Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chickenhawks in chief
By Ashu M. G. Solo
Online Journal Guest Writer

Oct 26, 2006, 00:55

President George W. Bush’s military record is a shameful display of draft evasion, criminal conduct, and eventually desertion while using his father’s connections to unethically gain advantage over other people and escape criminal prosecution. Vice President Dick Cheney used every trick he could to evade the draft and military service altogether. Their evasion of service has significant ramifications in their execution of the Iraq War. Americans should demand more in their president and vice president.

After finishing college, Bush used his father’s connections to evade service in the Vietnam War by jumping over a huge waiting list to get a pilot slot in the National Guard, after numerous other applicants who were much more qualified and who had much higher aptitude test scores were rejected. Then Bush refused a direct and lawful order from a superior officer to take a physical exam, but used his father’s connections to avoid criminal prosecution by court-martial for disobeying a lawful order. Bush obviously refused to take the physical exam because it tested for illegal drug abuse and he would have failed it due to heavy drug abuse for which he was never caught as far as we know. Finally, after failing to take the physical, Bush went AWOL in the National Guard, but again used his father’s connections to avoid criminal prosecution for being a deserter.

As a former military combat officer, I know that in the military, we believe in leadership by example. What kind of example does Bush set for American troops as commander in chief?

Compare Bush’s disgraceful military record to the military record of his last opponent for the presidency. Senator John Kerry (D-MA) could have used his privileged background to evade service in Vietnam like Bush or like Cheney, who finagled five draft deferments. But Kerry volunteered to serve, even though he didn't believe the war was worthwhile, because he knew if he didn't go, another young American would be sent in his place. After giving a college graduation speech in which he denounced America’s policies in Vietnam, Kerry volunteered to serve in the U.S. Navy and then requested duty in Vietnam as a swift boat officer, which was one of the most dangerous combat duties there. During his tour of duty in Vietnam, Kerry demonstrated exceptional valor while leading combat troops into battle. He won a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts. Then when Kerry came back home after two tours of duty, he fought to end the war as the most prominent spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Kerry served America with tremendous courage, honor, and distinction during two tours of duty, and to this day, he still has shrapnel left in a leg from his battle wounds.

While Kerry and Vice President Al Gore, Bush’s 2000 opponent for the presidency, volunteered to serve in Vietnam, Bush spent the war, by all accounts, boozing it up and getting stoned, too. Many brave men from Bush’s hometown of Midland, Texas, such as Private First Class Paulino Lopez, Staff Sergeant Kendell Cutbirth, and Captain Robert Zonne, served instead of Bush and died in Vietnam. Bush stayed home, supportive of the Vietnam War, but too afraid to fight for his country. Instead he decided to spend the war in a drug and alcohol induced haze.

Like Bush, there doesn’t seem to be much that Cheney wouldn’t do to avoid service in Vietnam. Cheney applied for and received four draft deferments for being a student at Casper College and University of Wyoming between 1963 and 1965. On August 7, 1964, Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which greatly increased Cheney's chance of being drafted, but 22 days later, he married Lynne. At the time, married men were exempt from being drafted. Hence if student deferments were to become disallowed, his marriage might still decrease his chances of being drafted. But the war kept demanding more troops, and the number of people eligible for the draft rapidly expanded. On May 19, 1965, Cheney was reclassified with the most dangerous draft status. On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced that the number of people drafted would double. Then on October 26, 1965, the Selective Service announced that it would start drafting married men with no children. Married men with children were still exempt from the draft. Exactly nine months and two days later, Cheney’s first daughter, Elizabeth, was born. During the first trimester of Lynne’s pregnancy, Cheney applied for and received another draft deferment. Altogether, Cheney finagled five draft deferments.

This isn’t what Cheney recalled in 1989 during a Senate confirmation hearing to be secretary of defense to the first President Bush. Cheney was questioned about his failure to serve and responded, “I would have obviously been happy to serve had I been called.” Cheney admitted in the same year to a Washington Post reporter that he “had other priorities in the '60s than military service.” Cheney said he had “other priorities” than military service, but many brave men from Cheney’s hometown of Casper, Wyoming, such as Specialist 4 Richard Sweeney, Gunnery Sergeant Robert Grove, and Captain Carlton Holland, served instead of Cheney and died in Vietnam. Cheney was busy with his “other priorities” while supporting the war in which he was too lily-livered to fight.

Cheney’s last opponent for the vice presidency, Senator John Edwards (D-NC), was too young to serve in Vietnam until the war was winding down and the draft had ended. He can be faulted for not voluntarily enlisting in the military to serve in Vietnam when he turned 18, especially if he wants to be commander in chief, but at least he didn’t evade the draft like Bush and Cheney. Also, unlike Bush and Cheney, Edwards didn’t support a war in which he was too frightened to fight.

Kerry opposed the Vietnam War, but volunteered for two tours of duty, requested duty in Vietnam, and dodged enemy fire aboard a swift boat in the Mekong Delta. Bush and Cheney, on the other hand, were supportive of the Vietnam War, but used every dirty trick they could find to avoid serving in it. Then they had the gall to criticize Kerry’s commitment to national defense. Moreover, Bush and Cheney stood by while their surrogates distorted and skewered Kerry’s honorable and courageous service in Vietnam.

Referring to Cheney's criticism of Kerry's commitment to national defense, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), another Navy veteran, responded, “When I hear this coming from Dick Cheney, who was a coward, who would not serve during the Vietnam War, it makes my blood boil. Those of us who served and those of us who went in the military don't like it when someone like a Dick Cheney comes out and he wants to be tough. Yeah, he'll be tough. He'll be tough with somebody else's blood, somebody else's kids. But not when it was his turn to go.”

The Republican leadership is nearly devoid of war veterans, and yet they are the greatest proponents of staying the course in the Iraq War. Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a World War II veteran, defines a chickenhawk as “having the shriek of a hawk but the backbone of a chicken.” “We know who the chickenhawks are,” he said on the Senate floor. “They talk tough on national defense and military issues and cast aspersions on others, but when it was their turn to serve, they were AWOL from courage. Now the chickenhawks are squawking about Senator Kerry.” The Republican Party, a refuge for chickenhawks, could be called a chicken coop.

The hypocrisy is without bounds. Bush unethically used his father’s connections to get a prized slot in the National Guard and evade service in Vietnam. Then he went AWOL and failed to even complete his military commitment in the National Guard. Now Bush is ordering the same National Guard to combat duty in Iraq and forcing military personnel to serve even after they’ve completed their commitments.

With reckless abandon, Bush taunted the Iraqi resistance fighters saying, “Bring 'em on!” It’s very easy for him to say this when he has never had to face hostile fire and when he unethically evaded service in the war fought by his generation. Bush and Cheney say that Democrats favoring a timetable for withdrawal of American troops believe in “cut and run,” as if they are the courageous ones for staying the course, but they aren’t among the troops facing the prospect of death every day in Iraq. Bush and Cheney were the ones who cut and run when their country needed them in Vietnam.

As a result of their evasion of service in the Vietnam War, Bush and Cheney have no firsthand experience in or appreciation of the risks of war, such as becoming a prisoner of war. Their truancy undoubtedly contributed to them sending American troops into combat without proper body armor and enough armored vehicles. It contributed to them employing policies that created so many more enemies of America instead of winning over hearts and minds in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes being indifferent to tremendous civilian casualties, allowing Iraqi home invasions, imprisoning numerous innocent people including children, holding detainees for years without charges, eliminating their right of habeas corpus, sanctioning the abuse and torture of prisoners, and gutting enforcement of the Geneva Conventions meant to protect both American and foreign troops. All of these policies created many more enemies and thus many more American casualties.

American troops who become prisoners of war can’t expect to be treated under the Geneva Conventions when Bush and Cheney have discarded of the Geneva Conventions for enemy combatants who become prisoners of war.

The president of the United States is supposed to be the commander in chief of the armed forces, not their chickenhawk in chief. Cheney acts as the de facto behind the scenes president on foreign policy. Neither of these chickenhawks in chief have the moral authority to send troops into combat when they were too scared to serve in the war fought by their generation. Bush and Cheney both supported the Vietnam War as long as they didn't have to fight in it. While they evaded service in Vietnam, many other young Americans died in their place. Why would any veteran or member of the military support someone who shirked his duties when he honorably performed or is performing his duties? Why would any citizen support someone with such a disgraceful military record? How could anybody reward cowardice over courage? Through their actions and words, Bush and Cheney essentially said that if their country needed them, don't come calling on them, but send someone else in their places.

Now Bush and Cheney think they can lead the armed forces and the country. Wake up, America. If they didn't have the courage to serve, how can they claim to have the courage to lead?
Ashu M. G. Solo is an electrical and computer engineer, mathematician, writer, and entrepreneur. He is the principal of Maverick Technologies America Inc. Solo previously served honorably as an infantry officer and platoon commander understudy in the Cdn. Army Reserve. He can be reached at amgsolo(at)mavericktechnologies.us.

Copyright © 1998-2006 Online Journal
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NOte: Paschal Baute served in or with all four branches of the U. S. Military, Regular Army, Air Force Reserve, Commissioned Chaplain, U.S. Naval Reserve, when he served four years with the Marine Corps Training Unit in Tampa, florida, and lastly wa re-commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Medical Corps Naval Reserve. His highest rank was Lt. Comdr as a Chaplain. He resigned his last commission to protest the Vietnam war, after some eleven years.


World 'must act now to beat catastrophe'

By Katherine Haddon

London - World leaders must act urgently to avert a looming environmental catastrophe, the author of a major British report which sounds a wake-up call on climate change said on Monday.

Former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern singled out economic powerhouses the US, China and India - major polluters whose backing is crucial for a global solution.

Specifically, he said, the world must be prepared to pay now to prevent an economic fallout in the future which could be on the scale of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

'Five and 20 percent of global gross domestic product every year, forever'
"There is still time to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we act now and act internationally," he said, releasing a 700-page report here.

"The task is urgent. Delaying action even by a decade or two will take us into dangerous territory. We must not let this window of opportunity close."

Stern was backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who attended the launch with finance minster Gordon Brown.

Warning of "disastrous" consequences unless action was taken swiftly, Blair said politicians had to be "bolder at home, in Europe and internationally. Should we fail to rise to this challenge, I don't believe we will be able to explain ourselves to future generations."

The Stern review estimates that worldwide inaction could cost the equivalent of between five and 20 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) every year, forever. By contrast, the cost of action is equivalent to one percent of GDP.

It calls for international frameworks on emissions trading, technology co-operation, and deforestation.

Brown called for a worldwide carbon market to bring about a "low-carbon global economy" and said the government would introduce a climate change bill to enshrine carbon emission reductions in UK law.

He also announced that former US vice-president Al Gore would advise the government on green issues.

Stern said earlier a "business as usual" attitude would push temperatures up by 5°C over the next century, comparing the effect to that of last year's Hurricane Katrina in the US "intensified many times".

Elsewhere yesterday, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change announced that greenhouse gases emitted by the industrialised world are rising and the US remains the biggest polluter.

Excluding former Soviet bloc economies, an 11 percent increase in pollution was recorded from 1990-2004. From 2000 to '04, the figure was 2 percent.

* This article was originally published on page 2 of The Cape Times on October 31, 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

There will be no "Democratic win" next week, regardless.... Rob Kall.

October 30, 2006

No Democratic Party "Win" Next Week

By Rob Kall

Next week, it looks like the Republicans are going to lose big. They deserve to. They'be been corrupt, dishonest, more loyal to corporations and religious extremists than to our nation, our workers, our industries. The Republicans have been loyal rubber stampers to the worst president in the history of the US. They have enabled and supported, unflinchingly, the most hated, the most despised man in the history of the planet.

But let's get one thing straight, when the Democrats win, it will not be because of the Democratic leadership, not because of their advocacy for the working class. Oh sure, there are a batch of extraordinary candidates-- in spite of the DCCC and DSCC. Those individual candidates deserve lots of credit. But the Democratic leadership has not been at all successful or effective in elucidating a vision, a plan that captures and inspires the imagination of Americans. They have been timid when they should have been tough. They have been short-sighted when vision was needed.

Howard Dean has been a notable exception among the Democratic leadership and he's been hamstrung by the other wimpy, spineless "leaders" in the Democratic party, who are really not leaders. They're more like anchors.

One of the biggest problems the Democratic party has is that it is afflicted by "DLCism." These Republican-lite losers would turn the Democratic party into what the current extremist, far right wing Republican party used to look like. Sorry. That doesn't cut it for me. And it really doesn't cut it for the vast majority of Democrats and moderate independents.

People want guts, commitment, vision. They want candidates and a party that will take a stand. The DLC is getting ready to take responsibility for any wins the Democrats eke out of this election cycle. Any such claims will be a fraud. The Democrats will win IN SPITE OF the DLC and it's spineless wimp factor policies.

Commenting on the elections, Charlie Rangel says, "This is a referendum on the war and the incompetency of the Bush administration." He's right. And it's outrageous that at this time the Democratic party has been unable to clearly express a vision that stands above the war. It is a failure-- a dismal failure on the part of the Democratic "leadership" that they have not been able to get out even the simple message that they are going to return to balancing the budget by returning to taxing the rich while continuing the tax breaks to the middle class. That's why the Republicans have been able to run ads all across the country stating that the Democrats will be raising taxes for the average family.

Next week, when there is a political landslide, it will be one that buries a lot of Republicans. But the Democrats won't deserve much credit. Oh there will be some candidates who had the guts to stand up and take a stand. But there will be a lot more who were literally advised not to, even threatened by the DNC, DCCC and DSCC with witholding of campaign funds if they took a stand.
insert bold tags
So, when folks like Al From, Rahm Emanuel, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer claim they performed miracles, and that their approaches to policy made the difference, expect them to start telling you they deserve the credit-- that their approach, their weak, luke warm, non-policy policy made the difference. Don't believe it.

David Sirota, writing for In These Times, says,

"...the progressive movement that exists outside the Democratic Party will be more important than it is now--but only if it serves as a progressive ideological force, and not simply a partisan one. If organizations like Moveon.org, unions and the consumer/environmental/civil rights advocacy groups are willing to prioritize their policy agendas over the Democratic Party insiders' desire simply to win the next election through expediency, the progressive movement will become a kingmaker that lawmakers will rely on for their survival and success. Say goodbye to the era of Democratic lawmakers laughing off the grassroots like they did after the Lamont primary victory, and say hello to Democratic lawmakers pleading for grassroots support.

But, again, getting to that point will require the progressive movement to be comfortable not just going up against Republicans, but going up against lawmakers of both parties who cross its agenda. And if recent trends are any indication, the progressive movement is more than ready to assume this role. The Lieberman primary as well as other lower-tier primaries against Reps. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and Al Wynn (D-Md.) indicate that progressives are not about to allow a Democratic majority to become complacent. On the contrary--Democratic legislators could be scrutinized even more closely by progressives.

We progressives, on the left, will be in a great position, better than we've had for a long time, and we must make sure that the DLC republican-lites don't take the credit or the power. Once the election is over, when the Dems have taken back one or both house of congress, will be the time when we raise our voices and claim our role, our power in the new political environment that emerges.

Authors Bio: Rob Kall is executive editor and publisher of OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story and The Winter Brain Meeting on neurofeedback, biofeedback, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology. He is a frequent Speaker on Politics, The art, science and power of story, Positive Psychology, Stress, Biofeedback and a wide range of subjects. See more of his articles here and, older ones, here.


Saturday, October 28, 2006

Democrats are blowing a golden opportunity right now, Lakoff.

Staying the Course Right Over a Cliff
By George Lakoff

The Bush administration has finally been caught in its own language trap.

"That is not a stay-the-course policy," Tony Snow, the White House press secretary, declared on Monday.

The first rule of using negatives is that negating a frame activates the frame. If you tell someone not to think of an elephant, he'll think of an elephant. When Richard Nixon said, "I am not a crook" during Watergate, the nation thought of him as a crook.

"Listen, we've never been stay the course, George," President Bush told George Stephanopoulos of ABC News a day earlier. Saying that just reminds us of all the times he said "stay the course."

What the president is discovering is that it's not so easy to rewrite linguistic history. The laws of language are hard to defy.

"The characterization of, you know, 'it's stay the course' is about a quarter right," the president said at an Oct. 11 news conference. " 'Stay the course' means keep doing what you're doing. My attitude is, don't do what you're doing if it's not working - change. 'Stay the course' also means don't leave before the job is done."

A week or so later, he tried another shift: "We have been - we will complete the mission, we will do our job and help achieve the goal, but we're constantly adjusting the tactics. Constantly."

To fully understand why the president's change in linguistic strategy won't work, it's helpful to consider why "stay the course" possesses such power. The answer lies in metaphorical thought.

Metaphors are more than language; they can govern thought and behavior. A recent University of Toronto study, for example, demonstrated the power of metaphors that connect morality and purity: People who washed their hands after contemplating an unethical act were less troubled by their thoughts than those who didn't, the researchers found.

"Stay the course" is a particularly powerful metaphor because it can activate so many of our emotions. Because physical actions require movement, we commonly understand action as motion. Because achieving goals so often requires going to a particular place - to the refrigerator to get a cold beer, say - we think of goals as reaching destinations.

Another widespread - and powerful - metaphor is that moral action involves staying on a prescribed path, and straying from the path is immoral. In modern conservative discourse, "character" is seen through the metaphor of moral strength, being unbending in the face of immoral forces. "Backbone," we call it.

In the context of a metaphorical war against evil, "stay the course" evoked all these emotion-laden metaphors. The phrase enabled the president to act the way he'd been acting - and to demonstrate that it was his strong character that enabled him to stay on the moral path.

To not stay the course evokes the same metaphors, but says you are not steadfast, not morally strong. In addition, it means not getting to your destination - that is, not achieving your original purpose. In other words, you are lacking in character and strength; you are unable to "complete the mission" and "achieve the goal."

"Stay the course" was for years a trap for those who disagreed with the president's policies in Iraq. To disagree was weak and immoral. It meant abandoning the fight against evil. But now the president himself is caught in that trap. To keep staying the course, given obvious reality, is to get deeper into disaster in Iraq, while not staying the course is to abandon one's moral authority as a conservative. Either way, the president loses.

And if the president loses, does that mean the Democrats will win? Perhaps. But if they do, it will be because of Republican missteps and not because they've acted with strategic brilliance. Their "new direction" slogan offers no values and no positive vision. It is taken from a standard poll question, "Do you like the direction the nation is headed in?"

This is a shame. The Democrats are giving up a golden opportunity to accurately frame their values and deepest principles (even on national security), to forge a public identity that fits those values - and perhaps to win more close races by being positive and having a vision worth voting for.

Right now, though, no language articulating a Democratic vision seems in the offing. If the Democrats don't find a more assertive strategy, their gains will be short-lived. They, too, will learn the pitfalls of staying the course.

George Lakoff is author of ``Whose Freedom? The Battle Over America's Most Important Idea" and ``Don't Think of an Elephant!"

Friday, October 27, 2006

Everyone Knows Limbaugh is Just Faking, by Barclay.

Everyone knows Rush Limbaugh's just faking
Oct. 27, 2006. 01:00 AM
Toronto Star

Now, I know this may offend those who suffer from this particular condition, and these individuals might not like it much when I suggest that a certain person with this diagnosis is exaggerating his symptoms, but I have to say, I think Rush Limbaugh is just pretending to be a dick.

While the right-wing radio host does exhibit most, if not all, of the common characteristics of this behaviour, it's so rare for all of them to coalesce at a single moment that one can only conclude Limbaugh's most recent performances are nothing short of fraudulent.

I'm no expert diagnostician, but nobody could be this big a one. Limbaugh must be acting.

Consider what Rush Limbaugh said this week about Michael J. Fox.

The Canadian-born actor did an ad for a U.S. politician who supports stem cell research, a controversial field that many believe could lead to a cure for Parkinson's disease. Fox suffers from Parkinson's, and anyone who has seen him in television interviews in the last few years is aware of his symptoms. Awkward, involuntary movements, occasional speech difficulty, tremors.

Those symptoms are much in evidence in the ad.

Said Limbaugh on his radio show: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's clearly an act." Limbaugh also suggested Fox probably went off his medication before filming the ad.

It's difficult to imagine that anyone could say anything so amazingly uninformed, so incredibly moronic, and actually believe it. That's why I'm so convinced Limbaugh was acting.

At this point, it's probably useful to review the most common symptoms exhibited by a person with EDS (extreme dick syndrome) for those not up to speed on them:

1. Exhibits a level of arrogance rooted in a feeling of superiority, without having any attributes to feel superior about.

2. Is capable of achieving levels of hypocrisy (railing against drug addicts when you are one, for example) previously thought unattainable.

3. Blow-hardedness.

4. Is indifferent to the woes and misfortunes of the disadvantaged.

5. Lies his ass off.

6. Goes to the "6 items or less" checkout with a dozen things.

7. Never lets ignorance of a subject keep him from shooting his mouth off about it.

8. Believes facts are overrated.

9. Chews with his mouth open.

10. Always finds some little thing the waitress did wrong to justify not leaving a tip.

Anyone who has four or more of these symptoms is very likely suffering from EDS. Sadly, at the moment there's no known cure for this condition. Researchers are still debating whether you're born with it, or it's a lifestyle choice. The real problem is, people with this condition don't make for a very sympathetic cause.

But in Limbaugh's case, it's probably a moot point, since he's just putting on a show.

My guess, in fact, is that Rush Limbaugh is a liberal plant. A Democratic plant. The Democrats, who appear to be on the verge of winning back both houses of Congress, don't want to leave anything to chance. What better way to turn things their way than for a prominent spokesperson for the right wing (nudge nudge, wink wink) to say something so astonishingly and despicably vile that it will make fair-minded Republicans vote Democrat, or at the very least, stay home.

I know these statements of mine are going to enrage genuine sufferers of EDS everywhere. "How dare he say that!" they'll say. "We know we're rude and insensitive and total jerks 24/7, and he's got a lot of nerve suggesting otherwise."

I will say this, however. If it can be determined by an independent panel of experts that Rush Limbaugh is, in fact, a dick, I will apologize, unreservedly.

Reach Linwood Barclay by email at lbarclay@thestar.ca. Website: http://www.linwoodbarclay.com.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Progressives are now approaching the home stretch of an all-out race to elect representatives that share our values. We know that progressive leaders need our support, and the netroots and grassroots are working overtime for this vital election.

There is also a more protracted contest taking place, one that is less visible, but equally critical.
It is the struggle to define our democratic principles and values. The right wing has worked for decades to alter the meanings of concepts that define our way of life. The Bush administration's distortions of language are a culmination of these efforts. To restore the meaning of values such as respect for the rule of law and reverence for human life, we all must do our part. We have many strong progressive leaders who are working to reclaim these concepts, but, as in the election at hand, they can succeed only when we are all fully engaged in this struggle.

In this excerpt of the new book, Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision, A Progressive's Handbook by George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute, we identify several key concepts that the right wing has worked to redefine and introduce ways that progressives can begin to reclaim them.

Reframing: Words to Reclaim
(Excerpted from Chapter Three of Thinking Points. The full chapter is available to download for free at here.

Conservatives have worked hard to redefine our words--that is, change the frame associated with a word so that it fits the conservative worldview. In so doing, they have changed the meaning of some of our most important concepts and have stolen our language.

Most notably, they have redefined the word "liberal." They have turned it upside down. What once was--and still should be--a badge of pride is now a label to run from. Consider the differences between the conservative tag on "liberal" and the real meaning that we should hold near and dear to our hearts.

Conservatives: Tax-and-spend liberals want to take your hard-earned money and give it to lazy no-accounts. Latte-sipping liberals are elitists who look down their noses at you. Hollywood liberals have no family values. The liberal media twist the facts. Leftist liberals want to end the free market. Antiwar liberals are unpatriotic wimps who can't defend our country. Secular liberals want to end religion.

Liberals: Liberty-loving liberals founded our country and enshrined its freedoms. Dedicated, fair-minded liberals ended slavery and brought women the vote. Hardworking liberals fought the goon squads and won workers' rights: the eight-hour day, the weekend, health plans, and pensions. Courageous liberals risked their lives to win civil rights. Caring liberals have made the vulnerable elderly secure with Social Security and healthy with Medicare. Forward-looking liberals have extended education to everyone. Liberals who love the land have been preserving our environment so you can enjoy it. Nobody loves liberty and life more than a liberal. When conservatives say you're on your own, we liberals know we're all in this together.

"Liberal" is not the only example of the right's framing larceny. Here are other examples of words worth reclaiming--and how conservatives and progressives view them.


Conservatives: Patriots do not question the president or his war policies. To do so undermines our nation and its troops. Revealing secret, even illegal, government programs is treasonous. The Constitution should be amended to criminalize political dissent in the form of flag desecration.

Progressives: The greatest testament to one's love of country is when one works to improve it. This includes principled dissent against policies one disagrees with and against leaders who promote those policies. Times of war are no exception. Our first loyalty is to the principles of our democracy that are embedded in our Constitution, not to any political leader.

Rule of Law

Conservatives: Criminals deserve strict punishment for their crimes. If that means two million people are in U.S. prisons, so be it. If police have to step on a few toes or cross a few constitutional lines, so be it. Courts have gone too far in letting criminals go free on "technicalities." Strict sentencing constraints should overrule any tendency toward leniency on the part of judge or jury. As commander in chief, the president is the highest authority. He may choose not to observe domestic and international laws when he deems it necessary to fight our enemies. Some civil liberties are also subordinate to this fight.

Progressives: No one is above the law. The president must abide by constitutional limitations on his power and follow laws passed by Congress; police and judges must respect the constitutional rights of all citizens. Criminals must be accountable for their crimes, but society should temper its desire for retribution with wisdom and compassion. In civil matters, access to the courts should be equally available to all. Corporations and individuals must be accountable for injuries they inflict. The United States must abide by international law and treaty obligations.

National Security

Conservatives: It's a scary world. Fanatics wish us harm. We must respond with every means available to us, including torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial of those we suspect of acting against us. We must take the fight to the enemy regardless of the cost in lives, dollars, strained alliances, and our international reputation. Military force is our greatest weapon.

Progressives: It's a scary world, but for reasons that go well beyond the threat of terror. We can deal with terrorism far more wisely and without invading foreign nations under false pretenses. Terrorism is an international problem; we can fight it more effectively in partnership with other nations than by going it alone. We should fight terrorism with the tools for fighting international organized crime, rather than with the military. Moreover, we must recognize that our long-term security is also threatened by climate destabilization and pollution, by our dependence on foreign energy, by the growing gap between rich and poor, and by our faltering public education system.

Family Values

Conservatives: Obedience and discipline are the core values of the family. Sex education in the schools, the right to abortion, and gay marriage undermine obedience and discipline. They are an affront to the family.

Progressives: Empathy and responsibility for oneself and others are the core values of the family. Respectful, loving, and supportive parenting promotes healthy families. Health care, education, food on the table, and social systems are essential to the well-being of the family. Loving, committed, and supportive individuals define the family, not gender roles.


Conservatives: Abortion is the immoral taking of innocent life. It must be banned.

Progressives: Promoting life means ending America's huge infant mortality rate through pre- and postnatal care. It means caring for individuals throughout their lives. It means affordable universal health care to improve life and life expectancy for forty-five million uninsured Americans. It means improving the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink. It means improving schools and parenting so that every young life has a chance to flower. It means finding ways to end the violence in our society that cuts short so many lives. It means fulfilling the promise of stem cell research, rather than destroying the hopes of millions of suffering Americans for the sake of a tiny cluster of undifferentiated cells that will otherwise be discarded.

Taking back these and other words is a long-term enterprise. The right didn't snatch them overnight, and we can't take them back quickly, either. But they can be reclaimed. They must be spoken often. And they must be spoken in the contexts in which progressives understand them.

Consider progressives across the country consistently saying something like this: "I am for life. That's why I support the right of all women to receive prenatal care and the right of all children to receive immunizations and to be treated when they are sick. That's why I believe we must safeguard the planet that sustains all life."

Or perhaps this: "I am a patriot. That's why I am compelled to oppose the government's spying on American citizens without court order and in defiance of Congress."

Repetition of such articulations is the key to redefining these words and reclaiming them. Progressives must say things like this when they speak to their friends, when they write letters to the editor, when they blog, when they run for office. Once this process begins, continues, and is repeated often enough, these words and the public's understanding of them can return to their traditional meanings. It will not be easy, but it must be done.

Excerpted from Chapter Three of Thinking Points. The full chapter is available to download for free here.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Darkening the White House Door, Woodward's new book.. review, Christian Science Monitor

A timely tome darkens the White House door
Woodward's latest: packed with inside-the-Beltway detail and in bookstores just in time for midterm elections.

By Peter Grier
Looking for the juicy bits in Bob Woodward's latest book, most commentators have focused on such things as its assertion that Henry Kissinger still visits the White House, or that many, many people have tried to get Don Rumsfeld fired.

But the story I liked best was the one about the colonel who writes haiku.

Army Col. Steve Rotkoff was a military intelligence officer, bookish, and one of the top officials assigned to track down Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, or WMD. First in the United States, then in the Iraqi theater of operations, he kept a diary laced with Japanese-style poems that expressed his growing frustration with the unfolding events.

At the start, Mr. Rumsfeld wouldn't provide enough troops. Next, the expected WMD didn't turn up. Finally, an unexpected insurgency threatened to unravel the whole effort.

"We knew how to fight/ Not so; building a NATION/ We may lose the PEACE," read the final diary haiku, as recounted by Woodward.

There you have it: the theme of State of Denial, in three lines. In this volume, his third on the Bush presidency, America's preeminent print reporter tells in numbing detail how, in his view, the Bush administration mismanaged the aftermath of the Iraq war, and then avoided admitting that fact, both to the public and even to itself. (More on the "numbing" part later.)

First off, there's a reason why Bob Woodward remains a brand name of news more than 30 years after Watergate. The man's a reporting machine. His reputation is such that he can talk to almost anyone he wants to - so he does. And then he asks them for all their e-mails and their diaries and that interesting-looking report on their desk that he can see is marked "SECRET" even though he's reading it upside down.

The result is that he's got great stuff to illustrate his points. To show the effects of Rumsfeld's allegedly harsh management style on the Pentagon, he tells how Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers lays his head down on his desk when asked how to decode the mercurial Defense secretary.

To show the breakdown in services in Iraq, he tells about Margaret Tutwiler, GOP communication specialist extraordinaire, whom the White House dispatches to Baghdad to help promote a positive message. She finds conditions there appalling. Proconsul Jay Garner personally shows her how to eat military MREs, meals ready to eat. (Chicken tortellini turned out to be her favorite.)

Then there's White House micromanagement, symbolized by the anecdote about Vice President Dick Cheney phoning the WMD search team in Iraq with coordinates of sites he wants them to check.

To be fair, some of those described have questioned the way they and events are interpreted. For instance, the White House sent reporters an e-mail titled "Five Key Myths in Bob Woodward's Book."

As to Woodward's charge that the White House has knowingly misled the public about trends in insurgent violence, the White House missive had this to say: "FACT: President Bush Knows We Are In A Tough, Critical Struggle And Consistently Reminds the American People Of This....")

But given the volume of material here tracing the interagency process of the US government, and how it struggled after 2003 with the challenge of governing a ruined country as an insurgency grew by the day, it's hard not to be affected by this book.

Actually reading it is another matter. As most of Woodward's authorial efforts, it often seems like a gazillion-word Sunday story from The Washington Post - the kind you get one-third of the way through, then quit when your eyes go numb.

As an investigative reporter, Woodward spends lots of time on things that only advance his story incrementally. And to some extent he's a captive of his sources. For instance, Mr. Garner, the first US civilian chief in Iraq, obviously provided Woodward with plenty of access. The bureaucratic enemies of the secretary of Defense were also apparently eager to talk, with the result that at times the book seems like the precis for a new sitcom, "Everybody Hates Rumsfeld."

And remember, the main subject here is Washington policymaking. That means it's about well-dressed people arguing over pieces of paper prior to going out to lunch. There are lots of acronyms and references to "the inter-agency process" and such.

Typical is this chapter-ending bit of heart- thumping action, describing a meeting of top officials: "Rumsfeld didn't respond, but charts and diagrams were only so much abstraction. Under the president's directive, NSPD-24, he was in charge."

Stand back Condi! He's got an NSPD-24, and he's not afraid to use it.

Still, you've got to admire a reporter who can get the inside scoop on why a top official won't talk. By the end of "State of Denial," the national security adviser to the president, Stephen Hadley, has stopped cooperating. According to Woodward, Hadley tells a friend that the book's release in late 2006 will only inflame debate about Iraq at a crucial moment, just prior to the midterm elections.

If that's true, Hadley was prescient.

• Peter Grier is a Monitor staff writer.

State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III
Bob Woodward
Simon & Schuster560 pp; $30.00

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Act NOW! Activism to save America, comentary.

Man of the Year, Paul Revere, and the Deer that Wanted a Ride
By Joan Brunwasser

We have joined the ranks of the nations of good people led by bad governments. We used to exhibit a certain smugness about the superiority of our political system. And now, look at us – mired in an immoral war predicated on lies and distortions, our civil liberties eroded to an alarming extent due to the absence of traditional checks and balances and the total abdication of responsibility on the part of the corporate media. I didn't even mention the rising numbers of people with insufficient or nonexistent health care, the evaporation of pensions and social services, the rape of our budget, and the stripping away of the safety net that gave generations of Americans a sense of security. This is clearly a government that does not look after its people, unless you happen to be in that special top 1 percent that is getting fatter and fatter on tax cuts and tax breaks they don't need and the country can't afford. Big corporations are doing great, thank you very much. Especially cronies of this administration – Halliburton, pharmaceutical companies, oil interests, and insurance companies. Speaking of insurance companies, remember how they threatened that they would all go bankrupt post-Katrina? Instead, they are showing record profits these days. Imagine that! Could those profits be connected to their blanket rejection of many claims of Katrina victims, adding the insult of bureaucratic unresponsiveness to the original trauma? I had an image the other night of us as a third world nation, although no one has actually admitted it. I envisioned a family behind a super-sized plate glass window, well dressed, gorging itself on fine food, living in high style while a hundred families followed their every move, faces hungrily pressed against the glass. The multitudes are shabbily dressed, gaunt, buffeted by the wind, left literally out in the cold.

There is an injunction in Jewish law to take special care of the widow, the orphan and the stranger in our midst. Why is that? It is obvious that the orphan has lost both his parents and his economic (and emotional) base. The widow has lost her financial underpinnings as well as her spouse. But what about the stranger? Why is the stranger always mentioned in the same breath? It is because the stranger is, even more than the widow and orphan, on his own in a strange and new place and therefore vulnerable and unprotected. We are constantly reminded that we were strangers in Egypt and that gives us a special responsibility toward the weak and defenseless.

The most vulnerable among us in America are the minorities and the poor, particularly urban blacks, Native Americans, and Hispanics. They have been major targets for harassment, vote purging and vote suppression. In 2004, letters were sent out to black voters telling them that Republicans were voting on Tuesday and Democrats on Wednesday. Many blacks got phone calls telling them if they had so much as a parking ticket, they would be arrested if they showed up at the polls. (In an echo of last election, it was reported in today's New York Times that a campaign worker for a Republican candidate in California sent out 14,000 letters to Latinos warning that if they came to the polls, they could be deported. Sound familiar?) Others reported men with cameras standing around, photographing license plates and people waiting in line to vote.

Longtime Columbus resident Rev. Moss reported the presence of a number of police officers and cruisers outside his polling place. He had never witnessed such a sight in all his many decades as a voter. The atmosphere was one of intimidation and menace. The picture painted is not a pretty one. If one party feels it can win only by suppressing the votes of large numbers of suspected non-supporters of that party, then you don't need me to tell you that this is not a democracy. The vast majority of us surely agree that all eligible voters should be able to vote and that the duty of government is to expedite and assure that outcome with free, fair, transparent, and secure elections. Instead, we see the voting pool whittled away through purges, challenges, misinformation, misallocation of voting machines and voter IDs which will keep large numbers of poor, rural, and urban minorities from exercising their constitutional right to vote.

I had a dream a while back, and the details are still vivid all these months later. Although my father died over three years ago, in my dream he was still vital and strong. We were driving in a car with my mother, and I was seated in the back, directly behind him. For reasons that I still can't figure out, we were trying to save a deer that was running alongside the car and I was trying to pull it in through the tailgate. While my father was doing his best to accomplish this unexpected and delicate task, we were not successful, and I clearly blamed it on his driving. I made him pull over and we switched places. I did this with tremendous sadness and regret. I didn't relish this handing over the reins. We never got the deer; in fact, we drove off, the deer forgotten. But I remember feeling so sad, knowing that this moment marked the end of an era. No matter how imperfect he was, he had always protected me. I could count on him to bail me out, to make things come out right, to be there. With him gone from the driver's seat (and gone from my life), it is now my responsibility to take care of myself and my family, without any mediators or excuses. The buck stops with me. It's a sobering rite of passage – necessary but painful. And life is so much harder now. I'm from Chicago and I know all about dead people voting early and often. Even so, elections were never hijacked to the extent that they are now.

I just got back from watching Man of the Year, the new Robin Williams movie about a computer program that makes a political satirist the next president. I was thrilled that someone in the mainstream was taking on such a timely topic. Not just anyone, but Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam, and Wag the Dog, among other credits) and Robin Williams. "That'll make 'em stand up and take notice" I told myself excitedly. Last week, the movie's Chicago premier, I read two local reviews that barely touched on the entire premise of electronic voting affecting a national outcome. To make matters worse, they essentially panned the movie. It was very dispiriting, to say the least. And yet, what did I expect when the national media has so assiduously avoided the whole election fraud topic since 2000?

It was heartening to hear from Mike Shelby, an Arizona voting activist, who found the audience 'got' it just fine.
http://www.opednews.com/articles/life_a_michael__061016_straight_from_the_sh.htm When I went tonight, I had to stop myself from hissing aloud or leading the witness, so to speak. The theatre was not filled and I couldn't tell what the audience was thinking. But the dialogue pleased me. Jeff Goldblum, the sleazy lawyer for the electronic voting machine vendor (Delacroy), says quite astutely that in terms of the election, the appearance of legitimacy is more important than legitimacy itself. People voted and the votes were counted; thus, democracy 'worked'. One niggling detail: the votes weren't counted accurately and the wrong person was declared the winner. We now know via many investigations (among them the Harri Hursti/Black Box Voting hack in Leon County, Florida in December 2005, the GAO Report, the Carter-Baker Report, the Brennan Center Report and most recently, the Princeton Center Report) that changing the vote tally is not only easy but can be done in minutes and leave absolutely no trace. As Warren Stewart of VoteTrustUSA put it, is life imitating art or is it the other way around?

Laura Linney is the Delacroy whistleblower who breaks the bad news to Robin Williams. Instinctively, he believes her. Attacked by the bad guys and on the way to the hospital, she tries to explain to Dobbs how the program was switched. She keeps repeating computer lingo that he clearly doesn't understand. She is frustrated because she can't get through to him. That is the feeling that I have had for quite a while, knowing something is wrong, having the evidence, and yet being unable to get through to people.

One day this week, I found myself eating uncontrollably. It didn't matter what it was, in the mouth it went. It didn't even make me feel better; it just hit that emotional emptiness and demanded more. I take all of this very seriously. I am now in the driver's seat. It is my responsibility to do what I can to alert the public about the very real danger that our democracy faces, and it's not from outside our borders.

Remember Paul Revere? People were receptive to his message when he went on that famous ride. His dramatic news was spread in dramatic fashion, by horseback, late at night. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell tells of another who went out that night to spread the word and accomplished virtually nothing. The difference in the messengers is instructive. I had never even heard of Revere's fellow revolutionary, William Dawes. Revere, on the other hand, was what Gladwell calls a "connector," with a friendly personality and a large social network. He was active in many different local organizations and was well known and respected. Who he was meant as much as the news he carried.

He was a fisherman and a hunter, a card player and a theater-lover, a frequenter of pubs and a successful businessman. He was active in the local Masonic Lodge and was a member of several select social clubs. He was also a doer, a man blessed... with an "uncanny genius for being at the center of events." (Gladwell, p. 56)

As he rode along his route, he knew where to stop and whom to awaken to get the chain going. William Dawes did not. He rode from town to town and was unable to stir anyone because he was just an average guy without connections. He simply didn't know which doors to knock on, whom to alert.

I know a few people like Paul Revere and, sadly, in this case, I'm not like him. Perhaps that explains why I'm having trouble rousing people from their collective stupor. Surely, you know some connectors, and if we each spread the word to a few of them, they can greatly multiply our effectiveness. Don't forget that we have to make up for the silent media – we can't sit around and wait for them to sound the alarm. If they were going to, they would have done it long ago. So, it's up to us average citizens to stretch beyond our usual capacity to make connections, to talk this up, to spread the word. There's not a minute to waste. Somehow, we need to achieve this tipping point as soon as humanly possible if we want to retrieve and revive our democracy. Is that important to you? Then, what are you going to do about it?


Authors Website: www.CountEveryVote.BlogSpot.com

Authors Bio: Joan Brunwasser of Citizens for Election Reform is a citizen activist working hard to restore and preserve free and fair elections. Her main focus is distributing "Invisible Ballots" through her lending library project. Since mid September, she has loaned the DVD to 'borrowers' in 37 states, DC, Puerto Rico, Canada, Holland, England, Ireland and Japan. She has now enlisted 2,048 individuals and groups in her project and is always looking for new contacts. Her latest target is the local press, local elected officials and other community movers and shakers. She is the Voting Integrity Editor for Op Ed News.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Worth Noting: Faith, Relativism and Liberalism, by J. R. Brett

October 20, 2006

Faith, Relativism, and Liberalism

By James Richard Brett

If you are interested in philosophy you are probably conversant with the traditional five parts of that academic discipline: ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, logic, and aesthetics. The parts work together in most cases so that there may be an ethics of aesthetic concerns, such as special concerns about defacement of objects of art or of natural formations of rock and the like. There is an aesthetics of ethics or of epistemology as well, in which words like "symmetry" and "elegance" appear both as additional criteria appealed to or more subtly as premises. Logic and epistemology are closely linked, and logic as a separate study lacks the realism that linkages to analyses of human emotion and human traditions bring to it. Metaphysics links with epistemology and aesthetics so that conjectures about the ultimate nature of things becomes linked with descriptions of how we perceive and have knowledge and feel about things. In other words each of the parts is important, and it is foolish to proceed with a study of a part without knowing something of the whole.

In our day and for centuries, in fact, western civilization has been host to various competing systems of thought, philosophies and religions. In modern times philosophers and politicians and others have introduced a brand of systematic thinking based not on faith as religions are, nor based on stated first principles as many philosophies have been, but on assumptions that we call philosophical relativism. In fact, since the 19th century relativism has gained an enormous following and finds itself frequently pitted against faith. Both are indefensible, of course, but being embedded in one or both does not make it easier to see this.

American politics is a major theater for the expression of the differences (sometimes animosities) between faith-based conceptions of civilization and polity, on the one hand, and relativist conceptions, like American pragmatism, for instance, on the other. Since the Founding Fathers (and earlier with Roger Williams) the notion that government should not interfere with religion has been a strong theme in our culture. The idea was, of course, to create a balance such that government (or people holding office in government) would not impose any set of religious doctrines on other religions or on any citizen whether he subscribed to those religions or not. And, equally, the idea was that no religion should attempt to take over government, lest the first half of the principle be violated. The idea of separation of church and state has been honored in the breach ever since. Various coalitions of religions have imposed generalized religious concepts on the government to the effect that nowadays one takes for granted that the United States government not only "respects" the idea that there might be a godhead entity of some kind, but also actively promulgates the idea in various ways: coinage, currency, and various traditional activities such as prayer in Congress, oath-taking on the Christian Bible, national holidays commemorating Christian holy days, and so forth, all clearly violations of the principle.

American politics also employs relativist standards. This was almost inevitable for a country of diverse persons many of whom upon arriving in the New World from far-flung regions of the globe did not share a common set of traditions and points of view with those already here. In the course of time the idea that we are all immigrants with different "strokes for different folks" has become almost enshrined in daily life and has supported and been supported by the native expressions of philosophical relativism, American Pragmatism, especially that of William James and John Dewey, a philosophy that focuses on "practical results" rather than on immutable first principles or faith. American Pragmatism is a neat dodge out of the inherent conflicts that opposing strains of thought would surely produce. Federalism itself is a relativist and pragmatic idea, the notion that the states' governments could and should be left to their own local devices, and it preserves both individual differences and, in fact, counts on them to be sources of vigorous politics.

In contemporary America politics is often seen as divided according to the subscription of people to either systems of thought based on faith or systems based on relativism. Many conservatives, if the term has any meaning at all these days, rest their case on faith, not necessarily religious faith, but nevertheless unproven or unprovable first principles sometimes derived from religion, sometimes from secular sources, often on misreadings of these sources. Liberals, on the other hand, have had a propensity to subscribe to relativist ideas, particularly pragmatic ideas relating to both domestic and international affairs. This is to say that Liberals have often chosen sets of mini-principles which they do not attempt to square with other realities, but merely assert as "operationally consistent" within the frame of the situation. Needless to say, those opposed have pointed out to Liberals that their frames of reference were too narrow and their governing principles therefore inadequate to the situation. In the other direction Liberals have pointed to Conservative orthoxies as "one-size-fits-all" dogmatisms, and that reliance on, say, the so-called "market forces" to solve the problem of child nutrition and education are inappropriate and cause even more harm.

At the extremes the issues created by dogged adherence to either doctrinal faith or extreme relativism are fairly easy to understand, if not solve. It should be clear, though, that any solution to the problem of inadequate systems of thought has to be based on some method of adjudication upon which all can agree. In modern times with our reliance on science and engineering and medicine, the method of adjudication is the employment of substantiating evidence. That is, any theory of how-things-are must be stated in a way that any person with normal senses can observe the foundational and the existential evidence. In the case of religious faith, for instance, recourse to the "authority of the Bible" must yield to plentiful evidence that the Bible frequently does not represent a true account of the world and is therefore "errant." Tautologies, such as "God put the skeltons of dinosaurs in the hillsides for us to find," are circular reasoning and inadmissable as evidence, since there is no way to prove their truth or falsehood, except by continuous appeal to Biblical "authority," which was what we were trying to prove.

Similarly, dogged adherence to one of the currently popular relativist notions that all doctrines have equal value and that we may simply choose among them is wrong, because not all doctrines or systems of thought produce acceptable results. So, for instance, the doctrine that adulterous females or witches are deserving of being stoned to death does not meet other broader considerations we hold to be true separately. Nor, in fact, does the idea that "separate is equal" square with evidence to the contrary, the evidence being that separate schools for Blacks are demonstrated to be unequal for the whole variety of reasons we have enunciated over the past fifty or more years. Relativism or "contextualism" as it is sometimes known, is the more difficult of the two extremes to deal with because there are often immediate political consequences to a rejection of popular beliefs held by significant minorities, which nevertheless do not square with basic ethical, logical, or epistemological principles, much less imperical evidence.

Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith, to which I have referred in another essay, has strong opinions about relativism. So does the religious right in America. They hate it because it instantly reduces the authority of one doctrine of faith to just one of many doctrines for which there seems to be no method of making a clear distinction. The problem is that faith-based systems quickly run out of authorities and, on the other hand, do not run out of countervailing evidence. Medieval Christians surviving the Black Plague had their faith sorely tried and many realized that a god who sent such unpleasantness among "his people" was clearly not an omniscient and all-forgiving god, but rather more likely a hoax perpetrated on them by a corrupt clergy, a parable of tyranny on the model of all too frequent human tyrants. In a fair contest, relativism will beat faith every time, when replicable evidence is the metric. In a contest employing emotion and wishful thinking, faith often survives.

So, the problem we have today boils down to this. If Conservatives believe that America is the New Jerusalem, ordained by God to take dominion over all the people of the planet, or if they believe that socio-economic status reveals the intrinsic worth and worthiness of the individual, the recourse of those opposed is to subvert the authority for such ideas. This is quite simple. The New Jerusalem Conservatives have no replicable evidence beyond interpretations of the Bible other than the pulsing of adrenalin through their fevered brains, which may subjectively suggest the presence of a force larger than themselves. The Social Darwinists have simply misunderstood natural selection and are misunderstanding a natural process, one which by definition operates among species not individuals!

The defense against mindless leveling relativism is, of course, to not be mindless or heedless of the inplications of the systems begging for acknowledgement. Islam IS more intrinsically violent in its doctrines and practices than is Jainism or Hinduism or Buddhism or Quakerism or many Christian sects and Jewish practices. Accordingly, we are obliged to employ classical logic and ethics to show that if violence is acceptable, then we can expect suicide bombers, which is unacceptable! This is to say that any relativist position must be adjudicated according to principles that go beyond the context of that position to a more general level of understanding, usually ethics and logic, but not necessarily restricted to them.

Either we hold human life to be inexpressably precious, or we don't. If we do, then the notion of "collateral damage" in bombing an Islamic city must be explicated. If upon analysis collateral damage means the abrupt and painful death of a hundred or a thousand or ten thousand children or a million, then on the premise that human life is precious and the additional premise that innocent human life is even more precious, we must not bomb, even though we are "sure" to anihilate scores of potential suicide bombers.

Where did the precious life premise come from? It comes from The Golden Rule and independently from Kant's Categorical Imperative. The former is an appeal to the unruly tribes of Roman occupied Judea to see a rationale for altruistic behavior. The latter is the culmination of centuries of philosophical analysis resulting in a decision to accept the notion that human beings are capable of seeing a long-term benefit through the bloody haze of short-term emotion.

I am not so naïve as to think that people whose lives are governed by faith in religious or secular doctrines are going to stop doing so just because of this essay. In a manner of speaking, though, they are irrelevant, because they cannot deal with reality on a sustained basis. The history of civilization is proof of this. Lacking replicable evidence or authority for their convictions (and simply repeating oneself or "witnessing" is not "replicable evidence or authority"), they retreat into learned interpretations of their single "authoritative story"; differing interpretations become antagonistic; sects and separate religions or ideologies arise, and presto! they have created a sea of contextualist chaos.

No, the point of this essay has been to jar Liberals and Progressives out of their reliance on the efficacy of pragmatism and relativism. Just a simple exercise in analysis reveals that inevitably relativists must appeal to systems of thought (ethics, logic, epistemologies) that originate and continue to exist independently of any single contextualistic system. Liberalism is a system of thought which holds that the following principles are indispensible to effective democratic government: Individual Liberty, Progress, Humanity, Ethics, and the Rule of Law. Each principle can be derived logically from basic epistemological premises accepted widely in our culture since the Enlightenment and modified as new scientific evidence is elucidated.

Authors Website: http://americanliberalism.org

Authors Bio: James Richard Brett is a retired academic administrator with a doctoral degree in Modern Russian and Soviet History. He is the founder and publisher of The American Liberalism Project.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Would Defeat in Iraq be so bad? After Vietnam, the dominoes expected by all the experts did NOT fall.

Would Defeat in Iraq Be So Bad?
After Vietnam, the dominoes did not fall. What that tells us about this war

To me, the relentless mud slide of insurgency and civil war in Iraq is leading to unacceptable strategic disaster for the U.S. There appear to be no viable paths to follow in order to avoid it. Neither "staying the course"--whatever that Bush strategy now means--nor the Democrats' idea of exiting by timetables offers a semblance of success. Both approaches produce only nightmares: general chaos; Iraq's center taken over by terrorists emboldened by victory over America, their pockets bulging with Iraqi oil money; southern Iraq controlled by pro-Iranians or Iran itself; and Iraq's neighbors picking at the nation's carcass until regional war erupts and prompts oil prices to hit $150 a barrel.

But while those fears have a real hold on me, I can't help transporting myself back more than 30 years to that day in Vietnam when I felt certain the dominoes would fall throughout Asia and destroy America's strategic position there and elsewhere. I was wrong about those dominoes, as were almost all foreign-policy experts.

It was April 28, 1975. The last U.S. officials scrambled aboard helicopters, bound for home, heralding defeat as North Vietnamese troops tramped into the South Vietnamese capital. And it was the most ignominious kind of defeat, one that came after a decades-long war, after tens of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese had been killed, after our Presidents had pledged it would never come to that.

We expected China and the Soviet Union would be ascendant, that allies like Japan and South Korea would doubt our resolve and reposition themselves, and that North Vietnam would claim the rest of Indochina. Almost none of that happened.

Three years later, the standing and power of the U.S. in Asia were greater than at any other time since the end of World War II. Our friends and allies in the region were worried about communist ascendancy, as we were, and they all rallied behind us. They understood clearly that their security depended on our presence and power in Asia. And so the dominoes never fell.

Could the consequences of defeat in Iraq not be as bad as we imagine? In the first place, the Arab jihadi terrorists will be more difficult to handle than the North Vietnamese. Hanoi's leaders ran a disciplined country with ambitions limited to Indochina. The jihadi terrorists in Iraq can't be bargained with, and their hatred runs global. Victory in Iraq would embolden them.

But we are not without ways to check their victory, even as we might exit Iraq. We have allies at the ready (the Kurds, the Saudis, the Turks, the Jordanians, etc.) who fear the jihadis as much as we do and potential allies (the Baathists and the Sunni tribal leaders) who want to rule their own piece of Iraq and also fear and despise the jihadis. As we gradually withdraw, we and others could provide Baathists the wherewithal to crush the terrorists. Without a large U.S. military presence, they probably would do a better job of it.

As for Iran's hold on southern Iraq, the risk looms large. But we easily forget that Iraqi Shi'ites are Arabs, not Persians. They have their own pride, traditions and interests. We should stand ready to help these Shi'ites as well.

All logic could prove illusory if Iraq's neighbors plunge the region into war. But they, including Iran, desire to avoid the abyss that engulfs their oil production (their only source of funds) and subjects them to internal rebellions. Washington has the diplomatic power to help shape this concern, starting now and including Iran.

To be sure, Arabs don't succumb readily to being herded in one direction, even where common interests dictate. All could bolt for the door, appease the terrorists and just raise oil prices. But we don't know until we try hard.

And we had better try--and soon. Although the last thing Americans want is a defeat in Iraq, events may be sliding in that direction and we need to shrink the fallout. The nightmare scenario could begin now, or in the next two years as troops are withdrawn, or thereafter, abruptly or slowly. To speak of defeat is not to advocate it but to prepare to minimize it.

While the Ford and Carter administrations worked hard to cushion the falling dominoes, the Asian dominoes moved quickly to save themselves by buttressing our power. We can't expect to be as lucky with the denizens of the gulf region. And we certainly wouldn't make our luck by staying the course and hiding behind Bush's fears of Middle East dominoes. We need him to unstrap America's still muscular diplomacy to seed the antiterrorist soil within Iraq, to structure a regional peace among states that cringe from regional war, to blunt the disasters of chaos and defeat--and perhaps even to snatch successes beforehand.

Copyright © 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Theocratic element in the Bushite Regime, by Dr. Schmookler.

October 12, 2006: More on new book TEMPTING FAITH, BY Kuo

Confirmation of the Peripheral Role of the Theocratic Element in this Bushite Regime

By Andrew Bard Schmookler

To many commentators, the greatest danger that the Bushites pose to America is that they will create a theocracy. (Kevin Phillips' book, AMERICAN THEOCRACY, is one of the major statements that comes to mind.)

In my analysis of the nature of the forces that have coalesced into the creation of this regime, there are three major components: an insatiable and unscrupulous element of American capitalism (see "The Predator State," posted earlier this week); a power-lusting imperialist clique oriented toward imposing their domination on the planet; and a particular strain of narrow-minded, conflict-oriented Christianity.

And as I've written here on several occasions, I regarded the last of those three to be peripheral to the true guiding spirit of our ruling group. These Bushites are about power and dominance first, about greed second, and the religious aspect seemed to me largely phony and manipulative.

The manipulativeness consists --first of all-- of selling the people of the Christian right on the leaders' false image of righteousness. That's the central purpose of the con.

The second strategy of the con brings in another element: distorting morality in a manner long practiced by evil rulers, and in particular well ingrained in the cultural patterns of the Jim Crow South, to provide cover for the ruler's true, evil way. The Bushites use (somewhat phony) hot-button "moral" issues to distract the attention of people who care about morality to areas peripheral to the ruler's genuine concerns. This allows the real work of evil to be carried out in the open, but invisible to the conned, who have been manipulated into looking elsewhere for the signs of "the Good"-- areas like gay marriage and Terry Shiavo. (I describe this distortion of morality in the piece "How Ruling Powers Distort Morality So that it Does Not Restrain Them," which can be found at www.nonesoblind.org/blog/?p=31.)

The importance, for the Bushite's political strategy, of fooling the religious right is a clue to the reason this group is in this triumverate of evil forces in the first place: of the several components of the coalition of dark forces brought together to create this regime, it is only the religious right --and, spreading out from there, the traditionalists generally-- that can deliver a substantial number of votes.

The greedy capitalists do not need to be fooled, because they're actually fattening themselves off the booty of the regime's corruption. The imperialists do not need to be fooled, because they are getting to strut and swagger and abuse people around the world through their wielding of this nation's power. But neither of those two groups is numerous; both are small, corrupt elites. And America is not --yet-- a country that can be ruled from horseback or by the sword wielded in the name of the sovereign. Public support has remained not just useful, but necessary.

The Bushites need votes. Hence, the inclusion of the religious right.

Now comes a book that apparently confirms this interpretation of the place of the religious element in the regime: as a mark to be conned, not as a driving force. The book is entitled TEMPTING FAITH, and it's written by a conservative Christian who worked within the Bush White House, David Kuo.

According to a brief presentation about this book that aired this Wednesday (October 11) on COUNTDOWN, Kuo describes how the evangelical Christians have simply been used by the Bushites. While adopting postures of pious devotion to the values and concerns of the evangelicals, according to this book, the Bushites have privately spoken of these people with contempt and derision. Behind their backs, Karl Rove has apparently called the leaders of this religious faction --the people whose support they need and cultivate-- "nuts."

Apparently feeling betrayed by the "mocking [of] millions of faithful Christians" by this pervasively dishonest Bushite regime, Kuo has come forward with this book-- published now, just a few weeks before the 2006 elections.

It is hard to know how much of the apparently richly fleshed out picture of this betrayal will be able to get through the hear-no- evil filters that many of these faithful Bush supporters have erected around their consciousness. But just possibly, the revelations from this conservative Christian Bush insider will be even more powerful than those of Woodward's STATE OF DENIAL.

Perhaps, in tandem with the recent disclosures of the apparent indifference of the GOP House leadership to the sexual predations of one of its members on the youthful pages in their employ, this will help to awaken some of our traditionalist countrymen to the immense fraud that has been perpetrated against them.

Authors Website: http://nonesoblind.org/

Authors Bio: Andrew Bard Schmookler's website www.nonesoblind.org is devoted to understanding the roots of America's present moral crisis and the means by which the urgent challenge of this dangerous moment can be met. Dr. Schmookler is also the author of such books as The Parable of the Tribes: The Problem of Power in Social Evolution (SUNY Press) and Debating the Good Society: A Quest to Bridge America's Moral Divide (M.I.T. Press). He also conducts regular talk-radio conversations in both red and blue states.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Asking Bush the Tough Questions: Only Helen Thomas. . .

Helen Thomas: Asking Bush the Tough Questions
By Ann McFeatters, Ms. Magazine
Posted on October 9, 2006, Printed on October 10, 2006

It was the talk of the blogosphere: As part of Stephen Colbert's eviscerating roast of President Bush at the annual White House Correspondents' Association Dinner in April -- wonkish Washington's equivalent of the Oscars -- he showed a hilarious video that was supposedly an "audition" for the job of White House press secretary.

His costar in the satiric short: none other than the octogenarian doyenne of White House correspondents, Helen Thomas.

Using actual TV footage of the White House press corps, Colbert (of Comedy Central's Colbert Report) played a putative press secretary at a podium, ridiculing the reporters and avoiding their questions. But when Thomas asks, as she did of President Bush at a March 21 press conference, why we really invaded Iraq, Colbert feigns terror. He runs from the White House with Thomas in slow-but-relentless pursuit, notebook and pen in hand. Inside a parking garage, Colbert presses the emergency intercom to demand help, because "She won't stop asking why we invaded Iraq." The attendant responds, "Why did we invade Iraq?"

Colbert finally escapes and returns to New York City. But there, the be-capped limousine driver turns out to be... Helen Thomas -- who then urges him to "buckle up."

The video is yet another triumphant, iconic moment in the long, impressive life of the pioneering journalist, who turns 86 on August 4. The first woman to be chief White House correspondent for a major news service (United Press International), Thomas has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush. In 1998, the White House Correspondents' Association named its lifetime achievement award for her. Yet she's no relic -- working as an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers since 2000, she still has her front-row seat at White House press briefings and still shows up daily.

She remains as feisty and fearless as ever. In her new book, Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public (Scribner), she takes her colleagues to task for not asking the sort of tough questions she does. "I honestly believe," she writes, "that if reporters had put the spotlight on the flaws in the Bush administration's war policies, they could have saved the country the heartache and the losses of American and Iraqi lives."

Her anti-war, anti-Bush administration views have put her, not surprisingly, in disfavor with the president. In January 2003, she gave a speech at the Society of Professional Journalists' annual awards banquet, in which she offered her regular criticism of his presidency, particularly worrying about his intention to go to war in Iraq. Afterward, a young writer from the Torrance, Calif., Daily Breeze sought her out for an autograph.

"I was flattered. I preened," says Thomas, sheepishly. "I thought I was talking to my new best friend." The young man asked why she seemed sad. "'I should be,'" she recalls answering. "'I'm covering the worst president in Amerian history.'"

The White House was not amused. "I have yet to learn not to talk to reporters. I didn't realize he would quote me," she says now. "Suddenly, I was in the wilderness."

At a presidential press conference two months later, Thomas was not called on for the first time in what reporters believe was more than four decades. She wrote the president to apologize, insisting she did not mean to call him the nation's worst president, and he wrote back to accept. But it wasn't until three years later that she received absolution.

At the March 21 press conference, Bush first complimented her on her "brilliant" performance at a Gridiron Club dinner -- where she sang a song about Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions while dressed in a Scarlett O'Hara costume à la Carol Burnett (made from green drapes, the dress had a curtain rod running through it). Bush then signaled that he was ready, finally, to take a question from the veteran reporter.

"You're going to be sorry!" Thomas quipped. Bush retorted, "Well, then, let me take it back."

He didn't get a chance to. "Every reason given [for war in Iraq], publicly at least, has turned out not to be true," Thomas admonished, then accused Bush of wanting to invade Iraq "from the moment you stepped into the White House."

"To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong, Helen, in all due respect," Bush responded. "No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true."

Several months later, Thomas sits in the unnervingly quiet, decorator-designed conference room of Hearst Newspapers despite her professional stature, she works in a cubicle, not a private office). She wears her trademark black pantsuit and red nail polish, her fingers encircled with rings and bracelets lining her arms, her original black hair long-ago dyed bronze brown. Thinking back on her interaction with the president, she only wishes she had pressed him harder.

"The president can't even explain why we are in Iraq," she complains. "And now he wants to take on Iran?"

In her new book -- her fourth -- she writes that the administration signaled for two years that "it could not be deterred from going to war," and that White House reporters knew it. But she thinks the press was caught up in the administration's overly optimistic assessment that leading Iraq to democracy would be easy. "The president wasn't nailed on why we were invading a country of innocent people who had done nothing to us," she says.

Thomas, who is of Lebanese heritage, is outraged at the conduct of the war and the cauldron of hatred she argues it has spawned toward the U.S. in the Middle East. Behind the war, she thinks -- as do many -- is a quest for oil by former oilmen Bush and Vice President Cheney. And she, for one, won't hesitate to keep pounding the administration with questions.

She has now made it her daily job to buttonhole new press secretary Tony Snow, who appears to take her more seriously than did his predecessors, Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. Snow parries amiably with her. Early in his tenure, he remarked on a handsome apple Thomas was holding, so she handed it to him.

"Whoever thought Helen Thomas would kiss up to me? An apple for the teacher," Snow said as everyone laughed. "Hardly. Hardly," Thomas said hastily, but she, too, smiled broadly.

"He's very smooth. Very slick," she says of Snow. But she insists this White House remains the most secretive she has covered.

And she has many to compare it with. After graduation from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1942, the Kentucky-born, Michigan-raised Thomas made covering the White House her life's work, beginning her signature practice of saying, "Thank you, Mr. President," at the end of every press conference until Bush abolished the custom in 2003.

After her competitor at the Associated Press, Douglas Cornell, retired, they were married in 1971. Their engagement had been announced by First Lady Pat Nixon at a White House party in Cornell's honor. Although he passed away in 1982, Cornell's name still appears on Thomas' phone caller ID. She has lived in the same northwest Washington, D.C., apartment building for years, but she's often on the road, giving speeches or receiving honorary degrees. When addressing students, she presses them to demand honest answers from their public servants. But as intensely provocative as her speeches are, she usually has a ready laugh and kind words for her audiences.

Reaction to Thomas' questioning of the president has played differently, depending on the arena. One woman sent her dozens of roses for questioning the president's motives to his face. But she also was flooded with "venomous, scatological" emails. Conservative talk-show hosts lambasted her for interrupting the president and riding her hobby horse of war and peace. "Will former White House reporter Helen Thomas ever go away?" cried L. Brent Bozell III, president of the conservative Media Research Center.

Not a chance. In her new book -- which excoriates the press corps as docile and incurious -- she argues that reporters never pushed hard enough on administration plans for post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. But she is somewhat hopeful, she says, that the press has since been energized by outrage over the government's inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina and Bush's low poll ratings. She points to more aggressive questioning of the administration's intentions in Iran, and alarm that the United States might find itself in a three-front war.

"I think Americans have been very worried there could be another preemptive strike," Thomas says. "After all, we went to war in Iraq, which was not a threat to us. Isn't it better to talk than start another war? How does bombing people make us safer?"

Here's a question for Thomas: After covering nine presidents, does she believe in her heart that Bush will strike Iran? She pauses and slowly shakes her head. No, she says. It would be "such a folly" for the administration to take military action against Iran. "The president has enough on his plate."

But she vows to continue being in the president's face. "I respect the office of the presidency," she says, "but I never worship at the shrines of our public servants. They owe us the truth. They owe us peace. America should never be a country that starts wars; Iraq has reminded Americans of that. We do not have the right to attack anyone we think is a potential enemy.

"The Washington press corps has the privilege of asking the president of the United States what he is doing and why," she continues. "We don't go into journalism to be popular. It is our job to seek the truth and put constant pressure on our leaders until we get answers. We threw in the towel after 9/11. But I think -- I hope -- we're more skeptical now. The press is coming out of its coma."

Ann McFeatters is a Scripps Howard News Service columnist who has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/42590/