Saturday, July 29, 2006

Mel Gibson Really Hates Jews and is Unhappy

I heard years ago that Mel Gibson had a flare for going “over the top” as they say. I also am aware of his father’s anti-Jewish leanings and statements about the Holocaust being a scam. A lot of people drink more than they’re allowed to legally and then drive, and they get arrested and booked and pay fines and attend classes on problem drinking etc. I don’t believe that many people arrested with a blood alcohol above the legal limit scream at the officers conducting the arrest that Jews cause all the wars in the world, and that Jews are “f****d.”

Mel did.

TMZ has learned that Mel Gibson went on a rampage when he was arrested Friday on suspicion of drunk driving, hurling religious epithets. TMZ has also learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department had the initial report doctored to keep the real story under wraps.

TMZ has four pages of the original report prepared by the arresting officer in the case, L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy James Mee. According to the report, Gibson became agitated after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway and told he was to be detained for drunk driving Friday morning in Malibu. The actor began swearing uncontrollably. Gibson repeatedly said, "My life is f****d." Law enforcement sources say the deputy, worried that Gibson might become violent, told the actor that he was supposed to cuff him but would not, as long as Gibson cooperated. As the two stood next to the hood of the patrol car, the deputy asked Gibson to get inside. Deputy Mee then walked over to the passenger door and opened it. The report says Gibson then said, "I'm not going to get in your car," and bolted to his car. The deputy quickly subdued Gibson, cuffed him and put him inside the patrol car.

Once inside the car, a source directly connected with the case says Gibson began banging himself against the seat. The report says Gibson told the deputy, "You mother f****r. I'm going to f*** you." The report also says "Gibson almost continually [sic] threatened me saying he 'owns Malibu' and will spend all of his money to 'get even' with me."

The report says Gibson then launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements: "F*****g Jews... The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." Gibson then asked the deputy, "Are you a Jew?" The deputy became alarmed as Gibson's tirade escalated, and called ahead for a sergeant to meet them when they arrived at the station. When they arrived, a sergeant began videotaping Gibson, who noticed the camera and then said, "What the f*** do you think you're doing?"

A law enforcement source says Gibson then noticed another female sergeant and yelled, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?" We're told Gibson took two blood alcohol tests, which were videotaped, and continued saying how "f****d" he was and how he was going to "f***" Deputy Mee.

There’s more here.

Here are some questions, since Gibson is after all a mega superstar in the entertainment business and visible worldwide to hundreds of millions of people:

Is this an anomaly in the actions of Mel Gibson? Or is it consistent and a continuation on his road to fulfill his mission, whatever that is?

How many Jews, of which there are a lot in the film business, will work with him on his next project?

How many Christians, who poured into the theaters for his film The Passion of The Christ, will reject his actions and words in this latest event, if true, and how many will keep silent either in embarrassment or tacit agreement?

And all this just when you thought there were enough Jew-haters out there already.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Gore Vidal on Bush the Thug

Gore Vidal expresses some opinions in an interview in The Progressive, conducted by David Barsamian. Here are some tidbits—like potato chips, after you bite into one, you want more:

He sees a certain continuity in U.S. foreign policy over the last fifty years. “The management, then and now, truly believes the United States is the master of the Earth and anyone who defies us will be napalmed or blockaded or covertly overthrown,” he says. “We are beyond law, which is not unusual for an empire; unfortunately, we are also beyond common sense.”

“I was brought up in Washington. When you are brought up in a zoo, you know what’s going on in the monkey house. You see a couple of monkeys loose and one is President and one is Vice President, you know it’s trouble. Monkeys make trouble.”

“…The people don’t matter to this gang. They pay no attention. They think in totalitarian terms. They’ve got the troops. They’ve got the army. They’ve got Congress. They’ve got the judiciary. Why should they worry? Let the chattering classes chatter. Bush is a thug. I think here is something really wrong with him.”

“The United States has done wicked things in the past to other countries but never on such a scale and never in such an existentialist way. It’s as though we are evil. We strike first. We’ll destroy you. This is an eternal war against terrorism. It’s like a war against dandruff. There’s no such thing as a war against terrorism. It’s idiotic. These are slogans. These are lies.”

What is the leader of the free world up to on this Friday, the 17th day of horrible violence between Israel and Lebanon, with which Bush would rather have nothing to do? First he’s meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who’s trying to convince the US president that involvement, actually out and out demand, of a cease fire and U.N. peacekeeping forces is a better idea than just watching the fighting on TV.

Then the most powerful man in the world hosts a gathering of the stars of this year’s American Idol TV show at the White House. In case you think this may be inappropriate while dozens of missiles are lopping off the limbs of innocent men, women and children every minute of every hour while our president could act to help out and end the misery, you’re not the only one:

"It can be tricky, when the Middle East is falling apart, to be spending time with the winner of 'American Idol,' " said Darrell West, a political scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island. "There's the risk that people will ask, 'Doesn't this guy have something better to do? Shouldn't he be solving foreign crises?' "—Los Angeles Times, 7/28/06

Shouldn’t we be praying for the November elections to get here soon?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Benefit of the Doubt

As I watched the leader of the free world put his hands on the German chancellor’s shoulders last week in a friendly attempt to make physical contact, I was embarrassed by the ridiculous image. Why was I embarrassed? I didn’t do it—I wouldn’t think of being physically familiar with a world leader at a public forum, even if I were a world leader myself. But this act in and of itself is not the problem.

A lot of bloggers and media pundits have tried to turn it into an issue of sexism and any other of a number of contemporary societal problems. What boat they’re all missing is that the crux of this action lies in the mentality of the individual, George W. Bush, and the almost disassociation with reality the act conveyed, which may be a key to the bigger dilemma of having such a person as president.

There was a series of rumblings on cable TV today because of the lack of progress toward a cease fire in a meeting of Secretary of State Rice and others in Rome:

The assembled dignitaries expressed their “determination to work immediately to reach with the utmost urgency a ceasefire” in the war that started two weeks ago today when the Hizbullah militia crossed the border to capture two Israeli soldiers, and Israel responded with a massive counterattack the length and breadth of Lebanon. But, at American insistence, the ceasefire would have to be one that’s “lasting, permanent and sustainable.” Which means the flames searing Lebanon, threatening Israel and endangering the most volatile region in the world will go on for weeks, if not months, to come.—Christopher Dickey, Newsweek

The rumblings were on the order of, as usual, Bush’s miscalculations and his ignorance of the consequences going back to the invasion of Iraq. More appropriately, the finger should be pointed at the neoconservative contingent of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz, before just sticking it to the POTUS.

Howard Fineman, on MSNBC, said he had not seen the “body language” [I saw this today and do not have transcript or reference yet] Bush demonstrated which was clearly that of someone “not in control” as he has been up to now. Fineman was referring to the speech of the Iraqi Prime Minister, Al-Maliki, in congress today. The controversy over his speech emanated from some remarks over the last couple of days during his visit to the US that implied he wasn’t entirely in sync with Bush policies concerning Israel and the region. Some of our elected representatives differed over whether to accept the P.M’s point of view, or boycott his speech, as Schumer of NY did:

"Am I surprised that an Arab has voiced words of concern about Israel and has supported Hezbollah and Hamas?" asked Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut. "No, I'm not surprised. He's trying to build coalitions in his own country. I am outraged. But you know, welcome to democracy."--CNN

National security adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters Tuesday that al-Maliki's comments were not as inflammatory as those of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has called for the Jewish state's destruction. "I have not heard from him statements suggesting Israel does not have the right to exist," Hadley said.—CNN

Fineman is the lead political reporter for Newsweek, and he thinks Bush is exhibiting some kind of psycho-body language that signals a change from the last, what, 6 years? There is more to this that is significant. David Gergen (Commentator, editor, teacher, public servant, best-selling author and adviser to presidents for 30 years, according to his web site) offered his two cents as to what the hell the US is waiting for in not demanding an immediate cease-fire. [Again I just heard this on satellite radio and don’t have transcript]

Gergen explains the US in the past has taken the lead position to broker cease fires in the Middle East, then work out the details afterward. Part of the ability to use diplomacy has been the ambient message that the US is the neutral party, interested only in ending violence, while supporting Israel as the in-place democracy and giving a nod to the needs and wants of the Palestinians and other Arab groups.

Gergen went on to explain that the new Bush response is divergent from past US policy since Israel became a state in that there is no wish to broker a cease-fire until and unless the Hizbullah threat in Lebanon is neutered. This may not happen, so Gergen says this policy is a big risk for the US, and could fail.

My friend and Middle East expert Chris Dickey goes on to delineate the crisis in a more articulate and compassionate fashion:

But as irrational as the politicians who make policy may be, the professionals in their entourages often understand reality quite well. And in the corridors of today’s conference I met several men and women who, on background or off the record (meaning they were afraid of losing their jobs if caught talking too frankly) laid out a picture of the situation in the Middle East right now that was convincing, frightening, and seems to have escaped the notice of Dispatcher Rice altogether.

The bottom line: Hizbullah is winning. That’s the hideous truth about the direction this war is taking, not in spite of the way the Israelis have waged their counterattack, but precisely because of it. As my source Mr. Frankly put it, “Hizbullah is eating their lunch.”

…Several of my worldly Lebanese and Arab friends here in Rome today—people who loathe Hizbullah—understand this problem well. Privately they say that’s one of the main reasons they are so horrified at the direction this war has taken: they fear not only that Lebanon will be destroyed, but that Hizbullah will wind up planting its banner atop the mountain of rubble.

That’s the latest fear—Israel responded to an invasion of its border by Hizbullah with tremendous firepower and military force, and may have created a brand new Lebanon, one that joins the other Muslim haters of Israel and run by an organization that didn’t exist 25 years ago, a proxy of Iran, Israel’s real menace. Talk about miscalculations!

Several polls were reported today, with the overwhelming numbers of Americans believing that the current Israel-Lebanon conflict will widen in the region, and that they don’t think the Iraq War will come to a successful conclusion.

I heard a poll number today that says that 75% of Americans think Bush should listen to US allies, and 29% think he does. I believe in standing up for a cause even if you’re the only one among millions who believes it, if it’s right. I don’t think that philosophy applies here, and I’ll tell you why very simply. The other day on the CNN web site there was a photo of an infant lying on a hospital table with its mother standing over in obvious emotional pain. The caption was that the infant was in such pain that he was shuddering as he went in and out of shock:

Standing in front of this 8-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, the "conflict in the Middle East" and the "cost of war" seem endless and suffocating. His pain cannot possibly be imagined as he shakes uncontrollably in and out of shock. He has blood coming from his eyes.

His name is Mahmood Monsoor and he is horribly burned. In the hospital bed next to him is his 8-month-old sister, Maria -- also burned.

Screaming at the top of her lungs is the children's mother, Nuhader Monsoor. She is standing over her baby, looking at her son -- and probably thinking of her dead husband. The smell of burned flesh is overwhelming.

… Politics creeps into the ward like the blood that runs on the floors. "Clearly he is Hezbollah," says one of the doctors outside the room -- arcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby's cries.

The hospital ward begins to teem with members of the international press. They all have blue flak jackets that say "press" on the front. They carry microphones, cameras, radios and satellite phones, and have local guides to translate.

Today, as I finish I am sitting in the same spot and the shells are still falling. Hezbollah rockets are firing toward northern Israel. I can imagine another reporter, in another flak jacket, standing over an 8-year old Israeli boy.

I'll finish by asking another question: Are any of us making a difference?

Here is the “cause:” the United States should stand for something greater than the common national interest of other countries. The great experiment of democracy, the Constitution, created by mortal men so many years ago, as a Republic that would stand for the rights of human beings, should be a standard and a model for those people who are living in miserable conditions.

Now that the US has the means to quell regional conflict that imparts horrors on innocent children, it has the responsibility to exercise this power to inhibit those envious, resentful, and ambitious little people who would use their charisma and maneuvering for their own ends, to cause trouble for others who want only peace, and the space to do their daily work.

In the US Declaration of Independence, Jefferson made it clear what the object of existence is, through the power of just government:

…organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

It would seem that a society based on such concepts, revered for over two hundred years, would work to install these concepts on a society in turmoil, if it could, to save innocent lives. The Middle East is such a society, in need of mediation and “cooler heads.”

Can’t those people who were polled and expressed dissatisfaction vote? Isn’t there an election this fall where they could express their wishes? Isn’t that what democracy means? Then again, so many voted for the Bush-Cheney ticket in 2004, and we already knew better then.

Time to wake up. There's no benefit of the doubt--that's a silly phrase anyway. We are citizens of the world, and we have the option of stopping suffering. Who would refuse that mission?

Friday, July 21, 2006

I Hate War and so does Eleanor

My friend in Toronto runs a chat forum with an eclectic international clientele who at any given moment may offer an opinion that will make you scurry to find out where the humanity went. Then there is me, who tends to stir up shit just because anything less than controversial tends to boredom, the worst of the deadly sins (I made that up, unless you include “sloth”).

Therefore when a recent post bragged about being related to Robert Duvall because the actor and the poster had a “common ancestor,” I felt compelled to reply that, in fact, all living human beings have a common ancestor. This is both mathematically provable as well as scientifically. Therefore, this forum-chatter had no special claim, as he thought he did, of relativity to Robert Duvall.

Besides the obvious wise-guy response that my tack took, I have been thinking about this aspect of humanity—that we are all, the world over, related in DNA and no doubt with some person centuries ago who is common to everyone who lives on the planet—and how futile are the contentions we make between us now, which cause such untold grief.

It’s one thing to look back at human history and marvel at the atrocities that were committed because people can’t get along. It’s another, in the current day and age of global communication, to think that any individual or group in a leadership position, would not understand the sophisticated concept that there is no difference among human beings of the earth—fighting against each other will only prolong the ultimate goal of learning how to overcome the calamities of nature—physical and natural. There a re enough disasters of weather and nature, and germs and sickness, to fulfill all the desires of suffering for our species. We don’t need any help from our fellow humans, there’s enough trouble to go around.

The war in Israel and Lebanon is a case in point. I just watched a Lebanese woman interviewed on CNN telling about the promises Hisbullah made to her to rebuild her shattered home and life once the current fighting stops. She hopes that more Israelis are killed, because they are the enemy and the reason for her suffering. If I taught my children that anything missing in their lives was because there are too many Mexicans in California, they would believe it and repeat it. This Hizbullah woman has been indoctrinated as have millions of Jews and Arabs since birth, to hate each other. They don’t even know why any more—the hatred is an entity all by itself.

There can’t be peace where people suffer. There will always be the element among those who suffer who will blame the "oppressors," and resist putting down their arms. Then there are the demigods, like Nasrallah who heads Hizbullah, who cares nothing for Lebanon or its people, except whether it gets him air time on cable news:

“What happened in Lebanon today might open a way out of the crisis in Gaza,” Nasrallah proclaimed the night his war began. “In other words, the Israelis are saying we don't want to negotiate with Hamas … We say: All right. Israel usually negotiates with us. At first they say no, but then they accept.” Then Nasrallah made his gambit perfectly clear. “We don't object to a joint Lebanese-Palestinian effort in this connection to emerge from this crisis” to end the “barbaric detention of 10,000 prisoners in Israeli prisons.” Nasrallah miscalculated badly, and not only for himself. Amid the death and destruction wrought by the new Lebanon war, the continued suffering of the Palestinians under siege in Gaza has been all but forgotten; the issue of Palestinian prisoners has dropped off the map and Israeli ground forces almost certainly will take new Lebanese captives in the current fighting.—Dickey, Newsweek, Best-Laid Plans 7/21/06

Further, the Israeli push is to emulate the neutering of Milosevic in Yugoslavia—but here’s a difference, as Chris points out:

But Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is powerless. Nasrallah started this war, not him, and Siniora can’t stop it. Milosevic, moreover, was a cynical politician who wanted to survive. Nasrallah is a religious demagogue who exalts a cult of martyrdom. Milosevic was the president of a state, and his great ambitions were based on a primitive, narrow nationalism. Nasrallah is at once a militia leader and a would-be leader of global Islamic radicalism. The fate of the Lebanese state is, in many ways, irrelevant to him.

So we’re back to the common ancestor. Sounds like an academic word-play, in some Ivy-League tower removed from the reality of ground skirmishes, heat, tanks, crummy WWII missiles lobbed into civilized neighborhoods. Why doesn’t the US just nuke the whole Middle east and call the game? I’ve heard that from friends and family, while they sip their herbal teas and decaf lattes.

The losers are the ones who get shot or bombed. That is real pain, on a human one-by-one level. Southern Lebanon was rebuilt before, it can rise again. A child who loses a limb, that parent cannot retrieve that loss, no matter what.

Two weeks ago, my wife and I spoke with an old friend who had helped with some computer therapy years ago, that is still available for students to help with reading and processing of language. The program is called “Fast Forward” from Scientific learning Corporation, and we spoke to this therapist about helping a young cousin with learning difficulties. Today the report in the on line Orange County Register is that Terry Antonius just made it back from Lebanon by the skin of his chinny chin chin.

Anxious to escape the region and frustrated by a slow response by the U.S. Embassy to announce evacuation plans, Antonius on Wednesday boarded a cousin's 57-foot-long boat along with other family members.

They sailed from Beirut to Cyprus – a 105-mile, 19-hour trip, and Antonius was then able to board a flight arranged by the U.S. government.

He traveled more than 40 hours on his return home.

"I didn't give up," he said, his eyes wet with tears just moments after being reunited with his family. "There was a door open, and I took it. I wasn't going to wait any longer."

We like to believe here in the good ole USA that none of this foreign debacle bothers us. Morris Dees, founder and lead attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center, just sent an appeal for funds for his latest project—a civil suit against the “four white men involved in the beating and dumping of Billy Ray's almost lifeless body. He may not be able to speak for himself but, with your help, we will seek justice for him and his family.”

On September 27, 2003, Billy Ray Johnson, a mentally-challenged 43-year-old black man, was lured to a late night beer-drinking party in a pasture on the edge of Linden by a 19-year-old white teenager. The Cass County District Attorney said, "He was their entertainment for the night."

Billy Ray was taunted by a group of white teenagers, encouraged to pick up hot coals from the bonfire, called racist names and told that the Ku Klux Klan would get him. He was knocked unconscious by one of the white men, loaded in the back of a pickup truck and dumped beside a rural country road in an area infested with fire ants and wild hogs. The group believed that he might die and did not want to take him to the hospital. His body was covered with fire ant stings, he suffered permanent brain damage, and he is now confined to a nursing home.

Linden's 73-year-old white mayor said that he "was not surprised that the white teens used the n-word ... the black boy was somewhere he shouldn't have been, although they brought him there." Calling a 43-year-old black man a "boy" also seems common talk around Linden.—Southern poverty Law Center

What is it about us and our “common ancestor?” This little town in Texas, with all this hatred built in and up—what are they afraid of that they have to take it out on some poor guy who has a different skin color? All this fear and hatred—is that what our parents have taught us?

Are we so bad? Should God and the Angels call it off once and for all and admit this was an experiment that really wasn’t worth the pain caused to innocent people?

There is a thread on that Toronto forum that asks what is the meaning of life. At the end of the seminal science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, the all-knowing alien, in the form of actor Michael Rennie, addresses the crowd of scientists at the foot of the Washington Monument. What he says is as clear a condemnation of human foibles as I have ever heard, and the solution is also the best possible. It’s a science fiction film over ½ century old, and I still believe it has a meaning for us now:

I am leaving soon and you'll forgive me if I speak bluntly. The universe grows smaller every day and the threat of aggression by any group anywhere can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all or no one is secure. Now this does not mean giving up any freedom, except the freedom to act irresponsibly. Your ancestors knew this when they made laws to govern themselves and hired policemen to enforce them. We, of the other planets, have long accepted this principle. We have an organization for the mutual protection of all planets and for the complete elimination of aggression. The test of any such higher authority is, of course, the police force that supports it. For our policemen we created a race of robots. Their function is to patrol the planets in spaceships like this one and preserve the peace. In matters of aggression we have given them absolute power over us. This power cannot be revoked. At the first signs of violence they act automatically against the aggressor. The penalty for provoking their action is too terrible to risk. The result is we live in peace without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war, free to pursue more profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts. It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet, but if you threaten to extend your violence, this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder. Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer.

The decision rests with you.

Oy Have I Got the Wrong Rice

I wrote last Sunday, 5 long harrowing bloody destructive days ago, that the US needed to ramp up diplomacy right away:

What is hopeful it that the exceedingly brilliant woman Rice is will find analternative way to initiate diplomacy, and resolution.

During this morning’s press conference outlining US goals for the region, and her immediate plans for her trip to the battle area in two more days, here’s what the Secretary of State said:

Asked why she had not gone earlier and engaged in shuttle diplomacy to try toend the death and destruction that has gripped the region, she said, "I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do."

I guess I put way too much expectation into the abilities of this woman. Then again, there is no doubt the benefits of continued fighting, with the spectre of Israeli ground forces massing on the Southern Lebanon border, are politically advantageous to the US and several of the front-line parties. Let Secretary Rice explain that to the parents of children who will be killed and maimed in the days ahead—see if they understand what cause could be important enough to condone that. How clear is that?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Rigorous" Logic

In keeping with the last post about the reasons for all the players to see the current war continue in Lebanaon and Israel, here is an exerpt from Jeff Wells' blog entry yesterday on Rigorous Intuition. In its sheer eloquence and simplicity, it offers an uplifting vision and a road to the view:

[Simone] Weil died in England in 1943 of tuburculosis, though her death was hastened by her refusal to eat more than the ration allowed her compatriots in occupied France. She wrote, "Human beings are so made that the ones who do the crushing feel nothing; it is the person crushed who feels what is happening. Unless one has placed oneself on the side of the oppressed, to feel with them, one cannot understand."

Evil doesn't do empathy. We had better. Because if our hearts can beat around the world - if our consciousness can be elevated such that we see our isolation to be an illusion and our divisions a deceit of criminals who mean to crush us with them - then maybe the world will yet see some glorious novelty.

Why do Intelligent People Make War?

So many players, so many reasons to fight — while the people of Lebanon bear the brunt with their suffering. Poland — frequently annexed and partitioned — was once the proxy battlefield for Europe's great powers. It falls to Lebanon to play that role in the Middle East today. No amount of cynical realpolitik can afford to lose sight of that tragedy.—Los Angeles Times Editorial, 7/19/06

The conclusion of the above editorial, to all the reasons for the continuing of killing and destruction in Lebanon and Israel, states clearly that the result is always the same: tragic injury and death of innocents. The editorial makes clear several reasons for the start of the current fighting, and why some of the direct participants, and indirect supporters, all find advantages to keep the war going.

Israel is afraid of nuclear Iran, Hamas likes the distraction from having to vote on a 2-state Israel which could lead to peace, Syria may be asked to help broker a cease fire. The Saudis and Jordan fear Iran on their own terms, separate from Israel.

Even the Bush cadre, avoiding the possibility of egg on their faces in case of failure to get a cease-fire accomplished in an election year, wants Israel to do the job of neutering Hezbollah before the fighting has to stop. And the editorial makes its final implication clear with the comparison to Poland’s buffer-role in 20th-century European affairs—the next step can lead to all-out war on a global scale.

All these smart people in countries sophisticated enough to build cities and infrastructures commensurate with the grandest anywhere in the world, and they just want to bomb the hell out of each other. The only thing worse is the smart US government, with the only real leverage and enough might to really get a cease fire, sitting idly by chewing on dinner rolls and spending a real fortune on occupying Iraq in a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to focus voters on a phony cause.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) will introduce a resolution in Congress on Wednesday that calls on President Bush to appeal to all sides for a cessation of hostilities in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict and to commit the United States to multi-party negotiations.--TruthDig .org 7/18/06

Here’s part of Kucinich’s speech on the House floor July 18:

…Making and endorsing war demands a secret love of death, a fearful desire to embrace annihilation. Creating peace requires the mirror of compassion, putting ourselves in the other person’s place, in all their
suffering, with all their hopes, and to act from our heart’s capacity for love, not fear. The fight against terrorism in the 21st century is beginning to have the feel of the fight against communism in the 20th century: Conjuring of enemies, scapegoating and wanton destruction…

We have not yet begun to explore our capacity for peacemaking, so we are reduced to a predatory voyeurism: creating war, watching
war, being aghast at war, impotent to stop ourselves. We are the most powerful nation, but even we do not have the power to reserve for ourselves, or to grant to our allies, an exemption from the laws of cause and effect. The fate of the world lies in the balance. And until we consciously choose peace over war, life over death, the balance is tipping toward mutually assured destruction.

That’s the most intelligent thing yet!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Heroes, Villains, and Vaccinations

Andy Wakefield doesn’t act like a hero. He doesn’t talk like one either—in fact, except for his handsome visage, he seems more like a nerdy physician who is immersed in his research. His passion for a cause he need not champion, and which has brought him vilification and pain, because he wants to save children from getting, and cure children of, autism—this is the material of heroism.

Over the period of years I’ve known Andy, he’s never wavered, and never will. Yet he was so harassed by the medical powers-that-be in his home of England that he was forced to move to the US to keep up his research. Years ago, Wakefield found the link between the auto-immune breakdown that causes autism, and the MMR vaccine—a leaky gut syndrome. The lack of ability of the system to absorb proper nutrients for the growth of the brain and brain stem sets up the development of the strange symptoms of autism, basically a child who’s out of touch.

Dr. Wakefield published his results, and that’s when the fireworks started. Anyone familiar with the development of drugs and marketing by big pharma knows that there is big (read enormous!) money in patented vaccines, especially when a friendly government steps in a mandates that every child get that shot. Wakefield wasn’t even saying not to get vaccinated—his theory was that the Mumps, Measles and Rubella triple-whammy at one time was the culprit, and that giving the shots separately one at a time would help the system overcome the toxicity inherent in vaccines made out of the germs from which they are supposed us.

He put doubt into the minds of potential consumers, and for that sin, Dr. Wakefield was excommunicated and condemned to shame, ridicule, and down and out pummeling from the British medical establishment for years to come. And, from the rest of the “friends” of big pharma world-wide as well, came the wrath of vengeance.

Whether or not you believe in conspiracies, or that there’s more than meets the eye when more than two people are involved, the strange issue of pro- and anti-vaccine advocacy follows a certain line. When a parent believes his or her child has been physically injured by a vaccine, that parent’s passion is a given. If that parent wants to get on the bandwagon of issues involving the controversy over whether vaccines are good or bad for children, who can blame that parent of a child who has been hurt for devoting passion to a cause?

I’m less inclined to believe in the passion of a lay proponent for vaccination and drug company policies, which writings can be found in commentaries all over the internet, and responding to the pleas of concerned parents in periodicals and newspapers. That passion for a cause comes straight from greed, and the influence that drug companies can exert with all the power that huge amounts of money can buy. Don’t believe me? Check out my latest reference to the expose of the Los Angeles Times on government-employed physicians pushing (no pun intended) the marketing of a pill whose maker is paying that doctor to push.

Sometimes the heroes win—in this case, Dr. Wakefield is not so much vindicated, as he is left high and dry with no where to stick his sword. Barbara Loe Fisher, head of the National Vaccine Information Center in Washington, DC, relates the tale: [From and NVIC email]

Britain's General Medical Council (GMC), which is the equivalent of a self anointed Medical Supreme Court, has publicly been conducting an "investigation" for the past two years into whether Andrew Wakefield should be convicted of "professional misconduct" and have his medical license taken away. For the sin of trying to prevent healthy children from regressing physically, mentally, and emotionally after MMR vaccination into autism, the GMC has been determined to make sure he cannot find ways to help autistic children recover from MMR vaccine induced autism.

Not so fast—the GMC is having trouble getting parents to testify against Wakefield:

Nearly two years later the GMC has not drawn up any formal charges against Dr Wakefield and no date has been set for a public hearing, at which scientific arguments for a link between MMR and autism would have been aired. GMC spokeswoman Jo Wren said there is now "no guarantee", there will ever be a hearing.

Is this relief and success for Dr. Wakefield? I would have thought so—but Barbara explains the real sinister conspiratorial goings on—for those of us who understand causes, passion, and love of children: [NVIC email]

…the doctors in charge of the GMC have put their collective tails between their legs and run. Just like a common street bully, who blindsides an innocent with a sucker punch in the dark, doctors inside and outside of government and industry are too chicken to stand ground and fight in the light of day. The GMS has apparently figured out it won't stand a chance fighting Wakefield under the bright lights of the media it has duped and exploited…
I take my heroes as they come—wrapped in all sorts of packages and always trying to make our lot a little better, even at the risk of their own annihilation. The cause makes it all worthwhile.

Ideas on Talking: Bush & Clinton

By now who doesn’t know about the open mic and Bush’s remark about Hizbullah stopping the “shit?” And I’m sure a lot of news monkeys have heard of what Clinton thinks of “US disengagement” from talks with the warring parties in the Middle East. Still, the gravity of what was said, and the manner and style of both men and their thoughts, bears repeating here.

I have clearly stated, as have many experts on history and Middle East politics, that without US intervention on the diplomatic side, there will be no resolution, and possibly not even a cease fire, in the present violence. Yet the cavalier presence of Bush at a dinner during the G8 summit hammers home the image of a country-club arrogance that alone, without the accompanying dialogue, should turn the stomach of a concerned American citizen. His actions—chewing a roll while talking to Tony Blair over his shoulder as if it were a discussion about problems with starting tee-off times, rather than global escalation of violence and killing—are so reminiscent of the “disengaged” upper-class elite I’ve ever seen.

Then there are the very words, the ignorance, the banality, and the bewildering misplaced confidence:

Someone, probably an aide, asks Bush something, evidently whether he wants prepared closing remarks for the end of the summit:

Bush: No. Just gonna make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.

The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.

Bush : Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?

Bush : This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?

Reply is inaudible.

Bush : "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."
At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.

Bush : It takes him eight hours to fly home…

…It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China…

[Now to Blair]

Bush : Yeah, she's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.

Blair : Right. Well, that's, that's, that's all that matters. If you -- see, it'll take some time to get out there. But at least it gives people a --

Bush : A process, I agree. I told her your offer too.
It's unclear what offer he means, but apparently Blair offered to make some sort of public statement.

Blair : Well, it's only if it's -- I mean, you know, if she's gotta -- or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Obviously, if she goes out, she's got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk.

Bush : See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.

Blair : Who, Syria?

Bush : Right.

Blair : I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran.

Bush : I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen.

“I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad…” –that’s your leader of your free world. He used to be indecisive, but now he’s not so sure!

Here’s Clinton’s take on how to handle free-world leadership, in answering an impromptu outdoor discussion question from Campbell Brown on MSNBC:

I’m not one of these people that believes that it’s a good thing for us to be disengaged from the Middle East because they’re not going to make a deal and we don’t want to be associated with failure. I just don’t find it that way.

I think the historical evidence is the more involved we are, the fewer people die, and the fewer people die, the easier it is to make some kind of compromise deal.

What is the mainstream media talking about in the aftermath of Bush’s open-mic dialogue? The MSM is focusing on whether the use of the word “shit” was a big deal, embarrassing, or in or out of place for the president. That’s the big story. Some attention was paid to the White House’s official statement on the order of Bush’s remarks not diverging from any set policy, and of course, the former news bobbing head and now press secretary Tony Snow followed through:

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Mr. Bush "sort of rolled his eyes and laughed".

"Actually, his reaction first was, 'What did it say?'. So we showed him the transcript, then he rolled his eyes and laughed."

In the reference to “Rice going,” one gets the distinct impression that Bush is not in control of events on his docket, let alone being in charge of running the US government. The feeling from this brief conversation is that someone else in his office is making decisions for him.

If human lives were not at stake over the little things George W thinks and says, all of this wouldn’t matter as much. And the seeming lack of interest on the part of moral citizens of the US, and the world, mirrors the “disengagement” of the president—why should he care about the effect on us of violence in the Middle East if we don’t care?

After all—he’s always got that big plane to ferry him out of harm’s way in case of any danger; remember on 9/11 when he scurried off to Utah on Air Force One because the East Coast was getting attacked?

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Widening War In Middle East

For more than 50 years, the Middle East's wars have been the world's wars. Greater powers have used lesser ones as proxies, and battles between large states have been fought out in smaller ones—often in weak, divided Lebanon. But skirmishes can turn quickly to conflagrations, and calibrated violence can escalate suddenly into atrocity with unpredictable and enduring consequences.—Newsweek, 7/17/06

Want to understand who’s pulling what strings in the latest upswing in battles in the Middle East? The best place to start is this week’s Newsweek cover story, quoted above by Christopher Dickey, Kevin Peraino and Babak Dehghanpisheh.

The “Greater Powers” are Iran and the US. Even so, it appears Israel has welcomed the confrontation in order to finally try to neutralize the biggest immediate threats of violence and mayhem: Hisbullah in Lebanon, and Hamas within its southern territory.

The clear consensus among pundits and statespeople, is that without some upper-handed diplomatic intervention by the US, the airstrikes and bombings are going to move into an all-out ground war, whose consequences no one can foresee. With all that’s at stake for the entire world, it would be appropriate for Bush and Rice to start acting like they’re directly involved, and put some bargaining chips on the table, instead of commenting in press interviews along the lines of Bush:

"There's a lot of people who believe that the Iranians are trying to exert more and more influence over the entire region and the use of Hizbullah is to create more chaos to advance their strategy." He called that "a theory that's got some legs to it as far as I'm concerned."

We need the president to do more than conjecture from a sofa—he needs to go front and center and get the perpetrators of violence to stop before it involves a lot more than 130 dead civilians in five days.

Unfortunately the options are thin based on US past policy toward the entities involved:

“If Condi Rice decided she wanted to do diplomacy, what would she do?” asked Aaron David Miller, who was a senior adviser for Arab-Israeli relations at the State Department under the last three presidents. The two countries that wield the most influence over Hezbollah and Hamas — Iran and Syria — are the same ones the administration has kept at arm’s length.

The value of the Bush approach has been its moral clarity and consistency, eschewing, in a post-Sept. 11 world, any deal-making with those thought to support terrorists. Both Hamas and Hezbollah are viewed as terrorist organizations, and by that logic, Syria and Iran are on the wrong side of the divide. – U.S., Needing Options, Finds Its Hands Tied, New York Times, 7/14/06

What is hopeful it that the exceedingly brilliant woman Rice is will find an
alternative way to initiate diplomacy, and resolution.

Duplicitous Doctors and Your Medicine

The Los Angeles Times is putting together a nice record of articles exposing the practice of government physicians getting paid by the drug companies whose product safety they are supposed to oversee. Today’s front page story discusses the Merck consultant Dr. Thomas J. Walsh, who, as a member of the National Institute of Health, testified on behalf of the marketing of the drug Cancidas, an antifungal agent “for patients whose immune systems had been ravaged by chemotherapy and who were presumed to have a potentially deadly, invasive fungal infection. In its first five years on the U.S. market, Cancidas would generate $859 million in sales for Merck.”

The story shows the lack of objectivity of government physicians who are supposed to be in place to protect the consumer from the very thing of which they are guilty—greed. This blog has referenced prior pieces about the NIH’s allowance of physicians to be paid by drug companies while they work for the NIH, but today’s story gets into the nitty gritty of how much corruption is possibly going on, and how much possible pain is being caused.

It’s nothing new to those of us used to big pharma’s tactics and motives, but the depth of the Times’ expose may shed more light on what kind of shabby medicine we are really getting, and for a huge price.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Deja Vu Lieberman Dodd

"You're over it!" the kids say about anything not worth dwelling on. I thought I was "Over it," since it has been 36 years and old news by now. But maybe not--When Joe Duffy, anti-Vietnam War senatorial candidate won the democratic nomination from Connecticut in 1970, I was a lowly campaign worker who saw a chance for one man to make a difference.

When Joe Duffy became the democratic candidate for senator, I went back to college in the fall and crossed my fingers hoping against hope that he would be the next senator from CT, whose entire platform consisted of determining to vote to pull US troops out of Vietnam.

The incumbent democrat, Tom Dodd, had been censured by the senate for misusing campaign funds for personal purposes--something that today would be considered minor and probably overlooked entirely. But in the 1960's, prior to Watergate and the Nixon shenannigans which diddled with the Constitution on a scale unheard of til then, Dodd's indiscretions were a matter to be dealt with sternly by his fellow senators--and, he was caught in the act, however minor it was.

So while Joe Duffy, an ordained minister and "machine-backed" candidate stumped for election, Tom Dodd decided to ask for votes as an "Independent," in order to be able to run on the ballot, and without the core democratic backing he was used to. Dodd was also a Vietnam War hawk--backing Nixon regarding the commitment to money, arms and troops for the Vietnam conflict. Sound familiar??? Lieberman wears Dodd's shoes.

What transpired could not have been written in a novel, because no author could have foreseen the events that were to come: Duffy and Dodd split the democratic vote which allowed the republican nominee, Lowell Weicker, a wealthy up-and-comer from the New York suburbs, to be elected senator. Forget about my crossed fingers, and Duffy's anti-war stance, and Dodd's pro war stance--Weicker was now senator from Connecticut.

Those of us over the age of 40 may remember that a major nemesis to Nixon and all that he stood for in the Watergate debacle, was Senator Lowell Weicker from Connecticut. Without Weicker's incessant and dogged nagging, there may never have been the revelations of the criminal acts of Nixon and his cronies. Weicker was a beacon of light and justice amidst the dinn of iniquity and disgrace.

The question will always remain, what would have happened if Duffy were elected senator instead of Weicker? How would that have effected the Vietnam War? Would Weicker's absence have meant less of a just outcome with Watergate?

I only know that--deja vu-wise--if Lieberman runs for senator from Connecticut as an independent candidate, he has forgotten the lessons of history. If your party doesn't want you, chances are you are not wanted--period.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Lieberman—Appearances are Deceiving

It’s bad enough that Joe Lieberman, Senator from Connecticut, is as big a supporter of Bush and the Iraq occupation as any good rank and file republican. What is so continually atrocious about this position is that Lieberman ran for Vice President on the ticket against Bush and Cheney in a presidential election. He must have thought at some point that Bush’s policies were not as good as his own would be, yet now it’s hard to see the difference.

Inconsistencies abound, as is indicative of a recent piece by Joe Conason on

Sen. Lieberman has long been known to cultivate the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, which provide jobs in his home state and contributions to his campaign fund. But he has literally been sleeping with one of their Washington representatives ever since his wife, Hadassah, joined Hill & Knowlton last year. The legendary lobbying and PR firm hired her as a “senior counselor” in its “health and pharmaceuticals practice.”

This news marked Hadassah Lieberman’s return to consulting after more than a decade of retirement. “I have had a life-long commitment to helping people gain better health care,” she said in the press release announcing her new job. “I am excited about the opportunity to work with the talented team at Hill & Knowlton to counsel a terrific stable of clients toward that same goal.”

It would be uplifting to imagine that Hill & Knowlton—after spending the past decade as a defendant in tobacco class-action lawsuits because of its role in propaganda disputing the deadly effects of smoking—is now devoted to improving everybody’s health. More likely, the firm remains devoted to improving the profits of its clientele, which has historically included Enron, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Saudis, Kuwaitis, American International Group and Boeing.

When a senator’s wife works for one of the capital’s largest lobby shops, appearances tend to matter. In this case, something happened immediately that didn’t look very good.

Mrs. Lieberman signed up with Hill & Knowlton in March 2005. The
firm’s clients included GlaxoSmithKline, the British pharmaceutical giant that manufactures flu vaccines along with many other drugs. In April 2005, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill that would award an array of new government “incentives” to companies like GSK to produce more vaccines—notably patent extensions on other products, at a cost of billions to governments and consumers.

That legislation provoked irritated comment by his hometown newspaper, the New Haven Register. In an editorial headlined “Lieberman Crafts Drug Company Perk,” the Register noted that his bill was even more generous to the pharmaceutical industry than a similar proposal by the Senate Republican leadership. “The government can offer incentives and guarantees for needed public health measures,” said the editorial. “But it should not write a blank
check, as these bills do, to the pharmaceutical industry that has such a large cost to the public with what may be an uncertain or dubious return.”

No doubt Lieberman would do the bidding of the pharmaceutical lobby whether his wife was on its payroll or not, but this kind of coincidence is best avoided by a man who lectures the world about morality and ethics.

And so it goes…

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Forgive Ken Lay

When former Enron CEO Ken Lay lied about the solvency of Enron, he caused thousands of employees who had their entire financial futures and security tied up in the company to lose everything. The utter calamity of such a tremendous loss is impossible to comprehend. Retirement funds, pensions, jobs and future potential earnings were wiped out within months. Along with his head financial officer, Jeffrey Skilling, Lay was to blame for the misfortunes of many fellow human beings.

In the years subsequent to the bankruptcy of Enron, and the beginning of the trial on indictments against Skilling and Lay for their immense corporate wrongdoing, the image of Lay gained more and more press coverage. He was a wheeler-dealer at the top of the business world. President Bush wrote personal jovial notes addressed to “Kenny Boy.” Lay spent millions of dollars on one birthday party for his wife. And most vividly, he seemed put-upon and put-out by the charges that he hid the problems of Enron from everyone, and that in fact he was unaware of any accounting transgressions which led to the downfall of the company, because he was above and beyond the morass of daily details and was too busy running the company. He was on a personal cause to prove his innocence, and get on with his retirement with the tens of millions of dollars he had stashed from his corporate raiding.

That attitude of “who, me? Guilty of what?” was very clear as the verdict of guilty on all six counts was announced, and the blood visibly drained from Kenny Boy Lay’s face. He was more shocked than anyone that the best attorneys money can buy failed his fate, and now he was destined to being sentenced to years in prison.

So while Ken Lay went off to his vacation home in Colorado for some temporary r & r, his fate caught up with him, and 41 days after his verdict, 60 days prior to his sentencing date, he had a massive coronary heart attack and died this morning at 3:15 in a hospital in Aspen, CO. “ ‘Apparently, his heart simply gave out,’ said Pastor Steve Wende of Houston's First United Methodist Church.” That would appear to be about right—apt imagery, no doubt.

The more important issue in this news story is the enormous impact of Lay’s crimes on the thousands of people who worked in his company. They are the living, and the ones who have to move ahead on their altered financial paths due to the greed and immorality of a now dead employer. In these people’s lives, would there ever be any room to forgive such a horrendous man? Is forgiveness even part of any plan to move on? And what about all of us who see the events unfolding—do we need to reflect on what happened and think about forgiveness as well?

As I am untouched by the actions of Lay and Skilling and the fall of Enron, the reader may ask who I am to make any such judgment. My answer is that I am not judging the actions of other people. What moral person who knows the facts of the Enron debacle can condone the deceitful, illegal, and ultimately catastrophic actions of greed and dishonor by Skilling and Lay? The mentality that allowed not only the bloating of a company for the financial aggrandizement of a few, but the ability of those few to act in denial of what they did and continue to go about their free-wheeling lifestyles, which no doubt included sleeping well at night—where that mentality was fostered and nurtured is a key ingredient to learning from, and doing better in light of, these criminals’ wrongdoings.

Ultimately, seeing through the wrong actions, which again we don’t condone, to the individuals behind them, who are fellow human beings—like it or not—we can begin to forgive them as fellow humans, even though we do not forgive the actions. If this sounds like gimmicky semantic claptrap, think again about the motive of forgiveness. Ken Lay is dead—he won’t get anything out of us forgiving him for what he did, except in a spiritual sense. It is US who will gain an advantage on the dark side that exists in us all—we will have a chance to reflect and look into ourselves, and wonder about how much it was worth to Ken Lay to do what he did, which he refused to think was wrong, and then finally die because of it. We will be better off for forgiving him even though we believe he won’t know a thing about it.

27 years ago I was present at a speech given by the famous Nazi war criminal hunter, Simon Weisenthal. Mr. Weisenthal was more than just a bounty hunter. He lost his entire family in the murderous actions of Nazi Germany we know as the Holocaust. The speech he gave in Los Angeles so many years after the activities happened of which he was recounting, was still rivetting and illuminating. One thing he said I will never forget, was that he was present when a Nazi war criminal was dying. I don't remember if he had been shot during the war or if he was incarcerated afterwards--this detail doesn't matter. The point was that the Nazi was dying, and he held out his hand to Weisenthal, who grasped it, and he said, "Forgive me."

Weisenthal simply said in his speech that he could not forgive this man, and the Nazi died holding his hand, in silence. At that time listening to Mr. Weisenthal talk, about his mother being taken away in a cattle car right in front of him, and of later finding out his entire family was killed by the Nazis--I thought damn right--forgive what? Better to damn guys like that to hell and move on.

I think about Weisenthal's story at times because I don't think he took lightly the request of a dying man, a "Christian," who understood the nature of forgiveness based on upbringing, asking the man holding his hand in his own, to forgive him. I think Weisenthal was trying to make a point--that the Nazi understood exactly what he had done, how awful his actions were, and now wanted to save his eternal soul with the forgiveness of a fellow human being. I didn't watch my mother get trucked off to her death when I was nine years old by Nazis, so I can't judge Weiesenthal's reaction to the request for forgiveness, other than to report what he said happened.

The Nazi knew he was wrong--he was condemned in his own mind. I know that now. I didn't think about that or care about it when I was listening to Weisenthal's speech.

Now there is the Ken Lay predicament--and he knew he was wrong and did NOT ask for forgiveness. And there are thousands of people, families, lives that have been screwed up in the worst way by this guy.

The motives behind the illegal actions of Lay and Skilling derive from a society which in the end, must condone such actions, or these two men wouldn’t have thought it was OK to do what they did. What else allows Bush to send armies across the sea to occupy a foreign land in the name of fighting an unseen monster—terrorism—unless the society behind him says it’s OK to do this?
Children are brought up to believe that it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world—that there’s not enough to go around. They are taught a perverse version of social Darwinism, that “survival of the fittest” means that some will make it at the expense of others, and those who are more aggressive and act faster will be among the haves, and those who sit back and wait will be the have-nots. I was told in my teen years that I didn’t have enough “larceny in my blood,” which I concluded meant that I was not man-enough to make a good living because I was unable to face hurting my fellow man or woman in order to get ahead.

What do those who teach such things expect from the product of that teaching?

Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute of Ethics, teaches corporations and individuals world wide how to conduct business on the up and up, and that this is more profitable in the long run. The Institute’s mission statement, “To improve the ethical quality of society by changing personal and organizational decision making and behavior,” has been proven to work over and over again.

My children have gotten certificates from the Institute through their schools that say “Character Counts.” They understand what I have learned and believe—that our character is the only thing we really own, and over which we have complete control.

All corporate leaders don’t work with the lack of values of Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling. Jack Welsch, former head of General Electric and the most successful CEO of all time, said in a recent interview that Lay and Skilling were aberrations, and that truly successful businesses are conducted within the law and morality.

On the day “Kenny Boy” Lay goes off to his final freedom, there is great hope in the lessons learned from his mistakes. So I forgive him in the end, while not condoning what he did, because our knowing how he conducted his mission, for which he paid the biggest price, may hold a brighter future for those who aspire to corporate greatness in the future. And he was, after all, made of the same DNA as me.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Cause is Worth Fighting For

As I read about the latest Bin Laden recording, which has followed recent diatribes from him and others of his cronies, and duly reported by the media around the globe, I started to think about terrorists and terrorism. I don’t mean that I never thought about terrorists before today. On the contrary, I’ve heard about this violent method of making a point since I was a little boy.

When I was ten years old, I saw the movie Exodus. In that facile albeit totally absorbing film, since it can only last for three-plus hours without turning into a problem for film exhibitors who need to cull audiences more than 3 or four times per day—there is a clear delineation between those heroes who want to help the poor downtrodden Jews and inaugurate a new Jewish State of sanctuary in the so-called “biblical” homeland, Palestine--against all anti-Semitic evils by using manipulation and politics, and others who would wreak havoc and terror to accomplish the same goals.

The “political” guys in the film, led by Paul Newman’s character, were the Hagganah. They commandeered boats and personnel—whatever—to get displaced Jews from Europe into Palestine in order to make a point to the United Nations that there needed to be a Jewish State, at least partly to make amends for the horrors of the Holocaust.

The terrorists, known as Irgun, played by Sal Mineo as a munitions expert, and David Opatoshu as an alienated family member of an old Jewish family in Palestine—they worked to blow up stuff to make a point. The infamous bombing of the King David Hotel, a real historical event, which is a major jolt as depicted in the film, would be a drop in the everyday bucket of Iraq car bombings in the media today.

Exodus indeed provided a simplistic view and clear-cut depiction of the good-guys (Paul Newman), bad guys (British and Nazis) and troublemakers (Irgun terrorists).

Real life tends to be more complex--a real-life Irgun terrorist, Menachim Begin, became Prime Minister of Israel, and made a peace of sorts with an arch-enemy and fellow-terrorist, Yasser Arafat.

Terrorism—the killing of innocent people including women and children—non-combatant personnel—to get a government to capitulate so that such awful things don’t happen anymore—it’s just not very efficient. It’s not like having a meeting with the opposition and staking a claim and making some sort of ultimatum which to me is more direct. When terrorists wreak havoc, the result is just that—havoc--should we really believe the people who claim to take the blame are really to blame? When infants are killed and maimed, does that really make us want to adhere to the terrorist cause?

That’s my take on terrorism in the Middle East prior to the events of the 1980’s, 1990’s and the present. So many intellectual references are made to the fact that modern Israel was born on the back of terrorism. Scholars love to point back to the American Revolution, and the Boston Tea Party, as an early act of willful violence that made a point that needed to be made—taxation without representation, we all learned in school as a prelim to the reason for separating from England. Terrorism actually works, it’s just not admirable while it’s happening.

Modern terrorism, which indeed started at the beginning of the last century, is the killing and injuring of innocent people, in the name of a cause which is so just as to warrant getting attention through such mindless violence. I have always held out my arm, and waved off any attempt, by anyone to try to explain what the motive is behind a terrorist act. I have always said that it is NOT UP TO ME to psychoanalyze the motives of an individual, or a group, who would willingly kill or hurt men, women, and children, knowing that the pain caused would not relate to the cause being promoted. I don’t care what a terrorist thinks or wants to promote—terrorism is the means and the end, and therefore that modality takes him or them out of the loop.

I still believe that the cause is everything—It is all there is. Those who live without a cause are not in touch with reality. The founders of the United States of America believed this. There were some among them who had something to gain, and everything to loose, by a war with the mother country, England. But the “cause” of freedom was a bigger plum, than simple comfort or serenity.

Yet what do we remember these days about this noble cause and its aftermath? Do we recall death and destruction? Is terrorism the calling card for the honor of freedom and democracy to which we aspire in these United States?

In fact the first things we remember are these words:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”--Declaration of Independence

A film about global warming, Inconvenient Truth, makes the case that the first priority should be to save planet Earth, without which all the rest of the squabbles and disagreements won’t matter. The present number one priority of the US government is to fund and occupy a piece of territory in the Middle East on the false pretense that it is in the United States citizens’ best interests.

The film about global warming is a tribute to the tenacity of Al Gore, who ran for President in 2000, won the popular vote, and lost the electoral numbers. He repeats a number of times in the film that he is promoting his vision of what’s wrong with global warming, and how it can be corrected, one by one—one person at a time, one family, one group. Ultimately, with time and luck, his message will reach us all. He stays true to the cause without firing a weapon, hurting a child, or setting off a bomb.

I believe the human race is one race, and that we are all one with God. I will continue to write about that in the most positive of terms, without malice toward my fellow man or woman, in the best approach possible. I don’t like our government's policies and behavior any more than do the terrorists. But I’ll make you a bet I get more bang for my buck than they do, without firing a shot.