Hermit's Weblog
everything your mother never taught you about how the world really works.

Wed, 29 Nov 2006

What to do about Iraq (it will not be a short consideration).

Many people want to think about this problem, as if it can be separated out of the past from which it was born. But this is not possible unless one wants to live in fantasy and myth. How we got someplace is as important as anything toward the goal of understanding of how to get out of that place, or at least move on to something more appropriate. The word appropriate is very vague, but there is a reason for this.

The direction a government, or a people, should take in conditions of war is not a simple thing to assess. Many will act as if it is, but the fact that people want to reduce such a terrible action and its consequences to sound bites only shows their own weaknesses of thought, or their unwillingness to address the truth of why they assert what they do. Motives are often hidden, and this is a matter that allows us to subject what is actually said to careful and critical examination.

The War in Iraq was sold to the American People like so much worthless patent medicine. It rests on a tissue of lies, and the real motives were not stated. We got one naked clue to this hidden reality, when Rumsfeld essentially said upon his resignation that he knew better than the rest of us what needed to be done (see blog entry titled: Rumsfeld Right, the rest of us Wrong). This arrogance permeates all levels of government today, and is itself rooted in the attitudes of the leaders of the financial world, who hold that the American People (and any other peoples as well) cannot be trusted with macro social decisions that effect markets, business, finance and trade.

This was also, to a degree, the view of the Founders of this nation. For this reason they sought not a true democracy, but a democratic constitutional Republic. The citizens were to be represented by (hopefully) people who understood their duties and the trust which had been placed in them.

This experiment has essentially failed.

The causes of its failures are several, but worth a brief elaboration. Of the least, but still, responsible, We the People must accept our being asleep as to not only the rights of citizenship (which we hold high), but the duties as well. There are no rights without corresponding duties, and as citizens the vast majority have failed in their duties (100 million eligible voters did not vote in the 1996 presidential election, for example).

Of greater responsibility, than the People themselves, are the politicians, a professional class that has most often put its own prerogatives, power, wealth and position ahead of the needs of the People.

Following them are what I call in some of my writing: the Lords of Finance. They have intentionally interfered in the political processes of the Western Democracies, and corrupted them in both obvious and secret ways. Their insidious self-serving assertion of the rights of wealth over those of ordinary people is nothing less than a crime against humanity in the form of a tyranny. On a old Law and Order television show, the always attractive female aide to the lead prosecutor says to him at the end of the episode: "I guess the rich really do have different laws" (a very rich person just got away with murder). The prosecutor then replies, with a certain amount of barely held in disgust: "What laws?". But worse then all three of these, in the responsibility for the failure of the American Experiment, is the Press, including in particular the major television network news shows. The importance of a free press is enshrined in our Constitution in the very first amendment*. This shows the significance of free speech in the minds of the Founders. *"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

We can not get sold a War without the complete failure of the Media to perform its duties and responsibilities as the voice of conscience of a free People.

The War in Iraq is unjustified, by any evaluation of the right means by which a people ought to be brought to make war on any other people. The least responsible for this war are the American People, yet it is they who pay the greatest price, in the maiming and death of our most precious heritage, our children. Not only that, but the world (with great justice) looks upon the American today as the cause of great suffering. Not unimportant is also the material costs, the taxes and the malformation of our economy, all in the service of a War that benefits only the Very Rich.

All of this must be kept in mind in considering what to do now. The sound bites, with their vain philosophy that such complexity can be reduced to a simple phrase, have to be ignored, for they have no real meaning, nor are they based upon intelligence or even (heaven forbid we have this) wisdom. So "cut and run", or "complete and immediate withdrawal", the two most superficial poles, can be safely ignored. The division of Iraq into three spheres is probably the most laudable and realistic goal, but even in that case, the question remains: How much more the American People have to pay for the crimes and failures of others? Next I am going to suggest something really rather radical, even though I know it will not be considered. An idea is not invalidated simply because we know that those in power will not apply it.

Step One: The countries of the world need to be told that since they too contributed to the background context of problems, they will have to make reparations, of either money, arms and/or soldiers. They also need to be told the whole plan, as a motivation for them to step forward.

Step Two: Rather than seek to reduce the weapons held by the various factions in Iraqi, we prepare to even the odds. We promise that as part of our withdrawal, everyone will be able to become armed. As long as the factions can terrorize the ordinary people, with the ordinary people unable to fight back, they will do so. Once they realize that the whole damn country is going to be armed to the teeth, those decisions all have to start to change. The militia leaders only have power to the extent they can arm only their soldiers. The out of country terrorists only have power to the extent those they terrorize can not fight back. Iran only has power to the extent that they face a basically unarmed populace, who are fearful for their lives, and have no choice but to seek a powerful (but very dangerous) friend.

The tendency in our thinking is to seek to control, and to police. Here we do the opposite, much the same way the martial arts equalize combatants by the skill of moving with the aggressive energy, instead of opposing it. We push in the direction of what seems like greater anarchy, which will have the useful effect of making those who assert power of arms actually less powerful. For example, in a town where an armed militia of 1000 men terrorizes and holds hostage 50,000 people, if much of that 50,000 now has the same arms, the whole dynamic changes. A group of a dozen thugs with AK-47s can terrorize a neighborhood, unless that neighborhood of 500 people is also armed.

They also don't need to be heavily armed, either. The real matter is not force against force, but the underlying psychology. Terrorism is psychological warfare, whether it is done by the militias, by one religious faction against another, or by a neighboring State. It is of the mind and of the imagination. I scare you. If I can no longer scare you, because you also can shoot me (we all have guns), then the whole problem takes a quite different turn.

The doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD), by which the Cold War remained cold instead of hot, was rooted in a valid psychological fact. If we are equally dangerous, then everyone has to think a lot more carefully. This is the real threat by the way of Iran and North Korea as potential holders of atomic weapons - an ability to make the U. S. rethink its foreign (read corporate) policies, because we are not the only ones who can bring down the house.

Whether, a world living on these principles is sane or not, is whole other question, but clearly a utopian pacifism is not only not an idea whose time has come, it can't claim to be more sane for it abandons the great mass of the meek to the predatory appetites of the few.

Step Three (and the most crucial): The American People must hold their leaders accountable for getting us into this war in the first place. I don't mean just voting them out of office. There are crimes that have been committed, and people need to be tried for these crimes, and we, the American People, need to require in this regard: Justice. If we don't hold them accountable, we essentially consent, and then deserve to be seen by the rest of the world as criminal ourselves.

Electing some Democrats to Congress is just the first of a long series of steps by which we need to seize and take hold of our real powers and responsibilities as citizens. The fact that we don't expect the government to like the above idea, does not invalidate it, nor does it mean we cannot put it forward as our plan for the future of Iraq. In fact, just the threat of it will change the whole conversation, and maybe scare some people in this country in a way they very much need to be scared. As V says in the movie V for Vendetta: "A people should not be afraid of their government. The government should be afraid of the people."

[17:28] | [] | # | G

The New York Times and the Facts of Life

Here is a paragraph from a recent (Nov. 29, 2006) Times editorial:

Mr. Bush needs to make clear that Americans? patience has all but run out and that he will start bringing the troops home unless Mr. Maliki moves to rein in sectarian bloodletting and Iraqi troops start shouldering more of the burden. Mr. Maliki needs to make Mr. Bush understand Iraq?s full desperation ? and his own desperate political weakness. So long as Baghdad remains in chaos ? and militias are better armed and more motivated than the Iraqi Army ? he has no chance of ending the blood feuds or breaking the cycle of retribution.

This paragraph is itself proof that the Times also does not understand the Facts of Life.

Neither man is in control of anything. Neither man is brutal dictator, which is the only means to seek (and perhaps obtain) such control. Both are dependent upon the cooperation of others, and both have so failed in their tasks that such cooperation has no chance of appearing. They do not deserve cooperation, have not truly sought it, nor done those things that would lead to it.

Maliki owes his power to manipulations by the American government, and is not legitimately an elected official of the Iraqi people. There is, in point of fact, no Iraqi people in the first place, a myth that anyone with two brain cells to rub together knows. You can't form a rational policy based upon such an egregious fiction in any event.

Bush owes his power to heavily manipulated elections in America, including lies about his real character. If the truth about his National Guard duties, and his drug use, had become proper campaign issues (a failure of the Press, including the Times itself), he would have never been elected in the first place.

For the Times to expect either of these men to be capable of leading in the situation that now exists in Iraqi, is to live in fantasy land. As to what can and should be done there, I'll write of that later.

[17:26] | [] | # | G

Tue, 28 Nov 2006

Newt Gringrich - a constitutional idiot!

In a recent speech, the former Speaker of the House demonstrated such an amazing ignorance of our system of laws as to make this writer want to cry. He pontificated on the need for reexamine free speech in the light of terrorism, and went on to say: "a different set of rules" may be needed in order to interfere with terrorists' ability to use the Internet and recruit others.

You'd think after all those years in Washington, he would know the difference between, the rights of the citizens under the Constitutions, and legislation. Maybe not. Maybe power is so addictive it warps the brain, and disables the ability to actually think before you speak. I know he is not going to read this but lets pretend I've tied him to a chair and I am not only speaking to him in simple sentences, but also writing the whole thing out in big letters on the blackboard (maybe that's it, folks, when people get elected to congress they have to every year take courses in continuing education (like doctors) about civics and other fundamental ideas about our form of government. If they can't pass the course, they have to go home - and we get to determine the test).

Okay Newt, civics 101. We are a democratic constitutional Republic. That means the power is in the people, and what power government has is a limited grant of that power, which can be withdrawn at our will. Part of the limits on what you can do in the Legislative Branch is called the Bill of Rights. You can't change those rules without changing the Constitution (which changes we get to approve). So a reexamination of free speech for the purpose of making up a different set of rules does not exist as a power you get to exercise. Now please go to the blackboard in the back of the class and write this over and over again 100 times.

[16:01] | [] | # | G

Sun, 26 Nov 2006

9/11 Update

Part of understanding 9/11 is appreciating the geopolitical motives of those who foster this kind of activity. The thesis that puts this with the neo-cons still mistakes the surrogates for the chief actors. This is not about some kind of cabal meeting in secret by the way, but simply about observing shared motives that occasionally collude. The real driver is financial (follow the money) and involves an effort to completely free Multinational Corporations from any influence by Nation States. This is inherent in the structure and culture of corporations as social entities (a longer story), but represents a kind of survival of the fittest gesture. Since the bottom line and due diligence obligations drive corporate managers to certain kinds of actions, there isn't any way for them to continue to develop in this direction (toward a kind of coming economic feudalism), but to try to control governments, use other peoples money (taxpayers to fund military research and pay for professional private armies etc.) and similar actions.

Corporations compete in an environment that includes retarded social forms (dictators, tribal based and/or religious based governments etc.). Again, survival requires base actions (subverting governments, paying bribes, spying etc.), actions which the Nation States have traditionally done.

The reason this is important, is that not only must the truth of 9/11 come out, but we must, as citizens of a Nation State that we want to continue to survive, understand the rules of the game being played, in order to act properly. 9/11 is simply one battle in a war that's been going on for centuries. We need to keep it in that true context, or loose sight of the real goals, which is not just the truth, but what to do about how it happened in the first place.

[12:32] | [] | # | G

Wed, 15 Nov 2006

Impeachment or Not, for Bush and Chaney

Everyone understands that the use of the power of impeachment is probably the gravest constitutional power that the Legislative Branch holds. It should not be done for frivolous reasons, although the example, in the 1990's effort to impeach Clinton set by the Republican Party, reveals just such an abuse of power by the Legislative Branch.

There is now a wave of sentiment among some of the people to impeach Bush and Chaney, which, however, has been said by the Democratic leaders coming into power in the Legislative Branch, that this is something they will not do. What should be done?

One question to be faced is whether the Legislative Branch has the power not to impeach, that is whether this power is discretionary? Here is what the Constitution says:

Article I, Section 2, paragraph 5: The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment

Article I, Section 3, paragraph 6: The Senate shall have sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person all be convicted without the Concurrence of two-thirds of the Members present.

Article I, Section 3, paragraph 7: Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Article II, Section 4: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The House has the Power of Impeachment (to bring the President to trial in the Senate), and the Senate is the trier of fact for the Conviction of the causes of Impeachment (Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors), with the Chief Justice presiding. Here, as a very much related matter, is the President's Oath of Office, from Article II, Section 1, paragraph 8: "I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Please note that the Oath of Office is not to the People or the Nation, but to the Constitution. This is a subtle and most significant fact. What could be a more significant (higher) Crime, than the breaking of the Oath of Office?

Now the main thought that probably inhibits the Legislative Branch from impeaching President Bush is not whether he has committed any crimes, but what this would cost the country to endure. But this will not be the only thought. Many higher officials in the Legislative Branch contemplate the possibility of running for President. They too seek power, and the expansion of presidential power by this president has to be a mighty temptation for those who believe themselves qualified to run for this high office.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that behind the scenes power players from the elites of wealth are well aware that the near future may contain a time of deep economic disorder, such that anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of Americans could become unemployed. Such a time would be one of great unrest, and so these higher powers have encouraged the creation of legislation (The Patriot Act, the Freedom Act, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006),which enables the Executive Branch (with the approval of the Legislative Branch) to exercise extraordinary powers in a time of civil unrest.

This is the situation from the side of the powers who control Washington, but from the side of the People, the matter is otherwise.

The President and the Vice President have violated their Oaths of Office. They have sought for and received (with the blessings of the Legislative Branch) extraordinary extra-constitutional powers over the American People. What higher crimes could there be?

The specific charges, in the sense of lying about the road to War in Iraq; in the sense of authorizing the violation of the laws (national and international) against torture; and, in the sense of the illegal wiretapping of American Citizens, these specific charges would be the easiest to prove in the trial in the Senate, should the House choose to impeach. Yet, the question remains whether the Legislative Branch, even under the rule of the Democrats, has the courage to impeach.

The reason they should impeach is rather simple. Justice requires it.

Crimes have been committed against the American People, the highest kinds of crimes. The People deserve and need Justice, and the future needs for this Justice to be extracted regardless of the immediate costs in strife, for politicians need to know that the People's Branch, the Legislative Branch, will uphold its Duty and its Trust.

If the Democrats fail to exact Justice for the People through the process of Impeachment, than that failure will be one far worse in its costs than anything the Republicans have done so far in their unconscionable excessive exercises of raw political power and corruption.

[16:33] | [] | # | G

Thu, 09 Nov 2006

Rumsfeld Right, the rest of us Wrong

As the endless interviews of Rumsfeld play out on the TV, wherein he basically gets to assert his flawless execution of the Iraq War and related matters, one thing should stand out as the essence of his discourse. He knows better and we are dummies.

This really tells us a lot about the culture of power in Washington, especially those connected to the Republicans, and thereby even more connected to the elites of wealth. They all know better. That's their essential attitude, and while it is human, it is wrong. They don't know better.

If they actually had to justify that proposition against an informed and logically coherent thinking, it could not be done. But one other thing we can count on, besides that they believe they know better, is that never ever will this attitude let itself appear in a forum where it could really be challenged.

It is a bit refreshing, however, to actually see it finally confessed to in public, this belief that ordinary people don't have what it takes intellectually and morally to make judgments about what their Country should do. No wonder they have wanted (and still will seek) such an excess of power in the Executive Branch. What a burden they have to bear, that we think we live in a Democracy, when all the "we know better" people keep trying to make it into an oligarchy of elites of power and wealth, in which we best serve as workers, consumers, and battlefield fodder for their wars of aggression.

Just amazing really, to see this attitude so publicly displayed at last.

[11:44] | [] | # | G

Sun, 05 Nov 2006

All is fair in love and war - Vanity Fair and the vanities of the neoconservatives.

Its three days before the 2006 by-election. Vanity Fair just released a preview of an upcoming article (due out early January 2007), in which Vanity Fair alleges changes of heart in many of the neoconservatives and that many no longer support the war or Bush. Those quoted in the press release (Perle et al), responded immediately with assertions that the press release was a cheat, and quoted them out of context.

This much seems to be true. Intellectuals on the political Right in America, who have identified themselves as "neoconservatives", have various strongly held views on American Foreign Policy issues, and wrote papers on middle-East policy, regime change in Iraq, the need for war and other related matters.

These views have been thought by many to have strongly influenced the second Bush administration, and Perle and others were insiders during the time leading up to the Iraq War.

Now that the War has clearly failed, positions are being taken as to who is responsible (the "blame game"). A scape goat is needed, and we cannot expect almost anyone (Richard Clark is the one exception that comes to mind), to admit to having made misjudgments and to apologize to the American People. Whatever else fuels the philosophy of neoconservatives, few of them seem to want to believe they could be wrong, or that they have any personal responsibility.

A typical response is Perle's reply to the Vanity Fair press release, in which he maintains his position was correct, and that the War was basically badly prosecuted (gee mom, it was not me that had a bad idea, its the guys who took my idea and could not execute it properly who screwed up). What is interesting to me in all this is a question that never really gets asked, or answered.

It goes something like this: If you have a point of view about what government policy should be, and have influence in this regard, is there not some obligation to actually know something about the matter in question?

See, the reason this question is important can be found in what many polls today find as central to many American citizen's concerns about the War - that is the issue of competence. For some silly reason, the American People seem to expect that people who seek highest office, and the processes by which such people get office and the people that our highest officials choose to employ as thinkers and policy makers - we seem to expect that these folks will know what they are doing.

We trust the process (at least some still do) and we'd like to trust our leaders (at least some still do), but that is not a blind trust which says: go ahead and do anything you want. It is the same trust we give to a doctor when we take our sick child into the emergency room, or the trust we give to the teacher when we let our child off in front of the school.

That child is our most precious obligation, and we need the people who are going to have an effect on that child's life to know what they are doing - to be competent. Doctors get degrees and have codes of ethics. Teachers get degrees and have oversight from supposedly professional administrators. But who has oversight over politicians, their cronies and sycophants and political advisers? What degrees and codes of ethics are they bound too?

I don't think this election is just about changing parties. I don't think this election is about issues of War and Peace. I think this election is about political competence, and that the American People are getting fed up with the fact that their trust is being violated. I think this election is sending a message to both parties: You've lost our trust, and we no longer believe you to be as competent as you pretend to be in your speeches and political ads.

See the thing is ordinary people are not as stupid as advertisers and politicians try to treat them. They are just very busy doing very important things, such as raising children and creating the wealth. There is no America without them - they are America. They are also very tolerant (read the Declaration of Independence: ...all experience has shown, that human beings are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.).

The reality is that government has become incompetent at taking care of the People, and really only works for the benefit of a very few. What the polls leading up to this election are telling us, whatever the result in three days, is that the patience of the American People is wearing thin.

There is no getting back from that. No new lies, no new fears, no new repressions are going to change what is a fundamental and widespread loss of faith in the competence of government. The party is over for the elites of wealth and power. The American People are turning their attention on matters they once felt they could safely trust to others. It really does not make a lot of difference how this election in particular turns out - once disturbed from their true work (raising children and creating wealth), the American People will take up the job of reforming government with the same moral passion and outrage they express when their children are threatened.

Why? Because the two are the same. Government has been given certain tasks, and has failed. Its main task is to: ...form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,... That "Posterity", that's the children. Mess with my children, you mess with me. The next years are not going to be a good time to be in politics.

[12:44] | [] | # | G

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Joel Wendt


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