Peace Talk, Part 2

I keep visualizing whirled peas.

Anonymous Coward has taken issue with my “giving up on world peace” post, but his statements are buried in the comments section of another post, hidden from your view, so I thought I’d bring it out in the open with a new post. His articulate remarks are near the end of the comment section of New Year’s Wish, 2006, if you’d like to read them.

Actually I don’t think he really disagrees with my claim that there will never be peace on earth. A.C., who calls himself Smerdyakov Karamazov (the morose and epileptic Karamozov sibling from Dostoevsky’s novel), comments in a tone as if meaning to challenge my assertion that three powerful groups (politicians, arms dealers and soldiers) will make sure that there is never an end to war. But instead of showing how world peace is imminent, or even possible, he goes on to point out the need for troops on various battlefields, and how these troops actually do good things, like saving the families of children. And he notes some positive outcomes of deploying troops:

Vietnam/Laos/Cambodia weren’t exactly lolliops and gingerbread before we got there either – just like Iraq was pre-2003. The UN noted that 5-6000 children were dying every month due to lack on immunizations. That’s 60,000 kids every year for over 10 years. Their health post-invasion is something to be hopeful for. The restoration of the Iraqi marshes is something to be hopeful for. Quasi-democratic elections in Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan are something to be hopeful for.

I think if you read his two comments, you will be moved as I was by his words, and I don’t want to belittle what is obviously an emotional and personal conviction. Nor do I want to argue that soldiers never do anything good, because obviously they do. But if we or any nation are going to try to do “good” in the world by sending armed men who are trained to kill, I suggest that it will only lead to killing, which will lead to revenge killing, which will lead to more killing, and so on.

Let’s not be disingenuous about the purpose of armies. Sure, the soldiers can feel “…personal honor and courage…” and I don’t doubt the reality of their feelings. Sure, good works can be done – the weak defended, bridges built, water purification systems provided, and more. But if you had to define the nature of an army, would you say “It’s an organization that experiments with radar”? Would you say it’s a group who likes to sing patriotic songs? Of course not. The nature of an army, and we all know this in our hearts, is violence and the threat of violence. Armies are killing machines. And they’re not going away, which means to me that war is not going away.

Thousands of years of unending and escalating conflict seem to support my view. I’m getting used to the idea. What about you?

New Year’s Wish, 2006

I’m ready to give up on world peace.

It’s a sweet sentiment, it’s been dear to me for most of my life and you hear a lot about it this time of year, folks hoping for it, praying for it, wishing for it in the New Year. I’ve done all of that hoping, praying and wishing myself, and a little bit of working for it. But it’s not ever going to happen, and here’s why.

First, there are a lot of people who profit from war and the threat of war. Leaders of nations benefit because in time of war no one is likely to throw them out of office, so they get to hold on to power, or at least bolster their popularity. If it takes a war to hold on to power, that’s fine with them. They will find an enemy and promote a jingoistic fervor so that they can be President or Prime Minister or Premier or Grand Hoo Ha a bit longer. You may be thinking “No, there are real enemies. They’re not made up, and we must defend ourselves from them.” If I’m right, and I think I am, in every case someone has cooked up a false pretense for going to war, or preparing for one. If we have a real enemy, perhaps it is because we are their imagined enemy. In any case, the regular people, not running the country, have to go along because they don’t know if maybe the President knows something they don’t.

Another group that profits, literally, are arms dealers. When you’re in business you need to sell stuff, and the biggest sales have always been the guns to “defend” the country. These days the term “guns” means sophisticated weaponry like guided missiles, smart bombs and the elaborate technological infrastructure to make it all work. These are big ticket items, and most governments will pay literally any amount to get the best armament, no matter what sacrifices their people may have to make. Needless to say, this powerful and wealthy group can and will do whatever it takes to make wars inevitable. It’s good for business.

Then there are those who actually fight the wars. There are two groups here: the generals, men who have grown up thinking about war, studying war, planning for war. They have been in uniform all their adult lives, and war is their business. They don’t see diplomatic solutions – they see military ones. Some of them may simply be trying to stay “in business,” but most are just doing their jobs, and following what they think is a “proud tradition.”

The other group is the soldiers, the eighteen year old boys bursting with testosterone and eager to prove their manhood. It’s easy for the other groups – the leaders, the arms dealers and the generals – to persuade these kids to become cannon fodder: Most of them are eager to go. They don’t believe they can be hurt, they long for adventure and they are unable at their age to contemplate the brutality and futility of what they are ordered to do. If they waver in their ignorance and resolve, a patriotic speech or a good strong sermon will restore their urge to join the few.

We’ve been slaughtering, torturing and enslaving each other since the beginning of time. We’ve refined our weapons and our techniques until warmaking is nearly a science. In every war both opponents think God is on their side, that it is they who are righteous, that this is the way to solve the world’s problems.

And yet we have not solved all the problems. The same ones keep cropping up: the need for more resources, the hatred of someone else’s religion or skin color, economic crisis, the need to defend one’s past arrogant and cruel behavior. Each time, war seems to be the best option, and our leaders, in cahoots with the gun sellers and the generals are forever sending our boys to fight and kill their boys, to come home dead, or maimed or crazy and believing that they have brought justice to “the enemy.”

I’m sad to say that I don’t think the habit can be broken. It’s been going on too long. There’s an establishment that benefits, and can’t see any other way. There are eager boys who think it’s fun, who will endlessly replace the worn-out veterans. So I really am giving up. I’m going to stop worrying about it so much. I’m going to stop wishing and hoping that, in my lifetime, humanity will come to it’s senses.

And if I say another prayer, I won’t ask for anything so foolish as world peace. I’ll pray for something more realistic. Like cookies.

Relief

National Weather Service Warning.

This is the alert issued by the United States National Weather Service before Hurricane Katrina made landfall at the gulf coast:

  • EXTREMELY DANGEROUS HURRICANE KATRINA CONTINUES TO APPROACH THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER DELTA.
  • DEVASTATING DAMAGE EXPECTED MOST OF THE AREA WILL BE UNINHABITABLE FOR WEEKS…PERHAPS LONGER. AT LEAST ONE HALF OF WELL CONSTRUCTED HOMES WILL HAVE ROOF AND WALL FAILURE. ALL GABLED ROOFS WILL FAIL… LEAVING THOSE HOMES SEVERELY DAMAGED OR DESTROYED. THE MAJORITY OF INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS WILL BECOME NON FUNCTIONAL. PARTIAL TO COMPLETE WALL AND ROOF FAILURE IS EXPECTED. ALL WOOD FRAMED LOW RISING APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL BE DESTROYED. CONCRETE BLOCK LOW RISE APARTMENTS WILL SUSTAIN MAJOR DAMAGE…INCLUDING SOME WALL AND ROOF FAILURE. HIGH RISE OFFICE AND APARTMENT BUILDINGS WILL SWAY DANGEROUSLY…A FEW TO THE POINT OF TOTAL COLLAPSE. ALL WINDOWS WILL BLOW OUT. AIRBORNE DEBRIS WILL BE WIDESPREAD…AND MAY INCLUDE HEAVY ITEMS SUCH AS HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES AND EVEN LIGHT VEHICLES. SPORT UTILITY VEHICLES AND LIGHT TRUCKS WILL BE MOVED. THE BLOWN DEBRIS WILL CREATE ADDITIONAL DESTRUCTION. PERSONS…PETS…AND LIVESTOCK EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL FACE CERTAIN DEATH IF STRUCK. POWER OUTAGES WILL LAST FOR WEEKS…AS MOST POWER POLES WILL BE DOWN AND TRANSFORMERS DESTROYED. WATER SHORTAGES WILL MAKE HUMAN SUFFERING INCREDIBLE BY MODERN STANDARDS. THE VAST MAJORITY OF NATIVE TREES WILL BE SNAPPED OR UPROOTED. ONLY THE HEARTIEST WILL REMAIN STANDING…BUT BE TOTALLY DEFOLIATED. FEW CROPS WILL REMAIN. LIVESTOCK LEFT EXPOSED TO THE WINDS WILL BE KILLED.

And yet our President and the vaunted Department of Homeland Security seem to have taken no notice. I am aware that these alerts are written in advance, so some poor meteorologist doesn’t have to grapple with language as a disaster bears down. Still, the fact that they chose to release that particular pre-drafted warning suggests that the Weather Service pretty much thought Katrina was bringing hell on wheels to the coast.

I don’t really think this is an issue of racial bigotry, even though it looks like that now, and I don’t mind painting our radical right-wing government with that brush. But I don’t think President Bush and Karl Rove sat reading that warning on Sunday night before the storm arrived, laughing about the black people who would most certainly be the hardest-hit victims, and deciding to wait several days before even starting to mobilize a relief effort.

No, I think it was a matter of stupidity, arrogance and incompetence. These guys have an agenda, and outside of their narrow ability to fool people into voting for them on fraudulent grounds, they have no vision, no leadership ability, no real compassion, no sense of history and – despite their well-proven animal cunning – no genuine intelligence.

One of the main reasons we have a federal government and give them so damn much of our money every year is that we expect them to think about the unthinkable, and plan for the eventualities that, as a population, we don’t or won’t plan for. I don’t need them to tell me what orifices on which people I am allowed to fuck. I need them to build levees in coastal cities that are below sea level, to provide evacuation assistance for those who are unable to help themselves. But the agenda of our government is to make the world safe for corporatization, and so it seems perfectly OK to them to appoint a guy to head the Emergency Management Agency whose previous experience was as the head of the International Arabian Horse Federation. Oh, and Michael Brown was also a political crony.

When you look at television pictures of the refugees at the Astrodome, the Superdome or the New Orleans Civic Center, be aware that you are seeing the face of the brave new neocon future: If you can pay for services, you are entitled to them. If you can’t, you’re not. It is your failing that you don’t have enough money to flee the storm, to feed your child, to rebuild your home, to dress your emotional wounds. The Market dictates that you be winnowed from the herd, because you are weak, and you upset the charts.

Luckily, we as a nation still have enough outrage left to demand action – however belated – on this matter. God help us after we have all drunk the Kool Aid.

Pollyanna Politics

Getting a little political here at revision99.

This was originally intended to be mainly a political blog, but I got sidetracked somehow. I guess I realized early on that since I didn’t have a real news organization behind me, I couldn’t get inside information. I couldn’t get invited to press conferences by the President or anyone else, and I didn’t have a staff to research anything. In the absence of those capabilities, I have nothing but my opinions, which, it turns out, are a dime a dozen, and of no compelling interest.

Thus freed from having to rant about the government and its insane policies, I was able to turn to more mundane – and fun – topics, like sex, bondage, animals and technology. Some day, however, I intend to make good on my promise to post something that tries to make sense out of the current political climate in the United States in light of the apparent shift to the Right that has manifested itself recently. Some day. In the mean time I need to do a short follow-up on yesterday’s post. This is more politics, folks. Turn it off now if you were looking for sex.

Yesterday I was thinking about the army. The troops, as they are usually called these days, on bumper stickers and in Congress. I don’t support them.

There. I said it. I don’t support The Troops. Oh, I love them like my own brothers and sisters, and my heart goes out to them, and I don’t want any of them to get hurt or killed, and I want them to come home and be with their families, or get back to their jobs or farms or drug habits, whatever it is they want. I wish they weren’t in some far-away desert country where they don’t speak the language, the food is rotten and everybody they see might be sizing them up for a suicide bomb attack. Most of all I weep for the ones who lose their arms and legs, or their minds.

But God damnit, when they do their military jobs, when they drive their armored vehicles, read their radar screens, fire their weapons, conduct their house-to-house searches, when they are soldiering, they are doing the work of the devil. Our troops are in somebody else’s country, somebody who was not a threat to this country, and there are a hundred thousand dead Iraqis because of this. Can we stipulate that this is just wrong?

You might be thinking that our army is merely following orders, and you can’t blame them for that. In light of the monstrous horrors of the 20th century committed by people following orders, do you really want to use that argument again?

Look, I’m not trying to say that any of this mess is the fault of any individual soldier. But when you sign up for an organization that wears armor and carries machine guns as part of its dress code, you have to know that somebody is going to get shot. Maybe you don’t expect that a loco presidente is going to take you adventuring to exciting foreign ports o’ call, but if your training involves the killing of human beings, well, you just gotta figure there might be some killing in store.

Maybe you’ve seen the bumper sticker that asks “What if they gave a war and nobody came?” I know life is much more complicated than that, but I still ask myself, what if…? What if people just didn’t participate in these wars we keep having? After all, it’s just Joe Sixpack shooting Mohammed Hookah Bowl. Guys like George Bush and Saddam Hussein don’t take any chances with their asses, so why should we be so eager to enlist?

At this point it would be pretty easy to bury me in arguments about why we need an army, why everyone needs an army, how freedom isn’t free, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, we can be pacifists, but what if the other guy wants to fight? etc. I’m not claiming I have practical answers to these points. I’m just sadly looking at a world that is increasingly armed and dangerous, and wondering if there’s anything at all we can do to make it better.

OK. That’s all the politics for now. Next week I’ll get back to sex.

Lines

On the playground we were all warriors.

We played many games, all of them designed to replicate real wars. Move the ball, score on the opponent. Victory and defeat. Triumph or humiliation. Attack and defend.

Sometimes we played Capture the Flag, a game that almost exactly mirrors the activities of war: stealth, death, deceit, guard duty, all the highlights. The entire play area is divided into two territories, and two teams, who each hide a flag or an icon of some sort in the farthest reaches of their territory. The object is to find and steal the flag of the other team, and bring it back to your own territory. Along the way you can be captured and imprisoned, or killed, and if you catch the other team on your ground, you can kill them instead.

Sometimes things would escalate beyond gaming. Someone would get pushed too hard, and get too serious about the offense. The undercurrent was always there. At these times you would try to defuse the situation. The parties involved could not back down, and any intervention could lead to greater tensions, and punches could be thrown, shoves administered. Would-be peacekeepers could get bloody noses.

Eventually someone would draw a line. Step over it, and I’ll break your head. Take it any way you want. There it is. A line. You could go for it, if you were tough enough, or if you thought you had no credible choice. You could ridicule the concept as a way of not ignoring it but not having to brave the possible consequences. Some of your playmates might see it your way, and not think you a hopeless chicken.

But one thing was sure: When it got to that point, when the line was drawn, it was too late for intervention. It was past the point of no return. Someone was going to get hurt, physically or psychologically.

What were we doing, with our lines and our threats, and our posturing? Readying ourselves, instinctively, for the Game of Life that we were headed for, a game where the winners take what they want and to hell with everyone else, where you draw a line around your territory and warn all who pass, step over this at your peril, where you penetrate the territory of others, steal their stuff and race with your spoils back to your homeland. Welcome to the Big Game of deception, betrayal and death.

Like children, power mad and run amok, we have marked the whole world with lines, an elaborate system of borders, and we have warned each other in the harshest possible ways do not step over our line. We no longer remember why the lines are there, but we will kill the trespasser, and the killers shall wear medals, and we will honor them and they shall be known as heroes.

Sneak Peek: President Bush’s Second Inaugural Address

I have received an early transcript.

My fellow Americans,

I love my country. I want you to know that during the first four years of my administration I have tried to do the right thing for America and her citizens. We have done our best for this land that we all love, and God bless you, you have been so kind as to send me back here to Washington, to continue to serve, and that’s exactly what we intend to do.

Because you see, my fellow Americans, while we tirelessly worked for the betterment of these United States, and we have been certain of our righteousness, we must now concede that we are human. Mistakes have occurred, wrong assumptions made.

In 2000, I lost the popular vote in this country. A majority of you voted for my Democratic opponent. And yet my party and my lawyers fought this outcome all the way to the Supreme Court, using every bit of legal chicanery at their disposal to take the deciding electoral votes in Florida, a state run by my own brother and whose top election official was the co-chair of my campaign there. My opponent, to head off a potentially disastrous constitutional crisis, graciously conceded defeat when he saw that we would stop at nothing. For these actions I feel only remorse and shame, and I beg your forgiveness.

In 2001 I proposed an enormous tax cut. My financial advisors urged me to call it “tax relief.” I proclaimed “The surplus does not belong to the government. It belongs to the people,” and through the use of a campaign-style publicity blitz, I sold this idea to you, and my party and my advisors rammed it through the Congress. Only then did it become clear that this so-called tax relief amounted to nothing more than payback to the wealthy CEO’s and corporations that have been financing my political career for twenty years and who essentially bought the White House for me in 2000.

My friends, I intend to correct this in my second term. I am proposing a rollback of these huge and regressive tax cuts, and a return to reality-based financing of the federal government. My economic policy up to now has created only more wealth for the already-rich, while hard-working Americans have seen their futures converted to dismal, low-paying fast food jobs. This needs to change, and that’s just what we are going to do. The money from my tax-cut rollbacks will go into real investment in education, job creation and job training, and trying to return to some semblance of a balanced budget.

During my first term in office, the United States was attacked by terrorists. Terrorists who had given every indication of their intentions for years, and who we didn’t bother even to try to disrupt or apprehend. It is to our everlasting credit that we went after them where they lived, that we destroyed their bases in Afghanistan and toppled the government that sheltered them there. I’m proud of what our brave soldiers accomplished there.

But we quit that fight in the middle and we did not capture their leader. Instead we turned to attack another sovereign nation, wreaking destruction on their country and killing an estimated one hundred thousand of their people, while costing the lives of over 1300 of our own, spending over one hundred and fifty billion dollars and destroying the worldwide credibility of the United States.

I sold this war to you, my fellow Americans, with more propaganda and deception. Everyone knows now that there were no weapons of mass destruction, that Saddam Hussein — bad as he was — had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks, and it is to my deep shame that I confess to you now that I knew it all along. We all knew — Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary-designate Rice, even Secretary Powell — but we wanted the war so badly that we were willing to deceive the American public to get it started.

I can’t deny that this war has been good for Halliburton and many friends of mine and the Vice President’s. But, my friends, war is wrong. It’s evil and I will not spend another American life, not one more dollar for the continuance of this killing. I know now that we cannot bomb the world into peaceful democracy. Therefore effective immediately I am ordering my commanders to stand down in Iraq, and to begin converting their operations from death and destruction to humanitarian assistance. We have created a terrible mess in Iraq, and it is incumbent upon the United States to help in whatever way it can to alleviate the suffering and to help restore peace in the countryside and dignity to the Iraqi people. In this effort I’m asking for the support of every American.

My fellow Americans, I admit to you today that there is no “war on terror.” Instead, my administration has waged war on the American Way. Through the Patriot Act and the frenzy that engendered it, through reinterpretation of The Geneva Accord and other international agreements, we have become a nation of torturers, a government that “disappears” people, a power-mad, oil-thirsty imperial bully, a pariah among nations, and I say to you this will not stand! As I speak, arrest warrants are being sworn for the top members of my administration: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and others. Within the hour they will be in custody, and real investigations will be undertaken to learn the details of their culpability in these corruptions of American ideals.

Which leaves me.

I stand before you, my supporters and detractors, and I say to you “I have sinned.” For the damage I have done, I can expect no les than to be thrown from office, even imprisoned, and if you and the courts see fit to punish me so, I will gladly accept my fate.

I am a lucky man, but I am not a smart man. I was born to great wealth and sent to the finest schools, but I didn’t learn very much. I didn’t understand all that was happening during my first term in office. Until now, I believed that I was ordained by the Almighty to do the things that I have done as your President. Now I only wish for a chance to right the wrongs that I have committed — and I have named only a few of them today. I stand before you humbled and ashamed, and I beg you to let me try. I can’t promise that I will make no mistakes, but I can tell you this: There will be no more deception, no more hidden agendas. I will try my best to lead a government that is truly of and for the people, with liberty and justice for all.

Thank you, and God bless us all.

***************UPDATE*****************
I heard the speech a little while ago, and apparently he discarded the text above and used something else. Oh, well…

Social Security

In which I get double mileage out of one rant.

This post originated as a comment I made on someone else’s blog. It was in response to his occasional whining about how Baby Boomers are trying to steal his Social Security income. Since he is only thirty years old I think he could find some more immediate worry, but that’s blogging.

Anyway, after I posted my comment, I read it and enjoyed it so much I thought I’d put it here, too, because I want to put something here today but I’m busy baking persimmon bread. The post, with minor edits:

You should relax about Social Security. Nobody would be more at risk in this regard than the baby boom generation, if there were a “Social Security Crisis,” which there is not. The system needs a minor tweak, perhaps the funding of one less high-tech bomber per year, but the current crop of “leaders” wants to dismantle our system of a low-yield but secure federally managed plan and replace it with a scheme to shift the retirement savings of the nation into — surprise! — the pockets of investment bankers and CEO’s, with the caveat that if you happen to invest in, say, an Enron or an MCI, you can kiss your life savings goodbye, but you should starve happy because you had the opportunity to act as a rugged individual. To get guys like me to shut up and let it happen, they propose to spend 2 TRILLION dollars (your kids will pick up the tab, OK?) to fund the transition.
The good news is that inevitably even the Christian Right will wake up and start to object to this kind of foolish spending. The bad news is that the beneficiaries of this scam will be isolated in walled and guarded cities by then. OK, not really, but their money (which used to be ours) will make them untouchable.
Your enemies are not hippies or boomers, who have been paying for fifty years to keep Social Security afloat. Your enemies are your elected officials.

Happy New Year to all. Thanks for checking in.

Priorities

Hurray for The United States!

The Bush administration, after being embarrassed by international criticism, has increased its pledge of help for the tsunami victims to $35 million, about the amount they are burning in Iraq every four hours, and a bit less than they are planning to spend on the 2005 inauguration festivities.

Blue Christmas

So this is Christmas. And what have you done?
Another year over. You are just begun.
So this is Christmas – I hope you have fun.
The near and the dear ones,
The old and the young.

So this is Christmas for weak and for strong,
For rich and for poor one, the road is so long.
So Happy Christmas, and a Happy New Year.
Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear.

War is over
If you want it
War is over now

Listening to John Lennon’s hopeful, melancholy “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” in my office, and I almost broke down when it came to the chorus. I had to close my office door and get my composure back. For the poor suckers all over the world in bunkers, in tents, in caves, it’s not over. I know it never will be, so why do we keep talking about peace on earth? My Daddy told me If you don’t want to get drunk, don’t take a drink. I say If you don’t want to have a war, don’t send troops. We can’t shoot our way to peace, but we seem to be doomed to keep trying.

John’s hopeful, useless wish seems all the more pathetic this time of year.

Election Reflection #2: Move to the Middle?

I was talkimg to a guy at work yesterday and he said he voted Republican even though he is generally a Democrat, or some such crap. He said he “just didn’t like the face of the current Democratic Party.” When I asked him what he meant he said “You know, Snoop Dogg, P. Diddy, vote or die…” This is a family man in his forties, but almost for sure not a racist, and he’s got a problem with black people urging him to vote? I don’t get it. Maybe I’m wrong about him. You can’t just ask people if they are racists. They will almost always say they’re not, at least in 21st century USA.

This got me thinking about what the Democrats (my party, for better or worse) is going to have to do to get his vote in 2008 (2006, being local, is a whole different discussion). There is a surprising amount of talk and writing already going on about this very subject, just a week after losing the White House for another four years. I suppose that’s all we can do at this point — at least we’re not going through the denial phase of dealing with our loss (the hard core lefties are in denial — they are pissed off that Kerry conceded so early, and want recounts in Ohio, New Hampshire and maybe Florida). What I hope we (the Dems) don’t do is dump P. Diddy, or change our beliefs to make them more palatable to conservatives. I am willing to sign on to a large corporate political party, but I still think that politics must be based on what you really think, not what you think will win votes. I think the Party stands for things that a majority of voters can actually get behind — more on this in a later post — but we need to say it more clearly. If we find the right candidate, and he articulates basic Democratic values plainly and honestly, we’ll be able to get the needed votes (including my colleague at work).