Monday, July 31, 2006


This nails it:

We're still on the road to World War III. Things were looking a little grim last week -- all those countries pressuring us to call for an immediate cease-fire, but we stayed strong. Sure, we sent over Condi Rice to negotiate, but she's not there for cease-fire. No, she's there for 'sustainable cease-fire,' which considering the Middle East, is like sending her to bring back Jimmy Hoffa on a unicorn.

--Stephen Colbert

Night and day

Sally Lloyd sent me the following:

An old Rabbi once asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun.

"Could it be," asked one of the students, "when you can see an animal in the distance and tell whether it's a sheep or a dog?"

"No," answered the Rabbi.

Another asked, "Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell whether it's a fig tree or a peach tree?"

"No," answered the Rabbi.

"Then what is it?" the pupils demanded.

"It is when you can look on the face of any man or woman and see that it is your sister or brother. Because if you cannot see this, it is still night."

Hasidic tale

The world needs this story. Ah, so very much.

Sunday, July 30, 2006


What Israel is doing is so wrong:

International humanitarian law is clear on the supreme obligations to protect civilians during hostilities.

-Louise Arbor

(She is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.)

Exploiting terrorism

This is tragically cynical but, I fear, true:

Republicans appreciate that they are more likely to maintain influence and control of the presidency if the nation remains under ever-increasing threats of terrorism, so they have no hesitation in pursuing policies that can provoke potential terrorists throughout the world.

John Dean

It's from his book Conservatives Without Conscience.

Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism

I absolutely refused to see "The Passion of the Christ" when it came out. I don't believe violence should be glorified and it seemed as if the treatment of violence in that film bordered on the pornographic. At the very least, ist was profoundly psychologically manipulative. I was also concerned about the anti-Semitism - which Mel Gibson vigorously denied by the way. Well "in vino veritas." Gibson was arrested on drunk driving charges recently and his true colors came out. Read this exerpt from an article entitled "Mel gives cops hell":

A blitzed Mel Gibson launched into an obscenity-laced tirade when he was busted on suspicion of drunken driving early yesterday, threatening an officer and making anti-Semitic and sexually abusive remarks, according to a police report.

The "Passion of the Christ" director repeatedly said, "My life is f----d," according to the report by Los Angeles County Deputy James Mee, which was obtained by The celebrity news Web site posted excerpts of the handwritten report...

According to the incident report obtained by, the Road Warrior embarked on a belligerent, anti-Semitic outburst when he realized he had been busted.

"F-----g Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Mee's report quotes him as saying.

"Are you a Jew?" Gibson asked the deputy, according to the report.

The actor also berated the deputy, threatening, "You motherf----r. I'm going to f--- you," according to Mee's report.

The actor also told the cop he "owns Malibu" and would spend all his money "to get even with me," Mee said in his report.

TMZ quoted a law enforcement source as saying Gibson noticed a female sergeant on the scene and yelled at her, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar t--s?"

Deputy Mee then wrote an eight-page report detailing of the incident, but higher-ups in the sheriff's department felt it was too "inflammatory" to release and would merely serve to incite "Jewish hatred," TMZ said.
A devout Catholic, Gibson has been dogged by allegations of anti-Semitism - which he has steadfastly denied - since his 2004 film "The Passion of the Christ," about the crucifixion of Jesus.

This, of course, is the darling of the evangelicals. Wonder if they're going to defend him on this? Whatever they do, it's time to boycott Mel Gibson's movies, don't you think?

Saturday, July 29, 2006


I found this poem today. We would all do well to ponder it:

I abhor,
And yet how sweet
The sound along the marching street
Of drum and fife; and I forget
Wet eyes of widows, and forget
Broken old mothers, and the whole
Dark butchery without a soul.

Without a soul—save this bright drink
Of heady music, sweet as hell;
And even my peace-abiding feet
Go marching with the marching street
For yonder goes the fife,
And what care I for human life!

The tears fill my astonished eyes
And my full heart is like to break,
And yet ‘tis all embannered lies,
A dream those little drummers make.

Oh, it is wickedness to clothe
Yon hideous, grinning thing that stalks
Hidden in music, like a queen
That in a garden of glory walks,
Till good men love the thing they loathe.

Art, thou hast many infamies,
But not an infamy like this—
Oh, snap the fife and still the drum,
And show the monster as she is.

-- Richard Lee Gallienne (1866-1947)

Your dissolving rights

I want to call your attention to an article today called "Where were you when they took away your rights?" by David Swanson. Here's the pertinent excerpt:

This morning I was a guest lecturer at a college course on modern history. We spent two hours discussing impeachment, impeachable offenses, and where the Bush Administration's actions fit in history. This is where I think they fit: as a significant threat to end the oldest democracy on the planet. Never before has an American president offered anything close to this wide-ranging assault on the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the powers of the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Here's a sampling:

• Illegal spying in violation of FISA and the Fourth Amendment, openly confessed to, openly promoted in signing statements, known to involve phone calls, phone records, internet use, bank records, and observation of legal nonviolent activities.
• Illegal detentions in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International law, U.S. Law, and a recent Supreme Court ruling.
• Rounding up of thousands of citizens and legal residents for detention or deportation.
• Torture, maintenance of secret camps, and extraordinary rendition, in violation of the Fourth Amendment, International Law, US Law, and openly promoted in signing statement and administration policy papers.
• Illegal war - launched illegally under international law, launched in violation of the U.S. Constitution which requires that the Congress declare war, and launched on the basis of feloniously misleading Congress and the American public.
• Use of a variety of illegal weapons.
• Illegal targeting of civilians, journalists, and hospitals.
• Illegal seizure of another nation's resources.
• Illegal use of funds in Iraq that had been appropriated for Afghanistan.
• Leaking of classified information in order to mislead the Congress and the public, and in order to punish truth tellers.
• Leaking of identity of an undercover agent.
• Retribution against whistleblowers.
• Use of signing statements to reverse 750 laws passed by Congress.
• Production of phony news reports at home and abroad.
• Dereliction of duty in neglecting global warming, hurricanes, hunger, AIDS, and warnings of 9-11 attacks.
• Facilitating Israel's attacks on Lebanon.
• Obstruction of investigations by Congress, the 9-11 Commission, and Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald.
• Stealing elections.

When is it enough? When does it become clear that history will view us as those who let it all go to waste, as those who sat by as they came for the Muslims and then they came for the immigrants and then they came for the next group on the list, as those who saw the nation sliding into fascism and let it slide... or as those who rose up and resisted and restored what was most worth saving in a system of government based on the rule of law?

When is it enough, indeed? I simply do not understand why there is not more outrage.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cancer risk

Well, of course we know that this administration doesn't care if you get cancer. Take a look at this information from an article entitled "Study: Water contaminant can causes cancer":

WASHINGTON - Growing scientific evidence suggests the most widespread industrial contaminant in drinking water — a solvent used in adhesives, paint and spot removers — can cause cancer in people.

The National Academy of Sciences reported Thursday that a lot more is known about the cancer risks and other health hazards from exposure to trichloroethylene than there was five years ago when the Environmental Protection Agency took steps to regulate it more strictly.

TCE, which is also widely used to remove grease from metal parts in airplanes and to clean fuel lines at missile sites, is known to cause cancer in some laboratory animals. EPA was blocked from elevating its assessment of the chemical's risks in people by the Defense Department, Energy Department and NASA, all of which have sites polluted with it.
A committee of academy experts said "a large body of epidemiologic data is available" on TCE showing the chemical is a possible cause of kidney cancer, reproductive and developmental damage, impaired neurological function and autoimmune disease.
In 2001, EPA issued a draft document saying the risks of TCE causing cancer in humans were higher than previously thought. But that pronouncement was dropped after other federal agencies accused EPA of inflating the risks.

Okay, here's what I don't understand about pollution and right wingers. Do they think they're immune from the risks? Do they think that just because they suppress the information that they and their children will never be exposed to environmental contamination? You would think that simple enlightened self-interest would mean that everyone would want clean air and clean water regardless of political affiliation.

Friday cat blogging!

Photo by Frank Ford

Think of the children.

I mean, of course, the children of Lebanon. I simply do not have words to express how horrible this is. Please take a look at this excerpt from an article entitled "Bombings Hit Children Hardest" by Dahr Jamail:

BEIRUT - About 55 percent of all casualties at the Beirut Government University Hospital are children of 15 years of age or less, hospital records show."

This is worse than during the Lebanese civil war," Bilal Masri, assistant director of the hospital, one of Beirut's largest, told IPS Monday.

Not only are most of the patients children, but many of the injured have been brought in serious condition, he said. "Now we have a 30 percent fatality rate here in Beirut. That means that 30 percent of everyone hit by Israeli bombs are dying. It is a catastrophe."

The fatality rate was high, he said, "because the Israelis are using new kinds of bombs which can enter shelters. They are bombing the bomb shelters which are full of refugees."

Masri said he had barely slept in the 13 days since the Israeli bombing of Lebanon began. His hospital, he said, was functioning with only 25 percent staff because "most are now unable to get here because so many roads and bridges are bombed. Those who are here are eating, sleeping and living here 24 hours a day because if they leave they fear they may be unable to return."

On Sunday, Jan Egeland, the United Nations emergency relief chief, toured the devastated areas of south Beirut. He described what he saw as "horrific" and said the destruction "makes it a violation of humanitarian law."

What kind of monsters use bombs that destroy bomb shelters when you know that's where innocent civilians take refuge?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

True enough

Physicist Steven Weinberg of the University of Texas at Austin, has said:

There are good people, and bad people. Good people do good things, and bad people do bad things. When good people do bad things, it is religion.

I don't completely believe this, of course. I've seen too much genuine good done by religious people. But I think there's enough truth to this that we definitely need to preserve separation of church and state. Hmmm, I said "preserve". It's too late to preserve it, isn't it, because the boundaries are already severely eroded. What we need to do is recommit ourselves to that constitutional principle. Unfortunately, however, we are now headed for a theocracy and I don't see the likelihood of that being reversed.

Leno nails it again.

You know, this is tragic:

Today Iran called for a boycott of all U.S. made goods. Well, we've got them there! Hey, Iran, we don't make anything in the U.S. anymore, okay?! Call your buddies in China!

-- Jay Leno

The illusion of security

Helen Keller

I happened to blog a Helen Keller quote over on Meditation Matters and, in the process, found one that really belongs here. What saddens me deeply as an American is that we used to consider our coutry the "home of the brave" but now it seems to be the home of the frightened. I should think we would be deeply ashamed for having sold our freedoms so easily for the illusion of security. Take a look at this observation:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

-- Helen Keller

The more I read about this great American, the more I admire her. But I'm glad she didn't live to see what we've done to ourselves.

What happens when we're unconscious

Bill Moyers

This was sent to me by Frank Ford:

An unconscious people, an indoctrinated people, a people fed only on partisan information and opinion that confirm their own bias, a people made morbidly obese in mind and spirit by the junk food of propaganda, is less inclined to put up a fight, to ask questions and be skeptical. That kind of orthodoxy can kill a democracy -- or worse.

-- Bill Moyers

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The current slaughter

I so admire this woman's passion:

I recognize Israel's right to defend itself as I recognize the US's right to defend ourselves as I recognize Lebanon's and Iraq's right to defend themselves - but I do not, cannot, and will not recognize anyone's right to commit wholesale slaughter on babies and children. I refuse to recognize that right no matter who does it - terrorists or state-sanctioned wars of terror - I refuse to recognize the right to slaughter and, whether it makes a difference or not, I refuse to be silent about it.

-- Cindy Sheehan

The earth

A current Quick Vote poll on the CNN website:

How do you feel about the current state of the environment?

No worries 7%

I'm a little concerned 19%

I'm very worried 47%

Total destruction is underway 27%

I have to admit I voted for the last choice. It's because of the dying coral reefs and diminishing plankton population in the seas that I think total destruction is underway.

Those signing statements - part 2

All right. This is good. The fact that the article I'm linking to is on the home page of the CNN website, that is. It's by Lou Dobbs and it's entitled "Why is the president ignoring our laws?" Here's part of what it says:

NEW YORK (CNN) -- With upraised right hand and left hand on the Bible, each of our presidents, from George Washington to George W. Bush, has solemnly sworn to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution of the United States.

The American Bar Association claims President Bush has violated that oath by issuing hundreds of "signing statements" to disregard selected provisions of the laws that Congress passed and he signed.

A bipartisan, 11-member panel of the ABA found that President Bush is not only disregarding laws but using such signing statements far more than any president in history. In fact, Bush has used signing statements to raise constitutional objections to more than 800 provisions in more than 100 laws. All of the presidents combined before 2001 had issued only 600.

The ABA asserts that signing statements cannot be a substitute for a presidential veto and that such an assertion of presidential power amounts to a line-item veto, which the Supreme Court already has ruled unconstitutional.

The matter will likely be resolved in court. But it stands as a metaphor for a 21st century America that is no longer secure in the claim to be a nation of laws.

The fact that a mainstream journalist is saying this on a mainstream news site could mean (oh, let us hope!) that the American people are finally starting to wake up.

Let us be very clear about one thing: Bush is not a man of honor. If he were, he would not be able to live with himself after violating a sacred oath so egregiously.

The 23rd Qualm

Charlotte Alexandre sent me the following. It was written by a retired Methodist minister:

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.

He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.

He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.

He restoreth my fears.

He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war, I will find no exit, for thou art in office.

Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media control, they discomfort me.

Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.

Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.

My health insurance runneth out.

Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of thy term,

And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.

-- Annette P. Bingham

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

This is just wrong.

What more can I say?

This sums it up:

Of course the world is cruel and horrible. The point, however, is to change it.

-- Andrew Brown

A paragraph for you

This is from an article by W. David Jenkins III called "We're at war all right — right here at home":

I don't believe that America has ever been held in such a low regard as it is now. America 's image is no longer that "shining city on the hill" that Reagan described. In its place, we have the Bush regime that is circumventing the judicial system (and the Supreme Court, the folks responsible for this whole mess in the first place) in order to decriminalize torture, endless imprisonment without charge, kangaroo courts and other policies which laugh in the face of not only international laws, but the very Constitution itself. The very foundations of this country, for which so many have fought and died, are being systematically dismantled.

I could just cry, it's so tragic.

Positive thinking

I found this in a comment on Smirking Chimp:

My equation on "positive thinking":

Positive thinking + genius = Einstein.

Positive thinking + evil genius = Hitler.

Positive thinking + fool = General Custer.

Positive thinking + evil fool = G. W. Bush.

Good, huh?

Look at this

Well, I never thought I'd see the day that I quoted William F. Buckley with enthusiasm but Frank Ford send me the following and you've just got to see it. Buckley is talking about the president, of course:

If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we've experienced it would be expected that he would retire or resign.

It's from an article entitled "Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative" . Worth a read.

Let the punishment fit the crime

When I was a little girl, I ended up listening to a lot of Gilbert and Sullivan at home because my father was a tenor who sang in those shows. He just loved both the music and the snarky humor. One of my favorite songs was from The Mikado entitled "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime." Well, what we have going on between Israel and Lebanon is an example of the punishment not fitting the crime. This is a point made by Eugene Robinson in his op-ed column "It's Disproportionate. . .". Here's how it gets started:

Just my luck. I go away on vacation and it happens to be the week when George W. Bush's strategic view of the current world situation is revealed: Russia big. China big, too. World leaders boring. Lady world leaders need neck rub. Terrorism bad. Elections good (when the right people get elected). Israel good. Time to go home yet?

I felt better when I thought the Decider didn't have a worldview, just a set of instincts about freedom and democracy. But even if you set aside the president's embarrassing open-mike performance at the Group of Eight summit, which is hard to do, events of the past week show that this administration actually thinks it knows what it's doing. Bush and his folks haven't just blundered around and created this dangerous mess, they've done it on purpose. And they intend to make it worse.

Bush's endorsement of the violence that Israel is inflicting on Lebanon -- a sustained bombing campaign that has killed hundreds of civilians and can only be seen as collective punishment -- is truly astonishing. Of course Israel has the right to defend itself against Hezbollah's rocket attacks. But how can this utterly disproportionate, seemingly indiscriminate carnage be anything but counterproductive?

Destroying the Beirut airport, blasting communications towers into oblivion and cleansing southern Lebanon of its civilian population are not measures the world will see as an attack on Hezbollah terrorists. The Israeli campaign is so intense and widespread that it is creating more terrorists than it kills. Proportionate military action might have enhanced Israel's security, but video footage of grandmothers weeping amid the rubble of their homes and bloodied children lying in hospital beds won't make Israel more secure. Hezbollah's stature in the Arab world is growing, and its patrons in Damascus and Tehran must be smugly satisfied.

The role of any American president and secretary of state should have been to move quickly to bring hostilities to an end. Instead, Bush all but egged the Israelis on, and Condoleezza Rice went so far as to reject the idea of a cease-fire. Belatedly, she has flown to the region with no real credibility as an honest broker. Her words of concern about the "humanitarian crisis" in Lebanon ring hollow.

But this administration doesn't want to be an honest broker in the Middle East. Bush and Rice have staked their Middle East policy on a single incontrovertible idea -- that terrorism is bad -- and it has led them to the mistaken notion that Israel can achieve long-term security by creating a kind of scorched-earth buffer zone in southern Lebanon.

It is very troubling to imagine how this is all going to end. If it is going to end. Both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope have called for a cease fire. Will our very "Christian" president pay attention?

(Thanks to Frank Ford for alerting me to this article.)

Monday, July 24, 2006

The president's résumé

Charlotte Alexandre sent me the following. Read it. Share it. Act on it by voting the Republicans out of power:

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20520


I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver's license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been "lost" and is not available.

I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.

I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.

I ran for U.S. Congress and lost. I began my career in the oil business in Midland, Texas, in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn't find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.

I bought the Texas Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money. With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry, including Enron CEO Ken Lay, I was elected governor of Texas!

I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America. I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money. I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history. With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father's appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President after losing by over 500,000 votes.

I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.

I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.

I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.

I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.

I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.

I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S.stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues every month.

I'm proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My "poorest millionaire," Condoleeza Rice, had a Chevron oil tanker named after her.

I set the record for most campaign fund-raising trips by a U.S. President. I am the all- time U.S. and world record-holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations. My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. History, Enron. My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision. I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history.

I presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed. I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.

I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts. I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in U.S. history.

I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States government.

I've broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.

I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.

I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.

I refused to allow inspectors access to U.S. "prisoners of war" detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 U.S. election).

I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.

I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history. I garnered the most sympathy for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history. I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.

I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. citizens, and the world community.

I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families-in-wartime.

In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.

I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security. I am supporting development of a nuclear "Tactical Bunker Buster," a WMD.

I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.

All records of my tenure as governor of Texas are now in my father's library, sealed and unavailable for public view. All records of SEC investigations into my insider trading and my bankrupt companies are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public view. All records or minutes from meetings that I, or my Vice-President, attended regarding public energy policy are sealed in secrecy and unavailable for public review. I am a member of the Republican Party.




Just go look at the CNN article entitled, "Four children and the cost of war" by Cal Perry and then tell me that the attack on Lebanon is right. Look at what is happening:

TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- The last time I sat down to write something, it was about the cost of war. As I looked ahead to the coming days, the last words I wrote were: Who will die?

Today, I found out.

Standing in front of this 8-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, the "conflict in the Middle East" and the "cost of war" seem endless and suffocating. His pain cannot possibly be imagined as he shakes uncontrollably in and out of shock. He has blood coming from his eyes.

His name is Mahmood Monsoor and he is horribly burned. In the hospital bed next to him is his 8-month-old sister, Maria -- also burned. Screaming at the top of her lungs is the children's mother, Nuhader Monsoor. She is standing over her baby, looking at her son -- and probably thinking of her dead husband. The smell of burned flesh is overwhelming.

This story, for the Monsoor family, started out as a typical one, probably one that most of us have experienced. They had simply gone on a family vacation to some lovely sunny beaches, but these beaches were in southern Lebanon.
Politics creeps into the ward like the blood that runs on the floors. "Clearly he is Hezbollah," says one of the doctors outside the room -- sarcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby's cries.

How can Bush sleep at night? He could stop this if he would call for a cease fire.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

International law

Here is a passage from an article entitled "We were right" by Cenk Uygur about why international law matters:

It was a terrible precedent to set to say that first strikes without a legal basis are acceptable (it was also the exact opposite of George H.W. Bush's New World Order precedent -- which was a bold and brilliant foreign policy effort and one of the reasons I was a Republican in the first place). Following international law is the kind of thing conservatives can deride as asking for a permission slip from the UN. Yes, you neanderthals, we do need approval from the rest of the world, otherwise we become international outlaws - and encourage others do the same.

So, what did Israel learn from our experience? When in doubt, invade. Don't ask for permission. Don't listen to the rest of the world (or common sense), just push the button.

Now, we learn that Turkey is threatening to invade northern Iraq to fight against Kurdish rebels that have killed 15 Turkish security forces in southern Turkey. Now what are we supposed to say to them? All of sudden, preemptive strikes are a bad idea? We don't like it when you do first strikes?

How about if Pakistan decides it too needs a first strike? How about China against Taiwan? North Korea against South Korea?

This is why we need international law -- and order. Instead, we have sown chaos throughout the world and now we reap the whirlwind.

It is really terrifying to anticipate what is going to happen next. We truly are reaping the whirlwind and it remains to be seen just how bad that will be.


It's a simple paragraph with a simple but succinct message. And I agree:

Directing military force in such a way that it kills hundreds of civilians is unacceptable behavior, and any group, tribe, or nation that does so loses all moral standing. Those who are defending this behavior need to have a close look at the axioms and arguments that lead them to such a deeply broken conclusion. Once again: Military violence against civilians is wrong.

-- Tim Bray


I want you to read a couple of passages from an article called "Iraq's Bloody July" by Robert Dreyfuss:

Iraq is engaged in a full-fledged civil war. For those remaining defenders of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, who argue that the United States needs to stay put in order to prevent civil war, it’s too late. It’s here, in all of its brutality and ugliness.

The violence is not only engulfing Baghdad—home to approximately one-fifth of Iraq’s population—but Basra, Iraq’s second city and its only port. In the north, there is violence in Kirkuk, in what has been, until now, the relatively unscathed heartland of the Shiite south, as well.

What is unfolding in Iraq is a staggering tragedy. An entire nation is dying, right in front of us. And the worst part of it is: It may be too late to do anything to stop it.

The toll among ordinary Iraqis is immeasurable. Iraqis are dying in ones and twos, in a wave of rampant murders, kidnappings, and assassinations throughout the country. They are dying in fives and tens, through roadside bombs, car bombs, and sectarian violence. And they are dying in large numbers, in scores, as organized armies carry out atrocity after atrocity in brazen, public attacks.
The blame for this carnage must be laid squarely at the feet of George W. Bush. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was ordered against the advice of the CIA, the State Department and most U.S. military officers, and in defiance of the United Nations, America’s allies, and the Arab world. The United States attacked and destroyed a nation that had never attacked the United States, which had no weapons of mass destruction and which had no connection to al-Qaida.

History will judge us very harshly - that is, if there is a history to judge. If we don't, as a species, find another way besides war to settle our differences, humanity may well end up destroying itself.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Culture of life

This is a comment I found on Dependable Renegade:

I say we move all the frozen embryos to Lebanon. Maybe that will make the righties care about what happens there.

Bridging the gap

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Linda Cole has been sending me meditations by the late Henri Nouwen and yesterday I blogged one of them (about seeing the other as neighbor) over on Medition Matters. I had trouble, however, deciding whether it belonged there or here on the political blog. Today's passage, I think really belongs here on Child of Illusion. It's called, "Bridging the Gap Between People".

To become neighbours is to bridge the gap between people. As long as there is distance between us and we cannot look in each other's eyes, all sorts of false ideas and images arise. We give them names, make jokes about them, cover them with our prejudices, and avoid direct contact. We think of them as enemies. We forget that they love as we love, care for their children as we care for ours, become sick and die as we do. We forget that they are our brothers and sisters and treat them as objects that can be destroyed at will.

Only when we have the courage to cross the street and look in one another's eyes can we see there that we are children of the same God and members of the same human family.

If we took this teaching on board, we would see the sacredness of all life and we would not see others as people who can be killed with impunity. I also read an article in the Independent today that is called "America's domestic policy vs America's foreign policy". It is about Bush's reference for the life that is a few cells in a petri dish and comparing that with his callousness about the casualties in Iraq and Lebanon. Here's an excerpt:

Parents dare not let their children wander the dangerous streets of Baghdad alone, but until a few days ago they could give them a treat by taking them to al-Jillawi's toyshop, the biggest and best in the city, its windows invitingly filled with Playstations, Barbie dolls and bicycles.

They go there no longer. Today the shop on 14 Ramadan Street in the once-affluent al-Mansur district is closed, with a black mourning flag draped across its front. The three sons and the teenage grandson of the owner, Mehdi al-Jillawi, were shutting down for the evening recently, bringing in bicycles and tricycles on display on the pavement in front of the shop. As they did so, two BMWs stopped close to them, and several gunmen got out armed with assault rifles. They opened fire at point-blank range, killing the young men.

Sectarian slaughter is not the only way to die in Iraq.

Yesterday US troops killed five people, including two women and a child, in the city of Baquba during a raid, claiming they had been shot at. At best it was a tragic error, at worst it spoke to the cavalier attitude of the US towards Iraqi civilian lives. Local police said that a man had fired from a rooftop at the Americans because he thought a hostile militia force was approaching.

While the eyes of the world are elsewhere, Baghdad is still dying and the daily toll is hitting record levels. While the plumes of fire and smoke over Lebanon have dominated headlines for 11 days, with Britain and the US opposing a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, another Bush-Blair foreign policy disaster is unfolding in Iraq.

Invoking the sanctity of human life, George Bush wielded the presidential veto for the first time in his presidency to halt US embryonic stem cell research in its tracks. He even paraded one-year-old Jack Jones, born from one of the frozen embryos that can now never be used for federally funded research, and talked of preventing the "taking of innocent human life". How hollow that sounds to Iraqis.

What would happen if we really worked to bridge the gap between people as Henri Nouwen says, to realize that we are all more alike than we're different, we would not be so cavalier about the violent deaths of others.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The world is waiting

This is good:

There are two great hungers in our world today, one for spiritual integrity and the other for social justice. And the connection between the two is the one the world is waiting for.

-- Jim Wallis

Friday cat blogging!

Sweet Iris
Photo by Sally Lloyd

Jon Stewart in good form

I do love the snark:

Since the bombing began, Israel has tried to make it clear Hezbollah and Syria are to blame for Lebanon's current nightmare. To that end, Israeli warplanes have dropped thousands of leaflets on Beirut over the last few days showing a caricature of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah as a cobra threatening the Lebanese capital. And really, what a great idea, because if there's anything that calms the Arab world down, it's a cartoon.

--Jon Stewart

Civil War in Iraq

I want to call your attention to an article on the CNN website called "Sen. Reid: Iraq devolves into 'civil war'". Here are a couple of excerpts:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Declaring that he believes the situation in Iraq has devolved into a civil war, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday he plans to try to bring the war back up for debate on the Senate floor.

The Nevada Democrat said he has been "somewhat gingerly approaching this.... No longer. There is a civil war going on in Iraq. In the last two months, more than 6,000 Iraqis have been killed. That's averaging more than 100 a day being killed in Iraq and we need to make sure there is a debate on this."
Senate Democratic leaders call Iraq the top issue on voters' minds this election year and say they want to continue talking about it in Congress, especially since the situation appears to be deteriorating.

"The American people find it hard to believe that we can continue with our daily business here ignoring the obvious, which is the daily situation is getting worse," said Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin.

"It is more dangerous, we're still losing American lives and the Iraqis have not stepped up to defend their own country," the Illinois Democrat said. "That is a fact, and that will be a fact that people will remember in November."

Needless to say, the Republicans do not want to reopen the debate and are accusing the Democrats of advocating that we "cut and run". It's very wearying.

Meanwhile it seems that the populace at large realizes that civil war is a fact. A CNN Quick Vote poll asked this question:

Is the situation in Iraq a civil war?

The results were Yes - 75% and No - 25%.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Let's hear it for Leno

Bush is pathetically immature:

White House press secretary Tony Snow says that when President Bush was told he was recorded saying a four-letter word, he rolled his eyes and laughed it off, which is ironic. Bush is now reacting to himself the way everybody else does.

--Jay Leno

Biodiversity crisis

I'm sorry to keep bringing you such bad news environmentally speaking but I'm afraid that's the news we've got. Today I want to call your attention to an article in the Guardian entitled "Earth facing 'catastrophic' loss of species". Here's how it gets started:

The Earth is on the brink of "major biodiversity crisis" fuelled by the steady destruction of ecosystems, a group of the world's most distinguished scientists and policy experts warn today.

Nineteen leading specialists in the field of biodiversity, including Robert Watson, chief scientist at the World Bank, and Professor Georgina Mace, director of the Institute of Zoology, are calling for the urgent creation of a global body of scientists to offer advice and urge governments to halt what they call a potentially "catastrophic loss of species".

Destruction of natural habitats and the effects of climate change are causing species to die out at 100 to 1,000 times faster than the natural rate, leading some scientists to warn we are facing the next mass extinction.

Nearly one-quarter of the world's mammals, one-third of amphibians and more than one-tenth of bird species are threatened with extinction. Climate change alone is expected to force a further 15%- 37% of species to the brink of extinction within the next 50 years.

Writing in the journal Nature today, the experts from 13 nations urge for the new body, the international mechanism of scientific expertise on biodiversity (Imoseb), to be set up to force better biodiversity policies around the world.

"We are on the verge of a major biodiversity crisis. Virtually all aspects of diversity are in steep decline and a large number of populations and species are likely to become extinct this century. Despite this evidence, biodiversity is still consistently undervalued and given inadequate weight in both private and public decisions," the authors say.

We too are part of the ecosystem. We are seriously threatening our own ability to survive as a species.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Think about this.


Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

-- Voltaire

Economic impact of climate change

I want to call your attention to an article called "Scientists: Southeast Asia losing billions to climate change". Here's an excerpt:

Asian scientists today revealed studies which detail the region's economic losses as well as severe threats to human life and the environment due to climate change. Scientific publications authored by Dr Kansri Boonprakob (Thailand) and Dr Leoncio Amadore (Philippines) each confirm earlier predictions that developing countries in Asia, like Thailand and the Philippines, stand to suffer most from the catastrophic impacts of a warming planet unless mitigation and adaptation measures are taken with urgency.

In the new report "Crisis or Opportunity: Climate Change and Thailand", Dr Kansri said Thailand suffered more than Bt70 billion (around US$ 1.75 billion) in economic losses related to floods, storms and droughts in the period between 1989 and 2002. Majority of these losses came from the agricultural sector where crop yield losses amounted to more than Bt50 billion (around US$ 1.25 billion) during 1991 to 2000.

"Climate-related catastrophes will increase and intensify under climate change. This will cause reductions in agricultural production, and consequently retarded economic development and increasing social problems," wrote Dr Kansri, vice-chair of Working Group 1 of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Among the most serious environmental threats cited in her study is "irreversible changes among ecosystems along with the extinction of many species." Preliminary Thai studies on forest ecosystems under climate change show that about 32 national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including the World Heritage Site of Thung Yai Naresuan, are now climate change hot spots.

In addition she warned that sea level rise "may cause the extinction of coastal species." Thailand's coasts are economically important for fisheries, commerce, recreation and tourism but further to sea-level rise, "more intense storm surges may damage commercial and recreational areas," she said in the report.

I really don't have much of a comment here except to say that it is important that we know what's happening and what is predicted to happen. We need a critical mass of people with awareness in order for there to be a demand that changes take place. Sadly, we don't seem to have that critical mass at this time --- and time is running out.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Our stupid, uncultured president

By now surely you know that a microphone picked up Bush's dinner conversation at the G8 Summit. I was truly embarrassed. And so was Cenk Uygur as he explains in an article entitled "The ugly truth: Our president is an imbecile":

The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.

Bush: "Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?"

Bush: "This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?"

Reply is inaudible.

Bush: "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."

At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.

Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home."

He turns his attention to a server.

Bush: "No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke."

He turns back to whomever he was talking with.

Bush: "It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China."

Russia's big and so is China??????? This guys sounds like a third grader. Do you know anyone who would have a conversation like this with their neighbor, let alone a business associate, let alone a world leader? Who's proud to know that Russia is big and so is China?

Can anyone now credibly claim that Bush is secretly working on a master plan behind the scenes and that he's just playing cowboy for the cameras? I hope the master plan doesn't involve figuring out how long it takes to get to China.

If someone is this ignorant, they're usually embarrassed and try not to talk much. But this guy is so dumb he has no idea how dumb he is. This sounds like a conversation you might have with a child, a mentally challenged child. Johnny, do you know how big Russia is? How about China?

This would all be unfortunate if George was your dentist, or worse yet, your accountant. But he is the leader of the free world. This man makes life or death decisions every day. If you say you're not scared about that, you're lying.

Would you let him do the books for your business? Would you trust your company in his hands for eight years? (No matter how Republican you are, you know you just said no to that question.) Would you trust him to be your kids' guidance counselor and take his advice seriously? If your kids were in the Army and he was their field commander, would you feel good about putting their lives in his hands?

Come on, no one is crazy enough to say yes to that. Yet, he has all of our lives in his hands. The emperor has no clothes. The emperor has no clothes. It's about time someone in the mainstream media said it.

For the life of me, I don't understand why some people think it's satisfying to have someone who's not very bright in the presidency. I want the president to be smarter than I am - to be as bright as they come. But a huge number of Americans don't seem to agree with me.

Training in nonviolence

We need training in nonviolence if we're to offer an alternative to war. Sadly, many people don't know that this exists. Try Googling "training in nonviolence" and see what you get. It's amazing the training opportunities that are out there.

This morning, I found the following (that, of course, gladdens my heart as a meditation teacher):

Gandhi talks about meditation being as important to the nonviolent soldier as drill practice is to the conventional soldier. Nonviolence doesn't just happen. You don't just suddenly walk into the middle of conflict and know what to do. I've discovered that the people who impress me with their nonviolent behavior in violent situations are inevitably people who have trained themselves and been involved in nonviolent strategies for a while. You can't do it in a weekend must accept nonviolence as a form of fighting, and that's very hard for people to understand. However, compassion and joy can be as contagious as war fever.

-- Joan Baez

I'd like to recommend the article entitled Practicing Nonviolence by Joanne Sheehan as a beginning overview of what nonviolence training is all about.

Monday, July 17, 2006


I want to call your attention to an article entitled "Let's face it, it's WWIII, Gingrich says". I'm really horrified by that language. Take a look:

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich says America is in World War III and President Bush should say so.

Gingrich said in an interview Saturday that Bush should call a joint session of Congress the first week of September and talk about global military conflicts in much starker terms than have been heard from the president.

"We need to have the militancy that says 'We're not going to lose a city, " Gingrich said.

Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly and to the administration from his seat on the Defense Policy Board about the need to recognize that America is in World War III.

He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, last week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III.

Now here's the real reason he's urging this language:

There is a political element to his talk of World War III. Gingrich said that public opinion can change "the minute you use the language" of World War III. The message then, he said, is, "OK, if we're in the third world war, which side do you think should win?"

That is simply beyond irresponsible. And talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Once you start naming it as WWIII, you make it so. And it's a way of manipulating public opinion - making the public support hostilities they actually have grave doubts about.

The Middle East

There's a story published today on Smirking Chimp entitled "Bill Kristol is a Maniac". The whole article is worth reading but here's the quote I want you to see:

Right now, we should be spending all of our time and energy trying to figure out a way to avoid a broader Middle Eastern War, a war that could suck us into World War III. We have 130,000 troops waiting in Iraq like sitting ducks. What happens when Israel and Iran start exchanging bombs? It's obvious -- we get sucked into fighting Iran ... and the Iraqi Shiites, and the Iraqi Sunnis, and the Syrians, and the Lebanese and ...

That's a world of pain. If you thought the Iraq War has gone poorly, wait till you get a load of the broader Middle East War -- where everyone in the region is against us.

How haughty and arrogant could we be? What are we going to do, bomb, fight and occupy the whole Middle East? We couldn't even handle Iraq. How in the world are we going to handle Iran, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon at the same time? We are asking for a terrible war we can't possibly win.

And Bill Kristol is egging the administration on.
Sent to me by Frank Ford.

Israel and Iran

I want to bring you an excerpt from a Toronto Star editorial entitled "Wildly Disproportionate Attack on Lebanon Seems Like Pretext to Confront Iran" that refutes the idea that Israel's hostilities right now are defensive:

But the U.S. and Israel don't want to look like aggressors. They insist their intentions are purely defensive. Recall that Washington also claimed its invasion of Iraq was purely defensive — to protect itself from Iraq's arsenal of deadly weapons, which, it turned out, didn't exist.

So when Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon seized two Israeli soldiers last week, a perfect opportunity arose. Since Hezbollah has links to Iran, presto, here was a prima facie case that Iran was gunning for confrontation...

Certainly the Palestinians have endless grievances against Israel. In addition to four decades of Israeli military occupation of their land, Israel has attempted to destroy the Hamas government, which was democratically elected by Palestinians last January.

Hezbollah's seizure of the two Israeli soldiers was probably an act of support for the Palestinians in Gaza, who have been under Israeli military siege since the capture of the first soldier.

Hezbollah also said it seized the soldiers because it wanted to trade them for Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails. A similar Israeli-Hezbollah prisoner exchange took place in 2004.

Abandoning Canada's traditional role as an honest broker in the Middle East, Prime Minister Stephen Harper unabashedly supported Israel last week, calling its devastating attacks on Gaza and Lebanon "measured."

If Israel is simply trying to "defend" itself, its actions are wildly disproportionate.

On the other hand, if Israel and the U.S. are looking for an excuse to attack Iran, the capture of the Israeli soldiers is as good as any.

And, of course, the U.S. has joined the hostilities by giving jet fuel to Israel. What other help is in the offing? This situation is only going to escalate.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Larry Hicks sent me an article entitled "Ugly Americans in Iraq" that I want to share with you here. It's the mostly email history of a U.S. soldier, who served in Iraq during 2003 and 2004, as told to journalist Nir Rosen. The soldier wishes to remain anonymous. Here's an exerpt:

All the way up to my third deployment I was an avid reader of a lot of foolish writing on the war,” he said. “I believed in the mission because I had to—after all, what soldier wants to die for an unworthy cause? I wanted to believe in the propaganda and I willfully avoided things that harshly rubbed against my hope that we were sacrificing for a good cause. When you put your life on the line every night, you don’t have the luxury to be skeptical or even critical. In certain ways, I feel embarrassed about my belief that this was once a noble mission, but I have the honesty to admit that I was wrong. I deployed to this war with many great assumptions about our national leadership: I assumed that the WMD intelligence case wasn’t a cherry-picked house of cards, I assumed we had a plan for the aftermath of the invasion, I assumed our leaders had a greater understanding of the character of Iraq outside the mouths of Ahmed Chalabi and Kana Makiya. I assumed, I assumed, I assumed.

I wonder how many Americans could say that? "We assumed, we assumed, we assumed". The manipulation of public opinion by the administration has been truly evil.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Israeli protester

Here's something I found on Democracy Now:

In Tel Aviv, dozens of Israelis gathered to protest the strikes on Lebanon.

Unidentified protester: "I am here to protest against what my government is doing, this is absolutely a shame to do that. Its clear to me that there is no military solution and this is why I am here."

Sad that it's only dozens but at least those few are speaking out.

Military standards

The article I'm linking you to here is called Voice of the White House and it's written anonymously by someone who is supposedly a White House staffer. Whether he or she is inside the White House or that is just a literary device for writing opinion pieces, the following observation is true enough:

And the U.S. military is in a sorry mess now. They have lost at least ten thousand dead and over twenty five thousand seriously enough wounded to preclude further participation in the anti-guerrilla campaign. They lust for a draft but that is not to be because the announcement of a general draft before the mid-term elections would be political suicide for the Republicans.

Instead of a draft, the Bush people have now so lowered the entrance standards for the military that a huge influx of juvenile delinquents, rabid racists, gang members, social misfits of every kind are swelling the ranks and we see the results in the sharp escalation of drug use, sexual violence, disobedience to authority and a serious morale problem with the relatively “normal” troops.

This is very worrying. I think it would be much better to have a draft than for standards to be lowered like this. We're supposed to have the best trained military in the world. That won't be true for long if we admit seriously disordered people to the ranks.

Middle East horror

What's happening right now is bad, bad, bad. I want to recommend an article today called, "Mutually Assured Destruction in the Middle East" by Chris Hedges. Here are a couple of passages:

The escalating repression by Israel, like the escalating repression by the American occupiers in Iraq, has become the most potent recruiting tool for Islamic extremists. It has rendered each side deaf and dumb. As those under the boot of Israel or America lose all hope for justice, as they give up on peaceful recourses to ameliorate their plight, as they fall into despair, it throws them, by default, into the hands of extremists. And as the extremists grow and their attacks became more deadly, it likewise helps silence those in Israel and the United States who call for compassion, restraint and understanding.
We cannot ascribe equal amounts of moral blame to all sides. Israel is the oppressor in Gaza, the West Bank and now Lebanon. America is the oppressor in Iraq. And there can be no hope for a peaceful resolution to these conflicts until Iraqis are freed from American occupation and Palestinians are allowed to build a viable state. It is the distorting and dehumanizing effects of occupation that made possible the proliferation of extremist groups that, albeit on a smaller scale, simply hand back to the occupier some of their own medicine. The numbers, after all, make clear that most of the victims are Palestinian, Iraqi and now Lebanese civilians, although the numbers game can also obscure the fact that the murder of any innocent by any group is indefensible.

This is the world of the apocalypse. It is the world where those on either extreme become indistinguishable. And if we do not find a new way to speak, and soon, there will be untold suffering—not only for many innocents in the Middle East but eventually innocents at home. It was the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon that spawned and empowered Hezbollah. It was the decades-long occupation and humiliation of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by Israel that spawned and empowered Hamas, and it is the brutal American occupation that has bred the legions of extremists in Iraq. And when Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah promises “open war” against Israel, as he did in an address shortly after his Beirut offices were bombed, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he won’t cease his attack until Israel is secure, it is time to run for cover, especially when George W. Bush is our best hope for peace.

If George Bush is our best hope for peace then we are hopeless indeed, I'm afraid. The way to peace is through justice and justice is simply not a value that Bush holds.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Friday cat blogging!

Sweet Iris
Photo by Sally Lloyd

What sort of person is Bush?

I teach my meditation students an exercise called "the reflection process" in which one drops a question into one's consciousness (as if dropping a pebble into a pool of water) and then writes down whatever bubbles up. The first question we work with is this: "What sort of person am I?" I wonder what would bubble up for George Bush were he to engage this question. Of course, it's unlikely that our very shallow president would be introspective enough to consider it - or, at any rate, to engage it truthfully. But someone has done it for him. Ed Hamilton has written an article called, "What kind of man is George Bush, and what is he up to?" Here is part of what it says:

Gone are the days when we could wonder, half facetiously, if President Bush was as stupid as he seemed, or if he just thought the rest of us were stupid. Over the years a clearer, more nuanced picture of the man has emerged. Albeit deeply ignorant and intolerant, Bush is nevertheless clever in his own way, and able to use his charisma to his own advantage.

He's in some sense a puppet, in thrall to the forceful, intelligent men, such as Cheney and Rumsfeld, who surround him, but in another sense he is indeed his own man. This comes out best in his fanatical loyalty to his class, the super rich, even where this might be to his personal political disadvantage, and even to the disadvantage of his party, as is the case in cutting taxes on the wealthy and running up the deficit in time of war. So certain is Bush of the moral rectitude of such measures, that he is able to project this assurance in his speech and mannerisms, and--though I for one still find it hard to believe--he seems to have been able to bamboozle a large percentage of the populace.
George Bush learned anti-communism from an early age, and saw how advantageous it was to his family and his class. In addition to being the party of the rich, the Republican party is the party of fear; but since the end of the cold war, the fear of gays and women and minorities has proved a poor substitute for the fear of communism. That's why Bush and the Republicans needed Iraq, and it's significant that they had begun talk of this war even before 9-11 (which of course had nothing to do with Iraq). And it's also why they need to complicate the situation by going after other countries. Most likely it's long been their intension to start a war on terrorism -- a scary-sounding, alien ideology, much like communism in that respect -- or better yet a war on Islam, which is really the subtext here. Was it the ignorant side of Bush that spoke of a crusade, or were his words a bit more calculating?
There's something in the original dichotomy after all: is Bush stupid or does he think we're stupid? His policies concerning torture and illegal renditions--all but unimaginable in a civilized nation--are perhaps also not quite the work of ignorance. These policies seem in effect deliberately crafted to frighten and provoke our Islamic neighbors. And Bush escapes blame by playing dumb.

I thought I'd also copy for you here a comment to this article on the Smirking Chimp site:

I recently spoke with a technology executive who voted for Bush in both elections. Bush's policies of spying on citizens and detainee torture turned him against the administration. The exec. told me that his boss met one-on-one with Bush a few years ago and that Bush wasn't the dumbass he plays on TV, but informed knowledgeable and engaged.

Lowering expectations: the lifetime Bush M.O. Then whenever he does anything not completely stupid, people think he's smart. It's bait-and-switch, sleight of hand deception. Whenever I hear him talk, it's hard to believe he's not an idiot. It's quite an act he's playing if he's not as dumb as he seems.

Stupid - maybe not. Shallow - definitely. Dangerous - most definitely.

I don't know. I think he's pretty stupid. But he does, indeed, have a certain low cunning. And I agree with the writer above; he's definitely very dangerous.

I recommend that you click through and read not only the article but the comments that follow. It's a short article. And the comments - some of which contain some interesting speculation about Bush's brain health - are thought provoking.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Simple and true

Climate apocalypse or a sustainable future:

We, and the world, must pick a scenario.

--Floyd J. McKay

Immigration irony

Take a look at these passages from an article entitled, "Bush, Bronson worried about unpicked oranges":

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Gov. Jeb Bush and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson agreed Monday that it's ironic millions of Florida oranges could waste away due to a shortage of fruitpickers during a national debate over the county's immigration laws.

Orange production in the state could become the lowest since 1992 if the worst projections come true. That year, growers harvested 139.8 million boxes.

"It's interesting that we have this flurry of activity regarding illegal immigrants and all the problems yet we have shortages in critical areas of our state given the growth of our economy," Bush said. "You know obviously we don't want to have fresh oranges that can't be processed during harvesting time."

The citrus season usually ends in late June, but will extend to at least late July this year with juice processors hoping to get as many oranges as possible off trees.
Growers have reported difficulty finding enough workers. Industry officials say labor supply was tight from the beginning of the season in October, but grew worse by the middle of May when a large segment of the Hispanic labor force seemed to leave the state.

Right. And our solution is to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. (Sigh.)

Our younger citizens

This is troubling:

Public schools have pretty much stopped teaching government, civics and American history. ... I truly don't know how long we can survive as a strong nation if our younger citizens don't understand the nature of our government. ... That is something you have to learn. It just isn't handed down in the genetic pool.

-- Sandra Day O'Connor

The "defense of marriage" issue

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Today I happened to find a Boston Globe article by Peter Gomes who is an American Baptist minister and professor of theology at Harvard University. It explores the history of marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as the appropriateness of the courts deciding that the rights of civil marriage should be extended to gays and lesbians. The article is entitled, "For Massachusetts, a chance and a choice" and I want to bring you these excerpts:

No clergy of any denomination are required to wed anyone of whose union they do not approve: There is no civil right to be married in church or with its blessing. The civil law is just that, and the distinction between it and ecclesiastical law is as important as the necessary distinction between church and state. Surely, after two years of protracted debate between church law and civil law in the child-abuse scandals we should appreciate the necessity of these distinctions.
"Judicial tyranny" is a phrase usually heard from those whose prejudices have not been sustained by a court's decision. Happily, the fundamental rights of citizens in this Commonwealth and republic are in the long run defended against another form of tyranny even more dangerous, the tyranny of the majority.

Legislatures more often than not are subject to the prevailing passions of any majority that can muster sufficient votes; rarely are legislatures in the first instance instruments of social change. It was, after all, legislators who, reflecting the views of those who elected them, kept in place every oppressive law on the books until challenged by aggrieved citizens who sought relief in the courts.
The defense of marriage demands much more than legislative manipulation enshrining the status quo. The defenders of traditional marriage argue that marriage has been a heterosexual affair since "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," and at the same time they argue that this exclusively heterosexual institution is in serious trouble.

Logic would suggest that such troubles as marriage experiences cannot be laid at the door of those who have been, at least until Goodridge [the court decision that allowed gay marriage in Massachusetts], rigorously excluded from it.

To extend the civil right of marriage to homosexuals will neither solve nor complicate the problems already inherent in marriage, but what it will do is permit a whole class of persons, our fellow citizens under the law heretofore irrationally deprived of a civil right, both to benefit from and participate in a valuable yet vulnerable institution which in our changing society needs all the help it can get.

If you are married, let me ask you two questions:

1. How can the ability of two gay people to get married hurt your marriage?
2. If your marriage is in trouble, how will a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage help improve your marriage?

50 Questions

Wow. Do I have an article for you. It's called, "50 easy questions to ask any Republican" by Robert J. Elisberg. Here are a few of my favorite questions from the list:

1. What are the Top Seven best things that the Bush Administration has done?

2. Is the Iraq War is going well?

3. After three years thus far, when do you think Iraq might be able to "stand up" so that America can "stand down"?
6. When Dick Cheney and the oil company and energy executives met in private to plan America's energy policy, how much of their goal was to benefit consumers?

7. Do you believe in the President's call for an Era of Personal Responsibility?

8. Since Republicans control the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, how personally responsible are they for conditions in America today?
11. Are you aware that no government in the history of civilization, other than the Bush Administration, has lowered taxes during a war?
31. Are you glad liberals passed such programs as Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, women's suffrage, federal deposit insurance, unemployment compensation, rural electrification, child labor laws, minimum wages and the 40-hour work week?

32. What are the Top Ten best things that conservatives have given to America?
43. Since George Bush campaigned for President strongly against nation building, in what ways are our actions in Iraq not nation building?

I really do recommend that you click through and read the rest of them. They won't take long. And they clarify the mind wonderfully.

Note: There is one question that supposes incorrect science in that it associates the depletion of the ozone layer with carbon dioxide emissions. Ozone depletion is actually due to chlorofluorocarbon and bromofluorocarbon emissions.

Something good about Wal-Mart

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This morning, one of my clients told me that Al Gore was working with Wal-Mart to encourage environmentally responsible practices. She mentioned that he was trying to get them to use recycled paper. Just think of the trees that would be saved if every Wal-Mart across the globe switched to recycled paper! Well, I found a brief article about it on the CNN website. It's called "Gore takes green talk to Wal-Mart". Here's part of what it says:

NEW YORK ( -- Wal-Mart Stores hosted former Vice President Al Gore at a conference Wednesday evening that the company said is the next step in its efforts to improve the environment.

The company said the conference at its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters, dubbed the quarterly sustainability network meeting, included Gore's presentation on the dangers of global warming, as well as one from officials of the Rocky Mountain Institute and the Evangelical Environmental Network.
"We are all passionate about making real progress regarding the environment," said a statement from Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. "By working together, we can help each other save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pass the savings on to our customers. Sustainability is good for the environment, and it's also good for business."
Earlier this year Wal-Mart announced that it would seek to eliminate 30 percent of the energy used by stores, with the corporate goal of eventually being fueled 100 percent by renewable energy .The retailer also plans to eliminate 25 percent of the solid waste from U.S. stores in the next three years, with the corporate goal of producing zero waste.

Wal-Mart also is targeting increased efficiency of its truck fleet by 25 percent over the next three years, with efficiency doubled within 10 years except in the North, where Wal-Mart utilizes white reflective roof membranes, resulting in a 10 percent lower cooling load.

Of course, as the article pointed out, there are people who are skeptical of Wal-Mart's intentions - as am I. But whatever their motives, if they really implement these plans it will make a huge impact.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Human rights

Something to think about:

America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense human rights invented America.

-- Jimmy Carter

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We need to heed this:

We are the watchers. We are the witnesses. We see what has gone before. We see what happens now, at this dangerous moment in human history. We see what's going to happen, what will surely happen unless we come together---we , the Peoples of all Nations---to restore peace, harmony and balance to the Earth, our Mother.

--Chief Arvol Looking Horse, from White Buffalo Teachings


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Photo by Bill Miller

This week I talked about visualization in my ongoing meditation classes and I quoted Einstein who said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." And so I was dismayed when I read a commentary in Grist magazine about a group of gifted elementary students who imagine a very bleak future indeed. Here's what the author, Karen Hurley, says about them:

In their envisioned future, they imagined a community with only indoor parks. Beyond these parks, there would be no trees, no plants, no birds, and no animals. Freshwater would be gone, because lakes and streams would either be dried up or too polluted to support life; drinking water would have to be created from desalinization plants on the coast. In the future these children predicted, universities and colleges would be closed because everyone would learn -- alone -- through their personal computers.

As the children spoke, I sat with tears rolling down my cheeks. Had I really just heard what they'd said? Had the appreciative and encouraging municipal council heard the same thing? Why would children who lived in an idyllic natural environment -- surrounded by trees, a rich diversity of plants and lush gardens, abundant wildlife including deer and cougars, large forested parks, and fish-bearing streams -- imagine a future that was ecologically dead?

The answer may be because this is the future collectively envisioned by most everyone, including scientists, technology pundits, fiction and documentary filmmakers, writers, advertisers, video-game producers, and those of us whose careers are devoted to trying to protect the planet. Perhaps these children envisioned a future in which their community was dead because that's the future they're taught is inevitable.

I realized in reading this article that my vision of the future is like that too. But take a look at what Hurley says next:

I fully understand this despair. I hit a wall of it straight-on during my tenure as an environmental planner. In fact, I remember saying things like, "Yes, we will hit total ecological collapse, but our job is to ensure that as many species as possible live beyond it." Now I see how harmful such words are.

Somehow, we need to begin to envision ecologically sound and socially just futures that reflect the great diversity of all beings, including humans. We must insist on having a say in what our futures look like. We do not have to accept the singular vision being created by those in power.

She concludes this way:

As peace activist Elise Boulding puts it, "The sheer difficulty of imagining a future sustainability different from the present is one of our greatest problems as a society." Let's create, in the space that Grist provides, a dialogue about our worries and our hopes. Let's share stories about what is important for us to put in place for the future, and what's happening in our communities now that provides hopeful ways forward. It will be hard work to imagine sustainable and just futures, but it is time to begin.

Yes, it is important to sound the alarm. But it is also important to believe that taking action is actually worth it. This is why I periodically post suggestions for taking action. One simple action I want to remind you about is replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent bulbs*. If you just change one or two, you're making a difference. Let's all start to visualize manageable changes. See yourself planting a tree, for example. Then do it. See yourself combining errands and thus making fewer trips in the car. Then do it. And let us not lose heart. Let us, rather, see the change we want to be and then be the change we want to see.

* Please see my posting on Earth Day right here.

Religion and public life

This is a helpful understanding:

King did it best: Bible in one hand, Constitution in the other. He never said, “I’m religious, so I get to win.” He didn’t said, “God spoke to me, and I have the fix for Social Security.” He said, “I’m motivated by my faith, but I’ve got to persuade the public on the basis not of religion but of the common good.”

-- Jim Wallis

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Another consequence of global warming

It just doesn't let up. The news about the consequences, I mean. It seems that every day I read something about still another consequence of global warming that I didn't know about before. Here's an excerpt from an AOL News article entitled, "Climate Change Could Decimate Wine Industry":

WASHINGTON (July 11) - Climate warming could spell disaster for much of the multibillion-dollar U.S. wine industry.

Areas suitable for growing premium wine grapes could be reduced by 50 percent - and possibly as much as 81 percent - by the end of this century, according to a study Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The paper indicates increasing weather problems for grapes in such areas as California's Napa and Sonoma valleys.

The main problem: An increase in the frequency of extremely hot days, according to Noah Diffenbaugh of the department of earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University.

Grapes used in premium wines need a consistent climate. When temperatures top about 95 degrees they have problems maintaining photosynthesis and the sugars in the grapes can break down, Diffenbaugh said in a telephone interview.

You would think that businesses facing the decimation of their operations would be screaming about this. I guess the really big businesses who put short term profits ahead of long term stewardship are screaming louder to this administration. The oil business trumps all the others, doesn't it?

Freedom of the press

Sad but true:

Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.

-- A.J. Liebling

Muzzling the press

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Okay, people. This is important. I want you to see some passages from an article called, "The Need to Know: No Questions, No Dissent in Our Endless War". Here they are:

When they write the history of how America became a nation permanently at war and permanently willing to invoke the cause of war in defense of a vast trove of state secrets -- when every last corner of your life becomes the business of this newly permanent climate of war -- I hope they remember how our Republican Congress voted on the Friday before Independence Day to intimidate the press for letting us know what was happening.

For those who have not been paying attention, please put down your iPods and read the following: Reps. John Kline, Gil Gutknecht, Colin Peterson, Mark Kennedy and Jim Ramstad all voted to declare that Congress "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations. ... "

Chances are tomorrow's historians will remember House Resolution 895, but they will not be able to criticize it. Chances are that when the policies set in motion under the deplorable presidency of George W. Bush have reached their fruition, the state-approved history of our time will have omitted the steady erosion of dissent first initiated on Fox News and ultimately embraced by the U.S. House of Representatives.
And maybe it is this wartime mentality that is the real enemy. "The war on terrorism" is no war; it is a policy objective, a publicity campaign for a state-sponsored police action.
As such, changes in law that take place during a war without end, as was the decision to monitor banking records, are not simply "war plans" whose disclosure makes one into a traitor. They are permanent changes in the laws of the land. We need to know about permanent changes in the laws of our land if we are to live in a free and open society.

The outrage currently directed at the Times should be directed at Bush and the congressional Republicans who are now preparing the American psyche for the raiding of newspaper offices by federal marshals. They used to intimidate the president's opponents with spin, but that stopped working, so now they need to raise the fear of jail and death. Just as they always do in failing governments intolerant of criticism and contemptuous of the press.

We are not at war. We are, rather, occupying another nation and that's different. But the intimidated press won't report it that way. And soon, the press won't be allowed to report what's happening at all.