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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Basic Math

According to recent news reports, a Pentagon study has just concluded that the US has three options in Iraq. We can increase troop strength, decrease troop strength, or pull out completely.
That's some pretty basic math. Any second grader should be able to grasp that concept although some alert second graders might ask why the option to keep the number the same as it is seems to be missing.
My guess is that President Bush commissioned that study group to look at changes in strategy and thus the option to maintain current troop levels wasn't on the table to begin with.
Somewhere I read this week that President Bush has ruled out the option to reduce troop strength to zero. So that leaves only two options if the Republican talking point prior to the November election is to be valid. If we aren't "staying the course" and we aren't "cutting and running" then we have to either increase troop numbers or decrease them. Pretty basic math.
That argument strangely rings some familiar bells for me. It seems to me that this was how Richard Nixon handled the Vietnam War during his 5 years of oversight of that war. In fact Bush seems to be using Nixon's strategy now. I haven't read the speech, but I read that Bush was in Vietnam this week and blamed the American loss of the Vietnam War on Congress.
Why do I get the impression that he didn't say that to improve diplomatic relations with the nation of Vietnam?
Why do I get the impression instead that Bush was opening the door, practically inviting the new congress to do the same thing with the Iraq War, cut the funding and take all the blame for the loss down through history.
Hey, Nixon was no better at basic math than Bush is, but Congress's approach worked in Vietnam. Let's give it a try in Iraq!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Neo-Con Con

Who to believe these days, huh? In the White House we have leaders who historically lead by dictating rather than by informing the public and relying on their support. Now we have what on the outside appears to be a change of course at least in terms of Middle East policy and perhaps east Asian policy as well. At this point it wouldn't be surprising to see Japan inviting us to leave Okinawa! Why else spend $6 billion in Guam? But who really knows these days...
Anyway, take a look at this Washington Post article about the new neo-conservative tack. All of a sudden it's all Donald Rumsfeld's fault? Oh my goodness, how convenient! But here's what really got me in this article. It quoted Jewish neoconservative Joshua Muravchik bringing into question the strategy of bringing democracy to Iraq:
*****
It may also be, he said, that the mistake was the idea itself -- that Iraq could serve as a democratic beacon for the Middle East. "That part of our plan is down the drain," Muravchik said, "and we have to think about what we can do about keeping alive the idea of democracy."
*****
How quaint...
So here we have the strategists responsible for the notion of using force to reshape the entire Middle East in the image envisioned by radical rightists in Israel basically telling us that the plans have gone back on the shelf while the White House goes on acting as if nothing has changed. Meanwhile the rest of us living in this democracy which isn't are left wondering what the hell is coming next. Is Iran the enemy or an ally? Will we attack them or will they help us out in Iraq? Are we losing our allies in Asia because we seem determined to make more enemies over there than friends? Are Bush and Cheney now to be thought of as blithering idiots even by the Right? Or are they still the servants of God that they were in 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005?
Is the American Right guilty of war crimes? Is Israel? This change in tack occurred right after Israel's disastrous attack of Lebanon. Is that why the Jews are now jumping ship in the US and blaming Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld?
Does anybody know what's going on anymore?

Babel

My wife and I went to Bangor yesterday for a little shopping. Bangor traffic is becoming insane even off-season but with Christmas approaching I had my internal traffic sensors in full ignore mode. Appropriate to the insanity of city traffic, we took in the movie Babel while we were there. That movie is 2 hours and 22 minutes of roller-coaster stress weaving nothing but reality into a disturbingly uncomfortable set of interconnected stories of frustration and danger. The movie has themes, among them language barriers, beaurocratic indifference, the importance of individual needs and actions, and yet how tiny those are compared to the population as a whole. Like I said, the stage for this story is reality but the effect is quite disturbing.
Actually, I was surprised that this movie was showing in Bangor. Usually reality based movies that so directly deal with controversial subjects like torture, illegal immigration, American arrogance, the insignificance of wealth, the sensation of using drugs, the effects of and motivations for suicide, and teen nudity and sex only show up in the alternative theaters like Railroad Square in Waterville. I had originally planned to see it there but opted for Bangor when we saw that it was playing at the Bangor Mall Cinemas.
I suppose fair warning is due. About half an hour before the movie's conclusion my wife was trying to get me to leave the theater. I wouldn't go. I had to know how all the interwoven stories ended.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Reagan the Ultimate Enemy

Worshipers of President Ronald Reagan always act surprised when I bring up the idea that it was under Reagan's rule that the US dropped its interest in US manufacturing capacity and adopted the world economy approach to production. It was a full quarter of a decade plus a year ago that Reagan won his first presidential election. Time doesn't always bring 20/20 hindsight, especially not when Reagan worshipers envision him as the man who once again made America strong. Reagan may have focused on making America the world's dominant military force, but the other side of Reagan's legacy (now forgotten) is that he was the one who undermined America's manufacturing capacity. With the full support of his conservative base he undid organized labor here in the United States.
What we easily forget is that for a decade prior to Reagan's presidency the United States struggled with high inflation rates. Conservatives blamed it on the high cost of labor. Nixon attempted price controls but that effort went bust with runaway energy prices fueled by imagined oil shortages. The Carter years saw cripplingly high interest rates. Reagan's answer was twofold, deregulation of American corporate power and the breaking down of trade barriers. Both initiatives were aimed at bringing down prices, fighting inflation, and both were successful towards that end. But both led to what we have today, global trade at the expense of the American manufacturing worker. Both led to outsourcing of our production capacity to the lowest bidder. Both led to the deunionization of America's workforce. Both opposed organized labor and favored corporate profit.
Ronald Reagan's economic policies aimed at curbing inflation led to the world in which we now live, a world where Americans perceive the United States as the dominant world military and economic power, as a force dominant over the entire world's resources. It is with this view that America invaded the Middle East to secure its oil resources. It is with this view that America seeks to establish a ring of military strength encircling Asia. It is with this view that John Bolton seeks to reinvent the UN to serve America's worldwide interests. And it is because of this view that the world increasingly sees the United States as the greatest threat to peace, the driving force behind a new need for the defensive militarization of any rising economy.
Ronald Reagan conservativism didn't simply end the Cold War. It began a new one! This one we can't win without Orwell's Big Brother. Ronald Reagan was reelected in 1984. How ironic yet appropriate that symbolism now is in our New World Order. How sad that Reagan's conservative Walmart economics, his forgotten legacy, will crush our nation.
But I should be fair. There is no way in the world that I would want to turn back America's production capacity to 1979. Inflation threatened productivity just as much as Reagan deregulation eventually did. It's easy to forget that the quality of American made products was falling short of the expectations of buyers. Nissan and Toyota and Nikon and Panasonic all saw sales soaring because purchasers of these Asian brands perceived and received value, reasonable quality at an affordable price. Since then American and world consumers have enjoyed seeing this value spread to many more mass produced products. In 1979 we all feared that quality would come at such a high price from America's union workers that few of us non-union workers would be able to afford it. Inflation fed that fear and it fed a downward trend in the quality of goods "Made in the USA." That trend has been reversed whether we will admit it or not. Even American manufacturers can now produce high quality at reasonable prices.
What we can't produce, though, is a surplus in the balance of trade. We can't produce for the rest of the world enough to compensate for what we purchase from them. Our response, our coping mechanism, is military domination of the world's economy and resources, the "shock and awe" approach. That is also our failure. The world will no longer tolerate colonialism, not even under the new economic world order. Eventually, encouraged by victory in Japan, Germany, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, and in nations around the world once thought of as enemies of American interests, American hegemony will fail. The American economy won't be able to sustain the economic drain of military dominance.
Does anybody in Washington understand this?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Terror Mysteries

This week I watched a set of YouTube videos that together make up at least part of the video "9-11 Mysteries - Part I: Demolitions" which is available at Amazon.com on DVD. I realize I shouldn't be watching this stuff, that in the post-9/11 world it is unpatriotic to question authority and that I risk being labeled a "terrorist" and thus an "enemy combatant" if I am caught. It is said that Jesus died for me so in that same vein I will say that the US Constitution was written for me, so I will, until that document is suspended, exercise the rights which that document guarantees to me.
I would suggest that most of the Americans who would not watch such a film aren't patriotic for refusing to see it, they are cowards. In the back of my mind I can remember the network news coverage for a month or two after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center showing video of smoke still rising from the remains and on-the-scene workers talking about how hot the smoldering core remained. I remember that it struck me as a real mystery why firefighters were not able to douse this fire, why it continued not just for days but for weeks and then for months. I also remember that in my mind I wished this mystery would just disappear. I didn't want to hear about it anymore or think about it. It just didn't make any sense at all to me that for the safety of the cleanup workers this fire should have been extinguished but it wasn't and not just that, it couldn't be! It was unsettling to me that this mystery remained basically unsolved. Eventually the mystery did go away, not by being solved but just by being ignored and that satisfied me. It was enough that the media had buried the mystery and our country had moved on by going to war to rid the world of this terrorist threat.
When you stop and think about it, this event, the 9/11 attack, has been at the core of Bush politics ever since the day it happened. 9/11 virtually defined the Bush administration, won them reelection in 2004, and served as justification for two Middle East wars which have become perpetual. I can still remember after 9/11 thinking in my own mind how the US now had the support of virtually the entire world to go after Muslim extremists who had been spreading out over the globe establishing various strongholds, not just in Afghanistan, but also in places like South America and the Philippines and even in Europe and right here in America.
I can look back on that, on those thoughts that I shared with so many other Americans and so many other people around the world, and wonder from today's perspective what ever became of that hope. More than five years have passed and al Qaeda still thrives, bin Laden has never been caught and brought to justice or even tried in a court, the terrorists still run free in South America, the Philippines, Europe, and here in America. All this still exists while America is bogged down in Iraq's civil war. What happened? How did we forget the message of 9/11? How did we come to ignore this very real danger that we found so easy to perceive five years ago?
It really makes no sense at all that the "War on Terror" didn't take the form that we all expected to see it take. It really made no sense to most of us that we as a nation decided that the best approach was to send a portion of our military into Iraq and establish them as sitting ducks to draw the fight into Iraq so it wouldn't spread around the world. "Bring it on" made sense to some Republicans but it made no sense at all to the rest of us. Why that approach rather than working with the rest of the world to root out al Qaeda?
In my thinking now, there is only one explanation that covers all the mysteries. 9/11 was to the Bush Republicans what Pearl Harbor was to America in the early 1940s. It was the justification they had been waiting for, even hoping for, Rumsfeld's "blessing in disguise," the spur in America's flank to get her to rear up and attack the enemy in Iraq and the greater Middle East. Bush brought the neo-cons into power early in 2001 because of this perceived need to go to war in the Middle East. All that was needed was a new Pearl Harbor and 9/11 fit that bill perfectly. The rest of us stood stubbornly in denial, but 9/11 served the Bush agenda perfectly.
9/11 didn't lead to the worldwide sweep to rid us of terrorists, the sweep that after 9/11 we all imagined was actually happening. It didn't lead to the breakdown of the financial system that supports Muslim terrorists. It didn't lead to lasting international cooperation. It didn't lead to port security or the crackdown on weapons trading. It didn't lead to a safer world. It lead to the Middle East wars that were already being planned before 9/11 even happened, planned even before the 2000 election.
That is why we all need to abandon our denial and face the facts. That is why we need to stop hiding from the mysteries, stop wishing them into oblivion. If we are to believe what Dick Cheney has been warning about for years, that a victory of the Democratic Party will mean future successful terrorist attacks in the US, we need to understand how it is that he can know this for certain. We need to back up to where we stood as a nation and as a world in the wake of 9/11 and find out why the War on Terror wasn't waged the way we thought it would be. We need to discover why all of 9/11's secrets and mysteries were either destroyed or stored away in locked vaults. We need to discover who really is calling the shots when it comes to al Qaeda. We need to know why we are just sitting back and observing the growing threat rather than eliminating it. We need to know why everything al Qaeda does helps the Bush agenda. We need to face the facts.
This video, 9/11 Mysteries, seems like an excellent way to begin.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Numbers

The 2006 "midterm" election is now over. Democrats are celebrating while Republicans bone-up on bipartisan politics, something they had hoped they'd never again need to do. But behind the scenes, the numbers tell quite a different story.
Republican:
In 2000, 17.96% of America's 281 million population voted for George Bush. The percent rose to 21.39% by 2004 when total Bush votes rose from the 2000 figure of 50.46 million to the 2004 figure of 62 million.
This year, 24 million voted Republican representing only 8% of the country's 300 million population.
Democrat:
In 2000, 18.15% of America's 281 million population voted for Al Gore. The percent rose to 20.35% by 2004 when total Kerry votes rose from Gore's 2000 figure of 51 million to the 2004 Kerry figure of 59 million.
This year, 32 million voted Democratic representing only 10.67% of the country's 300 million population.
With only 19% of the population voting, anybody who assumes anything from this election is simply delusional.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Golden Precedents

If you are a Christian, you should be familiar with this:
Do unto others
as you would have others
do unto you.
That's the Golden Rule for Christians. The Bible clearly advises us to treat other people the same way we would wish to be treated by them if we were in their shoes and they in ours. Oh, did I add that last part? Haha... I guess I did. But I could never make sense of that "rule" unless it was implicit in it's meaning that the Christian have the capacity to "walk a mile" in someone else's shoes.
So in light of this radical concept, how might Christians feel if they were to live in a world dominated by a people who perceive Christianity to be the enemy? How would a Christian feel facing this type of reasoning? All the conservatives I have spoken with in recent years seem to think they would be perfectly content with these precedents being set by the Bush enablers.
A week or so back I was watching a political debate between Maine's Senator Olympia Snowe and her challengers. Two of Snowe's challengers were suggesting that this Military Commissions Act would deny suspects their habeas corpus rights. Snowe appeared to clearly assert just the opposite, that this act actually gave war on terror suspects all the rights that Snowe's challengers were asserting it denied them. Snowe appeared to be saying that the act actually did the opposite of what it seems to have done. When I heard her saying this, Orwell came to mind... 1984...

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Underwear

It has been ten years now since I was first overcome by my mid-life crisis. I still frequently mentally thank the woman who inadvertently drop-kicked me into it too. Mid-life crisis is an awakening, sexual and otherwise. I can't even begin to imagine who I would be or what my thoughts would consist of had I not been through this middle-aged transition. I suppose for many people mid-life is the point where we realize how much closer to the end we are, how much more quickly time goes and how precious that time is now that we don't have a lot left. Those of us who have been parents have by mid-life experienced the paradigm shift from thinking our own youth was a huge part of our life, like something on the order of 900% or more of our meaningful existence, the view we all seem to have had at age 18, to the realization that our children grew up really quickly! While I'm not immune to such mid-life thinking, I've attempted to take a different path through mine.
Perhaps one of the first changes I made when I reached the crisis was that I stopped wearing underwear. I do still wear t-shirts most of the time, but they aren't really underwear to me. They are shirts. But they used to be underwear in my thinking. Even t-shirts covered a part of my body that I was ashamed to let people see. That's the thing with underwear. It covers those parts of your body that you don't want people to see. The original intent of underwear is to serve as a buffer between our outer clothes and those areas of our body which we consider to be the dirtiest or the smelliest. If we start to smell we can always change our underwear. We don't have to change our clothes too. But even this view acknowledges that there are parts of our body which are dirtier and stink more than the rest of us.
Step one in my mid-life crisis was to eliminate this kind of thinking from my daily life. My body isn't a dirty thing. I drive old cars and have worked on my own cars since I was a teenager. Those are dirty. Working on cars is where a man meets dirt! The same can be said for gardening or carpentry or plumbing. One of the filthiest things I have ever done was when I worked on televisions. The high voltage of a television picture tube combined with the air circulation involved in keeping all the electronics cool turns the inside of a television set into an air filter drawing in and storing some of the worst imaginable kinds of dirt from the air inside our homes. That situation is compounded exponentially if the viewer smokes while watching television. Part of my job was to clean out the insides and even the outsides of the old television sets that came in for repair.
The point is, I know the meaning of dirty. I've learned it from decades of experience. But as to the other meaning of the word, I used to think there were parts of my body that were by nature "dirty." Mothers have a way of teaching us such things and my mother wasn't negligent in that respect. I learned to respect the need for underwear.
Back in the 60s and 70s when women decided to become liberated, one thing they did to demonstrate their new liberation was to burn bras. I didn't think much about the symbolism of this act of defiance at the time. My mind was more on hoping I might catch a glimpse of the outline of a woman's nipples through her blouse. Seeing women's nipples was a very rare experience for me in my youth but I was aware of the intoxication of men by the beauty of women. Liberated women might have a problem with that male notion, but to me, that's just the point. Women who burned their bras weren't so much saying they wanted liberation from the rules that govern women. They were saying their breasts and their nipples are by nature beautiful, not something dirty. Shedding that piece of underwear revealed a woman's natural beauty. It didn't expose something ugly that should be kept from sight.
Somewhere just before my 50th birthday I realized that the same holds true of my own private parts. I had never known this before, but I discovered that if I took off all my clothes, if I presented myself naturally, there are women in this world who wouldn't think I was ugly, who wouldn't see me as dirty. Those parts of me that are normally covered with underwear aren't as dirty as I'd been led since my childhood to believe. Taking off my underwear was liberating! So that's what I did. Oh sure, sometimes I wear underwear, but I don't like doing it and when I'm wearing underwear I just can't wait to take it back off.
You may have guessed that I might be going somewhere with this discussion. I am. I have been thinking about this week's situation with Ted Haggard, the conservative Christian leader disgraced by charges of drug use, infidelity to his wife, homosexuality, and illegal sex with a prostitute. As of yesterday, Haggard remains publicly in denial of anything other than being tempted by drugs.
It dawned on me this morning that some of us tend to live as though our souls wear underwear. Haggard had this public image of a respectable Christian leader pompously asserting his right to preach and model righteousness. We all understand that beneath that exterior veneer, beneath the suit, there is another layer, that of a family man. But Haggard has shown us that this second layer is just another layer of clothes. This is his underwear. This notion that he is a healthy heterosexual family man with a beautiful wife of the opposite sex with whom he shares intimacy is underwear. If we look at the man without his suit, this is what we are meant to see.
But it is beginning to look like Haggard has been caught without his underwear. Being ashamed, he quickly put his underwear back on and insisted that he is still clean, still a good family man faithfully married to a beautiful person of the opposite sex. He doesn't have anything filthy going on beneath this layer. Perhaps that's true. Perhaps he doesn't. But the point he is magnifying is this. What he is being accused of doing is filthy in the minds of right-minded conservatives and righteous Christians. Whenever we look beneath the underwear, and heaven forbid that we do, what we will find is filth.
Perhaps better than anything else, this situation models conservative thinking. Conservatives tend to be OK with the filth just as long as it remains out of sight. That layer of denial that says that we aren't in reality the filthy beings that we would appear to be if we stood naked is our underwear, our protection. In the conservative mind, denial is the key. Without it we would live in disgrace. We would be forced to face our own filth.
My own mid-life crisis was the turning point for me, the transition point from this conservative thinking to liberation. For a decade now I have been asking myself why it is that I should believe in my own filth and why it is that I should believe that the things other people choose to do are filthy. This notion that things are just dirty, that dirt can be covered by a fresh layer of clean clothes, no longer works for me. By my own choice I have decided to face the naked truth about myself and about the world in which I live. By my own choice I have been liberating my soul.
And maybe that is what we refer to these days when we talk about being a liberal... maybe not, but just maybe so.
It's not as though I walk around naked all the time. Far from it. Nobody I know lives that way. But I want to live my life in such a way that when I do choose to shed the outer layer, to take off the suit that makes me suitable to be in public, I am then the real me, not someone cloaked in denial ashamed of what lies beneath.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kerry Again

Nobody could possibly have said it any better than Keith Olbermann. What irony that the entire Republican Party is so stupid they didn't understand that Kerry was calling Bush stupid! How insane we have become as a nation under Bush's "leadership!"
Watch the video and read the transcript of Olbermann's commentary. The truth is priceless.