Archive for the Politics Category

THE DEFLOWERING OF GEORGE W. BUSH

If you were looking by some chance for a laudatory piece about George W. Bush, you will have to read Bill Safire or George Will or some other right wing writer or perhaps the Wall Street Journal editorial page. My reading on Bush after following his career since he became the Governor of Texas is that he is ignorant, a bully, a frightened person, an inadequate man who is unaware of recent human history and a complete captive of the conservative right wing of his party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. That is a very baleful assessment of the current occupant of the Oval Office. And nearly every American will come to realize what a sorry man George W. Bush is.

The events of the past two weeks with the tragedy in Israeli-Palestinian relations has brought an even clearer picture of Bush’s failures and short comings. Until April 4th, Bush ignored events in the Israeli crisis. When he could no longer ignore the conflict in the Occupied Zones of the Palestine Authority, Bush repeatedly called on the American public and indeed, upon the whole world, to support Sharon and to condemn Arafat. When he sent Cheney to the Mideast in an utterly forlorn hope to rally Arab nations for the planned war against Iraq, Arafat was ignored and the Cheney mission became a complete failure. But nonetheless Bush continued to belabor Arafat while he praised and urged support for Sharon. Incidentally, Bush will not even grant Arafat a handshake. Yitzhak Rabin shook Arafat’s hand but Bush puts his hand in his pocket when he sees Arafat. Bush’s support for the bully Sharon has backfired. Arafat’s popularity is now at an all time high. Students rally and carry his picture and shout slogans in support of Yasser. Bush’s venture into the politics of the Mideast is now in total ruins. Bush has mortgaged his “War on Terror” to Sharon, the Butcher of Beirut.

One of Bush’s failings is his ignorance of the English language, his native tongue. When Bush attempts to deal with the most awesome of weapons, the nuclear bombs and missiles, he always adds a useless syllable. Thus, in Bush-speak, nuclear becomes NU-CU-LEAR. Even the right wing commentator Bill Safire chided him on this aspect of his English. And Safire is no dummy. Remember it was Safire who wrote one of the most inspiring lines in the English language for Spiro Agnew to say – “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

But leaving nu-cu-lear aside – Bush has for some days been unable to mouth the English word “NOW”! After piddling away months, Bush was finally moved to make a Rose Garden speech on Thursday, April 4, 2002 in which he proposed to Sharon that his forces should be withdrawn as soon as possible. At the very least, Sharon interpreted that to mean he could clobber the Palestinians until Friday, April 12 when Colin Powell would make his belated appearance in Jerusalem. Later, Bush amended his “as soon as possible” to read “without delay.” Sharon saw no difference between the two statements so he kept on having his tanks knock down fragile Palestinian homes with people still in them.

Now comes Colin Powell who has no diplomatic experience, but is still the Secretary of State. In all of Powell’s previous jobs, he has been known for extreme caution. Why do we need to do this at all, is Powell’s dictum. Well, Powell said “withdraw as soon as possible” and “without delay” meant pretty much the same thing “depending upon the construction” you may want it to have. But Bush, Powell and Bush’s mouthpiece Ari Fleisher would not utter the dreaded word “Now”! It just depended on the construction according to Powell. Finally, four days later, Condolezza Rice responded to the fury of the press and foreign allies by saying that “without delay means now.” Well now, that is done – or is it?

Here we are a week after the Rose Garden speech and Sharon has not responded to: one – as soon as possible, or two – without delay, or three – now. So Powell is now touring Arab countries and Israel in the hope that Sharon will decide to accede to one of the three constructions or wondering whether he will continue to bully his Palestinian neighbors by shooting and bombing them and then permitting no ambulances or hearses to pick up the wounded and dead. So much for Sharon agreeing to act in a humane fashion. Is it any wonder that Palestinian suicide bombing continues? The only question one could ask in the circumstances is why the other feckless Arab governments have not been there to oppose Sharon. The answer is NO GUTS. I could use another part of the male anatomy to express my opinion of Arab governments. But this is a piece I intend to send to Cardinal Law in Boston so I must keep it clean. The Spanish word is cojones. You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.

Let’s return to my opening thought that Bush is among other things an ignorant man. By this time, his ignorance has been well established with the possible exception of mossbacks in the far right wing of the Republican Party. He may be admired by the likes of Jesse Helms and Senator Brownback from Kansas but here we are talking about Neanderthals whose thinking never progressed beyond the 1890’s.

Now, I said he is also a bully. If his alignment with Sharon is not enough to convince anyone, I submit his carrying out the death sentence against a female who pled with him after she had become a Christian. That would be Karla Faye Tucker.

Let’s see what another conservative, born-again Christian had to say on the subject of bullying a condemned prisoner. This excerpt is from the August 10, 1999 Houston Chronicle, which is deep in the heart of Texas. Bush was Governor and planning to become his party’s presidential candidate.

Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer criticized Gov. George W. Bush Tuesday for making fun of an executed Texas woman in an interview Bush gave to Talk magazine.

“I think it is nothing short of unbelievable that the governor of a major state running for president thought it was acceptable to mock a woman he decided to put to death,” Bauer said of Bush.

Bush is portrayed in Talk as ridiculing pickax killer Karla Faye Tucker of Houston for an interview she did with CNN broadcaster Larry King shortly before she was executed last year. Just before her execution day, Tucker appealed for clemency on the grounds that she had become a born-again Christian.

“’Please,’ Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, ‘don’t kill me.’”
The Houston Chronicle, August 10, 1999

Does anyone need any more convincing on the bully score?

Bush became the President of the United States under the most inauspicious circumstances. Later, we’ll see what Jeffrey Toobin has to say about Bush’s ultimate selection by the right wing vote of the United States Supreme Court. But here we are stuck with the clearly inadequate and intellectually stunted man. On April 8th of this year,
Dan Rather interviewed King Abdullah of Jordan. Abdullah’s native tongue is Arabic. Rather gave the King a vigorous series of questions with plenty of opportunities for Abdullah to stumble or to retreat into slogans of the street. In the end, Abdullah handled Rather – not the other way around. His responses were completely unrehearsed, not scripted. His English was perfect. His answers reflected thoughtful consideration. There were no circumlocutions.

His answers were prompt, supported by logic and convincing. Now compare that with the alleged leader of the free world, who stumbles as he speaks and deals only in platitudes which he repeats as gospel truth.

In the first place, when Bush speaks he never permits a one-on-one interview with a first rate journalist. Not with Rather, not with Jennings, not with Brokaw and certainly not with Jim Lehrer. So what we have to go on are set pieces like the Rose Garden speech of April or addresses to Congress where questions are foreclosed. In short, Bush is simply reading some one else’s thoughts and words. Reading, I said. Even in these addresses, watch Bush’s eyes. Don’t worry about the wrinkled brow; just watch the eyes. Even with a script which he almost always uses, Bush is unsure of himself and that is reflected in his eyes. What we have as President of the United States is a frightened man, frightened by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Compare him with Bill Clinton. Clinton knew his subject and welcomed exchanges and challenges. Clinton’s eyes told the story. His eyes glistened because he knew what he was speaking about and that his thoughts were backed by logic. A lost script would mean nothing to Clinton. Bush’s wrinkled brow and the helplessness in his eyes make it clear that he is a frightened man beset by his own intellectual inadequacies.

Before he became the head of the U. S. Government, Bush could allay his inadequacies by appealing to his parents and influential friends of George H. W. and Barbara Bush. As my mother would say in her country style, “Bush was 40 years of age before he ever done a lick of work.” He got into Yale and Harvard on his parents’ reputations. While there as a student, Bush certainly did not distinguish himself. According to him, he was a goof off. Somewhere in his later 20’s, the Vietnam War took place. Old Bush tried to escape it but wound up in the Texas Air National Guard. The Texas Air National Guard was not federalized and, of course stayed in Texas and saw no service in Vietnam. Records show that Bush’s attendance at National Guard duties was sporadic at best. He let Al Gore and John McCain fight the war.

There followed a series of ventures into the oil business, largely under the sponsorship of his father. The record seems to support the thought that each venture was a failure. After the oil business fiasco, the wealthy backers of his father thought that the chances of Major League Baseball coming to Texas would be enhanced by the Bush name. So he became an executive of the Texas Ranger baseball team. The same backers who shepherded him on the baseball team excursion, then proposed him for Governor of Texas, and the rest is history.

The point is that in Bush’s work history, he has always—always relied on his parents or their wealthy friends to sponsor him. He has absolutely no record of accomplishments which would expel his feelings of inadequacies. He is a man of stunted mental achievement so he cannot rely on his brain to do away with his obvious feeling of inadequacy. In the words of my friends from the South and Southwest, Bush is a “sorry” example of what a leader of the free world ought to show. Lillie Carr was right. In all those years, Bush “never done a lick of work.”

Bush’s personal inadequacies are reflected in the “I” syndrome. As recently as the current Israeli crisis, Bush said “I” warned the Arab governments to stay out of the conflict. He says “I” told the Israelis what to do. When he sent General Zinni to attempt to handle things in Israel, although Zinni had no diplomatic experience, Bush always referred to him as “my personal representative.” When Cheney made his failed trip to moderate Arab countries to get them to back a war with Iraq, Bush claimed that “I” had the Vice President make that trip. The fact is that the United States Government speaks for the people of this country, not Bush. Zinni represents the United States Government, not as Bush says “My personal representative.” Cheney may have been sent on his fruitless trip to talk to the Arabs, but in doing so he represented the
U. S. Government, not George W. Bush.

When Bush employs the “I” technique, it is simply to inflate a man who badly needs help. Bright and generous men – which Bush is not – always suggest that other people have a hand in determining the outcome of events. Bright and generous men use the “we” symbol rather than the “I” designation.

The “I” complex causes Bush to be bitten in the backside, sort of a boomerang effect. Bush recently made it clear that “I” warned Sharon to pull back his troops. Bush said “I” did it, not Cheney, not Powell, not Congress, but “I” gave him the ultimatum. Remember the “as soon as possible” or “without delay”? Well Sharon had a surprise of his own. He told Bush in so many words what he could do with his “I” ultimatum.

If Bush had paid attention at Yale, I suspect that he would have been introduced to some history of the world. Nobody ever accused Bush during his Yale and Harvard years of taking a month off or a period when the school was on vacation or certainly not a leave of absence for six months or an academic year to study what other people do and to invest in the history of other nations or cultures. Clinton did that at Oxford but Clinton is a name to be expunged from the U. S. Government. Bush by his own admission was barely a “C” student just getting by. Bush was able to do that because he was lazy and he came from a family of great wealth and prestige.

Let us say that a poor kid from the Bronx in New York City or, as it was called when I grew up there, Dago Hill in St. Louis, had a scholarship to attend Yale University, as unlikely as that really is. Do you think that such a young student would squirt away his one and only chance of an Ivy League education by becoming a “C” student? And do you think that such a youngster would fail to take advantage of trips to other countries that are often available to college students? The obvious answer is a resounding “No.” But Bush wasted his years there in two of America’s most prestigious universities.

With respect to foreign travel, Bush is still a non-entity when it comes to our closest neighbor and ally, Canada. Early in his administration, he said Mexico was number one – the most important neighbor to the United States. Again, his lack of historical context is amazing. In World War II, Canada was our greatest ally. On more than one occasion I have shared meals and cigarettes with Canadian airmen and soldiers. The Canadians went to war when Hitler ran over Poland on September 1, 1939 – more than two years before the U. S. entered the war.

Bush would never recognize this fact. Mexico never entered the fight against the Axis. On the contrary, Germany was wooing Mexico as an eventual means of launching an attack against the United States. I’m sure Bush is unaware of this piece of history. He simply knows that Mexico adjoins Texas. Canada does not adjoin the Great State of Texas and hence, it will be visited after Uruguay or Swaziland.

This week the Mexican Senate declared that the President of Mexico, Vicente Fox, could not leave Mexico because he had been gone so much since his term began. Bush better send Carl Rove his political Guru to Mexico City to straighten the Mexican Senate out. So Mexico is our number one ally? So Mexico is our most important neighbor? Ole!

Now we turn to Tom Friedman, the New York Times columnist who won a Pulitzer Prize which was announced only a day or two ago. As it turns out, Tom Friedman is a Jew. I don’t care what his ethnic background might be; he writes compelling stuff. I did want to point out his ethnicity because of the quote from the Times on April 3, 2002 that I am about to offer. Friedman said this:

“The other people who have not wanted to face facts are the feckless American Jewish leaders, fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives who together have helped make it impossible for anyone in the U. S. administration to talk seriously about halting Israeli settlement-building without being accused of being anti-Israel.”

Now to Friedman’s list we add Roman Catholics whose idea of good government only includes those who want to ruthlessly stamp out abortion and contraceptive advice. Bush just stopped a $38 million appropriation to improve the health of poor people around the world because Christopher Smith, a New Jersey Republican member of the House, wrote him that he suspected that some of the money might be used to support abortion clinics in China. Mind you, money had been voted on and the appropriation was made. But Bush responded to Smith’s letter with haste. He held up distribution of the funds which were intended to help poor people with health problems in various parts of the world. And they are still held up even now.

Let me add a thought on Christopher Smith before we go on. In his office, he keeps a large crucifix. It’s not one to be worn around the neck; it is standing or leans against the wall. It is a big piece of work. Cardinal Law would be happy to have it available to him when he next writes a letter to another diocese telling them that a convicted child molester would perform quite well if the new diocese would take him. Now let us suppose you are a Jew or a Muslim or even a hymn-shouting Protestant. And let us suppose that you are admitted to Smith’s office as one of Smith’s New Jersey constituents. What do you think your chances of success are with Representative Smith in whatever problem you bring to him? I now live in New Jersey and I would be forced to say something like from nothing ranging down to zero.

Let’s return to Tom Friedman’s quote. The feckless American Jewish leaders are personified by Norman Podhoretz who often speaks for the right wing Jewish community. He spoke a night or two ago and he supported Sharon’s efforts to eradicate the Palestinian people. He simply wanted war regardless of what it did to Israel’s long term chances of survival.

Now we turn to fundamentalist Christians and neo conservatives. The two are joined at the hip. They speak with one voice and that voice is anti-intellectual as personified by say Jesse Helms or the Jew hating Billy Graham. These people fervently back Bush not so much because he shares their values but because they see him as at war against the intellectuals who speak for universities and foundations and research entities. They are “againers.”

Now I said in the opening that Bush is a captive of the conservative right wing of the Republican Party which happens to be a sinister force in American politics. The fundamental Christians are well known to me as I had parents who attended a Nazarene Church. The hate that was preached was appalling. For example, fundamentalist preachers claim that Jesus Christ was crucified by Jews. That is an absolute lie. The man behind the crucifixion was an emperor in Rome named Pontius Pilate. When Billy Graham, who led Bush to the paths of Christian righteousness, spoke to Richard Nixon and voiced his hatred of Jews, the belief that Jews caused Jesus Christ to die more than likely was one of his bedrock beliefs. And the fundamentalists support Bush. And so does Billy Graham who now says he didn’t mean it and his son Franklin Graham, says it is immoral to tape a conversation between a preacher and one of his flock. Richard Nixon: some flock.

Friedman’s thoughts are particularly disturbing when it is applied to the conservative backing of Bush. You may recall a half pint born-again protestant presidential contender Gary Bauer, who now says that when Bush wants Sharon to stop intruding in the occupied territories, that “Attitudes are hardening on the right of the Republican Party about this.” “Attitudes are hardening” is a none-too-subtle threat aimed at Bush. As Friedman said, any criticism of Israel is taken by Bush’s conservative right wing as being anti-Israel in nature.

So much for the moment about Tom Friedman who is a prescient man. I have been pondering why in the week of Easter, Bush took a three day fund raising trip for Republican candidates for the Senate and House and that was followed by four days at the “Western White House.” While a war was going on in Israel, Bush treated himself to a taxpayer ride to Crawford, Texas but on the way he stopped at the infamous Bob Jones University in South Carolina. You will recall that Bob Jones University until recently banned interracial dating. Bush made such a rip-roaring speech during the campaign that he had to ask Cardinal O’Connor of New York to seek forgiveness for his intemperate remarks. His trip to the school on his way to Texas was largely uneventful, in any case, he did not ask O’Connor’s successor for forgiveness. Maybe he should have.

While we are on the subject of his being captured by the religious right of his party, consider this. When he signed the campaign reform bill, which he tried to defeat, he did it with only two witnesses. No press, no TV, no radio. In Washington, it was called the stealth signing. He did not invite the men who made it possible such as Russ Feingold and John McCain from the Senate and Chris Shays and Marty Meehan from the House. The word is that by inviting those people to see him sign the bill would have infuriated his right wing followers. We can’t have that.

When it was decided that the U. S. Government would transfer ownership of Governors Island in New York Harbor to the State of New York, he had only two Republicans, Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, at the ceremony. The two New York Senators, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer were barred. How’s that for Chutzpah!

So I ask you. Is Bush the captive of the right wing of the Republican party? And by excluding the Republicans from attending the signing of the campaign reform bill, McCain and Shays, is he not showing you how small he can be? His inadequacies as a political leader are shown in big ways and in small ones.

Now today, April 10th, we had another example of Bush being the captive of the sinister wing of the Republican Party. Today Bush put on his doctor’s coat and announced with all of his background in medicine that he wants to “outlaw cloning,” so says the press. He squared off against 40 Nobel Prize winners who say the good to mankind is in cloning and stem cell research. Bush says it is a matter of science versus morality and he supports morality. Science can go soak its head in a bucket.

Previously, he had already limited stem cell research. Today he wants to “outlaw cloning” all together. While his religious followers may applaud this deplorable effort to thwart science, there are at least two things that make his decision disastrous. In the first place, almost every one knows of sufferers of Parkinson’s disease that could be helped by stem cell research. Many other diseases such as Alzheimer’s, diabetes, spinal cord injures, various cancers and neurological diseases and cardiovascular diseases could also yield to stem cell work. My brother and a neighbor died of Parkinson’s disease. But Bush comes down on what he calls “morality” and says cloning and stem cell research is not what his party is all about. I suppose it is “moral” to see people dying without the benefits that could flow from such work?

And secondly, it is absolutely clear that the United States will have lost the lead in this sort of work only to be replaced by foreign researchers who do not share Bush’s fake concern about “morality.”

If Bush had been concerned about morality, he would have permitted his handlers to see that all the votes were counted in Florida including the butterfly ones cast by elderly people in Palm Beach County who wanted to vote for Gore but who actually voted for Pat Buchanan due to a deeply flawed ballot. While you are at it see the New York Times of April 11 editorial entitled “The President’s Narrow Morality.” And when you read Jeffrey Toobin’s remarks at the end of the essay, let’s see who has the high ground on morality.

Well this is only a partial summary of Bush’s inadequacies and failings. As time goes on and other crises are brought to the Oval Office, I fear that Bush will bring this country closer and closer to the terror that he now campaigns against. By thumbing his nose at the Arab world, he makes it inevitable that Muslim people will always consider Israel and the United States as representing the things they hate. Under those circumstances, it becomes obvious that Muslim extremists will reach out to attack the United States and its citizens when traveling. Bush cannot cause the Arab people to disappear simply because they don’t share his fundamental Christian faith or because they are poor or because they use Friday as their Sabbath. Always remember the New York saying that “What goes around comes around.” Bush ought to remember that, even if New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for Gore.

If Bush had not entered the Presidency with such visceral hatred of Bill Clinton, he could have built acceptable relations with people of brown skin such as Arabs. But Bush came to office and surrounded himself with complete jerks such as John Ashcroft and Spencer Abraham and Gail Norton. The conservative wing was in control. The anti-intellectual phenomenon pervaded the Bush administration. Now he is surrounded by war hawks such as Paul Wolfowitz and the Secretary of Defense, Don Rumsfeld.

As a matter of interest, Ashcroft and Abraham were defeated in their bids to retain their Senate seats. Ashcroft is a hymn singing, born-again Christian that seems to have great appeal to Bush. Gail Norton is the protégé of the disgraced Secretary of the Interior, James Watt. Bush picks them right off the floor.

As I said, it need not have been this way but this is what happens when an inadequate man of very limited intellectual ability wins an election even though his opponents got a plurality of the vote. If I were a Christian, I might even be tempted to pray that the United States survives the term of Bush the Younger.

I want to close this essay with a thought by Jeffrey Toobin, a lawyer, author, and television guest on several shows and a leading commentator on the American political scene. As events unfolded in Florida after the 2000 election year, Toobin was a close observer. In his most recent book “Too Close to Call,” Toobin has these thoughts:

“(James) Baker’s cynical war on the recounts – which he fought in courtrooms, in television studios, and in the streets – was the best way to make sure that George W. Bush became president.”

“But still, the election of 2000 will not go away because in any real, moral, and democratic sense, Al Gore should have been declared the victor over George W. Bush – in the popular vote, in Florida, and in the Electoral College. No one seriously suggests that 3,407 people intended to vote for Patrick Buchanan in Palm Beach County; no one believes that thousands of black voters in Duval County had no preference in the race for President. The 680 questionable overseas absentee ballots identified in July 2001 by The New York Times assuredly, and improperly, went to Bush by a wide margin. If the simple preference of the voters behind their curtains was the rule – and it is supposed to be the rule in a democracy – then Gore probably won the state by several thousand votes, approximately the margin of the original network exit polls. Should Gore have won in a legal sense as well? He probably should have, and a Supreme Court opinion that is doomed to infamy denied him this opportunity, too.

In the cynical calculus of contemporary politics, it is easy to dismiss Gore’s putative victory. But if more people intended to vote for Gore than for Bush in Florida – as they surely did – then it is a crime against democracy that he did not win the state and thus the presidency. It isn’t that the Republicans ‘stole’ the election or that Bush is an ‘illegitimate’ president. But the fact remains: the wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001, and this is no small thing in our nation’s history. The bell of this election can never by unrung, and the sound will haunt us for some time.”

Toobin’s account is pretty damning stuff for Bush. To all the things I said in the opening paragraph of this essay, one must add the “The wrong man was inaugurated on January 20, 2001” and the United States is paying heavily for that mistake.

If anyone contends that criticism of Bush is destructive of the “unity” we have found under his leadership since September 11th, consider these efforts by Bush that divide the American people:

1. The proposed war in Iraq that does not have popular support of American citizens and which may have a disastrous outcome for the United States.
2. Blindly backing Sharon when Palestinian camps are being cruelly destroyed. In this case, Arab hatred will be the outcome for hundreds of years.
3. Drilling in the restricted areas of Alaska – ANWR – which would yield a tiny amount of oil deliverable in no less than five years and more like ten years. Conservation in auto and truck construction alone could yield ten times the flow from Alaska and it would become available now. Bush sees political advantage because the least loved union in America, the Teamsters, might wind up being employed there.
4. Bush continues to insist on right wing ideologues to fill vacancies on high level court appointments. Pickering is now behind us; can Robert Bork or Kenneth Starr be right ahead of us.
5. Bush is pushing his concept of morality to the great detriment of the U. S. by opposition to stem cell research and the attempt to completely ban any form of cloning. People are going to continue to die while Bush is wrapped in the embraces of fundamentalist Christian churches and by his crude attempts to peel Catholic voters from the Democrats by contending that this is the new morality. It is nothing less than a return to the medieval practice of medicine.
6. In an attempt to attract Catholic voters, Bush backs “abstinence only” means to control teen-age emotions. This leads to banning all forms of abortion control which puts the United States back where remote areas of Africa now find themselves. Such cynicism. His own daughters would probably laugh at abstinence only programs among college kids.
7. This country suffered a grievous blow on September 11th. Bush has cynically advanced his “war on terror” which he thinks places him in the ranks of Lincoln and Roosevelt. While he makes great noises to promote his war, he personally takes off to his ranch in Texas and is seldom found “working” on Saturdays or Sundays. Over Easter with the Israeli crisis boiling, he took three days of Republican fund raising – all paid for by U. S. taxpayers – and four days at his home on the range. If he is going to have a war in his portfolio, he is failing to work at it. Sort of like he treated his educational experience at Yale.

8. In foreign relations, Bush has made it clear that the U. S. needs no allies or friends and will go it alone. Remember the Kyoto Treaty. Now about the effort to create an international system of justice. Sixty nations have joined. The United States stands alone; Bush refuses to sign. Think also of treaties governing missiles. In that case, Bush asked Putin of Russia to join him in a handshake without a written record of any new treaty. Putin told Bush to get lost. These are only a few of the instances where Bush says he needs no allies or friends.

There are other examples where Bush in his forlorn effort to become the Right Wing President of the World is leading the U.S. on a destructive path. Unity occurs only when Americans blindly yield to the intellectually stunted bully from Connecticut who now bills himself as a Texan. We have to do better than George W. The United States deserves better.

E. E. CARR
April 10, 2002

~~~

The Trump comparisons make themselves too easy.
In other news I found it shocking now many of the people Pop talked about are still household names in politics. Schumer, McCain, Hillary — all of these politicians are still major players, fifteen years later. There’s gotta be a happier medium between “nobody has any experience” and “90% of incumbents get reelected.” Death or retirement shouldn’t be the default way to turn over the legislature; that’s always going to create a situation where the legislature is decades behind the times. Our current batch has zero idea how the internet works, for instance, and are more than happy to take Comcast’s money to fight against net neutrality because they literally couldn’t understand what implications that would have on the country even if they wanted to. I think term limits would solve this problem nicely, with the obvious catch being that the only body who could impose such limits would be the one which would directly suffer from it. So I’m not holding my breath.

THAT OLD TIME RELIGION

In ancient times, religious zealots such as myself would exile themselves to remote desert locations, away from secular and sinful cities, in the hope that a higher power would speak to them in an unmistakable voice of moral clarity. For the past few months, I have followed that ascetic trail blazed by our religious forebearers. I have attempted to avoid the temptations of Summit and Millburn, New Jersey. However, I did succumb, on only two occasions to the evil offerings of New York City where it is widely known that the Devil himself lives. His last known address was in Greenwich Village or on York Avenue at 87th Street. I have paid a heavy price for yielding to temptation by my visits to the Big Apple. And so I now find myself wringing my hands and staring at my shoes. I suppose this is the price of martyrdom.

When I emerged from my desert exile, I enjoyed an enormous belly laugh when that eminent theologian George W. Bush, said that Sharon was “a man of peace.” Jay Leno and David Letterman would pay enormous sums to have a joke writer supply them with lines that say Sharon is a “man of peace.” Always the comic, Bush uttered that line the day before he met the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia which greatly angered and offended his Saudi visitor. But he always does this. Remember his reference to his “crusade” in the Middle East? Well, old comedians never die it appears. When that line is repeated to survivors in Ramallah and in the Jenin Refugee Camp, I’m sure that Palestinians are rolling in the aisles with laughter.

Bush’s “Man of Peace” is matched by an ophthalmologist here in Short Hills. Last year, it is alleged, on solid grounds, that the ophthalmologist fondled the breasts of four women patients. The Essex County Prosecutor sent an undercover policewoman to him to have her eyes examined. She became the fifth woman he fondled. He contends that the fondling takes place in a search for future eye problems, so the five women ought to appreciate his concern for the future health of their eyes.

My belief is that the Short Hills ophthalmologist has as much chance of discovering future eye problems by his fondling as Sharon has of becoming a “Man of Peace.” It seems to me that their future achievements under these circumstances are exactly the same which is nada, nil, zero or something less than nothing. As a matter of interest, I am completely blind in my left eye as a result of the ministrations of this same Short Hills ophthalmologist. And he never looked at my chest for signs of upcoming eye trouble. That is a troubling oversight.

A further thought strikes me about Bush’s “Man of Peace.” Punishing the entire Palestinian people for resisting the occupation and for suicide bombing is a lot like wiping out the Catholic hierarchy because priestly abuse of children was wide spread. Bush may turn his “Man of Peace” loose on the Catholics when he is finished with the Palestinians.

Now while Bush’s faux pas is still current, we have Muslim apologists saying that in the Arabic language, Islam means peace. The Muslim translators should have gotten together with Bush on their definitions of peace. When the Palestinians invaded the Passover Seder meal in Natanya and killed 28 people, remember it was all done in the name of Islam, which means peace.

So you see between Bush and the Muslims, this old geezer is greatly confused. So far no unmistakable voice of moral clarity has spoken to me.

Not to be outdone in this duel of comedic endeavors, the Roman Catholic church had a meeting in Rome chaired by the Pope himself. The purpose of the meeting, which featured cardinals from the United States, was to determine what the Catholic stance should be with respect to priests sexually abusing children.

I am forced to ask you this question. The church has been around for perhaps 2000 years. Children have been attending school and mass at Catholic churches for the same period of time. An ordinary person would have to suspend belief to come to the conclusion that in the year 2002, the Pope would call a meeting to determine how the hierarchy of the Holy Roman Church should deal with priests who prey on children. And that’s only the beginning. There is no unanimity in the hierarchy on whether a priest should be chastised or punished if he is caught with a small boy in the priest’s rectory bed.

Some of the cardinals say if it happened a while ago, the church should forget all about it and wipe the slate clean. Others say if a priest slips his vows and makes only a pass at two or three children, and if he shows signs of redemption, he should be kept on. As my lawyer daughter who offers her theological thoughts under the signature of “The Attorney” says, “If a priest molests a whole choir full, then action probably ought to be taken”. Reading Archbishop Myers’ statement of April 29, 2002, it is far from clear that there is unanimity in the American Catholic view about punishment or chastisement. Myers is the Archbishop of Newark and is charged with drafting the statement to be offered to American bishops when they meet in Dallas in June of this year. Myers is an ultra right-winger who has made few friends here since arriving from Peoria, Illinois.

So you see that the great theologian Bush and Islamic leaders don’t come out at the same place when it comes to Peace. After 2000 years, Roman Catholics apparently don’t know which end is up and the Pope and his Curia are not giving the American branch of the church much help. I am using WD40 on my hands to try to prevent excessive chafing as the Catholic mess causes me to wring my hands even harder.

Late last week (April 26, 2002) Mike Barnicle, a well known columnist for the New York Daily News, appeared on Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” program. Both men are Catholics. In a spirited colloquy, both men denounced the statement coming from Rome after the American Cardinals meeting saying that the hierarchy was “covering up.” The cover up had to do with homosexuality according to these two Catholics. The fear is that high level members of the hierarchy of the church will be exposed as homosexuals.

This is a very real fear. Even Monsignor Wilton Gregory, Chairman of the American Bishops Conference, says that Catholic seminaries are filled by gay priests. Gay seminarians go on to become priests, bishops, cardinals and even popes. In several studies published by respected journals, it is estimated that between 35% and 50% of Catholic priests are homosexual. And no one from the hierarchy seeks to deny those figures. Not Egan, not Law, not the Pope and certainly not Archbishop Myers of Newark.

Mary Murphy is a long time television reporter and commentator now working for Channel 11 in New York City. She is greatly respected. Mary is a Catholic who spent part of her honeymoon in Rome to sit in the audience to hear the Pope and to receive his blessing. She is a product of New York City’s parochial schools. In short, she is not a latecomer to the Catholic faith.

Mary Murphy has been following the story of gay priests for a year or so. In two interviews last week (April 26) Murphy had extended discussions with an ordained priest who appeared without hiding his identity. He simply had two frank discussions with Mary Murphy about homosexual priests. His estimates ran higher than the 35% to 50% of priests who are homosexual. This priest says pretty flatly that at least 50% of the priests he knows around New York City are gay.

When asked what contributed to this surprising figure, the priest said homosexual men, who wished to conceal their gayness, joined the priesthood to avoid answering the question about why aren’t you married. The priesthood takes care of that question very neatly.

The gayness of the priesthood has been going on for many years, perhaps for centuries. It is quite likely that homosexual men are now serving as bishops, monsignor’s, cardinals and perhaps as popes. What baffles me completely is the unrelenting assault on gays in the priesthood by high level church authorities. On Sunday, April 28, 2002 the number two man at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, Monsignor Eugene V. Clark, delivered a long homily attacking gays in every direction. His homily was so vigorous that his boss, Cardinal Egan, said that Monsignor Clark spoke only for himself. Clark’s diatribe was roundly denounced as gay bashing.

But Clark was not alone. One of the cardinals spoke from Rome and said that the United States Church should not ordain any more homosexuals and should “root out” the ones it has. So you can see why this old grizzled religious zealot is both confused and amused. If we are going to “root out” 50% of the U. S. priesthood, who will be left to bless new fire houses and pizza parlors?

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee has for years banned gay men and women marching under their own sign which identifies them as gay Irish men and women. How curious that the priests and hierarchy of the church seem to support gayness in their clergy – but certainly not in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Mychal Judge was a bit of a hero who gave his life in the World Trade Center debacle on September 11th. He was a firehouse Chaplain and he was gay. He seemed to be an alright guy by any measurement. Should Mychal Judge have been “rooted out”? I don’t think so.

The Roman Church is horribly out of touch with the real world as it exists in the 21st Century. The bishops, and cardinals, and the pope wearing their funny hats and medieval costumes don’t play well in modern circumstances. In the old days, the priests and the hierarchy could wear their bizarre hats and costumes and speak in Latin which may have awed and impressed peasants in the year 1002. It doesn’t play well today – but the church hierarchy has not tumbled to that obvious fact.

The Protestants, particularly the Fundamentalists, are not about to give the world stage to the Jews, the Muslims and the Catholics. In their unschooled and boisterous manner, several Protestants are demanding their time in the spot light.

In the civilized world, or in the totalitarian world, the absolute worst situation comes about when religion and politics are meshed. That is exactly what Bush is trying to do to please his conservative supporters. Consider the governments of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where Islam is part and parcel of the ruling parties. Consider Spain, Ireland and Italy where no government can survive without the blessings of the Roman Catholic Church. Consider the government of India and Bangladesh where Hindu acceptance is required. And I suppose no government of Israel would survive without the blessings of the Jewish faith.

This is exactly where Bush is taking the United States Government. He has appointed born again Christians to important posts in his administration. Consider that Assemblies of God Evangelist masquerading as U. S. Attorney General who had a significant announcement recently. In a February, 2002 speech, Ashcroft proclaimed: “We are a nation called to defend freedom – a freedom that is not the grant of any government or document, but is our endowment from God.”

Frank Rich, the New York Times writer, says, “So much, then, for that trifling document that defines our freedoms, a.k.a. the Constitution. By wrapping himself in sanctimony as surely as he wrapped the Justice Department’s statue of Justice in a blue curtain, our Attorney General is trying to superseded civil law on the grounds that he’s exercising the Lord’s Will what ever he does.”

The former Vice President of N. W. Ayer, Howard Davis, who directed AT&T’s advertising efforts, is another native Missourian. Howard and I regard Ashcroft as the ultimate embarrassment to the State of Missouri. But as Ashcroft said on other occasions, God is guiding him. And Bush picked him as U. S. Attorney General and is promoting him as a star of the Administration. This non-believer finds himself in great need of prayer.

An important theological thought intrudes here. For centuries, Christians and particularly evangelical and fundamentalist Christians believe that Jesus was crucified at the behest of Jews. Never mind that Emperor Pontius Pilate was calling the signals from Rome. An article of faith with Christians is that Jews killed Jesus and let’s not deal with conflicting opinions. They did it and the evangelical and fundamentalist Christians find solace in the King James Version of the New Testament.

Now if Ashcroft and Bush believe that Jews killed Jesus, as they have to do, do you think that they understand that Ariel Sharon is a Jew? As a non-believer, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I am an interested observer only. But I doubt that dim bulbs like Bush and Ashcroft and their political cronies have made this connection.

Howard Davis and your essayist are greatly embarrassed that Ashcroft hails from Missouri, which is generally believed to be the reincarnation of the Garden of Eden.

Bush has a stalwart in the House from that center of culture, Sugarland, Texas. Tom DeLay, one of the sponsors of Clinton’s impeachment, is the star performer. Here are two paragraphs from Alan Cooperman, a staff writer from the Washington Post. He says:

“House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex) told Evangelical Christians last week (April 20, 2002) that only Christianity offers a reasonable answer to basic questions about the purpose of life. Speaking to about 300 people at the First Baptist Church in Pearland, Texas, on April 12, DeLay said that God is using him to promote a ‘biblical world view’ in American politics, and that he pursued Bill Clinton’s impeachment in part because the Democratic President held ‘the wrong world view’.” (italics mine)

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Christianity offers the only viable, reasonable, definitive answer to the question of ‘Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Does life have any meaningful purpose?’ DeLay said, ‘Only Christianity offers a way to understand the physical and moral border. Only Christianity offers a comprehensive world view that covers all areas of life and thought, every aspect of creation. Only Christianity offers a way to live in response to the realities that we find in this world – only Christianity.”

So let us say you were a law-abiding Jew who lives in DeLay’s district in Texas. Do you think you would find a sympathetic listener in DeLay if you had a problem? Or, do you think he would inform you to drop your Jewishness and turn to Christianity? DeLay is the most important Republican figure in the United States House of Representatives. As I said in the case of Ashcroft, let us pray.

DeLay is joined by the Republican Majority Leader of the House, Dick Armey, who said on April 30, 2002 on the “Hardball” show, that Palestinians should leave the West Bank. He said that other Arab countries should give them some place in their deserts to establish their homeland. His apology later was unconvincing and demeaning. The Texans, Bush, Armey and DeLay, know how to fix all the problems of the Middle East.

Now we have a know-nothing clown from Oklahoma, Senator James Inhofe, a Republican, who took the floor of the Senate to announce that the September 11th attacks were retribution from God because God was not pleased with U. S. policy toward Israel. He said, “One of the reasons I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the U. S. A. is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israeli’s not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorists…” Obviously, this is a slam at Bush the Omnipotent Theologian who is allegedly guiding our Republican Government.

Tom Paine’s Common Sense periodical says, “In other words, on September 11th, God allowed airlines to be piloted into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon because United States’s actions were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe’s words about a spiritual door being opened for the attack.”

When it comes to intellectual capacity, I am sure that Inhofe has a good future ahead of him as a rodeo clown who distracts bulls that want to gore thrown rough riders. Inhofe also claims that God (He or She) gave the West Bank to the Jewish people because Inhofe read it in the King James Version of the Bible. He is not a preacher; he is one of 100 Senators sitting at the top of the United States Government structure. So once again, let us pray.

Now we have Billy Graham who seems to have given us his twisted spiritual guidance for many, many years. After recordings of Nixon’s miserable thoughts came to light, the Right Reverend Billy Graham was recorded as saying some pretty prejudicial remarks about Jews. Billy at his advanced age offered sort of an apology. Doesn’t he know that the head man of the Christian faith was a Jew? Billy wasn’t up to a convincing apology so he turned the job over to Franklin Graham, his son and designated successor as the head of Billy Graham Enterprises. Now let us return to Frank Rich of The Times.

“His son and successor, Franklin Graham, soon rescinded his father’s mea culpa by asserting that the taped quotes had been taken out of context and meant to refer to ‘liberalism’, not Jews. The younger Mr. Graham’s disingenuousness is of a piece with Jerry Falwell’s and Pat Robertson’s pseudo apology for their televised remarks in which they tried to pin the September 11th attacks on the same all-purpose culprits (gays, feminists) whom some Catholic leaders now hope will take the fall for abusive priests and their enabling higher ups.”

This is probably enough to make my point that when politics are mixed with religion, democracy suffers. And it also suffers when religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms. Religion has to do with faith; the lawyers have to deal with facts and reality. Let me give you an example of how legal practice clashes with moral concepts in our society of the 21st century.

We have here two young brothers, Robert and Phillip Young, who served as altar boys here in New Jersey. They contend – and nobody has denied their claim – that as “many as 15 priests and numerous church officials” abused them and forced them to engage in sexual acts between 1978 and 1983. At the time, the young brothers underwent this abuse, they were 12 to 17 year old boys. They were given two threats if they told about their treatment. They were told that no one would believe them if they implicated a priest, and they were told that the Church would excommunicate them. This last action carries several severe penalties. For example, an excommunicated member cannot be married by the Church. He may not receive communion. He may not be buried in so called “holy ground” at Catholic cemeteries. There are other penalties as well, but I suppose this is enough to give the reader an idea of the severity of excommunication.

All young children are intimidated by the threats of the clergy. The two young brothers had every reason to fear for their immortal soul. As a result, they failed to report the abuse to the authorities in time for legal punishment to follow. In New Jersey, where the Young brothers lived, the statute of limitation is two years, generally speaking. They were about six years late in filing their suit.

When the case was finally heard, the decision went against the young brothers on the grounds that they had not come in during the statute of limitations. In making this painful decision, which was delivered on
May 3, 2002, a Superior Court Judge had some searing words for the Roman Catholic Church. Whatever motivated the young brothers to file their suit – money or the exposure of a moral and legal wrong – the Church used “legal hard ball” to defend its interests, even though the “scourge of sexual abuse” was involved.

That is pretty strong language from a Superior Court Judge. The Judge went on to say, “Even though the Church was within its legal rights to defend itself, the Church’s position on this matter is at odds with its stance as a moral force in society. From where I sit, legal hardball doesn’t seem quite right.”

I think Superior Court Judge John Himmelbarger said it all. When religious matters are defended in legal terms rather than in moral terms, both the law and religion are demeaned.

Now if you want to read a little more about the Roman Catholic problems with moral issues, please read the Saturday May 4, 2002 Op-Ed piece by Bill Keller in the New York Times. It will be well worth your while.

So much for the transgressions of our religious establishment. Let us go back to the beginning. The United States Government started out as a secular government which wanted to do away with the excesses of King George the III. Well now we have a King George W. who wants to impose his own brand of bizarre Christianity upon the American people. And unbelievably, Jews by the thousands in the United States have cast their lot with him simply because he is backing a complete madman. Ariel Sharon is not called the “Butcher of Beirut” for nothing.

This is serious business. For many years, I have supported Barry Lynn who directs the efforts of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Curiously, Lynn is a preacher, but he runs a superb organization attempting to deal with the likes of Bush, Ashcroft, DeLay, Inhofe and their cronies who insist that this government reflect primitive Christian values. Any attempt to introduce multicultural values is rejected as unchristian. If it doesn’t fit with Tom DeLay’s “Christian World View,” it should be abolished and destroyed.

The main reason for my belief in non-belief has to do with Protestant preachers espousing their arrant nonsense, such as we find with the Texas politicians. As a child, I rejected their theology. As an adult, I simply hold them in contempt. How else would you deal with the likes of Tom DeLay, Dick Armey, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft and James Inhofe? They are dubious human beings.

(As I said, I have long supported Americans United for Separation of Church and State. If its efforts interest you, they can be reached at 518 “C” Street, N. E., Washington, D. C., 20002-5810.)

I know that religion provides a comfort to believers. I know that some who practice religion look forward to eternal life. And I know that many world figures, particularly politicians, believe that God has had a strong hand in their success.

For many years, I have come to the conclusion that in the field of human affairs, religion is not necessarily a unifying force at all. It is often a divisive force. Consider the Catholic-Protestant split in Ireland. Consider the case of Israel and the Palestinians where war is our current reward. Consider the situation in India where everyone has had a shot at war including the Hindus, the Buddhists, the Muslims, the Christians as well as the Animists. And if you give credence to Osama Bin Laden and some of his Arab followers, there is a Holy War going on against the largely Christian population of the United States. Religion has not unified any of these competing nationalities. On the contrary, it is often a divisive and a destructive force.

If I look in the Bibles of my parents for comfort on this score, I am rewarded by the words of Paul who seems to come out four square for good conduct and for slavery. “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart as you would obey Christ.” Another Bible of my parents says, “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ”. Both of these citations are from versions of the King James rendition of the New Testament. See Ephesians VI, Verse 5. (underlining mine)

When it comes to religious matters, I find myself convinced that my belief in non-belief is absolutely right for me. If it is alright with Paul, I hold that belief with fear and trembling. It sets me apart from clowns such as DeLay, Armey, Bush, Inhofe and Ashcroft. So let us pray.

E. E. CARR
May 2, 2002

~~~

I feel like the 2000s have been one case study after another in “obvious times that major powers are on the wrong side of history.” We just have seen this again with Trump pulling out of the Paris accord. We saw it plenty of other times with this shit in the early 2000s, with everyone who opposed gay marriage, last year for Trump voters generally, etc. Maybe it’s always like that; certainly pretty much all progress has had to come over the loud objections of the Delays and Inhofes of any era you choose. And it always seems to come from older generations, too — it seems like for every year you’re alive, the probably that you’re just utterly backwards with regard to social issues seems to skyrocket. That never seemed to impact Pop, though. Maybe when I get old enough I’ll remember writing this and stop being a stick in the mud about whatever clear progressive goal my generation is holding up at the time.

AMAZING GRACE

As I sit down to dictate these lines, it is a cold morning in January. With a prayerful thought, January will soon be over. This essay will not be a religious one. Worse than that, it will combine the third rail of all essays in that it will comment upon politics and religion.

The title was carefully chosen by the author, namely me, to illustrate a point which will pervade this whole essay. I suspect that a good many of my readers are aware of the old Protestant hymn called “Amazing Grace.” It was written by John Newton, who was engaged in the slave trade until a storm wrecked his ship and he survived. He evidently believed that it was a miracle that he survived, which he attributed to the intervention of God. There is no evidence about the slaves who were presumably enchained below decks. Their fate is unknown. But before his life was done, Newton gave up sailing in the slave trade business and became an Anglican bishop.

The name of Newton has a special significance tied to this essay. After Mr. Newton reached dry land and was toweled off, he set about becoming a preacher. In time, he reached the exalted title of bishop in the Anglican Church. At some point or other, Bishop Newton took a Scottish tune and penned the lyrics to his now famous hymn of “Amazing Grace.”

The first lines are instructive as they relate to this essay. Those lines are:

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.

The significance of these lines is that Newton referred to himself as a wretch. Newton wrote the lyrics almost 300 years ago. In so doing, he may have foreseen the events that have taken place in the Republican primary elections this year. In this case, a fellow named Newton has fulfilled all of the requirements of wretchedness that could be asked for.

Under ordinary circumstances, I would hardly ever listen to the Republican debates in a primary election. My heart is not with the Republican Party. During the Republican debates, my thoughts are on such matters as those of celestial ones. But they would hardly ever qualify as the subject of another essay. But the current Newton richly deserves an essay not only about his politics but about his philandering.

As I said earlier, I am not given to listening to Republican debates. Even at my advanced age with all my disabilities, I have better things to do. But in this case I am struck or I should say thunderstruck by the temerity of the latter-day Newton (Gingrich) to claim that God has laid his hand on him and has forgiven him.

The current-day Newton Gingrich has a long history, including being asked to leave the speaker’s role in the American House of Representatives. But in the meantime the current Newton has been engaged in other extracurricular activities. Simply put, he is a philanderer par excellence. This current Newton has been married on three occasions. On one occasion, we are told that he told his wife that he intended to divorce her while she was in the hospital recovering from a serious illness. His current wife, who is 22 years his junior, spent six years in an affair with Mr. Gingrich. This made his second wife very angry and at the moment she is lashing out at Gingrich.

Now here is what attracts my attention. As you might say, it also disturbs me. Newton Gingrich proclaims that he has apologized to God and that God has forgiven him. There is no correspondence on this subject because we presume that God does not ever write letters or emails. All we have to go on is that Newton claims that he has been forgiven. There is no third party to verify such events.

In the recent past, there have been occasions when the pastors of mega-churches have strayed into homosexuality. In the recent case of Bishop Eddie Long, it appears that he is being divorced because his wife contends that he has become involved with young boys. I suspect that in the case of Mr. Long and Ted Haggard, also the proprietor of a mega-church, there will be a period of disappearance from the public scene. At the end of that disappearance, the preachers will apparently return to the limelight and contend that God has forgiven them and that they are ready to resume their preacher duties.

Perhaps it is unseemly for a non-believer like myself to comment on celestial matters. But I am thoroughly curious about how Newt Gingrich learned that he was forgiven by God. Do you really think that a person as busy as God would take time to review a philanderer’s case simply because he has been Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States? I don’t know.

Somehow or other, preachers and politicians stray from their marital bonds. In almost all cases, they take a bit of time off and return to the public scene claiming that God has forgiven them. I realize that in some instances I am a disputatious individual. But in the Gingrich affair,
Newt proclaims that God has forgiven him and has apparently extracted no penalties.

You can mark me down as a doubter of the first order. Newton claims that the pressures of life in Washington were so great that as a patriotic duty he strayed from his first two wives. Now I know that the preceding sentence doesn’t make sense, but it is all that we have.

As things now stand, Newt Gingrich claims that he has been forgiven by God. Would it be sacrilegious to question those forgivenesses? My bafflement is quite sincere. But until I can see some more proof of God’s forgiveness, I will remain a full-fledged skeptic. I believe that in the case of Newton Gingrich, he has been a wretched man since he appeared on the American political scene. And it will take a lot more than Newt’s own testimony that he has been forgiven to convince me.

So now we see that some three hundred years apart, we have examples of wretchedness. I suppose now that the latter day Newton, given his political ambitions, may very well run for Pope. Upon his election to Pope, I will find time to praise his thoroughgoing wretchedness.

E. E. CARR
January 27, 2012

~~~

Was not expecting a Newt essay when I opened this one tonight. Well executed, though.

FROM THE FRIENDLY WHITE HOUSE TO YOUR HOUSE

If you were alive in January of 2001, you may recall that George W. Bush ascended to the Presidency of this country. He got there by virtue of the ugly fact that the Supreme Court was counting the ballots. At the conclusion of the ballot count, Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin Scalia issued his ruling that George W. Bush was the supreme leader of this sweet-smelling country and was free to proceed to his inauguration. He also stipulated that this ruling would not be a precedent for future rulings. This is preposterous because the Supreme Court issues rulings that are supposed to be precedents for every case that follows. But not in this case which led to George W. Bush assuming the presidency of this country.

Shortly after George W. Bush assumed the Presidency, he discovered much to his horror that there was a surplus in the Treasury of this country. This mortified Mr. Bush. He instructed the Treasury Secretary and the rest of his Cabinet that such a situation was intolerable, and that the surplus in the Treasury was to be pissed away at the earliest opportunity. So the tax rates of this country were immediately reduced with the provision that in ten years’ time they would revert to the levels under the Clinton administration and the Bush tax decrease would go away. That was the proposition. It was to be a temporary tax decrease resulting in less money coming into the Treasury for a period of ten years.

To do his part in disposing of the Treasury surplus, Mr. Bush first declared war in Afghanistan and secondly, he decided that it was time to invade Iraq. So here we were, early in the last decade, with two wars on our hands and all of this was to be accomplished with the decreased revenue from the income tax. As Mr. Bush correctly concluded, at the end of ten years, this matter would have to be settled by his successor, thereby leaving Mr. Bush largely blameless.

In December of 2010, the Bush tax cuts were set to expire. At that point, Mr. Obama was our President. Because of the great depression that had occurred in this country starting in 2008, Mr. Obama did not want to impose any new taxes on the middle class. Accordingly, he proposed that those with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates. For those with incomes in excess of $250,000, the tax rates would simply revert to the tax structure that applied under Mr. Bush’s predecessor, Mr. Clinton.

But the Republicans claimed that this was a tax increase on the millionaires and proceeded to fight Mr. Obama. There was even a proposal put forward by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer of New York that the Clinton tax rates would apply only to those with incomes of $1 million or more. That of course was unsatisfactory to the Republicans. As everyone knows, there are a lot more middle- and lower-income people in this country than there are those who have incomes of $1 million or more. But as we are finding out, much to our dismay, Mr. Obama had no wish to take on these wealthy Republicans. The proper term for Mr. Obama was that he caved. In spite of the lost revenue that should have been collected from those in the upper brackets, Mr. Obama let the millionaires keep their lower Bush tax rates and he threw in a sweetener. The estate tax exclusion would change from $2 million to $5 million, which means that wealthy individuals can pass on more of their wealth to their heirs.

The developments on the tax rate structure set my heart aflutter. I thought that Obama had the right instincts when he proposed that people with incomes of $250,000 or less could keep the Bush tax rates and that those with larger incomes would simply revert to the tax rates that applied during the Clinton administration. This would have been a pushover because there are so many more middle- and lower-income people than there are millionaires. But Obama did not wish to take on this fight which could have been so easily won. As I said earlier, Obama caved.

On December 9, 2010, I managed to still my heart flutters and compose a letter to Mr. Obama which was delivered by email. I had chosen email because it is faster than the so-called “snail mail.” I made all of the arguments as to why Obama should have fought this one out, and I concluded with the phrase, “Mr. Obama, in view of your capitulation, it would seem appropriate for you to resign.” I thought that by asking for Obama’s resignation, I would arouse a bit of interest in White House circles. But it didn’t even cause a ripple.

The email was sent on December 9 and I heard nothing for three months. Finally, on March 16, a gap of three months, an email arrived at our house which constituted a reply to my letter. The email from Washington that addressed me as “Dear Friend” rather than “Dear Mr. Carr,” thanked me for writing. There was a statement about why Mr. Obama had chosen this course of action and the kicker was that in the year 2012, Mr. Obama would make a valiant effort to re-establish the tax rates that applied during the Clinton years. That, of course, is unadulterated hogwash. In a Presidential election year, which would be 2012, I will be astounded if Obama ever approaches this subject of restoring the Clinton tax rates. But the main thing that I took away from the beginning and the body of the letter had to do with people in Washington referring to me as “Dear Friend” and saying, “Thank you for writing.”

But now we come to the most interesting part. Instead of including a complimentary close at the end of the letter, the letter was simply signed, “Sincerely, The White House.”

Since my retirement more than a quarter of a century ago, I have been absent from the business world. I was astounded to find that so many changes had taken place during my absence. During my long years in the telephone business, I was careful to address answers to the person who had written to me. That no longer seems to be desirable. In this case the words “Dear Friend” seem to suffice. What if I were a tea party type who hated the Democratic Party and all that it stands for? Do you think those people in Washington would have replied to me calling me a dear friend? But I was most impressed by the fact that at the end of the letter it said, “Sincerely, The White House.”

From this time forward, I intend to imitate what the White House has taught me. My next letter, if there is one, may be addressed to “Dear Friends in the White House.” This will save me from trying to determine which person is currently the President.

Now, when it comes to the complimentary close, it is my intention to sign the letter, “Yours truly, from The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” As you can see, those people in Washington have taught me a brilliant lesson about letter-writing. How out-of-date it would be to sign my future correspondence, “Yours truly, Ed Carr.” The proper form, as I now understand it, is to say, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.”

Corresponding with the President, it would be presumptuous of me to refer to him as a “dear friend.” If the administration sends a letter that ends with the complimentary close of “Sincerely, The White House” I am obliged to use that form of address in future correspondence. Any future correspondence from me will be addressed to the White House rather than to an individual. I now know that addressing a letter to an individual is completely out of date. Now if I were to take the “Dear Friends” quote seriously, I might find the form of address that suggested a great friendship. In formal correspondence, I might refer to “Dear White House.” Once the dear friendship had been established and matured, I might forget the “House” part and refer to those in Washington as “White” or, better still, “Dear Whitey.” I suspect that the latter point leaves much to be desired.

But I am enamored with the idea of signing my letters, “Yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” If those people in Washington can sign their correspondence as “Sincerely, The White House,” I see no reason why I should not adopt that form of complimentary close. As a means of identifying the house from which the letter originated, I could say, “Sincerely, from the Blue Gray House on Long Hill Drive, right next to the house that was advertised on the For Sale sign as ‘I’m gorgeous inside’.” As a further means of identifying the house that originated this letter, for the last year I might also have specified that it came “From the house across the street from the Johnny-on-the-Spot in the front yard.” I offer these geographic references so that there is no mistake about the house that originated the letter.

So you see that a gristled old reprobate like myself can really learn something at this late stage in my life. I had not realized that I was so far out of compliance with basic standards in letter writing. But there are some things that must be taken into account as I become more accustomed to the new rules.

Suppose that love should strike my heart and I were to write a love letter to a young woman of 75 or so. I could not address her as “Dear Friend” nor could I use the complimentary close as dictated by the White House of “Sincerely, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive.” So you see, there are many things to be worked out but I am confident that they can be overcome. I am deeply grateful for this discovery of the “Dear Friends” and “Sincerely, The White House” lessons that have come to my attention before I cash in all my chips. So boys and girls, always remember you’re never too old to learn a little something.

E. E. CARR
March 19, 2011

~~~

The point is taken, but I’m not sure there’s any better way for them to have signed it. Clearly Barack wasn’t responding himself, and he’s the one you wrote the letter to. They could have signed it “Doug Smith, Mail Room Staff” or even “Form Letter G” but I think “The White House” is a better alternative. By same token, “yours truly, The Blue-Gray House on Long Hill Drive” is a perfectly acceptable closure and should be leveraged frequently, even if that particular house is no longer in play.

Many people often confuse national debt and the budget deficit. Clinton was running surpluses to budget, which of course Bush vigorously reversed. Occasionally people hear about that and think that somehow under Clinton, the USA didn’t owe any other countries any money, which naturally wasn’t the case; I’m positive Pop knew this, but future readers might not, so it seems like it’s worth clarifying.

Also odd: I could SWEAR I’ve already published this one. But all my searches for terms it in don’t turn up any results. Somehow if both WordPress and Google’s searches are failing me, apologies for the double post. More likely I just read it but never published, but man. Feels strange.

PISSANTRIES, POLITICS, AND A GORGEOUS MISTRESS

I generally keep my notes for future essays in my head but in some cases on an old dictating machine on my desk. Two of these notes appeared simultaneously and I thought that there were enough similarities that they could be married together. The first essay has to do with the ancient word for an insect, “pissant.” That explains the first word in the title. The second word, “politics,” is also related to the pissantries. The third entry in the title is “a gorgeous mistress” named Kimberly Bell, who was the mistress of Barry Bonds, the home run king, for many years. I will take each subject separately but from time to time you may see how they have become married.

The word “pissant” is an older term which refers to an insect. The insect is an ant that seeks the feet of humans and animals. The word “pissant” is far from a vulgarism. It is a living creature, just as bedbugs and gnats are living creatures also. Pissants dart from one section of the body to another and are generally just plain miserable. They are hard to swat and the pressure from the swatter is sufficiently great to move them to safety.

As I have related in earlier essays, my parents were quite religious. But they had frequently identified politicians who were bothersome as pissants. Unfortunately, that word is no longer in common usage because of the advance of insecticides that destroy the pissants in their nests. And so we see that the pissants became largely worthless creatures who now no longer bother us, but who have also disappeared from the latest dictionaries.

During the last few months, there have been inaugurations of several Republican governors in the Midwest and now one in Maine who have qualified for the title of pissant extraordinaire. Apparently these governors have made compacts which they have set out to rule the bargaining rights for state workers. They have set out to achieve these ends by all means fair or foul. In the state of Maine, the new governor there has declared that a mural in the state labor department is offensive to him and must be moved. Yet the mural, consisting of perhaps 13 panels, depicts workers in Maine building boats, fishing, and doing all of the other things that require labor in the state of Maine. The panels have existed for some time but now the new governor has decided that he is an art critic who wants them moved or put in storage. His complaint is that when businessmen come around to the department of labor, they will conclude that the panels prejudice the department against business.

In the Midwest, we have such governors as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the governor of Ohio named John Kasich, who have passed legislation denying state workers the ability to bargain their wages. As someone who knows a little bit about labor relations, I view this as a temporary situation because given a bit of time these governors will be recalled or defeated in the next election. But these governors clearly qualify as pissants. If my parents were alive today, which they are not, they would identify these governors as clear examples of pissantries. They are making buzzing sounds as pissants do. The results of their labor are nil. These governors, including the Midwestern ones and the one in Maine, deserve to be terminated like bedbugs or gnats. But their time will come in recalls or in elections.

Well, so much for pissantries and politics. It is now time to turn to Kimberly Bell, who was Barry Bonds’ mistress for several years. I suspect that some of my readers may wonder who this Barry Bonds is. I will tell you.

Barry Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds. Both of them were famous baseball players. Barry Bonds, according to baseball records, is the greatest home run hitter of all time. I dispute that, as do many others, because it is reasonably clear that Bonds had the help of steroids as he compiled his home run record. But then as his playing career drew to a close around 2007 or 2008, Barry Bonds was implicated in a steroid scandal involving not only himself but a star swimmer in the world Olympics. The swimmer was a female and, at the time, she admitted her use of steroids and was sent to jail for a short period of time, say two years. But old Barry Bonds wanted once to tough it out and in the process lied, or so it is alleged, to a grand jury about his intake of steroids. And that is what the trial that is taking place as I dictate these lines on March 24, 2011 is all about.

Bonds contends that he took no steroids but that his trainer gave him a combination of flax seed and another thing called Cream. The federal government has witnesses who will testify that they have seen Bonds injecting himself or having a trainer perform that service. At this early point in the trial, it would seem to me that the evidence against Barry Bonds is reasonably overwhelming.

But hovering in the background is a witness for the federal government who will deliver, it is alleged, some damning evidence. We all know that Barry Bonds’s feet jumped by two or three sizes and that the muscles in his arms expanded greatly during a winter off-season when he said that he was not taking steroids and the government said that he was. But regardless of his arm measurements and muscles and the size of his feet, we now come to Kimberly Bell, whose testimony will be extraordinary.

It is an established fact that Kimberly Bell was the mistress of Barry Bonds. There seems to be no dispute on this point. On the other hand, Miss Chicka, my wife, contends that Barry Bonds had a wife as well as the gorgeous mistress. I contend that a man can have a mistress regardless of his marital status but there are those who contend that mistresses apply only when there is a marriage involved. I regard this question as being a pissant one which shall give me the license to say that these two essays are married. In any case, we know that Kimberly Bell was a long-time mistress of Barry Bonds. During that association, there must have been occasions when sexual relations took place. Now we are told that Kimberly Bell is prepared to testify in this federal trial that she is certain that Bonds took steroids because the size of his testicles shrunk. I am not an expert on these matters but I advise all of my readers to pay close attention to the reports from San Francisco having to do with Barry Bonds’s testicular size.

When Kimberly Bell testifies and states that the size of Barry Bonds’ s testicles has shrunk, the defense attorney defending Mr. Bonds should have a field day. In the first place, he will probably taunt the government for not calling Barry Bonds’s wife to testify about the size of his genital equipment. We can believe that the wife had known Barry Bonds longer than the mistress had, and thus a good comparison of before and after taking steroids would be available. But Mrs. Bonds, if there is such a person, is not on the witness list for the government.

Let’s go back to the cross examination of Kimberly Bell. It would be very interesting to know how she had determined that Mr. Bonds’s testicles had shrunk. For example, did she take measurements before and after steroid use was attributed to Mr. Bonds. The defense attorney might inquire of Miss Bell how the size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles compared to other persons, male, that she had observed. This all goes to the point of whether the witness was an expert on the size of male testicles. Then the witness might be asked to provide the jury with the current size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles. She may also be asked whether the shrunken testicles occurred quickly or whether it was a matter of gradual disappearance. But throughout his cross examination the defense attorney is always at question for failure to produce Mrs. Bonds, if there were one. It would seem to most observers that his wife would be in a better position to testify as to the size of this equipment over a long period of time than his mistress.

But the fact of the matter is that the government is going to rely upon the testimony of Kimberly Bell. Because she was merely a mistress of Barry Bonds, it may cause some on the jury to question her value as a witness. Nonetheless, I am advising my readers that they should follow the daily reports from San Francisco to see how the cross examination of Miss Bell proceeds. For all I know, we may get a high definition exhibit of Mr. Bonds’s private parts.

I would make a prejudiced juror in this case because I do not believe that Barry Bonds is entitled to be called the home run king. That title belongs to Henry Aaron, who compiled his record with the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves. He used no steroids. Aaron is a gentleman who was moved to congratulate, not very warmly, Bonds when Aaron’s home run mark fell to second place. Henry Aaron is a credit to the game of baseball. Barry Bonds is a predator in the records of our national pastime.

Well, there you have my thoughts on pissants and politicians such as the governors in the Midwestern states and Maine, as well as my thoughts on the testimony of Kimberly Bell. I regret that I did not become a lawyer. It might have offered me the opportunity to cross examine Kimberly Bell. I would suspect that the lawyer who does the cross examination will remember it for the rest of his life and use it in after-dinner speeches for many years to come. But more than anything else, my notepad is empty and my brain has been relieved of carrying these two potential essays around. That in and of itself makes writing these two essays more than worthwhile. To think that I have informed my readers about pissants and Kimberly Bell’s testimony fills me with joy unending.

E. E. CARR
March 27, 2011

~~~

This one has a sister essay from about a month later that’s also worth a read.

An interesting fact about pissants (which are just wood ants) is that they get their name from their smell; their nests smell like urine, due to the construction material and the formic acid that the ants produce. Incidentally, the resemblance to these ants was what inspired the name of the “Formics,” which are the evil aliens in everyone’s favorite Mormon Sci Fi book, Ender’s Game. (Turns out that ol’ Orson Scott Card is a direct descendant of Brigham Young himself, who knew?). Anyway that series is pretty terrible but it does involve a space war against what I’m now realizing is a race of scientifically advanced pissants, which adds a fun spin to the series.

I regretfully have nothing to contribute regarding the size of Bonds’s testicles, but I think it’s pretty screwed up that he’s allowed to keep the home run record.

THE OLD AND THE NEW NORMALS

My linguistic skills are limited. I speak the mother tongue of English in a generally acceptable form. I used to mutter a few words in Italian and some in German. A lack of use has tended to cause those skills to diminish. And then there are two derivatives of the English language which are worthy of note here. The first is “country speak” which is the language used by my parents and their rural counterparts. Secondly there is another language called “Washington speak.” As a general principle, I understand country speech and Washington speech perfectly. But I refuse to use them for speaking purposes. However, in the current case, there is a phrase in Washington speech which is worthy of our attention. That phrase is “the new normals.” Obviously the new normals are used to distinguish them from the old normals. A few examples come to mind immediately.

Formerly the countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Libya were run by dictators. They offered us no great trouble. So it’s fair to say that they were the old normal view. Now that the dictator of Egypt is banished to live in a palace in the south of Egypt and now that Colonel Gaddafi appears to be headed for the ropes, we have a new normal. Throughout the Middle East, there are other examples of the old and the new normals.

It used to be at this time of year that the New York Mets, a baseball team, would be in search of the free agent market while offering astronomical sums to corral a star performer. Ahhh, but that was old normal. Since the owners of the New York Mets were subject to the magical wonders of the Bernie Madoff scheme, the owners, Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, are out of money and are looking for somebody to buy their ball club. So the new normal is that the New York Mets will go in to the season with a tattered lineup and will hope to make it through September, when some new finances may occur. To put it succinctly, the old normal for the New York Mets was that they were the new kid in town trying to challenge the New York Yankees. But since Bernie Madoff has performed his miracle, the new normal for the New York Mets is that they hope to avoid a last-place finish.

A final example of the old and the new normals has to do with the US House of Representatives. The old normal was that the House was under Democratic control with Mrs. Pelosi being in charge. Since the elections of last fall when 57 new right-wing representatives were elected, the House has changed its speakers and the new normal for the Obama administration has been to get used to the change in ownership.

I hope at this juncture it is clear what I mean by the examples of the old normal and the new normal. I am fond of the new age in Washington speak because it is easily transferrable from the world of politics to the human condition. For example, during the days of our youth, we were not only carefree but pain free. The joints in our bodies were basically pain free and we thought that illness was never going to be our lot in life. That was the old normal. The new normal for older people is the scourge of arthritis and forgetfulness and a string of other failures that are now normal and plague the human condition. The carefree days of the rule of the old normal have been replaced by such things as ingrown toenails, loss of hearing, and diminished eyesight. This is the state of the new normal. Under the old normal, I used to mow our half acre of grass with a 22-inch lawnmower and think nothing of it. In the new normal for the past six years or so, I have asked a contractor to take care of the grass growth.

Under the old normal, I used to be amused by patients keeping track of their doctors’ appointments. That was the old normal. Under the new normal, I’ve got so many doctors’ appointments that it is quite confusing. So you see the new normal has universal appeal that will apply to virtually everything.

The new normal of Washington speak is also appropriate for the end of life. Fortunately, the new normal at the end of life also includes walkers, wheelchairs, and help to climb into bed. I do not mean to end this essay on a downer, but the facts are the facts. With that, it seems to me that life at its end results in more new normals than one new normal being replaced by a diminished other new normal. We can’t all be like my 55-year-old neighbor who was going full speed until he dropped dead. This fellow missed the new normals that go with the end-of-life process. But in any case, according to the hand that we are dealt, we see the end of life as one of diminishing prospects that we are obliged to accommodate. Rather than bemoaning our diminished lot in life, we should all rejoice because we have politicians in our capital city that have finally done something worth while. So let me say hallelujah while we rejoice in ecstasy.

E. E. CARR
March 11, 2011

~~~

Pop had such a funny way of ending his essays. It’s so often punchy, or humorous, or sarcastic, or powerful — I’d say that a strong closing statement is one of the hallmarks of a great Pop essay. I just picked out a random recent one and found this: “I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.”

WILL THE NEWS EVER GET BETTER?

These days I get my news via my ears. My wife reads the headlines and stories from The New York Times, as well as from the New Jersey Star Ledger and Newsweek. Then I listen to an audio version of the Times. Today is August 4, which marks a milestone in my lifetime, as it is my birthday. The birthday news in The New York Times this year is uniformly glum.

There is a story about the subprime mortgage business only being the tip of the iceberg. It appears that not only are General Motors and Ford suffering from lack of sales, but even the Japanese cars are suffering the same fate to a lesser degree. There are home foreclosures in record numbers and Starbucks has identified more stores to close. I do not pretend to be an economist but it seems clear to me, having survived the Depression of the 1930s, that we are again in a depressed state in our economy. Anyone who tells you that this is only a mild recession is misleading you and is also very much wide of the mark. We are suffering from a depressed economy and there is no gainsaying that conclusion.

On top of all the glum news about the rest of the economy, we find that gasoline prices have more or less stabilized around $4 per gallon. Motorists have responded by driving less and by trading downward. With the economic news being such as it is, there are fewer sales of cars which means that those of us with automobiles of more ancient vintage are holding on to see if they will last one more year. The point I am attempting to make is that in these difficult times, people respond by spending less rather than making commitments to spend more for mortgages, jewelry, casinos etc. If I may have the temerity to make a suggestion to the Honorable George Bush, it would be for the United States government to spend a hell of a lot less than is now being squandered on our efforts in Iraq.

Iraq is costing us, every single month, on the order of $12 billion. At the same time, the Iraqis are building enormous bank accounts from their sale of oil, but we seem to realize none of those profits. We are supporting a force of more than 130,000 men and women in Iraq, which is an enormously costly venture. Simply put, after five years of squandering away our manpower and our resources, we cannot afford the luxury of trying to impose our will on the Iraqi people. That war should never have been started in the first place and when we end it, there will be inevitable consequences to this country, most of them being unpleasant.

On the other hand, if that $12 billion per month were spent here at home, the bridge in Minneapolis might be repaired and the states, which have been deprived of revenue, would now offer full service. In California, the Governor, in response to depleted resources, is threatening to pay his workers only the federal minimum wage. In New Jersey, the state government is examining the question of whether it would be feasible to turn over our roads to individual entrepreneurs.

I know that the Bush administration is completely paralyzed with respect to offering any hope to the bad news that pervades us. But I will try to offer you one shred of hope. During the darkest days of the Depression, when the rich men had all the money and the poor people had none, we pinned our hopes on the election of Franklin Roosevelt. He promised us at the beginning that he would lift the restriction on the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, which was then called Prohibition. From that point on, there came the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as well as Social Security. Even with the obstruction of Robert Taft, the leader of the Republican party in the United States Senate, Roosevelt fashioned programs that overcame obstructionists and prepared us for the entry into the Second World War. Roosevelt was an aristocrat but he understood the feelings and the agonies of the working class who had no work to do.

My thought is that the expenditure in lives and money in Iraq is the root cause of our economic problems here at home. I am a realist, and I know that the George Bush administration is thoroughly paralyzed with respect to any constructive suggestions. I hope that the election that will take place this November will provide us with the 21st century version of Franklin Roosevelt. If the new president and the congress have the will to do it, many changes can be made to right the American economy. But the first move has to be to stop the squandering of our resources in Iraq to the tune of $12 billion per month.

I know that the recovery may take a painfully long time but it must be done. The idea of “staying the course” should be obliterated from the American discourse. In all likelihood, I will not be around when there is a happier day in the fortunes of this country. But I remind my fellow Americans that we pinned our hopes on the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and eventually those hopes were realized. Perhaps in ten years or so the news will be much more favorable than it is today and, if that is the case, I can assure you that my ghost will be pleased.

E. E. CARR
August 4, 2008

~~~

Well, in August 2016 I think it’s a good bet that Pop’s ghost was pleased. Obama wasn’t a silver bullet but the country came a hell of a long way in three years. We of course have an enormous deficit now, which only becomes a problem if there’s a massive crisis of trust with regard to how dependable the US is when it comes to paying back debts. If we lose that, I think a lot of other things will come crashing down. Good thing our current leader is an emotionally unstable manchild! He’ll really inspire confidence in the future of the country, I bet.

THE FOLLIES OF SECRETARY PAULSON

Readers of this essay should be warned that the author is completely at sea when it comes to understanding what is taking place in Washington on the so-called bailout or now called the rescue package. I have no clue as to how the bailout package should work but there is consolation in the fact that neither does anyone else. That of course includes the President of the United States who long ago has taken his hands off the wheel as this country is proceeding down the freeway at breakneck speeds. Be that as it may, perhaps it is well to recite a few facts that have to do with the financial stability of all of us.

Henry Paulson is alleged to be the Secretary of the Treasury in this formerly grand country of ours. We can hardly call it a grand country anymore with the till in the back room showing zero and the ledger sheets showing minus zero. Mr. Paulson came to be Secretary of the Treasury after he had served as Chairman of Goldman Sachs, the mammoth investment firm. It is alleged that Paulson’s private fortune comes to somewhere in excess of five hundred million dollars. That is substantially more than essayists’ bank accounts reflect.

Sometime around September 15, Secretary Paulson’s hair caught on fire and he ran to the Congress to warn that the banking system in this country was about to be bankrupt. There was a great urgency in what Secretary Paulson had to say to the leaders of the Congress as well as to members of the Bush Cabinet, for whom Paulson produced a three-page memo that he wished to turn into a bill from Congress. That bill said that Secretary Paulson should be given $700 billion of your tax dollars and, interestingly, one provision in the little memo stated that there should be no oversight whatsoever. In effect, Secretary Paulson was to be given $700 billion to use as he saw fit. You may recall that the memo was turned into a bill of several hundred pages which was initially turned down. After adding some pork to the bill, it was passed.

The theory in Secretary Paulson’s view was that there were mortgages which he called toxic, which were clogging the system. His theory was that once these mortgages were removed, using his $700 billion kitty, the financial system would return quickly to normal, with the banks being able to lend to each other as well as to grant loans to individual borrowers and businesses. The key to Secretary Paulson’s idea was to remove these toxic mortgages, which were poisoning the whole system.

To help Secretary Paulson with his work, he brought in young man from Goldman Sachs named Neel Kashkari, who would do the financial wheeling and dealing. Mr. Kashkari may be a brilliant fellow as far as Mr. Paulson is concerned, but no one else has yet to find that out. In any case, we are told that Mr. Kashkari, who is in his early 30s and has the grand total of six years’ experience in the financial business, was given the direction to use the $700 billion to buy these toxic mortgages. This is an extraordinarily heavy responsibility for a man who has only six years experience in the financial community.

When the so-called toxic mortgages stayed in place and presumably continued to block the drainage system in our financial structure, Mr. Kashkari and Mr. Paulson seemed to turn to other devices to work their magic. Apparently the toxic mortgages were forgotten. Somewhere along the line, nine favored banks were given something like $50 billion on the theory that they would then begin to make loans not only to other banks but also to consumers. As it turns out, the banks took the billions of dollars and promptly refused to lend to other banks or consumers but instead set out to buy other banks. At this point, Secretary Paulson,
Mr. Kashkari, and President Bush should have said, “What the hell is going on here?” It is not clear in my mind that the favored banks, who were given the billions of dollars, even thanked the administration and Secretary Paulson.

It is now about two months since Secretary Paulson sounded the frantic alarm about the banking system and, if anything, we stand infinitely poorer than we were when Mr. Paulson’s hair was on fire. The stock market is down some 3,000 points and the joke is being heard that the 401(k)s are now 201(k)s. There is no humor in this situation in that lifetime savings are evaporating on a daily basis.

On Friday, November 14th, Mr. Paulson changed his mind about the toxic mortgages and announced a new proposition where he would loan money to various entities such as the credit card companies. He conceded under questioning that he apparently no longer wishes to deal with the so-called toxic mortgages but instead is casting about for some other means of solving this crisis. Mr. Kashkari appeared before the House committee and was totally eviscerated by such stalwarts as Dennis Kucinich, the former Mayor of Cleveland and former Presidential contender. Mr. Kashkari was told by Dennis Kucinich that it was clear that he knew nothing about what was going on. Neel Kashkari did not join in that assessment but objective observers agree that Kucinich’s view was precisely on point.

At the same time Secretary Paulson appeared on Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour program and was so fouled up in what he was trying to enunciate that even Jim Lehrer, the most moderate of questioners, became impatient with Paulson. Those who know Lehrer will tell you that his questioning of the Secretary would lead to the belief that he was telling the Secretary that he [Paulson] was out in left field and knew nothing about what was taking place.

It is at this point that I am attempting to dictate this essay and I hope that you are as confused as I am in trying to figure what our bailout package is supposed to do. I am told that the word “bailout” is out of style and should be replaced by the phrase “rescue package.” That really makes no difference because it is so confusing because Secretary Paulson and Mr. Kashkari simply are, as we used to say, “lost balls in tall grass.”

There is one other parallel that might fit this situation. During the Second World War, the term “snafu” came into general use. That was an acronym and it signified “Situation Normal All Fouled Up.” As you may imagine, soldiers such as myself used the “f” word instead of “fouled” but my seminary training would not permit me to put that horrid word in print. In assessing where we stand at this moment, I would say that snafu is much too mild a term. There was a second acronym that, in the latter stages of the war, was used not only by American troops but also by our British friends. That term was “fubar.” It stands for “Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition.” My case rests on the belief that with respect to our financial condition, fubar clearly applies. I can think of no other word that aptly describes where we are.

And so it is that Paulson’s follies really have turned into a burlesque. The crowning act in that burlesque has to do with twenty nations from around the world coming to Washington this weekend to have a dinner with George Bush and get the word directly from him as to how this is to be fixed. Anyone who believes that George Bush knows how to fix this financial situation is on a fool’s errand. In a speech earlier this week, our beloved President told us that the problem was not in government oversight of the market but that, in effect, the market should be ready to operate as it saw fit and would become self-correcting. This is a lot like his view on the war in Iraq, where we are told that the only way to attack that problem is to “stay the course.”

I know that this has been a confusing essay to read, just as it has been a confusing essay to write. But the facts are the facts and, as an old soldier, I am forced to tell you that the only applicable term for the follies of Secretary Paulson is fubar a thousand times over.

E. E. CARR
November 15, 2008

~~~

Yeah, I dunno. Seems like an okay initial thought with some poor follow-through. Normally the idea with stimulus packages is that if the government spends a lot of money, that money goes into the pockets of the citizenry, who turn around and spend it or save it or whatever. If they spend it, it’s going into the pockets of other citizens, and if they save it then banks get to lend it out to people. This sort of primes the pump for the normal cycle of spending and lending which keeps the economy growing but in 2008 that wasn’t really enough.

ARE DEMOCRATS ALL INFIDELS?

When George W. Bush, our current President, ran for the White House in the year 2000, he announced that his campaign was in conformance with the will of God. No one knows how Bush came into this knowledge, but apparently Bush prevailed and became our 43rd President.

I do not wish to court disaster by a derogatory statement about religion but I would say that George Bush’s election in the year 2000 had much more to do with the predilections of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia than with some deity. Non-religious observers such as myself are left to conclude that George Bush and the eminent Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Scalia, were both motivated by God and acted in his or her best wishes.

Not long after Mr. Bush assumed the Presidency, he launched the war to invade Iraq. If you remember, that war is still going on and there have been countless casualties and it has contributed heavily to the demise of the American economy. When Bush was told that the former National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, and Bush’s own father, George H. W. Bush, thought it was folly to try to occupy Baghdad, Bush replied that his father could say whatever he wanted but in a matter such as this, George W. relied on a “higher father.” Because men have only one father, objective observers must be left to conclude that in this case Bush was referring again to God.

Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq shows no sign of coming to a conclusion in the immediate future. The only conclusion that some of us can draw is that apparently God makes mistakes also. I would prefer to believe that this was Mr. Bush’s mistake and that God had very little to do with that war or any other turmoil.

Now we have Sarah Palin, who is the Governor of Alaska and was the recent Vice Presidential candidate for the Republican Party. In an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC News, Governor Palin had a unique request of God. She apparently believes that there are doors of opportunity to higher office and has implored God to not let her pass up some such door. She has said that if God identifies a viable objective, she will “plow” through such doors. An objective observer such as myself is given to wonderment at what Governor Palin has in mind. Was such a door of opportunity provided when Ms. Palin went on her shopping spree at the expensive stores in the lower 48? I have no idea but clearly the Governor of Alaska must be dressed appropriately when she knocks on these doors that God controls.

In the recent campaign for the Presidential nomination, none of the Democrats said that they were being guided by the divine hand of God, nor did Senator McCain. For that, they are to be commended and it is my guess that it is quite likely that the doors that Governor Palin forgot to open will remain locked tight when she pursues the Presidential nomination in 2012.

But no matter how you cut it, it seems that the Republicans have a lock on God’s thoughts and earthlings such as myself are left to wonder whether the Democrats are infidels. Your old essayist hardly believes that such is the case. And he hopes also that whatever gods there are will respond favorably to Mr. Obama as he takes over this badly tattered economy as its steward for the next four years. I don’t presume to know what is on God’s mind but I fervently hope that his or her thoughts and actions are favorable.

E. E. CARR
November 16, 2008

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God was pretty cool with Obama from ’08-’12, I guess. We’ll see how he feels about Trump. As far as I can tell, Trump isn’t even particularly about paying lip service to the godly crowd. The closest that he’s gotten (relying purely on my memory), is a common soundbite about how his two favorite books are the bible, and ‘The Art of the Deal.’ I’m sure that Trump feels that god should consider Himself lucky that the bible made it into such a prestigious list.

THE PARADISE OF LARRY CRAIG

The morning newspaper in what I generally refer to as my home town was called The St. Louis Globe Democrat. The name of the paper is misleading in every respect. The Globe covered local affairs and rarely ventured into global concerns or even national concerns. Secondly, the Globe Democrat was the voice of the Bob Taft Republicans in eastern Missouri in that they opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s initiatives at every turn. They opposed the establishment, for example, of social security, just as they opposed the lend-lease program that enabled the British to survive the early stages of World War II. While the Globe Democrat had many shortcomings, it did have a lively sports section and it published daily a horoscope. I know nothing about the stars being in perfect alignment but when the whole episode about Larry Craig came to light, my personal stars must have been in complete alignment. The events surrounding Larry Craig cry out to every essayist and newspaper man: “please write about me.”

My horoscope in this matter seems to remain in perfect alignment because of three developments of the past week. First there was the request of the Bush administration for another 192 billion dollars to continue the war in Iraq for another month or so, shortly followed by Larry Craig’s suit to overturn his confession about being gay and his announcement that he could not force himself to say goodbye to the Senate. Finally there was an announcement by the president of Iran about moral turpitude in that country.

Even the Globe Democrat would have had to depart from its coverage of local affairs to report on news of this monumental sort. It seems to me that these are events that change the history of mankind.

My personal belief is that the war in Iraq is a misbegotten adventure. We will soon have squirted away a trillion dollars of our finances and we have suffered the loss of 3,800 dead American soldiers. This is to say nothing of the 20,000 that have been wounded. On top of that there is the displacement of the Iraqi nation.

My proposal takes on all of the aspects of the George Marshall plan which restored Europe after the Second World War. I am proposing that we take the zillion dollars, including the most recent 192 billion dollar request, that we are going to squirt away on the Iraq war and simply buy both Iraq and Iran. They will become our possessions after we pay a fair price. The casualty lists that are published daily will soon disappear.

Now with respect to the second aspect of this proposal: we are assured by none other than Larry Craig himself that he is not gay nor has he ever been gay and that he will serve out his full term in the Senate, regardless of what his Republican colleagues have to say about him. There is abundant evidence that the senator from Idaho is in fact gay, and this old essayist says “so what.”

Finally, last week, the president of Iran announced to a jeering audience that there are absolutely no homosexuals in all of Iran. Simply put, there are no gay people or lesbians within the confines of the great nation of Iran.

Because we have bought Iraq and Iran, we have the freedom to rename them. I propose that they be renamed Iraqaho and Iranaho respectively. This would be in keeping with the name of the state of Idaho, which is stoutly represented by Senator Larry Craig. Senator Craig cannot say goodbye to the Senate, as he has now loudly proclaimed. So I now propose that he be appointed the permanent senator from the two new states that will be added to our federation. This may seem immodest but I would compare it to the Louisiana Purchase, which brought the south and the west into the jurisdiction of the United States. Besides, it stops the daily casualty lists and it gives Larry Craig something to do. If Larry Craig can master the name of Idaho, he ought to be able to handle the names of Iraqaho and Iranaho.

The Globe Democrat stopped publishing in 1956. I suspect that a story of these monumental proportions might even make its pages. I now leave you with the thought that it is time for me to go to work to get Iranaho and Iraqaho membership in the United Nations.

E. E. CARR
April 6, 2007

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I really, really wonder how many acres of Iraq or Iran we could have gotten for the cost of the war if we somehow got them to agree to sell to us. I don’t know how acquiring them would stop the infighting but I think if you’re going to throw money at a problem it’d be good to make some permanent progress towards a solution. Purely from a cost perspective, if you spend a bunch of money to bomb some terrorists, generally speaking you’re just going to make a bunch of new terrorists so you haven’t accomplished a whole lot. But imagine if, instead of bombing them, we were just really shitty landlords. We’d piss them off, nobody has to die, and our bad-landlording would be significantly less likely to create new terrorists than killing them does.