Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 rear end

So, yeah, I’ve been busy and not in the mood to write. Tomorrow is New Year’s Day and I’m working so I’m having a quiet dinner at home this New Year’s Eve. Then we have a four-day weekend and I’m going to do a 2007 wrap-up. Check out Jack’s pictures to see photos from the Christmas dinner at Phil and Enma’s. It was very special this year. In the meantime, read this little piece below by Chris Hedges. There are also a couple of links following the piece that gives some disturbing information on the state of the US economy. That oughta cheer you up. Happy New Year!

The Evangelical Rebellion By Chris Hedges

The rise of Mike Huckabee as a presidential candidate represents a seismic shift in the tactics, ideology and direction of the radical Christian right. Huckabee may stumble and falter in later primaries, but his right-wing Christian populism is here to stay. Huckabee represents a new and potent force in American politics, and the neocons and corporate elite, who once viewed the yahoos of the Christian right as the useful idiots, are now confronted with the fact that they themselves are the ones who have been taken for a ride. Members of the Christian right, recruited into the Republican Party and manipulated to vote against their own interests around the issues of abortion and family values, are in rebellion. They are taking the party into new, uncharted territory. And they presage, especially with looming economic turmoil, the rise of a mass movement that could demolish what is left of American democracy and set the stage for a Christian fascism.

The corporate establishment, whose plundering of the country created fertile ground for a radical, right-wing backlash, is sounding the alarm bells. It is scrambling to bolster Mitt Romney, who, like Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton, will continue to slash and burn on behalf of corporate profits. Columnist George Will called Huckabee’s populism “a comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs.” He wrote that Huckabee’s candidacy “broadly repudiates core Republican policies such as free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America’s corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity.” National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that “like [Howard] Dean, his nomination would represent an act of suicide by his party.”

Huckabee spoke of this revolt on the “Today” show. “There’s a sense in which all these years the evangelicals have been treated very kindly by the Republican Party,” he said. “They wanted us to be a part of it. And then one day one of us actually runs and they say, ‘Oh, my gosh, now they’re serious.’ They [evangelicals] don’t want to just show up and vote, they actually would want to be a part of the discussion.”

George Bush is a happy stooge of his corporate handlers. He blithely enriches the oligarchy, defends a war that is the worst foreign policy blunder in American history and callously denies medical benefits to children. Huckabee is different. He has tapped into the rage and fury of the working class, dispossessed and abandoned by the mainstream Democrats and Republicans. And he refuses to make the ideology of the Christian right, with its dark contempt for democratic traditions and intolerance of nonbelievers, a handmaiden of the corporate establishment. This makes him a much more lethal and radical political force.

The Christian right is the most potent and dangerous mass movement in American history. It has been controlled and led, until now, by those who submit to the demands of the corporate state. But the grass roots are tired of being taken for rubes. They are tired of candidates, like Bush or Bill Clinton, who roll out the same clichés about working men and women every four years and then spend their terms enriching their corporate backers. The majority of American citizens have spent the last two decades watching their government services and benefits vanish. They have seen their jobs go overseas and are watching as their communities crumble and their houses are foreclosed. It is their kids who are in Iraq and Afghanistan. The old guard in the Christian right, the Pat Robertsons, who used their pulpits to deliver the votes of naive followers to the corporatists, is a spent force. Huckabee’s Christian populism represents the maturation of the movement. It signals the rise of a truly radical, even revolutionary force in American politics, of which Huckabee may be one of the tamer and less frightening examples.
Hints of Huckabee’s bizarre worldview seep out now and then. Bob Vander Plaats, Huckabee’s Iowa campaign manager, for example, when asked about his candidate’s lack of foreign policy experience, told MSNBC: “Well, I think Gov. Huckabee has a lot of resources that he goes to on national security matters. Here’s a guy, a former pastor, who understands a theological nature of this war as we’re fighting a radical religion in Islam.”

Robert Novak noted that Huckabee held a fundraiser last week at the Houston home of Dr. Steven Hotze. As Novak wrote, Hotze is “a leader in the highly conservative Christian Reconstruction movement.”

Huckabee has close ties with the Christian Reconstructionist or Dominionist branch of the Christian right. The Dominionist movement, which seeks to cloak itself in the mantle of the Christian faith and American patriotism, is small in numbers but influential. It departs from traditional evangelicalism. It seeks to redefine traditional democratic and Christian terms and concepts to fit an ideology that calls on the radical church to take political power. It shares many prominent features with classical fascist movements, at least as such movements are defined by the scholar Robert O. Paxton, who sees fascism as “a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cultures of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”

Dominionism, born out of Christian Reconstructionism, seeks to politicize faith. It has, like all fascist movements, a belief in magic along with leadership adoration and a strident call for moral and physical supremacy of a master race, in this case American Christians. It also has, like fascist movements, an ill-defined and shifting set of beliefs, some of which contradict each other. Paxton argues that the best way to understand authentic fascist movements, which he says exist in all societies, including democracies, is to focus not on what they say but on how they act, for, as he writes, some of the ideas that underlie fascist movements “remain unstated and implicit in fascist public language” and “many of them belong more to the realm of visceral feelings than to the realm of reasoned propositions.”

Dominionism teaches that American Christians have been mandated by God to make America a Christian state. A decades-long refusal by most American fundamentalists to engage in politics at all following the Scopes trial has been replaced by a call for Christian “dominion” over the nation and, eventually, over the Earth itself. Dominionism preaches that Jesus has called on Christians to actively build the kingdom of God on Earth. America becomes, in this militant Biblicism, an agent of God, and all political and intellectual opponents of America’s Christian leaders are viewed, quite simply, as agents of Satan. Under Christian dominion, America will no longer be a sinful and fallen nation but one in which the Ten Commandments form the basis of our legal system, in which creationism and “Christian values” form the basis of our educational system, and the media and the government proclaim the Good News to one and all. Labor unions, civil rights laws and public schools will be abolished. Women will be removed from the work force to stay at home, and all those deemed insufficiently Christian will be denied citizenship.

Baptist minister Rick Scarborough, founder of Vision America and a self-described “Christocrat,” who attended the Texas fundraiser, has endorsed Huckabee. Scarborough, along with holding other bizarre stances, opposes the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine on grounds that it interferes with God’s punishment of sexual license. And Huckabee, who once advocated isolating AIDS patients from the general public and opposed increased federal funding in the search for a cure, comes out of this frightening mold. He justified his call to quarantine those with AIDS because they could “pose a dangerous public health risk.”

"If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” Huckabee wrote. “It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

Huckabee has publicly backed off from this extreme position, but he remains deeply hostile to gays. He has used wit and humor to deflect reporters from his radical views about marriage, abortion, damnation, biblical law, creationism and the holy war he believes we are fighting with Islam. But his stances represent a huge step, should they ever become policy, toward a theocratic state and the death of our open society. In the end, however, I do not blame Huckabee or the tens of millions of hapless Christians—40 percent of the Republican electorate—who hear his words and rejoice. I blame the corporate state, those who thought they could disempower and abuse the working class, rape the country, build a rapacious oligarchy and never pay a political price.

Chris Hedges, who graduated from seminary at Harvard Divinity School, is the author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.”

by Bill Maher

by Bob Cesca The Most Inappropriate Bush War Smirk of 2007

by Hale “Bonddad” Stewart News Flash: We’re Broke

by Hale “Bonddad” Stewart Economic Preview for 2008: Not So Good

by Hale “Bonddad” Stewart What to Watch for Economically in Early 2008

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bye Bye November

Okay, where was I?
You know, I don’t actually remember.
Hardly surprising, I’d say.
November was a busy month and I haven’t posted here since the first week of November. No problem, I’m doing it now. They really made a welcome change here when they moved the weekend to Friday, Saturday. Friday is such a great day to just relax and let the day make itself. It’s the last Friday in November and the weather is gorgeous. The windows are open and the a/c is off, for a change, so some of the smoke is getting aired out. The sky is cloudy, believe it or not. I’m a bit under the weather with a sinus-type cold. Everyone in my office has been sick for a week, so I’m not surprised. It could be worse; I haven’t had to take to the bed or anything. I’ve been doing some long-needed spring (?) cleaning around the flat.

In addition to being a work-heavy month, there’s also been more than my usual allotted time for socializing. It’s that time of year. In my earlier November post I alluded to some changes in my little blog. And, honestly, I do have some cool ideas for things I could do here. It’s just making the time and the effort to turn them into reality. Just have to see how things go. (Stop whining, Jack!) December will be another busy month, as usual. People come and visit during this period because the heat has backed off and the weather is really nice.

A co-worker from my former office, Chris, decided to retire and go to Cyprus with his wife. Since he and Rich live in Dubai, the goodbye “do” was held at the Fairmont. Quite a posh place, actually. My car was still awaiting a transmission transplant, so Sam drove us down. That was also so I could drink and not have to worry about driving home. We all met up in the downstairs bar and I had a vodka martini while we waited for the rest to arrive. Bruno was there. I hadn’t seen him since he left the institute well over 2 years ago. Patrick, Rich, Alan, Charlie (Alan’s wife—Charlotte), Sam and I made up the rest of the guest list along with Chris and his wife, Pam. We had dinner upstairs at the Spectrum. Food was quite good, as expected. There are a few pictures posted in Jack’s albums from that night.

Work has been work, details of which I am not really permitted to go into. Just believe me when I say it’s been busy. We also had over a week of really heavy fog to stumble through in the morning to work. Usually we have the odd day or so of fog, but this damn fog reappeared morning after morning. The first morning of the fog two instructors missed the turn for work and ended up way out in the desert. I was trying to drive in the fog too, but luckily had someone with me and he tried to get enough information to figure out where the instructors were and then we handed them over to someone else once we got to work to try and talk them back to the office. They finally arrived. Someone I share an office with ended up putting his car in the large roundabout not far from the main entrance to work. He was fine, only the car and his ego suffered mild damage.

Lorin’s son, Kris, flew in from Canada two weeks ago. I hadn’t seen him for years. He’s since married, has two sons and is a very successful computer (I don’t know the technical word) guy. Lorin scheduled us into the Burj Al Arab on Thursday for lunch. I’ve been there several times before, but only for the Friday brunch thing. I drove down from Abu Dhabi and met them in the lobby. We moved upstairs to the restaurant for our reservation. Riding up in the glass elevator, looking out over the Gulf and the construction of Palm Islands and The World is impressive, as is the view from the restaurant. We took our time and went over the set menu and ended up ordering from that. I was tacky and stuck with beer. I had this amazing Japanese beef that was too tender and juicy.

After eating, we took a stroll around the lobby, did a little shopping and then called for the cars. I followed Lorin, she knows Dubai and I just get angry and frustrated driving there on my own. First we stopped at the Madinat Jumeirah so Kris could do some shopping. I have to admit that it’s not my favorite shopping mall in Dubai and I was a little tired. There was also a MTV launch party going on for their new Arabic music channel. Several people, all in black, who had obviously spent way too much time and thought on what to wear and the correct positioning of facial hair, were there. Leaving the mall, I followed Lorin to the Safa Park area where her friend Naimi and family live. I hadn’t seen Naimi in years and we spent a pleasant hour or so with her and family. She has beautiful kids and they live in a great, older villa that has personality and warmth.

From there, I put Reynan and David into my car to take them back to Sharjah and Lorin and Kris were going down to Deira to have his new suit fitted. As is my habit, I got lost and when I get lost in Dubai I get frustrated and upset and feel feeble. We finally made it back to Sharjah, safe and sound on the American University of Sharjah campus and I immediately went for the Jameson’s. I was sitting on the patio in the back garden when Lorin and Kris returned.

Lorin and her entourage had come to Abu Dhabi earlier in the week. Tuesday, I think it was. She wanted to get Kris a carpet or two to take home to Canada and she has a shop in Abu Dhabi where she prefers to buy. I had planned to meet up with them at Peppino’s, an old Abu Dhabi tradition with great Italian food. As I was getting dressed to leave she called me to tell me that Peppino’s had gone dry. A quick adjustment in destination took us to PJ O’Reilly’s (obviously an Irish pub) at the downtown Meridian. It was a pleasant night so we ate outside on the upper deck, overlooking the swimming pool. Big, greasy burgers and fries were the popular choices, along with a couple pints of Kilkenny.

Back to Sharjah and on Friday Lorin had organized a brunch party for people to meet Kris before he flew out on Friday night, late. Finger food and drinks and a large crowd were on hand. Most of them know me from all the different AUS parties I’ve crashed with David and Lorin. I honestly was not in a partying mood and can’t really say why, not because it’s a secret, but because I didn’t know. I hadn’t shaved or even bothered to gel my hair and was just slobbing around in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops. There were some people I knew there and we talked and that was enjoyable. Everyone emptied out about 6 or so and then we settled down to relax before dinner. I kept on drinking, which in hindsight might have been a mistake. At least I slept early. The drive back to Abu Dhabi was early Saturday afternoon with very little traffic.

And that brings me to last weekend’s Thanksgiving blowout at George’s. George’s large apartment was crammed with people and food. I knew many of the people there and felt comfortable. I even managed to meet a few new people. I arrived about 7:30 or so and after saying hello and chatting with several people I moved out to my usual spot on the balcony overlooking the Corniche and the gulf. There were a lot of other people out there smoking, too. Some people were from work so I see them almost every day, but have never socialized with them. It was a good chance to get to know them outside work. Everyone had a great time. I can’t remember what time George called everyone to dinner, probably after 9, and everyone moved around the table to grab food. The turkey was to die for and the table was filled with all the trimmings. It was really the best Thanksgiving I’ve had in years. Thank you George.

Next thing up is Christmas shopping. Cheers.

(Did you notice, no politics?)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

First Tuesday in November

All the dishes are done and I’m shaved and the clothes are laid out and everything is ready for another work day tomorrow. It’s 9:30 pm. The alarm goes off at 5 am as usual.

If you checked out my pix from my trip to the UK for last New Years you’d have seen the B & B that we stayed at while we were in the little village of Cherlton Bishop, near Exeter. It was owned and lovingly ran by a great couple, Jean and Ron Martin. Ron passed away on Sunday from cancer. I know it must be devastating for Jean and my heart goes out to her in what must be a very terrible time.

In happier news, I have my car back, after paying about 7,500 Dhs. to have a new transmission installed in addition to the 130,000 kilometer service. I really missed it and was extremely happy to return the rent-a-wreck and have my own car back.

Even though it’s only early November, the holiday visitors are starting to trickle in. Lorin’s son Kris arrives this weekend for a week. I should catch up with him the following weekend before he flies out. I haven’t seen him in 12 or 13 years. Now he’s married with two young sons. Then David’s brother Peter, whom we visited in Cherlton Bishop, is due in for a visit. Mark, Denise and daughter Clair are coming in for Mark’s birthday and Christmas. They’ll be staying with Phil and Enma.

What that means is that in terms of socializing the next two months will be full. We also have an extended National Day holiday coming up in early December and then another Eid coming up in late December, near Christmas. Any time off is always appreciated.

I’m working over in my head some changes to the blog. Time will be one of the major factors in trying to work those changes into actuality. Wish me luck. In the meantime, read Gore Vidal’s great piece on Bush for

President Jonah, Meet Oliver Cromwell by Gore Vidal
Today, as I sit, like so many Californians, at the heart of what seems to be a vast burning bush, I realize that Jehovah’s jinx of the weirdest American president is as operative in this lowering pre-Halloween season as it was last February when, guided by Scripture, I posted here on the Internet the bad news that our nominal president was seriously jinxed by an unrelenting deity who, from his throne of fire, now blows fiercely upon the west coast of the United States, spreading from San Diego to Malibu to Lake Arrowhead. Lucifer’s finest new-minted flames, a reminder to us, President Jonah’s Supreme Court-appointed subjects, that our ruler is triply cursed for his disobedience to obey his Lord not only long ago at Nineveh, but lately compounded by his inability to destroy all of Baghdad, a city hailed in that magical musical comedy, “Kismet,” by a song entitled “Never underestimate Baghdad.” But a jinxed president’s estimate is bound to be fatally wrong even in the eyes of his creator.

While contemplating the ill-starred presidency of G.W. Bush, I looked about for some sort of divine analogy. As usual, when in need of enlightenment, I fell upon the Holy Bible, authorized King James version of 1611; turning by chance to the Book of Jonah, I read that Jonah, who, like Bush, chats with God, had suffered a falling out with the Almighty and thus became himself a jinx dogged by luck so bad that when a Stone Age cruise liner, thanks to his presence aboard, was about to sink in a storm at sea, the crew for safety’s sake threw him overboard and—Lo!—the storm abated. The three days and nights he subsequently spent in the belly of a nauseous whale must have seemed like a serious jinx to the digestion-challenged mammal who extruded him much as the decent opinion of mankind has done to Bush.

Originally, God wanted Jonah to give hell to Nineveh, whose people, God noted disdainfully, “cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand,” (rather like the people of Baghdad who still cannot fathom what democracy has to do with their destruction at the hands of the Cheney-Bush cabal). But the analogy becomes even more precise when it comes to the plague of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico that led to the Curse of Katrina upon a plainly incompetent president, as well as one who has been plainly jinxed by whatever faith he cringes before. Witness the ongoing screw-up of, say, prescription drugs, and the revival of an ancient race war in Louisiana. Who knows what further disasters are in store for us thanks to the curse Jonah is under? As the sailors fed the original Jonah to a whale, thus lifting the storm that was about to drown them, perhaps we the people can persuade President Jonah to retire to his other Eden in Crawford, Texas, taking his jinx with him. We deserve a rest. Plainly, so does he. Look at Nixon’s radiant features after his resignation! One can see former President Jonah in his sumptuous presidential library happily catering to faith-based fans with animated scriptures rooted in “The Pet Goat.”

Not since the glory days of Watergate and Nixon’s Luciferian fall has there been so much written about the dogged deceits and creative criminalities of our rulers. We have also come to a point in this dark age where there is not only no hero in view but no alternative road unblocked. We are trapped terribly in a now that few foresaw and even fewer can define despite a swarm of books and pamphlets like the vast cloud of locusts which dined on China in that ‘30s movie ”The Good Earth.”

As I mentioned last February, I have read many of these descriptions of our fallen estate, looking for one that best describes in plain English how we got to this now and where we appear to be headed once our good Earth has been consumed by fire and only Rapture is left to whisk aloft the Faithful. Meanwhile, the rest of us can learn quite a lot from ”Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire” by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

I must confess that I have a proprietary interest in anyone who refers to the United States as an empire since I am credited with first putting forward this heretical view in the early ‘70s. In fact, so disgusted with me was a book reviewer at Time magazine who, as proof of my madness, wrote: “He actually refers to the United States as an empire!” It should be noted that at about the same time Henry Luce, proprietor of Time, was booming on and on about ”The American Century.” What a difference a word makes!

Berman sets his scene briskly in recent history. “We were already in our twilight phase when Ronald Reagan, with all the insight of an ostrich, declared it to be ‘morning in America’; twenty-odd years later, under the ‘boy emperor’ George W. Bush (as Chalmers Johnson refers to him), we have entered the Dark Ages in earnest, pursuing a short-sighted path that can only accelerate our decline. For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture—a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world; as well as, today, the political and economic marginalization of our culture.... The British historian Charles Freeman published an extended discussion of the transition that took place during the late Roman empire, the title of which could serve as a capsule summary of our current rulers: ”The Closing of the Western Mind.”

Mr. Bush, as God knows best, is no Augustine; but Freeman points to the latter as the epitome of a more general process that was underway in the fourth century: namely, ‘the gradual subjection of reason to faith and authority.’ This is what we are seeing today, and it is a process that no society can undergo and still remain free. Yet it is a process of which administration officials, along with much of the American population, are aggressively proud.” In fact, close observers of this odd presidency note that Bush, like his evangelical base, believes he is on a mission from God and that faith trumps empirical evidence. Berman quotes a senior White House adviser who disdains what he calls the “reality-based” community, to which Berman sensibly responds: “If a nation is unable to perceive reality correctly, and persists in operating on the basis of faith-based delusions, its ability to hold its own in the world is pretty much foreclosed.”

Berman does a brief tour of the American horizon, revealing a cultural death valley. In secondary schools where evolution can still be taught too many teachers are afraid to bring up the subject to their so often un-evolved students. “Add to this the pervasive hostility toward science on the part of the current administration (e.g. stem-cell research) and we get a clear picture of the Enlightenment being steadily rolled back. Religion is used to explain terror attacks as part of a cosmic conflict between Good and Evil rather than in terms of political processes.... Manichaeanism rules across the United States. According to a poll taken by Time magazine fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that John’s apocalyptic prophecies in the Book of Revelation will be fulfilled, and nearly all of these believe that the faithful will be taken up into heaven in the ‘Rapture.’

“Finally, we shouldn’t be surprised at the antipathy toward democracy displayed by the Bush administration. ... As already noted, fundamentalism and democracy are completely antithetical. The opposite of the Enlightenment, of course, is tribalism, groupthink; and more and more, this is the direction in which the United States is going. ... Anthony Lewis who worked as a columnist for the New York Times for thirty-two years, observes that what has happened in the wake of 9/11 is not just the threatening of the rights of a few detainees, but the undermining of the very foundation of democracy. Detention without trial, denial of access to attorneys, years of interrogation in isolation—these are now standard American practice, and most Americans don’t care. Nor did they care about the revelation in July 2004 (reported in Newsweek), that for several months the White House and the Department of Justice had been discussing the feasibility of canceling the upcoming presidential election in the event of a possible terrorist attack.” I suspect that the technologically inclined prevailed against that extreme measure on the ground that the newly installed electronic ballot machines could be so calibrated that Bush’s heirs would win handily no matter what (read Rep. Conyers’ report (.pdf file) on the rigging of Ohio’s vote).

Meanwhile, the indoctrination of the people merrily continues. “In a ’State of the First Amendment Survey‘ conducted by the University of Connecticut in 2003, 34 percent of Americans polled said the First Amendment ‘goes too far’; 46 percent said there was too much freedom of the press; 28 percent felt that newspapers should not be able to publish articles without prior approval of the government; 31 percent wanted public protest of a war to be outlawed during that war; and 50 percent thought the government should have the right to infringe on the religious freedom of ‘certain religious groups’ in the name of the war on terror.”
It is usual in sad reports like Professor Berman’s to stop abruptly the litany of what has gone wrong and then declare, hand on heart, that once the people have been informed of what is happening, the truth will set them free and a quarter-billion candles will be lit and the darkness will flee in the presence of so much spontaneous light. But Berman is much too serious for the easy platitude. Instead he tells us that those who might have struck at least a match can no longer do so because shared information about our situation is meager to nonexistent. Would better schools help? Of course, but, according to that joyous bearer of ill tidings, the New York Times, many school districts are now making sobriety tests a regular feature of the school day: apparently opium derivatives, not gin, are the opiate of our stoned youth. Meanwhile, millions of adult Americans, presumably undrugged, have no idea who our enemies were in World War II. Many college graduates don’t know the difference between an argument and an assertion (did their teachers also fail to solve this knotty question?). A travel agent in Arizona is often asked whether or not it is cheaper to take the train rather than fly to Hawaii. Only 12% of Americans own a passport. At the time of the 2004 presidential election 42% of voters believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. One high school boy, when asked who won the Civil War, replied wearily, “I don’t know and I don’t care,” echoing a busy neocon who confessed proudly: “The American Civil War is as remote to me as the War of the Roses.” He should have added the US Constitution, as well.

We are assured daily by advertisers and/or politicians that we are the richest, most envied people on Earth and, apparently, that is why so many awful, ill-groomed people want to blow us up. We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality. But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health: The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system (sic—or sick?) as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system. Also, it has not gone unremarked even in our usually information-free media that despite the boost to the profits of such companies as Halliburton, Bush’s wars of aggression against small countries of no danger to us have left us well and truly broke. Our annual trade deficit is a half-trillion dollars, which means that we don’t produce much of anything the world wants except those wan reports on how popular our Entertainment is overseas. Unfortunately the foreign gross of “King Kong,” the Edsel of that assembly line, is not yet known. It is rumored that Bollywood—the Indian film business—may soon surpass us! Berman writes, “We have lost our edge in science to Europe...The US economy is being kept afloat by huge foreign loans ($4 billion a day during 2003). What do you think will happen when America’s creditors decide to pull the plug, or when OPEC members begin selling oil for euros instead of dollars?...An International Monetary Fund report of 2004 concluded that the United States was ‘careening toward insolvency.’ “ Meanwhile, China, our favorite big-time future enemy, is the number one for worldwide foreign investments, with France, the bete noire of our apish neocons, in second place.

Well, we still have Kraft cheese as of today and, of course, the death penalty.
Berman makes the case that the Bretton-Woods agreement of 1944 institutionalized a system geared toward full employment and the maintenance of a social safety net for society’s less fortunate—the so-called welfare or interventionist state. It did this by establishing fixed but flexible exchange rates among world currencies, which were pegged to the U.S. dollar while the dollar, for its part, was pegged to gold. In a word, Bretton-Woods saved capitalism by making it more human. Nixon abandoned the agreement in 1971, which started, according to Berman, huge amounts of capital moving upward from the poor and the middle class to the rich and super-rich.

Mr. Berman spares us the happy ending, as, apparently, has history. When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. “Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?” He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: “How eager you are to be slaves.” I often think of that wise emperor when I hear Republican members of Congress extolling the wisdom of Bush. Now that he has been caught illegally wiretapping fellow citizens he has taken to snarling about his powers as “a wartime president,” and so, in his own mind, he is above each and every law of the land. Oddly, no one in Congress has pointed out that he may well be a lunatic dreaming that he is another Lincoln but whatever he is or is not he is no wartime president. There is no war with any other nation...yet. There is no state called terror, an abstract noun like liar. Certainly his illegal unilateral ravaging of Iraq may well seem like a real war for those on both sides unlucky enough to be killed or maimed, but that does not make it a war any more than the appearance of having been elected twice to the presidency does not mean that in due course he was: in due course, our befuddled people will demand an investigation of those two irregular processes. Although he has done a number of things that under the old republic might have got him impeached, our current system protects him: incumbency-for-life seats have made it possible for a Republican majority in the House not to do its duty and impeach him for his incompetence in handling, say, the natural disaster that befell Louisiana and then the U.S. military itself.

The founders thought two-year terms for members of the House was as much democracy as we’d ever need. Therefore, there was no great movement to have some sort of recall legislation in the event that a president wasn’t up to his job and so had lost the people’s confidence between elections. But in time, as Ecclesiastes would say, all things shall come to pass and so, in a kindly way, a majority of the citizens must persuade him that he will be happier back in Crawford pruning Bushes of the leafy sort while the troops not killed or maimed will settle for simply being alive and in one piece. We may be proto-slaves but we are not unreasonable.
Reason requires that we explain to the media and to this self-anointed “war-time president” whose “inherent” powers, to hear him babble, transcend the Constitution itself. But they can’t: First, we are not at war with another country; second, presidential powers are enumerated in the constitution, not inherent--despite the weird legal misreadings by ambulance-proud White House lawyers.

Nevertheless, our neo-totalitarians are planning new wars in the Middle East, Far East, Conga Line! while his latest State of the Union speech justifies eavesdropping (without judicial warrants) on anybody in the United States that he wants to listen in on. This is what we call dictatorship. Dictatorship. Dictatorship. And it is time we objected before he shoves us into World War Three.

Can we wait till the next election? Only if the electronic voting machinery has paper trails or, perhaps, honest old-fashioned paper ballots. In any case, with one voice let us say, “We’ve had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We’ll help you raise the money for a library, and you won’t ever have to read a book. We the folks are not cruel even though we must now echo America’s spiritual ancestor Oliver Cromwell, in his order to the infamous Long Parliament: ‘You have sat too long here for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. And so, in the name of that God who created the whale—Go!’”

Cheers and keep an eye on this blog for changes coming soon!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

October Wrap and Link Dump

Oil is on the boil and the dollar is in the toilet. Why aren’t those people in prison? All of them!

My niece Morgan just had her tonsils out. I think it was probably harder on her parents than on her. Hope you get well soon, sweetheart.

My beloved Honda lost its transmission last week. I’ve been driving a crappy rental for over a week. Anything past 120 kph and the front end starts to vibrate. They’ve promised me I’ll get mine back this coming Tuesday but only after I sign over the last several years of my life to pay for it. I miss my car.

It’s been a busy month and the holiday season hasn’t even started yet. I spent the Eid at the American University of Sharjah campus with David, Lorin and Reynan. It was a nice, quiet restful time. Lorin is really getting into this cooking thing. On Friday night she made lasagna, which was great. Lorin’s friend Eva joined us. I hadn’t met her before but had heard Lorin speak of her a lot. She’s an equestrian and a journalist and works for Princess Haya’s office in Dubai. Then, on Saturday night, Lorin baked lamb, which is one of my favorites. It was her first attempt and it turned out brilliantly. Pat, the head of libraries for Zayed U., joined us and we had a very nice evening. Pat brought a rhubarb crumble, which I’d never had before, and it was very tasty. David and I watched a lot of rugby, including the England win over France. Great game.

Susan, ex-embassy, flew in for a short visit. George threw a small dinner party for her. It was a good evening. Badda and Asli were there. Asli was getting ready to fly back to the States and Huntington for a quick visit. It’s strange being able to talk to someone here about Huntington and different places and even a few people we know in common there. Susan really looked well and is planning her retirement from the Army and looking forward to it a lot, from what I could tell.

Enma threw a nice dinner party about a week or so back. Glynnis and her son James were visiting from the UK. Enma cooked a whopping big beef roast and it was to die for. Barry and Catherine, Steve and Leah and Hannah and I ravaged that beef carcass in under an hour. Lots of talk and laughing and drinking, the usual.

Last Friday we had a goodbye dinner for Chris and his wife, Pam. I worked with Chris at Operations for several years and he has decided to retire to Cyprus. Rich chose the Fairmont in Dubai for the venue. It’s pretty posh, that hotel. Since my car is in the shop, Sam drove us down. That was also so that I could drink and not have to drive back. Major Patrick and Major Bruno, the French contingent, were there. Hadn’t seen Bruno in over a year or so, but he’s looking well. Rich was there without Stephanie, who was ill. Alan and Charlie were there. Charlie looks great and is making new career plans.

There are a few new pix posted in the Family Reunion and Birthdays albums. There’s also a new album with a few pix from the goodbye dinner for Chris at the Fairmont.

I’ve been using a new search engine Mininova ( ) that works in conjunction with BitLord, to get music. It’s great. It has a lot of older music on it as well as classical and jazz. There’s also a list of the most popular downloads of the day on the home page.

I just discovered a new search type site called stumbleupon. Just Google stumbleupon, download the toolbar and give yourself a user name. They email you a password and then you set up the site by ticking off your interests. It’s also a networking site, as well. I haven’t really had a chance to fully explore it yet, but it looks cool.

Oh, almost forgot, Ian Rankin is going to be in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 10 at the Abu Dhabi Mall, Jashanmal Book Shop to sign his new book, Exit Music. I read somewhere that he kills Rebus off in this one. I will not be happy, still I want to get him to sign the book for me.

I’m going to dump several links here at the end. They’ve been accumulating since my last post.

Israel’s rising right wing by Gregory Levey

(It worries me more that the crazy Israeli’s have the bomb. How about you?)

The ‘Good Germans’ Among Us by Frank Rich

(I’ve never read the book, The Good Germans, but from what I understand it’s about the general German population, while not avid Hitlerites, who just “went along” with it all. That’s the USA in 2007. A country of “Good Germans.”)

Dissent From The Front Lines by Robert Scheer

Iran: Why I Am Still Worried by Mike Farrell

(Remember Mike “BJ” Farrell from MASH? He’s not the only one who’s worried.)

Electoral Dysfunction by Eugene Robinson

I’m Dressing Up as a Melting Polar Ice Cap by Bill Maher

This last one I am posting in its entirety because of its importance. Remember Scott Ritter who was looking for WMD before the Iraq war. Read this and learn something.

On the Eve of Destruction
Posted on Oct 22, 2007
By Scott Ritter

Don’t worry, the White House is telling us. The world’s most powerful leader was simply making a rhetorical point. At a White House press conference last week, just in case you haven’t heard, President Bush informed the American people that he had told world leaders “if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.” World War III. That is certainly some rhetorical point, especially coming from the man singularly most capable of making such an event reality.
Pundits have raised their eyebrows and comics are busy writing jokes, but the president’s reference to Armageddon, no matter how cavalierly uttered and subsequently brushed away, suggests an alarming context. Some might note that the comment was simply an offhand response to a reporter’s question, the kind of free-thinking scenario that baffles Bush so. In a way, this makes what the president said even more disturbing, since we now have an insight into the vision, and related terminology, which hovers just below the horizon in the brain of George W. Bush.
When I was a weapons inspector with the United Nations, there was a jostling that took place at the end of each day, when decisions needed to be made and authorization documents needed to be signed. In an environment of competing agendas, each of us who championed a position sought to be the “last man in,” namely the person who got to imprint the executive chairman (our decision maker) with the final point of view for the day. Failure to do so could find an inspection or point of investigation sidetracked for days or weeks after the executive chairman became distracted by a competing vision. I understand the concept of “imprinting,” and have seen it in action. What is clear from the president’s remarks is that, far from an innocent rhetorical fumble, his words, and the context in which he employed them, are a clear indication of the imprinting which is taking place behind the scenes at the White House. If the president mentions World War III in the context of Iran’s nuclear program, one can be certain that this is the very sort of discussion that is taking place in the Oval Office. A critical question, therefore, is who was the last person to “imprint” the president prior to his public allusion to World War III? During his press conference, Bush noted that he awaited the opportunity to confer with his defense secretary, Robert Gates, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice following their recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. So clearly the president hadn’t been imprinted recently by either of the principle players in the formulation of defense and foreign policy. The suspects, then, are quickly whittled down to three: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Vice President Dick Cheney, and God. Hadley is a long-established neoconservative thinker who has for the most part operated “in the shadows” when it comes to the formulation of Iran policy in the Bush administration. In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, Hadley (then the deputy national security adviser) instituted what has been referred to as the “Hadley Rules,” a corollary of which is that no move will be made which alters the ideological positioning of Iran as a mortal enemy of the United States. These “rules” shut down every effort undertaken by Iran to seek a moderation of relations between it and the United States, and prohibited American policymakers from responding favorably to Iranian offers to assist with the fight against al-Qaida; they also blocked the grand offer of May 2003 in which Iran outlined a dramatic diplomatic initiative, including a normalization of relations with Israel. The Hadley Rules are at play today, in an even more nefarious manner, with the National Security Council becoming involved in the muzzling of former Bush administration officials who are speaking out on the issue of Iran. Hadley is blocking Flynt Leverett, formerly of the National Security Council, from publishing an Op-Ed piece critical of the Bush administration on the grounds that any insight into the machinations of policymaking (or lack thereof) somehow strengthens Iran’s hand. Leverett’s article would simply underscore the fact that the Bush administration has spurned every opportunity to improve relations with Iran while deliberately exaggerating the threat to U.S. interests posed by the Iranian theocracy. The silencing of informed critics is in keeping with Hadley’s deliberate policy obfuscation. There is still no official policy in place within the administration concerning Iran. While a more sober-minded national security bureaucracy works to marginalize the hawkish posturing of the neocons, the administration has decided that the best policy is in fact no policy, which is a policy decision in its own right. Hadley has forgone the normal procedures of governance, in which decisions impacting the nation are written down, using official channels, and made subject to review and oversight by those legally and constitutionally mandated and obligated to do so. A policy of no policy results in secret policy, which means, according to Hadley himself, the Bush administration simply does whatever it wants to, regardless. In the case of Iran, this means pushing for regime change in Tehran at any cost, even if it means World War III. But Hadley is simply a facilitator, bureaucratic “grease” to ease policy formulated elsewhere down the gullet of a national security infrastructure increasingly kept in the dark about the true intent of the Bush administration when it comes to Iran. With the Department of State and the Pentagon now considered unfriendly ground by the remaining hard-core neoconservative thinkers still in power, policy formulation is more and more concentrated in the person of Vice President Cheney and the constitutionally nebulous “Office of the Vice President.”
Cheney and his cohorts have constructed a never-never land of oversight deniability, claiming immunity from both executive and legislative checks and balances. With an unchallenged ability to classify anything and everything as secret, and then claim that there is no authority inherent in government to oversee that which has been thus classified, the Office of the Vice President has transformed itself into a free republic’s worst nightmare, assuming Caesar-like dictatorial authority over almost every aspect of American national security policy at home and abroad. From torture to illegal wiretapping, to arms control (or lack of it) to Iran, Dick Cheney is the undisputed center of policy power in America today. While there are some who will claim that in this time of post-9/11 crisis such a process of bureaucratic streamlining is essential for the common good, the reality is far different.
It is said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this has never been truer than in the case of Cheney. What Cheney is doing behind his shield of secrecy can be simply defined: planning and implementing a preemptive war of aggression. During the Nuremberg tribunal in the aftermath of World War II, the chief American prosecutor, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, stated, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Today, we have a vice president who articulates publicly about global conflict, and who speaks in not-so-veiled language about a looming Armageddon. If there is such a future for America and the world, let one thing be certain; World War III, as postulated by Dick Cheney, would be an elective war, and not a conflict of tragic necessity. This makes the crime even greater.
Sadly, Judge Jackson’s words are but an empty shell. The global community lacks a legally binding definition of what constitutes a war of aggression, or even an act of aggression. But that isn’t the point. America should never find itself in a position where it is being judged by the global community regarding the legality of its actions. Judge Jackson established a precedent of jurisprudence concerning aggression based upon American principles and values, something the international community endorsed. The fact that current American indifference to the rule of law prevents the international community from certifying a definition of criminality when it comes to aggression, whether it be parsed as “war” or simply an “act,” does not change the fact that the Bush administration, in the person of Dick Cheney, is actively engaged in the committing of the “supreme [war] crime,” which makes Cheney the supreme war criminal. If the world is not empowered to judge him as such, then let the mantle of judgment fall to the American people. Through their elected representatives in Congress, they should not only bring this reign of unrestrained abuse of power to an end, but ensure that such abuse never again is attempted by an American official by holding to account, to the full extent of the law, those who have trampled on the Constitution of the United States and the ideals and principles it enshrines.
But what use is the rule of law, even if fairly and properly implemented, if in the end he who is entrusted with executive power takes his instructions from an even higher authority? President Bush’s relationship with “God” (or that which he refers to as God) is a matter of public record. The president himself has stated that “God speaks through me” (he acknowledged this before a group of Amish in Pennsylvania in the summer of 2004). Exactly how God speaks through him, and what precisely God says, is not a matter of speculation. According to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, President Bush told him and others that “God told me to strike at al-Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.” As such, at least in the president’s mind, God has ordered Bush to transform himself into a modern incarnation of St. Michael, smiting all that is evil before him. “We are in a conflict between good and evil. And America will call evil by its name,” the president told West Point cadets in a speech in 2002.
The matter of how and when an individual chooses to practice his faith, or lack thereof, is a deeply personal matter, one which should be kept from public discourse. For a president to so openly impose his personal religious beliefs, as Bush has done, on American policy formulation and implementation represents a fundamental departure from not only constitutional intent concerning the separation of church and state but also constitutional mandate concerning the imposition of checks and balances required by the American system of governance. The increasing embrace by this president of the notion of a unitary executive takes on an even more sinister aspect when one realizes that not only does the Bush administration seek to nullify the will of the people through the shackling of the people’s representatives in Congress, but that the president has forgone even the appearance of constitutional constraint by evoking the word of his personal deity, as expressed through his person, as the highest form of consultation on a matter as serious as war. As such, the president has made his faith, and how he practices it, a subject not only of public curiosity but of national survival.
That George W. Bush is a born-again Christian is not a national secret. Neither is the fact that his brand of Christianity, evangelicalism, embraces the notion of the “end of days,” the coming of the Apocalypse as foretold (so they say) in the Book of Revelations and elsewhere in the Bible. President Bush’s frequent reference to “the evil one” suggests that he not only believes in the Antichrist but actively proselytizes on the Antichrist’s physical presence on Earth at this time. If one takes in the writing and speeches of those in the evangelical community today concerning the “rapture,” the numerous references to the current situation in the Middle East, especially on the events unfolding around Iran and its nuclear program, make it very clear that, at least in the minds of these evangelicals, there is a clear link between the “end of days” prophesy and U.S.-Iran policy. That James Dobson, one of the most powerful and influential evangelical voices in America today, would be invited to the White House with like-minded clergy to discuss President Bush’s Iran policy is absurd unless one makes the link between Bush’s personal faith, the extreme religious beliefs of Dobson and the potential of Armageddon-like conflict (World War III). At this point, the absurd becomes unthinkable, except it is all too real.
Thomas Jefferson, one of our nation’s greatest founders, made the separation of church and state an underlying principle upon which the United States was built. This separation was all-inclusive, meaning that not only should government stay out of religion, but likewise religion should be excluded from government. “I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself,” Jefferson wrote in a letter to Francis Hopkinson in 1789. “Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.” If only President Bush would abide by such wisdom, avoiding the addictive narcotic of religious fervor when carrying out the people’s business. Instead, he chooses as his drug one which threatens to destroy us all in a conflagration derived not from celestial intervention but individual ignorance and arrogance. Again Jefferson, in a letter written in 1825: “It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams.”
Nightmares, more aptly, unless something can be done to change the direction Bush and Dobson are taking us. The problem is that far too many Americans openly espouse not only the faith of George W. Bush but also the underlying philosophy which permits this faith to be intertwined with the governance of the land. “God bless America” has become a rallying cry for this crowd, and those too ignorant and/or afraid to speak out in opposition. If this statement has merit, what does it say for the 6.8 billion others in the world today who are not Americans? That God condemns them? The American embrace of divine destiny is not unique in history (one only has to recall that the belt buckles of the German army during World War II read “God is with us"). But for a nation born of the age of reason to collectively fall victim to the most base of fear-induced theology is a clear indication that America currently fails to live up to its founding principles. Rather than turning to Dobson and his ilk for guidance in these troubled times, Americans would be well served to reflect on President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, delivered in the middle of a horrific civil war which makes all of the conflict America finds itself in today pale in comparison:
“Both [North and South] read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. ... The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. ... [T]hat He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him?”
God is not on our side, or the side of any single nation or people. To believe such is the ultimate expression of national hubris. To invoke such, if one is a true believer, is to embrace sacrilege and heresy. This, of course, is an individual right, granted as an extension of religious freedom. But it is not a collective right, nor is it a right born of governance, especially in a land protected by the separation of church and state.
The issue of Iran is a national problem which requires a collective debate, discussion and dialogue inclusive of all the facts, and stripped of all ideology and theocracy which would seek to deny reasoned thought conducted within a framework of accepted laws and ideals. It is grossly irresponsible of an American president to invoke the imagery of World War III without first sharing with the American people the framework of thought that produced such a comparison. Such openness will not be forthcoming from this administration or president. Not in the form of Stephen Hadley’s policy of no policy, designed with intent to avoid and subvert both bureaucratic and legislative process and oversight, or Dick Cheney’s secret government within a government, operating above and beyond the law and in a manner which violates both legal and moral norms and values, and certainly not in the president’s own private conversations with “God,” either directly or through the medium of lunatic evangelicals who embrace the termination of all we stand for, and especially the future of our next generation, in a fiery holocaust born from the fraudulent writings of centuries past. The processes which compelled George W. Bush to speak of a World War III are intentionally not transparent to the American people. The president has much to explain, and it would be incumbent upon every venue of civic and public pressure to demand that such an explanation be forthcoming in the near future. The stakes regarding Iran have always been high, but never more so than when a nation’s leader invokes the end of days as a solution.

Cheers and take care.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Last Week of Ramadan

I forgot to mention on my last post that there are new pics. Just follow the link for Jack’s Pictures and there is an album from birthday parties of September.

Tomorrow starts the last working week of Ramadan. There will a short holiday, an Eid, and then back to work on the regular schedule. I’ll probably head up to Sharjah and invade David and Lorin for the Eid holiday. What I should do is lock myself up in my flat and start cleaning out and throwing away. I am such a pack rat.

I just finished reading the latest Rebus entry, The Naming of the Dead by Ian Rankin. The Rebus series is one of my favorites. There is never a bad Rebus novel. This one is set at the G8 conference held in Scotland and also includes the London subway bombings that occurred at the same time. They all keep referring to Rebus’ impending retirement. Mr. Rankin, please, don’t.

Watched the last episode of Season 3 of “Lost” on Thursday night. I know some people have given up on the series, but I still find it one of the more intelligent things on TV. It ended with a supposed “flash forward” to when Jack and Kate are off the island, rescued. What I don’t understand is that in the flash forward Jack made mention of his father being “downstairs” in the hospital. I thought the old drunk was dead. More mystery? Oh, and Charley apparently drowned. Charley was one of my favs, I’ll miss him.

Here are some links to some things I’ve read this week. Some are important and should be read ASAP.

How the Democrats Blew It by Gary Kamiya

Israel’s Toy Soldiers by Chris Hedges

Why Don’t They Like Us as Much as They Used to by Anne Applebaum

My Christian Daughter Says I’m Going to Hell by Cary Tennis

Milton Viorst on “The Israel Lobby”

Time to Weigh in on the Israel Lobby Debate by Daniel Levy

Have a good week. Cheers.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


Yeah, yeah. It’s just a number. You look the same. You don’t feel any different. You don’t want to remember it. None of your friends will let you forget it and you make sure that everyone knows anyway because in some weird way you want the attention. Still.

It’s been two successive weekends of birthday parties. It seems like the bulk of my friends all come from the Snow Belt so September seems to be the most popular month for birthdays.

Last weekend George and I endured a 2-hour gridlock traffic jam on Emirates Highway to reach David and Lorin’s. The jam started just before Dubai Airport and continued all the way to the National Paints Flyover. I guess I’m going to have to break down and buy the new Salik toll chip for my car and start going there on Sheikh Zayed Highway. Anyway, it was practically Iftar time when we reached the American University (AUS) campus in Sharjah. I hadn’t had lunch or my nap. I’m not sure which one I missed the most.

We had a tentative plan to go check out the bowling lanes on campus, but none of us were really in the mood. We ate dinner in a café at the student center and had coffee after at Starbuck’s then went back to David and Lorin’s for a quiet wind-up to the day by sitting in the garden and smoking cigarettes.

The birthday party was on Friday night. David Ritchie, Wendy Merkley and I were the birthday kids. George, Reynon, Daphne and Janine were the guests. Lorin cooked my special request—burgers, and they were great, as usual. Daphne is a librarian at AUS who had worked for several years at HTC Women’s in Al Ain. She knew Val and yes, Val, you were talked about, but it was all fond memories. You are still missed. Janine is new to the campus, having arrived a few months before from Florida. She’s very interesting and entertaining. She worked her way through college as a singer and has a wonderful voice. Her gift to David was a song from Sweeney Todd. It was a great moment. Then we opened gifts and had cake and there was the usual wind down.

My actual birthday was on the 25th, Tuesday and I did nothing to really mark the day. I worked and took a few phone calls from friends. Later in the week Thursday was admin day at work, so we were off. I went to Carrefour and bought myself a birthday gift, a new stereo. David and Lorin and Reynon arrived early Thursday evening. We taxied over to Phil and Enma’s for another birthday party with Leah, David and I as the birthday kids. Enma cooked my request, lamb. She makes a killer leg of lamb. Guests included Phil, Enma (actually they were the hosts), Leah, Steve and daughter Hannah, David, Lorin and Reynon, Miguel and friend and me. We had a great time. Drinking and talking and laughing, as we usually do. Dinner was fantastic and was followed by cake. And there were a few more presents to open as well.

On Friday George hosted a brunch for David, Lorin, Reynon and I at his flat. We arrived about noon and ate shortly after. The food was wonderful. I’d made no requests and hadn’t been asked to either. We ate and talked and ate more before David and Lorin and Reynon had to return to Sharjah.

This upcoming weekend is going to be spent at home doing nothing but watching TV, reading and spending some time online. Oh yeah, and listening to my new stereo.

There were also family & friends birthdays back in the States. I told you, September is a busy months for births. My Mom turned 70 on 8 September, the day of the Marshall-WVU football grudge match. Rosie Dickson, with whom I’ve lost touch, had her birthday on 22 September. My nephew, Tyson, had his birthday the same day as mine, 25 September and my niece, Shannon, had hers two days later on the 27th. Marcia Davis, still a close friend from grad school in Brattleboring, had her birthday today, 30 September. It gets pretty cold in January.

Bits & Pieces.
James Lee Burke is one of the outstanding American authors (in my opinion). I finished his Pegasus Descending about a week ago and it is beautifully written. I wish I could write like that.

The last book of my 52nd year was A History of the Amish by Steven M. Nolt. Don’t ask me why. I bought it in the summer of ’06 when we visited Amish country in Ohio. I still don’t get it.

The first book of my 53rd year was Promise Me by Harlan Coben. I loved Coben’s early career series of novels featuring Myron Bolitar, a sports agent who solves mysteries. He left Myron behind several years ago to write other things and this novel marked the return of Myron. It was worth the wait. Reading it was like catching up with an old friend, which was what I needed to start year 53.

Below are some links to some stories you should be aware of. Most of them seem to be struggling to answer the question can America survive the rest of Bush-Cheney. At this point, I well and truly don’t know.

Iraq Will Have to Wait by Scott Ritter

The US Military Role in Preventing Bombing of Iran by Glenn Greenwald

The War President “At Peace” With Himself by Joe Conason

Twilight Zone-The Children of 5767 by Gideon Levy

Shifting Targets by Seymour M. Hersh

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Post Vacation Post

I’ve been back home in Abu Dhabi a little over two weeks now. I can’t say I’ve been too busy to post anything, just too lazy and not really in the mood. A little bit of post-vacation blues to go through, I guess. Also, I was finishing Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, which I’d started just before I left the States. It was a massive book, over 1000 pages and difficult, at times, to keep up with. Where I’d grown tired and bored with his Mason and Dixon and put it down unfinished, this one refused to let go of me. I finished it last night and as I closed the book I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d read, what he’d been trying to say and if I had wasted my time. I still haven’t decided.

Ramadan starts on Thursday and I hope to make a full post over the first weekend of Ramadan. Things slow down here. In the meantime, here are some links I’ve been mining over the past couple of weeks. I have also copied and posted two very important full-length pieces that I read today on Salon, along with links to them to the Salon site. This is an anniversary, you know, but exactly of what, I couldn’t say.

BTW, new vacation pictures have been posted on Jack’s Pictures.

Siegman on Israel

Why did Gonzales resign? By Sidney Blumenthal

The Waning Power of the War Myth by Gary Kamiya

Bush Knew Saddam Had No Weapons

The real lessons of 9/11
The attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character.
By Gary Kamiya
Sep. 11, 2007 Six years ago, Islamist terrorists attacked the United States, killing almost 3,000 people. President Bush used the attacks to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq. And he has been using 9/11 ever since to scare Americans into supporting his "war on terror." He has incessantly linked the words "al-Qaida" and "Iraq," a Pavlovian device to make us whimper with fear at the mere idea of withdrawing. In a recent speech about Iraq, he mentioned al-Qaida 95 times. No matter that jihadists in Iraq are not the same group that attacked the U.S., or that their numbers and effectiveness have been greatly exaggerated. It's no surprise that Gen. David Petraeus' "anxiously awaited" evaluation of the war is to be given on the 10th and 11th of September. The not-so-subliminal message: We must do what Bush and Petraeus say or risk another 9/11.
Petraeus' evaluation can only be "anxiously awaited" by people who are still anxiously waiting for Godot. We know what will happen next because we've been watching this movie for eight months. Gen. Petraeus, Bush's mighty-me, will insist that we're making guarded progress. Bush, whose keen grasp of military reality is reflected in his recent boast that "we're kicking ass" in Iraq, will promise that he will reassess the situation in April. The Democrats will flail their puny arms, the zombie Republicans will keep following orders, and the troops will stay.
So let's forget the absurd debate about "progress" and whether a bullet in the front of the head is better than one in the back, and how much we can trust our new friends from Saddam's Fedayeen. On the anniversary of 9/11, we need to ask more basic questions -- not just about why we can't bring ourselves to pull out of Iraq, but why we invaded it in the first place. Those questions lead directly to 9/11, and the ideas and assumptions behind our response to it.
The real reason that Congress cannot bring itself to end the war in Iraq, and incredibly, may be prepared to start another one in Iran, has little to do with benchmarks or body counts. The real reason is that even after the Iraq debacle, the American establishment -- meaning the government and the mainstream media -- has not questioned the emotions and ideology that drove Bush's crusade.
Sept. 11 is a totemic date for the Bush administration. It justifies everything, explains everything, ends all argument. It is the crime that must be eternally punished, the wound that can never heal, the moral high ground that can never be taken. Bush's reaction to 9/11 was to declare a "war on terror," of which the Iraq adventure was said to be the "front line." The American establishment signed off on this war because of 9/11. To oppose Bush's "war on terror" was to risk another terror attack and dishonor our dead. The establishment has now turned against the Iraq front, but it has not questioned the "war on terror" itself, or the assumptions on which it is based.
Bush's, and America's, response to 9/11 was fundamentally flawed for two reasons: It was atavistic and instinctive, and it was based on a distorted, ignorant and bigoted view of the Arab/Muslim world. These two founding errors are qualitatively different: The first involves emotions, the second ideas. But mixed together, they created a lethal cocktail. The grand justification of "spreading democracy in the Middle East" merely provided a palatable cover for vengeance and racism.
Bush's America responded to 9/11 by lashing out. We chose vigilantism over justice, instinct over reason. Bush demanded that America play the role of the angry, righteous avenger, and America followed him. But we were not taking vengeance on the guy who attacked us but on somebody standing on the corner. The war was like the massacre in Haditha on a global scale.
There's a reason why Americans responded to Bush's demand and why Democrats have been afraid to challenge it. It's biological hard-wiring -- after you're hit, your instinct is to hit back. For conservatives, this instinct is not only natural but necessary. Hence the endless right-wing denunciations of war critics as wimps, girly-men and appeasers.
Gender images play a significant role. The right wing embraces a cartoonlike image of masculinity because it believes that only an alpha male can protect America from its enemies. (In a recent essay in the New York Times, Susan Faludi argued that such retrograde gender images have been used to construct the American self-image from the earliest days of our presence on this continent.) This is part of the reason that Bush has put forward Gen. Petraeus as the cheerleader for the war. Petraeus is the ultimate alpha male, right down to his rigorous workout routine. In the Hobbesian world of the conservative imagination, the big club rules, and he who puts down the club will be brained by another unfettered troglodyte, be it a communist or an "Islamofascist." Nature is red in tooth and claw, and those who dream of transcending nature or transforming it will be destroyed by it.
The fetishization of the "natural," of which instinct is only a part, is key to conservative thought. In the early '60s, conservatives like Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan defended the right of individuals and states to practice segregation because that decision was instinctual and organic. They saw the federal government's attempt to outlaw segregation as artificial and coercive.
Of course, instincts play a vital role in human life: They underlie virtually all of our thoughts and actions. To ignore them is to fall into a deracinated world of sterile rationality. Lashing out is sometimes an effective way to defend yourself. But instinct is atavistic and often self-defeating. Higher-level mental functions came into existence to control and refine it. Both individuals and states have learned that they should not base their reactions merely on animal instincts. That's why law arose: to prevent every injury from turning into a destructive and endless feud. Retribution is a legitimate motive for punishment but only to a point. It is limited by the higher concept of justice. Justice not only prescribes the extent of the retribution that is morally acceptable, but insists that the context of the crime, including the criminal's history and state of mind, must be considered before meting out punishment.
Democrats have effectively challenged the reign of nature and instinct in the domestic realm. But they cower when it comes to war. They are afraid to criticize the irrational, instinctive nature of Bush's "war on terror" because they believe their political Achilles' heel is the perception that they are "weak on national security." They are afraid they'll be seen as wimps. Beaten down by Republican propaganda that asserts that America's only choice is between the GOP's macho John Wayne and the Democrats' dithering Hamlet, they pathetically don their cowboy hats and tank helmets, a tactic that actually reinforces the very image of weakness it is intended to dispel. Unchallenged by the Democrats, the right wing's master narrative about American power and the need to carry a big stick has carried the day.
Of course America was enraged and fearful after the attacks. But reacting to the attacks as we did, like an angry drunk in a bar, was not in our national interests. It was vital that we think clearly about our response, who attacked us, why they did, and what our most effective response would be. But here the American establishment ran up against its ideological blind spot -- its received ideas about the Arab/Muslim world. Combined with the hysterical emotionalism, those ideas, which amount to a kind of de facto bigotry, allowed Bush to push through one of the most bizarrely gratuitous wars in history.
We attacked Iraq because of 9/11. That is the scandalous and surreal claim that reveals our fatal emotional-ideological flaw. Anyone who knew anything about the Middle East knew that Saddam Hussein, a secular tyrant, had nothing to with 9/11 or al-Qaida. War defenders like to claim they were "misled by bad intelligence" into thinking Saddam had WMD. But there was no new evidence that Saddam posed a threat. He was the same old Saddam. He only became frightening in light of our prejudice against Arabs and Muslims. Moreover, despite the appalling effectiveness of the 9/11 attacks, it was clear that al-Qaida posed no existential threat to either America or to the Middle East. As the invaluable analyst Juan Cole has pointed out, apocalyptic Salafi jihadists like al-Qaida were an isolated and weak force within the Arab-Muslim world -- or at least they were until Bush invaded Iraq.
The angry bigotry that drove the war rings out loud and clear in the right-wing battle cry: "They attacked us, so we had to attack them." The recent TV ads run by war supporters repeat this theme: "They attacked us," a narrator says as an image of the burning World Trade Center appears. "They won't stop in Iraq." The key word here, of course, is "they." Just who is "they"? For Bush's die-hard supporters, "they" simply means "Arabs and Muslims." Cretinous rabble-rousers like Ann Coulter and Michael Savage play to this crowd, demanding that we nuke the evil ragheads. For the establishment, "they" is not quite so explicitly racist. "They" refers not to all Arabs and Muslims, but only to the "bad" ones. The "bad" guys include al-Qaida, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the militant Palestinians. And, of course, it used to include Iraq (and may again). Anyone who makes this list is eligible for attack by the U.S.
What makes these wildly disparate entities so evil and so threatening that we're prepared to attack them without cause? Simply that they reject the U.S.-Israeli writ in the Middle East -- and that they're Arabs or Muslims. They are clearly not on our side, but they pose no significant military or economic threat to the U.S. In realpolitik terms, they are no more beyond the pale than many other dubious countries we do business with, from Venezuela to Nigeria to Russia to Saudi Arabia. No one would dream of suggesting that if Cuba attacked the U.S., we should respond by invading Venezuela. But we play by different rules in the Middle East.
America's anti-Arab, anti-Muslim prejudice has several causes. One of them derives from America's powerful identification with the one state that has always been at war with the Arab-Muslim world: Israel. For the establishment, it is axiomatic that America's and Israel's interests are identical, and that enemies of Israel must be enemies of the U.S. America has always identified more with Israel, the plucky underdog and home to Holocaust survivors, than with the Arabs and Muslims who threaten it. Since this view is held by right and left, Democrat and Republican alike, and criticizing it leads to accusations of anti-Semitism, it is difficult to challenge it. This is the reason why there has been almost no discussion in Congress over Bush's saber-rattling with Iran: Iran is Israel's most dangerous enemy, and that fact trumps all other considerations.
America's Israel-centric stance has helped determine the way we see the Arab-Muslim world, but it isn't the only factor. The rise of radical Islam, with its cult of martyrdom and terrifying terrorist attacks, exacerbated America's existing prejudices, flattening out the Arab-Muslim world into a monolithic entity. Our almost complete ignorance of Arabs and Islam, their history and the actual grievances that they have against the West, contributed to this flattening. Oil plays a role. But perhaps the most potent explanation of all is simply the fear of the Other: Islam is not in our cultural tradition, it stands apart, it's mysterious and ominous, and it is all too easy to project our fears on it.
One sure sign of cultural bias is the presence of high-flown concepts. Mission civilatrice, the White Man's burden, is inevitably accompanied by lofty rhetoric. Iraq was all about Grand Theory.
One of the neocons' main goals in invading Iraq was to "remake the Middle East" -- a weirdly grandiose, imperialist concept of the sort that doesn't apply anywhere except with Muslims. Only in the Middle East do lofty historical generalizations about why a world culture went wrong -- like those of the right-wing Arabist and White House favorite Bernard Lewis -- provide the intellectual underpinnings for unprovoked wars. Yes, the Arab-Muslim world has some serious problems, and yes, only a politically correct pedant would forbid all cultural generalizations. But when you go to war on the basis of those generalizations, you cross the line into colonialist prejudice.
The most lofty, abstract generalization of all is the insistence that this is a war of good vs. evil. "They" attacked us not because they had grievances or for any reasons that exist in the sublunary realm: They attacked simply because they were evil. Saddam would do the same because he, too, like Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, was evil. The "war on terror" is a crusade, a Holy War, whose essentially theological nature was summed up by the title of Richard Perle and David Frum's book, "An End to Evil." And once you're dealing with "evil," niggling distinctions -- between Sunni and Shiite, or secular and religious, or whether the country you want to invade had anything to do with attacking you -- can be dispensed with.
The failure of the American establishment to question such ideas, and its willingness to sign off on a war based on them, amounts to a kind of de facto bigotry: Kill one Arab, send a message to the rest of 'em. Attacking Iraq because of 9/11 made about as much sense as attacking Mozambique after the Watts riots. If we had done something that insane, we would be accused of being racists. We wouldn't be able to shake the accusation, no matter how much gobbledygook apologists came up with about bursting a "terrorism bubble" or the "pathologies of black culture." But when America did something equally insane and attacked Iraq in response to 9/11, no one accused it of racism. Instead, we got a lot of sophistry about "Islamofascism" and other Aquinas-like attempts to make 99 virgins dance on the head of a Baathist.
Sept. 11 was a hinge in history, a fork in the road. It presented us with a choice. We could find out who attacked us, surgically defeat them, address the underlying problems in the Middle East, and make use of the outpouring of global sympathy to pull the rest of the world closer to us. Or we could lash out blindly and self-righteously, insist that the only problems in the Middle East were created by "extremists," demonize an entire culture and make millions of new enemies.
Like a vibration that causes a bridge to collapse, the 9/11 attacks exposed grave weaknesses in our nation's defenses, our national institutions and ultimately our national character. Many more Americans have now died in a needless war in Iraq than were killed in the terror attacks, and tens of thousands more grievously wounded. Billions of dollars have been wasted. America's moral authority, more precious than gold, has been tarnished by torture and lies and the erosion of our liberties. The world despises us to an unprecedented degree. An entire country has been wrecked. The Middle East is ready to explode. And the threat of terrorism, which the war was intended to remove, is much greater than it was.
All of this flowed from our response to 9/11. And so, six years later, we need to do more than mourn the dead. We need to acknowledge the blindness and bigotry that drove our response. Until we do, not only will the stalemate over Iraq persist, but our entire Middle Eastern policy will continue down the road to ruin.
-- By Gary Kamiya

"Broken Government"
I never thought that the GOP posed a threat to the well-being of our nation. But these days, I no longer recognize my old party.
By John W. Dean
Sep. 11, 2007 In almost four decades of involvement in national politics, much of them as a card-carrying Republican, I was never concerned that the GOP posed a threat to the well-being of our nation. Indeed, the idea would never have occurred to me, for in my experience the system took care of excesses, as it certainly did in the case of the president for whom I worked. But in recent years the system has changed, and is no longer self-correcting. Most of that change has come from Republicans, and much of it is based on their remarkably confrontational attitude, an attitude that has clearly worked for them. For example, I cannot imagine any Democratic president keeping cabinet officers as Bush has done with his secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, and attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, men whom both Democrats and Republicans judged to be incompetent. Evidence that the system has changed is also apparent when a president can deliberately and openly violate the law -- as, for example, simply brushing aside serious statutory prohibitions against torture and electronic surveillance -- without any serious consequences. Similarly, but on a lesser scale, Alberto Gonzales faced no consequences when he politicized the Department of Justice as never before, allowing his aides to violate the prohibitions regarding hiring career civil servants based on their party affiliation, and then gave false public statements and testimony about the matter. When the Senate sought to pass a resolution expressing "no confidence" in the attorney general, the Republicans blocked it with a filibuster. The fact that Bush's Justice Department has become yet another political instrument should give Americans pause. This body was created by Congress to represent the interests of the people of the United States, not the Republican Party, but since the system of law no longer takes account when officials act outside the law (not to mention the Constitution), Republicans do so and get away with it.
In the past the White House (whether occupied by Republicans or Democrats) placed tight restrictions on who could contact the Department of Justice regarding pending business. It was typically limited to only the president, the vice president, the White House chief of staff and White House counsel, who were authorized to speak with the attorney general, the deputy attorney general or the top assistant and associate attorneys general. However, in the Bush White House no less than a startling 471 White House aides are authorized to speak with 30 senior Justice Department officials. It is not an exaggeration to say that the Bush administration has made the Justice Department a political extension of the White House in the area of law enforcement, which is unprecedented and seriously dilutes the credibility of the government when it goes to court. It will take years to depoliticize the Justice Department, and countless nonpolitical career attorneys -- including some of the most experienced and able men and women ever to serve in the department -- have left because of the way Bush's people run it. Ironically, when Republicans find Democratic officials with even a toe across the line, they raise unmitigated hell for that official. But when a Republican official crosses the line, Republicans close ranks around the miscreant, as they have done with the former chief of staff to the vice president, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Libby, a sophisticated Washington attorney, leaked Valerie Plame Wilson's covert CIA identity. Libby had leaked her name as part of the effort to discredit Valerie Wilson's husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, who had traveled to Niger to determine for the CIA if Saddam Hussein had purchased uranium -- a claim that would be made by the Bush White House. When Ambassador Wilson wrote a New York Times op-ed putting the lie to that claim, Scooter Libby led the attack against him, notwithstanding the fact that he was telling the truth. One of his tactics was to claim that Wilson's wife, a covert CIA operative, had sent him on a boondoggle. Libby, as Cheney's national security adviser, was quite familiar with the potentially dire circumstances of leaking the identity of a covert agent. When special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald (the U.S. Attorney in Chicago) was appointed to investigate, Libby lied to the FBI and then to the grand jury about how he had learned of Valerie Wilson's CIA connection, claiming a newsman had told him, when, in fact, he had been told by the vice president. Although Special Counsel Fitzgerald found no criminal statute had been violated in leaking Valerie Wilson's name, he indicted and convicted Scooter Libby for false statements, perjury and obstruction of justice. Even before federal judge Reggie Walton (a Bush appointee) sentenced Libby to 30 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, Republicans were demanding that Bush pardon him.
Republicans have offered an array of explanation and justifications for a Libby pardon, but when one cuts through the smoke, what they are really arguing is that one of their own should not be punished criminally. It is an absurd position. Conservatives once claimed they stood for law and order, and that no person was above the law, but their words belie their true beliefs as expressed in their actions. Frankly, I hoped that Bush would pardon Libby, as it would have served as a particularly egregious and conspicuous example of the Republican double standard -- the authoritarian's "do as I say, not as I do" mentality. Voters understand hypocrisy, and another solid abuse of process (and power) could only help the Democrats get back into the White House.
Having watched the GOP's evolution as it embraced the radicalism of authoritarian conservatism, slowly ceding control to its most strident faction, the authoritarian conservatives, I can no longer recognize the party. These new conservative leaders have not only sought to turn back the clock, but to return to a time before the Enlightenment when there were no clocks. As former vice president Al Gore nicely stated it, the Republicans have undertaken an "assault on reason." Indeed, they have rejected their own reasoned philosophy by ignoring conservatism's teachings -- based on well-documented history -- about the dangers of concentrations of power. They have done so by focusing on the presidency as the institution in which they wish to concentrate the enormous powers of the federal government. Nixon led the way, and Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II learned from his mistakes. Nixon scowled as he scolded and secretly investigated his opponents in the name of national security; his GOP successors have smiled and reassured Americans they are operating to protect them as they have proceeded to convert the American presidency into an elective monarchy, with its own high council, which was once known as the federal judiciary.
Fortunately, the power of the authoritarian conservatism that has so dominated the Bush/Cheney presidency is waning, although it is not likely there will ever be less than about one in four Americans who will follow such authoritarian leadership without question. For authoritarian conservatism to win another presidential contest, its candidate would have to attract independent voters in addition to their hardcore base. But polling of independents reveals that they have largely become disgusted with the Republicans, and lean heavily toward the Democrats. In surveying all of the Republican contenders for the GOP nomination, I have found that to the man, they all are far more authoritarian than even the most authoritarian of the Democrats. This raises the almost certain likelihood that, regardless of how great a distance any of these GOP candidates might attempt to place between himself and the Bush/Cheney presidency during a general election campaign, in fact, if elected he is going to continue in the vein that has already caused this nation so much trouble. (There is no doubt that the GOP will select an authoritarian standard-bearer, because these are the people who are most active in the primaries and the most devoted workers in the general election. It is almost impossible for a non-authoritarian to win the Republican nomination, as the party is now structured.)
As I was writing this closing section an old friend from the Nixon White House called. Now retired, he is a lifelong Republican who told me that he voted for Bush and Cheney twice, because he knows them both personally. He asked how my new book was coming, and when I told him the title, he remarked, "I'll say the government's broken." After we discussed it, he asked how I planned to end the book, since the election was still a good distance away. I told him I was contemplating ending midsentence and immediately fading to black -- the way HBO did in the final episode of the Sopranos, but that I would settle for a nice quote from him, on the record. He explained that he constantly has to bite his tongue, and the reason he does not speak out more is because one of his sons is in an important (nonpolitical) government post, and we both know that Republicans will seek revenge wherever they can find it. How about an off-the-record comment? I asked. That he agreed to.
"Just tell your readers that you have a source who knows a lot about the Republican party from long experience, that he knows all the key movers and shakers, and he has a bit of advice: People should not vote for any Republican, because they're dangerous, dishonest and self-serving. While I once believed that Governor George Wallace had it right, that there was not a dime's worth of difference in the parties; that is not longer true. I have come to realize the Democrats really do care about people who most need help from government; Republicans care most about those who will only get richer because of government help. The government is truly broken, particularly in dealing with national security, and another four years, and heaven forbid not eight years, under the Republicans, and our grandchildren will have to build a new government, because the one we have will be unrecognizable and unworkable."
These comments summed up our current situation -- and our possible future -- as eloquently as anything I could have wished.
-- By John W. Dean