Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Everything is Political

I've been involved with alternative party politics for many years now -- I'm currently the State Treasurer of the Green Party of Washington State and used to serve in this same capacity for Oregon's Green Party. It always amazes me how far too many people believe they can divorce themselves from the realm of politics.

For them, "politics" is something that is external from themselves. It's the bastion of government and government officials. And, even more amazing, they genuinely believe politics has little, if any, influence on their daily lives.

Politics is nothing more than the set of power relationships that govern social interaction. There is political intrigue in every marriage or partnership. Children campaign their parents for reduced sanctions or increased privileges. Almost every job a person holds throughout their life involves political negotiations with their co-workers, bosses and competitors.

Even for the Taoist, politics intersects in our relationships with the Tao and nature. Every step we take to try to achieve balance involves relinquishing power or taking power. And that, my friends, is the very definition of politics.

The politics that involves governance is merely personal politics elevated to a larger scale. Because it affects masses of people, it dictates who controls of what kinds of decisions and this affects how we each view ourselves and how we routinely live.

Right now, the United States (most other nations too) govern in a very non-Taoist way. We are headed down a non-sustainable path and the notion of balance is nowhere to be found. I am both a political activist and Taoist because I want to see society move in a different direction -- one that honors our seventh generation as much as we value our own.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The Realities of War

As we inch toward the mid-term election season, the Democratic Party is trying to market itself as the quasi anti-war party. With Dubya's approval rating plummeting toward the Mendoza Line and support for the war following suit, the Dems are starting to believe they have a legitimate chance to pick up several seats in both houses of Congress.

There's just one problem here -- The Dems are about as hawkish as the Republicans!! From Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dems voted en masse to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many, such as Hillary Clinton & Cantwell, seem hell bent on supporting a similar incursion into Iran.

In fact, if you look at the history of the US, the art of invading foreign countries has been perpetrated by Presidents on both sides of the aisle. We entered WWI under President Woodrow Wilson. WWII came about on FDR's watch. Nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan under Harry Truman's watchful eyes. We became bogged down in Vietnam under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

All of the aforementioned US presidents were Democrats!!

More importantly, most of the wars the US becomes involved (ensnared?) in have little to do with specific military objectives. While our invasion of Iraq offers a current example, a recent revelation shows that the war against North Vietnam fits the same bill.

According to,
Former U.S. secretary of state Henry Kissinger quietly acknowledged to China in 1972 that Washington could accept a communist takeover of South Vietnam if that evolved after a withdrawal of U.S. troops - even as the war to drive back the Communists dragged on with mounting deaths.

The late U.S. president Richard Nixon's envoy told Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai: "If we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina."
Of course, such a statement seems to fly in the face of the "we need to protect the world against Communism" argument foisted time and again on the American public. If we could accept a Communist government in Vietnam, then why in the hell were we there in the first place?

The sad answer to that question is that imperialistic powers -- and the US certainly fits the definition -- need to have an enemy. Enemies allow the hegemonic powers to funnel millions and billions of dollars to the military-industrial complex which, in turn, funnel money back to insure those same political leaders stay in power. Enemies also divert public attention away from all the shortcomings of any given administration -- things like poverty, woeful health care, the theft of basic civil rights and lackadaisical education.

It turns out that Vietnam, like Iraq, wasn't anything like our leaders told us it was. So, if you think electing a slew of Democrats this November will change the tenor and direction of this nation, you haven't been paying close attention to history.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Swede-Heart of a Deal

We Americans like to think we are the leaders in innovative thinking and ingenuity. It's part and parcel of our national mentality (psychosis?). Yet, now that we are faced with rising gas prices and peak oil on the near horizon, what are we doing to remedy the situation? Not a hell of a lot!

Vehicle fuel efficiency standards have remained stagnant for a decade or more. Funding for alternative sources of power/fuel is meager, at best. And we're engaged in a senseless war so that we can control the ever-decreasing flow of crude. So much for innovative thinking and ingenuity!

We should look to Sweden for a better way to tackle the problem. According to a report in Yes! Magazine, Sweden has decided to go oil-free.
Sweden has announced plans to be the first oil-free country in the world by 2020. Plans call for renewables -- including biofuels, wind, and wave power -- to replace fossil fuels. The country has already committed itself to phasing out nuclear energy.
Some of you cynics will say this is just political grandstanding. You will note that there is no penalty for missing the target date. While both of these assertions may indeed be true, the article notes that Sweden has already converted over 25% of its energy usage to renewable sources.

By setting a national goal, Sweden will definitely be far along the path toward being oil-free by 2020. Even if compliance is not at the 100% level, chances are they will be at the 50 - 80% level. And that's truly impressive!!

Compare that to U.S. goals. It's a hard comparison because we don't really have any.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A New Recruitment Strategy?

I must be a glutton for punishment. For reasons unknown, my wife & I decided to watch to the [p]Resident speak to the nation tonight about his proposed immigration policy. Aside from his usual smirking face, his little address wasn’t altogether that remarkable as he made sure to mention the words “national security” several times. However, it is something he made reference to indirectly that caught my wife’s attention.

Dubya was talking about a wounded GI who happened to be an illegal immigrant from down south. (Interestingly enough, we didn’t hear any reference to illegals from any other direction…hmm.) Dubya lauded this soldier for his service to the United States Armed Forces and suggested that, because of his service, his application for citizenship would be expedited.

Though not stated directly, my wife immediately caught his drift. It goes something like this:
Ladies & Gentlemen, we’re having a great deal of difficulty recruiting Americans into our perpetual military machine. Because of this sad fact, I can’t wage war against made-up enemies who had nothing to do with 9/11. We need to increase our troop numbers. So, I’ve come up with a great new plan.

Since we already (wink, wink) allow those brown skinners from south of the border to do the kind of crappy jobs that no self-respecting American would want to do, why don’t we recruit them to fight our wars for us too? We can wave the carrot stick of “expedited citizenship” in their faces and many will jump at the chance to be slaughtered for it.

This great new plan of mine will serve several purposes: 1) I can continue to wage endless war and reward the military-industrial complex with rich deals funded by YOUR taxpayer dollars; 2) You can be patriotic and support my wars WITHOUT having to send YOUR sons and daughters to die on distant battlefields; and 3) It’s a great way (snicker, snicker) to get people off our welfare rolls.

So, how ‘bout it America? You with me? (To aides, thinking he’s off camera, “Who the hell cares what these yo-yo’s think? I’m king of this country and I can do whatever I damn well want.)

Letting Go of a Dream

My younger brother recently began a program to earn a certificate as a paralegal. His first love is doing public and/or community radio, both announcing and the development angle. Unfortunately, unless you land a job in one of the major markets, radio barely pays enough to make ends meet. He should know; he's tried to make it work for years!

While I'm certainly pleased that Sean is working toward a career that will allow him to get a better economic footing in today's world, I also lament that he has had to choose to let go of his passion. He is a damn good DJ. He also has a marvelous talent that allows him to be a good volunteer coordinator and to develop fundraising programs that are both successful and creative.

None of these talents will be needed in paralegal work. In that sense, it's a crying shame!

We live in the kind of world that too often squelches people's true talents -- turns them into wage slaves. If a person isn't driven to smash and step on others on their way to the top, the only option available is to become the fodder for others who have no problem whatsoever with smashing and stepping. There seems to be no place for those of us not driven to grab for the almighty gods of capital and power.

While I believe my brother will develop in to a quality paralegal, I bemoan the fact that the world around us would be better served if he could follow his passion AND survive while doing it.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Forests, Trees & Thuds

If a tree falls in a forest, but no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? This is the kind of philosophical question my younger brother and I often discuss in our phone conversations. While there are many ways to ponder and answer this question, my brother Sean & I have come up with an even more thought-provoking one:

If you are alone in a forest -- totally preoccupied and completely oblivious to your surroundings -- and a tree suddenly falls on you (thereby smashing you to bits and leaving you quite dead), does it make a sound?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Stand Tall for What You Believe In

In my book, one way I judge if a person genuinely believes that what they do and say is in the right is how they do or say it. My criteria is universal -- it doesn't matter what side of the political aisle a person chooses to stand on. It doesn't matter what religious or philosophical belief a person calls their own. It doesn't matter if your name is George Bush, Saddam Hussein or Mother Teresa.

If believe something to be true, stand tall in your belief. State up front why you believe your opinion is the right thing to do or way to act. By standing tall, you prove your belief or opinion is real -- not necessarily correct -- but what you truly believe in.

The recent revelations that [p]Resident Bush has signed over 750 Signing Statements which quietly announce his intentions to subvert federal law are a prime example of NOT standing tall. In public, Dubya says one thing; in private he often does the exact opposite!

According to an April 30 article in The Boston Globe,
Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files ''signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

''He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.
What this tells me is that Dubya KNOWS what he's doing ain't right. He doesn't have the balls to do it in the light of day; he does what he does under the cover of darkness.

In essence, we have a coward in the White House!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

George & Tom -- A Striking Similarity

He came. He entertained. The town went wild. He left. This represents the briefest of descriptions of Tom Cruise's visit to the Harbor. As I had predicted, there was a front page story in The Daily World about Tom Cruise for 8 consecutive days! In the nearly 6 months my wife & I have lived in Aberdeen, no other story -- no matter how important -- has dominated the news like Tom Cruise.

One sentence in the "Tommie was here" recap article caught my eye. It reminded me of the many articles I've read over the past 5 years in which Dubya was the central character. It was mentioned that, amongst the thousands upon thousands of fans, there was ONE protestor. An unidentified woman brought a sign which condemned Cruise's belief in Scientology.

It seems that she was not allowed to stay for very long. Security personnel removed her from the area long before Mr. Cruise and his fiancee made their appearance at the South Shore Mall. Consequently, just like the many appearances of Dubya, free speech was suspended.

What is our world coming to when any person is not allowed to express their opinion openly?

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Cruise 'N the Harbor

One of the big differences between living in a small town versus a small city (Salem) or a large metropolis like Chicago or New York City can be found on the front pages of the area newspaper. (Of course, another difference is the number of newspapers itself.)

The big story in Aberdeen's The Daily World is of no international or national significance. It isn't political or scientific. No, the BIG story that has predominated our front page for the past 5 days and will continue to show up there until, at least, Wednesday is that movie actor Tom Cruise is coming to Aberdeen.

It seems a local man won some on line contest in which he will get to see a private screening of the latest Mission Impossible flick with the star himself. The screening will take place at our half-dead South Shore Mall on Tuesday. People from as far away as Portland and Seattle plan to descend on our area to catch a glimpse of this so-called sex symbol.

I suppose the excitement is understandable. Towns like Aberdeen -- far off the beaten path -- aren't used to feting movie stars and the like. Heck, it's a big deal when the governor or a member of the Seattle Mariners comes to town. Still, Tom Cruise is just a guy who acts in movies. It's not like he's an important role model or world leader.

It amazes me what seems to excite people. I know I certainly won't alter my general routine come Tuesday night.