Conservative: A man who believes nothing should be done for the first time.
—Alfred E. Wiggam (from The Left Handed Dictionary)
Conservative: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
— Ambrose Bierce
The liberals can understand everything but people who don't understand them.
A liberal is a man who is right most of the time, but he's right too soon.
Part 1: Parties, pundits, polemics and part of why I'm not voting for another four.
This post has been written to and put off for over a month. My initial intention was to write about the differences and similarities of the bi-polar politics this country is afflicted with in order to convince myself and maybe a handful of others that voting for the "lesser of two evils" is, in fact, worth doing even after all hope for progressives was lost after the media-sponsored crowning of Kerry many, many months ago in a small and seemingly unimportant state. I wasn't fazed by the exaggerated implication of the Dean scream as much as the consensus to ignore and make fun of Dennis Kucinich, whom I would have preferred among all other candidates.
Dennis was often painted as a socialist by those trying to say McCarthyism was a good thing. As Wulgar clearly points out, we live in "a Republic based on Democratic socialism." Such things as public schools feed a good Democracy and thing like welfare and health care for all feed the soul of this nation. Supposedly we can strike a balanced society utilizing the strengths of capitalism while using socialist policies to ensure the livelihood of all our citizens. Capitalism alone is not the answer as Albert Einstein illustrated his essay, Why Socialism?
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
- Albert Einstein
With help from an all too willing FCC, radio and TV have been opened up to abuse by huge corporations that are able to saturate the market with their messages. Nowhere is this more clear than in the land of talk radio.
Living out near the middle of nowhere leaves me with few choices of radio stations to tune to during the workday commute. For the simple fact that it comes in without static, I listen to WLS. For the most part it is strictly neo-conservative, hosting Rush and his progeny (i.e. Sean Hannity). Sean is more the attack dog to Rush's constant use satirical asides and "jokes" to cloak his attacks. According to Dr. Kathleen Hall Jamieson, "…successful talk radio hosts are funny." This is because, "[n]o one wants to listen to three hours of a political diatribe." The humor allows Rush to make the excuse that he's "just an entertainer" and has a "…guaranteed rebuttal to anything that offends."
One of the WLS hosts has taken up Rush's tactics and her name is Teri O'Brien. The only thing is that she often fails in the humor department. Her fervent hatred of Michael Moore often devolves into fat jokes. She thinks, "…that his morbid obesity might reflect the same lack of discipline and integrity that is reflected by his deliberate dishonesty." She refuses to apologize for making weight an issue because she thinks that just because she says her comments are, "exclusively limited to Michael Moore" it somehow releases her from making connection of being overweight as obviously lazy and undisciplined. The only reason to bring the topic of weight up is to reveal your own shallowness. Mature people would not stoop to this level of discourse. It would be no different if I repeated the cliché that Teri has a face for radio. Teri is seemingly oblivious to this and I feel sorry for her students that have to deal with her on a regular basis.
Speaking of Moore, I saw his movie. I really don't care to debate whether or not it's 100% truthful (from what I've seen it is), but I don't for one second think it's anti-American. Anti-Bush? Hell yeah, but the lunatic fringe wants you to believe that the only patriot is one that believes in the Iraq war. After all, if they hate our freedom, then shouldn't the fact that we are free to disagree with our government even in times of war be what they hate too?
The professional liberals on both sides of the Atlantic have played a major part in this. The campaign against Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is indicative. The film is not radical and makes no outlandish claims; what it does is push past those guarding the boundaries of "respectable" dissent. That is why the public applauds it. It breaks the collusive codes of journalism, which it shames. It allows people to begin to deconstruct the nightly propaganda that passes for news: in which "a sovereign Iraqi government pursues democracy" and those fighting in Najaf and Fallujah and Basra are always "militants" and "insurgents" or members of a "private army," never nationalists defending their homeland and whose resistance has probably forestalled attacks on Iran, Syria or North Korea.
The real debate is neither Bush nor Kerry, but the system they exemplify; it is the decline of true democracy and the rise of the American "national security state" in Britain and other countries claiming to be democracies, in which people are sent to prison and the key thrown away and whose leaders commit capital crimes in faraway places, unhindered, and then, like the ruthless Blair, invite the thug they install to address the Labour Party conference. The real debate is the subjugation of national economies to a system which divides humanity as never before and sustains the deaths, every day, of 24,000 hungry people. The real debate is the subversion of political language and of debate itself and perhaps, in the end, our self-respect.
It reminds me of back in the 8th grade when I did a paper on flag burning. I found a story about a Vietnam POW that was being tortured into admitting and, I think, signing a document saying that his country's war was wrong, which reminds me of Some Kind of Hero. At one point his captor produces a picture of American protesters burning the flag and says, "See, this proves that your people think it's wrong." His response was, "No! That means I'm right, because people are free and not afraid to protest." (Or something like that…)
Fahrenheit 9/11 is an important movie for the fact that you can see footage of the president that you would never see normally. It shows the strange relationship our government has with the Saudis. It also shows, briefly, footage from Iraq that you'd never see on Fox. It does not depict our troops in a bad light. I can picture myself like some of them. If I were ten years younger "playing" with that kind of military hardware, I'd be as psyched about the technology as they are. Hey, I spent a good portion of my youth wrapped up in military flight/air/land simulators. I was pleasantly separated from the gruesome results and I doubt if I could ever really kill someone.
It's really hard to get some people to think you "support the troops" not dying by being against the Iraq war and I've been fairly silent here about it. It just gets my stomach all up in knots. I know I have no monopoly on the truth. I know I have no crystal ball that will let me gauge the "what ifs" of things like whether or not coercive inspections would have been the best course. I know that we have been mislead and that this administration is cracking under the strain of never admitting mistakes or taking blame.
Politics today is a carnival of counterfeit conversation framed for focus groups. The pundits have plenty to talk about, but little of anything "objective" to add. They pose for the camera, as do the politicians, which fits into the footage that bookends Fahrenheit 9/11 of various members of the administration getting ready to go "on the air."
One of the other similarities between "V for Vendetta" and our current situation is that the populace is cowed by fear, to an extent, through the media, whether it's television propaganda or electronic surveillance.
Of course. One of the reasons we singled out media in "V for Vendetta" was because it is one of the most useful tools of tyranny. We invite it into our own home every night; I'm sure that some of us think of it as a friend. That might be a horrifying notion but I'm sure there are people who think of television as perhaps one of their most intimate friends. And if the TV tells them that things in the world are a certain way, even if the evidence of their senses asserts it is not true, they'll probably believe the television set in the end. It's an alarming thought but we brought it upon ourselves. I mean, I think that television is one of the most diabolical -- in the very best sense of the word -- inventions of the past century. It has probably done more to degrade the mind and intelligence of its audience, even if they happen to be drug addicts or alcoholics; I would think that watching television has done more to limit their horizons in the long run. And it has also distorted our culture.
TV and politics have always made inevitable bedfellows, but the results have been disastrous. Look at the situation we have now. Let's say that tomorrow someone who is a political genius were to emerge -- and I'm not expecting this to happen, but say that it did. Say that a politician emerged who seemed, for once, basically competent, who seemed to be able to do their job as well as the average cab driver, comic writer or journalist. If they were the most intelligent, visionary, humane political thinker in the history of mankind, but were also fat, had some sort of blemish or something that made them less than telegenic, we would not be able to elect them. All we're able to elect are these telegenic, photogenic crypto-Nazis. As long as they look good. I suppose it's too early to go into my rant on Ronald Reagan? That would be tasteless.
Actually, I was going to mention him. Especially his recent sanctification by America's television news media.
[Laughs.] Well then, OK. You've got Ronald Reagan -- the much eulogized, recently deceased former president -- who everyone seems to have forgotten was regarded as one of the most low and treacherous individuals by those in Hollywood that he sold out to the McCarthy hearings. This is someone whose response to the AIDS epidemic was probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide. This is someone who created Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, or at least set in motion the policies that would create these creatures. This was the architect of much of the world's present misery. Why did we elect him? Because he had been in a lot of films that some quite liked. We thought him an honorable man because in his films he played a lot of honorable men. I believe there are some who believed he had an outstanding war record. Even Ronald Reagan himself talked with misty eyes about the time he liberated concentration camps, which he may have done in a movie. But Ronald Reagan was out of World War II, fortunately for him, because of ill health. So all of his memories of military service came from movies. I've got to say that there are probably better people to elect than film stars.
— Salon interview with Alan Moore
The attempt to beautify Reagan is just another example of the effort to rewrite history. It's almost a daily occurrence in the talk radio land of Sean Hannity from what I've experienced.
When not trying to confuse us on historical fact, Sean is focused on trying to confuse us on rhetorical facts. During the Democratic Nation Convention Sean interviewed James P. Hoffa of the Teamsters and among numerous distortions that he lobbed during the interview he displayed an amazing ability to ignore answers to questions he did not like. He repeatedly asked Hoffa why he forced his members to pay for donations to the Democrats, while ignoring Hoffa's answer that the donations were taken from a voluntary fund.
As soon as Hoffa said Bush gave a tax cut to the rich, Sean accused him of "class warfare." So, even if Bush says that the rich elite are his base, it's bad to bring up the issue of unfair taxes because it's divisive. WTF? This is the same guy that has made the focus of his show in recent weeks near nonstop coverage of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads. This is the guy that smears MoveOn every chance he gets by repeating the lie that they ran an ad equating Bush with Hilter in their Bush in 30 Seconds contest. This is the same guy that eagerly repeated Dick Cheney's and Zell Miller's lies about Kerry's voting record and position on fighting against terrorism.
Unfortunately for the Republicans, this will only return the focus to GWB's embarrassing military career. You'd think that with all the effort to focus on their strengths that they'd shy away from the military service issue. Perhaps they have faith in their nationally syndicated liars to steer the many with too little time to pick up a paper than to turn on the TV or radio.
It has been made abundantly clear -- most recently, by Mr. Rood of the Chicago Tribune and by the invaluable Joe Galloway of Knight-Ridder -- that these Swift Boat characters are dealing in public lies. The day before, it was the NYT. The day before that, the Washington Post. We've had people outed as Republican operatives, disparaging war wounds they never saw, asserting as fact things they never witnessed, and ultimately calumnizing their own heroism. By all standard measures, this story should be over, and these people consigned to that same Phantom Zone where was dispatched that poor guy who wrote "Fortunate Son" in 2000. Can any fair person maintain that John O'Neill and the rest of the Chuck Colson Flotilla have any more credibility at this point than poor Hatfield had?
However, they live.
The print media, God love it, has done so thorough a debunking of these guys that you'd expect to hear a couple of them on Art Bell's program late one night. But because the "issue" and the "controversy" make good television theater, they must be kept alive. Which is why, the next time you see, say, Norah O'Donnell, down by the phony barn on the phony ranch, and she tells you how remarkable it is that the ads are "having an effect" despite the fact that the actual buy was so low, you should feel free to excuse yourself and go vomit in the corner. The original ad contained substantially less truth than the Hitler Diaries, but it was run anyway, over and over again, in news pieces about the "issue" and on argument shows dealing with the "controversy." In other words, television news gave up a substantial portion of its "news hole" this week to information that the people running the news operations had to know were demonstrable lies.
This is what you get. This is what you get when you get bullied by Mr. Murdoch's toy network into running an interview in which a woman makes unsubstantiated charges of rape against a sitting president, and this is what you get when you get played like a tin piano by a decades-long dirty-tricks campaign that culminated in an impeachment, and you couldn't report on the former because you were in the tank to the people bringing the latter. This is what you get when you loan your hard-won credibility to hacks and charlatans. This is what happens when you sell your craft out to celebrity, when being good on television is more important than being good at your job, when unconscionable slander is reckoned as genius because it moves the Nielsen needle. This is what happens when sneering schoolyard invective is reckoned to be actual talent because it comes with a Q rating. (Have a nice day, Tucker.) This is what happens when you run scared. Truth, literally, comes to matter not at all.
- Charles Pierce (via Steven)
So it is important that when we look at the numbers, specifically…
75 Percentage of Americans unaffected by Bush's sweeping 2003 cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.
$42,000 Average savings members of Bush's cabinet received in 2003 as a result of cuts in capital gains and dividends taxes.
39 Percentage of tax cuts that will go to the top 1 per cent of American families when fully phased in.
49 Percentage of Americans in April 2004 who found that their taxes had actually gone up since Bush took office.
88 Percentage of American families who will save less than $100 on their 2006 federal taxes as a result of 2003 cut in capital gains and dividends taxes.
$30,858 Amount Bush himself saved in taxes in 2003.
9.3m Number of US unemployed in April 2004.
2.3m Number of Americans who lost their jobs during first three Years of the Bush administration.
22m Number of jobs gained during Clinton's eight years in office.
…it's clear that Bush has to keep Kerry focused on Vietnam. In his address to the GOP convention
, Bush offered more promises without any proof he'd done anything other than line the pockets
of his base, further exploit our environment
, and curb science
that conflicted with his beliefs. Much of the mainstream media ignored these stories
and you can be damn sure that FOX news didn't care any of them.
When it comes to television that actually tries to counter the FOX spin, I try to turn to shows like Now: with Bill Moyers, but I have to wait until noon on Sunday to catch it. A while back they did an interview with Frank Luntz and a portion of it goes well against a recent post by Mary of Pacific Views.
George Orwell warned that sloppy language leads to foolish thoughts. One of the worst aspects of our discourse these days is how rarely our political language is used to express honest and clear thought. Of course, part of the fault lies with our schooling which tends to reward the complexity of thought and the use of obscure words. Indeed, there are those like William Buckley, Jr. who have incredibly large vocabularies and also take pleasure in using extremely obscure words to show how erudite they are. Yet, one must agree that the real problem with our political discourse these days is the purposeful use of words to lie and mislead. The result is a political environment that is dangerously toxic…
This year Luntz has produced a document (pdf) that tells Republicans how to talk about the "War on Terror". His goal was to show Republicans how to explain the policies of "preemption" and the "War in Iraq". His first point in this document was to tell Republicans that they should never use these words to discuss these policies.
"However, you will not find any instance in which we suggest that you use the actual word "preemption", or the phrase "The War in Iraq" to communicate your policies to the American public. To do so is to undermine your message from the start. Preemption may be the right policy, and Iraq the right place to start. But those are not the right words to use.
Your efforts are about "the principles of prevention and protection" in the greater "War on Terror"."
As you see, Luntz once again tells the Republicans to use imprecise and deceitful language to disguise their real policies. And in this case, he is actually advocating the adoption of a word that describes a policy that is even more immoral than a preemptive policy. Note that even international treaties affirm that countries can attack first when there is a real danger; this is the definition of a preemptive war. A preventative war on the other hand is not justified morally or ethically in any civilized society because it is based on nothing more than a suspicion of a threat. It is like locking up someone at birth because you believe that when someone grows up he/she will be a dangerous criminal.
I think that the Democrats have always done a better job at setting the context than Republicans. And that's because they explain the "why" of the problem. If you just go in and you provide three or four solutions when someone asks you a question, you haven't set the context.
You haven't explained why you believe what you believe or why you support what you support. And that's where the Democrats have always been good. Bill Clinton was the best context setter of the 20th century. He never gave you a full answer. He never told you what he was gonna do. But he always told you why he was gonna do it. And I think that's why he ended up so popular….
And it's not messing with their heads because it's these thoughts, these ideas, these assumptions already exist. I would not... I do not believe in calling something that is white, I won't call it black.
I do not believe in calling something that's up, calling it down. This is not Orwellian. This is listening to what you care about. This is understanding who you are, what you believe, all your life experiences and then explaining things in that way. Look, if we were to do this interview and you asked me questions in English and I responded in Greek, none of your viewers with the exception of three or four people in L.A. are gonna understand me.
That's all that I do is I help people understand politics or products or services. It's an explanation. It's an education, not a manipulation.
Luntz on Now
Saying it is not a manipulation is plain insulting and Brancaccio tries to point out that mentioning 9/11 every time you mention Iraq does create a mental connection for many Americans.
BRANCACCIO: ...and tries to conflate the two is doing a disservice perhaps to the facts.
LUNTZ: Okay. But you say caused by. That's actually not the wording of the research. It's did Iraq play any role or is there a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda? I don't even know if it's Al Qaeda or Al "Kida". I hear Bush Administration officials call it both.
They don't say cause. And this is where I focus on words. Is there a relationship? Are these bad people? Was Saddam Hussein a bad person? Is Osama bin Laden a bad person? The answer is absolutely yes.
And we are better off if Osama bin Laden did not exist and I hope we catch him. And we are certainly better off that Saddam Hussein is not in power. So, I pay attention to the words, the exact phrases. And to the American people, they don't know up or down when it comes to this. But they do know that these are bad people. They know that they have killed Americans. They know that they are a threat to our national security and they want them gone. What's wrong with that?
Even the folks at the Daily Show realize the power of words, but the Democrats are not completely free of word-wizards. Now also interviewed George Lakoff who has been talking about how politicians "frame" their speech.
BRANCACCIO: Well, controversial issue that perhaps frames would help: trial lawyer. John Edwards is one. How do you use that as a political weapon or an asset?
LAKOFF: Well, you use it as a weapon because it's been made into a weapon with terms like "frivolous lawsuits," and so on.
LAKOFF: That is a frame that has been constructed by conservatives to attack trial lawyers, because trial lawyers, you know, support the Democratic Party in many parts of the country. So they're trying to de-fund the Democrats by attacking trial lawyers.
Now instead of trial lawyers, you should say what folks really are doing. These are public protection attorneys. They're doing public protection law. These are…
BRANCACCIO: Protecting the public.
LAKOFF: Protecting the public from corporations and professionals who are either negligent or unscrupulous. And they're the last line of defense we have.
That's what, you know, public protection law is really about. And the Democrats need to come back and talk about public protection law and public protection.
BRANCACCIO: It's interesting how these phrases get inserted into the synapse. You say through repetition is one good way. Want you to take a look at this. We have President Bush couple years ago talking about his Healthy Forest Initiative. And he doesn't, as you'll see, talk about cutting down trees.
BUSH: Forest policy can be common sense policy.
A policy that is based upon common sense.
We need to make our forests healthy by using some common sense.
Common sense forest policy.
BRANCACCIO: If I were covering that speech, I'd say that the lead might have something to do with common sense.
LAKOFF: Yes. And what does that mean? It means experts are not needed. And who are the experts? They're ecologists, environmentalists. This says, "Don't listen to the experts. Just think about it yourself. And we're going to tell you how to think about it."
Now when they say Healthy Forest for a bill that's going to, you know, clear cut forests and destroy forests, what do you do if you're on the other side? Well, what you have to do is rename it.
Now, I mean, if it had been renamed something like Leave No Tree Behind, that would have been, you know, perfect. Or, you know, The Forest Destruction Act. You know?
Then what that does is allow you to bring it up as an issue, and allow you to ask the experts in as the arbiters. That's the way you deal with the attempt of common sense to say, "This isn't an expert issue. We don't listen to the experts."
Now the person who I think taught me most about this is one of your former guests, Frank Luntz.
BRANCACCIO: Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster and opinion researcher.
LAKOFF: That's right.
Luntz puts out a little workbook every year or so. And last year in his section on the environment, he said something very interesting.
He said that on global warming, the Democrats have the science on their side, but we can win with language. What we need to do is use words environmentalists like, like "healthy," "clean," and "safe."
Now what that does is each word like that evokes a frame. But what they do is they evoke frames that are the opposite of what they know they mean. These are sort of Orwellian frames. These are ways to manipulate the public.
So whenever you hear an Orwellian term like "Clear Skies Act" or "Compassionate Conservative," means they know they're weak on something. And what you have to do is rename it. Rename it to fit the truth.
It is the Dirty Air Act. It is the Forest Destruction Act.
BRANCACCIO: A lot of the hot button political issues of the moment really can be framed and re-framed. Big debate this summer over gay marriage. You might re-frame it, I don't know, you could call it "right to marry the one you love." That's a different kind of frame.
LAKOFF: Exactly right.
You have to change the terms and change the words to make them your words all the time. As soon as you say, "gay marriage," the image of gay sex is going to come up.
Most people, you know, if you say, "Are you in favor of gay sex," will say, "Who me? No." But if they say, "Do you think the state should tell people who they should marry?" Different question. Different frame.
Both parties are doing the research to convince us to support them. The media doesn't challenge them on their bullshit often because they are like big business that support both parties for obvious reasons. We are expected to vote for the party that represents our views-conservative or liberal. Anyone that deviates from this dualistic tradition becomes a coveted swing voter and the most effective way to convince these people is to make the other party look worse. Sometimes this is as simple as added an adjective in front of the other guy's chosen ideology.
BRANCACCIO: We moving away from liberal? Is liberal finally… even you admitting it's a dirty word?
LAKOFF: Well, it's been branded by the other side. For the last 20, 30 years they've been putting other adjectives with liberal, like limousine liberal, latte liberal, you know, Chardonnay and brie liberal, even though more Republicans eat brie than Democrats do. Very important, you know…
BRANCACCIO: There's research about this?
LAKOFF: There's research about this. Everything has market research. But the fact is that the identity has been given to the word "liberal." And people talk about the liberal elite when, in fact, it's the conservatives who have the real money in the country and the elitism. The Democrats should use that. The Democrats have to call the people who get those big tax cuts, not just the rich, but the elite. "Rich" is a good word in America. You know, remember, you have rich experiences. You want a rich life. You know? "Rich" is a good word. But "elite" isn't a good word.
BRANCACCIO: If you ever watch the Comedy Central program THE DAILY SHOW, they have a mock newscast. But they seem to have caught the conservatives trying to use this word "liberal" as a weapon. Take a look.
[CLIP FROM DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART]
CNN CLIP: "two of the foremost liberal senators"
CNN CLIP: "two of the foremost liberal US senators"
MSNBC CLIP: "the most liberal member of the United States Senate"
CNN CLIP: "the most liberal member of the United States Senate"
FOX CLIP: "who was the number one rated liberal in the United States Senate"
FOX CLIP: "the number one most liberal senator in the United States Senate"
STEWART: Wow! Those guys are liberal! In fact if I didn't know better I'd say they were the first and fourth most liberal senators in the whole Senate. And while we don't have any idea what that means or where those rankings come from or how they were arrived at or whether it's even true, I don't like the sounds of it.
It used to be that liberals were big government and conservatives favored small government, but that appears to be reversed now. This kind of flip-flopping has been going on for a while. How else can one explain how Clinton signed NAFTA into existence? How can we explain how conservatives are against conservation? As much as the conservatives value "moral clarity" I fail to see it, except in certain areas like their stance on Iraq, which brings to my mind the phrase, "fools rush in." Life seems to have sanctity until voting age, which coincidentally coincides with the age you can get into the military. Bush's call on "common sense" policy towards the environment is as much an attack on scientists as Richard J. Daley's famous quip, "What do experts know?"
The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that this election-year's federal deficit will reach $422 billion, congressional aides said Tuesday, the highest ever, yet a smaller shortfall than analysts predicted earlier this year.
The figure, provided by aides who spoke on condition of anonymity, is sure to provide political fodder for both parties during the remaining two months of the presidential and congressional campaigns.
"This is by far the biggest deficit in American history," said Thomas Kahn, Democratic staff director of the House Budget Committee. "There is no credible way Republicans can portray the record deficits they have created as good news."
"Deficits are going down, jobs are going up, the economy continues to improve," said Sean Spicer, Republican spokesman for the House Budget panel. "I don't see how you can't be happy with that news."
The number was being released later Tuesday in the annual summertime forecast issued by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
The projection by Congress' nonpartisan budget analysts would surpass last year's $375 billion shortfall, the current record.
This "down is up" talk of Sean Spicer gives credence to the Sanders Hypothesis, which Steven pointed out recently.
The worsening federal budget deficit reflects a failure to choose, and since politics is about choice, the federal deficit is a manifestation of political failure. Left unchecked, this political failure will eventually cause politicians to renege on the current social contracts between the generations, like Medicare and Social Security, as well as other government services that are now expected. The growing trade deficit reflects a deeper breakdown in the larger political economy of the entire nation, manifesting itself most directly in the ongoing shift from an economy that produces real goods to some sort of finance-based (flim-flam Ponzi?) economy that figures out how to import more manufactured goods (and maybe eventually services) than it exports on a permanent basis. No one knows where this ongoing transformation will take the United States, or what it means for the private as well as governmental social contracts binding this nation together.
What does this mean to us?
The announcement on Friday the 13th of August that the US trade deficit had grown by more than $8 billion is deeply significant. Its meaning is that the US has entered a phase, long predicted by us, in which it is impossible to stabilize the American external position within a democratic and free market context. The long ascendance of finance capital from its nadir during the depression of the 1930s and the parallel erosion of real capital accumulation is reaching, in our view, a climax. What appears to be the permanent loss of over three million manufacturing jobs in the last three years testifies to the tacit acceptance of this state of affairs by the managers of the US political economy. This acceptance is emphasized by the Kerry candidacy for the presidency, which underlines the cross-party stranglehold that finance capital holds over the political system. There is nothing new about this; what matters here is that the numbers are evidence that we have reached a point of departure for radical systemic change….
The answer is unfortunately a messy one: as long as it takes. The US has chosen to address the problem that it does not make enough of what the rest of the world wants by going to war to monopolize control of the supply and distribution of what the world needs, petroleum. There are other war aims, of course, but control of the global hydrocarbon net is certainly the most important. One may believe otherwise, but then one may believe in magic and the tooth fairy too. The truth is that the dangerously destabilizing idea has rooted in Washington that, in the words of Vice President Cheney, "deficits don't matter (we proved that in the 90s)." He is right of course in pure power terms; a fuller expression of Cheney's dictum might well add, "as long as we are able to force everyone else to accept them (deficits)."
Control of oil is essential to enforcing that acceptance since—the conceit of the financial markets notwithstanding—economic growth is first a function of energy availability, not interest rates. The problem for the Americans is—control of the political system by the financial fraction of the ruling class notwithstanding—that most of the "real capital" fraction, that is to say the owners of the country's factories, are opting to decamp and make things where labor can be more readily exploited in order to keep their profit margins up. Matters are further complicated by the power of the military and security complex, whose members' prosperity was, until the 90s at least under Clinton, underwritten by the country's productive capital. With the factories going to China, the viability of the management-labor compact and tax base that supports the military is eroding.
As it has been for a while, the folks around George Bush have been the ones to worry about over his fairly buffoonish nature. What makes the Bush administration especially bad is people like Cheney and that crazy guy, John Ashcroft.
Oddly enough, it was the reaction of Kerry after Zell Miller's very public mental breakdown that give many of us hope that there was still some fight left in the man.
…did you watch Senator Zell Miller-he morphed into John Brown, Oral Roberts and Elmer Gantry-was all fire and brimstone- ridiculed Kerry fiercely- forget he distorted and was factually incorrect--when finished, expected the audience to shout hallelujah-stamp their feet and wave handkerchiefs in the air--Senator Miller disappointed me because he did not finish with the tent preacher's flourish REPENT OR DIE--gets harder to be a Republican by the day--John Kerry figuratively was hung on the cross and died while GW BUSH gave his acceptance speech------but on the same night exactly at midnight in a small town in Ohio he was resurrected--came after GW Bush and Cheney on TV with fire and tong-tough, hard, unrelentingly critical-ad homonym--contrasting this approach after the Democratic convention when Kerry was tip toeing through the tulips until he was amBushed by the swift boaters---his campaign damaged- in a tail spin-- however, Bush's demeaning assault on Kerry turned him into a fire belching dragon--the Republican insults appeared to energize him---challenge his erudite, self absorbed professorial manner--made him realize it is bare knuckles in the alley from now on- whether he can sustain this heated approach is another problem--Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is released in DVD and tape in the first week of October-suggest Kerry carpet bomb the US with the film --if Kerry cannot figure out how to go after Bush,, ask Moore--probably stuff on the cutting floor that is very interesting-- Bush is highly vulnerable and has made many errors of historical proportion, so Kerry must master the sword and strike deeply and swiftly- as far as his use of the shield, if Kerry cannot defend himself-he cannot defend the US-it is that simple.
-Bor Komorowski. Col US Army Ret
It is unfortunate that it is easier for me to point out reasons not to vote for Bush than to point out reasons to vote for Kerry. Who do we blame for such a poor Democratic candidate? Is it a problem with the party itself or a populace that is too busy or apathetic to take a part in politics? Perhaps politics have become too nasty and corrupt. Perhaps we are all reeling from the current collision between War and Truth.
Prelude to Part 2, War and Truth
The neo-cons in the Bush house, or the 'fucking crazies' as Colin Powell puts it, reacted exactly as al Qaida hoped. Rather than counter those things that fueled extremism in Muslim societies, they strengthened the recruiting efforts and spread terrorism to areas where it never was before. The incompetence of their understanding of terrorists is only beat by their lack of post-war planning and understanding of what a task rebuilding Iraq would be after destroying much of the country's infrastructure.
General Abizaid, CENTCOM CO, has explained recently that US forces have not lost a battle in Iraq-seems I heard the same argument in RVN--hope the general realizes that the scorekeeper does not count interim victories----if you lose the last battle , you lose the war---the oil lines are now being sabotaged at distribution points instead of just interdicted-Couple weeks ago Ambassador Negroponte requested that about 2 billion be shifted from nation building budgets to security--nation building is dead because there is no security for contractors----kidnapping is widespread and a cottage industry in Iraq-some linked to the insurgency and others to criminals---Iraqis in the US sponsored interim government, and their allies are hunted like rabbits by the insurgents-War cost in dollars enormous-over a billion a week and growing--lack of security will delay elections and the war will continue--as the US kills more Iraqi civilians , it will be more difficult to insure the loyalty and reliability of recently trained Iraqi troops and police- this expectation that the Iraqis will fight for US war aims belongs in the trash heap of delusions like cake walk, WMD, terrorist links, greetings of rice and roses by the Iraqi people -Bush's policies in Iraq are bankrupt, and he really does not know what to do--Deputy Sec Def Wolfowitz recently asked for patience to fight the insurgency----my response to him is PISS OFF--YOUR WAR-- OUR BLOOD---If reelected, Bush will have an epiphany-- forced to pullout as the costs in dollars and carnage mount in the war--so far Kerry has offered no solution to the war--his national security team of Rubin and Holbrook are both pro -Israel and are advising Kerry to stay the course in Iraq as long as the last American stands--there are nuances, but Kerry's policy is still BUSH LITE--Kerry has been gagging on that drink every since he started his campaign-the appalling fact is that it looks like four more years of BUSH LITE ---- QUO VADIS?
- Bor Komorowski Col USA RET
It is often at moments like this that we would hear things like, "When faced with believing the words of a madman and defending my country, I'll defend my country every single time" or "The world is safer without Saddam." The latter point may be true, but it doesn't negate how wrong the means of that removal from power was. The former is a slick evasion of the truth that plays well with many Americans.
After all, there were other reasons to depose the Hussein regime. And the belief that Iraq was an imminent nuclear threat had rallied us together and provided an easy justification to doubters of the nobility of our cause. So what if it wasn't really true? To many, it seemed naïve to worry about something as abstract as the truth or falsity of our claims when we could concern ourselves with the things that really mattered -- such as protecting ourselves from terrorism and ensuring our access to oil. To paraphrase Nietzsche, the truth may be good, but why not sometimes take untruth if it gets you where you want to go?
These are important questions. At the end of the day, is it always better to believe and speak the truth? Does the truth itself really matter? While generalizing is always dangerous, the above responses to the Iraq affair indicate that many Americans would look at such questions with a jaundiced eye. We are rather cynical about the value of truth.
Politics isn't the only place that one finds this sort of skepticism. A similar attitude is commonplace among some of our most prominent intellectuals. Indeed, under the banner of postmodernism, cynicism about truth and related notions like objectivity and knowledge has become the semiofficial philosophical stance of many academic disciplines. Roughly speaking, the attitude is that objective truth is an illusion and what we call truth is just another name for power. Consequently, if truth is valuable at all, it is valuable -- as power is -- merely as means…
Sure, we may say we want to believe the truth, but what we really desire is to believe what is useful. Good beliefs get us what we want, whether nicer suits, bigger tax cuts, or a steady source of oil for our SUV's. At the end of the day, the truth of what we believe and say is beside the point. What matters are the consequences.
Such rough-and-ready pragmatism taps into one of our deepest intellectual veins. It appeals to America's collective self-image as a square-jawed action hero. And it may partly explain why the outcry against the White House's deception over the war in Iraq was rather muted. It is not just that we believe that "united we stand," it is that, deep down, many Americans are prone to think that it is results, not principles, that matter. Like Fish and Bush, some of us find worrying over abstract principles like truth to be boring and irrelevant nitpicking, best left to the nerds who watch C-Span and worry about whether the death penalty is "fair."
Of course, many intellectuals are eager to defend the idea that truth matters. Unfortunately, however, some of the defenses just end up undermining the value of truth in a different way. There is a tendency for some to believe, for example, that caring about truth means caring about the absolutely certain truths of old. That has always been a familiar tune on the right, whistled with fervor by writers like Allan Bloom and Robert H. Bork, but its volume has appeared to increase since September 11, 2001. Americans have lost their "moral compass" and need to sharpen their vision with "moral clarity," we are told. Liberal-inspired relativism is weakening American resolve; in order to prevail (against terrorism, the assault on family values, and the like) we must rediscover our God-given access to the truth. And that truth, it seems, is that we are right, and everyone else is wrong.
William J. Bennett, for example, in his book last year, Why We Fight: Moral Clarity and the War on Terrorism, laments the profusion of what he calls "an easygoing" relativism. Longing for the days when children were instructed to appreciate the "superior goodness of the American way of life," he writes: "If the message was sometimes overdone, or sometimes sugarcoated, it was a message backed by the record of history and by the evidence of even a child's senses." In the halcyon days of old, when the relativists had yet to scale the garden wall, the truth was so clear that it could be grasped by even a child. That is the sort of truth Bennett seems to think really matters. To care about objective truth is to care about what is simple and ideologically certain.
As a defense of the value of truth, that is self-defeating. An unswerving allegiance to what you believe isn't a sign that you care about truth. It is a sign of dogmatism. Caring about truth does not mean never having to admit you are wrong. On the contrary, caring about truth means that you have to be open to the possibility that your own beliefs are mistaken. It is a consequence of the very idea of objective truth. True beliefs are those that portray the world as it is and not as we hope, fear, or wish it to be. If truth is objective, believing doesn't make it so; and even our most deeply felt opinions could turn out to be wrong. That is something that Bennett -- and the current administration, for that matter -- would do well to remember. It is not a virtue to hold fast to one's views in face of the facts.
-Michael P. Lynch, Who Cares About the Truth?
More on War and Truth next time.
I got up in the usual way today and went about putting clothes on. My Father has taken up the habit of making coffee, which I neither encourage nor complain about. I would rather he sleep than get up so early and besides, I have all the coffee I need waiting for me when I arrive at my job.
As I start to fill my pockets with my wallet, keys, and such, I hear a strange groan/cry followed by a thud from the kitchen. I race over there to find my Dad lying on his back. His eyes are up and away, locked in place. His mouth is agape with a struggled kind of breathing while his hands twitched. I checked his mouth. He was not choking on anything. I recognized the sound as similar to his snoring, which was severe enough to cause sleep apnea. He didn't respond to me. Lacking any clue on what to do next, I went for the phone.
Later, in the hospital he recovered and could talk, but didn't remember anything about the incident. They think it was a seizure and ran a series of tests. He might even come home tomorrow. He'll be okay.
We're lucky it happened while I was still home. I don't like to think about all those hours when he's alone and…well, we've been lucky through all that he's been through.
There was hip replacement surgery last year that truly tested the father & son boundaries. He tried to have a sense of humor about it. At the time, I didn't feel like laughing every time I heard him call out, "Johnny, wipe me."
Just before Christmas he had a stroke/heart attack, which was a prelude to triple bypass surgery in June.
I am sometimes harsh and short with him. I think it's because I have trouble dealing with the fact that he can't do the things he used to and there's a part of me that blames him for not taking better care of himself over the years. Maybe there's also the fear that I will end up with the same problems if I don't start taking better care of myself.
His Dad just turned 90 and had heart surgery almost 20 years ago because during a brutal Chicago snowstorm he decided to get on the roof and shovel snow fearing the roof would collapse. Only recently has Grampa slowed it down. So I figure that if I at least keep reasonably healthy and avoid manual labor in the cold after my seventies, I might live to be a hundred.
There's something wonderfully stubborn about these Namest genes.
Deep down the consciousness of mankind is one.
He who dreams of drinking wine may weep when morning comes; he who dreams of weeping may in the morning go off to hunt. While he is dreaming he does not know it is a dream, and in his dream he may even try to interpret a dream. Only after he wakes does he know it was a dream. And someday there will be a great awakening when we know that this is all a great dream. Yet the stupid believe they are awake busily and brightly assuming they understood things, calling this man ruler, that one herdsman--how dense! Confucius and you are both dreaming! And when I say you are dreaming, I am dreaming too.
We don't know exactly what happens in dreams. It is not impossible that, during dreams, we are in heaven, we are in hell. Perhaps we are someone, the someone whom Shakespeare called "the thing I am"; perhaps we are ourselves, perhaps we are God. All of this we forget at waking. We can only examine the memory of a dream, the poor memory.
I have read Frazer -- a supremely talented writer, but also an extremely credulous one, as it seems he believed everything reported by the various travelers. According to Frazer, savages do not distinguish between waking and dreaming. For them, dreams are episodes of the waking life. Thus, according to Frazer, or according to the travelers he read, a savage dreams he goes into the forest and kills a lion. When he wakes, he thinks his soul has abandoned his body and has killed a lion in his dreams. Or, if we want to complicate things a little, we may suppose that he has killed the dream of a lion. All of this is possible, and this idea of the savages coincides with that of children, who also cannot distinguish between waking and dream.
-Jorge Luis Borges, Nightmares
[Psychiatrist Montague Ullman] says that in his psychoanalytic practice he could have a patient who seemed completely unenlightened when he was awake—mean,selfish,arrogant,exploitative, and manipulative; a person who had fragmented and dehumanized all of his interpersonal relationships. But no matter how spiritually blind a person may be, or unwilling to recognize his or her own shortcomings, dreams invariably depict their failings honestly and contain metaphors that seem designed to prod him or her gently into a state of greater self-awareness….
He believes that nature is concerned with the survival of the species…and feels that dreams are nature's way of trying to counteract our seemingly unending compulsion to fragment the world.
-Michael Talbot, The Holographic Universe (p62-3)
In my dreams, I have an altered sense of what is normal. I can do things like telekinesis, fly, walk through objects, heal by touch, clairvoyance, and even sing. I don't know how these things became natural to me in dreams, but because some of them are abilities claim by the waking I wonder what is it that prevents me from doing like them. Maybe it's a lack of belief that I can do it. Perhaps, the whole process of the occult is an elaborate method to fulfill that gap that seems unreachable by force of will.
I know that I have limits on my perception in dreams. Sometimes I am limited in speech, where if I do try to talk I will wake up. When I wake up and then drift back into dreaming again I am sometimes aware of my body lying in bed as well as my dream body and I have nearly a free reign in sculpting the dream. As I think of how to form the dream, images and objects appear related to the thoughts coming up like related terms when using a Google search. I've had lucid dreams before too, though not in a very long time.
My dreaming self is sometimes much more silly and somewhat mischievous and sometimes much more poetic and heroic. It's hard to paint a clear picture due to the nature of remembering dreams. Sometimes I have dreams that are so strange and yet seem to mean something that I spend the rest of the day or days puzzling them out. So I've been looking for ways to decipher dreams or at least have fun with them.
A major factor in all my speculation is that I'm currently reading The Holographic Universe. I don't know if it's something of the same that happened to true. The story of Jansenist convulsionaires seems hard to discount, even though distant. While Sathya Sai Baba is more contemporary, he is not immune from detractors.
No matter how much I admire an idea, I can not force myself to believe it. So far, I really admire the Holographic theory. Anyway, back to dreams…
Those whom heaven helps we call the sons of heaven. They do not learn this by learning. They do not work it by working. They do not reason it by using reason. To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
-Chuang Tse (more, and more)
"But in fact, isn't man's very purpose on earth - to do things , change things, make a better world ?...I was wondering if this self-canceling centerpoised personality of yours leads you to look at things defensively. You are afraid of losing your balance... You can't try to live safely, there's no such thing as safety. Stick your neck out of your shell then and live fully!
-Lathe of Heaven, by Ursula LeGuin (Synopsis, Notes on the different movies (I highly do not recommend the A&E one), interview)
To read Aristotle On Dreams and On Prophesying by Dreams against the stuff of Freud shows how the source of dreams turned from the external/eternal to it's opposite and how for some it's going full circle, but maybe it's both. Maybe dreams are a versatile tool-a bridge and a mirror of sorts. Perhaps, more uses for this tool can be "dreamed up" such as in Prince of Darkness where someone's dreams are a transmission from people in the future.
One thing you can count on is that people are letting their imaginations go with this. For example, you might have tried to make a connection betweenUFO sightings, dreams, and crop circles, but you probably didn't contemplate the symbolic relationship between Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, dreams, and crop circles! If you did, then perhaps you never considered how important the dreams of Celine are.
Be certain I stray not into strange waters without my cloak of skepticism. I do remain hopeful that I might, to turn the cliché, find something to believe in. But for now…
Oh the pain of plodding posts
Oh the strain of ego boasts
Suffer no more TV'd roasts
Summer sows some yearn'n oats
Don't settle for the slash trash fiction
Or ersatz intimate friction
You're living in dereliction
Give some things a firm eviction
Pity party, perpetual pain
Life's losses focused 'til untenable strain
Invested yourself with too much blame
Stress your heart 'til split in twain
And cry out the question to empyrean plane
Can I bear to love again
But have no doubt your heart does feel
In every pulse beats something real
Take no stock in misery mete
Take no burden of regret
Time will temper and dry tears
Time will render new frontiers
But solace offered by some means
We could fulfill some things in dreams