Saturday, December 29, 2007

Impeachment Fever

It was a good party, a gathering of Olympia's leftists, anarchists, progressives and other political rag tags to generate enthusiasm for impeaching CheneyBush in 2008. I went because I love a good party and have some sympathy for impeaching two men who have attacked Constitutional Government in this country more directly than any one since P.G.T. Beauregard fired the first shot at Fort Sumpter in 1861. Several bands offered entertainment and Washington State Representative Brian Omeig, who sponsored an impeachment resolution at the legislature during the past session spoke about his reasons for doing so and his plans to re-introduce his resolution again in 2008.

Of course, I recognize that impeachment is a long shot and, if it develops any legs, will pretty dominate political debate in this country. That's okay with me; this country needs some serious debate over the nature of our government. I certainly believe that CheneyBush (both units) warrant impeachment and removal from office, even if that comes only a day before their term expires. I do not want the world to believe that this nation actually approves of what they have done.

CheneyBush deserves impeachment and removal as much as Richard Nixon ever did. In both instances, a president engaged in unlawful activity that threatens Americans' exercise of Constitutional rights. Even more than Nixon, CheneyBush's actions have lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq, all based on lies, deception and misrepresentation. If that does not constitute "high crimes and misdemeanors", I don't know what does.

Maybe I'm justs a sucker for hopeless causes. After all, I cast my first presidential vote for George McGovern and I've been a socialist most of my adult life. I don't expect impeachment to fare any better than my other causes but at least this group knows enough to throw a party instead of calling a meeting. That's reason enough for hope.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Not Quite a Blogiversary*

In December 2003, I wrote my first opinion piece and have been spouting off ever since. When I wrote that first piece, I was pretty much unaware of blogtopia* until a friend suggested that as an outlet. Unsolicited Opinion was created a few months later. Since then, over 7500 people have stumbled on to my writings, giving me an average daily visitor rate in the low double digits.

My first piece was about Howard Dean, who had come blazing seemingly out of nowhere to become the front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination the following year. I myself had come somewhat out of nowhere, after two years traveling (the Appalachian Trail and Alaska) during which I was at best peripherally aware of events and politics.

For what it's worth, I offer that original post below. Reading it four years later, I can see that I'm not much of a prognosticator: I expected the Republicans to crush Howard Dean. Who'd have thought that a single enthusiastic exclamation would torpedo his entire effort? I acknowledged the "success" in Afghanistan meme that CheneyBush was peddling although I was skeptical (easy to do with this administration). Time has proven that skepticism warranted. I'm also comfortable with the basic idea in the post: that Democrats need to stand for something. They didn't do that in 2004 and were unable to remove the usurpers from the White House. They did in 2006 and took Congress only to slide back into caution and fear. At any rate, here's what I thought four years ago.

Thinking About Howard.

Howard Dean scares me even as he appeals to me. He has waged a dynamic campaign, strongly asserting himself as an alternative to George W. Bush. At last! A Democrat who is willing to stand for something other than a mild criticism of radical Republican ideology. I like that. But I am increasingly disturbed by Dean’s campaign, wondering if he is digging himself and the Democratic Party into a hole that will be bulldozed over by the Republican electoral machine.

I wonder how much I can believe Dean. He was definitely right about the war in Iraq but I’m not sure that he has convincingly presented a credible alternative to the war. Nor has he clearly articulated how he would extricate the US from Iraq. And then there’s the America is No Safer Now issue. That’s a hard proposition to sell to an American public saturated with Republican propaganda about the fall of the Taliban, crippling of Al-Quaeda and the capture of Saddam Hussein. Why should Americans believe that these successes haven’t made us safer? I believe Dean is largely right on this issue. Reluctant as I am to give the Bush Administration any credit, I must admit that at least the first two successes have reduced Al-Quaeda’s ability to strike at the United States. Al-Quaeda is on the run, its senior leadership disrupted and it lacks the safe base of operation it had in Afghanistan, so its ability to mount attacks “under the radar” as it did on September 11 is lessened. But Al-Quaeda is highly decentralized and still motivated by its members’ hostility toward American and western ideas. We remain at risk. Howard Dean needs to clearly present this case when he makes his claim about America’s safety.

Howard Dean’s record also gives me pause. For most of his career he has been a pretty conventional politician, pursuing moderate-conservative policies that do not distinguish him from most of his peers. Suddenly, he is transformed into a crusading foe of special interests. The conversion seems like more of a campaign strategy, putting his policies in the best light possible for Democratic primary voters. Some of his successes, such as Vermont’s civil union option for homosexuals, were forced on him by events. I think, in the final analysis, President Howard Dean’s policies would be little different than Bill Clinton’s.

Of course, compared to the current incumbent, that would be an improvement. Howard Dean would bring moderation to the White House and provide a counterbalance to the radical conservatism so rampant in Congress. I like that. Maybe what scares me most is that I fear Howard Dean will never have an opportunity to present himself to the electorate, that he will be crushed by Republican disinformation and propaganda. With hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, the Bush campaign and its well-heeled supporters will re-create Dean in their own terms, presenting him as a tax-and-spend liberal who would weaken America’s defenses while turning the country into the Godless wasteland envisioned by the special interests of moral relativism.

That’s why Howard Dean needs to back up his words with facts, figures and information. He must define himself clearly to the American people so that the Republican caricature of him does not stick. I don’t see this happening now. At least, not as reported by the national media. The media image may be incorrect but it is the one that most voters see and respond to. Unless Dean can control his own image in the media, he is likely to suffer the same fate as previous Democratic nominees.

I want him to succeed. The more I think about other candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination, the better Dean looks. He may be a calculating politician (pretty much anyone seeking to be president must be), but I think he is right on most issues. He differs little from his rivals on most issues except for the war in Iraq but that one difference clearly sets him apart. I want a Democratic candidate with the same fire and passion that motivates Republicans and right-wingers. Howard Dean has a lot of that fire and passion. I hope he can maintain it and demonstrate to Americans that he can serve as a better president than the man in the flight suit.

* Yes! Somebody coined that phrase.)


Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Meditation

The world is a difficult place, where life is often “nasty brutish and short”. Some parts of the globe are prone to violence and terror that easily rival any Hell that I can imagine. Mothers wake each day wondering if their families will eat that day. Brutal tribal and civil wars disrupt and destroy life. Masses jam together in horrendous slums without access to the least comforts that even the homeless and destitute in America can sometimes find. Most Americans who speak of uncertainty and hardship have little or no understanding of how truly hellish life is for many others.

Because I study history, read and travel occasionally outside the United States, I have some minimal understanding of life in other parts of the world. Because I was in Vietnam, I am aware of what life is like in a war zone; I realized that a war zone is a place of peoples’ homes. I personally would not want my home–or anyone’s home–to become a war zone. It sucks. Of course, most Americans, among the richest people in the world, live comfortably and securely away from the difficulties of war. Americans may suffer random, tragic violence, perhaps, but not the sustained destruction, hopelessness and fear caused by war.

This knowledge is a curse. I know about all the suffering, tragedy and violence in the world and I can do little to change anything. Even powerful politicians are often unable make lasting change. What can I do? To stop the killing in Africa, Iraq or anywhere else in the world? To equitably solve all of the conflicts that create Hell on Earth? I can’t credibly address many complex international, scientific and economic problems. All that, plus I know human history, which does not give me any confidence in my species’ wisdom, judgment or goodwill. What’s the point?

The only answer that has any meaning for me is recognizing that I am an Everyman. Luckier than most–I’ve never wanted for food–but in the end no better or different than any other living thing on this planet. (Yes, I am one with the trees, coyotes and swamp algae of this world.) My good fortune is a matter of sheer geographical and genetic chance; I could have been that starving tribesman or maybe not at all. But here I am, in the comfort of America. That understanding helps me remember my humanity and respect for creation, including my fellow homo sapiens. And so I come always to the Golden Rule, which is something like: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Not “as they do unto you”, I might add.)

That’s what I can do in this life. I can respect the human dignity of others. I can respect the integrity of tne natural world and its gift of life. I can choose non-violence and compassion in all my actions. I can be kind at every opportunity. My non-violence may not end civil wars in Africa or relieve dire poverty in the world’s slums but it subtracts from the total evil in the world and adds trust. It’s what I can do most often that will make a difference in my life and those I encounter. It’s a start toward my ideal world where no one’s home is a war zone.

This keeps my existentialism from turning to despair. I agree with the existentialists about life and the world, or what I think I recall of existentialism from political philosophy courses and reading Camus in college. (The world is absurd and illogical. Expecting anything else is pointless. Life has no inherent meaning. Life is this world and is pretty much what you make of it. Makes perfect sense to me.) Choosing non-violence and respect for others adds about as much meaning to life on this planet as anything else I can do. By rejecting violence and hate, I build bonds with others. Not only does that expand the web of kindness available to me but those bonds add to others’ lives as well, creating friendships, families and communities. Choosing to build rather than destroy, to love rather than hate, is a big, big difference that I can make every day. The rest is beyond my power and is subject to life’s absurdity and ill-logic. I find meaning and hope in the one thing I can do.

I also read John Donne. His words went to Vietnam with me a have stayed with me since.
"Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."

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