Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Absolutely wrong in an imperfect World

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. — Voltaire

Bush said differences over Iraq provide "an interesting debate." "There's a lot of people – good, decent people – saying `withdraw now.' They're absolutely wrong. ... We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake."

"Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster."

This was from a Presidential press conference of Monday, August 21st.
The thing which struck me immediately was that if the good, decent people saying withdraw now are absolutely wrong, then the converse of this is that George W. Bush is absolutely right. Of course the instant sarcastic thought is: absolutely Right wing.

But to explore this further, obviously W. has moved into the realm of moral absolutes. Being absolutely right about Iraq, he has achieved total certitude.
One could argue by doing so he joins the ranks of our greatest philosphers, saints, and of God himself, to say nothing of the notion of Godhead.

Heres a Wiki squib on certainty:
Certainty is the absence of all doubt. Something is certain if it is so clearly established or assured that skepticism could not exist. Philosophers have struggled for certainty, but have had many difficulties. Meditations on First Philosophy is a famous pursuit of certainty by Descartes. Contemporary views of knowledge do not demand certainty, but rather a "justified true belief".

I'm going to circle around this notion some. Okay, lets say Bushs critics are totally wrong, absolutely wrong. Well, there is not much point in the so-called "interesting debate". Ipso facto, Bush is already totally certain, and absolutely right. Not much point in debate then.

In fact it would appear that "W' has attained absolute Truth, in regards to the future of Iraq.

Lets stop and consider the philosophical notion of the Absolute:

"The Absolute is the totality of things; all that is, whether it has been discovered or not. It is usually conceived of as a unitary of the external cosmos and internal spiritual conscious — at least insofar as it can be acknowledged by the human mind — and as intelligible. In some varieties of philosophy, the Absolute describes an ultimate being. It contrasts with finite things, considered individually, known collectively as the Relative.
Heraclitus concerned himself with the knowable portion of the Absolute with his Logos. Plotinus, a Neo-Platonic philosopher, saw all forms of existence as emanating from 'The One'. The concept of the Absolute was re-introduced into philosophy by Hegel, Schelling, and their followers; it is associated with various forms of philosophical idealism. The Absolute, either under that name, or as the "Ground of Being", the "Uncaused First Cause", or some similar concept, also figures in several of the attempted proofs of the existence of God, particularly the ontological argument and the cosmological argument.

Okay,okay, I realize I am getting into high-faluting notions, far away from the notions of Connecticut yankee who grew up in Midland, Texas.

But this Texan was saying back in 2004, " We're turning the corner....(in Iraq). He was saying the same thing in 2005, and early 2006. In this regard, to stretch the idea, a bit further, if you're in a city, and you turn the corner to the Right, 4 times in a row, you're right back where you started.

Thus in Iraq in 2004, we had about 140,000 troops, in 2005, in the range 137,000 to 145,000 troops, and now about 137,000 troops.In Oct. 2003 47 US soldiers were killed in Iraq per month, and now in August 2006, we, according to the average, will lose about 47 US soldiers killed this month.

Corners have been turned, and progress supposedly made, and the critics absolutely wrong, but the stay the course plan would appear to ensure more of the same, with some slight variations.

Okay, lets turn the corner and get back to the notion of the word absolutely.
Absolutely - - adverb - free from restriction or limitation; unconditioned; unqualified; perfect; purely. (Websters)This should suffice. I may laboring a point, but I believe nuance is important, and people should be held accountable for what they say; especially when we are talking about a policy that will end up meaning some individuals are going to die.

Therefore, to paraphrase, those calling for withdrawal are unconditionally wrong; they are perfectly wrong. And that would mean George W. is right with no conditions, perfectly right.

From this we surmise:
1) not only is G.W. Bush the Decider, he has attained in this instance perfect certitude.

2) anyone who disagrees is benighted, and absolutely wrong, though they are free to debate under their own delusion that they could ever be Right.

3)perhaps the next step after total certitude, will be the attainment of omniscience, and he will become like the 'star' child at the end of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey.

I read that our President is reading about Lincoln. Actually, it might be better if he were to read more about the life of Woodrow Wilson. Those who have read a biography of Wilson will recall that in 1919, Wilson campaigned strenously around the country, trying to convince the public that America should join the League of Nations. Wilson had dreams of spreading Democracy throughout the World. His 14 Points were considered very idealistic for the times.

Wilson was also a bit of a prig though. His involvement in Academia, and his Protestant upbringing made him probably our most intellectual President, but also meant he did not suffer fools lightly, and his 14 points, and the creation of the League of Nations were policies he could not compromise with his critics about. Meeting an upsurge of resistance to what he felt was absolutely necessary to create a lasting peace, after the War to end War, he gave up on his critics in the Senate, and in a trainstop tour, took his case directly to the people. At a stop in Colorado he had a stroke, and was never the same afterwards, and ended his presidency as a reclusive invalid.

One would hope that someone on the White House staff might slip him a book about Wilson in 1919, and what happens when a President gets ahead of the public, and caught up in their own notion of moral certainty, insists upon a course that begins to take on a Captain Ahab glow.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

World War III preempted, and now a word from our sponsor

Well there is a cease fire supposedly between Israel and Hezbollah. And things do seem to be winding down in the summer 2006 War there.

But back in July when it started many on the Right were suddenly pronouncing this as the beginnings of World War III.

As Tom Waldman recounts at Tom

"Newt Gingrich recently said, “We’re in the early stages of what I would describe as the Third World War,” while conservative talking head Bill Bennett said, “I think we’re in World War III now.” Right-wing talk show hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck have chimed in their agreement that World War III is now in progress, and a few, such as neocon gray eminence Norman Podhoretz and the American Enterprise Institute’s Michael Ledeen, have said this is actually World War IV (the Cold War, apparently, was World War III). Sean Hannity even said this is World War V, but it was less than clear what he was talking about."

Meanwhile , it would seem the mainstream television media has given up on the World War III storyline, for total saturation coverage on the alleged killer in the JonBenet Ramsey case.

Tough luck for the Neo-Cons, they and World War III have been preempted by a murder mystery with creepy aspects.

The other point to consider is that World War II by the time it reached its crescendo in 1945, involved a majority of the nations on the planet.

How then, is a short invasion into southern Lebanon the beginning of WW III? Where is the involvement that would truly make this a 'World' War.

Could it be some of these commentators have there own fear and hysteria agenda, that they are pushing for their own political purposes?
Then of course, there is another element of the Right, the Christian fundamentalists, who have been interpreting everything that has happened in the Middle East for the last 40 years as a sign of the End times, or WW III as a precursor, which they positively hunger for.

As Waldman adds:

"Many of our own home-grown Taliban, the fundamentalists who see moral cataclysm in every sex ed class and gay commitment ceremony, are eagerly awaiting the Rapture. They pray desperately that events in the Middle East mean it really is coming this time, with the godless and the apostate cast to their deserved fate in the lake of fire. To the nominally more reasonable conservatives whose voices emanate from airwaves and op-ed pages, the prospect of World War III brings its own kind of rapture, the return of a time when they were free from doubt, when their thirst for the blood of foreigners could be quenched, when anyone who opposed them could be tried for treason. When they knew they were right, and it all made sense."

In this regard it is interesting to speculate what would happen if World War III does start, and during the first few weeks it is discovered what happened to Natalee Holloway?
A real dilemma for the media that would be.

It makes me recall lines from Allen Ginsberg's Capitol Air:

'Truth may be hard to find but Falsehood's easy
Read between the lines our Imperialism is sleazy'

And at least there is this ending of his poem:

"Aware Aware wherever you are No Fear
Trust your heart Don't ride your Paranoia dear
Breathe together with an ordinary mind
Armed with Humor Feed & Help Enlighten Woe Mankind "

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beijing pledges 'a fight to the death' with Dalai Lama.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

I got online today and was just checking out Google News, and came across this headline from The Times Online: Beijing pledges 'a fight to the death' with Dalai Lama. Whoa, I thought that is really severe. I mean even for the Chinese. I mean how many divisions does the Dalai Lama have? None. And are any posed on the India -Tibet border. No. Really harsh stuff.

Here are a few of the relevant paragraphs:

" China’s new top official in Tibet has embarked on a fierce campaign to crush loyalty to the exiled Dalai Lama and to extinguish religious beliefs among government officials. Zhang Qingli, was appointed Communist Party secretary of the Tibetan Autonomous Region in May. An ally of Hu Jintao, China’s President, Mr Zhang, 55, has moved swiftly to tighten his grip over this deeply Buddhist region.

In May Mr Zhang told senior party officials in the region that they were engaged in a “fight to the death” against the Dalai Lama. Since then he has implemented several new policies to try to erode the influence of the 71-year-old monk who China’s rulers believe is waging a covert campaign to win independence for his Himalayan homeland.

Ethnic Tibetan civil servants of all ranks, from the lowliest of government employees to senior officials, have been banned from attending any religious ceremony or from entering a temple or monastery. Previously only party members were required to be atheist, but many of them quietly retained their Buddhist beliefs

Ethnic Tibetan officials in Lhasa as well as in surrounding rural counties have been required to write criticisms of the Dalai Lama. Senior civil servants must produce 10,000-word essays while those in junior posts need only write 5,000-character condemnations. Even retired officials are not exempt."

This seems totally over the top to me. Readers who come across this might want to consider writing to the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. and asking them about the harshness of this rhetoric.

And further ask for clarification about who they are fighting to the death?
Is this the Tibetan people? Do the Tibetans have any religious rights anymore? Are there plans for extermination camps in Tibet? Or are there plans to fight a Tibetan army which no longer exists?

Here is an address to write to:

Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong
Chinese Embassy
2300 Connecticut Ave., NW,
Washington D.C. 20007

This rhetoric is unusually shrill and they should be called to account about it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fall of Lieberman and the Rise of Lamont

"It's time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be the commander in chief for three more critical years and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril."
--- Joe Lieberman, Dec. 2005

I did a post about this statement back in December when it came out. I have since read, that it prompted Ned Lamont to get into the primary race.

My, how the times have changed since then. Check out what Robert L. Borosage says about this at Tom

"Ned Lamont’s stunning upset of incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary race on Tuesday sends shock waves through the dead sea of American politics. Lamont did the impossible—this virtual unknown beat in his own party’s primary an 18-year incumbent with universal name recognition, a $12 million campaign war chest and the support of Washington insiders, the punditry and the corporate lobbies.

His victory represents a growing voter revolt against the failed policies and politics of the Bush administration and its congressional enablers, particularly the debacle in Iraq. Until a few weeks ago, Lieberman prided himself on being the president’s leading Democratic ally in touting the war. After his defeat, Democrats will show more backbone in challenging the current disastrous course and more Republicans will look for ways to distance themselves from the president.

Lamont’s victory was propelled by a rising tide of progressive energy—activists who are tired of losing elections to the right and disgusted with cautious politicians who duck and cover rather than stand and fight. Until a few weeks ago, Lieberman exemplified those Democrats who establish their “independence” by pushing off the causes of their own party and embracing the right’s agenda. His voters didn’t abandon him; he abandoned them long ago. After his defeat, incumbents in both parties may begin to listen more closely to their voters and less avidly to their donors."

Well lets hope so. I don't want to make too much over this upset, still at the same time it has been sending shock waves through the corporate interests, and the 'pat' punditry of the mainstream media.

I liked what Wonkette pointed out about Joe's concession:

"Meanwhile, Lieberman, whom the WaPo described as “exuberant in defeat” and “almost liberated” and (by implication) “gone totally around the bend into a dark place of madness and self-delusion,” started in with the sporting metaphors.

“As I see it, in this campaign, we’ve just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead — but in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November,” Mr. Lieberman told cheering supporters.…“For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot, I will not let this result stand,”
Mr. Lieberman said of the Lamont victory.

You hear that, Connecticut? Joe Lieberman will be your Senator whether you like it or not! It’s for your own good. [ joe lieberman ]

Meanwhile here is what Lowell Weicker a former Senator from Conn., had to say about this:

"I suspect the public is going to see right through" Lieberman's party switch, Weicker said.
It's not the purpose of the U.S. Senate to provide Lieberman with steady employment, he said.
"He wants a job."

In the aftermath this week Lieberman launched this little sally at Lamont,"

“If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England,” Mr. Lieberman said at a campaign event in Waterbury, Conn. “It will strengthen them, and they will strike again.”

Whoa, Lamont wins a primary in Conneticut and suddenly British Muslims will be celebrating a withdrawal from Iraq.

After hearing of this, here is how Ned Lamont responded:

"Mr. Lamont hesitated when he was asked if Mr. Lieberman’s criticisms were beyond the bounds of acceptable political combat.
“To try to score political points on every international issue ——” Mr. Lamont said, before stopping himself. Then he added, “Why do I have to say anything?” NYT 8/11/06.

Well, judging from the papers and postings on the web, and even international interest, this story is going to be around for a while.
I notice many on the Left are pointing out that 60% of Americans are against the war, or in favor of withdrawal. My cautionary reading of this is, that some of these are not against the Iraq war per se, but against the way the Bush adminstration has prosequeted the war. They are wanting that old fashion , quick overwhelming victory, like Pattons push to the Rhine, but instead Bush, Rumsfeld et. al, have given then never enough troops, no discernable win, and just steady casualties month to month. As Thomas Friedman points out,'' we are now baby sitting a civil war", and if you are one of the 100 Iraqi civilians who die each day, it really doesn't matter how you categorize the Sunni- Shia revenge violence.

Be that as it may, as I pointed out before, the Sunnis and the Shiites having been cohabitating in the region of Mesopotamia for some 900 years now, and it is highly unlikely that 137,000 infidel Americans within 3 more years are going to clear up, what has been simmering around for the same 900.

Thus a conventional military victory is less and less likely, so then the question is, what is the exit plan for finally letting the Iraqi people sort out what they want to see happen, and American forces moving out.

At any rate at some point, even those who were still hoping for victory in Iraq will get supremely disillusioned. And at this point, what was once regarded as a Left wing view, will become the mainstream view in the USA.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Arthur Lee - -going through those Forever Changes

Arthur Lee - -(1945-2006)Musician and frontman of LOVE.

Aug. 3rd - - -Arthur Lee, frontman of 60s psychedelic legends Love, has died at the age of 61. He had been suffering from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Rangy and invariably slouching, in tiny-frame shades and dandyish, kaleidoscopically colored clothes, Lee called himself "the first black hippie," and his band pushed boundaries. Love was one of the first major interracial bands in rock and one of the first to record a song long enough to fill one side of an album, with the 19-minute "Revelation," from its second release, "Da Capo."

A recent New York benefit concert had seen Robert Plant, Yo La Tengo, Ryan Adams and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah come together to raise money for Lee's medical expenses. However, in an emailed statement, released by Lee's manager, Mark Linn, confirmed that the singer had succumbed to the disease on Thursday afternoon (August 3). The statement read:

"Arthur Lee died peacefully at Methodist Hospital in Memphis, a little after four in the afternoon Aug 3, 2006 with his wife Diane by his side.
"His death comes as a shock to me because Arthur had the uncanny ability to bounce back from everything, and leukemia was no exception. He was confident that he would be back on stage by the fall. "When I visited with him recently, he was visibly moved by the stories and pictures from the NYC benefit concert. "He was truly grateful for the outpouring of love from friends and fans all over the world since news of his illness became public. "Arthur always lived in the moment, and said what he thought when he thought it. I'll miss his phone calls, and his long voice messages, but most of all I'll miss Arthur playing Arthur's music."

I think the first time I really heard the whole Forever Changes album was maybe in 1974. Later on I got a copy of my own. Then sometime in 2003 I came across the release of a Dvd with a live version of Forever Changes performed as a concert with full strings in England in 2003. I found this to be a very moving concert.

Here is a recent take on Forever Changes found at the Washington Post in light of Arthur Lee's passing:"

"Forever Changes" is one of those works of art that are not for everybody but are very much for some people, along the same lines as Malcolm Lowry's novel "Under the Volcano" (which generally bores and annoys those it fails to bowl over) or Alain Resnais's "Last Year at Marienbad" (which is regularly chosen as both one of the best and one of the worst films ever made). It was never a "hit" -- there were dozens of records in 1967 that outsold "Forever Changes" many times over. But it never quite went out of print, either, and, year after year, devotees passed on copies to new listeners with evangelical fervor, with the result that its legion of fans is notably multi-generational. And so my 19-year-old son and his musician friends love "Forever Changes" just as much as I did at their age, and for many of the same reasons, few of which have anything to do with nostalgia.

What does it sound like? Well, imagine taking one of the most tuneful and adventurous pop albums by the Byrds ("Younger Than Yesterday" maybe, or "Notorious Byrd Brothers") and allowing it to marinate for a year or two in the most decadent and exotic spices. Then toss in some of the unhinged paranoia of Syd Barrett and the early Pink Floyd, the reclusive melancholy of post-surf Brian Wilson, the cotton-candy orchestration of '60s arrangers such as Paul Mauriat ("Love Is Blue") or Joshua Rifkin (who fashioned Judy Collins's hit version of "Both Sides Now") and set it all to dark and prophetic lyrics that seem to mean much more than they dare to say. "Forever Changes" combines a seductive surface prettiness with a sense that something is desperately wrong. It is psychedelia at its edgiest." - - - - Tim Page, Wash. Post --- 8/5/06

Its very sad and too bad. I would have loved to have seen Arthur Lee and Baby Lemonade as Love. In 2003, 2004 , they did extensive touring in Europe. At least there is the Dvd that captures a full Forever Changes concert in England. And at least he got a third chance in life. His 2nd was in 1992 to 1996, when he got Love going again, but the procrustian stupidity of Calif. 3 strikes law meant he did 6 years in prison. What a waste of musical talent, just because he fired a pistol in the air, in a dispute with a neighbor.

I would like someday to see Johnny Echols and the Love Band.

Meanwhile Arthur Lee is off into the bardo. He was said to be especially touched in June when Robert Plant and others did a benefit concert for him in New York. So he generated a lot of Love in his life, was hugely popular in England, and leaves a musical legacy . Rolling Stone, the LA Times and The Washington Post have all done good reflective articles on his passing.

As he says in You Set the Scene:

This is the time and life that I am living
And I'll face each day with a smile
For the time that I've been given's such a little while
And the things that I must do consist of more than style
There are places that I am going

This is the only thing that I am sure of
And that's all that lives is gonna die
And there'll always be some people here to wonder why
And for every happy hello, there will be good-bye
There'll be time for you to put yourself on ...

Very Buddhist lyrics to me, and then there was prophecy too:

By the time that I'm through singing
The bells from the schools of wars will be ringing
More confusions, blood transfusions
The news today will be the movies for tomorrow
--- (A House is not a Motel)

I was watching blood transfusions taking place in Haifa,today and then a trailer for Oliver Stone's World Trade Center came on which opens soon.

Life goes on here
Day after day
I don't know if I am living or if I'm
Supposed to be....
Sometimes my life is so eerie,
And if you think I'm happy
Paint me black-(white).....

Arthur's going through those Forever Changes now. We'll miss him, and hope he gets to see Jimi, and Bryan Maclean, and Janis and Syd, and others.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Quagmire or Tar-Baby

WASHINGTON - US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld extended the tours of nearly 4,000 US troops in Iraq for 120 days Thursday to help quell sectarian violence in Baghdad, the Pentagon said.Earlier this year, there were suggestions that the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, would make recommendations to Rumsfeld in the spring that could begin showing a decrease in American troops. But a Tuesday announcement mapping out five more Army and Marine brigades scheduled to go to Iraq later this year signaled that any decrease is highly unlikely. Wash. Post- - - -Friday, July 28, 2006.

Quagmire - - -1. soft miry land that shakes or yields under the foot. 2: a difficult, precarious or entrapping position.- -Websters 9th New Collegiate Dictionary.

Have been reading Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor. As I was doing so, I was remembering that even back in 2003, my friend Greg was predicting Iraq would become a Quagmire. I suggested it would become a Tar-baby, in the sense of something you get stuck to, and then attempts to become unstuck, only cause further stuckness.

Now, it looks like both our predictions have come true.

In a British style govt., Rumsfeld would be long gone by now. Having to send about 5,000 troops back into Baghdad, is admission enough in the failure of the whole neo-con enterprise. 2585 dead American soldiers as of today. 18,777 Americans wounded.
By election day it will be around 3,000 dead. By this time in summer of 2007 it could be around 4,500. The monetary cost by then could be half a trillion dollars. In short, this is madness which will ultimately collapse , because of the overwheening hubris with which this adventure was entered.

Here is a relevant passage of a review of Cobra II by Andrew Bacevich:

"Although US forces made it to Baghdad, and Bush soon thereafter declared an end to 'major combat operations', it was all downhill from there. An incident in Fallujah – troops from the 82nd Airborne Division fired into a crowd of angry demonstrators – kick-started the insurgency. That was on 24 April 2003. Heavy-handed US tactics added fuel to the fire. 'The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I'm about to introduce them to it,' a senior officer in the 4th Infantry Division is quoted as saying. Bush's chosen proconsul, Paul Bremer, compounded the problem by dissolving the remnants of the Iraqi army, thereby providing the insurgents with a pool of potential recruits. As Franks made his escape, command in Iraq devolved on Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, an officer of indifferent ability, poorly prepared for the challenges he faced, and unable to forge an amicable relationship with Bremer.

Cobra II provides only the briefest sketch of all the ugly events that followed. The volume concludes with a summary of the administration's myriad errors: underestimating the enemy, failing to understand the fractious nature of Iraqi society, relying excessively on technology, and failing to anticipate the magnitude of the nation-building task that could not be avoided. But one failure stands out. Rumsfeld's grand plan to transform the US military was at odds with the administration's grand plans to transform the broader Middle East. Imperial projects don't prosper with small armies that leave quickly: they require large armies that stay. Out of this arrogance, incompetence and sheer stupidity came a policy failure that may yet beggar the debacle of Vietnam."

Despite Bush's blathering about total victory, there can be no victory in Iraq. It would take 400,000, maybe 500,000 troops to really get things under control of some sort in Iraq, but this is not going to happen. 'W' may think he is Churchill like, but Churchill was also the chief architect of the Gallipoli disaster in WWI.

We are now about 3 months away from Nov 2006 elections. For the life of me I don't see how the Republicans can win with this policy of stay the course in Iraq. They can try to paint the Democrats all sorts of ways, but Iraq is a Republican idea through and through.(Project for a New American Century) Some Repubs officials were oping that at least the Lebanon war is moving Iraq off the front pages, but this is a bit like whistling in a graveyard.

Anyway these are my sober thoughts and conclusions. Such a huge loss of American lives, Iraqi lives, and treasure.

My prediction: The Republicans lose the House, maybe even the Senate.
One need only read Cobra II, the new book Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq by Thomas Ricks , and/or The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind to be able to understand what is unfolding. Grim thoughts, but there are grim things happening in the world.