Monday, April 24, 2006

Profiles In Courage (Part One: General of Peace)

During the years 1954-1955, John F. Kennedy was on leave from his post as US Senator recovering from back surgery. From his bedside, he wrote an astounding book titled Profiles in Courage. The book focused on eight US Senators' (both Republican and Democrat) acts of bravery and integrity throughout American history. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957 and propelled JFK to national celebrity status.

In keeping with this theme put forward by my favorite President (seen at left during his heroic service in the Navy), I have decided to write a series of columns profiling a handful of Americans who I think would be fantastic leaders of this great nation of ours.

Rather than continuing to bitch about the bullshit going on right now in our government, I am going to continue, for awhile anyway, my search for President (almost) Perfect. I am going to base my selections on the type of people JFK selected for his book. People who are willing to stand up and fight for what they believe in....people who made of stern stuff....people who exemplify the best qualities of what it means to be an American.

People who are looking forward to the New Frontier.

On August 26, 2002 the Veterans of Foreign Wars had a convention. Vice President Dick Cheney was guest speaker and this is a quote from his speech.

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is not doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us."

Sitting near him, behind the podium, was a man being honored that day for his years of service in the military. This man was General Anthony Zinni and Cheney's remarks caused him great bewilderment.

Anthony Charles Zinni was born on September 17, 1943 and is a retired general in the United States Marine Corps. He is also a former Commander in Chief of US Central Command (CENTCOM). He has received the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart in his illustrious career in the military. In 2002 he was selected to be a special envoy of the United States to Israel and the Palestinian Authority. And, yes, he is one of several generals that have come forward in recent weeks who have been critical of the Iraq War.

General Zinni discussed the VFW convention and Cheney's remarks on a recent edition of Meet the Press with Tim Russert. I urge all of you to go and read the full transcript of the show which you can find here.

Here is a part of the transcript of that show:

MR. RUSSERT: After that event, The Washington Post captured your thinking in a conversation with you. Cheney's certitude bewildered [retired General Tony] Zinni. ... In my time at CENTCOM, I watched the intelligence, and never - not once - did it say, 'He has WMD.' Though retired for nearly two years, Zinni says, he remained current on the intelligence through his consulting with the CIA and the military. 'I did consulting work for the agency, right up to the beginning of the war. I never saw anything. I'd say to analysts, 'Where's the threat?' Their response, he recalls, was, 'Silence.'Zinni's concern deepened as Cheney pressed on. ... Zinni's conclusion as he slowly walked off the stage was that the Bush administration was determined to go to war. A moment later, he had another, equally chilling thought: 'These guys don't understand what they're getting into.'""

Here we have a more than qualified member of the of many....stepping forward and telling the truth about the situation in Iraq. He went on to say later in the show that the current Iraq policy is"an insult to the troops who, for 10 years, ran the containment: those brave pilots who flew the no-fly zones, those sailors who enforced the maritime intercept operations, our soldiers and Marines that were on the ground out there that responded to every crisis, our support for the efforts of the inspectors that were in there. "

His assesment of pre-war planning, the current situation, and the future in the Middle East, should we continue blindly following the lead of the dolts that are presently running this show, is chilling at best....horrifying at worst. General Zinni feels that unless we drastically alter our policy, Iraq is going to continue to degenerate, become more unstable, and ultimately achieve complete failure in the War on Terror..a failure which could prove to be very costly for American both in innocent lives lost and in our economic standing in the world.

General Zinni does put forward a plan for the Middle East in his new book Battle For Peace. In the book he says:

"The Battle for Peace is not a battle in the classical sense - a battle that follows the sudden crisis blow that triggers a military conflict. The battle is the constant struggle to develop and build the measures, programs, systems, and institutions that will prevent crisis. The battle is the constant struggle to shape and manage the harmful elements in the environment that generate instabilities.

One review of his book summed up my feelings for General Zinni perfectly.

Tony Zinni is one of my heroes. He not only understands asymmetric warfare and the urgency of getting serious (that is to say, professional, which we are not at this time) about global instability in the intangible non-military dimensions, but he is a clear-headed diplomat and warrior-philosopher who knows how to make big bureaucracies do his bidding. I hope the day comes when we have a chance to work together to save this great Republic from the morons that have broken the piggy bank, cost us all moral legitimacy in the eyes of the world, and started a 100 year six front war we did not need and were not ready for. BRAVO ZULU and GUNG HO.

Most of you have heard me speak often and loud about the need for a "JFK" type of leader....a hero that we can all rally around.....a person who is both strong and intelligent. I believe that General Zinni IS that man. As he has made the rounds on talk shows, I have noticed a quiet seriousness about the man. It's as if he deeply understands all that is at stake in the Middle East and knows that the time for a new direction is now. He doesn't take kindly to joking about our current situation and, in many ways, is a consumate professional

He has stood up and given us some very harsh truths about the current state of US Foreign Policy. I am praying that people in our government start listening to him. I am praying that he runs for President in 2008. He is a man of great bravery and integrity and I would be proud to follow him.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Our Next President

The last couple of posts have been kinda depressing, especially the last one. I have really been wrapped around the axle about the nutters that are running our country lately. And, although I haven't commented on it, I have been reliving my 9-11 anger, sadness, and frustration in reading about the Zacarias Moussaoui trial.

I guess I still can't believe that four and a half years later that the man directly repsonsible for the 9-11 attacks is still at large and our leaders have taken their eye off of what should be the real focus of the War on Terror: the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I have to admit that I was heartened to see airstrkes by the CIA there a few months back even if they missed the Al Qaeda number 2, Ayman Al Zawahari. I hope these operations will continue in earnest.

I talk to my friends who are supporters of this administration and they really believe that fighting in Iraq is the same thing as fighting anywhere in the War on Terror. They are wrong. It is a failed policy and, sadly, we will all know it when, not if, another major attack happens inside our country. There will be even more heart-wrenched families like the ones who currently testifying at the Moussaoui trial (left).

But out of this depression I began to imagine what our next president could be like. I guess, as a proud American, I have always wanted to look to our president as a person of great intelligence and honor....a leader who I will proudly follow. Rather than focus on the shit we are in right now, I began to feel hopeful as I imagined President Perfect and wondered what characteristics make a great president. And what would I like to see out of our next president?

1. Strength WITH Intelligence. I want a president, preferably with military experience, who will truly understand the conflict that we are in without being sullied by corporate interests. We are quite literally in a fight of good vs evil and we need to have a leader that understands the complexities of the region. I am absolutely for using the military when we need to but it has to be in a thoughtful and intelligent manner.

2. Homeland Security. The ports fiasco has shown how absolutely porous our borders are. More funding needs to be given to beefing up security on our borders. We need to have a leader who makes this a top priority.

3. Health Care. The state of Massachusetts recently passed a Universal Health Care bill. The first thing the next president should do is insure all children immediately. If we can spend billions of dollars on weapons that don't ever get used, I think we can spare some change to give the nation's children free health care.

4. Education. My ideal president would come up with a national education system that is totally new....something that would challenge the norm and re-write how we think about knowledge. People in this country need to be smarter and I would like to see a president who speaks to this.

5. Green Friendly. Whatever is causing global warming, it IS happening. We need to take better care of this earth. We are not doing it now and things are going to get worse if we don't work to understand exactly how global warming is affecting our environment. Again, money that is wasted in the military can be spent on developing strategies to take better care of our planet. Make no mistake....I am not so vain as to think the human race can destroy the planet with our current horseshit attitude about the environment but we will destroy our ability to live comfortably here. I would hope that my President Perfect would feel the same way.

6. Socially Liberal. The time has come for us to recognize that other people's sex lives are nobody's business....least of all the government's business. I see President Perfect as someone who keeps the government out of people's private business. If someone is not harming anyone or disturbing minors, then they are free to be married, be in a civil union, or do whatever they want to do. And if Joe or Jane Evangelical is offended by this, then they can FUCK OFF! And while we are on the subject of religion....

7. I see my ideal president as a person of PRIVATE faith. And I would want the president to keep religion and government as far apart as possible. There will be no references to God in any public institution. That is what church is for. My ideal president would basically bitch slap the evangelicals and their Nazi-esque agenda of enforcing their morals on me.

8. Energy independent. The country of Brazil recently became energy independent using sugar for fuel. That is what this country needs to do. The next president should put us on a path so that we don't have to be beholden to oil interests that directly threaten our nation's security. President Perfect will have no ties to the oil industry.

So those are just some of the traits I would like to see in our next leader. I guess the next question that person out there? Cynics would say that all the good people never run for president but I believe there are several outstanding candidates, on both sides, that I would like to see as president.

What do you think? What would you like to see in our next leader?

Monday, April 10, 2006

Jesus of Paranoia (The New America Part Two)

Last week I wrote about The Alliance of Four (the military, Congress, corporations, and lobbyists) and their stranglehold on the American economy. I also discussed how personal liberties have taken a hit as a result of this "machine" chugging along at a brisk pace in the last five years. But, really, even those four groups of people alone could not garner the complete and utter capitulation that is going on in our country today.

Such a task could only be accomplished by faaaaaaaaaaaavorite group of people: The Evangelical Christians.

Vision America, a group headed by Rick Scarborough (left), famed author of Liberalism Kills Kids, held an event on March 27th-28th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C. The War on Christianity and Values Voters conference was organized to whip up support amongst the conservative base. Guest speakers, including Tom DeLay (bye, bye dickhead!), spoke angrily of an America that is attacking their values. They screamed of how Christians across the country are being persecuted for their beliefs and how our society as a whole is corrupt.


Bill Maher, host of Real Time on HBO, I think commented on it best when he said:

People who run everything can't complain that they're underdogs. To whit, this week, there was a highly-attended conference in Washington called "The War on Christians." Because nothing quite says "I'm oppressed," like the opulent Regency Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel.

Ah, yes, whatever happened to that plucky little cult, Christianity? Oh, that's right, they're 80% of the American people, and have taken over all three branches of government, country music, and public schools...

Did you know that the Missouri legislature recently felt the need to propose a resolution declaring Christianity Missouri's majority religion. No kidding. Really, you mean people aren't saying, "Gosh, I'd like to go to Missouri, Jewish." In Savannah, recently, a children's book about a baby penguin who is raised by two male penguins - ahh! - was removed from the library for its homosexual overtones. Because you know penguins, in those tuxedos, with the dreamy eyes. Huge fags!

The Christian right are now officially the party of paranoia. Secularists are attacking Christmas! Gays are attacking marriage! Liberals are attacking values! White girls are being abducted at an alarming rate!

And the worst part is, the people bitching loudest about being persecuted for their Christianity aren't Christians at all. They're demagogues and conmen and scolds. And the only thing they worship is power. If you believe Jesus ever had a good word for war or torture or tax cuts for the rich, or raping the earth, or refusing water to dying migrants, then you might as well believe bunnies lay painted eggs.

Thomas Jefferson called the type of Christian who trumpets his own belief in the divinity of Jesus rather than the morality of Jesus "pseudo-Christians." And that's who's running our country today...

I have written several columns about this new paranoia NCDs (neocon douchebags) seem to have but now I see the real reason why they do what they do: VOTES.

The evangelical Christian base helped George Bush win in 2004. They viewed him as being a man of honesty and good values. They are the ultimate lobby of psychotic morons who, when you wave the Bible, a few choice pics of gays, and cock your gun, will ALWAYS support the Alliance of Four out of plain ignorance and simple fear. And that's how personal liberties can so easily be given away....

Paul Hackett, last year in his run for Congress in Ohio, said that the Republican Party has been hijacked by people that aren't all that different from Osama bin Laden. He is absolutely right. In fact, there is an astounding book, just released, called American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips which details this unholy marriage of religion, oil and politics. This former Republican strategist main theme is that our "reckless dependency on shrinking oil supplies," a "milieu of radicalized (and much too influential) religion," and a "reliance on borrowed money" (domestic and international debt, that is) have all coalesced into our country being on the brink of collapse.

I will take it a step further. Take these ideas and mix them with the thought of a spend happy military always needing a war, corporations only happy to make more money, an inept Congress, and group of lobbyists, the biggest of which believe that we are in the "End Times." What do you have?

The United States of America in the 21st Century.

Folks, we are at a crossroads, and I for one would like to move forward and it feels like we are moving backwards into the stone age. I mean, they are debating evolution as a "theory" right now in Washington. We have a president who, according to Senator Joe Biden, goes with his instincts, regardless of the facts presented to him, and then prays later that he will be right. For crying out loud!

The combination of watching the film Why We Fight and then hearing about these lunatics yell about a supposed war on Christians has really gotten me down. I don't see any way out of this. The Democrats are so weak and just plain pussy about everything that I can't rely on them. So, who then? Who is going to lead us in this time of great turmoil?And do we have the strength to change?

Do we?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Justice and Liberty For All? (The New America Part One)

In last week's "Comments" section it was suggested to me that I write a column about how our personal liberties have strayed from the founding fathers original vision of our country and have eroded over the last five years. I thought that might make an interesting column but it needed a spark....something a bit more.

I found the "bit more."

I recently had the opportunity to view a film called Why We Fight. It is the most extraordinary documentary I have ever seen. Quite frankly, it puts Fahrenheit 9-11 to shame. I have included a link here and I urge all of you to go and watch some clips of the movie on the official web site, particularly the clip of President Eisenhower. It is an insightful, unbiased view of our country that will change your perception of the little rose colored reality we have created.

The film's basic premise is the main point behind President Eisenhower's farewell address: our country's economy is based around feeding the military industrial complex. We have to constantly be in a state of war to survive. The narrative unfolds to show an unholy alliance between the military, Congress, Lobbyists, and the corporations of this country who are all making billions of dollars off of war and thus, "create" enemies for us to fight.

The film has had a profound impact on me and I can't stop thinking about it. And one of the reasons why I am stuck on it has to do with personal liberties and, in particular, how they have been removed from us in the last five years.

One section of the film in particular struck me with it's starkness. On Oct 10, 2002 Congress signed resolution #114 which effectively ended the way our country was supposed to work; they gave President Bush the power to attack Iraq without approval from them or the UN, relinquishing the power that they and they alone were supposed to have. The elected officials that represent US and our interests essentially gave away our rights to be adequately represented. Now we are represented by one man who is essentially beholden to corporations and lobbyists who helped get him elected.

And the founding fathers rolled in their graves for the great Republic they created was truly dead....

The people who started this country did not intend for the President to have this much power. They installed a system of checks and balances by having Congress and the Supreme Court round out our governing body. And they certainly did not intend to have unelected officials wielding so much power behind the president.

This resolution provided cover for the president to take "all necessary steps" to protect the American people from Iraq. Taken with the Patriot Act, this new resolution essentially gave carte blanche to the president to wiretap anyone he wanted to without a warrant. It was around this time that the program began. Oddly, President Bush spent the summer of 2004 giving speeches saying that the "government needs warrants to perform any sort of personal liberties would not be eroded." This was a lie. Bush Co had been doing it for nearly two years.

The NSA program was underway and the "liberal rag" the New York Times knew about it and sat on the story until nearly a year after the election. Gee, I wonder why.

Apparently the Patriot Act, even with its ability to seize guns and property without warrants, was not enough. Resolution #114 and the Patriot Act together have made our country a place where people can be halled off and tortured, without a warrant, and without anything other than perhaps a questionable phone call.

All this and yet the 9-11 commission says we are still doing a horrible job fighting the war on terror and that is what really ticks me off about this. As if the erosion of personal liberty weren't enough, certain people in this country are using the fear of another terrorist attack to get away with whatever they want while all the while completely ignoring Al Qaeda and the warnings of hundreds of experts.

The Alliance of Four (military, corporations, Congress and lobbyists) have pushed the average American citizen into a corner where the only choice she or he has is to go along with....whatever....for freedom.

Don't like war? Well, if there weren't a war then your city or county would lose 2000 jobs. And your Congressmen that you like so much won't get re-elected and will be replaced by someone more Alliance of Four friendly. Made a phone call to Gaza lately? See you at Gitmo. Now that there is a war on, we need to hear stuff cuz bad people are doing bad stuff and stuff. Do you want to know what is really going on? Can't....national security....which leads us to our last little tidbit of personal liberty erosion.

Our government....YOUR government....has decided to re-classify thousands of documents, that have been unclassified for years, as highly secret and essential to national security. I have read stories of historians and academics researching in the National Archives only to have documents taken away on the grounds of national security. The program started in 1999 but stepped up as soon as President Bush got elected. It is my opinion that the current administration would like us to have less information rather than more. And they would like whatever information that does get out to be filtered through their PR firm, Fox News.

The more information we have the more we know what they are really up to....and that just wouldn't do....

Whose it to blame? Us? Maybe. We have become a nation of lazy, fat morons that have given away our rights and allowed this sort of system to flourish. We have an Imperial Presidency. Unless something insanely ridiculous comes along like the Dubai Ports Deal, there are now like minded people in all three branches of government that have been placed there, on purpose, to carry out an agenda of much greater control of the citizenry than our founding fathers intended. They all just go along with whatever the president wants to do, which explains why President Bush has never used a veto yet....all the bills that come to him are all hand crafted to fit his vision!

So, we have these four groups that are flicking their bic lighters at the Constitution. There is a fifth group, however, whose power and influence are growing everyday.....along with their paranoia. The film does not mention them but I think they are every bit as integral as the other four to the erosion of our liberties . And every bit as dangerous.

Stay tuned for who they are and their agenda in Part Two of The New week!