Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dick Cheney: Werewolf of Wyoming

If you claim that the crime you admit to is not a crime, should that prevent your prosecution? Dick Cheney seems to think so. On the heels of a bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Services Committee that stated that the actions of Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez and Cheney aide David Addington, "led directly" to the violation of laws and treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, most of the named parties attempted to hide behind legal interpretations designed to give cover for torture.

Cheney, give him credit for being so self defined, went one step further, admitting in a televised interview, that he condoned and sanctioned waterboarding. His cavalier attitude in this admission brushes off worldwide condemnation of the practice as torture. In admitting that he not only approved this action, he admitted to a war crime.

Waterboarding has been defined as torture since the time of the Spanish Inquisition, when the practice is reputed to have been developed. Refined over time, the United States actually prosecuted Japanese soldiers for this very action after World War II. During the War Crimes Trials at Nuremberg the defense of "following orders," was no defense at all. What about those giving orders?

If Cheney's seeming claim that nothing is a crime if you don't believe it is, is allowed to stand then every sociopath in prison could claim the same defense.

Therein lies the answer to Cheney's admission. Only a relatively small minority could imagine even attempting to rationalize torture. Only a sociopath could order it. To brag about it puts one in a whole new category.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Leftist on Rick Warren: Who Cares?

All morning I have been hearing that "the Left" is upset about the pick of Rick Warren to participate in the Obama inauguration. Let us use this point to begin to understand something about American politics.

There is NO LEFT in American politics. The left has been completely driven to the margins of politics during the past 30 years of America's giant jump to the right. How thoroughly the right captured the whole debate can be seen in the fact that liberals (really just slightly, if that, left of center moderates) are defined as "the Left."

Actual leftists, such as this writer, see Warren or any other religious figure at the inauguration as inappropriate due to its violation of the principle of separation of church and state. Liberals, on the other hand, are upset because he represents a different constituency. Liberals would be okay with a minister at the inauguration as long as he or she was sufficiently aligned with their theology. I, on the other hand, would be upset about any minister, even if it was Little Richard. It is the inauguration of a president not the coronation of a Pope. Keep religion out of it, up to and including preventing civil rights icon, the Rev. Joseph Lowery from praying. Yes, I said it.

It is not just a rejection of religion that leads to my "Who Cares," headline. It is the fact that at a moment when the Vice President has just admitted to war crimes all we can chatter about is a minister speaking at the inauguration. That, and the possibility that a Kennedy will be appointed to the House of Lords.

Bitching about every little choice of position, especially one as trivial as which minister will speak at the inauguration is missing the point.

We have been damaged and harmed as a nation by the wrong headed policies of the right over the past thirty, and especially the last eight years. It is important that we begin to move in the correct direction. There is much to do. There is much to undo.

The LEFT, or what is left of it, must not be caught up in the ridiculous minutiae of the moment. It is time to think long term and regroup. Before the true left, not the barely left of center moderates, can have any voice, it must recognize that for too long we have had to settle for whatever the Democrats managed to offer to us. Now is the time to force the center to hear the left.

To shift the debate, the focus on irrelevance must cease. Yes, it bothers me that Rich Warren is a homophobic bigot. So get out and reverse Prop 8.

Look for more on "The Difference Between Leftists and Liberals," by Ray Bawarchi, on this blog and other media sources in the near future.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Ghost of Tom Joad

Once again the workers get the shaft. Wall Street gets $700 billion, no strings attached. The government has essentially been privatized under the Bush Administration to line the pockets of Bush's self confessed "base," the haves and the have mores. The former head of the NASDAQ, Bernard Madoff, has been running a giant Ponzi scheme. Before he confessed to his sons what he had done he made sure to pay out $200-300 million in bonuses and gifts to those close to him.

Now comes the automobile industry bailout. Opinions about whether the bailout is a good idea aside, (although it does seem a little like investing in typewriters at the dawn of computers) there is an underlying effort to protect the wealthy while screwing the workers. Mostly Republican senators from anti-union southern states (where not coincidentally, major foreign auto plants are headquartered, due to taxpayer subsidies) have been arguing that the major problem of the auto industry is that the workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) are adequately compensated.

Seeing an excuse to engage in union busting, these politicians are betraying their constituents and their duty to the nation.

There may be good reasons to oppose the auto bailout, but it is not because the workers are too well paid. It seems that we have reached a point in this country where most people are just grist for the mill. The workers represented by the UAW engaged in good faith negotiations to get the compensation they now have. On several occasions they have made concessions to the auto companies and given back agreed upon benefits in order to help their corporate bosses.

Why is it that those with the least must take all the brunt of the economic collapse? Workers take pay cuts and private equity firms get a cash bailout. According to recent stats, ten percent of the nation is behind on their mortgage payments, yet the banks are getting the money while the people are getting the streets. No accountability for the rich, but the poor must demonstrate that they "earn" what they get.

Ever had your credit card rate raised even though you make all your payments on time?
Why is it that banks can unilaterally alter the terms of a contract? Again, their investments must be protected, but the general public cannot even trust a contract with a corporation that is sufficiently large.

One of the factors that continues to hamper the revival of the economy is that banks are not lending. They've received their bailout money, but there is no money being loaned for homes, for business, for AUTO's. The rich man who owns the bank has been bailed out by us all. Now we must once again prove worthy to subsist.

Has any one considered that the problem is capitalism?

The Bottom of Our Shoes

Bush's surprise visit to Iraq, turned into a surprise on him. An Iraqi journalist, Muntader al-Zaidi, a correspondent for Al Baghdadia, tossed his shoes at Bush. The ultimate insult in Iraq, it means the recipient is considered lower than dirt. Mr. al-Zaidi is now being held by the Maliki government although it is unclear what law he has broken.

Bush, glib as always, commented that the shoe was a "size 10." The shoe would have had to have been Shaquille O' Neal's (size 22) to have matched the world's disdain. But the Decider doesn't get it. He's been living in a brush bubble in Crawford.

The media seems to be missing the message in this story. The U.S. press seems to be covering the story primarily as a filler. Mostly, it is approached as a bizarre type of human interest story. As I write this, Contessa Brewer is asking on MSNBC if the shoes were his own or if he brought in an extra pair. What next, a penetrating discussion of the brand of shoe? An Iraqi journalist commented that al-Zaidi has "ruined his career."

Nothing could be further off. Muntader al-Zaidi has likely already become a household name throughout the Middle East and soon, throughout the world. The story here is that someone has finally had the nerve to express the outrage the Bush Administration so richly deserves. George Bush has nearly destroyed the world and he must be remembered as such.

Bush's current effort to rewrite history must not be allowed to pass. For eight years George Bush has shown complete disregard for the opinions and people of the world. He has shredded the Constitution, claimed the powers of a king and ruined the reputation of America in the world.

As al-Zaidi threw his shoes he proclaimed in Arabic, "This is a gift from the Iraqi's, this is the farewell kiss, you dog!" On the second shoe: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Muntader al-Zaidi spoke for the Iraqi people and that is why thousands are now in the streets of Baghdad protesting his detention.

Those of us who have opposed Bush as he lied us into war, opened prisons to circumvent U.S. law (Guantanamo), rationalized torture and generally dared an impotent Congress to stop him, now are coming to terms with the fact that he has gotten away with it. I used to think there would be leaders who would step forward to oppose him, that his crimes would eventually be exposed, even that he might have to answer for his crimes against humanity before a War Crimes Tribunal. Now, it is clear that he will return to his silver plated life and a village in Texas will regain its idiot.

Muntader al-Zaini has shown us the way. The Iraqi insult of the bottom of the shoe must become our own. No need to throw it, just show it. Should any of us be so unfortunate as to find ourselves in the presence of the "W", present the bottom of your shoe, and hold it as high as you can reach.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Workers of the World: Wake from a Deep Sleep

The occupation of Republic Windows and Doors in Illinois by its employees is significant for being the first signs of life in the labor movement in the United States in quite some time. Since the Reagan years, organized labor has been in trouble and on the decline. Now, a group of workers, already aware that they are being laid off, are demanding promised vacation pay and severance packages.

Enter the Bank of Amerika. Refusing to finance a loan for the payout to the workers, BofA, does its part to delay the recovery of the economy. But they are not the only culprits here.

According to the New York Times, the family of Richard Gilman bought up the stock of Republic in 2006 and 2007 and then formed a new windows business, Echo Windows, LLC to open in Iowa. Their goal was to cut fixed-costs. In essence, the owners of Republic decided to move their plant to another state to cut the costs of labor.

This is the heart of the collapse of the American economy. Corporations, manufacturers, independent companies, have all opted to increase the bottom line at the expense of the workers. Showing no loyalty to the very employees that made their companies successful, business has opted to move in order to increase profit margins.

It wasn't that Republic Windows and Doors was a failure or making an obsolete product. They were makers of Energy Star Windows, efficient and affordable, and had orders to fill. Economically, however, it was viable for the company to fold up, move to a place with lower labor costs, and begin anew.

Economically viable, but economically necessary? How many U.S. companies have moved operations to other nations in order to increase profit margins? At the heart of the U.S. economic difficulty is that the workers have been pulled down in a race to the bottom in order that profit margins will increase. We make nothing, we're paid nothing and now we'll buy nothing.

How about using some of the bailout money to allow the workers of Republic to become the owners of the company? Could Bank of Amerika turn loose of some of the bailout money under those conditions? Or will they just keep buying other banks?

Bush: Will the Plunder Never Stop?

Is there nothing that George Bush will not ruin before leaving office? In his flurry of last minute directives designed to leave a lasting legacy of damage to the Republic, Bush has now decided (he is "the Decider," after all) that perchlorate should be exempted from regulation in drinking water.

Is he kidding us? The gall of this guy. After lying the country into Iraq, botching the response to Katrina, soiling the countries reputation with torture, and destroying the economy to boot (okay, Wall Street helped with that) while giving away the Treasury to banks, he now wants to allow poisons and carcinogens into our drinking water.

The legacy continues to grow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Oil is STILL Over

Everyone seems to have quit panicking and returned to the roads. The price of gasoline has now dropped below $2 a gallon and hovers around the $55 a barrel price. Concern for the future of our energy supplies has plummeted with the price of oil.

Hear this:


Just because the price has momentarily dropped does not mean that the problem is solved. The problem has just become a little worse. Every action, including a drop in price, that leads to greater consumption only serves to make the problem worse.

As a commodity, oil is done. There are the problems of declining supply (see Hibbert's Peak) and increasing demand (all the new drivers in China and India, just to start). Couple these with a realization that the burning of petroleum is complicating another major problem, global warming, and it is clear that the oil based economy must cease.

The solution to two problems, energy and environment, must occur simultaneously. Both problems require solutions that take the other into consideration. Sustainability must become the new focus, not cheap exploitation of resources and profit margins.

To stop seeking alternatives only due to momentary price shifts is the same folly that we have engaged in for the last 30 years. Time to change. Change the oil, it's over.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Neither God, nor Allah, on Their Side

Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command of al-Qaeda, has issued his first taunt towards Barack Obama. Invoking the words of Malcolm X, he referred to Obama, Colin Powell & Condoleeza Rice as "house Negroes." His attempt, of course, was an effort to deal with the popularity of Obama and the effect that has on the appeal of al-Qaeda.

Ironic in his appeal was his invocation of the words of Malcolm X. Ironic, in that one of the right-wing, fear monger rumors being spread around election time, was that Obama was secretly the son of Malcolm X. It is somehow fitting that the fanatics on both sides should so mutilate the legacy of one great man in order to undermine another man they fear may be even greater.

In attempting to provoke a racist response to Obama, al-Zawahiri shows himself to completely misunderstand the legacy of Malcolm X or Malik el-Shabazz, as he was correctly referred to in the video. The reference to Malcolm as Malik el-Shabazz is relevant in that it demonstrates awareness of his final days. Subsequent to going on hajj, Malcolm returned from Mecca transformed. He began to preach racial harmony and wanted to bring American Islam more in line with that he saw practiced worldwide. Alienating both the Nation of Islam and the white racist who thrived on his old rhetoric, he became too dangerous to live.

The bigots who manufactured the "Obama is Malcolm X's son," demonstrated both their ignorance and desperation. First, they fail to comprehend that were this to actually be true, it would only enhance the already larger than life image of Obama. What next, must he have pulled a sword from a stone? Can he fly?

Beyond the ridiculous, this rumor also betrays both an ignorance of history and an overt racist assumption. The historical ignorance is that Malcolm was fanatically dedicated to his wife and FBI efforts to get something on him confirm these assertions (please refer to the FBI website to view its file on him). The overt racist assumption herein plays on old stereotypes about sexuality. Their desperation lies grounded in seeing the nation begin to turn its collective back on the old lies and the old guard.

So here we have it. Two backwards, bigoted groups, both trying to play upon racial hatred, in order to support their beliefs in their own superiority. Unable to convince the world based on the truth of their arguments, they are left with only treachery, distortion and deceit.

Be aware, the cornered animal fights the hardest.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Going Down the Road (to Detroit) Feeling Bad

The automobile industry of America is once again on the brink of collapse. Since the Bush Administration is in the final days of its rampage of the wealth of the American public, Detroit has decided to get in line. Why not ask for a little of that bailout cash?

The plea from the Big Three is that there will be too much disruption to the economy if they are allowed to fail. Sound familiar?

Politicians are focusing on the loss of jobs and the ripple effect through the already damaged economy. Apparently, it's all about the worker.

Yet, Bush has already blamed worker compensation as the culprit in the problems of Detroit. To be fair, some, such as Barney Frank, have focused on executive compensation, but by and large, the reporting of the issue has focused on the financial burden of pension plans and health care as well as union contracts.

Leaving Bush, the anti-barometer of appropriate action, aside, it is absolutely off point to blame the assembly line workers for the fall of the U.S. auto industry. The workers at the factory level seem to be the only people in the industry who are actually good at their jobs and worth their salaries. Union busting will not save Detroit.

If the Big Three auto makers want to find the solution to their business problems they should look at their lousy product. Building cars around a marketing strategy designed to maximize per unit profits is short-sighted. There is no effort to build a better car, just a better selling car. Just last night I saw a pickup truck marketed towards young working class males. When I checked the price and specs at the website I discovered that the truck cost around $40,000 and got 12 miles to the gallon. Is this really the best vehicle that can be produced for a person starting out in life?

What passes for innovation in the auto industry includes things like digital displays, increased headroom, individual zone climate controls, leather interior and market tested cup holder placement. While these things may be nice, none of them lead to a better driving car that has a lower impact on the environment. Form is emphasized over function, and sleek looks are more important than an efficient engine. The cars look like the Jetsons, but drive like the Flintstones.

If Detroit were paying attention to what customers want rather than trying to manipulate them into buying what they are offering, then they would cease the fight against CAFE standards and safety advances. Both of these are fought on the grounds that they would increase the cost of cars a few hundred dollars. Manual transmissions, which increase mileage, are increasingly difficult to find.

Give me a car that gets 100 mpg and has a roll cage, a la race cars, for enhanced safety and I will gladly pay more. Give me just those two things and it can look like a turnip. I suspect that many others would agree.

This is not at all out of reach. I owned a Geo Metro in the early '90's and that car got 60 miles to the gallon. And that was before I had even heard of hypermiling. Of course, the wreck that totaled it is the reason I'm such a proponent of roll cages.

So why isn't Detroit building a better car? Why did Detroit kill the electric car? Why have there been no significant advances in mileage since the Geo and its clones. If the major auto makers were told they could not sell another car until they developed one that got 100 mpg and was environmentally friendly, I have no doubt that it could be done.

What's wrong with the U.S. automobile industry will not be fixed be a short term infusion of cash so that they can continue to develop such absurditites as "hybrid-SUV's" whose owners slam on breaks at a speed bump, and see the monstrosity as a status symbol. Even though the price of oil has momentarily dropped, it must be recognized that continuing to waste petroleum is no longer a viable business model. OIL IS OVER!

Maybe we should let Big Oil bail out the Big Three.*

*thanks to Ashton Kucher for this idea.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Good Place to Start

In the first week after his election, advisers for Barack Obama have begun to "leak" his plans to close the disgrace of a prison at Guantanomo Bay. Undoing the damage of the Bush Administration will likely be a challenge that will require supreme efforts by Obama during the next four years. Bush has screwed up so many things it is hard to know where to begin.

Closing the prison at Guantanamo is a good place to start. Guantanamo or "Gitmo," as it has come to be called, is symbolic of the utter disregard for human rights and the rule of law that has pervaded the Bush Administration. Gitmo exists primarily as a means to evade U.S. laws concerning the right to trial and fair treatment, ignore centuries of law going back to the Magna Carta as regards the right of habeas corpus, and to circumvent international law regarding the proper treatment of prisoners and prisoners of war.

When Alberto Gonzalez referred to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," he effectively exposed the true disdain for human rights that exists within the Bush Administration. Gitmo has been a blemish on our international reputation and a stain on our collective psyche. Too many, especially those within Bush's own party, have failed to question what this aberrant approach to incarceration has inflicted upon the nation. More than any other single issue, the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has sullied our national reputation and made the U.S. appear a hypocrite on the world stage.

As stated, closing this disgrace is a good place to start to regain our standing in the world. Beyond that, it is also a good place to begin to reclaim the values that made this country great. Standing for human rights and justice, fighting tyranny and extending a helping hand to those in need are all values once associated with this country. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has destroyed all of these notions, both at home and abroad. To move forward, Obama must consciously undo the damage done by Bush.

Closing Gitmo is only a start, but a very good one.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Real America Elects a President

For many years the Republican Party manufactured a culture war centered around opposition to abortion and gay marriage, while attempting to obliterate the line between church and state. Sadly, fear was often been a centerpiece of this approach. Fear of the other, homophobia and religious intolerance were enshrined as "family values." This electoral strategy proved successful as the GOP dominated the politics of this country for the past 28 years. However, an outcome of this strategy was a polarization of the nation along a cultural divide.

Near the end of the 2008 Election, a familiar refrain from Gov. Palin and others on the right, concerned "real America." A classic us versus them , divide and conquer strategy, the words were used to evoke a not so subtle form of bigotry. "Real America, it seemed, only included rural, predominantly white areas of the country, where church attendance was high and Republicans dominated politics. The culture wars were again a the center of an election.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, they got it all wrong. While they have mounted a campaign over the years to convince the public that all things good are Republican, and that they are the bastion of the "values voter," in short, that all "real Americans" were Republicans, the public wasn't buying it. After a series of policy disasters and overt corruption *(see note below), wearing the vestiges of the righteous seemed only like another Emperor in new clothes.

This time, many people saw through the lies and we all laughed out loud. Real America stood up. Not the sham, "real America," where everyone looks, talks and thinks the same, but the America where we all have a right to be different. The America where you can be Muslim, Hindu or Jew. The America that is the melting pot, where people of all nations have come together, elected a President.

Obama is what real America is about. Indeed, he is a product of America. His parents were of different ethnic and religious groups. He has relatives who live in other countries and children who are quintessentially American. He is educated, and appears to be an open-minded and tolerant individual. Obama represents a different side of the nation than the caricature that we have become to the rest of the world.

Real America is not a monolithic nation where you must tow the party (Republican) line in order to belong. Real America is a diverse land where we recognize that our differences are our ultimate strength.

Real America elected a real American as President.

In saying the above, I in no way intend to disparage the 42 white men who have been President before Obama. They are real Americans too.

* Corruption Note: "Scooter" Libby, Attorney Firings, Renditions, Abramoff Scandal, Stevens Conviction, Delay, Cunningham, Foley and on and on. See "Hugh's List" for even more.

Monday, November 3, 2008

ELECTION 2008: Don't Believe the Hype

"The election is tightening." "Watch out for the Bradley effect." "There are plenty of undecideds still out there." Or at least that is the hype.

In an effort to produce something newsworthy, the major media outlets are willing to perpetuate the myth that the race for president is close. Drama is injected into every turn possible. Polls are selectively chosen for display that suggests the race is closer than it is. Why?

The cynical part of me wants to believe the paranoia among Democrats that this election will be lost/stolen by some unknown means. History clearly plays a part in this concern as the Democrats have managed to lose more than a few "done deals." However, the rational side of me must view the claims that the "race is tighter than believed," as little more than hubris.

Ignorance of math, statistics in particular, is responsible for NOT seeing what is crystal clear - the election of 2008 is already over. The only question now is: How much of a blowout will it be. The polls are not close for those who have obsessively been following them on any of the numerous sites dedicated to the election.

Sunday morning network news programming produced a notable departure from the typical "it's getting close," mantra that is being used to keep interest (and ratings) high. On most of the Sunday shows, This Week on ABC being an exemplar, the discussion was more about how large the difference would be than about who would win. Even George Will, the ultra-conservative intellectual, stated that it was not even close.

My Predictions:

Obama: 53% 358 Electoral Votes (358 is the floor, 376 is upper boundary)
McCain: 44% 180 Electoral Votes

Barr & Nader will split the remaining 3%. Further, Barr will have an impact on the vote in Georgia, possibly tilting it to Obama. In Montana, the wild card is the Ron Paul-Constitutional Party tally. If the third parties tip these, Obama could go higher.

Senate: + 8 seats to the Democrats
House: + 30 seats to Democrats

Again, this election is not close. Only shenanigans like we have never seen will be able to alter this election.

Having said the above, VOTE, like your life depends on it. It does.

Ray Bawarchi has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and teaches a collegiate level course in statistics.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dole:Desperate & Dispicable

After a previous column, I decided that I would write no more columns on Elizabeth Dole (R-NC)or the North Carolina Senate race. However, Dole has stooped to such a low that her actions can not be left unaddressed.

Dole, down only a few points in the polls, but considered a goner politically, has apparently panicked and reached a level of desperation that is difficult to comprehend. Accusing her opponent of being an atheist (to echo Colin Powell, " and what if she was?") in a deliberate effort to mislead the voters of North Carolina.

Being labeled an atheist in American politics is the quickest route to defeat. Ethnic minorities, homosexuals, even socialists are more likely to be elected to office than an atheist. As far as I am aware, only Rep. Pete Stark, (D-CA) is an admitted atheist among the 535 members of the House and Senate.

It's a shame that Dole, who has a political resume as hefty as anyone in the Senate, has to resort to such an obvious ploy. Elizabeth Dole no more believes that her opponent, State Senator Kay Hagan, is an atheist than she believes the moon is made of cheese. The first of these fliers that I personally received, (four in total, so far) was so far over the top that I actually checked to see if this was some sort of political satire. Unfortunately, Dole's name appears right on the mailer. Now Dole has begun to run TV ads that end with her opponent's face and the words, "There is no God." The implication is that Hagan is speaking the words, which is factually untrue.

Hagan, a former Sunday School teacher, is already on the defense addressing the issue head on. There are rumors that the campaign is reportedly planning to sue the Dole campaign due to the false nature of the ad.

It is important to comment on this ad campaign for reasons other than those stated above. Elizabeth Dole is demonstrating that she has nothing else to offer but a tragic distortion of reality in order to attempt a dispicable manipulation of voters. Voters, it must be noted, for whom Dole has nothing but contempt. These ads are as close as I have ever seen any politician come in attmepting to insult the intelligence of the voters and get away with it.

Elizabeth Dole has destroyed whatever political legacy she may have had with this smear. If her political views are so out of step with her constituents that she can not even run on them, but must instead resort to what will ultimately be seen as one of the sleaziest attacks of this whole election (quite a feat considering all the competition), then Dole should have never attempted to run for re-election.

Elizabeth Dole, you should be ashamed.

Monday, October 20, 2008

He's Not! But What if He Was?

No, not a Muslim. A socialist. Lately the McCain-Palin Campaign has taken to tossing the word "socialist" around when discussing Barack Obama. His health care plan is "socialized medicine," his tax plan is cast in class warfare terms, and there is an obvious attempt to pretend that he is the reincarnation of Karl Marx.

Such statements demonstrate just how stupid the right wing of America believes the populace to be. Were Obama's health care plan socialist, the doctors would be employed by the government and there would be no insurance. The savings in paperwork alone (Sarah Palin might call these "cost efficiencies"), would substantially lower the cost of health care, but that is not the point. When it comes to the tax plan, it is complete claptrap to imply that tax credits to those who earn so little that they don't pay taxes, is somehow "wealth redistribution." But again, that is not the point. The point is that Obama is NOT a socialist and the McCain camp knows better. It is an utter disgrace to John McCain that he is running such a dishonest campaign and is attempting to smear Obama with what is a clear lie.

In confronting the lies and smears of McCain-Palin, a larger issue is nearly lost. Just as Colin Powell rightfully questioned the line of attack against Obama that attempts to smear him as a Muslim by asking "What if he was?", the same question can be asked of the attempted socialist smear. WHAT IF HE WAS?

The idea of America is that everyone has the freedom to believe in whatever they wish. You may worhip Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah or a tree. You may even worship money and call yourself a member of the state religion-capitalism. And yes, you may even call yourself a socialist.

The turning of the term liberal into a pejorative by Reagan conservatives, caused such a shift in the public perception that leftists disappeared. Political identification as socialists or communists or any other group to the left of moderate Democrats became political suicide. As a result, the nation ignored it's history and shifted dangerously to the right. The result has been massive military intervention abroad, usurpation of civil liberties, politicization of the legal system and economic chaos, among other problems.

It is time for a New Left to appear in American politics. Rather than running from labels such as "Socialist," it is time for a resurgence of ideas from the other end of the political spectrum. The last time America was willing to experiment with ideas that even approached what might be legitimately called socialism, was when another administration of free market robber barons nearly destroyed the country and had to be bailed out.

America was built by Socialism. The interstate highway system, the mass inoculation programs, the building of the very infrastructure of this country were all due to socialist ideas. Public utilities, national parks and government monuments are all socialistic by nature. The few programs that do anything for the poor and elderly, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, could easily be seen as socialist triumphs.

Except for one thing. Everyone is afraid to use the label as anything but a negative. That, unfortunately, is what is holding us back from the change that we really need. What America needs is some good old fashioned Socialism. We need health care run for people, not for profit. We need massive investment in infrastructure. Our bridges are falling, our roads are crumbling and our parks are neglected. A massive public works program to address these needs would also have a stimulatory effect on the economy. Developing alternative energy sources would not only free us from petrol slavery, it would also boost the economy and lead to true energy security. It's much easier to shut down a power plant than 100 million buildings with solar panels providing independent energy.

So why not socialism? Ralph Nader states that his father once told him the reason that capitalism would always exist is that socialism would always bail it out. Does socialism exist only to bail out capitalists? It seems so in this country. Privatizing the profits while socializing the costs seems to be our natural instinct. Witness T. Boone Pickens plan for wind power. What he neglects to point out in his advertising is that the most expensive infrastructure necessary for his plan will be picked up by the taxpayers at the public utilities. T. Boone just picks up the money. Even in the bailout, after finally agreeing to take equity stakes in the banks, the government makes it clear it will sell those shares as soon as they become profitable. Wouldn't capitalists see that as bad business?

Let's be clear on what socialism really is in America. It is the willingness to work together for the common good. It is the unwillingness to let the common wealth of the nation and people be taken by the greedy and self-entitled. Right now America needs a healthy dose of socialism.

Having said the above, it's too bad Obama is not a socialist.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Socialized Medicine: If Only.

The United States has finally turned its attention to the issue of health care. Sadly, the real solution to this morass is being avoided like the plague. In the recent presidential debate, both candidates made an effort to convince the public that they were on top of the issue. Unfortunately, both plans are flawed, McCain's fatally so.

The problem with all solutions to health care in America stem from the commitment to make sure that, no matter what, insurance companies will still run the show. Bean counters, not doctors, make decisions whenever money becomes an issue. Any health care system that is geared towards profit will necessarily err on the side of accountability and not care. In health care, profit is most appropriately seen as the withholding of service.

Conservatives mock the current plans of the Obama campaign as socialism. If only this were true. Even under a single payer plan, there is still incentive to cut costs, i.e. deny care, to provide "fiscal responsibility." The only way to provide health care and not leave everyone on the hook in case of catastrophic health issues is socialized medicine.

Why won't we accept the solution that is staring us in the face? I guess we think it's better to pay twice what the rest of the world does for health care (approximately $6100 per person) and still not receive what we need. What a way to run a country.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Friends: The Manchurian Candidate

In the second debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, McCain's verbal tic of beginning or ending every statement with "my friends," was on full display. By my own count he used the expression at least 17 times and I have seen counts of up to 23 by other writers. Anyone who has seen McCain speak is aware that his pace in the debate, whether it be 17 or 23 times, was well below his usual frequency of use for this phrase.

Whether he uses "my friends," unconsciously, and it reflects mild neurological damage, or he uses it deliberately as a bit of neuro-linguistic programming to make audiences identify with him, the phrase has begun to grow tiresome and invites questions of his sincerity and/or mental status. In any event, it has become standard fare for McCain jokes.

But it was not the continued overuse of "my friends," that I most noticed at the debate. I expected it, again, as did anyone who has seen McCain speak more than once. However, what grabbed my attention, was a phrase McCain used in his last response, in one of the last sentences he spoke during the debate. He was wrapping up his answer, when all of a sudden, instead of "my friends," he said, out of the blue, "Comrades." While it was a change of pace, "comrades" seemed a bizarre choice of words for an individual tortured by communists.

Can you say "Manchurian Candidate?" Could it be that McCain's verbal gaffe is a tell-tale sign? Recently, the McCain campaign has attempted to smear Obama through a "guilt by association" campaign that nearly accuses him of being in a sleeper cell. This is a dangerous tactic for anyone with McCain's background.

Thus far, it has been considered out of bounds to question McCain's war record. The fate of the world is too important for politeness. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has destroyed the lives of numerous individuals forced to endure war and torture. Why should we believe that John McCain is any more immune to PTSD than anyone else? McCain has demonstrated a volatile temper over the years, he seems trapped in his thinking about winning wars, and as his comments in the debate suggest, my friends, he may not be over the trauma of those years in confinement. Perhaps his hostility to veterans issues is explained in part by his efforts to minimize or deny any suggestion that he was damaged in captivity in any way except physically.

I admire John McCain for his stand, while a POW, that others had to come home first. However, I am also CONCERNED that his time as a POW may have rendered him unfit for office. It may be impolite and impolitic to suggest that his mental health should be questioned, however, it may be ruinnous not to do so.

If there's nothing to worry about, why won't McCain release his health records? How about his debriefing after he came back from Vietnam? He frequently refers to his time as a POW. It is time that the record be made clear and fully examined.

Can America afford to elect any more presidents whose mental abilities are questionable?

Elizabeth Dole: Follow the Yellow Brick Road

Elizabeth Dole, it is time to click your heels and go back to Kansas. Senator Dole (R-NC), entered the U.S. Senate with great fanfare. As a former president of the Red Cross, an ex-cabinet secretary (Transportation under Reagan and Labor under Bush I), and a viable presidential candidate, Dole was supposed to wield unprecedented power for a freshman senator. Taking over the seat of Mr. Conservative, Jesse Helms, was supposed to somehow bring her an even greater authority.

Unfortunately, even for those who might agree with her politically, she has been an unmitigated flop. In her six years in the U.S. Senate she has sponsored no significant legislation and has exhibited little to no leadership. For those who disagree with her (as this writer most certainly does), she has proved nothing but an irritation and an embarrassment. Falling on the wrong side of almost every issue, she has been little more than a rubber stamp for Bush Administration policies. For that, she must suffer her worst condemnation. It was exactly the sort of politician, with the resume of Dole, who could have stood up and confronted Bush at his worst. When he undermined the Constitution, when he rationalized torture, when he abandoned Katrina victims, and when he decided to destroy the economy, where was Elizabeth Dole? Right there in the cheering section. It was during this time that Dole could have had her greatest effect, but instead she opted for political cowardice.

Letters to Dole (of which this writer has authored many) receive pro-forma responses that are nothing more than insults to constituents. Attempting to hide her actual positions, she typically responds with nothing but platitudes.

Of course, who would have expected anything different from Dole? Dissimulation and distortion are her primary political assets. When she first chose North Carolina as the state from which to nab a Senate seat, she assured us that it was only because she had to move here to care for her ailing mother. Yes, apparently we were supposed to believe that caring for her mother was necessary enough to require her to move here from Kansas, but that it afforded her enough free time to run for the Senate. On the face of it, those two things seem inherently contradictory.

Her mother, who died in 2004, seems to have freed her from the need to travel back and forth to North Carolina. Reportedly spending only nine (9) days in the state in the last year, when not campaigning, Dole is showing the people of NC where her heart lies.

It's time to send her back where she came. Time to go home to Kansas and back to Bob. Just click your heels three times, Liddy, and you'll be back on the farm in no time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fooled Again

Now that the bailout has passed and the stock market continues to tank and the credit squeeze gets tighter, will someone finally admit that we have just thrown good money after bad. Why would we have thought it would be any other way? The very people who have been wrong about almost everything (the Bush Administration, in case you missed it) first told us that disaster was on the way. "The sky is falling, but we can fix it," would have been an appropriate caption.

Now, post bailout, things continue to get worse. European banks are experiencing their own crisis, Asian stocks are off and banks continue not to loan money. Wasn't the bailout supposed to fix that?

Oh, I see, you actually believed the Bush Administration when they said this cash give away was necessary for the economy. Yea, and privatization led to the efficient clean-up post-Katrina. Of course, privatization and the bailout are ultimately, or should I say, intimately, connected. Both efforts reflect the real agenda of the Bush Administration - dismantle the government and strip all the assets for their cronies. Somehow they have managed to outdo themselves. They've managed to finance all of this by pawning off the debt on the public.

Now that the bailout has passed and the economy continues to tank, we see the real reason Henry Paulson had such a difficult time explaining the plan: there was no plan. The Bush-ites have done it to us again. They have pulled the wool right over our eyes. Just like the Patriot Act, just like the abuses of power, just like everything else.

And that, my fellow ripped-off citizens, is the real shame.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Saved (Momentarily) by Incompetence

In failing to pass the bail-out/give-away to Wall Street, the House of Representative stumbled, at least momentarily, into carrying out the will of the people. This failure is most noteworthy, not for its effect on the economy, but for its stunning defeat in an era when the final votes are a foregone conclusion.

Cowed by fear of voters so close to the election, the House members voted in whatever way would benefit them back in the home district. A few dogmatic sorts on both sides, for completely different reasons, banded together with those afraid of their constituents, and the "Peevish 12," who apparently changed their votes at the last minute because their feelings were hurt. This group formed the nucleus of those who voted "no." For the time being we are saved.

One might reasonably argue with analysis that suggests the failure of the give-away is a necessarily good and saves us. However, what seems inarguable is that the bill failed not because our representatives did not desire to turn over $700 billion to $1trillion to the greedy, incompetent miscreants that caused this alleged crisis, it is that they were unable to do it in a way that satisfied their own needs.

But do not rest easy. Those who are bent to steal all of the common wealth of the nation have only a little while longer to pillage before the worst administration in history is out of office. The politicians in Congress, the worst that money can buy, will now be called onto the rug for their attempted display of independence. A bill will eventually be passed and you can be assured that the details will show who really pulls our leaders strings.

We cannot expect the momentary display of incompetence to save us forever. Usually the incompetence of politicians works against us (e.g. the failure of the Democrats to defeat the Republicans in every election they have blown over the years). Soon the incompetent will rise to their usual level.

Certainly the Democrats are trying. What possesses this bunch of spineless, weak-willed, alleged liberals, that keeps them toadying up to, and voting for the policies of the Bush Administration? If the Democrats had any competence as a party at all they would refuse to go along with anything proposed by the Bush Administration.

The Bush Administration, wrong on almost everything; Iraq, Afghanistan, Katrina, Patriot Act, energy policy, human rights, etc., suddenly is about to be given a blank check. If the Democrats have any ability to see past trying to blow another election or have any concern for the people they claim to represent, they will refuse to accept this bail-out/give-away. If they truly want to lead this country and represent the people they should demand equity ownership of any corporation participating in this action. Further, any money that goes out should be loaned, with interest. We're talking about bankers, they should understand interest. Finally, if the government is going to get into the banking business it should at least be smart about it. Rather than overpaying for assets, the government, as the representative of "We the People," should dictate terms just like good capitalist bankers do, and pay pennies on the dollar for these assets. That's the way the free market would operate if the situations were reversed. To do otherwise is to allow theft from the public.

Time, for once, to be saved by competence. What of the odds of that? I don't know. Let's bet $700 billion.

Free-Dumb: A definition

Free-dumb: 1) negating the importance of intelligence, education, knowledge and judgment as necessary pre-requisites for public office. 2) belief that those without knowledge or expertise are somehow better qualified to lead. 3) acceptance of the last eight years.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Theft of the Wealth of Our Nation

A slow motion near-recession has steamrolled the middle-class for the past two to three years. As the income of the average worker held steady at best, and the purchasing power of the dollar declined while health costs soared, and Wall Street raked in record profits. CEO's enjoyed massive compensation packages and the economy was deemed to be in good shape. "The fundamentals of the economy are strong," was uttered by many long before McCain (he was just the last one to get that this was not true). The free market, we were assured, would take care of everything.

Now the flaws of the predatory phase of capitalism have been laid bare. But what do we hear from the free market profiteers who told us the invisible hand of the market would take care of it all? We hear a cry for a bailout and we see the all too visible hand reaching out for the money of the people.

This is not a bailout. It is theft. Theft from the common good. Already we are being told that whoever is the next president will have to scale back his agenda. In other words, it is too important for rich people to get richer than it is for you and your children to have health care. It is too important for greedy investment banks to be rescued from their own incompetence than for your parents and grandparents to have a secure future.

Isn't it just an incredible coincidence that this has all come to pass as the Bush Administration winds down? After privatizing essential services of the government in order to further enrich the already rich, we now are on the brink of nationalizing the debt of the private sector. Is there anything left to take? Guard the White House silverware on January 20th.

Fancifully, some are calling the bailout socialism. If it were socialism the average worker would see the reward and the banks would be howling. Socialism would see the government take control of the assets of the bank and sort out this tangle of greed. What the current approach will be is the government (of the people: you and me) will get all the bad debt and give the incompetent and greedy who caused this billions of dollars. This is buying swamp land in Florida and being told that it's "waterfront." Call this what it is: this is fraud, this is theft. Robin Hood in reverse. Welfare for CEO's.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Invisible Hand Picks Your Pocket

Capitalists and corporatists love to blather about the wisdom of the "Invisible Hand of the Market." Adam Smith conceived the idea as a maxim that suggested as an individual pursued his/her own interests that this also helped those within his/her community. There is an underlying suggestion that bad actors are punished due to the harm to their reputation and the resulting wariness of those conducting business with them.

The Invisible Hand is a nice metaphor that suggests a sense of quaint, rural living where everyone knows everyone and your reputation means something. It is only natural that robber barons would use imagery that seems so comforting. Let's drop in a little "Don't Worry, Be Happy," as the soundtrack.

The mortgage crisis meltdown continues and everyday people are losing their homes at a record rate while investment banks, predatory lenders and AIG are bailed out because they are seen as too important to fail. Where is the Invisible Hand? That's just it. That is their argument. These corporate cretins who have manufactured this crisis through their greed truly do believe that they are so important to the rest of us that they must be subsidized. All praise the Invisible Hand from which all profits flow.

But when the profits quit rolling and the accounting is due, capitalism just won't do. It is truly stunning to witness rabid free-market capitalists demand government subsidies to support their incompetence. Privatize the profits, socialize the costs. The Invisible Hand seems to be up to something.

It's pulling the strings on your government and lifting the dollars right out of your pocket.
Adam Smith was a naive fool.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Conversion of the GOP on the Road to St. Paul

The Republican Party has seen the light. After years of perfecting the art of partisan rancor and the politics of personal destruction, the GOP has had a change of heart.

At least that's the official story. During the convention in St. Paul, one speaker after another decried the partisan tone in Washington and called for a new spirit of bipartisanship. In addition, there was the accompanying cry to leave personal matters and private lives out of this election.

Strange how the Republican'ts have found a need for bipartisanship and personality free politics now that they are out of power and have a busload of skeletons in the closets of their candidates. Or is that a busload of lobbyists and candidates in the closet (or bathroom as the case may be)?

The Republican'ts were so proud of their party that they made sure that it's name was not even visible to the TV audience. The only place the word Republican appeared was in small print at the top of each state's name. If you weren't looking, you would have missed it.

They now claim the mantle of the party of reform. Mavericks at the helm, they now ask us to believe their conversion is complete. "We have changed," is the battle cry. "Just give us four more years, and you'll see, this time we'll get it right." Oh yeah, and while you're at it don't ask us any embarrassing questions or point to the hypocrisy of our campaign. You see, the new GOP doesn't go in for that.

Just another charlatan claiming to have seen the light, holding out the promise of better times. Is the electorate stupid enough to fall for this doublespeak. The Republican'ts seem to think so.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Enough with the Cowboys

We now have two mavericks on the Republican ticket. At least that's how they want to be seen by the voters. McCain wants us to believe that after a quarter-of-a-century in Washington that he is a rebel. What he is really telling us is that he is another impulsive yahoo who values form over substance. The selection of the moose hunter, Sarah Palin only serves to bolster his credentials as a loose cannon.

Hasn't this country had enough of cowboy diplomacy? From the pomposity of Reagan the horseman to the jangling of Bush's spurs, a reckless attitude that values braggadocio over intellect, politics over policy has pervaded our system and diminished our country. Cowboys and their politics belong in the past.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin?

On his 72nd birthday, the third anniversary of Katrina, John McCain has announced Sarah Palin as his running mate for the 2008 election. Gov. Palin of Alaska, currently being investigated on ethics charges, wants creationism taught in schools, opposes abortion even in cases of rape or incest, and supports drilling in ANWR.

Is McCain trying to throw the election? Or was Palin selected only to take the spotlight off Obama as everyone tries to figure out who she is? Will she soon step aside for the "real" VP candidate. She seems a stunningly bad choice designed primarily to take heat. Will she last as the veep choice through the GOP convention?

The only rational reason to choose Palin is as a distraction. Using only that criterion perhaps she is a good choice for the Repugnicans. Unless McCain distracts voters from the issues, this race is already over.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Forget About McCain

Forget about the busload of lobbyists on the DoubleSpeak Express. Forget about the economic troubles that are all in our minds according to his chief economic advisor. Forget about voting with Bush 95 % of the time. Forget a pro-war mentality that leads him to joke about "Bombing Iran." Forget leaving his first wife because she was disfigured in a car accident after she waited all those years for him. Forget that he left her for a younger, mid-life crisis trophy heiress. Forget the ginning up of the conflict in Georgia. Forget his advisor who is a lobbyist for Georgia. Forget that he doesn't know a Sunni from a Shi'ite.

Forget the flip-flops. Forget the $500 shoes. Forget that he seems to endorse a draft. Forget that he has urged a "surge" at home in law enforcement that would effectively declare martial law. Forget that he doesn't know how many houses he owns (the answer of course is zero. Cindy owns them all).

Forget that McCain will be 72 at time of inauguration. Forget that he seems out of touch with the modern world.

Forget that he thinks Czechoslovakia still exists. Forget that he doesn't know how to email without assistance and that he hopes to learn how to click the Internet icon any day now. Forget that McCain admits he doesn't know very much about the economy. Forget his energy policy firmly rooted in the last century. Forget that his health care solution is to do nothing at all.

Forget being concerned that his time as a POW will manifest as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at the worst possible moment. Forget his noun-verb-POW response to my last statement. Forget the temper he is known to unleash.

You'd have to forget all these things to vote for McCain. Remember them all and forget about McCain.

Ridiculous Rogge

Jacques Rogge of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) criticized Usain Bolt of Jamaica for celebrating his victory in the 200 meters. His complaint seemed to be that Bolt celebrated in a manner too extreme. What?

First, let's address the substance of the remark. Bolt engaged in no more celebration than many other athletes at the games. There have been greater celebrations in preliminaries than the actions in question. My experience of the celebration was that Bolt was exuberant and taking in the whole experience of the Olympics. Second, it was a big deal. He had a right to celebrate. Given the adrenalin rush he must have been experiencing it is difficult to see how he could have been subdued. Finally, the celebration was good for the Olympics. To see an athlete not so completely jaded that he could be joyous and unguarded before the world was good for sports.

Usain Bolt appears to be a genuine human being with a warm glow in his heart. Jacques Rogge is absurd and ridiculous.

Kudos for the Coquille

The Coquille Tribe of Oregon has passed legislation recognizing same-sex marriage. As a sovereign nation the Coquille have joined the list of nations and states that recognize the fundamental right of ALL people to be treated equally.

As far as I am aware, the Coquille are the first Native American tribe to recognize same-sex marriage. I doubt that they will be the last. Although the Navajo and the Cherokee, the two largest tribes in the U.S., have laws against same-sex marriage, and same-sex marriage is not widely accepted among Native Americans, I predict that many tribes will follow the Coquille.

Discrimination is discrimination, no matter who is the victim. A history of genocide and cultural annihilation sensitize one to unequal treatment. It must be recognized that the right to be treated equally extends to everyone. You don't have to agree with someone or even like what they do or who they are to recognize that everyone has a right to equality.

Kudos to the Coquille.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dreyfus in Guantanamo

The Dreyfus Affair, in which a young French military officer of Jewish descent named Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason, still stands as a marker of the danger in accepting government proof as absolute in a political trial. Conviction largely centered around fabricated documents produced by military counter-intelligence. However, due to public outcry and later re-examination of the evidence, Alfred Dreyfus was acquitted.

Lucky for Dreyfus that he was in France in the 1890's rather than a prisoner of America during the early part of the 21st century. Prisoners held by America in Guantanamo have no expectation that there is any possibility that a miscarriage of justice will be overturned. Even the defendants attorneys are not allowed to see all of the evidence against them. How can any possible trial be fair under these conditions.?

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, has just received a split verdict in his trial at Guantanamo. Even with secret testimony, coerced evidence and a trial where even full acquittal would have resulted in his continued imprisonment was labeled a "fair trial" by White House Spokesman Tony Fratto.

The FBI now assures us that Bruce Ivins was responsible for the anthrax attacks. Of course, they were also pretty sure when they closed in on his colleague Mark Hatfill. Most of the condemnation of Ivins seem to rely on the idea that he was mentally unstable. If so, why was a man this unstable given access and permitted to work with biological agents?

As I write this, it was just reported on MSNBC at approximately 9:40 am that a woman believed to be assisting al-Qaeda has just been taken into custody and is being brought to the U.S. Her family denies she has any connection to terrorism. Will we ever see the evidence?

France had the one Dreyfus. With have at least three good contenders at the moment and that's if we don't count the hundreds of others held in Guantanamo or spirited around the world in our secret prisons. History condemned France for the Dreyfus Affair. What will history say of this period in American history?

How much longer will we let our country commit atrocities and ignore our own laws and Constitution? As the Dreyfus Affair illustrates, subverting your own values serves no purpose other than gaining a badge of humiliation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Our Dying Planet

In a report form Michael Graczyk of the Associated Press, researchers at Texas A&M University, led by Steve DeMarco have noted that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is expected to be larger than ever this year. The dead zone is an area where ocean life cannot live. The runoff from fertilizers and other petro-chemicals are the suspected culprits. According to other researchers at LSU and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association this zone will be roughly the size of New Jersey. Other dead zones have been discovered throughout the world.

What are we doing to ourselves? Must we kill every living thing on the planet before we concede that there is a problem? Global warming, the energy crisis, dead zones in the ocean, shifting animal migration patterns, rising extinction rates, all have one common link: humans.

It is our lifestyle that is creating a myriad of problems across the globe. Attempts to address any of these issues without addressing the way in which we live in the 21st century will all be doomed to fail unless we confront the underlying basis of these problems. Lifestyles based on consumption and the accumulation of material goods all demand an approach to the world that only exacerbates our problems.

As long as the well-being of humanity is defined as living a life of ease and the needs of the economy are the primary factors under consideration we will never solve the problems mentioned herein. In fact, far from solving them, we can expect that the current approach will lead to false solutions, which at best, will allow us to hold even. Treading water is no way to progress.

The health of the planet must become our primary consideration. An approach that attempts to restore the overall health of the earth would begin to solve many of our other problems as well. This is not a novel idea nor do I claim credit for it. Living sustainably, in harmony with the earth, is wisdom that many indigenous cultures have tried to pass along. Will we listen?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Myth of Energy Independence

For the past several months politicians and pundits of all stripes have talked of the need for energy independence. Discussions center on the need to make the U.S. free of the control of its energy supply by foreign, often hostile, governments. The rationale, as the discussion usually goes, is that if we could just free ourselves of these entanglements then we would have no energy concerns.

This discussion, and the whole idea of energy independence, ignores reality and is dependent on many faulty assumptions. The first of these faulty assumptions is the idea that if foreign governments were out of the picture then there would be no problems. All that happens in this scenario is that instead of being beholden to Saudi Arabia we are beholden to Exxon-Mobil. For all practical purposes what difference does it make if the price is being inflated for geopolitical reasons or for profit. All that will happen is that one master is traded for another.

Independence generally implies being free of something. How would we be free of the need for energy if every single ounce of oil consumed in this country were produced in the U.S. as long as its production, refinement and sale were controlled by a transnational corporation that is larger than many countries.

Therein lies the real state of affairs that makes energy independence a myth. We are already beyond the point where nations are really affecting the price, and more importantly, the supply of oil. Oil is controlled by entities that are based on the premise that we are all addicted to their product.

Energy independence would move us away from dependence on petroleum, natural gas, etc. and their producers/suppliers. That, however, is not part of the debate. EVERY discussion of the energy crisis centers around increasing our production and supply. Ethanol, switch grass, and other biofuels still create a dependence.

Relabeling where the energy originates will not eliminate our dependence. The debate must change and we must recognize the enormity of the problem. If you think we are anywhere near energy independence, try to unplug everything in your own home for just one day. True energy independence is eliminating our need for it.

Here's the reality. When politicians (and their accomplices in the media who refuse to call them on their distortions) talk of energy independence all they are really talking about is making it easier for the large transnational petroleum companies to do business abroad. The recent oil deals signed in Iraq attest to the realities of the global energy business. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss, just rebranded.

The above blog entry is part of a larger article on the energy crisis currently in preparation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Requiem for the 4th Amendment

Today, July 10, 2008 the Telecom Immunity/FISA Bill passed the Senate 69-28 and was signed into law by George Bush. The bill, which if there was truth in naming, would be called the Evisceration of the Fourth Amendment Bill, codifies the ability of the government to snoop wholesale into our lives.

What the bill also does is provide the most tangible victory yet for al-Qaeda. The Bush Administration, with the help of a collaborating Congress, has trampled upon the very principles that founded America. If there has ever been a victory for terrorism it is undermining the very values which the nation purports to uphold.

Bush has often stated that "freedom is on the march." Unfortunately, it needs to be on the run. On the run from would be monarchs and the spineless opposition. Will there be no end to the attack on our freedoms and liberties until every single line of the Constitution and Bill of Rights has been scrapped?

Today is a dark day for this nation. It was not done to us by our enemies. It has been done to us by our elected officials. What's next?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Never Ending Assault on the Constitution

The Associated Press is reporting that the Justice Department is considering allowing the FBI to use profiling as a means to investigate possible terrorism. Profiling runs completely against at least two Constitutional Amendments. The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable search and seizure and the Fourteenth requires that equal treatment be extended to all. Profiling is a direct attack on these principles.

Is there no end to the assault on civil liberties by the Bush Administration? Once again, the fear of terrorism is being used as an excuse to disregard the Constitution. Profiling is an extremely slippery slope that can quickly be used to cast suspicion on anyone. Combine that with the already abysmal track record of a government that spys on the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers) as a possible terrorist group and only took Nelson Mandela, the revered patriarch of South Africa, off the State Department list as a terrorist risk this week and it seems highly unlikely that this effort will not lead to abuse.

Does it really seem like a good idea to allow people who think Nelson Mandela and a pacifist organization are security risks to profile on the basis of what they think is questionable?

In addition to the concerns for civil liberties, profiling also serves as an institutionalization of poor police work. Any clever terrorist is going to try to avoid looking the part. In the end, profiling serves only as an excuse for pretextual stops and as a way to avoid Constitutional guarantees. Evidence ceases to matter and appearances take precedent.

Why does this administration seek this power at this point? Haven't they already shown us that they will spy on anyone at anytime? So why now? Why not six years ago? Since this effort will almost surely stop in either an Obama or McCain administration, why the urgency for this in the final 200 or so days of this administration?

Just because they are leaving office does not mean that we should relax as regards the Bush-Cheney regime. They have shown a blatant disregard for the people of this land and its principles. The trashing of the Constitution will be the infamy for which history will shame them.

George Bush and his entire administration need a lesson in civics. The Constitution is an ideal to uphold, not an obstacle to circumvent.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Fooled Again?

Recently there have been familiar rumbles coming out of Washington concerning Iran. The ratcheting up of the rhetoric and the belligerent posturing towards another nation seems like just another summer rerun. The demonization of their government and the alarm over their weaponry have long been undercurrents in the U.S. politicization of relations with Iran. The Democrats are so afraid of being called unpatriotic during an election year that they seem to, once again, be going along with Bush Administration policies.

The European Union has joined in the complicity. By giving even symbolic backing to the U.S. in it threats towards Iran, which it did in threatening sanctions, the EU has created the conditions by which the Bush Administration can claim international support for its efforts to start its third war.

Maybe the U.S. isn't trying to start a war. Maybe it's setting the conditions for Israel to act as its proxy and bomb the Iranian nuclear sites. Perhaps the clandestine beginnings of the war have already been initiated. How would we know?

The lack of coverage in the American press over this most pressing issue is disturbing. As this slow build of hostilities begin, the media appears fascinated with flag pins, questions of patriotism and other absurdities. Why is this not the lead story on every news outlet every day? If not the lead, one would think it would be there with the other lead stories about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan where the Taliban has apparently regrouped.

Would that these were the stories pushing out the crucial news of Iran. But this is simply not the case. Take whatever news outlets you normally rely upon and note how much of the news is devoted to these crucial stories. Better yet, simply divide the news you receive into important and trivial. See what you think of your news sources now. Let us all demand that our media outlets immediately begin to cover the real news of the day. Only an informed populace can properly maintain a democracy.

The latest run-up in tensions with Iran seems eerily familiar. Just as disturbing is the seeming media complicity in keeping the tensions sufficiently out of sight that we aren't quite sure what's going on. Even news junkies are having trouble getting to the truth of such issues as Israel's bombing of the alleged Syrian nuclear site and reported border incursions. Like the Iraq War we seems to be headed to a point where war is a forgone conclusion, or at least is presented that way. Will we get fooled again?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Telecom Capitulation

The just announced Telecom Immunity "Compromise" is the latest assault on the Constitution engineered by the Bush Administration and caved into by the Democratic "opposition." Why are the Democrats so eager to sell out the Constitution by going along with this legislation? They have resisted until now. Why now? This alleged compromise seems to give the Bush Administration everything it wanted.

Effectively, this legislation eviscerates the Fourth Amendment. I'm not sure why the word compromise should even apply. I guess the Democratic Leadership (?) just needs to collapse for Bush one more time for old time sakes before he leaves office.

At first there were denials of wiretapping. Then there were the statements that it all complied with FISA. At each step, new truths have been revealed. Now, at a point where there might actually be some oversight, these companies who claim to have done nothing wrong, and been in compliance with the law, need retroactive immunity against prosecution.

Bush has claimed that without this immunity other companies will be reluctant to cooperate with the government. That is exactly the point. That is why these companies must NOT be granted immunity and in fact, MUST be prosecuted. So that in the future, subversion of the Constitution will be seen as the traitorous act it is, not mislabeled as necessary for national security.

So far, only Russ Feingold has spoken out against this treacherous act. Call your senator today and tell him or her to stand for the Constitution, not for those who have acted in concert to undermine our democracy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Excuse to Pillage: Part 2

In recent days both John McCain and President Bush have advocated lifting the ban on offshore drilling. Hiding behind the guise of "helping the consumer" and the omnipresent cry of "national security," another false solution is offered. Even if everyone agreed to let this environmental recklessness proceed unchallenged, it would be at least 20 years before any oil is actually produced.

If we have not figured out another solution to our inter-linked climate and energy crises by then, it will not matter. Ideas that suggest further damaging the environment as a solution to our current problems are outmoded and symptomatic of a mindset that focus on the immediate and ignores long-term consequences.

We have now crossed into a zone where hopes of finding and producing new sources of petroleum only encourages thinking that perpetuates our most pressing problems. We're like a gambler who has run out of money and sells the car so he can win it all back. Committing the same mistake is not the solution.

What will it take to have a discussion of these issues, climate and energy, that is not driven by irrelevant concerns over the price of gas? Irrelevant? Yes, because the solutions do not involve the same mistakes. OIL IS OVER. Fossil fuels are as dead as the dinosaurs that produced them. We can no longer let any other narrative continue. The future necessitates the stark realization that it will not last forever. All resources are finite. Encouraging any more dependence on this resource is folly. If all the oil in the world that there is anywhere were all suddenly made available as easily as sticking a straw in the ground, it still remains true that it will eventually run out and not so far into the future.

There is now an opportunity in these crises to find a solution that addresses both our problems with climate change and energy dependence. The problems will likely require many varied methods from a number of diverse approaches. Rather than an energy policy based on an oil war to drive down costs, perhaps one directed towards sustainability and environmental sensitivity could be implemented.

Get out your calculators and consider this. If the U.S. government truly wanted to help the consumer and contribute to energy independence it could install $10,000 worth of solar panels on 100 million homes for half of the $2 trillion estimate economists have given for the Iraq war. Not only would this provide great relief to the entire power grid as regards the production of energy and likely lower everyone's utility bills, it could also be a tremendous boost to the economy. Production of panels would aid manufacturing and employment gains in the industry would offset any loses in the petroleum industry.

Trampling the environment must be seen for what it is. Offshore drilling is an excuse for some to make money and some to make political capital. For too long, the people of this country have been sold down the river by our elected leaders. Rather than doing anything to address our energy and environmental issues, they have worked to insure that profits are not harmed by environmental concerns. What happen to "of the people, by the people and for the people"? Did that get edited out of the Constitution at Dick Cheney's secret energy plan meetings?

The above blog is part of a larger article about energy independence by Ray Bawarchi.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cheers for Kucinich & a Bronx Cheer for the Senate

Cheers for Dennis Kucinich. Having already entered articles of impeachment against Dick Cheney, Kucinich proved once again that he is one of the few politicians in our government that actually believes in the Constitution when he introduced articles of impeachment against George W. Bush earlier this week.

While the chances of an impeachment range from little to none, since the rest of Congress is so afraid of losing an election, Kucinich is to be admired for trying to represent the American people and live up to his oath of office. It is fairly clear to those who read a newspaper that Bush has committed numerous acts that warrant prosecution. In many ways, Bush's assertions that the law does not apply to him may be the greatest crime of all. America is a government "of the people." Attempting to make oneself a king is the greatest affront of all to democracy. So again, cheers to Kucinich.

While Kucinich may stand out among politicians as a man of principle, last week the Senate showed just how little principle most of its members have. A bill that attempted to address climate change was summarily killed mostly by parliamentary maneuvers with only 48 Democrats voting to cut off debate on a threatened filibuster.

The absolute failure of the Senate to address the issue of climate change centered around the possible financial ramifications of addressing the problem. The argument, as always, is that the effect of taking the steps necessary to deal with climate change would cause economic disruption.

What of the costs of not addressing climate change? Our politicians can't think that far ahead. They can only see the next election cycle. Must the sun burn out our retinas before the problem is too big to ignore? The sheer audacity that leads our elected leaders to put corporate interests before the needs of society suggests that Bush is not the only leader that needs to be removed from office.

To the Senate, a big Bronx cheer.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Manipulation of Energy Prices, Oh My!

Today, May 29th, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that it has been investigating the possible manipulation of oil prices by speculators. The price of oil then proceeded to fall approximately four dollars a barrel in very short order.

The investigation apparently began sometime in December 2007 when oil was around $96 a barrel. By some estimates the price of oil may be inflated as much as one-third by this manipulation.

But why the surprise? Isn't the price of oil mostly manipulation? That is the capitalist way. Squeeze every cent of profit possible. The invisible hand of the market has no ears to hear cries of suffering.

The real surprise is that the oil producers let this occur. The price of oil seems to have jump started discussions of alternative energy. Perhaps if the price were to get even higher, say in line with European prices, we might actually begin to develop an energy policy in this country. If we start thinking about our addiction to cheap oil we might begin to look for another way.

In many ways the availability of cheap oil has stifled our efforts to develop alternative sources of energy. Increasing fuel standards and hybrid cars may make us feel like we're doing something but the fact remains that even these modest solutions (the only kind we're offered) are nothing more than a continuation of the use of an outdated technology.

Since January of this year, I have heard more discussions of alternative energy than ever before. A simple search for the term will reveal a rising interest in developing new approaches to the energy conundrum. Maybe the speculators have done us all a favor. By manipulating the price to such levels maybe we are starting to pay attention.

If it would cause this country to develop an energy policy maybe we should all hope for $10 a gallon gas. Of course, it doesn't matter if we hope for it or not, it will be here soon enough. And that is the real twist to the price of oil. Cheap oil is over, but if we realize it too soon, we might do something about it. If we keep thinking oil is the only way, and burning more and more petrol is the only way to power our civilization then we'll still be paying for it when it reaches $100 a gallon.

Can't happen? Yeah, you're right, big business would never put profits ahead of the good of society. That's why we have such a wonderful national health care system.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Did Caesar Play Golf?

Bill Press, on his morning radio show, noted that a bust of Julius Caesar had recently been discovered and that it was the "spitting image" of George W. Bush. It made me wonder if there was more to this than a casual resemblance.

Born into a prominent political family Caesar was afforded all the advantages of privilege. Financed by wealthy friends of the family, he spent enormous amounts of other peoples money for little purpose.

Caesar first presided over Rome when it was still a republic. It was he who began building what would be an empire. This was accomplished by a series of military invasions and conquests. Campaigns, it should be noted, that were more about the aggrandizement of Caesar's ego and reputation than for the benefit of Rome.

Caesar alienated those close to him by his refusal to take the counsel of his elders. Pompey the Great was pushed aside for having a different view of leadership. His overwhelming personal arrogance only compounded matters. In the end, even supporters turned on him.

He ruled by decree (no wimpy signing statements for him). He constantly asserted new powers and ignored any pleas from the Senate about the legality of his actions.

He was known for taking lengthy vacations, even during military campaigns. He also seemed to love the power of the office, reveling in the pomp and circumstance, while seeing the business of policy as an inconvenience.

Did Caesar play golf?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush the Educator

George Bush continues to amaze. Not only does he decide to muddle politics and policy in his speech before the Israeli Knesset, but he also decides to provide a lecture. Here, at a recognition of the birth of a country, "the Decider"also becomes "the Educator." In a manner of speaking he frequently slips into, Bush attempts to provide a rationale for his actions by stressing the logic of his positions. At the same time this often involves ridiculing the opposite point of view.

While speaking in Israel he attempted to draw the analogy to Neville Chamberlain and appeasement of Hitler while ridiculing those who want to "talk." Bush would, of course, need to mock those who believe in negotiation and diplomacy. After all, he is a man of action. We see how well that has worked out.

"George Bush the Educator." Bush attempting to persuade anyone that he has any idea how to manage anything at this point is a near impossible sell. Bush has proven so stunningly wrong and incompetent in almost every decision that he has made that he is more of a negative barometer of action. Whatever he advocates should at once be discarded as folly if we only go on the basis of track record. This is the man who couldn't find oil in Texas and traded Sammy
Sosa. If only his incompetence had been relegated to the private sector. Unfortunately his incompetence has only been made more obvious in the light of the political spotlight.

At least the debate about who's the worst president has been settled. Buchanan, Fillmore, Hoover; they've all been surpassed. Bush the Educator has outdone them all.

Bush mocks negotiation and discussion with our enemies. This alone should illuminate the clearest course of action. Bush attempting to educate the world about foreign policy is like Caligula giving Gandhi advice on morality.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. mnn.com. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer