Archive for the Bush Administration 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.

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

~~~

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.

YOU’VE GOT TO BE TAUGHT

In 1948, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein wrote the unforgettable musical “South Pacific.” It starred Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin as lovers. Among the melodic offerings were such things as “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “This Nearly Was Mine.” Slipped into this epiphany was a song called, “You’ve Got to be Taught.” This little song was an anti-hatred offering. It has great meaning today, nearly 60 years later. Let me try to show you what I mean.

“You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

George Bush, Commander in Chief, Chief Executive, and Chief Decider for the whole world, speaks repeatedly of “the enemy.” I suspect that “The enemy” are the people opposing American forces in Iraq, but Bush never gives them a name. It is simply “the enemy.” We killed so many enemy soldiers today and we imprisoned some more enemies. I presume all of those are members of “the enemy” forces. But Bush never associates them with the name of a country or organization. They are just “the enemy.” I am an old soldier and I have trouble figuring out who is “the enemy.” Is “the enemy” people who disagree with Bush? Is the New York Times an “enemy”? Is “the enemy” all of the Arabs? In all of his pronouncements, George Bush has never named the enemy. We are simply asked to take it on faith that there is an enemy out there that we must wipe out. At this point, I am inclined to believe that the Arab race is in fact the enemy that Bush has in mind, but that is simply an old soldier’s intuition.

“You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.”

Richard Cheney, the Vice President of the United States, is often viewed as the man who led George Bush into invading Iraq. In his speeches to right-wing audiences and in his interviews with the most right-wing of all radio commentators, Cheney invariably refers to “radical Islamic elements who would establish a political caliphate extending from Spain through the Far East.” Now let us suppose that you are a 19- or 20-year-old American soldier in Iraq and you see an Arab come down the street. You do not speak his language and he does not speak yours. Are you going to thrust your rifle in his face and inquire of him, “Are you a radical Muslim element who is bent on establishing a caliphate from here to there?”

Of course, the Arab, not understanding your question, will shrug his shoulders, and under current conditions that makes him guilty and may cause him to have his head blown off. The American soldier may well think that he is carrying out the wishes of his commanders when he blows the head off of a young Arab man because he has failed to answer the question about being a radical Islamic Arab. It would seem, under the Cheney Doctrine, that every Arab is a radical one rushing headlong into establishing a caliphate. Being an Arab in Baghdad is just tough luck for our “enemies.”

“You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!”

Now let us consider that the young soldiers coming in to serve in the Army and the Marine Corps are taught by older soldiers who are not particularly literate. I can tell you this because I spent a good amount of time under those illiterate or nearly illiterate soldiers. They are the leaders who instruct our troops on who the enemy is. They are the ones who instruct the young troops to kick down doors and to humiliate the male members in front of their families.

And unfortunately, we recently learned that our troops are the ones committing the atrocities against the enemy which includes women and children. Simply put, the enemy is the Arab, those radical Muslim Islamists who wish to establish the caliphate. It must be the Arabs because they are only people opposing us.

The soldiers are melded into what is called a “comprehensive unit” and given a mission in Iraq to wipe out anything before them. In the Marine Corps, the motto is “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” When 19- or 20-year-old soldiers and marines get hyped up with this comprehensive unit business, and then perceive that the Commander in Chief and the Vice President have named a non-Christian enemy, it is fairly clear that the enemy is none other than all of the Arab race. So you see these young soldiers have got to be taught to hate. And it comes as no surprise whatsoever that our troops are involved in atrocities against Arab civilians. Hatred is a terrible thing and it is being taught to our young soldiers. Because of the leaders proclaiming that the enemy is our source of trouble, it is no wonder that these soldiers, imbued with the faith, find that every Arab needs to be killed. The original general in Iraq, General Tommy Franks, said repeatedly of Arab deaths that “We don’t do Iraqi body counts.”

Children who witness our conduct will hate us for the rest of their lives. And who can blame them?

I am an old soldier who understands a little bit about warfare and a little bit about hatred. I suppose for a long time, many of us came close to hating the Germans because of the operations of the Nazi war machine in WWII. Somewhere in the 1970s, I went to Munich with my friend Howard Davis, who likes to drink beer before noon. I do not care for beer, morning, noon, or night, but nonetheless we walked into this beer garden where there were tables about waist high where the beer could be placed and consumed while standing. A local came along and joined us. After a while he pointed to me and inquired, “Amerikanisher soldat?” I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then inquired, “POW?” Again, I answered in flawless German, “Ja.” He then went on to tell me in passable English that he had been a POW of the English for more than three years where he learned the English language. Before long it became clear that he was a very nice fellow. From that time on, whatever dislike I had of the German race tended to disappear. So you see the lesson in this case is that there is great merit in having beer gardens, even though I don’t drink much beer.

As a non-believer, for many years I have been an objective observer of the prejudices and hatreds that occur in religious organizations. The Moslems hate the Christians and the Jews and want to wipe them all out. I suspect that there is not much love lost on the Christian side as it relates to the Moslems. I am a fortunate guy in that my parents who attended primitive churches, such as the Nazarenes, the Pentecostals, and the Free-Will Baptists, simply referred to people in other faiths as those who could not join them in heaven. Significantly, my unschooled parents never taught me to hate. They felt sorry for all those Jews, Catholics, Episcopalians, et. al. who would not be admitted to heaven. But hatred was never part of that equation for me. But a good part of organized religion seems to be devoted to dislike or even unstated hatred.

So you see, hatred is a miserable human condition. It is a destructive condition but I fear that it is going to be with us for the rest of time. While it will be with us perhaps for many years to come, I suspect that Hammerstein and Rodgers were absolutely right when they contended in their little song that “You have to be taught.” That, my friends, is what George Bush is teaching. That, my friends, is precisely what Richard Cheney is teaching. And that, my friends, is what the Army and Marine Corps are teaching these young soldiers. In the long run, hatred will consume such soldiers.

In any case, it is instructive to review a song like “You’ve got to be taught.” It was written following the most horrible combat that the world had ever seen, that being WWII. Now, if you believe Mr. Bush and
Mr. Cheney, we are engaged in a war on terror. Again, as an old soldier, 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.

E. E. CARR
June 26, 2006

~~~

First time I’ve heard it, but I’m a fan. I think “To hate all the people your relatives hate” is the line that stands out to me because it forces a “social” issue to be considered at a very personal level. “Society” isn’t the reason that you hate people — by and large, the culprits are probably your parents. Now that’s maybe a little bit different in the case of war, where dehumanization of the enemy is advanced as a military tactic to make it easier to pull the trigger, but I think your standard run-of-the-mill inherited hate is the more common problem.

It’s a sad irony that the start of the Caliphate that Cheney was talking about ended up forming out of the power vacuum we created with our series of cowboy invasions. And now Trump has just gotten it in his head that bombing things makes him popular, so god knows what comes next.

STAYING THE COURSE

A week or so ago, the English Prime Minister, Tony Blair, came to Washington to discuss how things were going in the war against Iraq. Blair and Bush appeared after their conference to hold a meeting with the press. None of the major American networks carried the program. It didn’t even appear on the Public Broadcasting Systems. It appeared only on MSNBC and perhaps on CNN. That will tell you what the networks think of the importance of the news to be made.

At the news conference, Blair and Bush both appeared to have had a very trying day. Their mood was not upbeat. Quite to the contrary, it was somber and, in both cases, there were apologies or semi-apologies for opportunities missed.

For example, Bush acknowledged that when he said “Bring it on” and “We want Osama Bin Laden, dead or alive” that he should have used “more sophisticated language.” The fact that Bush expressed himself in the language of a cowboy was not lost on the world, yet Bush contended that he should have used more sophisticated language because the rest of the world did not understand what he meant. So you see it is our fault for the mistake we made in not understanding Bush. From my point of view, there was no mistake in the phrases of “bring it on” or “we want Osama, dead or alive.” These comments were extremely provocative and now that the insurgents have “brought it on,” Bush is distraught.

If Bush thinks that he was misunderstood solely because he used unsophisticated expressions, here is my suggestion for a more cerebral comment:

In more sophisticated terms, I should have told you terrorists that we are prepared to engage in stepping on toes, insults, fisticuffs, mud wrestling, torture or controlled and compassionate manslaughter. So kindly advise us whichever you wish to be engaged in. However, if you bring us a televised broadcast statement from Ann Coulter, it will cause us to wilt and plead for mercy.

On Osama bin Laden, I should have said we would like to have him presented to us either pre or post mortem.

Using the terms of “bring it on” or “We want Osama dead or alive” were horrid expressions and we apologize for their lack of sophistication.

Blair was equally regretful for some of the actions that the English had taken. But in the end it must be considered that the limeys have absolutely learned nothing. The British troops are in charge of the southern part of Iraq, based largely around the town of Basra. For the duration of the war, the English had contended that Basra was a model of good behavior, which I assume was a tribute to their troops. In the last few days, we have learned that the new Premier of Iraq has gone to Basra and has lectured people because it is a lawless city that has fallen prey to tribal and sectarian influences.

What the English have always misunderstood is that when they occupy a country, hatred is the inevitable result. For 800 years, England occupied Ireland. The result was warfare at every turn until the English were thrown out in 1922. In all of Ireland, there is not a statue honoring the English occupation. In most cases, the English are reviled and those thoughts of revulsion are passed on from one generation to the next. What England is doing in Iraq, as we are doing also, is generating hatred for years and perhaps hundreds of years to come.

Yet Tony Blair indicated no understanding of this fact. If, for example, an Arab army were to occupy the United States, I probably would be the first one to oppose them with the thought of killing them at every opportunity. In that case, I would become a full-fledged insurrectionist. That is what occupation does to the natives. In West Africa, in Ghana and Nigeria for example, the English excused their occupation on the ground that they were bringing Christianity to the natives who did not know Jesus. Again, I am quite certain that there are no monuments to the Brits in either Nigeria or Ghana now that the Brits have departed. In those two countries, the English required every black native to refer to any white man as “Master.” It made no difference if a British soldier had worked in the garbage disposal vat of a British slaughter house, he was to be addressed as “Master” when he arrived in West Africa. Does anyone now consider building a statue to the former masters? Of course not.

The press conference between Bush and Blair had all the hangdog looks that go with people who had been wrestling with a problem that could not be solved, mainly the occupation of Iraq. Yet, a few days later on Memorial Day, Bush attended a ceremony at Arlington Cemetery to honor our dead. Now remember this is the president who has never attended the funeral for a soldier killed in Iraq. As of this morning, 2,492 American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and almost 19,000 have been wounded. Yet Mr. Bush declines to attend a funeral, even those held in Arlington Cemetery where he was speaking.

At the Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day, Bush had recovered from his performance at the press conference with Blair and now spoke a little bit more confidently. He repeated his mantra that the only way you can pay tribute to all of these dead soldiers is by staying the course. This means that staying the course may well produce another 2,500 dead soldiers and 15,000 more wounded and that, somehow, according to Bush, is a means of paying tribute to the women and men who are to be interred in Arlington Cemetery. That is the most backward thinking that any chief executive could be capable of. The point is, we should get out of Iraq and do it now before we incur further losses.

Bush and Blair unfortunately are clueless about how to end this war. Somehow they seem to think that incurring more casualties pays tribute to fallen soldiers. I am here to tell you that is not the way to pay tribute to anyone, alive or dead. What we need here is someone with a brain and I am sorry to tell you that between Blair and Bush, they do not have a brain between them when it comes to this war that they started.

This of course is a downbeat assessment of where things stand in Iraq, but that is the state of the record. As long as the United States is stuck with the clueless George Bush, the killing will go on, the execution of civilians as happened with the Marine Corps recently, and the abuses at our prisons will continue to take place. May I ask, is this the image we want to extend to the Arab world as well as to the rest of civilization? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that when Bush told the insurgents in Iraq to bring it on, they brought it on and now George W. is whimpering.

E. E. CARR
June 6, 2006

~~~

The United States could have saved plenty of lives and money if someone had bothered to write a picturebook that explained the concept of a “sunk cost.” Doubling down on a terrible idea very rarely makes it a less terrible idea.

Fun fact: this is the only essay known to me that has an identical title to another essay. A month ago I published its counterpart.

MORE WAR ON TERROR

On Sunday, November 26, 2006 the United States will have been at war in Iraq for the same length of time that we were involved in World War II. As an observer of human events for the last 80 years and as a veteran of World War II, I believe that it is incumbent upon me to offer some straight talk. This will not be the tortured syntax of George Bush’s speeches nor will it be the lectures of the hapless Condoleezza Rice. It is much too late for that sort of thing. This will be as straight-talk as can be imagined.

The so-called war on terror is at heart, a fraud and a myth.

Simply put, the so-called war on terror, which is primarily the invasion of Iraq, is flawed because it was based on the lies of George Bush and his administration. Dozens of books are now available which recount the lies told by the President of the United States which led us to war. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill has stated that in the first cabinet meeting, it was apparent that Bush intended to take this country into war against Iraq. Richard Clarke, the adviser to the National Security Adviser has testified in the same vein. There is an abundance of evidence flowing from our main allies, the British, to the effect that the intelligence was manipulated to support a war in Iraq. The Downing Street Memo and other British government documents are the most damning of the Bush lies that led us into this war.

Rather than go through each of the points which are so amply documented in dozens of books, I believe it is fair to say that on this subject, George Bush is a bully, a coward and a consummate liar.

And now we turn to the myth making. According to the Bush administration, Iraq was awash in weapons of mass destruction. There were references to the smoke billowing from an atom bomb to which we were led to believe that Saddam was on the verge of achieving. There was the brilliant moment when George Bush stepped out of his airplane on the deck of the carrier Abraham Lincoln to announce that as far as the war in Iraq, it was a “Mission Accomplished.”

After the WMD excuse did not fly, we were told that the idea was to democratize the Middle East. Events over the Thanksgiving holiday, 2006 make it clear that we aren’t going to democratize anything in the Mideast. What we are trying to do is figure a way out of Iraq without being slaughtered. This is not the “victory” that George Bush imagined.

The fact is that any dream of establishing a new democracy on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been replaced by an active civil war which is killing thousands of people every month.

The recent American elections on November 7th of this year have told the Bush administration that the American people at long last, no longer believe him. Bush now is irrelevant. The fact that he is making foreign trips simply causes him to seem more silly. He finally arrived earlier this month in Vietnam, some 40 years late. Bush copped out on that war.

His meeting with the Prime Minister of Iraq in Amman was, in large measure, a disaster because Bush is asking the Prime Minister of Iraq to disarm the militia groups of his own sect. Simply put, Maliki is unable to do that and even if he were able to do it, it is highly improbable that he would even set out to accomplish that end.

In the meantime, while we are engaged in what Bush has told us is the central front on the war on terror, there is strife in Nigeria. In Zimbabwe, we have the president, Robert Mugabe, terrorizing his opposition. In the Darfur region of the Sudan, the Arabs are killing and raping the black inhabitants. In Lebanon and Gaza, there are excesses by the Israeli Army that border on atrocities. Last week an Israeli artillery shell landed in a crowded settlement killing 18 Palestinian women and children. The prime minister of Israel issued a muffled I’m sorry kind of excuse but no investigation followed. The point that is obvious here is that there are plenty of terrifying incidents around the rest of the globe, but our attention is tied to Iraq where we are bogged down and looking to Iran and Syria and Saudi Arabia for some thought that would lead us to escape with the skin on our backs.

The end product of George Bush’s war in Iraq is a new set of civil strifes. According to an American source, as many as 600,000 Iraqis have been killed. General Tommy Franks, who was decorated by Bush with the Medal of Freedom, has announced that, “We don’t do Iraqi body counts.” Soon we will have lost our three thousandths soldier in Iraq not to mention the losses of the British, the Polish, the Spaniards, and the Italian contingents. Bush has told us that we must make the sacrifices so that the war is kept over there and not over here. Does anyone believe that?

Throughout the history of the invasion of Iraq, Bush has taken his vacations in Texas and has ridden his bicycle. He has never attended a funeral of one of the soldiers killed in Iraq. Perhaps one of the largest myths that George Bush seems to believe is that, to the extent that we train Iraqi soldiers, we can then leave the battlefield. Friends, the fact of the matter is that no Iraqi soldier is going to defend American interests after we leave. Obviously, they are going to pursue their own interests. They would say to hell with the interests of Americans.

This has been an unhappy experience for this old essayist to record. But it is a matter of straight talk which you haven’t heard from George Bush or Cheney or the hapless Madame Rice. America is much less safe today than it was before Bush initiated his invasion of Iraq. Much less! For that we have to thank the Iraqi invasion because it was based on fraudulent evidence and the hopes of myth makers. The man in charge was George Bush who is nothing less than a bully, a coward and a consummate liar. It would be my hope, which is forlorn, that Mr. Bush could hear this summary from my own lips. In the meantime, this essay will have to do.

E. E. CARR
November 25, 2006

~~~

This essay was bundled with another 2006 essay called WAR ON TERROR which I published almost three years ago. In the bundle, he gave this forward:

To the Essay Reader:

Here are two essays on the so-called War on Terror. They were both written in November, 2006. While there are a few redundancies in the two essays, they reflect the fact that the War on Terror is nothing more than a complete fraud and a total myth. I hope you have the inclination to read both of them.

EEC

I think many of the essays were shipped out to readers in bundles with little introductory letters, but for some reason I don’t have access to most of those introductory letters outside of 2006. Some of them are quite short like this one, and some could be essays in their own right.

I had no idea that Bush such an avid biker. Makes me wonder what security must have looked like for those outings. I imagine a two-wheeled version of the motorcade parading through the underbrush.

THE THIRD RAIL

Well boys, the German Pope has stuck both feet in it. Every person who ever lived on a farm where cattle were pastured will recognize the “it” in the previous sentence. George Herbert Walker Bush, our preppy former president, never lived on a farm, but he refers to the “it” as “deep doo doo.”

Old Joseph Ratzinger, who is now Pope Benedict the Sixteenth, made a pronouncement this week at Regensburg University in Germany in which he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor. The Emperor said, as quoted by Ratzinger, that the Moslems spread their faith only at the tip of a sword. I am amazed that the German Pope would make such remarks reflecting so poorly on the Moslem faith. Has the Pope forgotten the Crusades when Moslems were also put to the sword? Has the Pope forgotten the Inquisition when Jews in Europe were burned at the stake for their failure to convert to Christianity? Does Herr Ratzinger remember Joan of Arc? Does Herr Ratzinger also remember Galileo?

But in addition to the Pope’s onslaught against the Moslems, we now have the august George W. Bush proclaiming that much of the Moslem faith is given to “Islamic fascism.” Can anyone blame the Moslems for detecting another Crusade sponsored by the Vatican and by the Republican party of the United States? And then, should we wonder why Catholic Churches around the world will become targets of suicide bombers? And what about such a bomber appearing in St. Peter’s Square when the Pope waves from his window periodically?

Ratzinger and Bush have put the entire Catholic Church at risk from those “Islamo-Fascists.” In the meantime, neither has the Pope made a convincing case with respect to his joining the Nazi Party during World War II, nor has Bush explained his copout to the National Guard during the Vietnam War. Perhaps these men were made for each other.

And while we are at it, please do not dismiss the German Pope’s addiction to meddling in political affairs. In 2004, he meddled in American politics by advising that communion could be withheld from John Kerry, a devout Catholic. Kerry’s sin was that he did not oppose abortion in every possible case, such as rape or incest. Consider also that the Pope asked that Turkey be denied membership in the European Union because it is a non-Christian secular country. And consider Ratzinger’s interference this year in an Italian election having to do with birth control devices.

If George Bush had read history, he would find that the Fascist movement was established in the 1920’s by Benito Mussolini as a political party. Its members wore black shirts. I suspect that in Iraq and in the rest of the world, if you see a man with olive skin wearing a black wool shirt in 120 degree temperature, he should be tortured and beheaded on the ground that he is one of those Islamo-Fascists. All of this should be done while singing, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” With Bush and Ratzinger hard at work, it makes grabbing the third rail extremely tempting.

This week the Guardian of London reports that during his reign over the Catholic Church, the Pope has called Buddhists “Masturbators of the mind.” Remember, this comes from the celibate Vicar of Rome. This non-believer is going to rely on prayer to relieve his astonishment.

The point that must be made here, is that every religion tells its worshipers that it is a religion of love. That assertion has oxymoronic qualities to it. While the adherents to the religion claim that it is a religion of love, the fact is that it is often a matter of hatred and war. Consider also the Moslem hatred for Christians and for the Jews. Consider the mutual hatred in India between the Hindus and the Moslems. Consider the intra-Moslem debate between the Shias and the Sunnis which is now proceeding to a civil war in Iraq. And consider the Christian onslaught as represented by the United States and its allies against the Moslems who reside in Iraq. Are all of these acts exhibits of peace and love?

Likewise, in this country, there seems to be no love lost between the various branches of the Christian faith. They rarely hold inter-denominational congregations preferring to claim that those other religionists who call themselves Christians, can’t possibly get to heaven because they don’t worship exactly as we do.

But all of the dislike and hatred among the religionists pales in comparison with their denunciations of those of us who are non-believers. They call us agnostics which we freely admit. When we are called atheists we plead guilty on all counts. They call us godless which is precisely the case. While all these things are true – and the nonbelievers make no apologies for them – the godless ones generally speaking are good citizens. They pay their taxes, they vote, and they serve their country in wartime, which is not the case with the current Christian President and Vice President of the United States.

Those of us who are nonbelievers contend that our beliefs are based solely on logic. Those who adopt faith appear to have abandoned logic. The dictionary defines faith as a belief in something unsupported by facts. But be that as it may, I would hope that there is a common meeting ground in the principles enunciated by the Bible hundreds of years ago. I am fully aware that for a nonbeliever to cite the Bible as his reason for his conduct may fly into the face of believability. Nonetheless, let me give it a try.

In the book written by Isaiah, which predates the Christian era by several hundred years, we find this passage: “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah chapter I, verse 18) If God or Allah or any other celestial creature, such as the so called Intelligent Designer, gave man the power of reason, man would have to reject, for example, the thought that Joshua could stop the sun in its tracks. Furthermore, Galileo, who believed that the earth circled the sun, almost paid with his life when the Inquisition insisted that it was the other way around. He recanted, but as he left the court he said under his breath, “nonetheless it moves,” meaning the earth. Similarly, the man of reason would have grave doubts about the stories of Jonah in the bile juice of the great fish, the parting of the Red Sea, and the legend of loaves and fishes.

If God or Allah or the Intelligent Designer or whatever gave men the ability to reason, it must be comprehended that making religious war, one on the other, is an exercise in self defeat. America seems to get along reasonably well with the Hindus in India and with the Buddhists who occupy a large part of the world. I suspect that if we were to treat the Moslem nations with respect that they too could become our friends. And please do not forget that the Arabs are sitting on our oil supply.

Bill Clinton has made the point that the settlement of the Israeli Palestinian dispute is the key to peaceful relations with the Moslem countries. We ought to take his advice immediately. It is one of the hallmarks of his current thinking. It holds that people who think well of you are more likely to grant you favors rather than if you adopt a hostile attitude toward them. This is elemental. The overwhelming point is that man has the capacity to reason and if he uses that facility, he will enjoy peace and prosperity. If he does not, man will be plagued by war, disease, poverty and general ill feeling. Isaiah was completely correct.

Now let us turn to another Biblical author called Micah. In the Book of Micah, in the sixth chapter, there is a sixth verse which holds, “What does the Lord require of thee; to love mercy, to do justly and to walk humbly with thy God.”

Micah wrote this some 800 years before the Christian era began. If I might try to improve upon Micah, I would say that, “The Lord also requireth of thee to admit error and to grant forgiveness.” I know it is presumptuous of me at this late date to try to improve upon Micah who is described as a minor prophet, but my additions seem worthwhile to me and I have heard no objection from my old friend, Micah.

It appears to me as an elderly citizen and as an old soldier, that if we were to offer the rest of the world mercy and just treatment instead of offering domination and warfare, and if we were also to walk humbly with whatever God there might be, the prospects for the United States would be greatly and enormously enriched. This nonbeliever, atheist, agnostic, godless or what have you, has had Micah firmly imprinted on his mind for several years. I hope that Micah has guided my conduct just as I hope that it guides the conduct of the United States of America.

I am fully aware that writing on the subject of religion is the third rail of American public discourse. And I am aware that I will be denounced by preachers and politicians. But it is those preachers and politicians with their fervent embrace of holy symbols that have largely failed. (See Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Carl Rove, et. al.) Preachers and politicians will almost always decline any enlightened thought. But it seems to me that relying on the words of Isaiah and Micah might be eminently worthwhile.

Here is my thought. Let us reason together which will lead to acts of mercy. Let us reason together which will cause men to do justly one to another. And let us walk humbly while we admit error and grant forgiveness. I am an old man and I do not expect to see all of these things happen in my limited lifetime. But I hope that they come to pass before my children and grandchildren leave the scene.

Now may the congregation stand and sing the first, third and the seventh verse of Hymn number 341, “Blessed Assurance.”

E. E. CARR
September 16, 2006

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Who picks a fight with Buddhists, honestly? And why? I guess the same guy who wanted to deny Turkey EU membership on the grounds of being too secular, despite the EU being an overtly secular organization.
Anyway, I think that the operative concept here — anyone you treat like an enemy will eventually become one, so let’s try to get along — is clearly sound. But like Pop mentioned, there’s no moving forward until we admit that we were wrong and take steps to make amends, and it’s hard to picture that happening. The American political scene tends to demonize anyone who changes his or her mind as a waffler, so apologizing for past mistakes becomes a sign of weakness.