HISTORY SITE Eyewitness to History

Sent: July 02, 2006

Pass it on – you’ll be condemned if you don’t

EMPIRE DIMMING 'Dark Ages America-the final phase of empire' - Morris Berman

Sent: July 02, 2006

“The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts. And then to the army, and finally the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”
– Plutarch, Historian of the Roman Republic

If you plan to be around in 2030, or so (by the grace of Dame Fortune, I plan to be adorning an urn on some relative's mantel by then; a mere 88-year old ash of my former self), the books reviewed in this post are required reading. You simply must take the time to read Berman, Chalmers, and a half-dozen others in order to prepare yourselves for the very different future that will soon be upon us; soon being 20 to 30 years from now.

Like Kunzler's "The Long Emergency" (previously posted – about our post-cheap oil lifestyles) and "Sorrows of Empire," (link below), these books are essential as they serve as crude road maps to help prepare and guide you through the onrushing (as in runaway freight train), cataclysmic changes I believe are coming to this most hubristic and disassociated of nations.

''Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire" - reviews & interviews http://morrisberman.blogspot.com/

(contains three mp3 interviews: w/ Leon Charney 59 mins * w/Leonard Lopate 32 mins * w/ Michael Krasny 52 mins)

(as conversations are wont to do, all three pursue entirely different directions and focus - lots of damning new info here)

(start at the 10-minute mark of the Charney interview, unless you have an abiding interest in Yiddish traditions)

and this from Gore Vidal in TruthDig (emphases added NjW)

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 a jinx dogged by luck so bad that a cruise liner, thanks to his presence aboard, was about to sink in a storm at sea. Once the crew had determined that Jonah, a passenger, was the jinx, they 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 whale who extruded him much as the decent opinion of mankind has done to Bush…

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…

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 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…

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; and 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 president: "The Closing of the Western Mind." Mr. Bush, God knows, 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.”…

The final dire warning from this troika of deep thinkers comes from Chalmers Johnson, whose 2004 book, “Sorrows of Empire” mirrors the metaphorical device used by Professor Berman: the decline of the Roman Empire after Julius Caesar. More on this signal work in a future post.

DN interview – 7 minutes http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/05/26/150229

Review and interviews http://www.americanempireproject.com/bookpage.asp?ISBN=0805077979


Sent: July 03, 2006

I strongly recommend to all Freethinkers that they resist and decry any and all attempts such as the one below. Bush 43 is not the problem; impeachment will, in fact, work against Progressive interests. That Democrats have sort of “missed” this most salient fact is a large part of the problem.

Impeachment “fixes” George W. Bush about as much as a tourniquet would “fix” a bullet to the heart.

Bush 41’s most recent and pathetic personal intervention to salvage what he could of his progeny’s “legacy” (his term, to a confidante) reveals that even this detached, remote, and myopic specimen of the species has awakened to just how harshly history will judge the miscreant era of misrule bearing forever the Bush family crest.

If you think the books on Bush are tough on him now, just wait until the gags come off all those no longer under the thumb of Dick, Condi, and all the other “keepers” currently maintaining order in the Bush admin mammalia.

George W. Bush’s main problem is being required to live out the rest of his self-deluding idiotic little life as George W. Bush.

Our problem is taking this fool seriously enough to deem him worthy of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” of impeachment.

“If a fool falls in the forest, is he ridiculed, satirized, mocked, insulted, denigrated, lampooned, despised, and derided if he can’t even imagine the underlying intellectual constructs inherent in those terms and, as a result, can’t begin to imagine why anyone could even think that way about him?”

We should instead be focusing our energies on correcting the massive systemic fault lines in our society. We need to be about repairing our fractious and shattered public discourse process no less than our crumbling Interstates and mass transit; mending our planetary outreach no less than reigning in the disciples of greed now setting the land ablaze from environmentally ravaged sea to not-so shining sea; and, most important, re-learning how to leave our children’s children a habitable and hospitable planet.

Replying to the asinine, counterproductive, self-defeating and demonizing dysfunctionality perpetrated by this administration on all who would oppose its imperial aims (both here and abroad) with an equally asinine, counterproductive, self-defeating and demonizing dysfunctionality of its (The Left) own; directed at the straw man of its own version of the “Axis of Evil” (Shrub, Dick, & Condi); is no more than the Left’s way of denying the real issue here: namely, that no one – well, all too few - is talking about the real issues here.

The real problems we face are, in descending order of importance:

1 denial (of history, of the facts; of the real source of America’s power; hell, what have you got?);

2 the dehumanization of “the enemy” (folks like Al Qaeda and the Quakers) and our insistence on infantilizing the rest of the world;

3 the replacement of reality with demonization, secrecy, and misdirection; and finally,

4 the supine acquiescence (and hence, implied consent) of (enough of) the American people.

Who will speak to the real issues posing an existential threat to this great experiment? Below the faux “piss off the base” impeachment call-to-arms (below) are a few items about real patriots dealing with real issues. Democrats.com needs to get its priorities straight. Ron Paul’s ringing alarums on civil liberties and oppressive government comes to us from the far, far Right; Rep. Paul is a super-Libertarian. Cindy Sheehan is often confused with the “Loony Left,” but a recent piece about her reveals her roots in moderate Republicanism.

These folks are Democrats.com’s show, not its warm-up acts.

From: Democrats.com [mailto:activist@democrats.com]
Sent: Monday, July 03, 2006 4:44 AM

Put Impeachment on the Ballot in Your Town

While a lot of towns and cities have passed or tried to pass pro-impeachment resolutions, only one so far has put the question of impeachment on the ballot for voters to address in November - Berkeley CA. It may not be too late to ask your town or city to place impeachment on the ballot. Some local governments may be more willing to do that than they are to pass a resolution themselves. Some media outlets may also find it more interesting. And it's good for our democracy: it's bound to boost turnout at the polls. Here's information on how you can do it:

RELIGION 'Faith & Reason' - Bill & Judith Moyers INTERVIEW 06-22-06

Sent: July 04, 2006

A discussion of their latest PBS show (7 episodes) – about 30 minutes – fascinating


NOTE: My comments below will have context only after you see the video.

Bill’s deep sense of a questioning faith – evident in everything he does – is constantly tested whenever it bumps up against his equally abiding belief in civil liberties. Bill & Judith’s show examines that conflict, as well as the general disconnect between how well-meaning folks from every religious corner square their “irrational” belief systems with a reality-based and scientific world; not to mention the conflicts among the more didactic branches of religion.

While I have no use for religion in my own life, I respect those who do; including Atheists.

And I am living proof that the religious zealots are right: to guard against creating Atheists or Anglicans (though I have long since moved on to freethinking), don’t let the little buggers read books. To me Mum’s everlasting credit, I was allowed – gasp, encouraged even – to read whatever I bloody well liked as my pliable mind was ringing that bell never to be unrung (Playboy and Lady Chatterley festooned my bedroom, openly flaunting their not-so forbidden fruit). I have to admit that the snatch of Jeannette Winterson’s schtick about growing up absurd with a fundamentalist mom is way funnier than the tension in my live-and-let-live, Libertarian upbringing – SAMPLE: “My mother only allowed 5 books in the house; the Bible, and 4 books about the Bible!”

I am also living proof that we are not all “wired for God,” as Bill puts it. My self-examined self can detect no current connection to a supernatural big girl; and who else should know better? I have also felt no need of her counsel or ministrations for at least the past few decades. While I’m not sure if I can remain in Bill’s otherwise tolerant good graces with such a heretical POV, I am also fairly certain I have never heard my “molecules” (of faith and reason) chattering away to one another. For me, the answer to all this noise is “go away and don’t bother me on this subject again until you come up with some new data. If your data is compelling enough, I will change my mind.” While I am not foolish enough to affirm or dismiss “god’s” existence, I suspect s/he is a man-made construct (which is why he is always a guy, right?) and as such, deserves all the caution one human should employ when entertaining the certitude of any other human’s philo/theosophy. This caution should begin with “What’s in it for them if I buy into this?”

Salman Rushdie’s observation about Atheists being obsessed with religion is right on the money. If you want to see religious passion, just question the belief system of your local Atheist (or Islamist); that, or tell them that it is impossible for an Atheist and a Freethinker to inhabit the same mind simultaneously. Methinks they doth protest too much.

As a freethinker, I have simply concluded that it is not my place to decide that the thoughts of others are worthy of my time and energy to prevent or guard against. The actions wrought by some notions are something else entirely. This in no way implies that I am disinterested in many of those same ideas; including religious ones (the “God told me to _____” tropes are irresistible to the curious mind).

You may also be interested in Charlie’s return to his interviewer’s perch. He ponders and confronts his brush with death, the meaning of life and friends, and displaying his all-encompassing humanity and ferocious curiosity. As he has been a fixture in my home forever, I was surprised to learn that The Charlie Rose Show (PBS, weeknights at midnight) has only been going since 1991; his friendship with Bill Moyers dates to the mid-Seventies and Ms. Vega has been with him since the show’s very early days.

On a personal note, Ms. Vega, now the show’s Executive Producer, reassures me that our species will never die out due to lack of interest in the fair sex.

Charlie Rose, Bill Moyers & Yvette Vega discuss his two-month time-out to deal with heart problems – what a mensch!


FUNDY HONOR ROLL & SBC's changing of the guard NjW 06-10-06

Sent: July 10, 2006

Know thine enemy - always good advice (the Bible says so, eh?); although few of these are the real enemy: Dominionists/Theocracists. The majority are just plain vanilla zealots, spreading God’s good word.

FYI, Catholics need not apply. For those of you new to playing in the fields of the Lord, Catholics, you may be surprised to learn, are not, in fact, “Christians;” this despite the fact that they patented and packaged the product. This is why you won’t find a-one on this ultra-WASP list; though, over the years, a few Schwartzes and Chicanos have managed to slip under the velvet rope (shhhh; a thousand years from now they’ll still be waiting for real membership in this club). As with Apartheid, it’s always tough figuring out all the inconsequentials when one’s line of work majors in minors.

Not all is dark on this facet of the “dark side” of our society. The Southern Baptist Convention (who, by the way, provided more meals, shelter, and medical care to the victims of Katrina than all other NGOs combined) – the largest Protestant organization in the world – has just elected its first “moderate” president in two decades. While Pastor Page is in no peril of being mistaken for a latter-day Gandhi or RFK, he does represent a tight turn to port for this flagship of the Fundy ship of state – for most folks, their default POV is moderate. Being an extremist all the time wears most of us out after awhile.

If you, like me, believe that shit flows downhill, this letter to the flock from President Frank Page (elected in June) will give you an idea of what kind of man the SBC has freely chosen (after 20 years of zealots cooking the SBC election books to ensure their yahoos got in) to set the SBC agenda, and why the Fundies may be – by their own choice - less of a political force in future. http://www.sbc.net/PresidentsPage/FrankPage/default.asp

(as you know, I love running into words I don’t know. It’s a rare thrill when it comes from a man of the cloth. Irenic means inclined or disposed to peace; not quarrelsome or unruly (I actually thought it was “ironic” misspelled, at first).The fact that this guy went out of his way to use such a term is a hopeful sign indeed. We may be witnessing the standing down of the foot soldiers (grassroots) of the Dominionists’ war on secularism; putting them roughly where they were in 1980.)

Not only does the good doctor’s letter ooze conciliation - and yes, even love - he even looks happier and more relaxed than his recent predecessors. From his letter:

“Was my election a statement that this Convention does not belong to any one particular group of people? I believe that it was.”

This one comment alone represents a sea-change from the certainty and righteousness of past decades under the thumb of the ultra-Fundies.

I could even see myself having a beer with this guy who’s God is quite clearly not vengeful and eternally pissed-off by infidels, fags, and what-have-you-got. For contrast, imagine sipping suds with Pat, Jerry, or James (D. Kennedy – watch the intro to his Sunday show sometime – he really feels the “power”) – brrrr - Fundy Megalomania at its best.

SBC’s Home page http://www.sbc.net/

So, if you protest the uber-Protestants (funny how that works), here is a rogue’s gallery. Bear in mind that, while these are all men (and the occasional “little woman”) who claim to be godly, some are more “godly” than others; hard to believe that both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush pray to the same god.

The Evangelical Hit Parade (requires free Adobe Player)

EMPIRE 'Sorrows of..." - Chalmers Johnson 03-2006

Sent: July 12, 2006


Read both parts of this all-too-brief interview and the 8-page whitepaper; then buy the guy’s book; then plan accordingly.

My best guess is that we have between 5 and 20 years before we will “feel” uncomfortable enough to get off our collective dead ass; either to help save this work in progress (our republic), or - to use the talking point of the day - to cut & run. Between now and then, lebenty-dozen scenarios present themselves to my mind; most of them not-so-good.

Johnson is only one of many to paint a bleak picture of this country’s prospects – and his view is even darker than most of the Lefties. Academics, like Johnson, while they tend to drift to port (the Left) – academic freedom, and all that – are mainly apolitical and historical. That’s why we pay more attention when they speak of a nation’s place in history. If my ken of Roman history was better, I’d be able to reel off a bunch of Roman historians who – over 4 or 5 centuries – did their best to alert the sated and smug populace to their own period’s Sorrows of Empire.

While I fear for my country when minds of Johnson’s stature seem to have thrown in the towel, I cannot join with his conclusion that this grand experiment is done for. History teaches that, so far, all the dictums of dire despair have been derailed by unforseen turns of serendipity and Dame Fortune’s intervention. Few of these paradigm-bending events have emanated from the top.

My darker visions include states voting to secede (as indeed half of them have the right to – it’s how they joined the union), then being forcefully repatriated, with all the havoc that would ensue; forming unions with other nations (Canada & Japan come to mind) or with other states to form new nations; or refusing to fund the Washington octopus altogether.

On the economy, I see rows of empty homes, their owners belly-up due to predatory and unregulated adjustable loan practices and the precipitous drop in real estate values when Economics 101 becomes the real estate rule (too many sellers chasing too few buyers); shadowy figures selling knock-off Ipods (we’ll have moved on from apples) in order to eat; businesses shuttered for lack of a viable “middle” middle-class eager to buy their wares; scores of talent and capital making a traitorous run for the (metaphorical) border and more hospitable markets and exploitable economies; folks more fit by the day as they take to their bicycles in the face of $7 or $8 gas – smaller cars and smaller homes – much smaller homes, bringing gold-rush premiums as folks allow their 2,800 sq ft, 3/2, 2-car garagers to go back to the banks, unable to pay the $2,000 monthly heating bill or the 5,000 insurance premium; and for that reason, witnessing a mass migration to warmer climes as the tariff to ward off the cold of even 2-dog nights becomes too dear.

All of these events are occurring as I write this, just only here and there, and not enough to kick up a fuss or trumpet as a trend. But, they’re coming as sure as tumultuous change always enters on little pink feet. All the while a nation sleeps, smug in its uneasily secure fortress America.

It would not be the first time in our brief recorded chronology that hubris, arrogance, and myopia (the Three Horsemen of Stupidity) have rued the day. It’s just that, this time, it’s us. What a waste! We were the ones who were supposed to get it right. Right?

Sorry Right & Left: there’s not much red meat for you here; just lots of mind-numbing facts. This dude is almost O-C D non-partisan. He thinks Congresses – present and past – are too far under the military-industrial thumb; see if you agree.

The 4 “Sorrows” to which Johnson refers (and to which he is convinced America is condemned) are:

1 A perpetual state of war;

2 The decline of democracy and Constitutional rights;

3 The replacement of truth by propaganda and disinformation;

4 National bankruptcy.

Interview Part I http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=70243 03-21-06

Interview Part II http://www.tomdispatch.com/index.mhtml?pid=70576 03-22-06

Whitepaper – 8pp http://presentdanger.irc-online.org/pdf/reports/SRsorrows2003.pdf 11-2003

And I leave you with a paraphrase of one of Johnson’s (many) almost casual profundities:

If the Neocon goal of world domination (the oxymoronic, “coerced democratization”, in its latest iteration) has any chance of actually becoming the paradigm for world peace and progress, doesn’t it bode ill for such dreams of glory when – at the outset - our vaunted, trillion dollar, military machine in Iraq is being fought to a standstill by a rag-tag bunch of fourth-rate terrorists and religious zealots using home-made weapons comprised of cellphones, duct tape, and ten-penny nails? After all, we need to get past these two failed states before moving on to the other 38 bad guys, eh? Let’s see, at 4 years a country (assuming there’s no backsliding into, uh, poppy-growing), and $150 billion a year, it’ll only cost a mere $180 trillion, and we’ll be done by 2123! (somebody check my math)

VOTE THEFT in MEXICO Palast on the crenellated ramparts

Sent: July 13, 2006

In less than half an hour, find out why your government in Washington is interfering in the free and fair election process of yet another sovereign nation.

The bad news is they may have succeeded. The good news is that EVERYONE is on to them: Oberon (the alleged loser); more than half of the Mexican people; the American Indy news media (to many of us, the media); Greg Palast and even a few members of what’s left of the loyal opposition of the MSM Fourth Estate.

For my Conservative friends; as you watch this clip, you need to know that the tactics on display are no more or less than those used to impose on the American people – twice - a man who did not win the election: either via the popular vote (as he allegedly did in 2004), or via the electoral vote (as he allegedly did in 2000). On the assumption that you dismiss this as so much “Sore Loserman,” or sour grapes, you might want to ask yourselves: on the off-chance that any of Nigel’s ravings are true, do I really want unfair advantage for my side? Is winning the goal, or that of an honestly decided outcome? Do I care how my side prevails and prosecutes its agenda, or does the end justify any means necessary?

Then there’s always the most uncomfortable question of all: “If the situation – and realities of power - were reversed, how would I feel about my rights being hijacked by the Loony Left?” It might surprise you to know - were the evidence as irrefutable as that of the past 5 years - how many Progressives would stand by your side to right such a wrong.

In the end, it makes no difference who is right; all the difference as to what is right.

http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/12/146201 about 25 minutes

(catch Calderon’s flunky’s (uh, cabinet minister) serpentine interpretation of events – you can almost see the desperation in the man’s face – he is scared stiff at the thought of his boss (and himself) having to relinquish power – he behaves like a cornered animal - note too, his rate of speech and rounded shoulders – the signals this fellow is sending are fascinating to this student of body language)


Sent: July 13, 2006

In order to serve the narrative, Amy Goodman (host of Democracy Now) is often required to “goose” many of her guests with trenchant and provocative questions. This is hard to do – not to mention, pointless – with a guest like David Sheer; Amy asks one question, and then gets to listen until the break.

When confronted with a machine-gun speech rate, you can be sure it stems from one of three sources:

1 The talker’s mental organization is a shambles and s/he is verbally throwing up on you;

2 The talker’s passion overwhelms them and s/he dittos #1;

3 Your colloquist is hiding something and hopes to distract you by sheer (no pun) verbal volume;

4 Your fellow conversationalist has her/his shit very together.

Mr. Sheer is definitely a #4. His instant recall of dates, names, places, situations, etc., marks him for the top-flite journalist he is. If you vaguely recognize his name, think L.A. Times – 30 years worth.

This interview has much to say; over and above the narrative of the interview. Sheer puts the lie to the alleged “Liberal” media. In fact, he has as much trouble with Democrats as he does Republicans. His keen observations as to just who has started most of this nations conflicts (wars, police actions – a rose by any other name…) since WWII, belie his Liberal sympathies. Far from being a zealot or a partisan, Sheer follows the facts, just as most worthy journalists do. You will also be interested to know who fired him and why after 30 years and many Pulitzers; Liberal media, my ass.

For my friends on the Right: Assuming you agree that this man is no reflexive Bush-Basher, but simply has a problem with feckless and dangerous government (and a professional obligation to expose same) – as should you, you might want to hear what he has to say about the “nowhere man” now misleading this country. Mr. Sheer’s open-minded comparison of “Dubya” to others who have occupied the Oval Office in the post-war period is both eye-opening and devastating (though I think it pretty well nails Dubya’s “legacy,” to the dismay of #41).

DN interview 07-10-06 http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/07/10/1356245 33 minutes

David Sheer’s blog – TruthDig http://www.truthdig.com/


Sent: July 15, 2006


This is why, from here on in, I will vote for only those candidates who share my general political philosophy (a Nigel clone would be redundant) and who are intellectually honest about it – from beginning to end: when they announce to when they run for office to when they speak before any group to when they debate to when they’re elected to while they’re in office. They are free to do what they bloody well like after they retire.

I am up to here with political realism. You can also spare me the old “Quixotic”, “Romantic” crap. If you ask me, this tired old orb could do with a helluva booster shot of unadorned and irrational Romanticism. When you get the clap, penicillin does the trick. The world has a bad case right now - anyone have a better anti-B than the truth?

While my gal/guy might lose, s/he will lose on principle – based on who s/he is – rather than on her/his ability to finesse and blur enough issues on the political battlefield to ensure that few can tell where s/he stands on much of anything. In short, I will cast my vote for someone - not anyone or no one - ever again. And if such a person is not running for that particular office, I will simply take a pass and leave that ballot circle blank. I am done with “Hobson’s choices” and “the lesser of two evils” un-choices. From now on, my way is the Third Way, not the highway.

If they are unwilling (or unable) to be intellectually honest, every day, in every way, then they will not get my vote. I will vote (or not) for a Russ Feingold, or a Ron Paul, or a Jesse Helms. These people are unapologetically who they are; take ‘em or leave ‘em. Their words and deeds appear to me to be in perfect synch. To a wo/man, folks like this treat me like the adult I am; able to make up my own mind about what I agree with and don’t about who they are. Just give me the goddam truth! More of us can handle it than Jack Nicholson thinks.

I may have despised every damned racist, homophobic, bigoted, nativist, xenophobic, and antediluvian bone in Jesse Helms’ decrepit old carcass, but I never had to spend an ounce of energy trying to figure out who he really was and where he was coming from.

Never again will my vote support the likes of John Kerry or, the way it’s going, Hillary. These people are the real traitors of this country because they hold out the chimera of a better world, if only we let them run it; all the while equivocating their way into office on tiny pink feet. When Dick Cheney opens his mouth, I know nothing good will come of it for minimum wage, working-poor, single mom, middle-class America. When John or Hillary does, I need to check the calendar; if it’s Tuesday, we need to stay the course; if Friday, we need to come together on “choice.” What the fuck is that?

But the fault, Dear Brutus, is ours. We have trained our political animals like so many trained seals; tell a half-truth, get a fish; shade an opinion, get another electoral vote. What we really ought to be getting on with, in this could-be-great-again land, is the untraining and retraining of our politicos. But first, we need to train ourselves to recognize a sham or a scam; to know a shill or a scoundrel when we see one, and bounce them the hell out of their snug little sinecures.

This will take cojones, on our part. For openers, it means working on our not-shabby denial skills; we don’t want to know and we vote for folks who promise not to tell us. I guess that needs to change before our pandering politicos ever will, eh?

The last time I checked, humans still only respond to pain and pleasure. We need to make dissemblage of all stripe so painful that our wannabe reps stop doing it and start competing on the merits alone, not on their prestidigitation prowess.

While I may not vote for any candidate in a race, I will, in effect, be casting two votes for those who oppose my preferred, but non-intellectually honest, gal or guy: the one I will fail to cast for my gal/guy, plus the one never tallied against my gal/guy’s opposition and thus, one less that said opposition will need to win.

I will be at peace with the knowledge that my vote in no way helped perpetuate this formerly great nation’s current broken, hypocritical, disenfranchising, misrepresentational, crazy quilt-confusing, electorally-jimmied, campaign fund-corrupting, “cage lists”-kleptocracizing, ex-felon-denying, HAVA-hamstrung, Gerrymander-ridden, crooked politico-sheltering, private club-perpetuating, monkey wrench strewn, sound-bite addled, alleged system of representative democracy.

I won’t mind if the candidate adjusts her/his thinking, as s/he goes along, when provided with new, verifiable, facts on a given issue; flexibility of the forebrain is the mark of a reflective, and therefore, civilized person – zealots, ideologues and partisans hardly ever change their minds in the face of new information; they already know the truth.

I couldn’t care less about a candidate’s inconsequentials: gender, race, creed, religion, nationality (except for Prez) sexual preference or practices, relative wealth, or political affiliations. Show me an intellectually honest, Tanzanian, transgender, hermaphroditic, philatelic, numismatic, Wiccan, billionaire from the Center Left Republican Party, with whom I agree, and my vote is hers/his/whatever to command.

I care a whole lot about a candidate’s fealty to principle; in both thought and deed. In fact, I have more respect for those with whom I disagree (because what they say and write aligns perfectly with their actions), than I do for those with whom I philosophically agree, but whose actions and words are vacillatory, tentative, mugwumpy, insidiously turgid or prolix, and , in general, betray a willingness to place appeasement and placation above principle.

We must also get better at weeding out, early on, candidates whose main way forward is to besmirch their competition. Attacks that deal in facts are okay; the truth being an almost perfect defense. But I would not vote for me, if the only way I could prevail was to resort to ad hominem, calumny, invective, and the host of other needlessly abusive and intellectually bankrupt ploys to avoid or replace addressing the issues at hand. I want a clean fight, and who cares what the media want.

I will work to help ensure a clean election. I will be a pollwatcher. I will just no longer support office-seekers who I deem as unwilling to say and do the right thing for the country. Nor will I ever again cast my vote for those who say the right things, but then do otherwise after my vote helps them to achieve office (although, at this stage of the game, I’m a New York audience).

It is time that we - as a nation & species – start getting the government(s) we truly deserve. I believe that can happen only if our politicians state precisely what they stand for and are then held accountable, by the people they may be proven to have lied to, for precisely those principles they espoused before taking office.

And if the nation goes to hell because enough other folks care to join me in opting out of this nation’s biennial sham… oh, well.

It would not be the first time in history that principle had to temporarily bend to reality before achieving its eventual, ineluctable victory.

Either way, we will certainly get the government we deserve.

VALUES-ALTRUISM Warren Buffett w/ Charlie Rose 07-10 thru 12-06

Sent: July 15, 2006

You could clean out the Self-Help, Self-Improvement, Psychology, and Financial sections of your local Barnes & Noble or Borders, go lock yourself in a room for a year to read them, and still learn less about life than you would spending a mere 2&3/4 hours with the incisive elucidatory skills of Charlie Rose as applied to the quick, active, fun-loving, slightly corny Midwest sense of humor, and ethically-centered mind of Warren Buffett.

I leave it to you to imagine a world in which every political and business leader had a value system like that of Warren Buffett’s.

I could stop sending out all these dark posts, for one thing.

Part 1 07-10 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6701318343299922276&q=tvshow%3ACharlie_Rose HIS PAST & PERSONALITY

  • drag to about the 28-minute mark of this first hour for a sample of why you will look back on this time with Mr. Buffett as golden

Part 2 07-11 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6208910876057109785&q=tvshow%3ACharlie_Rose THE BIZ & THE BUCKS

  • a capitalist you can absolutely love! The epitome of the gulf between the greed of a Halliburton vs. Buffett’s enlightened self-interest
  • compare Buffet’s rock-ribbed “right thing” mentality with the pathetic display of super-sophistry by Enron’s plundering pair: Skilling & Lay
  • You can refer back to this video the next time you read of some greedhead, or other, screwing thousands out of their promised health care or retirement packages, solely because it is now no longer “convenient for them to honor their solemn word; Buffett would jump out a window first.

Part 3 07-12 http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4846290947664386236&q=tvshow%3ACharlie_Rose THE GIFT (w/ Bill & Melinda Gates)

  • Philanthropy 101 – world health & poverty – enjoyment of life - happiness – integrity – friendships – America’s economic future – vision – humility – dynastic wealth – capitalism’s distributive shortcomings – what the $$$ can do – a paradigmatic model for others

Thank you, Charlie


OPTIMISM how to have it when common sense tells you to slash your wrists NjW

While I enjoy keeping all my Freethinkers & Others informed, I do worry about you all, at times. This post is to share with all the groups how I maintain a semblance of sanity in a nation apparently – to use John Le Carre’s pithy epithet – “gone mad.”

On OPTIMISM: I have mentioned this, in passing, over the years, but here’s my guiding philosophy on the subject:

I try to maintain a balance, in my mind, between the micro & the macro; the concrete & the abstract; the minutiae & the “big picture;” the battle & the war.

It is the micro, concrete, & minutiae that drive you crazy; bring you down; and cause you to abandon all hope.

The macro, abstract, & “big picture” provide emotional distance; allow perspective & scope; and remove the myopia of immediacy.

The micro moves you to action; to right the wrong (preferably yesterday); to fight the fight; to be “in the moment.”

The macro allows you to sit back and reflect on where the issue stands in history; its relative progress (or regress) over time; and perhaps what form the next major effort should take.

The micro is today: unreflective; all zeal; ad hoc planning; gut-reaction; instinct’; visceral; on-the-ground; face-to-face

The macro is the future: quiet; reflective; wound-binding; soul-searching; second-guessing; rethinking; and rejuvenating.

The best way to illustrate this is by example; say, Gay Marriage:

The leaders of the Gay Rights movement have, since Stonewall, had to constantly right themselves after each orgy of hate and bigotry slung their way over the past (almost) 4 decades. From the police riot of that seminal day in June of 1969, to the job and housing discrimination struggles of the 70s and 80s, to the corporate policies regarding the benefits of S.O’s - Significant Others – in the 80s and 90s (their allies turned out to be the ever-increasing numbers of hetero couples “living in sin”), to the military hypocrisy of the 90s and beyond, there has always been micro action or reaction (as at Stonewall), followed by a macro period, followed by further micro action, and so on, until the job is done, or a pause is taken to get on with other, more pressing, issues.

The latest struggle for the gay community is gay marriage – its time is here. The challenge, once again, is for gays to keep things in perspective. When the hatred is so venomous; so unyielding; so mindless; it is the only way by which they will keep their sanity. Even the most emotionally secure among us can only take such adamant and hate-filled rejection for so long. Ultimately, that’s what all torture is about: dehumanization.

Ross Perot introduced me to a countryism for which I will always be grateful: “skin in the game.” It is far more evocative of its message than one’s “ox being gored” (does that have anything to do with Al?). It also applies to every one of us who have fought a good fight.

If I’m a feminist or a hetero Jew, marching for gay marriage rights, I usually won’t have nearly as much “skin in the game” as my fellow gay march mates. It will be easier for me to move into and out of the micro and macro; not so easy for the gays with whom I am allied (my long-time response to the question “Whose rights are you for?” is, “What have you got.?”). Their “skin in the game” is who they are; mine merely empathetic; but no less valuable, for that.

However, it is good that Progressives (I call the other guys Regressives) are not all equally bound up on every issue. For some of us, gay rights is the thing; for others, women’s equality & choice; still others, immigrants and civil rights. Others of us (me) cover the waterfront – as a hetero WASP, other than our few remaining Amendments, I don’t need no rights; my people already run the place (just, into the ground, for now).

But, the thing that unites us all – and the reason the other side will always, eventually, come up short – is that, our macro-ends are identical; only our micro-means differ. And the Regressives? They have their work cut out for them:

Their micro-means are identical; but their macro-ends are all over the damn map. Progressives share a common destination: universal equality for everyone (even for the folks who would deny us such rights every chance they get). The Regressives’ problem is that any time they achieve their macro-means: they must then agree on their macro-ends – nevah happen.

This is why – macro view again – with almost every lever of power under sway to them, the Regressive coalition has been unable to do more damage than they have (not in any way to dismiss the immense harm they have already inflicted on us all – supporters and detractors alike). And every poll shows more tolerance, more understanding, more live-and-let-live agreement among the American people. Take away a few populist, pandering, opportunistic, vacillatory, and hate-mongering politicians and public figures, and we’d be going down the road to real progress at a much faster pace.

Hope this clears things up a bit.