Monday, August 29, 2005

Words from another viewpoint

The following article appeared in the Jamaica Observer, and was written by John Maxwell. The pictures didn't paste in, and I did no editing. I also obtained John's permission to paste this article. He'd actually been here! Thank you John. If you like what you see, tell others. If you don't, tell me. So here it is folks. John Maxwell's The Fear of Fear Itself.

When televangelist Pat Robertson a few days ago called for the murder of Venezuela's President Chavez there was a huge outburst of outrage, a kind of emotional fireworks display in response to the ever more predictable lunacies of the so-called Christian Right.
My father, who was a Baptist parson, would never, I think, have described Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and the rest of the millionaire god-bothering sheep-stealers as Christians.
Those of us who do regard them as Christians forget that Falwell and Robertson, two days after September 11, 2001 said that the atrocity was God's punishment of the United States - probably deserved because of the anti-American activities of a variety of miscreants - gays, lesbians, advocates of civil liberties and other people bent on secularising America.
Jerry Falwell: "What we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be minuscule if, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."Pat Robertson: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."
BUSH. his administration faces firestorm over Robertson's call for the murder of Chavez
And later in the programme:Jerry Falwell: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularise America, I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"Pat Robertson:
"Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government."Both men more or less apologised in response to the public outrage provoked by their remarks, but their apologies seemed mere tactical withdrawals rather than sincere repentance for folly. And it took them a week to formulate their excuses.
Robertson's attempt to weasel his way out of the latest brouhaha is typical. As they said then, Robertson said last week: the remarks had been taken out of context; the press had misquoted. etc., etc.The devil, and the evangelists, can cite scripture for their own purposes and Christians in America have justified all sorts of atrocities in the name of God since the time of the Conquistadors in Latin America and the North American Riders of the Purple Sage.
For nearly six centuries, Christians have regarded the world as a tabula rasa, awaiting the divine intervention of civilised men - a rifle in one hand and the Bible in the other.

One of President Bush's military advisers, one General Boykin, is celebrated for his assertion that in any struggle with the infidel, he, Boykin and fellow believers were bound to come out on top because "my God was bigger than his!"
Pat Robertson's adjuration to the CIA to blow away Hugo Chavez is exactly analogous to the contentions of Condoleezza Rice and her train bearers, Roger Noriega and Otto Reich, who believe that the Western hemisphere has been set aside by God for American jurisdiction and control and that anyone who disputes that thesis deserves to die.
Long ago, when Dr Rice was in infant school, the CIA launched the first of more than 200 attempts to murder Fidel Castro. Pat Robertson's grave sin is that he made it clear that nothing has changed since 1959.
TIME magazine, in its first cover story on Hugo Chavez did to Chavez what it did to O J Simpson 10 years ago: its artists made him several shades darker, emphasising their jaundiced view of his mixed ethnicity.
He was clearly illegitimate, a leftist with capital and the will to spend that capital on uplifting poor people in contrast to his predecessors who squandered Venezuela's oil wealth to create millionaires in Venezuela and the US.
While Castro created a revolution in one country, Chavez' control of oil makes him even more dangerous to US visions of Manifest Destiny.
That is why a few months ago, Dr Rice tried to strong-arm the Organisation of American States (OAS) into adopting a US resolution which would give legitimacy to forceful intervention by the OAS/US into the government of any country whose democracy was judged not up to scratch. They had already backed two failed attempts to overthrow him.
In Venezuela Chavez has repeatedly demonstrated that he is the overwhelming choice of his people but this means nothing to the US. Dr Rrice says he is a democratically elected dictator. It would be idle to point out that George Bush was not even elected the first time.
The intervention in Haiti was justified by the same kind of reasoning. An overwhelmingly popular and democratically elected leader was overthrown by the US marines because, like Oliver Twist, he asked for more for his starving people, exploited and brutalised by 200 years of foreign military and financial interventions .
The American challenge to a pluralistic world - to political diversity - is nowhere better demonstrated than in Iraq where "the necessity for regime change" was hypocritically converted into a crusade "against terror" with results that are becoming ever more apparent. Instead of being welcomed with flowers by an 'oppressed people', the US is fighting a war against an Iraqi resistance inspired by a nationalism which claims 8 thousand years of legitimacy.
The secular state of Iraq is in the process of being replaced by a government of Islamic fundamentalists which is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens or the democratic rights of its women.
To the fundamentalists that is no big thing. Some of them say that women's rights are not essential to democracy; after all, women could not vote in the US for nearly two hundred years after the Declaration of Independence.
They don't say that blacks are disfranchised - to the political advantage of the religious fanatics - even now. It is, of course, anti-American to point out these things but not anti-American to steal elections in order to frustrate the will of the majority.
Religious fundamentalism in the US is not a purely Christian phenomenon. The Project for the New American Century, PNAC - the neo-conservative blueprint for world domination, was largely written by Jewish fundamentalists lovingly embraced by such as Robertson and Falwell who believe as Pat Robertson does, that : "Indeed, there will finally be such a fullness of Israel when their hardness and blindness to the gospel is overcome as to vastly enrich the whole world. For the almost unbelievable truth is that all Israel will be saved. ."
Elliott Abrams, a Jew and prominent neo-con and now a leading White House adviser has written: "Religion is now one of the organising principles behind American policy."
(Introduction to the book The Influence of Faith: Religious Groups and Foreign Policy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001) Abrams is a former leader of the Iran-Contra conspiracy who escaped prison when he was pardoned by George Bush Sr.
The pragmatism of the Christian fundamentalists might be thought to contrast with the message oif the new Testament - "that ye love one another" only if one forgets that since the fundamentalists have created God in their own image, it is also possible to hold that "He that is not with me is against me" and justify hate and murder by further selective quotation to their own purpose.
The fundamentalists can find enemies and friends anywhere, as it suits them. The Spanish-American war was fought partly to Protestantise the evil Catholicism of the Spanish empire. The Palestinians - Philistines - have no place in Palestine because God gave the land to "His Chosen People".God is in his Heaven.
John Ashcroft, the former attorney general said it most succintly: "We are a nation called to defend freedom - a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God." The Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2002.
And presiding serenely above all of this is the president of the United States, George Bush, who has been recognised by the fundamentalists as their leader.
Shortly after his September 2001 faux pas, Pat Robertson resigned as leader of the Christian Coalition, a move greeted by Gary Bauer, one of the most toxic of the far-right spokesmen:"I think Robertson stepped down because the position has already been filled... [Bush] is that leader right now." The Washington Post, December 23, 2001
Bush sees "America's mission" as the spreading of freedom worldwide, whether the various subject peoples wish to be blessed with "American" ideas of freedom or not.
Faced with such certitude the pagans don't have a chance. And since the pagans mostly are poor, non-white and alien, they have been at the sharp end of capitalism for a very long time, a fact that seems to justiofy their remaining in their places - places appointed by the bigger God.
Mr Allan Greenspan, one of TIME's Committee to Save the World is reputed to sleep with a copy of Ayn Rand's book Atlas Shrugged by his bedside, reading passages from it, as from a holy text, every morning. Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism teaches that selfishness is the supreme virtue.
The ideal Life is, literally, every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost. This definition might almost be used to define globalised capitalism in which American multinationals mainly, are expected to have the right to determine the future of entire nations and civilisations, whose God is smaller than theirs.
As Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard, and another member of the Committee to Save the World says: third world countries are vastly under-polluted and it would be cost-effective to export metropolitan toxic wastes to them because the lives of their citizens are so much less valuable than the lives of Americans.
The divine right to intervene militarily is tied to the divine rights to intervene politically and culturally. It is an offence against the sacred doctrine of free speech to try to prevent the dissemination of such evil works as "Grand Theft Auto' - a series of video games in which the player can satisfy the most obscene fantasies of murder and bloody mayhem limited only by his own imagination.
These textbooks of wickedness are only now provoking any real controversy in their place of origin, the United States, not because of the barbaric violence but because of overtly sexual content. Murder is legitimate, love, or any simulacrum of it, is anti-Christian.
To make the slightest criticism of the US administration is to be 'anti American', outside the pale and subject to cataclysmic retribution. As Wayne Brown has related in his recent columns in this paper, rational criticism may be an excuse for informal torture.
To travel to the US is to lay oneself open to suspicion, misrepresentation and degrading treatment. Which is why I do not intend to ever darken their doors again.
I and many others feel threatened and not reassured by the policies of the United States.
People who never spoke to me 30 years ago because of my supposed ideological extremism, now walk up to me in supermarkets and on the street to commend me for my columns. And I thank all of those in the United States who have written to thank me for my writing.
I would ask them to be patient, however, as I am having serious computer problems and cannot reply as I would like. In the meanwhile, consider the Jamaican aphorism: 'Time longer than rope'.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Alcoholic Bush

Greetings Americans!

That's quite the title isn't it? That our President, George W. Bush is an alcoholic. It was skirted around by the press I'll tell you that much. For as much ado that was made about whether or not Clinton inhaled, it pales in comparison to what kind of changes were made to George from the confessed drinking he did for 20 years.

I've maintained since the 2000 election that Bush is a dry drunk. Much of what I've learned about Bush's makeup comes from a book by Justin Frank, Md., titled Bush on the Couch.

From what is available on the Bush family history, it can be surmised that Bush took to drinking to alleviate anxiety. Whatever the reason was, or reasons, he drank for two decades, and has at various times himself described his drinking as heavy, daily, and as an interference with his family life. Pretty much any counselor will say that describes an alcoholic. Bush however denies it, telling the Washington Post that he "didn't have the genuine addiction." And we all know that denial is not just a river in Egypt. And the DUI at age 33 was never considered a red flag as to a problem before this man was elected. Particularly in light of the fact that there is no record of treatment. According to David Frum's book The Right Man, Bush himself told several religious leaders in a White House visit, "You know, I had a drinking problem. Right now I should be in a bar in Texas, not the Oval Office." According to the AA recovery program, it is admitting you are an alcoholic that allows the disease to be treatable, though not curable. According to the Society of Addiction Medicine, they rely less on self determination of alcoholism, instead saying, "alcoholism is characterized by...Impaired control over drinking, preoccupation with the drug alcohol, use of alcohol despite adverse consequences, and distortions in thinking, most notably denial [emphasis mine]. And Bush will not admit he is an alcoholic.

In Frum's book, Bush went on to declare that because of prayer he isn't in a bar instead of the Oval Office. So perhaps Bush has stopped drinking, but has not treated his alcoholism. In recovery literature, there are several characteristics of the dry drunk condition that Bush has displayed, including judgmentalism, grandiosity, intolerance, detachment, denial of responsibility, aversion to introspection, and a tendency to over-react.

Take for example Bush's inability to admit he's made a mistake. That's a classic alcoholic symptom of projecting blame and denying responsibility. Take his famous April 2004 press conference admission that he can't think of a single mistake he's made. Now what's the problem with that? Besides just the appearance of arrogance, George has never learned to learn from mistakes. He won't accept responsibility. In the televised debates with John Kerry, a crowd member asked the same question, and Bush changed the subject in his answer by shifting to Kerry's mistakes.

So what becomes the problem? Bush may have stopped drinking, but what replaces it? Well, the old anxieties that were originally there at the beginning come back, with a whole bunch of new ones. So Bush has to develop new methods to deal with his anxiety. So the iron hand of control, contrary to the AA step of surrendering, takes over most aspects of life. Exercise, short meetings, daily Scripture readings, and short office hours are hallmarks of the Bush way of handling the job of the most important President on the planet. Not to mention the amount of time he has spent on vacation. If he needs that much time away, is he really qualified to do the job?

I find it hard to imagine that Rove and the rest aren't aware of Bush's problem. There has been some speculation that Bush is on fairly heavy medication to control his anxiety. In public he has at times made slow, and overly deliberate speech the way an alcoholic does to not sound drunk. So much so that Tom Shales of the Washington Post has written that "the President may have been ever so slightly medicated." Also, there are some of the things Bush says. Alcoholics, in an attempt to bolster their denial of responsibility, fill in memory gaps with what amounts to falsehoods. For example, on April 14, 2003, Bush stood next to Kofi Annan and declared that America had given Hussein a chance to allow the inspectors in, and Hussein wouldn't take it. The truth was that Hussein admitted the inspectors and Bush thought they were ineffective and was against them continuing their work. Another common aspect of drinkers is repeating certain words and phrases, which give the illusion of control. This can be seen in the oft cited number of times that Bush uses the words freedom, democracy, or terrorist, in his State of the Union and inaugural speeches.

My guess is that Bush has stayed off the bottle by substituting it for pills. He won't seek help, that much is known by his unchanged behavior. But there remains the question as to whether he will relpase. That possibility looms large. After all, his excuse for when he was busted for lying about his DUI was he did it for his children. It's not too hard to imagine him excusing a binge as "for his country." A larger question remains though as to what kind of damage was done by the drinking? Alcohol is poison to the brain, and especially two decades worth of it. According to Frank's book, the University of California/San Francisco Medical Center did some research and discovered that heavy drinkers in a sample were "significantly impaired on measures of working memory, processing speed, attention, executive function, and balance." Recovery can occur with sobriety, the rule of thumb being 2 to 3 years of recovery for every year spent drinking, and that recovery is a recovery in a qualified treatment program, not a personal denial of a problem.

So America has a reason to question the qualifications of Bush to be President. His noted behaviors as others gives speeches, his own struggle to remain focused in his own talks, give rise to that question. His inability to make sense of complex issues and briefings his job requires make him a detriment to the national security far more than Cindy Sheehan, to be sure.

At the same time, we indict ourselves as enablers of this problem by not saying anything, as most members of alcoholic families don't. His girls ended up with addiction problems, which indicates it was in one of the parents and if not in both, than enabled by the other. In the same fashion, the media, and the country, all jumping to the "crisis" the alcoholic manufactures to create a unity, continue to allow the problem to get worse. The cost will be much worse than just losing a president.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Pat Robertson Assassination Squad

Hello America! And for you Pat Robertson supporters, I believe that would be Amerika.

The Religious Reich really made itself known this week. Or as I refer to it, the Amerikan Taliban. Pat Robertson, who started the Christian Coalition, Christian Broadcasting Network, and Regent University, called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the elected President of Venezuela, on the 700 Club on August 22nd. That created a bit of a stir. Then he lied and said he didn't say that. Then he apologized, but rationalized it by saying he was "misrepresented."

So is this a First Amendment issue? Hardly. In his books Robertson claims that Hindus, Muslims, and any one non-Christian are not qualified to be Americas leaders. George Stephanopolous pegged him on this one Sunday on his show, and Robertson, contradicting his recent written words, denied it. But he has that freedom to say what he wants. However, television is another matter. Those are public airwaves. There are rules of indecency, obscenity, and profanity that must be adhered to or the fines start flying. Just ask Howard Stern's syndicators. So on a TV show where children may have been watching, an alleged Christian states, "You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it."

I would have thought such a statement would never leave the lips of a so-called leader of the Church. No praying for the foreign leader that Robertson deemed a "terrific danger." None of that apparently. Instead, we whack him. Take him out. Where is the love brother! This statement is so absurd, it deserves the response it has gotten.

But it didn't stop there. Then he denied making the statement. This seems to be typical of the current administration and it's supporters. Make a stupid statement and then lie about it. Then he apologized with the rationalization he was misrepresented. That "taking him out" could have meant kidnapping. And that's Scripturally mandated activity? Robertson denied using the word assassinate. In his own mind, he was thinking I didn't use the word (ONCE I actually used it at least TWICE).

So where is the outcry from the Church about this barbarous statement? Not just from the liberals, but from the Robertson/Falwell/fundamentalist camps? Do they believe these statements are how Jesus would speak? What Jesus would do?

As for Robertson not knowing about this "doctrine" of assassination, I have a couple questions. First, has he never heard of Representative Terry Edwards bill before the Congress of 2003 called the Terrorist Elimination Act? I would find it hard to believe he didn't. But I'll grant him that at this moment. The second question is, since when is assassination a doctrine? A doctrine is "A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; " Since when has assassination been presented for acceptance to the American public? It has long been understood that as Americans we are above assassinating foreign leaders to get our way. What has changed?

So a bill is before Congress. One of the cosponsors was Virgil Goode, of the 5th district of Virginia. One of the largest donators to Goodes campaign was MZM, a security firm under investigation. One of the COOs of MZM was Kay Cole James, who once served as a dean at Regent College, the very same college Robertson started. So there is a link between Robertson and a cosponsor of a bill(H.R. 19) that implicitly advocates assassination. As well, the Christian coalition has given 5 term member Goode their 100% rating(because of his family values positions), so one could infer more links between these two from that. Where then does this concept of assassination become a doctrine? Perhaps Robertson was talking from the viewpoint of his own faith. Doctrine is the teaching of the Scriptures, and they are categorized. I would like to have the biblical doctrine of assassination pointed out to me as I have read the entire Bible through more than once and don't recall reading or hearing about. Being that the bill was introduced into Congress in 2003 as I recall, we can fairly state that this represent s a shift in American policy. A dramatic one. But this is hardly something like Social Security that is well known to everyone, and hence can't qualify as a "doctrine" of the the foreign policy of the US government. The bigger point remains that if Robertson didn't know about it, why was he talking about it? It isn't a doctrine, he doesn't know about it, yet here he is advocating it.

Can this really be just frustrated words? I don't think so. A man of such supposed Christian stature and education should be much more in control of his own language. However, Robertson has a history of stupid statements, much like President Bush. But the subject of killing, which is so contrary to biblical moral law, should not even be entertained by someone of Robertson's alleged caliber. Yet it was. Perhap one of the reasons why is that it was deliberate. This was a way to introduce a philosophical change, a doctrine to be accepted, in at least this administration. The subject has been broached, and now it can be discussed. What better test rats than the Christian Reich? If they don't rise up in concerted rebuke of Robertson, than there is a green light that they can go ahead and begin to move on this bill, introducing it as necessary to "national security." If there is wholesale resistance, than the faux apologies flow and the matter quietly slips into the background, though it doesn't go away. However, what the Christian Reich needs to see is that Robertson has then colluded with a government to sanctify killing foreign leaders as it sees fit. Hardly the work of a supposed evangelist.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Prior Proper Planning...

Prevents Piss Poor Performance!

I learned of the 7 Ps in high school. The catholic all-boys school, St. Viator, had a coach that consistently produced winning football teams on that slogan. Today we learn that we have an administration that has no clue what that means.

Any business, and usually communities, like to do what's a called a cost-benefit analysis to see if what they want to do warrants the effort. Can we afford this? What will this cost us? What do we hope to gain by it? And some of these questions, for businesses any way, can extend out for a decade or two. At least you would think a government wanting to wage a war would do such a thing. In the case of the George W. Bush invasion of Iraq, this has not been the case.

Sometime before April of 2002, Ken Adelman of the Defense Department stated that the war in Iraq would be a cakewalk. I think that pretty much sums up the administration viewpoint, though Rumsfeld never literally acknowledged it. Yet today, in 2005, the New York Times had a lead article about the struggle the US is having in updating the armor for the troops. The apparent reason for the high number of casualties of deaths in an Ohio company is the lack of armor on their vehicles.

My son is no military strategist. Neither am I. But when he heard that these men were not armored correctly, he simply asked, "Then what were they doing there?" That's a good question. How does an improperly armored vehicle or soldier end up in a battlefield? By poor planning is the reason. Very poor planning. In other words, a rush to war, which is what the administration has been accused of since they announced their intention. And the lack of armor is a recurring issue, one in which you simply must ask, "What is the problem?" The administration likes to be bellicose about liberal rhetoric stating, "It's a time of war!" And I rejoined, these soldiers are not properly armored. What do you mean the Pentagon procurement process is not working? This is a time of war! At this late stage in the military operations, meaning simply two years into it, allegedly after major military operations have ended, we are still having difficulties armoring the troops and their transports? How? Who needs to be fired? This is unacceptable.

And that's just a part of what is happening. Today in the Washington Post, there was an article explaining how the administration is significantly lowering expectations for what can be achieved in Iraq. "The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say"

All along we have been told, particularly in the State of the Union and Inauguration speeches, that freedom and democracy were on the march. Yet today, three years later, we are told that is no longer the case. What went wrong? We were told all along that we would be welcomed as liberators, with flowers and smiles. We freed Iraq from the evil Saddam, and now they want to embrace an Islamic Constitution, and that's lowering expectations. I ask, what gave you any indication they would embrace democracy? Just because you wanted it for them? And what ever would make any one think that they couldn't see through the disguise of "democracy and freedom" anyway?

We can see from the admitted faults that the infrastructure, which we have poured billions into, does not work. "The most thoroughly dashed expectation was the ability to build a robust self-sustaining economy. We're nowhere near that. State industries, electricity are all below what they were before we got there," said Wayne White, former head of the State Department's Iraq intelligence team who is now at the Middle East Institute. "The administration says Saddam ran down the country. But most damage was from looting [after the invasion], which took down state industries, large private manufacturing, the national electric" system." "Water is also a 'tough, tough' situation in a desert country, said a U.S. official in Baghdad familiar with reconstruction issues. Pumping stations depend on electricity, and engineers now say the system has hundreds of thousands of leaks." How can the Iraqis trust the US when this type of situation exists long after "major military operations" have ceased? This also is unacceptable.

Yet what seems to be running close to capacity is the oil industry. "Oil production is estimated at 2.22 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million. Iraq's pre-war high was 2.67 million barrels a day." From a percentage viewpoint, the oil is running at 88% of goal capacity and 82% of pre-war high. Yet, we read in this same article that oil revenues are supposed to be paying for this war, and that Iraq does not produce enough "refined" fuel. Which leads me to believe that it is either being stockpiled as raw oil or refined elsewhere. It is apparent that the effort has been poured into oil industry far more than rebuilding the infrastructure or security of Iraq. This too is unacceptable.

A value we progressives embrace is accountability. It goes hand in hand with responsibility. Neither of which is demonstrated by the Bush administration when it comes to the war in Iraq. Billions of dollars are unaccounted for(a simple Google search), Halliburton continues to get non-competitive guaranteed contracts for which they are paid, and soldiers keep dying. Torture has occurred, and yet no one in a responsible position has been held accountable. It is all too obvious that little to no planning occurred, for anything other than resurrecting the oil production. Not just from the military point of view, but from the social aspect as well. We had little intelligence going in, and little thought given to just how this group of people would respond to not just an invasion, but American imperialism. And now we are being told that lower expectations means longer occupation. Considering the poll numbers of how Americans feel Bush is handling this war, the time of accounting is swift upon him.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Contrary to Public Interest?

"It is simply contrary to the public interest for these documents to be released," said the letter signed by Rebecca Seidel, a deputy assistant attorney general, on behalf of William E. Moschella, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs.

I would venture to say then, that nominee Roberts is contrary to public interest. The above quote comes from a NY Times article that was on Truthout, written by Carl Hulse and Neil Lewis. Since when has background information been contrary to the public interest?

This is how the Right Reich defines things. First, they make their clanging cymbal noises about a fair hearing, and then disallow it to happen. Sorry: no documents, no hearing.

Wake up America! Your country and freedoms are being stolen! Demand of the White House,, that these records be released. All records asked for, bar none.