Word and Image of Vermont
Russia has announced that it will sell Tor M1 air defense missiles to Iran, which will be used to protect Iranian nuclear sites. These missiles will be operational by September. Rosa Brooks of the Los Angeles Times thinks there's a possibility the Israelis will decide to attack the nuclear facilities before the missiles are installed. If that happens there is no telling what will follow. But it's pretty clear the American position in Iraq would become more difficult than it is now. The entire Arab world would believe the United States had authorized the Israeli attacks. And nothing we could say would change their beliefs. Various powers around the world are becoming adept at manipulating the American reputation for reckless military action in order to enhance their own power position. And, currently, the American government is helpless to stop them. This is the position to which we've been brought by the cowboy diplomacy that has marked our foreign policy over the past five years.  (Posted, 4/29/06)

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A New York Times headline reads, "Death Toll for Americans in Iraq Is Highest in Fives Months." The article by Sabrina Tavernise goes on to survey other mayhem in the country and ends with Vice President Mahdi's estimate that 100,000 families have been forced to run away from their homes because of the violence. Meanwhile there continues to be talk of defeating the insurgency by the people who are actually feeding it. There will be no peace in Iraq until American forces get out. How could there be? The psychological naivete in the upper ranks of the American government remains astounding. Our political panjamdrums continue to believe they can invade a country, blow it's infrastructure to smithereens, kill tens of thousands of its citizens, and be thanked for it. And why is this? Because we're the good guys. Our generals go out to meet Iraqis dressed like space aliens, with so much gear protruding from their bodies it's hard to see how they can stand up, and are blind to the ridiculous image they provide for the Iraqi people. The generals' image of themselves is a feature of pathological arrogance.  And it will keep on fueling the insurgency as long as we keep cramming it into Iraqi faces. It's a big price to pay for the support of bloated egos.  (Posted, 4/29/06)

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The back cover of The New Yorker for the day of my birth has an ad which begins with the phrase, "The fast pace of Modern Living put an extra strain on Digestion." You might think this is a pitch for some sort of antacid, but it's not. It's an attempt to sell Camels. It goes on to say that "The effects on digestion are known to all! In this connection, it is an interesting fact that smoking a Camel during or between meals tends to stimulate and promote digestion." The accompanying photograph shows Mrs. Ernest DuPont, Jr, at her table in the Rainbow Room of Rockefeller Center, 65 stories above the streets of New York, holding a Camel (or, at least, some kind of cigarette) elegantly in her right hand. The aristocracy we have with us always. I don't suppose Mrs. DuPont knew then that smoking Camels was likely to kill her. She has a blank look on her face which indicates it might be hard for her to know anything. But, that's probably too cruel. The main lesson I take from this tiny vignette of my birth year is that humans are fascinated with wealth and despite all the great teachings that it conveys neither happiness nor meaning, that they probably always will be. That being the case, they'll be perpetually ready to sell you anything, and they don't care how absurd the sales slogan is as long as it works.  (Posted, 4/27/06)

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Here's an interesting paragraph from a Washington Post op/ed piece by P. Sabin Willett, who is a lawyer for a prisoner at Guantanamo who continues to be held even though the government admits he has done nothing wrong.

"One day the sordid history of Guantanamo will be written. There will be chapters on torture,
chapters on the how the courts turned a blind eye, chapters on cruelties large and petty, on the
massive stupidity and uselessness of the place. Many pages will illustrate the great lie of
Guantanamo -- that it is a "terrorist detention facility" -- with accounts of goatherds and chicken
farmers and stray foreigners sold by Pakistani grifters to the United States for bounties. Saddiq
may have one of the oddest chapters of all: jailed first by the Taliban as an enemy of its regime,
then by us."

The feature of this coming history Mr. Willett doesn't mention here is the wonderment that will be expressed because the people of the United States allowed these things to be done in their name. How could they? historians will ask. What kind of people were they? But, then, of course, that's all for the future, probably when the prisoners' lives will be over.  (Posted, 4/27/06)

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Now that the CIA has said that Mary McCarthy is not charged with putting out information about secret prisons in Europe, we are left to wonder why she was fired. And we don't know why it was done in such a humiliating fashion just days before she was scheduled to retire. I'm sure Porter Goss and George Bush would say it's none of our business. After all, what right do citizens have to know what's going on inside their government? The problem is governments decay from within when interior rivalries and backbiting become more important than service to the public. Infighting is never going to be eliminated from government service but when it can take place in complete secrecy, then public trust in the government is bound to wither. In the United States that withering is far advanced. When we reach the point that government is seen as more our enemy than our friend we will be in the position of countries we have traditionally denounced as tyrannies. I don't know how close we are to that position now, but I do know that's the direction in which we're headed.  (Posted, 4/27/06)

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I don't know how many Americans are familiar with Tony Snow, George Bush's new press secretary. Anyone who has watched Fox News knows that Snow is a rabid right-winger, with a penchant for sneering at anyone who disagrees with him. He doesn't have the sort of personality you would think a president would want in a press secretary. Of course, there's always the possibility that a new job makes a new man. One of the things you can never be sure about with respect to Fox News personalities is whether they really believe the blather they spew out or are simply following the Fox line for the sake of ratings. If you've watched Snow consistently, though, it's hard to avoid the belief that he really is a rightist ideologue. At times, he ever outdoes Bill O'Reilly in that respect. There's been a good deal of talk lately about a new Bush, a president tempered and made more open by the resistance his policies have raised. But the appointment of Snow shows pretty clearly there is no new Bush. And that's hardly surprising. There's not much in the president's head to make anything new out of.  (Posted, 4/26/06)

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To denounce someone, or someone's argument, merely because persons of less than admirable character agree is an ancient and despicable rhetorical technique. It can appeal only to lame brains. Yet it continues to be employed in political debate here in the United State, and not always without effect. Eliot Cohen of the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies used it vehemently on April 5, 2006, in the Washington Post to smear John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt for their article about the effect of the Israeli lobby on American foreign policy. I recall that when I read the article Cohen's tone seemed a bit maniacal, so I'm glad to see that Richard Cohen, the Post columnist, is now agreeing with me. "Offensive" is the term that Richard Cohen uses for the piece. His point calls to mind that there are certain subjects that seem to elicit radically emotional responses in this country now and those are exactly the ones we need to be most careful in analyzing. When something becomes so sacred that you can't look at it from a variety of viewpoints that's when you are most in danger of being led down a primrose path.  (Posted, 4/25/06)

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Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly says "it sometimes seems that the American public really does have an unending appetite for 'getting tough' with whichever enemy du jour the White House casts its increasingly feckless gaze on." This comes in response to reports that the Republicans intend to rouse fears about Iran and then announce the Democrats can't deal with the the new threat. This argument is so tired it's hard to believe anybody is sufficiently feeble-minded to fall for it. And yet we have this supposed unending appetite. Might we call it an addiction? The Republicans are wagering that a majority of Americans are so hooked on the rush that comes from beating up on some enemy, somewhere, they won't care that they're being manipulated. It's a sad thing to have to build one's whole program on the mental weakness of the people you purport to serve. But the Republicans have been doing it for so long they probably can't imagine any other political tactic. We are left to hope that most Americans are not as flat-brained as Republicans think they are.  (Posted, 4/24/06)

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Here's what Rick Lynch says: "In these facilities that we did inspect unannounced, we saw no signs of abuse." Here's what John Gardner says: "I don't want to downplay the level of abuse. In some of them there were a couple where it was severe." Both Lynch and Gardner are major generals in the United States Army. And both were referring to inspections made of Iraqi prisons since November 2005. It seems they don't talk to each other. When two high-ranking officers make opposite statements about conditions that go to the heart of what American forces are doing in Iraq, isn't that a discrepancy the government ought to explain to us. But we know the government won't, unless we demand it. I wonder if any of our Senators or Congressmen read accounts of these matters carefully enough to notice such inconsistencies? If they do, they don't seem to be making much noise about them.  (Posted, 4/24/06)

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In all the hoopla spread across the front pages of the nation's leading newspapers about secrets and the CIA, there has been almost no discussion of what should be kept from public knowledge and what should not. The CIA apparently has the right to classify anything they wish and to refuse to answer questions about why they did it. This, of course, is a licence to commit crimes and keep any legal authorities from knowing about them. And, this, we are told, is necessary for the security of the nation. Do we not have the right to ask who protects the nation against the CIA? It is a truism that power exercised without restraint and without scrutiny will lead to misbehavior. And yet, the government appears to be saying that such action is the price of our safety. How do we know? We need scholars to tell us whether the totality of secrecy the CIA has employed over the course of its existence has helped or harmed the nation. I realize we have no yardsticks that would answer the question beyond doubt. But if it were asked and debated seriously, we would be a far freer people than we are now, and more secure too.  (Posted, 4/24/06)

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Imagine what a horror it would be to work for the Central Intelligence Agency. To be always in an atmosphere of suspicion, where everyone is always spying on everyone else, and where periodic lie detector tests are the norm must have an effect on the psyche. It is bound to be unhealthy. There can be no ordinary trust and reliance on friends. There can be no stretches of ease and comfort. It is very hard to conceive what Mary McCarthy must be going through right now. She has been fired for talking to a reporter and, supposedly, for revealing secret information. As far as we know, the secrets had to do with illegal CIA activities. Yet there has been a great hue and cry to root out people who will tell the public that the agency is breaking the law. Porter Goss says that truth-telling in this instance has caused severe damage. What must it do to the mind to exist in a world in which telling the truth is seen as damage? Over the years, the mind itself must become corrupted. How could it not? And we mosey along, relying on people whose minds have been subjected to these corrosive forces to tell us how we should conduct our affairs.  (Posted, 4/22/06)

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The revolt of the generals is getting a very good press. In the Washington Post both E. J. Dionne and David Broder praise the generals enthusiastically. Probably the most quoted phrase over the past week has been Gen. Greg Newbold's comment in Time magazine that "the zealots' rationale for war made no sense." All this is an indicator of how enlivening a little courage can be. Anybody with an ounce of sense knows the reasons given for the invasion of Iraq were senseless from the beginning. But now generals are saying so, it becomes a revelation. It's ironic that the herd mentality which has directed national affairs for the past five years is being dissolved by people who are reputed to be the biggest herd members of all - men whose traditional query has been, "Why don’t you got on the team?" If this teaches high-ranking military leaders that team thinking is not always the best thinking, it will be a revolt indeed.  (Posted, 4/18/06)

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At the Giant foodstore on Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis the checkout clerk cheated me out of a dollar. I gave her a twenty dollar bill and a dime for a charge of $8.08, and she gave me back $11.02. Normally I would have pointed out the error but the clerk had already begun checking the guy behind me and since it was Easter it didn't seem right to make a fuss. After all, in 2006, a dollar isn't what it once was. But driving back to my brother's house I got curious about whether I had lost my dollar to larceny or stupidity. And I got even more curious about which I preferred. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I would rather be bilked than to have confronted a clerk who couldn't make change. The implications of the latter are more dire. Despite conventional wisdom, mental incompetence is more dangerous than minor criminality. So I went away discouraged because I suspect it was just a simple mistake in arithmetic.  (Posted, 4/17/06)

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It's supposedly breaking news that the trailers the Bush administration trotted out three years ago as evidence of weapons of mass destruction were known at the time to have nothing to do with biological warfare.But who didn't know that? The trailers were treated as a joke from the start despite the president's attempt to make something of them. I suppose they are evidence that he engaged in falsehood, but that's not news either. The only significant feature of the whole shabby affair that deserves attention now is its demonstration of the complete contempt the Bush administration has had for the public mind. They believed they could say anything, no matter how ridiculous it was, and the public would swallow it down. When the history of this mini-era is written a major theme is bound to be how tolerant the American people were in the face of blatant insults from their government. Virtually all officialdom treated them as though they were dim wits. It was frustrating to watch the process but we may now get some satisfaction from seeing it turned back on the people who concocted it. Silly talk about broken-down trailers should be no more than a rivulet contributing to that flood.  (Posted, 4/12/06)

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Richard Cohen of the Washington Post says that high ranking military officers should be more ready than they have been to speak out against governmental policies they know are foolish. It's an idealistic sentiment but from the point of view of those it advises, it may not make a lot of sense. Past a certain point, in an hierarchical organization like the military, criticism means loss of career. There's nothing more strongly supported among military people than staying on the team. And if the team is all you've got, it's hard to give it up. The tradition of resigning in protest of policy has never taken hold among the American military. But it's a practice we ought to start developing. There's no evidence that military officers are wiser about foreign policy than any other body of informed people. But if we had more military officers willing to sacrifice their careers in order to enter fully into the political process, it would be healthy for the country. We should be promoting in every military training institute for officers above company grade the principle of serving loyally as long as your conscience allows but also of being ready to step aside when things are afoot that you cannot abide. At the latter point officers should be ready to put their country above the military organization. After all, when they took up their commissions, they swore to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States, not any particular command structure. If that happened, we would have more active discussion among top officers about the pros and cons of foreign policy. And though that might cause some trouble now and then, it is the way a democratic nation ought to provide for its defense.  (Posted, 4/11/06)

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Might there be some inevitability in human nature which decrees that a nation must, every now and then, descend into political insanity? That's one explanation for where we in the United States have been since January of 2001.Yet there are signs that growing numbers are beginning to shake off the spell. The latest New York Times poll says that only 38% of the people support the president's policies. In my mind, that's astoundingly high but then I reflect that probably few among that 38% know what the president's policies are. It seems to be increasingly the case that right-wing war-mongers who call themselves Christians are being exposed. Ever so gradually it is creeping into the public mind that there was lots of evidence in 2003 that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction. It may even be true that a significant number are waking to the fact that Mr. Bush and his allies, through a policy of foolish tax cuts and wild military spending, have placed the nation in serious financial danger. All this has been obvious to anyone who paid attention for a long time. But one of the prime features of political craziness is that people don't pay attention. The entire strategy of the Republican machine has been based on the faith that most people are incapable of paying attention. And the tactic has worked so effectively that most of the press has signed on to the belief. But one thing we do know: the press supports whomever seems to be winning. So, when opposition to the administration's irrational policies begins to gather strength, the press falls in behind it. The danger now will be the assumption that Mr. Bush has been shown for what he is and, therefore, that people can relax. That would be a serious mistake. Reporting on and analyzing the craziness must continue to be a national priority right to January of 2009. That's the only way we have a chance to cure ourselves.  (Posted, 4/10/06)

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A lot of people lately have been writing there's a boy crisis in the United States. Boys are reputed not to do as well in school as girls, and this is explained by saying the schools are oriented towards a feminine mode of learning. Consequently, more girls than boys are graduating from high school and going to college. As usual, when there is a perceived dire threat to the nation voices arise proclaiming that something must be done. Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Chait Barnett, writing in the Washington Post, say the boy crisis is a myth (using that term erroneously to mean a wide belief in something that's not true). The people who want to change the education system because it's not suited to boys are alarmists who have twisted data to support their point of view. I agree that we shouldn't change the system because it's not good for boys. I think we should change it because it's not good for anybody. It is too mealy-mouthed to deal honestly with truth. That may not be as much a problem in the hard sciences as it is elsewhere. But throughout most of the curriculum the insistence on using words to convey mushy abstractions rather than specific events and attitudes results in pushing both boys ad girls through the schools without teaching them how the world functions. It may be that boys find sentimental abstractions a little more offensive than girls do, which, in turn, may account for some of the boys' alienation from school. But the mode of thought, and talk, and writing in the schools is as bad for girls as it is for boys, and we need to be concerned about its corrosive effects on students regardless of their gender.  (Posted, 4/9/06)

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Nanotechnology is not a subject many people think about. Yet over the next few years it could be more transformative than anything else going on in the world. It is the process by which small particles -- so small it would take ten thousand of them to be as big as the head of a pin -- are manufactured and used for an increasing number of functions. The implications for this technology are astounding. But also astounding are the unknowns and the dangers. The Washington Post has published an article by Rick Weiss reporting on investigations at Altair Nanotechnologies which are trying to figure out the health threats which may be involved in the industry. The truth is, nobody knows for sure, and very little effort is being made by the government to find out. What we are going to learn over the next decade is that our governmental attention has been hideously misdirected. The government, led by ill-read and manipulative politicians, is concentrating on third order problems and almost completely ignoring the most serious threats and the most glowing opportunities for the future. The stance the Bush administration has taken up till now on global warming is a good example. We continue on this course because few people with voices to be heard are raising the issues with the general public. And when someone does, he or she tends to be scoffed at in the manner that has dismissed Al Gore over the past several years. Until we learn that there are issues far more important to human life than the ones which appear in the headlines each day, we are going to be like lemmings scurrying toward the cliff. Nanotechology probably is one of those issues and our continuing to ignore it is yet another example of America's abysmal intellectual failure.  (Posted, 4/8/06)

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No one knows, of course, how many ancient documents shedding light on the thinking of people two millennia ago are yet to be discovered. But every time one is there's a flurry of speculation about what it means for traditional belief. An astounding fact of the modern world is the way belief structures about history, which are not based on historical evidence, persist alongside careful historical scholarship. In the New York Times article discussing the recent publication of the so-called Gospel of Judas, there's a statement relating it to the four traditional gospels which says, "The consensus of scholars is that the four canonical gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - were probably not written by any of the original disciples or first-person witnesses to the life of Jesus, although they were probably written within the first century." This is said in a matter of fact way, as though it were obvious to anyone who knows about these things. And, in truth, it is obvious to the great majority who know about them. Yet, a large percentage of those who call themselves Christians would consider the statement not only heretical but horrendous. All too easily we brush aside the gap between evidentiary truth and belief in a truth that comes from somewhere else. The difference is dismissed as a normality of religion. Yet, it has major consequences, the biggest one being that huge sectors of our population cannot talk to one another. If their conversation were hampered only with respect to arcane documents, that would be simply a minor disadvantage. But it is undercut in all respects, and because it is, political manipulation becomes rife. Resolving issues of truth, evidence, and faith is far more important than main stream journalism ever hints. So when something like the Gospel of Judas appears, we need to dig into its implications far more deeply than has been our habit.  (Posted, 4/7/06)

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An issue that will be much discussed in the coming weeks, because of Scooter Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury, is whether the president or a high-ranking member of his administration has the right selectively to declassify information in order to push a political agenda. That's surely what the president did in the Valerie Wilson affair, and though it may not be illegal, it's clearly outside the purpose for which the classification system is supposed to exist. That system, of course, is a racket, used to cover up embarrassing tactics as much as it is to hold vital information away from the enemies of the United States. Since almost everyone understands it as such I suppose it could be said that any use of it that's not clearly illegal is part of the rules of the game. Still, it does seem unusually nasty to throw someone like Libby to the prosecutorial wolves simply for trying to carry out presidential initiatives which if they had become known would have backfired. The price that should be paid in this case is not a segment of Mr. Libby's life but, rather, a hunk of the president's influence. But, come to think of it, that hunk might be just the withdrawal that would cause the whole Bush edifice to crumble.  (Posted, 4/6/06)

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The Cynthia McKinney case is an example of the aura of exaggeration which rules our country now. In a sane world, if someone grabbed a lady and she turned around and slapped him, the whole thing would be resolved by talking it through. This is not a matter that ought to involve legal procedures. Yet, a grand jury is being convened to investigate the incident. And, then, what's going to happen? Does the government of the United States intend to throw a member of Congress in jail because she had a moment's anger over what she regarded as an officious security officer? I don't know anything about the specifics of this case, but I do know that when you charge people up with the notion that they are security! it removes from a considerable portion of them any notion that they have a duty to exhibit normal human courtesy. I notice that every time I get on an airplane. In any case, the whole business has been ramped up to an intensity that sensible people would never have allowed. And these are the people who are, supposedly, leading our nation.  (Posted, 4/6/06)

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People who think that the spread of democracy is a major goal for George Bush haven't paid much attention to his actions. Nothing he has done, on his own, without being forced to it, has had any effect in promoting democracy. He didn't even begin to talk about democracy in Iraq  until after his reasons for the invasion were shown to be bogus. In his State of the Union address in 2003, just before he launched the war against Iraq, he said not one word about promoting democracy in that country. The essential basis for democracy is recognized everywhere as open and vigorous debate. There has never been a presidential administration that is less open about its tactics and the president's desire to engage in vigorous debate with his critics simply doesn't exist. So surely the time has come for the public to do nothing but laugh when the president puts himself forward as democracy's champion. It's just a big joke.  (Posted, 4/5/06)

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John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have published a paper on a Harvard web site which is stirring up a lot of heat. Titled "The Israeli Lobby and U. S. Foreign Policy," it argues that advocates for Israel have too much influence in determining American diplomacy. You might think that since there are Israeli lobbyists, and they push their point of view like any other lobbyists do, that the degree of their influence would be a matter of opinion to be debated like other foreign policy issues. But that seems not to be the case. And everybody knows why not. Anti-semitism cannot be kept out of the argument. Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins, for example, has published in the Washington Post an attack on Mearsheimer and Walt that's more vitriolic than anything I've seen recently in that paper. He calls the Mersheimer/Walt effort a wretched piece of scholarship, inept, even kooky, academic work, and says that it reflects obsessive and irrationally hostile beliefs about Jews. One of the tricky problems in politics is drawing a line between vigorous advocacy for one's belief's and desires, on the one hand, and becoming, on the other, so hardened about a debate that the power of thought is destroyed, The latter seems too often be the case in conflicts in the Middle East, and it will be unfortunate if it becomes the norm here in this country. Who has more influence than they should, is, obviously a matter of opinion and not one of fact. We need always to keep that in mind, and also to remember that in debate opinion is okay.  (Posted, 4/5/06)

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Kevin Drum of the Washington Monthly, who is one of the few adept political commentators available to us now, says he's weary of hearing the Democrats attacked for having no plan for Iraq when it's clear the Republicans don't have one either. The Republican program comes down to asinine phrases like "stay the course." It's a good point. And building on it we should ask ourselves why the Republicans have no plan. It seems fairly clear that it's because Republicans have no sense of, or interest in, an equitable world. Their serious attention is focused on only one thing -- increasing the privileges of an already privileged class in the United States. To do that, they will sacrifice any other interest the nation might have. A program of plutocratic imperialism was the strategy they selected to advance their cause. And now that the strategy is hard to implement, because the world is a far more complicated place than they were ever willing to admit, they don't know what to do. So, they chirp away about staying the course, which in their case means continuing to be just as stupidly greedy as they always were.  (Posted, 4/4/06)

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Eric Pianka, a biologist at the University of Texas, says the earth would be better off if 90% of the humans died. And he thinks an evolved strain of the ebola virus might just be the agent to do the job. The current human population of 6.5 billion is much too large for the earth to sustain, says Pianka. He may be right. Yet if we began to experience anything approaching the death rate he envisages it's hard to imagine how people would respond. One thing is sure. George Bush's expostulation about the dangers of terrorism would come to seem pathetic blather. Of course, there have been many doomsday predictions in the past. And virtually none of them have been borne out. Even so, there are good reasons to believe we are moving into an unprecedented condition. The first element of it is, of course, a population so much greater than the civilizations of the past had to manage their experience may not teach us as much as we would like. The second is that many of the dire warnings now being issued are backed up by fairly solid science, which wasn't the case earlier. Meanwhile, some people in Texas think Mr. Pianka should not be allowed to spread his morbid thoughts among students. They want the university to stifle him. But he doesn't care, and his students continue to find him one of the most stimulating teachers they have ever had.  (Posted, 4/3/06)

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The Congress of the United States appropriated $18.4 billion to reconstruct Iraq. That's quite a bit of money. It amounts to about $730 for every person in the country. Think of your town or city. If somebody came in and gave $730 per person to carry out public projects, your town would be transformed -- that is if the money was actually spent on the projects. In Iraq, all reports indicate that the infrastructure of the country remains worse than it was when Saddam was in power. Less than half the money appropriated for reconstruction has actually been spent on reconstruction projects. And that half seems to have been spent badly. The Washington Post reports that the U.S. construction giant, Parsons, Inc., which was given a contract of $200 million to build 142 medical clinics will complete, at most, 20 of them by the time the money and the contract runs out. If you asked Karl Rove about this, what do you suppose he would have to say? There are, obviously, two main reasons why conditions are worse in Iraq than they were before the U.S. invasion. The amount of destruction wreaked on the country by U.S. military forces has been horrendous. Despite all the talk about smart bombs, in many areas we simply blew everything up. Now we see, increasingly, that much of the money U.S. taxpayers awarded to put the place back together hasn't been used for that purpose. Billions of it have disappeared down a hole titled "security," for which there has been little accounting. And, surely, hundreds of millions have been used to make individuals rich, a thing that always happens when lots of money is thrown around with inadequate accounting for it. Meanwhile, we are told that we can't afford a first-rate medical system here at home, and many promising research projects are being starved for funds. You can say all you want that this is simply part of the fog of war. But, it's clearly a fog that helps the few and hurts the many. And the few who are benefiting are fully aware of what's going on.  (Posted, 4/3/06)

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American journalism is notorious for its inability to peer even a couple inches beneath the surface. But every now and then, in a newspaper, you will find a writer who does. William Pfaff's recent piece in the Boston Globe is an example. He says there's more to the current French protests than meets the eye. Ostensibly they are about a minor change that will allow French employers to be more flexible in managing their work force. But what they really signify, says Pfaff, is an ongoing debate in Europe about what kind of capitalism a country should adopt. The old version of a capitalist corporation, which had some responsibility to workers and to the general society, has been under assault for the past thirty-five years. The thrust against it has come from America. The newer version, the American version, has corporate managers being concerned only with the short term interests of themselves and stockholders. This the French call "capitalisme sauvage." The underlying truth about resistance to America all around the world is that the opposition has its basis in a dislike of this form of capitalism. People believe that the model is inconsistent with standards of national justice. And they're right. The major political decision facing us, the people of the United States, over the next decades is whether we want to be the champions of this savage capitalism or whether we want to join with the other people of the world in redirecting capitalism's energies. It's probably not too much to say that it will be a struggle for the soul of the nation.  (Posted, 4/1/06)

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