Friday, December 31, 2004

Amy Goodman with John Perkins

New Year’s Eve. So Happy New Year!!

It is difficult to tell anymore what is true and what is not. Somewhere I read that the Bush/Cheney (or should I say the Cheney/Bush) Administration originally offered $400,000 for aid to the tsunami victims. This was quickly changed to 15 million. Then, apparently being stung by criticism, the amount was raised to 35 million (less than the cost of Bush’s coming coronation). Now we are told that it has been raised tenfold to 350 million. So who really knows what it will be. First, as Bush has a pattern of promising things and then not delivering, we don’t know if they will ever get any U.S. money. Then, even if they do, it could be the case that the money will be given only if it goes to U.S. companies involved in rebuilding, etc. We have, alas, reached the point where you cannot believe anything this Administration says, period.

If you missed it there was on Democracy Now the most incredible interview today. Amy Goodman interviewed John Perkins about his book, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Although I have not yet read it, I assure you this is one of the most important books yet to illustrate exactly what U.S. Foreign Policy has been about for the past fifty or so years. Indeed, it may well be the single most important book on the subject ever. Buy it and read it as soon as you can. And pass it on to your friends. It is an incredible expose by someone who was involved at the very highest levels, an absolutely stunning and lucid account of how Corporations have managed to establish a world-wide empire without using military means, except for a couple of exceptions. Read it and understand what is really going on in the world, and why we have become so universally despised.

It would be nice if one could say 2004 had been a good year. But it certainly wasn’t. And unless something drastic happens fairly soon you can bet that 2005 will be worse. I hate to close on such a negative note, but that’s the way it is. Did you ever, ever, think that your country would have a President and Vice-President who were war criminals?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Ah, Republicans

Al Neuharth of USA Today wrote a piece the other day suggesting that American Troops should be withdrawn sooner rather than later. From the letters and emails that came in you would think he had recommended the slaughter of all American mothers. It is clear that those on the far right no longer believe that anyone is entitled to their opinion. The outburst from Mel Gibson, in particular, was so outrageous as to be absolutely insane. Now, in response to the vile and disgusting attack on Neuharth, letters in support of his right of free speech are beginning to appear. Keep them coming.

Bush, our not very esteemed President, is about to spend some 40 million dollars plus on his coronation. Be advised that this is more money than he has offered for relief in Asia where one of the greatest human disasters in history has occurred. Actually, he only wanted to give 15 million but was shamed into raising it to 35 million. Not only that, he has set up a coalition for aid consisting of the U.S., Japan, India, and Australia to coordinate the relief efforts. Never mind that this is in direct competition with, and totally ignores the U.N., which rightfully should be in charge of such an effort. Just another Bush attempt to denigrate and circumvent the U.N. Of course he couldn’t be bothered to say anything about the disaster until three days after it occurred – he was too busy cutting brush on his “ranch.” I think he was upset to realize that mother nature had managed to kill more innocent people, especially women and children, in three days than he has been able to kill in three years. He had better take it up with God.

We may, however, see the beginning of the end of Bush/Cheney’s disastrous adventure in the Middle East. Why? Because there is some evidence it is starting to affect American business overseas, especially obviously American products like Marlboro, AOL, McDonalds, American Express, and others. If this is true and becomes significant you can be pretty sure Bush/Cheney will have to pay attention. We can’t have anything adversly affect business. Happily, it may be too late to correct the damage already done, and they’ll just have to live with it. Until, that is, they give up their ridiculous dreams of empire and stop meddling in everyone else’s business (they are probably not capable of doing this). Actually, they can’t do this because they are in too deep. If they lose it may very well mean jail or worse. There is no statute of limitations for war crimes.

Republican hypocrisy continues to know no bounds. After three vote counts it seems that Democrat Gregoire has won the Governorship of the State of Washington. Republicans want to have a completely new vote. You notice they don’t want a new vote in Ohio where it is clear they illegally stole the election. They don’t even want a recount. They don’t even want to have to discuss it. Ah, Republicans, how can we not despise them?

Every morning now I wake up hoping for the next shoe to drop. Things simply cannot go on as they are. Something has to happen to end this nightmare. But don’t depend on the Democrats, those spineless, mewing kittens sucking on the same Corporate teats as the Republicans. I repeat, if no Senator steps forward to challenge the electoral votes, you will know that American Democracy is at an end. Don’t get your hopes up but don’t give up hope quite yet.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

A sick society

As horrible and destructive as the tsunami is, and as much as the victims need and deserve our help, do not allow it to take your eyes off the ball here at home. Bush is determined to manufacture a Social Security crisis where none exists. He is following the same strategy he employed to lie us into a “war” that was totally unnecessary, illegal, unconstitutional, and has turned out to be an utter disaster. Please allow me to remind you once more: NONE OF THIS HAD TO HAPPEN! Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. Iraq had no connection whatsoever with the terrorists. There is no conceivable way any thinking person could have believed Iraq was a threat to the United States. It would not have been a threat even if it had had nuclear weapons or other WMD’s. Neither is Iran or North Korea a meaningful threat to the U.S. No nation is about to attack the United States with nuclear bombs – unless, of course, they want to be immediately destroyed. There could, of course, be terrorist attacks of one sort or another. Even serious ones. But this fear is no justification for a defense budget larger than all the rest of the world combined. The defense budged doesn’t exist merely for purposes of defense. It exists to insure obscene profits for Corporations, the military-industrial complex that we were warned about so many years ago but did not have enough sense to resist. It is a cancer on our country that is becoming so serious it may be too late to cure.

Our educational system is now under attack. The Pell Grants, which have allowed thousands of deserving students to attend colleges and universities, are being drastically cut back. The ultra right is insisting that there has to be a balance between liberals and conservatives on University Faculties (I’m certain they would prefer no balance at all but, rather, all out conservatives). Science is under attack and scientists everywhere are being replaced with political appointments that will simply follow the party line. Make no mistake about it, this Administration does not want an educated populace that would see through the absurd demands of the religious fundamentalists for biblical “truth.” How can there be so many people in the United States who believe the earth is only four thousand years old? That the bible is the literal truth? That Christianity is the only true religion? We have become the laughingstock of the world. This is a fatal failure of our culture, this emphasis on anti-intellectualism and denigration of education. Our shameful neglect of our schools and teachers has finally come back to haunt us and we are in clear danger of becoming no better than a third rate nation without the skills and knowledge to compete in the modern world. This is nowhere more true that here in Idaho where our Republican controlled state would seem to prefer to not have schools at all. Where they have resisted funding the school and, indeed, at one point thought about changing the State Constitution so they would not even be responsible for school funding. This attitude towards our children and schools is so reprehensible as to be almost unimaginable. But it exists, right here. It is not a question of simply providing more money, it is a question of emphasizing the value of education, just for its own sake. Our schools have devolved into nothing more than holding centers, offering mindless busy-work to keep large numbers off the unemployment lines. Then we argue the schools are no good. Why should we fund them. The answer is the schools are no good because we haven’t adequately funded or supported them for years and years. And we don’t value them. We don’t value learning and we don’t value teachers. Everyone knows that all them “pointy-headed intellectuals” have no common sense and the only people who teach are those who are unable to do anything else. Aristotle, Socrates, Galileo, Kepler, Shakespeare, Milton, Keats, Darwin, Einstein, Hawkings, Chomsky, come immediately to mind, people like that, useless figures who wouldn’t know how to plow or paint a house or cut hair or dig a ditch if their life depended on it. I hate to believe it, but I must. The United States, as presently constituted, is a very sick society with an extremely questionable future.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Where's the intelligence?

I am reading Esther Kaplan’s book, With God on Their Side. I recommend it highly. You will be absolutely amazed at just how far the fundamentalists have infiltrated the corridors of power. Far more than you would ever have imagined even if you have been following the history of the conservative Christian takeover of our government. To say that it is frightening is a terrible understatement. That the Park Department is now selling a book that claims the Grand Canyon was formed by the flood and only a relatively short time ago is just the tip of the iceberg. This is part of what has now become the fundamentalists’ attempt to foist the concept of “Intelligent Design” on our schools as an antidote to the theory of evolution. That this is simply creationism redefined is so obvious that presumably it will not get very far. However, it does raise what I believe is a most interesting question. Where is the intelligence in Intelligent Design?

As I understand it the argument of Intelligent Design has basically to do with the fact that there are some gaps in the evolutionary record. That is, the steps from one place to another are not at the moment all complete. There are, in short, “missing links.” This allows them to argue that there must have been some kind of “intelligent designer” (a god or some other form of supernatural being or beings, perhaps from another solar system or whatever that intervened to make things as they are). And all of this happened in the fairly recent past (no more than 10,000 years ago). As there are no facts whatsoever to support this fantasy it remains, of course, no more than a religious faith that can in no way be proven, demonstrated, or otherwise validated. This belief also claims that people were created not very long ago and in their present form (never mind the fossil record, genetics, geological time, the history of science, or whatever).

The most interesting part of this belief system, to me at least, is that it assumes humans are the absolute apex of creation and were meant to have dominion over the earth and all the other creatures on it. Many, if not most of these believers, also believe in “the great chain of being,” in which all creatures must have their proper place with, of course, white anglo-saxons at the very top. One of the more interesting things about this is that it doesn’t even matter if you believe one race is inferior to another, the basic problem remains. That is, if this is a result of intelligent design, how do you explain that the human species, or at least the so-called best representatives of it, have been historically and continue to be, the most predatory, rapacious, short-sighted, destructive, murderous, humanicidal maniacs on the planet? The history of the human species is a history of nothing but one war after another, the crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, Revolutionary and civil wars, torture, rape, pillaging, unbelievable cruelties perpetrated even on innocent women and children, genocides, and savagery even beyond belief. If you don’t believe me read the historical record for yourself. We are also a species who almost uniquely systematically destroys our own nest and the air, water, and land around it. So, if this is a result of intelligent design, the designer whomever or whatever, must have been the greatest sadist of all time. Oh, but I forgot, this all came about because of our illicit taste for apples. Personally, I believe it’s all Clinton’s fault, just like everything else. I would like to think this is funny. But it’s not.

Monday, December 27, 2004

January 6th - fateful day

Thank heavens the Christmas weekend is over. It’s not that I don’t like Christmas or other holidays, it’s that it seems like the world just comes to a standstill for a few days. No mail, banks close, Stock Market closes, no news to speak of, just totally repetitious Christmas music day after dreary day. I’ve reached the point now where I can’t decide whether the original renditions of the carols are any better than the jazzed-up versions. In any case, the newer Christmas songs are so insipid as to make you wish you could become temporarily deaf. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, indeed. The others are even worse. Anyway, it’s over now for another year. Hooray!

Things apparently do actually happen here and there while we are in our annual madness. Apparently, for example, at the recent Buenos Aires Climate meeting the United States outdid itself in obstructionism, to the point when even our closest allies such as Australia were horrified. As the only nation to refuse to participate in the Kyoto Treaty we were already regarded as a pariah nation, but when we supported Saudi Arabia’s demand for compensation for lost revenue due to reduced global oil consumption we reached a new high for utter absurdity. This is in the same category as the timber industry demanding to be compensated for no longer being able to cut timber in the National Forests. But, hey, it’s the American way.

It is still not clear whether John Conyer’s group of Representatives will be able to persuade even one Senator to step up and be counted so the electoral votes can be challenged. Barbara Boxer has said she won’t do it, but has offered no explanation. Why, you might ask, will John Kerry not do it? Why, indeed? If no Senator steps up this time you can kiss American Democracy goodbye. January 6th is going to be an absolutely critical point in American history. There can be no doubt whatsoever at this point that the election was stolen again by the Republicans. And even the means they employed are becoming clearer and clearer, however complicated they may be. What I can’t understand is why there aren’t several Senators that would be willing to challenge, given that the outrage is so obvious. The Ukrainians have democracy, we have incipient fascism. Perhaps not even incipient.

Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Valley girls in the kitchen - essay

I absolutely cannot write another word about the absoluely dismal state of the world or the imminent fascist takeover of America. After all, it is Christmas Eve. Or should I saw Holiday Eve? So here is another essay.

Have you had the opportunity to observe "Valley Girls" in the kitchen? No? Too bad. Depending upon how you look at it, it is either a comedy or a tragedy. Perhaps both. Take a simple task, for example, like preparing an ordinary carrot. The Valley Girl selects a dull knife from a large and expensive matched collection of such implements. She cuts off the top third of the carrot, throws it away, and then cuts off the bottom third which she throws away. She then selects an expensive but basically useless peeling instrument and proceeds to peel the remaining third. Mind you, this is only in an emergency, when she has no canned or frozen carrots on hand. She does the same thing with potatoes and all other vegetables. Never mind the starving Chinese or Armenians or whomever.
Valley Girls know food is cooked when it sticks to the bottom of the pan. It doesn't matter what they cook, rice, potatoes, noodles, chili, whatever, if it doesn't stick firmly to the bottom it just isn't done. Most Valley Girls own somewhere in the vicinity of 200 cookbooks. They also subscribe to Gourmet or Bon Apetite or both. They do not use these books and magazines, preferring instead to use recipes from canned goods or the Sunday supplement that call for mixing two or more cans of something-or-other together. They do this mostly to avoid ruining their manicures but also because other forms of cooking take too much of their shopping time. In any case, Valley Girls only prepare five different dinners per week (they insist on eating out two nights a week, on the day they have their nails done and also the day they have their hair done). Typically they do pizza (ordered), spaghetti (canned), macaroni and cheese (packaged), chicken (only the expensive skinned breasts, barbecued by their husbands), and when in a real hurry, tuna wiggle (prepared by mixing two or more cans of stuff). They specialize in desserts which are either purchased frozen (as pies) or in mixes (cakes). They do, however, add little touches of their own such as breaking a candy bar on top of the frosting or inserting marshmallows between the layers or by the elaborate use of sprinkles. They claim they cannot eat these concoctions because they are dieting. They are always dieting no matter how thin or fat they may be. Indeed, there seems to be no connection whatever between their appearance and their dieting. They prepare their "gourmet" delights only for their families and become terribly hurt if their husbands and children fail to rave about what wonderful cooks they are.
For breakfast Valley Girls eat only grapefruit. For lunch they eat out, usually hot fudge sundaes or some other form of ice cream (giggling all the while, of course, that they shouldn't). This spares them the necessity of having to clean up after themselves (the dinner dishes are always done by their husbands). Valley Girls are constitutionally unable to rinse anything or put anything away. They cannot smash an empty container, open a bottle of wine, or remember to bring their coffee cup back from the bathroom to the kitchen. Recycling is far too confusing for them.
Valley Girls do like to eat dinner out - as often as possible. But they will only go to expensive restaurants. And they only order the most expensive items. Indeed, in collaboration with husbands the really savvy restaurants in the valley have separate menus for men and women. Hers does not include prices. While this slows down the ordering process it sometimes saves hubby a little money. Desserts, the richer the better, are not considered dietary items on these occasions.
In order to establish herself as a true gourmand the Valley Girl is apt to pronounce in a loud voice, usually in the presence of the waiter, something like, "This is not Chicken Cordon Bleu like my mother used to make. Or Blankette du Veau, or Truite en Bleu, or whatever (of course she learned to cook from her mother; she learns these terms from her unlimited supply of cookbooks).
Valley Girls do have their good points. Their kitchens, for example, are usually spotless (a combination of lack of use and husband's efforts). And they always contain the best of every available kitchen gadget. Not really designed for cooking, they are usually huge so the photographers from House and Gardens or Good Housekeeping or Architectual Digest can take better photographs. Of course Valley Girls must have several sets of dishes. It just would not do to eat tuna wiggle twice in a row off the same pattern. And they must have crystal and silver and lace tablecloths and, in short, the works.
Valley girls are the only human beings on earth who do not know how to use a broom. Nor do they know the location of the garbage unless by chance it is on the way to the swimming pool. They are, as I think Zorba put it, poor helpless creatures. How can we not love them?

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Guilty as not charged

Will this nightmare never end? The Washington Post has finally come right out and said that Rumsfeld lied about the torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And there is every reason to believe that the directives for torture came right from the White House. Rumsfeld is clearly on his way out, perhaps not quickly, but inevitably. He will no doubt claim he needs more time for his children and grandchildren. Not a bad future for a murderous war criminal. Like Ashcroft he can claim success and bow out. And no doubt there will be those Republican morons who will believe it.

Then there is the issue of the Ohio election, still not settled. Officials in Ohio have already made it impossible to truly verify the votes. But can there be any doubt whatsoever at this point that Republicans fixed the election, just as they did in 2000 and 2002? And just as they will again in the future if no one does anything about it. In 2000 all that was needed was for one Senator, just one, to step up and challenge the election, but none of them did. The situation is the same at the moment. All that is needed to challenge is one Senator with the courage to stand up and be counted. So far none has come forward. If no Senator will come forward at this moment in time to challenge this obviously dishonest election we can truly kiss American Democracy goodbye. Indeed, if John Kerry doesn’t step forward on this we will know that fascism has arrived and the Democrats are just as deeply involved as Republicans. Perhaps this should not be surprising, given that they all suck from the same Corporate teats.

If the House and he Senate refuse to step up now to resist Corporate control of our country, and the obvious rise of fascism, there will be no other recourse than for the citizens to take to the streets just as they did in the 20’s and 30’s. Indeed, Republicans seem to be dedicated to bringing this about. Why else do they insist on initiatives that are known to be quite the opposite of what the majority of Americans want? A majority of Americans want the environment protected. Republicans are doing everything they can to destroy it in the name of business. Most Americans think the war in Iraq is wrong. Republicans insist everything is going well and Democracy is about to arrive in that totally decimated country. A majority of Americans want Social Security to be left alone with only a few minor changes. Republicans want to eliminate it entirely, one step at a time. Most Americans want the national debt reduced. Republicans think it is not important. Most American favor a woman’s right to choose. Republicans want to outlaw abortion. Most Americans believe in the separation of church and state. Republicans are determined to bring religion directly into politics. Most Americans are in favor of stem cell research. Republicans are opposed. Most Americans are in favor of a national health care system that would insure health care for all. Republicans are opposed. Most Americans want to buy less expensive drugs in Canada. Republicans do not.

It appears that many Americans, mostly Republicans, still believe that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. They did not. They still believe there was a relationship between Iraq and the terrorists. There was not. Apparently many of them still believe the earth and all that is in it was created in less than 10,000 years by some kind of supernatural being. It was not. They seem to believe that Bush communicates directly with God. He does not. Many apparently believe that Jesus will return to earth and true believers will be swept up into heaven while everyone else will burn in hell. He and they won’t. Finally, if some people believe man/woman was created in God’s image, God must have had a remarkably macabre sense of humor.

And oh, yes. I guess if you belong to an enormously wealthy organization and dress in strange medieval costumes and funny hats, carry sacred staffs and what-not, and indulge in more or less unintelligable Latin rites, this permits you to abuse little boys and girls with little danger of being held responsible. In recent years this has been revealed at great financial cost to the Church. How many thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of children must have been abused in the hundreds of years of this absolutely Medieval Church? This is the same church that presumes to preach to you about abstinence and the evils of birth control?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Holidays - essay

Why can't we have sensible holidays? Surely the Christmas holiday period has long ceased to be a celebration of the Lord's birthday and degenerated into a seemingly endless period of commercialized insanity. In spite of the fact that the "Christmas Season" begins earlier every year it doesn't seem to lessen the pushing and shoving and the perpetual sea of traffic and zombie-like bodies wandering blankly from window to window, store to store, ever in search of what they seem to know not. Productive work comes to a stop, for all practical purposes, from about December lst to after New Year. In extreme cases probably from Thanksgiving to after the New Year's party.
It is a great mystery to me why people claim to enjoy this absurd round of office and home parties during which they profess to love everyone including those they mostly despise the rest of the year. And subconsciously, of course, they are trying to ruin their health. Why else the cookies and cakes and sweet rich food and drink that are exactly what the doctor does not order? Ever. Fruitcakes and plum puddings are perhaps the worst but Tom and Jerries run a close second in my book of holiday hates. It is as if the entire country is engaged in a gross orgy of mass destruction. And we all know who benefits from it all, don't we?
Just as one is about to recover from Christmas goose, or ham, or turkey or lutefish or all of these combined with the other "necessities" of the Christmas table it is time to put on the funny hats, open the champagne and spend another evening in a similarly gross orgy of self destruction. Who needs it?
Birthdays, too, have a tendency to get out of hand. This can be especially true among the relatively well-off but also has to be carefully guarded against in offices. If you don't watch out you'll find yourself donating to someone's birthday present at least once a week. Then before you know it there will be "just a little break" in honor of so-and-so's birthday. The "little break" soon becomes a necessity for everyone who works there. It then turns into a longer break and threatens to occupy at least one full day a week. Employers beware! Secretaries and clerks are the worst offenders here but virtually everyone should share some burden of guilt for the insidious mess that results. No office birthday parties, I say!
I suggest only two holidays per year. The first one might be called "Grossiola" and would be the functional equivalent of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all rolled into one. It would take place on approximately January 5th when all the sales are in progress and would last for, say, five working days. This would allow us to get twice as much for our money and would also eliminate the greater waste of time that currently takes place. It would also eliminate most of the crowds and confusion.
The second holiday would be called "Birthday." It would occur in mid July and at that time everyone would celebrate their birthday simultaneously. This could combine such things as Easter, Valentine's Day, President's Day, Martin Luther King Day, and whatever other "Days" there may be. I suggest this, too, should be five working days which, when coupled with week ends, would give everyone sufficient time to recover from the inevitable excesses that would occur.
Naturally merchants would not be in favor of such a scheme. However, they could be convinced if allowed to develop entirely new lines of gratuitous greeting cards, plastic junk, unhealthy candies, and suitably expensive decorations, to say nothing of environmentally degrading and utterly useless gifts.
Sneer if you like, but remember you'll have to continue to confront the absurdity of Valentine's Day, the hypocrisy of Chistmas and Easter, and the madness of Halloween (I realize this is not a holiday but it wastes just as much time, effort, and money, all to teach little kids to be extortionists). Are all these holidays really necessary?
Currently there is a great fuss by certain fundamentalist Christians that a conspiracy exists in America to remove Christ from Christmas. This manifests itself in greeting cards that say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of Merry Christmas. I suggest there is indeed such a conspiracy. It began a long time ago. When the first merchant realized how much money could be made by commercializing this so-called birthday party. No, I guess it is really all Clinton’s fault. There’s no accounting for dimwits. Just look at the present Administration.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What on earth will it take?

A majority of Americans now want Rumsfeld gone. But Bush thinks he is doing a great job. Previously he said he was doing a superb job. Andrew Card says he is doing a spectacular job. Republican critics say it would be a mistake to replace him now, during an ongoing “war.” Iraq is an absolute disaster with no chance of getting better in the near future, if ever. Even the troops which apparently supported the war are now becoming increasingly critical, deserting, failing to re-enlist, publicly complaining, refusing to go on missions they believe to be too dangerous, etc. The highways are so dangerous they are thinking of airlifting supplies. The road to the airport is too dangerous and is now off limits. I guess nothing succeeds like abject failure. Oh, and by the way, Rumsfeld is a very sensitive, caring fellow who truly feels for the troops. That is apparently why he has the condolence letters rubber stamped with his signature and fails to provide them with the armor they need. There is increasing evidence that the orders for torture emanated directly from the White House and Donald Rumsfeld. Torture is a war crime. Hiding prisoners from the Red Cross is a war crime. Attacking a sovereign nation that is no threat to you is a war crime. War profiteering is a war crime. Killing civilians is a war crime.

The national debt is at an all time high. Unemployment is rampant. Outsourcing jobs is considered good. There is no global warming. The Kyoto treaty might create problems for the American economy and therefore is bad. The endangered species act needs to be rewritten so it does not interfere with development and economic progress. The forests need to be cut down in order to save them. Clean air and water are good but not if they cost money. Banning snowmobiles in the National Parks is bad because it interferes with business. Humvees are so good they should get big tax breaks. Trying to increase mileage will harm the automobile industry. Lawyers are bad and should not be allowed to sue on behalf of injured people. Social Security needs to be privatized because Wall Street isn’t making enough money. We should have more tax breaks for the wealthiest among us, especially now that we are so far in debt (so money will trickle down to the rest of us). People with full-time employment at the minimum wage cannot afford to rent apartments. But the minimum wage can’t be increased because it would be bad for business. We went to “war” against Iraq because they had weapons of mass destruction they were about to use against us and because they were also in cahoots with the terrorists. No, that wasn’t the reason, it was because Sadam Hussein was a bad guy. No, it was because we needed to bring Democracy to the Middle East where they were dying to have us impose it at the barrel of a gun. No, the election wasn’t stolen, those who think so are just a few paranoid freaks. America is all good and anyone who criticizes the Administration is either a communist or a traitor. We need to restrict civil liberties because otherwise people might actually want to think and complain. As the threat of terrorism is so great little old ladies should not be allowed to carry knitting needles on airplanes. President Bush speaks directly to God and therefore whatever he says must be God’s truth. Science is bad, Bush’s “gut” feelings are better. If the scientific community doesn’t do what Bush wants, get new “scientists” who will do what needs to be done. The universe and everything in it was created by God in ten days or less. Evolution is just a theory, not to be taken seriously. University professors are all liberals because University Administrators are prejudiced against conservatives. The major media are far too liberal and should not criticize the Administration in any way. The CIA, likewise, should only support the President, never mind independent and nonpartisan intelligence. Keeping gays and lesbians from marrying is far more important than worrying about the disaster in Iraq or the plight of the poor. Forcing people to have unwanted children is good, especially as child abuse and neglect are not important. War and killing is good because it keep business going, especially businesses that have connections with the White House. Huge Corporations are good because otherwise where would our Congresspersons and Senators get all their money? It is good that we have noses because otherwise we would have no place to rest our spectacles.

If the current situation in the United States, the benefit of the current Administration, is not the most unbelievable mess in our history, please tell me what else it could be. We are clearly on the brink of disaster. AND NO ONE SEEMS TO CARE!!! What on earth does it take to wake everyone up???

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Republicans have small, smooth brains

Republicans have small, smooth brains. At least I think they must. How else could one explain their defense of Donald Rumsfeld? Rumsfeld has proven to wrong on virtually everything having to do with Iraq and the “war.” He was wrong about WMD’s, wrong about the relationship of Saddam to the terrorists. Wrong about Saddam having anything whatsoever to do with 9/11, wrong about how our troops would be greeted by the Iraqis, wrong about how many troops would be needed, wrong about the legality of torture, wrong about how much it would cost, wrong about how it could be paid for, wrong about the aftermath of the hostilities, wrong about the importance of “old Europe,” and is wrong about just who it is in Iraq that is resisting our attempt at empire building. In spite of this the White House maintains that he is doing “a great job.” Not content with this claim, Andrew Card, Bush’s Chief of Staff, has now announced that Rumsfeld is actually doing a “spectacular job.”

Republicans who claim they have no confidence in Rumsfeld, and who blame him for the lack of armor and other preparations, as well as his arrogance and unconcern for the troops, seem to also believe that he should not be replaced either in (1) the middle of a war, or (2) before the elections in Iraq. In other words, no matter how dismal a failure, no matter how terrible a disaster, no matter how many more innocent civilians will be killed, no matter how wrong-headed and incompetent he is, no matter how much torture or how bad the failures up until now, he has to be retained. To do otherwise might indicate that Bush made a mistake and we certainly can’t have that. The only people in the Bush Administration that go are those who try to retain some semblance of reality and truth.

Ironically enough, the only thing Rumsfeld seems to have been right about is the fact that a smaller and more mobile U.S. Army, dealing in “shock and awe,” could quickly defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Iraqi army. We were, in fact, remarkably successful in this. Of course we should not lose sight of the fact that we were basically shooting fish in a barrel and neither of those countries had any chance whatsoever of winning a “war” against the U.S. But what is most interesting about this is Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe’s claim that the problems in Iraq are/were actually Clinton’s fault because he downsized and reduced the military. So, according to this logic, Clinton’s army was unbelievably successful in doing what the army was supposed to do, but Clinton, four years ago, did not anticipate the problems of postwar Iraq. The minds of Republican Senators, especially those from southern states, do not work like ordinary minds. In fact, they do not seem to work at all.

And horror of horrors, MSNBC is apparently going to offer Tucker Carlson a prime time show of some kind. Carlson’s main claim to fame is that he wears nerdy bow ties (and probably a “rug”). He has been on Crossfire for years, seems to know absolutely nothing much about anything, and apparently draws his salary for just automatically ridiculing anything Democratic. He is, as Jon Stewart so insightfully observed, nothing but a partisan hack. Just what we need in the media, another mindless lying partisan hack. Rush Limbaugh comes to television.

I wish I could be more optimistic about the future. But at the moment, I can’t. I would like to think that some Congressperson or Senator, somewhere, sometime, somehow someway, feeling the pangs of conscience, would blow the lid off the whole rotten enterprise. But don’t hold your breath.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Free-falling into disaster

In the aftermath of 9/11 Congress passed the ill-named Patriot Act that took away some of our basic rights in the interest of security. Now that there has been a great deal of controversy over the wisdom of this, it is now widely conceded by virtually everyone that the complicated bill was passed without anyone actually having had time to read it (this assumes that anyone might have actually been motivated to read it). The recently passed enormous budget bill, which includes billions of dollars in unadulterated “pork” is also said to have been passed without anyone having time to read it. It apparently adds to the Patriot Act in such a way as to further erode civil liberties (but, of course, if no one read it, how would anyone know).

The fact that our elected officials are passing bills without reading them is duly reported and simply accepted as the way things work. EXCUSE ME! What in the hell are our elected officials doing passing bills that affect everyone without bothering to even read them? This is one of the most outrageous things about our government I have ever heard of! How dare they behave in such a totally irresponsible and stupid manner? As far as I am concerned any Congressperson or Senator who votes for a bill they haven’t even bothered to read should be immediately impeached. So what’s the problem? They don’t spend enough time on the job to read anything? They are too busy fund raising to bother about minor matters like reading the bills they are about to pass? They are so remiss in their duties they can't get the bills ready until the very last minute? Or are they just afraid someone might actually read them and find out just how atrociously they are ripping us off? That this unbelievable negligence occurs over and over again is nothing less than a slap in the face to the electorate. Is this what we elect them for? What we expect of them? What they are supposed to be doing?

I simply cannot understand how the media can just casually inform us that no one reads the bills before they vote on them and doesn’t even question this procedure. This does not seem to be a partisan issue. Neither Democrats or Republicans read the damn things. And if anyone ever does read one of them it’s always so long after the fact that it doesn’t seem to matter. The whole business is disgusting. It is more than disgusting, it is criminal. I suggest that everyone write to their Congressperson or Senator and tell them in no uncertain terms that if they vote on a bill without having read it they will have no chance whatsoever of being re-elected. Of course this would only work if enough citizens were aware that it was happening or cared enough to bother about it. Fat chance of that in the contemporary United States of America. As long as gays and lesbians can’t marry and people are forced to have children they don’t want everything will be hunky-dory. Anyone remember hunky-dory? Our country is free-falling into the disaster zone. Does anyone care?

Friday, December 17, 2004


In the hidden recesses
of my conscience
dark moments overshadow
light, threatening, like
the hovering thunderclouds.

Yes, it is certainly true that I have problems with my conscience. I have certainly done things in my past that trouble me to this day. But I don’t have really important things on my conscience. I never murdered anyone, never tortured anyone, never assaulted anyone, never denied anyone something because they were not like me, never deliberately lied to protect someone who had done wrong, never deliberately cheated anyone, never committed a crime beyond stealing a book of matches or a candy bar, never deliberately abused my mother or father, and never threw kittens or puppies into the Lead Creek. I did, however, drink and smoke when I should not have, And I was also a lazy and unproductive high school and college student. What troubles my conscience the most is the drinking. Indeed, I think anything and everything I might have done to trouble my conscience has to do with the drinking.

Having said this, I wonder about others. Do you think that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, and the other neocons are troubled by their consciences? After all, they have only been responsible for the deaths of some approximately 1500 American troops, 100,000 or more Iraqi civilians, and the torturing and humiliating abuse of how many unknown others. All of this for no reason other than greed for oil and power and utterly idiotic dreams of empire. I can go to sleep at night knowing that whatever I did wrong is relatively inconsequential in the great scheme of things. But what about Bush/Cheney, et al, do they sleep comfortably knowing they are murderous and dishonest war criminals, killers of babies and other innocents, butchers of Bagdad? Does Abu Ghraid and Gitmo mean nothing to them? Does their incessant and obviously deliberate lying never trouble them?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Eight to five he goes soon

Anyone care to bet that Rumsfeld will last any longer than another three to six months at most? In addition to McCain and Hagel we now have Lott and Collins dumping on him, and I am certain there must be others about to surface. Too bad it couldn’t have happened before the ill-advised and illegal “war.” It certainly is hard to have any sympathy for the arrogant old fool who has needlessly slaughtered thousands and thousands while playing with his toy soldiers and militaristic fantasies. I could be wrong. I often am. But I hope not this time.

Bush has come out swinging with his absurd plan to privatize social security. The lies will come thick and fast from now on. “There is a crisis,” “we have to act now,” blah, blah, blah. There is no crisis. We don’t have to act now. This is just another Bush/Cheney con job to enrich Wall Street and steal more money from the middle class. And, indeed, to eventually get rid of social security entirely.

Oh, by the way, the way to reduce our obscene deficit, especially during “wartime,” is to make the tax cuts permanent and cut further. And oh, I forgot, we need another 100 billion for Iraq. “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you talking about real money,” as our now unfortunately deceased Senator Dirksen once remarked. This was back in the days when we had real Senators instead of the sorry lot of wussies we have now. Wouldn’t it be nice if just one of them would actually stand up and fight?

With their dreams of empire fading further each day the plan now seems to be to terrorize the Iraqis into voting so we can have an excuse to get out of this mess. If we can force enough of them to vote, no matter who they vote for, we can claim some kind of “success” and withdraw, “having accomplished what we set out to do.” Is anyone, anyone at all, even in one of the “red” states, going to believe this utter poppycock? Don’t even try to imagine the disaster that will ensue if the Iraqis don’t vote.

Poor Condoleeza Rice, didn’t get a medal like the boys did. Of course not, her silence about all the unethical and criminal goings on in the Administration is already assured. She is said to be a very intelligent lady, too bad she doesn’t understand that she is in well over her head. Don’t expect great things from our new Secretary of State. In fact, don’t expect anything at all, except whatever utters from the mouth of her lord and master.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Airlift to Bagdad?

Apparently the highways and countryside of Iraq are presently so dangerous and out of control we are now thinking of airlifting supplies rather than transporting them by truck. Interesting, given that the road to the airport has already been declared off limits. Maybe they can helicopter supplies from the airport to Bagdad? In spite of this minor problem Bush insists that the election will go forward.

In order to legally contest the recent election they need both someone from Congress and someone from the Senate to request such an investigation. There are several Congresspersons prepared to do this. Pressure is being put on Barbara Boxer to be the Senator. Whether she will or not I don’t know. But what I want to know is why are there not dozens of Senators eager to contest this absolute travesty of an election? Just like the 2000 election when they could not get a single senator to stand up for a challenge it is not clear that any Senator will stand up now. So what’s with Senators? What is it that the Bush Administration apparently has to render Senators completely mute when it comes to any serious challenge to any of their illegal and unprincipled actions? No one seems willing to stand up to this Administration no matter how outrageous their behavior. So they all stand by and simply watch while Bush/Cheney conduct an absolutely illegal, unconstitutional, and unnecessary war, destroy the American economy, ravage the environment, repeatedly violate the Geneva Convention, steal from the middle class to enrich the already filthy rich, alienate the U.S. from the rest of the world, and convert the mightiest nation on earth into a banana republic. What gives? What on earth is going on? Whatever happened to the United States of my youth?

Whatever happened to common sense in the United States? The Reagan/Bush multi-billion star wars fantasy has just failed dismally for the umpteenth time. It doesn’t really matter because the main purpose was never to protect America from missiles, it was to keep the military-industrial complex going. Everyone with a brain the size of a pea knew that it wouldn’t work. And even if it did work, why would it matter? The threat is not from missiles being fired at the U.S. from anyone foolish enough to want to be immediately eliminated from the face of the earth, it is from someone with a suitcase or a bottle of botulism, or perhaps a bit of anthrax or ricin.

Linda describes me as “Mr. Doom and Gloom.” But she doesn’t claim that things are going okay or are going to get better under the present Administration. It is quite clear that things cannot go on as they are: more debt, more killing, more alienation from the rest of the world, more poverty, more anti-science, more lying, more secrecy, fewer civil rights, and no accountability whatsoever. When this blows it is going to blow “big time.” Be prepared.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Rumsfeld has to go

Are Rumsfeld’s days numbered? Let us hope so. Senator John McCain has publicly said he has no confidence in Rumsfeld. Senator Hagel has also indicated displeasure, as apparently, have many others. And it is well known that many in the Pentagon and the Military have long been unhappy with him. Rumsfeld should never have been allowed to turn in his toy soldiers and fanciful ideas for real flesh and blood troops. He doesn’t seem to understand the difference. Bush, true to form, will not fire him because to do so would be to admit he had made a mistake – and you know our “speaks directly with God” President never ever makes a mistake. Of course McCain’s insistence that we should send 100,000 more troops to Iraq is even more insane that Rumsfeld’s current strategy goes without saying. As it is the presence of American troops in Iraq that is causing all the trouble in the first place perhaps we should consider withdrawing them as quickly as possible. But no, that would mean we might have to give up control of all that oil, give up the dreams of empire, admit the obvious defeat before it gets even worse, even admit we made a terrible and stupid mistake. Bush/Cheney could never do that. They will see the United States and Democracy destroyed rather than admit to a mistake.

One might think that the challenge to the Ohio vote would be an important news story. But how much do you see about it in the mainstream press? They have already dismissed it as just a bunch of conspiracy buffs. This in spite of the fact that there are hundreds upon hundreds of complaints about what happened in Ohio. Of course the election in Ohio was decided even before the votes were in as so many voters were denied access, challenged, and otherwise abused. Can’t have all them black folk trying to vote – they might be Democrats! What will happen if the vote is proven to be corrupt? Nothing. The Democrats are just not up to it. As always they will tuck their tails between their legs and vow to become more like Republicans.

Now it appears we are on a potentially collision course with Germany because some people have urged the German Government to charge Rumsfeld with war crimes. What amazes me about this is that the mainstream press and others keep insisting this is “frivolous.” “We just can’t have frivolous lawsuits being brought against American troops, etc., etc.” Please explain to me what is “frivolous” about this? Virtually everyone in the world knows Rumsfeld (and the rest of the neocons) are war criminals. Even the Bush/Cheney Administration must know it, as they are going to such extreme lengths to make sure no one can ever charge any American soldier or Politician with such crimes.
It is perfectly obvious that the “war” against Iraq is itself a war crime of gigantic proportions. And coupled with Abu Ghraib and the routine killing of innocent Iraqi civilians it is multiplied daily. But apparently in the eyes of the media and the Republicans this is all just “frivolous.”

Another thing that I cannot understand is how this utter madness can be allowed to continue. The Bush/Cheney Administration has been so vile, so unAmerican, so dishonest, so destructive of everything Americans profess to believe in, so secretive and arrogant, and so totally incompetent it defies even the imagination. And yet no one does anything about it. Why has no one called for Impeachment hearings? Why has no one questioned Bush’s constant lies? What has happened to the antiwar movement? Does no one care anymore that we are in debt up to our eyeballs with no end in sight? Do we now just accept as routine the killing of American troops daily? Is no one upset over the fact that hundreds of thousands of innocent people have been slaughtered for no reason other than greed for oil? When is someone in a position of power and influence finally going to say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Unintelligent design

The anti-Darwinists are at it again. Evolution, they claim, is “just a theory.” Of course it is just a theory¸ a theory that attempts to make sense out of hundreds and thousands of facts. The existence of dinosaurs, for example, is not a theory. It is a fact. The incredible age of the earth is not a theory. It is a fact. That homo sapiens shares most of their genes with the great apes is not a theory. It is a fact. That our ancestors made and used stone and bone tools is not a theory. It is a fact. Evolutionary theory attempts to make sense of these disparate facts in such a way as to allow further hypotheses that can be put to scientific tests and either confirmed or disconfirmed. It is not all that complicated.

What we are offered in contrast is what the opponents are calling “intelligent design.” This rests on no facts at all, merely the assertion that as things are so complicated they must have resulted from intelligent design (that is, some kind of god who created everything, presumably in 10,000 years or less). In light of the scientific progress that has been made over the last couple of hundred years this is quite simply preposterous. That anyone, anywhere, in the 21st century could believe this is absolutely astounding. And yet I read that some 45 percent of the American public apparently believe this. If this is so, and if they are allowed to force this nonsense on everyone else, there is no doubt that the “American Century” will truly be over before much longer.

And just what is this intelligent design they are claiming? We have a species that is so rapacious, murderous, short-sighted, ignorant, greedy and hypocritical that we have spent all of human history torturing and murdering each other – with no end in sight. This is not, in my opinion at least, a very intelligently designed world. Similarly, would any intelligent power have designed a world in which hundreds of species have disappeared and more are disappearing every day? A design in which even the planet’s temperature is changing because of human activity and those in charge refuse to do anything about it? Would an intelligent creator have created a society in which the filthy rich get richer and richer every year while more and more of their own kind fall further and further into poverty and despair? Would any intelligent design have created a species that presumably has the intelligence and capacity to live in peace and harmony but absolutely refuses to do so? Just what the hell is this intelligent design we are supposed to believe in?

It is all utter nonsense, of course. But in some circles it seems to be making inroads. I guess if some people wish to believe in this total balderdash that is their priviledge (I’m not at all sure I believe they should have this priviledge). I do know they have no right whatsoever to insist the rest of us have to believe it. A very bright woman, Margaret Halsey, once wrote that a society that depends too exclusively on one institution is primitive, and as the U.S. depends so exclusively on business, it is primitive. I suggest that it has now evolved into a two institution society, business and religion. Unfortunately this makes it even more primitive. This unholy alliance, if allowed to continue, will surely doom the American dream into an absolute nightmare.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

It's Christmas!

It’s Christmas again! In spite of the decorations and music that begins nowadays long before Thanksgiving I try not to notice. But when Linda wants a tree there is no way to pretend any longer. Today was that day. Interestingly enough, although we live in an area in which virtually every other person raises Christmas trees, there are few to be found for sale. Only two places this year have trees for sale. We looked carefully. It appears that the tree salesmen this year believe everyone has a home with huge cathedral ceilings as the smallest tree we were shown was somewhere in the fifteen to twenty foot tall range. One of the salesmen did allow as to how he had his chain saw right there and would cut enough off to make it a normal sized tree – but it would still cost the same. It wasn’t the cost that put us off, however, just that all the trees were wrapped so you had no idea what they actually looked like. This is when Linda decided that we could find our own tree somewhere on our six acres. I suggested politely that it was very difficult to find a suitable tree in nature but she was not to be put off. So now we have this strange looking spindly little tree with few but very long branches. Even decorated it looks like starvation personified. But we are proud. It is, after all, our tree. And it is Christmas. And our son is on his way home.

When Linda put on the Christmas music for the first time this year I remarked, innocently enough I thought, “we just had Christmas music last year.” She did not find this amusing. But think of it, after 75 years of listening to the same rather dreadful tunes over and over and over again, isn’t it understandable that one might have had enough. They should allow the standard Christmas carols to be sung only once a year, that’s it. Once. That would be quite enough. As far as the rest of what passes for Christmas music goes, we’d probably be better off if it was not allowed at all. Who wants to listen to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer twenty thousand times each December. Or Jingle Bells, for that matter. Of course when it comes to “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” what more needs to be said? Or how about that other really Christmas favorite, “All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth?” This is in the same league with “Drop Kick me Jesus Through the Goal Post of Life,” except that this latter is not very Christmas-like. Maybe it could be adapted?

We were planning a Christmas dinner for Saturday but one couple couldn’t attend then because, as the husband observed, “I have to take my wife to the cathedrals of consumerism that day." I don’t know if he made that line up himself or if he heard it elsewhere but it certainly sums things up.

There is a big fuss being made at the moment over the fact that the phrase Merry Christmas is being significantly replaced by Happy Holidays. Some Christians seem to think that Happy Holidays does not do justice to the fact that it is Christ’s birthday and is really a sop to other religions which are not Christian (like the hundreds of religions in the U.S. that are not Christian, to say nothing of we atheists). Ha ha ha, as if Christmas in the U.S. has anything whatsoever to do with religion or Christ’s birthday. Christmas, as it is currently practiced in the U.S., is no more than a purely secular commercially driven madness that occurs November through January and involves shameless and conspicuous consumption. Indeed, many of the most religious people we know don’t observe the holiday because it is basically pagan. Think of the absurdity of millions of people each year in December killing a perfectly healthy growing tree, dragging it in the house and hanging it with lights and assorted goo-gahs, only to then deposit it in the local dump. But whee! Its Christmas! Sorry, Happy Holidays.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Pathetic old fool

Donald Rumsfeld’s attempt to give a pep talk to the troops in Kuwait turned out to be an utter disaster. After a few serious questions from the troops he was finally exposed as the doddering old fool that he really is. As to the lack of armor for vehicles in Iraq he said they are stepping up production. Why are they stepping up production three years too late? As to the stop release program he suggested that was just part of army regulations (they didn’t read the small print). As he was pressed further he basically said he was an old man and they shouldn’t be picking on him. To describe this performance as pathetic would be far too generous. What word is there to go beyond pathetic? Even dismal doesn’t come close. Obscene, maybe.

Rumsfeld has been wrong about everything. He was wrong about the presence of WMD’s in Iraq. He was wrong about the relationship between Hussein and bin Laden, he was wrong about how many troops it would take, wrong about how they would be received, wrong about how much it would cost, wrong about how much equipment would be needed, wrong, in short, about everything. Bush thinks he has been marvelous and is going to retain him as Secretary of Defense. How can he do otherwise? Rumsfeld is regarded as a war criminal by virtually everyone in the world except for some totally ignorant nuts in the red states. For Bush/Cheney to fire him would be to admit that they, too, are war criminals, along with the rest of the neocon’s.

What the Bush/Cheney Administration has done in Iraq is the greatest war crime since the Nazi terrorism of Europe. It has brought shame on the United States and made us the laughingstock of the world. How could 59,000,000 million people be so dumb? How, indeed?

Bush has wasted no time in trying to cash in on his (totally false) “mandate.” He is going to try to undo environmental rules and regulations (supported by a majority of Americans), to privatize Social Security (against the wishes of a majority of Americans), overturn Roe vs. Wade (against the desires of a majority of Americans), make permanent obscene tax cuts for the wealthiest among us (against the majority of Americans), and further erode civil liberties (also against the will of a majority of Americans).

How is this going to happen? By a bizarre, almost unbelievable collaboration between the gigantic corporations that control the world and the religious fundamentalists who are too stupid to understand they are being “conned.” But not to worry, gays will not be allowed to marry, at least not until the United States catches up with the rest of the civilized world, if, indeed, we ever do.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Death and the mechanical model - essay

One of the criticisms of modern medicine is that doctors treat patients too much as a “mechanical model,” and consequently ignore the more “human” aspects of health and disease. Things like patients’ intelligence or lack of it, their personal beliefs and emotions, fears and hopes, are ignored. This is perhaps a valid criticism of the medical profession in general, but when it comes to life and death there are things I find remarkably satisfying about the mechanical model. Having recently had to deal with a mild heart attack and subsequent chest pains, resulting in the acquisition of several stents in my arteries, I have given some thought to this matter.
Thinking of yourself as a machine solves certain existential questions. If you are a machine a malfunction is possible. A part here is damaged, a part there wears out, a part gets out of sync, etc. The doctor, a glorified mechanic, tinkers around a bit. Hence things like the stents. It is also possible that a machine can become obsolete and actually fail to function entirely, in which case it dies. It is possible that some parts might be salvaged and used to repair some other like machine, but eventually whatever is left is relegated to a dump where inevitably over time its essence disappears. As the essence of the machine is merely a lot of water and chemicals, these are released into the huge incomprehensible and infinite universe, making some infinitesimally tiny contribution. As a machine, this essence has no supernatural powers. It is not capable of flitting about in dreams or hovering over the living to create mischief. That is, as a machine, there is no soul:
“…a thin unsubstantial human image, in its nature a sort of vapour, film, or shadow; the cause of life and thought in the individual it animates, independently possessing the personal consciousness and volition of its corporeal owner; past or present; capable of leaving the body far behind, to flash swiftly from place to place; mostly impalpable and invisible, yet also manifesting physical power, and especially appearing to men waking or asleep as a phantom separate from the body of which it bears the likeness; continuing to exist and appear to men after the death of that body; able to enter into, possess, and act in the bodies of other men, of animals, and even of things (Edward Burnett Tylor, 1903, Primitive Culture).
Likewise it cannot leap tall buildings at a single bound. It is simply an essence, nothing more. Having disposed of the unnecessarily complicated idea of a soul, consider what else the mechanical model offers. The entire worry about life after death disappears. If there is no soul, ideas of the afterlife, such as heaven, hell, and all variations on reincarnation are eliminated. So, too, is the concern with ghosts. How could a machine possibly become a ghost, sprite, demon, spirit, phantom, specter, ghoul, banshee, doubleganger, or anything else? Similarly, as there is no heaven or hell for machines, there is no concern with either good deeds or guilt, sin, damnation, angelic or heavenly bliss or whatever. You don’t even have to ponder the question of original sin.
If you believe you are a machine, and if you also believe this machine can break down and even die, it means it could not have been created by an omnipotent and omnipresent creator. For if it had been it could neither break down nor die. So no matter how it was actually created, whether by design or accident, it is not a perfect creation. Thus omnipotence and omnipresence are ruled out.
Another feature of this model is that it sets to rest questions about the causes of death. It is hard to understand how either sorcery or witchcraft could affect a machine, they become irrelevant. It is true that someone with evil intentions could mechanically cause trouble, but they could not do it from a distance or by magical means. Magic is not something the machine has to worry about. This provides great relief to those troubled individuals in the world who believe in and are obsessed with magical causes of various kinds.
As a machine there is built in obsolescence. This eliminates the existential question of immortality. That is, why do we not live forever? For Christians this is a result of original sin. For the Cheyenne Indians it was because their culture hero chose to resemble a plant instead of a rock (if he had chosen a rock he could have been immortal). The Dani people of New Guinea believe they must die because they are like birds, and as birds must die, so must they. There are doubtless many different explanations around the world as to why there is no immortality. The Tahitians, however, approximate the mechanical model. They simply say, everyone dies and when you die you are dead, that’s all.
While machines might be said in some way to evolve, this is not evolution in the biological sense. For a machine to evolve it has to be first created and then improved over time. This is a very different matter than evolution as we ordinarily think about it. It is not a question of originating in some primeval slime and eventually working its way up to something recognizable as a machine. The machine has to come first. No need to argue about evolution here, but it does pose the question of “intelligent design,” a concept that seems to be coming into prominence these days, especially among those who refuse to accept evolutionary theory. The question of creation becomes paramount. In order for there to be a machine it has to have been created. It is highly unlikely that it was created by a supernatural power. No supernatural being in his or her right mind would have created something as awful as the internal combustion engine. It has to have been created by people and this could not have come about entirely by accident, although accidents from time to time may have been involved. An early creature suddenly realizes that a stick can become a weapon (a primitive machine). If its point is held in a fire it hardens and makes it even better. If you tie a piece of sharp rock on it, it becomes better still, and so on until these early primitive machines take on more and more complexity until eventually, voila, you have the internal combustion engine. You get the picture I am sure. So people through accident and design eventually created machines. This is all perfectly understandable and makes sense.
The problem here, of course, is where did the people come from? And why do they have the form they have? So inevitably you have to return to the basic theological and/or philosophical question. But notice this does not mean you cannot believe in the mechanical model. The question of origin does not interfere with the position that you are basically just a machine. While this one question of origin remains, think of all the other questions, beliefs, superstitions, delusions, and dogmas the mechanical model eliminates. It is, I submit, much easier on the psyche than having to believe in a bunch of utterly absurd religious falderol. The belief in the mechanical model is perfectly consistent with Occam’s razor (when there is more than one explanation always select the simplest). The mechanical model is by far the simplest, even if it does not provide the very best medical attention. So up with the machine and down with souls, ghosts, goblins, witches, sorcerers, omnipotent and omnipresent beings and what have you. The mechanical model sets you free!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Are the wheels finally starting to come off?

Are the wheels finally starting to come off the Bush/Cheney Administration? Consider some recent developments:
Donald Rumsfeld, trying to give a pep talk to soldiers in Kuwait was subjected to a number of most embarrassing questions, like when is the stop loss program going to stop, why don’t the troops have sufficient armored vehicles, and others. Rumsfeld’s answers were not very satisfactory: “We had to go to war with the army we have, not the army we want.” Why, after three years of Rumsfeld’s direction, don’t we have the army we want? “Armored Humvees are now being manufactured at the rate of 400 a month.” Why weren’t they manufactured before we attacked? Rumsfeld has to be the most incompetent Secretary of Defense ever. It is also significant that John McCain, a hawk if ever there was one, is refusing to support Rumsfeld.

Five thousand five hundred troops are refusing to go to Iraq. Eight soldiers are suing the U.S. over the stop loss program. Some soldiers are taking refuge in Canada and arguing they won’t go to Iraq because it is an illegal “war.” Which, of course, it is. A number of troops in Iraq refused to go on a mission because they did not have the proper equipment and it would have been suicidal. They are going relatively unpunished.

Rumsfeld may be going to be charged with war crimes in Germany, as apparently Germany has the best laws that might be utilized for this purpose. As there is little doubt that he is actually guilty of war crimes this could be a most interesting situation.

The Ohio voting scandal deepens day by day. Although most critics say they are not trying to overturn the results, it is quite possible that Kerry may be shown to have been the actual winner. In any case, it is becoming clear that there was an orchestrated attempt by the Republicans to deny African American votes. Up to two million!

A former computer programmer in Florida has sworn under oath that he was asked by a Republican Congressman to develop software to make sure the Republicans would come out ahead on voting machines.

The neocons, especially Richard Perle, are trying to blame Colin Powell for the mess in Iraq. This is such a blatantly transparent attempt I doubt that even his own mother would fall for it.

A Pentagon report on the situation in Iraq says quite clearly that we are losing the “war” there. It goes on to say that Muslims do not despise our freedom but, rather, our policies. Can this possibly come as a surprise to anyone with a brain larger than a pea? It also suggests that our obviously partisan support for Israel is one of the worst problems. Dah!

While Bush/Cheney keep telling us everything is going well in Iraq it is perfectly obvious to everyone else in the world, and in the U.S. itself, that things are not going at all well. In fact, things are worse now than ever.

There remain the unsettled problems of Lay/Enron, Cheney’s secret energy meetings, the Plame affair, still unanswered questions about 9/11, war profiteering, social security, the national debt, how we will ever get out of Iraq, and on and on.

Heard anyone talking about a draft lately? I suspect that if Bush/Cheney and the neocons tried to institute a draft at this moment in time the entire country would explode in such a burst of anger and outrage they might find themselves seeking refuge in Paraguay or some such place. You have to admit, these are trying but interesting times. Try to be of good cheer, after all the holiday season is upon us.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Just more of the same

According to an item on Buzzflash some 5,500 soldiers are refusing to go to Iraq because they believe the “war” there is wrong. Many of them are seeking refuge in Canada which may become another serious problem for both Canada and the United States. Elsewhere it has been reported that re-enlistments are substantially down as are first time enlistments. I wonder why.

Also reported on Buzzflash is the fact that soldiers who were to have lunch with the Vice President were searched before being allowed to enter. Things are pretty bad when you have to worry that your own troops may be wanting to do away with you. I guess you have to expect such things when you are widely perceived as the most evil man on the planet.

Two Defense Department officials who reported the abuse of prisoners, even before Abu Ghraib, were told to keep quiet about it. This, along with the recent pictures of Navy Seals apparently abusing prisoners, would seem to indicate once again that this kind of behavior was, and is, widespread in our Military.

The last two and one half months have been the worst for job losses so far. Proving once again that Bush’s economic strategy (if it can even be called that) is a dismal failure. This would seem to be so obvious by now that it needs no further comment. Of course it would be nice if someone would actually do something about it. But remember, outsourcing is good, according to the current Administration.

All of the independent reports coming out of Iraq indicate that things there are worse than ever. The U.S. can’t even use the road to the airport. There are more attacks on U.S. personnel and Iraqis working for them every day. But we are being assured by Bush that things are going well and elections are just around the corner. Does he ever tell the truth about anything?

Governor Gropenfuehrer says the nurses in California are upset only because he “kicks their butts everyday.” I did not make this up.

Steven Colbert on the Daily Show said it right: “the reason Rumsfeld has not been fired is because that would admit that he should be fired.” That, I believe, is the absolute truth. Rumsfeld has been the most outrageous failure from the very beginning. So, in Bush’s twisted mind that is why he should be kept. I hope you all realize that our government is in the hands of the most incompetent bunch of loonies ever assembled in Washington. And if any of you believe peace will come to the Middle East as long as Israel occupies and steals Palestinian land and water, forget it. Support Progressive Democrats and get rid of the DLC.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Intelligence, or business as usual?

Apparently the Congress and the White House have agreed on an Intelligence Bill that will result in major changes for the intelligence industry. Like the Patriot Act it was passed in a hurry in response to pressure from the 9/ll survivors and others, and in spite of the fact that initially Bush was opposed to it. Of course after a bit of pressure he was for it. Never accuse Bush of being a flip-flopper, even though he has flip-flopped on virtually every important issue that has come up in the past four years. My guess is, just like the Patriot Act, most of the Congressmen didn’t bother to actually read it and have little or no idea of what might ensue as a result of it. You all realize, I hope, that your Congressmen and Senators routinely pass legislation without bothering to read it or have any idea of what it all means. Hey, they are busy people, they can’t be bothered to take time off from their fund raising to actually tend to the needs of the American people. Who needs the people when you have Corporations to take care of you?

Having procrastinated for a while I have finally finished Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States 1492 to the Present. This is a book that should be required reading for everyone in the United States. Of course we shouldn’t expect anyone in Washington, D.C. to read it, as apparently they don’t read anything other than their stock market reports. You all realize, I hope, that all of them are either millionaires or multi-millionaires, and hold office until death do they depart, except for very rare exceptions. This was not, I think, what the founding fathers had in mind for the Congress. Senators are no better, they all have their designated positions in the Fascist hierarchy that is taking control of our country.

We have to get rid of the DLC. There is simply no room for two Republican parties in the United States. One is quite enough. Actually, more than enough. It should be obvious by now to everyone that trying to be Republican-lite just isn’t going to work. Let’s go back to the basic Democratic values: equality and fair play for everyone, decent wages, health care, jobs, separation of church and state, one person one vote, universal education, and, above all, tolerance of diversity.

Still counting in Ohio. Still losing in Iraq. Still lying constantly to the American Public. Still incompetent. But still absolutely right about everything, no mistakes. Just ask God.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Does Ohio matter?

The controversy over the Ohio vote continues and, indeed, seems to be heating up. But what would happen if a recount showed that Kerry actually won Ohio and therefore the election? Probably nothing. Neither Democrats or Republicans will want to upset the comfortable status quo which insures their continuing obeisance to the Corporations running the world, to say nothing of potentially damaging their sources of support. The will of the people means nothing to those in charge of Washington.

John McCain has gone on record as saying he doesn’t think Donald Rumsfeld should have been allowed to continue as Secretary of Defense. But, of course, he apparently doesn’t intend to do anything about it other than say he doesn’t support him. His usual wimping out just like his continuing support for Bush. “I don’t support him but of course President Bush can keep him if he wishes.” Thanks John, it must be nice to have no integrity at all And by the way, don’t even try to run again for the Presidency, you have lost your credibility.

Our totally out of touch with reality President insists on going ahead with the election in Iraq. It would appear to be very clear to most observers that such an election is out of the question, given the absolute chaos that exists in that tormented and tortured country. But, as always, Bush knows best. How could he not, he speaks directly with God.

Far fewer jobs were created than was expected, not even enough to keep up with population growth. The dollar is at an all time low. The national debt is at an all time high. The Chinese will soon own the United States. But not to worry, Bush can always raise the national debt limit again, so not only will your children and grandchildren be in debt forever, now your great grandchildren will be also. But perhaps not, those social security monies invested in the stock market will no doubt make everyone rich.

I hope it is comforting to know that the control of the United States is now in the hands of the most ignorant among us. We wouldn’t want any of those “pointy headed intellectuals” in the Universities and Colleges, you know, the ones with a semblance of education and knowledge, to have any say in what goes on. So sleep well, knowing you’re in the good Christian hands of the Reds.

Friday, December 03, 2004

To fail is to succeed

How to get ahead in the Bush Administration. Fail. Be wrong about everything. Donald Rumsfeld is going to be retained while most of the rest of the cabinet is resigning. It is as if Bush reached down into the barrel of rotten apples and picked out the single most rotten apple of all to retain. Rumsfeld was wrong about attacking Iraq. He was wrong about claiming that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. He was wrong about the relationship between Iraq and the terrorists. He was wrong about the reception we would get when attacking Iraq. He was wrong about how this ”war” would be financed. He was wrong about how many troops would be needed. He was (is) at least partially responsible for the torture in Guantanamo and “Abu Ghraid. He has violated the Geneva Convention. He is about to be charged with war crimes in Germany. He is responsible for the unconscionable disaster and chaos in Iraq. He is responsible for the deaths and maiming of hundreds of American military personnel, to say nothing of more tha a hundred thousand of innocent Iraqi women and children. In short, he is an absolutely despicable human being and a failure.. Bush likes him and thinks he has done a “superb job.”

The Ohio vote is being recounted. So far it appears clear that Bush did not win by as many votes as it originally appeared. But so what? What would happen if it turned out that Kerry actually had won in Ohio? Nothing, that’s what. First of all you can be sure that it will not turn out that Kerry won. That would create trouble and uncertainty, and the last thing that our Corporate Masters want is trouble and uncertainty. It would be bad for business and business is what America is all about. We are right back to where we were in 1900 – capital versus labor. It is not quite as bad as it was because Marx didn’t understand that up to a point you could buy off the poor “with a six pack of beer and a long-legged whore on Saturday night” (someone else’s phrase). Nor did he reckon with a totally dishonest media that was in the pockets of one party. And so, a hundred years later, the people will have to take to the streets again. The never-ending battle between capital and labor, greed and justice.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Can you believe it?

Whatever happened to the Enron scandal? It appears that Ken Lay will die of old age before he has to answer for anything. Whatever happened to the lawsuit having to do with Cheney’s secret energy meetings which was supposedly returned to the lower courts? Cheney will almost surely die before that ever surfaces again. What has happened to the Plame investigation? Once in a while it gets mentioned somewhere but nothing ever comes of it. What has happened about all the still unanswered questions having to do with 9/11? Having proved to be wrong about virtually everything why is Donald Rumsfeld still in office? Now that we know Condaleeza Rice blatantly lied on more than one occasion why is she almost certainly going to be confirmed as the next Secretary of State? Why has not one single person in the Administration been held responsible for any of the obvious mistakes that have been made in the past four years? Why has Bush never used his veto powers? In short, what in the hell is going on?

Home, home on the range, where never is heard a dissenting word, and the future appears blacker each day. Bush continues to appoint nothing but toadies to his cabinet. Loyalty to his lord and master seems to be the only qualification necessary these days to serve our nation. Never mind competence, never mind experience, never mind past performance, all you need to do is promise to say yes to Bush’s every desire, no matter how stupid or short sighted it may be. Would you not think that the President of the United States has an obligation to appoint the best people available to look out for the interests of the citizens and the nation? It is perfectly obvious that Bush has no interest in choosing the best people, no interest in the well-being of the United States. He is only interested in looking out for the wealthy and the Corporations that currently rule the world. While he cannot be re-elected he can try to insure that Jeb or some other Bush loyalist will be the next President. Don’t even bet too much that the rules won’t be changed so that he can become Dictator for Life; such is the state of things in the United States at the moment. Maybe they will change the rules so that the Gropenfuhrer himself can be the next President. If we have learned nothing else from the past four years we have learned that it is true – ANYONE can be President, no matter how deficient in brain power, tact, diplomacy, common sense, information, experience, knowledge, language skills, energy or interest. Just give them a prepared speech, a teleprompter, and a national press and media willing to continuously prostitute themselves.

But not to worry, gays can only marry in Canada and Massachusetts, abortion rights are slowly being eviscerated, people should die rather than smoke pot, and God is still speaking directly to George W. Bush. Hallelujah (sp.?).

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

America, wake up!

Hello? Anybody home? Anybody out there? Are you aware that the Bush/Cheney Administration is killing your sons and daughters everyday in a so-called “war” that is illegal, unconstitutonal and unnecessary? Are you aware that thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens, including large numbers of women and children have been killed for no reason other than Corporate greed? Are you aware that everyday your children and grandchildren are falling further and further into debt because of the unprecedented national debt brought about by tax breaks for the filthy rich and the outlandish costs of the Iraqi situation which basically just puts more money into companies like Halliburton and General Electric and others? Are you aware that your civil liberties are being systematically eroded by the falsely labeled “Patriot Act?” Are you aware that Bush/Cheney and the neocons lied outrageously to bring about this so-called “war” that had nothing to do with 9/11 or terrorism? Are you aware that our environment is being further and further debased every day this Administration holds office? Are you aware that the recent election was fraudulent? That Bush/Cheney are out and out liars who have quite likely never told the truth about anything?
If you are not aware of these basic facts you had better become aware of them soon because otherwise it is going to be too late. The attempt by the Republicans to change our country from a democratic into a Fascist state is very close to becoming a reality. “This is happening mostly because you are too busy watching Desperate Housewives, Soap Operas, Nascar races and other sporting events, Oprah, and trashy movies to bother about what is actually going on in the United States and the world. And also because you seem to believe that people with very little education know more than those who actually read and try to understand. Anti-intellectualism in the United States is precisely what your Corporate Masters want you to practice. They know that the less informed you are about what is happening the better for them. George W. Bush, an anti-intellectual false Texas “cowboy” who doesn’t read and doesn’t know the difference between Paris, France and Paris, Texas, is the perfect role model for them. This “dumbing down” of Americans has been going on for a long time, just witness the absolutely disgraceful condition of our Public School System and the lack of interest in improving it.
The Founding Fathers knew that the only way a democracy could survive was by having an informed electorate. This has not been lost on our Corporate Masters who have done everything in their power to insure the electorate is not informed, and not likely to ever be informed. That vast numbers of Americans, who know nothing about it, do not believe in evolution, that many believe God speaks directly to George Bush, that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah’s flood, that the Bible is the literal truth about everything, are facts so shocking as to be almost unbelievable. And, indeed, most of the rest of the world is having a great deal of trouble believing this can be so in the 21st century. If this continues the United States will eventually become merely a footnote in history, another noble experiment gone wrong because of greed and ignorance, a society that became so sick it became incurable. We must not let this happen. So wake up America before it is too late!!!