Monday, May 30, 2005

It's just one war

Today is Memorial Day and the media and the celebrants bring out the last remaining WWI vets and the WWII and Korean War Vets and the Vietnam Vets and the two Gulf War Vets and honor them as they should. War is never glory and it is always pain, suffering, death and nightmares. Those who survive deserve the honors.

But what we forget, I feel, is that while we may call each war a separate event, every "war" since the opening guns of WWI has been but a battle in the war that started Aug. 1, 1914, when the German war machine crossed the borders of its neighbors. I was reminded reading Barbara Tuchman's "Guns of August" about the opening month of that war that all of the ills we have seen since then are directly connected to that month of August 1914.

World War I saw the old "royal" world of privilege and prestige for the nobles collapse for the last time. Oh, shreds of it still exist but they are essentially but shreds. The seeds of all the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries, so far, were planted in that war. First, Germany invaded neutral Belgium and thundered down on France. Almost by accident, the French, with British help, managed to bog down the German armies in the trenches not far from Paris. This led to the bloody trench warfare that intensified the rage on both sides, but particularly the allies against the "Hun." Then the Russian armies defeated the old Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary which had been the lid over the boiling pot of the Balkans. In turn, the Germans soundly defeated the Russian army on the Eastern Front and that led directly to the fall of the fading Russian royal government and the rise of the Communists. And, finally, the Germans inveigled the politically corrupt Turkish Empire into the war on the German side. The Turks had maintained a tyranny over the Arab world.

What were the results? The vengeful allies demanded major reparations from the Germans which led to intense resentment and massive inflation in Germany that may have contributed to the international depression and which did lead directly to the rise of Hitler and World War II. When the Russian army was defeated, leading to stalemate and even more fear within Russia, the revolutionists who had tried to overthrow the tsar in 1905, succeeded this time. And after several months of struggle, the Lenin brand of communism was installed. The west's reaction to that led directly, after WWII, into the cold war that resulted in Korea, Vietnam, and Grenada and support for innumerable dictators around the world, as well as constant spending on arms for the world.

Today we are still living with the inept handling, in hindsight, of the Arab world by the victorious allies following WWI. The Turkish empire went south, the Arab world felt it deserved more control of its own interests and the manipulation of France and England, and later the U.S., in the Near East led to the tensions we are seeing there now.

This is the simplified history of what has been, so far, a 91-years war. Tuchman also wrote "A Distant Mirror" in which she dissected the 100-years war that led to the end of feudalism and the beginning of mercantilism. For the people of its time, it was not a 100-years war, but a series of wars that came and went. It was accompanied by the Black Plague that helped topple the establishment of the time. Today we have flu and HIV and maybe some others waiting in the wings.

I guess the point I am trying to make is that without seeing our wars of the 20th and 21st Century in perspective, we cannot see what is happening. We are in the cusp of a changing world. We still have feudalists and mercantilists and industrialists are there who want to go back to the world in which they originated. Toffler's First and Second Wave beliefs are still among us. But we are living in a changing world in which many of those beliefs no longer are viable. It has been the crushing blows of the 91-year war that has led to mighty changes in the way we live. When I was a child, we had no computers, no jet planes, no cell phones, no pocket calculators, no microwaves. Today we have them all. For good or ill, our world has changed under the impetus of our war. We cannot look at it as a series of separate events. We must look at how the pieces fit.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Closing the Border

I finally got around to reading an account of what The Gubernator of California had to say about closing the border to Mexicans a while back, praising the militia that acted on its own to "help" the Border Patrol. The arguments all seemed to be up or down, open the border completely by letting Mexicans sign in and enter legally and those who want to ban all crossings of illegals because they take jobs of muricans and lower wages here (both of which are true).

And I hate to get into the either/or controversies going on in today's world, but it seems to me that we have two extreme choices, neither of which is good, but which might be combined.

1. Let us close the border, period, not just only to people but to imports, except for those that pay tariffs enough to raise their retail cost to what we would pay if they were made in this country. We would also demand that imports would be made by people who are paid U.S. scale for the same job and that the environmental restrictions that they now ignore would have to apply to them. That would limit many imports right there and would mean an end to CAFTA, NAFTA, the new CAFTA and any other free trade agreements. Not only would the World Trade Organization scream like a mashed cat, but so would the American consumer. Costs of everything from dishpans to socks to dinner would skyrocket. But wages would also go up as producers fought to hire a limited pool of available labor.

2. We open the border to those who produce the goods under free trade agreements as well as to the goods. If the products they make can come in, so can those who make them. They must sign in at a formal crossing point and carry an ID card. They then could hold any job they want, send whatever money they want back to Mexico, and visit home on vacation. They would have to be paid at least minimum wage and likely more so that wages might rise again in this country. I think another good point would be that since they would be legal, the unions might have more success in organizing them. The companies who employ them, the IBPs, the Wal-Marts, the Tysons, would not have the leverage they now have to fire anyone who tried to organize the company. As I saw in looking at IBP years ago, before it was bought by Tyson, the economy of scale that IBP was talking about came at the expense of the employees. They broke the unions and brought in lower paid workers to cut you your food.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

A platform for Democrats

From time to time in the next few months, I hope to make suggestions as to the policies that the Democrat Party needs to get busy on for the future. I'll start with an idea for a plan for medical care for U.S. citizens:

We need to start working toward a system which is not as much concerned with the idea of how to pay for medical care, but rather from the root of providing proper medical care for all our citizens. Such programs are in effect in Europe and Canada and while they have some faults, they also provide far more benefits for the average citizen. We need to quit looking at insurance coverage as if it is the answer to all health coverage problems. Health insurance, not matter how good, still does not enable the poorest paid among us to have proper medical benefits. It is still possible to incur enough expenses under many insurance programs so as to be forced into bankruptcy, what with copays and deductibles.

What we hear from our government most of the time these days is providing insurance coverage even though we are approaching or have surpassed the figure where almost one-fourth of our citizens cannot afford even the poorest policies out there. I suggest that the insurance concept is what is keeping us from really protecting our citizens, much as the idea of given a fair deal to the big pharmaceutical companies has been extended into an effort to keep their profits high.


AlterNet: They Lied to Us

AlterNet: They Lied to Us

Here's a Molly Ivins column about the memo found in Britain concerning reports leading up to our attack on Iraq. I didn't see this in the Gazoo, but it should have been there. Are they deliberately leaving out one of the most clear-sighted of editorial columnists? Anyway, the memo said, in its most pertinent assertion, that the intelligence for war was being built about the policy that war was required. Where have I heard that before?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Galloway Goes To Washington

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Galloway Goes To Washington

Mr. Galloway goes to Washington and puts the truth before the U.S. Senate. Will anyone hear him? Doubtful!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

AlterNet: MediaCulture: Moyers Addresses PBS Coup

AlterNet: MediaCulture: Moyers Addresses PBS Coup

An extremely interesting take on the news media today. Bill Moyers is, possibly, the most respected newsman in America since Walter Cronkite. He has always been even handed in his coverage. And I agree with him that the real problem with "bias" in the media is that those who claim it can't stand the truth.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: The Real Junk Science

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: The Real Junk ScienceWhat do you mean, there used to be a glacier there?

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Say No to Bases

AlterNet: War on Iraq: Say No to BasesGee, 14 permanent bases in Iraq. Can you believe that? Who'd a thunk it a year ago? See last year's posts.

Monday, May 16, 2005

A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio - New York Times

A Battle Over Programming at National Public Radio - New York TimesIt always seems to me that the only fair and balanced news I ever get is from NPR. And that's after adjusting for my own biases. I think what the right wants is only to report information that supports its views, most of them without significant factual support.

If you don't like the meaning change the definition

Another scary story on the ignorance vs knowledge level in the Gazette today. An AP story out of Kansas suggests that not only is the Kansas Board of Education considering making the oxymoron "intelligent design" a requirement in science but that it's also going to change the definition of science so that it includes taking non-science seriously. They're talking about ID but what about astrology, new age religion, bending spoons, and a variety of other unprovable and unintelligent efforts of the ignorant to control lives that are out of control. I know people who believe that new age medicine is much, much better than traditional medicine. While she treats herself that way, she keeps getting blinder, literally.

What the so-called discovery institute doesn't say is that there is no controversy over evolution in science. It is supported by too many facts for any true scientist to doubt it. Intelligent Design does not follow from the facts. There are too many paths in the fossil record to explain what the ID people call the impossible (the various complexities of the eye, for instance), and too many cases where things like the human appendix indicates a serious lack of planning. And while the ID people are claiming that there are flaws in some of the studies and that evolution cannot be predicted, even I can make a prediction based on the theory of evolution: We have to keep developing new medicines because every time we treat a disease with one, it won't be long until the little buggers that created the disease evolve a defense against what we're using.

One of the biggest problems with all creationists, including ID proponents, is their arrogance. They can look at a world which has blossomed over millennia in a number of ways, with a number of different species at the top of the feeding pyramid and then claim that we are the ultimate. That's not only a limited view of the universe, but it insults any creator that does exist.

AlterNet: Opting for 'Opt-In'

AlterNet: Opting for 'Opt-In'Do you know whose looking at your child's high school records today?

Sunday, May 08, 2005


One issue that I've done a lot of cogitating over the last few months is the concept of compromise. I define compromise as a situation in which both sides give a little to achieve an agreement that works. I suspect that Hillary Clinton's suggestion that most of us on the choice side would rather not see the number of abortions we have but would work with the right to lifers to increase contraception and pregnancy prevention to cut back the numbers although we still would support abortion as a fallback position is a true compromise. I think the fact that abortion and contraception have been used by women for millennia is evidence that it is needed. But I think the incidence might be controllable with proper sexual training. Now that's an opinion. And you may argue with it all you want to.

The question of compromise arises when one side is dealing with fact and the other side is dealing with belief and will not accept the facts. I think of bar arguments such as how high is the Montana capitol building in Helena? Or is it raining outside? It is possible to measure the capitol or to find out its height from a guidebook. We can define what we mean by rain and walk outside to find out if that mist qualifies.

Now let us look at the religious right's view of evolution. Creationists do not seem to accept the height of the building. Young earthers (those who think the world began in 4004 BCE) have to say that God is testing us so that they can deny their own observations of the age of the earth that they see in the strata on the side of most Montana highways. Those who are willing to accept some evolution but insist that a designer had to have stepped in at some point to create us and the world we live in can't seem to realize that is not an argument from evidence. In general, all scientists who publish in peer-reviewed journals accept evolution. Science magazines do not carry articles on creationism or ID because they require evidence which must convince those in the field.

Some people say it's a matter of opinion whether you want to select one side over the other. But you cannot argue facts and that's what the ID creationists want to do but without valid facts with which to challenge science. In actuality, the truth is much harder to deal with. Science is not a belief system; it is a process through which we may look at the universe and see what is there, whether it is in chemistry, physics, or biology. It has a defined, step by step process to validate all ideas. You and I can have all the ideas we want about the composition of the moon, the makeup of the human cell, the processes of life and of star making. But until we generate an hypothesis that enables us to create an experiment to prove or disprove the hypothesis, we have no support in the scientific world. But if our experiment seems to prove our hypothesis, then we can generate a concept. But is only when the idea is supported by other experiments by other scientists that we can accept it as a theory. A scientific theory has been supported time and again by the evidence. We accept the theory of relativity when we detonate nuclear bombs or run an electrical generator using nuclear power. We accept evolution because the fossils support it and because new fossils can fit into the system.

So the question becomes how can we compromise with those who refuse to accept the facts; who display their ignorance of science everytime they open their mouths? I hear calls for compromise. I hear people say that everyone is entitled to their opinion as thought an opinion overrules fact. Some people say "teach both" but one is science and other is belief. That's not a compromise, that's error. Is it possible to compromise on this issue?

Saturday, May 07, 2005


There's a really scary piece in today's Gazoo written by a freshman at Laurel High School concerning "Intelligent Design" vs. Evolution. She is following right down the line of the religious right that says 1) there is a controversy over evolution and 2) intelligent design (the worst oxymoron since "military intelligence") are equal possibilities. The problem is that comparing ID and evolution is comparing apples and oranges. There is no debate in scientific circles concerning the evidence for evolution. The so-called problems that the Discovery Institute cites with evolution are not even considered by serious, peer-reviewed scientists to be issues worthy of discussion; they've been answered and the major questions of the role of disaster in evolution are what is of most concern now.

The "scientists" who support the question of ID are not published in peer-reviewed journals by biologists and other scientists. They try to dodge the religious issue by refusing to consider "young earth" issues (the world was created at 2:30 p.m. on a Tuesday in 4004 BC) which really do emasculate the whole belief system. ID is essentially a religious view of the whole question based on denying that certain things can happen naturally. Yet some of these same people might accept the concept that enough monkeys with enough computers could write the entire works of Shakespeare given enough time.

The entire universe is evolving all the time. We live on a planet that orbits an, at least, third-generation star. If it wasn't of that generation there wouldn't be enough of the heavy metals, etc., to have built and maintained the earth we live on. In the universe, we never see the present or the future, we see only the past. Even the moon has aged by the time we see the light from it. Every ray of sunlight comes from a sun that is about eight minutes older before we see the light from it. Evolution is a constantly moving force that works its magic over time. Humanity, so far, has existed but for an instant in that time scale. We consider the Age of Dinosaurs without realizing it lasted for millions of years and that there were thousands of dinosaur species during that time period. In the age of mammals we are still experimenting and have no idea where it is going. No Armageddon will bring a thousand years of peace to this world. It will only create new paths for the mammals and other creature living on this ball of rock.

If ID is taught at all, it should be in a humanities course where the creation beliefs of all faiths are taught in a non-dogmatic way of illustrating the paths that humanity has taken in the past.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Just what it looks like

I'm sitting here looking blearily at my computer screen with one eye dilated and the other covered by a mesh screen that I can't remove until tomorrow. Probably a good thing right now because I'm not supposed to rub my eye and it's bothering me as an eyelash was stuck in it. Maybe I'll take some tylenol in the near future.

Two hours ago, they took the lens out of my right eye and replaced it with a new one. The old one had a cataract to the point where I was having some trouble seeing out of it and a new lens in my glasses would have weighed 1.235 pounds or in that neighborhood. So the cataract had to go.

It is a ridiculously easy procedure these days. About 50 years ago, give or take a couple of years, my dad had cataracts removed from his eye. As I remember (and I may be wrong, memory is, after all, only memory) they had to take his eyeball out and clean out the cataract by removing his lens and then put the eyeball back in and sandbag him on both sides of his head so he couldn't move for three or four days and then let him out with warnings not to lift anything heavy.

Today I went in at 1:30 and was walking out at 3:15 with a new lens and a window screen on my right eye wearing dark glasses. After what seemed like forever getting drops in my eye and having the nurses and technicians and doctors peering at the eye to make sure they were getting the right one (which was also the correct one), the procedure took about 20 minutes or so. I spent my time lying on my back with my left eye closed staring up at these myriad colors floating around above me. First there was the bright, bleary light, then some yellows, reds and blues (the primary retina cone colors), and then I could make out a few shadows when they moved on the periphery. The doctor leaned on my forehead a bit (I was glad I'd kept the left eye closed because he also stuck a finger against that eyelid) and I could see the lens coming in the eye that was taped open.

Then it was done. I was helped off the table into another room where I was given my marching orders (sleep with the patch for a couple of weeks, come back tomorrow, etc.) and was done. Like falling off a log.

Some people say they would like to go back to what they call "the good old days." I think there were some good things back in those days, particularly when I didn't have any responsibilities, but I don't think the "good old days" were that good, particularly after what I went through today compared to how it was done in "the good old days.l"

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