Friday, May 2, 2008

What's Our Plan of Action the Day Bush Bombs Iran?

Raise you hand if you don't think Bush/Cheney will bomb Iran before their term is up. You may be dismissed; read another blog.

If you didn't raise your hand, you and I need to do a couple of things to save this nation from doom after the boneheads order the bombs dropped.

First, we need to decide which actions of civil disobedience will cause the greatest disruption of 'business as usual.'

Next we have to get the word out on the plan.

Finally, we need to connect with like-minded citizens to coordinate the massive action.

It is fairly obvious to anyone who hasn't been in a coma for the past 8 years that these two meat-heads never learn from their mistakes and/or don't care whether they make mistakes. Look at the fiasco 'Mission Accomplished' turned into. Recall WMD's and the uranium from Africa. The connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam. The mobile biological weapon centers. The smoking gun as mushroom cloud. We'll be greeted as liberators. The war will last at best 6 weeks. We've reached a turning-point. The surge is working. We've turned the corner.

How many lies was that? I've lost count.

Raise you hand if you can believe anything that Bush or Cheney says. If your hand is up, go home.

Obviously, for those of us who have been paying attention, we couldn't trust these two bums to tell us the time. So, when they claim that 'we have no plans to invade Iran' we have to parse the phrase. They may have no plan to INVADE Iran, but they sure in hell have a plan to BOMB Iran. And who doubts it? Raise your hand if you doubt it. Those with your hands raised please go to bed.

So, the rest of us know that it is going to happen; one day/afternoon/evening/morning there will be Breaking News on CNN: U.S. missiles launched against targets in Iran. We know this. All we don't know at this point is the date; we also don't know the massive civil disobedience plan that will be activated right after the Breaking News appears on CNN.

That's our task: what will be the various civil disobedience actions that will spread across America on that day? Remember, it must be massive and it must cause disruption of 'business as usual.' Our survival as a nation depends on this planning because, if we can get a massive, nationwide plan in order before the event, it may deter the event from happening. Sort of like a pre-emptive strike before the pre-emptive strike.

Are you with me? Raise your hand. If you didn't raise your hand, go to the library and read the U. S. Constitution and an easy reader version of the American Revolution.

Brainstorming time: what would constitute a massive civil action, easy to accomplish, that would spread quickly from coast to coast and stop 'business as usual?' Come back tomorrow with your suggestions.

Class dismissed.

Bush Approval Rate at All Time Low- Too Late Now

Twenty-eight percent approval, 72% disapproval- a historic record low rating for a U.S. President. Where the hell were these 72% back in November 2004? Did they not see the past as a pathway to the future? Or, were they crossing their fingers hoping he would improve?

The uproar about these numbers is meaningless, about as meaningless as Congress. The governance of our nation is shameful. At no time in our history have so few elected officials been worthy of praise for their courage and wisdom on behalf of the citizens. Never.

Who is to blame? The citizens, of course. As the title of Lee Iococca's book suggests: Where have all of the Leaders Gone? We're much too partisan believing that OUR candidate from OUR party has to be better than THEIR candidate. The foolishness of it all is astounding.

Will we citizens break free this Fall and elect the best person regardless of politics? Will we citizens be duped by slick commercials and negative ads? Will we sit it out believing its hopeless?

My crystal ball needs new batteries.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"The Ape that Evolved God."

Quite a title, but it's not; it is in the first paragraph of a book written by an anthropologist with the desire to discover, through scientific inquiry, if 'religiosity' is an inborn trait of humans. Anthropology professor Barbara J. King of William and Mary penned this opening paragraph of her book: "We humans crave emotional connection with others. This deep desire... can be explained by the long evolutionary history we shared with other primates.... At the same time, it explains why humans evolved to become the spiritual ape--the ape that grew a large brain, the ape that stood up, the ape that first created art, but, above all, the ape that evolved God."

No doubt there is a great collective gasp from the fundamentalist community at this statement, but I'm not the least bit interested in what they have to say; I've heard it all and it doesn't impress nor educate me one bit. No funny Fundy comments, please.

The book is Evolving God, a puzzling title in itself. Dr. King's website includes an interview she had with NPR as well as an interview with Steve Paulson of Salon He writes this about the author:

"King argues that religion is rooted in our social and emotional connections with each other. What's more, we can trace back the origins of our religious impulse not just to early cave paintings and burial sites 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, but much earlier -- back to our ancient ancestors millions of years ago. And today, King says, we can see the foundations of religious behavior in chimpanzees and gorillas; watching our distant cousins can do much to explain the foundations of our own beliefs."

Paulson asked her: Why would an anthropologist who studies apes be interested in religion?

She answered: "I think religion is all about emotional engagement and social action. And we can get a whole new read on the evolutionary history of religion by asking the kinds of questions that we ask of language and culture. We can see that way back in our past -- literally, millions of years ago -- some practices are visible in the archaeological record that reflect the deepest roots of religion. And apes today are pretty good stand-ins for those very early human ancestors. So when I go to the National Zoo in Washington, or spend time in Kenya looking at monkeys, what I see is very social. It's about emotional connection that's at the very ancient roots of religion."

When asked to clarify this connection with the religious King explains: "I'm not talking about a set of beliefs. When I think about religion, what comes to mind are personal relationships with the supernatural, with God or with spirits, and compassionate action. Not necessarily books or texts that you read, but some sort of action in the world."

This point clearly separates her from those who would automatically condemn her for linking apes and a deity. She clarifies it: "And the way I approach that is to look at the active expression of this emotional connection in something that I can identify as a spiritual realm."

Here are four things Dr. king looks for in studying her apes: "I look at four different kinds of behavior -- meaning-making, imagination, empathy and following the rules. Together, I think they give us a sense of what religion might have started out to be."

Ha! Following the rules. Hammer hits nail. Imagination was noted just this week in an article highlighting the work of anthropologist Maurice Bloch: Religion a figment of human imagination

King goes on: "The apes have bits and pieces of all these four things, but not in a coherent pattern that adds up to religious behavior. To my mind, apes are conscious beings and they do these four things in incredibly fascinating ways."

I would like to be able to discover if Homo Erectus, that extinct human species, left any clues to that would shed light on this question. After all, he is the link from the ape to the human. So is Neanderthal - the first of the human species that buried the dead. Of course, 'why' they buried them is not known; it could have been that strong emotional connection that Dr. King proposed. Perhaps Neanderthals didn't like to see their dead relatives eaten by carnivores- the ones painted on their cave walls.

Somewhere along the evolutionary chain an epiphany moment occurred in one of these primitive humans that began the idea that maybe there is more to life than just living and dying. And thus , the ape evolved God.

Collateral Damage from that Other U.S. War

Many of the daily murders committed throughout Iraq are 'sectarian' in nature: an all-encompassing term generally meaning revenge killings. Many are Sunni-Shia, a perpetual dual set of historic enemies. Other murders occur for quite another reason. Many Iraqis are killed because they aided the United States military during this occupation. Traitors or turn-coats in the American Revolution. New Brunswick was the refugee 'camp' for these American-British sympathizers.

I'm not sure if the Iraqi-American 'sympathizers' have a camp to which they can flee. They are rather stuck in the killing fields.

All of this reminds me of the Vietnam War and the plight of the hill people of Laos, the Hmong, who were recruited by the CIA to search the area for American pilots who had been shot down on bombing raids. After the US pulled out of Vietnam, the Hmong were sitting ducks for the vengeance and retribution of the VietCong. As a result, many Hmong were slaughtered- entire villages wiped out. The lucky ones ran for their lives and ended up in Thailand.

Just last evening my wife and I were the guests of a Hmong family that we helped settle in Toledo back in 1979. The husband talked of longing to return for a visit to his mountain village with his wife and older children. "Are you going?" I asked him. He hesitated, looked down, and said, "You know I was part of the American military and the authorities there might recognize me." He said that he longs to return 'to help out my family there because they have nothing.' He wants to bring some money with him to build a mechanical water pump for the village. Now they have a well and a bucket. "They have nothing," he said, "not even running water." His daughter has begun a charity to raise money for that project.

The daughter, visiting from San Francisco, was born in the refugee camps in Thailand and longs to see the place where her mother and father grew up. "I feel like I need to connect with my family heritage," he said to me. "I've only seen photos of the village and the people there and it is so poor and primitive. Look at all we have and they don't even have running water!" Tears welled up in her eyes.

Collateral damage of war. Such an innocuous term for such a monstrous reality. Once again it is being played out- this time on the sands of Iraq.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Al-Qaeda 'greatest threat' to US: Duh!

"Al-Qaeda 'greatest threat' to US" is the latest headline. Let's see, how many years ago was the 9-11 attack? Who was the president back then? What did he promise as he stood on the pile of rubble with his megaphone?

Yea, sure.


Blue Collar Voters: Still Voting Away their Future

"But why would a near majority of blue-collar voters still want Bush? Millionaires, billionaires for Bush, well, sure; he's their man. But why pipe fitters and cafeteria workers? Some are drawn to his pro-marriage, pro-church, pro-gun stands, but could those issues override a voter's economic self-interest? " This question from Arlie Hochschild in her article from 2003, Let Them Eat War.

Why, indeed? Those blue-collar workers are a strange lot. She calls them NASCAR Dads. Reagan Democrats is another term for the group: they voted Reagan into the White House twice, too. Bamboozled by the slick advertising and golden tongue of the actor. Did they ever access what they gained in those eight years? Or lost? Like money, benefits and job security? Or was that all unimportant to them?

This group is always put into contention with the so-called 'elitists' in our society. Right now, Hillary Clinton wants to appear more blue-collar and often paints Barack Obama as 'elitist.' Odd that both attended prestigious universities and both are millionaires.

You have to wonder if, during the general election, the Republicans will paint the Democrat as elitist once again. And, here's the most important point, will the blue-collar, Reagan Democrat, NASCAR dad fall for it yet another time?

The obvious and common sense rebuttal to this is the simple political question: are you better off now than you were when Bush took office? Yesterday 85% of Americans said, 'No!' That ought to seal the Oval Office for the Democrats. But wait! That is logical thinking. We have seen that logical thinking and voting are not directly proportional.

Author Hockschild goes on:

"As Susan Faludi has described so well in her book Stiffed, that is what many such men feel. As a friend who works in a Maine lumber mill among blue-collar Republicans explained about his co-workers, "They felt that everyone else -- women, kids, minorities -- were all moving up, and they felt like they were moving down. Even the spotted owl seemed like it was on its way up, while he and his job, were on the way down. And he's angry."

"But is that anger directed downward -- at "welfare cheats," women, gays, blacks, and immigrants -- or is it aimed up at job exporters and rich tax dodgers? Or out at alien enemies? The answer is likely to depend on the political turn of the screw. The Republicans are clearly doing all they can to aim that anger down or out, but in any case away from the rich beneficiaries of Bush's tax cut. Unhinging the personal from the political, playing on identity politics, Republican strategists have offered the blue-collar voter a Faustian bargain: We'll lift your self-respect by putting down women, minorities, immigrants, even those spotted owls. We'll honor the manly fortitude you've shown in taking bad news. But (and this is implicit) don't ask us to do anything to change that bad news. Instead of Marie Antoinette's "let them eat cake," we have -- and this is Bush's twist on the old Nixonian strategy -- "let them eat war."

John McCain is a war hero. As a result, he automatically has gratis points. War is never far from McCain's mind nor his lips. Will the Republicans and the McCain strategists fall back on the 'let them eat war' tactic this November? And, the more important question: will the blue-collar voter once again fall for this trick?

I wouldn't bet against it knowing the level of wisdom of the American voter.

Adams to Bush: Retrograde Evolution

The title is from a comment made on Larry King last evening. Both he and his guest has been watching the John Adams miniseries on HBO when the guest said, "How did we get from John Adams to George Bush? It must be back-wards evolution!"

It surely has all of the earmarks of that, but the larger question is this: what does it say about the ken of the electorate when they twice elect a George W. Bush? There are a lot of nincompoops like Bush to choose from, but only a handful of John Adams.

The American electorate has grown more careless in direct proportion to its ignorance of governance and our American history. Rather than studying the issues and the leadership characteristics of a politician, the image and the sound bite trumps everything. Why not? After all, advertising agents are a well-paid group of skillful charlatans who sell thousands of products to our citizens each day. We've allowed these hucksters into our living rooms about every 10 minutes, often paying more attention to the slick commercial than the program.

Critical thinking skills have been dumbed-down in direct proportion to the watering-down of the news. Imagine the vast difference in the 'news' in the John Adams era compared with today: people hungered for the news, the truth, the ebb and flow of governance in the new nation. Today we have to question its accuracy and filter out the propaganda therein. Or, not knowing the difference, we accept the whole package as truth.

As obesity is attacking American bodies, so too is the fat affecting our brains. Lazy bodies, lazy brains. Just the recipe for an 8-year term of a man named Bush.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Perceived Reality vs. Reality

Here's an interesting statistic for starters: In 2003, University of Maryland researchers studied the public’s belief in three false claims — that Iraq possessed WMD, that Iraq was involved in 9/11, and that there was international support for the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The researchers stated, “The extent of Americans’ misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions.” Fox News viewers were “three times more likely than the next nearest network to hold all three "

Interestingly there is still a knot of folks who believe one or all of those lies. Propaganda is a powerful force and when the 'source' seems to emanate from 'the government' its credibility is enhanced. Is that why so many Americans voted a second term for Bush/Cheney? Does 'perceived reality' trump reality? No one called my house for a survey, but I would have answered 'no' to all three questions. So would have many of my friends.

Did Americans want to believe those three lies? I think so. I contend that deep inside the psyche of so many Americans was a desire for revenge for the 9-11 attacks and they were willing to believe anything that would sate this desire. We are an easily duped lot of people.

Just think of the 2004 election: people re-elected a president who failed to do what he promised to do. Not only did he fail, but he began another war that had no end in sight. Facts not withstanding, the people gave him a 2nd chance and, four years later, not only did he continue to fail on both of those fronts, but his lack of leadership has moved the nation into massive debt and a recession.

Nonetheless, 28% of Americans still think he's doing a good job as president. Some would vote for him a 3rd time if the Constitution didn't stand in the way.

What's this overt ignorance all about? Is it rampant and infectious? Will Americans make yet a third major blunder this fall? There is little evidence to the contrary. Already the media and the pundits are hyping nonsense issues to the voters, issues that matter so little to good governance.

We are a gullible and ignorant lot.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weeks Worth of Newspaper Headlines

North Korea Helped Syria
The Dafur Conflict
Hamas Cease Fire
Unrest in Zimbabwe
US Commanders Seeking to Widen Pakistan attacks
Iraqis Re-Group
Sec. Rice Opposes Carter
Bombing at Gaza Crossing
Petraeus Promoted, to Leave Iraq
Carter Rebuts State Dept.
Iran Still Sends Arms to Iraq
US is wary of Pakistan-Militants Accord
US Releases Syria Photos
US Cites Arms Flow from Iran

The newspapers across the country are filled with these
front page articles. Is this what the elitists want?
What is their game plan?

Will Dumbed-down Americans Fall for McCain?

Three choices, none perfect. The media loves the Clinton-Obama bash because it fills the holes in the slow news cycle. They also are now implying that the tiff will propel McCain to new heights, perhaps even into the Oval Office. Of course, as corporate giants, they have benefited greatly from the Bush give-aways. McCain, they hope, will continue the generosity.

I look at John McCain and all of his bungling of facts and ever-changing positions and wonder if the average voting Joe sees that he is just a bag of wind with few substantive ideas. But then, so was George W. Bush and they elected him twice. Joe is easily fooled, smoothly bamboozled and quickly propagandized. He goes into the voting booth fully saturated with all of the trimmings but with none of the meat.

Look at the supposed qualities of a good presidential candidate that have been raised by the media in this election: flag pin, pastor's remarks, the word 'bitter,' elitism, and melanin level. Is that all Joe needs to know about the person who will be the most important person in the world for the next four years?

Hillary Clinton apparently clicks with voters like Joe and that amorphous group known as Reagan Democrats. Now there is an easily deceived knot of folks. They fell in love with the idea of 'morning in America' and an actor's smooth words. Just how did these people benefit from the 'Reagan years?' Does it matter, or is it all about perception? While most of them felt good, the upper classes did well, accruing tax break after tax break. And the national debt soared out of sight.

Paul Krugman's OpEd today, Bush Made Permanent, nails McCain for the exact foolish policy that the GOP has bamboozled the American electorate with since those golden 'morning in America' years: tax cuts for the wealthy and the corporate world. Krugman says, "Mr. McCain has said nothing realistic about how he would close the giant budget gap his tax cuts would produce — a gap so large that eliminating it would require cutting Social Security benefits by three-quarters, eliminating Medicare, or something equivalently drastic."

Awe, shucks, we don't care about the national debt anyway, do we? As long as the most affluent among us is happy, maybe they'll throw a scrap from their banquet table our way. Or trickle down. Oddly, that trickle always smells like urine.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Atheist Soldier and His Christian Buddies

He's an atheist and a soldier from Fort Bragg and is suing the Army for bigotry and harassment. In his lawsuit filed against the Army, Spec. Jeremy Hall accuses Maj. Freddy J. Welborn of threatening him and another atheist soldier with charges and a re-enlistment ban due to their 'beliefs.' Hall alleges Welborn attended a meeting of atheists and others described as free-thinkers in Iraq last July and issued threats shortly after the talk began. Hall eventually filed the lawsuit along with the advocacy group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, in federal court in Junction City. The suit alleges Hall's First Amendment right to be free from state-sponsored religion had been violated. Hall returned from Iraq last November after allegedly being threatened by a number of his fellow soldiers.

Odd stuff. Hall was interviewed on CBS this morning and seems like a decent person and a patriotic soldier who, he said, wanted to make a career out of the Army. His religious beliefs ended all of that.

Amazing stuff, isn't it? Wouldn't you think that hired military men, that is, the all-volunteer army, would attract atheists? After all, aren't they all amoral? I mean, they are all going to Hell anyway, so why not let them kill as many bad guys as they can on the way?

Makes you wonder, if this story is true, why religious belief is so pervasive in the United States military. Jesus taught, 'love your neighbor,' and, 'blessed is the peacemaker.' Jesus stayed the sword of Peter as he was being arrested. Quite the paradox for the American soldier.

Curious scenario: soldiers on each side of the battle line praying to a Deity for victory and safety as if that Deity would take sides in the conflict. Quite the imagination.

On the topic of imagination, I read an article today in New Scientist by Maurice Bloch titled, Religion a figment of human imagination. Anthropologist Maurice Bloch of the London School of Economics challenges the popular notion that religion evolved and spread because it promoted social bonding, as has been argued by some anthropologists. Instead, he argues that first, we had to evolve the necessary brain architecture to imagine things and beings that don't physically exist, and the possibility that people somehow live on after they've died. In other words, religion is really a result of human imagination.

Or, in the case of Army, Spec. Jeremy Hall, he can't imagine all of that, and, as a result, has undergone harassment and shame from those whose imagination run wild. Seems to me that an unimaginative soldier would be more prized than one whose mind drifts off into the ethereal. But then, what the hell do I know!

Non-racist Reasons Not to Vote for Obama

Interestingly, MSNBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell and I had the same thought today. I was tossing around how people, deeply prejudiced people, would 'justify' not voting for Barack Obama, rather than admitting that they would never vote for a black man. During the roundtable on Meet the Press, Mitchell mouthed these very words.

Let's see...where to begin? Oh, how about: He's inexperienced- he's only a first-time senator and this is not time to get on the job training. That's a good cover-up for IWNVFABM. Of course, George W. Bush was governor of Texas and has snatched the 'worst president ever' title from James Buchanan. Interestingly, number one ranked Abraham Lincoln was a first-term senator.

Isn't he a Muslim or something like that? I wouldn't vote for a Muslim because this is a Christian nation.

He didn't put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance; what kind of American is he!

He refused to wear an American flag in his lapel; what kind of a patriot is he!

His pastor said, 'God damn America!" That's all I need to know about him!

His wife said, "This is the first time I am proud of this country!" I don't want that kind as First Lady!

He called middle class whites in Pennsylvania, 'bitter' and said that they cling to guns and religion." What an uppity attitude!

Funny stuff; funny people. They would never vote for a black man in the first place, but I suppose those 'reasons' soothe their prejudiced souls and narrow minds.

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