Monday, July 31, 2006

Loyalty and Truth


Loyalty versus the truth is a favorite topic of mine. It is an essential aspect of understanding how various fundamental structures in our society function.

Loyalty has two faces. We regard loyalty as a positive quality. We can remain loyal to a child, or to a friend, or to our commitments, perhaps a spiritual commitment to be a reasonable decent person.

There is a danger in loyalty. This occurs when loyalty to a person, or a political party, or an organization simultaneously holds a lie, or a corruption, or an abuse. or a strangling power structure. The situation where loyalty permits dysfunction.

We know of the police "code of silence." A type of loyalty, where policeman number one would never rat out corrupt policeman number two. Rather than go to the authorities with the inside knowledge of how a cop is corrupt, there is the "wall of silence" that maintains a perceived allegiance to a higher cause. The higher cause is the brotherhood of police. The brotherhood is sanctified territory, so the notion of "harming" the individual guilty of corruption by bringing this knowledge to higher ups is taboo, the sanctified territory can't be messed with.

This is a case where loyalty exceeds or overrides the truth. A case where the sense of loyalty allows one to ignore the truth. In this case the truth is a particular corruption of duty. Justice becomes the big loser here.

I used to hear the term "my country right or wrong." This is another expression of how loyalty surpasses the truth. The country may very well be wrong, and this was the overwhelming view of US involvement in Vietnam, but according to the slogan, we are to ignore the wrong policy in favor of allegiance to government and by extension the country in general.

I would like to point out that one of the flaws in this slogan "my country right or wrong" is the notion that the government is the country. In a democracy, the government is the representative of the people. The people are the main body of the country, the government is not the country. So in this light, the slogan "my country right or wrong" is an aid to the political party that is in power. The slogan justifies the policy of the dominant political party and equates them with the country itself.

Here the concept and commitment to loyalty violates the truth on several levels simultaneously. I think of it as the jackpot bind of political corruption.

The slogan "my country right or wrong" is a quick and easy sound bite and is effective in this sense. The media folk love this kind of thing. However if one spends the time to at least lightly deconstruct the slogan it yields a mound of irregularities and stinking implications.

We are seeing the slugfest of loyalty versus the truth everywhere lately. For example, some claim that "supporting the troops" means that we must accept the Iraq War unquestionably. These are the loyalists. Forget that the run up to the war is overflowing with incorrect and false premises, forget about these facts, now that we are there, we must proceed with loyalty to the mission. So the truth, becomes the victim.

Again we also have the situation where the reasoning conveniently supports the dominant political party or administration. Loyalty to bad and destructive political policy is linked to loyalty to country. Those who object are treasonous or worse. This is the megajackpot bind of political corruption where the truth transforms into the enemy. This is when we are in big trouble and that we are.

In the political arena, we need the facts and the truth. It is the wall of loyalty that often keeps the facts out of the picture. It is hard to accept having our personal loyalties violated. We want to believe and trust our politicians. However, the truth is the standard to use when judging our politicians and their policy. When loyalty and truth are at opposite ends, then loyalty alone becomes an exercise in destructive fantasy.

painting by Warhol

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Deflection


We have the US increasing troop strength in Iraq from 127,000 to 135,000 soldiers. article. This is in direct opposition to the majority of Americans, who want to see troops withdrawn from Iraq.

The Iraq War has noticeably dropped off the front page as the advance of Israel into Lebanon gathers attention. American troops are still suffering in Iraq with 4 marines killed on Saturday.

There is a lot of deflection away from these critical issues. I would like to point out Bill Frist hard at work to repeal the estate tax. No surprise that this will work to the advantage of the wealthiest. Frist however uses this issue to paint Democrats as seeking higher taxes. Its a good sound bite for the right wing masses but with the lightest investigation it again proves to be meritless as only the top 1% benefit. Frist seems to have forgotten that the Iraq War is bleeding the economy. Lets see, wars that bleed the economy and military- good/ we don't talk about that, estate tax that benefits the wealthiest - good, Democrats - bad. OK makes sense to me.

The most curious right wing deflection of the week goes to Coulter. I use deflection to refer to the effort to take our attention away from the important issues. Amazingly she decides to label Bill Clinton as gay. Hmm, war in Iraq out of control, Afghanistan also going out of control, Israel invades Lebanon with reported use of white phosphorus and cluster bombs, and yet Coulter needs to stage another pinata implosion stunt.

Impeach Bush Poll

painting by Gericault

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Cluster Bombs

Israel has admitted to using cluster bombs as it advances into Lebanon.

The estimates of the number of Lebanese children killed in this war are high. article

A cluster bomb is actually a single bomb that contains up to 2,000 smaller bombs. When the single bomb explodes, it disperses the smaller bombs throughout an area, literally saturating an area with thousands of of tinier bombs. The tinier bombs are incredibly lethal and each one is capable of causing tremendous death and damage. article

Consider the principle of universality in this situation. This is the simple idea that you treat others as you would like to be treated, at least as well. If Hezbollah was dropping cluster bombs in Israeli cities, exposing the civilian population to this weapon, what would the response be? There would be such a call of outrage it would be deafening.

This weapon is an abomination. How in the world do you win the hearts and minds of the people with this unconscionable action?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Extraordinary


extraordinary:
1 Beyond what is ordinary or usual: extraordinary authority.
2 Highly exceptional; remarkable: an extraordinary achievement.

courage:
1 The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.
2 A quality of spirit that enables you to face danger of pain without showing fear

fear:
1 A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
2 A state or condition marked by this feeling: living in fear.

As Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki addressed a joint session of Congress in Washington DC on Wednesday, Medea Benjamin disrupted him to loud jeers and interspersed cheers. Her message was simple, "Iraqis want the troops to leave, bring them home now!" Which is true according to pretty much all polls taken of the Iraqi people since this war started.

This is a message that is all but ignored in America. Considering the harsh and brutal events that have unfolded from the destruction of Fallujah, to Abu Ghraib, to rapes and murders, the question is why would the Iraqis put their trust in America for its protection?

What is striking to me about Medea's action is thinking about her own personal commitment to undertake this act of civil disobedience. This is not an easy thing to do. The effect though is strong and it resonates. The action forces us to confront our own inaction and intimidation in the face of a great difficulty or problem.

There is a freedom in this type of action. I think because it also shows us that there is a great courage in the world, a great heart.

sculpture by Gaston Lachaise

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rage Against War


With President Bush announcing at a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that America will be sending more troops into Baghdad, a few things come to mind.

Its important to remember that "more troops" means more above and beyond the 127,000 troops already in Iraq. So that 127,000 troop number is going to rise. This would be an escalation in troop strength.

As this is occurring, recent polls indicate that this escalation is in complete opposition to what the majority of Americans want, and what the Iraqi people want.

The majority of Americans want to see a plan for the withdrawal of troops in Iraq. 50% want to see all of the troops withdrawn either immediately or within 12 months. 8% wanted to see troop levels go up, so that lucky 8% just saw their dream come true.

As far as how the Iraqis see American troops, the poll numbers are quite astonishing. 1%, yes that is the number one, say that they trust American and coalition forces for their personal protection. This means that the whole idea that we have to stay in Iraq in order to provide protection and stability for the Iraqi people is opposed by 99% of the Iraqi population.

So to recap: The majority of Americans want a plan to get the troops out of Iraq ranging from now to within 12 months. 99% of the Iraqi people feel that American and coalition forces do NOT provide personal protection. And finally, George Bush has just announced that he will be sending additional troops into Iraq.

Allow me to point out that there is a direct, obvious, elephant in the room type of jaw dropping disconnect going on here. One could assume that George Bush is the kind of fellow that sees a red, do not go, stop right there, light and says to himself full speed ahead. One could say that this response is the equivalent of throwing gasoline on an already raging fire, all the while thinking that the gas will put the fire out.

Bush announcement: article

Poll of Americans on Iraq: article

Poll of Iraqis: article

painting by Goya

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

White Phosphorus


Reports of the use of white phosphorus by the Israeli military on the Lebanese are beginning to surface.

White Phosphorus was used in Iraq by the US military as confirmed by the Pentagon.

White phosphorus is, "... a colorless or yellowish translucent wax-like substance that smells a bit like garlic. The substance ignites easily in air at temperatures of about 86 degrees F and its fire can be difficult to extinguish. It commonly is dispersed by high-explosive munitions." source

When a bomb containing white phosphorus explodes, the chemical is dispersed. This is what happens when white phosphorus gets on you:

"Effects of exposure to WP weapons (note WP and Willy Pete are military slang for white phosphorus)
Incandescent particles of WP cast off by a WP weapon's initial explosion can produce extensive, deep (second and third degree), painful burns. Phosphorus burns carry a greater risk of mortality than other forms of burns due to the absorption of phosphorus into the body through the burned area, resulting in liver, heart and kidney damage, and in some cases multi-organ failure. These weapons are particularly dangerous to exposed people because white phosphorus continues to burn unless deprived of oxygen or until it is completely consumed, in some cases burning right down to the bone. In some cases, burns may be limited to areas of exposed skin because the smaller WP particles do not burn completely through personal clothing before being consumed." source

To put it simply white phosphorus burns human flesh right down to the bone. Only the absence of air puts it out. Putting water on a WP burn helps it to continue to burn.

The Pentagon admitted to using WP in Fallujah. Now there are reports of its use in Lebanon. The reports also say that the majority of civilian deaths in Lebanon are those of children. We need to remember that there are children subjected to a weapon that burns the flesh right to the bone as the child suffers in excruciating pain. What would you call that?

The painting is the "Scream" by Munch. Google "white phosphorous" under images if you can stomach it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Unclassified, Uncharacterized, Amoral, and a Mystery


Painting by Juan Gris

The news is overflowing with broad labels for the people in the center of our world political attention. Its the Shiites, Sunnis, Palestinians, Iraqis, Israelis, Jews, Conservatives, Liberals, etc etc.

As I go about my usual type of day and I meet people on a one to one basis, the broad labels really have no meaning in this context.

In the work of Martin Buber there is a complete recognition of the problem with approaching people with preconceived notions. It is that it really wrecks the possibility of a truly human exchange, a dialogue that has true value and an exchange of ideas or of what is important.

Buber's idea involves meeting the other guy with no preconceived notions, no assumptions about the persons worth or value or morality or goodness or badness. He talks about meeting the other guy with an authentic open immediate presence, being authentically present and open as you meet someone. Buber was so convinced of this that he referred to the other guy as "Thou," Thou being a term which includes an element of the spiritual and ascending qualities of humanity.

In the course of two people meeting with equal authenticity, to Buber this is the place where God arises. Because in this meeting, something completely unplanned and amazing can only arise. This is like some kind of third presence or stunning result or magical connection. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, and Buber says as much.

World events seem to dictate the necessity of understanding large groups of people in overly broad and vague terms. But, we need to remember that all large groups are collections of individuals, each person with a unique authenticity and capability for truly human dialogue.

In Buber's words: "... At its core the conflict between the mistrust and trust of man conceals the conflict between the mistrust and trust of eternity. If our mouths succeed in genuinely saying "thou," then, after long silence and stammering, we shall have addressed our eternal "Thou" anew. Reconciliation leads toward reconciliation."

Monday, July 24, 2006

Joy and Sorrow


The painting is by Lebanese artist Katia Traboulsi

The most widely read Lebanese writer is Kahlil Gibran.
Here is a chapter from "The Prophet"


Then a woman said, "Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow."

And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that hold your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater than sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, July 23, 2006

War to War to War

As I track the wars presently being waged, I try to look over this information in a diffuse and objective way. I can only determine that the endless war promised by the Neo Conservatives is in full bloom. Here is a brief listing of relevant articles.

Afghanistan - This article points out that the political and social structure of Afghanistan is in serious decline. The country of the first 9-11 war, viewed as a success by the Bush Administration with Hamid Karzai running the show, is falling apart faster than a wooden cart pulled by a NASCAR speed car at full throttle.

Iraq - Off the main page of most major newspapers and out of earshot of most Americans because of the newest war in the Middle East, Iraq slides even further into decline. With dozens of people being killed in Baghdad alone on a daily basis, the civil war is established and raging. Somehow 130,000 US troops do not rate news or attention from Washington.

Lebanon - Israeli ground troops invade Lebanon. I do not see the intelligence or morality behind collective punishment. As surely as not all Americans are neo conservatives, not all Lebanese people are part of Hezbollah. However, as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon continues, there is no other way of describing the resultant action.

Neo-conservatives - With Afghanistan failing, Iraq in a catastrophic civil war, the main architects of both these wars are actually calling for another war with Iran. Instead of two house fires that are raging and the firemen are finding impossible to put out, add in a third even larger house fire. Somehow this will fix everything. Is there a term that expresses the sense of the outer most fringe reaches of exasperation and absurdity? Article: Ramping up war with Iran.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The New Pearl Harbor 1

As I read through the work of Professor David Griffin, I find page after page of questions and information that have still not been publicly addressed regarding the attacks of 9-11.

In his work Professor Griffin cites two conservative sources that put forth the concept of a catastrophic "New Pearl Harbor" as a starting point for shifting the opinion of the American people in a desired direction. What is the desired direction? It is a favorable opinion for a long protatracted war conducted to gain strategic control over energy resources in Central Asia and the Middle East. Who is the enemy? It is fundamentalist Islamic terrorism. What is the linking device between the direction and the enemy? It is the "War on Terror."

The first source is the Zbigniew Brzezinski book 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives', 1997.

The second comes from the Neo Conservative "Project for a New American Century" and their document "Rebuilding America's Defenses."

Keep in mind that both sources for this idea were written prior to 9-11 and that both say that the "New Pearl Harbor" occurs only for the purpose of shifting public opinion. It is an opinion shifting "strategy."

Both advance the idea that a major American disaster similar to Pearl Harbor, a direct strike on American ground by an enemy, would catapult American opinion in favor of war. The repercussions of Pearl Harbor galvanized America in favor of War with Japan. The attacks of 9-11 became this "New Pearl Harbor" that focussed American attention onto a new concept, "The War on Terror."

One very important aspect of this defining moment is to look at the shift from pre 9-11 notions to post 9-11 notions. It is the shift itself that is a critical element here.

A large and far reaching shift in thought and opinion is referred to as a paradigm shift.
See: Wikipedia and Thomas Kuhn

The term originally was applied to shifts in understandings of science, but is now freely applied to other areas such as changes in personal beliefs or ways of thinking.

Recall that point in time when the old paradigm collapses right when the World Trade Towers implode. There is the sense of despair, grief, fear, depression, confusion, a hope for an end to the perceived violence, doom, lots of dark feelings and thoughts. Also there is anger and rage, intolerance and a strong desire for revenge, and a need for justice and satisfying compensation. We are simultaneously diminished and open, diminished from the sense of extreme loss, and open to the possibility for improvement and answers.

As we go through this tunnel of pressure filled emotion and thought, we want to trust our leaders and the perceived wisdom of moral structures. We trust that they will deliberately choose the best course of action because this is a vulnerable time as we are truly open and seeking a confident trust. If we are lead in the right path, we're grateful. If its the wrong way or a lie, we come to recognize this as a great trust breaker, a faith shattering event.

I will continue this article in the future, but first I want you to contemplate one thing. Ten of the most influential people who helped write and sign onto the document "Rebuilding America's Defenses", came into power during the Presidency of George W. Bush. Out of that ten, the two who are most well known are Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The people, who put forth the need for an American military dominance in Central Asia and the Middle East and put forth the idea of a "New Pearl Harbor" to galvanize American opinion for this war, on their watch presided over the events of 9-11 and presided over the War in Afganistan and Iraq. And they did so within just one year of putting out thier policy on this.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Composers and War

Composers work on music during wartime. Some composers were soldiers, some civilians living in the midst of the battle. Some spent time in war camps as POWs. It is an understatement to say the experience affected their music.

Anton Webern was shot and killed by an American soldier during World War II. The story I heard about it was that he stood out on a porch balcony to light up a cigarette in the dark of night. The soldier saw the flame of the match and shot him apparently reasoning it was danger of some kind.

Here is Mazen Kerbaj improvising on his trumpet along with the sound of bombs exploding near his Beirut apartment on July 15 and 16, 2006. The piece is called "Starry Night."

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Signs of Life

With George Bush continuing to show a low approval rating and the Republican House and Senate showing approval ratings even lower than the President, Republican politicians are worried about their future in politics. Will they be able to get re-elected in November 2006, when all of Congress and many Senate seats are up for grabs in the November 2006 election.

Barring election fraud, Democrats stand to make significant gains in both the House and Senate possibly even gaining a majority in either house.

There were two interesting and relevant stories which I found at Raw Story on Wednesday July 19.

The first story examines Republican Congressman Gil Gutknecht's recent trip to Iraq. To put it simply, he was horrified. The situation there is worse than he ever imagined and he is even calling for the removal of some troops because they don't have control of Baghdad.

The second story involves Republican Senator John Thune. He is a first term Senator in fact he took Tom Daschle's Senate seat in 2004. Thume succinctly states, "If I were running in the state this year, you obviously don't embrace the president and his agenda."

Gutknecht presents a very rich perspective on Iraq because he is A. a Republican and B. not toting the Dick Cheney Republican myth of all is getting better in Iraq. We are seeing Republicans breaking ranks with the President over Iraq. This will affect the overall perception of the war on Americans strictly because rightly or wrongly, the Republicans are viewed as the party of national security. So with a Republican voice saying how it is and that its time to get out, Democrats like Murtha and all those calling for troop withdrawal benefit.

Thune and Gutknecht represent a split within the Republican Party. On the one hand the extremist neo-cons want to extend the war into Iran, while others are presenting the side, hey this is not working let's get moving out. The Republicans are notoriously united however with very low approval ratings, and the fear of losing an election, some are coming forward in a more independent fashion.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Its (not) a Joke

The practice of extraordinary rendition has no moral ground. Torture does not belong in the American list of tactics to fight its wars. I was telling some people about how rendering is another term for drawing, but it is this meaning of rendering that is appropriate in this case. It is rendering as in removing the fat from meat. This is not a particularly appealing image when placed in the context of treatment of a captive prisoner.

Some political humor in an extra harsh news week:

George Bush goes to a primary school to talk to the kids to get a little PR. 
After his talk he offers question time. One little boy puts up his hand and George asks him his name. 

"Stanley," responds the little boy. 
"And what is your question, Stanley?" 
"I have 4 questions: 

First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN? 
Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? 
Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?" 
Fourth, why are we so worried about gay-marriage when 1/2 of all Americans don't have health insurance? 

Just then, the bell rings for recess. George Bush informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess. 
When they resume George says, "OK, where were we? Oh, that's  right, question time. Who has a question?" 
Another little boy puts up his hand. George points him out and asks  him his name.   

"Steve," he responds. 
"And what is your question, Steve?" 
"Actually, I have 6 questions. 

First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN? 
Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? 
Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? 
Fourth, why are we so worried about gay marriage when 1/2 of all Americans don't have health insurance? 
Fifth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early? 
And sixth, what the hell happened to Stanley?" 

Why Israel can invade Lebanon, article
Harsh news, US Warships head for Lebanon

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ramping Up War

On Monday July 17, 2006, Rush refers to Israel's invasion of Lebanon as a "gift." Rush says: "... If we were to route out the current Mullah regime and that has to be objective number one, that's why I think this is a gift to the world, folks this is an opportunity to finally do something about Iran. Iran is the elephant in the room in all of this,... and if we sit here and say its Syria or Hezbollah or Hamas um we are blaming the tentacles and not the brain. Iran is the center of all of this and that's why this is a gift."
listen yourself

Also on Monday July 17, 2006, we have John Bolton. You remember John, the US ambassador to the UN. Appointed by Bush during a recess of the Senate, as not even a Republican Senate was willing to take on this Bush appointee. The same man who lent his signature to the PNAC document. The same John stating that it would not make a bit of difference if the UN lost its top floors. Anyhow John is working on the moral implications of the killing of innocent civilians by Israel, its OK according to John.
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - US Ambassador John Bolton said there was no moral equivalence between the civilian casualties from the Israeli raids in Lebanon and those killed in Israel from "malicious terrorist acts".
"... I think it would be a mistake to ascribe moral equivalence to civilians who die as the direct result of malicious terrorist acts," he added, while defending as "self-defense" Israel's military action, which has had "the tragic and unfortunate consequence of civilian deaths".
"It's simply not the same thing to say that it's the same act to deliberately target innocent civilians, to desire their deaths, to fire rockets and use explosive devices or kidnapping versus the sad and highly unfortunate consequences of self-defense," Bolton noted.

In addition we have William Kristol on Fox News Sunday July 16, 2006, exclaiming the virtues of a possible war in Iran. This is of course no surprise again considering William the ultimate neo-conservative is at the center of PNAC and their interest in endless war. Also we have Newt Gingrich dusting off the cobwebs asking for Bush to come clean and tell the American people that we are already involved in World War III.

Comment: We are seriously lacking a vital outspoken wise diplomat from America at this point in time. We are in the grip of an extreme right wing warring cabal, which lacks or rather abhors diplomacy. I can not recall anyone ever referring to war as a "gift." Only one who is incapable of knowing its horrors could make such a statement. Bolton justifying civilians deaths which are in fact the result of collective punishment is an an outrage. John, murder is murder.
The neo-conservative movement is very alive. With Bush's approval so low, and the Republican Congress approval even lower, what better way to avoid the November elections than another war.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Getting Off The Grid - SIPS

Many of us are looking at ways to move towards getting off the grid. We want to disconnect our house from the power company and live in relative comfort with all modern conveniences. We want to heat/power our homes with solar, or wind. We want energy efficient design because energy conservation keeps coming up as an excellent method for reducing fossil fuel usage.

In looking at just one aspect of this problem, particularly approaches to building a new home, take a look at SIPS. I am not necessarily saying this is the way to go but it seems like it offers some good answers.

SIPS = structurally insulated panels. This is a way to build a basic one family home that differs from the usual 16 inch on center, 2 x 4 stud built wooden frame house. The trouble with the 2 x 4 framed house is that it allows for many small areas where the cold can enter the house. Even in a well insulated house, this is a problem.

Admittedly many people have worked on air leakage in the 2 x 4 framed house. But take a look at some of these sights and see if it appeals.

Structural Insulated Panels
Structural Insulated Panel Association

Music to listen to while reading, from my new CD "Particle" Condition x

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Proportionate Response vs Collective Punishment

Reading through Sandy Tolan's recent article which provides historical context on the Israeli - Palestinian conflict, there was a particular quote that caught my attention. The quote comes from Rabbi Yaacov Perrin certainly expressing an extreme view, "One million Arabs are not worth a Jewish fingernail." This is not a recent quote, but I use it to illustrate my intention to lightly examine the proportionate use of force in war.

Certainly the Rabbi's statement exceeds the standard limit of proportion as meted out in old testament times or by those adhering to old testament rules of engagement i.e "an eye for an eye." If revenge is your thing then the latter is your golden rule.

Regarding the most recent outbreak of Middle East violence where Israel is in combat with Lebanon, we saw George Bush at the July 15, 2006 G8 press conference with Vladimir Putin. Regarding Israel's incursion into Lebanon, Putin states, ".... the use of force should be balanced." Putin is stating the need for vigilant concern for civilian casualties and a use of force by Israel in proportion to the offense.

In recent years, we are seeing the use of collective punishment. A large reason for the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon is due to the capture of two Israeli soldiers. George Bush says as much in the aforementioned exchange with Putin. However as I write this on July 15, 2006, the deaths as a result of the Israeli invasion are nearing 100 people, mostly innocent civilians. July 15, 2006 BBC article also truthout Dahr Jamail article

If we review The Principal of Universality we might consider this situation of collective punishment occurring in the United States. Consider this possible scenario: Say two gang members from Montreal, Canada, vacation in Chicago, Illinois. On vacation they get into a knock down street brawl. In the brawl they end up killing an electrician who lives in Chicago. The killers run for it and escape back to Montreal. Now the authorities in Chicago find out about the killing and bring in the Federal Government on the slaying. In a collective punishment scenario the US Army invades Canada and quickly bombs Montreal in the vicinity thought to be occupied by our two guys and their gang. In this process, 200 innocent people are killed and millions of dollars worth of property is destroyed.

This is absurd of course so how come we sanction this type of thing in the Middle East? People in the US don't even seem to blink at the idea of collective punishment when the link to terrorism is made. Somehow the innocents killed in this type of action are truly the "collateral damage" that Tony Snow so "eloquently" states.

The bigger question is this. How does collective punishment improve relations between the Arab world and Israel/ USA? One would have to think that this is another way of triggering even further hatred, further animosity, and further distrust. How does this win the "Hearts and Minds" of the people?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

War and Wisdom

Warring in the Middle East is ramping up on a daily basis. BBC News. It is discouraging for most of us, although lately I am more and more of the opinion that some find war to be an ideal or desirable condition.

Here are some words of wisdom on how to regard our brief life here.

"..... Suppose two astronauts go to the moon. When they arrive, they have an accident and find out that they have only enough oxygen for two days. There is no hope of someone coming from Earth in time to rescue them. They have only two days to live. If you asked them at that moment, "What is your deepest wish?" they would answer, "To be back home walking on the beautiful planet Earth." That would be enough for them; they would not want anything else. They would not want to be the head of a large corporation, a big celebrity or president of the United States. They would not want anything except to be back on Earth - to be walking on Earth, enjoying every step, listening to the sounds of nature and holding the hand of their beloved while contemplating the moon."

"We should live every day like people who have just been rescued from the moon. We are on Earth now, and we need to enjoy walking on this precious beautiful planet. The Zen master Lin Chi said, "The miracle is not to walk on water but to walk on the Earth." I cherish that teaching. I enjoy just walking, even in busy places like airports and railway stations. In walking like that, with each step caressing our Mother Earth, we can inspire other people to do the same. We can enjoy every minute of our lives." from 'no death, no fear'' Thich Nhat Hanh

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Ass Whisperer

Jokes or criticisms of the Bush Administration help relieve a little of the pressure many people experience at the reality of our political situation. If done properly a well placed phrase can do a lot to slay aspects of the dragon. Just look at the extreme right, they've been doing this for years with phrases like "tax and spend" or "cut and run."

Jay Leno on Dick Cheney:
"The big drink at the White House Correspondents' dinner this year is something called the Cheney Shot. Have you all had the Cheney shot? The bartender pours you a shot of Wild Turkey and then throws it in your face."

Even Mikhail Gorbachev former general secretary of the Soviet Union Communist Party had this to say about Cheney and Rumsfeld, "They are just hawks protecting the interests of the military — shallow people." article

But I have one that I want you to share with everyone you know. You remember "The Horse Whisperer." Robert Redford soothing the wild shattered horse. And you might know "The Dog Whisperer." He can tame and teach any dog to be behaved and obedient.

This leads me to Karl Rove. I propose we non-extremist radical right folk, (I estimate that to be 75% of the US population) refer to Karl Rove as "The Ass Whisperer." I'll let you do the analogy.

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Celebratory music from my new CD "Particle" - Pati

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Iraq - July 2005 vs July 2006

Here are just a few headlines from Iraq circa July 2005. Compare these headlines to what is occurring in Iraq now.

Egypt ambassador seized in Iraq
Egypt's new ambassador to Iraq has been kidnapped, within five weeks of arriving in the country.
July 3, 2005 from the BBC

2 dozen Iraqi Shiites abducted, killed
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen seized two dozen Shiites from a bus station after separating them from the crowd in a predominantly Sunni area Wednesday, killing them and dumping their bodies in a nearby village — the latest in a series of brazen attacks.
July 12, 2005 source Yahoo News

Many killed in Iraq suicide bomb
At least 58 people have been killed in a suicide bomb attack in the town of Musayyib, some 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad.
July 16, 2005 from the BBC

BBC defends Iraq blast footage
The BBC has defended a documentary which showed footage of an ambush on British troops in Iraq in which three of them were killed.
July 26, 2005 from the BBC

Iraq PM urges 'speedy' US pullout
Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has called for US troops to leave the country soon, but added no timetable had been set for withdrawal.
July 27, 2005 from the BBC

Funeral of (a British) soldier killed in Iraq
The funeral of one of three soldiers killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq has taken place with full military honours.
The service for 21-year-old Private Phillip Hewett was held on Thursday at St Editha's Church, in his home town of Tamworth in Staffordshire.
July 28, 2005 from the BBC

U.S. Signals Spring Start for Pullout
BAGHDAD, July 27 -- The top U.S. military leader in Iraq said Wednesday there could be substantial withdrawals of some of the 135,000 U.S. troops in the country as early as next spring.
Gen. George W. Casey said that despite continued lethal attacks by insurgents, the security situation in Iraq had improved. He reiterated a position he had taken earlier this year on the possible decrease in the U.S. military presence during a one-day visit by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for meetings with Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari.
July 28, 2005 source The Washington Post

Blast kills two Britons in Iraq
Two British security guards have been killed in an attack on a convoy in Basra, southern Iraq.
July 30, 2005 from the BBC

There were 54 US military fatalities in Iraq in the month of July 2005, source Iraq Coalition Casualties

As I write this on July 13, 2006, there have been 2545 US soldier fatalities in Iraq, source Iraq Coalition Casualties

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

PNAC Revisited 1

The Project for a New American Century produced "Rebuilding America's Defenses" in the late 1990's. This document became known as the "PNAC" document. We like to call it simply "PNAC" (pee-knack). The whole crew of neo-conservatives, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, Kristol, even Jeb Bush, Dan Quayle (yes that Dan Quayle), and many many more signed on. In fact the document has been the underlying framework of the George W Bush Administration since many neo-conservatives where brought into positions of elite power through the election of George Bush.

Here is a quote from the document, I will post more in the future. Please keep in mind that this was signed by our present Vice-President, Dick Cheney, and our present Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

Here PNAC is talking about future weapons for our military:
"And advanced forms of biological warfare that can "target" specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." "Rebuilding America's Defenses" by the Project for a New American Century, page 60, left column

Comment: Understand what they want to create, a biological weapon that will attack particular ethnic groups, for example a weapon that can wipe out those of African heritage. Does this strike you as a less than sane idea? What I also find to be particularly bizarre here, is that this weapon is a "politically useful tool." Please take note of the deliberate word usage where a hideous diabolical weapon is transformed into the realm of "tool." All humanistic concerns are avoided as we wrap the diabolical weapon in the term "tool." Can you find any examples in our present political situation where you find the same manipulation of language? Perhaps it is a phrase that puts a smiley face on a bleak situation?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Art and Politics

Major touring musicians are presenting work that is essentially protest music, all reacting to the war policies of the Bush Administration. Bruce Springsteen singing Pete Seeger songs, and Neil Young singing war protest are prominent in this regard. At present artists across the board, visual artists, actors, poets, composers, film makers are expressing their objection to Bush policy.

Art and politics is the topic of this quote by historian and activist Howard Zinn.

"I think that art and politics enhance one another. Art is inevitably political - I know that's a big discussion - because it has an effect on the world and it comes out of the world as it is. I think for anybody who's interested in political and social issues, art plays a very special role in enhancing statements that otherwise would be prosaic and dull, in lending passion to something, to facts that need something more than simple statements. Movements have always been given enormous stimulus and inspiration by art and artists. The trade union movement has been helped enormously by music, by labor union songs. The civil rights movement, there's no way of escaping the power, sitting in a church in Selma, of a Selma freedom chorus in building up the courage of black people in Dallas County, knowing that the next day they were going to face state troopers and the sheriff, and the power of song just swept people into a kind of recognition that they could do what they thought they couldn't do." From "The Future of History" by Howard Zinn

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Principle of Universality 1

Noam Chomsky points to a few very simple conservative principles for political action. The principle of universality is one. Noam states, "apply to ourselves the same standards that we do to others."

Recently there was a statement released by the ultra-right which referred to Washington D.C. as being safer in all regards than Baghdad. Leading the news on Sunday July 9, 2006, is a report that dozens of people were killed today in Baghdad, as a result of civil war related violence. As we know, this is a typical daily headline coming from Iraq.

If we apply the principle of universality in reverse, we have to ask ourselves how would we feel here in America if 40 people were killed in bombing attacks each day in Dallas, or Portland, or Boston, or Miami, or Little Rock, or Phoenix, or Kansas City as a result of ethnic or religious violence. Simply stated we would be beside ourselves with fear, afraid to go about our ordinary business, drive to work, or even attempt to relax our mind from the explosive violence that could erupt around us at any time.

Tremendous outrage is being expressed by the majority of Americans over Iraq. These Americans oppose the continued occupation of Iraq by American soldiers. Many like myself, opposed the war from the beginning, aware that there was not a stitch of truth to the reasons given to justify war. These same Americans now in the majority of opinion, are seeking to elect officials that reflect their war opposition.

The Lieberman - Lamont Democratic race for the Senate is perhaps the paradigm election in this regard. Lieberman is a Democrat who has voted directly in favor of the Bush Administration. Ned Lamont stands behind the need for the US to pull out and not stay the course. Lieberman has become a lightning rod for attracting the palpable outrage of the anti-war sentiment.

Lieberman is endorsed by Coulter, O'Reilly, and David Brooks as well as other right wing extremists. Curiously David Brooks has taken on the task of attempting to demonize and marginalize those expressing the genuine outrage that has built over the Bush Administration's disastrous policies. This is nothing more than the same tactic used by Coulter in attempting to demonize and marginalize 9-11 widows. The idea to to place the blame far far away from the source of the problem and then to negate its importance and throw manufactured question marks at its validity to boot.

How does the right wing media defend the Bush Administration and all of its war waging policies? Simply put, it doesn't. It attacks dissent over the failure of the Bush Administration and marginalizes the dissenter. Here the principle of marginalization supplants the principle of universality. You don't negotiate, you try to obliterate. You don't look for commonalities and grounds of similarity, you heighten the slightest perceived difference and demonize. You do not appeal to humanity, you create an unwitting enemy perhaps even one that has no offensive capability. We are witnessing the journalism of fear mongering simultaneously as we witness unilateral warring policy.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chomsky 1

Noam Chomsky is a hero of mine. He dissolves the conventional simpler notions about how our country works and he gives you the hidden nuts and bolts. Here he is in a recent interview. Enjoy your Sunday.

Chomsky Interview part 1
Chomsky Interview part 2

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Possibility

In my conversations with friends, at some point we move in the direction of what can we do now with such a forced and regressive political atmosphere that spills into our lives, our conscience, each day evoking a permanent wince. From day to day the headlines move from head slapper to jaw dropper.

I say it all the time, do five minutes of light research on the web and discover information that will stun you. The connections between political leaders, corporate leaders, religious fundamental leaders, and the military are there for you to recognize and understand. This is vastly important because this is directly influencing your life. Society is shaped by the interconnected power elite.

This is a time of possibility. If you believe it is a time of contraction and confinement, you allow the regressive element to succeed. It is true that a lie may travel around the world as if it had wings, but brilliance has solid stable wings.

Here is a quote by a brilliant man.

"...That's why I think culture is so important. It provides a visionary alternative, a distinction between the this-worldness and the blockage that one sees so much in the world of the everyday, in which we live, which doesn't allow us to see beyond the impossible odds in power and status that are stacked ......... and the possibility of dreaming a different dream and seeing an alternative to all this. I learned this many years ago from a great English critic, Raymond Williams, who more than anyone else taught me the notion of always thinking the alternative. Not so much only the dream, which is rather other-worldly, but to every situation, no matter how much dominated it is, there's always an alternative. What one must train oneself is to think the alternative, and not to think the accepted and the status quo or to believe that the present is frozen." Edward Said from the book "The Pen and the Sword"

Your homework: learn about the IRD
Some IRD analysis here

Friday, July 07, 2006

Debate 1

Watch Ned Lamont debate Joe Lieberman
Video

Tell Chuck Schumer to support the winner of the Lamont - Lieberman primary and anything else you want to tell him. For example, let's get out of Iraq.
In NY 518-431-4070
In DC 202-224-6542

For fun:
Will Ferrell - Bush on Global Warming on Transbuddha

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Liberty with Cross



As a person who likes all aspects of modern art, I am indeed torn by the World Overcomers Outreach Ministries Church new $260,000. replica of the Statue of Liberty with cross in hand as opposed to beacon in hand. This is in Memphis. article

"Self portrait with apocalyptic megalomania", "self portrait with mindless vacant eye", "self portrait with delusional grandeur", these are titles of artwork that appeal to my sensibilities. "Liberty with mink", "Liberty with heels", "Liberty with slit mini-skirt", similarly, more titles that inspire my imagination.

"Lady Liberty with Cross", I have mixed to negative reviews. As a conceptual piece it is fair. In a b grade Soho gallery it smacks of politics and religion as is melded by our present White House resident and his devotees. This would be a political piece and yet if it were indeed 72 feet tall, the humor would be double edged, as it cuts in the direction of in your face reflection of areas of contemporary America and over produced yet slightly ultra-rightist kitsch, another indicator of absurd consumerism.

Finally I do admit I have a third reaction. America is not a fundamentalist religio-politico-rightist-entity. Do what you may to shove this notion oh zealot of the divine, oh great understanderer of necessity, oh decider of fate and future with faulty facility. This is not what America is. You do not reflect America, you are out of your beacon skull.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Spin

I heard this argument on Democracy Now. Its relevant as we define what terrorism is. The presenter was Norman Finklestein professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago.

As a disclaimer I do not support or condone terrorism. I write this to point out how the wording of our news plays a crucial part in how we judge current events. The argument goes like this

A suicide bomber gets on a bus. In the process of blowing up the bus and him or herself, kills twenty innocent people, women and children, all civilians and in no way connected to the military.

A moment later a powerful country drops a 500 pound bomb in the middle of a city, intending to assassinate a military enemy. In the process of dropping the bomb, fifty innocent civilians are killed, women and children, all of them not connected to the military.

The suicide bomber is considered the terrorist.

The country dropping the 500 pound bomb is going after an enemy in a military operation and in the process unfortunately and regrettably kills innocent bystanders. The country may even issue formal apologies to the world community. In fact we have a tacit agreement in this scenario to allow this to occur with the understanding that it is necessary, although regrettable.

Suppose we exchange a few words in an attempt to redefine what is expressed above.

The suicide bomber wrote a note claiming that all he or she intends to do is blow up an empty bus, and not kill anyone or anything. Their note states that it was unfortunate and regrettable that innocents might simultaneously be killed. This would amount to an apology. The suicide bomber uses the same language as the country that drops the 500 pound bomb to define the actions taken and the results of its actions.

According to our present understanding, if innocent life is regrettably taken in a war maneuver, its alright as long as we separate the intent which is to kill an enemy, from the result which are the deaths of dozens of innocents. We accept this definition. The question is, when the suicide bomber presents the same argument, the intent to destroy the bus as an object only, and the results, dozens of innocents are killed, how does this differ from the country? Both have expressed the same intent which is to kill a military object, and both have expressed regret at the results which is the regrettable loss of innocent human life.

A country may routinely drop bombs in areas where innocents are killed. Its hard to imagine that sophisticated military people are not aware of the presence of innocents given the degree of precision in all aspects of what they do. They may routinely issue apologies for this collateral damage. We do not think of them as terrorists, yet they are killing innocent people, knowingly.

The language used does a lot to alter how perceptions of an event are understood and judged. It is a hard thing to be aware of this and hard to recognize.

Understanding that modern governments use experts to work with nuanced words and perceptions in the hope of winning a particular understanding from the common folk is key. They carefully dissect and reconstruct words in order to affect a desired reaction and they may do this in two directions. The first to ease and create acceptance for their actions, and the second to amplify the negativity and repulsiveness of the enemy's actions.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Che cosa è importante?

Its The Fourth of July. I like holidays, a day to reflect on important matters, its built into it. What is important?

Freedom to choose, freedom to speak, freedom to write, freedom to decide, freedom to move, freedom to think, freedom to act, freedom to love, freedom to enjoy, freedom to observe, freedom to listen, freedom to atone, freedom to empower, freedom to rest, freedom to discover, freedom to learn, freedom to help, freedom to decry, freedom to object, freedom to yield, freedom to create, freedom to massage, freedom to donate, freedom to breathe, freedom to reflect, freedom to include, freedom to quiet, freedom to grow, freedom to yearn, freedom to distinguish, freedom to explore, freedom to reach, freedom to excite, freedom to nurture, freedom to gaze, freedom to slow, freedom to detach, freedom to inspect, freedom to cheer, freedom to clap, freedom to connect, freedom to change.

Fear of torture, fear of pain, fear of mutilation, fear of explosion, fear of repression, fear of silencing, fear of diminishing, fear of impoverishment, fear of disease, fear of depression, fear of powerlessness, fear of captivity, fear of injustice, fear of demoralization, fear of conspiracy, fear of disintegration, fear of annihilation, fear of poisoning, fear of dullness, fear of vegetativeness, fear of disillusionment, fear of failing, fear of frozenness, fear of implosion, fear of instability, fear of radioactivity, fear of shrinking, fear of corruption, fear of infection, fear of anxiousness, fear of panic, fear of misdirection, fear of trickery, fear of abuse, fear of lying, fear of melancholy, fear of falling, fear of brittleness, fear of belittling, fear of homogeneity.


The music is by me circa 2001, Fuel For B

Monday, July 03, 2006

Sparring Basics

Say your having a conversation with your neighbor. You insist the neo-conservatives are behind the Iraq War and you start naming people and documents to back up your point. He laughs and dismisses you as nothing more than another conspiracy theorist. You however are well aware that this neighbor could not name the Vice-President of the U.S., let alone know of William Kristol, Richard Perle, or Donald Rumsfeld.
So you start another tactic. You mention no WMD or no links to Al Qaeda. Your neighbor goes into a story about a friend of a friend who has a soldier friend and this guy actually found WMD in Iraq, and not only that but poor George Bush is taking all this bad publicity because he can't really tell this fact to the American people for some odd reason or other, then he says, "Why are you such a negative person?"
Now you're steamed. You want to start the cycle of name calling and you start shaking your head. You're on the verge of an emotional eruption.
Allow me to refer you to some good advice from a wise Buddhist Lama on how to work with insults and anger.
Enjoy your week, its sure to be another forehead slapper.

'When someone insults us, we usually dwell on it, asking ourselves, "Why did he say that to me?" and on and on. It's as if someone shoots an arrow at us, but it falls short. Focusing on the problem is like picking up the arrow and repeatedly stabbing ourselves with it saying, "He hurt me so much. I can't believe he did that." Instead, we can use the method of contemplation to think things through differently, to change our habit of reacting with anger. Imagine that someone insults you. Say to yourself, "This person makes me angry. But what is anger? It is one of the poisons of the mind that creates negative karma, leading to intense suffering. Meeting anger with anger is like following a lunatic who jumps off a cliff. Do I have to do likewise? While it's crazy for him to act the way he does, it's even crazier for me to do the same." Chagdud Tulku

my web page on Buddhism

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sunday words and music

As you read your newspaper or watch the news on TV, it is important to keep a few things in mind. Many branches of government use very sophisticated public relations firms to craft their reports to the news media. The role of this P.R. is to provide elegant phraseology to help soothe or excite the American psyche. They work to make a failing situation appear as a victory, to make a legitimate challenge to executive decisions appear as something treasonous, and to assign blame for bad results on the dissenting group or perhaps the media. The idea is to point the finger far away from the actual cause. Sometimes the report is an outright fabrication, designed to simply lessen the impact of unbearable news.

It would be questionable to read news coming from the Pentagon for example and believe these statements to be the final word of importance. We want to believe what we are told by our political leaders, however now you have to dig deeper and look wider for information about the goings on of our government.

There are people calling for more and more censorship of the relatively tiny amount of news available. There is no way for the public to be informed without a semblance of valid news. When the public is completely uninformed, there is no more democracy to exercise.



For Sunday, here is one of my guitar pieces, recorded in 2003, Double

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Duckworth

Tammy Duckworth is running for congress in the Illinois' Sixth District.
She is a veteran of the Iraq War. While in Iraq she sustained serious injuries, in fact losing her legs. Yes both legs.
She is a Democrat.
She is upfront about Iraq, ".. from a policy perspective, invading Iraq was a mistake. ..... Not only did we misdirect our human and financial resources; we squandered an enormous amount of international goodwill that we acquired after 9/11."
She is my kind of candidate. She is extremely intelligent. She is part of a new breed of Democratic Congressional candidates who are willing to take it directly to G.W. B.

Please send her a contribution, She is dead even in the polls in a Republican District. She is a winner.

Tammy Duckworth