Friday, March 31, 2006

Divine Strake

Why do the bomb scientists and policy devils insist upon naming their terrible weapons of mass destruction with sacred words? Whose God would build and detonate things that make mushroom clouds and spread toxic dust, and kill living things? Why has our species birthed such monsters as these men?

di·vine - adjective:
Having the nature of or being a deity.
Of, relating to, emanating from, or being the expression of a deity: sought divine guidance through meditation.
Being in the service or worship of a deity; sacred.
Superhuman; godlike.
Supremely good or beautiful; magnificent.
Extremely pleasant; delightful.
Heavenly; perfect

strake - noun:
part of a boat or ship. It is a strip of planking in a wooden vessel or of plating in a metal one, running longitudinally along the vessel's side, its bottom or between them on the turn of the bilge.
a device for controlling air flow over an aircraft.
a tool for tamping down and levelling semi-fluid materials into a mould.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

"How are you going to kill them?"

I just read about Jody Casey, a man who left the U.S. Army upon returning from Iraq a few weeks ago, and joined the 130-mile march from Mobile, Alabama, to New Orleans, led by Iraq Veterans Against the War. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1741942,00.html He talks about how the military trains soldiers to call Iraqis "hajji," the Iraqi equivalent for "gook," as the Vietnamese were known during that war. "You totally take the human being out of it and make them into a video game," he said. "If you start looking at them as humans, and stuff like that, then how are you going to kill them?" Good question.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


"For five years, Republicans trashed Democrats as bereft of ideas. Now that they see Democrats up by 10 points, Republicans are rushing to claim the mantle of no ideas for themselves. Caught by surprise, Democratic consultants quickly fired back: Hey, we had no ideas first."


This is driving me, with my treasured philosophy degree from Penn State, absolutely crazy.

Ideas matter very, very much. Leo Strauss' and Sayyid Qutb's ideas from a half-century ago are right in the center of the maelstrom we are living through. There are lots of ideas in circulation right now, from "stay the course," to "This is an unprecented historical moment filled with opportunity for the human species to choose to consciously evolve from a warfaring, earth-destroying, suicidal hell-bent blight on the universe into a deeply connected, profoundly respectful, highly intelligent, life-loving care-taking force."

Me likey the latter idea. Me wishy more somebodies running for the opportunity to steer this planetary ship into the future would adopt it.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Letter to Rush Limbaugh

Dear Rush -

The Department of Peace, brought forward by the visionary Dennis Kucinich and others who recognize that cyclical violent revenge is a no-win situation for the world's people, is not meant to replace the Department of Defense, as you stated on your show recently.

It is meant to make peace an organizing principle of our society, by funding and supporting non-violent means of conflict resolution that have been used successfully all around the world, to prevent wars before they can be started. Many, many years from now, if the Department of Peace is established and supported, the Department of Defense may become irrelevant. But in the meantime, all we can do is take these first small steps toward a world without war.

Also, thought you might like to know that you were instrumental in making me a pacifist. Essay written in October 2004 attached.

Best wishes.

Rush Limbaugh made me a pacifist.

Sometime during the run-up to the war in Iraq – during an exchange of violent e-mails among the pro-war and anti-war factions of my family – my mother asked me why I was a pacifist.

Every few weeks, I joined hundreds of thousands of civilians in New York City, Washington DC and other cities to march through the streets. We bore public witness to the fact that there was no evidence of an imminent threat, that the reasons proffered to the American public and the United Nations were bankrupt.

We had no special access to information; we simply acted as a grand jury. The prosecution had no evidence; we could not indict. We refused to stand silently complicit as our leaders condemned tens of thousands of Iraqis to death for having a tyrannical dictator and millions of barrels of oil.

Daily, we hear excuses from the Bush Administration. They defend the preemptive attack by claiming “everyone” was misled. As the original arguments for war fade in our national memory, replaced by the noble myth of building democracy, remember, not everyone was misled. Those who saw and spoke up for the truth were ignored, or vilified, as they are in every war.

I’ve tried to trace my path to pacifism. Years ago, I read The Beatitudes in the New Testament, and biographies of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. I gained inspiration from those visionaries, supporting a belief I already held: a hard-to-articulate conviction that all things are connected and what hurts one hurts all.

Chris Hedges’ amazing book “War is A Force That Gives Us Meaning,” reminded me of a turning point, though. One of Hedges’ points is that only soldiers, victims and war journalists can truly understand the horror of war, because they alone directly experience war’s brutality, fear, stench, blood and moral maelstrom. Everyone else, ignorant of the reality and slaves to the myth, eagerly jumps on the nationalist war bandwagon, he implies.

But you don’t need to see war to imagine it. When I went to college in 1992, I was a staunch but lonely conservative in liberal Greenwich Village; I would sneak into the student lounge late at night to watch Rush Limbaugh. The big issues were gays in the military and women in combat. Rush would repeat: “The military is not the place for social experiments. The purpose of the military is to kill people and break things.”

Such simple tasks are not hard to visualize. I can imagine burning up in the fiery inferno of an American bomb exploding an apartment building, and the flesh-ripping impact of an American bullet through my heart. I’ve seen photographs and read the stories of real people who not only imagined such horrors, but lived and died them.

I studied philosophy and science, slowly breaking out of the adolescent rugged individualism phase into a worldview that grants moral stature even to those who suffer and have bad luck. I learned from philosophy that humans crave meaning in our experience. From physics, I learned every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

Combining the two lead me directly to the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. We look to each other from birth to old age, for models of behavior and sources of meaning. Thus, since I do not want a bomb to blow up my home, nor a bullet to tear out my heart, I did not, cannot, and pray I will never support my government’s call to inflict that damage, death and despair on other human beings.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"That's political!"

Lately, the most vile insult one politician can hurl at another is to say that his or her opponent on an issue said what they said, or did what they did, for “political” reasons, or “political” gain. “It’s a political move,” Senator X or Congressman Y decrees. And that’s supposed to stop all discussion. If a politician is making a political statement, the views expressed are automatically null and void, contemptible, irrelevant.

But it’s code. When a person with political power is dismissed for exerting that political power, it’s a way of signaling to the citizenry that power itself is a dirty, disgusting thing, to be washed off, abandoned, or otherwise ignored. So long as We the People find power distasteful, those who have it can keep it for themselves and gather up what we’ve been throwing away.

Very dangerous, this trend. Now, more than ever, we need to embrace our dirty, political, powerful side. We need to say as much as we can, as fast as we can. And the more it relates to power – who has it, who doesn’t have it, who wants it, who’s abusing it – the better.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Howard Zinn in The Progressive


Sunday, March 19, 2006

Say What?


What evidence can Matthew Moench cite to support his praise for Mike Ferguson and the Republican Party for cutting taxes and the federal budget?

President Bush has yet to veto a single spending bill brought before him, and the federal budget has ballooned. http://thinkprogress.org/2006/03/06/bush-spending-bills/ As of October 2005, one group of researchers using OMB reports found that under Bush, total discretionary spending has gone up 35.8%, non-defense discretionary spending was up 27.9%, and defense spending was up a whopping 44.5%. http://www.reason.com/links/links101905.shtml .

The Republicans are good at cutting programs that feed hungry senior citizens, like the $110 million per year Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which will kick out about 420,000 low-income elderly people in FY2007. http://www.cbpp.org/2-6-06fa.htm They’re good at cutting federal funding for education, to the tune of $3.1 billion http://www.stateline.org/live/ViewPage.action?siteNodeId=136&languageId=1&contentId=86486

Yet somehow, the Republican Congress is able to dig deep and find $9 billion per month to blow up Iraqis, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. http://usgovinfo.about.com/library/weekly/aairaqwarcost.htm Somehow, they were able to raise the debt ceiling on our record-high federal deficit, wrought by a Republican president with a Republican Congress, so we wouldn’t default and go bankrupt as a nation. But that default is coming soon anyway, and that global economic crash will render all those vaunted dollars in the bank accounts of the tax-free wealthy worth less than nothing. You can't eat a bank statement, and it won't keep you warm in the winter.

If you really believe in small government, Mr. Moench, take a look at the facts and realize that Republicans aren’t representing your interests well at all. Your state and local taxes are skyrocketing because your federal government is burning money abroad, instead of investing it here. Kick the Republicans out, and elect some of the men and women running as progressive Democrats, committed to transforming that party from a bunch of flaccid, cowardly Republican-lite politicians, into a group that can, must and will enact legislation to rebuild America’s health care, education, farming, housing, public transit and clean energy programs. All of that will transform our economy into something sustainable and more just, so more working people – from nurses and firefighters to farmers, teachers and janitors – can make a decent living for themselves and their kids.

In that not-too-distant era, more people amassing obscene fortunes in capital gains and whining about their taxes might find the courage to be satisfied with a roof over their heads and enough food to eat. Maybe they’ll use the rest of their time and money to help others get the basics too.

Thursday, March 16, 2006


Recent news reports about Senator Russell Feingold’s efforts to censure President Bush for breaking the FISA law against warrantless wiretapping of American citizens keep saying Democrats are distancing themselves from the censure because Americans support the wiretapping program.

Except that’s a lie: Americans do not support Bush’s illegal wiretapping program. Zogby has polled on this issue, commissioned to do so by the After Downing Street Coalition when major news outlets refused to commission their own polls. http://www.zogby.com/Soundbites/ReadClips.dbm?ID=12528

The poll found that 52 percent of respondents agreed with the statement: "If President Bush wiretapped American citizens without the approval of a judge, do you agree or disagree that Congress should consider holding him accountable through impeachment."

Many, many Americans want Bush to be investigated, tried by the Senate, impeached, forced to resign, and then tried for war crimes – all much more than censure. But censure would be a good start, and the Democrats are shameless cowards for refusing to support even this small first step back toward accountability, the rule of law and checks and balances in our Constitutional democracy.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Letter to Arlen Specter re: Censure

I was intrigued to hear your responses to Dick Durbin's questions regarding Russell Feingold's censure measure. You said you didn't want to rush to judgment on Bush's illegal wiretapping program without knowing more about it.

However, it's clear to all of us outside the Senate that the Bush Administration absolutely adores stonewalling Congress every time Congress attempts to do any meaningful oversight. Bush & Co. refuse to give out documents, answer questions under oath, or cooperate in any way with the checks and balances system. They only give in and provide a few documents to a few members of Congress under great pressure, thus relieving the pressure while still leaving most lawmakers in the dark about what is going on.

At the same time, they have admitted to breaking laws - Bush said he authorized wiretapping outside of the FISA program - the first time a sitting President admitted publicly that he broke a federal law, even if many presidents have broken laws clandestinely. The hubris, arrogance, call it what you want, is staggering. The fact is, they lost the "benefit of the doubt" a long time ago. They have shown a great willingness to lie and mislead to consolidate their power, and no longer deserve the trust you are still willing to extend to them.

What are you thinking? What do you know? What are you not telling the American people? Have you been briefed about the wiretapping? Why are you merrily rolling along as though the entire American system of the rule of law is not teetering on the brink of complete destruction? Why are you so afraid to look this dictatorship in the eye and bring it to an end?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Sometimes I think all we have to do is knit communities together at our end just a little faster than the powers-that-be are unravelling them at the other.

Happy International Women's Day!


More Lemony Snicket

"Having a personal philosophy is like having a pet marmoset, because it may be very attractive when you acquire it, but there may be situations when it will not come in handy at all." - The Grim Grotto

Thursday, March 02, 2006

nothing's permanent

While the general level of alarm rises, what with talk of the "permanent" tax cuts shifting even more wealth from the poor to the shamelessly overpaid, and talk of the "permanent" provisions of the Patriot Act robbing Americans of our vaunted civil liberties forever (while we impose that freedom at bomb-point abroad), let's calm down and remember the wisdom of Heraclitus. To paraphrase: the only thing permanent is change. And while we may go farther down into the darkness Bush has unleashed upon our country and the world, into martial law and concentration camps to torture dissenters, the reign of terror must end sometime. From Karl Rove's Republican Revolution to the flaccid cowardice of the Democratic Party, nothing is permanent.

The Case of Laura Berg

I recently learned about Laura Berg, a VA nurse in New Mexico who, appalled by the lethal federal response to Hurricane Katrina and the terrible mental trauma suffered by returning Iraq War veterans and their families, made a connection between the two.

She wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper (http://www.alibi.com/editorial/section_display.php?di=2006-02-09&scn=news&scn_page_num=0#14092) calling for Bush’s removal. Our Constitution provides a non-violent means of removing criminal leaders, through investigation and impeachment. Yet the FBI promptly investigated Berg for “sedition.” Many of her co-workers, who sympathize with her anger, her faith in her free speech rights, and her demand for our government to be accountable to the governed, are now afraid to speak out.

If President Bush can violate, with complete impunity, federal and international laws banning illegal wars; torture and kidnapping; secret detentions without charge, legal representation or trial; the development of new nuclear weapons; warrantless wiretapping; domestic dissemination of propaganda; and revealing the identity of undercover CIA agents -- and he is breaking all of those laws -- then why should anyone anywhere obey any laws at all? Our system of the rule of law has lost all legitimacy; the legislative and judicial processes have both become charades, and the executive branch has become a dictatorship in fact, if not yet in name.

We should either impeach Bush for the crimes he has committed against the People and the Constitution, or we should acknowledge the lawless anarchy we are already living under, and prepare as best we can for that anarchy to spread and intensify: top down.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Lemony Snicket

"Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like." - Lemony Snicket, in The Slippery Slope.

I highly recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events, for anyone who revels in the deliciousness of interesting, well-chosen words.

Coming soon - Thoughts on Strauss, Leo v. Qutb, Sayyid.