Evolution and Eden: Integrating Genesis with Fossil Records

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Anti-war offensive begun. . . .

Ex-Maine Lawmaker Plans Anti-War Offensive
By Bart Jansen
The Portland Press Herald

Thursday 28 December 2006

Washington - Tom Andrews, the former Maine congressman who used his position as national director of Win Without War to argue against invading Iraq, is now urging the Democratically controlled Congress to bring the troops home.

"The disaster in Iraq is the result of the lethal combination of arrogance, ignorance and incompetence of the administration," said Andrews, who served on the House Armed Services Committee during his two terms representing the state's 1st Congressional District. "It is dangerous and short-sighted to keep our troops in the crossfire."

Andrews, 53, spent years organizing opposition to the war through Win Without War, a coalition of about 40 groups ranging from Families USA to the Sierra Club to Veterans for Peace. The Nov. 7 election results created a climate for change, he said, and his coalition plans a major lobbying effort in Congress next month.

"The election was clearly about Iraq," he said. "Voters were demanding change."

Andrews questioned whether Bush would listen to the Iraq Study Group. The bipartisan group, headed by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Rep. Lee Hamilton of Indiana, recommended beginning to withdraw troops by 2008 and opening discussions with other countries in the region, including Iran and Syria.

Bush has resisted talks with Iran and Syria and acknowledged that he is considering whether to send more troops to Iraq. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has proposed adding 15,000 to 30,000 troops to the 140,000 already stationed there.

"I will tell you we're looking at all options and one of those options, of course, is increasing troops," Bush said last week. "But in order to do so, there must be a specific mission that can be accomplished with more troops."

Andrews, a Massachusetts native, embarked on a career of public advocacy after moving to Maine and earning a degree in religion and philosophy at Bowdoin College.

Andrews, who as a young adult lost his right leg to cancer, was executive director of the Maine Association of Handicapped Persons during the 1980s. The group lobbied federal officials for handicapped regulations. He also campaigned against a proposal for nuclear waste storage near Sebago Lake.

Meanwhile, he won seats in the state House and Senate before winning a congressional seat in 1990. He lost a 1994 Senate race to succeed former Majority Leader George Mitchell, a fellow Democrat, to Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

But he has remained involved in politics, leading to the latest campaign to withdraw from Iraq.

"Obviously there is an enormous opportunity here given the fact that there is a new Congress," Andrews said.

A clash between the Bush administration and Congress over Iraq could erupt quickly. The incoming chairman of the Armed Services Committees, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., each have been critical of U.S. strategy and each plan numerous hearings on the policy.

But Andrews is focused on Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., who will head the Appropriations subcommittee that handles defense spending.

Murtha, a former Marine and 16-term lawmaker, complained that attacks against U.S. troops have doubled from 400 per week to 800 since he first spoke out against the war a year ago. He said after the deaths of nearly 3,000 troops, the time has come to leave. America can't solve its domestic problems until it stops spending $8 billion a month on Iraq, he said.

"Staying in Iraq is not an option politically, militarily or fiscally," Murtha said in a statement Dec. 6. "Iraq is plagued by a growing civil war and only the Iraqis can solve it."

The Bush administration is expected to ask soon for another $100 billion to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, boosting the total for the year to $170 billion and the total overall to $350 billion, according to The Associated Press. Murtha's subcommittee will consider the request.

"The way to solve this extraordinary problem and get out of this quagmire is through Congress," Andrews said. "It's the only way out."

House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress would provide money to keep troops safe. But Congress will review how money is spent to ensure responsibility, she said.

"We will have vigorous oversight," Pelosi said at a news conference Dec. 6. "We will set standards."

To build congressional resolve, Andrews said anti-war groups will be meeting with lawmakers, holding public events, organizing via the Internet and advertising in key locations.

Congress returns a week from today. Many of the groups in the Win Without War coalition plan a march on Washington on Jan. 27, under the banner United for Peace and Justice.

"Depending on the amount of resources we are able to generate, it will be a robust campaign," Andrews said. "We will have a real opportunity to bring this matter to an end."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas time out for atheists and fundamentalists. PUTTING THE REAL CHRIST BACK INTO CHRISTMAS.

Christmas has really been getting it in the teeth this year. On one side, atheists bashing away at the poor old feast, blaming it for every evil committed in this or any other century; on the other, fundo Evangelicals and Baptists using it as yet another proxy in the racist hate-mongering that is the lifeblood of so-called conservatives.

In a way both atheists and fundos agree on the Christ they see in Christmas. The former may want to abolish it and the latter make it more 'Christian', but the Christ they're talking about is the same cartoon.

For the abolitionists, Christ is and has been the cause of incalculable bloodshed over the last two thousand years, as well as the oppression of women, the brutalization of the poor, the genocidal enslavement of people of color - any color - and environmental devastation. (The list is a lot longer than that, but it'll do for now) For the atheists it's Blame Christ First.

To do them justice they've got a point. Because that Christ is also the Christ of the fundos. The fundo Christ is only The Man of Mercy, Gentle-Jesus-Meek-and-Mild for the fundos themselves. The rest of us he hates. Anyone from gays to Muslims to feminists to commies to astrophysicists and biologists to you, me, Arianna, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney and especially Jimmy Carter. The fundo Christ will arriving here any day now, to butcher all of us by the billion. A Christ of vigilante justice, vengeance and prejudice: a Christ dedicated to the shedding of blood, oceans of it, the more barbarically the better. In short a non-Christ, a pseudo-Christ, an anti-Christ.

The Christ the fundos want to put back in Christmas.

Christmas celebrates the birth of a man called Jesus (or Yeshua) in Judea roughly two thousand years ago; who later became a charismatic itinerant teacher and was subsequently crucified. That this guy actually existed seems likely, given the 1st century accounts of his life and death and one important confirming source, a Jewish historian called Joseph ben Matthias. True, the Christmas story is heavily larded with myth and later interpolations, like all Judeo-Christian scriptures including the Gospels (which is why it's beyond idiotic to read them literally), so it's impossible to know who the real Jesus was historically.

But we're talking about something far more compelling than that shadowy thing, historical accuracy. We're talking about a great story and its true meaning and the vast influence they have on people. There's one question about that story which should be asked this Christmas (or Yuletide or Hanukah or Kwanzaa or however you celebrate the winter solstice), a time when so many people - well-intentioned and ill-intentioned - are still talking so blithely of war, killing, self-defense and revenge.

What according to the story, did the real Christ have to say about war, killing, self-defense and revenge?

As far as I can tell from a close reading of the Gospels (including a couple of the Synoptic Gospels), nothing good. If there was one thing Jesus was adamantly against, it was violence of any kind. Sure he got hot under the robe once in a while; he overturned a few tables in the Temple, he withered a fig-tree, he made some poor old pig-farmer's pigs dive off a cliff. But he never raised a finger to anyone.

In fact he was radical on the matter; in defiance of - or as he put it in fulfillment of - the Jewish tradition in which he was raised of an-eye-for-an-eye, of justifiable revenge, he forbade revenge, even self-defense. We are to turn the other cheek when struck. We are to love our neighbors even our enemies, as ourselves. And he meant it: when the time came and his enemies seized him to lead him away to certain death, he refused to defend himself or even to let his followers defend him.

Here's the uncomfortable truth, one Christians have spent seas of ink and forests of paper, trying to get around: there is no way that someone who calls herself or himself a Christian, who believes in Christ's words and emulates his life and actions, can fight in a war, support a war, carry a weapon, pack heat, shoot back, or take revenge.

That's why Christmas - the birth of the man who preached this intensely radical idea - is called a time of peace. And why Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace. (Not a title I like much since all the Princes I know are blithering inbred twits, but I can live with it for now).

But that doesn't mean peace is over, once Christmas is. Or that the other 364 days of the year Jesus is the Prince of War. For real Christians peace is non-negotiable.

Impractical? Too bad. Every conflict that ever polluted our planet arose because someone claimed this right: they killed ours so we have the right to kill theirs. And once that cycle begins, it goes on for millennia, every war in some way, seeded by the last. Christ said in effect that even at the cost of life, you've got to start somewhere in breaking that cycle, the cycle of killing. A cycle that sustains the brutes of any tribe, 'Ours' as well as 'Theirs', those who believe that their right to life is superior to another's. They have no such right, however magnificent their titles or however often they say their prayers.

I wrote a book earlier this year about the 'real Christ'. (And no I don't want you to buy my book - for once I truly don't intend to commercialize my message). It's just that sometimes a story and a character in it can make a point better than another thousand words of blog.

In my book I imagine Christ returning in our time, a poor self-educated Latino man from the Bronx. His messages are as radical as they were the first time around. Towards the end as his Christian enemies close in, he talks to an audience of tired and battered infantrymen recently returned from war, outside the gates of Fort McGuire in New Jersey:

"Love your enemies. I do.

"I have loved every soldier on every side of every war ever fought. I have loved every child of God murdered by another child of God. Because - make no mistake - whenever one of my children kills another intentionally, it's murder. Whether it's from 30,000 feet or 3, it's murder. It's no less murder than creeping into their bedroom while they're asleep and beating them to death with a tire-iron.

"Murder is not a mission or a calling or a career. If you go to West Point or the Air Force Academy to get a degree in it, it's still murder. All the fancy words your superiors come up with: retaliation, extreme prejudice, overwhelming force, collateral damage, smart-this and pin-point-that cannot alter that all these words mean murder.

"Wearing a uniform does not to stop it being murder, doing it for your country does not stop it being murder. Clicking on an icon a thousand miles away does not stop it being murder. Sending a command to a robot does not stop it being murder. If your sergeant tells you to do it it's murder, if you are told by your officer to tell an enlisted man to do it, all three of you commit murder. It's murder if a court absolves you of all wrongdoing. It's murder if a man of God blesses the weapon you murder with. It's murder if you vote for someone who tells others to murder in your name. It's murder if the one you murder has murdered.

"And if you say God told you to murder - I say to you it is not God you are listening to.

"Thou shalt not kill. There are no exceptions."

That I believe, is the Christ we need to put back into Christmas.
by Tony Hendra

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Parable for our times, Bill Moyers

A Parable For Our Times
by Bill Moyers

The Christian story begins simply: A child is given, a son. He grows up to be a teacher, sage, healer and prophet. He gains a large following. To many he is a divine savior; to the rich and powerful he is an enemy. They put him to death in brutal fashion, befitting his humble beginnings in peasant Galilee and his birth in a stall thick with the raw odor of animals.

Toward the end of his life, Jesus preached in the Temple to large crowds, reaching the height of his power. There he told the parable that likely sealed his fate. He said there was a man who created a prosperous vineyard and then rented it to some tenants while he went away on a journey. At harvest time, the owner of vineyard sent a servant to collect a portion from the tenants, but they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. Another servant came, and they struck him on the head. Another they killed. Finally, the owner sent his own son to collect the back payments. "They will respect my son," he thought. But when the tenants saw the son, and knew him to be the heir, they saw their chance to take full possession of the harvest. And so they killed the son, thinking now they would owe nothing from the vineyard to anyone.

The listeners understood the symbolism: God, of course, is the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard is Israel or the covenant, or, more broadly, the whole creation. It is all that God entrusts to the leaders of his people. And what is in question is their stewardship of this bounty.

In the parable, the "tenants" are the leaders of Israel. They hoard the fruits of the vineyard for themselves, instead of sharing the fruits as the covenant teaches, according to God's holy purposes. And the holiest of God’s purposes, ancient tradition taught, is helping the poor, and the fatherless, and the widow, and the stranger—all who do not have the resources to live in a manner befitting their dignity as creatures made in God"s image, as children of God.

When he finished the story, Jesus asked the people what the owner of the vineyard will do when he comes back. "He will kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others,” Jesus tells them. In the Gospel of Matthew, the people themselves answered: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time."

Political dynasties fall from negligent stewardship. One thinks of the upward redistribution called “tax relief”; of the Iraq invasion sold as critical to the “War on Terror"; of rising poverty, inequality, crime, debt, and foreclosure as America spews its bounty on war and a military so muscle-bound it is like Gulliver. It would be hard to imagine a more catastrophic failure of stewardship, certainly in the biblical sense of helping the poor and allocating resources for the health of society. Once upon a time these errant stewards boasted of restoring a culture of integrity to politics. They became instead an axis of corruption, joining corporate power to political ideology to religious self-righteousness.

• • •

The story is told of the devil and a companion walking along the streets. The companion saw a man reach down and pick up the truth from the sidewalk. "You're finished," the companion said to the devil. "I just saw that man pick up the truth from the street, and that means you are finished." The devil smiled and answered, "Don't worry. He's a human, and in 15 minutes he will have turned the truth into a concept and no one will know what it is."

From theories stubbornly followed in defiance of truth on the street comes ruin. Laissez-faire was never a good idea; in practice it is ruinous.

This is the season to recall Walt Whitman. He wrote in Democratic Vistas, around 1870:

The true gravitation-hold of liberalism in the United States will be a more universal ownership of property, general homesteads, general comfort—a vast, intertwining reticulation of wealth. As the human frame, or, indeed, any object in this manifold universe, is best kept together by the simple miracle of its own cohesion, and the necessity, exercise and profit thereof, so a great and varied nationality, occupying millions of square miles, were firmest held and knit by the principle of the safety and endurance of the aggregate of its middling property owners.

How prophetic to see anything like that in the aftermath of the Civil War, in which Whitman had volunteered as a nurse. But in a time of great upheaval, countered by popular mobilization after mobilization, the great poet’s took hold in the people's imagination. Whitman’s liberalism had neither the cultural elitism of those identified with the term on the left, nor the laissez-faire extremism of the free-market “liberals” on the right. Liberalism meant “the safety and endurance of the aggregate of middling property owners.” Its consummation was the New Deal social compact we inherited from five presidents and from substantial voting majorities for a generation after the Great Depression, and the result was the prospect of a fair and just society—a cohesion—that truly made us a democratic people.

Equality is not an objective that can be achieved but it is a goal worth fighting for. A more equal society would bring us closer to the “self-evident truth” of our common humanity. I remember the early 1960s, when for a season one could imagine progress among the races, a nation finally accepting immigrants for their value not only to the economy but to our collective identity, a people sniffing the prospect of progress. One could look at the person who is different in some particular way—skin color, language, religion—without feeling fear. America, so long the exploiter of the black, red, brown, and yellow, was feeling its oats; we were on our way to becoming the land of opportunity, at last. Now inequality—especially between wealth and worker—has opened like an unbridgeable chasm.

Ronald Reagan once described a particular man he knew who was good steward of resources in the biblical sense. “This is a man,” Reagan said, “who in his own business, before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan, before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provided nursing care for the children of mothers who worked in the stores.”

That man was Barry Goldwater, a businessman before he entered politics. It’s incredible how far we have deviated from even the most conservative understanding of social responsibility. For a generation now Goldwater’s children have done everything they could to destroy the social compact between workers and employers, and to discredit, defame, and even destroy anyone who said their course was wrong. Principled conservatism was turned into an ideological caricature whose cardinal tenet was of taxation as a form of theft, or, as the libertarian icon Robert Nozick called it, “force labor.” What has happened to us that such anti-democratic ideas could become a governing theory?

• • •

Of course it’s hard to grasp what really motivated this movement. Many of the new conservative elites profess devotion to the needs of ordinary people, in contrast with some of their counterparts a hundred years ago who were often Social Darwinists, and couldn’t have been more convinced that a vast chasm between the rich and poor is the natural state of things. But after 30 years of conservative revival and a dramatic return of the discredited “voodoo economics” of the 1980s under George W. Bush, it’s reasonable to follow the old biblical proverb that says by their fruits you shall know them. By that realistic standard, I think the Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow’s analysis sums it up well: What it’s all about, he simply said, is “the redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful."

I grew up in East Texas, in a county that once had more slaves than any other in Texas. It is impossible to forget that as the slave power grew in the South and King Cotton catapulted the new nation into the global marketplace, the whole politics of the country was infected with a rule of property that did not—indeed could not—distinguish the ownership of things from the ownership of human beings. Drawing from the Hebrew prophets and the Book of Revelation, the abolitionists simply said this: the rule of law has become moral anarchy. God’s light clarified that the rule of law had become moral anarchy.

Something was wrong in the very foundation of things, and so the foundation had to be rebuilt on sounder principles. But no mere parchment of words divulged the principles that ultimately preserved the union. They were written in blood—thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dead Americans. And so by untold sacrifice the rule of law was righted to exclude human property. Then, of course, the slave power simply rejected the rule of law and established rule by terror. The feudal south became the fascist south. It did happen here, to answer Sinclair Lewis’s famous riddle of the 1930s.

What is finally at the root of these reactionary forces that have so disturbed the social fabric and threatened to undo the republic? If a $4 billion dollar investment in chattel labor was worth the price of civil war and 600,000 dead in 1860, is it really any wonder that the richest Americans would not suffer for too long a political consensus that pushed their share of national income down by a third, and held it there—about at the level of their counterparts in “socialist” Europe—for a generation? Make no mistake about it, from the days of the American Liberty League in 1936 (the group Franklin Roosevelt had in mind with his crowd-pleasing battle cry, “I welcome their hatred!”) they never gave up on returning to their former glory. They just failed to do it. Ordinary people had powerful institutions and laws on their side that thwarted them—unions, churches, and, yes, government programs that were ratified by large majorities decade after decade.

The scale of the disorder in our national priorities right now is truly staggering; it approaches moral anarchy. Alexander Hamilton, the conservative genius of the financial class, warned this could happen. Speaking to the New York State legislature in 1788, he said:

As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as others.

Conservatives who revere the founding fathers tend to stress the last point—that there is nothing to be done about this "common misfortune." It is up to the rest of us, who see the founding fathers not as gods but as inspired although flawed human beings—the hand that scribbled "All men are created equal" also stroked the breasts and thighs of a slave woman, whom he considered his property—to take on "the tendency of things " to "depart from the republican standard," and hold our country to its highest, and most humane, ideals.

As stewards of democracy, we, too, have a covenant—with one another.
Bill Moyers is president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. The center's senior fellow, Lew Daly, was his accomplice in this essay, written exclusively for TomPaine.com.

© 2006 TomPaine.com

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Year That Religion Learned Humility
The new millennium saw the rise of fundamentalist faith as a cultural force. In 2006, says Andrew Sullivan, the religious monoliths began to break down

The great, first surprise of the 21st century was the re-emergence of religion. Not only did it arrive as the most powerful cultural force of the new millennium, it also came in a particular guise. It was a fundamentalist version of faith that was triumphant. Against the doubts and decadence of the West and amid the bewilderment and backwardness of the Middle East, an utterly uncompromising faith seemed the only answer to many prayers.

The forms varied, of course. There was the strain of Islamic Wahhabism incubated in Saudi Arabia, exported to Afghanistan and wreaking havoc in Iraq. There was Shi'ite theocracy, centered in Tehran, made more terrifying by the apocalyptic worldview of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In the West, the dominant form of Christianity was Fundamentalist Protestantism, gaining new converts and, fused with the Republican Party, flexing powerful political muscles. And in the Vatican, the conservatism of John Paul II found its natural successor in the austere and more thoroughgoing orthodoxy of the new Pope, Benedict XVI. There seemed no stopping this cultural surge, just various attempts to adjust to it, restrain it from violence and temper its extremes.

And then in 2006, there was an unmistakable pause, a moment of self-examination, even the hint of a great humbling. The most absolutist visionaries found a limit to their certitude. Benedict XVI went in a matter of months from proclaiming an irreducible gulf between Christianity and Islam to visiting a mosque in Turkey with white slippers on his feet. He publicly called for Turkey, a secular state but a Muslim country, to be integrated into the European Union. In the U.S., the religious right saw its most enthusiastic repre sentative in the Senate, Rick Santorum, go down to defeat by a crushing 18 points. For the first time, a state constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage failed — in Arizona. State initiatives for embryonic-stem-cell research became a wedge issue for ... Democrats. Religion finally cut both ways in democratic discourse. For the first time since the evangelical revival began in the 1980s, too much rigidity began to cost politicians votes rather than win them more.

Evangelicalism also saw the beginnings of a political divide. A new head of the Christian Coalition was forced to resign after he wanted to expand the group's mission from abortion, marriage and stem cells to poverty and the environment. David Kuo, a former Bush Administration insider who helped run the faith-based social program, wrote a book decrying the cynical use of Evangelicals for political gain and regretting his enmeshment with the religious right. He called for devout Christians to take a two-year fast from politics. And in a remarkable sign of a new era, the orthodox Evangelical Rick Warren invited Democratic Senator Barack Obama to address a conference on AIDS. What was once a seemingly rigid and monolithic group was revealed to be actually more diverse, nuanced and open to debate than once seemed possible.

Within Islam, something also very profound occurred in 2006. Until earlier this year, Islam had found itself represented by essentially one faction in global politics and propaganda: the anti-Western vision of al-Qaeda's Wahhabist ideology. The power of its ability to marshall Arab and Muslim resentment against the West — and against non-Muslims more generally — drowned out milder, more moderate forms of Islam and masked deep divisions within Islam itself.

But in 2006, a messier reality emerged. What once appeared an extreme anti-Western monolith splintered into different factions. In Iraq, the ground zero of civilizational clash, the turning point was the bombing of the Samarra mosque, a site sacred to Shi'ite Muslims. From that horrifying moment onward, what had been a mainly Sunni insurgency against occupying infidel troops became a civil war between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims. The dynamic within Islam in the Middle East shifted from one that pitted Islam against the West to one that pitted Islam against itself. Evidence emerged of Iranian support for Shi'ite militias, alongside Saudi financing of Sunni terror. Suddenly, the monolith was over — and the old divisions within Islam became as important as Islam's differences with Christians and Jews and secularists. Islam was revealed as having no single answer — no more than Christianity has one single answer, no more than any faith has one simple answer to every question human beings ask.

In 2006, we came to see that even the most certain theological worldview has to grapple with that of others who differ and yet require coexistence, not obliteration. Certainty can be comforting in the abstract. In the real world, such certainty has to be accompanied by toleration if we are to live in any peace or resolve our politics in a civil and rational manner. And certainty itself may be an obstacle to real faith rather than its achievement. Doubt is as much a part of faith as human imperfection is a part of life. We have learned that the hard way in the new millennium — in our politics and in war. But we may have begun to grasp the deeper obligation — and that is not to turn our back on faith but to instill it with the humility that it demands and that all the great religious figures have exemplified.

Copyright © 2006 Time Inc. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission i

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

REJECT THE WAR, by James Carroll, Boston Globe

Reject the War
by James Carroll

Biblical lessons.

A parent's worst nightmare is the death of a child. Or is it? What if you have two sons, and one murders the other? Wouldn't that be the worst thing? But what, then, if you and your spouse recognize that you yourselves are the cause of the one son's heinous act, and of the other's victimhood? Who could stand such knowledge?

That chain of circumstance, in fact, describes the universal tragedy, and it was given masterpiece expression in the story of Adam and Eve. The terrible consequences of their banishment from Paradise are usually identified as the pains of childbirth and the burden of work, but what are those griefs compared with what that couple surely felt upon learning of the murder of their son Abel by their son Cain? From then on, savage fratricidal war would define the human condition. Imagine the steely glances that Eve and Adam must have exchanged at the news. And imagine with what self-accusation they must have turned from one another. We did this.

Or perhaps not. Was the first act of war followed by the first act of denial? The story of Cain ("a tiller of the ground") and Abel ("a keeper of sheep") is a parable of primordial conflict between settled farmers and nomadic herders, and the lessons are timeless. Each warring group claims to have justice on its side, and believes that the way to peace is through conquest. War is always fought in the name of justice-and-peace. But peace achieved through war inevitably leads not to justice, but to conditions that cause the next war. History is the record of that succession. Victory through violence is the way to further violence. From Cain and Abel to the fratricidal wars unfolding today the line is direct. That the territory in which those wars unfold is the Levant crescent from which Genesis springs is enough to make its author weep -- again.

Instead of the originating sin of parents, the Cain-and-Abel combatants of today's Middle East (from the insurgent parties in Iraq, to the warring factions of Lebanon, to the antagonists in Israel and Palestine, now including the fratricidal Palestinians) are burdened by the fatal flaw of the United States of America. The indispensable nation, it turns out, proves indispensable only for the spread of chaos. The grievances of the Middle East are ancient, but so is the capacity for fragile balance, now upset. Iraqis, Lebanese, Israelis, and Palestinians all make violent choices and bear the weight of violent consequences, but the immediate context within which those choices are being made has been overwhelmingly established by violent choices made in Washington.

The Bush administration embraced the cult of war when it did not have to. Bush re-legitimized that cult, and sponsored it anew. In this, he was supported by the American people, its press and its political establishment. In the beginning, the nation itself re affirmed war as the way to justice-and-peace. We did this. The first fallacy lived. By now, even Washington's one self-proclaimed "victory" has led to further defeat. The "good" war in Afghanistan put in place structures of oppression that promised an inevitable resumption of savagery, which has begun.

After murdering Abel, Cain justified his act, and his parents denied their responsibility for it. Otherwise, the dread pattern of accusation and recrimination would have been checked right there. Humans have been enslaved by this dynamic ever since. Does that vindicate the United States with a "realist" claim to inevitability? No. Because historic moments of ethical recognition regularly present themselves, and one just did. The Baker commission, whatever its faults, defined the folly of any further American pursuit of "victory" in Iraq. Yet, with Bush's mantra of "prevail," other "studies" commissioned to dilute Baker's, and fresh Pentagon talk of brutal escalation, the aim of victory through mass violence is being reaffirmed. The unoriginal sin, by now, but more deadly than ever.

This column began with an eye on the far past. Because of the destructiveness of modern weapons, there will be no distant future unless humans, having seen through the congenital illusion of justice-and-peace through violence, come to the rejection of war. That must begin now. Democrats, take heed: Bush must not be allowed to further the chaos. Having led the world into this moral wilderness, America has a grave responsibility to lead the way out. We have to cease killing other people's children, which is the way to stop them from killing ours. Stop the war by stopping.
James Carroll's column appears regularly in the Globe.

© Copyright 2006 Boston Globe

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Inserting Christian doctrine into public high school class,

Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights

KEARNY, N.J. — Before David Paszkiewicz got to teach his accelerated 11th-grade history class about the United States Constitution this fall, he was accused of violating it.

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates.

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew is “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.” Some anonymous posters on the town’s electronic bulletin board, Kearnyontheweb.com, called for Matthew’s suspension.

On the sidewalks outside the high school, which has 1,750 students, many agreed with 15-year-old Kyle Durkin, who said, “I’m on the teacher’s side all the way.”

While science teachers, particularly in the Bible Belt, have been known to refuse to teach evolution, the controversy here, 10 miles west of Manhattan, hinges on assertions Mr. Paszkiewicz made in class, including how a specific Muslim girl would go to hell.

“This is extremely rare for a teacher to get this blatantly evangelical,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a nonprofit educational association. “He’s really out there proselytizing, trying to convert students to his faith, and I think that that’s more than just saying I have some academic freedom right to talk about the Bible’s view of creation as well as evolution.”

Even some legal organizations that often champion the expression of religious beliefs are hesitant to support Mr. Paszkiewicz.

“It’s proselytizing, and the courts have been pretty clear you can’t do that,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, a group that provides legal services in religious freedom cases. “You can’t step across line and proselytize, and that’s what he’s done here.”

The class started on Sept. 11, and Matthew quickly grew concerned. “The first couple of days I had him, he had already begun discussing his religious point of view,” Matthew, a thin, articulate 16-year-old with braces and a passion for politics and the theater, recalled in an interview. “It wasn’t even just his point of view, it went beyond that to say this is the right way, this is the only way. The way he said it, I wasn’t sure how far he was going to go.”

On the second day of taping, after the discussion veered from Moses’s education to free will, Matthew asked why a loving God would consign humans to hell, according to the recording.

Some of Matthew’s detractors say he set up his teacher by baiting him with religious questions. But Matthew, who was raised in the Ethical Culture Society, a humanist religious and educational group, said all of his comments were in response to something the teacher said.

“I didn’t start any of the topics that were discussed,” he said.

In a Sept. 25 letter to the principal, Matthew wrote: “I care about the future generation and I do not want Mr. Paszkiewicz to continue preaching to and poisoning students.” He met with school officials and handed over the recordings.

Matthew’s family wrote four letters to the district asking for an apology and for the teacher to correct any false statements he had made in class, particularly those related to science. Matthew’s father, Paul LaClair, a lawyer, said he is now considering legal action against the district, claiming that Mr. Paszkiewicz’s teachings violated their son’s First Amendment and civil rights, and that his words misled the class and went against the curriculum.

Kenneth J. Lindenfelser, the lawyer for the Kearny school board, said he could not discuss Mr. Paszkiewicz specifically, but that when a complaint comes in about a teacher, it is investigated, and then the department leader works with the teacher to correct any inappropriate behavior.

The teacher would be monitored, and his or her evaluation could be noted, Mr. Lindenfelser said, adding that if these steps did not work, the teacher could be reprimanded, suspended or, eventually, fired.

As for the request that Mr. Paszkiewicz correct his statements that conflict with the district’s science curriculum, “Sometimes, the more you dwell on the issue, the more you continue the issue,” Mr. Lindenfelser said. “Sometimes, it’s better to stop any inappropriate behavior and move on.”

The district’s actions have succeeded, he said, as the family has not reported any continued violations.

Bloggers around the world have called Matthew courageous. In contrast, the LaClairs said they have been surprised by the vehemence of the opposition that local residents have expressed against Matthew.

Frank Viscuso, a Kearny resident, wrote in a letter to The Observer that “when a student is advised by his ‘attorney’ father to bait a teacher with questions about religion, and then records his answers and takes the story to 300 newspapers, that family isn’t ‘offended’ by what was said in the classroom — they’re simply looking for a payout and to make a name for themselves.” He called the teacher one of the town’s best.

However, Andrew Lewczuk, a former student of Mr. Paszkiewicz, praised his abilities as a history teacher but said he regretted that he had not protested the religious discussions. “In the end, the manner in which Mr. Paszkiewicz spoke with his students was careless, inconsiderate and inappropriate,” he wrote to The Observer. “It was an abuse of power and influence, and it’s my own fault that I didn’t do anything about this.”

One teacher, who did not give his name, said he thought both Matthew and his teacher had done the right thing. “The student had the right to do what he did,” the man said. As for Mr. Paszkiewicz, “He had the right to say what he said, he was not preaching, and that’s something I’m very much against.”

Matthew said he misses the friends he has lost over his role in the debate, and said he can “feel the glares” when he walks into school.

Instead of mulling Supreme Court precedents, he said with half a smile, “I should be worrying about who I’m going to take to the prom.”

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Beatrice, song of love

Beatrice's song
Anglican Theological Review, Summer 1998 by Ledbetter, Shannon

sanctus, sanctus, sanctus

weaver of spirits

lover of laughter.

Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Our earthbound time is short

and ringed with pain,

yet the inner sanctum

is threaded with silk

and flecks of gold.

Intertwined, choreographed

to connect with love.

Friday, December 15, 2006

White House blocks public discussion of its policy on Iran by former insider.

EXCLUSIVE: White House Forbids Publication Of Op-Ed On Iran By Former Bush Official

Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett, who served under President Bush on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation, revealed today that the White House has been blocking the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York Times. The column is critical of the administration’s refusal to engage Iran.

Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the CIA, where he was a senior analyst. Leverett explained, “I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’”

According to Leverett the op-ed was “all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media.” Leverett says the incident shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.”

Listen to Leverett’s remarks at a panel today at the Center for American Progress:


Thanks. I think I was able to put out some of my basic ideas on how we need to be engaging Iran diplomatically. They’re, you know, expounded on in greater length on paper. I wanted to say something briefly about the administration, and where it is.

I have been extremely pessimistic that this administration is inclined or capable of genuinely rethinking its approach to Iran in the way that we need it to at this point, and I’ve had an unfortunate experience this week that has only confirmed that for me. As I do with all of my publications, the Century Foundation paper, I showed to the CIA, for whom I used to work, to verify that I was not revealing classified information. They did so, as they have with 30 other things that I’ve published since leaving government. Didn’t ask to change a word.

I prepared an op-ed for the New York Times off of this paper, which is ready to go, ready for publication. The CIA says that as far as they’re concerned, there’s not any classified information in it. But the White House has intervened, claiming that there is classified information in the op-ed, even though it’s already been cleared. It’s all published. It’s all based on stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively reported in the media. But the White House is saying I can’t publish an op-ed in the New York Times that lays out the argument. I’ve been doing this for three and a half years since leaving government, and I’ve never had to go to the White House to get clearance for something that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah, you’re not putting classified information.’

Why this week — after the Baker study group, when pressure is on them to rethink their position on Iran — why do they not want this op-ed, based on my experiences in government, my experience dealing with Iran, with Iranian officials, after I left government? Why do they not want this op-ed going in the New York Times this week? I think it says something, and I think it says something about just how low people like Elliot Abrams at the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the administration’s policy.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Politics, love and war, by George Lakoff:what to do now?

Published on Thursday, December 14, 2006 by CommonDreams.org
Building on the Progressive Victory
by George Lakoff

As the 110th Congress prepares to take office, the post-election tug-of-war for the soul of the Democratic Party continues, with DLC folks spinning the election as a victory for centrism and others pointing to the role of economic populism.

The tug-of-war began on November 7, as Rahm Emanuel sprang to the podium in front of national TV cameras to announce a victory for centrism. Two days later fellow centrist James Carville called, unsuccessfully, for the resignation from the DNC of Howard Dean. Dean's 50-state strategy had been crucial in the Democratic victory. Carville and Emanuel are veterans of Bill Clinton's administration. They appear to want a centrist Congress and a centrist DNC in preparation for Hillary Clinton's presidential run.

The struggle to explain the election continues because it may well affect how Congressional Democrats will decide to act. Economic populism or centrism? The truth, I think, is both more complex and more interesting — and brings progressive values to center stage.

Framing has been part of the controversy. Framing has been about the deepest progressive values, ideas, and principles, future progressive policies, and the enterprise of accurately framing reality. Centrists, because of their concern with moving the party to the right, away from progressive values, have falsely framed framing itself as being mere messaging and spin.

It is time to return to accurate framing, beginning with the election itself.

The Friday night after the election, my wife and I were standing in a movie line waiting to buy tickets. A young man walked by dressed for a date and carrying a bouquet of white roses. He stopped short, looked at me for a few seconds, pulled out one white rose, and handed it to me saying, "Thank you for helping the Democrats win the election," and walked on.

I appreciated the white rose.

But there really should be thousands of white roses handed out — to the campaign workers. And a dozen for each candidate. The reason is that the new members of Congress did better than their predecessors at communicating their values to the public. Not much has been said about it, but they successfully reframed public debate and did so in the best way: they framed reality accurately.

They stopped shooting themselves in the foot, stopped accepting conservative frames, stopped listing facts and figures, and instead connected with their constituents, talked about values, said powerfully what they believed, and named what was real. That was what needed to be done on the communications front. They did it and should get credit for it. We at Rockridge appreciate your achievement, and the media and all progressives should appreciate it too. The Republicans did plenty to defeat themselves, but the Democrats had to work to win it.

Framing matters, as centrists who are trying to frame the election as a centrist win know well. Framing raises the issue of moral worldviews and overall values and principles, and they in turn raise the question of what values lie behind policy prescriptions.

Centrists, who advocate moving to the right, don't want the spotlight on moral values, because moving to the right means adopting conservative moral values. Accordingly, centrists have been trying to downplay framing as if it were merely messaging, words without substance.

Centrism or economic populism? Or neither. The future of our nation may depend on what the Democrats do. And that depends, in significant part, on why they think they won.

There was a marvelous moment on NPR right after the election: Melissa Block asking newly elected representative Heath Schuler of North Carolina, a former NFL quarterback, what it meant for him to be a Democrat, given that he opposed abortion, opposed gay marriage, and supported gun ownership. "Well, it's a reflection of my district," Schuler replied.

What makes you a Democrat, Block asked. Schuler replied that it was what his parents and grandparents taught him: "A Democrat helps people that cannot help themselves." What about fiscal responsibility? Earmarks like bridges to nowhere are irresponsible, Schuler replied; instead we should be spending money on education, social security, universal health care, preserving the environment, and renewable energy.

In short, what Schuler really cares about, what he was running on, and what he got elected on were progressive policies — even though he happened to hold some conservative positions that inoculated him in his district against charges of being "too liberal."

Schuler is what I've been referring to as a "biconceptual," someone who has progressive positions in certain areas of life and conservative positions in others. What makes Schuler a Democrat is that he identifies himself politically with the progressive values he ran on, despite having conservative positions he didn't run on.

Bob Casey happens to be a Catholic who opposes abortion rights, but every position he ran on was a progressive position. Jon Tester believes in gun ownership in Montana, but that is not what he ran on. He ran on his progressive beliefs — by the dozen. These candidates ran primarily on their progressive positions. Despite having some conservative positions, they do not run primarily on their conservative positions. It was the progressive values they ran on that have given them their mandate.

And Sherrod Brown in Ohio, a state that went to Bush in 2000 and 2004, beat a "moderate" incumbent by 11 percentage points as a clear and powerful progressive voice.

Meanwhile, Harold Ford, Jr. lost in Tennessee for many reasons, including a racist ad campaign against him. But among the reasons was the way he campaigned. He ran enthusiastically using conservative code words: personal responsibility, strong moral values, character education, pro-family, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, eliminate abortions, and so on. In short, he had Heath Shuler's positions, but unlike Shuler, he ran overtly on those positions and made a big deal of it, trying to convince good ole boy Tennesseans that he was one of them. As Shuler understood, if you really have those positions and really are part of your community in that way, you don't have to say so. As Tennesseans pointed out in interviews I saw, Ford didn't seem credible running as a good ole boy. Moreover, in the campaign footage I saw, his body language betrayed him; he didn't come across as authentic, and authenticity is the name of the game. What he was running on did not, in toto, fit any consistent moral worldview. He was trying to be too many things to too many people.

In short, the Democratic candidate who campaigned on conservative values lost; those who may have had such values, but campaigned on their progressive values, won.

Like Shuler and Casey, swing voters are biconceptuals, with both conservative and progressive worldviews in different areas of life and with both available for politics. How did these biconceptual candidates appeal to biconceptual swing voters? By taking progressive positions, and campaigning vigorously on them. How did this work? They activated the progressive values in the brains of swing voters.

Why did it work? Because swing voters, being biconceptual, already had many progressive views. A large proportion of those identifying themselves with the word "independent" or even "conservative" happen to have progressive views in many issue areas: They love the land — as much as any environmentalist, even though they wouldn't use words like "biodiversity"; many are progressive Christians who take Christianity to be about helping the poor and serving the needy; many are civil-libertarians, though they would never join the "too liberal" ACLU; and most care about their families and empathize with people in dire straights. In short, these are self-identified "conservatives" and "independents" who have very real progressive values in important areas of life.

What is a progressive worldview? It's simple: You have empathy for others, and you act responsibly on that empathy, being both responsible for yourself and socially responsible as well. Progressives say, "We're all in this together" while conservatives say," You're on your own." It was running on those progressive values that won the election for the Democrats.

The idea of "biconceptualism" — being conservative in some areas of life and progressive in others — is crucial to understanding this election. There is no such thing as a consistent overarching worldview that is "moderate" or "centrist" — a worldview that generalizes over all issue areas. So-called "moderates" or "centrists" are actually biconceptuals in different ways. Jon Tester's biconceptualism is very different from Joe Lieberman's. They are both called "moderates," but there is no single coherent doctrine that they share. Jim Webb, Rahm Emanuel, John McCain, Lincoln Chafee, Mike DeWine, and Olympia Snowe have all been called "moderates," but again there is no single set of principles that they all adhere to.

In this election, those candidates who defined themselves by arguing progressive positions activated the progressive worldview in those voters who had both worldviews available. In short, the so-called "moderate" Democrats talked to their "moderate" voters with the same morally grounded progressive arguments they used with their progressive base. They did not talk up all the progressive positions. But they talked up progressive positions they really held, positions that in most cases signal an identity as a Democrat.

What does this say about what the direction of the Democratic Party should be — and not be? It says that the Democratic Party should not be moving to the right on the positions its candidates ran on. Success as a party depends, instead, on having a clear moral vision and carrying it out. Right now, it is the progressive moral vision that has brought them electoral success and a mandate for change.

Does this mean that the Democratic Party, as a party, should endorse all progressive positions? That is something for the party to work out, and it will certainly answer no. But, the Democrats may well wind up advocating mostly progressive positions, though far from all of them.

Take the 100-hour agenda. It breaks into two parts, for the two aspects of progressive values, empathy and responsibility. The minimum wage, college loan interest, prescription drug prices, and stem cell research are all empathy issues: they are about caring about working people, young people, old people, and those with debilitating diseases. Lobbying reform, pay-as-you-go budgeting, and enacting the 9-11 Commission recommendations are all responsibility issues. What the progressives, blue dogs, and centrists can agree on are all instances of progressive values. (Rockridge Nation, the new community that the Rockridge Institute has just launched for progressives to frame the debate at www.rockridgenation.org, will feature a video in January in which I plan to discuss the 100-hour agenda and MoveOn.org's priorities in the context of a broader progressive vision.)

Neuroscientists know that there are two conditions for change in the synapses: repetition and trauma. The campaign provided the repetition through ads and campaign speeches. And three realities created traumas for the American public: Katrina and the floating bodies, Iraq and the bodies blown to bits, and the systematic financial and moral corruption represented by DeLay, Abramoff, and Foley. The new Democratic winners didn't shrink from pointing to those traumas, nor did they soft-pedal their progressive views. They created a narrative of good guys who care and bad guys who don't; good guys who use government to get things done for people and bad guys who are out to destroy government and don't get things done.

In the process they have started a new progressive populism. Not a mere economic populism, but a thoroughgoing progressive populism. It was not just about economic issues. It was also about renewable energy and global warming, about honest government, about a government to count on in case of disaster, about not getting people killed in Iraq day after day, about keeping good jobs here and creating more of them, and about the importance of science in fighting disease. In short, it was about government that cares about its citizens and acts responsibly toward them and toward others in the world. And as with a real populism, there was a handy oppressor — radical conservatives in Washington who were lying to the citizenry; taking bribes; outsourcing jobs; getting our troops killed; letting a beloved city die; and all the while getting rich on no-bid contracts. If that isn't rot at the top, I don't know what is.

The morals of the election are these:

* Progressive values-based reframing has begun to work, because it has been paired with authenticity (saying what you believe) and with framing that highlights the very real traumas affecting the nation.
* The Democrats who won Republican seats did so by running on progressive values. Swing voters, who have both sets of values, responded to their campaigns based on progressive values they authentically believed in.
* The party, as a party, therefore should not be moving to the right and adopting conservative positions, even if a number of party members happen to hold such positions. To move to the right is to give up any claim to a consistent moral vision at the heart of the party. At the same time, the party, as a party, need not, probably should not, and certainly will not adopt all progressive positions.
* The role of the progressive activists, grassroots, and netroots is to promote progressive values to biconceptuals both within and outside the Democratic party — to activate the progressive beliefs they already have and to extend them further by speaking a progressive language and using progressive values, ideas, and arguments. The goal is not just to move the Democrats in a more progressive direction, but to move Republicans and independents in that direction as well. The idea is to benefit the nation, not just the party.
* A populist progressive movement has begun and it needs to be both studied and nurtured.
* And conservative values and practices, when they lead to people getting hurt and our democracy undermined, have to be attacked overtly. The villains and their villainy have to be named. What's wrong with conservatism has to be shouted from the housetops. Bob Burnett has made a good start in a paper at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bob-burnett/killing-conservatism_b_35771.html

This election marked a progressive victory and a victory for progressive efforts at factually accurate, values-based framing. We at Rockridge celebrate the triumph of progressive ideas and values, as well as framing that accurately portrays reality. We give a special nod to Jim Webb, both for his economic positions and coming out and calling the occupation of Iraq an "occupation." We celebrate those in the media who call the civil war in Iraq what it is.

We at Rockridge are proud of our role in the recent victory for progressive values. We will, from the outside, be cheering on those on the progressive side of the internal Democratic tug-of-war. We hope that all the biconceptual Democrats — those who are Democrats because they identify with and run on their progressive values — will be pulling with us.

George Lakoff, author of Moral Politics and the bestselling Don't Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate and Thinking Points (with the Rockridge Institute staff), is Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, and a founding senior fellow at the Rockridge Institute.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Obama for President? Are you kidding? that junior senator from Illinois? With only two years experience?

Washington diary: The next president?
By Matt Frei
BBC News, Washington

One could be excused for thinking that a 45-year-old African-American with barely two years' experience in the US Senate and a name that evokes America's two most hated enemies wouldn't have an ice cream's chance in hell of winning the presidency.

But Barack Hussein Obama has proven once again that in American politics, truth is a lot stranger than fiction.

I went to the see the senator's maiden voyage to New Hampshire over the weekend, my overnight bag packed with caveats and my pen dipped in Beltway cynicism.

I came away thinking that Hillary Clinton has a huge problem on her hands.

Since New Hampshire is one of the first high-profile pit stops on the rocky road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the voters of the Granite State regard politics with the same degree of zeal, snobbery and discernment as wine buffs at a Pinot Noir tasting or poodle owners at the Crufts dog show.

They are quick to rumple their nose and curl their lip when dished up something that doesn't meet their expectations.

Money well spent

So it was nothing short of astonishing that 1,600 of them had paid $25 each on a beautiful Sunday morning to see Barack Obama at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester.

Isn't $25 how much you normally pay people to listen to a senator speak in public?

As far as I could gather from the rapturous applause and the post-mortem interviews, the harsh cognoscenti of the Granite State left the event feeling it was money well spent.

As John Distaso, the political editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader and the druid of primary politics, told me: "I have never seen anything like this... at such an early stage in the campaign."

Early is an understatement. It's more than a year before the primaries and almost two years until the presidential election.

As the governor of the state put it in his opening address: "We had booked the Rolling Stones until we realised that Barack Obama would sell more tickets!"

The junior senator from Illinois, as the cable news networks like to refer to him, lopes on stage with an elasticity that almost verges on a dance.

He deals with the hype graciously. "I am genuinely baffled," he told the adoring crowd, sounding genuine, "and so is my wife!"

There are lots of deferential references to his wife Michelle, who he met at Harvard Law School. It reminds me of the endearing way in which George used to talk about Laura.

Barack Obama also has a good line to fend off any questions about his weird name.

"When I first started to work in public life... people would ask: 'Hey brother, what's with your name? You called Alabama or Yo' Mama?'"

As for the unfortunate middle name, Hussein means "blessed" in Arabic and as the senator puts it: "The American people don't care about middle names."

Appealing picture

Assuming that the senator will become a candidate and stick around for a year or more, I am sure that his name will become campaign ad fodder.

But as we discovered in the mid-term elections, too much mud-slinging backfires and America is not cruising for a bruising but yearning for a healer.

And this is where the meat and potatoes of Senator Obama's speech comes in.

Ever since he wowed the 2004 Democratic Convention in Boston, he has been speaking about the need to overcome the bickering between Blue and Red, Democrat and Republican.

He paints a picture of America that is more complex, nuanced and appealing than the caricature that most partisan politicians and journalists like to present.

He knows all about complex. He is after all the son of a Kenyan economist who was "as black as pitch" and a woman from Kansas who is as "white as snow".

He was brought up in Hawaii and Indonesia and he became the editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

He is religious without being born again. As he likes to point out the title of his best-selling book The Audacity of Hope - number two on Amazon - is plagiarised from a sermon given by his favourite Chicago preacher.

He looks slim and healthy and yet he enjoys the occasional cigarette.

Beyond race?

In short he defies the pigeonhole.

It also struck me that on Sunday his was virtually the only black face.

The fact that someone like me can attract a crowd like this shows that this country yearns for something new and different
Barack Obama
I know that New Hampshire is a predominantly white state, but Mr Obama's campaign has moved on from the raw passion of the civil rights movement.

He mentions Martin Luther King without reminding you of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton.

Like Colin Powell, the senator from Illinois makes you forget he is any colour.

He is also clever enough not to sound condescending or to tie himself into the kind of mental pretzels that strangled John Kerry.

His inexperience in the Senate may turn out to be an asset and he has the same talent that JFK apparently had of appearing glamorous and humble at the same time.

As for the hype: "It flatters me," he told the crowd, "but it also alarms me... because it says more about America than it does about me.

"The fact that someone like me can attract a crowd like this shows that this country yearns for something new and different!"

His voice is neither shrill nor pompous.

Problem for Hillary

Yes, Hillary has the machine, the money, the pollsters and the brand recognition - but she also has the baggage.

She is the undeclared front-runner and according to history that is a dangerous position in the Democratic Party.

After all, her own husband finished third in the New Hampshire primaries before going all the way to the Oval Office.

The Senate has turned Hillary into a skilful deal-maker who rarely slips up.

But is that enough to fire up the imagination of an electorate yearning for a compelling story?

When pressed about an apparent admission in print that he had smoked marijuana, Barack Obama replied: "Yes, and I inhaled. That was the point."

Watch out, Hillary! And, I might add, watch out John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani!

Hillary's supporters are constantly coming up with reasons she can overcome her limitations. Barack's supporters wonder whether he has any.

Key questions

So, can he win? Can he raise the cash?

Can he survive the rough and tumble of the campaign and the tough questions?

Will the colour of his skin not count against him? Can he be convincing about security in the middle of an ongoing war?

Can he survive the fickle adulation of the media?

If the answer to all the above is yes, Barack Hussein Obama will be the 44th president of the United States... as strange as that may sound.

Send us your comments in reaction to Matt Frei's Washington diary using the link below:

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2006/12/13 11:49:30 GMT


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

2nd Pastor resigns over gay sex scandal. AP

2nd pastor resigns over gay sex scandal

Mon Dec 11, 2:51 PM ET

The founding pastor of a second Colorado church has resigned over gay sex allegations, just weeks after the evangelical community was shaken by the scandal surrounding megachurch leader Ted Haggard.

Haggard, a gay-marriage opponent, admitted to unspecified "sexual immorality" when he resigned last month as president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs. A male prostitute had said he had had sex with Haggard for three years.

On Sunday, Paul Barnes, founding pastor of the 2,100-member Grace Chapel in this Denver suburb, told his evangelical congregation in a videotaped message he had had sexual relations with other men and was stepping down.

Dave Palmer, associate pastor of Grace Chapel, told The Denver Post that Barnes confessed to him after the church received a call last week.

The church board of elders accepted Barnes' resignation on Thursday.

On the videotape, which The Post was allowed to view, Barnes told church members: "I have struggled with homosexuality since I was a 5-year-old boy. ... I can't tell you the number of nights I have cried myself to sleep, begging God to take this away."

Barnes, 54, led Grace Chapel for 28 years. He and his wife have two adult children.

Palmer said in a written statement that "While we cannot condone what he has done, we continue to support and love Paul."

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Saturday, December 09, 2006

yes, women need 100 words for every 10 men use.


Frmale brains are wired for gossip, interview with woman professor of Neuropsychiatry., a lesson in gender differences.

December 10, 2006
Questions for Dr. Louann Brizendine
He Thought, She Thought

Q: As a professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, you've drawn some strange conclusions about "The Female Brain," to borrow the title of your debut book, which argues that a woman's brain structure explains a good deal of her behavior, including a penchant for gossiping and talking on the phone.

The hormone of intimacy is oxytocin, and when women talk to each other, they get a rush of it. For teen girls especially, when they’re talking about who’s hooking up with whom, who's not talking to whom, who you like and don't like — that's bedrock, that excites the girl's brain.

You make it sound as if female friendship and affection is just a search for oxytocin.

Sixth-grade teachers will tell you that girls get up and go to the bathroom together; girls say they have to go at the same time. They need to go off and intimately exchange the important currency of their day, which increases their oxytocin and dopamine levels.

Your book cites a study claiming that women use about 20,000 words a day, while men use about 7,000.

The real phraseology of that should have been that a woman has many more communication events a day — gestures, words, raising of your eyebrows.

Are you concerned that you are rehabilitating outdated gender stereotypes that portray women as chatterboxes ruled by female hormones?

A stereotype always has an aspect of truth to it, or it wouldn’t be a stereotype. I am talking about the biological basis behind behaviors that we all know about.

Were there any research findings you were reluctant to include in your book because they could be used to bolster sexist thinking?

Any of this could be taken badly. I worried, for instance, that stuff about pregnancy and the mommy brain could be taken to mean that mothers shouldn’t go to work. The brain shrinks 8 percent during pregnancy and does not return to its former size until six months postpartum.

How big is the average male brain?

It’s about the size of a cantaloupe. It’s 9 to 10 percent larger than the female brain.

But the size of one’s brain is unrelated to one’s level of intelligence, right?

Yes. Remember, the female brain has more connections between the two hemispheres, and we have 11 percent more brain cells in the area of the brain called the planum temporale, which has to do with perceiving and processing language.

If women have superior verbal skills, why have they been subservient to men in almost all societies?

Because of pregnancy.
Before birth control, in the 1700s and 1800s, middle-class women were pregnant between 17 and 22 times in their lifetimes. All these eons upon eons, while Socrates and all these guys were sitting around thinking up solutions to problems, women were feeding hungry mouths and wiping smelly behinds.

And yet all human brains begin as female. Or so you claim in your book.

All brains start out with female-type brain circuits until eight weeks of fetal life, when the tiny testicles start to pump out adult-male levels of testosterone that travel in the bloodstream up to the brain. You have to grow all of the basic sex-specific circuitry in the male brain before birth, because that’s when the entire road map is laid down.

Although your book draws heavily on other scientists’ research, you don’t do any clinical research yourself. Isn’t that a drawback?

No. I don’t like doing clinical research because of placebos. In a “double-blind placebo-controlled study,” as they are called, neither the doctor nor the patient knows what the patient is taking. I don’t want to give patients a placebo. It’s cruel.

Not in the long term. How are scientists supposed to find a cure for cancer and more generally advance medicine if no one does controlled tests?

I am glad someone does it, but I’d rather help each female brain that walks into my clinic walk out in better shape.

Paschal: My forty years of clinical experience (about 45,000 hours of listening to relationship problems) affirms that women have better and a wider range of verbal skills, they are also more intuitive about others (not always right, however), and they connect more easily with other women, than men connect with other men. An example is restroom conversation when women all talk to one another and men never talk to one another in that setting.
Unfortunately in marriage, some wives expect their husbands to develop these skills for intimate conversation, and when they do not and do not understand what their wives are asking and expecting, the wives are ready to leave the dumfounded husband.
Lexington, December 9,2006.

Friday, December 08, 2006

John Lennon vs the U.S.A.

ohn Lennon's Legacy
Jon Wiener

On the anniversary of John Lennon's murder (Dec. 8, 1980), I've been thinking about his famous argument with Gloria Emerson in December, 1969 – filmed by the BBC, and included in the recent documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon.

Emerson was a celebrated war correspondent for the New York Times who had just returned from the bloody battlefields of Vietnam; Lennon had just written "Give Peace a Chance" after he and Yoko declared their honeymoon a "bed-in for peace"--they had stayed in bed for a week, "in protest against all the violence in the world."

Emerson told him in her haughty upper class voice, "You've made yourself ridiculous!"

"I don't care," Lennon replied, "if it saves lives."

"My dear boy," she said, "you're living in a nether-nether land. . . . You don't think you've saved a single life!"

"You tell me what they were singing at the Moratorium," Lennon shot back – he was referring to the biggest anti-war demonstration in American history, which had been held in Washington DC a month earlier.

Emerson wasn't sure what he was talking about: "Which one?"

"The recent big one," Lennon explained. "They were singing "Give peace a chance."

"A song of yours, probably."

"Well, yes, and it was written specifically for them."

"So they sang one of your songs," she said with some irritation. "Is that all you can say?"

Now he was angry. "They were singing a happy-go-lucky song, which happens to be one I wrote. I'm glad they sang it. And when I get there, I'll sing it with them."

The film presents the exchange as an example of the mainstream media's relentless hostility to Lennon's peace activism, and celebrates his put-down of Emerson. But 37 years later, it's worth reconsidering Emerson's question: did "Give Peace a Chance" save a single life? Did the anti-war protest of 1969, or any other year, save any lives?

Of course the Vietnam war didn't end in 1969, even though Nixon had been elected the previous year after declaring he had a secret plan for peace. The Paris Peace Talks were already underway, but the American war didn't end for another four years – during which 20,000 Americans were killed, along with more than half a million Vietnamese and Cambodians.

You might ask Gloria Emerson's question about the anti-war demonstrations on the eve of the Iraq war, in New York, Los Angeles, London, Rome, and elsewhere. They were the biggest anti-war demonstrations in world history, but Bush invaded Iraq the next month anyway, and as of Dec. 8, 3,000 Americans have been killed there, and perhaps 650,000 Iraqis, according to the Johns Hopkins study published in The Lancet. Did those demonstrations in 2003 save a single life?

Maybe not, or at least not yet. Stopping a war takes a long time. But apathy in the face of an unjust war is simply unacceptable. As Rebecca Solnit argues in Hope in the Dark, you have to keep trying to win people over, because you can never be sure the forces of darkness will triumph, and because the most impossible things sometimes happen.

Lennon did come to the US, and eagerly embraced the steady work of anti-war persuasion and organizing. "Our job now is to tell them there still is hope," Lennon said at an anti-war rally in Michigan in 1971. "We must get them excited about what we can do again." It was hard to see it in 1969, but eventually the US did end its war in Vietnam. And today the people who were singing "Give Peace a Chance" in 1969 can be glad they sang it.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Message To West Point
by Bill Moyers

This is an excerpt from the Sol Feinstone Lecture on The Meaning of Freedom delivered by Bill Moyers at the United States Military Academy on November 15, 2006.

Many of you will be heading for Iraq. I have never been a soldier myself, never been tested under fire, never faced hard choices between duty and feeling, or duty and conscience, under deadly circumstances. I will never know if I have the courage to be shot at, or to shoot back, or the discipline to do my duty knowing the people who dispatched me to kill—or be killed—had no idea of the moral abyss into which they were plunging me.

I have tried to learn about war from those who know it best: veterans, the real experts. But they have been such reluctant reporters of the experience. My father-in-law, Joe Davidson, was 37 years old with two young daughters when war came in 1941; he enlisted and served in the Pacific but I never succeeded in getting him to describe what it was like to be in harm’s way. My uncle came home from the Pacific after his ship had been sunk, taking many friends down with it, and he would look away and change the subject when I asked him about it. One of my dearest friends, who died this year at 90, returned from combat in Europe as if he had taken a vow of silence about the dark and terrifying things that came home with him, uninvited.

Curious about this, some years ago I produced for PBS a documentary called “D-Day to the Rhine.” With a camera crew I accompanied several veterans of World War II who for the first time were returning together to the path of combat that carried them from the landing at Normandy in 1944 into the heart of Germany. Members of their families were along this time—wives, grown sons and daughters—and they told me that until now, on this trip—45 years after D-Day—their husbands and fathers rarely talked about their combat experiences. They had come home, locked their memories in their mind’s attic, and hung a “no trespassing” sign on it. Even as they retraced their steps almost half a century later, I would find these aging GIs, standing alone and silent on the very spot where a buddy had been killed, or they themselves had killed, or where they had been taken prisoner, a German soldier standing over them with a Mauser pointed right between their eyes, saying: “For you, the war is over.” As they tried to tell the story, the words choked in their throats. The stench, the vomit, the blood, the fear: What outsider—journalist or kin—could imagine the demons still at war in their heads?

What I remember most vividly from that trip is the opening scene of the film: Jose Lopez— the father of two, who had lied about his age to get into the Army (he was too old), went ashore at Normandy, fought his way across France and Belgium with a water-cooled machine gun, rose to the rank of sergeant, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor after single-handedly killing 100 German troops in the Battle of the Bulge—Jose Lopez, back on Omaha Beach at age 79, quietly saying to me: “I was really very, very afraid. That I want to scream. I want to cry and we see other people was laying wounded and screaming and everything and it’s nothing you could do. We could see them groaning in the water and we keep walking”—and then, moving away from the camera, dropping to his knees, his hands clasped, his eyes wet, as it all came back, memories so excruciating there were no words for them.

The Poetry Of War

Over the year I turned to the poets for help in understanding the realities of war; it is from the poets we outsiders most often learn what you soldiers experience. I admired your former superintendent, General William Lennox, who held a doctorate in literature and taught poetry classes here because, he said, “poetry is a great vehicle to teach cadets as much as anyone can what combat is like.” So it is. From the opening lines of the Iliad:

Rage, Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus’ Son Achilles…hurling down to the House of Death so many souls, great fighters’ souls, but made their bodies carrion for the dogs and birds….

to Wilfred Owen’s pained cry from the trenches of France:

I am the enemy you killed, my friend…

to W. D. Ehrhart’s staccato recitation of the

Barely tolerable conglomeration of mud, heat, sweat, dirt, rain, pain, fear…we march grinding under the weight of heavy packs, feet dialed to the ground…we wonder…

Poets with their empathy and evocation open to bystanders what lies buried in the soldier’s soul. Those of you soon to be leading others in combat may wish to take a metaphorical detour to the Hindenburg Line of World War I, where the officer and poet Wilfred Owen, a man of extraordinary courage who was killed a week before the Armistice, wrote: “I came out in order to help these boys—directly by leading them as well as an officer can; indirectly, by watching their sufferings that I may speak of them as well as a pleader can.”

People in power should be required to take classes in the poetry of war. As a presidential assistant during the early escalation of the war in Vietnam, I remember how the President blanched when the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it would take one million fighting men and 10 years really to win in Vietnam, but even then the talk of war was about policy, strategy, numbers and budgets, not severed limbs and eviscerated bodies.

That experience, and the experience 40 years later of watching another White House go to war, also relying on inadequate intelligence, exaggerated claims and premature judgments, keeping Congress in the dark while wooing a gullible press, cheered on by partisans, pundits, and editorial writers safely divorced from realities on the ground, ended any tolerance I might have had for those who advocate war from the loftiness of the pulpit, the safety of a laptop, the comfort of a think tank, or the glamour of a television studio. Watching one day on C-Span as one member of Congress after another took to the floor to praise our troops in Iraq, I was reminded that I could only name three members of Congress who have a son or daughter in the military. How often we hear the most vigorous argument for war from those who count on others of valor to fight it. As General William Tecumseh Sherman said after the Civil War: “It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.”

Remembering Emily Perez

Rupert Murdoch comes to mind—only because he was in the news last week talking about Iraq. In the months leading up to the invasion Murdoch turned the dogs of war loose in the corridors of his media empire, and they howled for blood, although not their own. Murdoch himself said, just weeks before the invasion, that: “The greatest thing to come of this to the world economy, if you could put it that way [as you can, if you are a media mogul], would be $20 a barrel for oil.” Once the war is behind us, Rupert Murdoch said: “The whole world will benefit from cheaper oil which will be a bigger stimulus than anything else.”

Today Murdoch says he has no regrets, that he still believes it was right “to go in there,” and that “from a historical perspective” the U.S. death toll in Iraq was “minute.”


The word richoted in my head when I heard it. I had just been reading about Emily Perez. Your Emily Perez: Second Lieutenant Perez, the first woman of color to become a command sergeant major in the history of the Academy, and the first woman graduate to die in Iraq. I had been in Washington when word of her death made the news, and because she had lived there before coming to West Point, the Washington press told us a lot about her. People remembered her as “a little superwoman”—straight A’s, choir member, charismatic, optimistic, a friend to so many; she had joined the medical service because she wanted to help people. The obituary in the Washington Post said she had been a ball of fire at the Peace Baptist Church, where she helped start an HIV-AIDS ministry after some of her own family members contracted the virus. Now accounts of her funeral here at West Point were reporting that some of you wept as you contemplated the loss of so vibrant an officer.

“Minute?” I don’t think so. Historical perspective or no. So when I arrived today I asked the Academy’s historian, Steve Grove, to take me where Emily Perez is buried, in Section 36 of your cemetery, below Storm King Mountain, overlooking the Hudson River. Standing there, on sacred American soil hallowed all the more by the likes of Lieutenant Perez so recently returned, I thought that to describe their loss as “minute”—even from a historical perspective—is to underscore the great divide that has opened in America between those who advocate war while avoiding it and those who have the courage to fight it without ever knowing what it’s all about.

We were warned of this by our founders. They had put themselves in jeopardy by signing the Declaration of Independence; if they had lost, that parchment could have been their death warrant, for they were traitors to the Crown and likely to be hanged. In the fight for freedom they had put themselves on the line—not just their fortunes and sacred honor but their very persons, their lives. After the war, forming a government and understanding both the nature of war and human nature, they determined to make it hard to go to war except to defend freedom; war for reasons save preserving the lives and liberty of your citizens should be made difficult to achieve, they argued. Here is John Jay’s passage in Federalist No. 4:

It is too true, however disgraceful it may be to human nature, that nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it; nay, absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people.

And here, a few years later, is James Madison, perhaps the most deliberative mind of that generation in assaying the dangers of an unfettered executive prone to war:

In war, a physical force is to be created, and it is the executive will which is to direct it. In war, the public treasures are to be unlocked, and it is the executive hand which is to dispense them. In war, the honors and emoluments of office are to be multiplied; and it is the executive patronage under which they are to be enjoyed. It is in war, finally, that laurels are to be gathered; and it is the executive brow they are to encircle. The strongest passions and most dangerous weaknesses of the human breast; ambition, avarice, vanity, the honorable or venial love of fame, are all in conspiracy against the desire and duty of peace.

I want to be clear on this: Vietnam did not make me a dove. Nor has Iraq; I am no pacifist. But they have made me study the Constitution more rigorously, both as journalist and citizen. Again, James Madison:

In no part of the Constitution is more wisdom to be found, than in the clause which confides the question of war and peace to the legislature, and not to the executive department. Beside the objection to such a mixture to heterogeneous powers, the trust and the temptation would be too great for any one man.

Twice in 40 years we have now gone to war paying only lip service to those warnings; the first war we lost, the second is a bloody debacle, and both rank among the great blunders in our history. It is impossible for soldiers to sustain in the field what cannot be justified in the Constitution; asking them to do so puts America at war with itself. So when the Vice President of the United States says it doesn’t matter what the people think, he and the President intend to prosecute the war anyway, he is committing heresy against the fundamental tenets of the American political order.

An Army Born In Revolution

This is a tough subject to address when so many of you may be heading for Iraq. I would prefer to speak of sweeter things. But I also know that 20 or 30 years from now any one of you may be the Chief of Staff or the National Security Adviser or even the President—after all, two of your boys, Grant and Eisenhower, did make it from West Point to the White House. And that being the case, it’s more important than ever that citizens and soldiers—and citizen-soldiers—honestly discuss and frankly consider the kind of country you are serving and the kind of organization to which you are dedicating your lives. You are, after all, the heirs of an army born in the American Revolution, whose radicalism we consistently underestimate.

No one understood this radicalism—no one in uniform did more to help us define freedom in a profoundly American way—than the man whose monument here at West Point I also asked to visit today—Thaddeus Kosciuszko. I first became intrigued by him over 40 years ago when I arrived in Washington. Lafayette Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House, hosts several statues of military heroes who came to fight for our independence in the American Revolution. For seven years, either looking down on these figures from my office at the Peace Corps, or walking across Lafayette Park to my office in the White House, I was reminded of these men who came voluntarily to fight for American independence from the monarchy. The most compelling, for me, was the depiction of Kosciuszko. On one side of the statue he is directing a soldier back to the battlefield, and on the other side, wearing an American uniform, he is freeing a bound soldier, representing America’s revolutionaries.

Kosciuszko had been born in Lithuania-Poland, where he was trained as an engineer and artillery officer. Arriving in the 13 colonies in 1776, he broke down in tears when he read the Declaration of Independence. The next year, he helped engineer the Battle of Saratoga, organizing the river and land fortifications that put Americans in the stronger position. George Washington then commissioned him to build the original fortifications for West Point. Since his monument dominates the point here at the Academy, this part of the story you must know well.

But what many don’t realize about Kosciuszko is the depth of his commitment to republican ideals and human equality. One historian called him “a mystical visionary of human rights.” Thomas Jefferson wrote that Kosciuszko was “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” That phrase of Jefferson’s is often quoted, but if you read the actual letter, Jefferson goes on to say: “And of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few and the rich alone.”

There is the clue to the meaning of freedom as Thaddeus Kosciuszko saw it.

After the American Revolution, he returned to his homeland, what was then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1791 the Poles adopted their celebrated May Constitution—Europe’s first codified national constitution (and the second oldest in the world, after our own.) The May Constitution established political equality between the middle class and the nobility and also partially abolished serfdom by giving civil rights to the peasants, including the right to state protection from landlord abuses. The autocrats and nobles of Russia feared such reforms, and in 1794, when the Russians sought to prevent their spread by partitioning the Commonwealth, Kosciuszko led an insurrection. His untrained peasant forces were armed mostly with single-blade sickles, but they won several early battles in fierce hand-to-hand fighting, until they were finally overwhelmed. Badly injured, Kosciuszko was taken prisoner and held for two years in St. Petersburg, and that was the end of the Polish Commonwealth, which had stood, by the way, as one of Europe’s leading centers of religious liberty.

Upon his release from prison, Kosciuszko came back to the United States and began a lasting friendship with Jefferson, who called him his “most intimate and beloved friend.” In 1798, he wrote a will leaving his American estate to Jefferson, urging him to use it to purchase the freedom and education of his [Jefferson’s] own slaves, or, as Jefferson interpreted it, of “as many of the children as bondage in this country as it should be adequate to.” For this émigré, as for so many who would come later, the meaning of freedom included a passion for universal justice. In his Act of Insurrection at the outset of the 1794 uprising, Kosciuszko wrote of the people’s “sacred rights to liberty, personal security and property.” Note the term property here. For Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” Kosciuszko substituted Locke’s notion of property rights. But it’s not what you think: The goal was not simply to protect “private property” from public interference (as it is taught today), but rather to secure productive property for all as a right to citizenship. It’s easy to forget the difference when huge agglomerations of personal wealth are defended as a sacred right of liberty, as they are today with the gap between the rich and poor in America greater than it’s been in almost one hundred years. Kosciuszko—General Kosciuszko, from tip to toe a military man—was talking about investing the people with productive resources. Yes, freedom had to be won on the battlefield, but if freedom did not lead to political, social and economic opportunity for all citizens, freedom’s meaning could not be truly realized.

Think about it: A Polish general from the old world, infusing the new nation with what would become the marrow of the American Dream. Small wonder that Kosciuszko was often called a “hero of two worlds” or that just 25 years ago, in 1981, when Polish farmers, supported by the Roman Catholic Church, won the right to form an independent union, sending shockwaves across the Communist empire, Kosciuszko’s name was heard in the victory speeches—his egalitarian soul present at yet another revolution for human freedom and equal rights.

After Jefferson won the presidency in l800, Kosciuszko wrote him a touching letter advising him to be true to his principles: “do not forget in your post be always a virtuous Republican with justice and probity, without pomp and ambition—in a word be Jefferson and my friend.” Two years later, Jefferson signed into being this professional officers school, on the site first laid out as a fortress by his friend, the general from Poland.

A Paradox Of Liberty

Every turn in American history confronts us with paradox, and this one is no exception. Here was Jefferson, known for his vigorous and eloquent opposition to professional armies, presiding over the establishment of West Point. It’s a paradox that suits you cadets to a T, because you yourselves represent a paradox of liberty. You are free men and women who of your own free choice have joined an institution dedicated to protecting a free nation, but in the process you have voluntarily agreed to give up, for a specific time, a part of your own liberty. An army is not a debating society and neither in the field or in headquarters does it ask for a show of hands on whether orders should be obeyed. That is undoubtedly a necessary idea, but for you it complicates the already tricky question of “the meaning of freedom.”

I said earlier that our founders did not want the power of war to reside in a single man. Many were also dubious about having any kind of regular, or as they called it, “standing” army at all. Standing armies were hired supporters of absolute monarchs and imperial tyrants. The men drafting the Constitution were steeped in classical and historical learning. They recalled how Caesar in ancient times and Oliver Cromwell in more recent times had used the conquering armies they had led to make themselves dictators. They knew how the Roman legions had made and unmade emperors, and how Ottoman rulers of the Turkish Empire had supported their tyrannies on the shoulders of formidable elite warriors. Wherever they looked in history, they saw an alliance between enemies of freedom in palaces and in officer corps drawn from the ranks of nobility, bound by a warrior code that stressed honor and bravery—but also dedication to the sovereign and the sovereign’s god, and distrust amounting to contempt for the ordinary run of the sovereign’s subjects.

The colonial experience with British regulars, first as allies in the French and Indian Wars, and then as enemies, did not increase American respect for the old system of military leadership. Officers were chosen and promoted on the basis of aristocratic connections, commissions were bought, and ineptitude was too often tolerated. The lower ranks were often rootless alumni of jails and workhouses, lured or coerced into service by the paltry pay and chance of adventure—brutally hard types, kept in line by brutally harsh discipline.

Not exactly your model for the army of a republic of free citizens.

What the framers came up with was another novelty. The first battles of the Revolution were fought mainly by volunteer militia from the states, such as Vermont’s Green Mountain Boys, the most famous militia then. They were gung-ho for revolution and flushed with a fighting spirit. But in the end they were no substitute for the better-trained regiments of the Continental line and the French regulars sent over by France’s king after the alliance of 1778. The view nonetheless persisted that in times of peace, only a small permanent army would be needed to repel invasions—unlikely except from Canada—and deal with the frontier Indians. When and if a real crisis came, it was believed, volunteers would flock to the colors like the armed men of Greek mythology who sprang from dragon’s teeth planted in the ground by a divinely approved hero. The real safety of the nation in any hour of crisis would rest with men who spent most of their working lives behind the plow or in the workshop. And this was long before the huge conscript armies of the 19th and 20th centuries made that a commonplace fact.

And who would be in the top command of both that regular force and of volunteer forces when actually called into federal service? None other than the top elected civil official of the government, the President. Think about that for a moment. The professional army fought hard and long to create a system of selecting and keeping officers on the basis of proven competence, not popularity. But the highest commander of all served strictly at the pleasure of the people and had to submit his contract for renewal every four years.

And what of the need for trained and expert leadership at all the levels of command which quickly became apparent as the tools and tactics of warfare grew more sophisticated in a modernizing world? That’s where West Point came in, filling a need that could no longer be ignored. But what a special military academy it was! We tend to forget that the West Point curriculum was heavily tilted toward engineering; in fact, it was one of the nation’s first engineering colleges and it was publicly supported and free. That’s what made it attractive to young men like Hiram Ulysses Grant, familiarly known as “Sam,” who wasn’t anxious to be a soldier but wanted to get somewhere more promising than his father’s Ohio farm. Hundreds like Grant came to West Point and left to use their civil engineering skills in a country badly needing them, some in civil life after serving out an enlistment, but many right there in uniform. It was the army that explored, mapped and surveyed the wagon and railroad routes to the west, starting with the Corps of Exploration under Lewis and Clark sent out by the protean Mr. Jefferson. It was the army that had a hand in clearing rivers of snags and brush and building dams that allowed steamboats to avoid rapids. It was the army that put up lighthouses in the harbors and whose exhaustive geologic and topographic surveys were important contributions to publicly supported scientific research—AND to economic development—in the young republic.

All of this would surely have pleased General Kosciuszko, who believed in a society that leaves no one out. Indeed, add all these facts together and what you come up with is a portrait of something new under the sun—a peacetime army working directly with and for the civil society in improving the nation so as to guarantee the greater opportunities for individual success inherent in the promise of democracy. And a wartime army in which temporary citizen-solders were and still are led by long-term professional citizen-soldiers who were molded out of the same clay as those they command. And all of them led from the top by the one political figure chosen by the entire national electorate. This arrangement—this bargain between the men with the guns and the citizens who provide the guns—is the heritage passed on to you by the revolutionaries who fought and won America’s independence and then swore fidelity to a civil compact that survives today, despite tumultuous moments and perilous passages.

West Point's Importance

Once again we encounter a paradox: Not all our wars were on the side of freedom. The first that seriously engaged the alumni of West Point was the Mexican War, which was not a war to protect our freedoms but to grab land—facts are facts—and was not only bitterly criticized by part of the civilian population, but even looked on with skepticism by some graduates like Grant himself. Still, he not only fought well in it, but it was for him, as well as for most of the generals on both sides in the impending Civil War, an unequalled training school and rehearsal stage.

When the Civil War itself came, it offered an illustration of how the meaning of freedom isn’t always easy to pin down. From the point of view of the North, the hundreds of Southern West Pointers who resigned to fight for the Confederacy—Robert E. Lee included—were turning against the people’s government that had educated and supported them. They were traitors. But from the Southern point of view, they were fighting for the freedom of their local governments to leave the Union when, as they saw it, it threatened their way of life. Their way of life tragically included the right to hold other men in slavery.

The Civil War, nonetheless, confirmed the importance of West Point training. European military observers were amazed at the skill with which the better generals on both sides, meaning for the most part West Pointers and not political appointees, maneuvered huge armies of men over vast areas of difficult terrain, used modern technologies like the railroad and the telegraph to coordinate movements and accumulate supplies, and made the best use of newly developed weapons. The North had more of these advantages, and when the final victory came, adulation and admiration were showered on Grant and Sherman, who had come to a realistic and unromantic understanding of modern war, precisely because they had not been steeped in the mythologies of a warrior caste. Their triumph was seen as vindication of how well the army of a democracy could work. Just as Lincoln, the self-educated rail-splitter, had provided a civilian leadership that also proved him the equal of any potentate on the globe.

After 1865 the army shrank as its chief engagement was now in wiping out the last vestiges of Indian resistance to their dispossession and subjugation: One people’s advance became another’s annihilation and one of the most shameful episodes of our history. In 1898 the army was briefly used for the first effort in exporting democracy—an idea that does not travel well in military transports—when it warred with Spain to help the Cubans complete a war for independence that had been in progress for three years. The Cubans found their liberation somewhat illusory, however, when the United States made the island a virtual protectorate and allowed it to be ruled by a corrupt dictator.

Americans also lifted the yoke of Spain from the Filipinos, only to learn that they did not want to exchange it for one stamped ‘Made in the USA.’ It took a three-year war, during which the army killed several thousand so-called “insurgents” before their leader was captured and the Filipinos were cured of the illusion that independence meant…well, independence. I bring up these reminders not to defame the troops. Their actions were supported by a majority of the American people even in a progressive phase of our political history (though there was some principled and stiff opposition.) Nonetheless, we have to remind ourselves that the armed forces can’t be expected to be morally much better than the people who send them into action, and that when honorable behavior comes into conflict with racism, honor is usually the loser unless people such as yourself fight to maintain it.

Our brief participation in the First World War temporarily expanded the army, helped by a draft that had also proven necessary in the Civil War. But rapid demobilization was followed by a long period of ever-shrinking military budgets, especially for the land forces.

Not until World War II did the Army again take part in such a long, bloody, and fateful conflict as the Civil War had been, and like the Civil War it opened an entirely new period in American history. The incredibly gigantic mobilization of the entire nation, the victory it produced, and the ensuing 60 years of wars, quasi-wars, mini-wars, secret wars, and a virtually permanent crisis created a superpower and forever changed the nation’s relationship to its armed forces, confronting us with problems we have to address, no matter how unsettling it may be to do so in the midst of yet another war.

The Bargain

The Armed Services are no longer stepchildren in budgetary terms. Appropriations for defense and defense-related activities (like veterans’ care, pensions, and debt service) remind us that the costs of war continue long after the fighting ends. Objections to ever-swelling defensive expenditures are, except in rare cases, a greased slide to political suicide. It should be troublesome to you as professional soldiers that elevation to the pantheon of untouchable icons —right there alongside motherhood, apple pie and the flag—permits a great deal of political lip service to replace genuine efforts to improve the lives and working conditions—in combat and out—of those who serve.

Let me cut closer to the bone. The chickenhawks in Washington, who at this very moment are busily defending you against supposed “insults” or betrayals by the opponents of the war in Iraq, are likewise those who have cut budgets for medical and psychiatric care; who have been so skimpy and late with pay and with provision of necessities that military families in the United States have had to apply for food stamps; who sent the men and women whom you may soon be commanding into Iraq understrength, underequipped, and unprepared for dealing with a kind of war fought in streets and homes full of civilians against enemies undistinguishable from non-combatants; who have time and again broken promises to the civilian National Guardsmen bearing much of the burden by canceling their redeployment orders and extending their tours.

You may or may not agree on the justice and necessity of the war itself, but I hope that you will agree that flattery and adulation are no substitute for genuine support. Much of the money that could be directed to that support has gone into high-tech weapons systems that were supposed to produce a new, mobile, compact “professional” army that could easily defeat the armies of any other two nations combined, but is useless in a war against nationalist or religious guerrilla uprisings that, like it or not, have some support, coerced or otherwise, among the local population. We learned this lesson in Vietnam, only to see it forgotten or ignored by the time this administration invaded Iraq, creating the conditions for a savage sectarian and civil war with our soldiers trapped in the middle, unable to discern civilian from combatant, where it is impossible to kill your enemy faster than rage makes new ones.

And who has been the real beneficiary of creating this high-tech army called to fight a war conceived and commissioned and cheered on by politicians and pundits not one of whom ever entered a combat zone? One of your boys answered that: Dwight Eisenhower, class of 1915, who told us that the real winners of the anything at any price philosophy would be “the military-industrial complex.”

I want to contend that the American military systems that evolved in the early days of this republic rested on a bargain between the civilian authorities and the armed services, and that the army has, for the most part, kept its part of the bargain and that, at this moment, the civilian authorities whom you loyally obey, are shirking theirs. And before you assume that I am calling for an insurrection against the civilian deciders of your destinies, hear me out, for that is the last thing on my mind.

You have kept your end of the bargain by fighting well when called upon, by refusing to become a praetorian guard for a reigning administration at any time, and for respecting civil control at all times. For the most part, our military leaders have made no serious efforts to meddle in politics. The two most notable cases were General George McClellan, who endorsed a pro-Southern and pro-slavery policy in the first year of the war and was openly contemptuous of Lincoln. But Lincoln fired him in 1862, and when McClellan ran for President two years later, the voting public handed him his hat. Douglas MacArthur’s attempt to dictate his own China policy in 1951 ran head-on into the resolve of Harry Truman, who, surviving a firestorm of hostility, happily watched a MacArthur boomlet for the Republican nomination for the Presidency fizzle out in 1952.

On the other side of the ledger, however, I believe that the bargain has not been kept. The last time Congress declared war was in 1941. Since then presidents of the United States, including the one I served, have gotten Congress, occasionally under demonstrably false pretenses, to suspend Constitutional provisions that required them to get the consent of the people’s representatives in order to conduct a war. They have been handed a blank check to send the armed forces into action at their personal discretion and on dubious Constitutional grounds.

Furthermore, the current President has made extra-Constitutional claims of authority by repeatedly acting as if he were Commander-in-Chief of the entire nation and not merely of the armed forces. Most dangerously to our moral honor and to your own welfare in the event of capture, he has likewise ordered the armed forces to violate clear mandates of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Conventions by claiming a right to interpret them at his pleasure, so as to allow indefinite and secret detentions and torture. These claims contravene a basic principle usually made clear to recruits from their first day in service—that they may not obey an unlawful order. The President is attempting to have them violate that longstanding rule by personal definitions of what the law says and means.

There is yet another way the chickenhawks are failing you. In the October issue of the magazine of the California Nurses Association, you can read a long report on “The Battle at Home.” In veterans’ hospitals across the country—and in a growing number of ill-prepared, under-funded psych and primary care clinics as well—the report says that nurses “have witnessed the guilt, rage, emotional numbness, and tormented flashbacks of GIs just back from Iraq.” Yet “a returning vet must wait an average of 165 days for a VA decision on initial disability benefits,” and an appeal can take up to three years. Just in the first quarter of this year, the VA treated 20,638 Iraq veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder, and faces a backlog of 400,000 cases. This is reprehensible.

I repeat: These are not palatable topics for soldiers about to go to war; I would like to speak of sweeter things. But freedom means we must face reality: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Free enough, surely, to think for yourselves about these breaches of contract that crudely undercut the traditions of an army of free men and women who have bound themselves voluntarily to serve the nation even unto death.

The Voice Of Conscience

What, then, can you do about it if disobedience to the chain of command is ruled out?

For one, you didn’t give up your freedom to vote, nor did you totally quit your membership in civil society, when you put on the uniform, even though, as Eisenhower said, you did accept “certain inhibitions” at the time. He said that when questioned about MacArthur’s dismissal, and he made sure his own uniform was back in the trunk before his campaign in 1952. It has been most encouraging, by the way, to see veterans of Iraq on the campaign trail in our recent elections.

Second, remember that there are limitations to what military power can do. Despite the valor and skills of our fighting forces, some objectives are not obtainable at a human, diplomatic, and financial cost that is acceptable. Our casualties in Iraq are not “minute” and the cost of the war has been projected by some sources to reach $2 trillion dollars. Sometimes, in the real world, a truce is the most honorable solution to conflict. Dwight Eisenhower—who is a candidate for my favorite West Point graduate of the 20th century—knew that when, in 1953, he went to Korea and accepted a stalemate rather than carrying out his bluff of using nuclear weapons. That was the best that could be done and it saved more years of stalemate and casualties. Douglas MacArthur announced in 1951 that “there was no substitute for victory.” But in the wars of the 21st century there are alternative meanings to victory and alternative ways to achieve them. Especially in tracking down and eliminating terrorists, we need to change our metaphor from a “war on terror”—what, pray tell, exactly is that?—to the mindset of Interpol tracking down master criminals through intense global cooperation among nations, or the FBI stalking the Mafia, or local police determined to quell street gangs without leveling the entire neighborhood in the process. Help us to think beyond a “war on terror”—which politicians could wage without end, with no measurable way to judge its effectiveness, against stateless enemies who hope we will destroy the neighborhood, creating recruits for their side—to counter-terrorism modeled on extraordinary police work.

Third, don’t let your natural and commendable loyalty to comrades-in-arms lead you into thinking that criticism of the mission you are on spells lack of patriotism. Not every politician who flatters you is your ally. Not every one who believes that war is the wrong choice to some problems is your enemy. Blind faith in bad leadership is not patriotism. In the words of G.K. Chesterton: “To say my country right or wrong is something no patriot would utter except in dire circumstance; it is like saying my mother drunk or sober.” Patriotism means insisting on our political leaders being sober, strong, and certain about what they are doing when they put you in harm’s way.

Fourth, be more prepared to accept the credibility and integrity of those who disagree about the war even if you do not agree with their positions. I say this as a journalist, knowing it is tempting in the field to denounce or despise reporters who ask nosy questions or file critical reports. But their first duty as reporters is to get as close as possible to the verifiable truth and report it to the American people—for your sake. If there is mismanagement and incompetence, exposing it is more helpful to you than paeans to candy given to the locals. I trust you are familiar with the study done for the Army in 1989 by the historian, William Hammond. He examined press coverage in Korea and Vietnam and found that it was not the cause of disaffection at home; what disturbed people at home was the death toll; when casualties jumped, public support dropped. Over time, he said, the reporting was vindicated. In fact, “the press reports were often more accurate than the public statements of the administration in portraying the situation in Vietnam.” Take note: The American people want the truth about how their sons and daughters are doing in Iraq and what they’re up against, and that is a good thing.

Finally, and this above all—a lesson I wish I had learned earlier. If you rise in the ranks to important positions—or even if you don’t—speak the truth as you see it, even if the questioner is a higher authority with a clear preference for one and only one answer. It may not be the way to promote your career; it can in fact harm it. Among my military heroes of this war are the generals who frankly told the President and his advisers that their information and their plans were both incomplete and misleading—and who paid the price of being ignored and bypassed and possibly frozen forever in their existing ranks: men like General Eric K. Shinseki, another son of West Point. It is not easy to be honest—and fair—in a bureaucratic system. But it is what free men and women have to do. Be true to your principles, General Kosciuszko reminded Thomas Jefferson. If doing so exposes the ignorance and arrogance of power, you may be doing more to save the nation than exploits in combat can achieve.

I know the final rule of the military Code of Conduct is already written in your hearts: “I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free...” The meaning of freedom begins with the still, small voice of conscience, when each of us decides what we will live, or die, for.

I salute your dedication to America and I wish all of you good luck.

Bill Moyers is deeply grateful to his colleagues Bernard A Weisberger, Professor Emeritus of History at The University of Chicago, and Lew Daly, Senior Fellow of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, for their contributions to this speech.

© 2006 TomPaine.com (A Project of The Institute for America's Future)