Blogs ... 2006
Christmas: An oft-forgotten story. He was born and he died, that much we know. Sort of. The dying part is a little sketchy depending on how you look at it. And, wait a minute, the being born part is also a little sketchy, depending on how you look at that, too. But all the stuff in the middle, that part's all written down in the gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But wait a minute, how about the gospels of James and Mary? So even the middle is a little sketchy, depending on how you look at it. And then there's the B.C. and A.D. issue. A lot of the world changed the calendar in his honor. So let's start there. He was important. We can all agree on that. There are some other things too. He never prostletyzed for a religion. He never said this religion was better than that religion. Oh, he condemned hypocrits and religiosity, no doubt about it, but his words were aimed at all not at some. He never condemned anyone. Even the adulterous woman who "was caught in the very act." He said, "Go forth and sin no more." And, he said, "Let he who hath never sinned, cast the first stone." He had friends. He loved Mary Magdalene. How much and how far he loved her is a mystery of the ages, but she was special and he always treated her well and as an an equal, no doubt about that. He never proclaimed himself God, and he gave God all the credit. He proclaimed people who came to him for healing, were healed "by their faith." He never asked for money. He never advocated violence although he did sometimes lose his temper as with the money lenders in the temple. He referred to his body as a temple. He renounced by demonstration the accumulation of wealth. He loved little children proclaiming "a little child shall lead us." He walked among the deathly ill and contageous fearlessly. He was tempted and resisted. He was studious as a child, sitting with religious leaders and debating issues as early as ten years old. He was humble, following the footsteps of others such as John. He said things like: "Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth." And, he said, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye also unto them." The first word of his most famous prayer is "Our," not "My," or "Your." Our Father. He was inclusive and loving and walked among us apparently without doing all of the things that humans do that so clearly do not work. He called on us to forgive everyone, to love unselfishly, and to honor the good. In the end, the world killed him for not worshipping worldly things and following rituals accepted. The Romans beat him mercilessly, nailed him hand and foot to a cross, stabbed him and let him bleed to death alone with other criminals. There are reports of his death on the cross and over 500 separate records of his later reappearances. Did he really return from death? Who knows, Virginia? But like Santa Claus in the hearts of children, there is something that lives on in the human heart and that will not die, that comes back from death over and over. What is it? Hope. Hope from the history of mankind: the lessons learned. Hope from the life of Jesus and many other lives as well. Hope from our families and forgiveness there. Hope from our innate resilence. Hope from a kind word or a warm smile from a stranger. The forgotten story of Christmas is a story of unending hope and, yes, an uncondemning, unselfish, demonstrative faith in truth. What is truth? It's that one thing that cannot be explained, and at the same time, it's the one thing that needs no explanation. We just know. So, for those of you who celebrate today, Merry Christmas. Remember, every day should be Christmas, because, don't forget, we don't even know when he was actually born but it was certainly not December 25th. 12/25/06
Why President Bush doesn't read The New York Times. Well, it doesn't fit on an 8.5 by 11 inch page for one thing that's for sure. But just look through today's edition. By the way, Saturday is my favorite day and I really do read it every day, cover to cover.
(And, I'm going to have to skim along or this comment would be way too long.)
1. Alexander V. Litvinenko, killed by a radiation poison pill struck out at Vladimir Putin from his death bed in London proclaiming that the Russian President personally ordered his execution. Bush: I have seen into his soul and he is a good man. Laura: Didn't you once tell me I had a beautiful soul, too?
2. We Have Fisticuffs in Aisle 2. Shoppers, desperate for savings, crush into malls and stores all over America at the crack of dawn on Black Friday, the theoretical first day of profits for American businesses in the year. Why are people so desperate? The middle class is running on empty: savings rate of minus point six percent, the lowest by far since the depression; job security is at all time lows, and the so-called War on Terrorism is sucking the life out of the American economy; national debt equals $134,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. Bush: This "young and restless" generation is highly educated, mobile, and skeptical. And me, pushing the War in Iraq when they want flex-time and push ball at work. Laura, Barbara's purse was snatched the other day, dear. Jenna was out late. Perhaps, you should have spent more time at home. Indeed.
3. Cities Compete In Hipness Battle to Attract Young. 25 to 35 year olds are in hot, hot demand as babyboomers retire at a two-to-one ratio against new workers coming into the economy. Imagine: for every two who retire only one new individual joins the workforce. Bush: not many of those will be Republican evangelizing proselytizers voting for more and defense spending.
4. U.S. Dollar Falls Sharply On Anxiety Over China. Euro to dollar exchange rate is now $1.3079 yesterday, the highest ever. Not only is China our largest creditor for the crashing and burning war effort in Iraq, but our trade deficit is astronomical at $716.7 billion for far this year. Administration officials are flying to China next month to assess how our bankers and most-important trading partner feels. Let's hope the Chinese are patient and scrutable. Bush: Holy Toledo, Laura. Didn't we used to say "Buy American?" Laura: Shrubby, did you see Jericho this week? The Chinese were sending the survivors food and shelter by parachute. See, they still like us.
5. Militant Attack Sunni's Mosques in 2 Iraqi Cities. Well, finally the euphemism, "sectarian violence" pushed out day after day by the Bush administration's spinning politicos is being recognized for what it really is: genocide, ethnic cleansing, radical religion gone nuts. "Civil War" doesn't really say it right either. We had a Civil War, what they are doing over there is something else. Bush: We are saving the world from terrorists. Laura: Why are there some many of them now, dear?
6. Political Scandals in Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian, President, and his administration, supported and abetted by Bush, is now on a nationwide death watch as their pro-Independence campaign settles down into a mire of disgusting corruption, lying and humiliation. Pro-China alternatives are chomping at the bit. The Taiwan president is faced with his wife awaiting trial and his chosen successor is under intense investigation. Once hailed by Bush as Tiawan's George Washington, Mr. Chen has become its "Boss Tweed," as described in today's edition. Bush: Did I say that? Really? Laura, at least I'm not going to jail, right?
7. Still Left Behind. The achievement gap between black and white students is still there in classrooms and schools all over the country and after six years (790 days to go, as of today, by the way, until Inauguration Day) the No Child Left Behind Act is leaving the children behind who the law was touted and supposedly written to stop leaving behind. In fact the problem is that white education is getting better and better under the law, at least by measures the law itself employs. So, no White Child Left Behind would be a better name for the law. Or how about the "Try to Catch Us Now Act?" But that wouldn't have flown very high on campaign television, would it? Bush: And the weird part is that we have the EXACT law we wanted because we controlled all three branches of government. Who could have known? Laura, Rove and Dick mentioned the possibility, don't you remember, dear? Georgie? [Asleep on the couch at 9:10 p.m.]
By the way, these seven articles are only seven out of fourteen on JUST the front page. There are 27 other pages in that section and five other sections, including editorials, letters and columns. No wonder George W. Bush doesn't read The New York Times. Why don't you... that's the question. Why doesn't everyone? It would have saved the world and our great and beautiful country a lot of pain and suffering. 11/25/06
92 Million. We passed 92 million visitors yesterday. In the month of October we
had over 1.5 million page views. I used to keep closer track of all of this but for what it's worth, I don't look at the counts as much as I did before. We get over a thousand emails a day, and much of it is commenting on legendinc.com's "editorial drift," as some put it. Refer to our Posting Note. The only possible "drift" this site has is whatever the webmaster finds interesting that day. Those who have viewed us the longest, seem to like us the most. If you come in one day and are offended, come back the next day and see what happens. If you come in one day and find something you like, well don't expect that every day either. 11/10/06
Kerry's An Idiot. Well, there are no easy answers. He was tired. He had been working tirelessly for Democratic candidates all over the country. Not because he called them but because they called him. He was trying to distill his thoughts about Iraq and the President into a set of words that would make people think and laugh. That is almost always a good idea. He meant to say: "Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush." Can you find one word there you don't agree with? But drop the "us," and we all disagree with every word. Even John Kerry disagrees with the sentence with the omitted word. And who would ever think that Mr. Kerry would actually denigrate or diminish soldiers at their posts? Adlai E. Stevenson Jr. said something that is interesting in this situation: "I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends ... that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." And sad to say, what John Kerry intended to say was the truth about W. He really didn't study in college. He is obviously and doggedly intellectually lazy. And, he has got this great nation "stuck" in Iraq. Mr. Kerry apologized for mis-speaking, as he should have. We want all of our politicians to always speak perfectly ... but name one who does. Kerry apologized succinctly (oh that he had delivered the joke so compactly), but what of George the Terrible? Should he apologize for sending the same soldiers back into combat four and five times? Should he apologize for initiating an unprovoked attack on a nation that was actually no threat to us? Should he apologize for terrifying the world over weapons that did not exist? Should he apologize for masterminding an assault on an innocent population and killing over 655,000 people? Should he apologize for ignoring global warming and the promise of stem cell research? Should he apologize for setting public education in America back fifty years? Should he apologize for shamelessly waving the 9/11 bloody flag at every self-serving opportunity he could engineer? Should he apologize for cutting mercilessly veteran benefits and benefits to surviving families of veterans? And, in pursuit of what Kerry's enemies falsely accuse him of, should George apologize for authorizing and encouraging the dumbing down of recruitment standards and forcing recruiters to become more aggressive than drug dealers? So, in the end, if John Kerry is an idiot for overworking his day-after-day effort to put America back on the right path as he sees it, and in a struggle with fatigue to have "botched" a bad joke, then so be it. But what of the other? What would you, if you are fair, call George W. Bush with his trail of blood and deceit washing along behind his administration's ship of state? And, then of course what woud you say, if you are fair, of all of us standing by and watching it all happen, saying nothing, funny or otherwise? 11/2/06
Words that Change. Someone sent me an e-mail about the Ten Commandments. You know, the issue of whether or not they should be allowed on federal buildings or any building built with public money or used for public purposes, like a courthouse or town hall. The answer is, of course, no. And it isn't about the Ten Commandments at all, but about a government of the people, by the people and for the people not perishing from this Earth. All governments have an important job to do, but that job never includes influencing HOW people should pray to God. But this e-mail that someone sent me was making the case that this country was founded by Christians and should be allowed to continue to proselytize for Christianity in an official way. It cited the fact that on the outside of the Supreme Court is a marble carving depicting Moses and the Ten Commandments, and also inside there are many more of these depictions. It also quoted Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Webster as saying that the American people should always prefer Christian leaders. But, in my reply I noted that two words have changed radically since 1776: Christian and Republican. "Christian" used to mean: (Webster's 1828 dictionary) "A real disciple of Jesus Christ; one who believes in the truth of the Christian religion, and studies to follow the example, and obey the precepts, of Jesus; a believer in his words and deeds who is characterized by real piety." "Republican" used to mean opposition to monarchy and support of governmental noninterference and the primacy and independence of the individual. But today's Christians condemn everyone who and everything that doesn't agree with their way of worshipping God. Jesus said a lot of things, true, but two things he said over and over are: "Judge not, that ye be not judged." (Matthew 7:01) and " If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:15) Don't judge or condemn others and forgive everyone for everything. Does that sound like something coming forth from the caterwauling pulpits of America's Christendom? Or do we hear condemnations for people who are different echoing through the cathedral halls? And Republicans today have created a virtual fascist monarchy that is interfering in every walk of life to a degree that is truly mind-boggling and nothing whatsoever resembling the party of Abraham Lincoln or the philosophies of our founding fathers. It really isn't at all about the Ten Commandments, but it is about whether or not the dream of America will perish from this earth. This is the land of the free, but are we still the home of the brave? -- 10-18-06
Slamming Islam. Mosques are being built all over the Western world, but in almost all Islamic nations churches and pluralistic religions are banned. Period. In this basic fact lies all of the "clash of civilizations" that we hear about today. Open societies for all their shortcomings imply that all are welcome as long as all are welcome. Overcoming fear in social organization is the implicit foundation of open societies. The realization that trying to define human nature is destined to failure because human nature is only defined in variation and ever-increasing variation. The ultimate denominator is the individual, not the group. Show me one case where, in the end, this was not true. Every case you show me, will prove the rule because if it looks like a group is prevailing in the end, then ... well ... it's not the end. Religion is the past; faith is the future. How counter-intuitively stupid is it to say: "God wants this or that?" How transparent is it when someone says something like that that in fact what they are really saying is, "I want this or that?" All religions, organized religions, have one message: "shut up and listen to me." Faith simply says: listen. When you listen sincerely there will be religions you like and services to attend and causes to contribute to and donate your time to: but you will only attend to these entities as long as they match your own faith. Once they deviate to violence or to insistence on orthodoxy, you will continue your search elsewhere. How bad is it, really, when that individual search is constricted and restrained by force or dogma and lack of any other option? How do you know if there are really other options? Well, if there are organizations around you that you really don't like at all. Hence in open societies we must put up with people and organizations that attack us. In closed societies that is not true. So, Islam in America proves our search continues even if it brings some danger and destruction. In most Islamic societies the lack of churches and synagogues proves the inherent weakness of their system. It may look completely opposite: open societies are weak and closed societies are strong. But looks deceive don't they? History has given open societies one unchanging admonition: keep the faith. -- 9206
NOTE: The urge to blog has not been pressing lately although it is growing again. Sometimes when I look into the world news -- and that it from sources far and wide: like a child's eyes, the taste of a vegetable banned in stores (spinach this time, I survived), or Katie Couric bombing at the anchor desk, or as prices lifting the hopes of Republican candidates, or even my despair at something in skydiving's unfolding history, or, yes, even the hope of finishing the trim on my seemingly lifelong project cabinet -- well, sometimes I just find it easier not to blog than to blog. But, that is the question. So, I'm thinking about it and I thought that this little paragraph might be better than the phrase, now unwelcome and overstayed perhaps like the guest who doesn't know: "Coming soon...." When "soon" is relative and "coming" can be slow (larghissimo) and distant (yonder) to be sure. The only thing that interests me lately is keeping a low, low profile (minding my own business) which is obviously not conducive to blogging. But, that could change. 9166
Terrorism and nail polish. The problem is that we are being corralled into a world where normal things become nightmarish tools of destruction. The car. The crib. The baby bottle. And now even those little cosmetic fluids that we use to make ourselves feel more human (in the Western sense). Imagine what would happen if ten planes blew up as they crossed the ocean at the hands of suicidal maniacs mixing cosmetics onboard. And then imagine what has happened in the announcement that that plot was foiled. In the former, the world would have stood still in shock and awe at what extremists will do to remain extreme at the killing of innocents for what ... bitterness over 400 years old? In the latter, we are forced into alterations of lifestyle and pressed into the deeper regions of fear and, yes, repression by our own government. Now with "Code Red" the United States' governments (local and federal) are assuming powers unheard of in our history, cancelling human rights and constitutional guarantees that have been the right of every citizen for 230 years. Gandhi said, "You must be the change you want to see." George W. Bush is telling us to become the monstrously repressive, fearful, devious, and duplicitous society we want to fight. Is this the new American way? History has taught us that an eye for an eye "leaves the whole world blind." Is there any greater proof of that than what we are witnessing today? If we are to fight, then let us lead a fight of good example. We must be willing to sacrifice for what we believe. But we must never be like those who hound freedom and destroy innocent life. The implication is clear: to fight terrorism, we must live as we have always lived and accept the consequences of true freedom. After 9/11 the world rallied to America. In the wake of Iraq we are alone, more vulnerable and it's getting worse and worse. Instead of punishing our own people and repressing American's traditional freedoms we should continue to honestly pursue the terrorists but encourage Americans to be the heroic and historic people they have always been by living freely and taking their chances. When these "terrorists" strike again it will be their undoing, not ours. As it is today, they don't even have to actually strike to change the world, they can do it just on fear alone. -- 9116
It would be great, wouldn't it? Just have everything taken care of with a minimum of effort. Or would it? Surveys show that today's homeowners know almost nothing about their homes. The sprinklers, the garage door, the electronics, the built-in compactor, and sad to say, in an emergency most people today would be all but useless. This was more than demonstrated in Hurricane Katrina and in the destruction of the World Trade Center. The trained emergency personnel did well, indeed. But the average person was frozen in time ... at a loss about what to do. Sure, on the primal level of survival they all did what they could to stay alive, but when told to stay in the doomed building almost all of them did, ensuring their death. Those who disobeyed and found a way out survived. In the aftermath of Katrina, people are still in dazed lives waiting for help to arrive almost a year later. What would our forefathers have done? Action was their way. They learned by doing, but today "doing" means doing the same thing over and over essentially. In early America "doing" meant doing new things, things we weren't sure we could do, things we actually thought were impossible, but we tried anyway.
I enjoy folding clothes. I like putting them in the drawers and on the shelves. I like knowing how things got where they are. How they became what they are. Most people would too, given the chance. In skydiving, when I teach students to pack their own parachutes, I first teach them that they should resolve to LOVE to pack. Today's skydivers, all too often, rely on packers to do this essential action for them. I show the students all the parts of the parachute that they get to look at while they pack their own canopy. I ask them, "Do you think anyone else will ever look at these things as carefully as you do?" They always see my point. Packing a modern day parachute is analagous to living a modern day life. When you are intimately involved in the details of your life you are more apt to see things as they wear, to feel things as they change, and to have the skill to know what to do in ever-changing circumstances.
Folding up your own life's "parachute" may well involve folding clothes and all of the other daily "mundane" tasks that you could easily pay someone else to do. But why would you do that? The only reason we are on the planet is to help one and other. The only way we can help each other is with our knowledge gained from a life of involvement and effort. Is how to reach into a wallet and take out money the only advice you are truly qualified to give?
Try building something you were going to buy and see what happens. Try doing something you were going to pay someone else to do and see what happens. And if you really want to learn something, invite someone you love to work side-by-side with you while you do it. Stick with it until it's done. You may laugh at the cartoon above (it is funny), but knowing all the nooks and crannies of your life and the people around you will never come with something someone else did or something you can just plug in. True living comes not with wishes but with action.
Change. Without change life becomes death. Things you love will change, and if you really love them, and not just your own comfort, then you will change with them. Resisting change is futile and unnatural. I know people sometimes do that, but still, if you really want life and if you really want to live, then a day full of change is a day worth living. People fear change because they think it brings bad things, but when you think about it, change brings all the good things that come into your life. Actually, most change comes from within anyway. Ask yourself, "What if nothing about me or my life ever changed? Would that make me happy? If yes, you are already dead. If no, then today is your day.
"Change has a considerable psychological impact on the human mind. To the fearful it is threatening because it means that things may get worse. To the hopeful it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better." -- King Whitney Jr.
The only thing that never changes is that which is perfect. Hence, our lives, our minds, and our hopes are going to change. Resist not; and approach closer to Truth
7-23-06: "Sweet is war to those who know it not." The man who said that was Pindar, one of the few Greek poets whose works have survived. He was born in 518 and died in 438 B.C. He wrote his greatest poems around the age of 20. He sided with Persia in Medean Wars, and though those years were hard for him, but his dissidence seemed only to enlarge his fame and career. His last ode still surviving was VIIIth Pythian Ode in 446, when he was 72. Plato quoted his works repeatedly, some are only known of by Plato's mentioning of them. But what were the Medean Wars that spawned such passion? Pindar often wrote of sporting events as analogies of war, but his writer's teeth were cut in those early days of war and opposition. Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire (perhaps) began as the sovereign of a small country vassal of the Medes, who he subsequently conquered and subjugated. The Medean Wars were his heir's unsuccessful attempts to conquer Greece. Cyrus is recorded with a reputation as a good leader: merciful, he freed the Jews in Babylon, and Plato considered him the only leader he would accept as a model.
I only mention all of this because even in the far distant past of human history the bloody wars of aggression and avarice were viciously being fought by contemporarily acclaimed "great leaders." Even fooled were the greatest minds of their time. Cyrus attacked Greece because it was in his way of world domination. And yet, the poet and the philosopher considered him great. What it Cyrus were really Gandhi, and he never attacked anyone? What if he set about building a societal example of defensive strength and internal peace and opportunity based on education, health and sharing equally resources given equally to all of us by God Almighty?
Yes, "Sweet is war to those who know it not." To those who send troops it all seems worth it. But to those who lose sons, daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters it seems a horrifying stupidity and useless waste. And those who send them, revere those soldiers who survive. But the dead are still dead and gone. The silence of the Arlington Cemeteries resound through the ages whispering, "why, why, why?"
And now, the Middle East is marching again. Millennia of experience seems lost in the fog of history. The lessons are so clear: war destroys our peace. Why does it still have such an appeal? Someone must cast the first stone.
"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent."
"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?"
"Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat."
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
-- Mahatma Gandhi
Human beings throughout history do know what war is. When will we become that change we want to see: when will we stop supporting the true "evildoers?" Can the human race ever learn to turn the other cheek and have the faith in ourselves without the drumbeating Sons of Cyruses? Will we ever give peace a chance?
7-21-06: American Suicide? Arnold J. Toynbee's theories of the decay of societies and civilizations over-emphasized the role of religion, critics said. But as time has passed, his ideas (or "metaphysical speculations") have re-emerged as current and informative. He saw the extinction of race consciousness between Muslims as one of Islam's outstanding achievements. But within that positive, he identified properly the horrifying negative that that did not apply to those outside of the religion. He rightly and strongly noted that all religious intolerance (zealotry) is often the goal beyond the stated goal that drives religions to grow and which can often cause the societies which house them to implode into martydom, or "commit suicide." It is a basic truth that belief in "the truth" leads to the belief that there is only "one truth." So, in modern usage, most religion leads on quickly to zealotry. Intolerance is the current common denominator of religion in the 21st Century. If religion is defined as "belief in a divine power," then we have a "divine power" today that is causing an enormous amount of killing and other atrocities. At the turn of the century in 1900 historians were predicting "a return to normalcy," and the current international conflict was "the war to end all wars." But instead the 20th Century was the bloodiest ever by far. 80 million people were killed in armed conflict. And this century is off to another record attempt. The great social advances have come by non-violent actions: Gandhi, King, Mandela. But much of those messages have fallen on dead ears because of unbelievable intense arms sales, religious inflammations, and corruption. Tyranny (religious and political) have brought the human race nothing but trouble. And, democracies are especially susceptible.
Is America in the process of committing suicide? Elections were once our steadfast bulwark against tyranny, but now they seem to be a tool of the intolerant. Our Constitution was once our last resort, but now it is often ignored both by leaders dubiously elected and by the electorate taught that security is the highest goal.
Toynbee's theories put his face on Time Magazine in 1947, the year many baby-boomers who today participate in the death of the American Dream through selfishness and apathy were born. I imagine that their baby pictures were sometimes on the coffee table with that March 17 edition: the last time (perhaps) that the two ever shared proximity, until now. Modern organized religion and its zealot-clergy is destroying the very fabric it pontificates as its eschaton from richly appointed pulpits of personality. Barefooted and homeless, the man held up, along with a shaking text of scripture, as author of all purity, walked to a lonely death on a barren hill with thieves as his only companions; faith his only garment.
It has been said that the devil has the power to assume many pleasing shapes and how true it is. Civilization's life or death, Toynbee said, "Is a product of wills." Who will win: those who lead us to suicide while speaking of everlasting life, or those who chose to live quietly proving that life is love? Be wary of religion, but always keep the faith.
7/7/06: American Soldiers Killing Innocents, Raping and Other Crimes. What Did You Expect? Coming soon ... the story of a young soldier.
6/24/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #6, the last question). Kimberly Dozier (NBC). [She is speaking from a hospital bed, and the beeping and whiring of medical machines and monitors can be heard in the background.] Can you hear me all right, Mr. President?
The President: Yes, Kimberly. We were were very upset to hear of your injury.
Ms. Dozier: Thanks. But being here in critical care (I am getting better), surrounded by doctors and press people I was wondering if you think it's fair that everyone who watches TV knows all about what happened to me, how it happened, where my care is taking place and the story of my life if they are so inclined to hear, while the soldiers who die every day are virtually unknown. Do you think it's fair that no one will see their arrival in the United States and that by policy of the government they will pass into the darkness of the grave almost unnoticed?
The President: The policy of "respecting" those killed in action by not filming their return and attending every funeral, in fact the government banned pictures, was inappropriate in a free society. Whether one thinks it's right to make these sad moments into "news" or "politics" is really irrelevant. The simple fact is, if it is happening then the press and the people have a right to see it. Truth is always the best response. Secretiveness is the scourge of democracy. It's like infidelity in marriage. Once it occurs, nothing is ever the same again. Oh, we can move on, and we can justify it. But, in the end, it's always wrong, really. The New York Times and CBS (with Bob Schieffer), are to be commended on their diligence in this area, as are many Web sites that ignore government restrictions. These days the government has come to see its job, actually, as protecting the government rather than the people. Elected officials do NOT work for the government, or for their party as is now the political modus vivendi. No, they work for the people: not the Republicans, not the Democrats ... the people. The history of this war will change our nation. It may go back to the basics or it may go on to tyranny and totalitarianism (which is our current and undeniable direction). It is yet to be determined. I ask the people to stand up and be heard. Your role in this process, like the outcome of the war's effects, is yet to be determined. As a casualty, you now have new powers. In considering what to do with them, your decision will be interesting. As you put it, will we "pass into the darkness of the grave," of history or will we fight for what our founders really wanted and envisioned? They say, "To have friends you must be a friend." I say "to be free, you must be a champion of freedom." There is no freedom in a restriction or redefinition of truth into a tool we use to gain advantage. Truth renders its own advantages and does not bend to the compass of political winds. That is a lesson all nations must learn, and unfortunately most learn it in the hurricane of disastrous ambition.
Thank you all for coming. God bless America and all freedom loving people everywhere. [The President leaves the podium and walks down the long red carpet without looking back.]
5/31/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #5). Brian Williams (NBC): Throughout the education profession of America there is vehement criticism concerning the "No Child Left Behind Act." Teachers especially seem to hate the law. Some states are now rejecting it despite the loss of federal money. Mr. President, how would you assess this act in its original intent, its implementation, and in its effect on the education of American children today?
The President: The "No Child Left Behind" Act was political in its genesis and political in all its effects. It pushed aside any true educational concerns about lifting all children to higher learning levels in favor of a conservative agenda that included, perhaps first in all is goals, the changing of our educational system from an open-minded, creative, problem-solving based system to a system bent on basically creating people good at taking tests. Of course it is failing on all levels. Where test scores have increased, systems are merely teaching to the test, despite claims to the contrary. Testing procedures are now so complicated that the tests must be given earlier and earlier in the school year, crushing normal curriculum development and actually shortening the EFFECTIVE school year because for students once the test is over and the scores are in, that year is over. Educators all over the country confirm these trends. The conservatives jump up and say that the teachers' resistance of the testing proves their point: accountability is not wanted by the liberal teachers and their unions. There is no evidence whatsoever to prove that teachers resistance to this "Act" is anything except in keeping with the highest traditions of American education. Unfortunately, school management systems under this "Act" have evolved hiring practices based on the predictability of applicants' support for "higher standard," meaning of course their ability to manipulate teachers into every great emphasis on testing taking skills and building their days around what is going to be on the tests. There is now a culture of fear among teachers who are afraid to speak out about the deleterious effects of this testing mania on their students. As the Japanese say, "The protruding nail gets hammered down." So, not only has the "Act" prostituted the true goal of education into a goal of something that looks like education but is the opposite, it has also discouraged an entire generation of educators. Misleading the people of this country and turning young people against education as a goal in and of itself is a long term effect of this "Act" which will go down in infamy for the damage it has done to our nation. To answer your question directly: the "No Child Left Behind Act," is a total failure and it should be repealed and those who supported it should (as they have asked so unfairly of others) be held accountable for their actions.
5/6/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #4). Katie Couric (CBS): I'd like to go back to the war in Iraq, Mr. President, if you don't mind. Given that many of the troops assigned to the war are now returning for their fourth tour, and many people consider this a form of unfairness almost to the point of cruelty, do you see any options? And, as another element of the same question, with the possibility of enlarging the war to Iran, doesn't this raise issues of manpower and resources to continue to fight effectively and over extension without some changes in ... shall we say ... procurement?
The President: Obviously, you are talking about the draft, Katie, but let me first talk about the implications of your question. Well over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in this war, and we killed them. Our soldiers have been subjected to horrific events and actions, perhaps more than most Americans imagine. Access to the war has been restricted in many ways but one of the most significant is, as you imply, the limited number of American families that have been exposed to loss. We all read about it, but unlike other wars, this war has a confined cadre of corps that actually go into combat. And many, as you say, go into the smoke over and over. Never in history has surviving a combat wound been so life altering for so many. Not to denigrate previous conflicts at all, but the reality is that we can save lives today that would have been fatalities in previous times. So we have an ever-enlarging number of badly injured soldiers who are surviving. Additionally we have a large percentage, some studies say it's in the 70 percent range, some say ever higher, of veterans seeking psychological care after leaving the combat theater. The 2,405 KIAs recorded today are only the tip of the iceberg of this war, and the implications and ramifications of the decisions made on the genesis and conduct of this war will be with us for as long as any of us alive today breathe the sweet air of Earth. The families, children and broken lives of Americans, Coalition and Iraqi people are bearing a tough burden indeed. To enlarge the recruitment of new troops via a universal draft is, to me, the only fair thing to do. It was always the only fair way to go. Politically , it's suicide. And that's why drafting young men and young women has not occurred. I believe that the people of this country faced with a universal draft would put an end to the conflict in short order and elect leaders who understand that that burden I just discussed is not acceptable, in this case. Our people have always been stalwarts when it comes to standing up to a threat to our freedom or in standing against tyranny and aggression, but in the case of Iraq, I believe that that perception of urgency and outrage is now missing, except in that it is our own government that is acting in the wrong. So, here we are. An unpopular war growing every day in ever greater unpopularity. A tired corps of troops over burdened with an endless circle of combat, rest, and more combat. A growing group of wounded, damaged and not-reenlisting veterans. The social impact of hundreds of thousands of badly wounded and recovering soldiers. And to be honest, the situation in Iraq could be worse today than when we began, and Iran is emboldened with their Islamic fundamentalist rhetoric and nationalistic bravado. So, your question was, "do you see any options?" Yes, if the Iraqi government recently installed can build support; if they can stop the growing civil war, or insurgency, if you wish; and if the area can cool off long enough for the benefits of a free people to take hold. Wouldn't that be great? But, we are entering a forced timetable whether we like it or not. The coalition is weakening, obviously. America can't stay the course forever, especially alone. So, no draft, Katie. And overall, the people involved all know the truth: America's on the way out. All the people we lifted up to positions within the government over there are at great risk in a collapse of our support. Our friends will be hunted down like dogs or quislings and killed. A nightmare scenario of another fundamentalist, intolerant regime emerging with Iran is in the offing. I hate to say it, but under Saddam Hussein this would never have happened. His tyranny was horrible, his sons were animals ... but he was in control of a country that today is unstable and unpredictable. Have we jumped out of the frying pan directly into the fire? Attacking Iran is not a viable option for our country. Our only 'option' course is of course to stay the course as long as we can sustain it. Time is running out, sad to say.
Next question? Brian? (The President calls on Brian Williams...) [next time above]
5/3/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #3). Bob Schieffer (CBS): Mr. President, with Americans facing sticker shock at the gas pump and oil companies and their CEOs raking in unprecedented profits and salary packages, and with predictions of much more to come including $4.00 and $5.00 per gallon, can you tell the American people what has gone wrong and what they should expect?
The President: The American people, Bob, should expect a lot more from their government than they have been getting in this regard. The fact of increasing demand for oil and gas is not a new phenomenon. In 1990 Congress considered a bipartisan bill that would have increased fuel economy standards to 40 miles per gallon over a ten year period. Today that bill, which passed with 57 votes but lost to a shameless special interest filibuster, would have resulted in saving over half of our current consumption. In Bolivia recently the government nationalized the oil industry by force. When people are faced with such an incongruence of choosing between food and transportation while the big oil companies and their executives rake it in at levels almost unimaginable to the ordinary citizen, something's got to give. Most of the oil sold today is pumped from public grounds or offshore territories. And when you really think about it energy in today's world is the difference between life and death in many cases and is easily equivalent to other essential commodities such as clean air and clean water. In our political climate, politicians consider campaign financing as preeminent over these other elements and I would predict that sooner than later they are in for a rude, rude awakening if something is not done to protect the public first. Alternative energy sources? Of course. But in today's ambivalence and imbalance the idea of interrupting the esthetic beauty of a coastline with a windmill, trumps the perception of a true energy crisis in many seaside communities. But someday those locations may be less of a real estate opportunity and more interesting as locations for renewal energy resources. Mega Yachts versus Mega Watts. The battle is coming. As President, I support a windfall profit tax based on a ten year base. And it should be in the 75 percent range. Returning the exorbitant profits to the people could reduced prices at the pump by between $1.00 and $1.5o per gallon. I would also encourage the people to pick one or two days a month and not use their cars at all. The minute that happened it would get the attention of energy producers. I would, and do, encourage homebuyers to purchase some form of alternative energy generation, no matter how small it may seem. Every little bit adds up in sending a message to these foreign and domestic robber barons. Enough is enough. We will continue to develop ethanol and all the other new energy sources including hydrogen, but when American consumers conscientiously consume even just a little bit less, it will shock the cartel. You can take that to the bank. In short, to really answer your question, Bob, the American people should expect their government to pursue the common good for the people of America which includes inexpensive energy, public transportation and strict and swift punishment for anything that stands in the way. The American people should not vote for candidates or incumbents who have anything to do with the energy lobby in their associations, business careers, or in accepting contributions of any kind. Candidates and incumbents all have public records. There is no reason to wait for campaign reform that may well never come. What we need is voter reform: people should start voting intelligently in their own interests of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When you look at things that way, the ballot, and the path our country needs to take, is clearer.
Next question? Katie? (The President calls on Katie Couric ...) [next time above]
5/2/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #2). Lara Logan (CBS): Mr. President, it's been three years now since the famous "Mission Accomplished" proclamation. 2,400 American soldiers are dead, scores more wounded maimed and even more suffering from post traumatic syndrome. Today proposals are being floated to abandon the effort, to split Iraq into three separate nations, and every day more and more military officials who have retired and are no longer in fear of speaking out are speaking out against the war and the administration's leadership. What should the American people think?
The President: Lara, if I could speak to every American, I would say that they should think that all policy, all decisions, and all outcomes of policies and decisions are the result of myriad inputs, philosophies, data points, and incredibly varied degrees of information accuracy. And, that all of that changes the minute a decision is made. So whatever course of action is decided upon, by whoever, will immediately require adjustment, sometimes radical adjustment, as soon as it is made. Iraq is no different. Aristotle said, "Well begun is half done." So, it must be said that our Iraq adventure was ill-begun with bad intelligence, with leadership predisposed to preemptive war, with the prize of gaining a foothold in the most explosive area of the world, and of course the prospect of gaining some level of increased control of the vital supply of oil. If I thought there was some way to extricate all American forces without irrevocably damaging the worthy goals of stabilization and avoiding a far greater, far more destructive world-ranging conflict, I would do it. And, we are considering all options. But, as of today, we have our finger in the dike. Secretary Rumsfeld knows how I feel about those well-respected generals' public opposition. And, "Mission Accomplished" was ill-advised, but perhaps understandable in the light of the performance of our military in achieving the main objective in those days so efficiently and courageously. So, for now we have to press forward with supporting an emerging Iraqi government, continuing to stabilize and improve the infrastructures and basic services; we have to work harder on getting the oil flowing, and to build a consensus among the neighbors over there on how to work together. If America is getting tired of the war, so am I. If America wants to see a light at the end of the tunnel, so do I. But anyone in this office, today -- not yesterday and not tomorrow -- would be faced with the same situation I am. There is currently no alternative but to continue to attempt to correct our mistakes, to build on our successes, to stand firm for democracy (even when elections go another way than the way we were hoping as in Palestine), and to stick together on the basic mission as it is today. The generals who criticize us still have my respect and admiration. To those who ask, "Why did they wait until it was too late," I say, 'you should have been there.' There were plenty of disagreements and vociferous disagreements at that. But in the end a decision was made. So, to give your question the fullest answer I can, the emerging Iraqi government is our best hope. Splitting the country is not something I support. Immediate withdrawal would render the 2,400 deaths all but meaningless and unnecessarily so, because those men and women have not died in vain. Accomplishing the mission of getting our forces into Bagdad at one time seemed like a great achievement, but now it's clear that it was just the first segment of an extremely difficult task and, plainly, any celebration was very premature. As we proceed, Americans will see that we have learned and adapted and that in the sense that we all want a comprehensibly successful conclusion that brings lasting and positive change to the region and to Iraq we in this government are still resolved and united. As we prove that to our citizens by our openness and actions I hope that their support for these efforts will once again return to levels more customary for our nation in times of international conflict.
Next question? Bob? (The President calls on Bob Schieffer ...) [next time above]
5/1/06: Presidential Press Conference (Question #1). Helen Thomas: Mr. President, it has recently come to light that Hispanic Americans have translated our National Anthem into Spanish and are using it at their sporting and civic events in this country as an alternative to the English version. What do you think of that?
The President: Well, when I first heard of this I asked my Chief of Staff to get the Spanish version and we all gathered in the Oval Office and listened to it. It was exquisitely beautiful. The room was speechless afterward. It was almost as though all of us could speak Spanish in listening to it. We had all heard the anthem so many times that translation was very natural and universal. We were awed by the feeling of the singers and enormous rush of emotion as the recording hit the famous cresendo. It was very unifying. So, to answer your question: I think it's great. More than great, really, I think it borders on amazing. Here is a group of immigrants, many coming here through death-defyng tribulation and danger; many exploited by our enthusiastic capitalists; many discriminated against violently and systematically. And yet, they so love America that they have translated our national anthem into their own language so more of their people could hear it, understand its implicit passion for freedom, and sing along with it at their events. Think about how wonderful that really is. What higher compliment could our nation and our people be given? I wish that our anthem would be similarly translated into every language of the world, that our steadfast commitment to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" was shining so brightly that all could willingly join us in singing that anthem in whatever language they enjoy.
Next question? Lara? (The President calls on Lara Logan, of CBS...) [next time above]
4/22/06: Champion for truth. "Everyone lies," they say, but is that the truth? One would hope not. "The truth is the kindest thing we can give folks in the end." (Harriet Beecher Stowe) Now there's a statement to ponder. People have a right to the truth. It is not for others to decide really. Lies always hurt the liar. Truth is always helpful. Lies seem the path of least resistance, but of course that is a lie as well. Once you go down into the well of lies (and the smallest lie is the most insidious of all because it seems so harmless) then the water is poisoned and no good comes from drinking it. We are all thirsty for truth. When you speak truth people listen, when you lie their minds wander off. People always know. In the pantheon of amazing human facts, that is one of the most astonishing of all: every human being knows when he or she is being lied to. You know its true. We listen to the lies and process our response. Most often it's just the mind wandering off, not giving our undivided attention to the source. "What?" we say, "Did you say something?" Or, the speaker says, "Do you understand?" attempting to regain our attention. Oh, we understand all right. Some people live in lies. They find others living there and form friendships. Prevaricators pile together. There is this ability of people to seemingly agree to agree on things that they all know are not true. A business that makes a harmful product, for example. A group of employees who enable an abusive employer. A political party that accepts a mediocre leader for power. There are innumerable permutations of this ability and all are bad. Become a champion for the truth. Not the religious truth ... that has nothing to do with this discussion except within your own value system. Like the graduate of Harvard who always mentions his college in the first three sentences of every new conversation, "religious" people use their various forms of religiosity today as a substitute for plain and simple truth. This transference is also rampant in many forms of the "party line." Employees say what they are told to say. Teachers keep quiet even as administrators make them do things bad for students. Citizens continue to support government even long after it is clearly on a wrong path. And, we keep telling those little "harmless" lies even as our conscience tells us to shut up. The discontinuity between what we know is right and what we actually do is the cancer that eats away at happiness, health, and harmony, in business, in politics, in relationships and within each of us. Be a champion for truth starting right now. Remember, truth is always the kindest thing you can say. You can always say something true instead of falling back on those intellectually lazy little lies. It isn't about being what other people want you to be, it's about being the person you were always meant to be. Try it. Watch how people respond. You will find that watching what you say means far more than you ever thought it did. When you are a champion for truth you are putting others first. When you are not championing truth you are putting yourself first. And that is always a mistake.
2/26/05: How about some easy answers for a change? The convolutions of modern public discussion is complicating and confusing, but does it need to be that way? The theologists who walk among us, cloven hooves beneath their robes, say yes everything comes down to the the word of God, with whom they have proprietary intercourse. If you were riding in a tank driven by deception and miscommunication into Bagdad on March 23, 2003, things were not that complicated. Things were out of your hands. If you were really rich in 2002 when George Bush's tax cuts went into effect, it was pretty simple, you were going to get a windfall. If you were soldiering on in the streets of Iraq after "Mission Accomplished" your chances of being maimed or killed were growing every day. American torture in Abu Gharib and Guantanamo can be easily explained in terms of national security. Global warming is a myth when viewed in the vast cycles of geology. Lobbying in Washington is actually a positive development in bringing the voice of the people to the fore in national debates. Cheney's shotgun victim apologized, which simplified the situation. New Orleans' natural disaster was outside the scope of anyone's imagination. And the malaise felt across America is explained by our growing "prosperity creep."
There are no easy answers to complicated questions. That's a truism. But the question is, "Why are the questions so complicated?" If you're question is: "Faced with an increasing difficulty in rendering a unified Iraqi peace within the timetable of impatient Americans should the Administration simply withdraw like a dog with its tail between its legs?" Or, "Do you think that Americans who constantly impugn the motives of their leadership and call for immediate withdrawal, who insist on reliving and reviving the original statements made in the heat of a clear threat (911), and who criticize our efforts even as American troops are continually and heroically in harm's way, contribute to the danger our troops are in and aid the entrenched enemy?" On the other hand, an uncomplicated question could be: "Why?" Simplifying our questions won't derive "easy answers," but it may get us going in a better (and more honest) direction as a nation.
2/14/06: "How Did We Go So Wrong...?" Well, we went wrong when we started to put ourselves first as a nation, and as individuals. When you put yourself first, you're in for a bad day. I promise. It happens every time. When you really put someone else first, you're in for a good day. If you put someone else first, but for your own reasons, you're in for another bad day, because now you've brought hypocrisy to your selfishness and that's a marriage of bad with worse. As a nation we started beautifully, casting off tyranny, affirming equality of all, establishing the universal, and "unalienable," rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Our government was instituted to secure these rights for everyone. A good start to be sure. But, the light of this beautiful genesis was blocked and obscured, not entirely of course, but certainly in priority. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness: that's the proper order. Secure life first. Meaning a life worth living: work, marriage, children, education, safety, sustenance, and shelter. 230 years later, have we achieved the first stated goal in the Declaration of Independence? No, not for everyone. And, we should have. Liberty, the second goal. Liberty and independence go together and therein resides the underlying freedom of man. How many people actually feel liberated and free today in America? Many are more liberated and freer, but this is not the same as actually liberated and free. If we accept the incremental improvement as the worthy goal then we are putting ourselves (and our lives) first again. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." Plus, when we are content with a lessening of the constraints on our liberty, then we have basically redefined the word. If we are happy with an improving situation, we have turned away from others who may have been left behind. Focusing on improvement is an impediment to true progress. True success in these matters is not an incremental phenomenon, it's a revolutionary change. The pursuit of happiness is the final goal. Imagine writing a revolutionary document in 1776 and arguing that this phrase "the Pursuit of Happiness" should be included. It has such a human and paradisiac feeling to it. One envisions a joyful multitude, in the Elysian fields of democracy, peacefully engaging in all of the wonderful things that really make us happy: love, homes, good food, children and families, education, entertainment and the arts, social contributions ... it's a euphoric chain of thought. I love it, don't you? But there were, and are, those among us who think of the pursuit of happiness as the pursuit of power and money, and in today's America they appear to have the upper hand. Today, to call for care for the poor is to be weak and wobbley in the knees. If someone won a big lottery payday and gave it away to the neediest in our society, we would laugh and wonder at how stupid can you be (perhaps even while applauding the gesture). We revere the rich and disdain the poor almost as the lepers of biblical lore or as objects of prejudice at least. So, the pursuit of a redefined form of selfish happiness has now assumed primary status in America. Surveys of young children in all walks of life show it clearly: when asked what they want to be, the survey says the number one answer is: "rich." And, who can blame them when the world has turned its back on poverty but spends billions and billions and billions and billions (should I stop?) on the resplendent decadence of our avaricious, whimsical, gilded, loaded ones and even more billions on innumerable industries, systems and products to support them and a ridiculous way of life. Our insensitivity and isolation increases with each paycheck and election: luxury cars, ipods and individual entertainment systems (entertainment used to mean "with other people" now it's becoming a form of, well shall we say, personal amusement?), fashion that only works for one body style, and even education systems that now train workers and soldiers instead of thinkers. The pursuit of self happiness is enslavement as certainly as the chains aboard the Amistad. It takes some beguiling forms, I grant you, but its true character is still obvious when we stop and think. So, then what to do? Reverse the trend of the whole world by reversing it in yourself is the only answer. Genuinely put others first. Be revolutionary, not incremental. Ask not what others can do for you, ask what you can do for others. That is life and liberty. The pursuit of happiness comes naturally when you seek and see your own happiness in another's good.
2/3/06: Big and Little. A little business will almost never cheat you. A big business almost always does in some way. A small business helps the owner make a fair living. A big business helps the owner make a killing. A small business makes the customers happy. A big business almost always makes the customers mad. A small business hands you the product and says "thanks." A big business makes you go get it yourself and say's "Good luck getting that open." A small business answers the phone, "Good morning, Legend, this is Bill Purdin." A big business answers the phone, "Thank you for calling Legendinc.com's voice mail system. If you know your party's extension, please dial it now. Otherwise listen carefully to our options for they have changed and they will change again and again. Press one for service problems. Press two for sales problems. Press three for delivery problems. Press for four all other problems. Or just stay on the line for a customer service representative ... Thank you for holding, a customer service representative will be with you in the order in which your call was received .... thank you for holding ... your estimated hold time is ... 30 minutes." A small business already knows the problem and the solution. A big business requires receipts, full packaging return, and inconvenience. A small business has only customer satisfaction as its goal. A big business has many objectives and goals which sometimes include aggressively marketing a product they know is inferior. Small business meticulously protect the environment in which they operate. Big business plunder the environment in which they operate. A small business would never evolve a packaging system that cost more than the product itself. Big business routinely deliver their products in packaging that is far more expensive than their actual product. A small business modestly and conservatively markets their products. Big businesses rapaciously, avariciously and wastefully market everything. Small business delivers exactly what they market or more. A big business delivers astoundingly less than what they market. Small business actually offer products that are good for their customers. Big business routinely offer products that impoverish and exasperate the decline of their customers lives, health and fortunes. A small business clearly cares about it customers as individuals. A big business only cares about its customers as a group, an aggregate. A small business actually feels gratitude for its customers. A big business talks about it but is not really able to actualize its verbalizations. And I know that people will say that huge economies of scale are what generate the achievements of mankind and they are right, but not because of big business. It's government that builds the bridges, goes to the Moon and protects its citizens. A small business pays its taxes. A big business pays its lawyers and accountants to minimize or eliminate its "tax liability." And what do big businesses purport to provide: food (fast food and vast food), transportation (gas-guzzlers that may have ruined the environment beyond repair), technology (gigantic piles of obsolete technology and state-of-the-art technology that isn't really perfected), health care (there's more illnesses of all kinds than ever, medicines with multi-page, mouse-type, disclaimers and "oil discharge" side effects that are more frightening than the disease itself, rising costs than now compete with base salaries and wages, and an increasing rich/poor tiering that results in healthier rich people and sicker poor people). And what else does a big business provide? Scandals, massive layoffs, major service disruptions, and an elite class of robber barons that just seems impervious to the realities of life that most people face every day. A what does a small business provide? A hard working good example, employment and training on a community basis, continuous service even in disasters (see New Orleans), and a group of involved, generous, caring business owners who actually shop where they work. When my Dad passed on in 1975, he said two things: "Bill, I wish I never smoke even one cigarette. And, I wish I owned my own business." I never touched a cigarette after that. And, I started my own business. In 1979, when I started it was widely believed that " if you ever want to make real money, work for yourself." Today, if you ever want to make a lot of money, working for a big business is the way to wealth. And, the bigger the better. So, in the end a small business embodied the American dream and a big business has usurped the American dream into something else. Today the dream of innovation, fierce independence, living and working in your home town is gone; replaced by the reality of "team building," strict conformity, commuting long distances and constant, lonely travel, and perhaps never really having a chance to do the things you always wanted to do. Unless of course somehow in your education, family life, upbringing, faith, and experience, you learned somewhere, somehow that life isn't about quantity at all. It's about giving. It isn't about being big, it's about being good. Ask yourself this question: when you drive by a gigantic house on the ocean with cars and all the trappings of wealth, and then drive by a quiet little home on a so-so street with a little yard and a modest car, where were you thinking the happy people live. Big or little? Oh sure ... you might be thinking of riches and all your dreams coming true with a big bank account. But is that true? Or do they come true in the eyes of someone you love who you don't care if they made any money at all and from the eyes of someone who looks at you and loves you through the good times and the bad times in sickness and in health? So, where is happiness? In the big, bodacious things, or in the small, simple things? Now, that we're on the same page, ask yourself this question: How did we go so wrong?
1/31/06: The State of The Union. Good evening, my fellow Americans. Tonight, as we share these few moments together, the State of the Union is not good. America is strong, but weakening in ways that history will long remember. The economy's essential quality has changed from one of opportunity to one of accumulation and exploitation. Society in our great nation has never been so divided, resulting in disputed elections, corruption and the vast isolation of groups that were formerly sources of energy and challenge for our society. The environmental gains and growing awareness of solutions possible to a united humanity have been abandoned, marginalized and even the long-established definitions of environmental terms have been convoluted into political misdirections that serve not a cleaner world but a world that has actually polluted more and more aggressively during each year of my administration. Our military strength is weakening through overuse. Like the family car's fan belt that begins to squeak as the engine goes out of tune, the essential fiber of our armed service-- the morale of our troops and personnel -- is tired, stretched, and overtaxed. Lethargic recruitment, declining reenlistment, and almost universal early retirements are taking their toll. In its historic role as an alternative to a cycle of poverty, the prospects of military service in our country today competes badly against even unemployment in the civilian section. Our young people prefer almost anything as an option to time in uniform. Even hardened professionals after five combat tours in our "theaters of operation" want out despite generous bonuses and other incentives. Even the staffing of the government from clerical levels to the cabinet is rift with cronyism and ineptitude. The judiciary is politicized at all levels. The issues of church and state, the separation of which our country was founded on, are blurred to confusion. The crown jewels of democracy, our public schools, are in disarray over federal control of local classrooms. Teacher shortages are abounding and increasing just when we desperately need more and more educators. Our medical sector is on the verge of collapse over increasing costs, just as the baby boomers enter retirement. Our population of senior citizens is confronted with so many issues of economic, social and health demands that even the dream of a happy retirement is now threatened and evaporating. With corporations like ExxonMobil chalking up all time records in profits and sales, these companies are also backing away from health care and retirement benefits faster than their shareholders can write off the capital gains. The government has never meddled in private affairs more than it does today and we are planning much more of the same: spying without warrant, peering into private sexuality issues, defining marriage, institutionalizing prejudice, making religious creed part of federal, state and local statutes, and incarcerating a higher percentage of the population than any other country in the world, comprised of a vast majority of underprivileged and economically disadvantaged minorities paying the warden's bill. Our commitment to the death penalty has never been stronger, even as all developed countries including our traditional allies of Europe and our traditional enemies of Eastern Europe have universally renounced capital punishment. But I am tiring you out I know, I can see it on your faces. Is there nothing to be happy about, you ask? Well, the doctors of Walter Reed Hospital (which we are closing, incidentally) say my health has never been better. The traditional "aging of the President" syndrome has not effected me in the least. And as of tonight, Inauguration Day 2009 is still 1,085 days away! That's almost 36 more months of me and my administration and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Now, that's really great! No elections to stumble through, just clear sailing from here on in. So, what's on our agenda? See all above, only more and better. Iran, the Supreme Court, tax cuts galore, increasing majorities in both houses, 911, 911, 911, 911 ... it's all just laid out in front of this administration like a smorgasbord of treats. Even now Americans are clicking off to other channels and going to bed. Even now as we use this speech to tell them exactly what's going to happen, they are off to the refrigerator or watching "Veronica Mars," "Full House," "Sex in the City" (that's one of Laura's favorites), or the Georgetown at DePaul game. (I'm Tivoing it.) So, yes, My fellow Americans, the State of the Union is not good, but it all depends on how you look at it. If you're poor and uneducated, well yes (duh!) things are pretty bleak. But, if you're rich and educated, or if you inherited a fortune, well, how can I put this ... things are Comcastic! So, as John Edwards always liked to say (and we just love it when he does) "There are two Americas..." and I am the President of one of them, which is more than he can say. In closing, I ask all Americans to look away from their own troubles and tribulations and gaze at the wonder of democracy and what it can do for you and for the world. Remember 911. Support the troops. No new taxes, And let's get tough on crime. Remember 911 and God Bless America.
1/27/06: The Democrats have forgotten the one thing that can save the world ... that they are right. At one time the difference between Democrats and Republicans was not so theocratic as it was philosophic. Democrats felt that the "public weal" (the welfare of the community; the general good) was paramount in the exercise of government. The Republicans felt that the protection of individual rights and initiative were paramount. Obviously, both cases have merit and easily attract quality minded, subtle-minded people to the debate. The Democrats innately felt that government in the hands of the people could be trusted. The Republicans worried that no government could be trusted. Again, both viewpoints hold interest and are appealing. So, what's the problem today where there is such animosity and right-down-the-middle divisiveness? It's really easy to see.
Today's Republicans, if they can be called that, favor intrusive government in every walk of life. They advocate for huge government growth and indebtedness, but only in the areas where the lives of ordinary people (the general weal) are effected deleteriously. Deleting rights and privileges of free people and proclaiming the opposite, is so common that it's like the bush in the yard we never notice. Today's Republicans may say that they believe that the protection of individual rights and individual initiative are paramount, but look at what they've done: unilateral war based on falsehoods, terrible terrorist attacks on their watch, vast corruption and astounding cronyism, and creating an atmosphere of fear and division.
Today's Democrats still believe in the people and that the welfare of the community; the general good, the common weal, is paramount in the exercise of government. They argue for universal health care, universal education programs including for the very young and the elderly, protection in the workplace, a fair minimum wage, they clearly favor diplomacy over military action, an uncensored press and academia, and an open process of government. Democrats today have become the little child watching from behind the couch as an abusive parent rampages.
The Democrats have forgotten the one thing that can (and has before) save the world: that the philosophy of democracy still reigns supreme, not in halls of Congress apparently, but in the hearts of the people. People still want to debate the eschatology of human affairs and whether the group or individual will ultimately emerge as the ultimate organizational measure, but in the hearts of the everyman the idea of people ruling themselves or being ruled autocratically is settled law.
So, the Democrats are right. If they are honest and have faith in truth, the outcome is inevitable.
Coming in a week or so: A book review: "Our Endangered Values" by Jimmy Carter.
1/21/06: Martin Luther King Jr.'s non-violent end, or, why don't we listen? "God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war." Vietnam echoes in American today off the canyons of our fear. When George Bush called America together on September 12, 2001 he gathered to our nation's breast its fear and not its future. He called out for revenge not for freedom's advance. He became what America fears most: a relentless tyrant who assumes the pleasing shape of a patriot. "Since the founding fathers of our nation dreamed this noble dream, America has been something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against herself." And as Dr. King noted there in his commencement address at Lincoln University, there's no end in sight "because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation." In Mark Twain's famous "War Prayer," the two sides of patriotism and nationalism are seen so clearly. We pray for victory, and implicit in that prayer is our call for the utter destruction of the lives and fortunes and children of others. Great leadership brings this dichotomy to the fore. Horrible leadership does everything to hide and obscure the darkenings of war. Martin Luther King Jr. perhaps the greatest non-violent leader since Mahatma Gandhi, was killed by an assassin's bullet. The finger's engine was a hatred of Martin's message: "all men are created equal." And as he fell on that balcony, at 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, he died a non-violent death, which in fact is closely akin to immortality. As his body floated to the concrete of that cheap motel's walkway, he passed into a timeless state like Lincoln or Kennedy, beyond the reach of those who thought to kill him, into an everlasting presence in the heart of our people. Martin Luther King Jr. is now immortal, his life and its meaning will never end. What did we learn? That there are leaders and anti-leaders. There are leaders who lift us up together and there are leaders who tear us apart. There are leaders who tell us that our differences define us and there are leaders who tell us that our differences divide us. There are leaders who put others first and there are leaders who put themselves first. Is it hard to tell the difference? Not really. But like recognizing that one you love is an alcoholic, and you've been watching all the time, there is a barb in change of this sort. As Martin put it: "A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: 'This way of settling differences is not just.' A nation that continues year after year to spend more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war .... A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies." In a real sense, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "end" is yet to be decided. Oh, not in the sense that he will or will not live on in humanity's pantheon of heros, that is assured, perhaps even more so as official America continues to ignore him. But in the sense of whether or not we will actually join him in a commitment to non-violence. Will we see the senselessness of patriotism and nationalism? Will we see that that dichotomy of them vs. us is really us vs. us and always has been and always will be? And in the light of that ironic inversion will we finally embrace what every mom and dad, every spouse, and what every person who has ever found themselves misjudged, discriminated against or just left out knows with every fiber of their being: that we all have a dream and it's the same dream: "When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
You can start right now by turning a deaf ear to that tyrant within you, within all of us, and give all of your heart to putting others first. To those who put others first, today is always "big with blessings."
1/11/06: The Big Things Are Taking Over... You never hear "small is beautiful" anymore. Small business in now considered to be companies with 200 or fewer employees. Most of the powerful advertisements on any media you choose today offer size as proof of capability. Constant quotations about how many doctors, families, women use something is convincing that the bigger things are the better. Today you don't get fire or laid off, you get downsized. You were big, but now you're not. You were employed and productive, but now you are something less (smaller) than that. In 1980, almost all large salaries came from ownership in small businesses (twenty or less employees). My Dad told me, "If you ever want to make any real money, Bill, work for yourself." Today all of the biggest salary prospects for graduating college seniors is in big, bigger and really big business. Even lawyers, once a bastion of "shingle" hangers, now migrate to big business for the trough of many dollars. Doctors, too, have found the safety and security in large medical and pharmaceutical corporations, to the detriment of small communities. Even the appearance of largeness is good enough, but certainly to appear small is bad. In 2002, the latest reporting year, there were 2 million businesses with one to four employees, and 10,000 with 500 or more employees. The latter had gross sales of $155 billion and the former had $13.5 trillion (or was it just gazillion?). And the average profit margin was twice as high for the larger businesses. So where is the high salary fishing better? And where is the work easier? See, big things are taking over: big corporations, big armies, big politics, big colleges, big hospitals, big problems.
But where does happiness lie? Is it in those humongous upsized conglomerates with telephone extension numbers with seven digits? (Call me at 800-555-1234 ext. 7231234!) Personally, I wouldn't work at a company with extensions over two digits. There are predictions that there will soon be extensions with more digits than the main number. Some people have thousands of numbers on their speed dial; we are becoming walking directories. Imagine being #1259 on someone's speed dial. "Well, it's better than #1260." If we could get in there and look around, guess who everyone has as #1 on their speed dial? The one they love the most. Anthropologists at sometime in the future may use the archeological discoveries of long dead and discarded cellphone hard drives to decipher what the heck we were doing way back here in 2006. Building a hierarchy of speed dial files they will probably discover the seeds of our destruction. I can see the doctoral dissertation now. Here is it's final conclusion: "In reconstruction of these archaic digital files and cross tabulations with population statistics and other government files, we find that there was a surface fascination with quantity in everything, but a clear substrata dedicated, almost surreptitiously, to a surprising, and almost shocking degree, to just one or two people. Difficult-to-recover records reveal that while the average person had speed dial records in the hundreds, or even thousands, one or two numbers received the vast, vast majority of all unit-originated communications. And this trend validated itself for both outgoing and incoming calls. Our conclusion is, that the people of the early 21st century, while seeming to have vast lives of ever greater and greater scope and size, were actually disinterested in anything except the smallest unit: friends and family. Today, here in the 26th century, we take this fact as accepted human nature, but to discover this incontrovertible evidence from our ancestors raises the interesting question: how could they have lived such disconnected lives, that is, doing one thing but clearly wanting another? Perhaps, the ultimate conclusion, to be confirmed in future studies, will be that this discontinuity may account for the well-known and documented colossally bad decisions made during that period in the areas of world peace, world environment and human rights which caused so much suffering and slowed the progress of humanity. One can only wonder what would have resulted if only the process we now revere of "life-integration" where everyone pursues their own happiness in concert with a society dedicated to individual freedom, education and contribution had begun back then instead of hundreds of years later after untold death, destruction and disenchantment. What if ...? Well, in the end that is, after all, why we study. As Alexander Pope said:
Then say not man's imperfect, heav'n in fault;
Say rather, man's as perfect as he ought:
His knowledge measur'd to his state and place;
His time a moment, and a point his space.
If to be perfect in a certain sphere,
What matter, soon or late, or here or there?
The blest to-day is as completely so,
As who began a thousand years ago.
"Perhaps it is unfair to say it, but as far as "here or there" in Pope's terms, we who conducted this study unanimously concur that we prefer 'here' over 'there.'"
I was going to write a little more today, but my cell phone is ringing and I know exactly who it is. See you next time.
2005 and 2004 Blog Archives
Remember to visit our legendinc.com Archives.
And visit our "Blog Friends"