Eden Hill Journal

Comments, dreams, stories, and rantings from a middle-aged native of Maine living on a shoestring and a prayer in the woods of Maine. My portion of the family farm is to be known as Eden Hill Farm just because I want to call it that and because that's the closest thing to the truth that I could come up with. If you enjoy what I write, email me or make a comment. If you enjoy Eden Hill, come visit.

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Location: Maine, United States

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oil and Water

I had a memorable dream early this morning. The dream seemed to last for quite some time and unraveled itself into a story with a moral at the very end. I wish I had a more vivid memory so I could actually write the story down. It occurred to me that this dream I had would have made a very unique and meaningful film. But alas, unless this becomes a recurring dream, all I have left is a memory of the ending and the moral it presented.
I won't bore you with the details of the dream, but in the end a young ruler who had just taken power over his people, an heir to the throne so to speak, committed an unforgivable act that tribal tradition required him to die for. Actually the unforgivable act was that in his fear he pissed on somebody unintentionally. That somebody happened to be me although I didn't wake with a wet bed, thank goodness. But this was one of those dreams that sometimes try to suggest to me that I need to wake up and go pee.
Back to the story...
The setting for this event was some form of ship, like a combination airplane and old-fashioned steamship. This young ruler and his family were leading their group (tribe or whatever) into an unknown future. His parents and older brother had just been lost overboard if I recall correctly, and there was some sort of threat on this young man's life which caused him to fear. I was sheltering him from danger when the unforgivable event occurred. Older guards had surrounded us and were preparing to carry out the mandated punishment, execution. Suddenly it dawned on me that here was this pioneering civilized people making their way in a perilous world, a people who had just lost their beloved leaders, and they were being forced against their better judgment to execute their leader because of an unfair rule that they felt they had no control over. Where was the love in that?
Why not instead take control of the laws of their civilization and save their leader and themselves from their own foolishness?
At that point I woke up and yes indeed I needed to go pee. But the moral of that story has stuck with me all day today. It's been in the background, but it's been with me. I was telling my wife about this dream at the dinner table, well not the peeing part, but the lesson I learned from it. Then it dawned on me just what this lesson was, what it actually means to me. Suddenly I began philosophizing about it in terms of what has been on my mind for the past several years, the political climate here in the United States. Please remember as you read this that this philosophy is less than a day old. Forgive me if I am not able to completely convey this to you for you to understand, but here goes.
Two Philosophies
There are two fundamentally different political philosophies that govern societies.
One philosophy says that all law should be based on absolute laws of morality that are derived from a divine source such as God, YHVH, Allah, the Bible, the Quran, etc. Advocates of this philosophy see some God or gods as the divine source of an unchanging law revealed to mankind to govern the lives of all humans on earth. According to this view it is the divine mandate that government exists in order to execute this divine law. When conservative Christians in America say they think the Ten Commandments belong in America's courts, this is what they are talking about. To them, the Constitution exists to assure that Congress, the courts, and the executive branches of government carry out God's will for the United States of America and through us, His will for the world.
The other philosophy recognizes no such divine law. They don't see in the Bible or anywhere else a real divine mandate for obedience to a divine ruler. Instead, what they see in the Bible is the mandate to love one another. In this view it is not God's will that determines the laws that civilizations live by. Civilizations establish their own laws, their own rules of behavior, their own customs of morality, and their own social structures.
These two philosophies are as incompatible as oil and water. They don't mix well at all. I have heard religious people spread paranoia through their congregations trying to convince them that the day will come when they aren't even allowed to own a Bible and I have heard conservatives say they want to obliterate the left entirely.
When the religious right, the James Dobsons and Jerry Falwells of the world, warn against unspoken dangers that will come into existence when gay marriage is accepted in America, these two philosophies rear up against one another. On the one hand you have liberated minds suggesting that society can write the rules of morality however they choose. On the other you have conservative minds fixated on their unchanging moral beliefs based on their interpretation of the Bible. To conservatives there is a moral law that supersedes the laws of civilization. To liberals there is no such law. All there is is love and acceptance. To liberals all that remains if love and acceptance aren't your spiritual guide is selfish ambition.
But there is a serious flaw in the conservative philosophy. That flaw is that there does not exist in the Bible or anywhere else for that matter a divine set of rules for life. Christians imagine those rules from the Bible, but in reality they simply aren't there. These divine rules that govern civilizations are a figment of the conservative religious imagination.
In reality, civilizations do rule themselves because in reality there is no divine dictator, no divine monarch.
There is an odd aspect to conservative politics as it is being practiced in the United States. In the United States, atheists who have essentially no respect for divine moral values make just as dedicated Republicans as devout evangelical Christians. Both groups fit the mold perfectly, but up till today I have been at a loss to understand why this situation exists. Somehow conservative politics serves both interests equally well. But how?
Again, go back to the central reality of conservative religious belief, that God has revealed to mankind a set of moral rules for all people to live by, that there is a God in Heaven who expects obedience from all mankind. Religious conservatives use this as their central tenet for their political philosophy. But it is a false proposition, a fallacy. Religious conservatives base their political philosophy on a fallacy. Why would they want to do that?
They want to do that because the system of government that is practiced here in the United States is not their preferred system of government. Christians prefer monarchy. The Bible is based on the principles of monarchy, a top-down rule where the heads of nations, the kings and lords, are held by common belief to be set in place by God and thus given absolute authority. Since there is no divine mandate over the rulers of the world, since that is a figment of the imaginations of religious leaders, what is left is a system of totalitarian government where all authority and all laws are set by totalitarian fiat.
This system of totalitarian rule perfectly suits self-serving atheists just as conveniently as it serves self-deceiving religious monarchists. The end objective is the same for both groups, a government not in the hands of the common people. In order to maintain its existence, such a government must constantly convince the common man that they exist not for the purpose of establishing the law but for the purpose of following the law.
Liberal government exists for the purpose of overthrowing this totalitarian political philosophy and setting the common man free to establish his own system of rules to live by, a system hopefully governed by love and acceptance rather than by greed.
It dawned on me this evening while I was contemplating this that when the Dobsons of the world warn about gay marriage, they insinuate that accepting gay marriage would only be the beginning of a far larger agenda to destroy the family. For some reason, these doomsdayists don't explain what that larger agenda is, but they have on occasion explained that it would lead to polygamy. That makes sense. If a marriage can consist of two men or two women, then why can't it consist of three men or three women, or for that matter four or five or even more? Why couldn't a marriage consist of six men and seven women? What's to limit the definition if we reject the "divine" mandate that a marriage is between one man and one woman?
There are societies in the world, or at least there have been such societies, where the norm for family structure was not based on one man one woman isolationism. In tribal societies, women may live in one group and men in another. Or a man may have more than one wife. Any number of different social customs might be the norm. But here's the thing. For centuries, Christian missionaries have been on a crusade to destroy all such tribal customs and replace them with one man one woman marital isolationism. Whole societies have vanished as a result of this social engineering by Western culture. In Christian cultures it is illegal to live as a tribal society and practice social norms that vary from those of conservative Christianity.
The real threat to Christianity posed by gay marriage is that in time the ban against tribal customs might cease to exist. Patriarchal rule by monarchy is based on one man one woman marital customs. Bloodline rule depends on it. To challenge that custom is to challenge the entire system of power on which conservative politics depends. Should the common man ever come to the point where he no longer believes in the divinity of monogamy, all hope for totalitarian rule by monarchy would be lost.
That is what the Dobsons of the world fear.

Stinking War

For at least the past two years I have been reading Juan Cole's "Informed Comment" blog almost daily. Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and an expert in Middle East studies. He holds an advantage over other commentators in that he is able to translate for himself. A recent article that I read somewhere suggested that Dr. Cole is being considered at Yale.
Dr. Cole is an open critic of the Bush administration's Iraq War policies. He is an occasional guest on the Lehrer News Hour on Public Television. Normally his blog is informative. Only occasionally does it get personal, and then usually in response to a personal attack against him.
Today, Dr. Cole wrote just such a response directed at Christopher Hitchins concerning Hitchins's alleged posting and inaccurate criticism of a private email from Dr. Cole to "a private email discussion group called Gulf2000." If you read this response, stick with it and read the whole thing. I was amazed by Dr. Cole's boldness at the end of his post.

The D Words

Do the words Dubai, Diebold, and Dabhol mean anything to you? They all have meaning to me but I keep getting them mixed up in my head.
Dubai, of course, is a port and tourist city in the United Arab Emirates, the UAE, which faces Iran across the Persian Gulf. A major multinational corporation called Dubai Ports was the topic of a recent scandal in Washington politics when that corporation bought operations in many of the US East Coast ports triggering concerns about port security since two of the 9/11 hijackers were reportedly from the UAE and the UAE was one of only a tiny minority of countries that recognized the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Diebold is the name of an Ohio company which makes things like ATM machines and computer voting machines. Before, during, and since the 2004 election, Diebold has been in the news for the perceived threat that their voting machines pose to the security and fairness of the election process. Various sources report that tests in Florida indicated that records from these voting machines could easily be hacked and altered. Diebold's dedicated Republican CEO during the 2004 election, Walden O’Dell, now resigned from the company, reportedly committed himself "to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President." This triggered a flurry of posts on the Internet, but not much attention in the mainstream media.
Dabhol is another D word with deep connections to the Bush/Cheney White House. It surprises me that Dabhol is not a household word, though. I only know the word because I read a couple of the Enron books after that Houston energy giant took down both itself and respected accounting firm Arthur Anderson. Dabhol is the name of a very large (2 plus gigawatt) and very controversial never completed power project in western India whose Phase I operations went online in recent days after a five year shutdown - since May of 2001. One of the Enron books that I read indicated that Dabhol was the largest investment ever made by Enron and probably contributed to the cash crunch that took the company down. Phase I of Dabhol was operating when George W. Bush came into office in 2001 and Phase II was under construction.
One of the main problems with Dabhol was that Enron couldn't secure the LNG (liquid natural gas) fuel supply for Phase II of the project. Original plans for the supply broke down leading speculators to suggest that Enron's success in Dabhol, or at least its ability to recoup some of its losses through the sale of the Dabhol project, might in the year 2001 have depended on the White House. It is speculated that Enron was hoping to secure a long promised gas pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Enron's financial woes might have been averted at least temporarily by the sale of Dabhol which could only have happened if the project were to be deemed viable. Without a fuel source, the project was not viable.
So the thing is, Dabhol is a major element in the Enron scandal. Why has it not become a household word? Why, in the meantime, have Dubai and Diebold been bouncing around, but not Dabhol? After all, it has been claimed by some ever since 9/11 that the real objective for the US/Afghan War and by extension the War on Terror - Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria - has been to secure Middle East and Caspian oil and gas supplies and pipelines. Ken Lay participated in Vice President Cheney's secret 2001 energy task force. Is it inconceivable that he might have mentioned Enron's need for fuel in Dabhol?
So why has all this not come up in the Enron trial that is still going on? Why are we caught instead behind a smoke-screen of other D words? If the White House had given Ken Lay reason for optimism in 2001, why isn't that information being presented at the trial? On the other hand, if the White House knew throughout 2001 of Enron's financial difficulties, why isn't that being brought out in the trial? Why hasn't this trial breached Cheney's wall of secrecy?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Colbert

Stephen Colbert from Comedy Central's The Colbert Report addressed the White House Correspondents Association dinner with President Bush in attendance along with a host of other familiar Washington celebrities. Apparently his comedy routine ticked a few people off.
I found links to the video and transcripts here.