anything, terrorist behavior has been fueled by OUR terrorist behaviors. You cannot wage a war against a "thing", which is what terrorism is.

War is by it's very nature terroristic. Us against them...whoever "us" might be and whoever "them" might be. Each side takes it's turn doing the most horrid and inhumane things they can think of to thwart the enemy. Amazing though how we can have the mind set that what WE do is ok and what the other fellow does is terrorism.. Do those "foreigners" have a corner on the market of terrorism? Most decidedly not. We have had many acts of homegrown terrorism here, but we never used the word terrorist or terrorism. We save the term for the "foreigners". It is what has been programmed into our national psyche. After all they are beneath us, aren't they? They live in a dusty, dirty land. They are darker than we. They are not Christians! How many of you know that Iraq is the land where the Garden of Eden was located?

Well, let us take a real look at terrorism and terrorist acts then. One thing you might like to remember while you look over this list is one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. I think you will see that when you read the following list. Some actually predate the use of the term terrorist, but they were nonetheless acts of terrorism against the local populace. Obviously it would take reams of paper to list then all so I have attempted to list those that sprang to mind and that I felt you would be the most familiar with.

All of these people or groups used acts of terror as a means to an end, and most certainly terrifying to those who were targeted. Coercion at it's height.

*King Herod and the slaying of the Jewish male babies.
*Rome...throwing Christians to lions
*The Spanish Inquisition
*The Boston Tea Party
*Quartering of troops in private homes
*The Salem Witch Trials
*Sherman's March to the Sea
*Hitler's SS against the Jews, Gypsies, Intellectuals, Homosexuals, etc.
*The KKK
*The IRA
*The Bombing of Hiroshima & Nagasaki
*Church bombing in Birmingham, AL.
*Use of fire hoses & dogs against blacks
*Never ending music played at high volume...Manuel Noreiga, David Koresh/Waco
*Any genocide...native Americans,Australian Aborigines, Cambodians, various African peoples
*Ruby Ridge
*Bombings of Abortion Clinics and the murder of abortion Dr.s
*Oklahoma City...Timothy McVeigh
*1st WTC bombing
*Abu Ghraib
*Guantanamo Bay

The most insidious form of terrorism, however, is that used by a government to create an atmosphere of fear among it's countrymen. Hitler did it to great effect in Germany and it is being used here now among us. We are told to be afraid, be very afraid. Those terrorists are out to get us. We have to take the war to THEM or THEY will be here over running our streets, murdering us in our beds and trying to convert us all to Islam. What poppycock, but a great many of us buy right into it. I think there is no doubt that we are cautious about what can, and just might very well, happen. But to live our lives in this heightened atmosphere of fear is ridiculous. What exactly do you do when the "terror alert" color changes?

You cannot say that the British were better equipped to handle it when it hit London. But they have lived with IRA terrorism for years and know quite well that it can strike at any moment and in any place. That, however, never prevented them from "carrying on". After all, who among us ever knows what fate will befall us, or when. And, maybe I am wrong, but I do not ever remember a Prime Minister threatening to bomb all of Northern Ireland in retaliation.

I do know this. That since we went into another sovereign country, and which has been shown, time and time again, to have had NOTHING to do with the 9/11 WTC attack, one that was contained under UN sanctions, one that had not even a pea shooter's worth of chemical or biological WMD's, we have put ourselves...our greater risk. We have created a breeding ground for terrorists. We have devastated a country, and despite all the billions of dollars earmarked for the rebuilding of Iraq's infrastructure, nothing has been accomplished. We have punished an entire people for the acts of a few, and those few not even Iraqi but Saudis!

This is not, as the rightwing would have you believe, simply a "bleeding heart, blame American first, Liberal belief. It is a truth about taking responsibility for the actions of our country. Perhaps liberals have more of an ability to understand that it is the result of our actions which has brought these things down on our heads? We are an arrogant group, we Americans. Never letting the rest of the world forget that it was we who saved the collective butt of Europe, forgetting ourselves that we were not the only nation on the beaches of Normandy. It is this arrogance, this Manifest Destiny syndrome we suffer from that has made some groups wish to wipe the smile of superiority off our faces.

When an individual, or a group, feel so disenfranchised, and normal courses of action seem closed to them, they will take whatever measures they can see that will get attention. Whether it be throwing tea into Boston Harbor or flying an airplane into the WTC, acts of terrorism will surely make others sit up and pay attention. The chance you take, however, that you may not always get the sort of attention you wish. Exactly what did the Iraqis do that brought this living hell down upon them? Nothing. One of the greatest acts of terrorism in the past 3 years has been the lie that was told, by our own government, one which we chose to believe.

I like to leave you today with an invitation to take the time to view the video that you can access here...
then tell me that we are, in no way, responsible for this current, sorry state of affairs. Tell me how our government has not made anyone and everyone a scapegoat for this lack of responsibility taking on their part. The lies of this administration have been a systematic campaign of terrorism. Think back about the rhetoric ... WMD's, mushroom clouds, Saddam Hussein as evil incarnate. Folks, we have been had.

Yes, we are being terrorized, but it is homegrown.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Karl Rove

Our capital city is swirling with rumors and suppositions that Presidential Assistant Karl Rove is, at last, going to get his well-deserved come-uppance. Karl, you know, is now a Senior Presidential Assistant for Politics, although that has been his de facto role since George's days in Texas. Yes, he was "Presidential Assistant" even then, planning and concocting the way to power for George and himself, so that he could screw everyone who screwed him along the way. Karl has grudges that go back to kindergarten; he is probably still out several years worth of lunch money. But KR is no small player in D.C.; George refers to KR as the architect of the administration. For you Watergate historians, KR makes Bob Haldeman (Nixon's Chief of Staff) look like a flat-topped Holden Caulfield and John Ehrlichman (the closest analogue to KR) the corner meatmarket entrepreneur.

Karl Rove, according to serious reporters, is the probably the most ruthless character in American politics today, and that includes Cheney and Rumsfeld. To be fair, he is, though, a product of the mainstream American experience. No one at any age likes a physical weenie, and Karl Rove is the paradigmatic, pudgy, pink weenie. He is bright and ambitious and because of his weeniehood he is, of course, full of revenge, so make no mistake about Karl Rove. When he has the short, shiny round stick, he will use it on you in a way that you will not forget ... He never forgot when it was used on him!

In the past week Karl Rove has come under very close scrutiny for his possible role in the Valerie Plame Affair, that is, the outing of a CIA undercover operative. He outed her to get back at her husband who, without thinking very politically, reported that one of the pretexts for George Bush's (and Karl Rove's, and Dick Cheney's and Donald Rumsfeld's) war in Iraq was completely bogus and without a shred of tangible evidence to support it. This caused all kinds of extra work to convince the Congress and the Commons and Lords that Saddam had WMD.

Josh White reports on this in the Monday Washington Post, and David Corn considers the options in The Nation.

If you have read much on this you will know that most Washington pundits ... not lawyers, mind you ... have said there are several things Rove must have done simultaneously to be guilty of outing a secret agent of the United States. One of these is having knowledge that she was "under cover." The under cover part is ridiculous, since there is no way to prove that a person did not know something, and regardless, the presumption for security clearance holders is that as a CIA operative she is under cover, not that she's not. One of the lawyers in Rove's employ (and some of the pundits) believe that outing requires exact naming. That is, he believes that unless Karl uttered the word "Valerie" and then the word "Plame" (or "Mrs." then "Wilson") he is innocent of outing her and innocent of putting her life and the life of others with whom she was in contact in jeopardy.

My daughter and I used to play a game when she was four that was a junior version of twenty questions. When after a few questions she was unable to identify the little shepardess who lost her sheep, I would prompt her to think: "... now, Punkin, who is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Peep?" "BO PEEP!" my daughter would exclaim in equally mock enthusiasm.

So, what Rove did was to name a person without actually pronouncing their real name. He said, (paraphrased and cleaned up a bit) "... and she sent her Gottverdammt husband, the Ambassador to that country in Africa that I just mentioned, to find out, and then he didn't have the sense to check with us before opening his big mouth and telling the truth."

Folks, there is only one answer to the relationship Rove set up. The ambassador's wife's maiden name is Valerie Plame. It cannot be Bo Peep, for her husband is a sheep herder not the Ambassador to the named African country. There is only one person who is the wife of that ambassador. How easy is it to find out her name? Check here.

For doing what he did, Rove deserves jail time, prison time. He should be put in a place where pudgy, pink, plutocrat politicians get their just rewards. Editors and reporters all over the planet will be grateful, for it is Karl Rove who stands at the very midst of where the "harass the press," "intimidate the press," and "screw the press" commands are coming from.

Nothing is more important that pinning the tail on this particular elephant. Karl Rove is the antithesis of democracy in action. He is the antithesis of what's left of Republican virtue.

James Richard Brett

Friday, July 08, 2005

Rove Was Right About Liberals

In his speech at New York Conservative Party's Annual Dinner June 22, Karl Rove said "Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy for understanding of our attackers."

Well, yes, that is exactly what I thought was needed.

Maybe because Rove's line was delivered with contempt, that position was seen as the wrong reaction but let's look at that course of action and evaluate it.

My first thought on 9/11, when it became apparent this was an attack not an accident, was that someone was delivering "payback" for the dreadful American foreign policies which have unfairly and immorally resulted in military and covert actions in countries around the world.

These were actions not to "protect the lives of Americans," but to insure control of resources for corporate interests. They resulted in the deaths of thousands and the destruction of their homelands. The American Government has been the Schoolyard Bully of the world for generations. The American people, excepting the few who have bothered to inform themselves of our history, have remained largely ignorant of the true agendas of the governmental use of military and covert activities abroad.

Finally, I thought, this attack will cause the many to ask 'Why?' and the ensuing exploration of that question would inform them and perhaps result in a foreign policy that truly conformed to our American ideals.

Incidentally, Rove is mistaken that it was just "liberals" who held this view; the answer to that question was needed by many regardless of political orientation.

Examination and evaluation would have been the right response to the 9/11 attack. It would have been the intelligent and mature response. If a member of our family or community lashes out, do we kill him or do we seek to understand what caused the anger? Why have we evolved as thinking beings if the acceptable response to that which we don't understand is violence? If violence were the appropriate response, our brains would have stopped developing beyond the primal stage. Lashing out is immature; evaluation is mature and serves us well to insure our well being by helping us to understand the threat then to develop a strategy to diffuse it.

Rove went on to say, "Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 and went to war. Conservatives saw what happened to us and said we will defeat our enemies."

Well, let's take a look at where this has brought us to. First of all, the enemies list has grown from 19 hijackers and whoever supported them to millions of people in the Muslim countries who had nothing to do with 9/11.

Instead of a criminal investigation which would have ferreted out the true perpetrators and brought them to justice, thousands of Afghans were the target of our bombs. We were told we had to get Osama bin Laden who they said had planned the 9/11 attacks.

What about this charge?

The Bush administration had promised to give us proof that Osama bin Laden had orchestrated the attacks. They have failed to do so.

Not one paper showing the links was ever given to us. He was declared the 'enemy' without a single iota of proof. Normally a death sentence requires some evidence. Where is it?

Then Iraq. The WMD charges against Iraq were false too. Were we ever shown the proof there either?

Think of this, 9/11 lasted about 3 hours and horrified us. The Shock and Awe attack on Iraq lasted for 200 hours followed by an occupation of their country. Can you imagine how freaked out they must be? The unguarded borders of their country has made it possible for foreign fighters to come in now they have real terrorists blowing up car bombs and killing Iraqis every day. The insurgency, which is fighting to end the occupation of their country, gets painted with the same black brush and is accused of 'terrorism' because they oppose occupying troops. Who wouldn't fight an occupation? We sure would.

Terrorism has increased because of our use of escalating violence against others. We are not safer. Like a contagion, the killing and destruction is spreading, costing us more precious life, more money and making us more hated.

Here at home the so called "War on Terror" has caused our government to turn on our own Muslim people, arresting them, holding them without judicial process and causing great harm to these members of our own society, and by extension, to our larger society. Our civil liberties have been restricted due to the Patriot Act. Our soldiers are being killed, maimed and emotionally damaged in these terrible wars. Money needed for our infrastructure, education, health and progress is being used for destructive purposes. The Afghans are suffering, the Iraqis are suffering and we are suffering.

So, Karl, it seems the gut-reaction-violence-response is not only immature, it is stupid, counter-productive, dangerous and has led us into a nightmare you and your little group have imposed on us.

Of course, the rush to war did achieve another purpose. It diverted us from taking a careful look at the 9/11 evidence and doing a real investigation that might have exposed gross governmental negligence or perhaps even complicity. After all, immature minds are capable of doing anything to get their way.

Susan Dyer--Guest Bloggist

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I am indebted to Robin Blumner, the St.Petersburg Times Perspective Columnist, for her incisive treatment of the recent "Ten Commandments" decisions by the United States Supreme Court. There is a quote in her piece that I just had to look up for its context. It is one of the most alarming public statements of this or any year, a strange bit of radical rightwing rhetoric designed, it seems, to fashion a theocracy out of the bruised remains of our American republic—our American representative democracy.

The Supreme Court has been a mystery to most of us. Its legal opinions are typically abstruse, scholarly affairs, designed by highly motivated law clerks after months of research under the guidance of the justices, sprinkled with Latin terms, and on the whole opaque. The court decides to hear a case and will entertain oral and written arguments. Along the way one or more of the justices will tip his or her hand as to how they will vote, and through a process that is not entirely clear to me one will write an opinion that becomes the majority opinion. Another justice on the other side will write a dissenting opinion. There maybe some coaching along the way from the others on each of these opinions, but in the end each will have attached his name to one or the other of them, or parts of one of them, or if a justice believes he or she has something else to say about it that the authoring justice did not include, they may write their own "concurring" opinion, stating their differing reasons.

The majority opinion, called "The Opinion," and the concurring opinions have a major impact, for within them lie the premises and principles upon which law is to be understood. In the case of dissenting opinions it is less clear, but whatever is stated in a dissenting opinion is a matter of the record, right or wrong, and represents that minority number of votes in the case. In a system like ours which respects "precedent law," these dissenting opinions may become majority opinion as the composition of the court changes. For this reason, which will become clearer later, it is important that dissenting opinions be rational and, in their own way, consistent with the Constitution.

One of the recent "Ten Commandments" cases was McCreary County vs. ACLU of Kentucky in which the ACLU asked the court to declare the installation in two Kentucky courthouses of a version of the Ten Commandments in violation of the the "establishment clause" of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The majority of the Court found in favor of the ACLU and ordered the exhibitions of the Ten Commandments removed.

Justice Souter wrote the The Opinion on this case. The case is not completely straightforward because the exhibit changed over time in response to protests, but Souter and four others found that there was no evidence of a secular purpose to the displays, rather that the use of these religious texts overtly and deliberately advertized that Kentucky law was based on these religious texts, and offered the inference perhaps, that those who followed these commandments would get better treatment in these courthouses. This was a clear violation of the "establishment clause."

Justice Antonine Scalia predictably dissented. Chief Justice Rehnquist and Justice Clarence Thomas joined in his dissenting opinion, while the fourth Justice, Kennedy, joined only in parts II and III of Scalia's written opinion. It is the Scalia dissent that is the subject of today's essay. You can read the whole dissenting opinion here.

Justice Scalia ... and his clerks ... are not the wick in the national lantern; neither do they fuel the light. They are notoriously bad logicians, and their arguments reek of emotion and hubris. For instance in the current dissent they write after listing a series of personal actions taken by George Washington, James Madison, and others:

With all of this reality (and much more) staring it in the face, how can the Court possibly assert that “ ‘the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between … religion and nonreligion,’ ” ante, at 11, and that “[m]anifesting a purpose to favor . . . adherence to religion generally,” ante, at 12, is unconstitutional? Who says so? Surely not the words of the Constitution. Surely not the history and traditions that reflect our society’s constant understanding of those words.

Scalia and his friends seem not to know the difference between personal and idiosyncratic actions and the action of government. They also seem not to know the difference between a person and his office, in other words. Worse yet, they assert with a backhanded remark, even though the very words of the First Amendment "establishment clause" are staring them in the face, that government is not supposed to be neutral between religion and non-religion! Why do they not understand that the First Amendments says that government must remain outside the discussion entirely? Do they not understand that our government was created specifically because of the former government interfering and expressing the full weight of its power on issues of conscience?

No one doubts that there are religious people in America and that there always have been, and that each of these would like the best treatment possible from society in general to protect their personal decision to believe. The Constitution recognizes religion by its considered and definite stricture to stay out of religion, that is, to remain aloof and separate, to abstain from "establishing" or supporting or advertizing or promoting any religion, not just Scalia's Roman Catholicism, but also Tom Cruise's Scientology and Mitt Romney's Latter Day Saints. And, it says that government shall make no law restricting the free exercise of religion. That means, literally, NO LAW for or against any religion—ANY—since rewarding one religion would always mean disparaging another! Nothing! Complete neutrality, which logically includes non-religion as well, if "non-religion" (or "irreligion") is defined as one of those personal decisions of conscience to abstain from religion. Government has no business (... and it is unconstitutional ...) promoting any religion or religion in general.

If this is not a requirement of silent neutrality by the government, then words have lost all meaning. It can be nothing else. But, of course, Scalia would say the opposite. He says that history trumps the Constitution and that the vast religious heritage of America is the justification for government to involve itself in religion! He cherry-picks the historical record fully ignoring millions of instances where religious and non-religious Americans remained secular and devoid of religious enthusiasm. Scalia's "historical logic" is very dangerous nonsense and brings us to the quotation found in the opinion piece by Robin Blumner. To give context, the entire paragraph is reproduced with the quoted part underlined.

Besides appealing to the demonstrably false principle that the government cannot favor religion over irreligion, today’s opinion suggests that the posting of the Ten Commandments violates the principle that the government cannot favor one religion over another. See ante, at 19; see also Van Orden, ante, at 11—13 (Stevens, J., dissenting). That is indeed a valid principle where public aid or assistance to religion is concerned, see Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, 536 U.S. 639, 652 (2002), or where the free exercise of religion is at issue, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 532—533 (1993); id., at 557—558 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment), but it necessarily applies in a more limited sense to public acknowledgment of the Creator. If religion in the public forum had to be entirely nondenominational, there could be no religion in the public forum at all. One cannot say the word “God,” or “the Almighty,” one cannot offer public supplication or thanksgiving, without contradicting the beliefs of some people that there are many gods, or that God or the gods pay no attention to human affairs. With respect to public acknowledgment of religious belief, it is entirely clear from our Nation’s historical practices that the Establishment Clause permits this disregard of polytheists and believers in unconcerned deities, just as it permits the disregard of devout atheists. The Thanksgiving Proclamation issued by George Washington at the instance of the First Congress was scrupulously nondenominational–but it was monotheistic. 3 In Marsh v. Chambers, supra, we said that the fact the particular prayers offered in the Nebraska Legislature were “in the Judeo-Christian tradition,” id., at 793, posed no additional problem, because “there is no indication that the prayer opportunity has been exploited to proselytize or advance any one, or to disparage any other, faith or belief,” id., at 794—795.

Scalia has stepped out of rationality and over the "good behavior" line at this point. It is by no means "clear" from our historical practices (or any other body of data applied to inductive reasoning) that we citizens or, especially, our government may disregard polytheists, or deists whose understanding is that deity is unconcerned with human behavior, or for that matter agnostics and atheists.

There is no argument presented, only the catch phrase "it is entirely clear ..." which every schoolboy knows is the the refuge of scoundrels and snake-oil salesmen. It is, on a moment's reflection, an outrageous statement, one which cannot be left in the public record unnoticed until Scalia and the Christian right decide to institute, piecemeal or otherwise, a theocracy in America.

No one in the federal government or any other level of government has any business declaring one set of metaphysical principles superior to any other for any reason. By their very nature metaphysics are beyond and separate from government. Roman Catholics and most Protestant Christians believe in a trinitarian deity—One yet Three—not exactly polytheism, but so vanishingly close to it that serious debaters might argue forever about it. Atheists are convinced and strongly hold their opinions (and base them on tangible evidence, btw) but they are not "devout." That is sleezy projectionism by Scalia and his staff.

No, Scalia is not just wrong in his dissent, he is completely outside the American Constitution in his rant for theocracy, for government involvement in religion. His public and official words are an atrocity against the Constitution and the sensibilities of Americans everywhere. His logic is so contorted, his understanding of American history so shallow, his discrimination between people and offices, between personal acts and acts of government so inept, that I believe he is in breach of the requirement that "judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour,...." To put it so clearly that even he might understand it: with opinions like this, Scalia should be removed from the bench.

James Richard Brett

Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Main Entry: pa·tri·ot·ismPronunciation: 'pA-trE-&-"ti-z&m, chiefly British 'pa-Function: nounDate: circa 1726: love for or devotion to one's country

Well, according to that definition, I am loaded with patriotism. I love my country, and have always felt privileged to have been born here. I still get a lump in my throat when I hear the Star Spangled Banner...and I do NOT think we should replace it with America The Beautiful, although that too can cause a throat lump or two. I fly my country's flag and love seeing it flapping in the breeze. Does this mean I have a corner on patriotism? Not at all.

I am relatively secure in the belief that Frenchmen feel patriotic, the British feel patriotic, Australians and Germans and Russians too. We all love out homeland and her accomplishments and place in the world. Each and every one of those countries, ours included has had those things in her history for which we feel less than great pride. But on a whole, we can all hold our heads up and say we are proud to be whatever nationality we are.

I am proud that I had ancestors who were willing to risk life in this great un-chartered, untamed world before we were even a country. They were the corner stones on which we have built this great country. I am proud of the Prussian immigrant who was my great grandfather, who came here, married, had a child and then enlisted in the Civil War, serving with great pride in his newly adopted country, in Hooker's Brigade. He was patriotic, but then so were all those who fought for the south. But, again, every country has her heroes...public and private.

Being a liberal American I feel, and maybe, just maybe, rightly so, that I am continuing to live the ideals on which this country was founded. I do not expect, however, that everyone I know, will feel or believe in my sort of Patriotism. But, we did set ourselves up to be the "shining beacon on the hill", to which all those in other countries longed to become a part. As Emma Lazarus so aptly put it...

Give me your tired your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breath free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these the homeless, tempest tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

And so many did come. And so many went through hell upon arrival. But, they were determined to become Americans, and we could not have made it to the place we are at today if not for them all. True Patriots everyone.

Now there is a fly in the ointment of our patriotism. The neo-con right who tell us that we are NOT patriotic if we do not share their world view of our country. How dare they! As far as I am concerned they are the least patriotic group. They wrap themselves in the flag of their country, shout patriotism and then go about the slimy work of undermining everything that the rest of us hold dear.

I received a nasty little poem yesterday, from a friend. He feels as I do, but passed it on as just another indicator of how skewed the thinking is of those on the right and how they manage to get their message of bigotry and hate out there. The poem was about welfare and was based on the premise that all those entering our country today, are coming just to live off welfare. We have "the Great Communicator" to thank for that lie. Just who, exactly, is sucking more money out of this country? My bet is on Halliburton and a crazy, unwinnable, illegal war, compliments of George Bush & Co. Now who is taking advantage of the system?

We have come a long way and we have yet a long way to go. We have ground to gain back as it has been dug out from under us in the guise of patriotism. As long as we have a puppet president, one who allows those with an agenda set in fear and far from representing Patriotism running the show, we will have a lot to recover from as well. And we all need to pray that it will not be too late. Everyday that this man is in office represents another nail in my wonderful country's coffin. He has made us reviled the world around, and that makes me sad beyond words.

Hitler running roughshod over Poland. Soviet tanks running amok in Budapest. Who was not horrified at the naked aggression. We came to the aid of tiny Kuwait because of the aggression of Iraq. (Well maybe oil played a teensy, weensy part in that too...after all that WAS Bush I) But we were never the aggressor. We were the champion of the little guy. We helped those unable to help themselves. Somewhere along the way we have been duped...or at least a certain segment of our population has been duped...into believing that the behavior of this administration and it's agenda is patriotic. The perpetrating of "Shock and Awe" on helpless people is patriotic? Since when is sending our young men and women, our future, to die in Iraq, patriotic? Since when is being the bully boy on the block, the neighbor from hell, patriotic?

I still fly my flag proudly. I am still grateful that I am an American. I am still a patriot. Nowhere else in the world I would rather live. But now I am disheartened to see what those who call themselves patriots and great Americans, and protectors of our freedoms are doing in my country's name! They are making a mockery of Patriotism.

Well, I do not like it. It is NOT patriotic., and damn the eyes of anyone who says that it is. Their brand of Patriotism is one created by fear. Fear that has been manipulated for way too long now by a group which is exactly like that which our Founding Fathers sought to extricate us from over 228 years ago.

Now that the smoke from the holiday bonfires and fireworks has cleared, I hope some will be able to see more clearly that there is more to being patriotic than marching in lock step with those in Washington. Get your hands on a copy of the Constitution, really read it. Listen to the words. Read about Paul Revere, the Boston Tea Party and Concord Bridge. Patrick Henry's address to the Virginia Convention. Read about Nathan Hale. Read about anyone who has worked for the good of the entire country, and do not equate true patriotism with anything remotely involving George W. Bush!

Now go light up a sparkler!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Top Twenty Stories of the Past Week

Here are the "TOP Twenty" news/opinion stories from the past week. David will return to his blog next Tuesday if everything goes as planned.

Born on the Fourth of July: The Long Journey Home

By Ron Kovic, AlterNet.

Bush Acknowledges Difficulties, Insisting on Fight to the End

Congress has backup at undisclosed location
By Jackie Kucinich

From Memos, Insights Into Ally's Doubts On Iraq War:
British Advisers Foresaw Variety of Risks, Problems
By Glenn Frankel

Mr. Bush on Iraq

Reactor Plan Raises Hopes and Doubts
Facility to be built in France may be a cleaner source of energy or a huge waste of money.

By David Holley, Times Staff Writer

The Court Affirms Separation of Church and State ...

Tomgram: The Immoral Relativists of the Bush Administration
By Tom Engelhardt

The Hunting of the Liberals

Twice fooled–shame on us: The case for impeachment
By William John Cox

Covering up Napalm in Iraq
by Mike Whitney

A Church-State Solution

Autism, mercury, and politics
By Robert Kennedy Jr.

Blogging in the Early Republic
W. Caleb McDaniel

Bush nearing the tipping point
Gary Younge

The sobering of America
Timothy Garton Ash

Justice O'Connor

Nomination Could Be Defining Moment for Bush
By Dan Balz

No Bounce: Bush Job Approval Unchanged by War Speech; Question on Impeachment Shows Polarization of Nation; Americans Tired of Divisiveness in Congress—Want Bi-Partisan Solutions—New Zogby Poll

The Founding Sachems

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting two extraordinary men. Although this was not a face to face meeting, but rather through the medium of television. I am, nonetheless, so glad to have "met" them.

Steven Lofton and Roger Crouteau, both registered nurses, had been working in the Pediatric Dept. of a major Miami Hospital. They worked with HIV/AIDS babies and children, a job few wanted when they first started there. They soon came to realize too, that these children were not wanted, period, either through adoptive parent situations or as foster children. They decided to become foster parents. The State of Florida had no qualms about this, and soon Steven and Roger had several infants in their care. They had embarked on the job of creating a "family".

What is this thing we call a family? To most of us what springs to mind is mother, father, and child/children. What would be considered a "traditional" family unit. This is what we find in Webster's dictionary under family:

Main Entry: [1]fam·i·ly Pronunciation: 'fam-lE, 'fa-m&-Function: nounInflected Form(s): plural -lies Etymology: Middle English familie, from Latin familia household (including servants as well as kin of the householder), from famulus servantDate: 15th century1 : a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head.

I see nothing there that specifically denotes gender.

Regardless of how we define a family, there is still the parenting aspect of it if children are involved. So how do we define a parent? Again, our minds lock onto the mother/father tradition. And although Webster's says,
Main Entry: [1]par·entPronunciation: 'par-&nt, 'per-1 a : one that begets or brings forth offspring
it also says b : a person who brings up and cares for another
Please note the description under "B". Many adopted children have been successfully raised by parents who did not "beget and bring them forth".

Back to Steven and Roger and their family.

When it was discovered that one of the children was no longer HIV positive, it freed him up for adoption. Naturally, as they had, had him from infancy, Steven and Roger set about trying to adopt, what, rightfully could be called, their son. Now he was 14 years old. However, the State of Florida, in it's great wisdom, said absolutely not. You can be "foster" parents. You can care for these children, nurse them, worry about them, see that they are started on the road of life, that they do well in school, but you cannot be adoptive parents. We will continue to seek a suitable adoption placement for him (read: Heterosexual couple). Needless to say, however, there is not a huge adoption pool out there, in Florida, or in any state, that wants to adopt a 14 year old black child. And more's the pity.

What is wrong with these people? The arguments put up by those opposed to gay couples adopting children, are just about what you might expect. And more ignorant rhetoric you will never hear. "They are looking to increase their numbers by turning the children into homosexuals." "It is not "normal".
"These children need a mother and a father." "They need to see the other side of the coin." "We will have lesbians putting their daughters into boys sports activities and gays putting their sons into ballet classes." (Bert actually IS taking ballet classes and, as he says, it is AWESOME! He is the only boy and, again he says, there are girls everywhere!) He is a normal, heterosexual male adolescent.

I truly wanted to be physically ill when I heard these pompous, self righteous, homophobic, hypocrites spew their ignorance. If homosexuals raising children disgusts you so, why are YOU not fostering these children? If they are being harmed so, why are YOU not adopting them? Why let them foster children at all? You have totally overlooked the fact that of all those whom you condemn for being gay, had parents, and most likely came from what you would term "straight" homes. In order to be a caring, nurturing parent one has to have received that as a child. Something, I feel, most gay men and women experienced to a great degree in their childhoods to be the wonderful, loving parents that they are. And when was the last time you heard of a child dying at the hands of their "gay" parents. I cannot ever recall such a case. But almost daily we hear of incidents where a child is abused, neglected and yes, sometimes killed, by their parent/s or caretakers.

Although they undoubtedly love you, (after all, you ARE their parents), I shudder to think what "family values" you have taught, or are teaching, your own children. The message in your home is surely not one of love and nurture, but rather one of sanctimonious bigotry. How very sad for you all.

I can look around me and see so many children in traditional homes, with mom and dad, and yet they are being abused and neglected. I can also look at some of the major "family values" proponents who have homosexual children. Our Vice President is one, as well as Phyllis Schafly , and Alan Keyes. One would think that these families are excellent examples of why it is not the upbringing which dictates a child's lifestyle when they reach adulthood.

In the meantime, Steven and Roger have moved to Oregon and have taken in two more children, who, I might add, had been in several "traditional mom and dad" foster homes where they had been abused. Thanks to these two men, they are now thriving and receiving the love and nurture that all children deserve. But, how many more children are there out there that are being denied this greatest of gifts, a loving, caring family.

Children do not question where the love is coming from. They are only concerned about it being there...and in abundance.
We need more Stevens and Rogers.

To learn more about Steven and Roger and their wonderful family...

The State of Florida's DCF (Dept. of Children & Families) manages to LOSE, on average, 3000 children per year, within it's system. It is one of the most inept social services agencies in the country.