Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From the Wisdom of Carl Sagan

In 1988, a hoax created quite a stir in Australia. A man named Luis Alvarez claimed that after a motorcycle accident, he was able to channel an ancient person into his consciousness and allow this individual to speak through him. Carlos, as he called himself, had the wisdom of the ages it appeared, speaking in generalities about truths that are common among people, he quickly developed a following in Australia, including members of the press who helped promote his little budding religion.

What was interesting about this hoax, is that it was the brainchild of skeptic James Randi with the objective of showing just how gullible and susceptible people are to a hoax of this nature. Discussing the charlatans out there that would prey upon us, Sagan made some rather prophetic observations back in 1996.

“Most of these figures are only after your money. That’s the good news. But what worries me is that a Carlos will come along with bigger fish to fry- attractive, commanding, patriotic, exuding leadership. All of us long for a competent, uncorrupt, charismatic leader. We will leap at the opportunity to support, to believe, to feel good. Most reporters, editors and producers-swept up with the rest of us- will shy away from real skeptical scrutiny. He won’t be selling you prayers or crystals or tears. Perhaps he’ll be selling you a war, or a scapegoat, or a much more all-encompassing bundle of beliefs than Carlos’s. Whatever it is, it will be accompanied by warnings about the dangers of skepticism.”

To paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel, “where have you gone, Carl Sagan, our nation turns it’s lonely eyes to you……

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tooele County Convention Update

The Democratic party of Tooele County held their convention last night, and despite no contests to be voted on, there was quite a few people in attendance. A lot of the regulars who have devoted so much time to the Tooele County party were in attendance and it is always good to see them.

It was good to see and hear from many fine candidates for public office. Bob Springmeyer, candidate for Governor made it, and gave a fine speech, as did Morgan Bowen, candidate for Congress. One of my favorite speeches was given by Jean Welch Hill, who took it to our lackluster, but pro-bluster, Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. She seems to have the fire to make it an interesting race.

One suggestion I’d give to Bob Springmeyer, is that he bring with him to each speech a ribbon to cut, a baby to kiss and a camera to pose in front of. If he is going to run against Jon Huntsman jr. he needs to learn the implements of the trade. Or I suppose, he could do what he is doing, and just address Utah’s pressing issues. Naw, it’ll never work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Think Global/Act Local- Green Objectives for 2008

With Earth day upon us, it is always a good idea to review some of my objectives for the year and welcome suggestions from fellow bloggers on how to do my share to help the environment. Below are my Top 15 green objectives for the year.

1- 20% increase in my use of mass transit over last year during the same periods.
2- Carpool as often as possible with others to reduce harmful emissions and save money.
3- Plant a larger garden and better utilize the harvest of the garden to reduce our purchases of products that will need to be shipped vast distances. Share excess harvest with friends and neighbors.
4- Utilize local farmer’s markets to meet some of the same objectives as #2.
5- Increase consumption of vegetables, fruits and whole grains while reducing the consumption of red meat.
6- Plant additional trees and shrubs in my yard and ensure that they are wildlife friendly.
7- Plant additional flowering perennials in my yard that will provide habitat for pollinators such as bumble bees, hummingbirds and hawkmoths.
8- Plant two additional fruit trees that will in the future meet some of the same objectives as in #2.
9- Take fewer long trips, keeping our vacation activities reasonably local.
10- Continue to recycle newspapers and aluminum cans.
11- Utilize re-usable shopping bags for groceries and other items.
12- Ensure the seafood I eat is eco-friendly, coming from sustainable fisheries.
13- Allow as many seed-bearing perennials as possible to go to seed and make them available for wintering seed-eating birds such as finches, chickadees and juncos.
14- Continue to utilize certain areas of my yard for xeric plants that require little to no water.
15- Continue to compost garden and kitchen wastes to recycle these wastes into my vegetable garden.

I certainly welcome other suggestions.

Friday, April 11, 2008

War Criminals Among Us

Remembering the Nuremberg trials that occurred at the end of World War II, I find it illustrative to look at the main charges.

1.Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of crime against peace
2.Planning, initiating and waging wars of aggression and other crimes against peace
3.War crimes
4.Crimes against humanity

On one and two, looking at the efforts of Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Douglas Feith to not only look for the justification to go to war with Iraq, but to sell evidence they knew to be highly suspect to the general public and the legislative branch, suggests conspiracy, planning, initiating and ultimately waging an unprovoked war of aggression. George W. Bush’s complicity in this crime is quite well documented as well. When George Tenet presented the evidence linking Iraq with Al Qaeda and with weapons of mass destruction, his response was “is this all there is?” Tenet then put the noose around his own neck when he said, “slam dunk.”
On the first two counts under Nuremberg, I would have to say that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and possibly Condi Rice and Colin Powell would be subject to indictment with a high probability of successful prosecution under Nuremberg.

As for the latter two counts, the rejection of the Geneva Accords (treaties signed by the United States), would constitute a crime against humanity, as would the use of torture, extraordinary rendition and detainment without recourse. In my opinion many in the Bush Administration are indictable under the third and fourth counts at Nuremberg. Accessories to these counts would be the legal advisors who provided the legal justification for violation of the Geneva Accords as well as torture. As a result, John Yoo and David Addington would also be indicted under under Nuremberg three and four.

Because the United States has the most powerful military in the world, these charges will never be made. But in a theoretical world where we are the loser of the war, under the rules of Nuremberg, would Bush and much of his administration be convicted as war criminals? Would an independent Robert Jackson willingly prosecute Bush and his cronies? That is an interesting question. In my opinion, he would.

The administration of George W. Bush has so soiled what our country should be about, that previous generations of Americans would be ashamed if they lived to see it. Those who have enabled and supported this behavior are also culpable. To the flag waving enablers of war criminals, I say repent. Admit what you did, confess your sin, and promise that you will never support the lawless war-mongering neocon world view again. We have descended to a level of barbarism that leaves our rhetoric regarding human rights and liberty impotent in the world. American exceptionalism and hypocrisy has seriously undermined not only who we are, but who others see us as.

Is the Bush Administration as bad as Nazi Germany? Certainly not. But the fact that plausible comparisons can be made between Bush Administration actions and the Nuremberg charges, should atleast give us pause.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Misreading Cheney and Bush

I was going through my files last night when I stumbled upon an essay I wrote back in January of 2001. This was before I even knew what a blog was, but I wrote personal essays at the time. As someone with an "addiction to rightness", this essay really struck me. Check out this quote

On the bright side, Bush atleast has an experienced and capable Vice President. Though I’ve been very concerned about a general lack of sophistication coming from our new President, Cheney has always impressed me as someone who is pretty level-headed. He’s certainly more conservative than I am, but I think a simpleton like Bush will need someone with his experience and knowledge.”

What I didn’t know, was that Cheney secretly was a war-monger who would exercise complete control over the Presidency. I correctly anticipated that Bush was weak and had a lot of flaws, but in retrospect, I confused experience for wisdom when it came to Dick Cheney.

I also misread Bush on a few things as well. Here’s another quote from that January essay.

This has been a very divisive election. I’m encouraged that Bush seems to want to help heal the divisions that pervade our nation. Though I’m concerned about Bush’s intelligence, I do sense that he is basically a good person, and as an American first, I feel it is important to give the new President a certain benefit of the doubt and hope that his Presidency will be successful.”

I cannot think of a more divisive President our nation has had than George W. Bush. I did not see that Bush was an immature, easily-led, and deceitful individual. Though concerned about his lack of sophistication, I didn’t see just how that failing would make him overly sure of himself, and therefore closed-minded. I didn’t see that his response to crisis would be to over-react, and over-extend the reach of the executive branch of government.

By 2004, I had figured Bush out much better when I wrote,

As for a General, I find President Bush to be very decisive, but not particularly thoughtful, lacking the tactical subtlety that great military leaders generally possess. As a General, he reminds me of the Civil War Confederate John Bell Hood who recklessly attacked regardless of the strength of the opposing force and the disposition of their troops. Just as Gen. Hood wrecked his army in critical battles in Georgia and Tennessee, I fear Gen. Bush has our military over-extended, misplaced, and vulnerable. As a Commander and Chief, I expect the President to react flexibly to situations that arise and General Bush isn’t that type of leader.

Since George W. Bush was elected President, our credibility has declined internationally, our military has become over-extended, our economy has sagged and our war on terrorism has been so misplaced that it has created more enemies then allies. The war on terrorism has also caused a decline in our fundamental civil rights. These will be the legacies of the Bush Administration. Let’s be decisive in November and end this “reign of error”.”

So how did Bush put it, “fool me once”?