Loyalty without truth
is a trail to tyranny.
|Thursday, 18 November 2004 at 19h 17m 2s|
Killing them all
There was (or is) a group of tribes somewhere in New Guinea that had an odd
cultural ritual which occurred every 100 or so years, once the tribal
population outgrew the ability of the terrain to maintain their pig livestock.
After 2 or 3 generations the number of pigs that have to be maintained
gradually erodes the surface vegetation of the ground and the tribes go on the
warpath. There is a bloody war and then the tribes live peacefully again,
albeit with a reduced population.
I got this from an anthropological book I read about 12 years ago. Somewhere
in one of my 9 boxes of books, this one book is sandwiched in between many
other books, waiting for the day when I lift the book on top.
I wish I could remember more details, but the story struck me then, because it
was about the time of the first Iraq war in 1990-91. I was in college at the
time, reacting to the coming war. That was right after ole Herbert Walker Bush
sent the military to grab Manuel Noreiga before he opened his mouth and talked
about who was really behind most of the drug trafficking.
And now twelve years later we are in the midst of a much worse war. Our
military is now killing a lot of people who happen to live in a country that
has a lot of oil that other people want.
Oh don't give me that shit, yes, we are there because of the oil. There is a
dictatorship, or a semi-dictatorship in every hemisphere and every continent.
In North America, more closer to home, there is Cuba, Santo Domingo, Haiti,
Panama, Guatemala, and El Salvador. When we invaded or abetted the coup
d'etats in all of those countries, the goal was NEVER freedom or democracy, but
economic stability and profitability. Back then the motivation to save our
brown brothers was something akin to taking on the "white man's burden" --
having to kill the patriots of other lands in order to install a perceived
But how stable have any of those countries been in the last 100 years?
So don't tell me we are in Iraq because of freedom, or to get rid of dictators,
or anything but yet another in a long line of American invasions whose purpose
is to create economic and political stability. Although the ideology might be
righteous, the end result creates a chaos which renders an inevitable
negotiation about what is called stability. Sometimes you need an iron fist
who can put those insurgent patriots to rest, preferably an inside man who
knows the names and nooks and crannies of the invaded nation. You just pump
this man full of authority and cash, just like Great lords would nominate
princes and vassals in the medieval period circa 900 A.D.
This has already happened in the middle east as the result of American foreign
policy plenty of times over the last 50 years. In 1953, Iran's prime minister
Mohammed Mossadegh was pursuing the cancellation of the oil leases to foreign
companies and he intended to nationalize the oil industry. The history is
somewhat complicated but to make a long story short Mossadegh was eventually
overthrown by the CIA and the Shah of Iran was asserted. Iran created a
legislature in 1906, and "he abolished the multi-party system of government
such that he could rule through a one-party regime in autocratic fashion. The
Shah called into life the secret police force, SAVAK." (from Wikipedia.org
Over 20 years a virile bureaucracy viciously maintained the myth of the royal
Persian kingdom headed by the Shah, that ancient lineage dating back far, far
back to the 1950s when America gave him his crown. The sole resistence
possible was through religion, and it was in response to the brutal regime that
enabled the Ayatollah's to force the regimes collapse.
Would it that the US had just not interferred with Iran? Alas, the number of
countries in the middle east (and Asia, Africa, and South America) that have
been affected by active American foreign agents or funding is enormous.
Saddam was aided by the US and supported in his war versus Iraq during the
1980s. Rumsfeld and the Reagan administration sold Saddam his chemical
weapons. After the gasing of the Kurds incident, nothing was ever said by the
same Republicans who now bellow and holler about gasing his own people.
Cheney and Rumsfeld in particular. During Cheney's reign at Halliburton, he
used subsidiary businesses with addresses in the Bahamas to do business
illegally with both Iran and Iraq.
How can we have this degree of hypocrisy and still insist that we are creating
democracy and bringing freedom to some place halfway around the world?
|Wednesday, 17 November 2004 at 21h 36m 28s|
|Wednesday, 17 November 2004 at 20h 51m 40s|
Alas, comments about the Election are long overdue
Okay, I suppose it is time that I comment on the last month. Yes I know Bush
won, but is a 60 million versus 54 million really a solid mandate? Is it right
to insist there be no consideration or compromise from 48% of the nation, just
because your side got 51% ?
And yea, the House and Senate stayed in the hands of the Republican party, but
5 of the House seats came from the redistricted Texas congressional
gerrymandering. In case you didn't know, after every census the state
legislatures across the country draw new district lines of their state. So
every 10 years, the state legislatures all meet and divy up the state in a
certain number of districts. This is a partisan process, especially in large
states that have increases in population ( like California or Texas.) Most of
the time the districts are fairly divided along natural geographical or socio-
cultural lines, as would not only be fair but also make sense.
Well Texas couldn't surpass the the partisan divide created by the party of the
bug man Tom Delay and Texas Republicans. A federal judge had to create the new
districts so they could be ready in time for the 2002 elections. When the
Texas Republicans won a majority after the 2002 elections however, they decided
it was time to redistrict the state again. This was an magnificent act. The
changes are supposed to happen only once every 10 years after the census, not
everytime one party gains control of the legislature. But then no one has to
play fair, and since might makes right, the Republicans decided to change the
This was the real story during the summer of 2003, not Kobe Bryant or the
Peterson trial. The democrats howled and filibustered but eventually the vote
had to come. State Troopers even went to the homes of the democratic
legislators to make sure the democrats would drive to the legislature. So the
democrats ran to Oklahoma and New Mexico for most of 2003 to avoid the
necessary minimum number of state legislators to pass legislation. Tom Delay
got homeland security forces to hunt the Democrats down and bring them to
Austin in handcuffs. After a year long struggle however, one of the democratic
legislators broke and showed up at the state legislature, thereby giving the
minimum necessary legislators to enable a vote.
I wish I could make this stuff, but sadly, all of it is true.
Now you might think "so what," but how the lines are drawn are important. Say
that, because of a population increase, two districts have to become three (one
big Democratic district, one Republican district becomes three) If you can
divide up a large democratic block into 3 pieces attached to large blocks of
Republican voters, than you can take 3 Republican seats, and eliminate one
Democratic seat. This is exactly what happened in Texas. If you look at the
map the 2003 Texas Republicans created you will see incredible artistic
renditions of what used to be simple rectangular blocks. There are curves,
strange odd L shapes branching off of rectangles, dumbells, and unnecessary zig-
zags. The reasoning for the map is only understandable once you concede that
the objective was to disenfranchise the democratic vote.
Face it. These people are about grabbing power at any price.
I would also like to comment on the oddities of the votes. I suggest you read
what Stephen Freeman, a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote about the
odd exit polls in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.
Reich-wing media pundits have carped on the whiners about the exit polls. Let
me explain. Exit polls have been used for more than 30 years for state, city,
county, and national elections. Originally they were collected by a company
and sold to marketing companies who wanted to know about the electorate. They
have been used in Germany for more than 30 years to determine who wins the
elections. In Germany, the votes are manually counted by civil servants in
about 2 weeks, but they know who wins based on the results of the exit polls,
and in 30 years the exit polls have never been more than 0.4% off.
NEVER. But lately the exit polls in the US have been off by 2 to 8 percent.
This never used to happen in the United States either until the advent of the
computerized scanners and voting machines.
Now look at the discrepancies between the exit polls and the final vote
provided by the graphic below.
These polls come from 3 "sweeps" of the voters on election day, one in the
morning, one in the middle of the afternoon, and one in the early evening. The
voters are choosen by using a predetermined numerical order (every 5th voter
for 3 voters, then every 7th voter, then every 6th voter, and so on ...) and a
record is kept for each interview slot. Thus if someone refuses to be
interviewed, a record is kept.
Much has been ballyhooed about the ridiculousness of this poll being reliable
on the victor of the Presidential election, but in the same breath the poll is
supposed to be reliable that 22% of the electorate said "moral values" were the
reason the electorate decided to vote. It is true that polls have a margin of
reliabilitycalled a "margin of error." But there are actually two types of
sampling, and they each have differing reliability.
When you sample a population about what they intend to do in the future, or
what they feel about right now, the sample itself is merely indicating that a
percentage of people felt a certain way at a certain time for whatever reason.
We cannot speculate on those reasons, nor can we guarantee that the stated
intentions will occur in the future. Thus a "predictive poll" (an opinion
poll) has a large margin of error, usually about 5%. Predictive polls have
also been known to fail very badly.
Event sampling is much different however. These samples are of events that
have actually taken place, thus the data is constant and will not change. The
samples are small slices of the data that are presumed to have the same ratios
as the real larger population. This kind of sampling has a very small margin
of error, because there are no errors due to misinterpretation or a change in
the future. So long as there is a big enough sample (3000 for a population of
20 million,) the ratios will be less than 0.5% off.
This type of sampling is so extremely accurate that businesses use it to assess
the shipments of inventory they receive. General Electric ships millions of
light bulbs at a time. It would be too costly to inspect every single light
bulb. So the companies use "event sampling" to check if the shipment broke a
lot of light bulbs.
I won't bother you with the sound mathematical reasons for this degree of
accuracy. You can read the Freeman article from the above link. Instead I
will share with you 2 analogies.
Imagine rolling a 3 sided dice. If you roll the dice 3,000 times the ratios
for the choices of 1, 2, and 3 would be 1 to 3, or 33.3%. So each number should
have about 969 to 1029 tallies ( 32.3% to 34.3% .) Now as we know chance is
quite an odd creature, and this type of randomness is really a model for
the "predictive sampling" because what the dice does in the future is quite
unknown. Thus when 38 or 29 percent occurs ( 1140 or 870) there is no
immediate cause for concern.
But "event sampling" again is much different because there is no "unknown
future" about solid accumulations of data. This idea of getting an idea about
the ratio of the data is more akin to a process of finding the average of a
group of numbers. This brings me to my second analogy.
Imagine a box with 1 million marbles, colored either red or blue. Lets say you
closed your eyes, and while grabbing handfulls of marbles you selected only 3
at a time until you grabbed 1,000. This is exactly what an "exit poll" does,
and is a good model of "event sampling." A good sample is about 1/1000 th of
the expected population.
Here is the idea. The number of total possible combinations of 1,000 out of
1,000,000 are very great -- 1,000,000! / ( 1000! 999,000!) for those of you so
mathematically inclined. But the ratio of those combinations that are within
one percent is also quite large, and so the chance that a random group of 1,000
which has a margin of error greater than 2% is extremely rare.
So (according to the correct mathematics sourced by Dr. Freeman's article
above) in the case of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania, the chances that the
exit polls differed by 3.5%, 2.6%, and 3.3% respectively, these chances are
0.0008, 0.0028, and 0.0018 that any one shift could occur. The chances that
they would occur together, you would get by multiplying the numbers, which is
the extremely small 0.000000004032 -- the mathematical equivalent of
impossible. This would be like randomly picking the right file out of
248 million. It ain't gonna happen.
Some pundits have blamed the scurrilous poll workers who avidly sought out
Kerry voters, or over sampled women in the early votes. But again since
records of all interviews is kept, this fault in the data is easily detected.
According to the polling organization, the records however did not indicate a
lot of denials. So the myth of Republicans not wanting to answer poll
questions needs to be debunked. Democrats and independents might just as well
deny to be interviewed, but in any event so long as the percentage of denials
is not greater than half a percent, there would be no skewing of the results of
the polls based upon denials.
The ignorant pundits who bellow this red herring do not know anything about the
mathematics involved, or the experience of the professionals who know and
understand polling and how to best select a sample.
There were plenty of other suspicious occurences on election day in New Mexico,
Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Ohio. In Ohio,
Republican lawyers questioned numerous voters on the validity of their
registration and thus piled up 160,000 provisional ballots to be inspected and
counted later by judges and civil servants. Certainly you don't expect
Republican lawyers to delay Republican voters their right to vote. Long lines
created by these tactics and insufficient machines, caused voters to wait 2, 3,
4, 5, 6, and sometimes 8 hours in order to vote. At the University of Ohio,
only 2 voting machines were available for a student population of 10,000.
Thus, the votes that didn't occur because of inconvenience is in itself a
manner of disenfranchisement. In New Mexico, poor spanish voters were given
Provisional ballots at every opportunity. Keep in mind these Provisional
ballots were created by the "Help America Vote Act" of 2002 have no solid legal
guarantee of being counted. The act is purposefully ambiguous.
A state must have a system to determine whether to count each provisional
ballot cast. While the precise details are not set out, the decision to count
or not count an individual ballot must be made “in accordance with State law.”
to read more about the "Help America Vote Act."
So, well, yea President Bush won. But this is like saying that after a 4
quarter football game that went into double overtime, your team won by kicking
a field goal. And what if the other side lied and cheated their way to
victory ? Would that be an indication of a victory for moral values ?
|Friday, 15 October 2004 at 19h 38m 52s|
Letter to the Pacifica Tribune
It is simply unbelievable that proud Republicans can close their eyes and
believe whatever they want in defiance of the truth, carrying on that tired
banter of being ostracized by the propaganda of liberals and socialists.
If this indeed is what "closet Republicans" think, than I guess that is a very
dark closet. Do let a little light in so you can see the facts.
Bush has a plan on terror. It's called partisan politics, questionable
audacity, and crony business ethics. Self-appointed moralists can decry all
they want. There never were any weapons of mass destruction. The Office of
Special Plans set up by Rumsfeld selectively doctored the intelligence before
it ever reached the President. The neocon administration ignored all of the
assessments of its generals about the number of troops and the logistics of the
operation. Turkey decided it was not going to be bribed to allow a Northern
base of operations. And what of the corrupt, brutal regimes of Turkmenistan and
Uzbekistan? Or how about the 10% of allocated funding that got spent on Iraq
reconstruction? These concern legitimate reasons like lack of electricity,
sewage in the water, depleted Uranium waste, and dilapidated buildings. But you
see those lucrative profits of Halliburton subcontractors were more important
than reconstruction and supplies to the troops.
Did you people bother to read the CIA assessment on the absolute failure of the
war in Iraq? This is not failed intelligence people. This is called stupidity
Of all the people Ashcroft rounded up for terrorism, there has not been one
conviction, and all of those released after 2 years in Guantanamo have been
shown to be innocent. The Abu Ghraib prisons were housing random grabs of
street teenagers, not terrorists. But public relations are more important than
The conflict in Iraq is about a people angry that the neocons have the audacity
to invade, appoint officials, promulgate their constitution, sell-off the
economy to multinationals who are allowed to expropriate 100% of the profit,
and then import cheap labor from Somalia and Nepal. And we are ruthlessly
bombing the slums and cities, winning the hearts and minds of the people by
And now we have another ex-spy "prime minister" Allawi making a speech to
Congress written for him by the speech writers of the Bush Administration. So
we get rid of one thug merely to appoint another? Anyone ever heard of Noriega
or Augustin Pinochet or the Shah of Iran?
Come on now. This is not propaganda. This is the truth, and with all respect,
it is time to accept the truth instead of bashing one another with slanderous
name-calling. Our country deserves better.
|Saturday, 9 October 2004 at 16h 53m 31s|
So I found myself thinking about why the universe was round and whole and I
came to this resolution, namely, that which each resolution comes another
solution, but then what follows is something other than a rational universe,
yet in the end there was but another solution, another illusion, another
resolve, another time to wonder, another, another, and another.
It just didn't make sense after a while. But then what does. It was but one
solution followed by another, simply the aftermath of what followed due to a
But in that decision, likened close to the answer whatever it is that might
become what would still be regarded as the final decision, and thereupon hung
the nature of ones being, as if clung to the wall like ivy hoping the rains
would come soon, lest they starve due to lack of precipitation. And of course,
it was the precipitation that the decisions were after, the recourse of the
respite, of the neverending rapture of what lay ahead. Tomorrow. There was
And yet tomorrow comes, and there is another transition.
So therefore, in any event, lest we be resolved to dreadful notions, it seems
that the evidence is rather conclusive that nowhere what may come in the way of
circumstances, in the way of haphazard events, it was just plain that nothing
was stronger that what was coming at you, when it comes, when comes down upon
like waves of various amplitude, like light gently falling against the shadows,
shedding another answer on just the other side of tomorrow, whereupon you had a
glimpse for today, just a glimpse.
Just a glimpse, is that all we who are mortals can understand -- bloating
however that glimpse out of all proportion to reality. Obsessed with our
glimpses, we try to hasten our views upon the minds of others, who may or may
not have any mental association with or perspicacity of these visions.
So we come to a shared understanding, by talking with one another, by getting
to know those people whom we meet, so that we are not alone in that lonesome
capacity of life's analysis, a task to which no one alone can hope to fathom or
understand. We can only hope to come close to the truth when we take into
consideration the perspectives of others.
This world contains a great myth about the greatest of the individual, when the
individual is only a reflection of the society which produced the individual,
because every individual is but the fragmented product of the world with which
one interacts. Since we are proud creatures, we like to ascribe to ourselves
too much talent when we are just blessed with the right psychic mix to meet the
challenges of life. And at every step of the way, everyone is subject to
constant challenges. There is never a moment when one can come to expect to
escape the inescable human condition. Arrogance and hypocrisy can appear when
that expectation arises, thereby protecting the self from self realization, but
this is only an illusion.
|Sunday, 3 October 2004 at 0h 39m 37s|
The first Kerry-Bush Debate in Miami, Florida
Here is a link
to my navigatable transcript of the Bush-Kerry Debate on September 30, 2004
at the University of Miami.
Bush retorts to reiterating that he wants to go on the offensive. He
touts "Prime Minister Allawi" for the ex-spy appointed by the administrative
Iraq apparatus to be the new leader after the old appointed leader Ahmed
Chalabi fled to Iran.
At times Bush scowled and sneered when Kerry spoke. When answering tough
questions, like explaining about bin Liden, he literally glowered in disgusted,
and appearred uncomfortable while hunched over the podium.
He kept talking about not sending "mixed signals" then said that we needed to
stay on the "offensive" in the "war on terror," or that he would never shirk
from "defending America." He reassured us that being President was "hard
work" but neglected to mention that he has spent 40% of his presidency on
Excuse me, Mr. President, what I do as a teacher is very hard work, and
although we get 12 weeks cumulative vacation as a teacher, even I do not get
40% vacation time -- which would equate to 21 weeks of vacation. In other
words the President goes on vacation almost 2 weeks every month.
Not once did Mr. Bush even admit to making mistakes, even when asked point
blank by moderator Jim Lehrer,
You have said there was a, quote, "miscalculation," of what the conditions
would be in post-war Iraq. What was the miscalculation, and how did it happen?
to which Mr. Bush says :
No, what I said was that, because we achieved such a rapid victory, more of the
Saddam loyalists were around. I mean, we thought we'd whip more of them going
But because Tommy Franks did such a great job in planning the operation, we
moved rapidly, and a lot of the Baathists and Saddam loyalists laid down their
arms and disappeared. I thought they would stay and fight, but they didn't.
And now we're fighting them now. And it's hard work. I understand how hard it
is. I get the casualty reports every day. I see on the TV screens how hard it
is. But it's necessary work.
And I'm optimistic. See, I think you can be realistic and optimistic at the
same time. I'm optimistic we'll achieve -- I know we won't achieve if we send
mixed signals. I know we're not going to achieve our objective if we send mixed
signals to our troops, our friends, the Iraqi citizens.
We've got a plan in place. The plan says there will be elections in January,
and there will be. The plan says we'll train Iraqi soldiers so they can do the
hard work, and we are.
Do you hear a legimate explanation of why Mr. Bush said there was
a "miscalculation" ? He goes on to cite that training of Iraqi troops is going
on despite a recent report which said only 8% of the necessary were being
trained BECAUSE RECRUITS ARE DIFFICULT TO FIND AND KEEP.
Then Mr. Bush finishes his explanation of the "miscalculation" quote with this :
It is hard work. It is hard work to go from a tyranny to a democracy. It's hard
work to go from a place where people get their hands cut off, or executed, to a
place where people are free.
But it's necessary work. And a free Iraq is going to make this world a more
It is such "hard work" to appoint Lobbyists named Paul Brenner to Iraq spending
the last year promulgating the Iraqi constitution, selling off Iraqi
enterprises to multination corporations. It is "hard work" for halliburton to
spend only $8 out of $118 billion available on reconstruction, and unable to
account for $3.2 billion in costs. Make that unwilling to account for $3.2
billion, threatening not to pay subcontractors after the Army requested for the
third time. All while only 25% of Iraqi sewage treatment plants are
operational and electricity still only 18% of necessary capacity (4 hours out
of 24 hours.) Depleted Uranium is everywhere along with food and medical
Currently the military is overstretched, and National Guard units are doing a
large part of the Iraq operation than is warranted by tradition and common
sense. The national guard belongs here in the United States guarding the
nation, not supporting the military operation in Iraq.
This administration is not sensitive to the impression of imperialism in Iraqi.
Creating 14 permanent military bases in Iraq, appointing and selecting the last
2 "prime ministers", and promulgating the current Iraqi constitution with laws
that permit expropriation of 100% of all profits by foreign multinational
corporations. What Iraqi nationalist can be pleased with the lingering
resemblance to colonialsim? How can an Iraqi be reassurred that they are not
merely trading one thug (Saddam Hussein) for another (Allawi, U.S.
colonialism.) At least, we must acknowledge this in the realm of ideas for the
Are these really a lot of ex-Baathists and Saddam loyalists? Or just a whole
lot of angry citizens very angry about what's happening in their country?
|Sunday, 3 October 2004 at 17h 21m 5s|
Two Human Traits
The mind is nothing but an imprint of what the surrounding environment has put
upon it. This occurence is largely a matter of choice, but nevertheless still
results from the largely uncontrollable experience of one's childhood years. No
child ever has a choice as to what environment into which that child was born.
However, at the same time, once adulthood comes, it becomes a little harder
each time to excuse mistakes on account of the origin of environment.
There's no sorry to it. The art of blame comes in two flavors. Either you tend
to blame others for your own faults, or you inflate your self superiority in
order to compensate for your own inadequacy. On rare occasions, there is a
person who embodies the worst of both traits. To be aware of these faults in
our self psychology is the best possible to cure, for surely to exist unaware
is but certain guarantee that we will plow forward with ignorance.
When you begin to blame others, when you begin to assess your own weakness in
measure with a criticism of others, you begin to separate your self from self-
awarenesss because you begin to allow an a minimal acceptance of your own fault
in the events that were untoward. because we all have a fault in any
relationship to which we accede. If a presumed friend does you some wrong, you
were foolish to make an assumption. Rather than becoming angry, instead the
most healthy response is to understand the cost of wisdom. You are learning the
strengths and limitations of all those people whom you encounter. The only
certainty is your willingness to learn and be flexible.
The other psychosis which arises in the human condition, is that which props up
that hubris of superiority, or what is otherwise known as arrogance. This
originates as a primative defensive mechanism, whereby one is enabled to avoid
insecurity by reassuring oneself of one's mastery or superiority. But this
yields the ultimate delusion, because all other points of view can thus be
decimated by the belief in one's own superiority.
Pity for the unfortunate possessor of both these traits, the individual who
both blames the world and inflates the notion of self, for this person has
escaped all potential for shame. One who seeks blame as an escape will become
confronted with that weakness's misnomer : responsibility. One who seeks to
elevate one's esteem, will reach a point where an inhibition to admit fault
crosses the uncrossable line of self-respect. When the two traits merge
into one, a certain guilelessness awakens in the monstrous ego which cannot
recognize honor nor respect the humility of shame.
All of us are guided by the desire to attain our fanciful illusions. We
live our days in pursuit of these unquantifiable resolutions. Meanwhile we can
never be free of our childhood insecurities, and however infrequently we are
reminded of them, they nevertheless reappear. It is during these reappearances
that we develop the traits of a lifetime. Do we permit ourselves to blame, or
do we protect ourselves with the assurances of our own superiority?
Or do we seek to hear the silent whisper that is wisdom?
|Saturday, 25 September 2004 at 14h 58m 45s|
A Polite Discussion with some genuine Republicans
Today there was a group of Republicans tabling at the corner of Fillmore and
Sacramento in San Francisco. I tried very hard not to approach them, but after
an hour my will broke down. There were three people, an older black woman who
said she had a small business. She wore a red business vest and struck me as
very sincere. Another women was a dental student at the local dental school,
who plastered a non-moving smile on her face as if in rigid self-assurance.
The third member of the trio was an older white man, with a grey beard who
I approached the black woman and asked where she was from. She is from
Southern California but has been a resident of San Francisco for 25 years. I
asked her to tell me why I should vote for the Bush-Cheney team in 2004.
The first issue was national security. I mentioned that not one penny has been
spent securing our ports, chemical, and nuclear facilities. Then I mentioned
that the administration has wasted a lot of resources on the way it has managed
Iraq in the last year, hiring multinational corporations to do the business
native Iraqi's could have done and hiring Somali's and Indians for cheap labor
instead of local Iraqi's. Then I mentioned that very little of the funds for
reconstruction has been spent, and said that I did not believe the Bush
administration has any credibility on National Security.
The next issue she brought up was fiscal responsibility, which is
unbelieveable. I was calm however. My intention was to be polite and
informative. I asked about the latest figures on the deficit and the federal
debt, then I mentioned that we only sustain this debt burden thanks to China
and Japan's willingness to buy our debt bonds, and that the pressures on the
bond market are going to increase interest rates. I next mentioned that 18% of
businesses with a yearly revenue of 10 million have 50% debt burdens, which
means that they will be squeezed with the inevitable rise in interest rates.
Then I mentioned that it was fiscally irresponsible to offer 2 extensive tax
cuts in lieu of this debt burden.
She mentioned that she benefited from the Bush tax cut. I agreed that
targeted tax cuts are beneficial, but that Bush said in his 2000 presidential
campaign that "by far the vast majority of my tax cut goes to the middle
class." Now in my mind the vast majority means more than 50%, which is a far
cry from that fact that only 16% of the total tax cuts went to those with
incomes less than $200,000. 66% of all owners of small businesses have
incomes less than $200,000, only the top 10% has incomes greater than
$200,000. I then said "If you are going to make a statement in a campaign, you
need to follow through when you are in office, and that is not what happened."
A young teacher approached and we got into the Leave No Child Behind
Act. I called to attention the item in the law which makes it law that all
high schools must give names of students to military recruiters unless the
parents sign a form. It was agreed that the law was in need of help. I
mentioned that the administration has not spent all of the money that was
authorized, up to an aggregate of 32 billion over the last 3 years.
At this point, the young teacher mentioned that she just wanted to get a few
stickers to put in her classroom so she could have both sides represented. The
dental student began to face me with her changeless smile. I mentioned that
she smiled a lot, and she just said that was because she was a dental student
and had to practice showing her teeth. So I asked her if she also listened
while she was smiling. She said sort of, but then said that she had a
different opinion. I said that the issue wasn't a matter of opinion. I
mentioned plenty of facts and I would be willing to listen to her refute
So she says that she didn't think government should get involved with social
Wait, I replied, are you saying that the education of our children is a social
service, and that education is local controlled and is not the same thing as
the government. Education in the United States grow at the local level and
has always been supported by local taxes. The problem is that not every
district has a strong local tax base, and so not every school district is
equally funded. Most schools don't use Title One funds, but those districts
that do are the very poor school districts who don't have a strong local tax
The dental student mentioned that it should be handled at the states. But the
states don't have the money, I said. (The black lady almost cut me off to say
the same thing, but let me speak instead. I think she was the only one who
really listened to me -- but again I reiterate that this was a very civil,
peaceful discussion.) Only the federal government has the resources to deal
with this problem. That the Bush administration has decided to underfund the
Leave No Child Behind Act is an indication of its priorities. You can upgrade
the standards and not help fix the problem. If you have a rusty car, you can't
pass the inspections unless you fork up the money to repair the engine.
The older man with a beard than said that they were of a different opinion. I
again stated that I respect their right to have an opinion, but still, I just
wanted to hear a reason to vote for the Bush-Cheney ticket and so far I have
not been convinced. As regards having an opinion, I have stated a lot of facts
and would be more than willing to hear you refute these facts.
But at a certain point you have to let it go and move on. The trio of genuine
conscience Republicans were uncomfortable with having a discussion. They
seemed fixed to a set philosophical prescription, so I made my graces to
leave. I said I didn't want to give them any trouble, and said that I was glad
they were out hear expressing themselves. I thanked them for being kind enough
to talk with me and shook their hands. It was truly a beautiful experience,
because all of us had a sophisticated level of respect.
This kind of civil discussion is what democracy is supposed to be about. All
too often our society gets the false impression that having a different opinion
is more important than having an open discussion where people can agree to
disagree. The whole point of democracy is to be heard, not to insist that you
are right, but to make sure that all points are available to be expressed.
When you listen to only one side of an argument you become blinded by the
inherent imperfections of one set of observations. An opinion only becomes
refined when it is viewed or challenged by a different perspective. Which is
why I like to engage in these polite conversations, because I want to hear
other points of view. How else is one to know how other people think if they
do not allow themselves to listen to what others think?
|Saturday, 25 September 2004 at 0h 25m 11s|
The reign of paranoia
Why is the Bush administration and Dick Cheney in particular so negative and
terrorism-on-the-brain minded? Why accuse and talk negatively, and resort to
talking about rosy untruths in order to speak positive? At least Herbert
Hoover merely had to worry about the woosy economy, not the failed foreign
policy and national policy initiatives made by an administration that has spent
4 years blaming everyone but themselves.
You see, George W. Bush doesn't make mistakes. He miscalculates, and then
continues making the same mistakes.
But then ... according to Bush (source)
"The government of prime minister Allawi has earned the support of every nation
that believes in self-determination and desires peace," he said. "The UN and
its member nations must ... do more to help build an Iraq that is secure,
democratic, federal and free."
Then mister Bush starts criticizing Kerry because he doesn't become infatuated
with ex-spy now prime minister Allawi, next in kin to the old house-nigger
Ahmed Chalabi, that old sycophant who grew fat on the government payroll for
the last 20 years as the nominal head of the "official" Iraqi exile group --
for 100,000 dollars a month.
Playing down the instability and huge loss of life of Iraqi civilians and US
soldiers, Mr Bush said: "Not long ago, outlaw regimes in Baghdad and Kabul
threatened the peace and sponsored terrorists ... Today the Iraqi and Afghan
people are on the path to democracy and freedom. These two nations will be a
model for the broader Middle East."
Warning that there would be worse days ahead, Mr Bush conceded that "we can
expect terror attacks to escalate" as elections approach in Afghanistan and
Iraq. But he vowed that his mission was "not to retreat, it is to prevail ...
We will be standing with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq until their hopes
for freedom and liberty are fulfilled."
Coming the day after Mr Kerry, accused him of "stubborn incompetence"
and "colossal failures in judgment" on the war in Iraq, Mr Bush will have been
acutely aware of his domestic audience.
Meanwhile Cheney is busy going from undisclosed location to another telling the
nation that Kerry will result in guaranteed terrorist attacks. Yet the same
Cheney who as prior head of Halliburton still earning $100,000 per month in
deferred salary -- in order to avoid taxes -- condescendingly said in the 2000
debates with Senator Lieberman that he never earned a dollar from the
government in order to castigate the senator democrat as the sloth on the
government dole, while Cheney, the great bastion of integrity earned his
millions as an independent business person.
Now of course it would be ludicrous to assert the known facts that Halliburton
gets its contracts completely from government, via defense contracts. That
would be not only absurd, but unpatriotic, so I must refrain from saying that.
But going around and making inneuendoes denouncing the integrity of the
opposing candidate has become the norm. Maybe it's an indication that the
stakes are too high. Dear God I hope this is high enough.
|Saturday, 18 September 2004 at 17h 4m 29s|
War as a tool
Have you seen the latest piece of sarcastic wisdom on the back of a car
bumper? While driving down Divisadero Avenue, I saw the most memorial epitath
of bumper sticker-ism since I saw "There's a terrorist behind every Bush" on
the back of an old faded-purple volkswagon bug. This bumper sticker was on the
back of an expensive new black Lexus.
Except for ending Slavery, Fascism, and Communism, war has never solved
Frankly I was struck immediately with the audacity of this ignorance. While
presuming to speak on a higher moral ground, this syllogism has distorted the
past with a skewed observation of the present.
Because of the ambiguity, and the fact that war has no adjacent adjective, we
have to assume that the statement discusses both the war on iraq and the war on
terror. In either case, the logical assumption of the statement is not only
inappropriate, but completely ignorant of any contemporary historical context.
As the old military adage goes, we are fighting the wrong war with the tactics
of the last war.
Slavery was a social condition that evolved from the decision of aristocratic
landowners to import black laborers to perform agricultural labor in the new
world. After 230 or so years, the American social-economy had evolved to an
impasse. The civil war was a result, not a solution. The incorporation of the
ex-slaves, the issues of black civil rights lasted another 100 or so years.
The process did not have to begin with a war, and could have been legislated,
as was the case in England and Brazil ( although to be fair, Brazilian
emancipation occurred in a different background, with more violence, including
the creation of an independent nation of ex-slaves in Bahia.)
Nevertheless, to say or imply that the civil "war" solved slavery is
ridiculous. The solution, if that is what we are to call black civil rights,
took another 100 years, after the carpetbaggers, the Jim Crow laws,
sharecropping, the Ku Klux Klan riders, the lynchings, the separate but equal
laws, and the poll taxes.
The word Fascism used by the bumper sticker must be construed to mean Hitler
and Japan and World War Two. Certainly we can't say World War One, because
that war would be a perfect example of war's potential for folly and bumbling
stupidity. But the sticker wisdom infers that any war is justified on account
that war is often the only solution. World War Two consisted of two world
governments on a rampage of nationalistic military conquests aimed at world
domination. War was the only choice, not a solution. What the hell else were
we too do.
World War Two doesn't deserve to be the bastion of justification for stupidity
that it has become.
Communism was never Russian ideology taking over the world. War did not defeat
communism anyway. After the end of the old colonialism before World War Two,
the developing world was in a moment of transition into a shift of global
power. The social disruptions that became civil wars in the rest to world were
merely pawns in the new global power players. The places where "communism"
took root longer than 50 years (China and Russia) were also places with an
ancient tradition of bureaucratic centralization of authority. The moniker of
the word "communism" ignores the historical tradition of political
bureaucracy. The very notion that war ended communism disguises the foreign
policy decisions that are involved, namely what government to support and where
the support of government ultimately resides.
Assassinating an elected socialist leader, replacing the government with an
unelected military government using military units trained in the United
States, is not a war against communism. It is a military takeover.
Supporting corrupt governments, providing ammunition and military weapons to
the dictatorship in the interest of centralized government is not a war against
communism. It is a military dictatorship.
And the presumption that we "won" the cold war is only an illusion. Now that
we cover the entire globe with military bases, more than 140 in all, we have
made investments that have negligible economic value, and have actually
diminished our security. How many other nations in the world have anywhere
near that many bases across the globe?
Centralized despotism evolves new descriptions as time passes. Caesars, Kings,
Lords, despots, dictators, fascists, and tyrants do not need modern fancy
terminology to describe the same results. Communism by another name is not
something that got defeated by this mindful policy called war. Russia and
China simply evolved into new relationships with the global world, and so to
the United States. Not because of this policy called war that was a solution
provided by the United States.
War is more unavoidable, than it is necessary, and it is really the only choice
rather than a foreign policy tool. A society that uses war as a tool has lost
sight of what real foreign policy choices have been made, and what choices
there actually are that could be more effective.
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