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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Death and Profits

What in
God's name are we still doing in Iraq? The Sunnis don't want us there. The Shi'ites don't want us there. There is a civil war, mini- or maxi-version, and our troops, the Children of America, along with innocent Iraqis, are stuck right in the middle.

The only reason I see for keeping the US-led occupation of Iraq is to allow Bush's "base" of "haves and have mores", which include his war profiteering buddies, a chance to take all they can out of Iraq and the American taxpayer.

Take Dick "Go <F---> Yourself" Cheney's Halliburton, for example. In April of this year, the stock hit a high of over $83.97 per share. On July 17, it split 2-for-1. In January of 2002, it bottomed out at $8.60. So, if you were savvy enough to buy, say, 10,000 shares of Cheney's stock on that "Low" January, 2002 day, and then were even smarter than that, and sold it on that "High" July, 2006 day, you would have made a profit of $753,800 (less commissions, fo course). That's a profit of 876.51 percent! And to add insult to injury, they would have received about 18 dividend payments during that time as well.

Iraq is the golden goose to the Bush's war profiteering buddies. They were able to put a price on American and Iraqi lives. There's no end to the war in Iraq (even though it's really an occupation) because there's still profit to be made there.

Every meal that KBR, a division of Halliburton, serves to our troops is another ding of the cashier's bell to its stock-holders, which include Cheney. In the world of the no-bid contract, they are the "no-biddiest".

There were several solutions to fixing Iraq. Today, most of them are only viewed in hindsight. We can't go back and put into practice General Jay Garner's plan to hold elections immediately and use the Iraqi military as police. We can't go back and employ Iraqis in jobs that foreign "contractors" now perform. Those windows are now closed.

Today there are Shi'ite death squads patrolling the streets in much the same way Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard did. The former are just as ruthless and care as little for the Iraqi people as the latter. There are Sunni insurgents who employ suicide tactics against both the Shi'ite and anyone else in their way.

What's worse is that the new Iraqi government is cozying up to the Shi'ite led nation of Iran. This couldn't have been what the Bushites wanted, could it? It might be, considering the profit that could be made from a larger war against a nation with the resources and the size of Iran.

A real plan, as suggested by many, is the splitting up of Iraq into three nations: A Sunni nation to the west; a Shi'ite nation to the east; and a Kurdish nation to the north.

We do have an ally in the Kurds, despite what George H.W. Bush did to them after the first Iraq war. Some of you will remember that, instead of helping the Kurds and the friendly Shi'ites push Hussein out of office at his weakest point, Bush (41) allowed the "Axis of Evil" member to take his dictator position back and kill as many Iraqis as he wanted.

Still, the Kurds are allies today. As suggested by Mort Zuckerman in the US News, we could actually put a permanent base in "Kurdistan" with a lot less worrying about suicide terror attacks or kidnapping. If the Shi'ites or Sunnis acted up, we could be there in a flash. In fact, we could be just about anywhere in the area quickly, as well.

There is nothing democratic about the Bushites middle east plan for democracy. There is only death and profits.

-Noah Greenberg

Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers

Yesterday I went with my daughter and grandchildren to Walmart, something I have promised never to do. But alas, they had the backpacks the kids wanted for the new school year. It was sad to see the elaborately sewn backpacks with six or eight pockets -- so much work for those Chinese slaves, at such a cheap price. What really got me was the "book section". Not much there, mostly light fiction -- in fact the ONLY non-fiction book on the shelf was Ann Coulter's new rant against Godless Liberals. The poor and stupid American who shops at Wal-Mart is offered exactly one book on current events, and that one so slanted and hate filled.

-Pat Thompson

Mourning Gyorgy Ligeti

Composer Gyorgy Ligeti recently died (June 22), and he should be mourned especially by Jews and Unitarians--although everyone should regret his passing, since he was a wonderful composer. Ligeti was Jewish, born in the largely Unitarian and Jewish town of Dicso Szent-Marton, now called Tarnaveni, in the Hungarian-speaking part of Romania that used to be called Transylvania. Later he moved with his family to the city of Koloszvar, where 16th century reformer Ferencz David ministered to the first church--anywhere--to call itself Unitarian.

The Koloszvar mother church remains the heart of East European Unitarianism, and I've known a number of American UUs who've made pilgrimages to it. The Unitarian Church of Tarnaveni, Ligeti's birthplace, was built in the 13th century with a gothic exterior. The interior was completely redesigned in the plainer Unitarian style in 1599, and although destructive armies have marched through the town many times the church has not been badly damaged and still has treasures from the past, including a churchbell dating from 1678.

A friend of mine from grad school who was about my age--mid-40s--, Ilona Bartok (no relation to the composer or to the actress of that name), was raised in Unitarian Transylvania, in a small herding village that had no other church but Unitarian, like many other small towns in the region. At school in Blacksburg, Virginia, Ilona attended a different Unitarian society, but we knew each other pretty well. She was the one who told me about Ligeti's background, knowing how much I admired his music. Everyone has heard it; Ligeti composed the ethereal music used (without permission!) in the "encounters with the monoliths" and "interstellar head trip" parts of Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. But he composed in several other styles--all of them difficult to perform--and is Romania's primary composer of the later 20th and early 21st centuries. The most recent BBC MUSIC magazine has a fine article on him.

Bela Bartok, one of the 20th century's major composers of the generation before Ligeti's, gathered folk melodies from this whole region, including the Romanian and Hungarian Unitarian shepherd villages and farm-market towns, for his compositions. Gyorgy Ligeti, too, must have heard the often-strange modal melodies of the Transylvanian shepherds as well as the hymns sung by Unitarian choirs, which were the largest houses of worship in both of his home towns. I expect he wove them into his pieces, as did Bartok. Ligeti was a student in the music conservatory in Koloszvar when the Nazis, in collusion with the collaborationist Fascist Romanian government, arrested all Romanian Jews. Being young, he was sent to a labor camp. Because he was exceptionally strong, his life, although harsh and cruel for many years, was spared.

Along with Jews, large numbers of Unitarians--spread across the whole area of Eastern Europe from SW Poland to south Czechoslovakia, leading liberals in their countries, and hostile to Nazis and Fascists--were also deported to camps, largely to Bergen-Belsen and Dachau. Dachau was where famous Czech minister Norbert Capek sickened and then died while being transported to another camp. His distant kinsman, the famous writer Karel Capek (who gave the Czech word "robot", "worker", a new meaning, "automaton") died in Bergen-Belsen.

From as early as 1933 both Unitarians and Universalists in America had been publicly deploring the diatribes and open hostility against Jews by the Nazis, not yet realizing the threat to their own co-religionists. In 1940, Nazi goals were quite clear to those who cared to look--brought to the U.S. by Jews and others who had managed to get away, including Unitarians like Hungary's Bela Bartok and Czechoslovakia's Jan Masaryk. That was when the Unitarian Service Committee was founded. It did amazing and daring work in bringing Jews, Unitarians and others to safety in the U.S. Unfortunately it did not manage to save the Ligetis. The Nazis sent all but Gyorgy to Auschwitz, where, other than himself, Gyorgy's mother was the only member of the family to survive the war.

Wikipedia has a good article on Ligeti (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gy%C3%B6rgy_Ligeti)

-Jenny Hanniver

Americans Rank LAST in Belief in Evolution

We rank as ignorant in science because of lots of things:

1. The carelessness and downright cruelty with which Americans have always treated the natural world. Most persons in this country want to separate humans from the rest of the animals--as if we were some Big Deal and a deer, bass or cricket aren't--and we think the world is ours to kick around. Obviously a lot of people still don't realize that we live on a small planet warmed by a typical yellow star, one of billions of similar stars in our galaxy alone, parading through the universe along with billions of other galaxies equally large. Nor do they realize that evolution and speciation have been observed over and over since agriculture began ten thousand years ago, and that new species arise naturally for their own survival, like the dark gray moths that evolved in a few years from white moths in sooty London, and that our brains aren't able to "know" anything--only to gain tentative knowledge and constantly search and seek for better answers. As for the biological world here on earth, only in New England and the New England settlements in parts of the upper Midwest have Americans EVER been good stewards of the land and the environment, and agribusiness only makes things worse. Compare our farming methods to France, and we'll cringe in shame. And remember--animals in America are either pampered, petted and fed much better than the despised poor, or they are trophy game. Blam-blam. The NRA Rules Congress and most school boards!

2. The 25-year anti-science, anti-rational "conspiracy" of fundamentalist fanatics and New Age mental self-foggers. Not really a conspiracy; these solipsists just end up in the same dead end. "Brain-dead end", that is. I wish every New Ager would take a vow to read a book by Heinz Pagels or Stephen Jay Gould and stop contemplating his or her navel. Hey! Wake up. There's a world out there beyond yourself!

3. Our peculiar system of relying on local and state government, which (until the Bush administration) notoriously attracted the least competent and the most corrupt politicians. Public education in this country, unlike all the other Western nations, allows these local idiots to make policy on school boards and state committees and dictate their latest idiocy. Like Creationism.

4. A really weird pseudo-democratic belief that "science" is somehow something to be legislated by majority rule, The truths of science just ARE--and evolution has been proven far more regularly than practically all of them. May I suggest asking a creationist's feelings about Newtonian Gravity? If he says it's only a theory (which is true--and much less provable than evolution), take him up to the top of the tallest building in town and invite him to jump off.

5. The poor teaching of science in our public schools--with ignoramuses, religious nuts and dull plodders too often leading classrooms. This is exacerbated by the lack of labs and lousy textbooks. Church schools you might expect to teach a lot of science nonsense--and, oboy, did they ever when I was a little kid! I remember some of my friends' textbooks. But public schools, funded with our taxes, should make an attempt to keep up with current science AND TEACH IT. They should begin with teaching the scientific method. I learned how to be skeptical as early as 5th grade in a social studies course called "Resisting Propaganda", and studied the scientific method in 9th grade science, but HS math did NOT teach inductive logic. Had to take that as a college freshman. Old textbooks don't help, but why use texts? Since science changes very rapidly it should be taught from weekly magazines, not some out-of-date book. Even with 1939 textbooks I still learned a heckuva lot of science in grade school and high school, enough to give me a permanent love affair with all branches of it.

That's because I was lucky enough to go through public school at a time when science and math were taught by the best teachers. In HS, just like my mother I took all 4 years of science that the school offered, plus 4 years of math, and my (outstanding) general science and chem teachers gave us updates on the transuranic elements that were being discovered right & left in the 50s. The biology teacher taught evolution, and the physics teacher at least mentioned quantum theory and relativity. No, I still wasn't prepared for college. For example, when I took quantitative analysis in college I had to completely unlearn valence theory from HS chemistry, but my public school science & math teachers were at least well-educated in their subjects, inspiring, tough and demanding, and they admitted that there was a lot of material we didn't or couldn't cover and that some topics were oversimplified. (We still should have learned the latest problem-solving techniques, studied the latest cutting-edge hypotheses and some of the mind-bending and/or indispensably practical kinds of math, like topology and matrix algebra, but it wasn't my teachers' fault. I respected them.)

Science and religion are two different ways of looking at the universe. Just as music, art, literature, dance, athletics, technology, and nature enjoyment are, too. All are separate methods of reaching a personal philosophy of life that meshes with truth, using their own systems, methods and metaphors. They don't conflict because they can remain separate--something that more advanced Christians than those today discovered in the 9th century and which they called "the double truth." We can make our own personal bridges between some of them, if we desire to. In my life, science isn't the enemy of religious faith--far from it. Evolution is the basis and inspiration of my belief in God! If only the fanatics knew how exalting, moral, and emotionally marvelous it is.

PS-- Turkey is worse than we are, if that's any consolation. We both have abominable human rights records. Could that be a result of disbelieving in evolution?

-Jenny Hanniver

In response to, "Of course John Kerry was right and he should be the President rather than the thing from hell called Bush," Pat Thompson writes:

AMEN!! But they may have had him shot, or totally discredited by now, with some kind of investigation. Or they could have arranged a flight on Wellstone Air, or engineered another 9/11. They are capable of anything.

In response to, "I miss the sixties. : ) Hi, I'm Jane. (without announcement of affiliation)," Pat Thompson writes:

I miss the sixties too. I'm Pat, a liberal left leaning, progressive Democrat.

Victoria Brownworth responds to Rhian:

I can just imagine what you said to blacks during the black civil rights movement. Or to (other) women during the height of the feminist movement. I guess I missed the point where civil rights and equality were debatable. They aren't. Whether they are rights for blacks, women, gays and lesbians (and it's not a "lifestyle" any more than being black or female is a "lifestyle"), immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Catholics, atheists, the disabled--when elected officials speak out AGAINST civil liberties for one group, that impacts civil liberties for EVERY group. At least in a democracy it does. So you really need to get with the 21st century program and realize that accepting candidates who stand against civil liberties and embrace those who would create two levels of citizenship, (in this case Lieberman, Falwell and Bush) means accepting and embracing bigotry.

You might think gay and lesbian civil rights are an irrelevancy, but the ten percent of the American population who are gay and lesbian don't think so. And since Bush has predicated so much of his presidency on making certain groups--queers, immigrants, the poor, Muslims--targets, I think we all should be worried. There were a lot of folks in Germany around 1933 who thought the Jews were making a big deal about Hitler's civil rights agenda, too. And since Sen. Rick Santorum, another beloved of BushCo, has called same-sex marriage "the greatest terrorist threat to America today," this isn't exactly MY fight, it's the RIGHT'S fight. And you are on one side, bigotry, or the other, civil liberties for all. But you are deluded and historically inaccurate if you think that gays and lesbians have the same rights as straight Americans. But perhaps you are one of those people who still believe separate is equal. It's not.

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-Noah Greenberg