Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Where's George?

Stung by criticism and questions about "where's George?" George W. Bush, finally got off his duff, or rather into the air, for a 35 minute fly-over of hurricane damage. He should have come alive Sunday before land fall and Monday/Tuesday. But, not George W. Bush.

We have the best equipped military in the world. We have a massive homeland defense agency. But we are only now beginning to see the Coast Guard presence increased. If we cannot expect faster action in such dire circumstances, what's the purpose of a Defense Dept or Dept. of Homeland Security?

While Bush fumbles, people have died and are likely still dying. Perhaps a million people are homeless. New Orleans will be uninhabitable for months. This is clearly the worst disaster ever to hit the US. And we have a failure of leadership once again. We have theocracy for Iraq, a constitution selling women short there, and insufficient protection at home once again. I'm not holding my breath for Bush's belated photo-op, pretend press conference. When will the Bush administration get it's act together?

“Oiligarchs” and Their Enablers, Not War Critics, Endanger America.

Quicker than George W. Bush could spell q-u-a-g-m-i-r-e, the White House PR team re-branded the war "on terror" as the new and improved “Global Struggle Against Violent Extremists” (GSAVE), no doubt a new kind of faith-based initiative. In one sweep, the administration devised an elision of the two Gs (George and God) in one PR device. Old George, evoking those “Jesus Saves” billboards, must have a God complex. It was Bush, after all, who morphed images of himself and the deity when speaking from a cross-imbedded pulpit at the Republican National Convention last year. And the enablers genuflect. The way they see it, the rest of us just don't get Bush's “vision.”

No sooner had the Bush administration rolled out its convenient repackaging than commentators and pundits flooded the airwaves pointing out the implicit admission that the war is un-winnable. So, G. W. took to the microphone at a plush Texas resort to see how many times he could force the word "war" into one speech. As Jon Stewart suggests, we get it: He's "the war president." Then, cable “news" bullies heightened the invective against war critics. One prominent Fox bully, who can "factor," but can't add two-plus-two when it comes to the Constitution, called for the arrest of the people at Air America Radio (read more here:! This same commentator promised to investigate every ACLU donor. Every right-wing pundit has focused his or her destructive sights on Cindy Sheehan. And, on July 22, Thomas Friedman, one of the most widely read columnists in America, and a supposed a moderate, called for an enemies list of those he calls “excusers.” These include anyone who suggests that Bush is making matters worse in Iraq or is embarked on an imperialist agenda.

Terror is heightened fear. But, despite opportunistic fear-mongering by Bush and his apologists, the fight against fear is ours to wage within ourselves, not the government's. It was the government's job to protect us when it had abundant warnings of impending attack that infamous September. Despite the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Briefing (PDB) Bush took a month-long vacation instead. Although terrorists are to blame, Bush was negligent and manipulative in his handling of the crisis. With false linkages of Iraq to 9-11, forged documents, and fake warnings of mushroom clouds, phony evidence (e.g., aluminum tubes unrelated to weapons of mass destruction; “laboratories” that only had cooking oil; and a terrorist camp in Northern Iraq, which was actually under US and British controlled air space), the boogey-man-in-chief and his apologists ratcheted up the nation’s fear level.

Intelligence and military experts, including General Richard Meyers, agree: The “war on terrorism” also was a flawed metaphor, because it's hard to wage a war on a tactic. When England suffered the recent series of attacks, police and security teams dismantled terrorist cells not with “war,” but – good police work. But Bush apologists think waging a war against a country, most of whose airspace we've controlled since 1991, and whose arsenal was already dismantled, is better.

The House of Prescott-Bush has been playing one side of a conflict against another for four generations. Former Republican, now Independent, historian Kevin Phillip’s American Dynasty tells the sordid tale of how the Friends of George (FOG) use our tax dollars for their adventures and profit. George W. Bush did have a “vision,” but not the kind his enablers think. Back in 1996 advisors including Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and others talked up regime change in Iraq. Originally, the plan was not to democratize Iraq, but to install a Hashemite Kingdom. Bush pulled “freedom” and “democracy” out of sky because they sell. And let us not forget that even before election 2000, Bush advisors prepared a document arguing for regime change (The Project for a New American Century) in Sept. 2000, before Bush was even elected. Does anyone really believe that, with Halliburton contracted for 14 permanent bases in Iraq, we are there for anyone's freedom?

Finally, besides the real terrorists, the second biggest threat to America is unquestioning, permissive Bush-enablers and neo-McCarthyites who'd go “Yeah” if Bush even wink-winks the word “freedom” at them. There’s nothing about freedom in what Bush is doing. It's about abuse of power; misleading Congress; dismantling the Constitution; increasing big-government control over our private lives; and no-bid contracts. These knee-jerk pseudo-patriots would leave no “Oiligarch” behind, but scapegoat their fellow citizen-messengers. They should look in the mirror. The second coming of Bush is their fault.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Far Away Swimming Pools

We shivered in
home-town pools,
Chill toweled away,
While front-paged
Soldiers, sit
Poolside, legs
Dangling in
Water skied blue.
Or water-logged away
From Baghdad heat.

Fragile bodies and skulls
Perhaps buffered.
Calls for body armor
Ringing hollow.
As generators
Chug on --and off.
Iraqi homes with
Half-time power.
Dusty swelter
No one asks
How we talk of
Freedom on one hand,
But build soldiers
Swimming pools
So far away.
Unless chicken
Hawks planned
They never return.

© All rights reserved.

Friday, August 19, 2005

While We Were Sleeping: Virginia’s New Theocrats

While many of us are increasingly impatient about the direction of our country, it’s important to remember the change we seek is all about infrastructure and the long term. It’s also about how we use that infrastructure, whether for the good of humanity or the good of the few. However, when it comes to infrastructure, we don’t even come close to our counterparts on the right, according to The New Yorker article, "God and Country" by Hanna Rosin. We must understand what’s happening, but learn the right lessons.

Rosin tells the story of how Mike Farris, lawyer, minister, and 1993 Republican candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia has been busy creating one of the linchpins toward long-term ideological and theocratic control of the US government. He created a small conservative, rigorous Evangelical Ivy League for the “Moses Generation,” as he puts it. Built at the behest of both religious conservatives and right-wing politicians, including Karl Rove, Patrick Henry College (PHC) places its students and graduates at the highest levels in the government. They serve in the White House, Republican congressional offices and right-wing think tanks. As Rosin relates, in the final days prior to Election 2004, PHC canceled classes because students had to work in campaigns and get out the vote for George W. Bush. During the New Yorker interview, one intern received a call from Dick Cheney’s office. This same student works in the office of Strategic Initiatives, an office under the direction of Karl Rove.

First, an important aside: Rosin’s snide comments on the fact that many PHC students were home-schooled were unfair, stereotypical, and irrelevant. Shouldn’t progressives support individual choices for families? We say we do in matters of reproductive freedom, freedom of religion, end-of-life decisions, etc. Don’t parents of any persuasion, who dedicate their lives to educating their children, deserve our respect? Furthermore, I’m not questioning the presence of PH on the menu of college choices, but urging awareness.

The central issue here is really thinly-disguised religious infrastructure infused with political purpose. Coincidentally, the same week I read the Rosin piece, I had the privilege of attending a lecture by Episcopal Bishop (Ret.) John Shelby Spong. He spoke of the way religion is often appropriated to wedge divisions among us and promote tribal purposes, rather than bridge divisions. Spong specifically cited PHC as an example of the former. But we are all children of one world under one God. Our interpretations of God differ. Literal interpretations can be used to justify a host of political ideas, he pointed out. Furthermore, those purporting that God loves them more have missed the fundamental point of religious faith. As Spong chides, American politicians of both parties suggest at nearly every opportunity that God uniquely blesses America over other nations. Meanwhile, many Democrats are busy trying to out-religious the theocrats, and out-muscle the chicken hawks. Additionally, though we clearly have election contests, the business of running this country shouldn’t be a contest. zero-sum-game is decidedly irreligious, yet it’s pervasive.

Also recently, in the New York Times, Adam Cohen unmasked a perversion of the zero-sum game culture wars, the logic of Justice Stephen Breyer in voting to permit the 10 Commandments at the Texas State House. One side might have gotten too upset had he ruled otherwise, so he split the difference. In two separate decisions on the same day, Breyer threw a bone to each side. Now, by being aggressive enough, bullies can determine court interpretation.
Still, progressives shouldn’t allow themselves to become defensive of their personal religious beliefs. We owe no explanation or justification of our religious or spiritual lives. They are ours to have. We do owe it to ourselves and our God (for those of us believing in one) not to cheapen or appropriate religion for our own political purposes. The blueprint of sorts is not that we should go and do precisely likewise as Farris. Rendering to “Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” sounds like a more effective prescription. However, we must take the lesson of infrastructure seriously. The road to a just society will require improved progressive infrastructure for promoting the greater good, even as some try to overcome it for particular advantage. We need benefactors to fund think tanks and other instruments to protect our most private rights, including the right to choose the time, place and manner of our worship. The disadvantaged shouldn’t need to ingest sectarian propaganda (via faith-based initiatives) to receive social services. Those in prison shouldn’t have to choose between coerced religion or longer sentencing, as is happening in some states. We also need TV and radio stations, newspapers, newsletters, rapid response teams in every county, blogs and ideas yet untried. The “free presses” tucked away in small towns and large could be a beginning. But it matters how we use them. Is it for the power merely to have it our way. Or is it to create infrastructures to bring about a just democratic system, cultivating respect and cooperation among all our people? To the latter end, we don’t have a lot to time to play catch-up.

Roberts and Robert Bork: Opposing Roberts is not "Borking."

Conservatives love to rail about the "Borking" of Robert Bork. But they lie by omission when they allege we opposed him just because he's a conservative. We opposed him because he was a miserable excuse for a judge (you, know, lacking "judicial temperament"), who, among other things executed the "Saturday Night massacre"--the firing of Archibald Cox, Watergate independent prosecutor.

Remember, Richard Nixon was caught red-handed participating in a cover up of the Watergate break in. But there was so much more to the story. Nixon was heard on tape discussing how to destroy his enemies, using the power of the CIA and FBI to do so. He also discussed (on tape) violently eliminating the Brookings Institution. Cox was on the trail of all this, so to cover up, further Bork fired him. So Bork should have been "Borked."

Roberts wasn't involved in anything like the abuse of power (firing Cox). But as People for the American Way (PFAW) recently summarized, there's a whole lot more to Roberts than the so-called MSM is telling us. 50,000 of Roberts' papers were covered up. Some have just been released. But a considerable amount of material is still missing. The Senate has every right to examine these papers. The very same people who argued against 'executive privilege' before the Supremes (and won against Clinton) now claim the opposite. This is a Constitutionally prescribed Senate duty and right, unlike the Starr and Judicial Watch snooping fishing expeditions. So far, we don't know the extent of Roberts' alleged partisan ventures into the Starr investigations or Floridagate. These are fair game. But more to the point, the public has a right to know.

Write to your Senators at

New York Times Moves to Control Content of Op-Eds by "Fact Checking," But Has Shown Itself Incapable of Doing The Same.

Trumpet masters for war without end, the New York Times has already apologized for its lack of rigor in the run up to the war and false claims of weapons of mass destruction. But now the Times wants to stifle op-eds, the only channel still open for those with contrary views. It's a stunning attempt to control the content and limit any other fact-checking besides its own.

If 100 People Yell in the Forest,...

but no one hears, did they really speak? If you haven't already, it's time to make your thoughts known through phone, email, congressional meetings, etc. Shouting to ourselves in the wilderness won't do. Here's how to tell Ricker Boucher your Concerns about the Downing Street Memos. Write him at For more information, go to

The Heart of a Blogger (Part I)

We hear way too much about George W. Bush's "compassionate" heart. But few supporters of this administration care to look into the hearts of those they'd prefer to demonize. I've been listening and reading attacks on anyone who questions this authoritarian regime in Washington and I can hardly believe what passes for acceptable broadcast.

Bill O'Reilly calls for the FBI to arrest the folks at Air America Radio. He wants all donors to the ACLU investigated. In America! He equates a legitimate media watch group, Media Matters for America, with the Ku Klux Klan. For an hour every weeknight and for hours on talk radio, this man tries to stir to a frenzy the worst in us, turning fellow citizens against one another. He bullies people before cameras and creates a hostile environment for anyone dissenting from government policy. The subtext is: Americans, be too afraid to stand up and speak out. (Stop by for hundreds of examples.) And he calls some of the very people who, through the past half century, have spoken most ardently in support of those victims of Holocaust, Nazis. Yes, the world is upside down.

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter says people should talk to liberals (if they must) with baseball bats. And the pundit network of the extreme right is quickly circling the wagons around Cindy Sheehan. Bullies will savage any target, even a soft-spoken woman whose heart aches for her lost son.

Writers to newspapers call those who report the truth "traitors" and those who question "terrorist sympathizers." Thomas Freidman thinks America needs an enemies list for those whom he calls "excusers," those who think Bush is making the world situation more volatile. Obviously the terrorists are responsible for their deeds. But even a hint that someone sees Bush as making the situation in Iraq worse gets that individual on the list. What have we become? Does Thomas Friedman hear himself.

Elsewhere on the net, I've noted that many have given countless hours to make a difference. Bloggers do too. And yet, in the so-called MSM you'd think that progressive bloggers are bringing on a host of ills. The real truth is we give our time to our communities and our country because we care. We care about showing spine when it is called for. Courage even. When many of our national leaders of both parties failed us in giving Bush an unwarranted blank check in Iraq, we took to our computers and wrote letters to try to make a difference.

It's way past time for more of us to blog as if our country depends on it. It does. By the thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands, or even millions) bloggers are pouring out their hopes and dreams for our country. One could argue, Who needs another? The old adage "in unity there is strength," applies. And so, it is with a heavy heart of my own, but one who'll never give up on the country I love, that I enter this moveable type into the blogosphere.

The world is upside down.

You know it's true. It sometimes feels like we've morphed into an old Saturday Night Live Bizzaro World episode. Initiatives of the Bush administration are labeled the opposite of what they do (Clear Skies, No Child Left Behind, the Energy Bill/corporate giveaway, Social Security reform). The leader says that freedom's beautiful, then eradicates much of the Bill of Rights. Despite all evidence to the contrary, this (p)resident attacked a country which didn't attack us and claimed we were safer because of it. In Virginia, the candidate of Pat Robertson and Rev. Jerry Falwell alleges himself to be closer to Mark Warner than Warner's own partner, Lt. Governor Tim Kaine (ROTFL). And Jerry Kilgore, who purports to care about schools and fiscal responsibility, opposed every responsible step our governor and a bipartisan group of legislators achieved for Virginia's benefit.

As I've said before, you'd think we'd be used to it by now. And you'd think we wouldn't expect much else. We hold our president and, often, our lawmakers to such low standards. And so, when our leaders and pseudo-leaders tell us what we can do for them and not the other way around, one has to ask: Is everything upside down, never to be set upwards again? Upside down is what I'd call a caucus I attended this past spring where the one candidate spoke only of what we could do for him and not what he'd do for our state. But the worst culprit in recent memory is running for governor on the Republican ticket. Jerry Kilgore is full of ideas for how we can be on-our own and up the creek. Bush's on-your-ownership -- newer, fresher and uncut.

For the privilege, we are supposed to hire Kilgore to serve as His Honor, the Buck Passer. There's no tax he'd leave uncut. Just when Virginia is on more solid footing, he'd further gut state revenues by escalating the end of the car tax. He'd persist with that, he says, no matter what else the need. We'd have been there before.

Now Kilgore says he'd solve the problem of education with day-late-and-dollar-short provisions. He'd give a whopping 100 students engineering scholarships. His fund for teacher excellence is laughable in its simplicity and under-reaching. Worse, pay for performance (merit pay) is no magic bullet. Industry has used it for years, higher education for at least a decade. Where was Jerry? A bonus system for high-demand subjects? Been there; done that. Expand course offerings at community colleges? A new college for South-side? What's new? The Democrats before him are already on task. But I'll tell you what's new. SOL's, a tidy mechanism for more political mischief, will enable Jerry to put more low performing schools out of busintransferredtheir assets transfered to private companies rather than fix what's wrong. SOLs also provide the data that the Kilgore's of the world will no-doubt try to use to punish teachers (hence merit pay). The trouble is that teachers could be punished unfairly when their enrollments have disproportionate numbers of low-achieving students, students learning English as a second language, or students with special needs. Kilgore also has a plan to steer more public school dollars to private schools. Students going to private colleges would get more money--the old de-fund public colleges trick. It's all smoke and mirrors. Kilgore hopes we are too ignorant to read the fine print.

The biggest joke is that this man who thinks we should trust him to govern because, ya' know, he trusts us, plans to fold all tax increase decisions back on us, the voters. Already, with our part-time legislature, we have government by delay (no pun intended). In a Kilgore government, we'd have referenda for money decisions, government by the AWOL. He gets paid; we decide. But Jerry Kilgore would solve the problem of alleged big government (did you ever notice that nationally government is largest under Republicans?) with truly intrusive government: meddle in everyday private matters, end of life decisions, even medical decisions. But feeding the hungry, schools, health care, senior care, mental health, hey, that's "big government."

Honestly, with so-called leaders like this, who needs a governor. I am not a government nihilist. I believe there is an important role of government to play. We can’t do everything a society needs ourselves. And there's an important regulatory role, as the reckless de-regulators have shown us. But a Kilgore government would be worse than nothing. It would be government upside down. And the average Harry and Harriet the Homeowner, already beleaguered, will come to believe they's died and gone to hell.

Leadership and government function best when they are dual-path. The direction should flow back and forth from leaders to followers. That's because leadership is an interactive process. Leaders affect followers and vice verse. Getting the grassroots involved is normally a good thing. But leadership by poll-taking isn't leadership at all. To expect voters to micromanage government is just one more way to overburden voters. Already we must serve as our own gas station attendant, U-Scan checker at the supermarket, travel agent, online retail clerk, delivery person, medical advocate, prescription drug expert (to protect ourselves from inflated claims by drug companies), retirement planner, dietician, computer and internet tech support, even journalist because the so-called MSM has failed us. How much more on-your-ownership can we take? The bottom line is that job enlargement like this is not job enrichment. And it's not fulfilling or democratizing. It overwhelms. And, given the directions the Republicans are taking this country, people are overwhelmed enough without hiring an empty suit for governor. His default leadership would bring administrative, legislative, fiscal, economic, and humanitarian default to Virginia once again. We'll see how much he trusts the people when we send him packing.