Friday, October 01, 2004



By Jack Random

Our president’s task was simple: Slogans and platitudes bereft of substance. Know your strong suit and stick to it like a horse fly to fresh manure. Do not fall for the traps of policy and facts. You are a man of faith. What is the price of freedom and democracy? Stand strong and resolute in the face of adversity. Facts are irrelevant. Policies are the stuff of dreamers and bureaucrats. Never yield. Never give an inch.

“I’m George W and you know where I stand.”

How do we respond to such blatant irrationality? In kind? With inferences to nose candy, binge drinking, spiritual duality, father envy, intellectual poverty? No. We allow the president his territory and we press on with our own in the hope that our fellow citizens will choose a leader rather than a horseshoe partner at a Texas barbecue. The stakes are too high to be seduced by the charms of the Marlboro man.

Senator John Kerry stood to the challenge of truth versus the power of government propaganda. He claimed the high ground on Iraq, the draft, Iran, North Korea and the war against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Any objective observer will conclude that John Kerry defeated George W like the Yankees defeated Toronto in the race for the pennant. The voice of an elder against the voice of an adolescent, the mind of reason against the posturing of a pretender, and the appeal of wisdom against the platitudes of empty minds. Let me go out on a limb: John Kerry defeated George W. Bush in the greatest triumph of discourse since Carter versus Ford. The defeat was so resounding it deserves the careful study of finer minds. In the meantime, it deserves acknowledgement.

This election is a referendum on the most inane and counter-productive foreign policy arguably in American history. The facts cry out to be recognized above the din of sloganeers, pundits, spin artists, demagogues and cheerleaders. Consider the facts:

When the president was “elected” in 2000, his lack of foreign policy knowledge and experience was discounted because his advisers were keenly experienced and wise to the ways of the world. Four years later it is time to judge them by their deeds, not by their resumes. Under the guidance of his council of wise men and Condoleezza Rice, George W responded to a massive terrorist attack by invading Afghanistan for harboring Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Tossing aside the Taliban’s offer to hand over the terrorists to a third nation or international tribunal, we invaded that country with a promise to Afghanis not to forget them as we had in the wake of the Soviet invasion. In less than a year, we did exactly that, leaving the job undone, bin Laden still free, Al Qaeda intact and a nation in tatters with a token government confined to its capital.

We announced to the world an Axis of Evil, declaring ideological war on Iran, Iraq and North Korea. We then invaded Iraq and expected neighboring Iran to remain neutral, even cooperative. We announced our intention to develop tactical (i.e., deployable) nuclear weapons and then demanded that North Korea disarm.

Forced to sacrifice the initial rationale for war (proving that even ideology must sometimes yield to an overwhelming body of evidence), we claimed the moral high ground of a crusade for democracy; we then overthrew an elected government in Haiti and attempted to overthrow another in Venezuela. Further compromising our call to democracy, we have championed our alliances with such democratic dignitaries as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Pressed by an unruly Congress, we went to the United Nations and promised that passage of resolution 1441 would not authorize invasion. We promptly invaded and claimed that it did. Is it any wonder that the United Nations does not want to hear any more American resolutions? Never has American credibility been squandered so swiftly and so decisively.

The president promised Congress that war would be a last resort but the plans were already laid and the invasion was launched without provocation. He claimed that a vote for authorization was not a vote for war. In his campaign for re-election, he claims the opposite. Is it any wonder he is no longer believed in the halls of Congress? His brand of winner-take-all politics hardly inspires the bipartisan unification he promised in his last election.

In no uncertain terms, the president insulted our European allies, making France the butt of every other joke, yet he claims to be pressing for international cooperation in Iraq. Never mind that France was substantively right on every issue, it is like asking the tail to wag the dog. As Cyrano de Bergerac said, “Thank you, I thank you, no thank you.”

The question is not: where has the president bungled? The question is: where has he succeeded?

America is at a turning point in history. Confronted with the monumental task of combating international terrorism, our foreign policy has been hijacked by ideologues and political operatives and the result is predictably disastrous. There comes a time in every nation when the facts demand a change in course. Constancy is not in itself a virtue. Never have there been more constant leaders than Stalin and Hitler. George W is neither Stalin nor Hitler; he is a simple man who should never have become president. He has trusted the foreign policy of this powerful nation to the hands of those who should have known better. They have failed.

The operatives are now in charge of the game. It is their job to convince us that what we know we do not know, that war is the way to peace, and that the disaster in Iraq is under control.

Our job is to stand for truth. Our job is to stand with John Kerry.


Thursday, September 30, 2004

My Comrades: A Poem by Joe Speer


this one teaches
that one lives with his mother and cat
another pencraft master takes drugs,
non prescription
and cleans house
as his wife earns a living
this graduate of writer’s cramp
sleeps on couches,
drinking beer
and making his spiel
In 1469 Sir Thomas Malory wrote
Le Morte d’Arthur
while in prison
a French ambassador paid Cervantes
a visit in 1616
he expressed surprise to find
the author of Don Quixote
“a gentleman, a soldier,
and so poor”
the ambassador suggested
such a man be subsidized
in 1849 Dostoevsky was arrested
charged with having a
secret printing press
in 1851
Herman Melville’s Moby Dick
was worth more melted down
as lamp oil
than for any literary
commercial clout
in 1871 Thomas Hardy
published his first novel
at his own expense
in 1898 Emile Zola was
prosecuted by the government
found guilty of libeling the army
friends smuggled him to England
in 1913 Marcel Proust
published Swann’s Way
at his own expense
censorship and allegations
about his doubtful patriotism
forced D. H. Lawrence into expatriation
William Faulkner smuggled rum
on a speedboat in a Louisiana bayou
until his sound became a fury
this inkslinger used to print
on duplicating machines
another transcriber
hangs out in the public library
an annotator announces a rescript
of a recently discovered
Shakespeare play
another comes from a rich family,
like Henry James
and does not touch
“the skin of the working people”
my comrades are everywhere
next time the phone rings
it will be a poet
we are saving the world
one poem at a time

Beatlick Joe Speer

Monday, September 27, 2004


By Mike Caine

“Faced with the absence of WMDs in Iraq [President Bush] once said, ‘We have found the weapons of mass destruction.’ Faced with a Presidential Daily Brief titled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the US,’ he and his spokespersons called it ‘historical.’ In his universe, faithfulness to delusion is ‘consistency.’”

Jonathan Schell, The Nation.

What bothers “conservative” Republicans so much about politicians changing their minds? Others use the term “flip flop” but the Republicans revile “flip floppers” almost as much as “Liberal Democrats.” For some reason it seems every opponent a conservative Republican has is a “Liberal Democrat and a flip flopper.” The implication is that changing your mind about an issue is always wrong, not that the stand on the issue is wrong but the act of change itself.

The proponents of the Bush administration wrap themselves in a cloak of patriotism, peak out from underneath only long enough to point a finger at any who have changed their opinion, say the words “flip flop,” and snap back under cover. Supplanting reason and discarding facts, the mere accusation reveals the accused as a weak leader with poorly held convictions. What those convictions might be is not nearly as important as how firmly they are held. The president no longer has to justify his actions or beliefs because he is consistent. His opponent is evil because he has flip-flopped. How can killing thousands of innocents in Iraq be wrong when the president was consistent? The deficit? No problem. Keep cutting those taxes. War? No problem with consistency there. To the president’s supporters consistency is leadership and their man will never alter his course.

Of course, it is not lost on the president’s operatives that their campaign is designed to change people’s minds. Those swing voters persuaded by Republican ads are flip floppers. Shouldn’t that make them Liberal Democrats?

It seems to me that the Founding Fathers thought changing minds is what debate is supposed to do. Why else would our Congress be designed for debate? Why have a debate if the opponents cannot be swayed? The Republicans pretend that “flip flopping” is one of the great character flaws yet they have repeatedly held over debates on the floor of Congress to coerce a few more flip-flops.

I keep hearing that the president “makes a decision and sticks to it.” What happens when realizes one of his policies is wrong? Is he bound to the code of consistency regardless the consequences?

Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot that when God is on your side you are never wrong. Everything is black and white, red and blue, good and evil…