To The Contrary?

I guess by "To The Contrary, Betty Erbe means she is not afraid to get out with a PoV so early as to get the story completely wrong. Here she was on 19 March: "it appears the speech did little but preach to those already in Obama's flock" (a flock in which we can assume this PBS host does not consider herself a member).

Why don't we take a look at the polls - you know - the ones she was too busy to wait and see before proclaiming the results?

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The bigger loss?

Why is it that white people love to share their stories with the world of how they traveled to any one of dozens of sub-Saharan African nations and experienced what it is like to live with black people? Why cannot white people - especially you, white America - live here in our country, with those of us who are distant cousins of those still in Africa today? Why can you not do what Barack Obama did: move from a mostly white world to the Southside of Chicago, IL or to any side of Flint, MI or to East St. Louis or to what's left of the Ninth Ward in New Orleans or to South/Central LA or to the People's Republic of Brooklyn or to Overtown (nee Colored Town) in Miami, FL or to Northeast Philly or to Southeast Washington, DC?

Why can you not live with us (as Barack Obama did) and get to know us (as Barack Obama did) and perhaps even come to love us (as Barack Obama did)?

Or, must you forever treat your own countrymen as though we are outsiders in our own nation, our experiences unknown to you (and apparently unknowable) - no matter how many of us fight and die in your wars. Or no matter even if we manage to survive them and come home - as Rev. Wright did - only to find out that our fellow countrymen (especially those who deemed it beneath them to make the sacrifices that he made) still see us as less than them.

Still a "non-person" after 200+ years.

Would that be enough to make you say, "God damn America"?

Or would you - after 60+ years of being told by your own nation that though you fought for it (and saw your friends die for it) you were still not "good enough" to receive the same unconditional love that she demands from you - still give that same love, knowing that in the end it would go unrequited?

How dare you judge Rev. Wright?

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Rev. Wright was right

I know that I told myself that after hearing Barack ask us all to turn to the better angels of our nature and seek a unified path away from our long, long stalemate . . . .

But it is hard for me to just stand around and let people score cheap and malicious points of people I respect.

What did Rev. Wright really say? He said Hillary "ain't never been called a n-----". If that is not a true statement, I certainly have not heard Hillary step forward and explain when and where it happened. I can tell you this: every black person I know can tell you what it was like the first time they were ever called by that name. It usually happens with such a jarring degree of hate that it jolts you from whatever reverie you might have been peacefully and happily ensconsed within. And it almost always happens to us when we are children, so the concept that there are people out there who might have some visceral, uncontrollable, pent-up storehouse of rage against us is the most inconceivable sort of thing.

Picture yourself back when you were just a child - perhaps just entering your first few years of schooling. There may be kids there you do not click with or people who do not share their toys, but hate? What child expects to encounter someone who hates him or her?

Of course, your parents know this day is coming. For they recall going through it as well. I imagine - as I do not have children of my own - that there is almost a timer that starts as soon as the child is born and then you make an oath to yourself to push that day so far into your child's future that the impact is just that much less jarring - that you know she or he will be just that much more prepared for that day than you were.

What else did Rev. Wright say? Well he blamed the impact of AIDS on the black community on the government of the USA. I know that most white people protect themselves from knowledge of the evil that their own government perpetrates in their name, but it is a fact that our goverment - our own goverment - conducted a decades long study of the affect of syphilis on the human body, by injecting it into black men and then letting them spread it through the black community. Years of conducting this study, collecting data and telling people you were treating them, when all the while the people who said you the patients, "I'm from the government and I am hear to help" were perpetrating one of the most evil acts known to man. This kind of evil leave a long memory - a psychic memory - in the group against which it was perpetrated, even while the group on whose behalf it was done whistles past the overflowing graveyards of those who have died. Did the government of our own country purposefully infect us with HIV? I honestly do not know; is it wise for me to ever completely absolve the same government that has done a very similar act of malfeasance? And knowing that they followed up their prior bad acts with an almost willful disregard for ensure that the poorest of our citizens - which is often a corollary to the blackest of our citizens had any meaningful pathway to the sort of medical care that could have prevented the infection from every occurring or at least have provided the sort of treatment that could have kept it manageable - to proclaim that "well, at least they didn't infect with the deadly virus - this time" is to damn the government with the faintest of praise.

But we all know that these two "crimes" are not what has riled up the "nutroots" of the American populace. No, the best way to get them going is to appear to be even the slightest bit "unpatriotic" - which is why we have to witness our politicians drap symbols all over their chests - flag pins, eagles, Statues of Liberty emblems - to bear silent witness to the depths of their patriotism. It is this theme that has struck a resonant chord with those anonymous email chains that proclaim - erroneously - that Barack Obama does not cover his heart with his hand during the Pledge of Allegiance. It is this meme that is most dangerous of all.

And yet it is most empty.

For what business is it of a pastor to be a loyal servant to any government of man? Jesus asked us to "render under Caesar that which is Caesar's and to render unto God that which is God's". Jesus never asked his followers to swear loyalty oaths to any government of man - indeed, he has commanded us to not put any false god before his Father. And what is a proclimation that any nation is flawless is but the anointing of a false god?

So - on the Sunday after 11-September-2001, when the rest of white America was securely seated in their home churches, hearing their pastors' transform the Prince of Peace into a god of war - the member of Trinity United Church of Christ had a little history placed before them. Rev. Wright told his flock that what happened to them the previous Tuesday was vile - yes - but how different was it from other acts that have taken place, other acts that were executed in our name by our government. Now, I have not heard his whole sermon, but I do know that he compared the events of that awful day (and I was in NYC that day; it was where I worked at the time and across the Hudson River from where I lived) to the bombing of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. What is important to note here is that Rev. Wright did not say that it was those two atomic bombs that caused the attacks on us that day; what he said was analogous to: "if you go around the world, deciding who lives and who dies, you can't then act surprised when someone decides to give what they got".

(Didn't I hear a man say once to do unto others as you would have them do unto you?)

Now, I put out all of these words in defense of Rev. Wright - not because he needs a defense from me, but because other's need to hear people attempt to speak truth to power. And I know that these words will not convince anyone of anything, but they can at least bear silent witness that the truth is indeed out there.

And there is one other reason I have stayed up into the night to write these words; to ask this question: why have I heard people preach all week long that the "Christian" thing for Barack to do when he heard or was informed of the things his reverend - his pastor - had said was to turn his back on the man and leave that houst of worship - when the Jesus I read about in Sunday School taught that we should be slow to take offense and quick to forgive. Why have I continued to hear "Christian" say the most hateful things about Rev. Wright, when the Christ I learned about oh so long ago made it his duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? Why is it, that in the end if the only things Rev. Wright are guilty of is saying that:

  1. Racist slurs have never been thrown in the direction of Hillary Clinton;
  2. The US government has a history of infecting its own black citizens with the most vile of diseases; and
  3. The US government has a history of visiting violence around the world and that violence begets violence (did someone say to turn the other cheek when struck?)
- then where is the cause for all of this vitriol?

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RIchard Cohen's Black America Problem

So if Richard Cohen of the Washington Post has been proclaiming that Obama has too close a relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright since January (i.e. - since the Senator won the Iowa primary and proved he was to be taken seriously) then why is it all I hear is "the media loves the concept of a Black candidate"?

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McCain's Blunder Encapsulates the Problems

Republican presidential nominee John McCain, at a press conference in Jordan, after his tour of Iraq; he comments here on his concerns about Iranians:

"taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back." Asked about that statement, McCain said: "Well, it's common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That's well known. And it's unfortunate."

There are so many things wrong in just those few words, that it is almost too hard to tell where to begin.

  1. al Qaeda is a Sunni group, spawned from the Wahabbi strain of the Sunni faith. One of the Wahabbi core beliefs is that Shia Islam consists of false believers at best. Iran is a Shia Islam nation.
  2. Wahabbism has been given its biggest boost by Saudi Arabia. The ruling Saudi sheiks justified their rule by buying of Wahabbi imans - making them the official state religion; funding their schools; spreading their tracts - while all the while living a life that pays lip service to the tenets of that faith.
  3. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 11 September 2001 were Saudi's - al Qaeda members schooled in the Wahabbi faith.
  4. Saudi Arabia has been funding the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. And why would they not? They cannot allow a productive, democratic Shia Islam nation to arise on their border. How then would they contain their own Shiite countryment? Sure, Iran is a Shia nation, but they are also a Persian nation too.
For John McCain to mis-speak on this point - from just steps away from the border of both Iraq and Saudi Arabia - is to highlight the false consciousness that defines this foolhardy expedition in the first place.

These things matter.

These definitions and distinctions are important.

And just as they were "misunderestimated" by George W. Bush, they are apparently also unknown to John S. McCain.

One cannot win a war against an opponent one does not understand.

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Not This TIme

I am not very familiar with James Carney, but I do like his analysis of the speech Barack Obama gave yesterday. I can already tell that I will be spending many more months pulling gems from this one. I appreciate how James pulled out the choice that Barack left the voters with as it was - unlike most offered by politicians - that really asked the voters to make a decision on where we want our nation to go.

I learned something from Barack yesterday. For the life of me, I could not understand what the fuss was with these comments from his former pastor; I have heard more incendiary words and I bet I have expressed some equally or harder in my day. I was raised to say what I feel and let the chips fall where they may - and a portion of that raising took place in the Black Church (and we always capitalize it just like that).

Still, Barack pointed out something to me - as he always does - he said: "We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America — to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality."

It is that last phrase that caught my ear first when he was talking and then when I went back to read the speech later on this evening: "to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality."

That really speaks to me.

I told you that I was an electrical engineer in college, no? Regardless, one concept that I loved when I first learned it in EE was about communication signals. What we do to transmit a radio wave through the air or a telephone signal across a wire is the same thing we do in a room when one person talks to another or to an assembled group.

We amplify it.

Oh it could be just the "projection" of the speaker as he attempts to reach those folks in the back row (or it could be the projection that my Mother used when she could see that I was not listening to her) or it could be an augmented amplification with a microphone and speaker setup that connects through a soundboard with levelers and the whole nine yards - but it is the exact same thing.

Every form of human communication has some degree of amplification.

We not only use amplification, we need it. But that does not mean there cannot be too much of a good thing. In fact - and anyone who has had to replace the speakers in their car can tell you this - amplification needs to be modulated or it will go from being a constructive force to a destructive one. I have replaced my share of tweeters and woofers to know that for a fact.

Amplification distorts reality.

But although I was aware of that fact in a very real way, I did not often think of how my own words - hyperbolic and at times bouncing off the top end of the volume charts - could transform the truth - as I saw it in my heart - into a distorted, crashing crescendo of noise that was unintelligible to the audience.


Amplification that distorts reality.

I am going to ponder this for quite some time. Thanks for reading these rambling thoughts; you can see I wonder without having someone to act as a guide.

Anyway, it was a great speech. But do not take my word for it; watch it/read it for yourself.

You do have a choice in this election; choose wisely.

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Give a (candidate) his props

Not sure on what this post The Root is basing it's argument. Too little, too late? Why - because there are still some unrepentant racists who will never vote for Obama?

Did we not know that already - speech or no speech? Barack need not convince every American to vote for him. He is already inspiring a new generation of voters who do not have the time-worn wounds of generations of fighting like the rest of us do. He already has convinced an overwhelming number of African-Americans that he understands our causes and has proved to our satisfaction that he will be an advocate for us. So to these groups, he needs to add enough whites, latinos and asians of all sorts to defeat the Republican candidate - who will be running on a platform of more war and more of the same economic pain that has brought us to where we are today.

Sounds like a winner to me.

This speech was good; good enough to convince anyone of an open-mind that Obama is who he has always said he was. He never had the vote of those with closed minds in the first place.

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What a colossal collection of self-deluded idiots (These are our "best and brightest"?)

This week's upcoming five-year anniversary of our exploits in the country formerly known as Iraq is spawning a whole host of retrospectives - sort of the public policy version of "where are they now?". Typically, these features commonly include gauzy reflections on the past, brought to us by the people who led us down this primrose path.

The New York Times today presents a set of these anniversary apologia and what is striking about this collection is how none of the participants appears to have learned a damned thing during the last five years. From top to bottom, these nine epistles are self-serving and at the same time blind to the cold, hard truths with which the rest of America has been doused. Let's take them in the same order presented by the Times:

Former colonial governor L. Paul Bremer, finds himself lamenting the lack of a plan; a quick read of the five-paragraphs he has produced here shows no indication that he in anyway felt it was up to him to develop such a plan. Of course, who would expect an "Ambassador" to develop a plan for running a foreign country (although - in fairness - when that self-same ambassador takes it upon his shoulders to pen said nations constitution, one might feel entitled to have higher expectations for such an ambassador). His paragraph is at once one that lauds his own work in predicting the terrible threats of terrorism "fifteen months before the attacks of September 11th", while simultaneously expresses his bewilderment that the "American government was not adequately prepared to deal with the growing security threats". Prescient enough to see the threat but incapable of seeing what needs to be done to adequately deal with the threat: sad.

The strongest war booster of them all, Richard Perle, is equally adept at piecing together half-truths into whole cloth. He is the first to allude to the Iraq/Iran war of the 1980s, but he comes no where near mentioning that the US supported Saddam Hussein in that war (and no one ever mentions that it was Donald Rumsfeld, Special Envoy to President Reagan, who was hobnobbing with Hussein on how best to target the waves of child soldiers Iran had lined up against the artillery we shipped over to Iraq). Perle goes the farthest in mentioning the chemical and biological attacks Hussein launched during that war, but he never talks about from whence those weapons came. At the end, he does a brilliant pirouette and attacks Colin Powell and Condolezza Rice for all of the strategic blunders of this war and leaves his old buddy Rumsfeld without a mark. Which only makes sense as why not blame the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor for the troubled war policy, instead of the Secretary of Defense? I mean just because the position Rumsfeld held was called the Secretary of War right up through WWII, does not mean that war policy was his responsibility.

In fairness, I have to leave Anne-Marie Slaughter outside the coterie of idiots, within which I decried her cohorts to be the original gangsters. Her piece, which focuses tightly on the looting of the Iraqi National Museum, does properly encapsulate the dimwitted vision that is still held by other onlookers of Iraq. In just a few short paragraphs, she highlights how the core of a nation is contained within the cultural touchstones that relate to all of its citizens and she points out that without a central organizing concept, it is hard for the parts to remain whole.

But that brief respite from the foolhardy world is then broken by the next piece, this time from Kenneth Pollack. Mr. Pollack "only wish(es) he has understood before the invasion what was the reckless arrogance of the Bush administration". Indeed, if only there had been some sign. If only there had been members of the administration who had belonged to some sort of group - a cabal, perhaps - that long before the attacks of 11 September 2001 had called for a war in the Middle East, a war to reshape that region underneath the aegis of a larger American Empire. And if only that group had some sort of catchy name, like the Project for the New American Century. Yeah, if only.

I suppose someone had to challenge Richard Perle when it comes to percent of delusional rhetoric and it is Danielle Pletka who picks up the cudgel. She begins by berating the antiwar left - as though being properly opposed to this tragic and useless war from the start was someone the wrong position to hold - and goes on to rehash tired, old arguments that many other people were wrong about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein too. This is an argument that I find truly inexplicable: just because other people thought the world was flat does not make it so. But the real whole in this argument is that when the inspectors were let back into Iraq to go to all of the places, "around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat" where the US supposedly knew the weapons to be stored - not a single popgun was found. The icing on this cake of lies comes when the auther assails the Iraqi people for not having the "freedom gene" she believed them to hold and wishes we had spent more time teaching the Iraqis the building blocks of "civil society". What tripe. What exactly is civil about attacking a country that poses exactly no threat to your own?

Nathaniel Flick attempts to answer the question posed by the Times, "what have we learned" but in doing so he too chooses to take a narrow view of the conflict: "I wish we would have known Saddam did not have biological or chemical weapons". Here is a tip: not only was that known - it was reported by the recently re-introduced inspectors - acknowledging that would not have helped us fight a better war, it would have obviated the rationale for war in the first place. It was the lust for war by a president who finds it romantic (especially when it costs him nothing) that swept that knowledge under every available rug.

The next example presented to us by the Times is the classic one of CYA. Herein, as Major General Paul Eaton blames a non-operational Congress - and a Republican one at that - for not providing the oversight tasked to them by the authors of our Constitution. Why didn't Congress defend our troops, he asks? The better question is what in God's name made him think they would? Surely no one knows better than the Army that Congress has not declared war since 1941. No, in the nuclear age the questions of life and death are too thorny for these soft souls to tussle with in any level of detail. Since the war to end all wars (or was that the First World War?), Congress has preferred to overlook that penny-ante constitutional article that assigns to the Legislative branch alone the power to declare war (I was going to link to just that particular one, but read the whole damn thing; it's not that long). Oh - I should add that in blaming a "Republican-dominated Congress", General Eaton absolves his Democratic patron - Hillary Clinton - and all of the Democratic Senators and Representatives who supported this war of their responsibility. I seem to recall one of my civics teachers telling me something about how Senators can prevent a vote on any bill by holding a filibuster; might have been nice if at least one of those Democratic Senators had taken to the floor to oppose this worthless endeavor.

I suppose we should have expected perennial war booster, Frederick Kagan to put in a piece that says we learned as a nation what he always knew (small-footprint wars are silly). According to ol' Fred, not only have we all learned what he has always known, but even he has learned that the US military is even better at counter insurgency warfare than he ever imagined. Still - and I know this is an opinion piece - but should not a newspaper that professes to contain all the news that's fit to print at least feel some responsibility to challenge the administration - and their talking heads - on the statements like: "precision-guided weapons that minimize collateral damage"? I mean really, which members of our family do we describe as "collateral damage" when a bomb falls through the roofs of their house? How many civilians can be killed due to "collateral damage" and it still be called "minimal"? Why has no one yet - in the history of warfare - given us a metric to use for acceptable levels of the killings of innocents in the pursuit of the "mission"? How does a nation that professes to hold all life sacred even allow such phrases as "minimal collateral damage" to appear in our lexicon? Kagan is beyond delusional, in that he still professes to believe in "victory" in Iraq - as though anyone has any idea of what that means.

Finally, Anthony Cordesman tells us that he never imagined the threat from Saddam Hussein would prove to be a mere mirage, but that what surprised him was the ineptitude of the "A-Team" of national security personnel assembled by this President Bush. One wonders if he was paying attention during the run-up to this war or what made him feel that these men - and it was mostly men - with a long history of being chicken hawks (quick, what is the over/under on five deferments for Dick Cheney?) could possible be competent stewards of war?

Across this chain of fools, perhaps the biggest is the New York Times itself. Perhaps never has a newspaper with such a high opinion of itself be so deluded on what has to be the most serious decision a nation makes: when, where, how and why to wage war?

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