Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither, and lose both.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Demagoguery trumps issues.

Recovering. I spent yesterday in a haze, hardly believing how the election had turned out, feeling disconnected from the world.

I believed, and still believe, that the current administration is both the most corrupt, and the most incompetent, of the 20th century. The damage they have already done to this country will take decades to repair, and the potential for more damage is real and appalling.

A Friend reminded me yesterday, though, that Nixon had been reelected also. We have survived bad administrations before (though Nixon, while bad, was nowhere near as bad as Bush) and we will survive them again.

What I think hurts most about this election is something CNN kept repeating during the day. Their exit polls asked both Bush and Kerry voters what their most important issues were. Kerry voters’ top priorities by a wide margin were the economy, and the Iraq war, in that order. Something of the order of 40% of the Kerry voters had had someone in their family lose a job in the current economy.

Bush voters, on the other hand, cited a different set of concerns: terrorism and “moral values.” Some 70% of them still believed that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks. That despite all the evidence people still believe this is inconceivable.

On the issue of terrorism, I don’t see how the voters could believe that Bush had made this better. Al-Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to our invasion, but they certainly are now. The war has done nothing but make this situation worse. Every picture on the TV or in a newspaper is another recruiting poster for the terrorists. Meanwhile, the taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden is appearing on TV taunting the US, and terrorist attacks are a daily occurrence in Iraq, the country we supposedly liberated. Bush has somehow successfully played on the fears of the people to get them to ignore what their own eyes and ears tell them. This has been a successful strategy for every despot, tyrant, or demagogue in history. Bush is not (yet) a tyrant, but his and his campaign’s skill at demagoguery are unrivaled.

Perhaps what troubled me most the last few days, though, was the issue of “moral values.” How did an election which should have turned on the war, the economy, and the environment become a referendum on Gay Marriage and abortion? Getting gay marriage referendums on the ballot in 10 states was a masterful stroke, ensuring that supporters would come to the polls for that reason, if no other. In the issue of abortion, the two candidates are actually very close, but the fact that Kerry was not willing to force his religious beliefs on the nation was somehow turned into a radical pro-abortion stance.

That no president can actually change abortion laws, or that marriages are and always have been a state’s concerns, was ignored.

That “moral values” could become an issue in peoples minds is amazing, and evidence of the power to distract and persuade voters. It is frightening. That concern over whether someone might be able to have a legal abortion, or that two gay men might have the same property rights available to a straight couple, could somehow trump the issue of the war for many voters stuns me. That someone can argue against abortion, but ignore the unnecessary deaths of more than 100,000 innocent civilians, and consider this a “moral values” stance is staggering.

We are an easily led, and poorly educated populace on the whole. As Richard Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” pointed out decades ago, we distrust anyone who appears to be concerned about facts, research, or critical thought. We don’t trust “thinkers”, and that was the fundamental perceived difference between Bush and Kerry.

This is the most damning indictment of american society and an invitation to rule by demagogues; an invitation that has been accepted.

We deserve what we will get.

“In a democracy, people usually get the kind of government they deserve, and they deserve what they get.”

- attributed to Adlai Stevenson, Hunter Thompson,
and even Thomas Jefferson

God help us all.

Scorecard

And if you are still undecided as to whom to vote for, here is a scorecard:

American Soldiers Dead: 1122
American Total Wounded: 8039
Iraqis killed in the war: 100,000+
Cost of the war to the US $130,000,000,000+
Weapons of Mass Destruction Found: 0
Iraqi ties to Al Qaeda discovered: 0
Osama Bin Laden: still at large and taunting America

What really matters

From truthout.com:

An Honest Election
By Marc Ash
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Tuesday 02 November 2004

We stand at a crossroads for our nation. At issue is the fabric of American life. There is a perception that choosing the right leader is the most important thing. Surely that will matter, but even more crucial is our commitment to American values.

If you are thinking about voting twice, don’t do it. If you are thinking of putting fear in the heart of your neighbor as he goes to cast his vote, think again. How we conduct this election will have more to do with the safety and security of our nation than who wins.

We have throughout our history held our free elections as a pillar of our democracy. Remove that pillar and you undermine all that is freedom. Even if this election is conducted fairly, the result will be disappointment for some. That is as it should be. The pain of that disappointment pales in comparison to the price we will pay should we fail to protect the integrity of the process itself.

When the Founders had concluded their work on the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin walked outside and seated himself on a public bench. A woman approached him and inquired, “Well, Dr. Franklin, what have you done for us?” Franklin quickly responded, “My dear lady, we have given to you a republic – if you can keep it.” A quiet debate is being waged in the shadows of the country, once again, as to whether America is a republic or a democracy. It will be neither, if we fail to protect our right to vote.

Help your neighbor vote. Not just the one who agrees with you but the one who differs. Why? Because when this is over, that’s the one you’re really going to need the most.

Good luck to us.

Hometown comes through

What is your home town?

How do you define that? Is it the place you live now? The place you were born? The place you spent most of your life? The place where your ‘heart’ is?

I’ve always had trouble answering the question “Where are you from” since my family moved so much when I was young… I never felt comfortable or “at home” any place, But I usually answered that I was from Louisville Ky, since that was where I was born, where much of my family lived, and where I had some of the best memories of my youth.

Louisville has come through for me again. In a state which is strongly pro-Bush, the Louisville Courier Journal has endorsed Kerry. I’m sure this stand will cost them in the largely reactionary state. In fact, they have endorsed him in one of the most cogent and damning indictments of the inept Bush adminisitration I have read.

I am, again, willing to admit to being a Kentuckian. Thank you, Courier-Journal.
(more…)

One soldier’s letter

From the Concord Monitor in New Hampshire:

A Matter of Survival
By George Sprague
Concord Monitor | Letter

Thursday 28 October 2004

When I was home in New Hampshire on leave last month, a lot of people approached me to tell what a good job we’re doing here in Iraq.

I appreciate the support, but I don’t need the media or those people to tell me what I see every day. We are not getting the job done.

People ask me, “How’s it going over there?” Cities have been overrun and are in a state of lawlessness. My job brings me into the streets. I see these things as they happen. They aren’t just headlines for me. All we are doing here is treading water, and at this rate we can’t keep afloat much longer. I’m just a simple man, but I can see that everything this administration has done with Iraq has been dead wrong.

We appreciate your support, but we can’t see those yellow ribbons from here. I ask that you let your vote show your support. I don’t know what you go to bed thinking, but I go to bed wondering not how many more years of this administration I can handle but how many more days I might survive.

George Sprague
Balad, Iraq

The writer, who lives in Hillsboro, is a member of a National Guard unit serving at Camp Anaconda, a large logistical support area about 45 miles north of Baghdad.

vote… or else

Iraqi Civilian Deaths

Reuters is reporting that an independent estimate of civilian deaths in Iraq which are a direct result of the US war now exceeds 100,000.

Wonderful. We have now not only killed more civilians than were killed in the World Trade Center attack, we have killed more Iraqi’s than Sadam Hussein did in his 12 years or so of power.

I am so proud to be an american these days.

What continues to floor me is that roughly 50% of the population continues to support the administration, and Bush. I would make some remark about knuckle-draggers, but that would be an insult to Gorillas and Orangutans, who somehow manage to live in peace with each other.

What cannot be disputed is, that by definition, 50% of the population is of below average intelligence.

God help us.

I fear for my country.

There is a fundamental bias, which the right has encouraged, that believes that patriotism, or christianity for that matter, are the purvue only of the conservatives.

Recently I saw a truck with 8 different “christian” logos or bumperstickers on the back. Through the rear window, I could see two large American flags on the front window.

While I have no particular objection to either sentiment in the abstract, I can’t help but wonder how Jesus would have viewed the juxtaposition. He taught, as near as I can tell, the acceptance of everyone regardless of nationality, the true worth of people based on their actions, rather than their rituals or professed beliefs, and the inconsequentiality of earthly kingdoms and nations.

When did patriotism and christianity become the captives of the conservative right?

I am a Christian. Maybe not in the context that many self-professed Christians would believe, but I believe Christ taught that the primary rule was to love your neighbor as yourself, and the fundamental worth of every human being.

I am a Patriot. I love my country (as I love all people), and believe that what makes my country worth that love is the respect and support of everyone, as written into our constitution; not the unconditional acceptance of whatever foolishness our leaders take us into.

I am a Patriot. I am a Christian. I am a Liberal, and I reject the attempt to limit these terms to the self-righteous right that has highjacked them.

My country is poised to re-elect (assuming he was elected the first time) a president who rejects reason, rejects the ruled of law, and rejects the basic teachings of Christ. God forgive us for what we are about to do to ourselves, and to the world.

I pray (literally) that the citizens of Wisconsin, Ohio, and Florida will see this election as it is, and reject the hatred and bigotry implicit in the current republican administration.

God help us all, God Bless America, and God Bless the rest of the world.

Who supports the war? Not those who have fought them…

Is it any wonder the republicans are for this war? They have no idea what it is about. Here are the service records for prominent republicans:

Spencer Abraham: Did not serve
Eliot Abrams: Did not serve
John Ashcroft: Did not serve
Roy Blunt: Did not serve
Michael Bloomberg: Did not serve
George H.W. Bush: Youngest Navy pilot in WW II; awarded DFC
George W. Bush: Texas Air Nat. Guard; didn’t take physical; suspended from flying
Jeb Bush: Did not serve
Saxby Chambliss: Did not serve
Dick Cheney: Did not serve
Christopher Cox: Did not serve
Tom DeLay: Did not serve
Bob Dornan: Enlisted after fighting was over in Korea
John Engler: Did not serve
Douglas Feith: Did not serve
Gerald Ford: Lt. Commander, Navy in WWII
Bill Frist: Did not serve
Newt Gingrich: Did not serve
Rudy Giuliani: Did not serve
Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer
Phil Gramm: Did not serve
Dennis Hastert: Did not serve
Tim Hutchison: Did not serve
Jack Kemp: Did not serve. “Knee problem,” continued in NFL for 8 years
Jon Kyl: Did not serve
Trent Lott: Did not serve
Richard Lugar: Intelligence officer in Navy 1957-1960
John McCain: POW in Vietnam, Silver star, Legion of Merit, DFC, many more
Mitch McConnell: Did not serve
John McHugh: Did not serve
George Pataki: Did not serve
Richard Perle: Did not serve
Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard
Ronald Reagan: Served in WWII making movies
Dana Rohrabacher: Did not serve
Karl Rove: Did not serve
Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor
Rick Santorum: Did not serve
Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base
Richard Shelby: Did not serve
JC Watts: Did not serve
Vin Weber: Did not serve
Paul Wolfowitz: Did not serve
Oh, and for the record, here are many prominent democrats:

David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72
Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, etc
Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy
Wesley Clark: U.S. Army 1966-2000, Vietnam, silver star, purple heart
Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver/bronze stars, Vietnam
Bill Clinton: Did not serve
Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72
Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, bronze star
John Edwards: Did not serve
Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71
John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs; Air Medal w/18 Clusters
Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam as journalist
Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74
Howell Heflin: Silver star
Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; bronze star
Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII
Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53
Bob Kerrey: Lt. j.g. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam
John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; silver/bronze stars, purple hearts
Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII
George McGovern: Silver star & DFC during WWII
Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver star, etc
Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; bronze star, Korea
Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91
Chuck Robb: U.S. Marine Corps, 1961-70, Vietnam
Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, Purple Heart

I guess actually living up to your principles is for the little people.

On another note, how can there be young activist republicans? If they truly believe Bush is right and the war in Iraq is morally justified and necessary, why haven’t they enlisted? It’s easy to have “principles” when you only send other people to fight, and die, for them.