Saturday, January 03, 2009

Future Dominance

Neil Howe and Richard Jackson write in the Washington Post that
All told, population trends point inexorably toward a more dominant U.S. role in a world that will need us more, not less. ...In 1950, six of the top 12 [most populous countries] were developed countries. In 2000, only three were. By 2050, only one developed country will remain -- the United States, still in third place. By then, it will be the only country among the top 12 with a historical commitment to democracy, free markets and civil liberties.

Their premise is a scary one: exploding population in the Third World overwhelming Western values and ideals held dear by aging societies no longer able to defend those values. Only one nation may survive--the United States. It certainly sounds like a cry for help that only America can provide.

The authors' facts sound impeccable. they marshal sociological studies of violence,crime and demographic trends. They project population changes and offer data on fertility and birth rates. I'm not in a position to verify or dispute the facts but they certainly sound true based on what I do know about demographics and economics.

What doesn't sound impeccable to me is the sense of mission that the authors impart. I certainly believe that America has a unique role in history as the incubator of popular democracy. I further believe that, as a nation we have an obligation to share our wealth--financial and intellectual--with the world. That much of the authors' mission makes sense. In fact, only three words--"more dominant rol"--give me pause. What I hear in those three words is "Forget any idea that America can retreat into isolationist safety. America must become more dominant if Western civilization is to survive." In the world of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, where the authors are research analysts, dominance equals force. The CSIS board is a pantheon of American hawks, intellectual home of the National Security State. When I hear "more dominant role" from that quarter, I expect missiles to fly and bombs to fall.

Since I don't dispute the authors' facts, what is my answer to the dire future they predict? First off, I would not assume that American military power can change the demographic or economic trends that give rise to the poverty,instability and violence. Second, I would not assume that the rest of the world will welcome a "more dominant role" for America. This nation may have much to offer but that is only me, born and raised in America, projecting my values on the world. Instead, I would demonstrate the utility and advantages of American ideas by addressing directly the causes of poverty and despair, marshaling a variety of public, private and non-profit initiatives to create a sustainable economy for the nation and the world in the 21st century.

If the world will be changing in ways that threaten us and future generations, then we have a duty to deal with those changes in ways that preserve our fundamental liberties and economic security. For CSIS, force and dominance will protect America and by extension Western democratic values. For me, utility and results will be America's strength in competing with other values and ideas even as those societies out race us in population. Let's face it, the world is constantly changing--always has and always will. If not for constant change, America would not have emerged as a powerful nation. So nothing in history guarantees that this country will always retain that position.

The United States was fortunate to acquire a large land mass with vast resources and protected by great oceans. These days that land mass is well occupied, its resources depleted and no longer protected by the oceans. In much of the last century, the US was banker and manufacturer to the world. Now we are deeply in debt, devoid of industry beyond the manufacture of a vast arsenal and rapidly aging. Howe and Jackson correctly describe one key challenge Americans will face in the coming years. The only "more dominant role' that will succeed for America will be one where our ideas demonstrate real results, not simply project force.

Perhaps the most truly American trait has been an unwillingness to accept limits; when confronted by an obstacle, Americans typically find a way to work around it. Elsewhere in the WP another article invokes Alex de Tocqueville
"Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations," he wrote. "In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others."

In the 170 or so years since that was written, Americans have demonstrated an amazing agility in overcoming problems, not just because of our economic and resource advantages but also because of our ideas, ingenuity and ability to cooperate toward common goals.

This is the "more dominant role" I would like to see for my country, not more bullets, bayonets and bombs. This is a legacy of hope we can leave for future generations. I hope we are up to it.


Thursday, January 01, 2009

My Little Reader

I read a Richard Cohen column about George W. Bush's reading list today. Normally, Ignore Cohen and stories like this about Bush but my curiosity about Bush and a reflective pursuit like reading was too much to resist. Cohen doesn't dispute the claim but dismisses Bush's reading list as an no real achievement since the titles largely reinforce Bush's worldview and ignore the wealth of books that offer differing assessments.

My first reaction is "Who in the hell keeps lists of books read?". Then I reminded myself that I keep a list of books read. I started last year, largely as a way to remember what I read. Without the list titles and authors escape me, plots and ideas are misremembered if remembered at all. So I have a list and short summary. Occasionally, I'll do a post based on something I've read.

I read regularly but don't come close to matching Bush in volume and question the whole claim. If Bush in fact read 51 books, he obviously has a lot of time of his hands. That's unlikely since he spends time working out, cycling, sleeps eight hours a night and during most working hours appears as President of the United States. I just don't buy it.

Bush may have actually looked at all the titles he claims but he would have to be far more diligent than anything in his behavior or ideas would suggest.

Of course, that means I am calling Bush and Karl Rove, the source of this claim,, liars. And that is exactly what I am saying.

Still lying after all these years.


Monday, December 29, 2008

The Emptiness of Perpetual Politics

Exactly four weeks after the November election, I saw a short Associated Press story about Mitt Romney setting up an organization for the 2012 presidential campaign. At the time, the story conjured up the image of the perpetual campaign and I considered writing about it. I did not, at least in part because I did not want to contribute to the image by acknowledging it. But like reality, which simply does not go away because I ignore it, the Perpetual Campaign is out there running on and on and on and on.

Today’s rant is triggered by a story about Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton’s master fund raiser, raising funds this time for his own pursuit of the Virginia governorship in 2009. The story is all about money, about how much he can raise, about his national contacts and how energetically McAulifffe can work those contacts. There’s nothing about why he wants to become Governor or what he will do for Virginians. But you can be damn sure he’ll spend a shit load of money to seek the office.

The story pushes a lot of buttons for me, including meaningless politics, public office and my own history. I learned politics—good and bad—in Virginia. That is where I learned how power and influence were organized and exercised. I campaigned against the Byrd Organization as it disintegrated in the 60’s; supported Virginia’s first black congressional candidate in 1970, I actively and enthusiastically supported Henry Howell in his tireless effort to force open government in Virginia. Through all those campaigns I believed that my efforts and those candidates would contribute to a greater fairness, freedom and prosperity for all. Right or wrong, I believed.

Which is why the McAuliffe story pisses me off. I don’t see one word about why he wants to run for governor, about what he believes. If the company he keeps—the Clintons—is any guide, I would not expect his beliefs, whatever they may be, to particularly relevant to policy. The one sop to the idea of seeking office for a reason is that McAuliffe can “sell Virginia to CEO’s as a good place to set up.” That’s it. It’s all about the money.

Virginia is still a spiritual home for me. Too much of my history and experience is there for me to ever lose my connection and care for my home state. So seeing this kind of evil there is disappointing. None of this is new; today’s story just hits close to home and so blatantly exposes the hollowness of the Perpetual Campaign.

Mitt Romney’s new organization is part of the process as well. It’s a logical step since the Republican Party will no doubt field a candidate in 2012 and he has some credibility as a candidate for that nomination. But still remains the question, “why?” Because Mitt Romney is already declaring Barack Obama a failure? Because Mitt Romney will oppose Obama’s initiatives and policies throughout the next four years. No, the reason is that the process exists and Romney will not miss the opportunity it presents. Like Terry McAuliffe, Mitt Romney will spend the next year or more hustling money from rich people to create facts on the ground.

It’s all process. By the time we, the voters are offered a choice, the process will have already decided what choice we get.


Sunday, December 28, 2008

Radio News

This email arrived yesterday.
“About Face” has a new station. We are still with Nova M but Nova M has moved from 1480AM to 1190AM. We will no longer broadcast on 1480AM. Remember 1190AM at Sundays 3PM Mountain time. The web site is You can still enjoy your favorite Sunday show with Dennis and John. We will still cover interesting subjects to help the veterans, end the war, and bring sanity back to our country.

This Sunday, 28 December, Dennis and I will be discussing our new year resolutions and what changes we would like for the new year.

My resolution this year is to continue the vigil to help end the conflicts and occupation in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

I would like our government to focus more on peaceful aid to nations in distress and conflict. To move in a direction away from creating war and conflict and more in a direction of bringing peace and assistance to nations in conflict and distress. We have so many nations who are starving, suffering from AIDS, and lack the education to help bring themselves out on their plight. We need to take leadership around the world and help build schools, hospitals, teach framing, and educate the people. These peaceful actions would not only help end many conflicts bur restore the credibility and confidence in the United States.

I would like to see a much better system for helping our veterans in health care and benefits. Right now VA is so inept in their administration of Veterans Health care and benefits that we have over 200,00 veterans homeless on the streets any give day. We have over 600,000 waiting for VA action in request for benefits. The wait period for appointments are too long, over three months in many cases. The waiting period for action on request for benefits is over one year. This is unacceptable and need to be improved upon. Calls and letters to the new administration and your congressman should be a priority this year.

I pledge to continue to educate the public on these very important issues this coming year. What is your resolution and pledge? Please give us a call and let us know!

Listen to Dennis and John on “About Face” at 1190AM or every Sunday at 3PM Mountain Time. Call us at 1-800-989-1480. We are Arizona’s progressive talk radio! About Face is brought to you by the Veterans For Peace, Phoenix Chapter 75.

The change is probably toward the center of the dial but I'm sure not the political or moral center. I hear, too, that a new studio is involved, a more uptown location instead of the concrete bunker that was KPHX.

Even though I am no longer affiliated with the program, I listen when I can. Dennis, John and their guests address issues that are usually ignored by the mainstream. Sometimes I even call in.