Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Goodbye, Old Friend

Posted on April 12th, 2018 in Personal, Politics | No Comments »

For quite some time I have watched with dismay as the United States has sunk under the morass of the GOP/Trump administration. I’ve held off on commenting, partly because no matter how low the bar has sunk, we still don’t seem to have reached bottom. Where that will leave us, I shudder to think. I’ve also been following the unfolding story with a mixture of shock and alarm. I hope I can look back on these times and feel that sense of relief one has when narrowly missing disaster. Even so, it will take a long, long time for the nation to recover. It is worse than Watergate; at least then you could count on Congress to do the right thing. Now they are just as complicit as the president in destroying the idea of being governed by laws.

But as bad as all this is (he typed, hoping that the upcoming November midterms will offer up some relief), it’s not what I wanted to talk about. It’s how this bigger story of a county that is falling from within is played out in microcosm as a story between two people. One is myself, and the other is friend of mine of over forty years acquaintance. I was not much of a political person when I was young, which is not uncommon. It’s only in later years that I began to take a stronger interest. I’ve always been a keen newshound, however. I mentioned Watergate at the beginning; I grew up reading about it as it happened. I didn’t understand much about it at the time, but since then I’ve come to know more about what it was and what it meant. I find myself at this point in my life as someone who casts a critical eye over proceedings as a Liberal as well as an atheist. Certainly some people’s idea of their worst nightmare.

The other person in this story (let’s call her ‘Cheryl’ to avoid having to say ‘my friend’ every time I refer to her. Not her real name, obviously.), is as I said, someone I’ve known for many decades. As is common for long-term friendships, we’ve had times when we were very tight and times when years would pass with little real communication. But the shared links and bonds were always there. If I had to describe Cheryl to someone, I would say, ‘Trippy Hippy Chick’; we were first brought together because of our common love of music (specifically, music of the 60’s). She was conservative in her manners, but always seemed to embody the ideas of peace and love that partially defined that era in the mid-20th Century. She didn’t drink or smoke or do drugs, but she was still ‘groovy’, if outwardly square, to use the lingo of those times.

After many years and adventures together off and on, Cheryl eventually married, moved a thousand miles away into the hills of Appalachia, and settled into a job, having a child and living a middle-class life. We wrote, but only managed to get together once in person after that. I met her child, then we settled into a pattern of Xmas cards and the occasional letter or email. Like many friends, she was there, but tucked into a box in my mind. She divorced, remarried, her first husband passed away early, she was estranged from her child for a time, and such is life. Her child is now grown and married to a seemingly good person. Cheryl’s second husband (‘Barry’) is no longer able to work for medical reasons, and seems an angry, bitter man who thinks Christmas is too commercial (but he’s not religious). So much so that he won’t allow Cheryl to have a Xmas tree or any decorations during the holiday season. Her excuse for all this is that ‘he hates clutter’. Draw your own conclusions.

Cheryl uses a computer at her job, and therefore has said to me more than once that she doesn’t like to use one at home. Which means emails have always been rare (I assume they have a toilet at work too, but that doesn’t stop her from using one at home, I would hope). So at the beginning of this year, I decided to sit down and write her a letter, print it out and mail it to her. Cheryl and I have a long history of writing letters back and forth that predate the Internet; it’s not a difficult thing to do, but it’s not something I do much of any more. Anyway, it’s easy enough to embed photos and images as well, making it more than just a wall of dry text. I ended up with seven pages of Word-generated content and mailed it off to her up in the hills where she lives.

Some months later, much to my surprise and delight, I received four pages, filled front and back with her loopy handwriting that I know so well. It was chock-a-bloc with comments and observations about the things I had said, discussion about shared interests in music and television, and updates on what she’s been doing recently. Just the kind of thing you’d expect in a letter from an old friend. So far so good.

But there were also difficult parts. The last two pages she even prefaced by saying I wasn’t going to like what she had to say. And boy, was she right. The upshot is that my trippy hippy chick friend has turned into a diehard Republican conservative. She thinks that Trump is doing a great job (although she’s not happy about his tweets). The recently-passed GOP tax ‘cut’ has put more money into people’s pockets, Trump’s policies have been an economic boom for her area and ‘Obamacare’ has caused Medicaid to send premiums skyrocketing. It pains me to even write this nonsense. Long ago, Cheryl got a degree in journalism which she never put to good use. But I would assume that even back then, they taught ‘ethics’ as part of what a professional journalist must know. So it was a literal shock to read that she thinks the media are ‘hush-hushing’ all the good Trump is doing – because they don’t like him! If you can’t see what’s wrong with that, you might as well stop reading now.

Other tidbits included some Democrat bashing: Since they’ve had control longer over the country since we were kids, why haven’t they done more to fight poverty? If you count Eisenhower, who was president when Cheryl and I were born, then up to the end of Obama’s term, Republican presidents have actually held sway longer than Democratic ones. And in comparison to what Lyndon Johnson did with his plans for a ‘Great Society’, what did Ronald Reagan do for the poor? Trickle-down economics? She seems unaware that the tax cuts she thinks so highly of are going to expire in 2025, unless you’re wealthy or a corporation; then there will be a nasty tax increase to compensate for the lack of revenue that the rich will no longer have to pay. Cheryl’s not exactly rolling in dough, with a disabled husband and a job where she’s not able to advance any further. But she’s happy to pay the taxes for billionaires and businesses? Nor does she seem to understand that the rise in Medicaid prices is because Trump tried and failed to repeal the ACA, so he and Congress started slashing anything they could instead (such as the individual mandate), and many insurers dropped out of the market because of the instability of the system.

While all of this is simple stupidity, worse was to come. She then described the plight of a group of Ethiopian refugees who were settled in her area (an area not known for ethnic diversity, I should mention). She complained about them receiving ‘unfair’ housing benefits ahead of ‘native’ residents (which is apparently a Democratic plan – hook immigrants on benefits and they’ll vote Blue ever after), then went on a diatribe about them:

“Now we have people here who want to turn this country into “Anything-But-America”, hate everything America stands for, & are working tirelessly to push agendas that divide us instead of uniting us.”

While I don’t doubt some immigrants do feel this way (as do many native citizens, unfortunately), it’s a bit of a stretch to characterize all of them as being guilty of this. She compares this to her own great-grandparents, who were (Jewish) refugees. They ‘honored’ their roots and worked towards the American dream, she says. I’m sure they were not looked upon with suspicion, or tended to associate with people of a similar background at first, just as these Ethiopians no doubt do now. I wondered if she would have felt the same way had these people been from Scotland or Norway. It’s difficult to feel that her distrust is based largely on their skin colour.

It sickens me to think that someone I’ve known so well for so long has been drinking deeply of the Fox Propaganda Kool-aid. I had mentioned to Cheryl that I was an online subscriber to both the New York Times and the Washington Post; her response was that if I:

“…indulge only in progressive publications & websites without researching the other sides, you’re just going to remain locked into your off-the-charts ideology… which sadly it sounds like you are entrenched.”

She didn’t mention how she gets her news, but I doubt it includes many “progressive publications & websites” to give her a balanced picture. But this would obviously tie into her belief that the media in general are not reporting the actual facts, since so many of them “don’t like” the president. If I’m reading them, then I must not be getting an accurate view of things. I suppose since so many media outlets are reporting the same general stories it must mean it’s a conspiracy of some sort; luckily she’s getting news directly from an outlet that provides a more direct, unvarnished point of view – that the president is actually doing a great job.

Since receiving this letter from Cheryl, I’ve had to spend a great deal of time mulling over what she’s saying to me. I’m obviously stunned to discover that she really does think like this. I’m sad, angry, confused and feel somehow let down. We are both children of the Sixties and I don’t understand how you get from Love is all you need to Make America Great Again. I find now that when I peruse my “progressive publications” and there are comments along the lines of “How can people continue to support this?”, I feel a wound being reopened, again and again. I know someone like this. How can this happen?

Eventually, I started to compose a reply to Cheryl. I spoke first about my family, what we were doing, how we were. I touched upon music and TV shows we both enjoy. I talked about her child. But after all that, I had to veer into deeper waters. I spoke about Barry and how he seems to have turned into a recluse, taking his anger out on her. I went through many of the ideas she espoused to me, and explained how I felt about them; correcting factual errors in her perceived viewpoints when required. I took exception to her comments that the media at large are so biased that they would be failing to do their jobs properly, and that if anyone is ‘entrenched’ in a bizarre ideology, it’s certainly not me. I moved towards the only conclusion I could. I told Cheryl that I regretted writing to her and opening this huge can of worms in the first place. But now that what’s done is done, I’m saddened by her ignorance and her racism. I feel I don’t know who she is any more. If she felt that she did not see fit to reply any further, that would be fine with me. And then I printed the letter out and mailed it.

What will happen next, I have no idea. Will she write back or simply fade away? I’m of an age now where I know I need to prepare myself for the end of long-standing relationships on account of death. I hope when my distant friends pass away, I’m notified somehow, just as I hope my remaining friends are told when I’m gone. But to lose contact with someone I’ve known for nearly a half-century over political views is yet another casualty of the current administration. I have watched this monster attack the Constitution and the rule of law (aided by a corrupt and pathetic Congress). It has made me angry and worried for the future. But this abomination has now had a personal impact. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that Cheryl and I would have reached the end of the road over someone like Donald Trump.

 

To Boldly Go

Posted on September 7th, 2016 in Personal, Politics, Religion | No Comments »

 “We work to better ourselves, and the rest of Humanity”
– Jean-Luc Picard, “First Contact”

As I write these words, we are two months and one day from history being made with the 2016 Presidential election. Two candidates who have polarized America in such a way as to lay open deep wounds, which may never heal in my lifetime. Eight years ago, I supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama; now I’m not so sure. Clinton’s position seems to paint her as a moderate Republican rather than a progressive Democrat. Charges of corruption and the influence of deep-pocket Wall Street donors paint a less flattering portrait of her than I saw back in 2008. Her opponent is a puffed-up tycoon who appeals to the populist vote by saying whatever he thinks will work at any given moment. The fact that he’s running neck and neck in this election speaks volumes to the depths in which both parties have lost touch with voters, and how decades of under-funding education, promotion of belief over science and the rise of jingoistic blind patriotism has finally come home to roost, with a vengeance.

 Throughout the United States, I see the fall of empire, the dissolution of a dream. The great experiment of a new nation is beginning to fail. A government exposed as corrupt and totalitarian,  run by career politicians who will say anything to maintain their grip on power in order to keep being fed by wealthy special-interest groups. A populace who pay lip service to the ideas but year by year lose interest in the vigilance required to maintain their liberties, distracted by glitter and sheen and vacuous indulgences. Dumbed down by a faulty education system that is continually challenged by lack of funding and under constant attack from those who wish to impose their ‘faith’ over facts. Graduates who care barely read or write, were told Moses was a historical figure, cannot make change and never taught the basics of reproduction, or how to protect themselves from the consequences of their natural urges.

We live in an Orwellian world of double-speak, where ignorance is wisdom, giving up our freedoms makes us free and to question is to be wrong. Edward Snowden languishes in Moscow instead of being hailed as someone who told us what our government is doing in our name. A football player who refuses to stand for the national anthem is treated as if he somehow offended the military who fight and die in futile wars far away for no good reason. We are not allowed to ask why we sacrifice our troops; just “honor” them. Every day, people are killed on the streets of this once-great nation and no effort is made to overrule the gun industry and limit the weapons that take so many lives and destroy so many families. Not even the slaughter of schoolchildren in their own classrooms can stop it; money can cover anything, even the blood of the innocent. An idea as logical as banning assault weapons and universal background checks is treated as an attack upon the Constitution and the second amendment; but Congress votes to increase secret surveillance of innocent Americans, violating the fourth amendment, and it’s seen as good and proper.

America was once the leader of the free world; that claim is dubious now, to say the least. Other nations have better standards of living; free health care, better education; a happier, safer populace, not dominated by the obsessive need to feed the military whatever it wants, or the need to kowtow to obsolete, nonsensical religious claptrap. Other nations don’t have a crumbling infrastructure, with bridges built nearly a century ago and failing to cope with the increased demands of more and more cars. Other nations recognize the role we play in warming the planet, making every Summer ‘the hottest on record’, year after year after year.

We expect ‘regimes’ to keep innocent people locked away, with no trial; tortured and sometimes killed. To use their armies to attack and murder women, children and babies in their own homes. To spy on their own citizens and deal harshly with anyone who opposes the official party line. With every drop of blood, the United States of America becomes that which we supposedly hate; that which we supposedly stand in contrast to; that which we thought we would never be. We are now.

Next week will mark the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I have spoken before about how we were a different people then. So much has happened to us since that clear, blue morning. We were shocked to find that some could hate us so much that they would do such a terrible thing. It was terrorism of the worst kind, brought home from distant shores half a world away and deposited on our own doorstep. Now we look around at the hate, the shrug of the shoulders to the constant wash of violence, the nonsense and lies spouted off by our leaders and wanna-be leaders, and it’s difficult to deny that we have become a cruel, deluded people, with perhaps our best days behind us. The journey from innocence to cynicism in breathtaking speed.

I still believe that one day, we will rise up and become the people we think we are capable of being. The statement by the captain in Star Trek could ring true as a motto for us all. It is true for some people now, around the world. But there is a long, long way to go in order for it to apply to the majority, never mind the whole of Humanity. I wish I could see it, but I know I won’t. More importantly, I wish I could see it start to happen. I hold onto the hope that it already has.

Would Lincoln Cry For Us?

Posted on April 3rd, 2016 in Politics | No Comments »

Recently I saw the Stephen Spielberg movie Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the late President. The film has garnered rave reviews, although some people seem to find it ‘dry’. I found it a fascinating look at the realpolitik behind the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, and signaling the end of the Civil War. Like 1776 (even though it’s a musical) and All the President’s Men, it provides a peek inside the political machinery, even if sanitized and condensed, as Hollywood does to almost everything.

You see ‘Honest Abe’ as a real politician, not above using a little grease for the greater good. What did Lincoln do to end the war that Lyndon Johnson wouldn’t have tried a century later, to stop his own civil war, fought in the steamy jungles of Vietnam? Lincoln was much despised during his lifetime, and the film shows that, as somewhat of a shock to 21st century viewers. Besides the opposition of the Democrats, even many in his own party (and Cabinet) disagreed with him, and his methods. He is presented as always being opposed to slavery, while history is somewhat murkier upon his actual opinion of the subject. I think it fair to say that like many people, he was personally not in favour of it, but accepted it as a possible necessary evil, at least while he was unable to stop it. We may never know for certain.

But what you do see in this movie is a man who uses every method at his disposal to protect not just the Union, but the idea behind it. The government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. We forgive him his trespasses today; would we have done so if he had our technology, our NSA and CIA behind him? Would Abraham Lincoln have sanctioned a Guantanamo Bay prison, where the Constitution is denied? Again, we cannot judge Lincoln by the standards of today, but I would hope with all my heart that he would not. That there were and are lines he would not have crossed.

The Lincoln we see today is largely of our own making, as myth grows and obscures the man, like so many others (Washington, JFK, Dr. King, etc.). The marble image of the Great Emancipator that stares down at us from his memorial in the nation’s capital is a distillation of the best of America, captured in stone. The American Experiment was to show the world that freedom and democracy would free us at last from the grip of the dictator and the tyrant (charges leveled at Lincoln during his time in office). Where men (eventually including men of color, and later, women) would flourish and enjoy the advantages of being allowed to do so, lighting the way for the rest of Humanity. For many years, this was so, even if the backroom politics were not always as noble as our words claimed. I cannot and will not believe that Lincoln was truly a despot, but took the steps he took for good reasons. But there were limits to what he would consider, even if he had the means to do so.

At any rate, he was like I said, an example of what the best of America could be. Bending, but never breaking. His shining example, that guided so many American schoolchildren to remember and follow the virtues of ‘Honest Abe’, carried on through nearly a hundred years of incredible changes, that propelled the United States to the forefront of the world. Our vast landscape enabled a growing population, and natural resources to provide for them. We became a technological giant, and provided a powerful force for good in two World Wars, standing tall against the old Colonial powers, then Fascism, Totalitarianism and doing what we could to help the oppressed and downtrodden, from airlifting food and medicine, to developing vaccines and trying to make the world safer for all. With mixed success.

Eventually, the United States became the empire it never wanted to be, and now we find the population embroiled in another civil war, this time with its own leaders. Political dissatisfaction has never been far from the agenda at any point since before we freed ourselves from Britain; but now it has taken an even uglier turn, as we find ourselves in a world darker than at any time since the 1940’s. The American government routinely spies on its own population, from scanning phone records to illegally hacking into iPhones; anyone who gets on a airplane is considered guilty and subject to humiliating searches by an increasingly incompetent horde of tinpot self-important quasi-Gestapo agents, acting in the name of ‘security’. Orwellian doublespeak echos in chilling surrenders of our hard-won freedoms such as the ‘Patriot Act’. Washington, Jefferson and Adams would recoil in horror if they only knew. This week I read online that according to a recent poll, 63% of Americans would consider torture to be acceptable. I never thought I would ever hear that torture by America would be acceptable. It does not anger me; it makes me sad. So very sad. It is an example of just how far we have fallen.

America was once a shining city on a hill; now it is a derelict slum, decrepit and rotting from the inside out. The 2016 Presidential election will become the most memorable in years, as hard-line right-wingers who think the bible is fact and look with suspicion at anything smacking of intellectualism, battle with the first real ‘celebrity’ to run for President with no real qualifications whatsoever (Ronald Reagan, for all his mistakes, at least was Governor of California before moving into the Oval Office). The current occupant of that office, President Obama, started out with what turned out to be more hope than experience, and the country has never been so split as to his ability to lead (coming from someone who remembers Nixon as well as George W. Bush, that is astonishingly sad in and of itself).

We have become a tatty and embittered people, still scared after the horrific events of 9/11, but unable to find a way back out of the nightmare. Like quicksand, it just drags us farther and farther down. Certainly not the only cause of our malaise (Watergate and Iran-Contra played their part, as well), but that terrible bright-blue September morning provided a opening for those who would choke the life out of our national spirit in order to preserve it, dried and shrived, like a mummy in a museum. I can only think back to Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at the end of Lincoln; not for the life of the President, snuffed out so cruelly; my tears were for the vast gulf between what Lincoln held so dear, our essential need to do the right thing, versus a populace that would abandon those lofty ideals and stoop to cruel torture of others. Once we were better than that. I fear we are no longer.

The Prez and Me

Posted on March 10th, 2009 in Politics | No Comments »

Last year in some of my more political posts, I was certain that by this time, we would be living in a world where the United States was governed by a woman. How wrong I was. I also compared Barack Obama to Jimmy Carter. The jury is still out on that one.

My misgivings towards Obama were based on the impression he left me with that he believes his own press releases. I really feel he thinks he’s the chosen one, who will lead the world out of darkness and ignorance, and into a new age. Would that it were so. I freely admit that I would love to be proven wrong about the man; that in four or eight years, I write about how good he has been to the nation, and how much better off we are.

Sigh. There are already signs of a backlash in Congress, where Obama tried to reform the earmark system, and nearly had his economic rescue plan handed back to him on a silver platter (in place of his head). The American people seem prepared to give him unusually wide latitude, no doubt because they know the mess we’re in now is not really his fault. We can blame Bush and Cheney (the ‘one-man axis of evil’) for that. But at some point the tide may turn, then all his oratorial skills may do him little good.

I do agree with a lot of what he’s done – reversing Bush policy on things like stem cell research, refusing to turn a blind eye to torture, releasing previous administration reports that suggest suspending the Constitution in all but name is a good idea, etc. The allies of the US need to know they’re still backing the good guys. Putin and Pyongyang are talking tough, but how far will they go, really? Many feel they’re testing the new government, like Krushchev tested Kennedy.

But on the other hand, why is the Obama administration not interested in pursuing the legality of the warantless wire-tapping scandal? Why have three nominees had to withdraw from various appointments because of non-payment of tax? Doesn’t anybody learn? Doesn’t anybody vet these things? Obama seemed to suggest that it’s okay the head of the treasury can’t pay his taxes without media scrutiny. Would he have given McCain’s nominee the same free pass?

And before you ask, I don’t care what color the president is. He’s half-white as far as I’m concerned. Why doesn’t anybody talk about that?

But, I’m rooting for him. Not so much for Carter… er, Obama the man, but for the President of the United States. I hope he can put us (and the world) on the right path. I’m pessimistic, but they say a pessimist is just an optimist who’s had his heart broken too many times.

Here we go again!

Posted on May 20th, 2008 in Politics | No Comments »

The scene: The American people, disillusioned by two terms of corrupt and unethical Republican government, turn to a Democratic outsider, someone with fresh ideas for change. Someone with obvious intelligence and charm, who only a few short months ago was unknown to nearly everybody outside of his home state. His name: Jimmy Carter.

It would seem that once again, the electorate is prepared to shoot itself in the foot. Barack Obama has managed to work a triumph of style over substance by denying the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. As I write this, it remains to be seen if Obama can do the same with John McCain, who, despite being a Republican, has obvious appeal of his own, and may yet emerge victorious, ushering in another four years of misery for the United States, both at home and abroad.

Obama has captivated the young vote, the black vote, and many people who are just tired of the quagmire the Bush Administration has gotten us into, both with a war nobody but Bush & Cheney wanted, and a host of domestic issues. But if Obama were to take the White House, the question would be how long could he work his slight of hand before the people that voted him in become his worst critics? In terms of his overall agenda, he’s not too far from Clinton on many issues. One notable one that has been bypassed by the feud between the DNC and Florida is that Obama is not a fan of the Space Program. If he wins, look for postponement if not outright cancellation of the Constellation plan to return Americans to the moon. Obama wants to move that money into reading programs for children. A laudable goal, but certainly if he is the agent of ‘change’, why not use the money saved by fighting corruption in the Military? Why jeopardize jobs and US prestige by shutting down manned spaceflight? Or is it a good change to rely on Russian Soyuz modules (and their increasing bumpy landings)?

Obama (if he were to win in November) would face many of the same obstacles that Carter faced in the mid 70’s – OPEC pressures, increasing saber-rattling from Iran, open hostility from Republicans and more and more of his own party as his term progresses. It’s probably no surprise that Carter himself has heartily endorsed Obama. Jimmy Carter is a good man, a decent and honest man, but he has trouble dealing with duplicity and tended to overthink when he was President. I don’t think Obama is as honest, but he has shown a similar tendency to think himself smarter than everyone in the room. Which means eventually he’ll underestimate someone and find himself painted into a corner, much like Carter was with the Iranian hostage situation.

The upshot is that Obama would find his real options for change very limited, since he would be relying on the beltway insiders to carry out much of his idealistic program. He has an appalling ability to piss off the very people he needs, such as anyone living in a small town, or people who wear American flags on their lapels. These people do vote, after all. When the Democrats in Congress get tired of being blamed for contributing to the chaos he’s come to town to ‘change’, watch out.

But at this point, it’s even money between Obama and McCain. McCain has his own problems, alienating the right wing of the Republican party, and appearing as a “Democratic Republican”. Obama has to deal with all the Hillary fans who are mistrustful of someone with such little experience, and too much confidence. I admit to being in the latter group. I think it would be interesting if everyone in both parties who don’t like either candidate to write in Hilary’s name. It might be “Dewey defeats Truman” all over again.

Chinese Torture?

Posted on April 7th, 2008 in Politics | No Comments »

The news out of London and Paris over the last few days regarding the disruption of the Olympic torch seems to be a surprise only to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Protests over China’s human rights record and the recent crackdown in Tibet have led to scenes of near-chaos around the torch. In Paris, the torch was snuffed out no less than five times and trundled aboard a bus to escape the demonstrations. Eventually the relay was abandoned. Similar scenes are forecast for San Francisco and other stops. The IOC has as usual, dug in its heels, saying the Olympics are a “sporting event, not a political one”.

Well, the IOC needs to pull its collective head out of its collective ass. Of course the Olympics are a political event. They always have been. In 1936 with the war drums beating, Jessie Owens, a black American of all things, beat the pants off the Aryan Nation at Munich. And right in front of Herr Hitler. And what about the U.S. and U.S.S.R. refusing to attend each other’s games in the late 70’s – early 80’s? In fact, the whole concept of athletes competing as nations makes the games political. Some countries make huge investments in their teams in terms of training, equipment, concessions, etc. Isn’t that political?

Sadly, as the murder of Israeli athletes in 1972 proved, many groups with a grudge to nurse try to use the Olympics to further their own ends. No doubt this is how the Chinese see the current squabble about Tibetan protests. But nobody as far as I can tell is protesting the games themselves, or anyone competing in it. Their beef seems to be allowing a country that has such a poor record regarding their own citizens, as well as those in outlying provinces that may or may not actually be a part of said country, to host games of sport and fellowship among peoples of the world. It all seems a bit hypocritical. So for the IOC to bury its head in the sand again just makes them look ignorant. Insisting the Olympics are not political is wishful thinking at best, downright stupid at worst.

It’s too bad that the athletes who take part are as aways, the ones caught in the middle. But by this time next year, the games will be a distant memory. The medals and records will be noted, the world will have forgotten about the protests, and nothing in China will have changed one bit. And we all know it, don’t we?

Blueprint for Disaster?

Posted on November 8th, 2007 in Politics | No Comments »

The crumbling house of cards that’s currently Pakistan may be providing important lessons for the United States government. Unfortunately, it’s the wrong kind of lesson. While President Bush may be calling Musharraf and urging him to unsuspend Pakistan’s constitution and free the imprisoned Supreme Court justices, privately he or Vice-President Cheney may be taking notes on how to proceed in a similar fashion in America.

It’s no surprise to anyone that the current administration, led by Cheney, has gone far in the past seven years in eroding the United States consitution, and American prestige around the world. Consider the following:

  • We have been led under false pretenses (searching for WMD) into a war in Iraq that has escalated into civil war between two religious groups. Last time I checked, only Congress has the power to declare war. When did they do so? Was there really evidence of hidden weapons, or did Bush plan all along to invade Iraq, even before he assumed the presidency? Did 9/11 just give him a pretext to do so?
  • When the president signs a bill into law, he has the option of including an executive order that gives some guidelines as to how the law is to be put into effect. Bush has exploited that like no other president before him, using these guidelines as an extension of his authority that has no check or balance. While possibly not illegal, it’s certainly an abuse of the intent of this function.
  • Vice-president Cheney was previously a senior executive of Halliburton, which supplies equipment to the armed forces (think $300 for a toilet seat or hammer). Cheney has had meetings at his office in the Vice-presidential residence, but repeated requests for access to the visitor logs has been denied. Bush has declared ‘executive privilege’, even tho the logs are supposedly available to the public or media.
  • The fiasco of Alberto Gonzales at the Justice department has been a whole can of worms on its own. Not only does it appear that Gonzales hired and fired according to political slant (obviously acting on orders from above, which is in conflict with the job description of the Attorney General), but several top-level aides quit in disgust, and several lower-level aides were forced by the White House to disobey a direct subpoena from Congress, demanding they testify regarding the whole affair. Gonzales ‘doesn’t remember’ being at key meetings where it was revealed later he attended, and Bush once again clamped ‘executive privilege’ on the aides in barring their testimony.
  • The nominee to replace Gonzales at Justice said he cannot comment on an insidious practice known as ‘waterboarding’ as possibly being torture until he gets the job and can be briefed. What does that mean? Is being placed on the rack ‘torture’ or do you need to be briefed on it first? What about thumbscrews? flogging? Waterboarding has been recognized as torture by the US military, the EU and the UN. Why is a briefing required?
  • The United States has been spying on American citizens (wiretapping, reading emails, etc.) without obtaining approval from a judge since 9/11. Clearly illegal, the Bush administration claimed to be fighting ‘the war on terror’.
  • Guantanamo Bay – Hundreds of people detained without charge, trial or legal representation for years. Never mind trampling the Bill of Rights in the mud, what kind of case does the government have on these foreign citizens? If guilty, charge them; if not, release them. The few that have been released, such as a handful of British citizens (after much arm-twisting from the UK), have all been sent back and released without charge. What does this say to the rest of the world about the ‘land of the free’?

And of course, this is just the obvious things. Anybody wonder how the exit polls from Ohio in the last presidential race (the key state, much as Florida the election before) seemed so wrong compared to the results? And Bush carried Ohio by a whisker. Makes you wonder how much different would the world be if the ‘hanging chad’ from Florida had gone Gore’s way back in 2000.

Anyway, when President Hilary gives her Inaugural Address in January of 2009, and she says that she will begin pulling troops out of Iraq as soon as possible, will anyone be surprised if Cheney jumps up and takes the microphone, declaring a coup? I think it’s a possibility that should be considered. I’m sure he is. There’s little doubt that the Democrats will take the next election, and Clinton will be the candidate. Can Bush and Cheney just sit in front of the rotunda in the cold and listen as she begins to dismantle all they’ve done? I think Pakistan will be very much in the mind of the Vice-president (the real power behind the throne) over the next few weeks and months leading to the election. Remember you heard it here first.