Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What Dots, You Say?

My blog is titled 'What Dots?' for a simple reason--failure to do so can be extremely inefficient, in terms of time, lives, and money. Wars have been fought for the lack of looking at the big picture--seven generations down the road, in Native American tradition--usually due to the perceived need to save face or preserve individual or national power.

A case in point is the inaptly-named "War on Terror".

I'm not going to enumerate the cost of this war in terms of time, tragedy, or treasure. We're all quite familiar with those details, even if not personally stricken by the physical or emotional pain. What strikes me is the deliberate--it can only be intentional and strategic--failure on the part of our national leadership over the past eight years to acknowledge that our foreign policy actions have real consequences.

The latest and, perhaps, most graphic evidence for this proposition came yesterday, when it became known that Osama bin Laden had released an audio tape addressed to President Obama on which bin Laden said, "America will never dream of security unless we will have it in reality in Palestine. God willing, our raids on you will continue as long as your support to the Israelis will continue."

How did the administration respond to this statement? According to the story from the New York Times [linked above], David Axelrod, White House senior advisor, appearing on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, said, "that whatever the source [there is some question as to the identity of the voice on the tape-ed.], the message 'contains the same hollow justification for the mass slaughter of innocents'".

Hollow justification? For the mass rage felt by the Muslim world at the "mass slaughter" of Palestinians in Gaza during the Israeli offensive of December and January a year ago?

It seems that the U.S. is joined to Israel at the head. Neither of us can survive without the other. Israel is free to do whatever they deem necessary--out of a raging paranoia festering since the Holocaust--for the preservation of their security and restoration of their "God-given" territory--no matter how heinous, and we, as Americans, must not only provide the materiel but also the moral support.

Also in yesterday's news was a story about Israel's reaffirming its claim to land also claimed by Palestinians. In it, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying, "Our message is clear: We are planting [trees--a symbolic act of ownership] here [in the West Bank], we will stay here, we will build here. This place will be an inseparable part of the state of Israel for eternity".

I wonder if the Prime Minister would be so brazenly defiant if he did not know that the U.S. would use its full might to back him up, no matter how many American lives were thereby put at risk? I wonder if an American president would dare to admit to the American people that the real reason we have expended so many thousands of lives and a trillion dollars on two wars on the other side of the world is not to make us secure from terrorism (the acts of terrorism on U.S. soil would stop the day that we suspended our financial aid to Israel) but to pimp for Zionist fanatics?

Axelrod's statement was a cover-up. It was a likely successful ploy to preempt the connection in the American mind of the dots that link Israel with al-Qaeda. Until that line is drawn, we in the U.S. will have to put up with living in constant fear and state of alertness. Our soldiers will continue to die in the Middle East. Our deficit will continue to rise until our economy collapses. Unfortunately, we've never been good at looking at our own motives in relation to the motives of others.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Liberal Response to Justice Kennedy's Folly

All may not be lost. As Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said last night on the Rachel Maddow Show, [at approx. 8:00 min.] Congress has the constitutional power to regulate corporations as legal creations of the state. (Unlike people, corporations are not "natural-born" citizens, but must be chartered by a state of the union and are, thus, subject to regulation. This fact, obviously, was not pressing on the minds of Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito when they arrived at their decision in this case.)

Although he wasn't specific last night as to possible remedies, I have a few of my own. One would be for Congress to pass a constitutional amendment kicking corporations out of the human race and send it on to the states for ratification. (Several NGOs are currently working on petitions to Congress to do just this.) Another would be for Congress to limit a corporation's expenditures in support of any one candidate in an election cycle to the same amount of money per employee that an individual could contribute to that or any other candidate. The last would be to pass an updated version of the Fairness Doctrine, stating that any media organization--print, TV, or radio--must devote the same amount of "air time" to each of the opposing candidates from the two major political parties, within reason. This would stop the fat cat corporations from buying up ALL the available advertising time during prime time, which they could easily do, otherwise.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is Massachusetts Mad?

So, the good voters of Massachusetts--arguably the "bluest" in the country--have decided to send to the U.S. Senate as their representative a man "who has said he supports waterboarding as an interrogation technique, opposes a federal cap-and-trade program to cut carbon emissions and opposes a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants unless they leave the country". This surprising development, according to common wisdom, "represented an unexpected reproach to President Barack Obama after his first year in office", as well as "independents[' anxiety] about the economy and [concern] about the direction taken by Democrats." [Ibid.] According to one lifelong Massachusetts Democrat who cast her first vote for a Republican in this election, "I think if Massachusetts puts Brown in, it's a message of 'That's enough.' Let's stop the giveaways and let's get jobs going." [Ibid.]

Interestingly, on that very same day, "the Dow Jones industrial average rose 116 points, and analysts attributed the increase to hopes the election would make it harder for Obama to make his changes to health care. That eased investor concerns that profits at companies such as insurers and drugmakers would suffer." [Ibid.]

Let me see if I've got this right. The voters who pulled the lever for Brown were so disgusted with how the Democrats have played favorites with Wall Street bankers, insurance company CEOs, and big pharma that they called for the change that they could REALLY believe in--more profits for Wall Street bankers, insurance company CEOs, and big pharma. Hmmmm. There must be some subtle innuendo here that I'm missing. [Readers: if you would care to clue me in, I would welcome it, because right now I'm about to declare myself a complete dunce when it comes to social psychology.]

It seems to me that there are only a few explanations for this phenomenon:

1) The voters are bonkers;
2) The voters are so blazing mad that they are like the father who's pissed off at the wife or kids and, finding that they aren't available, kicks the dog;
3) That the voters don't have much time for politics, so they only know what they see on TV between segments of American Idol (whereby they thought that Senator-elect Brown's daughter, Ayla, a former American Idol contestant, was cute); or
4) Like Frankenstein's monster, they can only repeat by rote, "Democrats bad; Republicans good".

I don't truly believe that Massachusetts' voters (or any other voters) are stupid, crazy, mad dogs, or monsters. They are, however, as I've said here before, dumbed-down, distracted, delusional, and in denial.

  • Dumbed-down because their parents were too distracted or delusional to stress the value of discipline and a good education; and because our school systems are underfunded and unreformed, its teachers overburdened, and its administrators intimidated by a system that favors parents/taxpayers over public servants.
  • Distracted because of a corporatocracy that plies them with endless branding, commercialism, and mind-numbing forms of "entertainment" that fill their precious and few free hours with so-called 'reality shows' and sports.
  • Delusional to believe that all democracy requires is to "throw the bums out" in a recessional election year and maintain the status quo in seemingly prosperous times, no matter how inept or dishonest are those in power.
  • In denial of the fact that, in a democracy, you tend to get the public servants you deserve; if you're not keeping up with developments because you're dumbed-down, distracted, and delusional, you're going to make a lot of mistakes in your choices.
So, I would maintain that, no, Massachusetts is not "mad", only maddening. To vote against a candidate because he or she may have offended one of your sports heroes (Curt Schilling, former Boston Red Sox pitcher) by saying that he was a "Yankees fan"--as some reportedly did--is to treat American governance like a petty disagreement between two sixth graders. Politics should not be a spectator sport. In fact, it's a lot more like choosing a life partner--one that you're about to share with 300 million others who are counting on your good judgment. You have to give it at least as much attention as bingo, beer, or baseball.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear Mr. President:

I thought you might use some advice from someone who is neither a right-wing-nut nor a true-believer in your status as a knight-in-shining-armor who was going to make every boo-boo on our nation's psyche heal within the very first year of your term of office. Oh, yes, I willingly voted for you and cried when I watched you and your beautiful family stand before a crowd of a hundred thousand in Grant Park in Chicago that night to declare victory. I did not work for nor donate to your campaign because it became evident to me early on that, while you were not prone to sudden outbursts of emotion while over-amplified (as another promising candidate did not so long ago), neither were you the type to rock the boat by making the kind of drastic turnaround that the country so desperately needed. Now that your public approval rating has slipped into George W. Bush territory, I thought you might be looking beyond the usual advisory insiders for some clues as to how to get back in the good graces of Mr. and Ms. America.

First, Mr. President, short of a personality transplant, you need to ditch the entire Mr. Cool routine, assuming that you can still muster up true-blue, honest-to-God feelings and a congruent affect to go with it. (Your predecessor had an embarrassing tendency to display facial expressions one would more expect to see on a preschooler while delivering the most sobering news.) When everything you say emanates from a visage that never changes, you are sending the message that either everything matters equally or nothing matters at all. "Is he lying or telling the truth? What does he really care about? Does he know that I exist?"

Second, Mr. President, and concurrently with the above, you need to talk less like a contracts lawyer and more like a trial lawyer. Talk like your audience is a jury in a murder trial and not the judge sitting on the bench. (Note: this is not "talking-down", it is "talking to.") People want to hear words that stir their hearts and imaginations. They do not want you to "win them over". Most voters in the middle, independent, or undecided columns do not really know how they feel about the complex issues that you deal with day-in and day-out. What they want to hear from you is that you have a sincere conviction as to the right course and are willing to explain to them why in your gut you know you are right.

Last night, my husband and I attended a concert by the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. On the program were two highly contrasting works: Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs and Peter Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture. One hundred and thirty-five years separated the creation of these two works about romantic love. The first was receiving it's premier performance by the CSO. The latter can only be described as a workhouse, it has been performed so often. The first had Spanish lyrics, the English translation of which was written in the program, sung by a very talented mezzo-soprano. Lieberson had written his piece out of love for his wife, herself a first-rate mezzo-soprano, who he knew was dying of breast cancer. She lived long enough to sing his work at its world premier.

Lieberson's musical setting of five poems, written by Chilean Pablo Neruda in the late 1950's, might have been as stirring as Tchaikovsky's earlier fantasy on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, given its context within Lieberson's life. Both stories involve incipient love needlessly and far too early lost. Yet, the audience's reaction to the two pieces was starkly contrasted. Lieberson's music was like Obama's speeches--fresh, sonorous, and melodious, in a 21st century kind of way. When it finished, the audience applauded politely, some even stood. There was no doubt that the rendition they had heard was exemplary. But the music and poetry plucked the strings of the mind more than the heart.

Tchaikovsky, on the other hand, cares little for plucking strings that aren't connected to emotions, as I'm sure you are aware, Mr. President. His Romeo and Juliet Fantasy, with its love theme that has been on every best-love-songs-of-all-time album since the days of wax cylinders, blasts out "try to top this, Mantovani" from every measure. Predictably, when it ended, the crowd "went wild", standing, clapping, and hooting en masse.

Why the difference? Was it purely a matter of familiarity? Doesn't familiarity breed contempt? I think the answer holds a secret to your success, Mr. President. Here it is: whether listening to you or a symphony orchestra, people want to be reminded what it is they care about. What they care about isn't mind games, elegance, or eloquence. It's about heart-to-heart human connection. What they care about is knowing that the person or persons they are listening to care about those things too. This is especially true of their president. They don't care how many times they've heard it said (played) by someone else; they want to hear it from you. You are America's lover. When we are hurting, we need to know that you feel our pain. (Clinton said it but didn't prove it.) Not only feel our pain but will continue to feel it until its gone.

Great conductors make you believe that the music comes from inside them. If the "Great Health Care Symphony" is programmed, they don't hand the baton over to the Principle Guest Conductor or the Principle Pops Conductor. Great trial lawyers take classes in acting, just as some football players take ballet. It's time to get a little theatrical, Mr. President. The jury is still in the box and they're getting restless.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Compassionate Conservative Unmasked

It's time we held a moment of silence for the mythological "compassionate conservative". Only a moment, because the corpse has long-since ossified. It doesn't even stink anymore.

Perhaps George W. Bush was the last conservative to dabble in compassion. He played it up pretty large in the 2000 campaign, before he became America's "Great Protector". The cornerstone of this era was No Child Left Behind, perhaps the most compassionate title ever inscribe upon the title page of a piece of legislation; enough so, to rope Sen. Ted Kennedy in, anyway.

That done, Bush's reputation as a compassionate conservative was secured and he could turn his attention to abstaining from nation-building. Other conservatives could feel free to return to their first love, bloating the Defense budget with new weapons systems and fighting multiple wars against people obviously not suited for displays of compassion.

Of course, ever since President Reagan's era, the standard mantra of their party was "low taxes, small government, and individual liberty". Sounds pretty appealing to many people. Just keep the government off my back and I'll do just fine. Problem is, it's not easy to constantly battle against higher taxes while still maintaining the infrastructure that keeps commerce flowing, neighborhoods safe, and the workforce well-educated with a growing and aging population and the tendency of things to wear out.

Conservatives don't seem to grasp the concept of wear out. They never stay in one house or drive one car long enough to have to maintain them. As George Lakoff inveighs, when their children reach the age of majority, they're expected to be fully independent and never trouble their parents for anything again. The same goes for roads and bridges. The neglect of our interstate highway and electrical distribution system during the Reagan Era led to the current crumbling crisis. Now, of course, conservatives' cash cow, business, is starting to complain loudly about the condition of the roads. It's taking workers too long to get to the job. Sometimes, they have blowouts from potholes. Call it "concrete compassion".

When it comes to compassion for real flesh-and-blood people, however, the conservatives' empathy seems to be in rather short supply. In quiet, private moments they may say a little prayer for those in need but don't bother asking them to pony up. That would be too much of an infringement upon their personal liberty.

Two recent examples come almost as emotional aftershocks of the terrible tragedy in Haiti. The first came from none other than a man who, if not the prophet of parsimony, is certainly the creative force behind the college of conservative orthodoxy, Regent University, alma mater of the man who has just been elected Virginia's new governor, Bob McDonnell. His name is Pat Robertson. Here's what Rev. Robertson had to say about the misfortunes that have befallen Haiti in recent years:

“They (Haitians) were under the heel of the French…and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said ‘We will serve you’…and so, the devil said ‘Okay, it’s a deal’ and kicked the French out....They need to have…a great turning to God.”

I guess, for conservatives like Robertson, compassion is caring enough to send the very best wishes for a spiritual revival, led, no doubt, by "the Man" himself.

Then, there was this gem from the most-influential conservative in the U.S., Rush Limbaugh:

“We’ve already donated to Haiti. It’s called the U.S. income tax.”

Limbaugh was upset that President Obama--a moderate and, thus, not of the belief that government is not the solution but rather the problem--was so quick to send aid to those people, of whatever nationality, who might have had the bad taste to get themselves buried under tons of wrecked buildings. No doubt, it was a fiscal conservative who wrote the building code that saved all the tax dollars that can now be used for reconstruction.

So, the next time you hear a conservative effuse the standard talking points of "low taxes, small government, and individual liberty", remember that policies just like those produce the offspring of societal decline and death. Offspring that can only be aborted by politicians who understand history, think outside their own skin, and give a hoot for the other--politicians who don't just pay lip service to Jesus but actually try to live as he did.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Brief acknowledgement

I would like to thank my friend, Gerry Todd, for the following string of modifiers of the American electorate, as used in the previous post: dumbed-down, delusional, distracted, and in denial. I couldn't have said it better. Perhaps soon, I'll explain why I think these descriptors are apt.

Shooting the messenger in 2010

It's widely acknowledged that the Recession That Was Almost a Second Great Depression started in December of 2007. That was fully one year before George W. Bush left office. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, commonly referred to as the "bailout" of the U.S. financial system, was proposed by Henry Paulson, Treasury Secretary under President Bush. President Bush signed it into law within hours of its bipartisan enactment by Congress in October of 2008.

The Great Recession in which we are currently mired was a byproduct of the economic policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations. [Note: At least, during the Clinton years, jobs were created by the millions. During Bush II's two terms, 90% fewer jobs were created than under Clinton. Not only were there few new jobs under eight years of a Republican administration, but real median income was 0.6 percent lower in 2007 than it was at the end of the Clinton era.]

Within a month of taking office, President Obama signed into law a $787 billion economic stimulus bill intended primarily to put Americans back to work. Since then, he has signed a bill to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from bankruptcy and get car and truck assembly lines cranked up again. This administration's policies have headed-off what was likely a second Great Depression and stemmed even worse unemployment among state workers, including teachers.

I know that folks who are about to lose their homes to foreclosure, who are without a job and unable to find one, who can't get a loan to start a small business, or whose unemployment benefits are about to run out, have little patience for a recovery that is still in its early stages. What I can't understand is why they would want to punish the party in power in favor of a party that has never in its modern history done them any favors.

Most pundits are predicting a possible Republican blowout come November's elections. This, despite the fact a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that the Tea Party is favored by more Americans than either the Democratic or Republican Parties, by 41 to 35 to 28% favorable, respectively. Almost surreal, isn't it? Of course, the Tea Party, which doesn't even have a leader that 99% of Americans could name (although Sarah Palin is apparently trying to plant its brand squarely on her forehead), is more closely associated with the Republican Party than the Dems. Since it's unlikely that the Tea Party will be able to have more than a few candidates' names on ballots by November, we must assume that its loyalists will pull the Republican lever on November 2nd. Assuming that all of them--conservatives and independents--do that, we might expect the current out party to receive almost 70% of the vote.

Not at all likely. But 60% of the vote might well be within reach, which would almost surely put Republicans near or at a majority in the U.S. House and guarantee them the ability to stop any piece of liberal legislation in its tracks in the Senate. The result would be two years of stalemate in Washington. Is stalemate what the voters really want? Economically speaking, stalemate is what we effectively got during the Bush II years in office. No new jobs, no income growth, no progress on climate change or health care (oh, yes, I forgot the donut hole), more speculation on Wall Street, more governmental incompetence, and more--yes, more--debt.

I know that the electorate is dumbed-down, distracted, delusional, and in denial, but, surely, they can't be this stupid!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Keeping one step ahead of airplane terrorists

Today's Denver Post quotes President Obama as saying during his report-out on airline bomb-plot security yesterday, "There is, of course, no foolproof solution. We have to stay one step ahead of a nimble adversary." The article states that one of the president's recommendations is to "[i]ncrease the use of explosive detection technology, including imaging technology, at airports."

Here's a thought:

We know that, while the new "whole body imaging" technology might reveal explosives hidden in a person's clothing, including shoes and underwear, it is not capable of revealing explosives hidden under the skin. How long will it be before al Qaeda operatives, who have little to be squeamish about, realize that explosives hidden inside their bodies cannot be detected? For example, in incision could be made in the abdomen and the explosives neatly tucked inside. The chemical that ignites the explosive could then be injected through the skin once on board the airplane. (If oxygen is required for ignition, a tube that protrudes through the skin might suffice. The tube would also facilitate ignition.)

Since current technologies offer no defense against this scenario, I would propose that all passengers be subjected to a full strip search before boarding. This would reveal any recent scars and apparatus that might fit the above description. I realize that this would be likely to reduce the number of people interested in flying. However, this would be a boon for the environment. Oh, and it would also create new jobs. Not many proposals can be said to reduce the risk of terrorism, save the planet, and help end the recession at the same time. I would promote the program through the slogan, "Shy? Don't fly."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My letter to USA Today

Here's the text of a letter to the editor that I sent today. It was in response to their editorial in yesterday's edition and its published response from Newt Gingrich--

In his Opposing View on the subject of whether partisanship in public debate is getting out of hand, former House Speaker and current senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Newt Gingrich, states that "when something threatens the life of the country, it would be suicidal not to speak up." He adds, "If we do not recognize we are at war [on terror] and behave effectively against enemies who want to kill us, we are going to lose a lot of American lives. Warning that change is needed to save American lives and secure America from enemies is not partisanship. It is citizenship at its most profound."

For most of my sixty-three years, it has been standard practice to protest against the waging of wars considered to be immoral in their very conception. At the same time, it was considered impolitic, if not treasonous, to directly criticize our Commander-in-Chief, not for the immorality of the cause to which he committed our fighting forces, but for an imagined lack of care for the safety of Americans in how he waged it. Surely, there is no valid argument that President Obama has been "ineffective" in his efforts to defend the people of the United States from terrorism, especially in contrast to the previous administration, whose incomprehensible attempt to rout phantom terrorists from Iraq resulted in the introduction of Al Queda to that country. To imply otherwise is to give aid and comfort to an enemy that has not a single moral leg to stand on. That is not citizenship, profound or otherwise; it is dangerously partisan demagoguery.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The true cost of capitalism

Subtitle: Capitalism for dummies

For those of us who were not economics majors--or didn't get a college degree--I am going to attempt to make the case for why capitalism and democracy do not play well together. The underlying theme will be that capitalism is based upon the notion of the "shining individual upon a hill" or, to put it a little more succinctly, man-as-god. [Note: nothing that I say here is meant to imply that it is not possible, even likely, that there will be women-as-gods, too.]

Here is the hypothesis behind my little theory: If a society is based upon the ideas 1) that individuals should be empowered to achieve the maximum they can achieve in terms of the accumulation of wealth, as long as it is done within the law; 2) that those laws should be structured to encourage the accumulation of individual wealth even at the risk of doing injury to others (as long as that injury is byproduct and not the objective); and 3) that the political system is engineered to tip the balance of power in favor of the wealthy (and the corporations they control), then it follows that all societal costs incidental to the accumulation of wealth, whether financial or health-related, will fall upon the broader society.

This little theory of mine, while certainly not new or unique, may, nonetheless, come as a somewhat shocking realization to some, including me. Furthermore, it tends to make finding solutions to crises more problematic. For example, we know that global climate change is an imminent and existential threat to human existence. Yet, capitalistic societies seem completely incapable of focusing on the issue with enough resolve to take the steps likely to slow down the inevitable march to oblivion. Why is that?

I'll tell you. All you have to do is look at the state of the two political parties in the U.S. today. The Republican Party has become the State Apologist for the New American Oligarchy. They are buried so deep in the pockets of the fat cats that they cannot see daylight. The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is divided between the faction that still cares about the well-being of common folk and the faction that is politically aligned with Democrats--for pragmatic reasons--but ideologically aligned with Republicans. Nowhere to be found is a party which not only cares, first and foremost, about the 95% of Americans who control but 50% of the nation's wealth but also is in a position to challenge the power elite.

Since the other capitalist countries around the world are looking to the U.S. for leadership on global climate change, nothing truly revolutionary is going to happen unless we show the way.

Here are a couple of examples from yesterday's news of why I am not optimistic that we ever will--

A) The Washington Post, in a story by Lyndsey Layton, informs us that our own Environmental Protection Agency has, for 33 years, kept the names and physical properties of approximately 16,000 chemicals in commercial use secret, both from the public and the federal government, under a little-known federal law designed to protect trade secrets.

B) The Denver Post, as reported by Margaret Jackson, states that redevelopment of an area of the city includes land once owned by a chemical company"which salvaged uranium from defective fuel rods." It seems the company closed in 1982,"leaving the site contaminated with radioactivity. The site was cleaned up under the federal Superfund program in 2006."

So, let's analyze this in context. Chemical companies' profits are enhanced by federal government policies that protect their trade secrets, even at the risk that those same chemicals may be ingested, inhaled, or otherwise absorbed into the bodies of the very same people--of which, by which, and for which, our government was established--and any toxic messes they should negligently leave behind will be cleaned up at the expense of those same people. At least, we're not being forced to do the actual labor, in which case, we would literally be the indentured servants of industry.

This madness must stop! Our system of financial accounting must, in the future, internalize the costs to society of commercial/industrial enterprise. Only then will the true value of a green economy become evident and a fair trade-off with the chemical and oil industry be made.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

It's time to prepare for the decline and fall of America

You know that times are bad when even landfill owners are complaining about the drop-off in the amount of refuse produced by Americans. I see this as a good sign, however. Not only good, but both inevitable and soon to become something akin to the sea change from high tide to low.

The United States of America has--for 170 years since the time of Alexis de Tocqueville--been the world's favorite son. The Dutch Empire lasted for about 150 years and the Second British Empire for about 130. Both owed their decline in major part to the obsolescence of their power generation systems--for the Dutch, it was their hydrology and for the British their coal-fired industrial revolution. When their source of power diminished, either through inefficiency or resource depletion, their empire withered and died.

The U.S. is faced with exactly the same circumstance today. Geopolitics has driven American foreign policy since the end of the Civil War and the concomitant rapid growth of industrialization in this country. We are a leviathan empire whose culture, machinery, and arsenal are slickened with oil. With the arrival of peak oil production already upon us, the end is in sight for U.S. supremacy over world commerce and economic growth.

China has outmaneuvered us in buying up the rights to the rare earth metals that are needed for the production of computers, cell phones, and hybrid electric car batteries. Unwilling to sell the U.S. the raw materials, China will only allow us to purchase the end products. Thus, we will continue to be in debt to them for the foreseeable future.

I expect to be blogging on this subject much more in coming days. Climate change, peak oil, overpopulation, and America's public debt are the issues that will result in our continuing decline in status as a world power. They are really the only issues that matter. They are the issues that most threaten an oligarchy such as the U.S. That is why they are below the radar screen--made in China--of the mainstream media, the president, and the Congress. I will be the ant knocking on the door of the drawbridge, trying to wake the sleeping giant.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010s: Decade of grief or glory?

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."--Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.

It seems to this mediocre blogger that the United States of America is tottering on a brink no less daunting than that so eloquently elicited by President Lincoln on the bloody hills of Gettysburg, PA, on that day almost 140 years ago when he spoke the lines quoted above. Today, it is not bombs and bullets that threaten the cause for which patriotism summons our devotion. The question we as Americans are root-bound to answer is whether we shall allow incivility and indecency in public affairs to drive a stake through the heart of a dream that has tickled the fancies of millions of freedom-loving people the world over for 225 years.

The notion that it is the rightful duty of any political party to design its entire strategy not on a platform of ideas but on a political pogrom against a duly-elected president and the opposition party, so as to render ineffective any attempts to rectify the abuses and deficiencies of the status quo, and thereby be once again elevated into a position of power based not on merit but on being the last party standing would surely set the nation on a course of destruction from which we would never recover. It is a strategy based on the kind of hooliganism that shut down the counting of votes in Florida in 2000 and led to the elevation of a president not by voters but by a narrow majority of jaundiced jurists.

Democracy can not withstand such an onslaught. Those of us who believed President Reagan when he called American a "shining city on a hill" and recognized that what makes a city shiny is not its neon lights--or else, Las Vegas would be the true "All-American City"--but the glow that arises from the decency of its people must now take up that "great task remaining before us" with which Lincoln entrusted us and demand that mutual respect and statesmanship be the mantra of all elected officials from this day forward, else we shall surely "perish from the earth".