Thursday, March 31, 2005

An age of energy uncertainty

Smirking Chimp has published an article this morning by Randolph T. Holhut entitled, "R.I.P: The hydrocarbon economy". It takes a look at the economic consequences of our reaching what's known as "peak oil".

These facts are not subject to debate. The world's energy-producing countries are operating near maximum production. Demand for oil is rising faster than production. And there haven't been any major new discoveries of oil in nearly three decades.

In other words, we may be at or very near what's known as "peak oil," the point where demand permanently outstrips supply. Depending on whose estimate you believe, it's either happening right now, or will happen sometime within the next 10 years.
Whichever way you slice it, the era of cheap, limitless energy is over. Dealing with this reality cannot be postponed or delayed any longer. The United States can't keep invading other countries to control their oil. It can't drill its way out of this supply crunch. It needs to commit itself immediately to a plan to conserve energy, develop new energy sources and find ways to make the transition away from a hydrocarbon-based economy.

The last time this nation had to face a drastic change in its energy consumption habits - during the 1972-73 and 1979-80 Arab oil embargoes - the results were astounding. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimated that the energy efficiency improvements made since the mid-1970s oil embargo now save this nation more than $400 billion in energy costs each year.

Of course the question of the hour is will we, indeed, change our energy consumption habits? I'm not optimistic. The current administration has sent the consistent message to the American people that selfishness is good and conservation is bad. In the meantime, I do what I can and I urge everyone reading this to do so as well. Conserve energy, folks! And give generously to those organizations working hard to wake our leaders up to scientific reality.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Native American Code of Ethics

I'm afraid I do not have a source for the ethical code I'm sharing with you here. It came to me by email a long time ago and I cannot vouch for its authenticity. Nevertheless, I think parts of it are very inspiring and thought provoking. I'm especially moved by #13.


1. Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.

2. Be tolerant of those who are lost on their path. Ignorance, conceit, anger, jealousy and greed stem from a lost soul. Pray that they will find guidance.

3. Search for yourself, by yourself. Do not allow others to make your path for you. It is your road, and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.

4. Treat the guests in your home with much consideration. Serve them the best food, give them the best bed and treat them with respect and honor.

5. Do not take what is not yours whether from a person, a community, the wilderness or from a culture. It was not earned nor given. It is not yours.

6. Respect all things that are placed upon this earth - whether it be people or plant. They are part of your worldly family.

7. Honor other people's thoughts, wishes and words. Never interrupt another or mock or rudely mimic them. Allow each person the right to personal expression.

8. Never speak of others in a bad way. The negative energy that you put out into the universe will multiply when it returns to you.

9. All persons make mistakes. And all mistakes can be forgiven.

10. Bad thoughts cause illness of the mind, body and spirit. Practice optimism.

11. Nature is not FOR us, it is a PART of us.

12. Children are the seeds of our future. Plant love in their hearts and water them with wisdom and life's lessons. When they are grown, give them space to grow.

13. Avoid hurting the hearts of others. The poison of your pain will return to you.

14. Be truthful at all times. Honesty is the test of ones will within this universe.

15. Keep yourself balanced. Your Mental self, Spiritual self, Emotional self, and Physical self - all need to be strong, pure and healthy. Work out the body to strengthen the mind. Grow rich in
spirit to cure emotional ails.

16. Make conscious decisions as to who you will be and how you will react. Be responsible for your own actions.

17. Respect the privacy and personal space of others. Do not touch the personal property of others - especially sacred and religious objects. This is forbidden.

18. Be true to yourself first. You cannot nurture and help others if you cannot nurture and help yourself first.

19. Respect others religious beliefs. Do not force your belief on others.

20. Share your good fortune with others. Participate in charity.

A sobering look at global environmental decline

An article by By Joan Lowy entitled, "A sobering look at global environmental decline" reports on an evaluation of the world's major ecosystems called, "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment".

The report -- an attempt to come to grips with the relationships between ecosystems and human well-being -- was written by 1,360 experts from 95 countries and reviewed by 850 experts and government officials.

About 60 percent of the planet's "ecosystem services" -- uses of the natural environment that benefit people, such as freshwater for irrigation or ocean fishing -- are being degraded or used unsustainably, the report said.

"Many of the changes under way to ecosystems are so intense that they are unprecedented," said University of Oregon marine biology professor Jane Lubchenco, a former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a contributor to the report. "We are really entering terra incognita here."
The report was underwritten by the United Nations Environment Program, the World Bank, the U.N. Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, among other government and private organizations.

I've posted a lot of articles about the environment on this site so nothing in this article will be a big surprise to regular readers. I recommend that you read the whole article anyway. I think our awareness needs to be consistently stimulated and reinforced about the immense danger that has come upon us due to humanity's recklessness regarding its care of the earth. Ignorance will not help us. Tuning out this information will not protect us. Only by informing ourselves over and over and then taking action will make enough of a difference to save our species from the extinction that threatens us if we continue the way we are going.

Update: I just found another article on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment which was published in the Independent/UK entitled, "The State of the World? It is on the Brink of Disaster". It is a longer and more thorough article and I really recommend that you read it.

Dissing Science - Part 3

I was fortunate enough to have studied biology in the 60s - both in high school and in college - during the golden age of science education in this country. I absolutely loved it. And I remember my biology professor in college saying very simply on the first day of class that faith was not the province of science and nobody ever challenged anything he taught for the duration of the course. I also remember seeing Inherit the Wind in those days and being truly grateful that we, as a nation, had moved beyond the misconception that evolution somehow contradicted religion. I can hardly believe that here I am in my 50s, here we are in the 21st Century, and science is doing battle with the fundamentalists once again.

The LA Times has published an article entitled, "Not Intelligent, and Surely Not Science" on the so-called "intelligent design" theory now gaining a lot of attention. Here are some passages:

...[P]roponents of intelligent design are careful to never specify the true, religious nature of their theory and to insist that what they are doing is science. For example, leading ID scholar William Dembski wrote in his 2003 book, "The Design Revolution": "Intelligent design is a strictly scientific theory devoid of religious commitments. Whereas the creator underlying scientific creationism conforms to a strict, literalist interpretation of the Bible, the designer underlying intelligent design need not even be a deity."

But let's be clear: Intelligent-design theory is not science. The proof is in the pudding. Scientists, including scientists who are Christians, do not use IDT when they do science because it offers nothing in the way of testable hypotheses. Lee Anne Chaney, professor of biology at Whitworth College, a Christian institution, wrote in a 1995 article: "As a Christian, part of my belief system is that God is ultimately responsible. But as a biologist, I need to look at the evidence…. I don't think intelligent design is very helpful because it does not provide things that are refutable — there is no way in the world you can show it's not true. Drawing inferences about the deity does not seem to me to be the function of science because it's very subjective."
If intelligent design is not science, then what is it? One of its originators, Phillip Johnson, a law professor at UC Berkeley, wrote in a 1999 article: "The objective is to convince people that Darwinism is inherently atheistic, thus shifting the debate from creationism versus evolution to the existence of God versus the nonexistence of God. From there people are introduced to 'the truth' of the Bible and then 'the question of sin' and finally 'introduced to Jesus.' "

So the objective is to get religious fundamentalism into the schools through the back door. This needs to be fought with all the fervor we can muster.

Oh my, please read this.

Last-Minute Message for a Time Capsule

I have to tell you this, whoever you are
that on one summer morning here, the ocean
pounded in on tumbledown breakers,
a south wind, bustling along the shore,
whipped the froth into little rainbows,
and a reckless gull swept down the beach
as if to fly were everything it needed.
I thought of your hovering saucers,
looking for clues, and I wanted to write this down,
it wouldn't be lost forever -
that once upon a time we had
meadows here, and astonishing things,
swans and frogs and luna moths
and blue skies that could stagger your heart.
We could have had them still,
and welcomed you to earth, but
we also had the righteous ones
who worshipped the True Faith, and Holy War.
When you go home to your shining galaxy,
say that what you learned
from this dead and barren place is
to beware the righteous ones.

by Philip Appleman
from New and Selected Poems,
1956-1996 (University of Arkansas Press)

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What's going on?

I want to recommend today what I consider to be a very important article. Paul Krugman, of the New York Times, is one of the few progressive voices in the mainstream press who has a backbone and who is meticulous about doing his research. I admire him a lot. His most recent column is entitled, "What's going on?" and Krugman then proceeds to answer the question he has posed. It's a short article. Please read it in its entirety. Here's a taste:

Democratic societies have a hard time dealing with extremists in their midst. The desire to show respect for other people's beliefs all too easily turns into denial: nobody wants to talk about the threat posed by those whose beliefs include contempt for democracy itself.
One thing that's going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo's parents, hasn't killed anyone, but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed bodyguards.

Another thing that's going on is the rise of politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to cater to the religious right.

By giving one example after another, Krugman paints a chilling picture of what is happening. We seem to be headed for a fundamentalist Christian version of the Taliban here in the United States. I, for one, am very alarmed.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Dissing Science - Part 2

Okay. It’s about Evolution versus Intelligent Design. It’s about the school board of Dover, Pennsylvania instructing biology teachers to teach non-scientific material in science class. It’s an AFP article entitled “Teaching Darwin splits Pennsylvania town”. Right. Nothing new here. But something a local anti-evolution pastor said absolutely stunned me. The Rev. Ray Mummert was quoted as saying:

We've been attacked by the intelligent, educated segment of the culture.

I’m not kidding, friends. Read the article.

Well, guess what, Pastor Mummert. The rest of us are being attacked by the unintelligent and the uneducated. And guess which one is harder to combat in Mr. Bush’s America???

So that’s Dissing Science – Part 2.

Stay tuned for Part 3 and Part 4 and…

Dissing Science

The Boston Globe has published an editorial on global climate change that once again illustrates how the Bush administration does not live in in the reality-based community. The article is by Derrick Z. Jackson and is entitled "Hot Air and Global Warming". It troubles me that the major news outlets do not report on this regularly. Somehow, by only occasionally calling it to our attention, they lead us to believe that the issue of climate change is just one story among many stories. In point of fact, this is the most important story in our world today because of the catastrophic consequences to the earth and its inhabitants if we don't do something soon.

Here's an excerpt from the Globe article:

Earlier in the month, the former chief scientific adviser to the British government, Lord May of Oxford, bluntly compared Bush to a modern-day Nero. Last fall, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said, ''If what the science tells about climate change is correct, then unabated it will result in catastrophic consequences for our world. The science almost certainly is correct."

At the recent London conference, [British economic minister Gordon] Brown said, ''Environmental issues including climate change have traditionally been placed in a category separate from the economy and from economic policy. But this is no longer tenable. Across a range of environmental issues, from soil erosion to the depletion of marine stocks, from water scarcity to air pollution, it is clear now not just that economic activity is their cause, but that these problems in themselves threaten future economic activity and growth."

Nero and his fiddlers would hear none of that. Asked last month what the science was on global warming, [U.S. director of environmental quality James] Connaughton said on CNBC, ''There are many different views."

The science ceased to have many views years ago...

The facts are not swayed by ideology. Facts are facts and the neo-cons can believe until they are blue in the face that global warming is not a problem and climate change will still happen. It is already happening. The facts speak for themselves.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter - a fresh beginning

Happy Easter everyone! Regular readers of Child of Illusion are aware that we typically look at very painful material on this site. And I do not try to whitewash any of it because I believe that to do so would be to cultivate the mind poison of delusion. However, it is important not to drown in the pain and distress even though we do not shrink from looking directly at the way things are. Staying in the moment is the way to inner peace and emotional freedom and will keep us sane. Recognizing that the only constant is change helps us know that it is not necessary for anybody to be trapped or stuck - including those with power in our world today. And so I offer you a lovely observation on this day of new birth and fresh beginnings:

Every morning is a fresh beginning. Every day is the world made new. Today is a new day. Today is my world made new. I have lived all my life up to this moment, to come to this day. This moment--this day--is as good as any moment in all eternity. I shall make of this day--each moment of this day--a heaven on earth. This is my day of opportunity.

Oh the hypocrisy - Part 3

Why do I keep being surprised? I know the right-wingers have exalted hypocrisy as a great good. So when I come upon another example you'd think I'd say, "Right. Typical". But I don't. I'm appalled, horrified, scandalized. Because something deep inside me still believes in honesty and authenticity. Something deep inside me has not turned so cynical that I just naturally expect hypocrisy. I'm glad I haven't been utterly desensitized to hypocrisy that it no longer appalls me.

And so I was disgusted when I read the article by Walter F. Roche Jr. and Sam Howe Verhovek in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "Plug-pulling hypocrite: In 1988, Tom DeLay let his comatose father die". I'm linking to the reprint in Smirking Chimp because you might like to read the comments section beneath the article. It seems to have stimulated a lot of posting. Here's an excerpt:

And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.

In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.

"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew - we all knew - his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way.

"Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay.

I'm trying to think if there's anything more vile than using a human tragedy and a family's grief for political opportunism. Especially when the politician involved has made the opposite decision in his own family that he is now advocating for political purposes. I can only add the snarky observation: IOKIYAR (It's OK if you're a Republican.)

Saturday, March 26, 2005

It CAN happen here.

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.

-- Sinclair Lewis

Terri Schiavo and the Constitution

Finally I have found a thorough article on the Terri Schiavo case that takes a good hard look at the Constitutional implications of the Palm Sunday intervention by Congress. Entitled, "Brain-dead in D.C.: Has Congress gone around the bend?" it is by George Ochenski and is published by the Missoula Independent of Montana. Here's how it begins:

Recent actions by the United States Congress indicate it might be time to check the Capitol water coolers -there's apparently something in them that makes people go crazy. The evidence, especially since Republican majorities took over in the latest session, seems irrefutable. Gone are the checks and balances, gone are the House ethics rules, and now, with the bizarre congressional intrusion in the case of Terry Schiavo, gone too is the very Constitutional separation of powers upon which the nation was founded. When those who make the laws go so far astray, those who live by the laws must fear for the future of their country.

This week, for instance, the U.S. Senate is contemplating an overthrow of traditional filibuster rules -the single most powerful tool the minority (regardless of political party) has against the tyranny of the majority. A case in point is the so-called "nuclear option" to ban filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees. Given the power of federal judges, and the fact that they are supposed to render impartial judgment under the law, it makes perfectly good sense for the Senate to vet nominees with scrutiny and debate. Add to this the undeniable tendency of George Bush to appoint radical, right-wing ideologues to positions of immense power, and anyone can see the wisdom in our government's system of checks and balances.

A bit later Ochenski looks at what Congress did regarding the Schiavo case:

But hey, why stop with overthrowing the long-standing traditions of the Senate -why not go right after the Constitutional separation of powers that has served this nation so well for centuries? In fact, that's just what happened this week when, thanks to politically driven ineptitude, Congress waded into the complex case of Terri Schiavo.
Not a single U.S. senator had the guts to oppose what many view as a blatantly unconstitutional intrusion of the executive and legislative branch into judicial affairs. However, at least one congressman, Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, hit the nail right on the head. "The American people have a distrust of excessive zeal, and some of the Republican leaders' determination to impose their religious views borders on fanaticism," said Frank. "They are playing God."

The people in power today in our government are not true conservatives. True conservatives think it is very important indeed to preserve the traditional rules of the Senate and the constitutional separation of powers. The people in power today are, rather, right-wing fanatics and the traditional conservatives among us are just as dismayed as are the liberals.

Mercury pollution

Molly Ivins has done it again. Minced no words about a horrible problem that is being made worse by the Bush administration. Her article, "Mercury rising" tells us just what is at stake and what is being done (and not done):

This is one of those stories that I'd really like to start with a loud scream to give people some idea of how terrible it is. As a newspaper story, it has no soundtrack and comes without pictures. It appears to involve some technical aspects of an environmental regulation, and that can be counted on to bore the shoes and socks off people.

But there is a picture, quite a famous one, that you should search out so you will know what is at stake. The picture, by the great photojournalist W. Eugene Smith, is known as "The Madonna of Minamata" and is of a Japanese woman in a hot bath with an expression of terrible sorrow and tenderness on her face as she holds the hopelessly deformed body of her daughter.

Smith's classic book, "Minamata: Words and Photographs," is about the site of a horrific 1970s case of widespread mercury poisoning. No one who sees Smith's photos can ever forget them. There was a years-long struggle between the townspeople of Minamata and the corporation responsible for the mercury poisoning, which did not want to admit fault. During that struggle, corporate guards beat Smith so badly he lost his eyesight.

I know that picture well. It is heart-wrenching. If you would like to see it go here and scroll down a bit.

Ivins goes on to describe how this administration is allowing industry to continue poisoning the environment with toxic mercury. She concludes by saying:

I often think I have exhausted my capacity for outrage with this administration. Sheesh, why let what it does ruin a beautiful spring day in Texas? But I know kids with ADD and low IQs and brain damage, and I've seen the pictures from Minamata. If you can't reach outrage over this one, you may be eating too much mercury-tainted fish.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Scientific website

I just discovered a wonderful website that explains the evidence for the mainstream scientific concensus regarding evolution and the age of the earth. It is called The Talk.Origins Archive. The site is really large and is fascinating to explore.

Here is a description from the welcome page:

The Talk.Origins Archive is a collection of articles and essays that explore the creationism/evolution controversy from a mainstream scientific perspective. In other words, the authors of most of the articles in this archive accept the prevailing scientific view that the earth is ancient, that there was no global flood, and that evolution is responsible for the earth's present biodiversity.

I think it behooves those of us who are horrified by the current suppression and devaluing of scientific thought to acquaint ourselves with what science has actually discovered. Have fun with this!

Friday Cat Blogging!

These wonderful cats and bells are hanging on the wall in my office. Marilyn Bedford gave me this wall hanging for Christmas. I love it!
Image hosted by
Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Please don't shop at Walmart's

The Guardian has published a really important article entitled, "Blood and coal: the human cost of cheap Chinese goods" about the lack of mining safety standards in China. Of course, the coal is used to power the factories that make the inexpensive products we import. We already know that Walmart's uses sweatshop labor. We already know that they discriminate against women. We already know that the medical insurance they make available to their workers is utterly unafforadable on the extremely low wages they pay. Now we learn of still another form of exploitation taking place because of the demand for low price Chinese imports:

More than 5,000 Chinese miners are killed each year, 75% of the global total, even though the country produces only a third of the world's coal. Working under appalling safety conditions, they are sacrificed to fuel the factories that make the cheap goods snapped up by consumers in Britain and other wealthy nations.

Faced with energy shortages this winter, the government has stepped up the pressure on mine operators to raise output. This has contributed to a spate of the worst disasters in the country's history. Last month, 216 miners were killed at Sunjiawan mine in north-east China in the most deadly accident in 50 years. Last October, another gas explosion killed 148. Last Thursday, a cave-in at a mine in Sha'anxi province killed 16 miners and left another 11 trapped underground.

Countless other accidents at small unregistered mines go unreported because the owners - often in collusion with local officials - buy off or threaten the victims' families. There is widespread anger that miners' lives are being sacrificed for economic growth. "It's said there is blood on every piece of coal in China," says one of the widows, Mrs Wang. "My husband used to talk about the danger all the time. But we are very poor. We have children. What else could we do?"

Why do we Americans feel so entitled to cheap goods? We are capable of paying a fair price for what we buy so that others have a living wage and decent working conditions. Remember what Gandhi said: "Live simply that others may simply live."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Less intrusion, more spine

Here's an article that's worth it for the title alone. It's called, "When the GOP wanted less intrusion and the Democrats had spine" and it's by Reva Rasmussen. Here's an excerpt:

Ronald Reagan said the scariest words in the English language are, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

Now we've got a Republican president and Republican majorities in the House and Senate who say, "I'm from the government and I'm here to make sure you understand and follow the Ten Commandments."

Read the article. It's short. Pithy. Really good.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Freedom of religion

But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

-Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.

-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom

Oh the hypocrisy - Part 2

Molly Ivins has hit the ball right out of the park with her most recent column on the Terri Schiavo case. In her article, "Praying for a real miracle in Schiavo's behalf" she writes:

For your information, while he was governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed the Advanced Directives Act in 1999, which gives hospitals the right to remove life support in cases where there is no possibility of revival, when the family cannot pay, no matter what the family's wishes are in the matter. In Texas, you can only live in a persistent vegetative state if you are accepted in one of the few institutions that provide such care or if your family is both willing and able to take care of you. And if Bush is so concerned about the right to life, why didn't he give death-row inmate Carla Faye Tucker more than 10 minutes consideration and some cheap mockery?

The very Republicans who pushed for this arrogant, interfering bill, which if used across the board would take away everyone's right to make their own decisions in these awful cases, are the same people who voted to cut Medicaid, which pays for the care of people like Terry Schiavo across the country.

That the main player in this fiasco is Majority Leader Tom DeLay - who is in the midst of yet another scandal himself - is enough to make anyone throw up. This is a man whose sense of morality is so deformed that upon being chastised three times by the House Ethics Committee, his response was to change the rules and stack the committee.

I also want to call your attention to a Guardian article that refers to the Schiavo case entitled, "For Bush, Science is a Dirty Word". It is clear that in this case the medical facts were not considered relevant but what has counted is the current evangelical fervor for keeping an essentially brain dead woman's body going. Here's an excerpt that talks about other ways in which the administration disdains scientific inquiry and data:

Neal Lane, former science adviser to Clinton, has spoken of "a pattern of abuse of science" in policy making within today's White House. What they don't like, they suppress and distort. Official publications on the science of climate change have been brazenly replaced with drafts from utility lobbyists. An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) report linking industry emissions to global warming had to be withdrawn at the behest of West Wing advisers - not many of them noted climatologists.

Uncomfortable data on stem cell research has been rubbished. Scientific advisory panels have been vetted for presidential supporters. Public interest groups questioning air pollution plans have had their tax records demanded by pliant senators. And in the push to open up wilderness for energy exploitation, submissions from coal, gas or oil corporations are given greater credence than evidence from government scientists. No wonder last year 20 Nobel laureates warned that "the scope and scale of the manipulation, suppression and misrepresentation of science by the Bush administration is unprecedented".

Nature can't be fooled, is not swayed by ideology. The chickens will come home to roost on this one. Sadly, we will all suffer as a result.

Monday, March 21, 2005

The Christian right is neither.

Harvey Wasserman has written an article entitled, "If Jesus returns, Karl Rove will kill him". I have been amazed for some time at how the right wing can claim to be followers of Jesus all the while taking no notice of what the man actually taught. Please don't be taken in by the hate-filled bigots who presume to speak for Christianity. Do read this article. It exposes the hypocrisy with biting clarity. Here's an excerpt:

In large part through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus came to be viewed as Divine because he spoke eloquently for a gracious, loving God.

Karl Rove, Tom DeLay and their ilk believe George Bush and his corporate-fundamentalist minions speak to and for a very different kind of God, one with characteristics at war with those described by Christ.

Bush-Rove's Divinity is a nasty dictator, defined by hate and greed, intolerance and hypocrisy.

Christ kicked the moneychangers out of the temple. Rove-DeLay's Republicans have enshrined them.

Christ spoke of a God of compassion and joy. Today's so-called Christian fundamentalists worship one of greed-driven warmongering totalitarianism. The only way to salvation, they say is THEIR way, through a spiteful God that hates all Jesus preached.

It's bad enough that the right-wingers have turned the noble word "liberal" into an insult. They are also framing the word "Christian" to mean intolerant, judgmental and legalistic. There are still some of us, however, who believe that calling ourselves "Christian" has at least something to do with being faithful to what Jesus actually taught and stood for.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Eroding the separation of powers

Here's another article regarding the Terri Schiavo situation. It is very unnerving to see the upcoming legislation on the issue undermine the constitutional separation of powers in this country. The article is entitled, "Trial By Legislation" and it's the transcript of an interview of attorney Andrew Cohen. Here's an important excerpt:

QUESTION: What does that concept do the regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges?

ANSWER: It destroys it. But that's the whole point of this Congressional action. Not liking a particular result in a case that has been litigated fully and completely by a court with competent jurisdiction, Congress now has said that the game must be re-done with new rules that heavily favor one side over the other. The implications of this move are astonishing. Just think about it. Anytime Congress doesn't like the result in a particular case, it could swoop in and call a "do-over," which is essentially what this legislation represents. And this from a Congress that has for a decade or so tried to keep all sorts of citizens-- including disabled employees-- out of federal court. If this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. It would throw out of whack the entire concept of separation of powers. The constitutional law expert Tribe calls it "trial by legislation" and he is right.

QUESTION: You are getting agitated again. Doesn't the legislation specifically say that it does not "constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation, including the provision of private relief bills"?

ANSWER: Yes, it says that. But so what. It said that the last time Congress did this and it didn't stop Congress from doing this now. Look, there is no other way to put it: this is the most blatant and egregious power-grab by one branch over another in my lifetime. Congress is intruding so far into the power of the judiciary, on behalf of a single family, that it is breathtaking. It truly will be fascinating to see how federal court judges react to this-- whether they simply bow down to this end-run or whether they back up their state-court colleagues. And it will be interesting in particular to see what the Supreme Court does with this case. Even the conservatives on the High Court-- and the Chief Justice in particular-- must be concerned about the precedent this sort of legislation would set.

Oh the hypocrisy

I suppose it's time to weigh in on the Terri Schiavo case.

Let me say right up front to all my friends and loved ones that if I'm ever severely brain damaged I want the plug to be pulled. And yes, I have a living will.

Now, what I want to point out is the rank hypocrisy of the right-wingers who want to keep a brain-dead woman's body going. First of all, let me share this tidbit I found on Eschaton:

In 1999 then governor Bush signed a law which allowed hospitals to withdraw life support from patients, over the objections of the family, if they consider the treatment to be nonbeneficial.

I also wonder what they think of all the people who die due to lack of medical insurance.

Now, here's a comment off of Smirking Chimp:

All of these so-called xtians claim to be doing "God's will" by keeping this poor woman alive. Imagine the living hell if she really is alert and aware inside of a body that will not respond to her will, not even to swallow food. I say that if they want to really do "God's will" then remove the feeding tube that God did not place there, and let God decide her fate!

I so agree.

Now here's an article entitled, "White House contender in ‘quackery’ row over dying woman" from the London Times on the complete inappropriateness of a heart surgeon making a neurological diagnosis from a video tape.

Senator Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican who was a leading heart surgeon before he turned to politics, added a new twist to the bitterly fought case when he offered a controversial medical opinion based on his reviews of family videotapes of Schiavo lying comatose in bed.

Frist took to the Senate floor to dispute findings by Florida doctors that their 41-year-old patient was in a “persistent vegetative state”.
Democratic officials accused Frist of playing politics with a family tragedy. “It’s quackery,” said Jim Jordan, a Democratic strategist. “It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so grotesque.”

“I suspect that Senator Frist has his eye more on the Iowa caucus (the launch pad for the presidential campaign) than the Hippocratic oath,” added Marshall Whitmann of the Democratic Leadership Council.

Medical ethicists also questioned the propriety of a heart surgeon commenting on a neurological case without even examining the patient.

Bill Frist ought to lose his medical license over this.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Teddy Roosevelt Quote

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.

The problem with "unlimited" growth

Yesterday, I shared with you an article about the current ecological crisis by Bill Moyers. Today I have just stumbled upon a response to that article by Stan Cox entitled, "Look Deeper, Mr. Moyers" that outlines the economic reasons behind the crisis.

Moyers is right: It "sends a shiver down the spine." But the Earth was headed down a highway to hell long before Bush was elected or the Armageddon Clock started up. Triumphant capitalism, performing precisely to specifications, is showing itself fully capable of pulling off an ecological apocalypse, with or without the help of superstitious scripture-twisters.

When it comes to shining a light on some of the most alarming outgrowths of capitalism, Moyers is a master. But in going after the Bush administration's scorched-Earth environmental policies, its "multinational corporate cronies", and those hallucinatory crackpots brandishing their biblical licenses to plunder, he missed the root cause of the problem: capitalism's addiction to perpetual growth.

Growth: the sacred bull in the china shop.

Cox continues by outlining the tenants of something called ecological economics. I recommend the article. I also strongly believe that we need to stop making capitalism into a religion that we defend with a fanatic's zeal. We need to start thinking outside the traditional capitalist box as a people if we're going to save our world.

Kicking a prisoner in the face

The article I have for you this morning is "Bush's Herds: Ready to Kick Anyone in the Face" by Brian Cloughley which is published by CounterPunch. It is about the soul of America, the consciences of America's people. The article is moving and insightful and dismaying. Here is an excerpt:

Reuters, March 7: Soldiers depicted in the new video would not face criminal charges, the Pentagon said. One section of the video showed a bound and wounded prisoner sprawled on the ground, and showed his bullet entry and exit wounds. At one point, a US soldier kicked the prisoner in the face. Army documents quoted a soldier at the scene as saying he "thought the dude eventually died. We weren't in any hurry to call the medics".

Coughley then explains that it is the dynamic of "merging with the herd" that causes people to have such a lack of conscience:

Does anyone read William Shirer's 'Berlin Diary: Journal of a Foreign Correspondent' nowadays? He was a gifted American reporter who described life in Nazi Germany from 1934 through 1941 (and in 1959 wrote his masterpiece, 'The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich') , but the diary itself is a story of personal despair and recounts the series of Germany's national catastrophes that "slipped inexorably towards the abyss of war and self-destruction".

Bush has plunged America into the abyss of everlasting war, and the parallels between what Bush America is becoming and what Hitler's Germany became in the 1930s are as startling as they are repellent.

In Nuremberg in September 1934, Shirer wrote that "when Hitler finally appeared on the balcony for a moment [the faces in the audience] reminded me of the crazed expressions I saw once in the back country of Louisiana on the faces of some Holy Rollers . . . They looked up to him as if he were a Messiah . . ." and went on to record Hitler's shriek that "We are strong and we will get stronger!"

"There, in the floodlit night . . . the little men of Germany who have made Nazism possible achieved the highest state of being . . .: the shedding of their individual souls and minds--with the personal doubts and responsibilities and problems--until under the mystic lights . . . they were merged in the herd."

Coughley concludes this way:

Hitler's sycophants applauded his insane ambitions to dominate the world, and in Bush Washington the same type of people bow and scrape and applaud his voodoo schemes to impose "freedom" by the bomb and the bullet. America has lost all international moral authority it ever had, courtesy of a messianic ninny who seeks to construct an ethically corrupt system that encourages the strong to persecute the weak, the rich to despise the poor, and credulous bigots to triumph over common sense and decency. If someone doesn't agree with you, then go kick him in the face. It doesn't demand thought, and millions of people will think you're a great patriot.

I know it's hard to think about what is going on and the danger we are in. Somehow I believe it is better to be informed that to be ignorant. Somehow I think that it is necessary for there to be a critical mass of informed people for a difference to be made. It is so important that we not tune out what is being done in our name.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Henry - up on the cat ledge!
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Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Welcome to Doomsday!

I know I've read this article before by Bill Moyers. But I don't remember whether I've blogged it or not. If I have, it bears repeating. The article is entitled, "Welcome to Doomsday" and it's published in The New York Review of Books. Maybe I read it before as the transcript of a speech and it's just now being published as an article. Moyers talks about the current ecological crisis in a very compelling way.

I myself don't know how to be in this world without expecting a confident future and getting up every morning to do what I can to bring it about. I confess to having always been an optimist. Now, however, I remember my friend on Wall Street whom I once asked: "What do you think of the market?" "I'm optimistic," he answered. "Then why do you look so worried?" And he answered, "Because I am not sure my optimism is justified."

I'm not, either. Once upon a time I believed that people will protect the natural environment when they realize its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It's not that I don't want to believe this—it's just that as a journalist I have been trained to read the news and connect the dots.

I read that the administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency has declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment. This for an administration:

* that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act protecting rare plant and animal species and their habitats, as well as the national Environmental Policy Act that requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources;

* that wants to relax pollution limits for ozone, eliminate vehicle tailpipe inspections, and ease pollution standards for cars, sport utility vehicles, and diesel-powered big trucks and heavy equipment;

* that wants a new international audit law to allow corporations to keep certain information about environmental problems secret from the public;

* that wants to drop all its New-Source Review suits against polluting coal-fired power plans and weaken consent decrees reached earlier with coal companies;

* that wants to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge to drilling and increase drilling in Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world and the last great coastal wild land in America;

* that is radically changing the management of our national forests to eliminate critical environmental reviews, open them to new roads, and give the timber companies a green light to slash and cut as they please.
Why don't we feel the world enough to save it—for our kin to come?

The news is not good these days. But as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free not only to feel but to fight for the future we want. The will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk. We must match the science of human health to what the ancient Israelites called hochma—the science of the heart, the capacity to see and feel and then to act as if the future depended on us.

Believe me, it does.

Please read the whole article. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The coming economic meltdown

I don't know why the administration doesn't seem concerned about the falling value of the dollar worldwide or what the trade deficit is doing to our economy. I've been concerned about this for some time and finally have found an article that articulates my concerns in a focused and thorough way. Mike Whitney has written an article entitled, "The coming economic meltdown: Sorry, but we're toast" published on the Smirking Chimp site. Here's an excerpt:

Don't look now, but Bush's house-of-cards economy is about to come crashing to earth. Just yesterday the Commerce Dept announced that the trade deficit soared to an all time high of $665 billion in 2004; a whopping 25% increase from the previous year. America's gluttonous appetite for cheap foreign goods and its inability to produce more of what it consumes is quickening the country's inevitable day of reckoning. Despite the rosy projections from the Bush clan and their friends in the media, the probability of an economic meltdown becomes more likely every day.

Does the average American have any idea of the catastrophe that's facing us?
Of course, there are ways to prop up the dollar and stabilize the economy. Reverse the Bush tax cuts that are plunging the country towards disaster; reinvest in the industrial sector so America can start manufacturing things again; raise interest rates to build confidence in the dollar, and tighten up government expenses to show the world some fiscal responsibility.

Of course, none of these will happen. We know from experience that when the Bush administration is headed over the cliff, the first thing they do is hit the gas. The same suicidal scenario is unfolding now.

I honestly think we need to be prepared for the U.S. to turn into essentially a third world country. That is where we're headed economically unless the powers that be wake up.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Democrats

I've been disappointed with the Democrats for a long time now and I speak as a registered Democrat. It seems to me that, as a party, we've become "Republican-lite" and, as a result, are losing our collective soul. This point is well made by Robert Kuttner in his Boston Globe article, "Democrats asleep at the wheel".

THE REPUBLICANS just did it again. They pushed through Congress a bankruptcy "reform" bill written by credit card companies. The bill makes it harder for ordinary people crushed by debt (often medical debt) to start anew. It leaves intact dodges used by wealthy people, such as asset-hiding trusts, and the corporate ability to use bankruptcy to slash wages, evade pension responsibilities, and stiff creditors.

There's a larger story here. Time after time, Bush administration policies do real economic harm to ordinary people, yet the Democrats can't seem to turn that reality into winning politics. Why not?

Kuttner goes on to give other examples such as:

Steath tax increases
Surging drug prices
The way children are left behind

He then discusses five reasons why the Democrats are repeatedly falling down on the job and concludes by saying:

Democrats need to challenge Bush on the best strategies to keep Americans safe, but they are not maximizing their advantage on the pocketbook issues where they should be eating Bush's lunch. The one happy exception is Social Security, where Democrats have managed more unity than usual, and they may prevail. There's surely a lesson here.

Surely, indeed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

As the world sees us

I will be visiting my old friends in Ireland and England this summer for the first time in three years. And I'm already wondering if I can manage to re-cultivate the little bit of an Irish accent I picked up during the years I lived in Dublin. Because, quite frankly, I don't want to be recognized as an American. Hatred of the U.S. is now widespread throughout the world and with good reason. I'm ashamed to be associated with what my government is doing.

I offer you two articles this morning having to do with why we are so hated. The first is by Bill Gallagher entitled, "Bush continues to alienate world".

President George W. Bush has created an atmosphere of unparalleled distrust toward the United States as people from places around the globe now shudder when he makes increasingly frequent declarations about his "vision" for the world. From avowed enemies to longtime allies and even our closest neighbors, open hostility toward the United States is epidemic.

People who once looked toward America with admiration and respect and as a beacon for liberty and civility now see a supremely arrogant rogue nation that holds international law and institutions in disdain.

George W. Bush and the neocon crazies who pull his strings, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, have created this reality and an indelible image and ignominious legacy that will take generations to erase.

From the appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations to the shoot up of the car carrying Italian secret service agent Nicola Calipari and journalist Giuliana Sgrena, Gallagher recounts some of the reasons we are so thoroughly despised.

The other article I'm offering this morning is still another on the subject of torture. In "The torturers among us" Carol Towarnicky writes:

In an introduction to "Torture: A Collection," a book of essays, Ariel Dorfman writes that torture "presupposes, it requires, it craves the abrogation of our capacity to imagine others' suffering, dehumanizing them so much that their pain is not our pain. It demands this of the torturer, placing the victim outside and beyond any form of compassion or empathy, but also demands of everyone else the same distancing, the same numbness..."

Some Americans, it appears, already are well along the way to that "distancing" - if the last half hour of Friday's "Radio Times" on WHYY-FM is an indication. The guest was Jane Mayer, whose article in the New Yorker detailed the policy of "extraordinary rendition," in which suspects kidnapped by the U. S. government are sent to countries known to use torture.

The host, Marty Moss-Coane reported that half the callers favored torture being done in their name - even though some of those tortured are innocent. (Note: This was not the Rush Limbaugh show; this was public radio.)

Just as it is easy for people who advocate torture to distance themselves from the pain of others, so it is easy for those of us who are appalled by torture to distance ourselves from the fact that it is being done in our name. I know it is painful to think about. Actually, that is entirely appropriate. We need to think about it anyway. If we allow ourselves to become numb like the torturers themselves we will be no longer willing to speak out. And then we become complicit. However long it takes, we must find a way to make this stop. Please do not lose heart. Let us do whatever we can to make compassion and lovingkindness manifest in our world wherever we find and experience the horrors humans can visit upon one another.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Waging Peace

We can no longer afford to confuse peaceability with passivity. Authentic peace is no more passive than war. Like war, it calls for discipline and intelligence and strength of character, though it calls also for higher principles and aims. If we are serious about peace, then we must work for it as ardently, seriously, continuously, carefully, and bravely as we now prepare for war.

~ Wendell Berry, Orion Magazine-March 2003

Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro has lost its snowcap for the first time in 11,000 years due to global warming. It simply boggles my mind how anybody can deny that this is happening. In an article entitled, "Mount Kilimanjaro Photo Wake-Up Call for Action Against Global Warming", Common Dreams republishes the Reuters story:

LONDON -- A photo of Mount Kilimanjaro stripped of its snowcap for the first time in 11,000 years will be used as dramatic testimony for action against global warming as ministers from the world's biggest polluters meet on Tuesday.
"This is a wake-up call and an unequivocal message that a low-carbon global economy is necessary, achievable and affordable," said Steve Howard...

"We are breaking climate change out of the environment box. This crisis affects all of us. This is a global challenge and we need real leadership to address these major problems -- and these ministers can give that leadership," he told Reuters.

The pictures include one of Kilimanjaro almost bare of its icecap because of global warming, and coastal defences in the Marshall Islands threatened with swamping from rising sea levels.

The Guardian has published more of the pictures that demonstrate the reality of global warming this morning. They can be seen here.

I keep giving you articles that spell out the fact that the earth is in serious crisis. It may be tempting to say, "Well there's nothing I can do about it." Actually, that's not true. I can drive a fuel efficient car and I can take steps to drive less. I can give money to organizations that work to reduce green-house gases. I can engage in email activism for environmental groups. Those are simple, doable, small things - but they add up when enough people do them. It was Joe Hill who famously said, "Don't mourn.... organize!" I want to say, "Don't despair; take action!" And if you do feel like despairing, take action anyway!

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Propaganda nation

It's the most talked about New York Times article on the internet right now - "Under Bush, a new age of prepackaged television news" by David Barstow and Robin Stein. I'm giving you the link to the Smirking Chimp reprint because the New York Times requires a registration (recommended; it doesn't take that much time to do it and then your computer remembers!). The Bush administration, in addition to paying off journalists to write favorable articles, has been producing videos that are made to look like news reports but are really public relations creations:

Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production.

This winter, Washington has been roiled by revelations that a handful of columnists wrote in support of administration policies without disclosing they had accepted payments from the government. But the administration's efforts to generate positive news coverage have been considerably more pervasive than previously known. At the same time, records and interviews suggest widespread complicity or negligence by television stations, given industry ethics standards that discourage the broadcast of prepackaged news segments from any outside group without revealing the source.

Federal agencies are forthright with broadcasters about the origin of the news segments they distribute. The reports themselves, though, are designed to fit seamlessly into the typical local news broadcast. In most cases, the "reporters" are careful not to state in the segment that they work for the government. Their reports generally avoid overt ideological appeals. Instead, the government's news-making apparatus has produced a quiet drumbeat of broadcasts describing a vigilant and compassionate administration.

It's a long article but well worth reading. Once again, I want to share with you that I simply do not watch television news anymore. I get my news from the internet - mainly from British and Canadian newspapers. I do not want to subject myself to the manipulation of the media being carried out today by this unethical administration.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Positive Consciousness

Someone today told me that reading "Child of Illusion" was often upsetting and wondered what to do. I want to call your attention once again to the name of this blog and why it was chosen. The ancient Tibetan slogan, "In the post-meditative experience become a child of illusion" is very powerful. It's another way of saying "Be in the world but not of it". We are instructed to realize that ultimate reality is not what the world seems to be but that, even so, we still need to function in the world as it presents itself. While we're doing that, however, it is important not to forget that each person we encounter or read about is, at the deepest level, a fully enlightened being although he or she is not awake to that. Each person we encounter or read about is also motivated by the universal motivation - that is, the desire to be happy. Each one of us cultivates skill in becoming a "child of illusion" by remembering these truths.

I want to encourage everyone who reads this blog to remember that part of what we are doing here is applying a remedy for the mind poison of delusion or ignorance. One way of describing delusion is that it is the need not to know. If we make ourselves feel better by refusing to be aware, we succumb to the mind poison and that, in the end, can never liberate. So even if an article I post is distressing on first reading, try saying to yourself, "This awareness is an antidote to the mind poison of delusion." Next give yourself lovingkindness. Say, "May I be happy. May I be well. May everything be well in my life." Then practice lovingkindness for all the other people who are distressed by the same news that upset you. "May they be happy. May they be well. May everything be well in their lives." Then, if you're feeling very strong, try doing the lovingkindness practice for the person in the news story whose attitude or behavior was upsetting to you. I find this step very, very helpful because I know that the person is doing whatever he or she is doing because on some level that person believes it will make him or her happy. If that person finds true happiness, then he or she will not need to act unkindly or destructively.

Let me give you another tip. When I'm working with myself on difficult issues, I remember that any suffering I experience stems from an attachment to things being other than they are. So I coach myself with the words, "Deep acceptance, deep acceptance." I let any distress over what I may have read be a prompt for coaching myself in this way. This is important because I realize that I truly will not help the situation by being upset. If, however, I let go and accept that things are as they are I will have the energy and motivation to take whatever action I am able and willing to take. I can give money to organizations that reflect my political and ecological convictions. I can engage in email activism. I can become involved politically on a local level. And most of all, I can meditate in the assurance that we are not actually separate; we are all connected. Therefore my meditative practice is truly helping to lift the collective consciousness of the world. I console myself with the thought that things might well be much worse than they are if there were not meditators around the world doing this powerful inner work.

Finally I want to share something that is, admittedly, very difficult to face. The lamas in the Tibetan tradition have been predicting for some time that there will be a new dark age and they have recently said that we have, indeed, now entered such an age. This is not a reason to despair, however. This is a reason to redouble our efforts regarding the work at hand. Now more than ever there needs to be a haven, a place where people can go to give attention to their inner lives and to the state of their consciousness. This is not just a literal place like a meditation center; such a haven can also be an inner reality for each one of us. I encourage you to support such a haven within and to saturate your mind with compassion and lovingkindness - for yourself and for all beings. In this way we can stay informed without being crushed or overwhelmed. Remember your own fundamental inner purity and that of others. It's the most skillful way imaginable of truly taking care of yourself.

Courage, and good luck!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Friday Cat Blogging!

Here's Leroy in one of his favorite places.
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More on John Bolton

Yesterday I passed on to you two articles about the appointment of John Bolton as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Today I offer you a third. This one by veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas. Her point is made clear by the simple headline, "Bush makes wrong choice for U.N." She writes:

What can Bush have been thinking?

The president and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made recent trips to Europe to extend an olive branch to old allies and friends who have become estranged because of the administration's belligerent policies.

Bolton's appointment makes me wonder if the administration's recent peace-making was merely a line touted strictly for public consumption....

Bolton's style is to flaunt U.S. superpower military status and to lay down the law to other nations: Our way or the highway. A diplomat he is not. The old cliche "A bull in a china shop" comes to mind.

North Korean officials have been so angered by Bolton's high-handed rhetoric that they refuse to negotiate with him. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell tried to ease the situation by sending other envoys to the Asian negotiations.

I shudder to contemplate the consequences.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The U.N. appointment

Just when you think things can't get any worse, John Bolton is appointed ambassador to the United Nations. Sydney Blumenthal writes about it in and article entitled, "The enemy within: How an Americanist devoted to destroying international alliances became the US envoy to the UN".

Here's an excerpt:

...John Bolton has been named by President Bush as the US ambassador to the UN. If I were redoing the security council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world," Bolton once said. Lately, as undersecretary of state for arms control, he has wrecked all the nonproliferation diplomacy within his reach. Over the past two decades he has been the person most dedicated to trying to discredit the UN. George Orwell's clock of 1984 is striking 13.

Is Bush's real plan to try to destroy the United Nations the way he wants to destroy Social Security? It sounds as if he's out to try.

Molly Ivins seems to think so. She has written on this same subject in her article entitled, "Move up the date for Armageddon: Bolton UN appointment is slap in the face to global diplomatic community". She writes:

Bolton's contempt for the United Nations is notorious and could not be clearer. Bolton said: "There is no United Nations. ... When the United States leads, the United Nations will follow. When it suits our interests to do so, we will do so. When it does not suit our interests, we will not." Let's hear it for international consultation and consideration for everyone.

Conservative economist Jude Wanniski writes, "Does President Bush realize he is practically spitting in the faces of the global diplomatic community with his Bolton pick?

I tremble for the future of the world. I really do.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

How they do it

I blogged earlier today about how the press has let us down. I've found another article about how the Bush administration has engineered that betrayal. It's by Randolph T. Holhut and is entitled, "No functioning democracy with a malfunctioning press". This is a good companion article to the one I recommended earlier today so I really encourage you to check it out. Here's an excerpt:

President Bush has set a new standard for dealing with the press, or as he calls them, "the filter." He and his White House staff hold the press in utter contempt. As White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told The New Yorker last year: "They don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. I don't believe you have a check-and-balance function."

As a result, access to the Bush team is tightly controlled. If a reporter does get to talk with someone, they will likely hear the approved talking points of the day recited by rote. Every public event is completely scripted and held in front of hand-picked loyalists. Reporters that don't play along get frozen out.
It's no secret that journalists get their careers and reputations damaged or destroyed if they report on information that conflicts with the conservative spin. The fear is pervasive and real at the highest levels of the corporate media food chain. The result is that most of what we see, hear and read reflects what the Bush administration wants us to see, hear and read. You can find dissenting viewpoints, but it takes more effort to find them than the average person is willing to spend.

What's the solution? Well, for now it's the internet. That is the equivalent today of "Radio Free Europe". Here's a website I just discovered today. It's the radio schedule for the BBC. What's great is that you can listen to the programs on your computer. I urge you to be pro-active and avail yourself of news sources other than the mainstream American press if you want to be truly informed.

What free press?

I want to introduce you to Sheila Samples. She is an Oklahoma writer who publishes on Smirking Chimp from time to time and I always appreciate and respect what she has to say. The article I'm linking to today is entitled, "Butt prints in the sand..." and is an eloquent rant about the way our news media have let us down.

Face it. Bush gets away with murder for just one reason -- because the media allows it, encourages it, and spends big bucks producing it. Bush's war-on-evildoers-turned-war-on-terror-turned-regime-change-turned-crusade-for-freedom-and-democracy is a media-orchestrated production, complete with banners, flag backdrops, bells and whistles. In case you haven't noticed what the rest of the world knew at the outset -- the illusion of Bush as a strong, principled leader is also a media creation. Totally.

She concludes this way:

The darkness is closing around us. If ever there was a time in our history for the media to just do the right thing -- that time is NOW. It's time the media faced the fact that, sooner or later, Bush will pick a fight with someone who's capable of fighting back, and then ratings and profits won't matter. When that mushroom cloud hits the fan, it will affect us all, and it will be too late to do anything about it.

Please read the entire article. The Smirking Chimp community has really responded to this example of Sheila Samples' insight and, as I write, there are 28 comments posted. I imagine that number will grow throughout the day. This issue of a complicit press in the insanity of the current administration is a critical one for us today. Perhaps the most critical of all.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

About Nazi Germany

An excerpt from Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free, The Germans 1933-45 (1955, University of Chicago Press):

What no one seemed to notice...was the ever widening gap...between the government and the people....And it became always wider....the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting, it provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway...and kept us so busy with continuous changes and 'crises' and so the machinations of the 'national enemies,' without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us....Each act... is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow....But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays....Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven't done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood....You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

Creating a dog eat dog country

Paul Krugman's article today is on the Bush administration's determination to make bankruptcy laws harsher. In his column entitled, "The debt-peonage society" he writes,

Today the Senate is expected to vote to limit debate on a bill that toughens the existing bankruptcy law, probably ensuring the bill's passage. A solid bloc of Republican senators, assisted by some Democrats, has already voted down a series of amendments that would either have closed loopholes for the rich or provided protection for some poor and middle-class families.

The bankruptcy bill was written by and for credit card companies, and the industry's political muscle is the reason it seems unstoppable. But the bill also fits into the broader context of what Jacob Hacker, a political scientist at Yale, calls "risk privatization": a steady erosion of the protection the government provides against personal misfortune, even as ordinary families face ever-growing economic insecurity.
A vast majority of personal bankruptcies in the United States are the result of severe misfortune. One recent study found that more than half of bankruptcies are the result of medical emergencies. The rest are overwhelmingly the result either of job loss or of divorce.

To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy - including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors - who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.

It's hard to know how to comment. We are turning into a society of cruel, callous people. Perhaps it is going to be necessary for our streets to be teeming with the destitute before we wake up as a nation to what we're doing.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Our need for a free and independent press

Were it left to me to decide whether we should have agovernment without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.

--Thomas Jefferson, 1787

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Outsourcing torture

This morning I killed a squirrel. It ran suddenly in front of my car and I was unable to stop. I was devastated when I saw it in my rear view mirror twitching on the road as I drove on and I prayed that it did not suffer long. It still hurts me to think of the squirrel being in pain and my regret is profound even though I truly could not help the fact that I hit it.

When I contemplate how much I suffered because of the suffering of a squirrel I honestly cannot fathom how anyone could wish pain on another human being. But we in this country now talk about torture almost cavalierly. How have we come to this? What are we doing to the formative consciences of our young people as it becomes more and more evident that we are deliberately using torture on people we detain because we suspect they may know something about possible terrorist activity? We even know that information obtained through torture is rarely accurate: people will say anything to get the pain to stop. And still we do it.

Douglas Jehl and David Johnston have published an article in the New York Times entitled, "Bush signed secret order allowing CIA to outsource torture". I'm giving you the link to the reprint on the Smirking Chimp website because the New York Times requires registration in order to access articles and you might not want to do that. Here's an excerpt:

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials.

The unusually expansive authority for the C.I.A. to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said.
Before Sept. 11, the C.I.A. had been authorized by presidential directives to carry out renditions, but under much more restrictive rules. In most instances in the past, the transfers of individual prisoners required review and approval by interagency groups led by the White House, and were usually authorized to bring prisoners to the United States or to other countries to face criminal charges.

As part of its broad new latitude, current and former government officials say, the C.I.A. has been authorized to transfer prisoners to other countries solely for the purpose of detention and interrogation.

The covert transfers by the C.I.A. have faced sharp criticism, in part because of the accounts provided by former prisoners who say they were beaten, shackled, humiliated, subjected to electric shocks, and otherwise mistreated during their long detention in foreign prisons before being released without being charged.

Please do what you can to protest this practice. Write your senators and congresspersons and express your outrage that we have allowed ourselves to become barbarians. And whatever you do, don't let the reality of this practice deaden your conscience or numb your sensibilities. It is better that we experience pain ourselves at the thought of others being in pain than it is for us to tune out the awareness and go on as if it doesn't matter. It matters. It matters.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

"Voting glitches haunt statistician"

"Voting glitches haunt statistician" is the title of an article by Rob Zaleski published in The (Madison) Capital Times. If you still are concerned about the discrepancy between the exit polls and the outcome of November's election, I do recommend this article.

There were, [statistician Brian] Joiner says, too many things that occurred on Nov. 2 that "still don't smell right." He can't just pretend everything is rosy, he says, when he reads that Steven Freeman, a respected University of Pennsylvania professor, says the odds of the exit polls in the critical states of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania all being so far off were about 662,000 to 1.

And since no one in the mainstream media has yet to provide a plausible explanation for such discrepancies - "investigative reporting essentially is just dead in this country," he groans - Joiner and many of his colleagues are going to continue to speak out and demand that government leaders provide some answers.

So that, at the very least, we don't find ourselves in the same situation in 2008.

But if the irregularities are as suspicious and troubling as he claims, why aren't John Kerry and other top Democrats making similar demands?"

Boy, I wish I knew," says Joiner, who was a volunteer observer for the Ohio recount in early December. Because you can sure as heck bet that Republicans would be screaming and demanding an investigation if Kerry had won under similar circumstances, he says.

I think there's actually hope to win the country back if the voting is honest and fair. I just don't think it is. Before we work for anything else, therefore, we need to work for nation-wide, voter-verified paper ballots. Otherwise there is nothing honest people can do to stop the elections from being rigged.

Friday, March 04, 2005

"Starve the Beast" mentality

Alan Greenspan has proven himself to be a partisan hack as Paul Krugman's latest column demonstrates:

Four years ago, Alan Greenspan urged Congress to cut taxes, asserting that the federal government was in imminent danger of paying off too much debt.

On Wednesday the Fed chairman warned Congress of the opposite fiscal danger: he asserted that there would be large budget deficits for the foreseeable future, leading to an unsustainable rise in federal debt. But he counseled against reversing the tax cuts, calling instead for cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Does anyone still take Mr. Greenspan's pose as a nonpartisan font of wisdom seriously?

Krugman explains how Bush actually welcomed the deficit when it began because it gave him an excuse to cut domestic spending.

What I don't understand is why so-called conservatives want American streets to look like the streets of Calcutta - with people dying in the gutters and beggars everywhere. Because that is indeed what will happen when we destroy the social safety net.

We also see in this administration the problem with having uneducated people in charge. (Yes, I know Bush has degrees from Yale and Harvard. No, I don't believe for a minute that he actually earned those degrees.) Obviously no one planning to "starve the beast" of the New Deal has ever read Dickens. Or maybe there is something so deeply wicked in the mentality of Bush and Co. that they really want a large number of people to live in squalor. Why? Will they enjoy their own wealth more if others are suffering? Will it give them some kind of perverse pleasure to see the poor ground into the dust and the middle class destroyed?

Taxes are the dues we pay to live in a civilized society and not to have to step over bodies in the street.

Another article published in Smirking Chimp today about Greenspan is by Mike Whitney entitled, "High Treason at the Federal Reserve". Here's how Mr. Whitney sums things up:

Are we supposed to believe that the looming deficits just appeared on Greenspan's radar screen?


Greenspan knew that the ship-of-state was taking on water long ago, but chose to play along so Bush could fund his war on money borrowed from our children. You see, robbing from the elderly and infirm is not enough for the wily Greenspan; he likes to make sure that the last brass farthing is drained from the toddler's piggy-bank.

Greenspan's stewardship at the Federal Reserve has been an incalculable disaster. The dollar has weakened by over 30% to the Euro, (Central banks are steadily reducing their share of dollars) deficits are soaring, and the country is teetering towards an Argentina-type meltdown. Greenspan's policies have been a boon to the rich and powerful, and his unexplainably low interest rates have benefited the administration's war mongers. But, the dollar has taken a drubbing, energy costs are on their way up, the job market is soft and the nation is deeper in debt than any country in the history of civilization.

Sometime in the next few years the rug is going to be pulled out from under the American economy and we'll all be left gasping for air in a sea of red ink.

What worries me is the astronomical number of our treasury bonds that are held by China and Japan. In other words, they are financing our deficit. What happens when they decide to call in their dollars? It is a terrifying prospect.

Friday Cat Blogging!

Cynthia took this picture in Eureka Springs. The cat, of course, is Anonymous!

Photo by Cynthia Burgess

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An observation to give one pause

Hitler’s originality lay in his realization that effective revolutions, in modern conditions, are carried out with, and not against, the power of the State: the correct order of events was first to secure access to that power and then begin his revolution. Hitler never abandoned the cloak of legality; he recognized the enormous psychological value of having the law on his side. Instead, he turned the law inside out and made illegality legal.

- Sen Robt Byrd

This is chilling

The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years.

–Adolph Hitler

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Religious discrimination

Oh my. This is very alarming. Bush wants faith-based organizations who receive federal funds for their programs to be able to discriminate on the basis of belief when they are hiring people to administer those programs. The article entitled "Bush says religious beliefs should figure in charity jobs" is published in the Los Angeles Times but Smirking Chimp has also picked it up. I'm giving you the link to the reprint on Smirking Chimp so you can read the comments after the article as many people posting have raised some very insightful points.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

President Bush on Tuesday threatened to impose controversial new policies to let federally funded religious charities make hiring decisions based on the religious beliefs of potential employees.

Calling for an expansion of his faith-based initiative, Bush said that if Congress did not vote for the changes in hiring law this year, he would consider doing it himself through "executive action." Administration officials later said it remained unclear what powers the president had to affect hiring laws through executive order.

The president's remarks came on the eve of a House vote on the hiring issue. Administration officials say that some religious charities have been dissuaded from applying for federal grants out of fear that they would lose their religious identities in having to comply with civil rights laws that prevent discrimination in hiring.

Opponents say the change would be tantamount to government-sponsored discrimination, a fear that led Senate Democrats and skeptical Republicans to block the initiative during Bush's first term.

We are losing our historical, constitutional separation of church and state and are on our way to becoming a theocracy. The Christian "Taliban" in this country is already legislating morality and is trying to legislate the culture. I honestly think we should be taking to the streets on this one and I wish I were more optimistic about the willingness of the Democrats to fight it like hell. I don't understand the widespread apathy on this issue. Separation of church and state protects us all - the fundamentalists included. But they are not happy to worship as they see fit in peace. They want to impose their brand of religion on the rest of us. It is very, very troubling.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

This teflon presidency

On AMERICAblog a thread was started with this question:

Your Best Prediction - What Scandal Could the Bush Administration NOT Get Away With?

Here's one of the comments that sums it up nicely:

Going to war on a lie? Nope
Chasing after non-existent WMD? Nope
Shirking National Guard duty? Nope
Media payoffs? Nope
Gay prostitute posing as journalist? Nope
Destroying the economy? Nope
Letting bin Laden get away? Nope

Damn. There are a lot of @#%*& ignorant and down-right STUPID people living here in the US (present company excluded.)

If you can think of something, please share it in the comments section. It would be interesting to see what people think it would take. Personally, I don't think it's possible. I think they would declare martial law first. But that's just me.

Support our troops - REALLY

Every time I see one of those yellow ribbon magnets that say "Support our troops" I feel sick somehow. Because I know that's not what the slogan really means. It is actually code for "Don't criticize the president" or "Be in favor of the war." Usually the magnet is on an SUV and that simply angers me. This monstrosity of a vehicle is contributing to the destruction of our planet as well as to our national addiction for oil. The article I'm offering you this morning is one that expresses the same sentiment and also points out how the administration is not supporting our troops. Dexter J. Kamilewicz writes in "How dare some say, 'Support our troops'?" about his feelings:

Someone recently informed me that they didn't know that my son was being deployed to Iraq and asked why I hadn't told them. I really didn't have an answer.

That is when I began to be annoyed by those ever-present, good-intentioned but mindless ribbons stuck on the back of cars and SUVs exhorting, "Support Our Troops."

I find those magnetic messages to be offensive when I think of parents and friends of National Guard soldiers who purchased expensive Kevlar armor for their soldiers while Donald Rumsfeld said they didn't have any in stock.

Those marketing messages seem so empty when soldiers are told to "up-armor" their Humvees because the Department of Defense had not asked the manufacturers if more could be done.

Do read the whole article. It's moving and good and expresses in a concise way what we've all known for a long time now.

And if you want an alternative to those yellow ribbons, you can now get a blue ribbon magnet that says, "Bring home our troops". I'm tempted to get one. But around here, I'm afraid my car would be vandalized. That says something about the climate we're living in, doesn't it?